Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Tuesday September 23 Ag News

Moving Farm Equipment on the Road
Steve Tonn, UNL Extension Educator, Washington County

Fall harvest won’t start for another few weeks but here is an article on farm safety that I have adapted that was originally published July 15, 2014 in Progressive Forage Grower magazine.  It has some timely tips that farmers need to do now to be prepared to move farm equipment safely on roads.

Harvest season is a stressful time of the year.  Completing a few basic safety checks before you go to the field can bring you peace of mind and hopefully prevent an accident from occurring.  This is especially important for producers spending more time on the road to farm distant fields and those working near more densely populated areas.

One of the easiest and most cost effective things you can do to improve over-the-road safety is checking the reflectiveness of slow-moving vehicle (SMV) stickers and signs on farm equipment.  They communicate to motorists that a farm vehicle, which may not be capable of maintaining speeds greater than 25 miles per hour, is ahead.

Unfortunately, SMV signs fade over time with exposure to the elements.  The good news is: It is easy to renew any SMV sign by placing a new sticker on top of the old one.  While you are at it, consider adding reflective tape to your grain carts and wagons, and other equipment.

For oncoming traffic, the configuration of lighting on farm equipment can be confusing and sometimes blinding.  Tractors should have at least one white light on the front of the vehicle, visible from 500 feet, and one red light to the rear of the vehicle, visible from a distance of 300 feet.  Newer tractors often have yellow or orange rotating lights and reflectors incorporated to help motorists recognize that a large piece of equipment is ahead.  After-market strobes and reflectors can be added to older equipment.

In your pre-harvest maintenance checks, test all lights to make sure they work and are aimed properly.  Check both the “high” and “low beams”.  Bulbs, wiring and fuses or circuit breakers can be issues on older equipment.  Clean light and reflector covers.  These simple steps can improve the operator’s ability to see the road and substantially reduce the potential for blinding oncoming traffic.

Mirrors are among the most important pieces of safety equipment on a tractor, combine or truck.  They are also exposed to some serious abuse from tree limbs and barn doors.  A quick check of mirror placement, cleanliness and state of repair can help to improve operator awareness of approaching traffic.  Mirrors may need to be extended or upgraded to accommodate especially large tow-behind implements such as grain carts or wagons.

A fire extinguisher should be mounted on the combine and in the tractor.  A 10-pound ABC-type extinguisher is recommended, and an annual inspection will keep it in good working order.  This simple tool can prevent a small fire from burning out of control, causing massive potential losses.

Don’t forget a grain cart and truck safety check.  Wheel bearing failure and tire blowouts are common problems that occur with loaded carts or trucks.  Make sure the brakes are operating correctly.  Also check safety chains on carts and wagons.

Improving the soundness and visibility of your harvesting equipment before traveling on public roadways is a simple way to enhance safety and avoid a potential costly accident.


UNL Extension Forage Specialist Bruce Anderson

Some good pasture still may be available this fall – from your alfalfa fields!  But make sure you do it safely with your animals.

Alfalfa can provide considerable, high quality grazing this fall.  Grazing avoids the problem of slow curing of hay that often occurs during the fall and it eliminates the cost of baling.

Many growers find that grazing alfalfa in the fall provides some special flexibility that often is useful this time of year.  Alfalfa makes an outstanding weaning pasture for spring calves; yearlings gain weight rapidly on fall alfalfa even after summer grass has already died off; cows gain excellent condition before winter by grazing alfalfa during the fall; and ewes and lambs perform very well on fall alfalfa.

Fall grazing of alfalfa is not without problems, though.  Bloat always must be a concern, but after alfalfa has been frosted and started to dry down it has less tendency to cause bloat than summer alfalfa.  Same thing holds true with fully bloomed out alfalfa.

To protect your livestock from bloat, fill them with hay before turning them onto alfalfa.  Also, maintain access to dry hay or corn stalks while grazing alfalfa to help reduce bloat.  Or you can swath your alfalfa ahead of grazing and let animals graze dry hay in the swath.  Of course, bloat protectants like poloxalene can be fed as blocks or mixed with grain.  This can be an expensive supplement, but it works well when animals eat a uniform amount each day.

Also be careful not to damage your alfalfa stand.  Only graze when fields are dry and firm.  Reserve a small sacrifice area to graze and for feeding when soils are wet to avoid damaging the entire field.

If you aren't already doing so, consider alfalfa for late fall pasture.  Its advantages greatly exceed any disadvantages.

