Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Tuesday July 29 Ag News

Johanns Applauds OSHA’s Formal Clarification That it Cannot Regulate Family Farms

U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns (R- Neb) today applauded Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) formal clarification that it cannot regulate family farms with 10 or fewer employees. In a guideline issued today, OSHA recognizes that postharvest activities integral to farming operations, including drying and storing grain, are exempt from regulations if the farm has 10 or fewer employees, consistent with current law.

“OSHA had no business regulating family farms in the first place,” Johanns said. “Even though OSHA overreached, I applaud their promise to obey the law and listen to the concerns of the farmers and ranchers who are affected.”

Earlier this year, Johanns’ language clarifying a 30-plus year provision that excludes all farming activities on farms with 10 or fewer employees from being regulated by OSHA was included in the omnibus appropriations package. Today’s guidance formalizes Johanns’ clarification. He also led 42 Senate colleagues in a bipartisan letter demanding the agency immediately stop the regulation of family farms. OSHA had pledged to clarify its policies on regulating the activity of these farms, which it has now done.

In 2011, OSHA illegally targeted a Holt County farm. The case, which included approximately $132,000 in fines, was dropped in February 2014 after Johanns’ intervention.

Jenkins Questions Farm Bureau’s Rushed Endorsement of Sasse

Nonpartisan U.S. Senate candidate Jim Jenkins, today sent a letter to the Nebraska Farm Bureau questioning their endorsement of Ben Sasse in the U.S. Senate race to replace retiring Senator Mike Johanns.

“Several weeks ago, your organization made the decision to endorse Ben Sasse in the race for the United States Senate seat being vacated by Mike Johanns. As the only candidate in the race with extensive, long-term experience in agriculture, alternative fuels and the food industry, I would like to tell you why I am running,” Jenkins wrote.

“When I announced my decision to run for the U.S. Senate as a nonpartisan candidate, I understood that it would be a long, uphill battle, but I fully expected to receive a fair hearing from Nebraska business and agricultural organizations, given my track record of leadership in these areas.”

“While I realize that the Nebraska Farm Bureau decided to endorse Mr. Sasse early on, I would like to place my rural resume in front of you and allow you to compare it to that of Mr. Sasse who, while very intellectual, has virtually no agricultural or private sector experience and a very thin Nebraska resume, having moved back to the state only five years ago.”

    Managing partner for family ranch, including cow-calf, yearling, feedlot and farming enterprises
    Founded or co-founded a dozen businesses
    Nine years on the Custer County Planning Commission
    Two terms on the Nebraska Ethanol Board
    Past-president of the Nebraska Restaurant Association
    Member of Nebraska Ag Builders
    Collaborated with Nebraska Beef Council and University of Nebraska to promote the newly developed Flat Iron Steak
    Assisted with one of the first wind development projects in Nebraska

“Despite this record, I was not invited to speak to your board or to address your membership.”

“Mr. Sasse and I differ significantly in how best to address the most important issues facing our state and our country. Our country can ill-afford the continued, excessive partisanship that prevents Congress from dealing with important issues, such as the deficit, tax reform, budgeting, the Highway Trust Fund and immigration.”

“Mr. Sasse has taken positions on nearly every major issue that are to the extreme right of the political spectrum, which will only exacerbate the political divisions now gripping Washington. Congress is already filled with partisan dividers, when what we need are bridge-builders and uniters.”

“Our state and nation have a critical choice this November: We can continue to allow our politicians to engage in excessive partisanship, which undermines our country, or we can send leaders to Congress who are committed to putting the interests of the nation ahead of the party.”

“I pledge to help find solutions in Washington that are based on what is best for my home state and my nation, not for the parties who posture and bare their political teeth over self-serving bones. I invite Nebraska farmers and ranchers to join my campaign to move our nation beyond the partisan posturing that is undermining Nebraska and our country.”

Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation President Steve Nelson Responds to Jenkins News Release

“As we have stated on numerous occasions, Ben Sasse was the overwhelming choice of our county Farm Bureau’s to receive Nebraska Farm Bureau’s “Friend of Agriculture” designation for U.S. Senate. This support was expressed through our grassroots process where our County Farm Bureau’s demonstrated overwhelming consensus for Ben Sasse to receive Nebraska Farm Bureau’s “Friend of Agriculture” designation in both the primary and then again in the general election.”

“Ben Sasse has built a strong grassroots network of support across Nebraska that comes from meeting and listening to the concerns of real Nebraskans. Sasse’s workman like grassroots campaign has shown he genuinely cares about what farmers, ranchers and rural communities have to say. And he’s demonstrated that he is committed to being a strong voice for Nebraska’s farm and ranch families in Washington D.C.”

“Our next U.S. Senator will face many challenges. One of the largest is tackling the issue of runaway federal spending and government growth. The future prosperity of Nebraska farm and ranch families is dependent on Congress’ ability to get our country’s fiscal house in order, which has a direct connection to the development of sound farm policy.  We believe Ben Sasse is the right person to address this critical issue and with that ensure, we continue to have federal farm policy that meets the needs of farmers, ranchers and all Americans who benefit from the food, fuel and fiber derived from agriculture.”


