Thursday, July 17, 2014

Thursday July 17 Ag News

Rural Mainstreet Index Weakens in July:  One-Third of Bankers Indicate Corn Prices Below Breakeven
After moving below growth neutral in February, the Rural Mainstreet economy has moved above the 50.0 threshold for five straight months, according to the July survey of bank CEOs in a 10-state area. However, the index has been trending lower since June 2013 when the reading stood at 60.5. 

Overall:  The Rural Mainstreet Index (RMI), which ranges between 0 and 100, with 50.0 representing growth neutral, fell to 51.8 from June’s 53.6.

Nebraska: The Nebraska RMI for July fell to 51.8 from 53.7 in June. The state’s farmland-price index for July sank to 39.2 from 41.3 in June. Nebraska’s new-hiring index decreased to 52.3 from June’s 56.5.

Iowa: The July RMI for Iowa fell to 52.9 from June’s 56.8. The state’s farmland-price index for July slumped to 48.0 from June’s 57.8. Iowa’s new-hiring index for July declined to a healthy 62.3 from June’s 73.9.

“Agriculture commodity prices have plummeted for farmers in our region. The drop has slowed growth in the region according to our survey with prices below breakeven for a significant share of agriculture producers. I expect readings to move even lower as these lower prices spill over into the broader economy in the weeks and months ahead,” said Ernie Goss, Ph.D., the Jack A. MacAllister Chair in Regional Economics at Creighton University Heider College of Business.

Farming and ranching: The farmland and ranchland-price index for July slumped to 48.3 from June’s weak 49.1. “Much weaker crop prices are definitely taking some of the air out of agriculture land prices.  At this point in time, land prices appear to be moving gradually lower without significant volatility,” said Goss.

The July farm-equipment sales index slumped to 33.4 from June’s very weak 35.0. The index has been below growth neutral for 13 straight months. “Farmers have certainly become more cautious in their purchase of both additional land and equipment. This is having negative impacts on implement dealers across the region,” said Goss.

According to a large share of bankers, crop prices, including corn, are close to or below the breakeven price for farmers.   Approximately, one-third of bankers, or 31.6 percent, reported that current crop prices are below farmers’ breakeven price.   As a result, more than four in 10 bankers, or 40.3 percent, expect loan defaults to climb in the year ahead if crop prices remain at current levels.

However, previous strong farm economic conditions are expected to soften the impact of current low prices. According to Todd Douglas, CEO of the First National Bank in Pierre, S.D., “A majority of agriculture borrowers have strong enough balance sheets to cover lower commodity prices for a short-term period, however, not for a sustained period.”

Banking: The July loan-volume index rose to a very healthy 79.8 from June’s robust 74.6. The checking-deposit index increased to 53.5 from June’s 50.9, while the index for certificates of deposit and other savings instruments dipped to 37.8 from 39.4 last month.

“We have been tracking upturns in agriculture lending among bankers. This month bankers reported, on average, a 7.1 percent increase in agriculture lending over the past year.  Lending is likely to continue to expand as a result of low crop commodity prices,” said Goss. 

Hiring: Rural Mainstreet businesses continue to hire at a solid pace, though the July hiring index declined to a healthy 59.7 from June’s 63.2. “Despite weaker conditions in the crop farming sector, businesses in the Rural Mainstreet economy are adding jobs at a very healthy rate and well above the pace in urban areas of the region,” said Goss.

Confidence: The confidence index, which reflects expectations for the economy six months out, plummeted to 42.9 from last month’s 55.5. “Much weaker agriculture commodity negatively affected the outlook of bank CEOs and more than offset an improving outlook for livestock producers,” reported Goss.

Home and retail sales: The July home-sales index dipped to a still healthy 64.1 from 66.1 in June. The July retail-sales index increased to 55.4 from 51.8 in June.  “Strong growth in home and retail sales contrasts to weaker growth at the national level in both areas,” said Goss. 

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

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

Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation - PAC Endorses Doug Peterson for Attorney General

Doug Peterson has received the official “Friend of Agriculture” endorsement by NFBF-PAC, Nebraska Farm Bureau’s political action committee. Peterson is the Republican Party candidate seeking to win the Nov. 4 General election for Attorney General. 

