Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Tuesday July 28 Ag News


The 17th annual Soybean Management Field Days Aug. 11-14 focuses on staying competitive in a global marketplace, increasing profits and meeting the world's growing food and energy needs starting right here in Nebraska. The event consists of four stops across the state.

"Soybean Management Field Days are an excellent opportunity to access unbiased research that addresses many of today's potential soybean production and management decisions,” said Ron Pavelka, chairman of the Nebraska Soybean Board of Directors. By participating in the Soybean Management Field Days, producers will see their checkoff dollars at work bringing leading technology and ideas to producers.

Topics include grain marketing and farm financial outlook; soil fertility concepts for soybeans; the role of water quality and nozzle selection in weed management; integrated soybean production study; soybean irrigation management; and Nebraska Soybean Checkoff investment.

Agronomists, plant disease, and insect specialists will be available to address production-related questions. Participants can bring unknown crop problems for complimentary identification:
            > Aug. 11: Rick and Chuck Bergman farm near Holdrege, 11289 741 Road.
            > Aug. 12: Jason and Dennis Bonsack Farm near Alda, 3770 S 90th Road.
            > Aug. 13: Mike Anderson farm near Wakefield, 85335 586th Ave.
            > Aug. 14: Kent Moravec farm near Greenwood, 23509 E Rock Creek Road.

The field days are sponsored by the Nebraska Soybean Board in partnership with Nebraska Extension and are funded through soybean checkoff dollars. For more information, including maps and directions to the sites, visit http://ardc.unl.edu/soydays or contact Nebraska Extension at 1-800-529-8030.

2015 Nebraska Ethanol Ambassadors Announced

The Nebraska Ethanol Board is proud to welcome David Hansen and Maggie Louthan as ethanol ambassadors.

Hansen of Lincoln, Nebraska, is a junior chemical engineering student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He is involved in Partners in Pollution Prevention analyzing industrial manufacturing facilities and recommending waste reduction solutions.

Louthan of Smithfield, Nebraska, is a sophomore agricultural education student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She is a member of the Nebraska Agriculture Youth Council, Sigma Alpha, Block and Bridle and CASNR Coffee Club.

“We’re excited to have two talented students with diverse experience on our team for the 2015-2016 academic year,” said Megan Grimes, Nebraska Ethanol Board. “This is a great opportunity for participants to learn about the multi-faceted ethanol industry and share information among peers, community groups and classrooms.”

The ethanol ambassador program engages two undergraduate students in the importance of Nebraska’s ethanol industry. Ambassadors learn about ethanol production, technology, research and marketing, and then have opportunities to work with the public. They also deliver presentations to middle and high school classrooms. The program lasts one academic year (August-May) with new recruits each year. For their time and efforts, ambassadors are earn a $1,000 scholarship to assist with their education.


Bruce Anderson, NE Extension Forage Specialist

               Are you one of the fortunate ones to have extra grass this year?  If so, there are ways you can improve next year's grazing by managing this year's grass.

               Extra grass is not normal.  If you are lucky enough to have more grass than needed this year, don’t forget that next year could be hotter and drier than this year – producing less grass.

               But you can boost carrying capacity and gains on next year's pasture by strategically managing your extra grass this year.

               Start by identifying pasture improvements that could help future grazing.  Control weeds, accumulate enough growth on warm-season grass pastures to conduct an effective prescribed burn next spring, or select pastures where stressing the existing stand will help you establish legumes next spring.  All these practices temporarily reduce pasture growth, but they can provide long-term benefits.  Thus, it is better to do them when you have extra grass rather than when grass is short.

               Another way to help next year's growth is to avoid overgrazing this fall unless you are doing it intentionally to prepare for interseeding next spring.  Heavy fall grazing weakens plants as they go into winter and causes them to grow less vigorously after spring green-up.  If you do graze heavy this fall, do it on pastures that will be used last next spring.  This will give them extra time to recover.

               A particularly valuable way to manage extra grass is to begin to stockpile some growth now for either grazing this winter or to start grazing extra early next spring.  This could save on winter hay needs or give you an area to get animals away from mud next spring.  Plus, it's usually good for your grass, too.

               Take advantage of extra grass to begin long-term pasture improvements.  It happens so rarely that next year might be too late.

