Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Wednesday July 1 Ag News

Ricketts, Nebraska Coalition Applaud Attorney General, Say Fix Needed for Water Rule

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) final “Waters of the U.S.” Rule (the Rule) will be damaging to Nebraska’s agriculture and business sectors, while driving up costs for local governments. Those sentiments were shared by Gov. Pete Ricketts and members of the “Common Sense Nebraska Coalition” July 1, during a news conference in which they applauded Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson for including Nebraska in a multi-state lawsuit against the EPA and the Corps redefining “Waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act (CWA).

“In spite of concerns from numerous Nebraskans about its impact, the EPA has issued the new Waters of the U.S. regulation that will be harmful to Nebraskans. Federal regulations that needlessly place a new burden on Nebraska farms and businesses, while increasing costs for counties and other local governments, create new hurdles to growing Nebraska’s economy,” said Gov. Ricketts.

The EPA and the Corps filed the regulation June 29, which starts the 60-day clock in which the Rule will become the law of the land. The Rule has been widely criticized by Nebraska interests as a means for the agencies’ to expand their powers and jurisdiction under the CWA by broadening the scope of waters, and more importantly, land features, that would be regulated as “Waters of the U.S.”

“This is about federal agencies seeking to control what happens on private property by significantly expanding who and what land features are subject to federal permitting requirements. It has the potential to be a regulatory nightmare for anyone who turns the soil, including everyone from farmers, to golf course managers and everyone in between,” said Steve Nelson, spokesman for Common Sense Nebraska and president of the Nebraska Farm Bureau.

Mike Linder, an Omaha attorney and former director of the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) was contracted by the Common Sense Nebraska Coalition to provide Nebraska- based analysis of the impacts of the final rule.  According to Linder, the EPA made some improvements, from the Agencies’ original proposal, but also created new areas of uncertainty and have developed a rule that will expand the reach of federal jurisdiction under the CWA.

“While the revisions answered some of the questions, many are yet to be resolved. In addition, the Agencies’ new approach of a formula driven process which automatically covers many water types for federal jurisdiction creates a whole new area of uncertainty in terms of what will and won’t be regulated,” said Linder.

That uncertainty is at the heart of the need for a fix to the Rule. With the state of Nebraska already filing legal action, Common Sense Nebraska Coalition members point to Congressional action as another solution.

“Legislation pending in both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate would require the Agencies’ to go back to the drawing board. From a Coalition perspective that is likely to be the fastest way to resolve the issue and we know members of Nebraska’s Congressional delegation have supported a fix. The clock is now ticking on implementation and based on what we know from our in-state analysis, working through the Rule as it sets today will, without question, cause counties to delay maintenance on our rural road ditches due to the permitting required to implement the Rule,” said Larry Dix, Common Sense Nebraska spokesman, and executive director of the Nebraska Association of County Officials.

Linder’s analysis is available by visiting Common Sense Nebraska on Facebook.

Common Sense Nebraska is a diverse, Nebraska-based coalition consisting of organizations and entities that have united in response to the EPA’s “Waters of the U.S.” Rule; a regulatory proposal that would harm both rural and urban Nebraskans through expansion of the EPA’s powers and authorities under the federal Clean Water Act. The coalition’s purpose is to build awareness and understanding of the EPA proposal and the impacts it would have to Nebraskans. For more information visit Common Sense Nebraska on Facebook.

Common Sense Nebraska Coalition members include:

AKSARBEN Club Managers Association
Association of General Contractors - NE Chapter
Farm Credit Services of America
Iowa-Nebraska Equipment Dealers Association
National Federation of Independent Businesses/Nebraska
Nebraska Agribusiness Association
Nebraska Association of County Officials
Nebraska Association of Resource Districts
Nebraska Bankers Association
Nebraska Cattlemen
Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Nebraska Cooperative Council
Nebraska Corn Board
Nebraska Corn Growers Association
Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation
Nebraska Golf Course Superintendents Association
Nebraska Grain and Feed Association
Nebraska Grain Sorghum Association
Nebraska Grain Sorghum Board
Nebraska Pork Producers Association
Nebraska Poultry Industries
Nebraska Rural Electric Association
Nebraska Soybean Association
Nebraska State Dairy Association
Nebraska State Home Builders Association
Nebraska State Irrigation Association
Nebraska Water Resources Association
Nebraska Wheat Growers Association
Nemaha Natural Resources District
Pawnee County Rural Water District #1

Nebraska Congressional Delegation Statements Regarding EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Waters Rule

U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer
“Today’s analysis confirms that agriculture producers will face real uncertainty and increased costs due to the federal government’s WOTUS rule. This study also warns of new threats to Nebraska’s successful state-led water quality programs. The rule puts in jeopardy the long-standing ‘waters of the state’ definition.
“We are seeing more problems and little relief. Simply put, the WOTUS rule will cause great harm to landowners, local governments, and families across Nebraska.   This is wrong and I will continue to fight against it.”