“Nebraskans are well served when we have an Attorney General who understands the role of agriculture in our state’s economy. Doug Peterson has demonstrated he has a firm grasp on the agriculture issues that can have tremendous impact on the well-being of Nebraska farm and ranch families and because of that we are pleased to support him for Attorney General,” said Steve Nelson, Nebraska Farm Bureau president.

According to Nelson, Peterson is well qualified, bringing almost 30 years of legal experience to the office. Peterson also comes from a diverse background having worked in both private practice and public service as an Assistant Attorney General and Deputy County Attorney in North Platte.

“Doug’s extensive experience will serve him well in leading on the numerous issues he will face, whether it’s representing Nebraska’s interests against those challenging our state’s management of water resources or defending our state’s rights from federal agency overreach, such as EPA’s most recent efforts to pull ditches and other state waters under the jurisdiction of federal bureaucrats,” said Nelson.

Farm Bureau’s process for making endorsements is a grassroots process determined solely by input from County Farm Bureaus.

“We are pleased to offer our support to Doug Peterson with the backing of our County Farm Bureau’s as he seeks election as our next Attorney General. And we look forward to working with him in that role on behalf of Nebraska farm and ranch families,” Nelson said.

Diversified Cropping System and Cover Crop Tours Aug. 16

            University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension Organic Farm Tours from 1:30 p.m. - 5 p.m. Aug. 16 will help organic producers learn more about increasing soil health by incorporating cover crops into their cropping systems.

            Tours will start at 1:30 p.m. at the Larry Stanislav farm two miles north of Abie. Participants will join Stanislav to discuss his diverse cropping system of spring wheat, corn, soybean and cover crops.

            Participants will also learn how Stanislav has reduced tillage and managed weeds using a roller crimper and flamer, said UNL Extension soil scientist Charles Shapiro. Stanislav has participated in a Ceres Trust Grant to incorporate a roller crimper into his cropping system.

            Starting at 3:30 p.m. participants will tour Randy Fendrich's farm.

            Fendrich also participated in the grant. He will discuss his cultural practices and crop rotation using a roller crimper and a 12-row flamer/cultivator that he built himself for weed control.

            At 4:30 p.m., Randy Anderson, USDA-ARS research agronomist at the North Central Agricultural Research Laboratory in Brookings, S.D., will present an update on his research findings.

            Anderson, a weed ecologist, will discuss the goal of his research program to develop a continuous no-till cropping system for organic producers. He will present results on converting red clover fields to cropland without tillage and describe the impact of under seeding clovers in winter and spring wheat on downy brome growth.

            Producers will learn how to minimize the need for tillage to control weeds and how a system based on winterkilled cover crops can control weeds adequately to grow no-till.

            Though this is focused on organic producers, any producer wanting to decrease input costs will find this information useful.

            Producers using no-till rotations can learn more about how continuous no-till rotations can improve land productivity, farm economics, soil health and resource-use-efficiency in the Great Plains.

            After the tours, a free dinner provided by the Fendrich Family will be served at 5 p.m. Reservations are needed. Please call Wendy at 402-584-3837 to RSVP or for more information about the tour or directions.

ISA China trade mission focuses on strengthening relationships, demand

Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) and agribusiness leaders will travel to China next week to bolster already strong bonds with soybean buyers and explore new growth opportunities.

The ISA China Mission is scheduled for July 23-Aug. 1. Participants will get the latest updates on soybean demand and policy, visit farms and soybean processors and learn how soybean products can help the country’s growing dairy industry through a first-ever trip by ISA representatives to the province of Inner Mongolia.

The ISA delegation includes President Brian Kemp, who farms near Sibley; President Elect Tom Oswald, who farms near Cleghorn; CEO Kirk Leeds, Market Development Director Grant Kimberley and Senior Writer Matthew Wilde.

“Missions like this help ISA continue to understand the needs of the most important export customer in the world — China. Over the years, ISA leaders have invested a fair amount of time and checkoff dollars to build and grow strong relationships with key and potential customers,” Leeds said.

More than one out of every four rows of U.S. soybeans are exported to China, the world’s largest soybean buyer. U.S. farmers exported a record 1.58 billion bushels in 2013, valued at nearly $28 billion, data shows. Soybean exports this year are on pace to set a new record.