On Wednesday, Aug. 20 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m., The Center for Food Integrity, in cooperation with the Water for Food Institute at the University of Nebraska, will host the Forum for Sustainable Water Management in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Agriculture today consumes more than 70 percent of the world’s freshwater resources, the vast majority of which is used for irrigating crops. As the world’s population continues to grow and diets improve around the world, intense pressure on the world’s water resources is increasingly becoming a constraint on the ability to produce food for millions of people. Discussing these issues and finding potential solutions will be key to producing the food needed to feed future populations.

Wednesday, Aug. 20, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Nebraska Innovation Campus
2200 Vine Street
Lincoln, Nebraska 68508

Speakers and topics include:

•    Terry Fleck, The Center for Food Integrity – “Sustainability and Building Trust”
•    Dr. James Specht, emeritus Professor of Agronomy and Horticulture, University of Nebraska-Lincoln – “Soybean Genomics and How They Relate to Water Conservation”
•    Dr. Derek Heeren, Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Assistant Professor – “The Tools for Most Effective Irrigation”
•    Dr. Trenton E. Franz, Hydrogeophysicist, University of Nebraska-Lincoln – “Advances in Soil Water Monitoring”
•    Dr. Nicholas Brozovic, Director of Policy at the University of Nebraska’s Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute – “Policy and Economic Challenges to Water Sustainability in Agriculture”
•    Dr. Martha Shulski, Assistant Professor of Applied Climate Science in the School of Natural Resources and the Director of the High Plains Regional Climate Center, University of Nebraska-Lincoln – “Delivering Useful Climate Change Information – Message Makes a Difference”
•    Dr. Francisco Munoz-Arriola, Assistant Professor of Biological Systems Engineering, University of Nebraska-Lincoln – “Hydroinformatics”
•    Expert Panel – “Linking Water and Food Insecurity”

Those interested in raising their awareness of water sustainability issues as it pertains to agriculture and understanding potential solutions to assuring a sustainable water supply are invited to attend. To RSVP, please contact Abby Strawder, abby.strawder@foodintegrity.org


Bruce Anderson, UNL Extension Forage Specialist

Summer is flying by and soon this season will be over.  Today I’m going to be optimistic and assume we will get some welcome rain to grow fall forage crops.

If you’re like most folks, you could use more pasture and winter feed.  If it rains, what can you plant for quick feed?

Right now your two best choices are turnips for grazing and oats for either hay or grazing.  Winter small grains like cereal rye, wheat, and triticale won’t produce much fall growth although they will provide early grazing next spring.

Oats can produce a couple tons of hay in the fall when seeded by mid-August if it receives good moisture and fertility.  We usually drill about three bushels per acre in a prepared seedbed, but drilling directly into weed-free stubble of corn, beans, wheat, or other crops already harvested or hailed out works well when soil remains moist for several days in a row after seeding.

For turnips, plant just two or three pounds per acre and barely cover the tiny seeds.  Add 30 to 50 pounds of oats for an even better grazing mix.  Broadcasting onto bare, tilled soil often works well as does shallow drilling into weed-free crop stubble.

Oats can be ready to graze in six to eight weeks, moisture permitting, but don’t start grazing turnips until late October or November.  Ease animals slowly into grazing either one to minimize respiratory or digestive problems.  Oats will die following a real hard freeze, but turnips continue to grow slowly until temperature drops below twenty degrees.  Even into the dead of winter, the root of the turnip remains a very desirable, and grazable, feed.

You need to look ahead to fall and winter.  If late summer rains appear, be ready to capitalize using oats and turnips.

Univ. of Iowa Researchers Find Changes in Ag Increase High River Flow Rates

Just as a leaky roof can make a house cooler and wetter when it's raining as well as hotter and dryer when it's sunny, changes in land use can affect river flow in both rainy and dry times, say two University of Iowa researchers.

While it may be obvious that changes in river water discharge across the U.S. Midwest can be related to changes in rainfall and agricultural land use, it is important to learn how these two factors interact in order to get a better understanding of what the future may look like, says Gabriele Villarini, UI assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, assistant research engineer at IIHR--Hydroscience & Engineering and lead author of a published research paper on the subject.

"We wanted to know what the relative impacts of precipitation and agricultural practices played in shaping the discharge record that we see today," he says. "Is it an either/or answer or a much more nuanced one?

"By understanding our past we are better positioned in making meaningful statements about our future," he says.

The potential benefits of understanding river flow are especially great in the central United States, particularly Iowa, where spring and summer floods have hit the area in 1993, 2008, 2013 and 2014, interrupted by the drought of 2012. Large economic damage and even loss of life have resulted, says co-author Aaron Strong, UI assistant professor in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning and with the Environmental Policy Program at the UI Public Policy Center.

