Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Wednesday November 29 Ag News

CVA Hosts Annual Meeting

Central Valley Ag Cooperative (CVA) recently hosted their Annual Meeting for member-owners to review the fiscal year. CVA reported $21.7 Million in Total Profit for fiscal year 2017 ending on August 31, 2017.

“We are proud of the way our Cooperative performed this year in a difficult environment,” said Carl Dickinson, CEO/President of Central Valley Ag. “We believe that true success comes from not only serving farmers, but also in returning profits to its owners.”

This year, CVA will disperse $8.0 Million in patronage to member-owners with 25% paid in cash and the balance in Non-Qualified Equity. Over the 2017 fiscal year, $7.9 Million was paid out in cash patronage, equity redemptions, and estates. Not only is the cash received as a benefit for member-owners; $26.4 Million was reinvested in assets to improve speed, space, and efficiency in 2017.

At the meeting CVA also announced the newly elected members of their Board of Directors. CVA relies on its Board of Directors to position CVA for future success and profitability for member-owners. The CVA Board of Directors is made up of local, agricultural producers who are recognized for their industry expertise, as well as economic and community development skills. CVA member-owners elected the following individuals to represent their voice on the board; Alex Brookhouser – Brunswick, NE, Duane Schumacher – Bloomfield, NE, Pat Wemhoff – Humphrey, NE, Jay Uehling – Oakland, NE, Lucas Carlson – York, NE, Larry Naber – Utica, NE, Luke Shamburg – Beloit, KS and Mark Phillips – Akron, IA.

“It is our goal to focus on customer needs and the processes that improve our customers’ experience and to do these things in a cooperative manner to help them achieve maximum profitability,” said Dave Beckman, CVA Board Chairman. “Our Board of Directors plays a large role in helping us achieve that goal. I also want to thank our departing board of director members Gordon Quiring, Gary Resco and Don Nelson for their dedication to CVA over the years.”


The Nebraska Power Farming Show doesn’t just showcase the latest, greatest agricultural products and equipment. It also features several exhibitor giveaways, including a chance to win a 2018 Yamaha Kodiak 450 ATV.

Farmers and ranchers attending the show can enter the drawing for a Kodiak 450 [retail value: $5,999] – the perfect machine for any size rider looking to work, hunt or explore – at the Nebraska Farm Bureau booth [#2210], Superior Outdoor Power booth [#129] and the AuctionTime CafĂ© in Pavilion 3, where the ATV will be displayed. Thanks to Yamaha Motor Corp USA, Superior Outdoor Power, our platinum sponsor Nebraska Farm Bureau, and Farm Bureau Financial Services for donating the Kodiak 450 ATV. The drawing will be held at noon on Thursday.

Farm Bureau members are encouraged to attend the show on Wednesday, December 6th for Nebraska Farm Bureau Day. The first 100 people to the Farm Bureau booth [#2210 in Pavilion 2] will get a FREE Farm Bureau Proud t-shirt and members who stop by the booth will receive a FREE Farm Bureau cup [with FREE drink refills during the show]. In addition, members who stop by the Farm Bureau booth any day of the show will receive a FREE pair of work gloves and can enter to win Milwaukee power tools from Grainger.

The Nebraska Farm Bureau is a grassroots farm organization that works for the benefit of all Nebraskan’s through a wide variety of educational, service and advocacy initiatives focused on its mission of helping farm and ranch families prosper and improve their quality of life.   Not a member? Join at booth 2210 or go to

The Nebraska Power Farming Show, presented by Farm Credit Services of America and AgDirect, will be held December 5-7 at the Lancaster Event Center in Lincoln, Nebraska. Spread across 9.2 acres, the second largest indoor U.S. farm show is loaded with big iron, precision ag, aerial imaging, livestock production, inputs, data management and more.

Show hours are 9 am to 5 pm Tuesday and Wednesday, and 9 am to 3 pm Thursday. Admission and parking at the Lancaster Event Center are FREE! For additional show information, visit

The Nebraska Power Farming Show is produced by the Iowa-Nebraska Equipment Dealers Association in conjunction with local Nebraska and Iowa farm equipment dealerships. The show is sponsored by: Diamond Sponsor – Farm Credit Services of America and AgDirect; Platinum Sponsors – Bayer CropScience and Nebraska Farm Bureau; Gold Sponsors – Mitas and Stine Seed Company; and Media Sponsors – Midwest Messenger and Rural Radio Network (come see us at booth #1052!).

