Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Tuesday May 31 Ag News + Crop Progress NE IA US


For the week ending May 29, 2016, numerous rain events limited planting activities and made hay harvest difficult, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Accumulations of an inch were common, with rainfall totals of three inches or more recorded across the southeast. Temperatures averaged two to four degrees above normal in the east, but near normal west. Crusting of soils was reported with some producers running pivots to help their crops emerge. There were 3.1 days suitable for fieldwork. Topsoil moisture supplies rated 0 percent very short, 2 short, 78 adequate, and 20 surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies rated 0 percent very short, 2 short, 84 adequate, and 14 surplus.

Field Crops Report:

Corn condition rated 0 percent very poor, 2 poor, 26 fair, 62 good, and 10 excellent. Corn planted was 96 percent, near 93 last year and the five-year average of 97. Emerged was 78 percent, near 80 last year and 82 average.

Sorghum planted was 55 percent, near 53 last year and 59 average. Emerged was 20 percent, behind 25 last year, but near 23 average.

Soybeans planted was 73 percent, near 70 last year, but behind 82 average. Emerged was 36 percent, equal to last year, but behind 49 average.

Winter wheat condition rated 1 percent very poor, 5 poor, 29 fair, 54 good, and 11 excellent. Winter wheat jointed was 98 percent, near 95 last year, but ahead of 92 average. Headed was 72 percent, ahead of 60 last year, but well ahead of 50 average. Coloring was 1 percent.

Oats condition rated 0 percent very poor, 1 poor, 21 fair, 72 good, and 6 excellent. Oats emerged was 95 percent, near 99 last year and 96 average. Jointed was 56 percent, near 59 last year. Headed was 22 percent, near 18 last year and 19 average.

Alfalfa condition rated 0 percent very poor, 1 poor, 11 fair, 72 good, and 16 excellent. Alfalfa first cutting was 31 percent, ahead of 19 last year, but near 27 average.

Livestock, Pasture and Range Report:

Pasture and range conditions rated 0 percent very poor, 0 poor, 12 fair, 71 good, and 17 excellent.  Stock water supplies rated 0 percent very short, 1 short, 91 adequate, and 8 surplus.


Rain showers hindered fieldwork in Iowa during the week ending May 29, 2016, according to the USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service. Statewide there were 3.0 days suitable for fieldwork. Standing water was reported in some fields. Field activities included planting and replanting.

Topsoil moisture levels rated 0 percent very short, 3 percent short, 82 percent adequate and 15 percent surplus. Subsoil moisture levels rated 0 percent very short, 3 percent short, 81 percent adequate and 16 percent surplus. The western third of Iowa continues to have the highest percentage of surplus subsoil.

Virtually all of Iowa’s corn crop has been planted. Corn emerged reached 90 percent, 2 days ahead of last year and 5 days ahead of normal. Seventy-seven percent of the corn crop was rated in good to excellent condition.

Soybean planting reached 88 percent complete, 9 days ahead of last year, and 10 days ahead of normal. Soybean emergence reached 55 percent, 3 days ahead of both last year and normal.

Oats headed reached 24 percent this week, 9 days ahead of last year and one week ahead of the 5-year average. Oat condition rated 82 percent good to excellent.

Although frequent rains slowed progress, the first cutting of alfalfa hay was 35 percent complete, 6 days ahead of last year and 5 days ahead of the 5-year average. Both hay and pasture conditions rated 78 percent good to excellent. Livestock conditions were described as good with very little stress.


Provided by Harry J. Hillaker, State Climatologist
Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship

It was a warm and wet week across Iowa. Showers and thunderstorms were a daily occurrence across Iowa with the most widespread rain falling on Wednesday and Friday nights. Rain totals were highly variable but once again were generally greatest in western portions of the state with weekly amounts ranging from 0.40 inches at Maquoketa to 6.06 inches at Atlantic. The statewide average precipitation was 1.78 inches while normal for the week is 1.05 inches. Severe thunderstorms occurred somewhere in Iowa on each day of the reporting week except Friday. The most widespread severe weather, mostly coming as high winds, occurred late Wednesday into Thursday morning with reports received from 19 counties over central and northern Iowa. Temperatures were well above seasonal normals every day of the week with daytime highs mostly in the eighties. Temperature extremes for the week varied from a Tuesday (24th) afternoon high of 88 degrees at Davenport to a Sunday (29th) morning low of 50 degrees at Mount Ayr. Temperatures for the week as a whole averaged 6.5 degrees above normal with eastern Iowa generally a little warmer than the west. Soil temperatures climbed substantially in response to the persistent warm weather and were mostly averaging in the upper sixties over the north and lower seventies across the south.

USDA Weekly Crop Progress

Despite rain and severe storms in parts of the Midwest during the week ended May 29, corn emergence and soybean planting rolled right along, according to USDA's latest Crop Progress report.

Corn is 94% planted and 78% emerged, compared to 86% and 60% last week, 94% and 81% last year and a five-year average of 92% and 75%.  USDA said that 72% of the corn crop was rated good to excellent.

Soybeans were 73% planted, compared to 56% last week, 68% last year and a 66% average. Soybean emergence is estimated at 45%, compared to 22% last week, 44% last year and a 40% five-year average.

Winter wheat is 84% headed, compared to 75% last week, 82% last year and 76% on average. Winter wheat condition improved slightly to 63% good to excellent, compared to 62% last week.

Spring wheat is 88% emerged, compared with 78% last week, 88% last year, and a 66% average.

Cotton is 59% planted, compared to 46% last week, 57% last year and a 69% average. Cotton squaring is at 5%, compared to 2% last year and a 5% average. Rice is 98% planted and 87% emerged, compared to 93% and 83% last week, 95% and 88% last year, and 96% and 85% on average. Rice condition declined slightly to 66% good to excellent, compared to 67% last week.

Sorghum is 44% planted compared to 37% last week, 42% last year and a 51% average. Oats are 95% emerged, compared to 90% last week, 94% last year and 86% on average. Oats are 30% headed, compared to 25% last week, 29% last year and a 32% average. Oats condition held steady at 73% good to excellent.

Barley is 97% planted and 88% emerged, compared to 94% and 80% last week, 100% and 92% last year, and 88% and 69% averages. Barley condition improved slightly to 77% good to excellent, compared to 76% last week.



During the next several weeks, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) will conduct its major mid-year survey, the June Agricultural Survey. The agency will survey nearly 4,800 operators across Nebraska to determine crop production and supplies levels in 2016.

“Due to the widespread and significant impact of their results, the June Agricultural Survey is one of the most important and well-known surveys NASS conducts,” explained Dean Groskurth, director of the NASS Northern Plains Field Office. “When growers respond to these June Agricultural Survey, they provide essential information that helps us determine the prospective production and supply of major commodities in the United States for the 2016 crop year. Everyone who relies on agriculture for their livelihoods is interested in the results.”

NASS gathers the data for the June Agriculture Survey online, by mail, phone and in-person interview. Also, agency representatives visit randomly selected tracts of land and interview the operators of any farm or ranch on that land. Growers provide information on crop acreage, grain stocks, livestock inventory, cash rents, land values, and value of sales.

NASS will compile and analyze the survey information and publish the results in a series of USDA reports, including the annual Acreage report and quarterly Grain Stocks report, both to be released June 30, 2016. Survey data contribute to NASS’s monthly and annual Crop Production reports, as well as the annual Small Grains Summary and USDA’s monthly World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates.

“NASS safeguards the privacy of all responses and publishes only state- and national-level data, ensuring that no individual operation or producer can be identified,” stated Groskurth. “We recognize this is a hectic time for farmers and ranchers, but the information they provide helps U.S. agriculture remain viable. I urge them to respond to these surveys and thank them in advance for their cooperation,” said Dean Groskurth.


    As summer approaches, it's important for cattle producers to make plans to help reduce stress on cattle during hot weather, according to Nebraska Extension educator Rob Eirich, who directs the Nebraska Beef Quality Assurance program.

    Cattle producers can determine the risk in cattle handling by referring to the Temperature Humidity Index, or heat index.

    "It’s important to understand the relationship between temperature and humidity," Eirich said. "Cattlemen need to be aware of the risk based on weather forecasts of heat stress."

    Additional guidelines to consider during summer hot spells:

    > Handling cattle early in the morning before temperatures get too high is recommended. Plan to handle cattle before 8 a.m. and never during daylight hours after 10 a.m. The animal's core temperature peaks about two hours after the environmental temperature peaks, and takes four to six hours to return to normal. Handling cattle in the early morning and evening will reduce the risk of heat stress.

    > When processing cattle during high-heat seasons, work cattle in smaller groups so they are not standing in holding areas much longer than 30 minutes. Cattle producers should consider facilities that are shaded and have good airflow to help reduce the heat. A sprinkler system may help cool the area, if the water droplet size is large. Never overcrowd working facilities. Work cattle slowly and use low-stress handling techniques. Processing cattle in any temperature elevates the animal's core temperature.

    > Cattle should be moved only short distances during hot weather. Strategic planning on pen movements can help reduce unnecessary movements and potential heat stress. Moving heavier cattle closer to loading facilities throughout the feeding period can help minimize heat effects. 

    > When planning or improving cattle handling and feeding facilities, cattle producers should consider airflow, shade and sprinkler systems for cooling livestock.

    Additional resources can be found at http://go.unl.edu/feedlotheatstress.

    For more information about Nebraska Beef Quality Assurance or to get BQA certification, contact Eirich at 308-632-1230.

UNL Precision Ag Leads Group Studying Multi-Hybrid Planter Applications in Corn and Soybeans
Joe Luck - Extension Precision Agriculture Engineer

Announcements of emerging agricultural technologies occur more frequently with each growing season. For most producers, the biggest question about these advanced systems is “How will an investment or upgrade pay off in my operation.”

Members of the multi-disciplinary UNL Precision Ag Research and Extension team are working with local and regional industry groups and, most importantly, cooperating producers to examine how one new technology—the multi-hybrid planter—might benefit producers in the future.

Multi-hybrid planters generally can plant two seed varieties housed in separate bulk tanks on the planter. However, the potential for these systems extends well beyond simply planting two seed varieties; their ability to also manage different seed treatments is often overlooked. These systems can be thought of as “multi-product” or “multi-treatment” planters.