Green Plains Reports Second Quarter 2015 Financial Results

Green Plains Inc. (NASDAQ:GPRE) announced today its financial results for the second quarter of 2015. Net income for the quarter was $7.8 million, or $0.19 per diluted share, compared to net income of $32.3 million, or $0.82 per diluted share, for the same period in 2014. Revenues were $744.5 million for the second quarter of 2015 compared to $837.9 million for the same period in 2014.

"Strong U.S. ethanol demand, due primarily to lower gasoline prices, resulted in an improvement in our second quarter results compared to the first quarter," said Todd Becker, President and Chief Executive Officer. "While ethanol margins remain variable, we believe, based on the current forward curve, our diversified platform will generate profitable results for the full year of 2015. Our strong balance sheet provides us with significant flexibility in capital deployment and allocation for the remainder of the year."

"Demand for ethanol remains robust both domestically and globally. Our expansion projects are progressing to meet the demand growth we expect from E15 in the U.S. and expanding blend rates in foreign markets," stated Becker. "The long-term picture is very exciting for our company and industry."

During the second quarter, Green Plains' ethanol production totaled 238.7 million gallons, or approximately 93.9% of its daily average production capacity. Non-ethanol operating income from the corn oil production, agribusiness, and marketing and distribution segments was $16.4 million in the second quarter of 2015 compared to $16.5 million for the same period in 2014.

Revenues were $1.5 billion for the six-month period ended June 30, 2015 compared to $1.6 billion for the same period of 2014. Net income for the six-month period ended June 30, 2015 was $4.5 million, or $0.11 per diluted share, compared to net income of $75.5 million, or $1.88 per diluted share, for the same period in 2014.

"We are pleased to have successfully completed the initial public offering of Green Plains Partners LP," stated Becker. "We believe the partnership's access to cost-effective capital, as well as the additional liquidity to the company from the offering, will enhance our ability grow."

Green Plains had $417.0 million in total cash and equivalents and $175.4 million available under committed loan agreements at subsidiaries (subject to borrowing base restrictions and other specified lending conditions) at June 30, 2015. Net proceeds from the Offering of $157.9 million were received after the close of the second quarter. EBITDA, which is defined as earnings before interest, income taxes, depreciation and amortization, for the second quarter 2015 was $39.3 million compared to $74.5 million for the same period in 2014.

2015 Second Quarter Business Highlights

*    On July 1, 2015, Green Plains Partners LP, a newly-formed subsidiary of the Company, closed its initial public offering (the "Offering"). In conjunction with the Offering, Green Plains contributed its downstream ethanol transportation and storage assets to the Partnership. A total of 11.5 million common units representing limited partner interests of the Partnership, which included 1.5 million common units pursuant to the underwriters' overallotment option, were sold in the Offering at a price to the public of $15.00 per common unit. The Partnership received net proceeds of approximately $157.9 million from the Offering, after deducting the underwriting discount, structuring fees and offering expenses. The Partnership used the net proceeds (i) to make a distribution of $155.3 million to the Company, (ii) to pay origination fees under the Partnership's new revolving credit facility and (iii) for general partnership purposes. After completion of the Offering, Green Plains owns a 62.5% limited partner interest and a 2% general partner interest in the Partnership and the public owns the remaining 35.5% limited partner interest in the Partnership.
*    During the second quarter of 2015, Green Plains Processing LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Green Plains, amended its senior secured credit facility to increase the outstanding borrowings by $120 million. The proceeds were primarily used to refinance debt outstanding, with maturity dates ranging from November 2015 to May 2020, at certain of Green Plains' subsidiaries and to pay fees and expenses in connection with the increased credit facility and for general corporate purposes.

New Tools Available to Calculate Projected Payments Granted by 2014 Farm Bill

Three new resources have been developed by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach to help Iowa corn and soybean producers calculate Agricultural Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage payments for the 2014 and 2015 crop years. Posted on Ag Decision Maker, these tools will help farmers who enroll in these programs from the 2014 Farm Bill  calculate the amount of the government payment if prices and/or county revenues are down.

“Both the Agricultural Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage payments depend on the marketing year average or MYA prices for commodities such as barley, corn, grain sorghum, oats, soybeans and wheat.” said Alejandro Plastina, assistant professor and extension economics specialist with Iowa State University.