Farm Sector Profits Expected To Stabilize in 2017

USDA Economic Research Service

After 3 consecutive years of decline, farm sector profits are forecast to be relatively stable in 2017. Net farm income, a broader measure of profits, is forecast to increase $1.7 billion (2.7 percent) from 2016 to $63.2 billion in 2017 and net cash farm income is forecast to increase $3.7 billion (3.9 percent) to $96.9 billion. In inflation-adjusted dollars, net farm income is forecast to be relatively unchanged from 2016 and net cash farm income is forecast to increase 2.1 percent. The stronger forecast growth in net cash farm income is largely due to an additional $2.1 billion (nominal) in cash receipts from the sale of beginning-of-year crop inventories. The net cash farm income measure counts those sales as part of current-year income while the net farm income measure counts the value of those inventories as part of prior-year income. Despite the forecast upturn in these profit measures relative to 2016, 2017 levels would be below all other years since 2009 (net farm income) and since 2010 (net cash farm income).

Cash receipts are forecast to rise $8.6 billion (2.4 percent) in 2017 to $365.1 billion, led by a $12.4-billion (7.6 percent) increase in animal/animal product receipts. Dairy, poultry/egg, hog, and cattle/calf receipts are up, reflecting expected increases in both price and quantity sold. Overall, cash receipts for crops are forecast to fall $3.8 billion (2.0 percent) to $189.9 billion, largely reflecting expected declines in fruit/nut and soybean cash receipts. Direct government farm payments—which include farm program payments paid directly to farmers and ranchers but not insurance indemnity payments made by FCIC or USDA loans—are forecast to decline $1.8 billion (13.8 percent) in 2017 to $11.2 billion as large declines in Agricultural Risk Coverage payments more than offset increases in Price Loss Coverage payments.

The 2017 forecast for farm business average net cash farm income is $102,000, slightly lower than the 2016 forecast of $102,800. Increases in average net cash income are forecast for livestock and cotton farm businesses, while declines are forecast for all other types of crop farm businesses.

After declining for 2 consecutive years, total production expenses are forecast up $5.3 billion (1.5 percent) to $355.8 billion in 2017, led by increases in expenditures on interest, hired labor, and fuels/oil. Partially offsetting these increases are expected drops in feed and fertilizer/lime expenses. In inflation-adjusted dollars, total production expenses are forecast to remain flat in 2016.

Farm asset values are forecast to increase by $81.1 billion (2.7 percent) to $3.0 trillion in 2017, and farm debt is forecast to increase by $11.0 billion (2.9 percent) to $385.2 billion. Farm sector equity, the net measure of assets and debt, is forecast up by $70.1 billion (2.7 percent) to $2.65 trillion in 2017. The increase in assets reflects a 3.3-percent rise in the value of farm real estate. The rise in farm debt is driven by higher real estate debt (up 4.6 percent).

Median Income of Farm Operator Households Expected To Be Relatively Unchanged in 2017

Farm households typically receive income from both farm and off-farm sources. The total median income of U.S. farm households increased steadily over 2010-14, reaching an estimated $81,637 in 2014. Median household income, which fell 6 percent in 2015 and remained flat in 2016, is forecast to rise 1.7 percent in 2017 to $77,551 in nominal terms (0.2 percent when adjusted for inflation). Median farm income earned by farm households is estimated at -$940 in 2016 and is forecast at -$1,093 in 2017. In recent years, slightly more than half of farm households have lost money on their farming operations each year. Most of these households earn positive off-farm income—and median off-farm income is forecast to increase 2.3 percent, from $66,468 in 2016 to $67,973 in 2017. (Because farm and off-farm income are not distributed identically for every farm, median total income will generally not equal the sum of median off-farm and median farm income.)

Webinar to Explore Lessons Learned from Using Cover Crops to Reduce Nitrate Losses

Even with excellent nutrient management, nitrate losses from corn and soybean fields can occur because these cash crops only grow and take up nitrate and water for five months of the year. Cover crops like winter rye can be an effective strategy for reducing nitrate losses to groundwater or tile drainage, because they can take up water and nitrate during the period between harvest and planting of the next year’s crop.

