Nebraska Agriculture in the Classroom Receives 2015 Best of Lincoln Award for Education
Nebraska Agriculture in the Classroom (AITC) has been selected for the 2015 Best of Lincoln Award in the education category by the Lincoln Award Program. The Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture supports and administers the Nebraska Agriculture in the Classroom Program, a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization headquartered at the Nebraska Farm Bureau office in Lincoln, Nebraska. The foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization and contributions may be tax deductible.
“We are so excited about this designation. It means that the AITC program is making progress in building the bonds of trust between Nebraska consumers and the people who proudly grow their food, fiber and energy,” Deanna Karmazin, program director for ag literacy for Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture.
AITC is a nationwide educational program connecting teachers and students to their source of food, fiber and fuel by serving as a trusted and reliable educational resource.
“Nebraska students learn that the agricultural industry includes the production, processing, distribution and marketing of the products that we use every day. This program provides the students and teachers with the knowledge of the agricultural industry, thereby allowing them to support wise decisions concerning agricultural policies. It is our goal to educate these future consumers,” Karmazin said.
The AITC program provides resources and training to K-12 teachers on ways to use agriculture as the vehicle to teach across existing curriculum. These resources use an integrated/hands-on approach to learning. Each of the resources is correlated with the Nebraska State Standards in the basic subject areas, she said.
Thurston County FSA 2015 County Committee Election Nominations
Melanie Campbell, Thurston County FSA Executive Director
The Thurston County Farm Service Agency (FSA) county committee election nomination period began on June 15, 2015. County committee members provide input and make important decisions on the local administration of USDA disaster and conservation programs. I encourage you to nominate farmer and rancher candidates to serve on the local FSA county committee by the August 3, 2015 deadline. Additionally, I ask that you please post or publicize/ distribute the enclosed news releases and nomination form at your earliest convenience.
To be eligible to serve on the FSA county committee, a person must participate or cooperate in a program administered by FSA, be eligible to vote in a county committee election and reside in the local administrative area in which the person is a candidate. Thurston County will be conduction the 2015 election for Local Administrative Area #3 which consists of the following townships: Omaha, Blackbird, Dawes & Anderson.
Producers may nominate themselves or others and organizations representing minorities and women may also nominate candidates. To become a candidate, an eligible individual must sign the nomination form FSA -669A. The form and additional information about FSA county committee elections are available online at http://www.fsa.usda.gov/elections. I have also enclosed a blank nomination for your review. Nomination forms for the 2015 election must be postmarked or received in the local FSA office by close of business on Monday, August 3, 2015.
FSA county committee members are reimbursed for their time and travel to participate in meetings at the Thurston County FSA Office. Elected county committee members serve a three year term and are responsible for making decisions on FSA disaster, conservation, commodity and price support programs, as well as other important federal farm program issues.
Election ballots will be mailed to producers, beginning November 9, 2015. The voted ballots are due back to the local county office via mail or in person by December 7, 2015.
For more information about county committees, please contact the Thurston County FSA Office at (402) 846-5655 or visit www.fsa.usda.gov.
Thank you for taking part in our continuing efforts to make USDA a better service provider.
Rain Damaged Hay can be Costly for Farmers
Rain is a needed ingredient for growing crops. However, the frequent rains in Iowa this summer have become a challenge for hay producers planning to mow, bale and store hay. Denise Schwab, beef specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, said it’s important to recognize the impact that rain can have on hay.
When moisture content of hay increases, so does the microbial activity and decay, which generates heat. When the heat levels increase, there is the potential of spontaneous combustion.
“This isn’t common, but it can happen when hay is stored in a wet condition,” Schwab said. “In most hay fires, farmers lose not only their hay, but also the barn it is stored in. In fact, because of a fire a couple years ago my friend lost most of the surrounding land which was covered by a Conservation Reserve Program contract.”
