Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Monday March 30 Ag News

LENRD board moves forward with watershed study

For the first time in 47 years, the board room at the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) office was empty as the board held their March meeting online via audio/video conferencing.

LENRD General Manager, Mike Sousek, said, “The world is navigating through uncharted waters as the coronavirus pandemic continues.  As we practice social distancing, the office remains closed to the public until further notice.  Even though the office doors are closed, most of our staff are working off-site to ensure that we continue to offer a high-level of public service to the citizens of our district.”  He continued, “Our online meeting went very well and I anticipate that we’ll need to continue to use the video conferencing format until things drastically improve.”

During the March 26th meeting, the board approved the contract with JEO Consulting Group for the Battle Creek Watershed Improvement Project Work Plan.  This contract will allow for an environmental assessment of the watershed as well as developing an approved Watershed Flood Prevention Operations (WFPO) plan with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

Sousek said, “After nearly a year in the making, all the necessary paperwork with the USDA has been signed and approved to secure the WFPO grant with NRCS.  This grant in the amount of $390,000 will complete a watershed study in the Battle Creek area and offer further information for a flood prevention plan for the entire watershed.  This study will take approximately 18 months to complete.”

The board also instructed staff to apply for a new WFPO grant through NRCS to develop a watershed plan for the Maple Creek Watershed.

In other action, the board approved the Interlocal Agreement with the City of Scribner and Dodge County for the Elkhorn River Bank Stabilization Project to repair damages from the 2019 flood.

Sousek added, “Don’t hesitate to reach out to us during these uncertain times.  We are returning phone calls and emails and meeting virtually, it’s business as usual for us here.  We also have a drop box located at our main entrance on the west side of the building.”

The LENRD board & staff meet each month to develop and implement management plans to protect our natural resources for the future.  The next LENRD board meeting will be Thursday, April 23rd at 7:30 p.m.  Watch for further updates and stay connected with the LENRD by subscribing to their monthly emails at www.lenrd.org.

USDA Announces More Than 3.4 Million Acres Selected for General Signup Conservation Reserve Program

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue late last week announced the acceptance of more than 3.4 million acres in the general Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) signup recently completed, the first general signup enrollments since 2016. County offices will begin notifying producers with accepted offers no later than April 3.

In Nebraska, 131,209 acres were accepted in CRP general practices, which is 88 percent of the acres requested for enrollment in the state, and 5,503 acres were accepted as part of the CRP State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement, which is 80 percent of the acres requested for enrollment in the state.

Through CRP, farmers and ranchers receive an annual rental payment for establishing long-term, resource-conserving plant species, such as approved grasses or trees, to control soil erosion, improve water quality and enhance wildlife habitat on cropland. Farmers and ranchers who participate in CRP help provide numerous benefits to the nation’s environment and economy.

“The Conservation Reserve Program is one of our nation’s largest conservation endeavors and is critical in helping producers better manage their operations while conserving valuable natural resources,” Nebraska USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) State Executive Director Nancy Johner said. “Nationally the program marked its 35th anniversary this year. We are pleased that Nebraska fared well in the enrollment process.”

Over these 35 years, CRP has addressed multiple concerns while ensuring the most competitive offers are selected by protecting fragile and environmentally sensitive lands, improving water quality, enhancing wildlife populations, providing pollinator forage habitat, sequestering carbon in soil and enhancing soil productivity. Seventy percent of the nation’s land is owned and tended privately, and America’s farmers, ranchers and landowners have willingly stepped up to protect the environment and natural resources.

This general signup included offers for State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE), which allows producers to install practices that benefit high-priority, locally developed wildlife conservation objectives using targeted restoration of vital habitat. Nationally over 95 percent of SAFE offers submitted were accepted under this general signup, representing more than 487,500 acres. This acceptance level highlights the commitment to SAFE as an important part of CRP.

The 2018 Farm Bill established a nationwide acreage limit for CRP, with the total number of acres that may be enrolled capped at 24.5 million acres in 2020 and growing to 27 million by 2023.

While the deadline for general CRP signup was February 28, 2020, signups for continuous CRP, Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, CRP Grasslands and the Soil Health and Income Protection Program (SHIPP) are ongoing. The CRP Grasslands deadline is May 15, and the SHIPP signup begins March 30, 2020, and ends August 21, 2020.

Continuous and Grasslands enrollments are available nationwide. All counties located within the Prairie Pothole region states of Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota are eligible for SHIPP.  

This spring, FSA will roll out a new pilot conservation program, the Clean Lakes, Estuaries, and Rivers 30 (CLEAR 30).


For the month of March 2020, topsoil moisture supplies rated 1 percent very short, 8 short, 80 adequate, and 11 surplus, according to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service. Subsoil moisture supplies rated 1 percent very short, 6 short, 86 adequate, and 7 surplus.

Field Crops Report:

Winter wheat condition rated 1 percent very poor, 4 poor, 16 fair, 71 good, and 8 excellent.

Weekly reports will begin April 6th for the 2020 season.

Farmers Union Asks Nebraskans to Use Flex Fuels in Their Flex Fuel Vehicles

Nebraska Farmers Union (NeFU) is asking Nebraskans to make a special effort to use flex fuels in their flex fuel vehicles. Last year’s data from the Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles says there are over 252,500 flex fuel vehicles in Nebraska. “We believe many flex fuel owners are not aware their vehicle is flex fuel capable. While virtually all vehicles can safely burn E10 or E15, flex fuel vehicles are designed to use up to E85 flex fuels. Higher ethanol blends are good for the environment, air quality, rural economic development, family farmers, and your pocketbook,” said NeFU President John Hansen.

Hansen said “Nebraska’s 25 ethanol plants annually employ 1,300 people; produce 2.18 billion gallons of ethanol, 6.4 million tons of distillers grains for livestock, 515 million pounds of corn oil; and consume 750 million bushels of corn which is 39% of the Nebraska corn crop. Ethanol production’s $5 billion value added agriculture investment represents the most effective rural economic development program that Nebraska has ever pursued. Our state cannot afford to lose these local economic drivers that grow local and state tax revenues, provide property tax relief, provide good paying jobs with benefits in rural communities, and help support corn prices and the family farmers that grow the corn.”

NeFU Vice President Vern Jantzen of Plymouth said “It is a shame to not take advantage of the flex fuel capacity of your vehicle. Nebraska’s ethanol producers and corn producers are both struggling financially. It would make a lot of difference if more flex fuel vehicle owners would go out of their way to fill up with home grown flex fuels.  Ethanol burns more cleanly and cooler. Flex fuels lower carbon monoxide emissions, and cancer producing particulates.” 

NeFU urged fuel consumers to find flex fuel stations near them at the Nebraska Ethanol Board website at: http://ethanol.nebraska.gov/wordpress/buy-ethanol/nebraska-ethanol-stations/. In addition, to the Nebraska Ethanol Board the Nebraska Corn Board is also a good source of information about flex fuel vehicles and other biofuel issues at: https://nebraskacorn.gov/

“The Coronavirus pandemic has given many of us a wake-up call about the wisdom of our nation’s past globalization polices. We are learning the hard way that it is not smart to depend on foreign produced medical supplies and drugs. When we are dependent, we are vulnerable. What is true for medical supplies and drugs is also true for food and renewable fuels. Our national security needs our nation’s hardworking independent family farmers and our nation’s renewable fuel industries growing our nation’s own food and renewable fuels,” Hansen said.

“If you have a flex fuel vehicle, and do not currently use flex fuels, we are asking you to give them a try. It is the environmentally and economically smart and right thing to do.  Based on the hundreds of thousands of miles I have put on my flex fuel vehicles, I know they are both cost effective and cleaner burning. And when I think about the good things biofuels do for our society, I smile going down the road,” Hansen concluded.

Evaluating & Preparing Bulls in advance of the Breeding Season

Steve Niemeyer – NE Extension Educator

Although the breeding season for many herds is still a few months away, it is time to be evaluating bull body condition. Body condition is just as important in bulls as it is in cows. Research has shown that bulls in a body condition 5-6 have better semen quality than those in a 4 or 7.   Much like cows, bull body condition needs to be evaluated as fat cover over the front ribs, brisket, and tail head (Body Condition Scoring Beef Cows, EC 281) making sure that gut fill does not impact the score given.