U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse

“The EPA has overreached yet again by expanding their control over our state’s water resources. Nebraska farmers, ranchers, communities and businesses know the best stewardship of our state’s natural resources and do not need this burdensome federal regulation to protect our water. This bureaucratic power grab is ill-conceived and does nothing to increase water quality in Nebraska.”

U.S. Rep. Brad Ashford (D – NE 2nd)

 “As a cosponsor of the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act, I oppose efforts by the EPA to unilaterally impose a one-size fits all ruling defining protected waterways. I support locally-sensitive legislation to establish responsible environmental solutions while ensuring Nebraska’s agriculture, construction, and energy sectors continue to thrive.”

U.S. Rep. Adrian Smith (R – NE 3rd)

“The EPA’s Waters of the U.S. rule, now published in the Federal Register, poses a significant threat to our agriculture economy and remains one of the top concerns for Nebraska farmers. I appreciate Governor Ricketts joining with the Common Sense Nebraska Coalition to demonstrate our state’s opposition to this unprecedented regulatory overreach.  Additionally, the release of former Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality director Mike Linder’s study on the Waters of the U.S. rule brings the potentially damaging impacts of this sweeping regulation even closer to home.”

“Though the Obama administration has finalized its Waters of the U.S. rule, we will continue taking legislative action in Washington to prevent the rule from being implemented.  The Supreme Court’s ruling against EPA overreach earlier this week also is a heartening step toward reining in this out-of-control federal agency and protecting Nebraskans and people across the country from its unilateral regulations.”

U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE 1st)

“Environmental cooperation has been replaced with environmental acrimony. We all share the goal of clean air and water and the EPA should view the states as partners in that goal, instead of trying to seize authority.”

Nebraska’s Natural Resources Districts take stand against EPA “Water Rule”

On behalf of the Nebraska Association of Resources Districts, we would like to personally commend  Governor Pete Ricketts for leading the effort in opposition to the new Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule that will significantly expand federal regulatory authority by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers (CORPS) over Nebraska citizens.

While NARD supports efforts to protect water quality and quantity in Nebraska, and has a proven track record of cooperation with local residents and other agencies to do so, we believe the Final Rule will have the federal government more involved in the daily lives of Nebraskans and will not result in improved water quality.  Rather, it will only result in significant cost increases and delays in economic and management activities for landowners, homeowners, agencies and businesses.

“Based upon the NRDs’ experience, conservative estimates for 404 permit requirements under the current rule already take about 18 months to process and it is not uncommon for them to cost upwards of  $100,000,” said Dean Edson, NARD Executive Director.  “We believe expanding the CORPS and the EPA's permitting authority will only add to the existing delays and increase the cost to more individuals and businesses.  Further, under the rule there is no guarantee that after incurring the additional time delays and financial cost that individuals or businesses would be granted a federal permit to enhance and use their property,” Edson said.

The application of the rule is not “Black and White” as portrayed by the EPA.  The rule cites that the “100-year flood plain” and “ordinary high water mark” on rivers and tributaries will be relied upon to assert categorical jurisdiction.  Although this sounds definite, these benchmarks are not defined for every river and tributary in Nebraska and are not delineated on any map. The definitions for these terms grant the EPA and the CORPS wide latitude to expand their jurisdiction.   It is safe to assume that thousands of individuals, businesses, farmers, ranchers and public works projects that were once exempt from the rule, will now be subject to federal oversight and permitting.

For anyone that had erosion on their land this year due to the heavy rains or flooding, before repairs can be done you will need to check with EPA and the CORPS to see if you need a permit to repair the damage to your land, as filling a hole with dirt, may impact a newly-defined water of the U.S. under the Final Rule. Due to the sweeping breadth of the new definitions, everyone will need to evaluate whether a permit is necessary, or whether an exemption applies, which often involves hiring legal counsel and engineers to help with the process.  If you think you don’t need a permit, and the EPA or CORPS determines later that you did, you will be subject to hefty fines and penalties for making the repairs to your land without the permit.