"What is interesting to note," says Strong, "is that the impacts, in terms of flooding, have been exacerbated. At the same time, the impacts of drought, for in-stream flow, have been mitigated with the changes in land use composition that we have seen over the last century."

In order to study the effect of changes in agricultural practices on Midwest river discharge, the researchers focused on Iowa's Raccoon River at Van Meter, Iowa. The 9,000-square-kilometer watershed has the advantage of having had its water discharge levels measured and recorded daily for most of the 20th century right on up to the present day. (The study focused on the period 1927-2012). During that period, the number of acres used for corn and soybean production greatly increased, roughly doubling over the course of the 20th century.

Not surprisingly, they found that variability in rainfall is responsible for most of the changes in water discharge volumes.

However, the water discharge rates also varied with changes in agricultural practices, as defined by soybean and corn harvested acreage in the Raccoon River watershed. In times of flood and in times of drought, water flow rates were exacerbated by more or less agriculture, respectively. The authors suggest that although flood conditions may be exacerbated by increases in agricultural production, this concern "must all be balanced by the private concerns of increased revenue from agricultural production through increased cultivation."

"Our results suggest that changes in agricultural practices over this watershed--with increasing acreage planted in corn and soybeans over time--translated into a seven-fold increase in rainfall contribution to the average annual maximum discharge when we compare the present to the 1930s," Villarini says.

The UI research paper, "Roles of climate and agricultural practices in discharge changes in an agricultural watershed in Iowa," can be found in the online edition of Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment.

Soybean Checkoff Produces Big ROI

Under the soy checkoff program, all U.S. soybean farmers contribute a small percentage of their gross soybean sales for research and marketing projects that maximize their profit potential. According to the results of a new, independent study, the checkoff continues to grow those small investments into big results for U.S. soybean farmers.

The results of the checkoff’s most recent regular, independent return-on-investment (ROI) analysis found that all U.S. soybean farmers receive $5.20 in profits for every dollar they invest in the checkoff.

“Farmers are always looking for ways to improve profitability and become more efficient, so ROI is very important to them,” says United Soybean Board (USB) Chairman Jim Call, a soybean farmer from Madison, Minnesota. “This study shows that U.S. soybean farmers are better off because of the checkoff.”

Gary Williams, Ph.D., an agricultural economics professor from Texas A&M University who conducted the study, says 5 percent of all U.S. soybean farmers’ revenues are due to the checkoff’s research and marketing efforts. Williams also pointed out other conclusions, including:
-    The soy checkoff has increased the size of the U.S. soybean industry.
-    It has lifted the markets for U.S. soybeans, meal and oil, as well as U.S. soybean farmer returns.
-    The checkoff has also increased U.S. soy exports and reduced the competitive threat of the South American soybean industry. As a result, U.S. soybean farmers currently enjoy a larger share of the global soy market.
-    The benefits of the checkoff for U.S. soybean farmers and the industry in terms of net additional returns have far exceeded the cost of the program expenditures over time.

According to USB Audit & Evaluation Committee Chair David Hartke, a soybean farmer from Teutopolis, Illinois, it is one of several tools the checkoff uses to keep farmers’ dollars working for them.

“We’re always very diligent in making sure that U.S. soybean farmers get the most for their investment,” Hartke says. “The ROI study, along with all the other evaluations and reporting we require, ensure that all of our projects remain consistent with our strategy and are working for the good of the farmer.”

The results of the most recent soy checkoff request for referendum balloting indicate that farmers know the value of the checkoff. The U.S. Department of Agriculture received 355 request-for-referendum forms from U.S. soybean farmers during May, the month designated this year for the opportunity provided every five years for U.S. soybean farmers to request that a referendum be held on the checkoff’s existence. Of those, only 324 were valid, which represents 0.06 percent of all eligible U.S. soybean farmers, falling far short of the 10 percent needed to trigger a full referendum.

National FFA Organization names 2014 American Star finalists

The National FFA Organization has selected 16 students from throughout the United States as finalists for its 2014 top achievement awards: American Star Farmer, American Star in Agribusiness, American Star in Agricultural Placement and American Star in Agriscience.

The American Star Awards represent the best of the best among thousands of American FFA Degree recipients. Recognized are FFA members who have developed outstanding agricultural skills and competencies through supervised agricultural experience (SAE) programs; earned an American FFA Degree, the highest level of achievement the organization bestows upon a member; and met agricultural education, leadership and scholarship requirements.

The American FFA Degree recognition program is co-sponsored by ADM Crop Risk Service, Case IH, Elanco, Farm Credit, DuPont Pioneer and Syngenta as a special project of the National FFA Foundation.

