Thursday, January 11, 2018

Thursday January 11 Ag News

Biodiesel Takes Bigger Bite of Big Apple Energy Market

A quest for cleaner air led New York City to add more biodiesel into its energy mix, with some help from the Nebraska Soybean Board and ongoing support from the U.S. Soybean Checkoff. Soybean growers from Nebraska and the region recently visited the Big Apple to see how city leaders have made biodiesel a key part of their strategy to reduce vehicle and heating oil emissions. Soybean oil is the feedstock for the majority of biodiesel produced in the U.S.

A biodiesel blend of heating oil, known as Bioheat, has been provided by New York City heating oil dealers for several years. Last year the city council mandated an increased level of biodiesel in the blend due to the success in reducing emissions by using cleaner-burning biodiesel. The Nebraska Soybean Board was instrumental in developing the Bioheat market by funding the testing that led to its approval as a home-heating fuel. Soybean grower Wayne Heermann from Pilger, Neb. participated in the tour and learned firsthand about the role of the Soybean Checkoff in growing the use of biodiesel in New York City.

“I was impressed that the Nebraska Soybean Board and the United Soybean Board were able to get that done. I was proud of how they worked with New York City Council members and others to increase the use of Bioheat,” said Heermann.

New York officials have also increased the use of biodiesel blends to fuel their fleet of diesel vehicles, including fire engines and other equipment they count on in emergencies, even in cold weather.

“It says a lot that the fire department has enough faith in biodiesel to use it when they can’t afford to fail,” said Heermann. “They believe in the quality and reliability of biodiesel and that could lead other cities to try it.”

In 2017 NYC used a record amount of biodiesel blended fuel to keep the nation’s largest municipal vehicle fleet moving. Victor Bohuslavsky, executive director of the NSB, says the growth of Bioheat and biodiesel use in New York is good for Nebraska farmers living more than a thousand miles away.

“As demand for biodiesel grows, so does demand and prices for soybeans. By investing in developing markets for biodiesel, the Soybean Checkoff helps the farmer’s bottom line,” said Bohuslavsky.

Smart Ag delivers first cloud-based platform for driverless tractors

An Iowa technology company has unlocked the tremendous potential for automation in agriculture by developing the first cloud-based platform for driverless tractors. Smart Ag officials in Ames announced today they are releasing on a limited basis, the first application for the platform, called AutoCart®. This software application fully automates a grain cart tractor, which provide farmers much needed assistance during the demanding harvest season.

Colin Hurd, the founder and CEO of Smart Ag, said the innovative technology will allow farmers to automate their existing equipment and maximize its efficiency and capacity – regardless of manufacturer.  

"Farming should no longer be defined by what the equipment industry decides is better or more profitable. We believe agriculture is best when farmers have choices," Hurd said. "The best way to improve our customers' operational capacity is to enable them to use automation and driverless technology on their farms. With the correct technology and knowledge, farmers can do the seemingly impossible."

Over two years in development, AutoCart, along with the tractor automation kit, is a plug-and-play system that automates existing grain cart tractors and is compatible with any brand or combination of brands. The system allows a combine operator to set staging and unloading locations in a field, adjust speed, monitor location and command the grain cart to sync precisely to the speed and direction of the combine. After it is loaded, the AutoCart automatically returns to an unloading point elsewhere in the field.

According to Hurd, the AutoCart application provides a solution to one of the biggest challenges facing every farmer – critical labor shortages during harvest. He said Smart Ag's driverless tractor technology "empowers farmers to leave the cab" and complete their operations faster and with less labor than ever before.

"AutoCart performs the same function as a driver, only it is more profitable, more reliable and safer," Hurd added. "Our technology has the potential to bring significant change to U.S. crop production through improved productivity, profitability and safety."

Smart Ag recently completed a comprehensive beta test of AutoCart on Midwest farms during the corn and soybean harvest. One of those test sites was Kyle Mehmen's fifth-generation MBS Family Farms near Plainfield, Iowa.

"The AutoCart system performed extremely well for us during our corn harvest, and I fully expect it to be a game changer for agriculture," Mehmen said.  "These are the kind of technologies that we're going to adopt on our farm one way or the other. It's simply a matter of when and which ones."

