Friday, October 25, 2019

Thursday October 24 Ag News

Leadership Transition within UNL Center for Grassland Studies

The Center for Grassland Studies celebrated its 25th Anniversary this year. The founding Director of the Center, Dr. Martin Massengale, served in that role for the Center’s first 23 years. Seldom does an organization enjoy the benefits and prosper fromsuch remarkable commitment and passionate leadership represented by over two decades of servant leadership. The stability in leadership and vision coupled with the inherent passion for grasslands and grassland science positioned the Center well for service to the students, faculty stakeholders, state and beyond. 

Dr. Steven Waller feels it has been an honor to have followed Dr. Massengale in the role of Interim Director of the Center for Grassland Studies. The opportunities for the Center that have occurred as a result of the foundation that Dr. Massengale and others created have been extremely rewarding, both personally and professionally for Waller. Steve said, “My experience in the Center has only reaffirmed how blessed we are to be grassland stewards in the state of Nebraska. My three years in the Centerhave felt like a rebirth of my lasting passion for our grasslands which has always been grounded in the people. I will retire at the end of this calendar year having thoroughly enjoyed a return to my range science roots.” Steve continued, “Whether it is the administrative team in the office or the faculty, students, stakeholders, farmers and ranchers; we all become one in service to our grassland heritage. It is the people that make a difference and it is time for a new leader of the Center for Grassland Studies to make their difference, and they will.”

Dr. Walt Schacht has accepted the position of Interim Director beginning January 1, 2020. Dr. Schacht is a Professor in the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture specializing in Grassland Ecology. He is uniquely suited for the position as Interim Director. He has been a servant leader his entire career and his network of friends, colleagues, students, alumni, stakeholders, farmers and ranchers testify to the breadth and diversity of his knowledge in grasslands and the respect that he enjoys from all. Dr. Schacht has always been a difference-maker and now he will make a difference in the Center for Grassland Studies.   

Ricketts: New Forecast Means Full Steam Ahead on Property Tax Relief

Today, Governor Pete Ricketts issued a statement following a decision by the Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board, which raised the revenue forecast by $161 million for the current fiscal year FY2019-20 and $105 million for fiscal year FY2020-21.

“This new forecast pegs revenues at $266 million higher over the next two years,” said Gov. Ricketts.  “This will allow property tax relief to move full steam ahead during the upcoming legislative session.”

Statement by Steve Nelson, President, Regarding Revenue Projections, Opportunity for Property Tax Relief

“Today’s state revenue projections adopted by the Nebraska Economic Forecasting Board only bolster the opportunity for the Legislature to provide property tax relief for Nebraskans. While some will want to use additional dollars for other purposes, it’s vital these dollars be dedicated to lowering property taxes for hard working Nebraskans.”

IA Pork Leadership Applications due Nov. 30, 2019

Travel the country. Meet farmers from other states. Develop your leadership skills. If those sound like goals you want to accomplish in 2020, then the Iowa Pork Leadership Academy (IPLA) may be for you.

The Iowa Pork Producers Association is now accepting applications for its 2020 IPLA class. Applications are due Nov. 30, 2019.

IPLA was created to support Iowa's pork producers who are committed to the pork industry. It provides them with the tools to succeed as leaders. These tools include:
-    a working knowledge of the Iowa Pork Producers Association and other key organizations that work with IPPA to broaden perspectives and build coalitions;
-    understanding and defining leadership styles and how they impact people working together in a group;
-    a deeper understanding of the pork industry and its economic contributions to Iowa, and how that impacts Iowa's place in the world; and
-    sharpening written and verbal communications and messaging about pig farming and pork.

The academy will meet four times in 2020, starting with an introductory session in February 2020, which culminates with the group's graduation at the January 2021 Iowa Pork Congress.

IPLA is for men and women who want to contribute to a better future for Iowa's pig farmers by connecting with their communities, and supporting the long-term profitability of the pork industry in Iowa.

