Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Tuesday Februay 13 Ag News

Ricketts Announces Significant Increase in Nebraska Beef, Pork Exports in 2017

Today, Governor Pete Ricketts announced more good news in Nebraska’s number one industry, agriculture.  In 2017, Nebraska increased its total beef exports by 12 percent and its total pork exports by 20 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Global Agricultural Trade System (GATS).

“This impressive growth in Nebraska’s beef and pork exports shows how effective international trade is to growing our state,” said Governor Ricketts.  “Nebraska producers always deliver high-quality products at competitive prices, and we will continue to open new markets and strengthen existing business so the producers in this state can keep feeding the world and growing Nebraska’s ag economy.”

Beef production is Nebraska’s largest industry.  Nebraska’s 2017 total beef exports of $1.26 billion make it the largest beef exporting state in the U.S. for the second year in a row.  This is Nebraska’s fourth year in a row with more than $1 billion in beef exports.  Nebraska is a national leader in every aspect of the beef industry:  cow/calf, backgrounding, corn, cattle feeding and processing.

The 2017 total pork exports of $479 million make Nebraska the fifth largest state in the U.S. in terms of pork exports.

“We are seeing steady gains in the beef trade and even larger gains in pork growth,” said Nebraska Department of Agriculture Director Steve Wellman.  “Nebraska farmers and ranchers take great pride in the beef and pork they produce.  Consumers around the world expect high-quality ag products from Nebraska and the increase in export numbers show that Nebraska producers are exceeding expectations.”

Rescheduled Grassroots Leadership Summit Approaching

The 2018 Grassroots Leadership Summit was rescheduled for MArch 16 at the Holthus Event Center in York. Every other year the Nebraska Corn Growers Association offers a Grassroots Leadership event for members. These events are a chance for members to come together and learn more about what grassroots mean and how they can be involved in the process.

Producers interested in attending should RSVP by March 9 to reserve a spot. Contact Morgan Wrich in the Nebraska Corn Growers Association office at or (402) 438-6459. A limited number of hotel rooms are available through NeCGA for the evening of March 15. If you would like to reserve one of those rooms, please let Morgan know by March 1.

This Summit event is free to attend for all members. Others interested in attending should contact Morgan.

Women in Ag Conference Early Registration Due

The Nebraska Women in Agriculture (WIA) Conference is an annual two-day event designed to educate and uplift women producers involved in any aspect of Nebraska's agricultural industry. Through workshops and presentations, attendees will learn how to better manage risk, improve their farms and ranches and become more successful operators and business partners.

This conference focuses on the five areas of agricultural risk management. Over 30 concurrent workshops will be hosted over the two-day event that focus on:
- Production Risk
- Market Risk
- Financial Risk
- Human Risk
- Legal Risk

The 2018 Women in Agriculture Conference will be held at the Holiday Inn Convention Center in Kearney Feb. 22-23. Over 30 concurrent workshops will be featured during the two-day conference focusing on agricultural risk management topics and tools to help producers make profitable business decisions.

Cost is $150 starting Feb. 14.

For more details and to register, go to

Senators Introduce Bill to Exempt Ag Producers from Reporting Requirements for Animal Waste Emissions

Today, U.S. Senators Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), and Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.) introduced the Fair Agricultural Reporting Method (FARM) Act. The bill, which has a number of other bipartisan cosponsors, would protect farmers, ranchers, and livestock markets from burdensome EPA reporting requirements for animal waste emissions. These requirements were not intended to affect animal agriculture and instead were meant to address dangerous industrial pollution, chemical plant explosions, and the release of hazardous materials into the environment.

“Nebraska agriculture producers should be able to focus on doing their job of feeding the world without unnecessary distractions. These reporting requirements were designed to apply to industrial pollution and toxic chemicals, not animal waste on a farm or a ranch. Our legislation makes it clear that agriculture is exempt from these requirements and ensures producers in this country can continue to operate as they have been since 2008,” said Senator Fischer, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW).   

“I’ve heard from Kansas farmers and ranchers that, unless Congress acts, they will be subject to another burdensome and unnecessary regulation that costs time, money, and paperwork. In fact, more than 100,000 operations across the nation would be forced to abide by this reporting requirement that was never intended to affect agriculture. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to act swiftly on this legislation and to get these producers the help they need,” said Senate Roberts, the Chairman of the Agriculture Committee.