Tom Kaspar will discuss lessons learned from using cover crops to reduce losses of nitrate during the Iowa Learning Farms webinar on Wednesday, Dec. 13 at noon. Kaspar is a plant physiologist at the USDA-ARS National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment. Kaspar also is one of the leading voices on cover crops across the Midwest and one of the founding members of the Midwest Cover Crops Council. Kaspar’s research has focused on using cover crops and no-till to improve water quality and soil health in corn and soybean production systems.

“Over 15 years, tile drain monitoring on research plots in Iowa has shown that a winter rye cover crop reduced both nitrate loss and concentration in tile drainage by over 55 percent in a corn-soybean rotation,” Kaspar commented. “Farmers have shown that cover crops can be successfully grown in corn-soybean rotations in Iowa to protect and improve both soil and water.”

This month, the Iowa Learning Farms webinar series will take place on the second Wednesday of the month. To log in, go to at noon and log in through the “guest” option. The webinar will be recorded and archived on the ILF website for viewing at any time at

Pork Producers Invited to Advanced Reproductive Management Seminars

Pork producers are invited to attend either of two workshops focusing on advanced swine reproductive management topics scheduled for mid-December in northeast and northwest Iowa. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, Iowa Pork Industry Center and Iowa Pork Producers Association are sponsoring the seminars in Waverly and Le Mars. The target audience for these conferences includes swine breeding herd managers, veterinarians, sow herd managers and sow farm owners and workers.

Dates and specific locations are Tuesday, Dec. 12, at the Waverly Civic Center, 200 1st St. NE and Wednesday, Dec. 13, at the ISU Extension and Outreach Plymouth County Office, 251 12th St. S.E., Le Mars. Registration at both sites begins at 9:30 a.m. with the first session starting at 10 a.m. The event concludes with a question-and-answer session at 3 p.m. Dec. 14 is being held for possible rescheduling in case of weather-related issues.

The keynote speaker is reproductive specialist Kara Stewart of Purdue University. She will present information on several topics, including new farm technologies to improve reproductive performance and new research and findings on colostrum management. She also will lead a post cervical artificial insemination session with hands-on opportunity for participants to work with reproductive tracts, and will demonstrate deep uterine catheter insertion.

Associate professor of animal science Jason Ross and Lloyd Anderson, endowed professor in physiology, will talk about research that can help predict, before first breeding, which gilts most likely will have superior reproductive performance. Ross, who also is IPIC director, will share information from promising research including vulva measurements that may inform new tools for such predictions.

At their respective workshops in Waverly and LeMars, Iowa State swine specialists Mark Storlie and Dave Stender will provide updates on a variety of issues impacting the sow herd, including preparation for welfare audits, animal handling and record keeping.

Cost is $30 per person, which includes lunch and materials. Additional attendees from the same entity can register for $10 each. Preregistration is strongly encouraged to assure an accurate meal count.

For more information or to register for the Le Mars location, contact Stender by phone at 712-225-6196 or by email at Those who want to attend the Waverly location should contact Storlie by phone at 563-425-3331 or email at

Defeating a disease: Research creates way to protect pigs from PRRS during reproduction

In the words of Kansas State University researcher Raymond "Bob" Rowland, his latest work is helping to eradicate a devastating swine disease.

The disease is caused by the porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome, or PRRS, virus. The virus costs the U.S. pork industry more than $600 million in losses every year.

In his latest study, Rowland, professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology in the College of Veterinary Medicine, has created a way to protect offspring from the PRRS virus during pregnancy. He has found that mothers without the CD163 protein are resistant to the PRRS virus and give birth to healthy, normal piglets. The work appears in Nature's Scientific Reports.

"We have created a protective shell against the PRRS virus during the reproductive phase of production," Rowland said. "The offspring does not become infected during pregnancy and is born a healthy piglet. During this critical phase of production, we have essentially ended a disease."

The PRRS virus causes disease in two forms: a respiratory form that weakens young pigs' ability to breathe and a more severe reproductive form that causes mass deaths in pigs during late pregnancy.

"The reproductive form not only has a tremendous economic impact, but also a psychological impact on people who work with pigs," said Rowland, who has spent more than 20 years studying the PRRS virus. "When we look at ways to control this disease, it really begins with reproduction. We want to keep this disease out of the reproductive process and we have found a way to do that."

To address the devastating reproductive form of the virus, Rowland collaborated with Randall Prather, a professor at the University of Missouri, and a team to develop PRRS-resistant pigs. Using CRISPR/Cas9 technology, the researchers found that pigs without the CD163 protein showed no signs or evidence of being infected with the PRRS virus. CD163 is the receptor for the virus.