For those that end up in these situations, the “Black and White” definitions portrayed by the federal agencies will probably feel more like “Black and Blue” regulations for those that get caught up in the heavy hand of the federal government.

Nebraska has a successful system in place through the local Natural Resources Districts (NRDs) to allow local citizens to help craft resource management plans that have a proven track record of protecting water and land resources for current and future uses. The Nebraska state agencies also provide sound, common sense regulations to protect natural resources. 

Current federal laws require the agencies in a rule-making process to consider account for impacts to small businesses and existing actions that local and state government entities may already have in place to address regulatory concerns. This is required under the Regulatory Flexibility Act, as amended by the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act.  The agencies failed to engage in this process and take these under consideration. The US Supreme Court earlier this week just ruled against EPA for ignoring this provision in their new Air Quality Regulations.

 “The federal laws are clear that land use and water regulation is reserved to the states to protect and regulate.  This policy has been upheld several times by the federal courts.  However, the rule ignores these long-standing policies and extends the heavy-hand of the federal government into the daily lives of Nebraska citizens,” said Edson.

CVA Welcomes New Member-Owners

Carl Dickinson, CEO, Central Valley Ag Cooperative

Today, we welcome Farmer’s Cooperative Company (FCC) of Hinton, IA as they officially merge to join Central Valley Ag. Your board and management teams have been working diligently to make sure this transition goes smoothly for both employees and customers. I appreciate the efforts and dedication of all individuals involved in this merger process. As we get to know FCC better, my excitement builds around what we can accomplish together. I would like to thank all of the FCC member-owners for their votes we are thrilled that you have chosen Central Valley Ag for your future.

Prior to this merger, four major goals for FCC were identified. Secure members equity, get access to capital needed to upgrade equipment and facilities, re-evaluate the current way of doing grain business, and maintain a voice in their future. I want you to know that as FCC joins CVA, we will continue our focus to provide innovative solutions for you. Investigating what options will benefit whether that be products, services or through capital expenditures, we are working to show some of the benefits of this merger as soon as possible.

There will be changes in the next few months, and it will take some time to get adjustments made, but look forward to the positive outcomes of these changes. We will be better together than we were separate.

Please keep in mind that CVA will not take possession of Floyd Valley Grain until September 4, 2015. Due to this transition period the current FCC website ( will change to Floyd Valley Grain, so you still have the ability to check their grain bids. All other content from the current FCC website will move to on July 1, 2015.

Thank you in advance for considering Central Valley Ag Cooperative when choosing where to purchase your inputs or selling your grain. As a farmer-owned cooperative all we ask is the opportunity to earn your business.

Defined Breeding Season

Steve Tonn, Nebraska Extension Educator – Beef Systems, Washington County

Having a defined breeding season and thereby a defined calving season allows producers to devote more attention to cows during calving, a critical time in the production process when adverse events can dramatically affect production.  A defined calving season helps to improve production efficiency.   Other advantages of a defined, short calving season include uniform lots of calves, improved herd health management, cow nutrition, and culling and selection of replacement heifers. In USDA (2009) survey 54.5% of the beef cattle operations accounting for 34.1% of all the beef cows did not have a set calving season. 

University of Arkansas research evaluated the effects of reducing the length of the calving season from more than 200 days to less than 90 days by working with six cooperator cow-calf operations.  A specific plan was designed for each cow herd that included such management practices as supplement and mineral feeding, bull breeding soundness examinations, and other management factors that could affect reproduction rates.  Results were reported in a 2009 Arkansas Animal Science Department Research report.  The average calving season length of the six cow herds was reduced from 273 to 85 days in an average of 3-4 years.  The percentage of cows calving during the desired calving season increased from 46.3 to 92%.  The mature cow calving percentage did not change from the first year to the final year.  The herd breakeven cost decreased from $0.61/lb to $0.43/lb over the study which caused the income per animal unit (1000 lb cow) to increase from $95.00 to $189.70.  Even though these differences in cost and income were not statistically significant, they were financially relevant to the cooperator.