Online applications and details about the program can be found at

The 2019 IPLA members will graduate at the 2020 IPPA Annual Meeting Awards Lunch on Jan. 21, 2020. Those members are: Kara Burch, Independence; Amanda Chipman, Ames; Jared Gent, Kalona; Mary Heiller, North Liberty; Ryan Holt, Des Moines; and Michael King, Urbandale.

Also, Brian Lundell, Kiron; Craig Mostaert, Castalia; Nathan Nieuwendorp, Inwood; Scott Opperman, Manning; Ty Rosburg, Charter Oak; and Linda Schroeder, Remsen.

Operation Main Street Shares Facts About Pig Farming With 10,000 Groups

After debuting nearly 15 years ago, the Pork Checkoff’s Operation Main Street (OMS) program has reached a major milestone – sharing facts about pigs and pork to 10,000 audiences. Wesley Lyons, a veterinarian from Sycamore, Illinois, made the historic presentation to nurses at the Northern Illinois Chapter of the American Association of Critical Care Nurses Fall Forum in Rockford, Illinois.

“I was honored to present the 10,000th OMS speech, especially to a group of critical care nurses,” said Lyons, with Pipestone Veterinary Services. “Nurses often have more time to interact with patients than physicians, which makes them a critical group for us to share up-to-date information about how pigs are raised today.”

The OMS program was created to help pig farmers interact with and connect to their communities about animal care, food safety and public health and other facets of how today’s pigs are raised. Since then, it has transitioned into a program that also reaches key influencers, expanding to include veterinarians such as Lyons and other industry representatives to serve as speakers. To date, the nearly 1,500 trained OMS speakers have collectively volunteered 17,604 hours to share pork’s story.

“OMS provides the opportunity for audience members to ask questions about pigs and pork from the farmers and veterinarians who care for pigs daily,” said Ernie Barnes industry services director for the Pork Checkoff. “OMS speakers interact with chefs, nurses, veterinarian students, nutritionists, bloggers and other important groups who interact daily with audiences. OMS presentations help them confidently and accurately talk about the science and practice of raising pigs.”

A new program update is an ability for audience members to virtually tour a pig farm. Through a collaboration with South Dakota State University (SDSU), OMS speakers can include live-streaming video tours of SDSU’s Swine Education and Research Center, in Brookings, South Dakota.

“The live tours show how pig farmers follow the We CareSM ethical principles every day in their barns to raise healthy pigs,” said Lyons, who included a virtual tour in the 10,000th presentation. “Many people are surprised at the high level of care pigs receive in the climate-controlled barns and at how pig farmers safeguard natural resources.”

OMS speakers and those who attend presentations are encouraged to use the hashtag –  #OurPorkStory – to increase the online presence of pig farming. 

Record Red Meat and Pork Production in September

Commercial red meat production for the United States totaled 4.44 billion pounds in September, up 6 percent from the 4.19 billion pounds produced in September 2018.

By State   (million pounds - % Sept '18)

Nebraska ........:     698.6            106
Iowa ...............:     707.1            118      
Kansas ............:     385.1             79      

Beef production, at 2.19 billion pounds, was 1 percent above the previous year. Cattle slaughter totaled 2.68 million head, up 2 percent from September 2018. The average live weight was down 7 pounds from the previous year, at 1,352 pounds.

Veal production totaled 6.1 million pounds, 1 percent above September a year ago. Calf slaughter totaled 49,000 head, up 1 percent from September 2018. The average live weight was up 1 pound from last year, at 216 pounds.

Pork production totaled 2.24 billion pounds, up 11 percent from the previous year. Hog slaughter totaled 10.6 million head, up 10 percent from September 2018. The average live weight was up 2 pounds from the previous year, at 282 pounds.

Lamb and mutton production, at 10.9 million pounds, was down 4 percent from September 2018. Sheep slaughter totaled 179,400 head, 4 percent above last year. The average live weight was 122 pounds, down 10 pounds from September a year ago.

January to September 2019 commercial red meat production was 40.5 billion pounds, up 3 percent from 2018. Accumulated beef production was up 1 percent from last year, veal was down 1 percent, pork was up 5 percent from last year, and lamb and mutton production was down 2 percent.

