Monday, February 12, 2018

Monday February 12 Ag News

Proposed cuts would axe Haskell Ag Lab, Rural Futures Initiative

Monday, UNL Chancellor Ronnie Green informed a number of personal that their programs would be potentially cut.

The announcement comes ahead of a hearing in the Nebraska Legislature after Governor Ricketts slashed the state Univesity budget by approximately $11 million for the current budget year and $23 million for the next budget year.

“They aren’t being eliminated at this point — they are just proposals,” Green said. “But there’s no way to dice it. This is serious business.”

Among the proposed cuts, UNL would close Haskell Agriculture Laboratory, a research center near Concord.   The laboratory serves 28 counties in northeast Nebraska.

The proposal also calls for a deep cut to the Rural Futures Initiative (RFI). RFI was founded in 2012  with a mission to harness the intellectual energy of the  University of Nebraska and its partners to positively impact the future of humankind.

Other  proposed cuts include:
    Eliminating bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in geography.
    Eliminating the electronics engineering bachelor’s degree.
    Eliminating bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in art history.
    Eliminating two teacher’s certification programs, one in business, marketing and information technology and the other in French, Latin and Russian language education.

It could be late March before a final budget decision comes from the State Capitol. Even if the proposed cuts must move forward at that time, Green stressed that they still would be subject to full review by the Academic Planning Committee, including a public hearing and recommended modifications, as described by the process set out here .

“This is not the first time we have had to make these tough decisions — this is the third cut to the university budget in less than a year,” Green said “And, as sad as it is to say, unless something changes dramatically, it is not going to be the last cut either.”

PVC Cattlemen Valentine's meeting

Bradley Christensen, President

Be sure to bring your Valentine for a belated night out Monday, February 19th, at Wunderlich’s Catering in Columbus, NE. The Platte Valley Cattlemen's Ladies Night Out meeting will include a presentation from the owners of Urban Farm Boutique.  The social hour will begin at 6:00 p.m. with dinner to follow at 7:00 p.m. Thank you to our social hour sponsors Lindsay Farmers Coop.

We hope you and your spouse can join us!

Assistance Sought in Identifying Novel, Abnormal Traits in Calves

Steve Niemeyer – NE Extension Educator
UNL researchers, Dr. David Steffen (Veterinary Diagnostic Center) and Dr. Jessica Petersen (Department of Animal Science) are using veterinary and genomic tools to understand the cause of abnormal, unwanted traits in beef cattle. This research, including a careful description of affected calves and collection of genetic samples, is important in the case that these conditions are heritable.

A novel form of severe, lethal dwarfism exemplifies a current study. Beginning in 2016, several calves (Black Angus and Angus cross) born with this phenotype were submitted to the VDC. Genotyping of the calves showed they did not have any genetic mutations that have previously been documented to cause dwarfism. However, the pedigrees of the affected calves suggest this is an inherited, recessive condition. The research team is currently working to identify any new genetic variant(s) causing this condition which could allow for the identification of carriers of this undesirable trait.

THE SUCCESS OF THIS RESEARCH IS DEPENDENT UPON HELP FROM PRODUCERS! The research team is asking producers to report any calf born with an unusual, unwanted phenotype such as dwarfism. All information and samples submitted will contribute to building an understanding of these conditions and the potential identification of means to prevent or manage their occurrence.

In the case a defective calf is identified:
1) If possible - contact Dr. Steffen (402-472-1434; prior to disposal of the calf. Funding is available to assist with diagnosis. In the case of a dwarf calf, examination of the femur, front metacarpal, and head will help verify the phenotype. For other conditions, contact Dr. Steffen or your breed organization to facilitate proper diagnostic sampling.
2) Collect a sample from the calf for DNA analysis (ear or muscle tissue, frozen).
3) If available, collect a blood sample (EDTA tube) from the sire and dam.
4) Photograph the calf.
5) Include pedigree information. Note: the animal’s pedigree and the owners’ information will be kept confidential and used only for the purpose of research.

Success in identifying novel genetic variants before they become widespread is possible only through the continued contributions of producers. Most often, the investigations result in determining a non-genetic cause, such as environment or nutrition. However, new information from those cases can still assist producers in herd management at no disruption to breeding programs. Working together we can improve and understand the health and genetics of our beef herds.