Hay should be baled with a moisture content of less than 20 percent; however, bale size also plays a part in determining moisture levels. Small square bales have more surface area per unit that allows the bale to breathe and dissipate moisture easier. The small bales can be baled at the 18-20 percent moisture range, but large round or square bales should be baled when cuttings are in the 16-18 percent moisture range.
All hay will heat up due to the natural respiration of the plant, and temperatures below 125 degrees Fahrenheit are considered normal. Temperatures above 125 degrees Fahrenheit need to be monitored. When hay is between 125 and 150 degrees Fahrenheit, a process called the Maillard reaction causes “carmelization” of the hay and reduces forage quality.
Take steps to cool hay
Schwab advised that when hay reaches 150 degrees Fahrenheit, farmers should check it daily and consider spreading out the hay to provide air movement and possible cooling.
“When temperatures exceed 175 degrees, check the temperature every two hours and alert your local fire department,” Schwab said. “Hay this hot will be nearly black in color, have reduced feed value and can be dangerous to move. Avoid adding oxygen to hay in this temperature range, which may cause combustion. If the hay being moved exceeds 190 degrees Fahrenheit, have the fire department on hand in case of spontaneous ignition.”
While most hay never reaches the point of combustion, it can be damaged in terms of feed value.
The most dramatic effect of high moisture on feed value is the reduction in digestibility. Heat damaged proteins have been the primary focus of nutritionists, but researchers from the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center in Marshfield, Wis., suggest that reduced energy values of heat damage are an important impact.
“Data shows a decrease of 11 percent in total digestible nutrients from heat damage hay,” Schwab said. “This comes from oxidation and the loss of digestible sugars and cell solubles during the heating process. The concentration of undigestible fiber is increased, and the TDN levels are reduced. Forage testing of heat-damaged hay is critical to evaluate the true value of that feed.”
When mold develops
Another component of feed value is the growth of molds and mycotoxins. Wet, tightly baled hay provides a moist, dark environment for mold growth. Usually, molds affect palatability and subsequent intake of hay by livestock. Mycotoxins are the secondary products that some molds produce and can be toxic to animals if fed at high enough levels.
Schwab said producers should consider feeding moldy hay only to less sensitive animals and be sure it’s mixed with non-moldy hay.
“Monitor those animals closely for any signs of toxicity and allow them to sort through the poor hay for the better hay,” Schwab said. “There is one exception: horses are more susceptible to mycotoxins and should not be fed moldy hay.”
In the past, some farmers have applied salt to the surface of hay that was baled wet, but research has shown little benefit from this practice. While the theory is good, the amount of salt needed would be very large and expensive, and would likely reduce the palatability of the hay.
Tips to manage potential moisture damage
- Mow hay into wide windrows or use a rake or tedder to spread out hay and speed drying.
- Consider using a preservative to reduce spoilage if hay is too damp for storage.
- Consider making wet baleage if the window of time for haying is too short.
- Test forages to determine feed value prior to the winter feeding season.
For more information on managing damaged hay with high moisture content, contact your local ISU Extension and Outreach beef specialist or the Iowa Beef Center at www.iowabeefcenter.org.
Corn Farmers Rally on Capitol Hill to Protest RFS Cuts
More than 300 corn farmers and ethanol industry leaders joined members of Congress on Capitol Hill today at a rally calling attention to the Renewable Fuel Standard. The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed cutting the RFS for corn ethanol by 3.75 billion gallons through 2016, which represents nearly 1.5 billion bushels in lost corn demand.
“Our message to the EPA is clear and unequivocal: Don’t mess with the RFS,” said NCGA Chairman Martin Barbre, a farmer from Carmi, Illinois. “We are gathered here today because we all understand what’s at stake.”
Rally attendees heard from Senator Mark Kirk, Representative Tammy Duckworth, farmers, and ethanol industry leaders on the importance of ethanol to strengthening rural economies and protecting our environment and national security.
Following the rally, corn farmers visited their congressional offices to drive home the importance of ethanol and the RFS. In his closing remarks, NCGA President Chip Bowling, a farmer from Newburg, Maryland, urged farmers to stand up and make their voice heard.