A 2005 research analysis of 394 ranch observations from a standardized performance analysis (SPA) data set (from Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico) supports the findings from this Arkansas study.  In this SPA data set, the length of the breeding season ranged from 11 to 365 days with an average of 133 days.  This analysis suggested that for each day the breeding season was lengthened, the annual cost of producing 100 lbs of weaned calf increased by 4.7 cents and pounds of calf weaned per exposed female decreased by .158 lb.  Applying these values to the Arkansas data suggest that reducing the calving season from 273 days to 85 days reduces the cost of production by $8.83/cwt of weaned calf and increase the pounds of calf weaned per exposed cow nearly 30 lbs.  Values would be even greater using today’s prices.

Shortening the breeding season and calving seasons will pay off in heavier, and more uniform groups of calves to sell at weaning time.  If a cow operation can market a sizeable number of calves together in one lot, they will realize a greater price per pound (on the average) than similar calves sold in singles or small lots.  Proof of this concept is presented here in data from the Oklahoma Quality Beef Network sales in 2010.

Small cow calf operations can take advantage of these price differentials only by achieving a defined short breeding season so that the calves born in a short period of time are of similar age and weight at sale time.

The optimum length of breeding season will vary from operation to operation, but the data supports a shorter breeding season.  These data clearly illustrate that reducing the length of the calving season is one of the most important and cost-effective practices that producers can implement.


Bruce Anderson, UNL Extension  Forage Specialist

               Many pivots have been planted to pasture during the past couple of years.  Most will be very productive, but chances of success increase if they are watered correctly.

               Lack of profit from row crops plus better prospects from livestock have added up to converting row crop pivots into irrigated pasture on many farms.  And why not?  It’s possible to produce a thousand pounds of gain per acre with yearling steers or carry 200 cow/calf pairs for five months on a single, productive, well-managed 130-acre circle.

               Success with irrigated pasture, though, requires proper water management.  With row crops, irrigation generally is used to supply moisture to a three to four-foot root zone.  Many plants in irrigated pastures, though, tend to be more shallow rooted.  They may have over 95 percent of their roots in the top two or three feet of soil.  As a result, they become moisture stressed more quickly, and soil moisture at the four-foot level may not be very useful.

               Don’t irrigate pasture the same way you irrigate corn.  Water use will average about a quarter inch per day, but use starts much earlier and continues later into the season than for row crops.  So irrigate throughout the growing season whenever rain isn’t doing its job.

               Pastures need irrigation more frequently than row crops if they are to produce up to their potential.  Ideally, it would be nice to apply one-half to three-quarters of an inch a couple times each week.  And if possible, avoid irrigating where animals are grazing or will graze before the soil surface drys to minimize compaction.

               It takes a little bit more management skill and attention to irrigate pastures properly.  But when you do, the results are well worth it.

‘Hope Inspires Vision’ theme of 3rd Rural Futures Conference

“Hope Inspires Vision” is the theme of the third national Rural Futures Conference, scheduled for Oct. 21-23 in multiple Nebraska locations. Registration for the conference, which drew a sold-out crowd of more than 500 when it was last held in 2013, opens today at The conference is hosted by the Rural Futures Institute at the University of Nebraska.

Attendees will be able to participate in this year’s conference from either the Nebraska Innovation Campus conference center in Lincoln or the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture in Curtis. Registration is $200 for the Lincoln location ($40 for high school and college students) or $100 for the Curtis location ($20 for students).

Conference sessions will encourage attendees to work together to build hope and develop a vision for invigorating rural communities. The conference kicks off on the evening of Oct. 21 with a lecture from Howard G. Buffett and Howard W. Buffett, authors of 40 Chances: Finding Hope in a Hungry World, a book about the limited opportunities people have to make a difference in the world. The Buffetts’ lecture, “Finding Hope: Pioneering Your 40 Chances,” is free and open to the public and is jointly sponsored with the Heuermann Lectures at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Institute for Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Other keynote speakers at the conference include Clifton Taulbert, a noted author, entrepreneur and businessman who is president and CEO of the Freemount Corp., a human capital development company; and Shane Lopez, author of Making Hope Happen and a leading Gallup researcher on the science of hope. University of Nebraska President Hank Bounds will make opening remarks, “Dream Big With Me,” on the morning of Oct. 22.

“We know that hope matters tremendously to the success of rural communities,” said Chuck Schroeder, founding executive director of the Rural Futures Institute. “Active hope, combined with a strong vision for the future, can energize rural people and places and ensure that rural communities are a viable choice for young people to live and work. Our first two conferences in 2012 and 2013 confirmed our thinking that the long-term economic success of rural communities is a critical area for research and engagement – one in which the University of Nebraska is well-positioned to play a leadership role. We’re excited to again bring together stakeholders from Nebraska and beyond to share our best ideas.”

