Thursday, September 26, 2019

Thursday September 26 Ag News

U.S. Drought Monitor celebrates its 20th year
Cory Matteson, National Drought Mitigation Center at the School of Natural Resources

In the late 1990s, National Drought Mitigation Center founding director Don Wilhite assigned Mark Svoboda to find every drought-related index, indicator and tool that existed, and request access to the data that was used to create them. Unfortunately, Google didn't debut until after he began his search.

“There wasn’t a whole lot out there, and I remember the response to my request for operational data was getting a hard copy map in the mail of the Palmer Drought Severity Index from the National Climatic Data Center,” Svoboda said. “That wasn’t even delivered digitally at the time.”

With scarcity of information in mind, Svoboda presented on drought mapping at the 1998 American Meteorological Society annual meeting. Another presenter at the session, Douglas Le Comte of the Climate Prediction Center, was interested in combining various drought indices into one map. The two talked after the meeting about joining forces.

“That’s where the idea was born to make a higher resolution map made from combining several indicators together that shows where drought is and how severe it is,” said Svoboda, who is now the NDMC director.

Their collaboration spearheaded the creation of the U.S. Drought Monitor, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. Every week since the Drought Monitor was unveiled at a White House press conference on Aug. 11, 1999, the NDMC, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have teamed up to release an update of the USDM.

An extensive network from an array of agencies has contributed data and on-the-ground observations to produce more than 1,000 maps, and the USDM has grown to include all U.S. states and territories, including the additions of the U.S.-affiliated Pacific Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands in 2019. It has triggered billions of dollars in federal aid and low interest loans. Federal, state, tribal, local and basin-level decision makers use it to detect emerging droughts.

And it all started as a map made with CorelDRAW 8.

“I think I have a curled-up map that actually shows one of the original drafts of the Drought Monitor,” Le Comte, now retired from the CPC, recently said from his Arlington, Virginia, home. A few minutes later, he found the map.

Dated July 13, 1999, the prototype features some classifications familiar to those who have used the USDM over its 20-year existence. Yellow blobs indicating abnormally dry areas covered much of the Southwest and Northeast. Encircled in red were portions of the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, Hawaii, the Northeast and the Mid-Atlantic, including all of Maryland, Virginia and Washington D.C. These were the only two colors on the draft, though, with red being an all-encompassing indicator of drought. (Each level of drought now has its own designated color.) Arrows specified the class and types of drought in those locales, with one pointed directly at our nation’s capital. That drought, the USDM’s early authors believe, helped provide the project with a big green light.

“Serendipity is the word,” Le Comte said.

Not long after creating that mid-July map, a secretarial briefing regarding the USDM was held at the White House. The USDM’s proponents told officials that it could help heighten awareness of drought as an environmental hazard, provide the public and decision-makers vital information about the creeping disaster and decrease response lags to drought, like the rare one building in the Northeast in the summer of ‘99.

“The Palmer wasn’t showing that drought evolving nearly fast enough,” said Svoboda, who was a USDM author for 17 years. “Our new prototype showed potential to pick up the signal earlier given we weren’t solely relying on any one drought indicator in particular. So they informed us that this new prototype drought indicator was going to go operational this summer. After production of the first operational map in early August, the very next week, the experimental label was off the map. So I think that might be the shortest experimental product in government history. That drought is really what made it all happen, in a way. So we quickly ramped up from two authors to six authors in the span of just a few months.”

The first six USDM authors were Svoboda and Michael Hayes from the NDMC, Le Comte and Rich Tinker from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC), and Brad Rippey and David Miskus, who was on assignment from the CPC at the USDA, where he joined Rippey. Nearly 30 authors have taken two-week shifts creating the map over its 20-year history. Since late 2000, once the map is released each Thursday at, the author’s name has been included alongside it. Tinker (135 shifts), Miskus (122) and Rippey (96) have authored the most so far.

The map is now created with GIS software, and authors consider data from more than 50 sources, including precipitation, temperature, evapotranspiration, the Palmer Drought Severity Index, the Standardized Precipitation Index, soil moisture indicators, hydrologic data, snowpack data, satellite-based assessments of vegetation health, land-data assimilation models and many more. Some of those sources have been vital to the map’s creation since its early stages, when the final drought report was essentially hand-drawn onto the maps utilizing late-’90s graphic design software.

