Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Wednesday February 7 Ag News


The Nebraska Cover Crop Conference on Feb. 15 will offer information to growers in a corn/soybean rotation and help them understand the value of cover crops.

The conference will be at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Eastern Nebraska Research and Extension Center near Mead.

"The conference is designed to provide soybean and corn growers who don't have livestock with information to effectively use cover crops in their operation," said Nebraska Extension educator Keith Glewen.

Topics and presenters include:
> "The Banker Won't Like Wheat, But Your Soil Will – Hear Why," Nathan Mueller, Nebraska Extension educator.
> "Will Cover Crops Be a New Home for Insects?," Justin McMechan, entomologist with Nebraska Extension.
> "Cover Crops for Ephemeral Gully Control," Dan Gillespie, no-till specialist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
> "How Cover Crops Work on My Farm," Bill Nielsen, Minden.
> "Why I Encourage My Customers to Use Cover Crops," Lee Briese, independent crop consultant and recipient of the 2016 International Certified Crop Advisor of the Year Award.
> "Why I Use Cover Crops on My Farm," Kelly Tobin, corn/soybean grower.
> "Cover Crops for Corn and Soybean Producers," panel discussion.

The conference is 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., with registration at 8:30 a.m. Pre-register by Feb. 10 to ensure resource materials are available and for meal-planning purposes.

To register, call 402-624-8000 or email For more information, visit

The conference is sponsored by Nebraska Extension and the Nebraska Soybean Checkoff, in partnership with the Lower Platte North Natural Resources District and USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education.


Nebraska On-Farm Research Network results will be shared during meetings across the state in February. Attendees can learn about more than 80 research projects conducted by Nebraska farmers in partnership with University of Nebraska-Lincoln faculty.

The research network is a statewide program that addresses critical farmer production, profitability and natural resource questions. The meetings provide an opportunity to hear growers who conducted on-farm research share their results from the 2017 growing season.

Research projects to be discussed will include cover crops, variable-rate seeding, planting populations, multi-hybrid planting, starter fertilizer, fungicide applications, alternate crop rotations, multi-hybrid planting uses, seed treatments, side-dress nitrogen management technologies and variable-rate nitrogen management.

Meeting dates and locations include:
> Feb. 19: Eastern Nebraska Research and Extension Center, 1071 County Road G, Ithaca, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., registration at 8:30 a.m.
> Feb. 20: Lifelong Learning Center, 701 E. Benjamin Ave., Norfolk, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., registration at 8:30 a.m.
> Feb. 21: Hall County Extension Office, College Park Campus, 3180 U.S. Highway 34, Grand Island, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., registration at 8:30 a.m.
> Feb. 27, Henry J. Stumpf International Wheat Center, northeast of Grant, noon to 4 p.m., registration at 11:30 a.m.
> Feb. 28, Knight Museum Sandhills Center, 908 Yellowstone Ave., Alliance, 9 a.m. to noon, registration at 8:30 a.m. 

There is no fee to attend. Pre-registration is requested for meal-planning purposes. To register for any of the five meetings, call 402-624-8030 or email

To learn more about the research network, visit

Precision Farming Dealer awards Central Valley Ag 2018 Most Valuable Dealership

Central Valley Ag (CVA) has been honored by Precision Farming Dealer as the 2018 recipient of its 6th annual Most Valuable Dealership award.

“We’re truly honored to receive this prestigious award,” said Karl Hensley, senior vice president of agronomy. “The recognition helps underscore the emphasis our cooperative puts on constant innovation.”

An independent panel of judges evaluated each of the 27 dealership nominees on precision farming sales growth and diversity, along with how each nominee generates revenue from hardware, software and precision service. The judges also analyzed less quantifiable elements that define the best precision farming dealership, such as employee training, performance standards, innovation, sustainability and community involvement.

CVA marks the third time a farm cooperative has captured the honor.

“It all starts with service,” said Keith Byerly, Advanced Cropping Systems manager for CVA. “To succeed, we need quality employees who are willing to learn something new every day and be able to adapt to each individual grower’s situation and needs. At the end of the day, the widgets are only as good as the person behind them.”

CVA launched its precision ag department more than 20 years ago, and today has a 26-person team dedicated to precision farming operations along with a central dispatch and 48 agronomy locations that operate 60-mile geographies. CVA offers a variety of precision services, including yield and field mapping, GPS and RTK signal subscriptions, soil sampling and equipment installations, and data analysis.

As noted by the judges, “CVA has an extremely balanced and service-oriented approach to their precision ag business.” “The completeness of their precision business is impressive. It’s not just hardware or agronomy. They blend it together in an impressive manner.” “I like that they utilize field research and test plots to prove ROI to customers, rather than just pushing products out the door.”

CVA joins previous award recipients Brokaw Supply Company, Fort Dodge, Iowa (2013); South Dakota Wheat Growers, Aberdeen, S.D. (2014); Ag Info Tech, Mount Vernon, Ohio (2015); Hoober Inc., Intercourse, Pa. (2016); and Southern States Cooperative, Richmond, Va. (2017).