Pre-conference events include the first-ever Rural Opportunities Fair on Oct. 21, an event similar to a career fair in which students will have a chance to explore opportunities to live and work in rural communities across Nebraska and the region. Other sessions throughout the conference will focus on entrepreneurship, broadband development, civic engagement, transdisciplinary education, eco-education, innovation, youth leadership and other topics. Faculty and students also will have the opportunity to present posters on research questions that showcase new knowledge and ideas relevant to the conference theme.

Complete conference details, including a full agenda, registration information, speaker biographies, poster session guidelines and more, are available at

Iowa Corn Growers Association Hosts 2015 Roundtable Meetings

The Iowa Corn Growers Association has announced the 2015 member roundtable meetings for this July as part of its annual policy development process. The meetings allow ICGA members to come together, share a meal, and discuss key issues impacting corn farmers. Policies brought forward and approved at Roundtable meetings go on to the Annual Policy Conference in August for the ICGA delegates to debate. Meals (lunch or dinner) will be included at each session.

The 2015 ICGA roundtable schedule and locations are as follows:

July 8th Roundtable Locations:

Osceola: SWCC Osceola Center, Rm 106, 2520 College Dr (12-3pm)
Fort Dodge: Best Western Starlite Village, 1518 3rd Ave NW (12-3pm)
Arnolds Park: Hedberg Theatre, 37 Lake St (5-8pm)
Red Oak: Red Coach Inn Restaurant, 1200 Senate Ave (6-9pm)
Eldridge: Jerry and Ann Mohr’s Farm. 237585 130th Ave (6-9pm)
Marshalltown: Marshall Co. Extension, 2608 S 2nd St (6-9pm)

July 9th Roundtable Locations:

Newhall: Newhall Main Pavilion, 206 3rd Ave (12-3pm)
Calmar: NW Iowa Dairy Center, 1527 Hwy 150 S (12-3pm)
Denison: Hillside Grille Restaurant, 169 Oak Ridge Dr (6-9pm)
Manchester: Pin Oak Pub & Links, 2266 185th Ave (6-9pm)
Washington: Washington Co. Fairgrounds, 2255 250th St (6-9pm)
Mason City: Historic Park Inn, 15 West State St (6-9pm)

July 13th Roundtable Locations:

Virtual Roundtable Webinar (Please note: this will be held from 12-2pm. High speed internet required).

To RSVP, visit and enter: corn2015 by July 5th.                                

Iowa Biodiesel Tax Credit Takes Effect

Effective Wednesday, July 1, diesel blended with at least 11% biodiesel is eligible for a 3-cent-per-gallon tax exemption compared to petroleum diesel, according to the Iowa Biodiesel Board.

The biodiesel credit, which runs through Jan. 1, 2017, also provides 2 cents per gallon on the first 25 million gallons of biodiesel produced in any single plant.

Prior to 2015, the tax for diesel was 22.5 cents per gallon. The new diesel tax, already in effect, is 32.5 cents per gallon. Users of B11 or higher will now pay tax of 29.5 cents a gallon.

The law includes an E15 credit that pays 3 cents per gallon for the 15% of ethanol blended into gasoline sold Jan. 1 to May 31 and 10 cents for June 1 to Sept. 15. The credit reverts back to 3 cents from Sept. 16 to Dec. 31. The credit runs through 2020.

Signed by Governor Terry Branstad in February, "the law has already increased the state fuel tax by 10 cents a gallon for both diesel and gasoline to help improve Iowa's roads and bridges," according to a news release issued Tuesday by the Iowa Biodiesel Board.

"This state policy represents another link in the chain that secures Iowa's energy and economic future," said Grant Kimberley, IBB executive director. "This incentive, along with other state policies that encourage biodiesel production and use, shores up support for a fuel that delivers jobs, diversifies our fuel supply and reduces greenhouse gases."

Kimberley added that this won't automatically mean B11 is less expensive at the pump than diesel, but with "all of the pro-biodiesel policies in Iowa working together, plus federal programs that encourage energy independence, add up," he said. "This is likely to make B11 pretty competitive at the pump."

The bill also updates Iowa Code to define biobutanol as a renewable fuel option for Iowans.