“Maps all over my desk,” Svoboda recalled. “Maps on the floor. And you’re trying to piece them together in your head. That’s hard to do for 50 states in just over two days. Once you get into GIS, everything’s digital. You can overlay those together and make a much quicker assessment of the situation. You really start to see the patterns and determine where they agree or disagree. And the subject matter expertise is vitally important when those areas diverge to determine which indicators are going to be the best ones telling the story.”

Le Comte said he realized early on that the map was going to be a vital tool when he saw versions of it broadcast on the Weather Channel and reprinted in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post and elsewhere.

“It is really something I enjoyed doing,” Le Comte said. “I felt like a little bit of a pioneer doing this, because it was a feeling that this is something important, and that probably would be widely used if done correctly.”

Rippey saw the first sign that the weekly publication could be a vital aid trigger in late 2002, when then-USDA Chief Economist Keith Collins invited him to his office in the midst of a drought in the High Plains.

“They said we’ve got this drought going on, and we’ve got some nonfat dry milk to give away to these drought-ravaged producers,” Rippey recalled. Rather than base the program eligibility on state-level pasture condition reports, as had happened previously, Collins authorized the USDM to trigger aid for livestock producers with the 2003 Surplus Non-fat Dry Milk Sales for Feed Program.

“And that was the first time that anybody in a position to make high-level decisions had come to me as an author and asked if we should use the Drought Monitor (as a trigger), and I said yes,” Rippey said.

In the summer of 2006, with nearly half of the U.S. experiencing drought, attention once again turned to the USDM’s drought designations as a trigger for aid in the form of $50 million in state block grants for livestock producers. The USDM has been written into the Farm Bill since 2008 as a trigger for drought relief under the Livestock Forage Disaster Program, and after widespread drought in 2012, it became a trigger for fast-track Secretarial Disaster Designations. As of 2019, the USDM had been used to distribute approximately $7.2 billion in aid to livestock producers. The USDM helps producers receive aid faster, said Brian Fuchs, NDMC Monitoring Coordinator and USDM author since 2006.

“Back in the early days when USDA would try to have these different aid programs, a lot of times it was tied to the Palmer Drought Severity Index, and that’s a monthly tool at that,” Fuchs said. “With the Drought Monitor being this consolidation of evidence, you’re getting that signal and the information is coming through more rapidly because of all the different tools that we’re using, and you’re getting the best of all the indicators and not relying on a single indicator.”

Along with multiple datasets, USDM authors have come to rely on the team of local, state and regional experts on the Drought Monitor network listserv, where climatologists and evaluators provide updates from their locations and also respond to drafts of the map as publication dates near. They often also share news stories about experiences of drought, like a village in Alaska that recently ran out of stored water as the state grappled with persistent drought throughout 2019.

“I think if the Alaska drought that is going on now had happened 20 years ago, we might have missed it,” Rippey said. “There's no drought that's going to happen anymore without somebody knowing about it. And that’s a good thing.”

Svoboda said that as computing evolves and allows for further combination of drought indicators using deep learning, that will add to the Drought Monitor process, but not override it.

“I think we have a process called the Drought Monitor,” he said. “It also involves ownership of people on the ground, those 420 or so evaluators that are now part of the Drought Monitor network. Once they felt that they have a voice, and they have ownership, then we had the buy-in and credibility on the ground, and no single indicator or model integrated validation on the ground better than the USDM.”

Added Fuchs: “It’s this process of data and people coming together, and the end result is the map.”

Producers to Receive Automatic Prevented Planting ‘Top-Up’ Payments

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today that producers currently participating in federal crop insurance who had in 2019 a payable prevented planting indemnity related to flooding, excess moisture or causes other than drought will automatically receive a “top-up” payment. Producers will receive the payment from their Approved Insurance Providers (AIPs) starting in mid-October.

Producers with Yield Protection and Revenue Protection with Harvest Price Exclusion will receive a 10 percent top-up payment, while producers with Revenue Protection will receive 15 percent. They do not need to sign up to receive payments; all producers with a 2019 prevented planting indemnity will receive the top-up.

“It was a challenging planting season for many of our farmers,” said Bill Northey, USDA’s Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation. “We are doing everything we can to ensure producers receive the help they need.

“USDA is working with AIPs so that producers can receive additional payments as soon as possible,” Northey added, “and we appreciate the AIPs for helping us help America’s farmers.”

The crop insurance industry will deliver the payments as part of the Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act of 2019. After the initial payment, additional payments will be made in the middle of each month as more prevented planting claims are processed.

“Crop insurance is an important program for many producers to help them manage their production and price risks,” said Martin Barbre, Administrator of USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA). “We’re leveraging that system to efficiently and effectively deliver much needed support to our farmers.”