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) are laws on the books that require entities to notify authorities when they release large quantities of hazardous materials. In 2008, the EPA published a final rule exempting most livestock operations from the laws’ reporting requirements.

In April 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled EPA did not have the authority to create this exemption for agriculture, creating confusion and uncertainty for America’s ag producers. 

The FARM Act would:
-    Maintain the exemption for certain federally registered pesticides from reporting requirements within CERCLA.
-    Exempt air emissions from animal waste on a farm from reporting requirements under CERCLA.
-    Provide agriculture producers with greater certainty by reinstating the status quo producers have been operating under since EPA’s 2008 final rule.

Fischer Introduces Bill to Address Air Emission Reporting for Farms, Ranches

Steve Nelson, President, NE Farm Bureau

“We applaud Sen. Fischer’s efforts to bring a common sense, legislative solution to address burdensome and unnecessary air emission reporting regulations on Nebraska’s farm and ranch families. Sen. Fischer’s introduction of the Fair Agricultural Reporting Method Act (FARM Act) would exempt farms and ranches from reporting routine air emissions from farm animals and their manure.”

“Both the Bush and Obama administrations supported a rule exempting farms from these reporting requirements, yet activist groups successfully blocked those rules and their corresponding exemptions through legal action last year. This regulation, known as the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), was founded in law and intended to address hazardous waste from Superfund sites, not air emissions from farm animals.”

“Without a fix to this regulatory problem, as many as 200,000 farms and ranches across America would be required to report their daily emissions, or face fines of up to $54,000 per day, as well as face the threat of activist lawsuits for failure to report. It is critical Congress acts to address this important issue. We thank Sen. Fischer for bringing much needed attention to the matter and for bringing forth legislation that provides a means for Congress to act.”

Cattlemen Applaud Introduction of Strong Bipartisan Bill in U.S. Senate to Prevent Farms, Ranches From Being Regulated Like Toxic Superfund Sites

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) today applauded the introduction of bipartisan legislation in the U.S. Senate that would prevent farms, ranches, and other agricultural operations from having to report livestock manure data under CERCLA, the law that governs toxic Superfund sites. The bipartisan bill was introduced today with the support of 10 Republican co-sponsors and 10 Democratic cosponsors.

“There’s not a lot of truly bipartisan legislation in Washington these days, but one thing that pretty much everybody can agree on is that a responsibly-run cattle ranch isn’t a toxic Superfund site,” said fifth-generation California rancher and NCBA President Kevin Kester. “On behalf of cattle producers across America, I want to sincerely thank the Senators from both parties who worked together to introduce this bipartisan bill. I also want to encourage other Senators to join the effort and pass this bill as quickly as possible.”

Initial bipartisan cosponsors of Fair Agricultural Reporting Method Act (or, FARM Act) are U.S. Sens. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), and Tina Smith (D-Minn.). 

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) was enacted to provide for cleanup of the worst industrial chemical toxic waste dumps and spills, such as oil spills and chemical tank explosions. CERCLA was never intended to govern agricultural operations, for whom emissions from livestock are a part of everyday life.

To make this clear, in 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a rule to clarify that farms were exempt from CERCLA reporting and small farms, in particular, were exempt from EPCRA reporting, given that low-level livestock emissions are not the kind of "releases" that Congress intended to manage with these laws.

Upon being sued in 2009 by environmental advocacy groups, the Obama Administration's EPA defended the exemption in court on the grounds that CERCLA and EPCRA do not explicitly exempt farms because Congress never believed that agriculture would be covered under these statutes, so a specific statutory exemption was not viewed to be necessary. Unfortunately, in April 2017, the D.C. Circuit Court vacated the EPA's 2008 exemption, putting nearly 200,000 farms and ranches under the regulatory reporting authorities enshrined in CERCLA and EPCRA. The new reporting requirements could have gone into effect on Jan. 22, but the Court delayed implementation of the requirements until May 1, 2018, which gives Congress time to act.

NCBA in January kicked off a media campaign on the issue with an online video featuring the group’s Chief Environmental Counsel, Scott Yager. In the video, Yager donned a yellow hazmat suit and explained the issue at an actual toxic Superfund site near Fredericksburg, Virginia. He then shows the contrast between the contaminated Superfund site and a cattle farm in nearby Louisa County, Virginia, that would likely have to comply with the new reporting requirements.