Work on this project began in mid-2015 after a meeting at Oklahoma State University among university and industry specialists who were trying to determine future research needs for planting technologies. The group had a great discussion with industry professionals who were committed to creating collaborative projects to get better information out to potential technology adopters.

With support from Nebraska Extension, Rachel Stevens, a graduate student in mechanized systems management, was hired to design and carry out field studies that would address placement of hybrid seed with varying traits to deal with moisture stress as well as soybean seed treatment for Sudden Death Syndrome.

This project is allowing researchers to get to the heart of producers’ questions about this technology:
-    How do we determine zones?
-    What spatial data layers do we need and across how many years?
-    How do we evaluate the success of management decisions and continue to refine and improve these zones and decisions?

The UNL team is eager to see how these results might positively influence producers’ management decisions.

The project is being conducted in cooperation with local producers and has received broad support from industry including Kinze Manufacturing, DuPont Pioneer, and Bayer Crop Science. Within UNL, researchers Richard Ferguson (Agronomy), Loren Giesler (Plant Pathology), and Santosh Pitla (Biological Systems Engineering) and extension educators Keith Glewen, Nathan Mueller, and Laura Thompson are collaborating on the project.

Despite the rains, five corn and two soybean fields have been planted so far this year with one more soybean field to go. Sites include dryland and irrigated cropping systems. While more than one year of data is needed to study this technology, the project team believes that preliminary data from this initial year will help build capacity for future studies.

Results from the field sites will be distributed through Nebraska Extension.


Are you a 4-H or FFA member with a passion for poultry? Then the Nebraska Department of Agriculture’s (NDA’s) Poultry Calendar Photo Contest is for you. The contest, open to Nebraska 4-H and FFA members, highlights the state’s diverse poultry population and raises awareness of biosecurity measures for poultry owners.

“Nebraska ranks 10th nationally in egg production, which makes poultry an important part of the state’s agriculture economy,” said NDA Director Greg Ibach. “This contest gives students who are already connected to agriculture and poultry through 4-H and FFA the chance to share their talent and passion with others.”

The deadline for entering NDA’s Poultry Calendar Photo Contest is July 15, 2016. Winners will be announced during the Nebraska State Fair in Grand Island. The photos will be featured in the 2017 NDA Poultry Biosecurity Calendar which will also include information on biosecurity measures owners can take to keep their flocks healthy and prevent the spread of diseases like avian influenza.

NDA staff members will judge the photo contest entries based on originality, composition and photographic skills. Contest rules and official entry forms are available online at www.nda.nebraska.gov.

Printing of the 2017 NDA Poultry Calendar is funded through a grant from the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Veterinary Service, Western Region. Calendars will be available at local University of Nebraska Extension offices.


Bruce Anderson, NE Extension Forage Specialist

               Rain, rain, go away.  Come again another day.  Nebraska growers need to cut hay.

               Mid- to late May is when many alfalfa growers would like to take their first cutting of alfalfa.  But not this year!  Nearly every day for the last two weeks, harvest has been prevented due to rain, and sometimes overly abundant amounts of rain.

               So what can you do about it?  I wish I had a good answer.  Well, actually I do have a good answer – wait for dry weather.  What I really wish I had was a better answer, one that could overcome this daily moisture and bring us some extended sunshine.

               We have options when the hay is already cut and we need to beat some rainy weather.  Chopping haylage, baling with preservatives, and wrapping bales in plastic are three ways we avoid rain interference –  as long as we prepare in advance to be able to use these options.

               But when rain prevents us from even cutting the hay, all that can be done is wait.  Well, maybe that isn’t the only thing to do.  While waiting for the rain to stop and sun to shine, checking to see that all haying equipment is ready to go full speed might be wise.  Installing preservative applicators or arranging for choppers or bale wrappers might prevent future problems if rains return too soon after cutting.  And, like it or not, figuring out how to use or market this grinding hay or stock cow hay may put you one step ahead of the crowd.

               Also look ahead to next cutting, and even to the one after that.  All this rain is likely to encourage good alfalfa regrowth, along with some annual weeds.  Timely herbicide applications may preserve the quality of future cuttings.

               It’s frustrating when field work is delayed by rain.  Don’t waste too much time complaining, there’s other useful work to do.

10 U.S. farmers to visit domestic, international soy markets and evaluate the soy checkoff firsthand

Ten U.S. soybean farmers from soybean-growing states across the nation will take part in an educational program this summer with stops in St. Louis, Panama and Costa Rica as part of the United Soybean Board’s (USB) See for Yourself program.

“There’s no better way to show someone the value of their checkoff investment than to show them the results firsthand,” says Keith Tapp, a soybean farmer from Sebree, Kentucky, and chair of USB’s Audit and Evaluation Committee, which sponsors See for Yourself. “It’s important for U.S. soybean farmers to see customers around the world who rely on their hard work to grow the best soybeans in the world.”

From Aug. 4-12, the following farmers will get the opportunity to see how the soy checkoff increases demand for their soybeans:
    Ashley Babl (Albion, Nebraska)
    Samuel Showalter (Hampton, Iowa)

    Dick Werner (Herried, South Dakota)
    Luke Crawford (Arenzville, Illinois)
    Adam Hendricks (Auburn, Kentucky)
    Jason McCord (Columbia, Tennessee)
    Greg McGlinch (Versailles, Ohio)
    Jennifer Polterman (Genoa City, Wisconsin)
    Joseph Stoller (Bremen, Indiana)
    Russell Wolf (Tipton, Missouri)

The See for Yourself program gives participants a firsthand look at how and where their soybeans are being used both domestically and internationally. It also offers farmer-participants an opportunity to evaluate specific, checkoff-funded research and promotional activities. This year’s program includes a tour of the Panama Canal, where work continues to expand the waterway used to ship almost half of all U.S. soy exports. In Costa Rica, participants will learn about one of U.S. soy’s biggest oil customers.

ICA BeefMeets to focus on success and profitability

Educational sessions at the first annual BeefMeets will focus on an important topic in the current ag economy: profitability.

“We realize that cattle producers from all sectors of the industry are looking at both short-term and long-term ways to increase their profitability during this downturn in the ag economy,” says Matt Deppe, Iowa Cattlemen’s Association Executive Director. “We want to make sure they are up-to-date with the latest technology and industry advances that will help their bottom line.”

Speakers will address issues that affect both cow/calf and feedlot operations, from heifer development and best weaning practices to managing cattle under roof and hiring exceptional labor. Lenders and economists will be on hand to provide their perspective on the current ag economy and strategies to get through this down cycle.

BeefMeets are replacing the Iowa Cattle Industry Convention, which has traditionally been held in Des Moines in the winter. In an effort to reach more cattlemen across the state, four day-long regional BeefMeets will be held in June. The Northwest Regional BeefMeet will be in Spencer on June 22, the Northeast Regional BeefMeet will be in Independence on June 23, the Southwest Regional BeefMeet will be in Atlantic on June 28 and the Southeast Regional BeefMeet will be in Riverside on June 29.

In addition to educational sessions, BeefMeets will include lunch, a full tradeshow, and a social gathering at the end of the day. District breakouts will give cattlemen a chance to weigh in on issues affecting their business, and Eldon McAfee will address some of the legal challenges farmers in Iowa are facing, including the Des Moines Water Works lawsuit and numerous nuisance suits.

Other activities throughout the day include an Iowa Cattlemen’s Foundation auction fundraiser during lunch, a free Youth Beef Team training at 1:15, and a social event following the keynote in the afternoon. Join the local county cattlemen’s group outside for samples of new beef products and cold drinks.

Early registration ends June 13 and prices go up $10 at that time. All cattlemen are invited, but there is a discount for ICA members. Students are free. Register online today at www.iacattlemen.org.

A full list of speakers and topics follows:

Hiring and Retaining an Exceptional Workforce
Northwest Regional BeefMeet

Bob Milligan, Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University
Growing operations need a steady, trustworthy workforce. How can producers increase workforce motivation and decrease employee turnover, while enhancing operational performance and improving profit margins?

Checkoff Q & A - ICA & IBIC Leader
Northwest, Northeast, Southwest, Southeast Regional BeefMeets

As the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association works towards a referendum to reinstate the Iowa state beef checkoff, producers have questions. Iowa Cattlemen’s Association and Iowa Beef Industry Council leaders will be on hand to explain the goals and intended uses of the state checkoff dollars, as well as answer any questions.

Cattle Health Under Roof: What Have We Learned
Northwest and Northeast Regional BeefMeets

Jeff Pastoor & Scott Roskens, Quality Liquid Feeds
What are the specific management benefits of raising cattle under roof? What are the health considerations producers should be aware of? The experienced producer will pick up tips to maximize profits, while producers considering expanding can learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of feeding under roof.

Lender’s Perspective of Navigating Through Large Equity Losses
Northwest and Northeast Regional BeefMeet

Bob Butcher, Community Bank & Tim Meyer, Producers Livestock Marketing Association
What are the top notch managers doing to adjust business models and positioning their businesses and personal lives to navigate the economic white waters? What actions need to be taken to keep your business on course and also position it for new avenues of success? This session will provide insight and answers to the most common questions asked by producers, owners, and managers.

Iowa Cattlemen’s Foundation Youth Beef Team Training
Northwest, Northeast, Southwest, Southeast Regional BeefMeets

YBT training is open to all youth, ages 12 to 18, who are interested in promoting the beef industry.

Increasing the Efficiency of your Acres
Northwest, Northeast, Southwest, Southeast Regional BeefMeets

Dave Muth, Ag Solvers
With low commodity prices, marginal crop acres may benefit from alternative strategies. Learn how to maximize profit on every acre and revitalize your least productive acres.

Gaining Confidence in Feeder Cattle Prices
Northwest, Northeast and Southwest Regional BeefMeets

U.S. Department of Agriculture
What is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Feeder Cattle Index, and how does it impact the price of feeder cattle? This session will provide an overview of the history and development of the index as well as a discussion on how reporting takes place.

Legal Climate in Iowa
Northwest, Northeast, Southwest, Southeast Regional BeefMeets

Eldon McAfee, Brick Gentry
How is the legal climate for agriculture in Iowa changing and how will it affect your farm? Eldon will give a timely update on the Des Moines Waterworks lawsuit, various nuisance lawsuits and attorney general referrals for water quality violations.