RMA received commitments from all 14 AIPs to deliver the top-up payments:
    ACE Property and Casualty (Rain and Hail) Insurance Company
    American Agri-Business Insurance Company
    American Agricultural Insurance Company
    CGB Insurance Company
    Church Mutual Insurance Company
    Country Mutual Insurance Company
    Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Company
    Great American Insurance Company
    Hudson Insurance Company
    NAU Country Insurance Company
    Producers Agricultural Insurance Company
    Rural Community Insurance Company
    Stratford Insurance Company
    XL Reinsurance America Inc.

The prevented planting top-up payments are different from the Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program Plus (WHIP+) payments. (For more information on WHIP+, visit

Starting Mid-October, Nebraska Producers Will Receive Automatic ‘Top-Up’ Payments for Prevented Planting Due to Flooding

U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, released the following statement today after the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that producers participating in federal crop insurance who had a payable prevented planting indemnity related to flooding in 2019 will automatically receive a “top-up” payment from their Approved Insurance Providers (AIPs) starting mid-October:

“With wet fields from the severe flooding, many of our farmers lost planting acreage this year. Because of our work to include Nebraska in the disaster relief bill, our state’s producers who are enrolled in crop insurance can access these ‘top-up’ payments through their insurance provider. These additional resources will be of assistance as families and businesses recover from a rough year.”

More information from the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

The crop insurance industry will deliver the payments as part of the Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act of 2019. After the initial payment, additional payments will be made in the middle of each month as more prevented planting claims are processed.

Producers with Yield Protection and Revenue Protection with Harvest Price Exclusion will receive a 10 percent top-up payment, while producers with Revenue Protection will receive 15 percent.

Chairman Peterson Statement on Delivery of Prevented Planting Assistance

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin C. Peterson of Minnesota issued a statement Thursday in response to news out of the U.S. Department of Agriculture on the delivery of additional prevented planting assistance, as authorized by the Disaster Relief Act of 2019.

“As weather continues to throw wrenches into farmers’ plans, both in Western Minnesota and across the country, I appreciate USDA and crop insurance providers moving forward in delivering the prevented planting plus-up that Congress provided,” said Peterson. “This will provide direct help to farmers without additional paperwork, and allow them to focus on the range of other challenges they face.”

According to a corrected announcement from USDA, “producers with Yield Protection and Revenue Protection with Harvest Price Exclusion will receive a 10 percent top-up payment, while producers with Revenue Protection will receive 15 percent.”

Iowa State University Enrollment Reflects Land-Grant Mission

Iowa State University's fall enrollment of 33,391 reflects the state's largest freshman class and more Iowa undergraduate students than any other university.

"We have one of the most beautiful campuses in the world located in the nation's best college town," said Iowa State University President Wendy Wintersteen. "At ISU we have a 95 percent post-graduation placement rate, which speaks to how we empower students to reach their full potential through exceptional teaching and research programs and a growing culture of innovation and entrepreneurship."

The largest freshman class in the state (5,597) is part of 28,294 undergraduates on campus. The number of first-year students from Iowa high schools is up slightly from last year, 3,380 compared to 3,362. Nearly 60 percent of undergraduate students -- 16,865 -- are from Iowa. With both undergraduate and graduate levels, there are 18,341 students from Iowa.

A record 6,892 undergraduates earned degrees in 2019, surpassing an all-time high set the previous year. The four-year graduation rate is also a record, with the average time to degree for all students at 4.4 years. Laura Doering, associate vice president for enrollment management and student success, says record graduating classes are a factor in Iowa State's changing enrollment.

Demographic shifts in the number of students going to college, fewer international students attending U.S. universities and more prospective students entering the workforce directly out of high school also have affected enrollment. Fall enrollment is down 1,601 or around 4.5 percent from 2018.

Iowa State's freshman class set a record for average high school rank (77.68), average GPA (3.68) and percentage in the top 10 percent of their high school class (28.4 percent). The student body represents all 99 Iowa counties and all 50 U.S. states (plus Washington, D.C.; Guam; Puerto Rico; the Virgin Islands and Mariana Islands), as well as 115 countries. It's also more diverse -- 15.3 percent of undergrads are multicultural students. There are fewer international students on campus this fall -- 3,189 compared to 3,671 in 2018.