“Now is the time for farmers to stand up for your farms, your families, your communities, and our country,” said Bowling. “We must hold Congress to its promises – and hold the EPA to the law.”
What they’re saying:
“Ethanol supports corn growers’ bottom lines and provides good jobs, promotes economic growth, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. We need a strong Renewable Fuel Standard to support our producers and the workers this industry employs. In North Dakota, the biofuels industry represents $2.5 billion in annual economic output and almost 9,000 jobs. We need EPA to set strong volumes to give farmers, workers, and the entire industry the certainty they deserve and fight any effort in Congress to undermine the RFS.”
–Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.)
“Illinois farmers export more than a billion bushels of corn annually. That is why I supported them on trade and will continue to support them in the fight for a fair Renewable Fuel Standard.”
–Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.)
“American investors and consumers at the gas pump are better off supporting American jobs and access to clean, secure American energy, rather than Middle Eastern oil. As a veteran and a Member of the House Armed Services Committee, I see renewable, home-grown fuel as not only critical for our environment and our economy, but also as a national security imperative.”
–Representative Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.)
“Even in Maryland, a state without an ethanol plant, we have seen the tremendous positive impact of a strong Renewable Fuel Standard on our farm, our family, and in our community. It has helped ensure the next generation can come back to the farm. With a strong farm economy, we also have more to invest in our schools, hospitals and roads. I’m here to tell the EPA to stop standing up for Big Oil, and start standing up for me.”
–Linda Burrier, farmer, Union Bridge, Md.
“Supporting the Renewable Fuel Standard is personal for me. We value jobs, farm income, and using homegrown, renewable fuels instead of conflict-ridden foreign oil. Agriculture is the backbone of our economy. We should not allow the budding renewable fuels industry to be cut off at its roots.”
–Annette Sweeney, Co-Chair of America’s Renewable Future and farmer, Alden, Iowa
Weekly Ethanol Stocks, Production Down
Ethanol stocks in the United States decreased by 100,000 barrels (bbl), or 0.5%, to 19.7 million bbl in the week-ended July 10 while up 10.0% from a year earlier, according to a U.S. Energy Information Administration report released Wednesday, July 15.
The EIA report also showed domestic production reversed lower, falling last week by 3,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 984,000 bpd. Year-over-year output was up 4.3%.
Blender inputs, a gauge for ethanol demand, extended lower last week, down week-on-week by 23,000 bpd, or 2.5%, to 881,000 bpd, while 3.5% higher year over year.
Implied demand for gasoline dropped 128,000 bpd, or 1.3%, to 9.404 million bpd for the week profiled, EIA said.
USDA Announces Conservation Incentives for Working Grass, Range and Pasture Lands
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that beginning Sept. 1, farmers and ranchers can apply for financial assistance to help conserve working grasslands, rangeland and pastureland while maintaining the areas as livestock grazing lands.
The initiative is part of the voluntary Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), a federally funded program that for 30 years has assisted agricultural producers with the cost of restoring, enhancing and protecting certain grasses, shrubs and trees to improve water quality, prevent soil erosion and reduce loss of wildlife habitat. In return, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides participants with rental payments and cost-share assistance. CRP has helped farmers and ranchers prevent more than 8 billion tons of soil from eroding, reduce nitrogen and phosphorous runoff relative to cropland by 95 and 85 percent respectively, and even sequester 43 million tons of greenhouse gases annually, equal to taking 8 million cars off the road.
“A record 400 million acres and 600,000 producers and landowners are currently enrolled in USDA’s conservation programs. The Conservation Reserve Program has been one of the most successful conservation programs in the history of the country, and we are pleased to begin these grasslands incentives as we celebrate the program’s 30th year,” said Vilsack. “This is another great example of how agricultural production can work hand in hand with efforts to improve the environment and increase wildlife habitat.”