Growth Energy Announces 'Fueling Growth' Recipients from Iowa

Growth Energy honored Iowa legislators by presenting each member of the Iowa Congressional delegation with the "Fueling Growth" Award during the 5th Annual Growth Energy Advocacy Conference in Washington, D.C. The "Fueling Growth" award is presented annually to legislators who have displayed outstanding leadership and have exceptional voting records in support of the biofuels industry.

Fueling Growth Awards to Iowans for 2014 include the following:
-- U.S. Senate: Charles Grassley (R), Tom Harkin (D)
-- U.S. House of Representatives: Bruce Braley (D), Steve King (R), Tom Latham (R), Dave Loebsack (D)

"Iowa has always been a true leader in the production and support of renewable fuels. It should be noted that each and every member of the Iowa delegation has been an unwavering champion for ethanol and the Renewable Fuel Standard, and it is important to recognize such extraordinary leadership. Furthermore, it is refreshing to see members of both parties work together on an issue that is critical to their state, as ethanol is a win-win for Iowa and America," noted Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy.

"The ethanol industry is creating jobs and revitalizing rural America, improving our environment and reducing our dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuels, all while providing consumers with a choice and savings at the pump. These members of Congress have been consistent supporters of the biofuels industry. Their support is exemplified by a continued commitment to supporting new, sustainable ways to produce homegrown fuels, and their ongoing advocacy for Iowa's farm economy plays an integral part in growing energy independence right here at home," Buis concluded.

It's Iowa Farm Safety and Health Week

Governor Terry Branstad has proclaimed Sept. 21-27 as Iowa Farm Safety and Health Week. The Iowa Farm Safety and Health Week promotion is being held in conjunction with the 71st annual National Farm Safety and Health Week. This year’s national theme is “Safety Counts: Protecting What Matters” and is coordinated by the National Safety Council and supported by various organizations and groups interested in agricultural safety.

The special recognition week began in 1944, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the first proclamation for farm safety due to the impact the high injury rate in agriculture was making on the war effort. Now, agriculture has the highest annual death rate per 100,000 workers in the nation, surpassing industries including mining, construction and manufacturing.

The Iowa Farm Safety Council continues to use the proclamation to reinforce the safety message, especially during harvest time, said council president Chuck Schwab, a professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering and extension safety specialist at Iowa State University.

In Iowa, farm safety efforts are a unique partnership between various organizations. “The Iowa Farm Safety Council, with volunteers, strives to increase knowledge about agricultural hazards and dangers,” said Schwab. “Together we encourage Iowans to make better safety and health decisions this harvest season and during the next year.”

Serious injuries and death can be prevented by
-    cautiously approaching field adjustments or repairs,
-    taking precautions to avoid slips and falls,
-    making smart decisions while assigning tasks to youth,
-    using and maintaining the slow moving vehicle emblem SMV correctly, and
-    retrofitting tractors with rollover structures (ROPS).

The Iowa Farm Safety Council also is urging Iowans to support the Iowa Farm Safety and Health Day for Children and Youth on Sept. 24. During this time, others are encouraged to adopt safe practices and behaviors to prevent injuries during harvest season.

Feedlot Profitability

Glynn T. Tonsor, Dept. of Agricultural Economics, Kansas State University

Last Friday the USDA released their monthly Cattle on Feed report providing estimates that overall were in line with pre-release expectations. Specifically, estimates include current inventories being down 1%, August placements being down 3%, and August marketings being down 10% from 2013. These estimates reaffirm the firmly established story of tight cattle and beef supplies.

Given the lack of surprises in this report, it is useful to re-examine the most recent estimates of closeouts offered in K-State's Kansas Feedlot Net Return series. This report, which provides both historical and projected return information, released on September 10th indicates steers sold in July at a profit of $310/hd. This is the largest estimated return on steers in the K-State series history. This also marks the seventh consecutive month of closeouts with profits exceeding $125/steer which is something that has never previously occurred going back to 1993 when the current K-State analysis starts. Projections for closeouts during August and September period are both over $100/head. This is consistent with several past months as these positive returns essentially reflect the substantial increase in fed cattle prices relative to expectations when feeder cattle were purchased, at levels much lower than today's prices.

