Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Tuesday May 20 Ag News

New Grants Fund Western Corn Rootworm Research, Education

            University of Nebraska-Lincoln scientists are mounting new research and grower education efforts against one of corn's most pernicious pests, the western corn rootworm, amid indications across the Corn Belt that it has adapted to some current Bt toxins.

            Three teams of UNL entomologists were awarded more than $1.1 million in three-year grants from Monsanto for research and grower education on western corn rootworm management.

            UNL received three of the seven grants Monsanto awarded nationally this year from its Corn Rootworm Knowledge Research Program. Monsanto established the program in 2012 with a $3 million pledge and continued its support of the program with an additional $3 million commitment in 2013. The program is intended to increase understanding of corn rootworm biology and lead to economical, practical and sustainable solutions for farmers.

            The new grants come amid signs in Nebraska and elsewhere across the Corn Belt that corn rootworms are becoming resistant to some transgenic corn traits.

            Corn rootworms destroy corn roots, thereby reducing yield. The loss of roots also causes plants to fall over during strong wind and rain, making harvest difficult. Over the years, corn rootworms have become resistant to a diverse set of technologies used to control them. It's estimated corn rootworms cost growers $1 billion a year in yield loss and control costs.

            The projects, led by Nick Miller, Blair Siegfried and Doug Golick, all in UNL's Department of Entomology, will conduct research on resistance to transgenic corn and chemical insecticides, and develop technology-enhanced educational tools to help growers make informed decisions about managing corn rootworms. Scientists from UNL's Department of Agronomy and Horticulture as well as entomologists from Iowa State, University of Missouri, and Kansas State Universities will join these teams.

            Other UNL entomologists involved in the work are Lance Meinke, Bob Wright, Tom Hunt and Gary Hein. Don Lee of agronomy and horticulture also is involved.

            Meinke said ongoing research and extension efforts are key to staying on top of the corn rootworm. Scientists recently confirmed rootworms have become resistant to two kinds of Bt toxins included in corn, mCry3Bb1 and mCry3A. Producers and crop consultants first started reporting concerns in 2011, initially in southwest and northeast Nebraska.

            Testing is continuing, both in labs and fields, Meinke said, adding that it is not unusual for corn rootworms to adapt to various toxins.

            "Corn rootworm has a long history of adapting to anything we throw at it," Meinke said.

            As research findings are compiled, they will be used by UNL Extension faculty for outreach to producers. Flexible, up-to-date management strategies are key to fighting the pest, Meinke said. For example, producers are moving from single-trait corn to "pyramided traits" in hopes that while rootworm might become resistant to one trait in the seed, they won't to another.

            It's key that producers do not view any single trait as a "silver bullet," Meinke added. In addition to planting corn with pyramided traits, crop rotation continues to be a useful weapon against corn rootworm.

            Integrated pest management is more labor- and knowledge-intensive but also much more effective in the long term, Meinke said.

            Educational tools from these grants are expected to include a series of mobile and web-based interactive learning experiences for growers, consultants, extension educators, and post-secondary students teaching fundamental concepts related to resistance management strategies for the corn rootworm. These modules will teach science-based concepts related to current knowledge on corn rootworm biology, behavior, IPM strategies, resistance management strategies, toxicology and population genetics.

            This is the second year UNL scientists have received funding from Monsanto's western corn rootworm program. Last year, Brigitte Tenhumberg of the School of Biological Sciences received a grant to evaluate integrated resistance management strategies in variable environments. Her research uses mathematical models to evaluate a range of resistance management strategies to identify those likely to work best in delaying onset of resistance evolution.

UNL Animal Science Department Appoints two New Student Ambassadors

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln animal science department appointed two new student ambassadors for the 2014-2015 academic year.

After in-depth interviews with department faculty and senior ambassadors, two students were selected out of a pool of six applicants:
            – Curtis Wetovick of Fullerton, a sophomore animal science major
            – Ashley Buescher of Lawrence, a sophomore animal science major

The two new ambassadors will serve alongside current second-year ambassadors:
            – Maci Lienemann of Princeton, a junior animal science major
            – Levi McPhillips of Columbus, a senior animal science major

The ambassadors will interact with prospective animal science students by visiting high schools and attending various UNL admissions events. In addition to attending and supporting university events, each ambassador will also take on the responsibility of planning one recruitment activity per year. One example is the animal science experience.