"This is most certainly not a toxic Superfund site,” Yager explained from the Virginia cow pasture. “Unfortunately, a recent court decision may force cattle producers and other agricultural operations to report a bunch of information about their cow poop to the federal government under the Superfund laws that were only meant to deal with toxic waste. That is unless Congress acts soon.”

Bill Would Exempt Farms From Reporting Emissions

Legislation strongly supported by the National Pork Producers Council was introduced today to exempt farmers from reporting to the U.S. Coast Guard emissions from the natural breakdown of manure on their farms.

Led by Sens. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., and Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman John Barrasso, R-Wyo., and Ranking Member Tom Carper, D-Del., the bipartisan “Fair Agricultural Reporting Method (FARM) Act” would fix a problem created last April when a U.S. Court of Appeals rejected a 2008 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rule that exempted farmers from reporting routine farm emissions under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA).

CERCLA, more commonly known as the “Superfund Law,” is used primarily to clean hazardous waste sites but also includes a mandatory federal reporting component.

The appeals court ruling would have forced more than 100,000 livestock farmers to “guesstimate” and report the emissions from manure on their farms to the Coast Guard’s National Response Center (NRC) and subjected them to abusive and harassing citizen suits from activist groups such as the Humane Society of the United States.

“Routine emissions from hog manure do not constitute a ‘hazardous’ emergency that requires the Coast Guard to activate a national cleanup response,” said NPPC President Ken Maschhoff, a pork producer from Carlyle, Ill., “We’re extremely grateful to the 19 cosponsors of the FARM Act for their leadership and common sense on this issue.

“EPA exempted farms from CERCLA reporting because it knew responses would be unnecessary and impractical. Frankly, the court created a problem where none existed.”

Joining Fischer, Donnelly, Barrasso and Carper as cosponsors of the bill are Sens. Bob Casey, D-Pa., Chris Coons, D-Del., Joni Ernst, R-Iowa., Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., John Hoeven, R-N.D., Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Clair McCaskill, D-Mo., Jerry Moran, R-Kan., Mike Rounds, R-S.D., Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Tina Smith, D-Minn., Mark Warner, D-Va., and Roger Wicker, R-Miss.

“NPPC calls on Congress to pass the commonsense, bipartisan Fischer-Donnelly bill, FARM Act,” said Maschhoff, “and we thank all the senators who have joined this effort.”

The appeals court’s April decision originally set a Nov. 15, 2017, deadline for as many as 200,000 farms to report emissions. After petitions from EPA – supported by NPPC motions – the court twice delayed that deadline, with the most recent postponement until May 1.

Some farmers tried filing reports Nov. 15, but the NRC system was overwhelmed. In some instances, NRC operators refused to accept reports for more than a single farm per call because they didn’t want phone lines tied up, and in one case, an operator sent notices to more than 20 state and federal response authorities, including the Department of Homeland Security, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a state police agency, after receiving a report.

“The pork industry was prepared to comply with the reporting mandate,” Maschhoff said,” but EPA, the Coast Guard and state and local emergency response authorities said they didn’t want or need the information, which could have interfered with their legitimate emergency functions.”

NMPF Endorses New Legislation to Prevent Dairy Farms from Facing Air Emissions Reporting Requirement

The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) today lauded new bipartisan legislation in the Senate that would prevent dairy farms from having to generate meaningless air emissions data under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA).

The Fair Agricultural Reporting Method (FARM) Act, introduced in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday afternoon, would prevent farms, ranches and other agricultural operations from having to report livestock manure emissions data under CERCLA. The CERCLA provisions in question were originally enacted to address accidental hazardous air emission emergencies from toxic waste sites. However, because of recent court decisions, the CERCLA law soon will require farms to generate reports that regulatory agencies do not want and will not use – unless Congress legislates a change to the underlying law.

“CERCLA was never intended to be applied in this way to dairy farms,” said NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern. “Congress needs to stipulate that this burdensome regulatory overreach serves no legitimate health or safety purpose, and needs to stop.”

The FARM Act’s lead sponsors include Sens. Deb Fischer (R-NE) and Joe Donnelly (D-IN), along with 18 other Republican and Democratic senators, including Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY) and Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-DE).

In 2008, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) exempted most farms from reporting the release of manure-related ammonia and hydrogen sulfide under both CERCLA and the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act of 1986 (EPCRA), deeming such reports unnecessary. However, in April 2017, the D.C. Court of Appeals directed the removal of this exemption for dairy and other livestock operations from the two federal laws.