Edited 2/8/2018 - The researchers note that cases of genetically abnormal calves are rare and occur across breeds; further, in many instances the cause of abnormalities is not attributed to genetics. The dwarfism trait noted in the article has been recently reported on three ranches, with a total of 6 calves affected. Calves with similar deformities have previously been reported in several breeds. While it is important to understand the cause of this defect, the dwarfism disorder currently being investigated is not thought to be common nor pose a concern to the industry. Historically, we lacked the tools to fully investigate the cause of these events. Now with new tools and technologies we are fortunate that American Angus Breeders and their leadership are proactive in supporting investigations of emerging issues to prevent problems from disrupting breeding programs.

Vote Feb. 12 - March 12 for Iowa's Best Burger

Iowa’s cattle producers are asking their fellow Iowans to help find Iowa’s Best Burger in 2018. In this year’s quest, the Iowa Beef Industry Council (IBIC) and the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association (ICA) are encouraging you to nominate your favorite burger, whether it’s gourmet or down-home style.

This is the ninth year the two groups are holding the annual Iowa’s Best Burger contest, which officially kicks off February 12. The nomination period will close at 5 p.m. on March 12, 2018. To qualify to and be named Iowa’s Best Burger, the burger must be a 100% beef patty and served on a bun or bread product. 

“We are excited to begin the search for this year’s best burger in Iowa,” comments Katie Olthoff, Director of Communications for the ICA.  “This year, our goal is to get new  restaurants involved in the contest. We know we have many restaurants across the state serving a great beef burger.”

In order to recognize these great burgers, IBIC and ICA are asking Iowans to nominate their favorite burger for the award, and those nominations can be made online or by text. Details about the contest, rules, and the voting form are available on the Iowa Beef Industry Council’s website, Burger lovers can also find a link to the online nomination form at the Iowa Beef Council Facebook page; or by texting BEEF to 313131. Photos of your favorite burger can be shared socially using #IABestBurger.

“Restaurants can download a digital toolkit including promotional materials for the contest from IBIC’s website at to promote the contest to their customers,” says Brooke German, Director of Marketing for the IBIC. “The promotional materials can be used in their restaurants or online such as their social media platforms.”

The nomination period ends March 12, 2018. German noted that the top 10 restaurants with the most votes are eligible for the title of Iowa’s Best Burger. The top ten finalists will be announced on March 19. Finalists will receive a certificate and will be eligible for the secret taste-test of contest judges. The 2018 Best Burger in Iowa will be announced on May 1 with the kick-off of May Beef Month in Iowa.

“Funded by the Iowa State Beef Checkoff program, this contest not only promotes Iowa’s restaurants serving great beef burgers, but also Iowa’s beef farmers producing  safe, wholesome and nutritious products for consumers,” says Steve Rehder, chairman of the Iowa Beef Industry Council. “It is a great partnership between the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association and the Iowa Beef Industry Council to promote Iowa’s beef industry which generates an estimated $6.03 billion in economic activity in the state.”

In 2017, nearly 9,200 nominations for 500 restaurants were received in the contest. The final winners in previous years are: 2017 – The Smokin’ Hereford BBQ, Storm Lake; 2016 – The Chuckwagon Restaurant, Adair; 2015 – The Cider House, Fairfield; 2014 – Brick City Grill, Ames; 2013 – 61 Chop House Grille, Mediapolis; 2012 – Coon Bowl III, Coon Rapids; 2011 – Rusty Duck, Dexter; 2010 – Sac County Cattle Company, Sac City.

NPPC Wants Votes On Four Key Trump Nominees

The National Pork Producers Council today urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to schedule confirmation votes on four long-languishing Trump administration nominees for positions important to U.S. pork producers and American agriculture.

In a letter to the two leaders, NPPC asked the Senate to fulfill its “vital role in ensuring that our federal agencies are adequately staffed by moving quickly to schedule votes and confirm” Gregg Doud as chief agricultural negotiator at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, Bill Northey as undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Stephen Vaden as USDA’s general counsel and Andrew Wheeler as deputy administrator at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“All four candidates are highly qualified, and the positions they will fill are extremely important to the U.S. pork industry and American agriculture,” wrote NPPC President Ken Maschhoff, a pork producer from Carlyle, Ill. “The nominees will oversee policies and programs that farmers and ranchers depend on.”

Doud currently is president of the Commodity Markets Council, and he previous was a senior aide to the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. Doud, who grew up on a family farm in Kansas, also worked for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and for U.S. Wheat Associates.