The finalists include:

American Star Farmer

Alan Barka, Litchfield FFA Chapter (Minnesota) – Barka owns a dairy cattle operation, in which he manages and sells the milk produced.
Josh Stutrud, Rugby FFA Chapter (North Dakota) – Stutrud manages his own diversified agricultural livestock and grain operation of beef cattle, alfalfa and corn.
Zach Weichel, Cordell FFA Chapter (Oklahoma) – Weichel operates his beef and grain production, where he markets and sells his feeder cattle and wheat crop.
Thomas Michael Allen, Reedsburg FFA Chapter (Wisconsin) – Allen breeds, raises, and markets dairy cattle and then sells his livestock at shows and sales.

American Star in Agribusiness

Jared A. Eilertson, United South Central FFA Chapter (Minnesota) – Eilertson operates his own custom hay bailing, ditch-hay sales and agricultural commodities trucking enterprises.
Dustin Stanton, Centralia FFA Chapter (Missouri) – Stanton owns Stanton Brothers, a poultry operation that supplies fresh eggs to community members, local businesses and farmers markets.
Ethan VanderWal, Sioux Valley FFA Chapter (South Dakota) – VanderWal started a custom round hay bailing and rolling business, where he provides services to customers in his community.
Thomas Larson, Viroqua FFA Chapter (Wisconsin) – Larson created a business for repairing machinery and re-selling fixed items, including chainsaws, weed eaters, lawnmowers and more.

American Star in Agricultural Placement

Travis A. Poppe, Crofton FFA Chapter (Nebraska) – Poppe works for his family’s farm, Poppe Farms, where he manages swine and cattle and operates the diversified crop production of corn and soybeans.
Garrett Sharp, Waukomis FFA Chapter (Oklahoma) – Sharp operates and services equipment, moving and preparing land  and implements conservation practices while being employeed at his uncle’s farm.
Matt Eichacker, McCook Central FFA Chapter (South Dakota) – Eichacker operates corn and soybean productions, manages beef cattle and applies fertilizers and chemicals for two farms and a cooperative.
Jessica Woodworth, Mineral County FFA Chapter (West Virginia) – Woodworth works for her family’s farm and store. While there, she assists in the beef cattle, swine and produce operations and sells retail meat cuts, fruits, vegetables and other products.

American Star in Agriscience
Patrik Arkfeld, Syracuse-Dunbar-Avoca FFA Chapter (Nebraska) – Arkfeld conducts swine research in meat quality, genetics, waste management and more.

Sarah Cox, Zane Trace FFA Chapter (Ohio) – Cox studies animal and food sciences through research projects including zooenotic diseases, plant diseases and microorganisms.
Katie Osborn, Greenwood FFA Chapter (Pennsylvania) – Osborn has performed four studies in dairy cattle mastitis, an infection in the udders.
Witney L. Bowman, Stonewall Jackson FFA Chapter (Virginia) – Bowman studies the effects of feeding calves additional milk replacer and injecting rooting hormones in Juniper trees.

Each star finalist receives $2,000 from the National FFA Foundation.

A panel of judges will interview finalists and select one winner for each award at the 87th National FFA Convention & Expo, Oct. 29 - Nov. 1, in Louisville, Ky. The four winners will receive an additional $2,000 and be announced at the convention and expo’s eighth general session , as part of the Stars Over America Pagent and before the American FFA Degree Ceremony on Saturday, Nov. 1.

The Stars Over America is a special audiovisual presentation featuring the star award finalists funded as a special project of the National FFA Foundation.

Race Makes History with Jeff Gordon and American Ethanol

Jeff Gordon may have won his fifth NASCAR race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this weekend but American Ethanol was his co-pilot. Not only was he running on E15 American Ethanol as he crossed the finish line, but he also was part of NASCAR's celebration of the sport logging six million miles  on Sunoco Green E15.

For more than three years, NASCAR has run on an E15 race fuel blend called American Ethanol, or Sunoco Green E15. It seemed appropriate that the notable achievement came at the Brickyard in Indianapolis, one of the world's most historically significant tracks.

On Saturday and Sunday, supporters of American Ethanol were out in force to see the historic milestone firsthand. Representatives of the retail fuel industry, ethanol plants who make the corn-based fuel, and corn growers from five states were on hand to see the green biofuel prove itself once again under some of the toughest driving conditions on the planet.

District Court Strikes Down Injunction Against Country of Origin Labeling

National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson issued the following statement after receiving news of the District Court of Appeals’ en banc decision on a challenge to enforcement of Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) by the multinational meatpackers and our foreign competitors.  By a 9-2 majority, the panel upheld an earlier 3-judge panel decision to deny an appeal to halt the enforcement of the popular labeling law, passed in 2008.

 “NFU, and our broad coalition of consumer and producer organizations, have achieved yet another victory in our long battle to uphold the enforcement of the COOL regulation as modified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA).   This marks the third time that COOL has won in court. There is no need for this case to proceed.

“The Court ruled that the government may require factual, uncontroversial information to be included on a label. American consumers want to know basic information about where their meat comes from, and livestock producers across this great nation are very proud of what they produce and happy to let consumers know where their meat comes from.  USDA’s new COOL rules will significantly improve the information available to consumers by reducing confusion about the origins of meat products.  It will also provide U.S. livestock producers the opportunity to differentiate their products, which they are proud to claim as theirs.”

