Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Tuesday March 31 Ag News

(FYI:  USDA Prospective Plantings and Grain Stocks reports are one blog-post down)

Corn and Soybean Herbicide Options for Planting Cover Crops as Forage in the Fall
Larry Howard, UNL Extension Educator, Cuming County

When growers add cover crops, it's important to select and manage the crop according to the primary objective for the crop. Cover crops usually are planted to benefit the soil and are not harvested. Some cover crops may be suitable for grazing or haying though, which means they MUST be selected and managed as forage crops when making herbicide choices.

As growers plan to buy seed and herbicides, it is important to know which herbicides should be applied in corn and soybean if they are planning to plant cover crops and use them as forage (also known as "forage double crop"). Most corn and soybean herbicide labels categorize several cover crop species as "other rotational crops," meaning that plant-back restrictions will usually be 18 months or more.

Cover crops that are NOT harvested can be planted after any herbicide application in summer crops, but growers assume the risk of crop failure, if the cover crop species are not listed on the herbicide label. However, for growers who use their cover crops as forage or feed, this off-label herbicide activity constitutes breaking the law. An EPA registered herbicide label is a legal document and the instructions must be followed to avoid violating federal law.

It can be difficult to find information on which herbicide(s) to use or avoid for certain cover crops, especially when planning to use the cover crop for forage or feed (forage double crop).   A recent article in the March 2015 University of Nebraska Lincoln BeefWatch online newsletter discusses the herbicides that can be applied in corn or soybean crops along with the required intervals that must be met and the specific forage double crops that can be planted in the fall after corn or soybean harvest.  The article is located at http://newsroom.unl.edu/announce/beef/4050/23047.  It is important that producers plan ahead to determine the use of the Cover crops that are planted so the meet all of the required restrictions.

For more information on cover crop termination methods and crop insurance, see the Frequently Asked Questions on this USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) website (http://www.rma.usda.gov/help/faq/covercrops2015.html).

UNL Extension Tractor Safety Courses Offered Across Nebraska

Nebraska Extension Tractor Safety/Hazardous Occupations Courses will be offered at seven locations in Nebraska during May and June.  Any 14 or 15-year-old teen who plans to work on a farm other than his/her parents’ should plan to attend.

Federal law prohibits youth under 16 years of age from working on a farm for anyone other than their parents or guardian.   Certification through the course grants an exemption to the law allowing 14- and 15-year-olds to drive a tractor and to do field work with mechanized equipment.

The most common cause of death in agriculture accidents in Nebraska is overturn from tractors and all-terrain-vehicles (ATVs), said Sharry Nielsen, Nebraska Extension Educator.  Tractor and ATV overturn prevention are featured in the class work.

"Instilling an attitude of ‘safety first’ is a primary goal of the course,” Nielsen said. "where youth have the chance to learn respect for agricultural jobs and the tools involved." 

Classes consist of two days of instruction plus homework assignments. Classes are from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. each day. Dates and locations include:
    -- May 27-28, Fairgrounds, Kearney
    -- June 1-2, Fairgrounds, Valentine
    -- June 5-6, Event Center, Lincoln

    -- June 8-9, Farm and Ranch Museum, Gering
    -- June 11-12, West Central Research and Extension Center, North Platte
    -- June 15-16, Fairgrounds, Wayne

    -- June 17-18, College Park, Grand Island

Pre-registration is strongly encouraged at least one week before a location's start date to the Extension Office at the course site. Cost is $60, which includes educational materials, testing, supplies, lunches and breaks.  For more information, contact the Extension Office or Sharry Nielsen at (308) 832-0645, snielsen1@unl.edu.

The first day of class will consist of intensive classroom instruction with hands-on demonstrations, concluding with a written test that must be completed satisfactorily before students may continue driving tests the next day.   Classroom instruction will cover the required elements of the National Safe Tractor and Machinery Operation Program.  Homework will be assigned to turn in the next day.    The second day will include testing, driving and operating machinery.  Students must demonstrate competence in hitching equipment and driving a tractor and trailer through a standardized course as well as hitching PTO and hydraulic systems.


Bruce Anderson, Extension Forage Specialist, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

               Cheatgrass, wild oats, downy brome.  It seems everyone has problems with early spring weeds in native grasses.  But you can limit their damage.

               How do you get rid of weeds like wild bromes in native grass? Herbicides and grazing are options in the right situation.

               First you must realize that seed of these grasses lasts about 3 years in the soil, so the problem may repeat itself for several years.  In grasslands dominated by warm-season grasses, one option is to spray 1 pint per acre of glyphosate, like Roundup, early this spring after the weedy bromes green up but before warm-season grasses start growing.  This should solve the problem for this year and knock out other early weeds like bluegrass without harming your warm-season grasses.  Another option is to use 4 to 6 ounces of Plateau herbicide or its generics and get similar results.  And with Plateau, residual herbicide activity also will control some later emerging weeds as well.

               If herbicides are not desired the job is tougher.  You need to limit seed production with grazing.  Begin grazing as soon as these bromes green up this spring, which could be any day now with our warming weather.  Using these pastures for calving might be a good option.  Graze very hard to keep seedheads from developing as long as possible.  Eventually these grasses will form heads just an inch or two above the soil surface and grazing no longer will help.

               Now comes the tough part.  You must remove your animals from this area for six weeks or longer to let the desired grass grow and regain some vigor.  Feed hay if necessary.  Repeat this hard early grazing for a couple springs and you should start seeing results.

               You have the tools to control these weeds; just use them right.

USDA: Retail Food Prices Rose in Late 2014

Grocery store food prices in the fourth quarter of 2014 were 3.5 percent higher than a year earlier. The USDA reports that at-home food price inflation over the last 20 years has averaged around 2.6 percent per year, indicating that 2014 ended the year with higher than average food price inflation.

Beef and veal prices saw the largest increase, rising 18.2 percent from the fourth quarter of 2013, the result of historically low U.S. herd sizes and steady consumer demand.

Pork prices were up 9.3 percent, as Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv) in the United States affected the supply of hogs available for market.

However, some food categories saw price increases over the same time period that were lower than average. Retail prices for cereals and bakery products rose just 0.4 percent, and fats and oils rose 1.5 percent.

The relatively low rate of inflation for these two categories was predominantly due to large supplies of soybeans and wheat from strong U.S. production.

Biodiesel Industry Seeks to Reverse Argentina Import Decision

The National Biodiesel Board (NBB) is calling for the EPA to stay its recent decision to streamline Argentinian biodiesel imports to the U.S. under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), pending public review and comment.

In a petition filed Monday with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, NBB cited the lack of public comment on the EPA decision and little transparency regarding the plans Argentinian producers can use to demonstrate compliance with the RFS. NBB’s petition for reconsideration and request for administrative stay can be found here on NBB’s website.

“We have serious questions about how Argentinian producers will certify that their product meets the sustainability requirements under this new approach and whether U.S. producers will be operating under more strict regulations,” said NBB Vice President of Federal Affairs Anne Steckel. “As a result, we have asked the EPA to hold and reconsider its approval to allow a more open process with public comment and discussion.”

“Given the circumstances, we think this is a very reasonable request,” Steckel added. “The U.S. biodiesel industry is in a state of crisis right now as a result of EPA’s continued delays in finalizing RFS volumes. An influx of Argentinian biodiesel will only exacerbate the domestic industry’s troubles at the worst possible time.”

The EPA initially approved the application from Argentina’s biofuels association, CARBIO, on Jan. 27.

Typically under the RFS, foreign producers must map and track each batch of feedstock used to produce imported renewable fuels to ensure that it was grown on land that was cleared or cultivated prior to Dec. 19, 2007 – when the RFS was established.

The EPA’s January decision allows Argentinian biodiesel producers to instead rely on a survey plan being implemented by a third party to show their feedstocks comply with the regulations. The goal of the survey program is to ease the current map and track requirements applicable to planted crops and crop residues grown outside of the United States and Canada, resulting in a program that seems far less stringent and more difficult to verify.

Because the EPA did not provide an open process when it considered the application, the limited information provided in EPA’s approval document raises significant questions about whether soybean-oil biodiesel being imported from Argentina meets the renewable biomass requirement under the regulation. Many of the soybeans processed into soybean oil in Argentina come from Uruguay, Peru, Brazil, and other countries. Given the complex international trade involved and the apparent gaps in the program as outlined in EPA’s approval document, the EPA will have little ability to verify the survey plans proposed by Argentinian producers, even with the third-party surveyor’s limited reviews. Argentina would be the first country to use a survey approach under the RFS. Canada and the U.S. operate under an aggregate approach in which feedstock is approved so long as the aggregate amount of agricultural land in each country does not grow.

NBB estimates that up to 600 million gallons of Argentinian biodiesel could enter the U.S. next year as a result of the change, particularly after the European Union blocked Argentinian biodiesel in 2013 after the country exported some 450 million gallons to the EU in 2012.

In 2014, the entire U.S. biodiesel market was about 1.75 billion gallons. In addition to the new U.S. survey rules, Argentina supports its domestic biodiesel program with a cost-distorting “Differential Export Tax” program that allows Argentinian biodiesel to undercut domestic prices.