While this run of very strong returns so far in 2014 is certainly welcomed by feedlot operators, current projections should be noted and some context on the economics of recent returns should be recognized. First, animals scheduled to be sold in the fourth quarter are expected to carry much lower and actually very negative returns. This sharp reversal reflects the notable increase in feeder cattle prices and the corresponding lack of further increases in expected fed cattle prices. It is also important to note the lower economic value reflected by recent record setting $/hd returns. For instance, the July closeout net return of $310/steer is estimated to have been realized by incurring $1,881/hd in total costs. This compares to the previous record of $308/steer set in October of 2003 with total costs of $957/hd. While the recent return levels are historic on a $/hd basis, the return on investment is far from record setting. The main implication of this is that feedlot operators, lenders, and analysts would be well-served to note this, pay attention to corresponding implications of elevated capital requirements, and ultimately reflect on these factors in making purchasing/selling and related risk management decisions.

Physicians Learn to Appreciate Lean Beef’s Role in the Diet

Thanks to a national checkoff partnership with the New York Beef Industry Council (NYBIC), as part of its Northeast Beef Promotion Initiative (NEBPI), the checkoff exhibited at the Pri-Med East Conference in Boston, Mass., Sept. 12- 14. This annual meeting was hosted at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center near the Boston Harbor.

Joined by more than 4,100 Medical Doctors, Nurse Practitioners, Family Physicians and similar medical professionals, the checkoff shared the latest protein research to improve the doctor recommendation of including lean beef as part of a healthy diet. The group received BOLD study toolkits, nutrition fact sheets, and beef recipes to assist in their practices. Many were pleased to see beef represented at their meeting, as nutrition is a large component of healthy living.

Along with exhibiting, the checkoff hosted an interactive cooking demo featuring lean cuts, the use of salt-free seasoning and beef nutrition information physicians could pass on to their clients and patients. Physicians at the event wanted to know about the versatility of sirloin and round beef cuts, cooking methods and choosing lean beef in the grocery store.

Photo at left:  Cindy Phillips, RD, showed attendees the versatility sirloin steak, as well as kitchen cooking tips and shared nutrition information with physicians.

This event served as the first opportunity to present the science of the benefits of lean beef in the diet, to such a great group of physicians, from across the northeast. Cindy Phillips, RD from the NYBIC, attended alongside with checkoff staff talking about the BOLD research and hosting the interactive beef demo. Phillips provided physicians with great nutrition information and tips for including lean beef in both their patient’s diets, as well as their own.

“The attendees were quite engaged in learning that many of the beef cuts are lean. Although quite a few raised the question about red meat and heart diseases, they were interested to learn that a heart-healthy diet that includes lean beef, even daily, can lower LDL-cholesterol, from results in the BOLD study,” said Phillips. “I pointed out that when a favorite lean protein, such as beef, is included in the diet, therapy compliance improves. The attendees all agreed with that. They were just as interested in discussing the science as the beef cuts of tenderloin and NY strip steak. There were many ‘beef-lovers’ among the attendees!”

National FFA Organization membership explodes to 610,240 students

Analysts forecast that the world's population will grow to 9 billion people by 2050. With global needs today to fight hunger and prepare for the expected population explosion, the industry of agriculture needs educated, skilled and passionate people dedicated to sustainability.

Today's students are answering that call, evidenced by an explosion in FFA membership throughout the United States, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands in the past year.

Membership in FFA today stands at 610,240 students up from 579,678 in 2013. Membership increased by more than 30,500 during the 2013-14 school year. The number of new, local FFA chapters throughout the country grew to 7,665.

“FFA, through agricultural education, is preparing our youth to ensure the security of our country's food, fiber and natural resources for years to come,” said National FFA Organization CEO Dr. Dwight Armstrong. “Through real-world experiences, the nation’s agriculture teachers are helping students develop the technical knowledge, skills and problem-solving capabilities to be the industry's leaders of tomorrow. FFA members will be tomorrow’s advocates for agriculture.”

The Texas FFA Association added more members than any other state, with 8,364 members. Total FFA membership in the Lone Star state stands at 103,379 with 1,021 chapters. California, with 76,470 members, is the country’s second-largest FFA association, followed by Georgia with 37,698 members, Missouri with 25,935 members and Oklahoma with 25,561 members.

CWT Assists with 2.7 Million Pounds of Cheese

Cooperatives Working Together (CWT) has accepted 5 requests for export assistance from Dairy Farmers of America and Tillamook County Creamery Association to sell 2.714 million pounds (1,231 metric tons) of Cheddar and Gouda cheese to customers in Asia and the Middle East. The product will be delivered September 2014 through January 2015.

Year-to-date, CWT has assisted member cooperatives in selling 88.917 million pounds of cheese, 48.188 million pounds of butter and 33.171 million pounds of whole milk powder to 43 countries on six continents. These sales are the equivalent of 2.152 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.