The animal science experience is an event where high school and transfer students visit UNL's East Campus for a day and see it through the eyes of a current college student. These students get an overview of the animal science department, participate in an actual animal science class, eat lunch in the east campus dining hall and participate in fun activities such as a tour of Memorial Stadium.

"It's a good opportunity for them to get to East Campus and actually see what life is like here in the department and as a college student," said Alli Raymond, animal science admissions coordinator. "Through planning and participating in these activities, the student ambassadors benefit not only the university, but themselves as well."

The Animal Science Student Ambassador program, started in 1999, selects two animal science majors as ambassadors to promote the animal science program each year. Students receive a $2,000 scholarship ($500 each semester) and serve for two years supporting the animal science department's recruitment efforts.

For more information on the Animal Science Student Ambassador program, visit http://animalscience.unl.edu/.  Be sure to "Like" us on Facebook (UNL Animal Science) or follow us on Twitter (@UNL_AniSci) to stay up to date on upcoming events and deadlines.

Nebraska Cattlemen Midyear Meeting Set For June 11-12

Registration for the 2014 Nebraska Cattlemen Midyear Meeting is underway. The meeting will be held in Gothenburg, Neb., June 11-12, 2014 and early registration is open until May 31, 2014.

“Our Midyear Meeting is a great opportunity for members to shape policy and provide direction for leadership and staff,” said Jeff Rudolph, Nebraska Cattlemen President. “We have a great schedule planned for this year’s meeting and we invite everyone to come take part in this important membership process.”

Wednesday, June 11th will begin with the Board of Directors meetings, then an afternoon of golf and area tours. Also, the Nebraska Cattlewomen will be hosting the 2014 Beef Ambassador Contest. In the evening there will be a welcome reception at Wild Horse Golf Club in Gothenburg.

Thursday, June 12th will begin with registration at Gothenburg High School at 7:00 a.m. followed by three sets of committee meetings and the Nebraska Cattlemen Foundation lunch. As in years past the six committees will be meeting to discuss issues and policy relative to their respective areas. The Nebraska Cattlemen Foundation will hold their annual lunch to announce the Retail Value Steer Challenge results as well as recognize the recipients of this year’s youth scholarships.

The general session on Thursday evening will include a wrap up of Nebraska Cattlemen legislative activities during the 2014 session.  Other speakers include Dan Halstrom, US Meat Export Federation (USMEF) Senior VP Global Marketing & Communications.  USMEF is a nonprofit trade association working to create new opportunities and develop existing international markets through its worldwide network of offices.  USMEF has forged a series of partnerships which have enabled U.S. companies and U.S. products to become integral parts of international red meat markets.  Recently, Nebraska Cattlemen announced its membership with USMEF.  Also speaking will be Phillip Ellis, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President-Elect, who will provide an update on important issues involving the national beef industry.

As of May 19th those sponsoring the Nebraska Cattlemen Midyear meeting include: Agri Affiliates, Inc, Animal Health International, Bank of the West, Bill's Volume Sales, Inc., Boehringer Ingelheim, Cappel Sales, Inc., Central Life Sciences, Cornhusker Energy Lexington, LLC, Covidien, Crossroads Cattle Company, D & D Feedlot, Darling International, Inc., Darr Feedlot, Dawson County Cattlemen, Diamond V, Downey Drilling, Inc., Elanco Animal Health, Farm Credit Services of America, Fellers Transfer, First Bank & Trust Company, First State Bank – Gothenburg, Gallagher Grace Mayer, HAR Transportation Inc., Hi Gain Feedlot, Inc., Huss Livestock Market, LLC, K Farms, Inc., KAAPA Ethanol, LLC, Kent Nutrition Group Inc., Landmark Implement, Inc., Leonard Cattle Company, Lexington Livestock Market, LLC, Merck Animal Health, Merial, Messersmith Hay Company, MICRO, Midwest PMS, MRK, Inc., Mutual of Omaha - Carson Hemmann, Nebraska Corn Board, NMC Cat, Omaha Commodities, LLC, Overton Veterinary Services, LLC, Paulsen, Inc., Performance Plus Liquids, Inc., Pinnacle Bank, Pony Express Chevrolet/Platte Valley Auto, Road Builders Machinery & Supply Co., Rolland Hood & Sons, Inc., Settje Agri-Services & Engineering, Inc., Shotkoski Hay Company, Tail Twister 4-H Club, Valentine Livestock Auction, Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., Will Feed, Zinpro Performance Minerals, and Zoetis. If you are interested in sponsoring this year's event contact Lee Weide at the Nebraska Cattlemen office.