For corn and soybeans, the official 2014 MYA price will be announced by USDA in early September 2015. Until then, the actual amount of these payments will be unknown," Plastina said. "However, using county yields and price projections published by USDA, these payments for the 2014 and 2015 crop years can be reasonably projected by the new calculation tools.” The projected prices used in the ARC/PLC payment calculators will be updated monthly.

The Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC-CO) program is based on county revenues and acts like a type of insurance for crop producers. When yields fall below a certain level, farmers who have selected this coverage, are paid the slight difference.

Price Loss Coverage (PLC) payments offer protection when the actual crop price drops below its ‘reference price’ for that commodity set in the 2014 Farm Bill. PLC payments occur if the MYA price is lower than the reference price: $3.70 per bushel of corn, and $8.40 per bushel of soybeans.

“If ARC/PLC payments are triggered for the 2014 crop year, they will be issued after the end of the marketing year when USDA announces the official MYA price, but not before Oct. 1, 2015,” said Plastina. “The 2015 crop year ARC/PLC payments won’t be verified until the fall of 2016.”

For details on the calculation tools, USDA base acres and program payment yields, see the online Ag Decision Maker articles New ARC-CO and PLC Spreadsheets Calculate Projected Payments and New Safety Net: PLC, ARC-CO, ARC-IC.

To download the new spreadsheet tools PLC Payment Calculator, ARC-CO 2014 Payment Calculator and ARC-CO 2015 Payment Calculator, go to the complete list of Decision Tools on the Ag Decision Maker website. In order to use the calculators, your computer will need to have Microsoft Office Suite and the Excel program.

New Beef Program Specialist Brings Education, Experience and Enthusiasm

Two and a half years ago, Erika Lundy began working at the Iowa Beef Center as an Iowa State University graduate student focusing on feedlot nutrition. Eight weeks ago she started working for IBC as the center’s new extension program specialist. She is excited to put her education and experience to work.

“This position will allow me to collaborate with our field specialists, stakeholders, leaders and producers to identify industry and producer needs, to develop new and enhance current extension educational programs,” Lundy said. “As a young producer myself, I can bring some of my own production questions to the table and work on fresh ideas to ensure that both the Iowa Beef Center and Iowa’s beef industry continue to thrive.”

Lundy grew up near Adair on a diversified family farm with cattle, corn, soybeans and hay production, including 230 cow-calf pairs and a 100-head feedlot operation. She attended Iowa State where she received a bachelor’s degree in animal science with a minor in agricultural business, and a master’s degree in animal science with a focus on feedlot nutrition. As an undergrad, she had internships with the Iowa Beef Industry Council and a feed company, and worked in a ruminant nutrition lab, all of which expanded her interest in beef nutrition. Her grad school experience included an extension assistantship with IBC and research focused on feeding new generation distillers grains.

“During a time of volatile feed prices, characterizing novel feedstuffs like these new generation products can aid in our understanding of how they can fit into finishing diets,” she said. “During the past few years I’ve helped with planning programs using this info, and have presented sessions on distillers grains, carcass quality and grazing management to a variety of audiences.”

IBC Director Dan Loy said the Iowa beef industry is well positioned for sustainable growth well into the future, and Lundy will help facilitate the center’s efforts.

“Erika brings background and expertise in both cattle feeding and cow-calf sectors, and is well-prepared to support current programs and develop leadership in new exciting projects,” he said.

Lundy said she looks forward to increasing her knowledge and understanding of vital components of the state’s beef industry, and to sharing that knowledge with others.

“For the time being, I’ll be more of a general beef industry information source and hopefully serve as an asset to other members of our team, so we can be a resource for front-line industry information delivery,” she said. “I would like to get involved with program planning and producer education, especially in the areas of forage production and management, animal well-being and fostering young and beginning producers.”

She said this position allows an opportunity for personal and professional growth, and to increase the visibility and value of IBC.

“I am very excited to join an already very successful team in establishing strong relations with beef producers across the state,” she said.  “Our aim is to supply producers with the latest science-based resources to help the Iowa beef industry strive for sustainable and profitable growth.”

Lundy can be reached at the IBC office at 313 Kildee Hall on the Iowa State campus, by phone at 515-594-9881 and by email at ellundy@iastate.edu.