10-34-0 Streaks Higher Again

Retail fertilizer prices are continuing fairly steady with one major exception, according to retailers tracked by DTN for the fourth week of March 2015.

As has been the case in March, 10-34-0 starter fertilizer is seeing much higher retail fertilizer prices because of issues surrounding an acid shortage used to manufacture the nutrient. 10-34-0 jumped 7% compared to a month earlier and has an average price of $639 per ton.

Six other major fertilizers were higher compared to a month earlier, but none of the six was up significantly. DAP averaged $570/ton, MAP $598/ton, potash $490/ton, anhydrous $706/ton, UAN28 $333/ton and UAN32 $371/ton.

Only one fertilizer slipped lower compared to the previous month. Urea was down just slightly during this time. The nitrogen fertilizer had an average price of $467 per ton.

On a price per pound of nitrogen basis, the average urea price was at $0.51/lb.N, anhydrous $0.43/lb.N, UAN28 $0.59/lb.N and UAN32 $0.58/lb.N.

Two of the eight major fertilizers are now double digits higher in price compared to March 2014, all while commodity prices are significantly lower from a year ago. 10-34-0 is 24% higher while anhydrous is 12% more expensive compared to a year earlier.

Potash is 3% higher while MAP is 1% more expensive compared to a year earlier.

Four nutrients are now lower compared to retail prices from a year ago. DAP is 1% lower, UAN28 is down 5%, UAN32 is now 6% less expensive and urea is 14% cheaper.

Weekly Mandatory Price Reporting

Matthew A. Diersen, Professor, Department of Economics, South Dakota State University

Back when there was a little more snow on the ground, I came across a notice that the Mandatory Price Reporting Act of 2010 has a sunset clause in it dated September 30, 2015. That inspired me to reexamine the content of the various reports for cattle, lest anything be taken for granted. The focus here is mainly on the weekly reports at the national level. Recall that mandatory reporting is covered by the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and it pertains to animals marketed directly to larger packers. The reports referenced below are available at: http://www.ams.usda.gov.

Cattle that have been set for marketing are documented in the committed and delivered report (LM_CT142 or just 142), which provides a breakdown of volumes by pricing mechanism (negotiated, negotiated grid, formula and forward contract), weight determination (live or dressed) and pen make-up (e.g., steers, heifers or mixed). From there, the reports tend to capture behavior at the time of purchase or of slaughter. For example, a feedlot may forward contract months in advance of the animal being ready for market (purchase point). After the animal is delivered to a plant the final characteristics and value are fully known (slaughter point). The negotiated purchases report (154) is a weekly summary of the cattle bought the prior week. Most the volume in this report is for negotiated cash purchases, providing prices most closely related to auction prices. Also included are negotiated grids, where only the base level is given. The final grid price is determined after slaughter and given in the formula and forward report (151) with final formula and forward prices. The various net prices across mechanisms show the variability from realized versus expected quality.

Missing from the price summaries are the packer owned cattle (153). Carcass characteristics and volume can be monitored to see if packers own cattle that differ from average cattle. That report also summarizes the forward contract volume and different basis metrics. Differences among the various prices can be partially explained by considering the premiums and discounts (155). A separate report, cows and bulls (168), is helpful for gaining regional insights into what is being sold. Only a couple reports are aggregated further, the monthly committed and delivered report (143) and the 5-Area series (annually in 170 and monthly in 180). Knowing the volume delivered on a monthly level seems to make more sense than on a weekly level, especially for regional breakdowns. The aggregations also distinguish between aberrations and trends.

Before mandatory reporting, there was looming concern that the shrinking percentage of spot market trades was leaving too much uncertainty in the market. Mandatory reporting gives clear insight into packer-owned and formula-purchased cattle that would be hard to replicate or imagine in a voluntary setting. The forward contract information is unique under mandatory reporting because it is comprehensive. Over time the various reports have added more distribution information to the series, which also relies on the comprehensive nature of mandatory reporting.

USDA to Provide $332 Million to Protect and Restore Agricultural Working Lands, Grasslands and Wetlands

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that U.S. Department of Agriculture is making available $332 million in financial and technical assistance through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP). USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will accept ACEP applications to help productive farm and ranch lands remain in agriculture and to protect the nation's critical wetlands and grasslands, home to diverse wildlife and plant species.

"USDA helps farmers, ranchers, private forest landowners and partners to achieve their conservation goals using our technical expertise, Farm Bill funding and sound conservation planning," Vilsack said. "Conservation easements are an important tool to help these landowners and partners voluntarily provide long-term protection of our nation's farmland, ranchland, wetlands and grasslands for future generations."

The 2014 Farm Bill consolidated three previous conservation easement programs into ACEP to make it easier for diverse agricultural landowners to fully benefit from conservation initiatives. NRCS easement programs have been a critical tool in recent years for advancing landscape-scale private lands conservation. In FY 2014, NRCS used $328 million in ACEP funding to enroll an estimated 145,000 acres of farmland, grassland, and wetlands through 485 new easements.

The Nebraska Land Trust plans to use ACEP to enroll more than 1,400 acres of native grazing lands that also include grasslands and woodlands that provide critical habitat for Nebraska's bighorn sheep and elk.

ACEP's agricultural land easements not only protect the long-term viability of the nation's food supply by preventing conversion of productive working lands to non-agricultural uses, but they also support environmental quality, historic preservation, wildlife habitat and protection of open space. American Indian tribes, state and local governments and non-governmental organizations that have farmland or grassland protection programs are eligible to partner with NRCS to purchase conservation easements. A key change under the new agricultural land easement component is the new "grasslands of special environmental significance" that will protect high-quality grasslands that are under threat of conversion to cropping, urban development and other non-grazing uses.

Wetland reserve easements allow landowners to successfully enhance and protect habitat for wildlife on their lands, reduce impacts from flooding, recharge groundwater and provide outdoor recreational and educational opportunities. NRCS provides technical and financial assistance directly to private and tribal landowners to restore, protect and enhance wetlands through the purchase of these easements, and Eligible landowners can choose to enroll in a permanent or 30-year easement; tribal landowners also have the option of enrolling in 30-year contracts.

ACEP applications may be submitted at any time to NRCS; however, applications for the current funding round must be submitted on or before May 15, 2015.

March 31 USDA Prospective Plantings + Grain Stocks Reports

USDA Prospective Plantings Report - March 31, 2015

Corn Planted Acreage Down 2 Percent from 2014
Soybean Acreage Up 1 Percent
All Wheat Acreage Down 3 Percent
All Cotton Acreage Down 13 Percent

Corn planted area for all purposes in 2015 is estimated at 89.2 million acres, down 2 percent from last year. If realized, this will be the third consecutive year of an acreage decline and would be the lowest planted acreage in the United States since 2010.

Soybean planted area for 2015 is estimated at a record high 84.6 million acres, up 1 percent from last year. Compared with last year, planted acreage intentions are up or unchanged in 21 of the 31 major producing States.

All wheat planted area for 2015 is estimated at 55.4 million acres, down 3 percent from 2014. The 2015 winter wheat planted area, at 40.8 million acres, is down 4 percent from last year but up less than 1 percent from the previous estimate. Of this total, about 29.6 million acres are Hard Red Winter, 7.75 million acres are Soft Red Winter, and 3.43 million acres are White Winter. Area planted to other spring wheat for 2015 is estimated at 13.0 million acres, down slightly from 2014. Of this total, about 12.1 million acres are Hard Red Spring wheat. The intended Durum planted area for 2015 is estimated at 1.65 million acres, up 18 percent from the previous year.

All cotton planted area for 2015 is estimated at 9.55 million acres, 13 percent below last year. Upland area is estimated at 9.40 million acres, down 13 percent from 2014. American Pima area is estimated at 150,000 acres, down 22 percent from 2014.

Expected Corn Plantings by State  (1,000 acres, % of last year)

Nebraska .......:           9,300                 100%       
Iowa ..............:          13,600                 99%       
Illinois ...........:          11,700                 98%       
Indiana ..........:          5,800                   98%       
Kansas ...........:          4,050                  100%
Minnesota .....:          8,500                  104%
Missouri ........:           3,300                   94%                       
South Dakota .:          5,200                   90%

Exptected Soybean Plantings by State  (1,000 acres, % of last year)

Nebraska .......:           5,100                  94%       
Iowa ..............:          10,100                102%       
Illinois ...........:           9,900                 101%       
Indiana ..........:           5,600                 102%       
Kansas ...........:           3,800                  95%
Minnesota .....:           7,500                 102%           
Missouri ........:            5,650                100%
South Dakota .:            5,150                100%       


USDA Grain Stocks Report - March 31, 2015

Corn Stocks Up 11 Percent from March 2014
Soybean Stocks Up 34 Percent
All Wheat Stocks Up 6 Percent

Corn stocks in all positions on March 1, 2015 totaled 7.74 billion bushels, up 11 percent from March 1, 2014. Of the total stocks, 4.38 billion bushels were stored on farms, up 13 percent from a year earlier. Off-farm stocks, at 3.36 billion bushels, are up 7 percent from a year ago. The December 2014 - February 2015 indicated disappearance is 3.47 billion bushels, compared with 3.44 billion bushels during the same period last year.