Retail Fertilizer Prices Still Steady

Retail fertilizer prices tracked by DTN for the third week of September 2014 continue to show very little movement once again.  All eight major fertilizers prices dipped lower compared to last month, but these moves to the low side were slight. DAP had an average national price of $580 per ton, MAP $598/ton, potash $475/ton, urea $509/ton, 10-34-0 $554/ton, anhydrous $693/ton, UAN28 $329/ton and UAN32 $376/ton.

On a price per pound of nitrogen basis, the average urea price was at $0.55/lb.N, anhydrous $0.42/lb.N, UAN28 $0.59/lb.N and UAN32 $0.59/lb.N.

One of the eight major fertilizers remains double digits higher in price compared to September of 2013. Urea is now up 13% compared to a year earlier followed by DAP 7% more expensive and anhydrous up 5%. 10-34-0 is up 4% while MAP is 3% higher and UAN32 is 1% more expensive.  UAN28 is nearly unchanged from last year's price while potash is 6% less expensive from last year.

Yara, CF Industries in Merger Talks

Norway's Yara International ASA and U.S.-based CF Industries Holdings Inc. are in merger talks to form the world's biggest producer of nitrogen fertilizers with over $18 billion in annual sales, the companies said Tuesday.

A merger would create one of the biggest players in the global fertilizer market, boosting the companies" negotiating power with producers of fertilizer ingredients like phosphate and potash. The combined market cap of Oslo-based Yara and Deerfield-based CF Industries would be $26.3 billion, slightly below the $28.9 billion market cap of Canadian fertilizer giant Potash Corp of Saskatchewan, the world's largest producer of potash.

The North American market is attractive for fertilizer companies due to its cheaper shale gas supplies, a key input factor in fertilizer production. Yara has sought to boost its presence there beyond last year's 14% of total sales and plans to build an ammonia plant in Freeport, Texas with German chemical giant BASF SE.

Yara in a statement described the talks as "a potential merger of equals," adding that the discussions are "at an early stage" and that there were no assurances they would result in a deal. CF Industries published a similar statement.

The companies have butted heads over deals before. CF Industries in 2010 outbid Yara to purchase Terra Industries Inc. for $4.7 billion, in a deal that formed one of the world's biggest nitrogen fertilizer makers. In 2013, CF Industries recorded sales of $5.47 billion while Yara reported sales of $13.4 billion.

Yara recently acquired fertilizer producer OFD Holding Inc., strengthening its presence and distribution network in Latin America and complementing a previous $750 million acquisition of Brazilian fertilizer producer Bunge Ltd. (BG).

CF Industries operates seven nitrogen fertilizer manufacturing complexes in the central U.S. region and Canada and a network of distribution terminals and warehouses, mainly in major grain-producing states in the Midwest. Yara has operations in over 50 countries and sales to more than 150 countries.

Valmont Updates Earnings Outlook

Valmont Industries, Inc., a leading global provider of engineered products and services for infrastructure and mechanized irrigation equipment for agriculture, today updated its 2014 earnings outlook.

In the Utility Support Structures Segment, over $40 million of projects scheduled for delivery in the second half of 2014 have been delayed by customers to fiscal 2015. Pricing in certain sectors of the market continues to be challenging.

In the Irrigation Segment, based on the recent farm commodity price trends and harvest expectations in North America, the Company expects segment operating earnings in the second half of 2014 to be approximately 10% below the same period of 2013.

The Australian industrial economy continues to experience softness, which affect our Coatings and Engineered Infrastructure Products segments.

Continued positive earnings comparisons in the Engineered Infrastructure Products segment are expected in the second half of 2014, as compared with 2013.

Our prior guidance for 2014 indicated earnings of between $9.35 and $9.65 per diluted share, which excluded the effect of our stock repurchasing program on earnings per share and any one-time adjustments that may take place during the remainder of the year. The guidance also assumed flat Irrigation segment results in the second half of 2014, as compared with 2013.

Consequently, we now expect full-year diluted earnings per share to be in the range of $8.70 to $8.90, excluding any effects of the Company's financing transactions announced on September 8, 2014 and the share repurchase program. Since we announced our capital allocation philosophy on May 13th, 2014, we have repurchased approximately 2.1 million shares, for a total of $316 million out of an authorization of up to $500 million. The fully diluted earnings per share including the effects of the share repurchases to date are expected to be between approximately $9.00 and $9.20.

The company will report third quarter 2014 earnings on Oct. 23.

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