For more information or to register go to www.nebraskacattlemen.org or call the Nebraska Cattlemen office at 402.475.2333

Nebraska Cattlemen and Nebraska Grazing Lands Coalition Team Up to Host Summer Grazing Tour

Mark your calendars for the Nebraska Grazing Lands Coalition (NGLC) –Nebraska Cattlemen (NC) joint Summer Grazing Tour scheduled for June 10, 2014 in southwestern Nebraska.

The tour will involve three long standing Southwest Nebraska ranches and one commercial feedyard in the Imperial and Wauneta areas including the Maddux Cattle Company, Wine Glass Ranch Inc. Kuenning and Son, Inc and Imperial Beef.

Maddux Cattle Co.
is a cow-calf and yearling cattle operation located in southwest Nebraska. Taylor and Clara Maddux homesteaded the ranch in 1886, 11 miles north of Wauneta on the Stinking Water Creek. The ranch has grown today to encompass 40,000 acres of owned and leased land that sustains 2,500 mother cows and 5,000 yearlings.

Native range consists of sandhills and hard land canyons that are part of the watersheds of three creeks that run through the ranch. The operation has approximately 1,800 irrigated and 600 dryland farming acres, the balance being native grass, some of which is subirrigated meadows. Jack and John Maddux, the third- and fourth-generation owner/operators of the ranch, manage the operation.

Replacement heifers and cows are bred to calve in April and May. Cow-calf pairs summer on native range, calves are weaned in the early fall, and wintered in backgrounding facilities or winter-grazed with supplementation of distillers' wet grains. All calves, with the exception of home-raised replacement heifers and bulls, go to leased grass in the spring. Steers and heifers are marketed off grass each August as 900-pound (lb.) yearlings.

After weaning, cows are winter-grazed on leased cornstalks from November through mid-March. Cows are then driven back home to native range roughly one month before calving. In this system, the Maddux cow herd has a full 12-month grazing system with no hay or supplement fed to the mature cow herd. Some strategic protein supplementation is used for first-calf heifers precalving and prebreeding.

The cow herd is a maternal composite of five breeds: Red Angus, Tarentaise, Red Poll, South Devon and Devon. Cows are British in body type and production levels. Breed selection is aligned with year-round grazing and the low-input system of the ranch.  Harlow Hill has been the ranch foreman for the past 35 years.

Wine Glass Ranch Inc.

In 1888 Sherman McCoy walked the last 30 miles from the western most rail stop to what would become the Wine Glass Ranch. The 4th and 5th generations, Jeff Pribbeno and son Logan, continue the tradition of stewardship.

The Wine Glass Ranch Inc. developed rotational grazing program utilizes 60 paddocks and 200 miles of water lines. Simplicity is key and accordingly, cows calve on summer range with minimal observation.

Farming techniques have also evolved to include no-till and variable crop rotations. Residue grazing and cover crop applications allow for ranching and farming operations to overlap.

The most recent enterprise brought guided-hunting on thousands of acres of managed wildlife habitat in order to get more folks out onto the great American prairie.

Ranching, farming, and hunting form an integrated agriculture system that have enabled production that was unimaginable in Sherman's day, but the principal remains the same -- careful, sustainable, progressive management of a precious resource.

Kuenning & Son LLC

Jerry & Kathy Kuenning would like to welcome you to their family ranching/farming & feedlot operation.  Jerry’s grandfather Ernest Schroeder, came to Perkins County in the early 1920’s.  This operation, originated by Wilber & Doris Kuenning in 1945 with land added in 1973 from Ernest.  Jerry came into the partnership in 1975.   Within the last five years Wilber, Jerry & his wife Kathy have been joined by son Brandon and his wife Kelly R., daughter Kory and her husband Nick Fowler and 3 very active grandchildren Luke, Lily and Hayden Lucy.  Their youngest daughter Kelly K. is a nursing student in Lincoln.