The AutoCart technology is now available on a first-come, first-served basis through the Smart Ag website: Hurd said that the cost of the system is comparable to retrofitting a sprayer or planter with precision technology.

Based in Ames, Iowa, Smart Ag is an investor-backed technology company developing autonomous farming solutions for row crop agriculture. The company was founded in 2015 and is offering aftermarket retrofit kits to automate farm equipment, as well as a platform to connect, manage, and safely operate autonomous agricultural machinery. Smart Ag is led by successful ag entrepreneur Colin Hurd and former John Deere ISG and Ag Leader Manager Mark Barglof. For additional information, go to

National Biodiesel Conference to Celebrate 25 Years of Growth

Producers, marketers and aficionados are preparing to return to Fort Worth this month when the National Biodiesel Conference & Expo opens at the convention center for four days of all things biodiesel.

This year’s conference will also serve as a celebration for the conference sponsor when the National Biodiesel Board is honored for 25 years of service providing research and representation for the industry in Washington, DC, and across the country.

“Every conference we’ve sponsored has been an exciting event for our industry,” said NBB CEO Donnell Rehagan. “But this one is obviously going to be special as we take the opportunity to not only recognize the milestones we’ve passed over the last two-and-half decades, we’ll also look forward to meeting the challenges ahead as the industry continues to grow and plays an even greater role in America’s ever more critical energy sector.”

And the conference isn’t just for industry insiders. The public is invited Tuesday to join in the discussions focused on biodiesel technology, public policy and more. They will also have the opportunity to explore the event’s Conference Central, where they can learn all about how biodiesel is made from an increasingly diverse mix of resources such as recycled cooking oil, soybean oil and animal fats. A Texas driver’s license is required for local residents to attend free of charge. Wednesday, the public is invited back to participate in a “ride-and-drive” with vehicles provided by area dealers and equipped with the latest diesel engines.

Other highlights for attendees include a session with the filmmakers who premiered “Hot Grease” at the prestigious DOC NYC film festival before its debut on the Discovery Channel last November. The feature length documentary tells the story of biodiesel’s rise and the industry fight for survival in the face of numerous public policy challenges. The producers spent countless hours documenting the experiences of biodiesel entrepreneurs in Texas, while advocates in Washington, D.C., come together to fight off a barrage of attacks from opponents more interested in protecting the status quo.

The National Biodiesel Conference & Expo take places January 22 - 25 at the Fort Worth Convention Center. To learn more about the conference, including a full schedule of events and information on how to register, visit

Commodity Classic Trade Show Features 360+ Exhibitors; Wide Array of Equipment, Technology & Innovation

With a trade show featuring more than 360 exhibitors commanding nearly 2,000 booth spaces, Commodity Classic attendees are strongly encouraged to wear comfortable shoes!

The 2018 Commodity Classic, the nation’s largest farmer-led, farmer-focused convention and trade show, will be held Feb. 27-March 1 in Anaheim, Calif.  The trade show is open all three days.

“The farmers who attend Commodity Classic are aggressively pursuing in making their farms even better,” said Gerry Hayden, a Kentucky farmer and co-chair of the 2018 Commodity Classic. “That quality of farmer encourages exhibitors to staff their booths with knowledgeable people who can answer challenging questions. It’s really about getting the best of the best together.”

While many of the world’s leading agribusiness companies are on site, so are scores of smaller exhibitors offering a wide range of technology, equipment and innovation. “I think of it as ‘density’—and I’m not just talking about wheel-to-wheel equipment,” said Paul Taylor, an Illinois farmer and co-chair of the 2018 Commodity Classic. “I’m talking about density of knowledge from the presenters and the folks who exhibit.  This is a high-quality show, where people can get answers and take a look at some things that might be new to them.”

Admission to the trade show is included with the registration fee.  Complimentary hot buffet meals on the trade show floor are included with registration. The trade show also includes the Main Stage with a robust schedule of educational programming.  A kids’ activity area is also located inside the trade show.  The nation’s top ag media will have a private preview prior to the opening of the trade show.