In October 2017, EPA filed a motion requesting that the court extend its stay on requiring livestock farm compliance with CERCLA and EPCRA until January 2018. It also issued its interpretation that reporting under EPCRA was not necessary because the air emissions are associated with routine agricultural operations, which are exempt. EPA plans to address the interpretation further via a rulemaking process. The court was expected to issue its mandate after Jan. 22, but on Jan. 19, EPA filed a request to delay the compliance date for an additional 90 days. The court granted EPA’s request, giving Congress time to change the underlying legislation at issue in the courts.

NMPF and other animal agriculture associations have assisted EPA in petitioning the appeals court to delay issuing a mandate. In the interim, NMPF worked with EPA to clarify reporting obligations in dairy production and develop meaningful guidance for farms of all sizes.

NMPF continues to recommend that producers do not file any emissions reports until the legal issue is resolved. In the meantime, it has been preparing preliminary materials to assist dairy farmers in calculating emissions and filing reports if it becomes necessary.

Iowa State University Leads Harrison County Project to Combat Weeds Resistant to Herbicides

Harrison County is home to a new project focused on combating weed resistance as part of a statewide pest resistance management program led by Iowa State University.

A team of local farmers, landowners, agronomists, crop advisers, bankers, seed and chemical company representatives, and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach specialists are addressing the increasing threat of herbicide resistant weeds, including Palmer amaranth.

Launched in 2017, the Iowa Pest Resistance Management Program is a statewide effort to slow the development of pest resistance using a collaborative approach to promote pest resistance management practices.

The Harrison County team includes farmer cooperators who will help evaluate and demonstrate the cost-effectiveness of weed resistance management for 2018 and beyond.

“I am extremely pleased in how this project is evolving, the interest that it is receiving, and especially our team,” said Larry Buss, a Harrison County farmer and leader of the project. “This team is devoting time and energy to this project because they all feel, as I do, that we have got to get on top of this resistance issue. If we do not, the results will be reduced crop yields and increased production costs, both which will decrease Iowa farmer profitability.”

Palmer amaranth was first discovered in Iowa in 2013 in Harrison County. It is of great concern to farmers due to its competitiveness, high growth rate, prolific seed production and demonstrated ability to evolve resistance to herbicides. Once it is established in a field, weed management costs may rise significantly.

“Combating weed resistance requires both a short-term and a long-term focus and adaptive management as we learn what works and what does not work,” Buss said.

In addition to combating Palmer amaranth, the Harrison County team will focus on improving management of widespread herbicide-resistant weeds — waterhemp, giant ragweed and marestail.

The Harrison County effort is one of several pest resistance management projects around Iowa coordinated by Iowa State, which is working with many partners to develop and implement projects across the state with farmers and their agronomic and farm advisers and agricultural professionals to devise cost-effective resistance management practices to sustain yields.

“The local teams drive these projects,” said Evan Sivesind, program manager in the Department of Entomology at Iowa State who oversees the Iowa Pest Resistance Management Program. “Farmers, crop advisers and other agriculture professionals set the direction for each project and develop strategies that address the issues facing farmers in their area. The Harrison County project has a great team in place that really understands the local landscape and the specific challenges farmers are facing in the area.”

In Harrison County, growing conditions and management practices vary widely. Field demonstrations will take place in both the Loess Hills and the Missouri River Valley. The viability of recommended resistance management practices will be tested and demonstrated in the context of local cropping systems.

Results will be shared through local field days, newspaper articles, handouts, social media and on, which is part of Iowa State’s Integrated Pest Management website.

The Iowa Pest Resistance Management Program is a collaboration of a broad cross-section of the Iowa agriculture industry, including the Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, Iowa Soybean Association, Iowa Soybean Research Center, Agricultural Biotechnology Stewardship Technical Committee, United States Herbicide Resistance Action Committee, United States Insecticide Resistance Action Committee, Agribusiness Association of Iowa, the Iowa Chapter of the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers, Iowa Independent Crop Consultants Association, Iowa Institute for Cooperatives, Practical Farmers of Iowa, the Soil and Water Conservation Society, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and Iowa State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Soy Growers Oppose Unprecedented Cut to Crop Insurance, Farm Programs in White House Budget