During the breeding season, bulls may lose 100-200 pounds (which could translate to 1-2 body condition scores (BCS)), therefore, having them in a BCS 5.5-6.5 before the breeding season starts is critical. Starting to evaluate bull BCS 90 days before breeding season will allow producers time to add the necessary weight to bulls before the busy season. Prior to the breeding season is typically a time when the bulls are fed hay as green grass is probably not available. If a 1300 pound yearling bull was fed about 35 pounds of meadow hay that was 56% total digestible nutrients (TDN) and 10% crude protein (CP), this bull would likely maintain his weight, but would likely not gain any. If the producer wants this bull to gain 100 pounds in 90 days, the bull would need 35 pounds of the meadow hay and 1 pound of a distillers based cube. However, if the producer needs this bull to gain 100 pounds in only 60 days, the bull would need 3.5 pounds of a distillers based cube on top of about 31 pounds of the meadow hay. If the producer fed 29.5 pounds of millet hay (54% TDN, 8% CP) and 14 pounds of corn silage (68% TDN, 8% CP) for 90 days, the bull would gain about 100 pounds. However, if the producer waited until 60 days before breeding, the producer would need to feed 23 pounds of the millet hay, 27 pounds of corn silage, and 4 pounds of wet distillers grains (108% TDN, 30% CP) to help the young bull gain 100 pounds. Mature bulls often weigh between 1500 and 2000 pounds, so feed intake would need to be increased accordingly. Additional considerations for helping bulls maintain wellness and gain weight is to use windbreaks and bedding to reduce body heat loss and prevent frostbite on testicles.

Many times at weaning when cows are pregnancy checked and producers are disappointed with the results, the assumption is typically that the cows were thin and not cycling well at breeding time. While this may be part of the issue, seldom is the condition of the bulls prior to breeding time evaluated to see if body condition of the bulls could be a potential issue.

Evaluating the body condition score of bulls at least 90 days before breeding and feeding them to gain weight so that they are in a BCS 5.5 to 6.5 at the onset of breeding can help keep bulls active, healthy, and productive through the breeding season. Sixty days prior to the start of the breeding season is probably the last chance to increase weight and BCS without a substantial increase in energy feeds. Be proactive about monitoring bull condition, especially young bulls. University of Nebraska Extension personnel can assist producers with ration development.

NPPC Cancels 2020 World Pork Expo

Next Year's WPX Set for June 9-11, 2021

The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) today announced that its board of directors has decided to cancel the 2020 World Pork Expo in June due to COVID-19 human health concerns. World Pork Expo 2021 is scheduled for June 9-11 at the Iowa State Fairgrounds.

"While deeply disappointed to cancel this year's Expo, NPPC's board of directors unanimously agreed it was prudent to make this decision now," said NPPC President Howard "A.V." Roth, a pork producer from Wauzeka, Wisconsin. "By eliminating COVID 19-related uncertainty surrounding the event, we allow producers and others across the industry to focus on the essential role we play in the nation's food supply system at this critical time."

"We will do our part to support the nation's transition back to normalcy and look forward to making next year's World Pork Expo better than ever," added Roth.

World Pork Expo is the world's largest pork-specific trade show, where more than 20,000 industry professionals gather for three days to showcase innovations, introduce new products and participate in training and educational programs. 

DOT Expands Hours of Service Waivers for Feed Truckers

The Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Safety Administration expanded the scope of its nationwide waivers for Hours of Service rules to include feed deliveries, as well as raw materials to manufacture disinfectants and other vital cleaning supplies, among other efforts.

HOS governs the amount of time commercial truckers can drive their loads and when they are required to rest between drives.

Last week, the agency announced HOS waivers to cover livestock haulers.

The waivers remain in force until April 12, and could be extended if warranted by the COVID-19 crisis.

New Study Finds U.S. Soybean Industry Has $115 Billion Impact on the American Economy

The National Oilseed Processors Association (NOPA), a trade association representing owners/operators of oilseed crush facilities, is pleased to announce the availability of a new study, The Economic Impact of the U.S. Soybeans & End Products on the U.S. Economy, that examines the value of the American soybean industry. NOPA partnered with the United Soybean Board (USB) in commissioning LMC International Ltd, an independent economic consulting firm that specializes in global agricultural commodity and agribusiness sectors, to develop the study.

This 31-page study analyzes the soybean value chain’s impact to the U.S. economy, based on data from crop years 2014/15 to 2016/17. As highlighted in the report summary, during this period:
— The total economic impact on the U.S. economy from the soybean sector averaged $115.8 billion.
— The soybean sector supported an average of 357,000 people, comprising 280,000 paid, full-time equivalent jobs as well as an additional 78,000 family members, beyond growers themselves, who support and are supported by soybean farming operations.
— The total wage impact of the sector averaged $11.6 billion.

Economic impacts highlighted in the study are quantified in terms of revenue, wages, jobs and number of people dependent on the sector — all focused on the production, distribution and use of soybeans, and soybean products, spanning across the value chain, from soybean farming and production to consumers and exports. Findings are presented, with educational intent, at the national and state levels, as well as by congressional district. The study also includes one-page summaries for 39 key states where the soybean industry primarily operates.

A copy of the full study (November 2019) is available under the Resources section of NOPA’s website at nopa.org

Soy Innovation Challenge to Award Disruptive Innovators

U.S. soybean farmers principally are price takers in the existing soybean supply chain, without transparent access to market signals originating from end users. Similarly, the complexity of the value chain makes it difficult for end users to buy raw materials that meet their needs. To enhance farmers’ ability to make dynamic, profit-enhancing decisions based on clear demand information, the Soy Innovation Challenge, sponsored and founded by the United Soybean Board (USB) and led by the Yield Lab Institute (YLI), aims to solve this problem.

To commemorate National Ag Day, USB and the YLI announce the Soy Innovation Challenge. This non-dilutive startup accelerator program identifies innovative soybean value chain-based product solutions and supports the most promising ones with business coaching and entrepreneurial networking. The Soy Innovation Challenge seeks ideas for the creation of new kinds of supply chain structures and technologies that offer transparency, facilitate alignment based on measurable sustainability parameters and increase farm profitability.

“On the occasion of National Ag Day, it’s critical that the voice of the farmer is present in deciding which disruptive technologies will transform the global food system,” said Andy Fabin, USB director and farmer from Indiana, Pennsylvania.

This partnership between USB and the YLI initiates a real opportunity to increase collaboration and bridge the gap between farmers, agribusinesses, experts and the selected startup companies or teams.

“The soybean value chain represents an exciting new challenge for the Institute,” said Brandon Day, COO at the YLI. “By opening a worldwide call to ag-tech startups in the soy innovation space, we are creating a platform for technology and innovation to capture and provide value directly back to soy farmers.”

With the application period launching March 24 through May 1, 2020, USB and the YLI invite ag-tech startups, project teams and groups to submit their ideas (apply online). This includes entities that operate in the soybean value chain and have an innovative product, service or technology that provides value directly back to U.S. soybean farmers. Cash prizes will be awarded at the conclusion of the challenge. All selected teams will receive mentoring and resources to help advance their ideas in the areas of technical, business, financial and environmental impact.

“U.S. agriculture has a unique opportunity to offer solutions to the climate challenge,” said Tim Venverloh, USB Vice President of Sustainability Strategy. “Meeting consumer demand for sustainably produced U.S. soybeans will involve protecting soil health, improving nutrient use efficiency and enhancing the delivery and communication of sustainability information.”

Beef Experts Dish Out Real Facts About Real Beef

In the latest effort to address myths about beef production and nutrition, Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner., managed by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff, has released a new video series, ‘Real Facts About Real Beef.’ The videos highlight real farmers and ranchers and other beef experts candidly addressing some of the most common misconceptions and questions about cattle and beef.

According to market research, 52 percent of people agree that they trust the people who raise cattle[i]; however, only 27 percent of people say they are knowledgeable about how cattle are raised. [ii] In a time when consumers are more removed from food production than ever, these videos deliver facts directly from the source - beef farmers and ranchers, as well as credentialed experts in the fields of sustainability, human nutrition, and more. 

The videos in this series include:
    Real Facts About Real Beef: Red Meat and Health – Cattle rancher and life coach, Kiah Twisselman, takes on the myth that “red meat is bad for your health” in this video. She highlights that, while there are many mixed messages on the internet about certain foods being bad or good for your health, it is ultimately important that people are eating a well-balanced diet with nutrient dense foods like lean beef.

    Real Facts About Real Beef: Cattle Production and Climate Change – In this video, Carlyn Petersen, an animal biology doctoral student, is tasked with addressing the myth that “methane from cattle is the leading cause of climate change.” She tackles this myth head on with the real fact that cattle only contribute about two percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. and that the leading contributor of greenhouse gas is actually the burning of fossil fuels.

    Real Facts About Real Beef: Grazing Cattle vs. Crops – Mike Williams, a cattle rancher and owner of Diamond W Cattle Company, addresses the myth that “instead of letting cattle graze all over, we could be using that land to grow crops for humans.” As a rancher in the western U.S., Williams knows best and shares how cattle largely graze on land that isn’t suitable for growing crops, and that this land actually thrives when grazed properly.

    Real Facts About Real Beef: Cattle Production and the Environment  - For this video, Dr. Frank Mitloehner, a leading expert on cattle and sustainability, debunks the myth that “cattle production and farming is harmful to the environment, creating soil erosion, water pollution and poor air quality.” Dr. Mitloehner explains that, as an animal science researcher, he has found the exact opposite to be true, and that, in fact, a properly run ranch or farm will sequester carbon and promote biodiversity.