USDA Agricultural Trade Mission To Vietnam Reinforces Importance Of Trade Relationships

Relationships are a primary driving force behind trade - a principle that was demonstrated during each meeting of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Trade Mission (USDA’s ATM) to Vietnam in mid-October, led by Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney.

Wayne Humphreys, corn farmer from Columbus Junction, Iowa, who represents the corn sector on the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) Board of Directors, joined USGC staff for the mission, which included nearly 80 industry and government representatives. Humphreys’ participation as an engaged producer accentuated the importance of the interconnectedness between U.S. farmers and agribusiness, and other organizations like the Council in establishing, maintaining and expanding trade opportunities.

“I particularly appreciated being a part of this mission and others because when you sit across the table from these people and say you are a family farmer or an American farmer, you get the distinct impression that is a good thing,” Humphreys said. “We are held in high regard for our productivity and for the amount of volume that we handle per person and per man-hour.”

Vietnam is the fastest-growing economy in Southeast Asia, thanks to increasing population, urbanization and rapid economic growth. In less than a decade, Vietnam has grown from a top 10 to a top three corn importer in the world. The country is a significant importer of both U.S. corn and DDGS with additional future potential for U.S. sorghum. A rising middle class is also creating additional demand for ethanol, aided by a nationwide E5 policy that has ambitions to expand to E10. Vietnam imported 3.51 million gallons of U.S. ethanol in the 2018/2019 marketing year, more than tripling sales from the year prior.

During the trade mission, Humphreys and Council staff participated in two different roundtable meetings with Undersecretary McKinney - one focused on ethanol and bioplastics and another with grain traders. Each meeting emphasized the Council’s well-known reputation as a partner in the trade and with Vietnamese producers working to expand their operations and address challenges like Asian Swine Fever (ASF).

“They have great respect for the Council. They know we have been in business a long time and we have been working in that part of the world for a long time,” Humphreys said. “We are not just blowing in there because the market is a hot spot.”

The USGC team traveled to Myanmar following the official USDA trade mission to meet with key stakeholders in the frontier Southeast Asian market. Myanmar is home to 54 million people with tremendous potential for U.S. grain and co-product exports. However, restrictions on foreign investment related to political turbulence within Myanmar limited market development activities until 2018. Since then, the Council has been engaging with key stakeholders in the market, targeting aquaculture, animal feed and potable ethanol industries.

“Myanmar is a classic example of an emerging market,” Humphreys said. “The people are learning how to be part of the international community. We learned long ago to be patient with emerging markets and help them develop their policies.”

In both markets, Humphreys observed the importance of the Council’s on-the-ground presence and emphasized the overarching need to continue to establish connections, not just promote sales.

“The business of the Council and the business of the American farmer around the world should be focused on developing relationships,” Humphreys said. “That means consistency; that means trust; that means honesty; that means doing and delivering exactly what we said we will do.”

National Biodiesel Foundation Receives DERA Grant

This week, the National Biodiesel Foundation was awarded U.S. Environmental Protection Agency funding for its 2020 National Clean Diesel Project. In partnership with Iowa Department of Transportation (Iowa DOT), Optimus Technologies (Optimus), and  Renewable Energy Group (REG), the project supports the purchase of three new replacement snowplows that will operate on B100 and retire older more polluting vehicles.

These new B100-optimized vehicles provide communities of Des Moines and Ames, Iowa. with lower NOx and PM transportation. “We at Foundation are excited to partner with Iowa DOT for the first successful DERA grant to utilize the Optimus B100 technology," said Tom Verry, Executive Director. “It is projects like this that will showcase the benefits of higher biodiesel blends as the future of clean and sustainable diesel.”

“The Iowa Department of Transportation is pleased to receive this award to help our fleet improve air quality in Iowa and maintains our status as an early adopter of biofuels and related technologies,” said David May, Fleet Manager for Iowa DOT.

These new vehicles will facilitate goods-movement seasonally by providing snow removal service and have access to rail yards, terminals, and key distribution centers. All replacement vehicles will use Optimus Technologies’ Vector technology, allowing the vehicles to operate exclusively on 100% biodiesel—other than startup and shutdown—to optimize fuel savings and emissions performance.