The American Soybean Association (ASA) today voiced opposition to proposed cuts included in President Donald Trump’s FY2019 budget, including reductions in the federal crop insurance program through a cap on adjusted gross income (AGI) and a reduction in premium subsidy, and elimination of the Foreign Market Development program and Market Access Program. ASA President John Heisdorffer, a farmer from Keota, Iowa, issued a statement warning Congress to avoid the cuts, which would do significant harm to the nation’s soybean farmers:

“The proposed cuts in crop insurance and farm programs make this budget a non-starter. We’ve opposed cuts to crop insurance from Republican and Democratic administrations alike. This budget revisits those cuts to an even greater degree, cutting crop insurance by approximately 30 percent. It would also eliminate the MAP and FMD export promotion programs, which we rely on to expand our reach into new and existing export markets around the world. Additionally in this budget, we’re looking at ill-advised cuts to international food assistance programs, conservation programs and to valuable agricultural research.

“As the farm economy continues to struggle in its recovery, farmers cannot afford these backbreaking cuts. And while we understand that the White House budget is considered by many to be an illustrative policy document, we are concerned that this approach only emboldens those in Congress that would see these programs significantly reduced or entirely eliminated. We strongly urge Congress to push this budget to the side and continue to advance practical farm policy.”

Growth Energy Statement: Deepening Farm Crisis Highlights Need for Biofuels

Bleak economic prospects for America’s farmers, detailed in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) latest 2018 Farm Income Forecast, underscore the need for a strong Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) says Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy.

“Rural communities are falling further behind, and many farmers are wondering if this next harvest will be their last,” said Skor. “The latest figures show farm income hitting a 12-year low, with debt mounting in the face of a global crop surplus. The RFS remains the single most promising tool available to revitalize rural growth and provide a key outlet for the multi-year crop surplus. To make that happen, it’s vital that policymakers reject attempts by a handful of refineries to pull the rug out from under America’s farmers by limiting the growth of biofuels.”

According to the new USDA forecast, net farm income is expected to decline by $4.3 billion (6.7 percent) from 2017 to $59.5 billion in 2018, the lowest level since 2006. Adjusted for inflation, income drops by $5.4 billion, leaving farmers with less income than any year since 2002. At the same time, farm debt is forecast to increase by $3.8 billion, and cash receipts for corn are forecast to fall by $1.9 billion, reflecting a decline in corn prices that has continued without relief since 2012.

“Voters trusted this administration with the power to launch a new wave of growth across rural America, and now is the time to deliver on that promise,” continued Skor. “We cannot leave rural economies in the U.S. to decline or stagnate as they did during the 1980s. We’re grateful to President Trump for his long-standing commitment to the RFS and urge him to stand strong against misguided attempts to undermine rural growth.”

Advisory Teams Engage On Issues Of Trade Policy, Trade Diplomacy In Houston

Grain producers and agribusiness representatives met to help chart the operational course for the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) during advisory team (A-team) meetings Tuesday, held at the ongoing 15th International Marketing Conference and 58th Annual Membership Meeting in Houston, Texas.

“The Council’s A-team meetings allow delegates and members to engage directly on the most critical issues related to international trade,” said Council Chairman Deb Keller, a farmer from Iowa. “The Council will use this input to guide the development of the Council’s programs in more than 50 countries that buy U.S. grains and grains products, like ethanol.”

The Council operates seven advisory teams focused on key regions - Asia, Western Hemisphere and the Middle East and Africa - and topics - ethanol, trade policy, value-added products and innovation and sustainability.

As they do each year at the Council's winter meetings, A-Teams conducted in-depth sessions in Houston to help set USGC global strategy and hear from the Council’s global staff members who work to promote the Council’s key products - U.S. corn, sorghum and barley as well as co-products like ethanol and distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS).

The teams also got information they can take back to the members of the organizations they represent, including checkoffs, agribusiness companies and general farm organizations. In this way, A-team members and Council delegates are acting as diplomats focused on the importance of strong trade policy and market development for the grains sector.

“A-teams leverage the collective perspectives and experiences of the Council’s grassroots membership,” Keller said. “These insights are critical to the Council’s success, and our members’ outreach on behalf of trade is critical to our continued growth.”

USGC delegates also met Tuesday in sector-specific groups, including for corn, barley and sorghum producers as well as agribusinesses and general farm organizations.

The full USGC Board of Delegates and the USGC Board of Directors will both convene on Wednesday during the final day of meetings in Houston.