New Records for U.S. Beef Export Value, Pork Export Volume in 2017

2017 was a record-breaking year for U.S. red meat exports, with beef export value exceeding $7 billion for only the second time and pork exports easily surpassing the previous year’s volume record, according to data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

Beef exports totaled 1.26 million metric tons (mt), up 6 percent from 2016. This was the fourth-largest volume on record and the second-largest of the post-BSE era. Beef export value reached $7.27 billion, up 15 percent year-over-year and 2 percent above the previous high achieved in 2014 ($7.13 billion).

“This was a remarkable year for beef exports, in our mainstay markets in northern Asia as well as emerging destinations in South America, Southeast Asia and Africa,” said USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom. “The U.S. beef industry gained significant market share in Japan despite considerable obstacles, and posted a record-breaking performance in South Korea and Taiwan. These markets are especially critical for chilled beef exports, which were up about 25 percent year-over-year. This had a tremendous impact on carcass value.”

For December only, beef export value was up 9 percent from a year ago to $672.9 million – the second-highest of 2017 and the third-highest on record. December volume was down 3 percent from a year ago to 113,269 mt.

Beef exports accounted for 12.9 percent of total production in 2017 and 10.4 percent for muscle cuts only, down from 13.7 percent and 10.5 percent, respectively, in 2016. Beef export value averaged $286.38 per head of fed slaughter, up 9 percent from 2016 and the second-highest on record, trailing only the $300.36 average posted in 2014.

Pork exports totaled 2.45 million mt in 2017, breaking the 2016 record by 6 percent. Export value was $6.49 billion – up 9 percent year-over-year and the second-highest on record, trailing only 2014 ($6.65 billion).

“Heading into 2017, we knew U.S. pork production would be record-large and that the industry would be counting more than ever on export growth to support hog prices and sustain profitability,” Halstrom said. “Our international pork customers really stepped up to the plate, and USMEF helped the industry meet their needs through new product development, consumer education and outreach and by creating opportunities for customers to meet with U.S. suppliers. The new volume record for pork is impressive, but it’s important to note that export value increased at an even more rapid pace – which confirms that international demand is robust and that exports deliver a strong return.”

For December only, pork export value was up 5 percent from a year ago to $591.1 million. This was the second-highest total of 2017, trailing only the record value achieved in November ($615.8 million). December volume was down 1 percent from a year ago to 219,809 mt.

Pork exports accounted for 26.6 percent of total production in 2017 and 22.3 percent for muscle cuts only, each up nearly a full percentage point from a year ago. Pork export value averaged $53.47 per head slaughtered, up 6 percent from 2016.

Japan leads beef export growth; value records fall in several key markets

Japan solidified its position as the leading market for U.S. beef in 2017, with volume climbing 19 percent year-over-year to 307,559 mt and value up 25 percent to $1.89 billion – new post-BSE records. Chilled exports to Japan expanded even more rapidly, reaching 148,688 mt (up 32 percent) valued at $1.102 billion (up 37 percent) as U.S. beef captured more than half of Japan’s imported chilled beef market – a new high for U.S. market share. Japan accounts for nearly $75 in export value per head of fed slaughter and delivers critical premiums for certain cuts. For example, Japan’s imports of U.S. beef tongue averaged $12.13 per head and imports of short plate averaged $26.44.

The U.S. industry is marketing a wide range of beef cuts in Japan and the market holds potential for additional growth. But market access is a concern, with imports of Australian and Mexican beef subject to significantly lower duties and beef from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Mexico all poised to gain further tariff relief through the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

Other 2017 beef export highlights include:

-    Beef exports to South Korea increased 3 percent in volume (184,152 mt) and climbed 15 percent in value to $1.22 billion, easily outpacing the previous year’s record. Chilled U.S. beef achieved tremendous growth, increasing 73 percent in volume (45,153 mt) and 78 percent in value ($405.8 million). Demand is especially strong in the Korean retail sector, where consumer confidence in the quality and safety of U.S. beef continues to gain momentum. Korea’s imports of U.S. beef are now subject to a 21.3 percent tariff, down from 24 percent in 2017 and well below the 40 percent rate in effect prior to implementation of the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS). The tariff rate is scheduled to decline to zero by 2026.
-    Mexico remained the second-largest volume market (237,972 mt, down 2 percent from 2016) and third-largest in value ($979.7 million, up slightly). It is an especially important market for U.S. beef shoulder clods, rounds and variety meat.
-    Exports to Taiwan set a new value record, increasing 13 percent from a year ago to $409.7 million. Volume was up 2 percent to 44,800 mt. U.S. beef holds 72 percent of Taiwan’s chilled beef market, the highest share of any Asian destination. Taiwan is a key market for secondary beef cuts such as the clod heart, petite tender and top sirloin cap.
-    Demand in Hong Kong rebounded from a slow start to post a strong performance in 2017, increasing 16 percent in volume (130,726 mt) and 29 percent in value ($884.1 million). After China’s mid-year lifting of its ban on U.S. beef, exports to China totaled 3,020 mt valued at $31 million. While eligible supplies remain limited due to China’s import restrictions, the market holds significant growth potential and is already one of the highest value markets for U.S. beef on a per-pound basis.
-    Record exports to the Philippines and Singapore and strong growth in Indonesia and Vietnam pushed export volume to the ASEAN region up 37 percent to 40,954 mt, while value climbed 34 percent to $210.9 million.
-    Strong performances in Chile, Peru and Colombia led the way for U.S. beef in South America, where export volume increased 24 percent to 28,383 mt and value was up 23 percent to $114.8 million. Shipments to Brazil, which resumed in April after a 13-year absence, totaled 2,035 mt valued at $7.4 million.
-    Led by strong beef liver demand in South Africa, exports to Africa increased 78 percent in volume (22,001 mt) and 74 percent in value ($22 million). Since reopening to U.S. beef in 2016, South Africa has emerged as the sixth-largest destination for U.S. beef variety meat and second-largest for livers.