August is Iowa Soybean Month

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad has declared August as Iowa Soybean Month to recognize the contributions and leadership of Iowa soybean farmers in environmental stewardship, biodiesel, transportation, soyfoods, international marketing and agronomic and production research. Throughout the month, we will share interesting facts, photos and information about contributions soybean farmers make to Iowa, the nation and the world. Look for updates on the Iowa Soybean Association Facebook page and @IowaSoybeans on twitter.

Iowan selected as new Iowa Pork Producers Association CEO

The Iowa Pork Producers Association Board of Directors has announced the hiring of a new chief executive officer.

Pat McGonegle of Urbandale has accepted the position and will begin leading the organization on October 1. He replaces Rich Degner, who is retiring on September 30 after 35 years with IPPA, the last 17 as CEO.

McGonegle comes to Iowa Pork from the National Pork Producers Council in Urbandale and is well-known to Iowa hog farmers and IPPA staff. He has been with NPPC for 19 years and served as the vice president of state relations and resource development since 2002. McGonegle made many contributions to the council's success, including the Strategic Investment Program, the Alliance Program, LEADR and positive state organization relations.

"I am pleased to accept this opportunity to lead a dynamic organization," McGonegle said. "I look forward to working with the leadership and the entire grassroots of the Iowa Pork Producers Association."

The IPPA Board of Directors hired a national search firm to fill the position and several highly qualified candidates emerged to express interest in the role leading the nation's number one pork producing state.

"We felt Pat had the complete package for the Iowa Pork CEO job. He has the experience and knowledge of the industry we were looking for, as well as the leadership style and personality," said IPPA President David Struthers, a Collins-area hog farmer. "He also has the necessary contacts within the industry and other allied organizations that we work with. We felt he would probably make the transition to the CEO position as smooth and easy as anyone we interviewed and we're pleased that he accepted our offer."

It was important that the new CEO maintain and build on the excellent relationship the association and the pork industry enjoy with other Iowa agricultural organizations and Iowa State University.

"Pat understands those relationships and wants to keep them strong and he knows ISU is a great resource for us in Iowa agriculture and across the nation," added Struthers.

McGonegle has worked in the pork industry for more than 30 years and started his career with IPPA as a field director in 1983. He also has served as executive director of the Minnesota Pork Producers Association and worked in sales for ADM Animal Health and Nutrition.

The Vincent, Iowa, native has a degree in animal science from Iowa State University. He and his wife, Julie, have two children.

Farm Credit Services Launches 'Rural Visionaries' Award

Rural America is constantly evolving to meet the needs of a changing global agriculture economy, and a new effort is underway to champion the women, men and youth whose insights and influence are ensuring thriving rural communities for years to come.

Farm Credit has introduced Farm Credit 100 Fresh Perspectives to celebrate the vision and commitment it takes to be a leader in rural enterprise today and tomorrow. This program comes as Farm Credit enters its 100th year of financial support through its network of locally owned cooperative associations.

"For a century, Farm Credit has had the privilege of working hand in hand with the rural entrepreneurs and innovators who've helped shape the fabric of our nation," said Leigh Picchetti, senior vice president of communications for the Farm Credit Council. "As we mark the beginning of this milestone year, we can reflect on our history and heritage, while also asking 'what's next' for rural communities."

Nominations for Farm Credit 100 Fresh Perspectives will be accepted at www.FarmCredit100.com until Dec. 18, 2015. A panel of experts will evaluate the entrants and select the top 100 honorees to be announced during National Ag Week, March 14-18, 2016. These 100 individuals will be celebrated and supported at the national and local level in an effort to build awareness of and appreciation for rural American contributions to everyday life.

Of the Farm Credit 100 Fresh Perspectives honorees, 10 exceptional leaders will each receive a $10,000 award to help further their contributions to thriving rural communities and agriculture. These 10 honorees and a guest will be invited to Washington, D.C., to participate in a special recognition event in 2016.

To recognize the diverse ways individuals are contributing to the future success of rural communities, nominations will be accepted in ten categories based on age.

Beef Market Research: Who, What, When, Where, Why & How?

WHO represents the target market for beef promotion, and who do they trust?