The operation consists of a cow-calf herd, a grower operation and a custom feedlot.  Additionally, they farm together and raise irrigated and dryland corn, beans, wheat and alfalfa.  The primary use of their owned and rented pasture land is for the cow-calf herd.  The main cow herd is a crossbred Angus base with some black Simmental influence.  Kuennings calve in March with a smaller fall herd calving in late August.  They A.I. their 1st calf heifers and a base herd of cows.  They keep replacement bulls and heifers from that set of cows.  The Kuennings drill the irrigated wheat ground to triticale immediately after harvest.  They graze the triticale in early fall with stockers and with cow-calf pairs in early spring.  The cows move on to native pasture mid-May through October depending on grass conditions. Their calves are weaned in mid-August in normal grazing years and as early as July 15th in drought years.  They use a rotational grazing program consisting of 3 ranch units with 5-6 pastures in each unit.   They will move the cows to cornstalks as soon as the harvest permits.

The weaned calves are moved to the feedlot and worked up on feed to maximize potential in the April/May marketing months.  The feedlot retains ownership of their raised calves.  They privately purchase other feeders and custom feed for several Nebraska, Colorado and Wyoming ranches.

Imperial Beef, located 12 miles north and 1½ miles east of Imperial, NE, is a nationally recognized and established feedyard committed to excellence and helping provide some of the nation’s best beef. Imperial Beef strives to help local farmers and ranchers maximize profits through many available programs. Imperial Beef has continually upgraded facilities and equipment to meet the ever changing needs of the cattle feeding industry. Great pride is taken in the quality of employees and personnel as Imperial Beef strives to provide its customers with the best possible experience imaginable. Imperial Beef’s tradition of excellence continues with a steadfast commitment to its employees, the community, animal and land preservation, advanced feeding technology, gain efficiency, and the production of quality beef.

Do not miss this opportunity to learn from some of the most experienced grazers and one of the most progressive feedlots in Nebraska as they relate their unique incorporation of grazing techniques and time tested managerial practices that make their operations work. Lunches will be provided. The day concludes with an evening beef dinner featuring a panel discussion of the owners from the tour stops. Come and learn more about the activities of the NGLC and NC. Registration fee is $25 per person and can be paid upon arrival. Preregistration is required for meal counts by contacting the Nebraska Cattlemen at 402 475 2333 or 308 882 4002 (evenings) by May 31. 

International, cooperator interns chosen for Nebraska Corn Board

The Nebraska Corn Board (NCB) is proud to select and support six college students as interns starting this summer, one being an unprecedented international internship. The students met recently for an intern orientation in Lincoln to learn about the role of the Nebraska Corn Board and cooperators, as well as intern objectives and goals.

NCB will be partnering with the U.S. Grains Council to host its first-ever international student intern in their country office of Panama City, Panama. Four of the five already established internships will be hosted by national cooperators of NCB: National Corn Growers Association in St. Louis, Missouri and Washington, D.C., the U.S. Grains Council in Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Meat Export Federation in Denver, Colorado. One student intern will be held in the NCB office in Lincoln, which is a year-long internship that has been engaging students for over 20 years.

“Year after year, Nebraska continues to hit homeruns, finding excellent interns to learn about and serve our national cooperators,” said Don Hutchens, executive director for the Nebraska Corn Board. “This year, we are very excited to support the first-ever international internship to Panama City. This is an unprecedented time in the agricultural industry and the first time any commodity board has put together an internship internationally. We are excited for the future of this internship program.”

The NCB office in Lincoln is excited to welcome Morgan Zumpfe of Friend, Nebraska, for a year-long internship. Morgan will be a sophomore in Animal Science with a business emphasis at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. As part of her internship, she will oversee crop progress report placement, contribute to communication and outreach programs and help with education and promotion activities.

The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) office in Washington, D.C. will host Morgan Nelson of Norfolk, Nebraska, as their summer intern supported by a partnership between NCB and NCGA. Morgan is a graduate student in Public Service and Administration, Public Management with an emphasis in state and local government at the Texas A&M University. She will be involved with a variety of agricultural issues related to environmental regulations, transportation, free trade agreements, biotechnology, ethanol and energy.

The National Corn Growers Association headquarters office in St. Louis, Missouri, will host Joe Conrad from St. Joseph, Missouri, as their summer intern supported by a partnership between NCB and NCGA. Joe will be a senior in Economics and Political Science at the University of Nebraska – Omaha. He will be assisting with membership and communication programs, as well as participating in committee meetings and policy issues.

The U.S. Grains Council (USGC) will host Bryan Brower of Omaha, Nebraska, as their summer intern supported by a partnership between NCB and USGC. Bryan is a junior in Accounting with a minor in Political Science at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. He will be working with policy, assisting with international trade teams and helping to develop promotions and international relations.