USDA Implements Key Farm Bill Crop Insurance Provision

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced continued progress in implementing provisions of the 2014 Farm Bill that will strengthen and expand insurance coverage options for farmers and ranchers. The new Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO), available through the federal crop insurance program and set to begin with the 2015 crop year, is designed to help protect producers from yield and market volatility.

"America's agricultural producers work hard to produce a sufficient amount of safe and nutritious food for the country," said Secretary Tom Vilsack. "It's critical that they have crop insurance options to effectively manage risks and ensure that they do not lose everything due to events beyond their control. Following the 2014 Farm Bill signing, USDA has made it a priority to ensure the Supplemental Coverage Option was available to help farmers in this upcoming crop year."

The 2014 Farm Bill strengthens and expands crop insurance by providing more risk management options for farmers and ranchers and by making crop insurance more affordable for beginning farmers. SCO, which is administered by the Risk Management Agency (RMA), further strengthens the farm safety net.

SCO will be available for corn, cotton, grain sorghum, rice, soybeans, spring barley, spring wheat, and winter wheat in selected counties for the 2015 crop year. Producers should contact their crop insurance agents to discuss eligibility in time to sign up for winter wheat coverage. RMA plans to make SCO more widely available by adding more counties and crops. Information on SCO for 2015 winter and spring wheat is available on the RMA website at www.rma.usda.gov. Selected counties for other commodities will be released later this summer.

SCO is a county-level policy endorsement that is in addition to an underlying crop insurance policy, and covers a portion of losses not covered by the same crop's underlying policy. Producers who elect to participate in Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC), which is offered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA), are not eligible for SCO for the crop and farm participating in ARC.

Producers applying for SCO for the 2015 winter wheat crop may withdraw coverage on any farm where they have elected, or where they intend to elect, ARC for winter wheat by the earlier of their acreage reporting date or Dec. 15, without penalty. This allows producers additional time to make an informed decision related to whether to elect to participate in either the ARC or Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs for their winter wheat. If producers withdraw SCO coverage for a farm by the earlier of their acreage reporting date or Dec. 15, they will not be charged a crop insurance premium. In order to withdraw coverage without penalty, producers must notify their agents of their intended election for ARC by the earlier of their winter wheat acreage reporting date or Dec. 15.

Today's announcement 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 www.usda.gov/farmbill.

AgriBank Poll: Lenders Expect Farm Financial Performance to Moderate in 2014

A recent poll of chief credit officers for Farm Credit lenders in America’s heartland found that after years of exceptional growth, farm financial performance is expected to decline in 2014 as commodity prices moderate from recent record highs.

St. Paul-based AgriBank conducted the poll in July among chief credit officers for the Bank and its 17 affiliated Farm Credit Associations, which provide agricultural loans in a 15-state area stretching from Wyoming to Ohio and Minnesota to Arkansas. Farm Credit is the top source of loans for agriculture and rural borrowers in these states.

Sixty-seven percent of those surveyed said farm financial performance would generally be slightly worse this year compared to last year, while 22 percent said it would be worse. Several noted that farm financial performance will differ among different market segments.

“The poll reflects the reality that grain commodity prices are lower compared to last year, which will likely have some negative impact on profitability for crop producers this year,” said Jerry Lehnertz, vice president, lending for AgriBank. “On the flip side, most crop producers have entered this lower commodity price environment with strong overall financial positions. In addition, producers who purchase these grains as inputs for dairy products, ethanol, livestock and poultry may see increased profitability resulting from the lower grain prices. ”

Risk Management Takes Center Stage

According to Lehnertz, despite a worsening outlook for profitability in 2014, a well-planned marketing strategy can help farmers accomplish short-run measurable objectives and long-run business goals.

“We are seeing commodity prices return to earth after a period of remarkable growth,” Lehnertz said. “But smart financial strategies can help commodity producers maintain healthy financial positions through these challenges.”

Lehnertz identified key steps farmers should consider taking to help them weather upcoming challenges:
-    Start by setting well-defined goals and objectives
-    Gather farm-specific production information, including historic yields, crop insurance levels, fixed and variable costs, to better understand your unique circumstances
-    Look at commodity price scenarios, not just market forecasts, so you can be better prepared for the unexpected
-    Develop a customizable marketing toolbox so you can access the tools you need
-    Be sure to have a flexible marketing plan so you can adjust to changing market opportunities and challenges

Producers who want to learn more about marketing strategy can contact their local Farm Credit lender or find their local lender at AgriBank.com.

Farm Bill Implications

The chief credit officers surveyed indicated their Farm Credit borrowers would generally experience a neutral impact from the Agricultural Act of 2014, or Farm Bill. These agricultural lending experts were asked to rate the Farm Bill’s effect on the financial success of their borrowers on a scale of one to 10, with one being negative and 10 being positive. They gave an average rating of approximately five.