The trade show is just one of the many reasons to attend Commodity Classic. Commodity Classic offers a wide range of educational sessions including Learning Centers, What’s New Sessions, Mini What’s New Sessions, the General Session and Early Riser Sessions. Commodity Classic also includes entertainment and the opportunity to network with thousands of America’s best farmers.

Detailed information on all educational sessions and the entire Commodity Classic schedule are available at Online registration and housing are also available on the website.

Grain Companies Fear Harm From New Tax Law

The new U.S. tax law is poised to drive more control over the nation's grain supply to farmer-owned cooperatives, provoking concern among ethanol producers and privately run grain handlers that they could be squeezed out of the competition to buy crops. Until now, the cooperatives, private companies and publicly traded firms had a more even opportunity to handle the grain supply used in everything from loaves of bread in supermarkets to livestock feed.

The changes mean massive grain traders such as Archer Daniels Midland Co, Bunge Ltd and Cargill Inc could find it difficult to source corn, soybeans and wheat, reports Reuters. The perceived threat to these companies stems from a provision included in the final stages of the law's passage in December. It gives farmers such a big tax deduction for selling their produce to agricultural cooperatives that private firms fear their grains supply will dry up.

The provision was championed by Republican farm state senators including John Thune of South Dakota and John Hoeven of North Dakota.

Privately held Cargill said on Tuesday it was surprised the provision was added to the bill at the last minute and is evaluating its potential impact.

Rival ADM, which also produces ethanol, said it too was evaluating the provision and various potential solutions to it.

NGFA & NCFC on Section 199A Tax Provisions

Chuck Conner, President & CEO, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives
Randy Gordon, President & CEO, National Grain and Feed Association

“We are aware of questions and concerns raised about the potential marketplace effects of the new section 199A of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act as it relates to producers and agribusinesses.   Congress’s intent in including this provision was to replicate the tax treatment previously available to co-op farmer-members, consistent with the bill’s overarching goal of creating jobs and economic growth including in rural America.

“We are working intensively with stakeholders, including cooperatives, non-cooperative-owned agribusinesses and Senate offices, including Senators Hoeven, Thune and Roberts. The goal of these discussions is to arrive at an equitable solution that preserves the benefits that cooperatives and their farmer patrons previously enjoyed under Section 199 of the tax code, while addressing any unforeseen impacts on producers’ marketing decisions. NCFC, NGFA and our stakeholders are committed to reaching a solution in a thoughtful and expeditious manner, and to working with Congress to address this issue promptly.”

USDA Announces its 94th Ag Outlook Forum

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reminds those interested in attending this year's Agricultural Outlook Forum that early bird registration ends Friday, January 26, 2018. The two-day meeting will be held at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel in Arlington, Virginia, February 22-23, 2018.

The Agricultural Outlook Forum is the USDA's largest annual meeting, attracting as many as 2,000 attendees nationally and internationally. The Forum highlights key issues and topics within the agricultural community, offering a platform for conversation among producers, processors, policymakers, government officials, and non-governmental organizations, both foreign and domestic.

The theme for this year's 94th Annual Agricultural Outlook Forum is "The Roots of Prosperity." Along with a host of prestigious plenary speakers and discussions, attendees may choose from 30 informational sessions with more than 80 speakers and a host of agriculture related exhibits to visit.

High Oleic Soybeans Achieve Final Global Regulatory Milestone

High oleic soybeans have crossed their final regulatory hurdle, clearing the way for farmers to plant more acres of high oleic soybeans in 2018. Full global regulatory approval can help expand the market for high oleic soy and create opportunities to increase U.S. soybean value and competitiveness in the global marketplace.

“Achieving high oleic global regulatory approval enables us to meet end-user needs with a product they want and increase the use of U.S. soybean oil,” says Lewis Bainbridge, United Soybean Board chair and farmer from Ethan, South Dakota. “We encourage farmers to talk with their seed representatives about high oleic soybean variety options for 2018 planting to help keep pace with growing demand for this high-functioning oil.”