The CRP-Grasslands initiative will provide participants who establish long-term, resource-conserving covers with annual rental payments up to 75 percent of the grazing value of the land. Cost-share assistance also is available for up to 50 percent of the covers and other practices, such as cross fencing to support rotational grazing or improving pasture cover to benefit pollinators or other wildlife. Participants may still conduct common grazing practices, produce hay, mow, or harvest for seed production, conduct fire rehabilitation, and construct firebreaks and fences.
With the publication of the CRP regulation today, the Farm Service Agency will accept applications on an ongoing basis beginning Sept. 1, 2015, with those applications scored against published ranking criteria, and approved based on the competiveness of the offer. The ranking period will occur at least once per year and be announced at least 30 days prior to its start. The end of the first ranking period will be Nov. 20, 2015.
Later this week, USDA will also announce state-by-state allotments for the State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE). Through SAFE, also a CRP initiative, up to 400,000 acres of additional agricultural land across 37 states will be eligible for wildlife habitat restoration funding. The additional acres are part of an earlier CRP wildlife habitat announcement made by Secretary Vilsack. Currently, more than 1 million acres, representing 98 projects, are enrolled in SAFE.
To learn more about participating in CRP-Grasslands or SAFE, visit www.fsa.usda.gov/crp or consult with the local Farm Service Agency county office.
Survey Shows Expanded Acreage and Yield Boost from Cover Crops
For the third year in a row, a national survey of farmers has shown that cover crops improve corn and soybean yields while providing a host of other benefits. The survey of more than 1,200 farmers revealed that cover crops boosted 2014 corn yields by an average of 3.7 bushels per acre (2.1 percent) and soybeans by 2.2 bushels per acre (4.2 percent). Cover crop acreage per farm more than doubled over the past five years.
The survey was conducted by the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) with funding from USDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program and the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA). While the survey showed yield increases among growers who use cover crops, they are interested in more than the yield benefit. The three most-cited benefits of using cover crops were:
- increased soil health (22 percent)
- increased organic matter (20 percent)
- reduced soil erosion (15 percent)
The survey also provided insight into why growers use or do not use cover crops. Growers cited the top challenges to growing cover crops as:
- establishment (22 percent)
- cover crop seed cost (20 percent)
- time and labor required for planting and managing cover crops (19 percent)
The survey provides powerful insight on the role of markets and financial programs in influencing cover crop decisions. “Nearly three-quarters of the cover crop users in the survey said commodity prices have little or no influence on whether they plant cover crops,” says Rob Myers, regional director of Extension programs for North Central Region SARE. “Many people speculate that low corn and soybean prices would stall the growth of cover crops, but the farmers in the survey are telling us—and demonstrating—that the benefits of cover crops outweigh lower commodity price considerations.”
On the other hand, 92 percent of the farmers who do not currently plant cover crops say economic incentives would somewhat or always influence cover crop adoption. “These results illustrate that economic incentives can help encourage farmers to consider cover crops, but once they start using them, the multiple benefits they are seeing will motivate them to continue using covers,” Myers notes.
The extensive survey, which gathered perspective from 1,248 farmers—84 percent of whom plant cover crops—also gathered data on a wide range of issues, from management practices to landlord attitudes about cover crops to the most influential sources of information on the practice. The report also includes responses to some questions from hundreds of additional farmers who did not complete the entire survey.
National FFA Organization Announces National Convention and Expo Coming to Indianapolis 2016-2024
The National FFA Organization announced today that it will be moving its National FFA Convention & Expo to Indianapolis for 2016-2024.
"We are excited to be bringing the National FFA Convention & Expo back to Indianapolis," Dr. Steve Brown, the national FFA advisor, said. "The city has extended its very best brand of Hoosier Hospitality to our members in the past, and we look forward to spending the next few years in this city."
The annual national convention and expo, which will take place in Louisville, Ky., in 2015, hosts more than 64,000 attendees from across the country. The event is estimated to have an economic impact of $36.2 million for Indianapolis during 2016.
