Friday, May 3, 2019

Friday May 3 Ag News

Stay Strong Nebraska Initiative to Help Farmers and Ranchers Rebuild

Stay Strong Nebraska is an initiative aimed at keeping Nebraska’s farmers and ranchers top of mind as they rebuild their lives. The website,, provides easy access to the Nebraska Farm Bureau Disaster Relief Fund and Nebraska Cattlemen Disaster Relief Fund with all donations remaining in Nebraska.

Federal officials estimate the bomb cyclone weather phenomenon and subsequent flooding caused $1.4 billion in damages in the state of Nebraska. The damage assessment accounts for livestock, crop loss and infrastructure damage, but does not reflect personal property losses such as homes and farm buildings. Steve Nelson, president of Nebraska Farm Bureau, has met with dozens of families in many of the agricultural communities impacted by the recent storms. Nelson explained that while there is insurance to cover some cattle and crops, it doesn’t cover all of the losses.

“Depending on the severity of the flooding, many farmers will likely be unable to plant all of their land this year, and many livestock producers will have reduced production as a result of this disaster as well,” said Nelson. “When you combine people helping people, either through donations of resources or money, it makes a difference.”

Nebraska Farm Bureau’s Disaster Relief Fund provided immediate support for feed, water and medicine for livestock; drinking water for schools; and emergency living expenses. Aid is now focused on supplies to repair roads and fences to access homes and to care for livestock; clearing debris from farm fields; and monetary distributions to families who are beginning the long process of clean up and rebuilding. One hundred percent of donations will be distributed to those in need.

Nebraska Cattlemen is taking action to help ranchers and cattlemen, too. Pete McClymont, executive vice president of Nebraska Cattlemen, said the response from the community has been generous and heart-warming. McClymont said many cattle and beef producers don’t want the attention that has been put on them as a result of the storm.

“Gifts received by Nebraska Cattlemen Disaster Relief Fund will be disbursed to cattle producers in need, regardless of membership in Nebraska Cattlemen,” said McClymont. “This entire process has been very humbling knowing some cattlemen and women that were heavily impacted have already turned away assistance. We want every rancher, farmer, producer that has been impacted to know there are monies for qualified applicants. Every dollar given to a fund was donated with those impacted in mind.”

For more information and quick access to the Nebraska Farm Bureau Disaster Relief Fund and the Nebraska Cattlemen Disaster Relief Fund, visit

Request USDA Assistance to Protect Infrastructure Damaged by March Blizzard/Flooding

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Nebraska is accepting requests for assistance through the Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program to address watershed impairments resulting from the March “Bomb Cyclone” and associated flooding. Requests for assistance must be submitted to the NRCS State Conservationist in Nebraska by May 20, 2019.

“EWP is designed to install recovery measures to safeguard lives and property as a result of a natural disaster,” said Craig Derickson, NRCS Nebraska state conservationist. “We have teams out now completing damage survey reports. These reports help us understand the extent of the damage and the amount of funding needed for recovery work.”

Watershed impairments that the EWP program addresses include debris-clogged stream channels, scoured or eroded bridges, and undermined and/or unstable streambanks that pose an imminent threat to public infrastructure (i.e.: bridges, county roads, etc.).

EWP work is completed through a local project sponsor. EWP project sponsors must be a legal subdivision of state government such as a city, county, state agency, town, or a federally-recognized American Indian tribe or tribal organization.

“Generally, NRCS will pay up to 75 percent of the restoration costs. The project sponsor is responsible for the remaining balance of funding needs, which can include in-kind support. It’s important to note that any recovery measures already implemented by the sponsor or in process by the sponsor would not be eligible for reimbursement,” Derickson said.

Potential sponsors seeking assistance through EWP should work with their local USDA service center, which can be found at For more information about the EWP Program, contact Allen Gehring, at (402) 437-4037.

Nebraska FFA Foundation Announces Grant Opportunities for Agricultural Education Programs and Students

The Nebraska FFA Foundation is now seeking applications for 2019-20 local chapter grants and storm relief fund grants.

The local chapter grant program, in its third year, supports Nebraska agricultural education classrooms, FFA programs and individual student entrepreneurship Supervised Agricultural Experiences. Funds are provided by supporters of the Nebraska FFA Foundation and its general fund.