Improved Replacement Selection
Northeast, Southwest and Southeast Regional BeefMeets

Patrick Gunn, ISU Extension
Research has shown that 75% of future income in the cow-calf operation may be derived from heifers that calve in the first 21 days of the calving season as 2-yr-olds.  Current heifer selection tools and strategies to identify these females earlier in the production cycle will be discussed.

Positioning for Success in the Economic Reset
Southwest and Southeast Regional BeefMeets

Dr. David Kohl, Professor Emeritus, Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, Virginia Tech
The agriculture industry is in a major economic transition.  The great commodity super cycle that fueled much of the income statement and balance sheet growth in agriculture is in the rear view mirror.  What will be the emerging trends impacting agriculture and rural America’s bottom line in the short and long run?  What are the latest trends and views in agriculture? What are some of the best management practices that could help you to position during this economic reset?  Be sure to attend this information packed, high energy session presented by Dr. David Kohl, Professor Emeritus, Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, Virginia Tech.

Nutritional Considerations for Starting Cattle Right
Southeast Regional BeefMeet
Dr. Drew Shain, Cattle Nutritionist - Purina Animal Nutrition
The key elements of nutrition and management of newly weaned or received cattle are explained. Outlines why nutrition is so important for starting cattle and how this can affect health and performance throughout the entire finishing period.
Sponsored by Purina Animal Nutrition

USDA Unveils New Improvement to Streamline Crop Reporting

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced that farmers and ranchers filing crop acreage reports with the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and participating insurance providers approved by the Risk Management Agency (RMA) now can provide the common information from their acreage reports at one office and the information will be electronically shared with the other location.

This new process is part of the USDA Acreage Crop Reporting Streamlining Initiative (ACRSI). This interagency collaboration also includes participating private crop insurance agents and insurance companies, all working to streamline the information collected from farmers and ranchers who participate in USDA programs.

"If you file your report at one location, the data that's important to both FSA and RMA will be securely and electronically shared with the other location," said FSA Administrator Val Dolcini. "This will avoid redundant and duplicative reporting, and we expect this to save farmers and ranchers time."

"Accuracy in crop reporting is a key component for crop insurance, because an error in this information can affect premiums or claims. This is going to greatly improve efficiencies and reduce mistakes," said RMA Administrator Brandon Willis.

Since 2009, USDA has been working to streamline the crop reporting process for agricultural producers, who have expressed concerns with providing the same basic common information for multiple locations. In 2013, USDA consolidated the deadlines to 15 dates for submitting these reports, down from the previous 54 dates at RMA and 17 dates for FSA. USDA representatives believe farmers and ranchers will experience a notable improvement in the coming weeks as they approach the peak season for crop reporting later this summer.

More than 93 percent of all annual reported acres to FSA and RMA now are eligible for the common data reporting, and USDA is exploring adding more crops. Producers must still visit both locations to validate and sign acreage reports, complete maps or provide program-specific information. The common data from the first-filed acreage report will now be available to pre-populate and accelerate completion of the second report. Plans are underway at USDA to continue building upon the framework with additional efficiencies at a future date.

Dolcini also reminded farmers and ranchers that they can now access their FSA farm information from the convenience of their home computer. "You can see your field boundaries, images of your farm, conservation status, operator and owner information and much more," said Dolcini.

The new customer self-service portal, known as FSAFarm+, gives farmers and ranchers online access to securely view, print or export their personal farm data. To enroll in the online service, producers are encouraged to contact their local FSA office for details.

Supreme Court Upholds Landowners Rights Challenging WOTUS Jurisdiction

Today, the Supreme Court in United States Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes Co., Inc., set a precedent that landowners may challenge the Corps’ jurisdictional determination specifying that a piece of property contains a “water of the United States.” The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association filed an amicus brief in support of Hawkes. NCBA President Tracy Brunner, said this is a major victory for landowners across the country.

“This case highlights the issues landowners and land-use stakeholders have with the Clean Water Act,” said Brunner. “Neither of the options provided to landowners are realistic under the current regulatory environment. Applying for a 404 permit is expensive, exhaustive and time consuming. Gambling on EPA enforcement and risking civil and criminal penalties is foolish. This case strikes a balance that at least gives us some measure of regulatory certainty in the notoriously unclear Clean Water Act.”

The Hawkes case involved three companies engaged in mining peat in Minnesota. Due to the difficulty inherent in determining the need for a 404 Dredge and Fill Permit, the Army Corps allows property owners to obtain a standalone jurisdictional determination if a particular piece of property contains a WOTUS and therefore requires a 404 permit before using the land. Upon receiving an approved jurisdictional determination that their land did contain a WOTUS, the companies exhausted the administrative remedies available and then filed suit in Federal District Court challenging the Corps’ jurisdictional determination. The government argued that such a jurisdictional determination was not final agency action and that landowners would have to either discharge without a permit and then challenge EPA enforcement or apply for a permit and challenge the outcome.

“Given the subjective nature of a determination and the inconsistent application of the Clean Water Act, knowing what is or is not a WOTUS was ripe for challenge,” said Brunner. “The ability to challenge a determination before going through the time-consuming and costly permitting process, or gambling on EPA enforcement provides a measure of fairness to landowners.”

In his concurrence, Justice Kennedy expressed the Court’s continued concern with the Clean Water Act, “[t]he Act… continues to raise troubling questions regarding the Government’s power to cast doubt on the full use and enjoyment of private property throughout the Nation.” NCBA is committed to continuing its WOTUS lawsuit on behalf of its members.

Farm Bureau Hails Supreme Court Victory: Farmers and Ranchers May Sue to Stop Clean Water Regulation of Ordinary Farmland

A unanimous Supreme Court today ruled landowners may challenge the federal government whenever the Army Corps of Engineers tries improperly to regulate land with regulations designed to protect water.

Landowners have attempted many times to challenge Corps rulings known as jurisdictional determinations, but the government successfully argued that those determinations were not "final agency actions" and the lawsuits were dismissed. Now, when the Corps asserts jurisdiction over low spots that look more like land than water, it will have to do so with the knowledge that its jurisdictional determination can be tested in court.

"Today's decision removes a huge roadblock that has prevented landowners from obtaining relief from the courts when the Corps illegally claims their land is federally regulated water," AFBF President Zippy Duvall said. "Now, farmers and ranchers can have their day in court when the government tells them they cannot plow a field or improve a ditch without a federal permit."

AFBF filed amicus curiae briefs in the lower court and the Supreme Court in support of the plaintiffs who were represented by the Pacific Legal Foundation. The case was titled United States Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes Co., Inc.

Today's ruling builds on another unanimous ruling, Sackett v. EPA. The Court today recognized that once the Corps finds that a landscape feature is a "water of the United States," there are immediate and often dire legal consequences to the landowner. A farmer can continue a farming activity that results in an unlawful discharge and face an enforcement action with civil fines up to $37,500 a day per discharge, or even criminal penalties. Or, the farmer can spend tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars seeking federal Clean Water Act permits over several years only to have the permit ultimately denied.

Tell the EPA that the RFS Works Today

With the opening of the public comment period regarding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's proposal to cut corn ethanol in the Renewable Fuel Standard by nearly 200 million gallons, the National Corn Growers Association urges farmers and their family and friends to email their opposition to this proposal as soon as possible, before the July 11 deadline.

For details on the proposal and a link to send a quick email, visit ncga.com/rfs. Various draft comments are available to enable both farmers and their non-farmer friends to easily send personalized notes to the EPA.

In addition to the RVO written comment period, EPA is holding a hearing to hear from interested parties on the proposal. The hearing will take place in Kansas City, Missouri on June 9.

NCGA and its state affiliates encourage farmers and friends to plan on testifying at the hearing. The association would like a strong corn grower contingent in attendance at the hearing to demonstrate to EPA how its proposals hurt rural America and corn farmers.  This is an excellent opportunity to make the case face-to-face with the actual decision makers.

"We are very clear to EPA about what we want," said NCGA President Chip Bowling. "It is simple: EPA should follow the statute. For farmers and others in rural America, this new EPA proposal means low corn prices and ethanol plant and industry cutbacks. And for everyone else, it means higher gas prices and dirtier air."

CWT Assists with 301,000 Pounds of Cheese and Butter

Cooperatives Working Together (CWT) has accepted 2 requests for export assistance from Foremost Farms and Tillamook County Creamery Association who have contracts to sell 259,043 pounds (118 metric tons) of Cheddar cheese and 41,888 pounds (19 metric tons) of butter to customers in Asia and the Middle East.  The product has been contracted for delivery in the period from June through November 2016.

So far this year, CWT has assisted member cooperatives who have contracts to sell 23.230 million pounds of American-type cheeses, 8.530 million pounds of butter (82% milkfat) and 18.464 million pounds of whole milk powder to twenty countries on five continents. The sales are the equivalent of 541.117 million pounds of milk on a milkfat basis.

Assisting CWT members through the Export Assistance program, in the long-term, helps member cooperatives gain and maintain market share, thus expanding the demand for U.S. dairy products and the U.S. farm milk that produces them. This, in turn, positively impacts all U.S. dairy farmers by strengthening and maintaining the value of dairy products that directly impact their milk price.

The Center for Food Integrity Expands to Canada

Canadian CFI aims to earn consumer trust in Canadian food and agriculture

The Center for Food Integrity (CFI) has expanded north with the launch of the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity (CCFI).

With a growing membership representing a diversity of the U.S. food system, CFI is a not-for-profit organization founded in 2007 to help today’s food system earn trust. The new Canada affiliate, a division of Food & Farm Care Canada, shares that mission.

“Canada faces many of the same challenges we do here, and with an increasingly interconnected global food system, expanding our North American presence will allow us to better serve members with international interests and locations as we help the food system align with consumer expectations,” said Terry Fleck, CFI executive director.  

“Public demand for transparency is growing and consumers want to know more about how their food is produced and who’s producing it,” said Crystal Mackay, Farm & Food Care Canada executive director. “The new Canadian Centre for Food Integrity will work with its members and the Canadian food system at large to share information and demonstrate our values when it comes to outstanding animal care, environmental stewardship and producing safe food.”

Like CFI, the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity will conduct annual consumer trust research to better understand changing public attitudes about food and agriculture, and to provide guidance to the Canadian food system. Results of CCFI’s first survey will be unveiled at the inaugural Public Trust Summit May 31 to June 2 in Ottawa, Ontario. Results of the survey are available at www.foodintegrity.ca.