The U.S. Grains Council will host their first international intern, Matt Perlinger from Paxton, Nebraska, in Panama City, Panama, in cooperation with NCB. Matt is a dual-major senior in Agribusiness, banking and finance option, and Spanish. He will be working on issues related to global trade in food and agricultural products, assisting with communication to importers, and working with the new MAIZALL alliance between corn growers of North and South America.

The U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) will host Abigail Wehrbein of Plattsmouth, Nebraska, as their summer intern supported by a partnership between NCB and USMEF. Abigail is a sophomore in Animal Science with a meat science option from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She will be assisting with beef and pork specific projects, as well as promotions and international relationship opportunities.

“Nebraskans should be very proud of our collegiate candidates who apply for these internships,” said Hutchens. “I’m convinced we have the best internship program of any commodity in any state.”

NE Corn Board to Meet

The Nebraska Corn Board will hold its next meeting on Friday, May 30, 2014 at York Hotel and Conference Center in York.  The Board will conduct regular board business, consider funding requests and set the budget for fiscal year 2014-2015.  The meeting is open to the public.  A copy of the agenda is available by writing the Nebraska Corn Board, PO Box 95107, Lincoln, NE  68509, or calling either 402/471-2676 or 800-NECORN1.


Bruce Anderson, UNL Extension Forage Specialist

               Haying season is just about upon us.  Weather reports soon will be the most important news of the day.  Fortunately, there are ways to hasten hay dry-down to beat the weather.

               Does it seem to you that this spring has been cloudier than most springs?  Now maybe you’re wondering why I’m talking about clouds when I said my topic today would be hay dry-down.  Well, the reason is that, other than rain itself, the most important weather factor that affects rate of hay dry-down is sunlight.  Temperature, humidity, wind speed, and soil moisture content all are important, but solar radiation has the greatest impact on drying rate.  In fact, research has shown as much as a 10-fold increase in drying rate as solar radiation changes from heavy cloud cover to full sunlight.  No other factor affected drying rate even half as much.

               So how do you use this information?  Obviously, you can’t control how much sunlight you receive.  But, you can watch weather reports and try to cut hay during sunny weather.  Okay – that’s stating the obvious.  Another thing you can do, though, is spread your cut hay out in as wide a swath as possible.  This will expose more of your hay to direct sunlight, enabling it to absorb as much energy from the sun as possible to evaporate moisture out of your hay.  This may cause a little more sun bleaching than thick windrows, but most of the time fast dry-down is more valuable than green color.

               Also, mechanically conditioning your hay and turning it gently after the top gets dry to expose moister hay underneath the swath will help hasten dry-down.

               Make hay while the sun shines is an old, old saying but today’s science has shown how true it really is.

Iowa Swine Day June 26 - Antibiotics for humans and antibiotics for animals

Antibiotics for humans and antibiotics for animals: How do we keep them safe and effective for both, and what is the relationship between the two?  This urgent issue will be examined by former Undersecretary of Food Safety at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Dr. Richard Raymond, at Iowa Swine Day in Ames, Iowa, June 26.

Numbers tell the story, according to Raymond, who brings a scientist’s perspective and a federal agency executive’s know-how to this topic. He notes, "The presentation on antibiotic use in animals raised for food will try and separate perception from reality by looking closely at the numbers. The goal is an educated audience that can engage in the constructive discussions that are needed to preserve the integrity and effectiveness of antibiotics in both human medicine and animal medicine.” 

Animal welfare, the PED epidemic, and other compelling challenges facing the farm community, the pork industry, animal science and the consuming public will also be explored with common sense, uncommon depth, scientific scrutiny and national and international expertise at the third Iowa Swine Day.

Facts at a glance:
What: Iowa Swine Day
When: June 26, 2014, 8-5:15
Where: Benton Auditorium, Scheman Building, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa  (plenty of free parking adjacent to building)
Cost: $60

Speakers: Richard Raymond, former Undersecretary of Food Safety in Washington, D.C.; Justin Ransom, national director of quality for McDonald’s; and distinguished regional leaders in swine research, economics, veterinary medicine, production, animal welfare and the marketplace.

Attendees: Open to all, of particular interest to Iowa and regional farm owners and operators, technicians, suppliers, extension personnel, researchers, genetics and pharmaceutical professionals, and students

Further information: http://www.aep.iastate.edu/iowaswineday/.