Soybeans stored in all positions on March 1, 2015 totaled 1.33 billion bushels, up 34 percent from March 1, 2014. Soybean stocks stored on farms are estimated at 609 million bushels, up 60 percent from a year ago. Off-farm stocks, at 725 million bushels, are up 18 percent from last March. Indicated disappearance for the December 2014 - February 2015 quarter totaled 1.19 billion bushels, up 3 percent from the same period a year earlier.

All wheat stored in all positions on March 1, 2015 totaled 1.12 billion bushels, up 6 percent from a year ago. On-farm stocks are estimated at 279 million bushels, up 17 percent from last March. Off-farm stocks, at 846 million bushels, are up 3 percent from a year ago. The December 2014 - February 2015 indicated disappearance is 405 million bushels, down 3 percent from the same period a year earlier.

Durum wheat stocks in all positions on March 1, 2015 totaled 37.6 million bushels, down 1 percent from a year ago. On-farm stocks, at 16.2 million bushels, are down 22 percent from March 1, 2014. Off-farm stocks totaled 21.4 million bushels, up 23 percent from a year ago. The December 2014 - February 2015 indicated disappearance of 6.43 million bushels is down 59 percent from the same period a year earlier.

Barley stocks in all positions on March 1, 2015 totaled 118 million bushels, down 3 percent from March 1, 2014. On-farm stocks are estimated at 41.8 million bushels, 5 percent below a year ago. Off-farm stocks, at 76.1 million bushels, are 2 percent below March 2014. The December 2014 - February 2015 indicated disappearance totaled 38.2 million bushels, 20 percent below the same period a year earlier.

Oats stored in all positions on March 1, 2015 totaled 59.4 million bushels, 69 percent above the stocks on March 1, 2014. Of the total stocks on hand, 20.8 million bushels were stored on farms, up 5 percent from a year ago. Off-farm stocks totaled 38.6 million bushels, up 152 percent from the previous year. Indicated disappearance during December 2014 - February 2015 totaled 7.61 million bushels, down 41 percent from the same period a year ago.

Grain sorghum stored in all positions on March 1, 2015 totaled 119 million bushels, down 33 percent from a year ago. On-farm stocks, at 9.00 million bushels, are down 44 percent from last March. Off-farm stocks, at 110 million bushels, are down 31 percent from a year earlier. The December 2014 - February 2015 indicated disappearance from all positions is 104 million bushels, up 87 percent from the same period last year.

Sunflower stocks in all positions on March 1, 2015 totaled 696 million pounds, down 14 percent from March 1, 2014. All stocks stored on farms totaled 257 million pounds and off-farm stocks totaled 439 million pounds. Stocks of oil type sunflower seed are 503 million pounds; of this total, 195 million pounds are on-farm stocks and 308 million pounds are off-farm stocks. Non-oil sunflower stocks totaled 193 million pounds, with 61.4 million pounds stored on the farm and 131 million pounds stored off the farm.

Stocks by State (1,000 bu) :  (on farm - off farm - total stocks)

Nebraska Corn ................:   430,000  -  393,875   -   823,875
Nebraska Soybeans ........:     32,000   -    76,036   -   108,036
Nebraska Wheat .............:       2,300  -   34,214    -     36,514
Nebraska Sorghum .........:          650  -      2,864   -      3,514 
Iowa Corn .......................:   910,000  -  563,591   -  1,473,591
Iowa Soybeans ...............:   110,000   -  155,888  -    265,888


For the month of March 2015, temperatures averaged above normal with only limited precipitation falling in the western two-thirds of the State, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Rainfall of up to an inch fell across much of the southeast and portions of northeastern Nebraska, but western areas were short, prompting concerns from winter wheat producers. Activities included fertilizer application and preparation for spring planting. Topsoil moisture supplies rated 16 percent very short, 38 short, 45 adequate, and 1 surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies rated 13 percent very short, 29 short, 57 adequate, and 1 surplus.

Field Crops Report:  

Winter wheat condition rated 11 percent very poor, 18 poor, 37 fair, 31 good, and 3 excellent.

Livestock Report:  

Cattle and calf conditions rated 0 percent very poor, 1 poor, 14 fair, 75 good, and 10 excellent. 

Sheep and lamb conditions rated 0 percent very poor, 1 poor, 16 fair, 70 good, and 13 excellent. 

Hay and roughage supplies rated 1 percent very short, 6 short, 90 adequate, and 3 surplus. 

Stock water supplies rated 2 percent very short, 14 short, 83 adequate, and 1 surplus.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Monday March 30 Ag News

Assessing Climate Trends, Soil Temperatures, and Planting Risks
Tyler Williams, Nebraska Extension Educator

Planting in proper conditions is a perennial concern for Nebraska farmers.  With planting merely weeks away, analyzing soil temperatures can help determine when conditions are conducive for proper plant germination.  Soil temperatures in Nebraska are highly variable from year to year and location to location, and this year is no different.

Current soil temperatures in Nebraska are 5-10 degrees above normal and the seven-day average temperature at some locations is already above 50⁰F, causing some to ask: Is there a way to take advantage of this early season warming? Unfortunately, there is no simple answer due to extreme variability from field to field and the risk from Nebraska weather.  It is not that uncommon for a snowstorm to move through Nebraska in May, leaving a long cold spell in its wake.

While current soil temperatures may have warmed to adequate temperatures for planting in some areas, it is imperative that growers consider all their risks and current climate trends and information before planting.  There may be some benefit to early planting in order to capture a longer growing season, but you should consider whether the reward warrants the risk.

Last Frost Dates

The average last frost date is one way to analyze the risk of frost damage to your crops.  The median last 28⁰F freeze dates for Nebraska, averaged from 1981 to 2010, and ranging from the first week in April in southeast Nebraska to the second week in May in northwest Nebraska. NebGuide G2122, "Soil Temperature: A Guide for Planting Agronomic and Horticulture Crops in Nebraska," describes the recent shift in soil temperatures. From 2000-2009 soil temperatures of 55⁰F to 70⁰F occurred one to two weeks earlier than they had in the previous decade.  While soil temperatures may have shifted, allowing for earlier planting, the potential for a late spring freeze still exists.

Planting Time Weather Conditions

The temperature outlook for April from the Climate Prediction Center shows Nebraska as having equal chances for above or below normal precipitation. It indicates that the trough pattern that has prevailed over the northeast US for the last couple months will continue to dominate in April.  This means Nebraska will again be in the transition area between warm temperatures out west and cool temperatures in the east.  In March cold temperatures shifted east, but that line may shift back west.  We could see temperature swings and an east to west temperature gradient across the state, which could stall soil warming.  This will make it difficult to forecast more than a week in advance.

Warming Trend Can Still Take a Dip

If we look at current trends, there are a lot of reasons to believe soil temperatures will be adequate for planting over the next couple weeks; however, this trend may not continue.

We have experienced above normal temperatures and below normal precipitation through March, which has allowed our soils to dry out and warm up. While southeast Nebraska has had recent precipitation, most of the warmer, drier soils in southwest, central and northern Nebraska did not receive much precipitation.  Dry soils will warm up faster than wet soils and warm soil temperatures will help to warm the air, compounding the warm-up and creating a situation similar to 2012. If this trend continues, we may have an opportunity to capture a longer growing season; however, forecasts aren't showing much confidence in this trend continuing in Nebraska. Waiting to plant may be the best insurance plan.  As we get into the first couple weeks of April, we may be able to use weekly forecasts to better assess planting risk.

Initial Planting Dates for Spring Crops in Nebraska

Monte Vandeveer, Nebraska Extension Educator

Crop growers thinking about getting a head start on planting this year should remember that their crop insurance policy has an early planting restriction.  This initial planting date is the earliest date they may plant an insured crop and still qualify for a replanting payment if the crop suffers an early loss.

For corn in the eastern two-thirds of Nebraska, the initial planting date for crop insurance is April 10.  For northwest Nebraska, the initial planting date for corn is April 15. 

RMA is concerned about cropping practices that may otherwise increase the chance of a crop loss and hence an insurance indemnity.  Based on agronomic experience, these initial planting dates represent the earliest planting dates which would not pose an unusually high risk of early crop loss, in RMA's judgment.

For more information, view RMA's initial planting dates website (http://www.rma.usda.gov/fields/ks_rso/2015/initial/) for all spring-planted crops in Nebraska, including corn, dry beans, grain sorghum, popcorn, soybeans, sugar beets, and sunflowers.

If you have further questions, check with your local crop insurance agent or the RMA Regional Office in Topeka, Kan., which oversees crop insurance programs in Nebraska.

Nebraska Soybean Board Bullish on Biodiesel

Biodiesel is expected to remain an important driver of demand for soybeans in the future despite market uncertainties and declining production in 2014, according to leaders with the Nebraska Soybean Board (NSB). NSB Executive Director Victor Bohuslavsky says the organization’s efforts to promote the biodiesel industry are paying off.