“Optimus’ patented technology is deployed with fleets across the country leading the efforts to reduce emissions and transition to low carbon fuels. Our technology is ideal for demanding applications like snow removal operations and refuse collection that aren’t suitable or practical for electrification,” said Colin Huwyler, CEO of Optimus. “We applaud Iowa Department of Transportation’s leadership in being the first DOT in the nation to deploy B100 within their fleet and are excited to emphasize that the thousands of gallons of diesel fuel being offset will be replaced with biodiesel that is produced right in Iowa.”

REG will provide the B100 refueling infrastructure for the fleet. “As the demand for emissions reduction strategies continue to grow across fleets and municipalities, we are well-positioned to provide quality biodiesel (B100) and other biofuel blend options to our customers,” said Jon Scharingson, Executive Director, Sales & Marketing. “The Iowa Department of Transportation was an early adopter of biodiesel and continues to be an ambassador for cleaner fuels.”

The Foundation will work with IDOT, Iowa Renewable Fuels, Iowa Clean Cities and the National Biodiesel Board to offer technician training to help them better understand the equipment as well as provide community educational events. In addition, partners will conduct outreach efforts to showcase biodiesel and educate fleets and the general public on biodiesel’s air quality and low carbon benefits to the community.

RFA Receives Grants for Ethanol Safety Education

The Renewable Fuels Association has recently been awarded grants to support its safety education program through on-site seminars and Internet webinars. Both grants were received via the association’s work with TRANSCAER, a voluntary national outreach effort that focuses on assisting communities to prepare for and respond to a possible hazardous material transportation incident.

“One of the strengths that sets our association apart is our whole-industry focus that includes high-quality technical assistance such as our safety programs with TRANSCAER,” said RFA Technical Services Manager Missy Ruff. “As we seek to make ethanol more available to drivers nationwide, we want to ensure that ethanol producers, shippers, blenders, and emergency response personnel all have the opportunity to learn more about best practices for safe handling of ethanol and responding to incidents. We are very grateful for the continuing support from TRANSCAER and other partner organizations.”

A $25,000 grant from the Federal Railroad Administration will support 10 ethanol safety seminars and four “train the trainer” webinars for first responders, and a $40,000 Assistance for Local Emergency Response Training grant from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration will fund another 10 ethanol safety seminars and an update of RFA’s Ethanol Safety Tour video.

All work on both grants must be completed by Aug. 31, 2020. Last year, RFA’s safety work with TRANSCAER involved hosting ethanol safety seminars in New York, Vermont, Mississippi, West Virginia, Louisiana, Maine and Virginia reaching a total audience of 506 first responders and safety professionals, and four online “Train the Trainer” webinars, reaching 259 participants in January, March, July and August.

For more information on RFA’s work in this area, visit the Ethanol Emergency Response website at, where the training programs conducted in the seminars and webinars can be seen.

IGC Cuts 2019-20 Grain Production, Consumption Forecasts

The International Grains Council cut its forecast for grain production on Thursday, as a third year of drought in Australia drags on global wheat output.

The intergovernmental organization reduced its forecast for grain output in the 2019-20 season to 2.157 billion metric tons, down from 2.159 billion tons in its September report. Strong harvests in the European Union and Russia partly offset cuts to the outlook for wheat production in Australia and Argentina.

Wheat prices have risen in recent weeks, driven by strong demand in Egypt, the world's top importer of the grain, and dry weather in Australia.

However, the IGC forecasts are unlikely to lead to a further rally in prices since the organization also cut its forecast for global grain consumption by two million tons, to 2.184 billion tons.

EPA Proposes Rule to Update Pesticide Application Exclusion Zone Requirements

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing narrow updates to the Worker Protection Standard (WPS) pesticide regulation to improve the long-term success of the agency’s Application Exclusion Zone (AEZ) requirements. The targeted updates would improve enforceability for state regulators and reduce regulatory burdens for farmers. It would also maintain public health protections for farm workers and other individuals near agricultural establishments that could be exposed to agricultural pesticide applications. The proposed updates are consistent with the newly enacted 2019 Pesticide Registration Improvement Act (PRIA).