Mission trip highlights include:

·         Meet Chinese government and agricultural business officials in Beijing to learn about soy demand, food policy, production, transportation and issues concerning genetically modified organisms (GMOs), among other things.
·         Visit farms in Hebei province, Iowa’s sister state.
·         Travel to Inner Mongolia to visit dairy farms and feed operations.
·         Tour several soybean processors, including Hopefull Grain & Oil Group Co. and COFCO (China Oilseed & Feed Corporation), the nation’s largest. Stops at ports, livestock farms and feed mills are also on the agenda.

Though ISA officials will meet with Chinese leaders in Beijing and visit major population centers, Leeds said it’s important to visit areas where “new growth” for soybeans and soybean meal is projected.

“That’s why we are so anxious to visit Inner Mongolia, which we believe is poised for solid growth in the next decade,” Leeds said.

The best way to understand customer needs is by showing up at their doorstep and boardrooms, ISA officials say. Iowa has a special connection with China, fostered in part by a longstanding relationship between Gov. Terry Branstad and President Xi Jinping and groups like ISA and the U.S. Soybean Export Council.

Kimberley said these relationships and visits build customer preference and brand recognition. Chinese agriculture and business officials recently toured Rick and Martha Kimberley’s farm near Maxwell following a soybean purchasing ceremony in Des Moines.

“These relationships are important to proactively address any potential trade issues by building mutual understanding, trust and admiration for Iowa and U.S. soybeans,” Kimberley said.

Northey to Visit 6 Iowa Counties July 18 and 19

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey Wednesday announced that he will be visiting Dickinson, Osceola, Sioux, Cherokee, O'Brien and Pocahontas Counties on Friday, July 18 and Saturday, July 19.

On Friday Northey will speak to the Community Bankers of Iowa in Okoboji, visit the Osceola County Fair in Sibley, speak at the Floyd River Water Quality Initiative Project kickoff near Maurice and visit the Cherokee County Fair in Cherokee. On Saturday he will visit the O'Brien County fair in Primghar and the Pocahontas County Fair in Pocahontas.

The details of the visits follow here:

July 18

-- Dickinson County -- 7:30 a.m., speak at the Community Bankers of Iowa management conference, Arrowwood Resort, Bayhill Room, 1405 Hwy 71, Okoboji
-- Osceola County -- 9 a.m., visit the Osceola County Fair, 209 W. 9th St., Sibley
-- Sioux County -- 12 p.m., speak at the West Branch of the Floyd River Water Quality Initiative project kickoff, Maassen and Sons Dairy, 4733 Hickory Ave., Maurice
-- Cherokee County -- 4 p.m., visit the Cherokee County Fair, 200 Linden St., Cherokee

June 19

-- O'Brien County -- 8:30 a.m., visit the O'Brien County Fair, 4536 Starling Ave., Primghar
-- Pocahontas County -- 11 a.m., visit the Pocahontas County Fair, 310 NE 1st St., Pocahontas

Northey, a corn and soybean farmer from Spirit Lake, is serving his second term as Secretary of Agriculture. His priorities as Secretary of Agriculture are promoting the use of science and new technologies to better care for our air, soil and water, and reaching out to tell the story of Iowa agriculture.

Roberts-Heitkamp Bill to Enhance Farmer Customer Protections

U.S. Senators Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) Wednesday introduced a bill to enhance customer protections for farmers and ranchers by preventing regulations from the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) from being overly laborious and making it significantly more difficult for farmers and ranchers to make economical trades on commodities.

Following the collapses of MF Global and Peregrine Financial Group, the CFTC proposed and finalized customer protection rules to help regulators better recognize trouble in firms before they occur. While some changes to the regulations are beneficial, the rules enacted by the CFTC could overly burden those who rely on futures markets to hedge risks, such as local farmers and ranchers, grain merchants, and futures brokers.

The residual interest rule from the CFTC will eventually require futures customers to fully cover the margin of their futures contracts by the morning of the day following a trade. In order to comply with the new rule, brokers would be more likely to demand drastically increased initial payments from farmers, hurting the availability of funds that support the agriculture industry. The end result may drive some farmers out of futures markets due to increased costs or restrict capital that could otherwise be used to hire, make capital improvements, and make other critical investments.