“’Real Facts About Real Beef’ is one more way Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. is working to help ensure consumers are informed when it comes to how beef is produced and the nutrients it delivers,” said Buck Wehrbein, federation division chair at NCBA. “These videos are a powerful way we’re able to share fact- and science-based information about beef production and nutrition with these important audiences.”

The ‘Real Facts About Real Beef’ videos will be promoted on social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, to help address misinformation about beef production and its role in a healthy, sustainable diet. In addition to addressing the myths head on, the videos direct consumers to BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com for additional information.

This video series is just the latest from Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. in an effort to debunk myths about the beef industry. In mid-January, new ads, complete with the brand’s unique personality and swagger, were rolled out addressing the topics of health, sustainability and meat substitutes. The initial six-week digital media flight generated more than 35 million consumer touchpoints, reaching more than 11.6 million consumers multiple times.

In addition to these myth busting efforts, Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. is giving consumers a behind-the-scenes look at beef production with 360° virtual ranch tours. The videos take consumers on an educational journey to farms and ranches across the United States to learn how beef farmers and ranchers raise cattle to produce high-quality beef.

“As a contractor to the Beef Checkoff, we are committed to ensuring consumers, media, chefs, dietitians foodservice, retail partners and other stakeholders have the facts and information they need when it comes to the beef industry,” said Alisa Harrison, senior vice president of global marketing and research at NCBA, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff.

For more facts about real beef, visit www.BeefItWhatsForDinner.com.

Lots of Supplies Amid Market Turmoil

David P. Anderson, Extension Economist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

Cattle and calf prices, futures markets, cutout prices, and provide many great topics for discussion. This week we'll focus on beef supplies. It just so happens that in today's volatile market large amounts of beef (and pork and poultry) are available.

With just 2 days left in the first quarter of 2020, fed steer and heifer slaughter is up 5.4 percent over last year. Cow and bull slaughter is up 4.5 percent over last year. Steer dressed weights are 22.5 pounds greater than in the first quarter last year, while heifer average weights are 13.7 pounds heavier. Cow weights are up 2.6 pounds. Saturday slaughter rates have jumped dramatically as packers work through these large supplies of cattle offered. The last Saturday of March had an estimated 75,000 head slaughtered compared to 34,000 the same weekend the year before and only 14,000 on average over the last five years. The combination of increased slaughter and weights leaves total beef production up 6.7 percent in the first quarter (with a couple days left).

Beyond live cattle slaughtered, loads of wholesale beef are purchased and moved every day. March 16th saw 194.75 loads (7.79 million pounds) of Choice beef cuts move. That was the largest volume day since September, 2011, right before 9/11. Clearly, grocery stores jumping into the market to refill their pipelines and shelves led to large beef movement. Coarse grinds on March 23rd, 44.4 loads, were the largest movement since November, 2017.

A lot more market volatility is likely to come as the effects of covid-19 ripple through our economy. While we come to grips with all the demand implications it's worth recognizing that it is occurring in the time of cyclically peak beef supplies.

NGFA, ag groups, request all states increase truck weight limits

The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) and more than 60 national agricultural groups today urged each state to increase truck weight limits on highways within their jurisdiction to a “minimum harmonized weight” of 88,000 pounds.

“Increased truck weights improve the food and agriculture industry’s efficiency and capacity to deliver essential food, feed and key ingredients which sustain our food supply chain,” the groups said in a March 30 letter to all state governors, lieutenant governors, transportation directors and agriculture commissioners. “This will become more critical if the availability of truck drivers is impacted adversely by COVID-19.”

The federal “Coronavirus Aid Relief, and Economic Security Act” signed into law last week expressly clarifies the U.S. Department of Transportation’s authority to allow states to increase truck weight limits on U.S. highways and Federal Interstate Highways within their jurisdictions during the COVID-19 emergency. 

“Establishing a minimum truck weight limit of 88,000 pounds would ensure that a minimum harmonized weight exists across the country and help protect against essential shipments adhering to this common increase from being impeded at state borders,” the letter notes.

The NGFA has been working to encourage consistency among state, federal and local rules that affect business operations and COVID-19 emergency response efforts. In a March 25 letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) spearheaded by NGFA and signed by more than 50 other agricultural groups, NGFA urged the agency to grant relief from federal drive time hours-of-service rules for all truck drivers hauling agricultural goods.

NMPF Coronavirus Page Adds Employer Section, Boosts Spanish-Language Resources

The National Milk Producers Federation’s coronavirus webpage has added key guidance documents for agricultural employers in the wake of recent legislation and also expanded its Spanish-language resources to meet member needs as farmer economic and workforce situations rapidly evolve.

Under “Guidance for Employers,” the site includes materials from the Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Small Business Administration and others that will help agricultural employers navigate complex workforce matters. Meanwhile, documents important to both employers and employees, including NMPF’s Dairy Farmer Handbook on Coronavirus Prevention and Management, are being made available in Spanish, ensuring that essential information is available across all facets of dairy production.

“Dairy farms are built on high-quality workforces that are responding to the nation’s need for dairy products 24 hours a day, seven days a week at an extremely challenging time. We know that employers have questions, and we are doing our best to help address them,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation, the largest U.S. dairy-farmer group. “We also know that many U.S. dairies and their supply chains are built on the labor of hard-working, highly skilled Spanish-speaking workers. The resources we are making available make certain that everyone throughout dairy is better-equipped to manage this crisis.”

NMPF’s increased efforts in workforce guidance predate coronavirus, through the National Dairy Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) Program’s Workforce Development initiative.

Sorghum Checkoff Board Launches Sustainability Initiative, Hires Everhart-Valentin as Sustainability Director

The United Sorghum Checkoff Program has launched an initiative to increase market value for growers by positioning sorghum as a sustainable solution for food, feed and energy sectors that serves the global community and its needs for nutrition and environmental health. The board also recently named Kira Everhart-Valentin as the organization’s first sustainability director.

Everhart-Valentin will be responsible for developing and leading the sorghum industry’s sustainability initiatives and will continually assess opportunities for investment and collaboration to increase the value of sorghum for farmers and industry stakeholders.

“We are delighted to have Kira join the Sorghum Checkoff,” Sorghum Checkoff Executive Director Florentino Lopez said. “Her unique skill set and experience will bring a meaningful perspective to developing and maintaining a sustainability strategy that appropriately highlights sorghum’s potential as an environmentally sustainable crop while still respecting the importance of maintaining economic stability for sorghum producers.”

Everhart-Valentin is a graduate of Kansas State University and has a master’s degree in political science and a bachelor’s degree in agricultural communications and journalism in addition to bachelor’s degrees in modern languages and international studies.

She has worked in the sorghum industry for a number of years, beginning with serving Western Kansas farmers and businesses. Most recently, she served as the program coordinator with the USAID Feed the Future Innovation Lab on Collaborative Research on Sorghum and Millet at Kansas State University, working extensively internationally.

In this role, she managed a global program on sorghum and millet with partners across nine different countries. The program linked U.S. teams with international teams across various areas of sorghum innovation and technology, including genetic improvement, agronomic practices and end-use processing.

“I’m excited to help define what sustainability means to sorghum as a crop and an industry,” Everhart-Valentin said. “I hope to connect sorghum's many environmentally sustainable qualities to end users and consumers in a way that responds to the increasing demand for sustainable production practices while bringing value back to the sorghum grower for utilizing those responsible practices.”

More information about sorghum and its sustainable benefits can be found at SorghumCheckoff.com/Sorghum-Sustains or SimplySorghum.com/Sorghum-Sustains.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Friday March 27 Ag News

 Former Northeast ag dean’s widow supports college’s Nexus project

Linda Pohlman is using retirement funds to make a donation to construct new agriculture facilities at Northeast Community College in memory of her late husband, Chuck Pohlman, who served as the institution’s first dean of agriculture.

Chuck Pohlman began working at Northeast in 1972, and created the first agriculture program at any community college in Nebraska. He retired 40 years later, and the ag complex on the Norfolk campus he helped design and for which he raised funds bears his name. Pohlman died in May 2018.

Linda Pohlman said she knew she wanted to make a significant donation to the Nexus project in her husband’s memory, and talked with her tax accountant about using retirement funds for that purpose.

“He said instead of the money going into my account and having me declare it as income that year, the money can go directly to the college with no tax disadvantage to myself,” she said.

Pohlman, of Hadar, said her husband would have approved of this use of their retirement funds.

“This is something so close to his heart,” she said of the plan to build a new veterinary technology clinic and classroom and move the college farm to a new site. “He really wanted to see this accomplished. The college has affected so many lives in northeast Nebraska. We’ve had students from South Dakota, Iowa, Kansas and other states, too, so it’s really affected a large part of the United States in agriculture.”