Northey is secretary of the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. He previously served as president of the National Corn Growers Association and on Iowa’s USDA Farm Service Agency state committee.

Vaden, who has been at USDA since President Trump’s inauguration, grew up on a family farm in west Tennessee before coming to Washington to work at two of D.C.’s biggest law firms.

Wheeler is the co-leader of the energy practice at the law firm Faegre Baker Daniels and formerly served on the staff of Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., including as the long-time staff director of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. He also worked at EPA’s Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics during both the George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton administrations.

Conaway, Roberts React to Administration’s FY2019 Budget Proposal

Following the release of the Trump administration’s FY 2019 budget proposal, House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway (TX-11) and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) issued the joint statement below:

“As Chairmen of the Agriculture Committees, the task at hand is to produce a Farm Bill for the benefit of our farmers, ranchers, consumers and other stakeholders. This budget, as with every other president’s budget before, will not prevent us from doing that job. We are committed to maintaining a strong safety net for agricultural producers during these times of low prices and uncertain markets and continuing to improve our nation’s nutrition programs.”


Today, the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) released the following statement regarding President Donald Trump’s budget for conservation programs in the 2019 fiscal year.

“Once again, this administration is calling on American producers to do more with less,” NACD President Brent Van Dyke said. “The President’s budget proposes cuts to almost every area of USDA’s discretionary and mandatory budgets, including nearly $15 billion in cuts to farm bill conservation programs and over a 20 percent reduction to Conservation Operations.”

Within the conservation portfolio, the President’s FY19 budget proposes a funding level of $669 million for Conservation Operations, a $200 million cut to the account that funds conservation planning and technical assistance. The budget also requests significant cuts to the Conservation Technical Assistance (CTA) program within Conservation Operations.

“Conservation planning is the lifeblood of voluntary conservation and the building block on which all other conservation programs stand,” Van Dyke said. “Proposing extreme cuts to technical assistance programs at a time when the administration is asking for greater customer service just doesn’t add up. The President’s budget proposal is a reminder that we must continue educating our lawmakers about just how important locally-led conservation efforts are to this country now and for future generations.”

The budget includes a legislative proposal to eliminate the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and funding for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). In addition to eliminating these USDA programs, the budget also requests to completely eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Section 319 nonpoint source grant program, which helps address nonpoint pollution from agricultural as well as non-agricultural sources.

NACD applauds Congress’ past efforts to support the conservation programs most vital to our nation’s natural resources and calls on Congress to oppose President Trump’s FY19 budget.

NCGA Statement on President's Proposed FY19 Budget

The White House today released its detailed proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2019. The budget proposal includes the following:
-    Cutting the federal crop insurance program by $22.4 billion over the 2019-2028 period
-    Targeting program subsidies to those producers that have an Adjusted Gross Income of $500,000 or less for a savings of $3 billion over the 2019-2028 period
-    Reducing underwriting subsidies to participating insurance companies by placing a cap on underwriting gains at 12 percent or $3 billion over the 2019-2028 period

The following is a statement from the National Corn Growers Association:

"The time and place to debate farm bill programs is during the farm bill reauthorization, not the annual budget process. The farm bill represents a 5-year commitment to America's farmers and ranchers, which Congress made in 2014, and is preparing to reauthorize again this year. We are counting on Congress to honor that commitment, and reject cuts that would be harmful for rural America. These proposed budget cuts would simultaneously hurt farmers' ability to manage risk and grow their revenues by undermining the financial wellbeing of the companies upon which they depend.

"Targeting the federal crop insurance program is extremely shortsighted. These cuts would reduce premium subsidies for policies with harvest price coverage by 15 percentage points. It also reduces premium subsidies for policies without harvest price coverage by 10 percentage points.

"This is particularly harmful during an extended period of low commodity prices. NCGA members consistently tell us that crop insurance is their most important risk management tool. This public-private partnership helps farmers manage their risk, and it saves taxpayers money in the long run by reducing reliance on ad hoc disaster assistance.

"MAP and FMD are successful programs that build global demand for U.S. farm products, and increase income and jobs in our communities. NCGA is pleased to see that some funding for these crucial programs has been included.

"MAP and FMD create an average return on investment of $28 for every $1 spent, and account for 15 percent of all U.S. ag export revenue-making them a solid investment. At a time when the farm economy is struggling, we should be investing more in these programs that open markets and increase demand, not less.