Many Farm Bill implementation details have yet to be determined and, with the elimination of direct payments, crop producers will have to choose between several programs that provide income support under adverse price or yield conditions. More than 76 percent of the chief credit officers surveyed said farmers are talking to their Farm Credit lending officers (or crop insurance specialists) about how the new Farm Bill will affect their operations.

“Producers are actively discussing the Farm Bill, even as many program details have yet to be determined,” Lehnertz said. “The Farm Bill is just part of the equation when it comes to farm finances and risk management. Farmers and ranchers are talking to experts such as Farm Credit to help them navigate an increasingly complex and volatile operating environment.”

Grains Council Calls on China to Approve Trait in DDGs

The U.S. Grains Council is calling for China to approve MIR 162 following last week's announcement of new biotech certification requirements for distiller's dried grains with solubles by the Chinese import inspection authority, AQSIQ.

The new requirements effectively call for a certificate from the point of origin - in the case of U.S. shipments, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture - guaranteeing that the shipment is free of the biotech trait. The mandate was made effective immediately, causing serious disruptions with existing DDGS trade and making future DDGS trade hard to achieve.

"China is asking for something that cannot be done. This certificate they're asking for does not exist," said Tom Sleight, USGC's president and CEO. "It's time for China to look at and approve this trait," Sleight said. "It's been approved for commercialization in the United States since 2010, and it's been approved by all importing countries, including the European Union, for quite some time. We think that the lack of approval of MIR 162 is becoming an undue impediment on trade."

The Council is working to address the new disruption to DDGS trade with the U.S. government and the U.S. ambassador to China, as well as with MAIZALL, which represents grower organizations in several major corn exporting countries.

Meanwhile, USGC staff and consultants around the world are working with other markets interested in DDGS, particularly since prices have declined.

USDA Urged to Immediately Restore Official Grain Inspection Service at the Port of Vancouver, Washington

Citing the “extremely troubling precedent” being set, 22 national, regional and state agricultural producer, commodity and agribusiness organizations, including U.S. Wheat Associates and the National Association of Wheat Growers, have urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to take immediate action to restore official grain inspection and weighing services at the Port of Vancouver, Washington.

In a recent letter to the Secretary of Agriculture and other key administration officials, the organizations cited a notice by the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) stating that it no longer would fulfill its obligation to provide official grain inspection and weighing services at the Port of Vancouver. WSDA had been delegated the responsibility to provide official grain inspection and weighing services at the port by USDA’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA).

In the July 1 notice stating that it was suspending official inspection services indefinitely, effective July 7, the director of WSDA’s grain inspection program stated as one of the reasons the belief that the “continued provision of inspection services appears to have been unhelpful in leading to any foreseeable resolution” of the labor dispute.

Several organizations also met last October with GIPSA and other USDA officials to urge that the agency prepare contingency plans to ensure an “immediate and effective” program to continue official services at the port after several service interruptions.

“This issue is of great concern to the wheat farmers in the Pacific Northwest as well as around the country.” Said Paul Penner, National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) President and wheat farmer from Hillsboro, Kansas. “If Washington state inspectors are unable to perform their duties, then the time has come for federal grain inspectors to step in and do their mandated jobs to get grain flowing out of the port of Vancouver.” 

Alan Tracy, President of U.S. Wheat Associates added, "With the wheat harvest season well underway and the importance of exports to our producers, we hope that official services are restored at the Port of Vancouver as quickly as possible." 

“To our knowledge, this latest announcement by a designated state agency declining to provide official services is unprecedented,” the groups wrote in their letter. “We believe WSDA’s actions create an extremely troubling precedent that will cause irreparable damage to the integrity and reliability of the nation’s official grain inspection system.” 

The organizations also cited the “uncertainty” already created within the U.S. grain export industry, as well as among U.S. agricultural producers and international buyers of U.S. commodities, regarding potential future disruptions of official services at facilities operating at other U.S. export ports. They said, “in the absence of WSDA’s reliable performance of its duties, FGIS must intervene and make the necessary arrangements to provide the mandatory official (inspection) services.”

Federal law prohibits the export of U.S. grains and oilseeds unless inspected and weighed by official personnel in accordance with the U.S. grain standards. In addition, such exports are required to be accompanied by official certificates showing the grade designation and certified weight, unless the requirement is waived by the Secretary of Agriculture and the grain is not sold or exported by grade. Under the U.S. Grain Standards Act, Congress vested in USDA the responsibility and obligation to provide official inspection services to facilitate efficient and cost-effective marketing of U.S. grains and oilseeds. 

“To this point, confidence that the U.S. official grain inspection system will function in a continuous and consistent manner — and not be subject to unwarranted disruptions — has been instrumental in facilitating the ability of U.S. farmers and agribusinesses to reliably serve foreign customers and remain competitive in world markets,” the groups wrote. 