The Senators' bill, S. 2601, the Risk Hedging Protection Act simply provides futures customers with an additional day to get their needed payments to brokers to meet the margin call, while still protecting customers and the financial markets.

"As the Senate Agriculture committee works to reauthorize the Commodity Exchange Act, one of my biggest priorities is protecting end users like farmers, ranchers and grain elevators from over-burdensome or unrealistic regulations," Roberts said. "This legislation ensures that the CFTC rules work in the countryside as well as on paper."

"The reckless behavior by firms like MF Global put the livelihoods of hardworking North Dakotans at risk, and the CFTC is right to make changes that help identify bad practices. However, the rules need to be workable, so farmers can continue to make investments in grain, corn, wheat, and other products in the futures markets, and get their high-quality products to customers. This bipartisan bill is a commonsense fix to strike that right balance," said Heitkamp.

The bill mirrors legislation, H.R. 4413, already approved by the House Agriculture Committee and the full House of Representatives.

Senator Roberts, a former Ranking Member of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, has been a vocal opponent to the residual interest requirements. He questioned former CFTC Chairman Gary Gensler on the proposed rules at a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing in February of 2013, and wrote the President regarding the rule and its impacts on rural America.

Senator Heitkamp is a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry and has pushed to address the concerns of end users related to the regulation of futures and swaps markets. Senator Heitkamp recently met with CFTC Chairman Tim Massad to stress the importance of end user access to important risk mitigation tools offered in the markets regulated by the CFTC.

Farm Bureau Decodes Water Rule Proposal, Asks EPA to Rescind

The American Farm Bureau Federation last night released to Congress a comprehensive document that responds, point by point, to numerous inaccurate and misleading comments made about the Environmental Protection Agency’s latest clean water rule. Nancy Stoner, EPA acting assistant administrator for water, made the statements in a recent agency blog post.

AFBF’s document explains – with specific citations to the proposed rule and other authorities – how the rule would give EPA broad Clean Water Act jurisdiction over dry land features and farming practices long declared off-limits by Congress and the nation’s highest court.

“AFBF and several state Farm Bureaus have met with the EPA repeatedly, and each time agency officials have declined to grapple with the serious, real world implications of the rule,” AFBF President Bob Stallman said. “EPA is now engaged in an intensive public relations campaign, and we believe its statements are directly contrary to the reality of the proposed rule.

“We have therefore decided to take our arguments to a wider audience, as well. Farm Bureau is dedicated to communicating to farmers, their elected representatives and the public how the proposed rule will impose costly and time-intensive federal permitting regimes on commonplace and essential practices that our nation’s farmers and ranchers depend on. Agency inspectors and courts will apply the rule, not EPA’s talking points. It’s time for the agency to ditch this rule and start over.”

AFBF hopes this document will contribute to the ongoing discussion in Congress regarding the rule and its implications not only for farming, but for the U.S. economy more broadly.

The document can be found here:

A shorter sampling of some of the most important points can be found here:

EPA Official Discusses WOTUS and RFS

The deputy administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency addressed the concerns of attendees at the National Corn Growers Association's Corn Congress delegate session Thursday afternoon, regarding proposed rules for the Waters of the U.S. and the 2014 volume obligation of the Renewable Fuel Standard.

"We greatly appreciate the deputy administrator's willingness to participate in an open, well-considered conversation," said NCGA President Martin Barbre. "While we certainly have concerns over the proposed WOTUS and interpretive rules, we hope that by working with the EPA we will be able to shape a final rule that addresses them adequately."

Following his address to the delegation, EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe answered questions from the farmer delegates and members of the NCGA Corn Board. Stressing the interests shared by the EPA and farmers, whom he called America's original environmentalists, Perciasepe pointed to a common need for clear air and water. He expressed the EPA's desire to work directly with agriculture to improve both the rules clarifying the Clean Water Act and the proposed volumes under the RFS.

In his comments, Perciasepe said was confident that the EPA will be able to construct a final WOTUS rule  that addresses the concerns brought forward by farmers, saying at one point: "If you didn't need a permit then, you will not need one" after the rule becomes final.