“EPA’s proposal would enhance the agency’s Application Exclusion Zone provisions by making them more effective and easier to implement,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “In listening to input from stakeholders, our proposal will make targeted updates, maintaining safety requirements to protect the health of those in farm country, while providing greater flexibility for farmers.”

“President Trump made a commitment to our farmers to reduce burdensome regulations, and this is another example of him making good on that promise. This action will make it easier for our farmers and growers to comply with the Application Exclusion Zone provisions, providing them with the flexibility to do what they do best - feed, fuel, and clothe the world,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.

“I commend Administrator Wheeler for clarifying the Application Exclusion Zone (AEZ) requirements," said Congressman Mike Conaway (TX-11). "This is a positive development for our nation’s farmers, farm workers, and their State regulatory partners. Unlike the last administration’s misguided regulations, AEZ is now an enforceable rule that maintains worker protections without additional burden to farmers. While there is still more to do to improve the Worker Protection Standards, I appreciate EPA’s efforts and look forward to continuing this important work.”

“NASDA appreciates the EPA’s continued steps to prioritize worker safety. Additional and improved guidelines for implementing pesticide safety standards are always welcomed, as NASDA members hold highly the responsibility of protecting our nation’s agricultural workforce,” said National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) CEO Dr. Barb Glenn. “We thank EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler for mapping out the new rules with NASDA, as each member implements the regulations and intricacies within them.”

“I applaud EPA’s action to provide growers relief from a very cumbersome requirement by proposing changes to the Worker Protection Standard consistent with our remarks submitted during a 2017 comment period,” said Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary W. Black. “Our growers go to great lengths to comply with the WPS only to be frustrated with its complexity. Updating and simplifying the Application Exclusion Zone provision within this rule will strengthen enforceability for state regulators and better support outreach and education efforts by research partners, all while reducing regulatory burdens for our farmers.”

“The American Farm Bureau Federation welcomes EPA’s effort to refine and improve the application exclusion zone requirement. It’s part of the worker protection standards rule, which was recently revised in a way that has proved challenging for many farmers," said American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall. "Every effort to make the rule more sensible and practical for farmers while safeguarding workers is important. EPA’s step today to assure that only those areas under a farmer’s control are enforceable is a common-sense clarification, among others designed to reflect on-the-ground farming practices. AFBF commends Administrator Wheeler and the agency for this common-sense and welcome revision.”

EPA continues to support the AEZ requirement. The agency is holding a 90-day public comment period and is seeking input on select updates that were publicly suggested to EPA by both state pesticide agencies responsible for enforcing the provision and agricultural stakeholders since the AEZ requirement was adopted in 2015. The proposed updates are also consistent with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s comments during a May 2017 meeting of EPA’s Pesticide Program Dialogue Committee.

Specifically, EPA is proposing to:

-    Modify the AEZ so it is applicable and enforceable only on a farm owner’s property, where a farm owner can lawfully exercise control over employees and bystanders who could fall within the AEZ. As currently written, the off-farm aspect of this provision has proven very difficult for state regulators to enforce. These proposed changes would enhance both enforcement and implementation of the AEZ for state regulators and farm owners respectively. Off-farm bystanders would still be protected from pesticide applications thanks to the existing “do not contact” requirement that prohibits use in a manner that would contact unprotected individuals.
-    Exempt immediate family members of farm owners from all aspects of the AEZ requirement. This will allow farm owners and their immediate family members to decide whether to stay in their homes or other enclosed structures on their property during certain pesticide applications, rather than compelling them to leave even when they feel safe remaining.
-    Add clarifying language that pesticide applications that are suspended due to individuals entering an AEZ may be resumed after those individuals have left the AEZ.
-    Simplify the criteria for deciding whether pesticide applications are subject to the 25- or 100-foot AEZ.

EPA will be accepting public comments on the proposed updates for 90 days after the proposal is published in the Federal Register.

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