Mexico, Central and South America, Korea drive outstanding growth for U.S. pork

Strong demand for U.S. hams set the pace for the sixth consecutive volume record for pork exports to Mexico at 801,887 mt, up 10 percent year-over-year. Export value reached $1.51 billion – up 12 percent and the second-highest on record, trailing only 2014 ($1.56 billion). Per capita pork consumption in Mexico has grown by about one-third over the past 10 years and now stands at 18 kilograms. This rapid growth has been bolstered by USMEF’s trade education and outreach efforts and continuous engagement with Mexico’s importers, distributors and processors, as well as duty-free access under NAFTA.

Other 2017 pork export highlights include:

-    Exports to leading value market Japan increased 2 percent in volume (393,648 mt) and 4 percent in value ($1.63 billion). Chilled pork export volume to Japan was down slightly to 217,857 mt, while value was up 4 percent to $1.03 billion. Similar to beef, market access to Japan is a growing concern for the U.S. pork industry as trade barriers for Canadian, Mexican and Chilean pork will be reduced under CPTPP and the European Union will soon finalize an economic partnership agreement with Japan.
-    Exports to Korea soared 28 percent in volume to 173,182 mt, valued at $475 million – up 30 percent year-over-year and the second-highest on record (exports reached $497 million in 2011, when Korea was in recovery from a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak). Korea’s pork consumption set another new record in 2017 and demand has been fueled in part by a growing preference for protein-centric convenience foods and home meal replacement items. Most U.S. pork now enters Korea duty-free under KORUS.
-    Booming demand in Colombia and Chile and a growing presence for U.S. pork in Peru fueled a record performance in South America, where exports were up 57 percent in volume (103,987 mt) and 58 percent in value ($268 million). Most U.S. pork entering South America is destined for further processing, but USMEF continues to make inroads in the retail sector and with U.S.-origin processed products. Exports to the region could gain further momentum in 2018, when Argentina is expected to reopen to U.S. pork and as pork consumption continues to grow in existing markets.
-    Pork exports to Central America were also record-large in 2017 at 73,891 mt (up 6 percent), valued at $179.8 million (up 8 percent), led by solid growth in mainstay markets Honduras and Guatemala. Exports to the Dominican Republic also set a new record, with volume up 20 percent to 30,803 mt and value increasing 26 percent to $71.1 million.
-    Despite being limited to processed products and raw material destined for further processing, exports to Australia set a new volume record at 70,985 mt (up 12 percent) and climbed 17 percent in value to $208.3 million. Australia is an especially important destination for U.S. hams.
-    Strong growth in the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam pushed exports to the ASEAN region up 15 percent in volume (47,725 mt) and 30 percent in value ($128.2 million).
-    China/Hong was the second-largest volume destination for U.S. pork at 495,637 mt. This was down 9 percent from a year ago as China’s total imports decreased, reflecting a rebound in domestic production. However, export value was up slightly from 2016 at $1.08 billion. The region is the largest destination for U.S. pork variety meat, with 2017 exports up 2 percent in volume to 321,116 mt. The value of these exports climbed 16 percent to $741.8 million, as variety meat exports to China/Hong Kong accounted for an average of $6.12 per U.S. hog slaughtered.
-    On a global basis, U.S. pork variety meat exports were up 4 percent to 543,973 mt, while export value was up 17 percent and easily the highest on record at $1.17 billion, averaging a record $9.67 for every hog processed.

Lamb muscle cut exports higher in 2017; variety meats struggle

U.S. lamb exports were down 14 percent in volume (7,261 mt) in 2017, but value increased 7 percent to $19.5 million. The volume decline was due to slow demand for variety meat, as muscle cuts exports increased in both volume (2,421 mt, up 8 percent) and value ($14.2 million, up 16 percent), including strong gains in the Caribbean, Canada and Central America. U.S. lamb gained access to Taiwan in 2016 and recently became eligible for Guatemala and El Salvador. However, expanding market access for U.S. lamb remains a priority for USMEF, as lamb is still ineligible in many key markets including Japan, Korea, China and South America.

“We have had success differentiating U.S. lamb as a premium product,” Halstrom noted. “But the lamb industry cannot fully capitalize on international demand until barriers are removed in some of the most prominent destinations for U.S. red meat.”