Doering says ISU students are actively engaged. In fact, the Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education 2020 College Rankings recently ranked Iowa State in the top 50 for student engagement. More than 41 percent of undergraduates participate in two or more high-impact experiences during their time on campus including 6,176 in learning communities, 440 in the first-year Honors program and 400 in undergraduate research, annually. An additional 1,800 students study abroad each year and 10,528 compete in intramural sports.

Fall 2019 enrollment by college
- Agriculture and Life Sciences 4,821
- Business 4,820
- Design 1,905
- Engineering 8,778
- Human Sciences 4,124
- Liberal Arts & Sciences 7,876
- Veterinary Medicine 599 professional, 149 graduate
- Interdepartmental units and graduate undeclared 319

"Our students have so many opportunities in the classroom as well as learning that happens outside of the classroom," Doering said. "They have an amazing experience here at Iowa State and then go on to have great success with the next steps in their lives."

U.S. Pork Producers Seeking Expanded Export Opportunities

The U.S. pork industry ships more product to the 20 countries covered by free-trade agreements than we do the rest of the world combined. Therefore, expanding export opportunities through trade agreements remains a top priority for U.S. pork producers, National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) Director of International Affairs Maria Zieba said today at a Global Business Dialogue event in Washington, D.C.

NPPC was very pleased this week when the U.S. and Japan signed a trade agreement, returning U.S. pork to a level playing field in one of its most important export markets. With a trade deal in place with Japan, NPPC is focusing on trade agreements with numerous other countries, Zieba said at the event, sponsored by NPPC and held at the National Press Club.

One of NPPC's most pressing priorities is rapid congressional ratification of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) agreement, securing long-term zero-duty access to two of its largest export markets, Zieba explained. Last year, more than 40 percent of U.S. pork exported went to Canada and Mexico. USMCA will strengthen the strong economic ties with our North American neighbors and ensure tariff-free trade with the two countries, Zieba explained.

Unfortunately, the trade situation with China remains frustrating, Zieba said. The trade dispute with China has cost U.S. pork producers $8 per animal, or $1 billion on an annualized basis. "While recent Chinese media reports have suggested tariff relief for U.S. pork, we need to remove market access uncertainty and gain permanent, competitive access to China," she said.

U.S. pork producers are seeking the elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers in a variety of other export markets promising significant growth opportunities, said Zieba. For instance, a trade deal with India, the second-most populous nation in the world, would provide a tremendous opportunity for U.S. producers to provide safe, wholesome, and nutritious pork products to consumers in that country.

NPPC is also working to expand other export markets as well, including Jamaica, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Australia, South Africa and Brazil.

"Pork is one of our country's most competitive export products and we will continue to fight for the chance to meet the rising global demand for the world's most popular protein," Zieba concluded.

NCBA Grants Itself $27 Million of Your Beef Checkoff Funds

Organization for Competative Markets press release

Last week the Beef Checkoff Program budget for 2020 was released, outlining how cattle producers’ $40,900,000 in research and promotion funds will be spent in the coming year. The Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB) Beef Promotion Operating Committee (BPOC) named seven organizations as contractors that will be granted the beef checkoff funds. Once again, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) won the top award, of $27,383,347 beef checkoff dollars.

More than half of NCBA’s annual budget is made up of checkoff dollars, and the trade and lobbying group uses those funds to build their influence to push pro-packer policies. NCBA has used its ill-gotten influence to end mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) and to hinder Packers and Stockyards Act rules that would stop predatory market practices against cattle producers. NCBA does this while claiming to be the voice of U.S. cattle producers, while only 4% of U.S. cattle producers are actually NCBA members. Since the NCBA has been administering the lion’s share of the beef checkoff funds, the U.S. has lost nearly half of its cattle producers, beef consumption has declined by 30%, and the four largest meatpacking corporations control 82% of the market.

How does NCBA come out every year as the number one contractor receiving the bulk of the annual budget? They maintain this top spot through a rigged system where one of their own divisions selects half of the members of the BPOC, which then chooses the beef checkoff contractors.

Here is how the beef checkoff contracting process works:
The federal Beef Promotion and Research Act, established in 1985, requires a “federation” be formed with membership consisting of representatives from the USDA-designated Qualified State Beef Councils (QSBC). QSBCs are the state-based organizations that are authorized by USDA to collect the mandatory $1.00 per head beef checkoff assessments from the cattle producers. The purpose of this federation of QSBCs is to give cattle producers from across the country a voice in how their mandatory checkoff dollars are being administered and spent at the national level.