"We urge Congress to honor the commitment they made to rural America when they reauthorized the farm bill in 2014. We hope to engage in a meaningful dialogue about how we can support America's farmers, ranchers, and rural communities through these challenging economic times."

Budget Proposal Another Blow to Family Farmers

The White House today released its proposed fiscal year (FY) 2019 budget.

Over the next decade, the $4.4 trillion budget would severely cut many programs that family farmers and ranchers and rural Americans rely on, including $48.6 billion from Farm Bill programs, $3.7 billion from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), $213 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Program (SNAP), $554 billion from Medicare, and $250 billion from Medicaid. These proposed cuts come on the heels of a massive tax cut for corporations and wealthy Americans as well as the fifth straight year of projected declines in net farm income.

National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson released the following statement in response to the budget:

“To say that this budget is disappointing is an understatement. This administration has consistently demonstrated a lack of support for the most vulnerable populations, and this plan is just more of the same. It is frankly disgusting that the government has offered corporations and the wealthiest among us a $1.5 trillion gift in the form of tax cuts while proposing deep cuts to programs so important for low- and middle-class Americans.

“At the same time, this policy fails to step up for family farmers and ranchers, who are expected to endure yet another year of declining farm income. As the farm economy continues to falter, this is the time for the government to step in and boost rural America up, not yank the rug out from underneath them.

“More than anything, the budget proposal reflects a clear misalignment of the government’s priorities compared to the actual needs of the American public. It’s a harmful and short-sighted plan that should be quickly rejected by Congress. Farmers Union urges Congress to recognize the needs of family farmers and ranchers and rural communities by strengthening the farm and social safety net.”

President budget undermines rural America

Center for Rural Affairs policy associate Anna Johnson today said America stands to suffer as a result of President Trump’s 2019 budget, released this afternoon by the U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) and the office of Management and Budget (OMB).

“The President has proposed again to eliminate or shrink many programs that serve rural America, including those supporting rural businesses, cooperatives, and housing,” said Johnson. “The President is also calling for an investment of $50 billion in rural infrastructure, but this could put the onus on states already struggling with the economic fallout of depressed commodity prices.”

In addition, Trump’s budget slashes working lands conservation programs by proposing the elimination of the Conservation Stewardship Program. Johnson said it would be a grave error to remove this vital support to farmers and ranchers.

“The Conservation Stewardship Program gives farmers and ranchers an incredibly important opportunity to plant cover crops, practice soil conservation tillage, and improve pasture land,” she said. “Eliminating it would do serious damage to our farmers’ and ranchers’ abilities to preserve water quality and build soil health while also maintaining productive operations.”

Another program threatened by the President’s budget is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

“SNAP is often the linchpin between rural and urban representatives in the passage of the farm bill, set to expire in September 2018,” said Jordan Rasmussen, Center for Rural Affairs policy associate. “The President’s budget strips away nearly $214 billion in funding for SNAP over the next decade.”

Rasmussen continued, “Beyond the revocation of funding, the budget outlines a plan to reduce direct SNAP assistance, and instead, distribute quantities of ‘American grown,’ shelf-stable items like milk, peanut butter, cereals, and canned meats. This action would not only destabilize attempts to bring more healthy, fresh foods into the homes of America’s food insecure, but would keep dollars out of local grocery stores and farmers markets, which are critical assets to all communities.”

On a positive note, the President’s budget includes proposals that would bring greater fairness to farming communities, according to Johnson. For example, the budget targets commodity, conservation, and crop insurance assistance to producers with adjusted gross incomes of $500,000 or less. A similar proposal would limit the number of people who can register as a farm manager and thereby receive payments.

“These proposals would bring long-awaited fairness to our agricultural communities,” Johnson said. “For too long, the largest farms have had access to more support than small and mid-sized farms. This competitive advantage for large farms has contributed to farm consolidation and shrinking rural communities.”

Johnson said President Trump’s budget proposal would drain support for rural America.

"We fear these actions represent a lack of understanding of rural America’s struggles," she said. "We urge President Trump, U.S. Department of Agriculture Sec. Perdue, and their teams to cease these actions that undercut rural Americans and rural communities.”

Sales Closing Dates Near for Most Crops

Expanded Options available to enhance Farm Safety Net

Last year’s hurricanes, wildfires, and droughts, devastated parts of the South, Midwest, Northern Plains, and California, and were a stark reminder that agriculture is an inherently risky business. Federal crop insurance indemnities for these disasters totaled more than $1 billion in 2017.