The research can save swine producers millions of dollars because pigs are protected from the PRRS virus during the critical reproductive process, Rowland said. But because offspring are born normal, they may still be susceptible to the disease later in life.

"This is one tool that we can use," Rowland said. "It doesn't mean that we can give up on vaccines or diagnostics, but it does create more opportunities for other tools to become more effective. Because this pig is born healthy, it will respond better to a vaccine or a diagnostic test. We are enhancing other aspects of disease control as well."

Rowland will present the research for the first time at the 2017 North American PRRS Symposium from Dec. 1-3 in Chicago.

Other Kansas State University researchers involved in the project include Maureen Kerrigan, laboratory research manager, and Luca Popescu, a doctoral student and research assistant. All the researchers are involved with the diagnostic medicine and pathobiology department.

Prices for Most Fertilizers Higher Fourth Week of November

Average retail prices for most fertilizers were higher the fourth week of November 2017, though prices for a couple of fertilizers continued to buck the trend and push lower, according to fertilizer retailers surveyed by DTN.

Six of the eight major fertilizers were higher compared to last month, though only one was up a noteworthy amount. UAN28 was 5% higher compared to the previous month and had an average price of $216 per ton.

The remaining five fertilizers were just slightly higher in price. DAP had an average price of $435/ton, MAP $460/ton, urea $338/ton, anhydrous $410/ton and UAN32 $272/ton.

Two fertilizers were lower in price compared to a month earlier, including one that was considerably lower. 10-34-0 was down 13% from last month with an average price of $355/ton.

The remaining fertilizer was lower, but just marginally. Potash had an average price of $342/ton.

On a price per pound of nitrogen basis, the average urea price was at $0.37/lb.N, anhydrous $0.25/lb.N, UAN28 $0.39/lb.N and UAN32 $0.42/lb.N.

Four fertilizers are now higher compared to last year. Both MAP and urea are 3% more expensive, UAN32 is 6% more expensive and potash is now 8% more expensive.

The remaining four fertilizers are lower compared to a year prior. Both DAP and UAN28 are 1% less expensive while anhydrous is 12% lower and 10-34-0 is 20% less expensive.

NCBA Challenges Members to Boost Beef Industry Wins

The nation’s leading beef producer organization has recently helped secure several beef industry wins in Washington, D.C. – for instance on an oppressive Waters of the United States rule and on President Obama’s BLM Planning 2.0 rule. It has also helped lay a foundation and build excitement for beef’s return to China for the first time in more than a decade. Now the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) is upping the ante, asking its members to help fortify its ranks to help maintain the momentum in Washington – as well as recapture ground lost due to previous government overreach.

Through its 2017 “Just Ask” fall membership drive, NCBA is encouraging its members to recruit at least one new member from their community. The charge intends to sustain support for NCBA’s strong and growing advocacy in Washington, D.C.

“NCBA worked diligently in 2017 to secure several major policy victories that ensure U.S. cattlemen and women will be able to continue to operate their businesses successfully,” said NCBA President Craig Uden, a cattleman from Elwood, Neb. “While these victories were important, NCBA is urging more cattle producers to join the fight and engage in the issues that are critical to the future viability of our industry, such as tax reform, modernizing the Endangered Species Act and establishing strong new foreign markets free of unfair restrictions on American beef.

“Now is the time to get involved and become a member,” said Uden. “Your membership will help NCBA to continue the fight on Capitol Hill.”

Thanks to a strong partnership with its state affiliates, NCBA ended the 2017 fiscal year with 25,000 members. Through the fall membership drive, NCBA has successfully engaged with an additional 80,000 U.S. cattlemen and women.

Uden says NCBA members do more than benefit from a stronger beef industry in Washington D.C. Membership also offers great individual benefits, including discounts from RAM, New Holland Agriculture, Roper/Stetson/Tin Haul, John Deere, Cabela’s and Caterpillar. Members receive a subscription to National Cattlemen and regular updates from Washington. New members will also receive a voucher for a one liter bottle of Dectomax® pour-on from Zoetis.