The Beef Promotion and Research Act grants the “federation” the authority to pick 10 members of the BPOC, while the CBB picks the other 10. The 20-member BPOC has the sole authority to choose which organizations receive beef checkoff funding. By having the power to select half of the members of the committee, the “federation” is a critical and powerful organization within the beef checkoff contracting process. Following the passage of the Beef Promotion and Research Act, USDA named the Beef Industry Council as the “federation” and everything worked as planned.

Here’s where it went wrong: In 1996, in order to seize control of the beef checkoff funds, NCBA acquired the Beef Industry Council. NCBA then organized the “federation” as a division within its own organizational structure and not as a separate entity organized to be the voice of all U.S. cattle producers.

What does that mean? NCBA’s Federation Division is operating with the authority to select 50% of the members of the BPOC. Since only BPOC-selected contractors can be considered to receive funding, this means NCBA controls who receives beef checkoff contracts and funds. And guess what? NCBA chooses NCBA every time to get the lion’s share of the beef checkoff funds. What a surprise.

What adds fuel to the fire of this scandal is the fact that NCBA has set up a pay-to-play scheme for federation membership. The Beef Promotion and Research Act states the federation is to be made up of the SQBCs. NCBA’s “federation” is made up of SQBCs, but NCBA requires a SQBC to pay for each board seat on the federation, and they can buy as many seats as they want. It is a pure pay-to-play scheme: the more you want to play the more you pay. Who is the biggest buyer of these seats? NCBA state affiliates like the Kansas Livestock Association (KLA), who in 2018 bought nine seats. In 2016, KLA paid over $2,000,000 for its nine seats. So much for giving cattle producers from across the country a say in how their checkoff dollars are being administered and spent at the national level.

Where do the NCBA affiliates get their money to buy the seats? Well of course, from another scam. They keep fifty cents of every beef checkoff dollar they collect from the sale of cattle in their state, even though the law doesn’t allow for it. This scheme guarantees NCBA control of the CBB beef checkoff contracting process while funneling an additional $10,000,000 a year of beef checkoff funds into NCBA’s coffers.

But it is time to stop the charade. Farm organizations, journalists and cattle producers need to stop referring to “The Federation of State Beef Councils” as if it is some independent group of cattle producers, as this article does. The federation is a division of NCBA. NCBA says so on their website. So call it for what it is: NCBA’s Federation.

Here is what we should say: “Once again, NCBA is the big winner because the whole system is rigged from the state level all the way to the top. The fact is, NCBA’s Federation Division chose NCBA as the 2020 primary contractor for beef checkoff funding. Under the law, the CBB does not have the authority to pick any organization that the NCBA Federation doesn’t recommend. It is all rigged.”

It is time to clean this mess up and restore the U.S. cattle producers’ voice within the beef checkoff program by stripping NCBA of the federation. The NCBA’s gravy train should be derailed.

Response:  Smear Campaigns

Colin Woodall, CEO, National Cattlemen's Beef Association

The activist-funded Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) has again resorted to half-truths and smear tactics to pit beef producers against one another. It’s clear that their allies at the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) have taught the staff some new tricks to help tear the beef industry apart from the inside. It should come as no surprise that they’ve chosen a time when the industry is struggling with market-related challenges and producer unrest to fire their latest shot.

OCM/HSUS would like you to think our industry is weak, when in fact, beef demand is strong and has been climbing for many years both in the United States and overseas. Much of that strength is a result of programs funded by the Beef Checkoff. The folks at HSUS know and understand this, and because they oppose the consumption of animals, they have partnered with OCM to organize and fund this ongoing smear campaign.

Discrediting the Beef Checkoff and the work being done by contracting organizations allows OCM, HSUS and their bedfellows at R-CALF to build their own membership ranks. These organizations also depend on members, and they’re loudest when conditions are at their worst. By accepting the help of activists (OCM has widely acknowledged their close ties with HSUS and it’s well known that R-CALF is working closely with attorneys at Public Justice, a group that works closely with PETA and organizations such as the Animal Legal Defense Fund to attack and divide the beef industry) these groups are able to capitalize on the unrest in our industry and divide beef producers. Ultimately, twin campaigns by OCM/HSUS and R-CALF will tear the industry apart and cause irreparable harm unless producers speak up.

That’s the point of my response. I’ve had enough and it’s time to set the record straight. Let’s begin with the OCM/HSUS claims about funding for NCBA’s Beef Checkoff authorization requests. About the only information that’s correct is the dollar figure. NCBA was awarded $27.3 million in contracts for work related to promotion, research, consumer information and industry information. NCBA was one of eight contractors who received funding for proposals brought forward for consideration.