NMPF Asks USDA to Quickly Open Enrollment Period for Revised Margin Protection Program

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) must move swiftly to re-open sign-up for the dairy Margin Protection Program (MPP) for 2018 now that Congress has made significant improvements to the dairy economic safety net program, according to the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF).

In a letter sent Tuesday to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, NMPF said that the agency needs to quickly re-open the sign-up period to give farmers the opportunity to enroll in or change their calendar year 2018 MPP coverage, given that the program will now provide more affordable coverage for farmers during a time when milk prices are at a two-year low. The enrollment window for selecting 2018 MPP coverage closed in December, but the new disaster aid legislation that Congress approved last week directs the USDA to revise that deadline.

“Congress was clear in the legislation that farmers be given the opportunity to elect or adjust their coverage for all of the 2018 calendar year,” said NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern in the letter. “Thus, it is critically important that the department move quickly to re-open enrollment and provide MPP coverage retroactive to Jan. 1, 2018.”

The larger budget law also makes several crucial improvements to the MPP, including:
-    Raising the catastrophic coverage level from $4.00 to $5.00 for the first tier of covered production for all dairy farmers;
-    Adjusting the first tier of covered production to include every dairy farmer’s first 5 million pounds of annual milk production (about 217 cows) instead of 4 million pounds, a recognition of the growth in herd sizes across the country;
-    Reducing the premium rates, effective immediately, for every producer’s first 5 million pounds of production, to better enable dairy farmers to afford the higher levels of coverage that will provide more meaningful protection against low margins;
-    Modifying the margin calculation to a monthly (from bi-monthly) basis, to make the program more accurate and responsive to producers in difficult months;
-    Waiving the annual $100 administrative fees for underserved farmers.

Mulhern also urged that USDA update its education materials for farmers, so that the department’s Farm Service Agency field offices can “ensure that dairy producers across the country receive accurate, timely information about the changes that have been made to MPP.”

NMPF also asked USDA to remind farmers using the MPP that they can receive catastrophic coverage on 90 percent of their milk production history, “with the option of then purchasing buy-up coverage on between 25 and 90 percent of production history. Since the catastrophic coverage level has been modified, we think farmers will be well-served by this reminder,” NMPF wrote.

The newly passed disaster package also removes the $20 million cap on insurance programs offered by USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA), which NMPF supported as a means to deliver additional risk management options to farms of all sizes. NMPF said it will work with USDA to help farmers understand existing tools and develop future programs that could be made available through USDA.

NMPF also reminded the agency that the current Farm Bill does not allow farmers to opt back and forth between the MPP and Livestock Gross Margin (LGM) programs. “Therefore, we ask that you give producers one-time flexibility to terminate their LGM contracts” if they wish to utilize the revised MPP in 2018, Mulhern wrote.

NGFA looks forward to working with Congress on infrastructure initiative

The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) today said it looks forward to working with Congress on legislation to finance improvements to America's crumbling infrastructure, including rehabilitating dilapidated locks-and-dams on the U.S. inland waterways system.

NGFA said the release on Feb. 12 of President Trump's legislative concepts for rebuilding U.S. infrastructure represented an important starting point for discussions, and commended the administration for its continued focus on infrastructure and for proposing to streamline and improve the cumbersome and costly permitting process for projects. The administration's legislative outline calls for spending $200 billion in federal funds to spur at least $1.5 trillion in infrastructure investments with state, local and private sector partners. The plan includes $50 billion for capital investments in rural infrastructure projects.

"The NGFA is pleased the Trump administration has prioritized rebuilding the nation's infrastructure, particularly in rural America," said NGFA President Randy Gordon. "Infrastructure is integral to maintaining a successful agricultural supply chain, preserving U.S. competitiveness in the global food and agricultural markets and rejuvenating the economic vitality of rural communities."

But for financing the rebuilding of the vital inland waterways system, NGFA said it believes that the existing public-private partnership in which commercial barge users pay a barge diesel fuel tax into a dedicated Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF), matched by general treasury funds, continues to have merit. Currently, the barge diesel fuel tax is 29-cents-per-gallon, which the barge industry and commercial users (including agricultural stakeholders) urged be increased to that level in 2014. The administration's legislative outline would make the Inland Waterways Trust Fund responsible for operating and maintaining the inland navigation system at an estimated cost eight times that of current trust fund income.