CFI will now offer North American memberships for organizations and companies that have a presence in both the U.S. and Canada.

To learn more about CCFI, visit www.foodintegrity.ca. For more information about The Center for Food Integrity, visit www.foodintegrity.org.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Friday May 27 Ag News

Lower Elkhorn NRD receives grant to provide cost-share on flow meters

     The Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) recently received a grant from Nebraska’s new Water Sustainability Fund (WSF).  Nebraska’s Natural Resources Commission approved nearly $11.5 million in projects, with $900,000 being awarded to the LENRD for water and soil conservation.  The LENRD will provide a match of $600,000.  This will allow the district to have $1.5 million available for cost-share assistance on irrigation flow meters.

     At their May board meeting, the LENRD Board of Directors voted to utilize the funding to offer incentive payments of $250 per flow meter to producers who are approved for the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) funding.  They also agreed to offer payments of $500 per flow meter to producers who apply for the LENRD cost-share by June 30, 2017, if they are not receiving any other incentives or cost-share.  LENRD General Manager, Mike Sousek, said, “The deadline to have flow meters installed on all irrigation wells is January 1, 2018.  The cost-share is available for producers who get signed up before June of next year.”  Producers are asked to sign-up through their county Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) office to apply for the LENRD cost-share.

     The board also approved a contract with Aqua Geo Frameworks (AGF) for the 2016 Airborne Electromagnetic (AEM) project that will provide aquifer framework mapping across approximately 608 miles of the district, including portions of Cedar, Dixon, Knox, Madison, Pierce, Platte, Stanton, and Wayne counties.  Sousek added, “By continuing the flights, we can work on defining more aquifers and work with the UNL Conservation & Survey Division to complete an atlas of our district.  We have received $250,000 for this project from the WSF, and we will be matching up to $167,000 to continue the mapping project.”

     In other action, the board voted to provide a $2,197.70 grant for the Madison Public School’s Watershed Dynamics Program.  The request came from the school for their on-going sampling program of Taylor and Union Creeks.  The program is in its sixth year and provides hands-on learning for many students during the summer months.

     Funding was also requested by the Northeast Nebraska Weed Management Area, a group organized under the Northeast Nebraska RC&D, to match LB1038 funding for controlling invasive plant species.  The group is requesting funding from four area NRDs to control invasive plant species in the Elkhorn River Basin.  The board approved $5,000 for the project.

     A public hearing was also held, relating to the proposed amendments to the LENRD’s Erosion & Sediment Control Program.  The adopted changes will be added to the plan and can be viewed on the district’s website.

     The next board meeting will be held on Thursday, June 23 at 7:30 p.m. in the Lifelong Learning Center on the campus of Northeast Community College in Norfolk.  Visit the LENRD website to sign up for emails from the district.  Like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.  www.lenrd.org


    Simanti Banerjee, assistant professor of agricultural economics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, has received a four-year, $498,641 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to study the effectiveness of conservation auction policies.

    The grant will initiate a new research collaboration between UNL and Fordham University in New York City.

    Agricultural lands have the potential to deliver a wide variety of benefits to the environment. In an effort to preserve natural habitat, the USDA has implemented policies, such as the Conservation Reserve Program. In exchange for a yearly rental payment, farmers enrolled in CRP agree to remove environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production.

    However, the cost-effectiveness of these policies is uncertain. Fund disbursals are subject to budget constraints and often landowners end up being overcompensated. The USDA implements reverse auctions under the CRP to mitigate such overcompensation.

    "Since these payments are an integral part of the agricultural system of the U.S., scientific investigation is important to identify auction design features which contribute positively to cost-effectiveness, while generating environmental and economic benefits for agricultural communities and society at large," Banerjee said.

    Banerjee's project will use economic experiments to focus on the impact of information about the environmental effects of land use actions, auction format, social and community ties and individuals' tendencies to seek peer approval. Her experiments will involve real people making choices on the basis of which they will be paid. The findings will provide insights about human behavior under changing conditions.

    The grant was made through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Foundational program, administered by USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The program supports projects that sustain and enhance agricultural and related activities in rural areas, protect the environment, enhance quality of life and alleviate poverty.

    UNL students will play a critical role in the project, according to Banerjee.

    "The economic experiments will serve as a means to engage university students and stakeholders in experiential learning, providing them with a keener appreciation for human decision making," she said.

    The role that empathy plays in decision making is the focus of an additional grant awarded to Banerjee and Mark Burbach, environmental scientist in the UNL School of Natural Resources, along with colleagues at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. The two-year, $80,258 grant from the Center for Behavioral and Experimental Agri-Environmental Research, will evaluate the effectiveness of empathetic messaging in conservation stewardship program participation.

    The research team will work with the Natural Resources Conservation Service to send letters to farm operators, inviting them to participate in a Conservation Stewardship Program in exchange for a financial incentive. Previous economic experimental research conducted by the team suggests that introducing empathetic messaging into that letter could result in a higher adoption of conservation practices.

    "We hope to see a much higher adoption in conservation when using a combination of empathy and financial incentives," Burbach said.

    The project is one of 12 behavioral science projects awarded by the Center for Behavioral and Experimental Agri-Environmental Research that aim to explain the complex human responses to agri-environmental policies implemented by the government, with the goal of helping to design better public programs.

USDA Announces More Than $8 Million in Payments to Support the Production of Advanced Biofuel

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $8.8 million to boost the production of advanced biofuels and sustain jobs at renewable energy facilities in 39 states. USDA continues to lead the way in promotion of advanced biofuel production, from implementing the revised Farm Bill bio-refinery program to the launching of the Green Fleet with the Department of the Navy and developing the Biogas Opportunities Roadmap, which outlines voluntary strategies to overcome barriers to expansion and development of a robust biogas industry within the United States.

"Advanced biofuels expand America's energy options and increase our sources of homegrown, renewable energy," Vilsack said. "These payments not only help to spur biofuel production, but also protect the environment and help create jobs by building a renewable energy economy in rural areas."

The funding is being provided through USDA's Advanced Biofuel Payment Program, which was established in the 2008 Farm Bill. Payments are made to biofuels producers based on the amount of advanced biofuels produced from renewable biomass, other than corn kernel starch. Examples of eligible feedstocks include crop residue, food and yard waste, vegetable oil, and animal fat. Through this program to date, USDA has made $308 million in payments to 382 producers in 47 states and territories. These payments have produced enough biofuel to provide more than 391 billion kilowatt hours of electric energy.

Ag Processing, Inc. headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska will receive a $486,725 payment for biodiesel production from soybean, canola and waste vegetable oils at their St. Joseph, Missouri, Sargeant Bluffs, Iowa, and Algona, Iowa production facilities.  

Quad County Corn Processors Co-Op of Galva, Iowa, is receiving a $2,011 payment to convert more than 39 million gallons of corn kernel fiber into 660,000 gallons of cellulosic ethanol. The company converts the fiber into ethanol and other products using a process developed by its own research team.

Secretary Vilsack has recognized the biobased economy as one of the pillars that strengthen rural communities. Through the Advanced Biofuel Payment Program and other USDA programs, USDA is working to support the research, investment and infrastructure necessary to build a strong biofuels industry that creates jobs and broadens the range of feedstocks used to produce renewable fuel. Over the course of this Administration, USDA has invested $332 million to accelerate research on renewable energy ranging from genomic research on bioenergy feedstock crops, to development of biofuel conversion processes and costs/benefit estimates of renewable energy production.

In January, Secretary Vilsack joined Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus to launch the Great Green Fleet, and witnessed destroyer USS William P. Lawrence (DDG 110) being replenished with advanced biofuel made from waste beef fat. Aviation biofuels, like those used by the Navy, are creating new markets for energy created from agricultural waste products.

USDA has also supported efforts to build six new biorefineries to produce advanced biofuels in Louisiana, Georgia, Oregon, Nevada, North Carolina, and Iowa, in addition to three existing facilities in New Mexico, Michigan and Florida.

Investments in renewable energy and the biobased economy are a leading part of USDA's commitment to mitigating climate change and promoting a clean-energy economy. This month, the Department is examining what a changing climate means to agriculture and how USDA is working to reduce greenhouse gases. 

ISU Field Days Provide Insight into Crops Research

Iowa State University Research and Demonstration Farms and ISU Extension and Outreach will highlight current research during early summer field days. Research and Demonstration Farm research is being conducted on crops and soil health, cover crops, water quality and drainage.

The research farms host field days to give the public a chance to see research projects in progress and talk with researchers and extension staff involved with the experiments.
Seven field days in June and July will highlight crop and soil research

    June 21 – McNay Memorial Research and Demonstration Farm (45249 170th Avenue, Chariton) – 12:45-4 p.m. or 5:30-8:30 p.m.
    June 21 – Allee Demonstration Farm (2030 640th Street, Newell) - June 21 time TBD
    June 21 – Muscatine Island Research and Demonstration Farm (111 North Street, Fruitland) - 5:30 p.m.
    June 23 – Southeast Research and Demonstration Farm (3115 Louisa-Washington Road, Crawfordsville) - 1 p.m.
    June 23 – Northern Research and Demonstration Farm (310 S. Main Street, Kanawha) - 9 a.m.-12 p.m.
    June 28 – Northeast Research and Demonstration Farm (3321 290th Street, Nashua) - 1-4:30 p.m.
    July 13 – Northwest Research and Demonstration Farm (6320 500th Street, Sutherland) - 10 a.m.

All field days are open to the public. No registration is required. Field days are held regardless of weather and many of the events serve a meal. A full schedule of 2016 field days is linked to the research farm website at: http://farms.ag.iastate.edu/ .

Contact the research farm in your area or the ISU Research and Demonstration Farm office (515-294-5045) for specific details on each event.

2016 Hay & Forage Expo to Focus on Education

The Hay & Forage Expo returns to central Iowa for the 30th annual event. The show is scheduled for June 22 and 23 at the Central Iowa Expo facility located just east of Boone, Iowa. The Central Iowa Expo site is also the host for the 2016 Farm Progress Show which will be held in late August.

The Hay & Forage Expo has always been known as the best place to see the latest hay and forage equipment and an expanded list of programs has been added to the agenda for this year’s show.