U.S. Pork Exports Set New Volume Records in 2017

In 2017, U.S. pork exports recorded the largest year ever in volume, with sales to more than 100 countries around the world. U.S. pork and pork variety meat exports totaled 5.399 billion pounds valued at $6.486 billion, up 6 percent and 9 percent respectively from 2016.

“Exports continue to be an important piece of the puzzle for adding to producers’ bottom line,” said Craig Morris, vice president of international marketing for the Pork Checkoff. “Recognizing the importance of exports, the National Pork Board recently approved nearly $8.7 million for 2018 export market activities, the most significant financial investment of Checkoff dollars in international marketing efforts to date. With more high quality U.S. pork available than ever, we are redoubling efforts to build on the momentum of the past year.”

Pork variety meats were the shining star during 2017. Exports tied the 2011 record, with 82 percent of edible variety meat exported. Pork variety meat exports totaled $1.17 billion, setting a new total value record and surpassing $1 billion for the first time. Together, China and Mexico accounted for 86 percent of U.S. pork variety meat exports. In 2017, total edible pork variety meat exports added $9.67 in value to every hog marketed, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation.

U.S. pork and pork variety meat exports accounted for 26.6 percent of total pork production, with 22 percent of muscle cuts exported, in 2017. Export value returned an average $53.47 per head back to producers, up 6 percent from 2016.

The top six markets by volume were Mexico (1.768 billion pounds), China/Hong Kong (1.09 billion pounds), Japan (868 million pounds), Canada (459 million pounds), South Korea (382 million pounds) and South America (229 million pounds).

The top six markets by value were Japan ($1.626 billion), Mexico ($1.514 billion), China/Hong Kong ($1.078 billion), Canada ($792 million), South Korea ($475 million), and South America ($268 million).

Farm Sector Profits Expected To Decline in 2018
USDA Economic Research Service - Feb 7, 2018

Net farm income, a broad measure of profits, is forecast to decrease $4.3 billion (6.7 percent) from 2017 to $59.5 billion in 2018, the lowest net farm income level in nominal dollar terms since 2006. Net cash farm income is forecast to decrease $5.0 billion (5.1 percent) to $91.9 billion, the lowest level since 2009. In inflation-adjusted (real) 2018 dollars, net farm income is forecast to decline $5.4 billion (8.3 percent) from 2017 and, if realized, would be the lowest real-dollar level since 2002. Real net cash farm income is forecast to decline $6.7 billion (6.8 percent) from 2017, which would be the lowest real-dollar level since 2009. Net cash farm income includes cash receipts from farming as well as farm-related income, including government payments, minus cash expenses. Net farm income is a more comprehensive measure that incorporates noncash items, including changes in inventories, economic depreciation, and gross imputed rental income.

Cash receipts for all commodities are forecast to fall (in nominal dollars) $2.0 billion (0.5 percent) in 2018 to $363.1 billion. Relatively small annual declines are predicted for both animal/animal product (0.3 percent) and crop (0.8 percent) receipts. Forecast declines in receipts for milk and poultry/eggs are expected to more than offset a forecast increase in meat animal receipts. A forecast $1.7-billion (4.5 percent) increase in soybean receipts will be more than offset by expected declines in receipts for wheat, corn, cotton, fruits/nuts, and vegetables/melons. Direct government farm payments are forecast to decline $2.1 billion (18.6 percent) to $9.3 billion in 2018, reflecting large declines in Agricultural Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage payments.

Total production expenses (including operator dwellings) are forecast up $3.5 billion (1 percent) in nominal terms to $359.2 billion in 2018, led by increases for fuels/oil, interest, and hired labor. Partially offsetting these increases are an expected drop in feed expenses.

The 2018 forecast for farm business average net cash farm income is $93,200, the 4th consecutive decline since 2014 and the lowest average since 2011, in nominal dollars. A 6.2-percent ($2,100) increase is expected for cattle and calf farm businesses. Average net cash farm income for hog, poultry, and dairy farm businesses—along with all crop farm business categories—is forecast to decline in 2018, with wheat and dairy farms expected to see double-digit (percentage) declines.

Farm sector equity (nominal) is forecast up by $43.7 billion (1.6 percent) to $2.7 trillion in 2018. Farm assets are forecast to increase by $47.5 billion (1.6 percent) to $3.1 trillion in 2018, reflecting an anticipated 2.1-percent rise in farm sector real estate value. Farm debt is forecast to increase by $3.8 billion (1.0 percent) to $388.9 billion, led by an expected 1.2-percent rise in real estate debt.

Median Income of Farm Operator Households Expected To Be Relatively Unchanged in 2017 and 2018

Farm households typically receive income from both farm and off-farm sources. The total median income of U.S. farm households increased steadily over 2010-14, reaching an estimated $81,637 in 2014 in nominal terms. Median household income, which fell 6 percent in 2015 and remained flat in 2016, is forecast to rise 3.5 percent from its 2016 level by 2018 to $78,886 (but decrease 0.8 percent in inflation-adjusted terms). Median farm income earned by farm households is estimated at -$940 in 2016 and is forecast to decline to -$1,316 in 2018. In recent years, slightly more than half of farm households have had negative farm income each year. Most of these households earn positive off-farm income—and median off-farm income is forecast to increase 2.3 percent from $66,468 in 2016 to $68,011 in 2017, and another 2.8 percent in 2018 to $69,940. (Because farm and off-farm income are not distributed identically for every farm, median total income will generally not equal the sum of median off-farm and median farm income.)