National organizations signing the letter to Vilsack were:  Agricultural Retailers Association; American Farm Bureau Federation; American Soybean Association; National Association of Wheat Growers; National Corn Growers Association; National Grain and Feed Association; National Oilseed Processors Association; North American Export Grain Association; Transportation, Elevator and Grain Merchants Association; U.S. Grains Council; U.S. Soybean Export Council; and U.S. Wheat Associates.

State and regional organizations signing the letter were:  Idaho Grain Producers, Minnesota Grain and Feed Association, Montana Grain Growers Association, North Dakota Grain Dealers Association, North Dakota Grain Growers Association, Oregon Wheat Growers League, South Dakota Grain and Feed Association, South Dakota Wheat Inc., Pacific Northwest Grain and Feed Association, and Washington Association of Wheat Growers.

CWT Assists with 3.9 Million Pounds of Cheese and Whole Milk Powder Export Sales

Cooperatives Working Together (CWT) has accepted 8 requests for export assistance from Dairy Farmers of America and Tillamook County Creamery Association to sell 1.645 million pounds (746 metric tons) of Cheddar cheese, and 2.222 million pounds (1008 metric tons) of whole milk powder to customers in North Africa, Central and South America. The product will be delivered July 2014 through January 2015.

Year-to-date, CWT has assisted member cooperatives in selling 78.313 million pounds of cheese, 47.995 million pounds of butter and 18.290 million pounds of whole milk powder to 42 countries on six continents. These sales are the equivalent of 1.936 billion pounds of milk on a milkfat basis.  The year-to-date sums have been adjusted for cancellations.

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.

Green Plains Reports Second Quarter 2014 Results

Omaha-based Green Plains Inc. announced today its financial results for the second quarter of 2014. Net income for the quarter was $32.3 million, or $0.82 per diluted share, compared to net income of $6.0 million, or $0.19 per diluted share, for the same period in 2013. Revenues were $837.9 million for the second quarter of 2014 compared to $804.7 million for the same period in 2013.

"We are pleased to report another strong quarter as ethanol, distillers grains and corn oil set new production records. All of our plants were operating at optimal levels, even as rail transportation continues to impact movement of our products," said Todd Becker, President and Chief Executive Officer. "Market fundamentals are favorable and based on a continuation of these conditions, we expect stronger earnings per share performance in the second half of the year."

During the second quarter, Green Plains' ethanol production segment produced 241.9 million gallons of ethanol, or approximately 95.1% of its daily average production capacity. Non-ethanol operating income from the corn oil production, agribusiness, and marketing and distribution segments was $16.5 million in the second quarter of 2014 compared to $17.3 million for the same period in 2013.

Revenues were $1.6 billion for each of the six-month periods ended June 30, 2014 and 2013. Net income for the six-month period ended June 30, 2014 was $75.5 million, or $1.88 per diluted share, compared to net income of $8.5 million, or $0.28 per diluted share, for the same period in 2013.

"We continue to enjoy excellent fundamentals that are driving a robust margin environment. Our balance sheet is in the strongest position of our history, with significant cash and liquidity, as a result of cash generated from operations and the recent refinancing of term debt," stated Becker. "Our focus and energy continues to be on growth of all of our business segments and we believe there are ample opportunities to achieve this objective."

Green Plains had $374.7 million in total cash and equivalents and $145.4 million available under committed loan agreements at subsidiaries (subject to satisfaction of specified lending conditions and covenants) at June 30, 2014. Second quarter 2014 EBITDA, which is defined as earnings before interest, income taxes, depreciation and amortization, was $74.5 million compared to $30.5 million for the same period in 2013. For the six-month period ending June 30, 2014, EBITDA was $168.6 million compared to $55.3 million for the same period in 2013. For reconciliations of net income to EBITDA, see "EBITDA" below.

Second Quarter 2014 Business Highlights

    In June 2014, Green Plains Processing LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Green Plains, completed a $225 million Senior Secured Credit Facility due in 2020. The proceeds of the credit facility were used to refinance debt outstanding at five subsidiaries in the ethanol production segment. Credit ratings assigned to the credit facility from Standard & Poor's and Moody's are BB and B2, respectively. Green Plains Inc. corporate credit ratings are B+ and B2 from Standard & Poor's and Moody's, respectively.
    In June 2014, Green Plains acquired the assets of Supreme Cattle Feeders from Agri Beef Co. The asset acquisition includes the feed yard doing business as Supreme Cattle Feeders and the Cimarron Grain storage facility based near Kismet, Kansas. Supreme Cattle Feeders financial results are reported as a part of Green Plains' agribusiness segment. The operation consists of approximately 2,600 acres of land that has the capacity to support 70,000 head of cattle. Supreme's current corn storage capacity, including the Cimarron Grain facilities, is approximately 3.8 million bushels.
    Mr. Gene Edwards joined the board of directors of Green Plains Inc. effective June 19, 2014. Mr. Edwards has extensive experience in the oil and gas industry, previously serving as Executive Vice President and Chief Development Officer of Valero Energy Corporation until his retirement in April 2014. He began his 32-year career at Valero as an Analyst in Planning & Economics and spent his tenure with Valero in various managerial positions in Planning and Economics, Refinery Operations, Business Development and Marketing.