“Biodiesel production has been growing steadily in recent years, which has helped Nebraska soybean growers and the state’s economy,” said Bohuslavsky. “We believe that the long-term trend points towards growth in the biodiesel industry.”

Bohuslavsky cited a recent study showing that soybean farmers in Nebraska receive an additional $.74 per bushel due to increased demand generated by biodiesel production. “Those dollars received by soybean growers are spent at local businesses,” Bohuslavsky said. “If biodiesel production leads to higher prices for soybeans, it has a positive impact on the local economy.”

Bohuslavsky says Nebraska livestock producers also benefit from biodiesel. As more soybeans are processed to meet the demand for soybean oil, the supply of soybean meal used in livestock feed grows, leading to lower feed prices for livestock producers. According to the United Soybean Board, Nebraska cattle, hog and dairy producers saved more than $60 million from 2005–2009 due to lower soybean meal prices as a result of biodiesel production.

But there are challenges ahead. Figures from the Environmental Protection Agency show that U.S. biodiesel consumption has declined slightly, from 1.8 billion gallons in 2013 to 1.75 billion gallons in 2014. Of that, 1.4 billion gallons were produced in the U.S. Soybean oil makes up the largest source of biodiesel fuel, contributing about 5 billion pounds of soybean oil to biodiesel production.

Industry analysts say uncertainty about the future of the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is having an impact on production of biodiesel. The Environmental Protection Agency has not set volume requirements for biodiesel production under the RFS since 2013, and some interest groups want to repeal the RFS.

Nevertheless, biodiesel proponents like soybean producer Greg Anderson of Newman Grove, Neb. believe the advantages of biodiesel will eventually lead to more growth in the industry. “The biodiesel industry is sound, growing and here to stay,” said Anderson. “Research and marketing initiatives funded by the soybean checkoff fueled expansion of biodiesel from a niche market 15 years ago to widespread use today.”

Anderson serves on the National Biodiesel Board and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Nebraska Soybean Board. He points to developments such as the increased use of biodiesel in heating oil and city vehicles in New York City as positive signs for the future of the fuel. The state of New York recently approved a requirement for all heating oil to contain at least a five percent biodiesel blend. Anderson expects that figure to increase in the future. “Biodiesel burns much cleaner than petroleum-based diesel, but there’s no real difference in the way it performs as a heating oil or motor vehicle fuel. As more cities and states strive to reduce emissions, biodiesel is poised to be a bigger part of the mix.”

Chemigation Training - Last local in-person opportunity

Nathan Mueller, UNL Cropping Systems & Agricultural Technologies Extension Educator

Nebraska Extension will conduct a chemigation certification training session at the ARDC near Mead on April 3rd at 9:30 a.m.

Producers who plan to apply crop nutrients and pesticides through irrigation systems during 2015, including those whose 2014 permits expired Dec. 31, are required to attend a training session and pass the test administered afterward.  Requirements for initial certification and recertification are the same.

Licensed chemigators can apply pesticides or fertilizer through their irrigation systems.  You must attend the entire class and pass a 50 question multiple choice test to be eligible for certification.  Upon successful completion of the class, chemigators may renew individual site permits administered by the local Natural Resource District (NRD) office.

Review of study materials prior to the training session is encouraged.   If you have misplaced your chemigation notebook you may request materials from one of the instructors at the bottom of this page.  Individuals attending for the first time are encouraged to request training materials prior to training.

Training and testing will take approximately 3 hours. On the day of training please bring your Chemigation Training Manual, Calibration Workbook, a No. 2 pencil, and a calculator. There is no charge for the manuals or training.


Bruce Anderson, UNL Extension Forage Specialist

               Got your herbicides selected for your corn, beans, and other crops?  Better double check if a cover crop, pasture, or hay planting is a possibility during the next year and a half.

               Many of our biggest success stories with forage and pasture crops recently have come from using annuals.  No matter when you could use something to graze, including winter, an annual plant could be found that would work well if managed properly.

               Many times a small grain like oats or rye fit our needs.  Other times it’s been a brassica like turnips and forage rape.  Once in a while we’ve used millets.

               But there have been frustrations.  One of the biggest frustrations has been herbicide limitations.  Many forages are affected by herbicide carryover, such as from atrazine.  Often we identify a forage or cover crop to plant but the risk of failure is too high due to herbicides.  This problem isn’t limited to annual forages, either.  Perennial grasses and alfalfa also are sensitive to herbicide carryover.

               Legal replant and rotation restrictions also cause herbicide limitations.  With many herbicides it may be okay to plant a cover crop, but that cover crop cannot be used legally as a forage.

               So, is this important to you?  Do you want to fly rye or turnip seed into your standing corn later this year for extra fall pasture?  How about planting triticale this fall or oats next spring?  Or maybe irrigated pasture or alfalfa?

               These options may not be available if you use many common herbicides.  Keep you options open.  Rethink your herbicide plans.  Maybe you can control weeds and maintain the flexibility to plant any forage just by making a small change in the herbicides you use now.

               Then you, too, can build a success story from annual forages.

Ethanol Maintenance Managers Share Experiences, Meet Vendors

Ethanol maintenance managers met in Des Moines for their semiannual gathering to meet with vendors and learn from each other. In the best attendance yet, nearly 50 maintenance managers from plants in 12 states gathered, along with 85 vendors, for TEAM M3 March 24 to 25. The full name explains the group's goal: Today's Ethanol Advanced Management, Maintenance Managers Meeting.

"The meetings had a very modest beginning when they started in 2006 at Amaizing Energy in Denison, Iowa," said Darrell Pedersen, maintenance manager at Corn LP, Goldfield, Iowa, and the organizer of the Des Moines meeting. The meetings started with a small group of managers from ICM/Fagen plants who got together to discuss problems and successes at their newly built plants. Also, at the beginning, many of the managers were coming from other industries and needed to learn about the ethanol process. Today, the group is open to all, regardless of the process technology or builder. Multiple plants have hosted the meetings, often at the plant itself.

TEAM M3 meetings are informal, with most of the time on the first full day left open for managers to meet with vendors. Short meetings are held with technical presentations from invited vendors, many of whom provide parts, repairs and maintenance services, along with new technologies and equipment. The second day is devoted to a long discussion session, where managers bring up specific questions or issues with things like blower fans, evaporator maintenance, centrifuge issues, pump alignment and vibration technologies, and more.

Recently, one of the group's members, Tom Boekman with Louis Dreyfus Commodities developed a website, www.ethanolnetworks.com to host forums for maintenance managers, as well as plant and laboratory managers, as another way of sharing questions and expertise.

NFU Joins Diverse Coalition Urging Congress to Reject COOL, GIPSA Riders in 2016 Ag Appropriations

National Farmers Union (NFU) joined a diverse coalition representing family farmers, ranchers, consumers and rural affairs in submitting testimony urging Congress to reject the inclusion of any policy riders in the FY2016 Agriculture Appropriations bill that would weaken or rescind Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) or limit the rulemaking authority of the Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Agency (GIPSA).

“Opponents of basic rights for producers and consumers have repeatedly chosen the appropriations process as a mechanism to preempt the World Trade Organization (WTO) process on COOL and to limit the agriculture secretary's authority to address anti-competitive market concerns,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “NFU urges Congress to reject policy riders that would undermine the effectiveness of COOL and GIPSA.”

The testimony was submitted late last week to the Subcommittee of Agriculture, Rural Development, FDA, and Related Agencies on potential COOL and GIPSA policy riders. The testimony notes that opponents of COOL are urging the appropriators to include language that would rescind COOL in the event of an adverse WTO ruling.

“It is still premature to unconditionally surrender to Canada and Mexico’s threats of tariff retaliation,” notes the testimony. “Congress should not prejudge the outcome of the dispute and allow the WTO process to come to its conclusion before revisiting COOL.”

The testimony also notes that the Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921 is the nation’s primary statute providing basic protections for livestock and poultry growers against fraudulent, deceptive, and retaliatory trade practices by meatpackers and poultry companies. The 2008 Farm Bill required the U.S. Department of Agriculture to write regulations under the Packers and Stockyards Act to provide for these basic protections.

“Any provision gutting the Packers and Stockyard Act through the so-called GIPSA rider is unconscionable to America’s family farmers and ranchers,” said Johnson. “It would deny farmers protection from retaliation when they use their First Amendment rights to speak with congressional representatives, deny them the right to a jury trial, and deny them the right to request information on how their pay is calculated.”

February Farm Prices Received Index Up 3 Points

The February Prices Received Index (Agricultural Production), at 100, based on 2011=100, increased 3 points (3.1 percent) from January. At 85, the February Crop Production Index is up 2 points (2.4 percent). At 115, the Livestock Production Index decreased 5 points (4.2 percent). Producers received higher prices for eggs, tomatoes, oranges, and hay but lower prices for broilers, cattle, hogs, and lettuce. In addition to prices, the indexes are impacted by the five-year average monthly mix of commodities producers market. Increased monthly movement of cattle, milk, broilers, and hogs offset the decreased marketing of soybeans, corn, and wheat.