The groups which had proposals funded include:
    National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (five proposals for $27,383,347)
    U.S. Meat Export Federation, a subcontractor to NCBA (one proposal for $8,279,846)
    North American Meat Institute (four proposals for $1,953,345)
    Cattlemen’s Beef Board (one proposal for $1,645,993)
    American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture (one proposal for $698,300)
    Meat Import Council of America (one proposal for $498,786)
    United States Cattlemen’s Association (one proposal for $359,126)
    National Livestock Producers Association (one proposal for $99,757)

It’s important to note that United States Cattlemen’s Association is a new contractor to the process and is an outstanding example of the fact that many industry organizations can bring forward proposals and receive funding for work that falls within the scope of the Beef Promotion and Research Act of 1985. NCBA’s critics would like you to believe that the association has the ability, or even the desire, to control the Beef Checkoff and its funding mechanism.

Contrary to the headline of the OCM/HSUS release, NCBA did not “grant” itself any funding. NCBA submitted authorization requests into the same competitive process to which each of the eight contractors were subjected. Submitted authorization requests were evaluated, scored and then reviewed by the Beef Promotion Operating Committee (BPOC). The 20 members of the BPOC then made funding decisions based on the merits of those proposals. It should be noted that there are 14 votes required to pass a budget, so even though 10 members of the BPOC are cattlemen and cattlewomen appointed by the Federation of State Beef Councils, NCBA does not, and cannot, control the process or the funding decisions made by the BPOC.

OCM/HSUS has gone out of its way to smear the Federation of State Beef Councils. The men and women who make up the Federation are volunteer cattle producers. They offer up their time freely because they believe it’s important to represent the industry, to build beef demand and combat lies about the products we produce. The more than 700 cattlemen and cattlewomen who serve on state beef council boards are working on your behalf. These volunteers are your voice and they help determine how investments in the checkoff are directed. These volunteers deserve a nod of thanks for their service and time spent away from their operations. They don’t deserve to be attacked by activists disguised as cattle producers.

Now that we’ve discussed the funding process, and how it actually works, rather than the OCM/HSUS version, let’s turn to some of the other smears, lies and half-truths contained in the piece.

NCBA is a membership organization. Yes, we lobby every day on the issues our members identify as priorities, to ensure their voices are heard in Washington, D.C., and we’re damn good at it. No, we won’t apologize for doing the job our members pay us to do. But on this point, let me be crystal clear: WE DO NOT USE CHECKOFF FUNDS FOR ANY POLICY OR LOBBYING WORK. First, using checkoff funds for lobbying and policy work is illegal. Secondly, our members believe in the work we’re doing on their behalf and they willingly fund that work with their membership dues. We’ve had some big wins to benefit our members this year and we’re proud of that work. We had two victories in September alone, including the announcement of a trade agreement with Japan that lowers tariffs on U.S. beef and a rollback of Waters of the United States (WOTUS) regulations that would have cost producers dearly. Our members feel that kind of work is worth the investment.

Ultimately, this division in the industry will drive beef producers to a breaking point, serving no one but our adversaries. It’s discouraging that the animal rights activists have partnered with a small band of vocal producers to give them a foothold in the industry. If we stand silently and allow the attacks and smears to continue, the only winners will be the activists who pit cattlemen and cattlewomen against each other in the first place.

Ag Deputy Secretary Censky To Keynote Global Ethanol Summit In Washington, D.C.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed late Wednesday that Deputy Secretary Steve Censky will speak at the Global Ethanol Summit (GES) in Washington, D.C., scheduled for Oct. 14-15.

The Summit, sponsored jointly by the U.S. Grains Council (USGC), Growth Energy, and the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), is planned to engage a broad array of global ethanol leaders about the benefits of expanding ethanol use. Censky’s comments will focus on delivering U.S. ethanol potential through collaboration and trade.

“We are very pleased Deputy Secretary Censky has agreed to be with us during this important event,” said Ryan LeGrand, USGC president and CEO. “We are encouraged that ethanol means as much to the administration as it does to us and to American corn farmers dedicated to making our country and many others around the world environmentally safer for generations to come.”

More than 300 ministerial-level officials and senior-level industry leaders, ethanol producers and refiners from more than 60 countries have been invited to attend.

With informative general sessions, networking and dedicated business-to-business meetings, the GES will provide attendees direct access to thought leaders on the future of global ethanol use and the opportunity to build partnerships with industry leaders.