The soy checkoff has invested in research to ensure that high oleic soybeans deliver the qualities required by oil end users. These varieties produce a more stable oil for food industry use in restaurants and packaged goods. The oil also expands uses for non-food applications, such as synthetic motor oil and automotive lubricants.

For farmers, checkoff-supported research has helped ensure that high oleic soybeans perform the same as other soybean varieties and that variety development expanded to a wider range of maturity groups.

“For high oleic soybeans to be successful, we can’t sacrifice performance in the field or limit the geographies where they are grown,” says Bainbridge. “Farmers who plant high oleic soybean varieties consistently report that their high oleic varieties yield as well or better than their other soybean varieties.”

In order for end users to convert to high oleic soybean oil, they need a reliable, consistent supply. The checkoff has been working with industry partners to ramp up acreage of high oleic soybean varieties to meet growing demand. High oleic soybean varieties were initially grown in three states and are now grown in 13 states. Acreage of high oleic soybean varieties has grown from 50,000 acres in 2013 to more than 625,000 acres in 2017. 

Given this regulatory milestone, its proven performance and anticipated continued growth in market demand, high oleic soybeans are expected to become the fourth-largest grain and oilseed crop in the U.S., with a goal of planting 18 million acres of high oleic soybeans.

Farmers interested in learning more about high oleic soybeans are encouraged to talk with their local seed representative and visit

December Tractor Sales Rose, While Combines Fell Slightly

According to the Association of Equipment Manufacturer's monthly "Flash Report," the sale of all tractors in the U.S. in December 2017, were up 18% compared to the same month last year.

For the month, two-wheel drive smaller tractors (under 40 HP) were up 5% from last year, while 40 & under 100 HP were down 2%. Sales of 2-wheel drive 100+ HP were down 7%, while 4-wheel drive tractors were up 18%. Combine sales are down 3% for the month.

For the twelve months in 2017, a total of 220,546 tractors were sold which compares to 211,133 sold thru December 2016 representing a 5% increase for the year.  For the year, two-wheel drive smaller tractors (under 40 HP) are up 8% over last year, while 40 & under 100 HP were even. Sales of 2-wheel drive 100+ HP are down 8%, while 4-wheel drive tractors are up 5%.  Sales of combines for the year total 4,112 an increase of 4% from 2016.

Conab Raises Grain Estimates

Brazilian agriculture agency Conab raised its estimates for the country's soybean and corn harvests in the 2017-2018 growing season as good weather helped the crops.

Brazilian farmers will produce 110.4 million metric tons of soybeans in the season, Conab said Thursday, up from its forecast of 109.2 million tons in December. Brazil produced a record 114.1 million tons of soybeans in the 2016-2017 season.

Conab forecast a total corn crop of 92.3 million metric tons in the 2017-2018 season, up from the 92.2 million tons the agency forecast in December, though less than the 97.8 million tons produced in 2016-2017.

USGC Sees Growth Potential For Feed Production, Grain Imports In Myanmar

The US Grains Council recently conducted an on-the-ground assessment of the growth potential for Myanmar’s animal and feed manufacturing sectors - and how that growth could translate into increased exports of U.S. feed grains and co-products.

The Council assessed the Myanmar market for demand in the growing poultry and swine sectors as well as future areas of potential growth like aquaculture.

“Myanmar is advantageously positioned to experience double digit growth in its livestock sector over the next five years,” said Caleb Wurth, USGC assistant director of Southeast Asia. “The effect of Myanmar re-entering the international community after years of political and economic isolation will be a driving force in the increased economic growth of the country.”

Myanmar has a population of more than 60 million, and industry experts peg its growth rate as higher than neighboring countries Vietnam and Thailand. These dynamics create the potential for strong growth in livestock production, particularly poultry and swine, over the next few years.

Leading regional feed millers are already rapidly investing in feed mills and milling capacity in Myanmar. While on the ground, Council staff visited multiple feed mills, each projecting 20 to 30 percent growth expectations for both poultry and swine in the next year. Substantial port and infrastructure investments are also in progress.