The Prices Received Index is down 7 points (6.5 percent) from February 2014. The Food Commodities Index, at 108, decreased 1 point (0.9 percent) from the previous month and 9 points (7.7 percent) from February 2014.

Crop Production:

The February index, at 85, increased 2.4 percent from January but is 11 percent below February 2014. Increased marketing of fruits & tree nuts and vegetables more than offset lower movement of oilseeds, feed grains, food grains, and other crops.

Feed grain: The February index, at 64, is unchanged from last month but is 12 percent below a year ago. The corn price, at $3.79 per bushel, is down 2 cents from last month and 56 cents below February 2014. At $7.86 per cwt, sorghum grain is up 46 cents from January and 21 cents above February a year earlier.

Food grain: At 84, the index for February is 5.6 percent lower than the previous month and is 13 percent below a year earlier. The February price for all wheat, at $5.89 per bushel, is down 25 cents from January and 61 cents below February 2014.

Oilseed: At 79, the index for February is down 3.7 percent from January and 24 percent lower than February 2014. The soybean price, at $9.92 per bushel, decreased 38 cents from January and is $3.28 below February a year earlier.

Livestock Production:

The index for February, at 115, is 4.2 percent below the previous month and down 5.0 percent from February a year earlier. Compared with a year ago, prices are lower for milk, hogs, and broilers but higher for cattle, calves, market eggs, and turkeys.

Meat animal: At 125, the February index is down 4.6 percent from the previous month but 5.0 percent higher than a year earlier. At $50.40 per cwt, the February hog price is down $7.00 from January and $15.10 lower than a year earlier. The February beef cattle price of $159 per cwt is down $5.00 from the previous month but is $15.00 higher than February 2014.

Dairy product: The index for February, at 84, is down 4.5 percent from the previous month and 32 percent lower than February a year earlier. The February all milk price of $16.80 per cwt is down 80 cents from January and $8.10 from February 2014.

February Prices Paid Index Unchanged

The February Index of Prices Paid for Commodities and Services, Interest, Taxes, and Farm Wage Rates (PPITW), at 109 (2011=100), is unchanged from January 2015 and February 2014. Higher prices in February for herbicides, LP gas, Insecticides, and potash & phosphates offset lower prices for feeder cattle, complete feeds, feeder pigs, and diesel.

CWT Assists with 4.1 Million Pounds of Cheese and Butter Export Sales

Cooperatives Working Together (CWT) has accepted 18 requests for export assistance from Dairy Farmers of America, Northwest Dairy Association (Darigold), and Tillamook County Creamery Association who have contracts to sell 3.976 million pounds (1,803 metric tons) of Cheddar, Gouda, and Monterey Jack cheese and 121,254 pounds (55 metric tons) of butter to customers in Asia, the Middle East, and Central America. The product has been contracted for delivery in the period from March through September 2015.

Year-to-date, CWT has assisted member cooperatives who have contracts to sell 23.437 million pounds of cheese and 24.333 million pounds of butter to 22 countries on five continents. The amounts of cheese and butter in these sales contracts represent the equivalent of 763.819 million 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. This, in turn, positively impacts U.S. dairy farmers by strengthening and maintaining the value of dairy products that directly impact their milk price.

Global Alltech Research Alliance meeting identifies six agricultural issues to be addressed

Top agribusiness companies, research institutes and universities from nine countries met in Beijing, China, this week to review their current activities with the Alltech Research Alliance and left with six new agricultural production issues to tackle in the next year.

The Alltech Research Alliance program was designed to stimulate multi-discipline teamwork, to provide access to joint funding, research efforts and intellectual property and to contribute to science and education initiatives with its partners. Since the program’s inception in 2004, the Alltech Research Alliance has built collaborative research curriculums with 12 universities and seven global agribusinesses or research institutes from China (eight), Japan, Australia, the United States (three), Ireland, Norway, the U.K., India and France. Alliances continue to be made as Alltech deepens its research partnerships throughout the world

“The alliances represent a very unique approach to the involvement of industry with academia, moving beyond a contractual basis to where our partners are a fundamental part of our innovation strategy,” said Dr. Karl Dawson, Alltech's chief scientific officer and global research director.

The Alltech Research Alliance meeting highlighted the following key issues: 
-    Fertility and increasing offspring per breeding animal
-    Novel feed analysis systems that contribute to improved production efficiency
-    Gut health management tools and disease models for defining immunity, productivity
-    Antibiotic-free animal production programs
-    Nutritional enrichment tools for improving meat, milk and eggshell quality
-    Defining alternative ingredients and processes that improve aquaculture diets

“Through research on these issues, the Alltech Research Alliance hopes to address real needs and become the most productive innovator, implementing both new technologies along with systems and services to achieve sustainable profitability for our customers,” Dawson said.

Alltech, an innovator in its field with more than 35 years of research in animal nutrition and health, develops and manufactures innovative and natural feed supplements designed to improve animal performance, the feed industry and the farmer's bottom line.  The company’s philosophy, supported by the entire global organization and central to all company initiatives in displaying primacy in science through scientific advancement and research, is based upon four pillars: education, innovation, application and involvement.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Friday March 27 Hogs & Pigs Report + Ag News


Nebraska inventory of all hogs and pigs on March 1, 2015,was 3.05 million head, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. This was up 2 percent from March 1, 2014, but down 2 percent from December 1, 2014.

Breeding hog inventory, at 420,000 head, was up 5 percent from March 1, 2014, and up 5 percent from last quarter. Market hog inventory, at 2.63 million head, was up 1 percent from last year, but down 3 percent from last quarter.

The December 2014 - February 2015 Nebraska pig crop, at 1.76 million head, was up 1 percent from 2014. Sows farrowed during the period totaled 160,000 head, down 3 percent from last year. The average pigs saved per litter was a record high 11.00 for the December - February period, compared to 10.55 last year.

Nebraska hog producers intend to farrow 175,000 sows during the March – May 2015 quarter, up 3 percent from the actual farrowings during the same period a year ago. Intended farrowings for June – August 2015 are 180,000 sows, up 3 percent from the actual farrowings during the same period the previous year.

Iowa Hogs and Pigs Up 5% from Last Year

On March 1, 2015, there were 20.4 million hogs and pigs on Iowa farms according to the latest USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service – Hogs and Pigs report. The March 1 inventory was down 2 percent from December 2014 but up 5 percent from last March’s 19.5 million head.

The December 2014-February 2015 quarterly pig crop was 5.35 million head, up 3 percent from the previous quarter and 13 percent above last year. A total of 500,000 sows farrowed during this quarter.

The average pigs saved per litter was 10.70 for the DecemberFebruary quarter, matching the record pigs saved per litter from the previous two quarters.

As of March 1, producers planned to farrow 490,000 head of sows and gilts in the March-May quarter and 510,000 head during the June-August quarter.

United States Hog Inventory Up 7 Percent

United States inventory of all hogs and pigs on March 1, 2015 was 65.9 million head. This was up 7 percent from March 1, 2014, but down slightly from December 1, 2014.  Breeding inventory, at 5.98 million head, was up 2 percent from last year, and up 1 percent from the previous quarter.  Market hog inventory, at 60.0 million head, was up 8 percent from last year, but down slightly from last quarter.

The December 2014-February 2015 pig crop, at 28.8 million head, was up 9 percent from 2014. Sows farrowing during this period totaled 2.83 million head, up 2 percent from 2014. The sows farrowed during this quarter represented 48 percent of the breeding herd. The average pigs saved per litter was a record high 10.17 for the December-February period, compared to 9.53 last year. Pigs saved per litter by size of operation ranged from 7.90 for operations with 1-99 hogs and pigs to 10.20 for operations with more than 5,000 hogs and pigs.

United States hog producers intend to have 2.87 million sows farrow during the March-May 2015 quarter, up 2 percent from the actual farrowings during the same period in 2014, and up 2 percent from 2013. Intended farrowings for June-August 2015, at 2.93 million sows, are down 2 percent from 2014, but up 1 percent from 2013.

The total number of hogs under contract owned by operations with over 5,000 head, but raised by contractees, accounted for 46 percent of the total United States hog inventory, down from 48 percent last year.

Breeding, Market, and Total Inventory - By State (1,000 hd) as of March 1, 2015

Breeding Inv. (% of Mar '14) - Marketing Inv. (% of Mar '14) - Total (% of Mar '14)

Nebraska ....:    420       105%    -     2,630       101%    -     3,050        102% 
Iowa ...........:  1,030     102%    -    19,370      105%   -      20,400      105% 
N. Carolina ..:   890       102%    -     7,510       108%    -      8,400        108% 
Illinois ........:    490        98%     -     4,160       111%    -      4,650       109% 
Indiana .......:    280       104%    -     3,370       109%    -     3,650        109% 
Kansas ........:    175       103%    -     1,655       113%    -     1,830        112%

Sows Farrowing, Pigs per Litter, and Pig Crop - By State (1,000 hd)- Dec-Feb 2015

Sows Farrowed (%LY) - Pigs per Litter - Pig Crop (%LY) 
Nebraska ....:    160       97%    -     11.00   -    1,760      101%  
Iowa ...........:    500      104%   -    10.70    -    5,350      113%  
N. Carolina .:     440      101%   -     9.50     -    4,180      114%  
Illinois .......:     240       98%     -    10.20    -    2,448      100%  
Indiana ......:    135       113%    -    10.10    -    1,364     124%  
Kansas .......:     86        108%    -    10.00    -       860      117%  

NSP Carrier Enforcement Webinars Replace Town Hall Meetings

The Nebraska State Patrol (NSP) Carrier Enforcement Division will be changing the format for its Town Hall meetings. This year, the Carrier Enforcement Division will conduct webinars in place of previously held location meetings.