“Farmers who attend the Hay & Forage Expo love the demonstrations and enjoy watching the equipment in action. We wanted to expand on that and offer educational programs as well,” says Matt Jungmann, events manager for Penton Agriculture. “Two of our education programs are hot topics in agriculture, drones and the weather. Producers want to use drones to improve field scouting and we want to help them understand the regulations and restrictions of this type of technology. And weather is always a crucial subject for farmers and they want to learn about weather trends and how they will affect the growing season.”

“Another program we are excited to offer this year is a hay auction,” comments Jungmann. Scheduled for Wednesday only, the hay auction will be conducted by the American Ag Video Auction. 

All presentations will be held at the show site in the Morton Building located at Sixth Street and Central Avenue.
Educational Program and Auction Schedule

11:15 - Weather Outlook for Crops 2016 and Beyond presented by Prof. S. Elwynn Taylor, Iowa State University.  A very strong El Nino that reminds us of 1983 and 1988 has folks in the Corn Belt a bit on edge in 2016.  But, the El Nino event of 1998 was a "good" crop event.  Weather records and forecasts are giving us ever-better ways to anticipate how our crops will turn out.

12:15 – The Future of Commercial Drone Operations presented by Philip A. K. Stiles, Esq. The use of drones in the agriculture industry has exploded over the last five years. Now with the FAA catching up on regulating drone use, Stiles will explain current regulations, what you need to know if you are using a drone service or flying your own drone and talk about the future of drone use in the ag industry.

3:00 – Hay Auction – WEDNESDAY ONLY. Conducted by American Ag Video Auction. American Ag Video Auction is an online hay marketing company that streams live, real-time auctions. Auction personnel go to a producer’s farm or ranch, video and test hay, and then market it by utilizing the live real-time video auction platform. American Ag Video Auction is committed to building lasting relationships with their buyers and sellers. They provide an innovative and professional way to market hay, while expanding and creating market opportunities worldwide.
New Products and Equipment

Sponsored by Penton Agriculture's local farm publications, The Farmer, Wisconsin Agriculturist and Wallaces Farmer, the Hay & Forage Expo provides easy access to the new hay and forage technology with an extensive exhibit area and working field demonstrations conducted throughout each show day.

The two-day hay extravaganza showcases mowing, conditioning, baling and hay handling demonstrations on prime alfalfa acres. Visitors have multiple opportunities to compare the most popular equipment brands operating side by side under actual field conditions.

A 10-acre exhibit field highlights displays from the major and shortline specialty manufacturers with a focus on products aimed at boosting the efficiency and profitability of hay and forage productions. The Hay & Forage Expo is a one-stop shopping and learning venue for hay and forage producers. Visitors can examine the latest balers, forage choppers, disk mower conditioners, tedders, rakes, mergers, bale carriers, forage seed and more hay production products.
Make Plans to Attend

The 30th annual Hay & Forage Expo will be held June 22 and 23, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Central Iowa Expo facility near Boone, Iowa. The site is located west of I-35 on Hwy. 30; the show's website features a map and detailed driving directions. Admission is free; parking is $10 per vehicle. For more information, visit HayExpo.com or call (866) 264-7469. The public is welcome.

EPA Plans National Public Hearing for Renewable Fuel Standard Program in Kansas City, Mo., June 9

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency  is announcing a public hearing to be held in Kansas City, Missouri on June 9, 2016, for the proposed rule "Renewable Fuel Standard Program: Standards for 2017 and Biomass-Based Diesel Volume for 2018." The hearing will provide an opportunity for the public to comment on the proposal. The hearing will begin at 9:00 a.m. and will end when all parties present who wish to speak have had an opportunity to do so. All persons wanting to speak should register in advance, by May 31, 2016.  To register to speak at the meeting, or for further information, e-mail RFS_Hearing@epa.gov. 

Oral comments and supporting information presented at the public hearing will be considered with the same weight as written statements and supporting information submitted during the public comment period. Written comments must be received by the last day of the comment period (July 11, 2016) and submitted to one of the addresses listed in the notice of proposed rulemaking. For more information about the public hearing see the Federal Register Notice: https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2016-05-25/pdf/2016-12358.pdf

The pre-publication version of the proposed rulemaking can be found at https://www.epa.gov/renewable-fuel-standard-program/standards-2017-and-biomass-based-diesel-volume-2018-documents

The Clean Air Act requires EPA to set annual RFS volume requirements for four categories of biofuels. By displacing fossil fuels, biofuels help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help strengthen energy security. EPA implements the program in consultation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Statement from Agriculture Secretary Vilsack on the Latest Quarterly Agricultural Trade Forecast

American farmers and ranchers continue to compete and win in foreign markets. Even in today’s environment of lower commodity prices, abundant global supplies and a strong U.S. dollar, exports remain a key pillar supporting U.S. agriculture and rural communities. Today’s quarterly agricultural trade forecast shows the resilience of our agricultural sector despite the economic headwinds. Export volumes continue to post near-record totals across many key products.

Oilseed and product exports are forecast at $26.1 billion, up $700 million, and grain and feed exports are forecast at $27.7 billion, up $500 million from the February forecast. The report also underscores the importance of creating new export opportunities for our producers by knocking down tariffs and opening new markets through free trade agreements.

Exports comprise 20 percent of U.S. farm income, drive rural economic activity, and support more than one million American jobs. We have the opportunity to expand those benefits even further through passage of new trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. A report published by the International Trade Commission just last week shows that the TPP will significantly expand U.S. exports to some of the world’s fastest-growing economies and add an additional $10 billion to annual U.S. agricultural output by 2032.

Trade agreements such as the TPP are key to a stable and prosperous farm economy. They can help boost global demand for U.S. farm and food products, increase U.S. market share versus our competitors in key markets, and ensure that our farmers and ranchers have stable and predictable markets for the quality goods they produce.  Congress should move quickly to approve the TPP.

USDA Extends Deadline for Recording Farm Structure

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced a one-time, 30-day extension to the June 1 deadline for recording farm organization structures related to Actively Engaged in Farming determinations. This date is used to determine the level of interest an individual holds in a legal entity for the applicable program year. Farming operations will now have until July 1 to complete their restructuring or finalize any operational change. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued the extension in response to farmers and ranchers who requested more time to comply, and to assure that everyone has enough time to provide their information under the new rules.

"Most farming and ranching organizations have been able to comply with the actively engaged rule," said Vilsack. "This one-time extension should give producers who may still need to update their farm structure information the additional time to do so."

The 2014 Farm Bill provided the Secretary with the direction and authority to amend the Actively Engaged in Farming rules related to management. The final rule established limits on the number of individuals who can qualify as actively engaged using only management. Only one payment limit for management is allowed under the rule, with the ability to request up to two additional qualifying managers operations for large and complex operations.

The rule does not apply to farming operations comprised entirely of family members. The rule also does not change the existing regulations related to contributions of land, capital, equipment or labor, or the existing regulations related to landowners with a risk in the crop or to spouses. Producers that planted fall crops have until the 2017 crop year to comply with the new rules. The payment limit associated with Farm Service Agency farm payments is generally limited annually to $125,000 per individual or entity.

Thursday May 26 Ag News

Fischer Introduces Bill to Alleviate Burdens for NE Producers

Today, U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW), introduced legislation that would provide regulatory relief for Nebraska’s agriculture producers. The bill, known as the Farmers Undertake Environmental Land Stewardship (FUELS) Act, would modify costly EPA regulations that could negatively affect farmers and ranchers with on-farm fuel storage. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), the Chairman of the EPW Committee, joined Senator Fischer as an original cosponsor of the legislation.

Senator Fischer released the following statement this afternoon regarding the legislation:

“I am proud to introduce the Senate-version of the FUELS Act, which would provide relief for farms and ranches with on-farm fuel storage from unnecessary regulations meant for oil refineries. This legislation will lower costs and cut red tape for Nebraska families who work hard to feed the world.”

Barb Cooksley, President of Nebraska Cattlemen, released the following statement in support of the FUELS Act:
“Nebraska Cattlemen appreciates Senator Fischer’s help in providing much needed regulatory relief for on-farm fuel storage. The SPCC rule would subject Nebraska’s farms and livestock operations to the same rigorous regulations as major oil refineries. The EPA’s one-sized-fits-all approach would result in excessive compliance costs and threaten our agricultural producers, the lifeblood of our state.”

Steve Nelson, President of the Nebraska Farm Bureau, released the following statement in support of the FUELS Act:
“We greatly appreciate the leadership Sen. Fischer has demonstrated in introducing the FUELS Act. This legislation provides a much needed, common sense and reasonable approach to how farms and ranches are to be regulated under EPA’s SPPC rule. If enacted, this legislation will save Nebraska farmers and ranchers time, money and cut through needless red tape. We look forward to working with her to secure passage of this important piece of legislation.”

The EPA’s Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) regulations were originally designed for major oil refineries, but over the past several years, the agency has threatened to subject the agriculture community to these regulations. This regulatory overreach would require farmers and ranchers to make costly structural upgrades to their facilities, placing tremendous burdens on farms and ranches when their fuel storage facilities do not pose significant risk to water quality.

In 2014, Senator Fischer successfully brokered a bipartisan provision in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014, which was eventually signed into law that addressed the EPA’s SPPC rule. Fischer’s provision provided an immediate 6,000-gallon exemption for agriculture producers. Additionally, the provision required the EPA to conduct a study to review and determine the most appropriate level of exemption for on-farm fuel storage between 2,500 and 6,000 gallons, based on significant risk of discharge to water.

In June 2015, the EPA published its study on the SPCC rule, which raised further concerns that Nebraska farms would still be significantly impacted by SPCC requirements and costs.

The 2016 Water Resources and Development Act contained important provisions that would provide increased flexibility for local stakeholders and communities as they manage and protect their water. However, Senator Fischer voted against the bill during the EPW Committee’s markup of this legislation because it did not address the inadequate EPA study and the SPCC fuel storage issue, which is critically important for Nebraska.

Senator Fischer’s FUELS Act would exempt the following from the SPCC rule:
·         Farms with 10,000 gallons or less of storage.
·         Farms with an aggregate above ground storage of 10,001 to 42,000 gallons and/or no history of spills. These farms would be required to maintain a self-certified spill plan to respond to any potential spills.
·         All aggregate above ground storage tanks for animal feed ingredients, regardless of capacity. 

Nebraska Corn 2016 Internships Announced

The Nebraska Corn Board (NCB) and Nebraska Corn Growers Association (NeCGA) are proud to support seven college students as interns starting this summer.