‘Shark Tank’ Investor Barbara Corcoran to Address 97th AFBF Annual Convention

Acclaimed real estate mogul and “Shark Tank” investor Barbara Corcoran will give the closing session keynote address at the 97th American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Convention and IDEAg Trade Show in Orlando, Florida, on Jan. 11, 2016.

Nearly 7,000 Farm Bureau members from across the nation are expected to gather in Orlando Jan. 10-13 to hear from distinguished leaders and participate in a grassroots policy-setting process that will guide AFBF through 2016.

Corcoran, one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the country, turned a $1,000 loan into a $5 billion real estate business. She is currently an investor on ABC’s No. 1 show on Friday night, “Shark Tank” and has helped more than 30 entrepreneurs succeed in their respective industries.

“We are excited to have Barbara Corcoran as one of our keynote speakers,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “American Farm Bureau is extremely supportive of rural entrepreneurs. Providing our members the opportunity to learn from one of the most successful businesswomen in the nation is a great fit with our Farm Bureau Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge.”

The challenge provides an opportunity for individuals to showcase ideas and business innovations being cultivated in rural regions of the United States. Nearly $145,000 is up for grabs to help competitors finance their business ventures. Finalist teams for the 2016 competition will be announced Oct. 15.

“Barbara Corcoran will make a great addition to our annual convention,” Stallman said. “Hearing about her remarkable success story will be an inspiring way to kick off a great year for the agriculture industry.”

Farm Bureau members can register for the 97th AFBF Annual Convention and IDEAg Trade Show through their state Farm Bureaus or online through AFBF at starting in September.

National Commodity Leaders Explore Cuba Grain Market Potential

Nine farmer leaders and staff members from the National Corn Growers Association, the U.S. Grains Council and the North Dakota Barley Council traveled to Cuba last week to see first-hand opportunities for expanding U.S. coarse grain exports if trade is fully normalized with the island nation.

The mission was part of an ongoing effort by the grains industry to assess and build plans to address marketing, financial and educational barriers to increase sales to Cuba. As the overseas market development organization for corn, barley, sorghum and grain co-products, the Council is considering how best to engage the Cuban market with partnerships and programs.

"The Cubans are excited to engage with the United States and want to learn more from the U.S. agriculture industry about poultry and dairy production in particular," said Rob Elliott, NCGA first vice president. "Hopefully we can continue this dialogue and exchange of ideas that will be beneficial for both countries."

Cuba has purchased corn from the United States since the early 2000s, with market share varying widely from as high as 100 percent to just 15 percent last marketing year. The country has purchased distiller's dried grains with solubles, a byproduct of the ethanol manufacturing process, from the United States since 2005. If Cuba purchased all of its imported corn from the United States, it would be the 12th largest overseas market for the product.

The grain industry groups visited with government officials in the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Foreign Trade and Investments. Stops also included a Cuban port and visits to rice and corn operations.

"Cuba could be a growing market for U.S. corn, but our own policies are standing in the way," said USGC Chairman Ron Gray. "A major lesson from this trip was that the embargo has created an environment where our competitors such as Brazil dominate the market. If policy allowed us to help develop the Cuban market, we might be able to retake our dominant position."

According to previous USGC assessments, Cuba has no broiler production and limited egg production. And, while imports from the United States are limited by longstanding policy, a lack of dollars and credit challenges, the Cuban government wants its agriculture sector to grow. In addition, the Cuban people and foreign tourists could demand more meat products in their diet as the country's economy improves.

"We have an opportunity to work with the Cuban people to build their industries and, at the same time, build demand for our grain," Gray said. "The Council has used this model all over the world, and it's clear that type of engagement could now also work in Cuba given the right conditions."

Although there are significant opportunities in this market for U.S. coarse grains and co-products, current restrictions imposed by the U.S. government severely hinder Cuba's trade prospects.

"This mission reaffirmed that it's time for a new U.S. policy toward Cuba, and now is the time to act," Elliott said. "There are several bills before Congress to ease the embargo. NCGA will continue to educate Congress on the importance of the U.S.-Cuba relationship. We are committed to advancing legislation that will reduce trade barriers, normalize trade relations and help us build a two-way trade relationship."

Little Movement Seen in Fertilizer Prices

Average retail fertilizer prices continued to hold steady the fourth week of June 2015, according to retailers tracked by DTN. No fertilizer prices were substantially lower or higher compared to a month earlier.