During the question-and-answer period, growers brought forward a series of issues, including a lack of clarity under the proposed interpretive rules, the need for clearly written intent language, and the need for formalized assurances. Notably, one delegates invited the deputy administrator to visit his farm to see his practices and issues first-hand.

Additionally, Perciasepe fielded questions pertaining to critical concerns over both the reduction in volume, and the continued delays of final 2014 renewable volume obligations of the RFS.

EPA's Second-in-Command Resigns

(AP) --- The No. 2 environmental official under President Barack Obama is resigning to head a nonprofit group dedicated to energy and climate change.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy on Thursday announced the resignation of Bob Perciasepe (pur-cha-SEP'-ee). He was appointed deputy administrator in 2009 as the Obama administration tapped the EPA to tackle pollution blamed for global warming.

The 63-year-old Perciasepe briefly led the agency after EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson stepped down in 2013.

His resignation ends a 13-year career at EPA spanning both the Obama and Clinton administrations. He worked at the National Audubon Society prior to his latest stint at the agency.

He will become president of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions think tank in Washington, D.C.

FSA takes action on CRP changes

On July 15, the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a draft Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (SPEIS) for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) based on the changes made in the 2014 Farm Bill. The Farm Service Agency (FSA) is taking action on the new provisions included in the bill and the few additional administrative actions in the SPEIS. The actions addressed are: continuous enrollment of grasslands, enrollment in other conservation programs such as the Conservation Stewardship Program and the Agriculture Conservation Easement Program; managed harvesting frequency; routine grazing frequency; targeting enrollment of environmentally sensitive lands through reverse auctions; and expanding the flexibility of emergency haying and grazing in drought designated areas on additional conservation practices. Many of the changes in the farm bill increase the flexibility of CRP acres and the frequency of haying and grazing. FSA will be accepting comments until September 8 and will be holding five public meetings.  All five meetings will be from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
-    July 21 at Hilton Garden Inn, Spokane Airport, Spokane, Wash.
-    July 22 at Holiday Inn, Great Falls, Mont.
-    August 4 at Plains Cotton Cooperative Association, Lubbock, Texas
-    August 5 at Stillwater Library, Stillwater, Okla.
-    August 6 at Courtyard by Marriott and Moorhead Area, Moorhead, Minn.

Scientists complete chromosome-based draft of the wheat genome

Several Kansas State University researchers were essential in helping scientists assemble a draft of a genetic blueprint of bread wheat, also known as common wheat. The food plant is grown on more than 531 million acres around the world and produces nearly 700 million tons of food each year.

The International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium, which also includes faculty at Kansas State University, recently published a chromosome-based draft sequence of wheat's genetic code, which is called a genome. "A chromosome-based draft sequence of the hexaploid bread wheat genome" is one of four papers about the wheat genome that appear in the journal Science.

The genetic blueprint is an invaluable resource to plant science researchers and breeders, said Eduard Akhunov, associate professor of plant pathology and a collaborator with the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium.

"For the first time, they have at their disposal a set of tools enabling them to rapidly locate specific genes on individual wheat chromosomes throughout the genome," Akhunov said. "This resource is invaluable for identifying those genes that control complex traits, such as yield, grain quality, disease, pest resistance and abiotic stress tolerance. They will be able to produce a new generation of wheat varieties with higher yields and improved sustainability to meet the demands of a growing world population in a changing environment."

Although a draft, the sequence provides new insight into the plant's structure, organization, evolution and genetic complexity.

"This is a very significant advancement for wheat genetics and breeding community," Akhunov said. "The wheat genome sequence provides a foundation for studying genetic variation and understanding how changes in the genetic code can impact important agronomic traits. In our lab we use this sequence to create a catalog of single base changes in DNA sequence of a worldwide sample of wheat lines to get insights into the evolution and origin of wheat genetic diversity."

Akhunov, Shichen Wang, a programmer and bioinformatics scientist in plant pathology, and Jesse Poland, assistant professor of plant pathology, collaborated with the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium to order genes along the wheat chromosomes.

Other Kansas State University researchers in the department of plant pathology involved include Bikram Gill, university distinguished professor and director of the Wheat Genetics Resource Center, and Bernd Friebe, research professor, who developed genetic material that was essential for obtaining the chromosome-based sequence of the wheat genome.