It wasn’t just Chuck Pohlman who worked with agriculture students, Linda Pohlman explained.

“With Chuck full time at the college, he made a lot of the management decisions for the family farm, but with the help of college students I carried out his decisions. We would have two students who worked on our farm Monday, Wednesday, and up to noon on Friday, and then somebody else on Tuesdays and Thursdays.”

“And when they worked, they would sit around the kitchen table as part of our family,” she continued. “That was a fringe benefit. I always made supper for them. It was fun getting to know about their families and their hopes and dreams. They were a wonderful influence on our children.”

Linda Pohlman said the student workers included several sons who followed in their fathers’ footsteps, like Garret and Tom Ruskamp, Cody and Perry Schultz, and Jared and Dave Tomjack. She said the Pohlman farm near Hadar was the scene of several graduation parties during the early years of the Northeast agriculture program, and she remembers several student softball games in their pasture.

“We share Linda’s desire to honor Chuck with these new facilities,” said Tracy Kruse, associate vice president of development and external affairs and executive director of the Northeast Foundation. “He pioneered agriculture at the community college level in Nebraska and grew our program from the original three students to an enrollment of about 350 today. It was Chuck’s work and vision that set the stage for all of the innovation in agriculture that takes place every day on the Northeast campus.”

Kruse continued, “We invite all of those touched by Chuck Pohlman to join his family and make a donation to the Nexus project in his memory. What better way to remember and honor Chuck than to help complete his dream of state-of-the art agricultural facilities for Northeast students?”

The initial phase of construction of the project includes a new veterinary technology clinic and classrooms, a new farm site with a large animal handling facility and other farm structures for livestock operations, a farm office and storage. The new facilities will be located near the Chuck M. Pohlman Agriculture Complex on E. Benjamin Ave. in Norfolk. Site work is expected to begin in April and should be completed by the Fall of 2021.

The funding for the agriculture facilities will come from the College’s commitment of $10 million, as well as external fundraising to fill the gap. With a total project cost is $22.3 million, the College has raised enough funds to begin construction; however, fundraising for the Nexus campaign will continue, as more is needed for equipment, technology and furnishings.

In August 2019, the Acklie Charitable Foundation (ACF) announced a $5 million lead gift to the Nexus project. ACF was founded by the late Duane Acklie and Phyllis Acklie, both Madison County natives and graduates of Norfolk Junior College, a predecessor institution of Northeast Community College.

For more information on the Nexus Campaign, contact Kruse, at tracyk@northeast.edu, or call (402) 844-7056. Online donations may be made through agwaternexus.com.

 Farm and Ag Law Clinics Set for April

Free legal and financial clinics are being offered for farmers and ranchers at seven sites across the state in April 2020. The clinics are one-on-one meetings with an agricultural law attorney and an agricultural financial counselor. These are not group sessions, and they are confidential.

COVID-19: Due to the one-on-one nature of these session, organizers plan on continuing to provide this service, however, they will take necessary precautions and adjust plans as conditions change.

The attorney and financial advisor specialize in legal and financial issues related to farming and ranching, including financial and business planning, transition planning, farm loan programs, debtor/creditor law, debt structure and cash flow, agricultural disaster programs, and other relevant matters. Here is an opportunity to obtain an independent, outside perspective on issues that may be affecting your farm or ranch.

Clinic Sites and Dates
    Grand Island – Thursday, April 2nd
    Norfolk – Thursday, April 2nd
    Fairbury – Wednesday, April 8th
    North Platte – Thursday, April 9th
    Lexington – Thursday, April 16th
    Norfolk – Thursday, April 23rd
    Valentine – Friday, April 24th

To sign up for a free clinic or to get more information, call the Nebraska Farm Hotline at 1-800-464-0258. Funding for this work is provided by the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, and Legal Aid of Nebraska.

What to Do During a Distillers Grains Shortage

Karla H. Wilke, UNL Cow/Calf Systems and Stocker Management

The Domino Effect

The current economic situation has resulted in lower crude oil prices, followed by increased difficulty for ethanol plants to produce competitive fuel sources. In turn, many ethanol plants are planning to shut down until the economy stabilizes. The domino effect is that cattle producers may find themselves without distillers grains, hopefully for only a short period of time. A previously written article, So What if I Can’t Get Distillers Grains, on how to handle tight distillers grains supply may be helpful at this time as well. Unfortunately, if ethanol plants are not producing ethanol at all, the supply of distillers grains becomes unavailable.

Feeding Calves for a Slower Rate of Gain

Backgrounding producers, also impacted by the downturn in the cattle market, may choose to continue to feed calves at a slower rate of gain to wait for a market upturn as well as to reduce the need for distillers grains. An example diet (as is basis) might include 11.25 pounds of corn silage, 4 pounds of alfalfa, 2.5 pounds of corn, and 5.5 pounds of hay millet for a 600 pound calf to gain 1.5 pounds/day.

Providing a Nitrogen Source for the Rumen Microbes

For many years now, cattle producers in Nebraska have fed distillers grains to pregnant beef cows because it has been an economical source of protein. However, a source of nitrogen for the rumen microbes to enable them to digest poor quality forages is sufficient. This can be supplied by alfalfa or by urea based supplements, field peas, or other rumen degradable sources of protein.

Lactating cows need a source of energy as well as protein. Providing 7 pounds (as is) of alfalfa along with 28 pounds of good quality meadow hay would be an option for 1300 pound cows until grass is ready to be grazed. However, hay samples should be tested for quality because the total digestible nutrients (TDN) of the base hay is critical for this to work.

Alternative Sources of Protein

Determining what to use as an alternative source of protein is dependent on availability, commodity price, and transportation costs. Sources that may be available in eastern Nebraska may be cost prohibitive to transport to western Nebraska. Therefore, transportation costs, storage capacity, and handling ability are all important factors to evaluate.

Calculating Supplement Cost per Unit of Protein

If a commodity is $250/ton with transportation costs included, the dry matter content is 85%, and the protein content is 25%, then 250/.85 = $294.12/ton of dry matter of the commodity. $294.12/.25 = $1176.47/dry ton of crude protein. If an alternative commodity is $400/ton, the dry matter is 88%, and the crude protein is 40%, then $400/.88 = $454.55/ton of dry matter and $454.55/.40 = $1136.36/dry ton of crude protein. This calculation allows producers to compare the prices of the actual protein being delivered on an equal basis. These two hypothetical commodities were similar in crude protein price so other factors should be considered. How much of the protein is rumen undegradable? Is that important or is a nitrogen source for the rumen sufficient? Is handling and storage an issue for one of the commodities?

Predicting Performance and Meeting Requirements

Although we are all practicing social distancing right now, Nebraska Extension personnel will be happy to answer phone calls and emails to assist producers with modified feeding plans. Contact local extension personnel for assistance.

A Note from Cattlemen's Ball

Due to the uncertainty of the COVID-19 virus, it’s longevity and lasting effects on our state, a decision has been made by the Cattlemen's Ball of Nebraska Advisory Board to postpone the 2020 Cattlemen's Ball until June 4th and 5th, 2021 and will remain in Columbus, NE. Kevin Rasmussen, Chairman of the Advisory Board, stated, "It is with great disappointment and with much discussion of the Advisory Board that it was decided to postpone the Ball to next year. The health of all attending comes first. Let's look forward to 2021, knowing the Columbus group will pick up where they left off and make it even better than it would have been if held this year.”

Scott and Pat Mueller, host family for the 2020 Ball, shared, “While it is disappointing that the 2020 ball is being postponed, our commitment must be to the health and wellness of all the attendees and to what is best for our local community. Our local co-chairs and committees remain committed to hosting the Ball in 2021 and supporting our focus on "Funding Cancer Research & Finding a Cure".

Ticket purchasers for the 2020 Ball or Art and General Store Vendors will have the option to roll their payments to the 2021 Ball or request a refund. No action is required if they are wanting to maintain their spot for the 2021 Cattlemen's Ball of Nebraska in Columbus. All proceeds will be distributed in 2021 to the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center and to the local health and wellness initiatives. The 2020 Cattlemen’s Ball Planning Committee wishes to thank the donors, chairs, committees and volunteers from across the state for their continued support.

Nebraska Firm Helping Develop Swine Fever Field Tests

As the coronavirus sweeps across the globe sickening humans, scientists are making progress on developing tests that could help combat a different deadly disease: African swine fever, which has been ravaging hog herds.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has taken an interest in the disease, which kills 99% of hogs it infects, as it spread in Asia last year and caused protein shortages. If it landed on American soil, it could harm the more than 100 million hogs on U.S. farms, ultimately threatening food supplies.

For now, there are no vaccines or field detection devices that could help combat the virus, but the agency said this week it had successfully evaluated a genetic test that detects the virus and returns results in a matter of hours. It's the first product of its kind that the agency has scrutinized.