WHAT do they care about most when it comes to food and food production, and what are the characteristics of the beef they would serve to their families?

WHEN do they decide to eat beef and what beef products do they choose most?

WHERE are they from/demographics, and where do these consumers go to get information, and where do they shop?

WHY do they want to eat beef and why do they not eat more beef?

HOW do they get information about beef, and how do they share that information?

These are just a few of the questions that the beef checkoff leaders seek to answer through extensive market-research efforts as they guide investment of checkoff dollars into promotion, research and information programs aimed at increasing beef demand.

Knowledge about consumers – beef buyers and potential buyers – is critical. After all, consumers are in the driver’s seat when it comes to buying beef – or any other product, for that matter. Until we understand the wants and needs of a target audience, what are the chances of meeting their requirements in the beef and beef products we produce for them? It would be like shooting in the dark and hoping to hit something.

That’s why market research is the foundation of all other programs funded by the beef checkoff. In short, it grounds checkoff planning efforts with knowledge about what drives a beef-purchase decision at the retail meat case and in restaurants. It spotlights beef’s strengths and weaknesses. It helps planners set consumer goals and track progress toward those goals, then share that information with chefs, retailers, restaurants, nutritionists, dietitians, doctors, foodies, and other influencers. And it helps target checkoff investments in the most efficient and effective ways possible.

So what are the answers to the above questions? Here are the short ones, according to the extensive collection of checkoff-funded market research:

*    The target market for beef promotion and education is the millennial generation – those born between 1980 and 2000. They trust what they can see, but also the advice of foodies and health professionals. They also want to dig online and find out what their friends and other sources tell them. They love great food, since they grew up in the era of food shows on TV, and beef is included in their definition of “craveable”, wonderful food. They want hints, tips, knowledge about choosing a great steak – anything that can help them maximize their enjoyment of beef.
*    They care about where their food comes from and how it serves their families’ needs. They want their beef to be safe, nutritious, flavorful, tender, convenient, easy to prepare, and raised with care for the animals and environment. They want lots of choices and information that will set a good example for their children.

*    When millennials want to “celebrate” by getting out to the grill, they choose beef more often than any other protein. On an everyday basis, however, they make decisions about what to fix for supper at 4 p.m. or later, and often make decisions while in the grocery store. They choose ground beef for family meals most often but want information to expand their choices to new and different cuts and uses.

*    Millennials are 80 million strong; more racially diverse; finding their niche in the world; asking more questions about their food; increasing their food spending. They get their information overwhelmingly through social media, including food bloggers, dietitians, “foodies” and other influencers. About 83 percent of them sleep with their cell phone right next to their beds. They shop at various retail stores, but they love Trader Joe’s, Costco, farmers’ markets, and food trucks. By 2020, total spending power of older millennial parents will hit $1.4 trillion a year.

*    Beef’s great taste is the No. 1 reason that millennials and other consumers eat beef, and the most limiting factors to increased beef consumption are “health reasons,” “limiting cholesterol or fat,” and “other meats seem healthier.” About 45 percent say they are extremely or very likely to add one more beef meal per week once they discover that beef is nutrient-rich, that many lean cuts are available, and that lean beef compares favorably to chicken.

*    Millennials overwhelmingly get their information about beef and beef production through online and social-media channels. More than 90 percent of Americans eat beef at least monthly, and 35 percent have more than three servings of beef a week, with similar numbers for millennials.

These obviously are highly simplified answers, but every one of them is important to the beef community’s ability to change negative perceptions about beef – as defined through another comprehensive area of market research: consumer perceptions. And a deep understanding of consumers is an absolute necessity for developing checkoff programs that drive that change.

In short, market research not only puts all of the puzzle pieces on the table, it also helps checkoff leaders put them together for a clear picture of today’s marketplace. Learn more about these and other research programs funded through your checkoff program at Beef Research.

ACE submits comments to EPA on 2014-2016 RFS

Today the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) submitted comments to EPA on the proposed blending volumes for 2014, 2015, and 2016 under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).  ACE’s full comments can be read on the ACE website.  Here are excerpts from ACE’s Executive Vice President, Brian Jennings.