"As the president has noted, most of the locks and dams on the U.S. inland waterways system long ago surpassed their 50-year lifespan," Gordon said. "Unscheduled breakdowns and stoppages of barge traffic on the upper Mississippi and Illinois River System have increased 700 percent over the last decade. That is why NGFA will continue to advocate for a final infrastructure package that prioritizes and provides cost-share funding to repair the existing backlog of 25 critical inland waterway modernization projects."

NGFA also expressed strong concern over proposals to impose additional tolling or lockage fees on commercial users of the inland waterways. Such costs likely would result in the diversion of significant volumes of waterborne traffic to other higher-cost and capacity-challenged transport modes -- particularly already-congested highways and several service-challenged freight railroads. NGFA said tolling and lockage fees also would compound existing inequities, given that non-commercial beneficiaries of the inland waterways system, such as municipal and industrial water systems, hydropower generation plants, recreational users and others, do not similarly fund the system.

NGFA noted that inland waterways provide the lowest cost and most environmentally sustainable way to move grains, oilseeds and other agricultural products to export ports, as well as farm inputs (such as fertilizer) to U.S. farmers inland. The United States exports approximately 25 percent of its grain and oilseed crop, with about 60 percent of that volume moving to U.S. Gulf ports via the inland waterways, while another 27 percent moves by a combination of rail and barge (via the Columbia-Snake River System) to Pacific Northwest ports.

NGFA also said it supports deepening and widening navigation channels at U.S. ports to accommodate larger and more efficient vessels that transport bulk and container shipments of grains, oilseeds and grain products.

White House's Budget Proposal Makes Major Cuts to Conservation Funding

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 Announces Dr. Goeser Promoted to Vice President of Production and Sustainability

The National Corn Growers Association proudly announces that Dr. Nick Goeser, currently NCGA's Director of Soil Health, has been promoted to the position of Vice President of Production and Sustainability.

"While we had a number of outstanding candidates for this position, it is always nice to find the ideal candidate is already on the job working for you," said NCGA CEO Chris Novak. "We are excited to see how he will grow our sustainability efforts and, given his proven record of excellence, confident that he will shape our organization to benefit farmers both in the near and long term."

Since joining NCGA in April of 2014, Goeser has done an outstanding job developing and building NCGA's Soil Health Partnership.  His leadership in working with farmers in the Soil Health Partnership, his engagement with state corn organizations on environmental programming, and his outreach to a wide range of stakeholders-including other ag organizations, food manufacturers and retailers, and environmental organizations-has been vital to growing the partnership.  Having grown up on a farm in Wisconsin, Goeser understands agriculture and maintains a close connection to his family's farm.

Prior to joining NCGA, Goeser most recently worked for Monsanto as a Technology Development Representative based out of Arlington, Wisconsin.  He previously worked as an agronomist and crop manager and at the University of Wisconsin - Madison as a Graduate Research Assistant in both Agronomy and Horticulture.

Hesston by Massey Ferguson to Debut 2370 Ultra High Density Large Square Baler at World Ag Expo 2018

AGCO Corporation (NYSE:AGCO), a worldwide distributor and manufacturer of agricultural equipment, is debuting the Hesston by Massey Ferguson® 2370 Ultra High Density (Ultra HD) baler to North American producers at the 2018 World Ag Expo in Tulare, Calif., Feb. 13-15. The industry’s first and only Class 8 baler, the 2370 Ultra HD is designed to produce heavy, dense bales from light-weight, dry, slick grass and hard-to-bale crop residue. It is an especially good choice for large commercial hay growers, operations that export hay and biomass material and businesses harvesting biomass for the North American biofuels and livestock feed industries.

    Hesston by Massey Ferguson® 2370 Ultra High Density (Ultra HD) baler, will make its North American debut at the 2018 World Ag Expo. Producers can see it at Lot #46Q along the North Greenbelt between Q and R Streets.

    The 2370 Ultra HD baler is designed to help operators easily and efficiently bale light-weight dry, slick grass and hard-to-bale crop residue. It offers the throughput and reliability large commercial hay growers and businesses harvesting biomass require when harvest windows are small and tons-harvested-per-day is driving an operation’s profitability.

    The new baler is the industry’s first and only Class 8 square baler and produces 3’ X 4’ bales with 20 percent greater density than Hesston’s Model 2270XD baler.