Pork Production Expected to Rebound Next Year

Pork production is expected to increase in 2015, as the U.S. pork industry leverages experience gained this year in treating Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea. The USDA says total output could increase almost 3 percent next year, to 23.3 billion pounds. Increases derive from year-over-year larger farrowings, as producers respond to prospects of higher returns from continued strong hog prices and moderate feed costs.

Litter rates are also expected to be a source of increased production next year as producers gain facility in managing the effects of the disease on new-born litters. Year-over-year increases in average dressed weights are expected to moderate in 2015, but to increase nonetheless, with gains expected to average about a pound and a half over those of 2014.

Expected-higher 2015 pork production will likely weigh on hog prices next year: average prices of live equivalent 51-52 percent lean hogs are expected to average $70-$76 per cwt. While this is about 6 percent below expected average prices this year, it is just shy of 13 percent above hog prices in 2013.

Relatively strong hog prices next year, at the same time that pork production is expected to increase, will reflect a continued tight supply in the U.S. meat-animal complex (particularly of beef), as well as expected-solid export demand. U.S. pork exports next year are expected to be 5 billion pounds, 3.8 percent larger than forecast exports in 2014.

U.S. consumers will likely pay somewhat less at retail for pork products next year. Retail prices will likely average in the high $3.70s-low $3.80s per pound, compared with an annual average this year in the low $3.90s per pound, but still quite a bit higher than the 5-year average retail price of $3.31 per pound.

Four-State Dairy Nutrition and Management Conference June 11-12

The 2014 Four-State Dairy Nutrition and Management Conference will be held on June 11 and 12 at the Grand River Center in Dubuque, Iowa. The conference will present the latest research on issues concerning the dairy industry including feed efficiency, calves and transition cows.

This conference is a collaborative effort of Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, University of Illinois Extension, University of Minnesota Extension and University of Wisconsin-Extension.

The program starts on June 11 with a pre-conference symposium. Milo Wiltbank will cover reproduction and amino acid balancing and Dan Luchini will discuss the benefits of feeding methionine during transition. Other topics include amino acid balancing for lactating cows and factors affecting vitamin availability.

Select breakout topics include:
-- Can genomics improve feed efficiency?
-- What cows have to say about NDF and starch digestion?
-- The first 60 days: can we make it better?
-- Economics of intensified calf feeding programs
-- Automatic calf feeders study update
-- Can amino acids improve use of non-milk proteins on milk replacers?
-- Wisconsin cost of raising heifers survey results
-- Transition cow health: meeting lactation demands while maintaining a healthy liver
-- How robotic dairies are feeding their cows

"This conference has more than 20 different speakers during the symposium and breakout sessions. All producers will find something relevant to their work in the dairy," said Jim Salfer, University of Minnesota Extension educator.

Other topics to be covered include understanding mastitis diagnostic results, dairy title of the farm bill, dairy nutrition models, hemorrhagic bowel syndrome and transition cow crowding.

For more information and to register, visit http://wiagribusiness.org/fourstate.php or contact Wisconsin Agri-Service Association, 608-223-1111, or Jim Salfer, Extension Educator at salfe001@umn.edu or 320-203-6093. The conference registration fee is $150 until May 31 and $175 after.

ConAgra Foods, Cargill and CHS Expect to Complete Ardent Mills Transaction This Month

ConAgra Foods, Cargill and CHS are pleased to announce today that their new joint venture flour milling company, Ardent Mills, is expected to begin operations on or about May 29, 2014. Today’s announcement follows the conclusion of regulatory review by the U.S. Department of Justice and the successful completion of all international regulatory clearances. The transaction remains subject to financing and other certain customary closing conditions. 

As announced in March 2013, Ardent Mills will bring together two of the nation’s leading and most respected flour milling companies: ConAgra Mills and Horizon Milling, a Cargill-CHS joint venture formed in 2002. The new company will take advantage of the combined assets, capabilities and experience of ConAgra Foods, Cargill and CHS to bring innovative flour and grain products, services and solutions to the marketplace. Ardent Mills will operate as an independent joint venture of its three parent companies, Omaha, Neb.-based ConAgra Foods, Minneapolis, Minn.-based Cargill and St. Paul, Minn.-based CHS.

Paul Maass, president of Private Brands and Commercial Foods for ConAgra Foods said, “We are excited to reach this milestone in the formation of Ardent Mills and eagerly anticipate the joint venture beginning operations this month. We strongly believein the merits of this transaction and the benefits it will bring to customers, consumers, wheat suppliers, shareholders and employees.”