“The RFS is intended to reduce the GHG emissions of motor fuel and provide consumer access to E15 and flex fuels which are less expensive and cleaner than gasoline.   These sweeping goals will not be realized if EPA continues to ride the brakes on the RFS.  Issuance of the final RFS in November has consequences beyond trying to get the program back on track.   The decision will come at the same time the President prepares to negotiate an international agreement to reduce GHG emissions in Paris.   What an embarrassment it will be if EPA betrays the Administration’s commitment to curb climate change by restricting the use of low carbon biofuels in the U.S.”

“Congress struck the phrase ‘or distribution capacity’ from the RFS waiver provision because it understood oil companies would exploit those words to confine ethanol blending at E10.   EPA needs to accept this.”

“Four of the six fueling positions at Good & Quick offer ethanol-free premium gasoline, while E15 and E85 are offered at only two fueling positions each.   The sales debunk the petroleum industry mantra that ‘nobody wants E15.’   In fact, the volumes prove almost nobody wants ethanol-free premium, while six times as much E15 is being sold from half as many fueling positions.   The figures also demonstrate concerns over E15 mis-fueling are misplaced.   The ‘fear’ is if E15 is priced below E10, customers will suddenly lose their ability to distinguish between the two fuels, and will ‘mistakenly’ purchase E15.   If that were true, E15 would be the highest selling fuel at Good & Quick.   In reality, by making E15 available, consumers are still choosing E10 most of the time, and they are selecting to buy E15 more often than premium.   Perhaps oil companies know this is what will occur and that’s why they support the way EPA is abandoning its responsibility to properly implement the RFS.”

National Biodiesel Board Submits RFS Comments

The National Biodiesel Board (NBB) on Monday called on the EPA to strengthen its proposal for biodiesel volumes under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

In extensive comments submitted to the agency on the pending RFS rule, NBB cited compelling benefits of increased biodiesel production and significant additional capacity for growth in the industry.

“The growth and expansion of the U.S. biodiesel industry in recent years represents a tremendous success story under the RFS,” NBB wrote in its comments, which can be found here on our website. “Today, nearly 2 billion gallons of biodiesel and renewable diesel displace an equivalent amount of petroleum diesel. This has resulted in significant reductions in pollution and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, while creating thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in economic impact across the nation.”

“The industry now has production plants in nearly every state in the country making fuel from an increasingly diverse mix of feedstocks, including recycled cooking oil, plant oils such as soybean oil, and animal fats,” the comments state. “In short, the biomass‐based diesel program has exceeded expectations and is achieving the goals that Congress outlined in creating the RFS. As a result, it warrants additional volume growth to meet the objectives of Congress in expanding renewable fuel use in the diesel market and in promoting advanced biofuels under the program.

NBB’s comments follow a letter from 36 U.S. senators last week calling for increased biodiesel volumes, and add to thousands of comments submitted by biodiesel supporters to the EPA in recent weeks. The comment period on the EPA’s pending proposal closed at midnight Monday.

“The EPA’s proposal is an improvement over its initial draft, but the agency can and should do much better,” said Anne Steckel, NBB vice president of federal affairs. “We have presented credible, compelling reasons for increasing biodiesel use under the RFS, and we hope the EPA carefully reviews our comments and those of thousands of other biodiesel supporters who have weighed in.”

Growth Energy Submits Comments on EPA RVO Proposal

Yesterday, Growth Energy submitted detailed comments in response to the proposal by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the 2014, 2015 and 1016 Renewable Volume Obligations (RVOs) which are part of the broader Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy noted, “The RFS has been an overwhelming success. It has created American jobs, revitalized rural America, injected much-needed competition into a monopolized vehicle fuels market, lowered the price at the pump, improved the environment, and made our nation more energy independent and secure by reducing our dangerous dependence on foreign oil. It makes no sense that EPA would try and move this program backward.  We hope that EPA will review our comments closely and finalize the volumes at the statutory levels.”

ASA Commends EPA for Progress on Biodiesel, Calls for Larger Volumes in 2016, 2017

The American Soybean Association (ASA) urges the Environmental Protection Agency to fully recognize and capitalize on the potential for biodiesel in the nation's renewable energy discussion, while at the same time recognizing the agency's improvement in its approach to biomass-based diesel fuels in its proposed final rule for the Renewable Fuel Standard.