“The prosperity of the rural economy depends on our farmers and ranchers and their ability to bounce back from adverse conditions,” said Farm Production and Conservation Acting Deputy Under Secretary Robert Johansson.  “Crop insurance is central to a strong farm safety net, and producers should talk with their agents to purchase their coverage before the sales closing date.”

To prepare for this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Risk Management Agency (RMA) urges farmers to sign up for crop insurance before the sales closing dates for eligible 2018 spring crops. The sales closing dates for most spring-planted crops is February 28 or March 15. 

Federal crop insurance helps producers recover after severe weather and manage other business risks. RMA implemented a number of program improvements for the 2018 year. Coverage is available for nearly every commodity, including fruit, vegetable, and organic, with crop specific plans or the Whole-Farm Revenue Protection policy.

Sales closing dates vary by crop, state, and county. More information about deadlines are available in the RMA Actuarial Browser. To discuss dates and options, producers should contact their local agent. Learn more at

ASA Hires Ryan Findlay as Chief Executive Officer

The American Soybean Association announced today the selection of Ryan Findlay as its new Chief Executive Officer. Findlay replaces Stephen Censky, who left ASA in October of 2017 after confirmation by the U.S. Senate as Deputy Secretary of Agriculture.

“ASA is extremely pleased to have found someone of Ryan’s caliber and experience to lead us into our next chapter as a first-class U.S. commodity organization” said ASA President John Heisdorffer, a soybean producer from Keota, Iowa. “Ryan’s background growing up on a farm and working for the Michigan Farm Bureau and for Syngenta give him the right combination of life and work experience that will serve ASA well in the coming years,” Heisdorffer stated.

Findlay is a native of Caro, Mich., where his family still farms row crops. He earned a degree in political science from Western Michigan University and an MBA from Northwood University in Midland, Mich. The last four years Ryan worked for the global agricultural company Syngenta, focusing on freedom-to-operate issues impacting farmers. His seven-year tenure with the Michigan Farm Bureau included work on two farm bills, international trade, climate change and regulatory issues. Ryan, his wife Gretchen, and their two children will be relocating to the St. Louis area, where he will work out of ASA’s headquarters office.

“I am honored to be selected to lead a premier policy organization that I have worked with and admired for years,” Findlay said. “I look forward to building on Steve Censky’s strong legacy as ASA and its state affiliates continue to lead the public debate on key policy issues including farm risk management, international trade and rural infrastructure.”

NBB Congratulates New American Soybean Association CEO

Today, the National Biodiesel Board issued the following statement welcoming Ryan Findlay as the new CEO of the American Soybean Association.

“The National Biodiesel Board congratulates Ryan Findlay on his announcement as the new CEO of the American Soybean Association,” said Donnell Rehagen, NBB CEO. “ASA and its membership have been leaders in the advancement of the biodiesel industry since the beginning. We look forward to continuing our strong relationship under Findlay’s guidance as we grow the rural economy, create jobs, and add value to farm commodities through the production of America’s advanced biofuel – biodiesel.”

U.S. Grains Council Kicks Off Winter Membership Meeting, Focuses On Trade Policy And Market Development

Members, delegates and global staff representatives from the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) have gathered in Houston, Texas, for the organization's 15th International Marketing Conference and 58th Annual Membership Meeting, happening until Wednesday.

“At this meeting, we gather with friends, old and new, to discuss issues facing our industry as well as future demand for feed grains and their co-products around the world,” said Deb Keller, USGC chairman and a grain farmer from Iowa. “We have work to do, lessons to learn from our speakers and new frontiers to explore as we expand export opportunities.”

Ted McKinney, under secretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), will address the group during general session on Monday.

He will be joined by other prestigious speakers including Mark Slupek, deputy administrator of the Office of Trade Programs at the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS); Deen Kaplan, partner in leading international trade firm Hogan Lovells; and Professor Harry Kaiser, economist at Cornell University, who has recently completed research on the return on investment of Council market development programs.

USGC advisory teams and commodity sectors will meet on Tuesday to contribute to the Council’s global trade strategy for the coming year, and all delegates will participate in a business meeting on Wednesday.

Throughout the sessions, USGC staff from around the world will speak on issues specific to their respective markets during panel presentations as well as one-on-one with delegates and members. The interaction between international staff and USGC members and delegates is a crucial component of the winter membership meeting.