First-day conference highlights include discussions about ethanol trade policy, global decarbonization of fuel and the environmental benefits of ethanol, air quality and human health implications of ethanol, opportunities for ethanol expansion in the bio-economy and industrial uses of the product.

“We look forward to welcoming Deputy Secretary Censky to the event, which will feature presentations from the industry’s foremost experts, insightful discussions and unparalleled networking opportunities,” said RFA President and CEO Geoff Cooper. “U.S. ethanol isn’t just an important part of the economy in America’s rural communities, it is driving economic development and environmental benefits around the world. Bringing together so many leaders and decision-makers from so many places is an important part of our work in raising awareness about the benefits of U.S. ethanol, so we all can breathe easier with a high-octane, low-carbon, affordable fuel solution.”

The second day of the meeting will focus on delivering on ethanol’s potential through collaboration, trade and global use. Sessions planned include discussions about octane economics, vehicle compatibility with ethanol and handling and logistics of ethanol use.

“The Global Ethanol Summit will bring together some of the biggest players in the industry, and we are fortunate to have one of the U.S.’ most invaluable biofuel supporters, USDA Deputy Secretary Censky, be part of this conversation,” said Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor. “We look forward to a robust discussion on building the global market, as well as the opportunity to hear from industry experts on how critical fostering stable trade relationships will continue to be for future growth. We look forward to joining our partners and USDA Deputy Secretary Censky at this one-of-a-kind event in October.”

The meeting will end by looking at future opportunities for ethanol, its expanded use potential and the outlook for developing and cultivating new markets around the world.

The GES follows two previous regional ethanol summits – the Ethanol Summit of the Americas held in October 2017 and the Ethanol Summit of the Asia-Pacific held in May 2018. Additional funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Trade Promotion (ATP) program and other sponsors will support the expanded focus of the GES.

The GES will also feature a U.S. sales component that builds on current ethanol trade. For the last 10 years, ethanol has been the fastest-growing U.S. agricultural export, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service (USDA’s FAS).

Following the Summit, the Council and its members will organize specialized tours of U.S. ethanol production facilities and terminals for international Summit attendees.

Interested domestic ethanol industry leaders and other members of the ethanol value chain can register for the event at

RFA Corrects EPA Misstatements About Ethanol Demand and SREs in House Testimony

In a letter sent today to the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Renewable Fuels Association noted several misstatements in testimony offered recently to the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology and provided background information to help the Agency better understand the real impacts of small refinery exemptions (SREs).

Today’s note follows a letter sent to EPA in August after the Agency asserted there was “zero evidence” that SREs are negatively impacting ethanol producers.

“In light of our August letter and the further deterioration of ethanol market conditions that has subsequently occurred, we were disappointed to hear you repeat similar claims about the impact of SREs on ethanol producers during your testimony,” wrote RFA President and CEO Geoff Cooper in the letter to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Several statements made during the hearing about ethanol supply and demand are inconsistent with government data and market intelligence. I write today to challenge several of your statements and provide additional information regarding the very real impact of SREs on the ethanol industry.”

Specifically, RFA questioned the accuracy of EPA statements regarding recent trends in ethanol production and use. Specifically, Administrator Wheeler told the Committee that ethanol production and consumption is on the rise, when data from the Department of Energy and EPA itself indicate otherwise.

“We encourage you and your staff to more carefully and more thoroughly analyze the actual marketplace implications of retroactive SREs,” Cooper concluded. “EPA statements suggesting there has been no negative economic impact from SREs are an insult to the thousands of biofuel industry workers and farmers who are experiencing very real pain today because of EPA decisions.”

FARM Animal Care Program Announces Version 4.0 Changes for 2020

The National Milk Producers Federation, with support from Dairy Management Inc., today announced updates to animal care standards under the National Dairy Farmers Assuring Responsible Management, or FARM, Animal Care program after a rigorous 16-month stakeholder review.

The fourth iteration of the FARM Animal Care Program’s standards supports closer farmer-veterinarian relationships, requires continuing education for all employees and adds a new standard for pain management when disbudding animals. As with previous versions of FARM Animal Care, a robust suite of materials that include templates, FAQs, continuing education videos and other resource tools will be made available to help producers meet the outlined standards. These resources are available to producers through their cooperative or processor and can be found on the FARM Resources web page. Hard copy resources are also available upon request.