NCGA Statement on Senate Floor Debate Regarding Agriculture

The following is a statement from North Dakota farmer Kevin Skunes, president of the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), in response to today’s debate on the Senate Floor.

“The Senate Agriculture Committee approved Bill Northey’s nomination unanimously, and the full Senate could have approved his nomination today. Farmers need Bill Northey on the job at USDA, and Senator Cruz’s hold is harmful to farmers.

Senator Cruz claims he wants a “win-win” that benefits corn farmers. Corn farmers’ definition of a “win-win” is providing regulatory parity for E15 and higher blends of ethanol, which would increase the supply of RINs to lower RIN values, and improving transparency in the trading system. The only plan Senator Cruz has is to block the confirmation of a well-qualified and much-needed leader at the Department of Agriculture in order to undercut the successful and beneficial Renewable Fuel Standard.

Whether it’s EPA, financial analysts or university experts, all confirm refiners are not facing a RIN price impact because they recover any costs through the price they receive for their refined products. Senator Cruz is trying to upend the RFS to address a non-existent problem and bail out refiners who have made poor business decisions. Unlike farmers – who USDA projects will face the lowest net farm income since 2006 this year – most refiners are reporting surging profits.

Corn farmers are grateful for the leadership of Senators Chuck Grassley, Debbie Stabenow, Joni Ernst and Amy Klobuchar in supporting Bill Northey’s nomination on the Senate floor. Corn farmers also appreciate President Trump’s strong support of biofuels, rural communities and consumers.”

Fix Emissions Reporting Law For Farmers, Says NPPC

The National Pork Producers Council today asked Congress for a legislative fix to a federal emergency response law that now requires farmers to report emissions from the natural breakdown of manure to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Testifying on behalf of NPPC, Dr. Howard Hill told members of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works that livestock producers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency never believed routine agricultural emissions from manure constituted the type of emergency or crisis the law was intended to address.

Last April, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected a 2008 EPA rule that exempted farmers from reporting routine farm emissions under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) and the Emergency Planning Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA).

CERCLA is mainly used to clean hazardous waste, and it and EPCRA include provisions that require entities to report on the release of various substances over certain thresholds.

The appeals court ruling will force “tens of thousands of livestock farmers to figure out how to estimate and report their emissions,” testified Hill, a veterinarian and pork producer from Cambridge, Iowa, and past president of NPPC. (More than 100,000 livestock farmers likely will need to file emissions reports by a May 1 deadline.)

He pointed out that while the pork industry is prepared to comply with CERCLA and EPCRA, EPA, the U.S. Coast Guard – which takes the emissions reports – and state and local emergency response authorities have said they don’t want or need the information, which could interfere with their legitimate emergency functions.

Hill also told the committee that pork producers are committed to responsibly managing their animals and the manure they produce to protect water and air quality and to maximizing manure’s benefit and value as a source of nutrients for the crops they grow. He said the pork industry, which has worked cooperatively with environmental regulators at the state and federal levels, supports federal environmental policies that: give producers performance expectations that have a high probability of resulting in meaningful environmental improvements; are practical and affordable; and provide producers a realistic amount of time to adapt measures and associated systems to their operations so they can continue to be profitable and successful. 

Rancher to Congress: "Let Us Loose!"

Today Niels Hansen, Secretary/Treasurer of the Public Lands Council and a member of NCBA, testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works to explain how onerous federal regulations undermine conservation goals.

“Cattle producers pride themselves on being good stewards of our country’s natural resources. We maintain open spaces, healthy rangelands, provide wildlife habitat and feed the world. Despite these critical contributions, our ability to effectively steward these resources is all too often hampered by excessive federal regulations like the ones we are discussing today,” Mr. Hansen said in written testimony.

Ranchers own and manage more land than any other segment of agriculture, implementing proven conservation practices that have sustained the environment for generations. Mr. Hansen highlighted how specific laws and regulations pose challenges to this rich heritage:
-    The 2015 Waters of the United States Rule: “As a livestock producer, the 2015 WOTUS Rule has the potential to negatively affect every aspect of my operation by placing the regulation of every tributary, stream, pond, and dry streambed in the hands of the federal government, rather the states and localities that understand Wyoming's unique water issues.”
-    CERCLA/EPCRA reporting: “Congress never intended these laws to govern everyday farm and ranch activity. When the mandate issues, nearly 200,000 farmers and ranchers will be on the hook to report low-level livestock manure odors to the government.”
-    Endangered Species Act: “Cattle producers throughout the country continue to suffer the brunt of regulatory and economic uncertainty due to the abuse of the Endangered Species Act…Years of abusive litigation by radical environmental groups have taken a toll, and the result is a system badly in need of modernization.”