The national convention and expo will utilize downtown venues, including Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Lucas Oil Stadium, the Indiana Convention Center, the Indiana State Fairgrounds and eight event hotels.
“The National FFA Convention & Expo, much like the National FFA headquarters, is right at home here in Indiana,” said Gov. Mike Pence. “Indiana is ready and committed to support this event and welcome with open arms the 64,000 FFA members who will come to our capital city each of the next nine years. Today’s news confirms that Indiana’s reputation is strong and growing stronger, and I appreciate FFA’s commitment to build on our already-robust agricultural heritage in the coming years.”
“Indianapolis is excited to welcome back the National FFA Convention & Expo,” said Mayor Greg Ballard. “Not only does this commitment create an estimated $36 million in annual economic activity for our residents, but FFA is a model conference dedicated to volunteerism and community service that Indianapolis is privileged to host.”
The National FFA Convention took place in Kansas City, Mo., from 1928-1998. Louisville then hosted the event from 1999 to 2005, with Indianapolis being the host city from 2006-2012. In 2009, the organization announced the national convention and expo would rotate every three years between Indianapolis and Louisville, with Louisville hosting the event 2013-2015 and Indianapolis hosting the event 2016-2018.
As the membership of the organization has grown so has the attendance of the national convention and expo. Following the 87th National FFA Convention & Expo, the board of the National FFA Organization reviewed the two cities and made the decision to move the national convention and expo to Indianapolis for 2016-2024.
"Our members are tomorrow's future leaders in agriculture," Dr. Dwight Armstrong, the chief executive officer of the National FFA Organization, said. "We are excited to introduce these future leaders to the city that FFA calls home."
“Visit Indy, the City of Indianapolis, and the State of Indiana have an outstanding partnership with the National FFA Organization,” said Leonard Hoops, president and CEO of Visit Indy. “We look forward to delivering a great experience for FFA student members, advisors and families for many years to come.”
Median Income of Farm Households Exceeds U.S. Households
Since USDA's Agricultural Resource Management Survey began collecting data in 1996, the median income of farm households has risen while real U.S. median household income has remained essentially flat. This may be due to a variety of factors, including farm consolidation, increasing commodity prices, and minimal increases in hourly wages for all U.S. workers.
In 2013, the median household income of farm households was about $72,000, compared with $52,000 for all U.S. households.
Farm households benefitted from high commodity prices in 2012 and 2013; however, many farm households experience considerable variability in their income from year-to-year compared with their non-farm counterparts.
The share of farm household income from farming varies, accounting for as little as 5 percent in the early 2000s and reaching a high of 24 percent in 2013.
The importance of farm income to households also varies with the size of the operation. Households with smaller and intermediate size farms typically receive the majority of their income from off-farm sources, while large farm households derive the bulk of total household income from their farm activities.
The most recent ERS farm sector income forecast shows farm sector income for 2014 and 2015 returning to pre-2012 levels.
Households operating large farms are the most vulnerable to decreases in farm income.
North Dakota Wheat Farmer Installed as USW Chairman
Brian O’Toole, a hard red spring (HRS) wheat farmer from Crystal, ND, took the reins as Chairman of the U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) Board of Directors at the organization’s annual meeting July 12 to 15, 2015, in San Diego, CA.
“I am honored to continue representing all U.S. wheat farmers overseas,” O’Toole said. “I truly believe that the work this organization does in overseas education and promotion is essential to marketing our wheat. It’s a growing world and I am excited to be a part of the mission to maintain or build demand around the world.”
O’Toole is the third generation at T.E. O’Toole Farms, a century farm, where he grows HRS wheat, along with sugar beets, pinto beans, navy beans, black beans and corn. He has been a North Dakota wheat commissioner since 2005 and has extensive experience as a leader in agriculture with current and past roles with the Wheat Marketing Center, the SBARE Wheat Granting Committee, the North Dakota Crop Improvement and Seed Association and the Crystal Farmers Elevator Co-op.