As governments around the world are discovering with COVID-19, testing can be crucial to slowing a viral outbreak. Rapid testing can be "a game-changer," said John Neilan, science director in the Department of Homeland Security's science and technology division.

To figure out where the virus is at, "you have to have a detection system and the most rapid ones you can get makes a difference on how fast you can react," he said.

While the virus isn't in the U.S., the Department of Homeland Security is looking at new technologies because "you don't want to start research when it is in the U.S.," said Michael Puckette, a microbiologist at the department.

The test can be used on raw pork imports, as well as on live pigs. It was developed by Lincoln, Neb.-based Materials and Machines Corp., which makes diagnostic systems. The company is making the device and test available immediately overseas, but still needs to go through a regulatory process in the U.S., through the Department of Agriculture.

The U.S. raises more than 115 million hogs valued at $24 billion a year. The Swine Disease Global Surveillance Project estimates that an U.S. outbreak of swine fever could wreak as much as $10 billion in damages in a year.


Nathan Mueller, NE Cropping Systems Extension Educator

   As winter wheat has started to greenup, it is now time to finalize plans for topdress fertilizer applications so you are ready to apply once the soil is dry enough. Even though the acres of wheat are much lower than they once were, wheat still ranks as the fourth most planted crop following corn, soybean, and alfalfa in Saline, Jefferson, and Gage counties with over 8,000 acres harvested in 2019. Nitrogen (N), sulfur (S) and chloride (Cl) are plant essential nutrients that wheat in southeast Nebraska may need to be fertilized with because the soil may not be able to provide a sufficient amount throughout the growing season.

   For yield goals over 80 bushels/acre, I suggest a total of 90 to 120 lbs N/ac be applied for the growing season. Nitrogen management programs for winter wheat vary in the area, but include four potential times: Fall, early spring after greenup, mid-spring prior to jointing, and at flag leaf. The best two times for including both the sulfur and chloride fertilizer with the nitrogen are during fall and early spring after greenup.

   Over the past decade, sulfur deficiency in wheat has become more common on no-till fine-textured soils in north-central and northeast Kansas along with southeast Nebraska. Many growers have noticed this and are already including sulfur on a regular basis. Because of the need for quickly available forms of sulfur, sulfate (dry) and thiosulfate (liquid) fertilizers are recommended for fall and early spring applications in wheat. I would suggest using application rates of 10 to 15 lbs S/acre as a starting point, and making future adjustments based on observations and tissue testing. This equates to 40 to 60 lbs of ammonium sulfate per acre or 3.5 to 5.2 gallons per acre of ammonium thiosulfate. Please remember to account for the nitrogen value in these fertilizers or pounds of N applied towards your total N goal.

   Chloride fertilizer application is something that you may benefit from. Recent analysis in Kansas, by K-State’s Soil Fertility Extension Specialist, Dorivar Ruiz Diaz, performed across multiple years and locations suggest an average yield response of 8% to chloride fertilization. Additional chloride uptake in wheat has been shown to suppress several wheat diseases including take-all root rot, stripe and leaf rust, and Septoria. Research has shown equal performance from both fall and spring topdress fertilizer applications. Utilizing K-State soil test recommendations, I have found that numerous wheat fields in east-central Nebraska were determined to be low in soil test chloride. As a result, I recommended to those producers to apply 20 lbs Cl/acre that equates to 44 lbs of potash fertilizer per acre be applied with their spring topdress application of nitrogen.

   In summary, though not as frightening as lions and tigers and bears, we do need to evaluate our nutrient management plans for winter wheat with nitrogen and sulfur and chloride in mind. To learn more about winter wheat management in eastern Nebraska, contact me (nathan.mueller@unl.edu, 402-821-2151, http://croptechcafe.org/winterwheat/) to subscribe to my weekly email called “What’s up this Wheat?” that provides weekly highlights and resources. Know your crop, know your tech, know your bottom line.

Last Push to Submit 2020 Custom Rates Surveys

Glennis McClure - NE Extension Farm and Ranch Management Analyst

Data from the 2020 Custom Rates Survey for Nebraska will be collected until mid-April. Every two years a survey of Nebraska custom operators is conducted to determine the current rates for specific machinery operations and agricultural services. There are fifteen main categories of custom work noted in the survey ranging from tillage and planting operations, harvesting, haying, hauling, fencing, waste handling, and custom contract farming as examples.

Printed surveys were mailed out in February and online survey links were provided to operators that provided their email contact. If you provide custom hire services in Nebraska, and have not completed the 2020 custom rates survey, please complete the following form online and the survey link will be sent to you. The survey will be open until mid-April.

Register to Take the Custom Rates Survey... https://agecon.unl.edu/custom-rate-participants.

The custom rates report generated from this market rate survey is widely used by custom operators and producers seeking current pricing for services. The survey is only completed every other year so it is important that we capture current information from survey participants now. The custom rates report will be published by the middle of 2020. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln only reports district and state rate averages and ranges. Individual data is kept confidential.  

Cattle Feeders Should Stay Flexible, Seek Advice amid COVID-19

Disruptions caused by COVID-19 grow each day. Volatility in the cattle market was one of the first disruptions, and now with ethanol plants slowing production or shutting down, local availability of corn co-products may be limited.

Dan Loy, director of the Iowa Beef Center and extension beef specialist at Iowa State University, said making plans now based on current and potential input availability will help producers determine their next steps.

“This situation is very local, continuously changing, and will vary from producer to producer and community to community,” Loy said. "Supply disruptions could potentially affect other inputs such as feed additives, implants and trace nutrients. Hopefully these disruptions will be short-lived."

Here are three tips to help cattle feeders manage the current challenges for their operation.

    In feedlot diets, soybean meal or urea based supplements (dry or liquid) can replace all of the protein from corn co-products.

    However, remember that smaller calves, calves with lower feed intake or those on growing diets may not be able to utilize all of the protein from urea. loading distillers grains.Formulating on the basis of metabolizable protein accounts for this. The high solubility of urea also comes with limits. Consider these limits for the safety of beef cows and backgrounding cattle.

    Other potential protein sources that may be available include whole soybean. At 40% protein soybean can be a good protein source for beef cattle. The fat content (20%) limits the amount that can be fed. Also, cereal rye, harvested at the boot stage, can be as high as 20% protein or higher.
    When substituting a higher protein supplement for distillers grains, you will likely be substituting corn for distillers as a source of energy, adding more starch to the diet.

    Be sure to use an adjustment period and consider adding more fiber to the diet and managing feed bunks more closely.
    Lean on your nutritionist and other advisers.

    In Iowa, your regional extension beef specialist is a good resource for advice on options available. Find your specialist on the ISU Extension and Outreach website. If adjustments need to be made to implant or supplementation strategies, base your decision on the options available and research-based information.

For more information on changes and updates, visit the Iowa Beef Center’s COVID-19 web page. For more information about IBC, visit www.iowabeefcenter.org.

Hoppes Named Iowa Beef Industry Council Executive Director

Rex Hoppes has been named Executive Director of the Iowa Beef Industry Council (IBIC). A livestock farmer near Van Meter, Iowa, Hoppes has a successful background working for Iowa agricultural organizations, including the Iowa Soybean Association, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, and the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers. In addition, he has significant experience in beef cow/calf and swine farrow-to-finish production systems.

“We’re thrilled to get someone with Rex’s experience and talent to lead the staff at IBIC,” says Janine Moore, a beef producer from What Cheer, Iowa, and IBIC chair. “Our team of volunteer leaders and professional staff at IBIC work with purpose and passion to support the beef industry in Iowa, which is more than 25,000 operations strong and contributes over $6 billion in economic activity to the state. With Rex at the helm we will continue our mission to not only produce the country’s finest beef but do it as stewards of a vibrant, sustainable environment.”

Hoppes says he is honored to take on this opportunity to build on IBIC’s tremendous momentum. “Producing quality beef and building consumer trust is everyone's responsibility. At IBIC we have strong partnerships with a wide range of groups that have an impact on the success of our industry, including consumers, educators, health and nutrition professionals, purveyors, retailers and academia,” he says. “We will continue to build those relationships to benefit those who enjoy and those who raise beef.”

Growing up on a livestock and grain farm in Ohio, Hoppes earned a degree in agriculture from Black Hawk East College and one in animal science from Iowa State University. He is a partner in Advanced Beef Genetics, LLC in Van Meter and Wiota, Iowa. Hoppes and his wife Joyce have two grown sons.

State Beef Councils Win Major Legal Victory

The Beef Checkoff program and fifteen grassroots-led state beef councils won a major court victory today when the United States District Court of Montana ruled in favor of USDA and the Montana Beef Council in the matter of R-CALF vs. Sonny Perdue and USDA.