A second paper in Science details the first reference sequence of chromosome 3B, the largest chromosome in common wheat.

"The wheat genome only has 21 chromosomes, but each chromosome is very big and therefore quite complicated," Akhunov said. "The largest chromosome, 3B, has nearly 800 million letters in its genetic code. This is nearly three times more information than is in the entire rice genome. So trying to sequence this chromosome — and this genome — end-to-end is an extremely complicated task."

In order to analyze the vast amount of genetic information, researchers used a technique called shotgun sequencing. This divided the wheat genome into chromosomes and then split each chromosome into smaller segments. Chromosomal segments were analyzed by short gene sequences and overlapping sequences were stitched together with computer software.

The chromosome-based daft sequence the critical step before the full wheat genome is sequenced, Akhunov said. The sequencing approach developed for the 3B chromosome can now be applied for sequencing the remaining chromosomes in wheat. The consortium estimates the full genome sequence will be available in three years.

The research is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

"Wheat is a staple source of food for the majority of the world. As the global population continues to rapidly increase, we will need all the tools available to continue producing enough food for all people in light of a changing climate, diminishing land and water resources and changing diets and health expectations," said Sonny Ramaswamy, director of USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture and a former Kansas State University faculty member. "This work will give a boost to researchers looking to identify ways to increase wheat yields."

Respiratory protection videos on Agricultural Centers YouTube channel

The best agricultural safety videos – now just one click away – can be found on the U.S Agricultural Safety and Health Centers YouTube channel, at  The channel is a joint project of the 10 Agricultural Centers funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Over 40 videos are now available for Extension agents/educators, agricultural science teachers, producers/owner/operators, first responders and agricultural families.  Videos can be used during job orientation, safety/health education, 4-H meetings, high school or college classes. One benefit of YouTube is that videos can be accessed from mobile devices to conduct tailgate trainings in the field.

Summer is a good time to remind people involved in agricultural work to use respirators when they are in dusty conditions or working with chemicals.  Choosing, using and fitting the right respirator is the key to protecting your lungs.  Four videos on the U.S Agricultural Safety and Health Centers YouTube site discuss respiratory protection:
-  How to Get the Right Fit
-  How to Properly Care for Your Mask
-  Choosing the Right Mask for Your Agricultural Job
-  Understanding the Risks

These videos provide information about:
·         How long term exposures to agricultural dusts and gases can cause permanent damage to your lungs leading to chronic bronchitis, an asthma-like condition, lung scarring, or emphysema.
·         The fact that farmers have the highest rate of disabilities from respiratory conditions.
·         Symptoms of respiratory hazard exposure include: severe shortness of breath with exertion, chronic coughing, periodic flu-like symptoms, sinus problems and nasal drainage and chest tightness and wheezing after working in agricultural dusts.
·         How respirators prevent dusts, molds, and other hazards from entering your airway and lungs.
·         How serious diseases can result from one-time and repeated exposure to respiratory hazards.
·         How you must always use the proper respirator for the specific hazard. Your dust/mist respirator will not protect you from ammonia fumes, though the two may look very similar.
·         The importance of knowing that respirators must: have two straps, fit your face tightly, without gaps around the nose, cheeks, and chin, be appropriate for the task and be approved by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

Check the site regularly for new content and fresh ideas about how to stay safe while working in agriculture, forestry and fishing.  Each video has been produced and reviewed by experts in agricultural, forestry and fishing occupational hazards.  Other topics include: livestock safety, tractor and machinery safety, child development, emergency response, grain safety, pesticide safety, heat illness prevention, ladder safety and hearing protection.  For more information visit:, or email us at:

Historic Farm Bill Funding Available to Organic Producers and Handlers

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today that approximately $13 million in Farm Bill funding is now available for organic certification cost-share assistance, making certification more accessible than ever for small certified producers and handlers.

"Consumer demand for organic products is surging across the country," said Secretary Tom Vilsack. "To meet this demand, we need to make sure that small farmers who choose to grow organic products can afford to get certified. Organic food is now a multi-billion dollar industry, and helping this sector continue to grow creates jobs across the country."