This year, grant requests may be any amount up to $10,000 each. Applications are being accepted until June 30, 2019. Successful proposals from 2018-19 varied from greenhouse repairs to a CNC router to grow towers to animal learning lab.

New this year, the Nebraska FFA Foundation has designated storm relief funds available. FFA members and chapters needing support for their local program or supervised agricultural experience because of the recent flooding or blizzards can apply for these funds through the local chapter grant application.

“Our Board has worked very hard for many years to develop sustainable funding so that we can focus on supporting not just the Nebraska FFA Association, but Nebraska’s agricultural education programs, students and teachers,” says Stacey Agnew, Executive Director. “I know there are many programs in Nebraska that need more financial support to develop career-ready students in agriculture and am excited for the potential of this program.”

To learn more, visit

Pinot, Pigs & Poets: Celebrating Their 10th Anniversary

Pinot, Pigs & Poets is celebrating its 10th year in 2019! The event is May 16th at Happy Hollow Club, 1701 S. 105th Street, Omaha, NE.... and will include attendee favorites of fine pinot noir wines and delectable pork dishes, as well as slam poetry by the Nebraska Writers Collective. Pinot, Pigs & Poets is a collaborative effort with the Iowa Pork Producers Association and the Nebraska Pork Producers Association.  More information here....

Event History

Pinot, Pigs & Poets was founded in 2010 as an effort to combat childhood hunger by directly benefiting the Completely KIDS weekend and after-school food programs. It raised $30,000 in its inaugural year. Over the past decade, the success of Pinot, Pigs & Poets has allowed Completely KIDS to increase the number of children enrolled in the program and the number of items sent home with the children each weekend. In recent years, the proceeds raised from Pinot, Pigs & Poets have consistently exceeded $275,000.

NC Welcomes Reintroduction of Livestock Hauler Legislation

Nebraska Cattlemen welcomes and thanks Senator Ben Sasse for reintroducing bipartisan legislation to ensure federal hours of service (HOS) regulations are flexible and workable for hauling livestock.

Nebraska Cattlemen worked extensively with Senator Sasse to identify solutions to HOS regulations in the wake of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s electronic logging device (ELD) enforcement date.

The pending ELD mandate has exposed incompatibilities between federal HOS regulations and the livestock industry. Current federal law limits haulers to a maximum driving time of 11 consecutive hours in a 14 hour on duty window. This is not enough drive time to support the inherent dynamics of a centrally-located state like Nebraska that receives feeder cattle from locations well over 11 hours away.

Most importantly, HOS regulations pose significant animal welfare concerns. Once a driver hits the maximum hour allotment, he or she must stop and rest for 10 consecutive hours before returning to duty. Stopping the vehicle for an extended period of time, particularly during summer months when high temperatures and humidity pose dire risks for cattle, is simply not an option.

“Nebraska plays an integral role in the beef production chain given our abundance of natural resources and prime infrastructure. We are the top state for beef slaughter capacity, second for cattle on feed, and fourth for beef cows calved. One size fits all federal regulations endanger the health and welfare of livestock shipped in and out of Nebraska daily by failing to account for the intricacies involved with hauling live animals. This legislation provides needed flexibility for livestock haulers, continues our strong record of road safety, and helps facilitate longer hauls that are inherent to cattle production in our state,” said Mike Drinnin, President of Nebraska Cattlemen.

Senator Sasse’s Transporting Livestock Across America Safely Act would change federal law to accomplish the following:

HOS and ELD requirements would be inapplicable until after a driver travels more than 300-air miles from their source. Drive time for HOS purposes does not start until after the 300-air mile threshold.
Exempts loading and unloading times from the HOS calculation of driving time.
Extends the HOS on-duty time maximum hour requirement from 11 hours to a minimum of 15 hours and a maximum of 18 hours of on-duty time.

Grants flexibility for drivers to rest at any point during their trip without counting against HOS time.
Allows drivers to complete their trip – regardless of HOS requirements – if they come within 150-air miles of their delivery point.

Ensures that, after the driver completes their delivery and the truck is unloaded, the driver will take a break for a period that is 5 hours less than the maximum on-duty time (10 hours if a 15-hour drive time).