NCBA praised the court’s decision, which ends a legal battle that has spanned more than three years and interrupted beef promotion functions in Montana. The case had threatened local input and promotion efforts at the state level across the country.

“The foundation of the Beef Checkoff has always been state beef councils that collect checkoff funds and determine how those investments are used for research, marketing and promotion efforts in individual states. Those efforts are directed by the same cattlemen and cattlewomen who pay the checkoff, so this victory goes a long way toward ensuring they continue to direct those investments,” said NCBA CEO Colin Woodall.

Woodall emphasized that NCBA will continue to stand with state beef councils whose work is crucial to maintaining beef demand throughout the nation.

Smith Supports CARES ACT Providing Relief to Americans

Congressman Adrian Smith released the following statement after supporting Phase III of the COVID-19 assistance negotiated by the Trump administration, known as the CARES Act:

“This package is aimed at providing assistance for Americans with tax relief, benefits for those who need it, and helping our businesses stay afloat so we can resume a strong economy when the pandemic subsides. I worked to ensure rural America was not left behind, and am pleased this bill addresses the funding needs of Critical Access Hospitals, expands telehealth access for Medicare beneficiaries, and provides funding to address dropping agricultural prices. Although I have concerns about the price tag of this bill, the consequences of doing nothing are too great. We must act for the American people.”

 Nebraska Cattlemen Applauds the Passage of the CARES Act

Nebraska Cattlemen applauds the Senate passage of the CARES act with a vote of 96-0. We extend our sincerest thank you to our Nebraska congressional delegation for their work in the passage of this act and their vocal support to the beef industry.

Nebraska Cattlemen will ask USDA to utilize funds dedicated to livestock producers in the CARES act to issue one-time payments to producers who experienced loss exposure resulting from the COVID 19 disruption, as well as modify and subsidize producer risk protection programs.

The CARES act addresses short-term priority relief to our cattlemen and women through this pandemic. While we are grateful for a win on these short-term priorities for Nebraska Cattlemen, our focus intensifies on our long-term agenda. These items include:
-   Exploring modifications to existing risk mitigation programs like the Livestock Risk Protection program (LRP) or others to incentivize participation by cattlemen.
-    Exploring ideas to incentivize more cattle to be marketed on the cash market, thereby increasing true price discovery and transparency in the marketplace. NC policy encourages cash negotiated trade levels reach 50% of fed cattle marketed.

“These are unprecedented times and our industry, among others, is hurting. Cattlemen are resilient but appreciate the short-term relief the CARES act that will provide to our industry. This is a short-term fix and Nebraska Cattlemen has a big agenda for the long-term. We will continue working hard for our members through this time and beyond.” Ken Herz – Nebraska Cattlemen President.

Secretary Perdue Statement on Coronavirus Rescue Package

 U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue issued the following statement after President Donald J. Trump signed the CARES Act:

“The passage of the Coronavirus response legislation will provide much needed relief to Americans across this country, especially workers and small-business owners who have been impacted by COVID-19. President Trump has made the safety and security of the American people a top priority during this national emergency, and this bill will help make Americans more financially secure. At USDA we will deliver relief assistance to farmers and ranchers as quickly as possible,” said Secretary Perdue. “Americans across the nation are stepping up to the challenges facing them during these uncertain times. At USDA we are doing our part to ensure those who need help will get it, whether it’s through nutrition assistance, ensuring the food supply chain is safe and secure, or through new flexibilities with our Rural Development loan programs.”

The CARES Act contains $9.5 billion in assistance for agriculture producers who have been impacted by COVID-19 along with a $14 billion replenishment to the Commodity Credit Corporation. In addition, the legislation includes $100 million in ReConnect grants to expand access to broadband in rural America for educational purposes, business, and access to critical telehealth services.

ARA Commends Congress on CARES Act Passage

Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) President and CEO Daren Coppock released the following statement following both chambers of U.S. Congress passing a historic stimulus package as a result of the novel Coronavirus pandemic:

"We recognize that the health and safety of all people is a priority at this time. ARA is grateful that Congress is taking swift action to remedy the current situation in our country through passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act).

"Ag retailers and their farmer customers, as always, are committed to continuing their businesses so that they can deliver the safe, healthy, and abundant food supply that is in demand now and required for the future.

"We are pleased with the support that Congress has included for the agriculture industry in this bill, and encourage the president to sign it so that we can have certainty moving forward."

NCBA Sends Letter to Ag Secretary Perdue Urging Aid for American Cattle Producers

Following final passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act by the U.S. House of Representatives, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) today sent a letter urging United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue to “take immediate action to provide much-needed relief to cattle producers who have been negatively impacted due to the ongoing Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) pandemic.”

“We applaud those House members who rose above party politics to deliver this much-needed relief to American families, especially those in cattle country,” said NCBA President Marty Smith. “It is now incumbent upon Secretary Perdue and his team at USDA to make sure the relief made available by this legislation is speedily delivered to cattlemen and women nationwide. As the largest and oldest national organization representing cattle producers, NCBA stands ready to assist USDA to ensure this happens as quickly and equitably as possible.”

The full letter, signed by NCBA and 45 affiliate organizations, can be viewed here.

The CARES Act was passed this afternoon by the U.S. House of Representatives on a voice vote. The Senate passed companion legislation earlier this week and the bill now goes to the White House for President Trump’s signature. Once enacted, the bill will replenish USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation borrowing authority at the $30 billion level. Those funds can then be used to offset adverse economic effects related to COVID-19 for cattle producers across the supply chain.

NMPF Statement on President Trump’s Signing of Coronavirus Legislation

In response to President Donald Trump’s signing of the CARES Act addressing the coronavirus crisis, National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) President and CEO Jim Mulhern offered the following statement:

“We thank President Trump for quickly signing this measure into law. It will provide much-needed help to dairy producers, who are experiencing steep drops in milk and dairy-product prices due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“With the CARES Act now law, we look forward to working with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on several important initiatives, including the need for a significant purchase of multiple dairy products. These efforts will be important to address sales lost because of COVID-19, lift farm milk prices and send a critical signal to disrupted dairy markets. Government dairy-product purchases will provide our food banks with an important, nutritious and popular staple item that will help feed families in need.”


The National Pork Producers Council, the Swine Health Information Center, the National Pork Board, and American Association of Swine Veterinarians jointly developed this week a farm crisis operations planning tool to ensure the U.S. pork industry is prepared for any emergency event. "Emergency events such as natural disasters, disease outbreaks, public health emergencies or market disruptions can lead to reduced or suspended access to resources needed to manage and care for pigs. This can force farmers to deviate from their daily standard operating procedures. "

In preparation for these emergency events, it is important for farmers to work with their production team, including their herd veterinarian, to establish site- or operation-specific crisis operating plans that help contribute to business continuity. This tool highlights key resources and supplies that may be affected during various states of emergency. It can also be used to facilitate discussion and planning for how to anticipate and implement emergency operation plans before the next state of emergency."

To view a copy of the planning tool, click here... https://library.pork.org/media/?mediaId=039D5802-DB5C-448E-9A37774AE5A98786.  

EPA Announces Steps to Protect the Availability of Gasoline during COVID-19 Pandemic

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced several steps the Agency is taking to protect the Nation’s gasoline supply in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

EPA intends to provide additional flexibility to the marketplace to transition from winter-grade, high volatility gasoline to summer-grade low vapor pressure gasoline. Due to the steep fall-off in gasoline demand as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, gasoline storage capacity is limited and more time is needed to transition the distribution system in order to come into compliance for the summer driving season. EPA will temporarily waive the summer low volatility requirements and blending limitations for gasoline.

Without a waiver of the summer gasoline requirements, parties upstream of retailers and wholesale purchasers would be required to stop selling the winter gasoline sitting in their storage tanks on May 1, 2020, which would prevent them from loading summer gasoline into the storage tanks, resulting in a shortage of gasoline. By waiving the low volatility and blending limitations through May 20, 2020, EPA will ensure a steady supply of gasoline. EPA will continue to monitor the adequacy of gasoline supplies and, should conditions warrant, may modify or extend this waiver at a later date.

Additionally, EPA does not intend to unilaterally revisit or rescind any previously granted small refinery exemptions issued for prior compliance years. As noted in the temporary policy on COVID-19 Implications for EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Program, issued yesterday, EPA is focused on protecting our employees and ensuring continued protection of public health and the environment from acute or imminent threats during the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, investigating and initiating enforcement actions against small refineries that were previously subject to an exemption is a low priority for the agency. EPA intends to develop an appropriate implementation and enforcement response to the Tenth Circuit’s decision in RFA v. EPA once appeals have been resolved and the court’s mandate has been issued.

Finally, in a forthcoming action, EPA intends to extend the RFS compliance date for small refineries to provide them with additional flexibility. 