Mr. Hansen – a third-generation rancher and industry leader in environmental stewardship – asked Congress to empower ranchers and local land managers by reducing the regulatory burdens they face.

“By freeing our industry from overly burdensome federal regulations and allowing us to provide the kind of stewardship and ecosystem services only we can, you will do more for healthy ecosystems and environments than top down restrictions from Washington ever can,” he said.

Veterinary researcher makes inroads in fighting classical swine fever

A Kansas State University researcher has licensed a new vaccine to an animal health company to fight a highly contagious swine disease overseas. A second discovery by the researcher could improve vaccines for the disease and help protect the U.S. from an outbreak.

Jishu Shi, professor of vaccine immunology and director ofU.S.-China Center for Animal Health in the university's College of Veterinary Medicine, has developed a method of producing a classical swine fever vaccine safely and inexpensively. The disease can cause devastating epidemics among pigs if left unchecked.

Shi's vaccine uses a protein from the virus rather than a live or attenuated virus, which means the vaccine poses no biosecurity risk to produce in the U.S., where classical swine fever was eradicated in 1978.

Shi licensed his new subunit vaccine to an animal health company in China to continue to study its field efficacy. Classical swine fever has not been eliminated in China, and each of the 700 million pigs raised annually in the country currently receives two doses of vaccine against the virulent disease. Shi's version requires only one dose.

"We need to test the vaccine in the field to prove it will work," Shi said. "If it does, we can help China eradicate the disease, which further secures the U.S. by ensuring the disease doesn't spread to our shores."

Pigs given the current modified live virus classical swine fever vaccine test positive for the disease. Shi's other discovery will help develop a test to differentiate infected from vaccinated animals, known as a DIVA strategy. Shi and his collaborators identified two specific antibodies that can be used to differentiate whether pigs are infected or vaccinated, and he is working with colleagues at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in Europe and in China to conduct more trials and gain full validation.

"This exciting discovery could result in solving an economic and trade problem in China — vaccines are expensive, and countries with classical swine fever can't export pork — and a security problem for the U.S.," Shi said

Peter Dorhout, Kansas State University's vice president for research, said Shi's work highlights the university's capacity for addressing high-consequence diseases.

"Our researchers develop real solutions to problems that threaten global food systems," Dorhout said. "Shi's work shows how we are expanding our reach around the world to build relationships, provide expertise and keep our food industries and supplies safe."

Shi conducted his research in the university's Biosecurity Research Institute, or BRI. The institute gives investigators access to a biocontainment facility in which they can safely conduct research on diseases that threaten animal, plant and human health. Shi's work was supported by a grant from the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility, or NBAF, Transition Fund.

"I couldn't do this work without the NBAF Transition Fund and the BRI," Shi said. "It gives us the competitive advantage of doing research on these diseases. This is an essential capacity, and we have a very good team there."

Stephen Higgs, director of the Biosecurity Research Institute, said Shi's work demonstrates the value of the facility, how funded research at the institute benefits the Kansas State University community as a whole, and how the institute's capabilities dovetail with the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility, which is the Department of Homeland Security's foremost animal disease research facility that is being built adjacent to Kansas State University's Manhattan campus.

"Our mission is to protect the U.S. and the world from diseases that we hope will never spread to North America," Higgs said. "Classical swine fever is one of the diseases that will be studied at NBAF, and we're proud to be supporting progress in fighting this economic threat to pork production worldwide."

Retail Fertilizer Price Moves Stuck on Replay

The retail fertilizer market appears to be stuck on replay, as average prices for most fertilizers moved higher again the last week of January 2018, according to retailers surveyed by DTN.

All but one of the eight major fertilizers were higher compared to a month earlier. One difference from previous weeks was that anhydrous was not significantly higher (5% or more) as it has been for the last eight consecutive weeks.

Seven of the eight major fertilizers were slightly higher than a month ago. DAP had an average price of $458 per ton, MAP $492/ton, urea $355/ton, 10-34-0 $415/ton, anhydrous $491/ton, UAN28 $227/ton and UAN32 $261/ton.

One fertilizer was actually slightly lower for the second week in a row compared to the previous month. Potash had an average price of $344 per ton.

On a price per pound of nitrogen basis, the average urea price was at $0.39/lb.N, anhydrous $0.30/lb.N, UAN28 $0.41/lb.N and UAN32 $0.41/lb.N.

All but three fertilizers are now higher compared to last year with prices pushing higher in recent months. Urea is 1% higher, anhydrous is now 2% more expensive, potash is 5% higher, DAP is 7% more expensive and MAP is 10% higher than last year.

Three fertilizers are still lower in price compared to a year prior. UAN32 is 3% lower while UAN28 is 4% less expensive and 10-34-0 is 5% lower looking back a year.

Crop Insurance Acreage Sets New Mark in 2017

2017 was a historic year for crop insurance, with 311 million acres enrolled in the system.  For perspective, that’s an area roughly the size of California, Texas and New York combined.