The webinars, starting on April 6 will provide information on laws pertaining to farm and commercial motor vehicles and drivers of these vehicles. Guidance will include the State of Nebraska’s adoption of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety and Hazardous Materials regulations.

“It is our goal, through this change in practice, to enhance highway safety by reaching as many operators of large trucks as possible,” said Captain Gerry Krolikowski, Commander Carrier Enforcement Division. “Through the webinars, we will provide a useful collection of information regarding regulations that are not only required, but more importantly directly related to vehicle and driver safety. ”The webinars will be divided into six topics...

1. Farm Driver
2. Farm Vehicle
3. Commercial Driver
4. Commercial Vehicle
5. Hazardous Material Farm
6. Hazardous Material Commercial

By providing six separate webinar topics, individuals will be able to choose which Webinar to participate in as opposed to sitting through an entire Town Hall meeting.

Capt. Krolikowski said “In the past our Town Hall meetings have typically taken 3-4 hours. The webinars will allow an individual to save time by selecting only the areas they are interested in.”

A link to the schedule including dates and times for the Carrier Enforcement webinar series is provided:  http://1.usa.gov/1xgLNTd


Bruce Anderson, UNL Extension Forage Specialist

               Small grains planted last fall are greening up and will soon grow rapidly in most areas.  Many fields soon will be ready to graze.  This spring, let’s make these pastures productive and safe.

               Did you look ahead and plant rye or triticale or even wheat last fall to use as early pasture this spring?  If so, you soon will be rewarded.  Many of these fields are about ready to graze.

               These small grain pastures are an extremely useful resource this spring.  They will relieve you from feeding hay, get your animals out onto clean green grass, and produce excellent gains.  They’ll also help you wait longer before turning onto your other pastures, giving them a chance to have good growth before grazing.

               To maximize grazing from small grain pastures, wait until grass is 4 to 8 inches tall before starting to graze.  Then stock heavily enough to maintain plant height between 6 and 12 inches.  To accomplish this, either adjust the number of animals according to grass growth or sub-divide the pasture into paddocks and graze rotationally.  Grass stands, soils, fertility, and moisture all will affect stocking rate, so adjust stock numbers for your conditions.  With careful management, you could have good grazing all the way to mid-June.

               One concern when grazing small grain pasture is animal death from grass tetany.  Tetany is more common in lactating cows than in dry cows or young stock.  Reduce tetany risk by feeding magnesium oxide supplements mixed with salt, molasses, or grain.  Monitor consumption carefully and adjust the mixture so cattle consume about one-quarter pound of magnesium oxide per cow each week.                                               

               Small grain pastures can be convenient and profitable.  Just use good management to optimize production and prevent livestock losses.

Whistleblower Speaks Out Against HSUS

Today HumaneWatch.org, a project of the Center for Consumer Freedom, released a video interview with a former undercover investigator for the animal liberation group Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Gestation stalls, or individual maternity pens (IMPs), are used to house pregnant pigs. IMPs provide for individual care and feeding while preventing the fighting that occurs when pregnant sows are housed in groups. Mainstream veterinary groups support maternity pens as a humane housing option. However, HSUS has been lobbying legislators to ban these gestation pens and are pressuring food companies to only source pork from farms that use group housing of sows. 

Watch the full video HERE... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQ_XJDZrzTM

According to the HSUS investigator, who worked on pork farms:
-    “When they’re not in crates, they [sows] fight each other. With gestation crates, they can’t bite each other…They’re in a safe spot.”
-    “I have to believe they [HSUS] know the pigs would prefer to be in gestation crates…but choose instead to push the anti-gestation crate legislation because of what it would do to the pig farming industry.”
-    “Objectively, HSUS should be for gestation crates if they’re honestly, truly for animal welfare.”

“Farmers, veterinarians, and animal scientists stand opposed to HSUS’s campaign against individual maternity pens—and now one of its own investigators does, too,” Will Coggin, director of research for HumaneWatch.org. “HSUS counts on manipulating an unknowing public with its propaganda, but the power of truth is demonstrated by one of HSUS’s own.”

About 200 large-animal veterinarians have signed an open letter in support of individual maternity pens. Recent HSUS attempts to ban these pens in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Vermont, New York, and New Hampshire have all failed after legislators learned the full story.

“HSUS’s real agenda is forcing farmers into costly infrastructure changes designed at putting them out of business, not helping pregnant pigs,” Coggin continued. “HSUS is an anti-meat extremist group that doesn’t speak for Americans, veterinarians, or farmers—or animals.”

USDA Extends ARC and PLC Deadlines

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today provided farm owners and producers one additional week, until April 7, 2015, to choose between Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC), the safety-net programs established by the 2014 Farm Bill. The final day to update yield history or reallocate base acres also will be April 7, 2015.

"This is an important decision for producers because these programs help farmers and ranchers protect their operations from unexpected changes in the marketplace," said Vilsack. "Nearly 98 percent of owners have already updated their yield and base acres, and 90 percent of producers have enrolled in ARC or PLC. These numbers are strong, and continue to rise. This additional week will give producers a little more time to have those final conversations, review their data, visit their local Farm Service Agency offices, and make their decisions," said Vilsack.

If no changes are made to yield history or base acres by the deadline, the farm's current yield and base acres will be used. If a program choice of ARC or PLC is not made, there will be no 2014 crop year payments for the farm and the farm will default to PLC coverage for the 2015 through 2018 crop years. Producers who have an appointment at their local FSA offices scheduled by April 7 will be able to make an election between ARC and PLC, even if their actual appointment is after April 7.

These safety-net programs provide important financial protection against unexpected changes in the marketplace. As part of the strong education and outreach campaign launched by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in September, to date more than 5 million educational postcards, in English and Spanish, have been sent to producers nationwide, and more than 5,000 events with more than 430,000 attendees, including training sessions and speaking engagements, have been conducted to educate producers on the programs. The online tools, available at www.fsa.usda.gov/arc-plc, which allow producers to explore how ARC or PLC coverage will affect their operation, have been presented to more than 3,400 groups.

Covered commodities under ARC and PLC include barley, canola, large and small chickpeas, corn, crambe, flaxseed, grain sorghum, lentils, mustard seed, oats, peanuts, dry peas, rapeseed, long grain rice, medium grain rice (which includes short grain and sweet rice), safflower seed, sesame, soybeans, sunflower seed and wheat. Upland cotton is no longer a covered commodity.

Producers need to contact the Farm Service Agency by April 7. To learn more, farmers can contact their local Farm Service Agency county office. To find local offices, visit http://offices.usda.gov.

USGC’s 2014 Annual Report Available Online Now

From the soaring sales of U.S. sorghum to China to launching the Tanzanian Food For Progress program to trade policy talks to Export Exchange, the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) left its mark on export markets for U.S. corn, barley, sorghum and their co-products in 2014.

These successes and more are highlighted in the Council’s 2014 annual report, which is available online at www.grains.org/annualreport2014.

“2014 was an exciting year for the Council,” said USGC Chairman Ron Gray. “It continued our work in key markets and also expanded our efforts to new places like Tanzania and a new commodity for us, ethanol.

“These exhilarating and significant projects were made possible by our vibrant, active membership base, volunteer leaders from all sectors of agriculture and our dedicated global staff. This annual report highlights this and is just one way we show our thanks at the Council.”

This annual report features highpoints from 2014 and other impressive features.

“The online annual report is a great resource for anyone involved in the global grain trade,” Gray said. “In addition to the normal report materials, readers can access an exclusive, downloadable spreadsheet containing production, demand, imports, exports and feed consumption information for more than 20 countries and regions. Everyone involved with the global grain trade should take a moment to explore www.grains.org/annualreport2014.”

A printed companion piece is being mailed to all Council members, with additional copies available at key Council meetings and trade shows. A PDF version of the printed report is also available at www.grains.org/annualreport2014 by clicking on the corresponding link in the upper-right section of any page.

CHS' William Nelson to be Inducted into Co-op Hall of Fame

William Nelson will be inducted into the Cooperative Hall of Fame in ceremonies May 6, 2015, at the National Press Club, Washington, D.C.

Induction into the Cooperative Hall of Fame is the highest honor the U.S. cooperative community bestows on those who have made genuinely heroic contributions in support of the cooperative form of enterprise.

Nelson, who is Vice President of CHS Corporate Citizenship and President of the CHS Foundation, has long been a leader in the cooperative community, championing and encouraging education, collaboration and growth of the cooperative system.