RFA: EPA Stall Tactic on Tenth Circuit Just Delays the Inevitable

As part of a package intended to “protect the nation’s gasoline supply in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced it intends to wait until “appeals have been resolved and the court’s mandate has been issued” before developing “an appropriate implementation and enforcement response to the Tenth Circuit’s decision in RFA v. EPA.” On Tuesday, two refiners asked the Tenth Circuit for a rehearing en banc of the RFA v. EPA decision, in which the court struck down three small refinery exemptions and determined EPA had vastly exceeded its statutory authority. Notably, EPA did not ask the court to rehear the case. In response to today’s announcement, Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Geoff Cooper released the following statement:

“EPA’s attempt to kick the can on nationwide application of the Tenth Circuit Court decision has nothing to do with COVID-19 and everything to do with politics. There is absolutely no reasonable justification for delaying implementation of the court’s decision. The court has already ‘issued a mandate’ and remanded three improperly granted exemptions back to the agency to resolve. EPA correctly chose not to seek a rehearing of the Tenth Circuit decision this week, signaling that it will abide by the decision and move swiftly to implement it. What are they waiting for? There is no rationale for EPA to wait for the courts to respond to the refiners’ hollow request for a rehearing before moving forward with adoption of the decision. In any event, given the unanimous and thoughtful decision by the Tenth Circuit panel that heard the case, we are confident that the ruling is going to be upheld. As ethanol plants are shutting down across the country and farmers are experiencing substantial demand losses, now is not the time for EPA to slow-walk implementation of a court order that would begin to restore integrity to the RFS program.”

Friday, March 27, 2020

Thursday March 26 Hogs & Pigs Report + Ag News


Nebraska inventory of all hogs and pigs on March 1,2020, was 3.80 million head, according to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service. This was up 6 percent from March 1, 2019, but down 1 percent from December 1, 2019.

Breeding hog inventory, at 440,000 head, was down 2 percent from March 1, 2019, but unchanged from last quarter. Market hog inventory, at 3.36 million head, was up 7 percent from last year, but down 1 percent from last quarter.

The December 2019 - February 2020 Nebraska pig crop, at 2.20 million head, was up 3 percent from 2019. Sows farrowed during the period totaled 190,000 head, up 3 percent from last year. The average pigs saved per litter was 11.60 for the December - February period, compared to 11.55 last year.

Nebraska hog producers intend to farrow 190,000 sows during the March - May 2020 quarter, down 5 percent from the actual farrowings during the same period a year ago. Intended farrowings for June - August 2020 are 190,000 sows, down 2 percent from the actual farrowings during the same period a year ago.


On March 1, 2020, there were 24.6 million hogs and pigs on Iowa farms, according to the latest USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service – Hogs and Pigs report. The March 1 inventory is up 4 percent from the previous year.

The December-February 2020 quarterly pig crop was 5.85 million head, down 5 percent from the previous quarter and 1 percent below last year. A total of 520,000 sows farrowed during this quarter. The average pigs saved per litter was 11.25, down 0.10 from the previous quarter.

As of March 1, producers planned to farrow 510,000 sows and gilts in the March-May 2020 quarter and 510,000 head during the June- August 2020 quarter.

United States Hog Inventory Up 4 Percent

United States inventory of all hogs and pigs on March 1, 2020 was 77.6 million head. This was up 4 percent from March 1, 2019, but down 1 percent from December 1, 2019.  

Breeding inventory, at 6.38 million head, was up slightly from last year, but down 1 percent from the previous quarter.  Market hog inventory, at 71.3 million head, was up 4 percent from last year, but down 1 percent from last quarter.

The December 2019-February 2020 pig crop, at 34.7 million head, was up 5 percent from last year. Sows farrowing during this period totaled 3.16 million head, up 2 percent from previous year. The sows farrowed during this quarter represented 49 percent of the breeding herd. The average pigs saved per litter was a record high of 11.00 for the December 2019-February 2020 period, compared to 10.70 last year.

United States hog producers intend to have 3.12 million sows farrow during the March-May 2020 quarter, down slightly from the actual farrowings during the same period one year earlier, but up 2 percent from the same period two years earlier. Intended farrowings for June-August 2020, at 3.13 million sows, are down 4 percent from the same period one year earlier, and down 1 percent from the same period two years earlier.

The total number of hogs under contract owned by operations with over 5,000 head, but raised by contractees, accounted for 49 percent of the total United States hog inventory, up 2 percent from the previous year.

NDA Announces Winners of Ag Poster Contest

National Ag Week is March 22-28, and the Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA) is adding to the week-long celebration by announcing the winners of its 17th annual poster contest. More than 1,750 students in grades 1-6 from all across Nebraska entered NDA's annual poster contest by highlighting agriculture, the state's number one industry.

"These posters truly express how Nebraska agriculture brings us together," said NDA Director Steve Wellman. "The students who entered this year's contest lifted our spirits with their colorful posters about agriculture and the many contributions the ag industry makes to our state. We appreciate their efforts and the extra time teachers and parents spent to help make our contest a success."

The posters, depicting this year's theme of "Nebraska Agriculture Brings People Together," were judged in three categories: first and second grade; third and fourth grade; and fifth and sixth grade. Here are the winners, grade levels and schools they represent.

In the first and second grade division:
1st place: Hayden Saxton, 2nd grade, Weeping Water Elementary School
2nd place: Santiago Castillo, 2nd grade, Chase County Schools in Imperial
3rd place: Riley Reiman, 2nd grade, Weeping Water Elementary School
Governor's Choice: Ashlynn Pursley, 2nd grade, Chase County Schools in Imperial

In the third and fourth grade division:
1st place: Paisley Peterson, 3rd grade, Oakland-Craig Elementary School in Oakland

2nd place: .Mackenna Wollenburg, 4th grade, St. John Lutheran School in Seward
3rd place: Jett Henderson, 4th grade, Weeping Water Elementary School
Governor's Choice: Cooper Bartling, 4th grade, Ackerman Elementary School in Omaha

In the fifth and sixth grade division:
1st place: Sophia Spieker, 6th grade, St. Mary's Catholic School in Wayne

2nd place: Brandon Rosas, 5th grade, Knickrehm Elementary School in Grand Island
3rd place: Destiny Maya, 5th grade, Pershing Elementary School in Lexington
Governor's Choice: Regina Corado Cruz, 5th grade, Knickrehm Elementary School in Grand Island

NDA announces the winners of its annual poster contest during National Ag Week to highlight the diversity of agriculture and celebrate the food, feed and fuel that farmers and ranchers provide every day. The winning posters and the names of the schools submitting entries are on NDA's website at nda.nebraska.gov/kids .

CASNR virtual tours kick off March 25

While in-person tours at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln have been canceled in response to the spread of COVID-19, the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources will host virtual tours for prospective students and families.

Since March 25, CASNR has hosted online informational sessions to prospective students and their families daily at 11 a.m. CDT. Students first log in to hear from their chosen college (CASNR) and then transition to virtual breakout rooms for individual academic appointments with majors and advisors.

The virtual sessions also include a video tour of East Campus, hosted by CASNR Ambassador Sydney Brewer for students and families from all over the world.

“CASNR is here for you, and we are embracing changes with innovation and resilience,” said CASNR Recruitment Associate Taylor Hart.

CASNR offers a plethora of degree programs that prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s greatest challenges. Prospective students are invited take an online quiz to see which of the 31-degree programs within CASNR best fits their passions and interests.

For current CASNR students, a new weekly video series, What’s Up Wednesday, helps keep them up to date on daily happenings around campus. The video series also allows the CASNR community to engage with their favorite staff, faculty and students. What’s Up Wednesday videos are available on the CASNR Facebook page.

CASNR Dean Tiffany Heng Moss kicked off the first video in the series. Future videos will feature various members of the college community sharing information on student resources, opportunities, and updates on how CASNR faculty and students alike are transitioning to online learning.

Prospective CASNR students can register for virtual tours online at https://admissions.unl.edu/. Current CASNR students, faculty and staff can view What’s Up Wednesday videos on the CASNR Facebook page. For more information about CASNR, call 402-472-2201 or mkester2@unl.edu.

Valero Halts Some Ethanol Production

At least two of Valero's 14 ethanol plants may be temporarily halting production, citing excess ethanol in storage as gasoline demand is falling amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

In letters sent to traders this week, the company said it was unable to fulfill contracts with traders who sell dried distillers grains for its plants in Albion, Nebraska, and Albert City, Iowa. In addition, Valero has notified corn purchasers for its Lakota, Iowa, ethanol plant that it is not buying corn.

Valero cited the pandemic as a force majeure event in making the decisions.

Force majeure is a clause included in contracts to remove liability for natural and unavoidable catastrophes that interrupt the expected course of events. In this case, Valero isn't required to fulfill its contract obligations.

Valero is one of the largest ethanol producers in the United States with an annual capacity of about 1.73 billion gallons.