The good news was delivered by Mike Day, chairman of National Crop Insurance Services (NCIS), during the industry’s recent annual meeting.  He also told the group that insurers backed more than $106 billion worth of crops in 2017, up $6 billion since 2016.  And farmers paid $3.7 billion out of their own pockets for insurance protection – a more than $250 million increase from the year before.

“Today, crop insurance protects around 90 percent of the insurable land and more than 130 different kinds of crops,” said Day, who heads Rural Community Insurance Services (RCIS) for Zurich North America.  “Congress made crop insurance the cornerstone of farm policy, and it is important not just for farmers and rural communities, but for taxpayers and consumers alike.”

Despite its popularity, some farm policy opponents are angling to cut crop insurance funding in the upcoming Farm Bill debate.

Day said that would be a mistake, pointing out Congress’ efforts to make crop insurance affordable and available for farmers and economically viable enough to encourage efficient private-sector delivery.

“Interrupt any of those three pillars, as some farm policy critics are advocating, and you undo all the progress that has been made over the past three decades,” he noted.

NCIS President Tom Zacharias echoed Day’s comments and encouraged agriculture to work hand-in-hand during the Farm Bill to defend farmers’ primary risk management tool.  He also urged his colleagues to maintain their vigilance in providing superior customer service and coordinating with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Farmers must continue to realize the economic value of today’s crop insurance system and have confidence that both government and the private sector are committed to its continued success,” Zacharias concluded.

EIA: Ethanol Stocks Jump

The U.S. Energy Information Administration's latest weekly report shows ethanol supply in the United States up 500,000 bbl or 2.2% to 23.5 million bbl during the week-ended Feb. 2, moving closer to the record high of 23.8 million bbl registered just two weeks prior, while up 1.4 million bbl or 6.3% against year prior.

Domestic plant production and blending demand also increased during the week reviewed, with output up 17,000 bpd or 1.6% to 1.057 million bpd last week, and 2,000 bpd higher on the year. For the four weeks ended Feb. 2, production averaged 1.055 million bpd, unchanged versus a year ago.

Net refiner and blender inputs, a measure for ethanol demand, climbed 10,000 bpd or 1.2% last week to 868,000 bpd. Compared to a year ago, blending demand was down 7,000 bpd or 0.8% at 875,000 bpd. For the four-week period ended Feb. 2, blending demand averaged 852,000 bpd, up 6,000 bpd or 0.7% versus a year ago.

Senators’ Call to Release Northey

Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor released the following statement today after Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Ia.) led a bipartisan group of senators in calling for the Senate to confirm Bill Northey as a U.S. Department of Agriculture undersecretary.

“We applaud Sen. Grassley for stepping up today and calling for a stop to the hold on Bill Northey’s nomination,” Skor said.

“It’s time for the Senate to clear Mr. Northey so that our nation has the leadership in place to move forward on critical issues impacting the American agriculture industry. Sen. Ted Cruz has held Mr. Northey hostage as a means to drag out his so-called ‘negotiation’ to lower RIN prices, when all this time there has been a solution staring us in the face – RVP relief.”

Family Farm Organization Urges Congress to Pass a Stronger Farm Bill in 2018

American family farmers and ranchers are enduring the worst economic slide in generations, and they need Congress to pass a Farm Bill in 2018 to strengthen the farm safety net.

In order to educate the general public and to generate support for a Farm Bill to be passed this year, National Farmers Union (NFU) and Farmers Union state divisions have developed a digital campaign, complete with a new website, a Farm Bill video, animated short videos, weekly promotions and a petition. The family farm organization is calling on Congress to strengthen programs that support family farm agriculture, vibrant rural communities, a clean environment, and hungry Americans.

“Family farmers and consumers alike are in urgent need of strong farm and food policies to be passed in the Farm Bill this year,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “As the agriculture committees ready to propose Farm Bill legislation, Farmers Union wants to be sure all members of Congress understand why the Farm Bill is so vital to family farm agriculture, our land, our rural communities, and our nation’s most vulnerable citizens. We’re hopeful this campaign can bridge the support of the entire farm and food community.”

The campaign features a 9-minute video on the importance of the Farm Bill to family farmers, the environment and consumers, profiling Farmers Union members from across the country. Three short animated videos are also being launched to help the general public understand what the Farm Bill is, what Farmers Union’s ideal Farm Bill looks like, and how to advocate for the Farm Bill. And throughought the next month, NFU will issue short policy briefs on the major components of the Farm Bill.

Family farmers, consumers, lawmakers and advocates are encouraged to share the video on social media, tweet with the hashtag #FarmBillNow, and sign the petition to call on Congress to pass a Farm Bill in 2018. Those interested in showing the videos or sharing the materials should contact Andrew Jerome for more information.


The 2018 American Sheep Industry Association Annual Convention - From the Hill Country to Capitol Hill - provided 500-plus members of the sheep and wool industry with the opportunity to address important issues with congressional and agency leaders Jan. 31-Feb. 3 in San Antonio.