The certification assistance is distributed through two programs within the Agricultural Marketing Service. Through the National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program, $11.5 million is available to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and five U.S. Territories. Through the Agricultural Management Assistance Organic Certification Cost-Share Program, an additional $1.5 million is available to organic operations in Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

These programs provide cost-share assistance through participating states to USDA certified organic producers and handlers for certification-related expenses they incur from October 1, 2013 through September 30, 2014. Payments cover up to 75 percent of an individual producer's or handler's certification costs, up to a maximum of $750 per certification. To receive cost-share assistance, organic producers and handlers should contact their state agencies. Each state will have their own guidelines and requirements for reimbursement, and the National Organic Program (NOP) will assist states as much as possible to successfully implement the programs. State contact information can be found on the NOP Cost Share Website,

In 2012 alone, USDA issued close to 10,000 cost-share reimbursements totaling over $6.5 million, to support the organic industry and rural America. Additional information about resources available to small and mid-sized producers, including accessing capital, risk management, locating market opportunities and land management is available on USDA's Small and Mid-Sized Farmer Resources webpage.

USDA has a number of new and expanded efforts to connect organic farmers and businesses with resources that will ensure the continued growth of the organic industry domestically and abroad. During this Administration, USDA has signed four major trade agreements on organic products, and is also helping organic stakeholders access programs that support conservation, provide access to loans and grants, fund organic research and education, and mitigate pest emergencies. Through the NOP, USDA has helped organic farmers and businesses achieve $35 billion annually in U.S. retail sales. The organic community includes over 25,000 organic businesses in more than 120 different countries around the world.

Today's funding announcement for organic certification cost-share assistance was made possible by the 2014 Farm Bill. The Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past five years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit

For additional information contact Dana Stahl, Organic Certification Cost Share Program Manager,, (540) 361-1126. Additional information is available on the NOP's website at

The NOP is responsible for ensuring the integrity of USDA organic agricultural products in the United States and throughout the world. Find out more about organic certification by visiting

DuPont Pioneer Launches Encirca Yield to Enhance Input Management

DuPont Pioneer is launching its new Encirca Yield services platform and enrolling growers today to help them improve timing, placement and management of critical inputs to enhance the overall productivity and profitability of every acre.

“Growers are working harder than ever to manage their margins during a difficult economic environment,” said Steve Reno, DuPont Pioneer vice president, regional business director for U.S. and Canada. “The Encirca Yield services platform provides a new way for our customers to assess their crop’s performance in real-time and make management decisions that will ultimately improve their operation’s bottom line.”

The Encirca Yield platform relies on several innovative enabling technologies that mimic crop production throughout the growing season. Strategic collaborations with eight U.S. land grant universities, the USDA and University of Missouri, and DTN/The Progressive Farmer are providing enhanced crop modeling, advanced soil mapping and hyper-local weather data to fuel the analytics featured in Encirca Yield.

A key part of this new premium offering is the Nitrogen Management Service. Nitrogen (N) is one of the most difficult inputs to use efficiently and misuse can be costly. Pioneer agronomists estimate growers can lose an estimated $50 to $60 per acre by applying too much or too little Nitrogen. The Encirca Yield Nitrogen Management Service gives growers information to help them limit these losses and secure more profit from each acre.

Pioneer helps growers with this analysis through insights provided by a local Encirca certified services agent utilizing the data pulled from the field.

“Local Encirca certified services agents are versed in the industry-leading technology and analytics we provide,” Reno said. “They can help customers with plans tailored to each field based on growing conditions and reassess throughout the season. This helps growers determine the right amounts to apply at the right time to enhance their yield and profit potential.”

Encirca Yield is the newest instrument in the Encirca services arsenal. It joins the Encirca View platform launched earlier this year. Encirca View is a free mobile-enabled information hub offering organized crop observations and notes, and an industry first – Community View – provides real-time aggregated insight into crop conditions and soil moisture ratings. Users can upgrade to fee-based Encirca View Premium for field-by-field weather powered by individual weather stations and commodity market news and insight.

The Encirca services platforms are agronomically driven and will help farmers make whole-farm, real-time choices on important elements to farm successfully, driving the future of decision-based agriculture forward and improving productivity for American agriculture.

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