Senator Sasse was joined by a coalition of bipartisan senators in introducing this legislation, including Senators Fischer (R-NE), Cramer (R-ND), Risch (R-ID), Daines (R-MT), Rubio (R-FL), Tester (D-MT), Smith (D-MN), Crapo (R-ID), Roberts (R-KS), Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Moran (R-KS), Jones (D-AL), Hoeven (R-ND), Rounds (R-SD), Braun (R-IN), Enzi (R-WY), Ernst (R-IA), and Lankford (R-OK).

Apply for the Pork Checkoff Agricultural Marketing Fellowship

The National Pork Board is accepting applications through May 22 for the Agricultural Marketing Fellowship. Students who are accepted for full-time enrollment in a graduate/professional school program for the 2019-2020 academic year are encouraged to apply.

Up to three students will be selected for fellowships of $20,000 spread across two academic years. The fellowship requires students to pursue coursework and research in the livestock and meat marketing areas.

“Land-grant universities have provided valuable educational services to pork producers for over 100 years,” said Steve Meyer, economist for Kerns and Associations. “I believe that making livestock marketing coursework and research more attractive will draw more students to the diminishing field of study.”

The guidelines and application form for the fellowship application can be found at Send all submission materials by May 22 to: National Pork Board, Attention Bill Winkelman, 1776 NW 114TH St., Clive, IA 50325.


On Wednesday, National Pork Producers Council Assistant Vice President of Domestic Affairs & Counsel Michael Formica met with the White House's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to discuss a proposed Environmental Protection Agency rule that would amend the emergency release notification regulations under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) to make clear that reporting of air emission from animal waste at farms is not required under the program. In the meeting, Formica explained the burden that emissions reporting would create for farmers and outlined how the proposal would provide much-needed certainty for the agriculture sector. OMB estimates that the final EPA rule will be issued later this month.

USDA Announces Repayment Options for Producers with Coverage in Previous Margin Protection Program for Dairy

USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) announced that dairy producers who had coverage under the Margin Protection Program for Dairy (MPP-Dairy), which provided payments to producers when the price of milk fell below the feed costs to produce it, are eligible to receive a repayment for part of the premiums paid into the program.

To be eligible for this repayment, which was authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill, a dairy operation must have participated in the MPP-Dairy during any calendar year from 2014 through 2017, have the repayment calculated and verified by FSA and elect one of two options by September 20, 2019. Operations whose established production history has been transferred to an heir or new owner also are eligible.

An operation’s repayment amount is calculated for each applicable calendar year in which that dairy participated in MPP-Dairy, from 2014 through 2017. The repayment amount is equal to the difference between the total amount of premiums paid by the dairy operation for each applicable calendar year of coverage and the total amount of payments made to the MPP-Dairy participating dairy operation for that applicable calendar year.

An operation either can elect to receive 50 percent of the repayment amount as a cash refund or take 75 percent of the amount as a credit that can be used toward premiums for the new Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) Program. Signup for DMC begins June 17 and also ends September 20. Like MPP-Dairy, DMC is a voluntary risk management program that helps dairy producers deal with shifting milk prices and feed costs and replaces MPP-Dairy.

Both MPP-Dairy reimbursement options will be subject to a 6.2 percent sequestration rate.

 “USDA recognizes that dairy producers have faced tough challenges over the years, so we’re providing them some help,” said FSA Administrator Richard Fordyce. “This repayment for part of past premiums paid, coupled with the new Dairy Margin Coverage Program and other programs, should help producers better weather the ups and downs in the industry.”

Eligible dairy producers soon will receive a letter from FSA, outlining their repayment options.

More Information
For dairy operations that choose the premium credit option, a new DMC decision support tool allows producers to consider different risk management strategies. The tool helps them evaluate various scenarios, using different coverage levels under the new DMC program.

On December 20, 2018, President Trump signed into law the 2018 Farm Bill, which provides support, certainty and stability to our nation’s farmers, ranchers and land stewards by enhancing farm support programs, improving crop insurance, maintaining disaster programs and promoting and supporting voluntary conservation. FSA is committed to implementing these changes as quickly and effectively as possible, and today’s updates related to MPP-Dairy and DMC are part of meeting that goal.

For premium repayment and DMC information, visit the DMC webpage or contact your local USDA service center.