In comments submitted this week, ASA pointed to the numerous benefits of soy-based biodiesel, including its contribution to a more diversified energy market; increased domestic energy production; reductions in greenhouse gas emissions; new jobs and economic development; expanded markets; and reduced soy meal feed costs.

"While the recent proposal for biodiesel under the program was a step in the right direction, it does not fully capitalize on biodiesel’s benefits and potential for growth," said ASA President Wade Cowan in the association's comments. "The U.S. biodiesel industry has the capacity and has demonstrated its ability to increase production above the levels in the Proposed Rule, particularly when you consider U.S. production capacity, feedstock availability, and the potential for increased imports of biodiesel qualifying for the RFS."

The association further pressed the agency to increase its volumes for 2016 and 2017 to 2 billion and 2.3 billion gallons, respectively, to represent the capacity of the industry.

"As an industry we have always advocated for RFS volumes that are modest and achievable and the biodiesel industry has met or exceeded the targets each and every year that the program has been in place," Cowan commented.

Accounting for more than half of the feedstock used, soybean oil remains the largest source of oil for biodiesel production.

Trade Policy Talks, Priorities Take Center Stage at USGC Annual Meeting

U.S. Grains Council (USGC) delegates received powerful insights into the global grain trade and trade policy’s role in the future dynamics of the market during Monday's opening general session.

Informa Economics Vice President Nick Hoyt set the stage with a keynote presentation delving into global supply and demand dynamics for coarse grains and co-products, including the impact of a strong dollar, growing production from competitors like Brazil, and a U.S. corn yield that has yet to be determined.

A panel discussion about the now-ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks as they relate to both U.S. and Canadian agriculture followed, featuring Phil Karsting, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) administrator; Nick Giordano, National Pork Producers Council vice president and counsel for global government affairs; and Jack Hughes, Hill+Knowlton Strategies vice president headquartered in Montreal.

The panelists agreed that a high-quality TPP agreement would effectively lower taxes and the regulatory burden for agricultural producers and that access to critical markets like Japan is essential to both the United States and Canada. They also urged the farmers and agribusiness representatives in the room to educate policy makers about the importance of these agreements to their profitability.

“Trade policy sets the rules of the road for the global marketplace,” said Ron Gray, USGC chairman. “Being in Canada for our meeting while the TPP talks are ongoing sets the stage for this conversation about the complexity of negotiating this type of agreement and how critical it is to establish trade preferences with a block of countries accounting for 40 percent of world’s gross domestic product.”

The Council’s members are keenly interested in the outcome of the TPP negotiations, with the organization participating in the talks on behalf of the grains industry. The Council’s objectives in the TPP talks include:
• securing increased market access for U.S products;
• ensuring that existing access remains open; and
• achieving a more robust sanitary and phytosanitary chapter that will reduce non-tariff trade barriers and provide for faster resolution of barriers that do arise.

More about the ongoing annual meeting is available online at http://grains.org/news-and-events/events/55th-annual-board-delegates-meeting-0

University of California, Santa Cruz Researchers Strive to Enhance Milk Production With $150,000 Zoetis Grant

Researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz will continue research related to mammary gland development, thanks to $150,000 in research funding from Zoetis. The award is part of the competitive Zoetis Cattle Call research grant program, which supports efforts by North American researchers and veterinarians to improve dairy and beef cattle performance.

This year’s grant recipients, Lindsay Hinck, Ph.D., professor of Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology, along with Sharmila Chatterjee, Ph.D., a postdoctoral scholar, are working on basic research that could identify potential pathways to higher milk production in dairy cattle.

Dr. Hinck’s research lab studies mammary gland development and stem cell biology, focusing primarily on human breast cancer.

“I had never thought about the practical role our research could play in the dairy industry,” Dr. Hinck said. “It turns out that our investigation into regulatory mechanisms governing mammary stem cells can directly translate to milk production. This is a new and exciting direction for our research program.”

“Basic biological research is the foundation for solutions that could help improve cattle health and productivity in the future,” explained Roger Saltman, DVM, MBA, group director of Cattle and Equine Technical Services at Zoetis. Dr. Saltman is part of the Zoetis research committee that evaluates Cattle Call grant applications.

“We see many innovative ideas through our Cattle Call research grant program,” Dr. Saltman said. “What’s interesting about this proposal is that mammary development is a fundamental process that is not fully understood. Research such as this holds great promise for the dairy industry as we strive to get more milk from the same number of cows.”