For more information and to join, visit

Cattlemen’s College Pre-Registration Deadline Approaches

Cattlemen gathering at the 2018 Cattlemen’s College in Phoenix, Ariz., for the Cattlemen’s College Jan. 31 – Feb. 1 can save money by pre-registering for the event by Jan. 5. Along with an outstanding educational event, participants will have the opportunity to hear from the president of Arby’s Restaurant Group, Inc., who will present the keynote address on Wednesday, Jan. 31. Cattlemen’s College, sponsored by Zoetis, will be held at the start of the 2018 Cattle Industry Convention and NCBA Trade Show in Phoenix.

Arby’s President Rob Lynch will speak about “Going BIG with Beef,” to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Cattlemen’s College. During his speech, Lynch will offer participants an inside look at Arby’s “We Have the Meats” marketing campaign, a program which he helped launch. During his tenure, he also managed the product innovation team that tests more than 1,000 potential menu items each year, giving him a first-hand understanding of the consumer landscape. That understanding is crucial for today’s cattle producers, as the industry continues its quest to remain the protein of choice for consumers around the globe.

As CEO, Lynch oversees the Arby’s brand that accounts for more than 3,300 owned and franchised restaurants worldwide. He oversees the brand’s marketing, operations, development and digital innovations functions, and he also serves as president of the Arby’s Franchise Association and chairman of the Arby’s Foundation.

“This is an exciting opportunity for cattlemen to hear directly from a marketer who very proudly sells their products to consumers,” said Josh White, NCBA executive director of producer education. “Hearing the perspective of someone who understands marketing trends, as well as the wants and pulse of consumers, will be valuable for those attending this milestone Cattlemen’s College.”

White says Lynch’s comments will kick off an exciting event that features sessions with a wide and impressive collection of the beef industry’s most talented and knowledgeable people. Cattlemen’s College provides a stimulating atmosphere for cattlemen and women to learn ways of generating higher returns for their cattle operations. The thought-provoking sessions also spark discussions that lead to innovation and advancement in what has become a rapidly changing industry.

Among the topics on the schedule for the 2018 event are genetic technologies, calf management, beef cattle production, engaging with federal agencies, antibiotics, live cattle imports/exports, ID management, breeding, bull selection and infectious diseases. Participants can choose from five different curriculum tracks during the college.

The event kicks off with the new Producer’s Choice sessions Tuesday, Jan. 30. For the first time, attendees will vote to determine which sessions will be offered for a “first look.” Participants will select from one of four sessions: Capturing Maximum Value in Beef Cattle Production; The Straight Story: Antibiotic Alternatives and the Future of Treating Diseases; or Calf Management: Clostridial Disease ID, Prevention and Treatment. The “first look” sessions will also feature a cattle handling design demonstration for attendees who are looking to improve their operation. The evening will wrap-up with the Cattlemen’s College reception, sponsored by Zoetis and Certified Angus Beef.

The following morning, participants will convene for additional education sessions, following Lynch’s presentation. The event wraps up with a plated lunch, where moderators will share highlights from each of the day’s sessions.

“Everyone who comes to Cattlemen’s College goes away with something new that will help them improve their farm or ranch,” says White. “It’s the advantage they need to stay ahead of the curve in this constantly changing industry.”

To help share the information provided during Cattlemen’s College, presentations will also be available online following the Cattle Industry Convention and NCBA Trade Show. Those registered for the event will be able to access the videos by visiting

Participants are encouraged to take advantage of early-bird registration prices. Pre-registration for the 2018 Cattlemen’s College event in Phoenix, ends Jan. 5. College students are eligible for additional registration discounts. For more information, or to register for the event, visit

Current Tax Reform Plan Disadvantages Family Farmers and Ranchers, NFU Says

As the U.S. Senate readies to vote on a major overhaul of the nation’s tax system, National Farmers Union (NFU) is urging lawmakers to vote against the current plan because it benefits the nation’s largest corporations and wealthiest citizens at the expense of family farmers, ranchers, and the middle class.

The family farm organization sent a letter to members of the Senate today, highlighting the detrimental impacts of the legislation. NFU is concerned with the massive, $1.4 trillion increase to the federal deficit, potential elimination of farm safety net funding, worsened quality and affordability of health care for rural Americans, and several provisions important to running a family farm operation.

“This tax plan is fiscally irresponsible and regressive in nature, and it has very negative implications for our nation’s farm and ranch families,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “While we support efforts to simplify the tax code, we cannot support this flawed legislation that robs family farmers, our future generations, and our nation’s lower and middle classes to pay for tax cuts to the wealthiest individuals and corporate interests. That is exactly what this legislation does, and we are strongly urging the Senate to vote against it.”