Five of the seven interns will be hosted by national cooperators of NCB, including: the National Corn Growers Association in St. Louis, Missouri and Washington, D.C., the U.S. Meat Export Federation in Denver, Colorado and the U.S. Grains Council in Washington, D.C. and internationally in the Panama City, Panama office. The other two internship programs will be yearlong internships in the Nebraska Corn offices in Lincoln.

“We are thrilled to once again be able to offer these various internship opportunities to an excellent group of students,” said Kelly Brunkhorst, executive director for the Nebraska Corn Board. “Nebraskans should be very proud of these bright and energetic collegiate candidates. They represent an insightful next generation of young people who will help bring a new dimension to producing food, feed, fuel and fiber for a growing world population.”

Below is a listing of students who were selected for this year’s internships and a short description of what they’ll be experiencing. You can keep up with these students and their experiences throughout the summer on Nebraska Corn’s blog entitled “Nebraska Corn Kernels.” Visit NebraskaCorn.blogspot.com to learn more.

The National Corn Growers Association headquarters’ office in St. Louis, Missouri, will host Lauren Stohlmann of Murdock, Nebraska, as their summer intern supported by a partnership between NCB and NCGA. Lauren will be a senior in Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Communications at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She will be primarily working with market development on the American Ethanol NASCAR sponsorship as well as participating in a variety of other communications and grassroots activities.

The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) office in Washington, D.C. will host Colton Flower of Scottsbluff, Nebraska, as their summer intern supported by a partnership between NCB and NCGA. Colton will be a senior in Agricultural Education/Leadership with minors in Agribusiness-Entrepreneurship and Animal Science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. During his internship, he will be involved with a variety of agricultural issues related to environmental regulations, transportation, free trade agreements, biotechnology, ethanol, and energy.

The U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), located in Denver, Colorado will host Kelsey Scheer of St. Paul, Nebraska, as their summer intern supported by a partnership between NCB and USMEF. Kelsey will be a senior in Animal Science with a Production and Management option from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She will be assisting with beef, pork and lamb specific projects, as well as promotions and international relationship opportunities.

The U.S. Grains Council (USGC) in Washington, DC will host Maddy Breeling of Omaha, Nebraska, as their summer intern supported by a partnership between NCB and USGC. Maddy will be a senior studying Global Studies, with minors in Business and National Security at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. She will be working with the global programs team and assisting with preparation for international trade teams and other market development programs that help to develop demand for U.S. coarse grains and co-products.

In cooperation with NCB, the U.S. Grains Council will also host Andrea Gurney from Torrington, Wyoming, as their international intern in the Panama City, Panama office. Andrea will be a senior majoring in Agricultural Business at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She will be working with the western hemisphere team on issues related to global trade in food and agricultural products, assisting with communication to importers.

The NeCGA office in Lincoln is happy to welcome Laura Lundeen of Axtell, Nebraska, for a yearlong internship. Laura will be a junior in Agricultural Education with minors in Animal Science and Agronomy at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She will oversee NeCGA’s online communications as well as contribute to a variety of communication and outreach projects.

The NCB office in Lincoln is excited to welcome Morgan Schilling of McCook, Nebraska, for a yearlong internship. Morgan will be a senior studying Agricultural Education with a minor in Agronomy at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. As part of his internship, he will oversee Nebraska Corn’s crop progress report placement, contribute to communication programs and projects and will help coordinate educational and promotional activities.

“Nebraska Corn’s internship program has been engaging students for over 20 years and has been a great investment into Nebraska’s agricultural future. As our board has observed, the educational and career advantages these internships have provided to students over the years, have been instrumental in motivating students go on to excel in agricultural focused careers,” added Brunkhorst.

Corn Groups Secure USDA Funds for Phenotyping Research

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it will make available $250,000 to match checkoff investments from the Iowa Corn Promotion Board (ICPB), Illinois Corn Marketing Board and Nebraska Corn Board for phenotyping research. This is part of a larger $130 million research initiative announced by USDA to fund research, education, and extension projects. ICPB initiated the a phenotyping research initiative, known as Genomes to Fields, to expand our understanding of interacting effects that corn genetics and crop environments have on corn yields.

"We thank the USDA for providing us the ability to advance our plant productivity research," said Iowa Corn Research and Business Development Chair Curt Mether, a farmer from Logan, Iowa. "Our goal is to make the connection in understanding how genes of the corn plant perform under different environmental growing conditions and how various plant traits will be impacted. If scientists can predict how corn traits will perform, given their understanding of the genes in a hybrid and how they react to environment stressors, this will enable plant breeders to design better corn plants for improved productivity to meet the growing demand for food, feed and fuel in the future."

The key objectives of this research are to:

-- Develop a public corn phenotype database to allow study of mechanisms by which genes interact with the environment to influence traits

-- Develop new methods and devices to analyze the relationship between genetic, trait and environmental data to predict performance of plants

-- Be able to predict the growth and yield of a corn plant given the genetic background and the environment

-- Convert the corn genome sequence into functional knowledge

Scientists seeking funding from this USDA announcement must also request a letter of support from the Iowa Corn Promotion Board. Scientific proposals are due to USDA on July 28.

"This is another example of checkoff dollars being leveraged on behalf of corn farmers to improve long term profitability," explained Mether.

Iowa Corn Applauds Governor Branstad’s Extension of Retailers Renewable Fuels Incentives

Iowans driving flex fuel vehicles received good news this week as  Iowa Governor Terry Branstad signed into law a bill extending tax provisions for fuel retailers providing Iowa motorists with homegrown, renewable ethanol and biodiesel.

Senate File 2309 is an act that extends the per gallon income tax benefits for retail stations who choose to offer higher blends of ethanol (E15 and E85) and/or biodiesel (B5 and B11) to their customers at the pump through 2024. This bill passed by the legislature this session, with bipartisan support in both the Iowa House and Iowa Senate.

“We thank Governor Branstad and the Iowa legislature for providing continued support for retailers offering higher blends of ethanol and biodiesel to Iowa consumers at the fuel pump,” said Iowa Corn Growers Association President Bob Hemesath, a farmer from Decorah. “The renewable fuels industry provides 43,000 jobs to our state. These types of investments ensure the biofuels industry continues to thrive and support rural communities across our state.”

The E85 Promotion Tax Credit, available for fuel blends containing 70 to 85 percent ethanol, was extended at 16 cents per gallon through 2024.  The E15 tax credit, available for fuel blends containing 15 to 69 percent ethanol, was extended through 2024 at 3 cents per gallon from September 16 through May 31, and 10 cents per gallon from June 1 through September 15 to help alleviate the summertime blending issues for registered E15.

IFBF Economic Summit to feature panel of trade experts to examine critical export challenges and opportunities for farmers

A downturned economy has farmers facing uncertainty and a growing set of new challenges both on the farm and in the export market.  The 2016 Iowa Farm Bureau Economic Summit, titled “Buckle Up for Bumpy Ride,” to be held June 27 in West Des Moines, seeks to answer common questions farmers have about their challenges today and in the future.

One of the mounting challenges farmers face is challenges in the export market both from international competitors and high tariffs on beef and pork, limiting the U.S. exports of those commodities.  Additionally, here at home, the leading candidates for U.S. President have been critical of potential trade agreements, such as the TransPacific Partnership (TPP), which farmers consider essential for the sustainability of their family farms.

“Meeting these challenges and remaining competitive in the export markets is extremely important for Iowa crop and livestock farmers,” said Dave Miller, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF) director of research and commodity services.  “That’s why exports is one of our focal points in our upcoming Economic Summit.”

IFBF’s June 27 Economic Summit features a panel of trade experts who will examine the numerous export challenges and opportunities, both domestically and internationally, that impact a farmer’s operation.  Miller noted that events that can affect exports are often difficult to read and comprehend, which is why the expert panel will provide summit attendees with clarity and a realistic outlook for the future of important trade deals.

The international trade panel at the summit will feature Erin Borror of the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF); Sam Funk, chief economist of the United Soybean Board (USB); and Veronica Nigh Swerdlow, trade specialist for the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF).

“These presenters will provide us perspective on the potential for exports as well as an outlook for Congressional approval of the TPP and the proposed TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union,” Miller said.

Additionally, the panelists will look at trade, as it pertains to the 2016 U.S. Presidential campaign and the impact on farm exports.  Both expected nominees, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and businessman Donald Trump, have been critical of TPP and blamed the trade agreement for the loss of American jobs, and have expressed opposition to the multi-nation trade deal.

“There is a concern that these stances could roll back trade agreements or even set off a trade war,” Miller said.  “Historically, agriculture thrives under trade agreements, but feels the brunt of the negative impact during trade disputes.  It’s important for all of us in agriculture to see the potential consequences.”

The Economic Summit will also feature panels on other key issues facing farmers today, such as trends in land prices and rental rates, the ag lending climate and outlook for farm economy, and key technology such as big data and unmanned aerial systems or drones.

Mike Pearson of IPTV’s Market to Market will moderate the one-day event which will be held at IFBF headquarters, 5400 University Avenue in West Des Moines on June 27, beginning at 7:30 a.m.  There will also be special panel discussions on key issues and experts to take questions.

Summit registration, which includes access to all presentations and lunch, is $75 for Farm Bureau members and $100 for non-members.  Register now for this essential risk management seminar.  Visit www.iowafarmbureau.com or call Lavonne Baldwin at 515-225-5633 or email lbaldwin@ifbf.org.

Current National Drought Summary


This U.S. Drought Monitor week saw minor improvements in drought conditions in areas of the West including: northeastern California, northern Nevada, northwestern New Mexico, and southeastern Alaska. In Texas, persistent rainfall led to the complete removal of drought conditions from the state. In the Northeast, Northwest, and Southeast, short-term precipitation deficits, low streamflows, and pockets of dry soils led to further deterioration of conditions. Significant rainfall accumulations this week were observed along the western Gulf Coast, portions of the Mid-Atlantic, Northern Rockies, and Southeast. In southeastern Florida, seven-day rainfall totals were impressive with some coastal areas receiving nearly fifteen inch accumulations. Temperatures across most of the conterminous U.S. were below normal during the past week with the largest negative departures across the Central and Southern Plains, lower Midwest and Mid-Atlantic where average temperatures were four-to-ten degrees below normal. Conversely, temperatures were four-to-ten degrees above normal in the North Plains and High Plains of Montana.