Six of the eight major fertilizers were lower in price compared to a month prior, but these moves to the low side were fairly slight. MAP had an average price of $597 per ton, potash $490/ton, 10-34-0 $641/ton, anhydrous $690/ton, UAN28 $330/ton and UAN32 $369/ton.

Two fertilizers were higher compared to the previous month, but again the move was insignificant. DAP had an average price of $572/ton and urea $469/ton.

On a price per pound of nitrogen basis, the average urea price was at $0.51/lb.N, anhydrous $0.42/lb.N, UAN28 $0.59/lb.N and UAN32 $0.58/lb.N.

Only one of the eight major fertilizers is double digits higher in price compared to June 2014, all while commodity prices are significantly lower from a year ago. 10-34-0 is still 14% higher compared to last year.

One fertilizer is slightly more expensive compared to a year earlier. Potash is 1% more expensive compared to last year.

The remaining six nutrients are now lower compared to retail prices from a year ago, including anhydrous, which is now lower in price. Anhydrous is now 2% lower while DAP is 4% less expensive, MAP is 5% lower, UAN28 is down 7%, UAN32 is now 8% less expensive and urea is 12% less expensive from a year previous.

USDA Announces Commodity Credit Corporation Lending Rates for July 2015

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) today announced interest rates for July 2015. The CCC borrowing rate-based charge for July is 0.250 percent, unchanged from 0.250 percent in June.

The interest rate for crop year commodity loans less than one year disbursed during July is 1.250 percent, unchanged from 1.250 percent in June.

Interest rates for Farm Storage Facility Loans approved for July are as follows, 2.000 percent with seven-year loan terms, up from 1.875 percent in June; 2.250 percent with 10-year loan terms, up from 2.125 percent in June and; 2.375 percent with 12-year loan terms, up from 2.250 percent in June.

NFU Highlights Importance of Youth Outreach, Leadership Training for Future of American Agriculture, World Food Production

National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson today highlighted the importance of youth outreach, leadership and skills training in production agriculture as key to the future of American agriculture and global food production.

“One of the great challenges facing modern American agriculture is its own demographics,” noted Johnson. “Combine the aging demographics of farmers in the world’s breadbasket nation with the skyrocketing global population and you can quickly see the need for a new generation of farmers and ranchers who are equipped to lead,” he said.

Johnson noted that to that end, NFU has several ongoing programs that reach out to youth in the farm and rural sector and help them hone their leadership skills. “NFU’s nearly 80 year-old All-States Leadership Camp does just that, with many of the participants going on to take the reigns of important farm organizations, both domestically and internationally,” said Johnson.

Johnson pointed out that over the course of its nearly eight decades, more than 6,100 young men and women have received leadership training in these camps. “Many of our campers have gone on to take highly-visible leadership positions in agriculture, including a U.S. senator, the president of a national farm organization, the president of an international farm organization and a director of the nation’s largest farmer-owned supply and marketing cooperative,” he said.

Another area where NFU has helped identify and train the next generation of farmers is its Beginning Farmer Institute (BFI). The Institute, modeled after successful state and regional programs, is open to men and women who are new to farming, are in the process of transferring an operation from a relative or non-relative to themselves, or are seriously contemplating a career in farming or ranching.

“BFI participants receive a year’s worth of hands-on training at little cost to themselves,” noted Johnson. “BFI is unique in that the agenda is driven by the participants, allowing them to gain information on topics that will be most relevant to their particular operations. The size and diversity of the group of participants ensures valuable interaction and learning opportunities for all,” he noted.

Johnson explained that BFI training includes practical skills needed by beginning farmers and ranchers, including business plan writing, financial planning, and researching available programs to help start up and sustain a successful operation. To date, NFU has trained 47 beginning farmers and ranchers, most of whom are now in production agriculture. 

Tess Brown-Lavoie of Rhode Island is an urban farmer who was in the inaugural class of the Institute. “The blossoming of agriculture in urban centers represents a burgeoning commitment to many of the values that we all cherish: cooperation, loyalty and hard work,” said Brown-Lavoie. “Farming, whether it takes place in an urban or rural setting, passes those important values on from generation to generation."

“For America’s farm organizations, there is certainly not a one-size-fits-all approach to educating and empowering the next generation of America’s farmers and farm leaders, but clearly the imperative is there and we all have our marching orders,” said Johnson. “Our job is clear: put in place the talent pool that will feed yet unborn generations to come, while protecting and nurturing the land that makes all of that possible.”

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