Growth Energy Supports Senators Paul and Grassley Efforts to Give Consumers Choice at the Pump

Following the introduction of S. 889, the Fuel Choice and Deregulation Act, legislation by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA), which contains a provision to extend the Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) volatility waiver to E15, Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy, issued the following statement:

“We certainly support efforts by Senator Paul and Senator Grassley to remove a major hurdle preventing consumers the opportunity to purchase higher blends such as E15. This has been a major obstacle ever since Growth Energy led the successful effort to get E15 approved for commercial use.

“We are hopeful that Senators Paul and Grassley’s legislative efforts are successful in granting this much needed waiver to overcome the single largest regulatory hurdle to ensuring consumers have access to higher blends such as E15.”

MAIZALL Leaders Meet With U.S. Officials in Washington

Leaders from MAIZALL, the international alliance for maize, were in Washington this week for discussions with senior U.S. officials from the Department of Agriculture, State Department and Office of the U.S. Trade Representative regarding ongoing cooperation with the governments of Argentina and Brazil on market access for crops derived from biotechnology.

“MAIZALL was established because producers in the United States, Argentina and Brazil -- the three major corn exporting countries of the Americas -- recognized they shared some common concerns,” said Julius Schaaf, the Iowa farmer who serves as U.S. Grains Council past chairman and MAIZALL’s first president.

MAIZALL is a partnership of four organizations in three countries: the Council and the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) in the United States, ABRAMHILO in Brazil and MAISAR in Argentina. While the three countries are vigorous competitors in world markets, producers in all three are committed to trade, modern agricultural technology and improved market access.

In their meetings this week with U.S. officials, the MAIZALL group focused especially on challenges in China and the European Union affecting producers in the corn exporting countries and on the importance of intergovernmental dialogues to encourage development of effective policies for managing low level presence (LLP) of as-yet unapproved biotech traits.

“Without workable LLP policies, farmers lose no matter where they are from,” Schaaf said. “Either we lose access to beneficial technologies that improve our economic and environmental sustainability, or we risk losing access to markets because of the presence of trace levels of an event. This serves no one’s interest.”

In 2015, MAIZALL will continue its outreach to receptive pro-technology groups in the EU. The group is also looking toward ongoing discussions with Chinese and Korean officials and will continue to advocate regulatory harmonization on biotech events among the Americas.

Pork Producers Committed To Addressing Resistance

Responding to today’s release of the White House “National Action Plan For Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria,” (see article below) the National Pork Producers Council said the U.S. pork industry is committed to continuing its efforts to use antibiotics responsibly, to support research on antibiotic resistance and to comply with recent directives related to antibiotic use from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The $1.2 billion plan’s primary purpose is to direct activities by the federal government to address antibiotic resistance, but it also is designed to guide action by public health and healthcare professionals and veterinarians “in a common effort to address urgent and serious drug-resistant threats that affect people in the U.S. and around the world.”

The pork industry supports studies and research on the epidemiology of antimicrobial resistance, as well as research on identifying alternative products or practices that will help minimize the need to use antibiotics. The industry’s Pork Quality Assurance Plus (PQA Plus) program includes principles that provide guidance on responsible antibiotic use and has on-farm assessments to measure points on veterinary oversight and FDA requirements for medical records. It also is reaching out to pork producers to build awareness of and provide information on the changes that result from FDA Guidance 213, which is eliminating for growth promotion uses of antibiotics that are important in human medicine. Additionally the FDA guidance requires veterinary oversight (VFD) of all therapeutic uses of those same antibiotics.

“Pork producers have been at the forefront of developing programs that ensure that antibiotics are being used responsibly,” said NPPC President Dr. Ron Prestage, a pork producer from Camden, S.C. “And the U.S. pork industry is committed to doing its part to help address the issue of antibiotic resistance.

“That said, antibiotics are an important tool we use to keep our animals healthy and to produce safe food, and we will continue to employ them for those purposes.”

NPPC noted that the White House plan backs the successful implementation of Guidance 213 and the VFD, the development of metrics to gauge the success of antibiotics stewardship efforts and research on alternative products and strategies to reduce the need for antibiotics. The plan also calls for the collection of more data on antibiotic use.

NPPC is committed to working with FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop appropriate metrics for measuring the success of the industry’s stewardship program. Data collection should focus on increasing the epidemiological knowledge of antibiotic resistance, be practical and representative and not be cost prohibitive, said the organization.

Obama Administration Releases National Action Plan to Combat Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria

Today, the White House released a comprehensive plan that identifies critical actions to be taken by key Federal departments and agencies to combat the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.  The National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria, which was developed by the interagency Task Force for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria in response to Executive Order 13676: Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria, outlines steps for implementing the National Strategy on Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria and addressing the policy recommendations of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) report on Combating Antibiotic Resistance.

Antibiotics have been a critical public health tool since the discovery of penicillin in 1928, saving the lives of millions of people around the world.  The emergence of drug resistance in bacteria is undermining our ability to treat bacterial infections and perform a range of modern medical procedures, including chemotherapy, surgery, dialysis, and organ transplantation.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that drug-resistant bacteria cause 23,000 deaths and 2 million illnesses each year in the United States. Antibiotic resistance also threatens animal health, agriculture, and the economy.

The National Action Plan provides a roadmap to guide the Nation in rising to the challenge of antibiotic resistance and potentially saving thousands of lives.  The Action Plan outlines Federal activities over the next five years to enhance domestic and international capacity to prevent and contain outbreaks of antibiotic-resistant infections; maintain the efficacy of current and new antibiotics; and develop and deploy next-generation diagnostics, antibiotics, vaccines, and other therapeutics.  These activities are consistent with investments in the President’s FY 2016 Budget, which nearly doubles the amount of Federal funding for combating and preventing antibiotic resistance to more than $1.2 billion.

Implementation of the Action Plan will require the sustained, coordinated, and complementary efforts of individuals and groups around the world, including public and private sector partners, healthcare providers, healthcare leaders, veterinarians, agriculture industry leaders, manufacturers, policymakers, and patients.  Efforts carried out as part of the Action Plan will help the Federal government curb the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria with the goal of saving lives.

To provide advice, information, and recommendations regarding programs and policies intended to support and evaluate the implementation of Executive Order 13676, including the National Strategy for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria and the National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria, the Secretary of Health and Human Services established the Presidential Advisory Council on Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria (Advisory Council). HHS is currently seeking nominations of individuals who are interested in being considered for appointment to the Advisory Council.

National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria

The Action Plan is organized around five goals for collaborative action by the U.S. Government, in partnership with foreign governments, individuals, and organizations aiming to strengthen healthcare, public health, veterinary medicine, agriculture, food safety, and research and manufacturing.  Aggressive action will move the nation towards major reductions in the incidence of urgent and serious drug-resistant threats.

These goals are:
·         Slow the Emergence of Resistant Bacteria and Prevent the Spread of Resistant Infections.
·         Strengthen National One-Health Surveillance Efforts to Combat Resistance,
·         Advance Development and Use of Rapid and Innovative Diagnostic Tests for Identification and Characterization of Resistant Bacteria.
·         Accelerate Basic and Applied Research and Development for New Antibiotics, Other Therapeutics, and Vaccines.
·         Improve International Collaboration and Capacities for Antibiotic Resistance Prevention, Surveillance, Control, and Antibiotic Research and Development.

Slow the Emergence of Resistant Bacteria and Prevent the Spread of Resistant Infections

Judicious use of antibiotics in healthcare and agricultural settings is essential to slow the emergence of resistance and extend the useful lifetime of effective antibiotics.  The CDC estimates that up to half of all human antibiotic use is unnecessary or inappropriate. The Action Plan includes activities to foster improvements in the appropriate use of antibiotics (i.e., antibiotic stewardship) by improving prescribing practices across all healthcare settings. , preventing the spread of drug-resistant threats in healthcare facilities and communities, and continuing to eliminate the use of medically-important antibiotics for growth promotion in animals.

By 2020, significant outcomes in this area will include:

·         Establishment of antimicrobial stewardship programs in all acute care hospitals and improved antimicrobial stewardship across all healthcare settings.

·         Reduction of inappropriate antibiotic use by 50% in outpatient settings and by 20% in inpatient settings.

·         Establishment of State Antibiotic Resistance (AR) Prevention (Protect) Programs in all 50 states to monitor regionally important multi-drug resistant organisms and provide feedback and technical assistance to health care facilities.

·         Elimination of the use of medically-important antibiotics for growth promotion in food-producing animals.

Strengthen National-Surveillance Efforts for Resistant Bacteria

The “One-Health” approach to disease surveillance for human and animal pathogens is critical to combat antibiotic resistance.  Improved detection and control of antibiotic resistance in human and animal pathogens will be achieved through a “One-Health” approach to disease surveillance that integrates data from multiple monitoring networks.  This approach will significantly increase the currently very limited data and provide high-quality information, including detailed genomic data, necessary to track resistant bacteria in diverse settings in a timely fashion.