Myanmar is currently a net corn exporting country, sending grain primarily to to China. However, growth in the feed sector still presents import opportunities. U.S. farmers and agribusinesses are already seeing Myanmar’s economic growth translate into imports of U.S. distiller's dried grains with solubles (DDGS). Myanmar imported 35,700 metric tons of U.S. DDGS in 2016/2017, a 154 percent increase year-over-year. Thus far in 2017/2018 (September-November 2017), Myanmar has purchased 10,600 tons of U.S. DDGS, a 22 percent increase from the same time the year prior.

While in country, representatives from the Council met with participants in the feed manufacturing and livestock sectors and those working in future growth markets like aquaculture. These partnerships will prove valuable as the Council works to establish additional market share for U.S. exporters in this growing economy.

These efforts complement work by the Council to meet new phytosanitary requirements related to pest risks, resulting in the re-opening of the corn market for U.S. exports, as of Dec. 1, 2017.

“It is important for us to take a hands-on approach in the development stages of new emerging markets,” Wurth said. “This input helps us be proactive as opposed to reactive when it comes to sensitive topics and building overall name recognition of U.S. feed grains and co products.”

During USGC Seminar, Bolivian Government Announces Intent To Establish E10 Mandate

The Bolivian government announced its intention to establish an ethanol blend mandate during a December seminar conducted by the U.S. Grains Council (USGC).
The Council traveled to Bolivia and Ecuador to continue dialogue on the benefits of ethanol following the Ethanol Summit of the Americas.

Bolivian Vice President Garcia Linera made the announcement during closing remarks at the event, reporting the government’s decision to implement an ethanol blend mandate starting at 10 percent in 2018 with goals of mid-level blends in coming years.

Bolivia did not previously have an ethanol blending mandate, though the country has seven sugarcane milling facilities already producing ethanol domestically. Linera emphasized the mandate would help increase domestic gross domestic product (GDP) in Bolivia by supporting local industry, while maintaining a role for trade to help consistently meet the E10 blend level.

“The Bolivian announcement is an exciting development for ethanol policy in the Americas,” said Mike Dwyer, USGC chief economist. “This success of the Council’s work to promote biofuels policies with a role for trade is directly attributable to the efforts to increase knowledge sharing and collaboration like at the Ethanol Summit of the Americas last fall.”

Linera’s comments followed a seminar organized by the Council to provide information on the economic and environmental benefits of biofuels. In addition to Dwyer, speakers from Mexico, Paraguay and Argentina provided information on the movement towards using ethanol and discussed the main constraints to developing biofuels policies in their respective countries.

“The seminar helped start the discussion between the public and the private sector in Bolivia for establishing an ethanol mandate,” Dwyer said. “Additionally, we offered knowledge and expertise from the U.S. perspective in growing an ethanol industry to help make it happen.”

During the same mission, the Council traveled to Ecuador to continue a similar dialogue on biofuels. Ecuador does have an E5 mandate in place, but a reliance on sugarcane to produce ethanol results in difficulty guaranteeing the blend rate during heavy rainy seasons that disrupt local production.

In contrast, an ethanol mandate with a role for trade would support the Ecuadorian domestic industry while ensuring the blending rate is met throughout the year, no matter the local weather disruptions. The blend mandate also contributes to Ecuador’s commitments under the Paris climate agreement to implement effective strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“The Council expects this open dialogue between the private sector and government officials to result in future cooperative efforts to increase ethanol consumption,” Dwyer said. “The Council helped this effort by providing firsthand information about ethanol’s environmental benefits and market opportunities for the local industry in Ecuador.”

The Council arranged the meetings in Ecuador and Bolivia as a direct follow-up to the Ethanol Summit of the Americas in October 2017, after which representatives from both countries expressed additional interest in developing ethanol policies and requested further discussions. The Council plans to continue this dialogue and encourage the generation of biofuels policies throughout the world.

“U.S. ethanol has a competitive advantage in Latin America driven by cost of production, efficiencies and reduced transportation costs,” Dwyer said. “We aim to expand the use of ethanol in the region - including in Bolivia and Ecuador - through continuing to facilitate discussions on establishing pathways for its use.”

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