Nutra-­Flo introduces two new products to help growers boost yields and fight corn rootworm resistance

Growers have new choices when selecting insect control and crop nutrition products for next planting season because of two innovative new products from Nutra-­-Flo, North America’s leading liquid starter and foliar fertilizer manufacturer.

The company introduces Nutra-­-Flo FlexEC technology and PureGrade EC, the only combination of products on the market that allow growers the ability to blend their choice of EC-­-based liquid insecticide and fungicide with starter fertilizer.

The Technology: Nutra-­-Flo FlexEC

The new patented Nutra-­-Flo FlexEC technology works by holding standard EC pesticides together with liquid fertilizer for convenient in-­-furrow application of fertilizer and crop protection products to guard crops against corn rootworm and other secondary pests, throughout the growing season.

“Nutra-­-Flo is excited to deliver a game-­-changing technology to growers and retailers that solves a real problem,” said Jason Glover, Nutra-­-Flo director of business development. “Until now, only one insecticide could be blended into liquid fertilizer. The introduction of our Nutra-­-Flo FlexEC technology makes it possible for growers to select the EC-­-based insecticide or fungicide of their choice to mix with any starter fertilizer to achieve a uniform application and boost yields.”

Corn rootworm resistance is a growing concern, and protecting the crop with an in-­- furrow application of insecticide is a strong defense against damage. Growers need to be strategic and aggressive in their pest management approach. The Nutra-­-Flo FlexEC technology is an answer to that need.

“This technology has great potential for yield enhancements,” said Joey Hanson, an independent crop consultant and owner of Diversified Agronomy Consulting, Elk Point, S.D. “There is a rule of thumb that I live by; I never want a corn crop to have a bad day. The pairing of starter fertilizer, FlexEC, and a liquid insecticide helps with that. It provides early season nutrition and uniform application of season-­-long protection from corn rootworm and other pests.”

Nutra-­-Flo offers the FlexEC compatibility agent in 2.5-­-gallon jugs or totes, to accommodate any volume need for growers or retailers.

Blended Choice: PureGrade EC

Nutra-­-Flo is putting the new technology to work in their proven PureGrade liquid fertilizer line by also introducing PureGrade EC – the first liquid fertilizer that contains the patented FlexEC technology.

“PureGrade is the industry’s best selling liquid starter fertilizer that provides high orthophosphate, low salt, non-­-corrosive crop nutrition plants need to get out of the ground and off to a great start,” said Glover. “PureGrade EC has the FlexEC compatibility agent already blended in so growers need only to select the EC-­-based crop protection product of their choice to fight off insect or fungi problems that they have in their individual fields.”

Liquid fertilizers and EC-­-based insecticides and fungicides are generally considered incompatible. As a result, growers were forced to utilize options that lack flexibility, trouble-­-free blending and overall efficacy. Through his observations as an agronomist for Nutra-­-Flo, Kelli Barnett has seen many growers face this challenge.

“Because of the molecular make up of starter and EC pesticides, they just don’t bond. In a sense, it’s like oil and water,” said Barnett. “In the past, when a grower utilized an EC pesticide and starter fertilizer, they had compatibility issues, which plugged screens and tips and resulted in an inconsistent application. Nutra-­-Flo FlexEC solves those compatibility issues. Plus, growers can now choose insecticides that protect against multiple pests, instead of having limited options.”

Nutra-­-Flo’s FlexEC and PureGrade EC expand growers’ options. Growers now can simply add any EC insecticide or fungicide to NutraFlo’s pre-­-blended PureGrade EC starter fertilizer; or use the FlexEC compatibility agent with the starter and EC insecticide or fungicide they choose.

“Everybody likes choice, and Nutra-­-Flo’s FlexEC and PureGrade EC are giving growers a choice,” said Glover. “As a company, we are excited to deliver flexibility and convenience to growers with safe and innovative new products to help them boost yields and maximize profitability.”

Nutra-­-Flo FlexEC Technology and PureGrade EC Liquid Fertilizer are available through a network of more than 600 dealers across North America for the 2015 planting season. For more information or to order, contact the Nutra-­-Flo customer support team to locate a dealer near you by calling 1-­-800-­-831-­-4815 or emailing sales@nutraflo.com.

Nutra-Flo Company, based in North Sioux City, S.D., began producing liquid fertilizer in 1954. The family-owned business has become the leading independent liquid fertilizer manufacturer in North America. The company’s main product lines include PureGrade Liquid Fertilizer, Microsolutions Liquid Micronutrients and Nulex Liquid Zinc. Plant locations are in Sioux City, Iowa, and Gibbon, Nebraska. Nutra-Flo offers high quality products, superior service and absolute dependability. Competitively priced fertilizer products are sold through local dealers across the country.

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