“Our members are the heart of the Council, guiding the work of USGC leadership and staff,” Keller said. “This meeting allows us to share the important trade work happening around the world with colleagues and neighbors as well as what must be done to continue building global demand and capturing market share for U.S. coarse grains and co-products.”

Under Secretary McKinney Speaks To Trade Cooperation, Announces North Africa And Middle East Training Grant

U.S. Department of Agriculture Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney addressed the delegates and members of the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) on Monday, updating them on ongoing trade negotiations that will affect grains market access and announcing a $1.3 million grant for Council feed industry training programs in North Africa and the Middle East.

Council representatives are meeting as part of the organization’s 15th International Marketing Conference and 58th Annual Membership Meeting in Houston, Texas.

In his role, McKinney leads the development and implementation of the Department’s trade policy, oversees and facilitates foreign market access, and promotes opportunities for U.S. agriculture through various trade programs and high-level government negotiations.

In Houston, he spoke on the ongoing negotiations for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS), potential bilateral trade deals, ethanol exports and the positive reputation of U.S. products globally.

"USDA is all in for all of you," he said. "We have not missed an opportunity to promote your products at the highest levels."

The Council works closely with McKinney's team at USDA as well as a broad array of staff at the Department's Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) in Washington and around the globe. 

The North Africa and Middle East training efforts were recently launched with a memorandum of understanding and initial funding from the U.S. Department of State. It will support a regional training center in Tunisia focused on stimulating feed industry growth in one of the areas of the world with the most potential for increased feed demand.

“Under Secretary McKinney's role and efforts are evidence of the USDA’s sharp focus on trade, shared by the Council’s members, delegates and staff in attendance,” said Deb Keller, USGC chairman and farmer from Iowa. “He is a longtime friend of the Council, and we are thrilled that he is able to share his work with us in Houston.”

McKinney’s speech was followed by remarks from Deen Kaplan, partner in leading international trade firm Hogan Lovells, on how agriculture relates to global trade conflicts, and Mark Slupek, deputy administrator of the Office of Trade Programs at FAS, on public-private partnerships including that between the Council and his agency through the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Foreign Market Development (FMD) program.

Ryan LeGrand, USGC director in Mexico, and Bryan Lohmar, USGC director in China, also updated delegates in attendance on critical issues facing their markets, two of the largest grain buyers globally.

“The partnership between the USDA and the Council helps support the work we do, cemented by a strong foundation of member support,” Keller said. “We appreciate the opportunity to hear from both USDA leadership and our global staff on how our collaborative efforts support U.S. farmers and agribusiness through increased demand for their products.”

Perdue Applauds Trump Infrastructure Agenda, Benefits to Rural America

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today praised the infrastructure agenda laid out by President Donald J. Trump, specifically its emphasis on investment in rural America. The plan calls for 25 percent of new federal funds to be dedicated to rural infrastructure needs, as prioritized by state and local leaders.

Perdue issued the following statement:

“President Trump has made it a priority to rebuild our infrastructure since the day he took office and he has followed through on that commitment. No area of the country needs investment in infrastructure more than rural America. With a quarter of the new federal money heading to rural parts of the country, states will have the ability to expand broadband access, increase connectivity, rebuild roads, and supply affordable utilities. Importantly, states will have the flexibility to choose which projects will best meet their unique needs.

“Our Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity, which President Trump created on my first day as secretary of agriculture, identified infrastructure – and specifically access to high-speed Internet – as a key area where rural America must improve. In my travels across the country, I have heard from the people in the Heartland, and the overwhelming view is that this is just the type of investment they are looking for to help create jobs, improve education, improve the quality of life, and increase overall prosperity. Once again, by his words and deeds, President Trump is proving that he has rural America close to his heart.”

President’s Infrastructure Plan Paves Way for Boosting Rural Economy

American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall

“President Trump’s ‘Building a Stronger America’ plan promises to bring long overdue improvements to the country roads, bridges and broader infrastructure that farmers and ranchers depend on to reach customers at home and abroad. While past infrastructure plans have left rural America in the dust, this administration has not forgotten the rural communities that form the backbone of our nation.

“The proposed $50 billion in rural spending will help restore our deteriorating infrastructure and protect U.S. agriculture’s place as a world leader in production. We also applaud the administration for placing the decisions of how these dollars should be spent back at the local level. Governors and local officials know their roads and bridges better than anyone, and they are ready to set the priorities for rebuilding rural America.