By 2020, significant outcomes in this area will include:

·         Creation of a regional public health network—the Detect Network of AR Regional Laboratories—for resistance testing, a specimen repository for resistant bacterial strains, and a National Sequence Database of Resistant Pathogens.

·         Routine reporting of antibiotic use and resistance data to National Health Safety Network (NHSN) by 95% of Medicare-eligible hospitals, as well as by Department of Defense  and Veterans Affairs healthcare facilities.

·         Routine testing of zoonotic and animal pathogens for antibiotic susceptibility at ten to twenty National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN) and Veterinary Laboratory Investigation and Response Network (Vet-LIRN) member laboratories, using standardized testing methods and data sharing practices.

Advance Development and Use of Rapid and Innovative Diagnostic Tests for Identification and Characterization of Resistant Bacteria

With the support of funding agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, today’s researchers are taking advantage of new technologies to develop rapid “point-of-need” diagnostic tests that can be used during a healthcare visit to distinguish between viral and bacterial infections and identify bacterial drug susceptibilities — an innovation that could significantly reduce unnecessary antibiotic use.  The availability of new rapid diagnostic tests, combined with ongoing use of culture-based assays to identify new resistance mechanisms, will advance the detection and control of resistant bacteria.

By 2020, significant outcomes in this area will include:

·         Development and dissemination of authorized point-of-need diagnostic tests that rapidly distinguish between bacterial and viral infections.

·         Validation of diagnostic tests that rapidly determine the antibiotic resistance profiles of bacteria of public health concern.

Accelerate Basic and Applied Research and Development for New Antibiotics, Other Therapeutics, and Vaccines

Antibiotics that lose their effectiveness for treating human disease through antibiotic resistance must be replaced with new drugs; alternatives to antibiotics are also needed in veterinary medicine.  The Action Plan will boost basic scientific research, attract greater private investment, and facilitate clinical trials in order to advance the discovery and development of new antibiotics and alternative therapies to combat resistance.

By 2020, significant outcomes in this area will include:

·         Characterization of the gut microbiome—the communities of microorganisms that live within the gastrointestinal tract—of at least one animal species raised for food.  This outcome will help us understand how antibiotic treatments disrupt normal gut bacteria and how animal growth might be promoted—and bacterial diseases might be treated—without using antibiotics.

·         Advancement of at least two new antibiotic drug candidates, non-traditional therapeutics, and/or vaccines from pre-clinical testing to clinical trials for treatment or prevention of human disease.

·         Development of at least three new drug candidates or probiotic treatments as alternatives to antibiotics for promoting growth or preventing disease in animals.

·         Creation of a biopharmaceutical incubator—a consortium of academic, biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry partners—to promote innovation and increase the number of antibiotics and antibodies in the drug-development pipeline.

Improve International Collaboration and Capacities for Antibiotic Resistance Prevention, Surveillance, Control, and Antibiotic Research and Development

Antibiotic resistance is a global problem that requires global solutions.  The United States will engage with international ministries and institutions to strengthen national and international capacities to detect, monitor, analyze, and report antibiotic resistance; provide resources and incentives to spur the development of therapeutics and diagnostics for use in humans and animals; and strengthen regional networks and global partnerships that help prevent and control the emergence and spread of resistance.

By 2020, significant outcomes in this area will include:
·         Elevation of antibiotic resistance as an international priority for global health and security.

·         Enhanced capacity to identify antimicrobial resistant pathogens in more than 15 partner countries.

·         Establishment of a common U.S.-European Union (EU) system for sharing and analyzing bacterial resistance patterns for priority pathogens.

·         Development of a global database to collect harmonized quantitative data on the use of antibacterial agents in animals.

·         Development of national plans to combat antibiotic resistance and improve antibiotic stewardship in low- and middle-income countries.

·         Strengthened regulatory and supply chain systems that assure the quality, safety, and efficacy of antibiotics used in low- and middle-income countries.

Ethanol and Agriculture Groups Challenge Anti-Biofuels Effort

Ethanol and agriculture industry groups came together this week to advocate for continued funding of U.S. blender pump initiatives and U.S. export promotion efforts in a letter to the House Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, FDA, and Related Programs Committee on Appropriations. Today’s letter countered a request led by Representatives Bob Goodlatte, Peter Welch, and Jim Costa to eliminate funding for these types of forward-looking programs and calls on the subcommittee to “vehemently oppose and reject any efforts to include such limiting language in the FY 2016 Agriculture, Rural Development, FDA and Related Programs.”

The letter is signed by the Renewable Fuels Association, American Coalition for Ethanol, National Farmers Union, National Corn Growers Association, and Growth Energy.

The full letter can be found below:

The Honorable Robert Aderholt                               The Honorable Sam Farr
Chairman                                                                    Ranking Member
Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural                         Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural
Development, FDA, and Related Programs              Development, FDA, and Related Programs
Committee on Appropriations                                   Committee on Appropriations
Washington, DC  20515                                             Washington, DC  20515

Dear Chairman Aderholt and Ranking Member Farr:

We are writing today to express our strong opposition to the inclusion of language in the Fiscal Year 2016 Agriculture, Rural Development, FDA and Related Programs Appropriation bill prohibiting the use of USDA funds for the installation of ethanol blender pumps and efforts to promote ethanol exports from the U.S.  As you know, this funding limitation was requested in a recent letter circulated by Representatives Bob Goodlatte, Peter Welch and Jim Costa.

It is important to note at the outset that there already exists a prohibition on the US Department of Agriculture using grant funds for the installation of blender pumps, which was included in the recently passed Farm Bill.  Now, in a blatant effort to shelter the oil and gas industry from any further competition from ethanol, Representatives Goodlatte, et al. are seeking to place limitations on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s efforts to help promote the consumption of American made ethanol at home and abroad; something that agency has been successfully doing with other agriculture and livestock products for decades.

USDA’s past, modest efforts to provide funding assistance to fuel retailers to upgrade their infrastructure to offer more biofuels like ethanol have helped provide some consumers greater access to low cost biofuels.  However, given the franchise structure of the retail gas industry, and the oil industry’s 100-year monopoly on the fuel market, the transition to higher volume biofuel blends has proven to be a very slow and difficult undertaking.

Not satisfied with its efforts to protect Big Oil’s control over the domestic fuel market, the Goodlatte letter seeks to strengthen the death grip on the U.S. ethanol industry by also prohibiting the USDA from expending any trade promotion resources for ethanol exports.  For the U.S. ethanol industry, exports have provided a valuable market for surplus ethanol.  As the industry continues to struggle to expand the number of gasoline stations offering E15 and E85 and thereby overcome the domestic “blendwall” erected by oil refiners, it has been the export market that has helped the U.S. ethanol industry continue to grow, innovate and stay competitive in the face of an artificially constrained market at home.  To deny the U.S ethanol industry access to these important trade promotion resources—which remain available to hundreds of other U.S. agricultural products—is simply a biased and one-sided approach that is more concerned with constraining the U.S. ethanol industry than it is with mitigating the supposed impacts of ethanol on food and livestock pricing and availability. Indeed, at least $23 million in USDA funding has been allocated in 2015 to promote exports from the U.S. livestock, dairy, and poultry industries—the very groups Goodlatte’s proposal portends to help.

While the Goodlatte letter claims that corn-based ethanol is negatively impacting American consumers, food and livestock producers, and food availability, there is ample data which shows that that is simply not the case.  Corn prices today are below the prices witnessed in 2007 when the Renewable Fuel Standard was expanded and livestock feed costs are at their lowest levels in more than five years. Not surprisingly, U.S. red meat and poultry production is projected to set new records in 2015. Worldwide, more grain is available for food and feed use than at any other time in history. Meanwhile, consumer food prices have advanced more slowly since passage of the RFS than in the 25 years prior to its enactment.

In light of the above, we ask that you vehemently oppose and reject any efforts to include such limiting language in the FY 2016 Agriculture, Rural Development, FDA and Related Programs

            Growth Energy
            Renewable Fuels Association
           American Coalition for Ethanol
            National Farmers Union
            National Corn Growers Association

Australian Drought Provides Supply to a Tight Global Market

According to the latest Rabobank Beef Quarterly report, herd liquidation in Australia cannot continue at the high rates seen through 2013 and 2014, and without any global beef expansion forecast in the short term, global supplies are expected to remain tight.

“Global beef supply continues to remain tight in Q1 2015, although Australian exports remain high as drought continues,” says Rabobank Animal Protein Analyst Angus Gidley-Baird.  “Continued liquidation of the cattle herd and possible improved seasons will lead to a reduction in Australia’s beef production through 2015.”

The dry conditions in Australian cattle regions have continued into 2015. As a result, slaughter and export volumes remain high. This continues to offset some of the tight global cattle and beef supplies experienced in 2014 and forecast for 2015.

But herd liquidation in Australia cannot continue at this rate, and without any global beef expansion forecast in the short term, global supplies are expected to remain tight.

U.S. prices experienced a high degree of volatility in the early part of 2015 as a result of many factors. A slowing economy and lower pork and poultry prices are leading to a weak demand for beef and Chinese retail beef prices have been stable entering 2015 rather than following their normal upward trend.