ConAgra Foods and Cargill expect to complete the sale of four flour milling facilitiesprior to May 29 to Miller Milling Company – a U.S.-based subsidiary of Tokyo-based Nisshin Flour Milling Inc. Following the completion of the joint venture, Ardent Mills’ operations and services will be supported by 40 flour mills, three bakery mix facilities and a specialty bakery, all located in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico. 

“This joint venture positions Ardent Mills to deliver greater value and innovation to customers and consumers while enhancing customer and consumer choice,” said Scott Portnoy, corporate vice president, Cargill.

Mark Palmquist, executive vice president and chief operating officer-Ag Business, CHS Inc. added, “The formation of Ardent Mills will provide expanded opportunities for wheat growers and co-ops because the new company's asset base will provide additional sourcing opportunities. In addition, Ardent Mills' product innovation capabilities and other strengths will enable these wheat growers to further connect to the consumer marketplace.”

Ardent Mills will offer a unique set of services, including product development resources, technical and application support, supply chain management and commodity price risk management. Ardent Mills also will tap the market knowledge, transportation logistics, consumer insights, wheat sourcing capabilities, food ingredients and culinary expertise currently available through ConAgra Foods, Cargill and CHS. 

As previously announced, Ardent Mills’ headquarters will be located in Denver. The new company is expected to have a presence in downtown Denver starting in 2014. In addition to its headquarters, Ardent Mills will operate satellite offices in Omaha, Neb., and Minneapolis, Minn. 

ConAgra Foods and Cargill will each own a 44 percent stake in Ardent Mills, with CHS owning a 12 percent interest. All three companies will have representatives on Ardent Mills’ board of directors.

NCGA Applauds House Passage of WRRDA, Urges Swift Senate Approval

The National Corn Growers Association praised the U.S. House of Representatives for its vote today passing the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 with a 412-to-4 vote. Now, NCGA urges the Senate to swiftly follow suit, passing this final reauthorization bill to improve the reliability and efficiency of the U.S. inland waterways system.

"We thank our representatives in the House for their near-unanimous support and work to ensure passage of this important legislation, which makes concrete steps toward repairing and improving our inland waterways," said NCGA President Martin Barbre. "WRRDA is crucial to farmers as more than 60 percent of the nation's grain exports are transported by barge. The locks and dams we depend upon to transport our cargoes today were built in the 1920s and 1930s. It is imperative that we improve this crucial infrastructure. The need is urgent; U.S. farmers and businesses rely upon this transportation channel. Infrastructure improvements fuel our domestic economy and improve our ability to compete in markets abroad."

NCGA specifically thanks House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Penn.) and Ranking Member Nick J. Rahall, II (D-W.V.) for bringing this negotiated bill to the floor of House and for working to ensure its passage.

NCGA is also hopeful that 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 provided needed funds for the improvement and maintenance of the infrastructure on which they rely.

NCGA now urges the Senate to continue progress by promptly passing this bill.

House Passes Conference Report on Waterways Bill

On a vote of 412 to 4 today, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the conference report of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA). The report, which the American Soybean Association fully supports, will now be voted on by the Senate likely later this week, at which point the report is expected to pass easily.

“With today’s vote, the House has done its part to bring this legislation into port. Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Shuster, Ranking Member Rahall, Subcommittee Chairman Gibbs and Ranking Member Bishop have done a wonderful job balancing soybean farmers’ needs with the many other industries well represented in the bill,” said ASA President and Iowa farmer Ray Gaesser. “Now it’s on to the Senate and to the President’s desk.”

The conference report includes multiple soybean industry priorities including provisions that will free up significant funding within the Inland Waterways Trust Fund for additional waterways infrastructure projects; increasing the level of Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund dollars that will be spent on port maintenance and dredging; streamlining the Army Corps of Engineers’ project review process; increasing Corps flexibility to maintain navigation during low water events; and promoting the use of alternative financing and public-private partnerships to fund waterways infrastructure.

“This legislation continues to be a huge priority for soybean farmers,” added Gaesser. “Not only do we need reliable waterways infrastructure to move our soybeans to market here domestically; the waterways are also a vital component of our international trade system, which saw us export more than $27 billion in soybeans last year as the nation’s top farm export. Our waterways are part of a significant competitive advantage for American soybean farmers, and we must continue to invest in them.”