Coalition Urges Senate to Reject COOL Repeal

Today, a coalition of 142 rancher, farmer, rural, consumer, manufacturer, labor, faith and environmental groups from across the United States delivered a letter urging the Senate to reject both the effort to repeal the country of origin labeling (COOL) law and the so-called compromise to convert COOL into a voluntary labeling program for beef, pork and chicken. Congress enacted COOL for beef, pork, chicken, goat, lamb, seafood and fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables in the 2002 and 2008 Farm Bills and expanded COOL to cover venison in the 2014 Farm Bill. Consumers overwhelmingly support these labels.

Rather than bow to pressure from the meatpacker lobby, the letter urges the Senate “to defend consumers’ right to know where their food comes from and the ability of farmers and ranchers to proudly identify their livestock as born and raised in America.”

In 2008, Canada and Mexico challenged COOL at the World Trade Organization (WTO), contending that these commonsense labels were a barrier to trade. Canada and Mexico have threatened an absurdly high penalty designed to frighten the U.S. Congress into rashly repealing COOL rather than allowing the WTO dispute process to be completed.

“It is premature for Congress to unilaterally surrender to saber-rattling from our trading partners in the midst of a long-standing dispute. COOL opponents have highlighted Mexico and Canada’s threats of retaliation as if their aspiration to seek billions of dollars in penalties were already approved by the WTO. But these unapproved, unrealistically high retaliation claims are merely aggressive litigation tactics designed to frighten the United States, a standard practice in WTO disputes. Congress should not fall for it,” the letter observes.

Last month, the House of Representatives passed a bill to repeal COOL for muscle-cuts of meat and ground beef, pork and chicken. Last week, dueling COOL amendments were offered on the Senate highway bill. Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) introduced an amendment to totally repeal COOL that was identical to the House repeal bill. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.) introduced legislation that repealed mandatory COOL for beef, pork, chicken and ground meat but gave the U.S. Department of Agriculture the discretion to establish a voluntary COOL labeling program for only some of those meat products. The Stabenow-Hoeven measure was also offered as an amendment to the highway bill being considered this week in the Senate.

Both the full repeal and voluntary COOL measures inappropriately include chicken and ground meat even though the WTO ruled that the COOL labels for ground meat were WTO-legal and the dispute never considered chicken. The letter notes, “the legislation would repeal COOL for ground beef and ground pork as well as for chicken, but the WTO explicitly ruled that the COOL label on ground meat was WTO-legal, and the WTO never addressed chicken or other covered commodities.”

The broad-based coalition vehemently opposes any effort to repeal COOL but also opposes any effort to weaken COOL, including converting it into a voluntary labeling program. The United States had a voluntary COOL program for meat prior to implementing the mandatory labeling program under the 2008 Farm Bill, but the meatpackers refused to participate in the voluntary program.

“Voluntary COOL labeling is no solution to the WTO dispute: Meatpackers won’t use it, consumers won’t see it, farmers and ranchers won’t benefit from it and Canada and Mexico have already bluntly rejected this so-called compromise. Voluntary COOL is indistinguishable from repealing COOL,” the letter states.

Providing commonsense information to consumers is not something that should be left solely to the discretion of the meatpacking, food manufacturing and grocery retailing industries that have long-opposed consumer labeling disclosures. The letter states: “We do not believe that the interests of producers or consumers can be served by granting to the opponents of COOL the exclusive right to decide whether or not to affix voluntary COOL labels.”

The next phase of the WTO COOL dispute is expected to take up to six months and will consider the extent to which a simple consumer label has prevented Canada and Mexico from exporting cattle and hogs to the United States. Cattle imports are now higher than when COOL went into effect and hog imports are rapidly rising, severely undercutting the contention that COOL is a trade barrier.

“COOL is extremely important to our organizations and to the American public. We oppose any legislation that would undermine any portion of the COOL law, whether by outright COOL repeal or by converting the mandatory COOL law to a voluntary program,” the coalition letter states. “We urge Congress to stand up for America’s consumers, farmers and ranchers by rejecting any effort to unilaterally repeal or weaken a popular food label even before the WTO process has concluded.”

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