“Farmers and ranchers know the pride of ownership and a hard day’s work, and the president’s infrastructure plan rewards those values. With less bureaucratic red tape and more local ownership, we’re confident this plan gives rural America the tools to drive our economy forward.”

Plan Seeks to Address Rural Infrastructure Needs

The White House today released its principles to rebuild America’s long-neglected infrastructure. The plan includes $200 billion in federal investment over ten years, $50 billion of which is designated for rural projects.

In response to the plan, National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson released the following statement:

“We are encouraged that the Administration is acknowledging the need for significant investment in rural infrastructure. With over $3.6 trillion required to overcome decades of deferred maintenance, our nation’s roads, bridges, rails, locks and dams, water and waste systems, and rural broadband are in desperate need of robust funding.

“We look forward to working with Congress to maximize opportunities to improve rural America’s failing infrastructure.”

NCGA Applauds Trump for Prioritizing Infrastructure, Details Concerns Over Waterways Plans

The National Corn Growers Association thanked President Trump following the announcement detailing his plan to rebuild America's infrastructure and making it a national priority today. Noting the particular importance of improving rural infrastructure, and pledging $50 billion dollars to do so, this announcement clearly shows the value the Administration places on rural communities, and NCGA looks forward to working with them in their efforts to achieve this important goal.

While NCGA is pleased in the investment in rural infrastructure, plans outlined to address water transportation systems cause some concern in their current state.

Water transportation systems like the Upper Mississippi River corridor are critical corridors of commerce for many industries including agriculture and the nation's farmers. We are currently depending on a dilapidated system of locks and dams that is more than half a century old, and on borrowed time.

Nearly three-quarters of U.S. grain exports are transported to port via the U.S. river system, but most of the nation's locks and dams have outlived their intended 50-year lifespans. Breakdowns in the river infrastructure add to transport costs, some of which are passed on to farmers. Meanwhile, rural areas rely disproportionately on federal funding for infrastructure projects, underscoring the need for robust federal investment.

Rural communities continue to see infrastructure deteriorate, jeopardizing jobs, our agriculture competitiveness, and the long-term future of family farmers.

When farmers and business owners have to find alternative routes, it creates delays in getting products to market and increases the cost of production and export. These delays have real world results with estimates stating that America's transportation deficiencies will cost U.S. agriculture $1.3 billion in exports by 2020.

CWT Assists with 1.2 million Pounds of Cheese Export Sales

Cooperatives Working Together (CWT) has accepted 4 requests for export assistance from cooperatives that have contracts to sell 1.213 million pounds (550 metric tons) of Cheddar cheese to customers in Asia and the Middle East. The product has been contracted for delivery in the period from February through May 2018.

CWT-assisted member cooperative 2018 export sales total 13.900 million pounds of American-type cheeses, and 1.590 pounds of butter (82% milkfat) to 11 countries on three continents. These sales are the equivalent of 164.063 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 affects all U.S. dairy farmers by strengthening and maintaining the value of dairy products that directly impact their milk price.

Food, Ag Group Expresses Desire to Work with Trump Administration to Reengage in TPP

The Asia-Pacific Working Group of the diverse and broad-based U.S. Food and Agriculture Dialogue for Trade (Dialogue), which represents more than 95 percent of the U.S. farming, ranching and food processing sector, is expressing its desire to share specific ideas with the Trump administration on how to reengage in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade negotiations following President Donald Trump's Jan. 26 address at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, during which he expressed a willingness to consider doing so.

In a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, the Dialogue's Asia-Pacific Working Group said it welcomed President Trump's statement that the United States "is prepared to negotiate mutually beneficial, bilateral trade agreements with all countries...include(ing) the countries within TPP" and "would consider negotiating with the rest (of the TPP countries) either individually or perhaps as a group if it is in the interests of all."

The letter noted that 11 nations currently are planning to sign the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership in March, and that the accord will begin being implemented three months thereafter. "Once this happens, our sector will be placed at a substantial disadvantage, as other countries gain entry into these markets at substantially lower tariffs and under preferential terms," the letter said.  "Given the downturn in U.S. farm prices and profitability that already is hurting rural America, the timing could not be worse. American food and agricultural producers and companies are facing significant barriers in these markets that could be addressed within the improved rules and higher standards through reengagement with the TPP countries."

In its letter, the Dialogue's Asia-Pacific Working Group wrote that there are "compelling reasons to ensure American farmers, ranchers, agribusinesses, retailers, workers and consumers benefit" from trade opportunities that exist in the region.  "We would welcome sharing our specific ideas and supporting your administration's efforts for reengaging with TPP countries in a manner that results in concrete gains for the United States," the letter concluded.