    The Model 2370 Ultra HD has a straightforward design to reduce maintenance and service downtime and is built with the durability and reliability to run under high loads, covering thousands of acres, bale after bale. It was chosen as a 2018 AE50 Award winner by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE).

“As their market demands increase, our customers have asked for even more capacity, density and reliability from large square balers,” explains Matt LeCroy, tactical marketing manager for hay and forage products at AGCO. “Our engineers in Hesston, Kan., went to work, and the result is the industry’s first Class 8 baler. It offers the throughput and reliability large operations require when harvest windows are small and tons-harvested-per-day is driving an operation’s profitability.”

Small and large square balers are ranked in Class 1 through Class 8 using rated plunger load, the most measurable factor impacting a bale’s density. Class 8 is for balers with 750-plus kilonewtons (kN) plunger force, the highest classification.

The Model 2370 Ultra HD makes 3’ by 4’ bales with 20 percent greater density than Hesston’s industry-leading Model 2270XD baler. The Ultra HD is the latest advancement in hay harvesting from Hesston, which introduced the industry’s first large square baler in 1978.

“More crop in the bale means fewer bales to bale, handle, move, store and transport, which cuts operating costs and drives bottom-line returns for the operator. We’ve taken the time-proven design used for all Hesston® square balers and enhanced it to produce the industry’s heaviest bales. We’re excited to bring the first Class 8 square baler to market.” 

In creating the 2370 Ultra HD baler, AGCO began with a faster, 15 percent heavier, more powerful plunger that operates at 50 strokes per minute. It packs a maximum-load capacity punch of 760 kN – 63 percent greater than the 2270XD baler and built with the durability to run at maximum load capacity regardless of crop and field conditions.

Additional key features of the industry’s first and only Class 8 large square baler, include:
-    New Bale Create user interface that is intuitive to use and arms the operator with all relevant baler performance information, for quicker, easier in-field decisions and adjustments to optimize bale quality and bales harvested per hour.
-    Heavy-duty main chassis frame, designed to handle heavier loads commonly seen when producing ultra-high-density bales.
-    All new OptiFlow™ pickup assembly system reliably feeds crop into the baler at higher ground speeds. The OptiFlow pickup has five tine bars and 80 double tines on the pickup assembly, 25 percent more tine bars than previous Hesston balers. A large diameter roller, new curved-design wind guard and powered top auger ensure optimal crop flow.
-    A 28-inch longer bale chamber for greater density control, equipped with dual-acting, 7-inch-diameter, hydraulic density cylinders to create maximum bale density and a more exacting, consistent bale shape.
-    A simple design with fewer cylinders, hoses, couplers and hardware compared to competitive balers, to help reduce maintenance and service.
-    A driveline that includes three clutches in the main drives to protect against damage and downtime. The flywheel now has an auto-reset clutch, making it faster and easier to get back to baling after an overload, compared to the downtime of replacing a shear bolt in a traditional flywheel clutch.

Two gearboxes put the power behind the Ultra HD balers without adding excessive weight or size. A new, heavy-duty midline gearbox increases the flywheel energy by allowing the input speed going into the flywheel and gearbox to “step up” from 1,000 rpm to 1,500 rpm. Next, the heavy-duty Ultra™ gearbox, with maximum rated load of 760 kN, drives the plunger. Its split-torque design transfers extreme loads using maximum load output. 

Design details increase uptime

With nearly 40 years of experience designing large square balers, Hesston engineers understand the factors that cause downtime. In the 2370 Ultra HD, plunger needle slots include brushes to remove debris from needles prior to entering knotters. By keeping trash out, the knotters work better and tie more consistently with fewer missed knots and downtime. The six heavy-duty, double-tie knotters use twine with up to 800-knot-strength twine needed for high-density bales.

Two rows of EasyFill™ twine boxes hold 36 balls of twine for fewer refills, and the swing-out boxes provide easy access to baler components behind the boxes. New exterior shielding makes it easier to access service points such as the convenient ground-level hydraulic fluid reservoir, hydraulic block and fuse block. The new shielding and a unique paint scheme give the baler a sleek look.

Hydraulic brakes and a roller chute with scales come standard on the 2370 Ultra HD. Other features include a lifetime-sealed packer crank and stuffer bearings for less service time and increased baler life, and a replaceable knotter drive cam lobe.

The Model 2370 Ultra HD large square baler will be available in 2018 from Hesston by Massey Ferguson and Challenger® dealers. To find a dealer near you, visit or

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