“FARM’s Animal Care Program 4.0 underscores the dairy community’s commitment to continually improving animal care and incorporating the latest animal-welfare research, demonstrating to consumers that dairy is a leader in the humane and ethical care of our animals,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF. “We are committed to ensuring that farms are prepared to meet the updated standards and that the supply chain – from farm to fork -- has full transparency as well as high-quality dairy products.”

FARM Animal Care is updated once every three years to ensure relevance to current industry best management practices and scientific research related to on-farm animal care. Farmers nationwide, dairy veterinarians and animal-welfare experts and dairy-industry leaders are all represented in drafting and approving new standards received 370 submissions that guided final decisions made on Version 4.0.

Significant changes going into effect beginning Jan. 1 include:
-    If tail docking is found to have continued to occur, immediate action must be taken to cease the practice.
-    Standards that generate a Mandatory Corrective Action Plan -- ranging from veterinarian engagement (Veterinarian-Client-Patient-Relationship and herd health plan review), calf care, non-ambulatory, euthanasia and fitness to transport management practices, and disbudding prior to 8 weeks of age -- will need to be addressed within nine months of the evaluation. For additional specifics around the standards updates, please visit this site.

FARM staff will be attending and exhibiting at the World Dairy Expo from Oct. 1-5 at booth EH4508. FARM is also hosting a lunch at Expo on Thursday, Oct. 3rd at noon CT to more broadly discuss current initiatives within FARM. RSVP is required and can be completed by emailing the FARM Inbox at

IGC Raises Grain Stockpile Forecast

The world will carry over more grain into next season than previously expected, the International Grains Council said on Thursday, a factor that could put pressure on food prices in the coming months.

In a monthly report, the IGC revised up its forecast for global grain inventories at the end of the 2019-20 season by 3 million tons, to 601 million tons.

The change stems from a tweak to the IGC's estimate of grain stores at the start of the season, rather than revisions to its production and consumption forecasts.

The IGC cut its forecast for grain production in Australia by 3 million tons, to 31 million tons, as a result of hot and dry weather.

The European Union's recently completed harvest was the largest in four years, the IGC said, producing 326.2 million tons of grain.

President and CEO of Land O’Lakes, Inc. Beth Ford joins FFAR Board of Directors

The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) is thrilled to announce that Beth Ford, President and CEO of Land O’Lakes, Inc. is joining the Board of Directors.

Ford leads one of the country’s largest food and agricultural cooperatives. Since joining Land O’Lakes in 2011, she has led record performance and growth at the company as Chief Operating Officer of Land O’Lakes business, in addition to holding other executive positions at the Fortune 500 Company. Ford brings more than 20 years’ experience in technology and R&D in executive operations management and supply chain roles at International Flavors and Fragrances, Mobil Corporation, PepsiCo and Pepsi Bottling Company and Scholastic.

“Beth Ford brings corporate leadership and a deep understanding of research and development to the table, making her a perfect fit for FFAR’s Board of Directors,” noted FFAR Chairman of the Board and President of Mississippi State University Dr. Mark Keenum. “Ford’s experience and leadership will be much valued as we guide FFAR towards even greater success in generating actionable science to solve food and agriculture’s most pressing challenges.”

Ford is changing the face of agricultural leadership. She is only one of 33 women leading Fortune 500 company and Land O’ Lakes’ first female CEO, a position to which she was promoted by an all-male board. FFAR similarly takes an audacious, collaborative approach to fill research gaps and seeks to energize the agricultural research field. The Foundation is excited to add Ford’s pioneering spirit to the FFAR Board of Directors.

“We are honored to have one of our country’s most dynamic business leaders join our Board of Directors,” said FFAR’s Executive Director Dr. Sally Rockey. “Our Board has been instrumental in helping us become the innovative organization we are today. We look forward to working with Ford to continue achieving FFAR’s goals.”

Rep. Kind Introduces the 'CURD Act' to Protects Quality of Cheese

Wisconsin Congressman Ron Kind introduced the bipartisan Codifying Useful Regulatory Definitions, or CURD Act, which would create a formal definition of 'natural cheese to ensure consumers are fully informed when purchasing cheese.

The La Crosse Democrat says the term natural cheese is historically used to identify cheeses made directly from milk and distinguish those products from process cheeses.

"Folks here in Wisconsin are proud of the high quality, international award-winning, delicious cheese made in the state," Kind said. "Ensuring Wisconsin cheese can continue to be labeled as 'natural cheese' will give customers the information they need to continue buying the quality Wisconsin cheese their families have used for generations."

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