Chief among NFU’s concerns is the impact of the $1.44 trillion that will be added to the federal debt if the current proposal is passed. “NFU’s grassroots-passed policy expresses deep concern over our nation’s fiscal well-being,” wrote Johnson. “Past efforts at tax reform have at least begun with the goal of being deficit neutral.  We believe it is a grave mistake to abandon such an important goal.”

If passed, this $1.44 trillion increase to the deficit would jeopardize family farmers’ and ranchers’ safety net, as it could force the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to sequester many farm program payments by 100 percent. Earlier this month, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) confirmed the OMB would be required by law to sequester $136 billion in fiscal year 2018 and similar funds each successive year.

“Given the limited number of non-exempt mandatory accounts that can be sequestered, non-exempt programs would need to be sequestered at 100 percent,” explained Johnson. “That sequestration would eliminate important aspects of the farm safety net, including the Agricultural Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage programs. Such a scenario would be devastating to family farmers.”

Johnson also highlighted the impact that the current plan would have on our nation’s healthcare system. CBO projects that the number of people with health coverage would drop by 13 million by 2027.

“Repeal of the individual mandate is particularly troublesome for farmers and ranchers, who are older and more likely to have preexisting conditions than the average person,” said Johnson. “Those that cannot risk going uncovered will face premium costs that are 10 percent higher than current baseline projections. Repealing the mandate will make it even more difficult for the congress to stabilize healthcare costs for all Americans.”

Finally, Johnson cited a number of troublesome changes to provisions that farmers rely on in the current tax code. These include: limiting “carryback” net operating loss provisions that help farmers during tough times; repealing the Domestic Production Activities Deduction (Sec. 199), which has allowed cooperatives to pass an estimated $2 billion directly back to their owners; and changes to expensing provisions.

NFU will score the vote on its federal representative scorecard that is distributed each election cycle to members.

USDA Publishes School Meals Rule, Expands Options, Eases Challenges

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today provided local food service professionals the flexibility they need to serve wholesome, nutritious, and tasty meals in schools across the nation. The new School Meal Flexibility Rule, published today, makes targeted changes to standards for meals provided under USDA’s National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs, and asks customers to share their thoughts on those changes with the Department.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said the rule reflects USDA’s commitment, made in a May proclamation (PDF, 123 KB), to work with program operators, school nutrition professionals, industry, and other stakeholders to develop forward-thinking strategies to ensure school nutrition standards are both healthful and practical.

“Schools need flexibility in menu planning so they can serve nutritious and appealing meals,” Perdue said. “Based on the feedback we’ve gotten from students, schools, and food service professionals in local schools across America, it’s clear that many still face challenges incorporating some of the meal pattern requirements. Schools want to offer food that students actually want to eat. It doesn’t do any good to serve nutritious meals if they wind up in the trash can. These flexibilities give schools the local control they need to provide nutritious meals that school children find appetizing.”

This action reflects a key initiative of USDA’s Regulatory Reform Agenda, developed in response to the President’s Executive Order to alleviate unnecessary regulatory burdens. Other USDA initiatives of this kind will be reflected in the forthcoming Fall 2017 Unified Agenda of Federal Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions.

The interim final rule published today gives schools the option to serve low-fat (1 percent) flavored milk. Currently, schools are permitted to serve low-fat and non-fat unflavored milk as well as non-fat flavored milk. The rule also would provide this milk flexibility to the Special Milk Program and Child and Adult Care Food Program operators serving children ages 6 and older. States will also be allowed to grant exemptions to schools experiencing hardship in obtaining whole grain-rich products acceptable to students during School Year (SY) 2018-2019.

Schools and industry also need more time to reduce sodium levels in school meals, Perdue said. So instead of further restricting sodium levels for SY 2018-2019, schools that meet the current – “Target 1” – limit will be considered compliant with USDA’s sodium requirements. Perdue again lauded the efforts of school food professionals in serving healthful, appealing meals and underscored USDA’s commitment to helping them overcome remaining challenges they face in meeting the nutrition standards.

“We salute the efforts of America’s school food professionals,” Perdue said. “And we will continue to support them as they work to run successful school meals programs and feed our nation’s children.”