ASA on World Trade Week: Trade Means U.S. Jobs and Providing for Our Global Community

In recognition of World Trade Week this week, the American Soybean Association (ASA), which represents growers of the nation’s largest agricultural export commodity, urged Congress and the White House to continue expanding and exploring trade relationships with foreign partners. ASA President and Iowa farmer Ray Gaesser issued the following statement:

“In 2013, soybean farmers exported a record 1.58 billion bushels of soybeans at a value of almost $28 billion, making soy America’s leading farm export. Our robust trading partnerships help to create a positive agricultural trade balance and sustain valuable jobs for millions of our neighbors in a broad range of industries here at home.

“Because of its importance to soybean farmers, trade is at the top of ASA’s long list of policy priorities. In the coming months, we’ll have an opportunity to tackle big challenges domestically that—if done thoroughly and thoughtfully—will allow us to continue our success abroad. These challenges include the extension of Trade Promotion Authority, and the crafting of the Trans-Pacific Partnership with the Pacific Rim, and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union in such a way that enables our farmers to succeed by not placing American agricultural imports at an unfair disadvantage.

“As farmers, each of us feeds 155 people—more than at any point in history—but we recognize that in today’s global economy, those 155 people may be on the other side of the world. We call on Congress and the White House this week and every week to pursue agreements that will enable us to continue to create U.S. jobs by providing for our customers in communities around the world.”

CWT Assists with 6.3 Million Pounds of Cheese, Butter and Whole Milk Powder Export Sales

Cooperatives Working Together (CWT) has accepted 21 requests for export assistance from Dairy Farmers of America, Foremost Farms, Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Association, Michigan Milk Producers Association, Northwest Dairy Association (Darigold), Upstate-O-AT-KA and Tillamook County Creamery Association to sell 1.551 million pounds (703 metric tons) of Cheddar and Gouda cheeses, 3.306 million pounds (1,500 metric tons) of 82% butter and 1.482  million pounds (672 metric tons) of whole milk powder to customers in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, South America and the South Pacific. The product will be delivered May through October 2014.

Year-to-date, CWT has assisted member cooperatives in selling 53.085 million pounds of cheese, 45.953 million pounds of butter and 10.337 million pounds of whole milk powder to 37 countries on six continents. These sales are the equivalent of 1.591 billion pounds of milk on a milkfat basis.

Assisting CWT members through the Export Assistance program, in the long-term, helps member cooperatives gain and maintain market share, thus expanding the demand for U.S. dairy products and the U.S. farm milk that produces them in the rapidly growing world dairy markets. This, in turn, positively impacts U.S. dairy farmers by strengthening and maintaining the value of dairy products that directly impact their milk price.

Team Explores U.S. Ethanol Export Opportunities to China

The U.S. Grains Council helped organize, and participated in, a group of ethanol industry representatives that visited China May 10-13. The team was part of a larger International Trade Mission to China led by USDA Undersecretary Michael Scuse.

"China is clearly a potential market for U.S. ethanol," says Bryan Lohmar, USGC director for China. "Policy makers in China are committed to improving air and water quality as well as reducing public health hazards. Based on these criteria, ethanol as an oxygenate additive in transportation fuel has superior qualities compared to the additives currently being used in China."

China has put a moratorium on producing additional ethanol from grain, and capacity to meet potential demand with domestic ethanol from other feedstocks is limited. Together, these trends will likely result in ethanol import demand.

Led by Jim Miller, Growth Energy vice president and former USDA undersecretary, the team included representatives from farmer and ethanol producer associations, as well as ethanol producers and members of USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service. They met with officials from China's energy and trade policy agencies, trading companies and petroleum companies, and visited China's largest ethanol production facility in Jilin Province. Discussions involved not only ethanol policies in the United States and China, but also how ethanol compares to alternative oxygenates in cost and environmental outcomes, as well as progress towards developing cellulosic ethanol technologies in both countries.

Current policy in China prevents companies from blending imported ethanol into vehicle fuel. However, given the opportunities for China to address environmental concerns with imported ethanol, the team discussed the possibility of a program that allows for limited blending of imported ethanol for fuel in regions where environmental concerns are most acute.

"U.S. ethanol exports to China would be mutually beneficial and strengthen the trade relationship between the two countries" Lohmar said, "therefore, we think these opportunities are real and look forward to working with partners in China to bring these benefits to both countries."

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