The Plains

Across the Plains, only minor changes were made on the map this week including removal of the remaining area of Moderate Drought (D1) from west-central Oklahoma. Overall, the region was relatively dry in western portions while eastern portions received modest rainfall accumulations of generally less than two inches. Temperatures were two-to-ten degrees above average in the Northern Plains while further south below normal temperatures prevailed.

Looking Ahead

The NWS WPC 7-Day Quantitative Precipitation Forecast (QPF) calls for significant rainfall accumulations across the nation’s midsection – primarily focused on Texas, Plains, and western portions of the Midwest with accumulations from three-to-six inches while much of the South and Western U.S. area forecasted to be generally dry. The CPC 6–10 day outlooks call for a high probability of above normal temperatures in the eastern half of the U.S. and Far West while below normal temperatures are expected in the Desert Southwest, extending northward into the eastern Great Basin and Central Rockies. Below normal precipitation is forecasted for the Pacific Northwest, much of California, western Great Basin, and across portions of the Northeast while there is a high probability of above normal precipitation across the Northern Rockies, Plains, Mid-Atlantic, South, and Southeast.

FY 2016 Exports Forecast at $124.5 billion; Imports at a Record $114.8 Billion

Agricultural exports in FY2016 are forecast at $124.5 billion, which are $500 million below the projection and $15.2 billion below FY2015 exports - according to the most recent USDA Economic Research Service report issued Thursday afternoon. Grain and feed exports are forecast at $27.7 billion, up $500 million from the February forecast, primarily due to larger wheat and corn volumes and higher unit values for corn and sorghum. Oilseed and product exports are forecast at $26.1 billion, up $700 million in response to stronger soybean and soybean meal export volumes and higher soybean unit values. Cotton exports are forecast at $3.1 billion, down $100 million from the February forecast. The forecast for livestock, poultry, and dairy is lowered $300 million to $25.4 billion as lower dairy, poultry product, and beef exports are not offset by gains in other livestock products. The forecast for horticultural products is lowered $1.2 billion to $33.5 billion. This is the second consecutive quarter-to-quarter downward revision and the total would be the first year-over-year decline since FY2009. This reduction is mainly due to sharply lower unit prices of pistachios and walnuts, as well as reduced almond shipments to the EU and China.

U.S. agricultural imports are forecast at a record $114.8 billion, down $3.7 billion from  February, mostly from a decline in tropical products. The U.S. agricultural trade surplus is forecast at $9.7 billion, down from $25.7 billion in FY2015.  

See the entire report here... http://ers.usda.gov/media/2093596/us-trade-outlook-aes92.pdf.

USMEF Board Meeting Gets Underway in St. Louis

The U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) Board of Directors Meeting and Product Showcase kicked off Wednesday in St. Louis, Missouri. Attendees were welcomed to the event by Richard Fordyce, director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture. Fordyce discussed the important role exports have played in making agriculture Missouri’s largest industry, and outlined several initiatives designed to promote agricultural development in the state – including programs designed to attract and retain young farmers and ranchers.

“If agriculture is going to maintain that No. 1 ranking in Missouri, we’re going to have to grow that new crop of leaders,” Fordyce said. “We need to work with young people to continue to ignite the passion they have for agriculture, continue to cultivate that interest, and move them forward in their agricultural careers.”

Fordyce also discussed his department’s efforts to promote Missouri’s agricultural products in international markets, including an upcoming trade mission to Cuba next week.

Wednesday’s keynote address was provided by Jonathan Cordone, USDA deputy under secretary for farm and foreign agricultural services. Cordone noted that USDA currently has 93 international offices covering more than 170 countries on behalf of U.S. agriculture. He stressed the importance of market access for U.S. products, which has been enhanced in recent years through negotiation and ratification of several trade agreements. But Cordone also acknowledged that trade agreements are only as valuable as the United States’ ability to enforce them.

“We have an excellent record of ensuring that countries cut their tariffs as they promise to do in our trade agreements, and historically this has been the primary force driving our increased exports to FTA partners,” Cordone explained. “But that’s not the whole story. There are non-tariff barriers that unjustly restrict our access in some markets, and USMEF and its members know better than most that other countries are increasingly deploying non-tariff barriers as their protectionist tool of choice.”

Cordone emphasized USDA efforts to address these barriers through bilateral engagement, noting, “This goes on every day, and without much fanfare at all.” He said it is important for USDA to better inform policymakers, industry stakeholders and the public about the “real-world success stories” resulting from this constant engagement with trading partners.

Also addressing USMEF members was Jesus Madrazo, Monsanto’s vice president for corporate engagement. Madrazo discussed ways in which Monsanto is collaborating with industry partners to meet growing global food demand, but to do so while promoting environmental stewardship and addressing concerns such as climate change, water usage and scarcity of agricultural land. He applauded the increased willingness of agricultural producers to engage with the public on these issues.

“It has been a real privilege to see how many more people are participating in conversations in social media and in other forums where agriculture did not show up in the past,” Madrazo noted. “Now we’re seeing the voice of agriculture represented in forums where consumers typically get their information, and that’s a great thing.”

In addition to the lineup of guest speakers, attendees also heard from USMEF Chair Roel Andriessen, who heads international sales for Tyson Fresh Meats. Andriessen gave USMEF members an update on the organization’s strategic planning efforts and outlined the process through which USMEF applies for funding from the USDA Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development Program.

USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng also addressed Wednesday’s opening general session, providing his thoughts on global market conditions and stressing the importance of exports in advancing growth and profitability in the U.S. meat industry. Seng lamented the recent increase in anti-trade sentiment in the U.S. political climate, noting the critical role trade has historically played in the country’s growth and development.

“Trade is being discussed – and being cussed – like never before,” Seng said. “But in my view, trade is really in our DNA.”

Thursday’s agenda includes a panel discussion on the impact of Russia’s recent decline as a meat importer, and how this is affecting trading patterns across the globe. A panel discussion will also be held on the impact of currencies and exchange rates on red meat trade. USMEF’s standing committees – the Pork and Allied Industries Committee, Beef and Allied Industries Committee, Exporter Committee and Feedgrain and Oilseed Caucus – will also meet.

Thursday evening features the USMEF Product Showcase, in which member companies will display beef, pork and lamb products for international buyers. This week USMEF is hosting 16 trade teams that include about 130 buyers from key markets across the world. In addition to attending the meeting in St Louis, these buyers had opportunities earlier in the week to observe U.S. meat production, processing and merchandising practices, and to visit several farming and ranching operations.

USGC Building On U.S. Coarse Grain Export Momentum

After months of struggling corn exports due to a strong U.S. dollar and larger than expected global supplies, U.S. corn exports are on the rise with key markets picking up demand late in the 2015/2016 marketing year. The U.S. Grains Council (USGC) will use this success to build momentum for corn exports into 2016/2017 and beyond.

As of May 19, sales of U.S. corn totaled 41.8 million metric tons (1.6 billion bushels) for the marketing year ending Sept. 30, which is down 1.2 million tons (47.2 million bushels) from the same time last year. However, the brisk pace of corn sales in recent weeks is narrowing that gap. For example, during the week of May 6 to 12, U.S. corn net sales were up 33 percent from the previous week and 13 percent from the prior four-week average.

“We are excited to see demand for U.S. corn increasing around the globe as we are three-quarters of the way through a tough marketing year,” said USGC President and CEO Tom Sleight. “Our efforts on the ground in more than 50 global markets have helped maintain and build this demand each and every day.”

The Council’s plans for the remainder of 2016 are aimed at continuing this uptick as well as laying the groundwork for ongoing demand in future marketing years.

A major upcoming program is Export Exchange 2016, a global conference sponsored by the Council and the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) every other year that hosts 200 key customers from around the world who also attend pre- and post-tours of the United States’ production areas.

“The buyers who participate in this conference not only do business directly while there, they also make connections that facilitate future sales,” Sleight said. “This has become one of our premiere activities that helps build demand in the near future and over the long term.”

In addition to the trade teams coming into the United States for the Export Exchange event, the Council will host teams throughout the summer. One of the first teams of the season will happen in mid-June when Taiwanese swine producers, government officials, researchers and association representatives visit the Midwest to learn about both modern U.S. swine production practices and the U.S. coarse grains industry.

“Trade teams are a critical and unique part of USGC’s programming each year,” Sleight said. “These teams not only educate decision makers in export markets but also allow members of the U.S. industry to build personal relationships with their customers that can solidify long-term business and prompt new sales.”

Of course, the Council is also undertaking long-term demand building activities around the globe. Examples of these include aqua feeding trials in Vietnam and the Middle East and North Africa; working with distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS) distributors in Southeast Mexico; promoting the clean air advantages of U.S. ethanol to interested Japanese audiences; and conducting technical programs to train the Peruvian industry on U.S. contracting procedures and purchasing specifications.

“USGC staff members around the world promote the high-quality U.S. brand that is invaluable to international buyers," Sleight said. "Whatever the market conditions, our work is never done."

NCGA Disappointed in House Failure to Support Inland Waterways Infrastructure

The National Corn Growers Association expressed disappoint that the House of Representatives failed to pass the FY17 Energy and Water Appropriations bill today and urged members to work collaboratively to find a way to pass this important legislation as quickly as possible.

"NCGA, along with 19 other ag groups, sent a letter to the House Appropriations Committee earlier this spring supporting the revitalization of our deteriorating inland waterways infrastructure, and our association remains resolute in its support of this key legislation," said NCGA Production and Stewardship Action Team Chair Brent Hostetler. "The House bill is important for our farmers who depend on the inland waterways system to export grain and to receive farm inputs like fertilizer for crop production. America's farmers sustainably produce food, feed and fuel for our nation, growing our economy with their growing crop. It is imperative that House members now do their part by finding a way to come together to pass this legislation."

‘GIPSA’ Rule Would Wipe Out TPP Benefits, Says NPPC

The significant benefits that would accrue to the U.S. pork industry from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement would be wiped out if the Obama administration implements pending rules related to the buying and selling of livestock, the National Pork Producers told the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry.