Among them was U.S. Department of Agriculture Under Secretary of Marketing and Regulatory Programs Greg Ibach. He used his audience with the ASI Executive Committee and a room full of convention attendees to announce Janet Bucknall as the new deputy administrator for USDA's Wildlife Services. The announcement of the deputy administrator at the ASI convention - so quickly after the retirement of Bill Clay - clearly demonstrates USDA's recognition of the American sheep industry's support for Wildlife Services and its livestock protection program. ASI has long played an important role in ensuring continual and adequate funding for USDA/WS through annual congressional appropriations.

The under secretary also discussed his agency's efforts to ensure the future use of the M-44 sodium cyanide device in approved states. The M-44 was a great example, as he pointed out, of the increased agency cooperation that the administration has asked at the secretarial and administrator levels.
Having served on the Meat and Livestock Board as a rancher in Nebraska, Ibach expressed his support for checkoff research programs and how enthused he was that the agency was able to announce the new appointments to the American Lamb Board prior to the sheep industry annual meeting.

ASI President Mike Corn thanked the undersecretary for the recent decision that Mandatory Price Reporting staff would be exempt from government furloughs, ensuring the continual release of market reporting. Corn then stressed the importance to the industry of the existing scrapie eradication program and full funding of the program.

While scrapie prevalence is at an all-time low and eradication is in sight, the United States' scrapie status continues to act as a trade barrier. ASI's executive board asked the under secretary to prioritize the rule updating the scrapie program and propose a full budget for eradication. This priority - plus access for American lamb to Japan and Europe - needs to be well ahead of any rule on transmissible spongiform encephalopathy that would aid foreign sheep producers more than American sheep farmers and ranchers.

More welcome news for the sheep industry came from Dr. Maggie Highland's presentation to the Resource Management Council. The USDA/Animal Research Service researcher shared tremendous news that after years of taking wildlife nasal swabs, her lab has found mycoplasma ovipneumoniae (movi) in deer and buffalo. Other species might also be carriers. The research holds the potential to significantly change the existing polices in Washington, D.C., that give wild sheep preference ahead of domestic sheep and have led to the wrongful loss of many domestic sheep allotments and producers' livelihoods.

In other policy news, ASI issued a new directive reaffirming the association's support for H.B. 4092 (the Ag Act) to fulfill critical labor needs within the American sheep industry. The association further directed the need to address health insurance and numerical cap concerns of the sheep industry. The board also approved a new policy encouraging Wildlife Services to look at cost-saving measures to combat reduced federal funding. Unspent funds from the agency's budget could then be directed to support the vastly underfunded livestock protection program.

Texas Rep. Will Hurd of the 23rd Congressional District addressed the full board at the ASI Annual Convention and touched briefly on a number of topics that are important to the industry, such as protecting agriculture opportunities, the minor use drug program, international trade, scrapie and immigration reform. He stressed that input and advocacy from farmers and ranchers on these and other issues is important to protect agriculture as a whole.

Wool prices were certainly a topic worth highlighting during the week. Chris Wilcox of Poimena Analysis and the International Wool Textile Organization titled his presentation to the full board, Let the Good Times Roll? While forecasts call for a slight increase in wool production, demand for the natural fiber remains strong. Fine wool prices have continued to break record highs for an extended time, while coarse wool prices are not realizing the same strength. 

The development of a new American Wool logo and accompanying social media sites in the past two years has been a point of emphasis for ASI and the American Wool Council. But the focus remains on marketing American wool, said ASI Wool Marketing Director Rita Samuelson.

"We're targeting the levels of the wool marketing chain that make decisions to purchase American wool," she told the board of directors. "That has been where ASI has had success in building demand for American wool. We have found that's where we get a better return for you as a producer. These are the decision makers who purchase and choose whether to buy American wool or other country-of-origin wools."

Lamb and wool generate most of the income for producers, but sheep skins are often overlooked as a revenue source. Convention attendees got an up close look at this side of the industry from Nugget International's Mike Wheeler, who led half a dozen tours of his processing facility in San Antonio during the week.

Nugget's goal is to "generate the highest pelt credit possible through a careful mix of merchandising both raw and tanned American lamb skins," he said. While sheep skin processing has most likely peaked in China, Wheeler sees new opportunities in Southeast Asia, India and Myanmar. "We're also investing more and more in our facilities here in San Antonio and in Greeley (Colo.)."

The convention's industry tour included a stop at the historic Hillingdon Ranch near Comfort, Texas. Managed by the Giles family for more than 130 years, the ranch runs fine wool sheep in addition to Angora goats, Angus cattle and whitetail deer. Owner Robin Giles and his family (wife, Carol; son, Grant; and daughter-in-law, Misty) were gracious hosts during the tour.

A panel featuring Brandon Willis of Ranchers Insurance and Burdell Johnson of ASI's Food and Fiber Risk Managers also briefed the full board on insurance options for producers. Programs such as the Whole Farm Revenue Program and Crop Insurance for Ranchers were presented.

"The sheep industry and ASI have been ahead of their time in forming their own insurance company and developing the Livestock Risk Protection-Lamb program," Willis said.

In association business, Brad Boner of Wyoming was elected to serve as the Region 7 Director to the executive committee.

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