Perdue Announces Top Sites for ERS and NIFA Relocations

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced the finalists of 136 Expressions of Interest received from parties in 35 states vying to become the new homes of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Economic Research Service (ERS) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

“This short list of locations took into consideration critical factors required to uphold the important missions of ERS and NIFA. We also considered factors important to our employees, such as quality of life,” Secretary Perdue said. “Relocation will help ensure USDA is the most effective, most efficient, and most customer-focused agency in the federal government, allowing us to be closer to our stakeholders and move our resources closer to our customers. Our commitment to the public and our employees is to continue to be transparent as we proceed with our analysis.”

As part of the rigorous site selection process, USDA narrowed the Expressions of Interest list using a set of established criteria defined by USDA, NIFA, and ERS leadership. The criteria included:
-    Quality of Life: Subcategory examples include Diversity Index, Residential Housing Costs, Access to Healthcare, and Home and Community Safety Ranking.
-    Costs (Capital and Operating): Subcategory examples include Commercial Real Estate Costs, CPI Index, and Wage Costs.
-    Workforce: Subcategory examples include Labor Force Growth Rate, Unemployment Rate, and the Labor Force Population.
-    Logistics / IT Infrastructure: Subcategory examples include Lodging Availability, Proximity to Customers, and Airport Accessibility.

The top Expressions of Interest were reviewed in detail, and USDA selected a short list of locations offering existing buildings with sufficient space to meet ERS and NIFA requirements. In alphabetical order, these are the top three Expressions of Interest under consideration:
  - several locations in Indiana
  - greater Kansas City region
  - Research Triangle region, North Carolina

While not in the top three, these Expressions of Interest in alphabetical order remain under consideration as alternative locations should the top three locations not suit USDA’s needs:
  - St. Louis, Missouri
  - around Madison, Wisconsin

Consumers Prefer Pork Cooked to 145 Degrees, Study Says

Are pork chops on the menu this grilling season? According to new research from University of Illinois meat scientists, pork enthusiasts can improve taste, juiciness, and tenderness by cooking chops to the new USDA standard: 145 degrees Fahrenheit.

"Pork cooked to 145 degrees is absolutely safe," says Dustin Boler, associate professor in the Department of Animal Sciences at U of I and co-author of a new study in the Journal of Animal Science. "And our results show that everyday consumers strongly prefer pork chops cooked to 145 over the old standard of 160 degrees."

Boler and his research team had already demonstrated that trained taste-testers prefer pork chops cooked to 145 degrees, but the team wanted to try their luck with the average consumer this time. Like the trained taste-testers, average consumers were asked to rate juiciness, tenderness, flavor, and overall acceptability of pork cooked to 145, 160, and 180 degrees Fahrenheit.

"The results were what we expected: consumers rated juiciness, tenderness, and flavor much higher in pork chops cooked to 145 than the other temperatures. These were the first data in consumers that conclusively supported what we knew from our own experience," says Lauren Honegger, graduate student researcher and lead author on the study.

The research team was able to rule out other confounding factors, as well. Consumers tasted two sets of pork chops: one that varied in pH, and the other that varied in degree of color and marbling. Boler says meat scientists historically put a lot of stock in pH to predict eating experience. Higher pH equates to higher water-holding capacity in the muscle, which influences juiciness in the final product on the plate. But, he says, the importance of pH was based on pork cooked to the old temperature standard of 160 degrees.

Boler wanted to find out if pH was still as important in the context of today's cooking standard. The answer? Not really. Consumers still rated chops cooked to 145 as tastier, juicier, and more tender than chops cooked to 160, regardless of pH.

"It's not that pH doesn't matter, it's that when we do all of the other things to a pig that appropriately puts pork in a package -- when we humanely slaughter that animal, when we appropriately chill that carcass, when we treat those meat products with proper food safety and preparation techniques -- then pH doesn't matter," Boler says. "In other words, when we prepare the product properly, pH matters less when we cook it to 145 degrees."

Co-author Anna Dilger, associate professor in the Department of Animal Sciences at U of I, says the story was the same with color and marbling.

"We think darker color and more marbling should lead to a better tasting pork chop, but that's not what consumers told us. They gave the highest ratings to pork chops cooked to 145, regardless of color and marbling," she says.

It turns out from other research that color and marbling matter a lot when consumers are choosing which pork chop to purchase, but the consumer panel confirms those qualities don't factor into eating experience when the chop is cooked to the new standard.

The take-home message for grill-masters, Boler says, is, "Get a meat thermometer, cook your pork to 145 degrees, and it'll be great."

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