“Pork producers are very concerned about the so-called GIPSA Rule,” said NPPC past president Dr. Howard Hill, a pork producer and veterinarian from Iowa who today testified before the agriculture panel. “The livestock industry will be fundamentally and negatively changed, and the increased exports and jobs created from TPP will be negated” if the rule is implemented.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) is reproposing parts of the GIPSA Rule, which first was proposed in 2010 to implement provisions included in the 2008 Farm Bill. The regulations, however, went well beyond the Farm Bill provisions and would have had a significant negative effect on the livestock industry, according to analyses. A November 2010 Informa Economics study of the rule found it would have cost the pork industry more than $330 million annually.

Tens of thousands of comments, including 16,000 from pork producers, were filed in opposition to the rule, and Congress several times included riders in USDA’s annual funding bill to prevent it from finalizing the regulation. But no rider was included in USDA’s fiscal 2016 bill, and USDA earlier this year indicate it would move forward with new GIPSA rules.

On the TPP Agreement, Hill told the committee that NPPC strongly supports the Asia-Pacific trade deal, pointing out that its benefits will exceed all past U.S. free trade agreements and that it represents a tremendous opportunity for U.S. pork producers and for the entire U.S. economy.

The TPP, negotiations on which were initiated in late 2008 and concluded last October, is a regional trade agreement that includes the United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam, which combined have more than 800 million consumers and account for nearly 40 percent of global GDP.

“The agreement has become the de facto global trade vehicle, and other countries in the region already are lining up to get into it,” testified Hill. “The United States cannot afford either economically or geopolitically to walk away from the fastest growing region in the world. Congress must pass the TPP, and it must do so soon.”

Hill also addressed a potential challenge to pork producers: an outbreak in the United States of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD). He called on Congress to appropriate funds to set up an FMD vaccine bank to deal with an outbreak, which would close U.S. export markets.

NCBA President Testifies Before Senate Ag Committee

Statement by National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Tracy Brunner following his testimony before the Senate Agriculture Committee - A Review of the U.S. Livestock and Poultry Sectors; Marketplace Opportunities and Challenges:

“We appreciate the Senate Agriculture Committee holding this hearing; we see many more opportunities in the cattle industry than challenges. The challenges we do face are the result of regulation, specifically rampant over-regulation from this administration. We need the Senate to focus on defunding the EPA’s 'waters of the United States' final rule and pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership which would give us the best access ever negotiated into the Japanese market. Japan is already our largest export market for U.S. beef, but as the International Trade Commission report confirmed, TPP would add nearly $1 billion in beef exports. What we do not need is the USDA dictating how we market cattle or manage risk in the cattle industry. The industry has developed tools and alternative marketing arrangements that benefit cattle producers and consumers. We’re not asking the Senate to intervene in our contracts; we’re asking the Senate to play their role in expanding market access and ensuring we are not regulated out of business.”

NFU Defends Family Farmers and Ranchers in a Statement to the Senate Ag Committee

The Senate Agriculture Committee today convened a hearing to discuss opportunities and challenges in the livestock and poultry sectors, and National Farmers Union (NFU) encouraged Senators on the panel to hear from cow-calf producers as they grapple with the challenges facing the industry. In an independent statement submitted to the hearing record, NFU defended much-needed market relief efforts given the low prices and consolidated livestock market facing family farmers and ranchers.

“There are many challenges facing agriculture today. The livestock sector, like much of agriculture, is under economic stress with no near end in sight,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “I applaud the committee for exploring these challenges at today’s hearing, and I urge the members of this panel to take a comprehensive look at the livestock industry as they move forward with considerations of the farm economy.”

In 2015, producers faced a dramatic decrease in beef prices, despite predictions of several years of higher-than-average prices. Forecasts by the USDA point to a prolonged period of depressed prices, and projected beef production remains high for 2017 – a scenario, NFU explains, that will be detrimental for beef producers to recover financial losses that ensued from the recent price decline. 

Additionally, a sharp decline in the number of family farmers and ranchers over the past decade due to a heavily concentrated cattle market makes the scenario more troubling for independent producers competing against the packers.

“The marketplace is tipped disproportionately against the family producer. Currently, four packers account for nearly 70 percent of the value of all U.S. livestock purchased for slaughter. Without protection from unfair, anti-competitive practices, independent producers face difficulty succeeding,” Johnson explained in his statement to the committee.

NFU urges ongoing support for mandatory price reporting rules that provide market transparency for producers large and small as well as the Packers and Stockyards Act, which ensures integrity and competitive fairness in the livestock market.

“NFU has advocated on behalf of farmers facing a lack of competition in meatpacking for all 114 years of our existence. We will continue to work with lawmakers and the administration to ensure the voice of independent producers is heard,” Johnson concluded.

Growth Energy Applauds Trump for Standing by Commitment to Support the RFS

Responding to a speech on energy policy by presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy, issued the following statement:

“In January, Mr. Trump said that he supports the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and ethanol because ‘energy independence is a requirement if America is to become great again.’ We could not agree more. It is vital that Mr. Trump stay true to his principles on ethanol because the RFS is our country’s most successful energy policy.

“His announcement today that he would meet with Iowa Governor Terry Branstad about ensuring a strong RFS past 2022 is great news. The RFS protects affordable options for consumers at the pump, it reduces emissions, and without it, we would increase our dependence on foreign oil from countries like Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.
“Given both leading candidates for President support the RFS, we’re confident that America’s next president will earn the votes of renewable fuel supporters in North Dakota and across the country.”

Soy Growers Welcome MOU with Cuban Agribusiness Group

With a signing ceremony Thursday, the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba (USACC) and Cuba’s Grupo Empresarial Agricola (GEA) formalized an agreement between the two nation’s farm and food industries to re-establish the Cuban marketplace for U.S. food and agricultural products. As part of the agreement, both USACC and GEA will meet regularly to ensure that the relationship between both industries is mutually productive and beneficial. All this week, American Soybean Association (ASA) Vice President and Roseville, Ill., farmer Ron Moore is in Havana with USACC to interact with Cuban farmers.

“Our Cuban partners represent a great deal of promise for the American soybean industry,” said Moore. “The agreement that USACC is signing on to this morning is something that will help to ensure both American producers and Cuban buyers have what they need as our relationship continues to grow together.”

ASA supports policy to normalize relations with Cuba, including the full removal of the embargo.

“So much has changed since the era in which the Cuban embargo was put in place,” said Moore. “Since 1961, our countries have evolved, our industries have expanded, and our economies have matured. Cubans have an increasing opportunity to develop their economy, and Americans have an equally promising opportunity to help meet that demand. That’s why we’re here—to meet a burgeoning demand for meat protein, for cooking oil and for the array of other products that American producers can provide.”

IGC Hikes World Wheat Outlook

The International Grains Council on Thursday increased its forecast for global grain production in 2016-17 by 10 million metric tons to 2.015 billion tons on improving prospects for the wheat harvest in the E.U., Russia and the U.S.

If the forecast is correct, the 2016-17 harvest will be the second-largest on record after the 2.046 billion-ton crop of 2014-15, the London-based IGC said.

The wheat crop forecast was lifted by 5 million tons to 722 million tons. The corn forecast was raised 5 million tons to 1.003 billion tons as harvest prospects improved in the U.S. and Argentina.

As a result, the IGC expects global grain stocks to climb from 468 million tons at the end of the current year to a record-high 474 million tons at the end of 2016-17. China's share of that total could exceed 40%.

For the current 2015-16 crop year, the IGC cut its forecast for soybean production by 5 million metric tons to 314 million tons, a 2% drop from the previous year's output, due to bad weather in South America.

In a "highly tentative" forecast for 2016-17, the IGC said soybean production could rebound to 320 million tons, but this year's smaller harvest and increasing demand will mean global stocks are likely to dwindle. It cut its soybean stocks forecast for the end of 2016-17 by 3 million tons to 29 million tons.

Vilsack to Make First Official Visit to Puerto Rico

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will make his first official visit to Puerto Rico where he will highlight the U.S. Department of Agriculture's ongoing commitment to addressing food security and rural opportunity in the Commonwealth. While in Puerto Rico, Secretary Vilsack will meet with various officials from the Commonwealth; visit a National Forest research station; engage local farmers and ranchers; convene a group of financial leaders focused on finding opportunities for rural investment; and make several important announcements to address food security and rural development.

Secretary Vilsack is the latest senior Obama Administration official to travel to Puerto Rico, following visits from Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell, Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew, Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro and Secretary of Education John King earlier this year to urge action by Congress to provide Puerto Rico with the tools it needs to address the crisis, restructure its debt, support reform and enable growth.

While in Puerto Rico, Secretary Vilsack will meet with staff from seven USDA agencies working in the Commonwealth: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS); Agricultural Research Service (ARS); Farm Service Agency (FSA); Food and Nutrition Service (FNS); U.S. Forest Service; Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS); and USDA Rural Development. Since 2009, USDA has invested more than $20 billion in Puerto Rico across various programs, including nutrition, infrastructure, housing, farming and ranching, conservation and forestry, and research.

On Wednesday, Secretary Vilsack will meet with Governor Alejandro García Padilla, Senate Majority Leader Eduardo Bhatia, and Speaker of the House of Representatives Jaime R. Perelló Borrás. Later that day he will tour the U.S. Forest Service Sabana Field Research Station and El Yunque National Forest to highlight USDA's key research initiatives in the Caribbean Climate Sub Hub. USDA has established a network of seven regional Climate Hubs and three Sub Hubs to support applied research and provide information to farmers, ranchers, advisors, and managers to inform climate-related decision making and region-specific adaptation strategies.

On Thursday, Secretary Vilsack will highlight Puerto Rico's amazing growth potential and announce a series of additional federal investments in Puerto Rico's future. The day will begin with a meeting of farmers, ranchers, producers and agriculture-related businesspeople to gauge the needs and opportunities of Puerto Rico's agricultural sector. Secretary Vilsack will then convene a meeting with a dozen investors, financial leaders, economists and entrepreneurs to discuss rural economic opportunity and the potential to leverage public and private resources in a more integrated and coordinated way in the Commonwealth to create a brighter future for its residents.

Since 2006, Puerto Rico and the 3.5 million American citizens who call the Commonwealth home have endured a decade-long recession and are facing a serious crisis that requires immediate congressional action. Fiscal conditions have contributed to record numbers of citizens leaving Puerto Rico for the mainland. The Obama Administration has worked extensively with Puerto Rican officials to find solutions to the Commonwealth's fiscal crisis. However, only Congress has the authority to provide Puerto Rico with the necessary tools to address the crisis and to lay the foundation for the Commonwealth's recovery, and Congress must act now.