FFA Members Across the Country to Celebrate National FFA Week

Agriculture is part of our daily lives—from the food we eat to the clothes we wear. Next week, more than 653,000 FFA members will celebrate the role agriculture plays in our lives while sharing the message of agricultural education as part of National FFA Week.

 National FFA Week is a time for FFA members to host activities that raise awareness about the role the National FFA Organization plays in the development of agriculture's future leaders and the importance of agricultural education.

 National FFA Week always runs Saturday to Saturday and encompasses Feb. 22, George Washington's birthday. This year, the week kicks off on Feb. 17 and culminates on Feb. 24.

 The National FFA Board of Directors designated the weeklong tradition, which began in 1948, in recognition of Washington's legacy as an agriculturist and farmer. A group of young farmers founded FFA in 1928, influencing generations that agriculture is more than planting and harvesting — it involves science, business and more. The organization’s mission is to prepare future generations for the challenges of feeding a growing population.

 Today, FFA continues to help the next generation meet new agricultural challenges, develop unique talents and explore a broad range of career pathways. Today's FFA members are tomorrow's future biologists, chemists, veterinarians, engineers and entrepreneurs.

 National FFA Week is a time for FFA members to share agriculture with their fellow students as well as their communities. Chapters also give back to their communities through service projects and recruit students to become FFA members. For example, next week, the Kenmare FFA Chapter in North Dakota will work with local partners to fix up apartments at the Community Housing Facility. These apartments are part of a nonprofit that houses community members in need. Another chapter, located in Whiteland, Ind., will collect supplies for 100 art kits that will go to a local children’s hospital. These are just two examples of the service events during the week.

 During National FFA Week, the six national officers will visit chapters across the country. Western Region Vice President Bryce Cluff will visit Utah; Gracie Furnish, eastern region vice president, will visit Alabama; Erica Baier, central region vice president, will visit Virginia; Ian Bennett, southern region vice president, will visit Colorado; Piper Merritt, national secretary, will visit Indiana; and National FFA President Breanna Holbert will visit Minnesota.

National FFA Week is also a time for alumni and sponsors to advocate for agricultural education and FFA. On Tuesday, Feb. 20, the National FFA Foundation will celebrate Give FFA Day, a 24-hour campaign encouraging the public to support various needs impacting FFA members. If interested in giving, visit On Wednesday, alumni and supporters will celebrate Alumni Day and announce a new benefit for members. Friday, Feb. 23, FFA members and supporters are encouraged to wear blue and show their FFA pride!

 Sponsored by Tractor Supply Company, National FFA Week will be featured on social media as well. Follow the #FFAweek hashtag on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and don’t miss @NationalFFA Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat posts, including posts from the National FFA Officer Team while on the road.

Beef is a Favorite for Team USA Athletes

As the anticipation for the Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, ramps up, so does the search for Korean inspired recipes. According to Google, popularity in searches for "Korean Recipes" is almost 30 percent higher than it has been over the past year. Even Chloe Kim, a member of the U.S.A. Snowboarding Team, says in a recent Cosmopolitan interview that she and her sisters were raised in a "very culturally Korean environment," which included their mom's delicious homemade bulgogi (a spicy Korean beef dish). Speed skater, Maame Binney, tells Bon Appetit her favorite type of food is "any type of meat." The U.S. Olympic Committee even shares a great beef stew recipe designed with athletes in mind. Luckily, thanks to these winning beef recipes, you don't have to have be at the games to enjoy the flavors of Korea as you cheer on the home team.

The Beef. It's What's For Dinner. culinary team develops and triple tests every recipe and takes great pride in helping consumers celebrate big moments with beef that put delicious, healthy meals on the table.

"Beef is where nutritious and delicious come together to help people thrive and provide the strength they need to live their lives," said Dr. Shalene McNeill, executive director, nutrition research, National Cattlemen's Beef Association, a contractor to the beef checkoff. "It's exciting when we can use different flavors to highlight beef during an event like the Winter Games and help people enjoy a nutritious meal full of protein that leaves them feeling satisfied, sharp, and strong."

A delicious addition to any viewing party, beef has the essential nutrients, like protein, iron, zinc, and B-vitamins, you need to stay healthy and strong. It's the perfect complement to the inspirational stories of enduring strength displayed by our athletes.

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