This rule will be in effect for SY 2018-2019. USDA will accept public comments on these flexibilities via to inform the development of a final rule, which will address the availability of these three flexibilities in the long term.

 Dairy Leaders Commend USDA for Expanding School Milk Options

The nation’s two leading dairy organizations applauded Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on Wednesday for allowing school districts to offer low-fat (1%) flavored milk as part of the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs. An interim final rule implementing the regulatory changes needed to reinstate low-fat flavored milk in schools was announced today on the Federal Register site and goes into effect for the 2018-2019 school year.

The regulation implements changes that Secretary Purdue proposed earlier this year to streamline the process by which schools can serve low-fat flavored milk without first obtaining a special exemption. In 2012, the U.S. Department of Agriculture eliminated low-fat flavored milk as an option in the school meal and a la carte programs, which resulted in a large drop in milk consumption in schools. Students consumed 288 million fewer half-pints of milk from 2012-2015, even though public school enrollment was growing.

"We appreciate the Secretary’s understanding that the regulatory process needed to move quickly so schools may include low-fat favored milk in their menu planning and procurement processes,” said Michael Dykes, D.V.M., president and CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA). “Today’s action will help reverse declining milk consumption by allowing schools to provide kids with access to a variety of milk options, including the flavored milks they enjoy.”

“Secretary Perdue’s willingness to provide greater flexibility to schools recognizes that a variety of milks and other healthy dairy foods is critically important to improving the nutritional contributions of child nutrition programs in schools,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF). “The math here is quite simple: More milk consumption equals better nutrition for America’s kids.”

Earlier this year, Congress passed the FY 2017 omnibus appropriations bill that included provisions to allow schools to offer low-fat flavored milk.  In addition, Reps. Glenn Thompson (R-PA) and Joe Courtney (D-CT) have introduced legislation, the School Milk Nutrition Act, to expand the ability of schools to offer various milk options.  Their ongoing efforts in Congress have led to a greater awareness of the milk shortfall challenge in schools that today’s USDA action begins to address.

In a joint letter last June, IDFA and NMPF urged Secretary Perdue to quickly finalize plans for low-fat flavored milk’s return to school menus for the 2018-2019 school year.

The publication of the interim final rule will allow school districts to solicit bids for low-fat flavored milk next spring before the 2018-19 school year begins, giving milk processors time to formulate and produce a low-fat flavored milk that meets the specifications of a particular school district. The USDA action now allows schools to offer low-fat flavored milk during the next school year without requiring schools to demonstrate either a reduction in student milk consumption, or an increase in school milk waste.

2017 Census of Agriculture Now Underway

The USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service starts mailing the 2017 Census of Agriculture to the nation's producers this week. Conducted once every five years, the census aims to get a complete and accurate picture of American agriculture. The resulting data are used by farmers, ranchers, trade associations, researchers, policymakers, and many others to help make decisions in community planning, farm assistance programs, technology development, farm advocacy, agribusiness setup, rural development, and more.

"The Census of Agriculture is USDA's largest data collection endeavor, providing some of the most widely used statistics in the industry," said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. "Collected in service to American agriculture since 1840, the census gives every producer the opportunity to be represented so that informed decisions can support their efforts to provide the world with food, fuel, feed, and fiber. Every response matters."

The census will be mailed in several phases through December. Farm operations of all sizes which produced and sold, or normally would have sold, $1,000 or more of agricultural product in 2017 are included in the census. The census is the only source of uniform, comprehensive, and impartial agriculture data for every state and county in the nation.

NASS revised the census forms in an attempt to document changes and emerging trends in the industry. Changes include a new question about military veteran status, expanded questions about food marketing practices, and questions about on-farm decision-making to help better capture the roles and contributions of beginning farmers, women farmers, and others involved in running a farm enterprise.

"Producers can respond to the census online or by mail. We highly recommend the updated online questionnaire. We heard what people wanted and we made responding to the census easier than ever," said NASS Administrator Hubert Hamer. "The online questionnaire now has timesaving features, such as automatic calculations, and the convenience of being accessible on mobile and desktop devices."

The census response deadline is Feb. 5. Responding to the Census of Agriculture is required by law under Title 7 USC 2204(g) Public Law 105-113. The same law requires NASS to keep all information confidential, to use the data only for statistical purposes, and only publish in aggregate form to prevent disclosing the identity of any individual producer or farm operation. NASS will release the results of the census in February 2019.

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