Other officers installed at the USW meeting included Jason Scott, Stevensville, MD, as Vice Chairman and Mike Miller, Ritzville, WA, as Secretary-Treasurer. Last year’s Chairman Roy Motter, Brawley, CA, transitioned to Past Chairman and Chairman of the USW Budget Committee. USW officers were elected to these one-year positions at the January 2015 Winter Wheat Conference in Washington, DC.
USW's next board meeting will be held jointly with the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) in Lake Tahoe, NV, November 3 to 6, 2015.
Dairy Groups Commend House Members for Urging Canada to Increase Market Access
The National Milk Producers Federation and the U.S. Dairy Export Council today commended a bipartisan and regionally diverse group of House members for urging Canada to allow more imports of U.S. dairy products as an outcome of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade talks. If Canada cannot provide more dairy market access, it risks being left out of the massive Pacific Rim trade agreement now in the final stages of negotiation, according to a letter from key members of Congress.
In the letter to Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., Gary Doar, the House members said U.S. access to the Canadian dairy market will have a significant impact on how Congress views the final, 12-nation TPP agreement. “It will be difficult for us to support Canada’s inclusion in TPP if significant new dairy access is not part of the deal,” they wrote. The letter was spearheaded by Representatives Reid Ribble (R-WI), Ron Kind (D-WI), David Valadao (R-CA) and Suzan DelBene (D-WA). Among the signers were Paul Ryan (R-WI), Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Mike Conaway (R-TX), Chairman of the Agriculture Committee, and Pat Tiberi, Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee’s Trade Subcommittee.
NMPF and USDEC hailed this congressional message as a vital element to achieving the type of ambitious and balanced market access result that is still needed in the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.
“We applaud this group of House members for demanding that Canada get serious about allowing more dairy imports,” said NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern. “Creating meaningful U.S. export opportunities in the Canadian market is one of three critical dairy market access issues remaining in TPP and so far Canada has refused to live up to its commitment to address it. If U.S. dairy farmers are ultimately asked to grapple with greater competition under this agreement, it’s only right that they be able to have comparable product opportunities to tap into exports to Canada, as well as Japan.”
“Our members had hoped that TPP would eliminate all dairy tariffs in the region; that now appears unlikely,” added USDEC President Tom Suber. “Despite this, we see the prospect for ample market access gains – particularly into Japan and Canada. We hope to support a final agreement that ensures the United States gains at least as much increased dairy market access into those markets for major dairy commodities as it grants to our largest competitor in this agreement. Our industry is willing to do its part; Canada needs to do so as well if it wants to be part of TPP.”
Also needing to be addressed in the final phase of the TPP negotiations is the further expansion of access to the Japanese market for certain core dairy commodities. NMPF and USDEC have consistently stated that the final agreement must include net trade benefits for exports of major dairy commodities into Japan and Canada, TPP’s major dairy import destinations, in comparison with new dairy access into the United States for New Zealand, the world’s largest dairy exporter, for each of those products.
NFU Expresses Gratitude to Senate Ag Leaders for Exploring the Path Forward for COOL
The following statement was issued by National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson expressing gratitude for Senate Agriculture Committee leaders’ determination to working towards a resolution for difficulties facing Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL).
“We are grateful that key leaders on the Senate Agriculture Committee are fighting to find a path forward for America’s popular food labeling law, COOL. Food labeling is not only strongly supported by consumers but family farmers as well.
“Of course, groups that have opposed COOL from the very beginning are using red herring arguments and scare tactics to encourage our elected officials to throw in the towel, given objections by our chief trade competitors Canada and Mexico.
“The talk of retaliation by those countries is not only grossly premature, but scaremongering at its finest. In order for Canada or Mexico to retaliate against the U.S. should we wish to continue to exercise our sovereign right to label our food, they must first prove that our labeling law has harmed them economically.
“It should be noted that Canada already has a voluntary food labeling law on the books, so it begs the question as to why they are so strongly against Americans having a similar law.
“NFU will continue to advocate for this popular law and defend the American consumers’ right to know the origin of their food.”
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