USDA Announces More Than 3.4 Million Acres Selected for General Signup Conservation Reserve Program

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue today announced the acceptance of more than 3.4 million acres in the general Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) signup recently completed, the first general signup enrollments since 2016. Through CRP, farmers and ranchers receive an annual rental payment for establishing long-term, resource-conserving plant species, such as approved grasses or trees, to control soil erosion, improve water quality and enhance wildlife habitat on cropland. Farmers and ranchers who participate in CRP help provide numerous benefits to the nation’s environment and economy.

“The Conservation Reserve Program is one of our nation’s largest conservation endeavors and is critical in helping producers better manage their operations while conserving valuable natural resources,” Perdue said. “The program marked its 35th anniversary this year, and we were quite pleased to see one of our largest signups in many years.”

Over these 35 years, CRP has addressed multiple concerns while ensuring the most competitive offers are selected by protecting fragile and environmentally sensitive lands, improving water quality, enhancing wildlife populations, providing pollinator forage habitat, sequestering carbon in soil and enhancing soil productivity. Seventy percent of the nation’s land is owned and tended privately, and America’s farmers, ranchers and landowners have willingly stepped up to protect the environment and natural resources.

This general signup included offers for State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE), which allows producers to install practices that benefit high-priority, locally developed wildlife conservation objectives using targeted restoration of vital habitat. Over 95 percent of SAFE offers submitted were accepted under this general signup representing more than 487,500 acres. This acceptance level highlights the commitment to SAFE as an important part of CRP.

The 2018 Farm Bill established a nationwide acreage limit for CRP, with the total number of acres that may be enrolled capped at 24.5 million acres in 2020 and growing to 27 million by 2023.

While the deadline for general CRP signup was February 28, 2020, signups for continuous CRP, Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, CRP Grasslands and the Soil Health and Income Protection Program (SHIPP) are ongoing. The CRP Grasslands deadline is May 15, and the SHIPP signup begins March 30, 2020, and ends August 21, 2020.

FFA Members Work Together to Spread Messages of Positivity

FFA members across the country have a heart for service — and now more than ever, it shows.

FFA members have given back to their communities through a variety of service projects – whether it’s helping with community gardens, volunteering at senior living facilities or helping to clean up green spaces. In a recent survey, FFA state officers indicated that, on average, they participate in one to two community service events a month.

Today, as a new reality sets in with COVID-19 and e-learning becomes the new norm, FFA members are finding ways to encourage others online by sharing messages of positivity. Mamie Hertel, National FFA central region vice president, reached out to several members from across the country to compile words of support from others in a new video.

In addition to the video, the 2019-20 National FFA Officer Team is posting inspiring messages each day on Facebook Live, except for Sunday, staying in touch with tomorrow’s leaders. FFA members, in turn, are joining in the conversation as well. For example, Emily Nave from Tennessee shares that she’s keeping upbeat by doing things she enjoys, such as painting. FFA alumni Adrian Schunk from Michigan shared that she does three things to stay positive – encourage others to learn something new, stay connected to one another and keep active!

“Our positive thoughts and words can make a world of difference to someone who is in need of encouragement,” Hertel said. “We all are capable of being more positive, so why not start today?”

USDA to Initiate Rulemaking on “Product of U.S.A.” Meat Labels in Response to OCM and AGA Petition

Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) responded to a petition filed by the Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) and American Grassfed Association (AGA) regarding truth in labeling of imported meat.

The OCM and AGA petition, filed in June 2018, called for FSIS to ensure only domestic meat products can be labeled “Product of U.S.A.” The current policy allows imported meat to bear the “Product of U.S.A.” label if it simply passes through a USDA-inspected plant, allowing foreign profiteers to mislabel meat products and plunder the profits of U.S. farmers and ranchers at the expense of U.S. consumers.

In today’s response, FSIS indicated it has decided to initiate rulemaking to define the conditions under which the labeling of meat products would be permitted to bear voluntary statements that indicate that the product is of U.S. origin, such as "Product of USA" or "Made in the USA.”

AGA Executive Director Carrie Balkcom said, “The members and supporters of American Grassfed will aggressively participate in the comment period when this rulemaking process opens. We ask that the comment period be sooner rather than later to allow American farmers to continue to Make America Great, per the mantra of our executive branch and its appointees. For the USDA to continue to allow foreign products to be labeled ‘Product of U.S.A.’ continues to penalize American family farms and farmers." 

OCM Executive Director Angela Huffman said, “Far too often, global monopolies control our regulatory system and almost guarantee the biggest cheaters win. We are encouraged that FSIS agrees with our concerns that the current ‘Product of U.S.A.’ labeling system causes confusion for consumers and takes money out of the pockets of the farmer. We want to thank FSIS for opening up the rulemaking process to right this wrong. Farmers, ranchers and consumers deserve fair and transparent markets.”

In today's response to OCM and AGA, FSIS said:
After careful consideration of your petition and the 2,593 public comments submitted to regulations.gov in response to your petition, FSIS has concluded that its current labeling policy, which permits meat and poultry products that were derived from animals that may have been born, raised and slaughtered in another country but processed in the United States to be labeled as “Product of USA,” may be causing confusion in the marketplace, particularly with respect to certain imported meat products.”

Following the repeal of mandatory Country of Origin Labeling in 2015, global meatpacking corporations began abusing the voluntary “Product of U.S.A.” label by misbranding meat and meat products from foreign countries as “Product of U.S.A.” after moving them through USDA-inspected processing plants. OCM and AGA continue to call on Congress and the Administration to reinstate mandatory Country of Origin Labeling.

Secretary Perdue Applauds State Department’s H-2 Decision

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue issued the following statement in response to the Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security’s decision to authorize temporary waivers for in-person interviews for eligible H-2 visa applicants.

“Temporarily waiving in-person interviews for H-2 visa applicants streamlines the application process and helps provide steady labor for the agriculture sector during this time of uncertainty,” said Secretary Perdue. “H-2 labor is vital to the economy and food security of America – our farmers and producers depend on these workers to continue to feed and clothe the world.”

USDA has been directly engaged with the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security to ensure minimal disruption in H-2A and H-2B visa applications during these uncertain times. This Administration is doing everything possible to maintain continuity of this critically important program. These flexibilities will allow our farmers and ranchers to utilize workers they have used in the past, or those who are already in the U.S., to get our food from the farm to our tables.

ASA & Other Ag Groups: ‘Governors, Be Mindful of Supply Chain Impacts’

ASA and other ag groups sent a letter this week requesting that, during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, state governors be mindful of supply chain and workforce impacts on the ag community when considering individual response plans.

Consistency is important for farmers to continue operating and providing necessary inputs for the food and agriculture supply chain, especially as they approach spring planting season. These include, but are certainly not limited to, impacts on accessibility of seed, fertilizer, crop protection products, credit providers, agricultural labor, equipment, grains, oilseeds and processed commodities, flour, animal food and ingredients for food-producing animals, modes of transportation, daily movement of milk and all other agricultural commodities.

ASA and state affiliates will continue working with national and local government officials to ensure growers’ abilities to keep operating and provide the nation with a safe and abundant food and fiber supply now and in the future.

IGC Boosts Grain Production

Measures to halt the spread of coronavirus are disrupting the movement of grains and other vital food-stuffs, just as demand for rice and wheat-based products was surging, the International Grains Council said Thursday.

The group also raised its forecast for global grain production, but noted that its estimates were tentative until the full effect of the pandemic was known.

In its monthly report, the IGC upped its forecast for grain production in the 2019-20 season by 3 million metric tons to 2.175 billion tons. That was higher than the 2.139 billion tons produced in 2018-19.

The intergovernmental body also cuts its forecast for grain demand by 1 million tons to 2.192 billion tons. This compares with demand of 2.163 billion tons in 2018-19.

"Although import buying of some commodities has accelerated in recent weeks, logistical challenges are being reported as movement constraints and quarantine measures become widespread," the IGC said.

The IGC also issued its first set of projections for supply and demand in the 2020-2021 season in which it predicts a grain output of 2.223 billion tons and consumption of 2.226 billion tons, meaning a fourth consecutive year that the global grain market would be in deficit.

USGC Remains Committed To Global Customers During COVID-19 Pandemic

The U.S. Grains Council's (USGC's) staff and representatives around the world remain committed to the mission of developing markets, enabling trade and improving lives - even as that work goes fully virtual during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re continuing operations in this new world that we are all living in,” said Ryan LeGrand, USGC president and chief executive officer. “We are staying on top of available market information in order to update our stakeholders on the status of global grain flows and port operations.”

Since the start of the outbreak, the Council has placed a priority on protecting employees. In late January, USGC staff in China went into telework status. Offices in South Korea and Japan followed suit in subsequent weeks, and other international offices transitioned to telework as the coronavirus outbreak continued to spread. Starting the week of March 16, the entire USGC staff globally began to work remotely from home and will continue do so until further notice.

Despite these global disruptions, USGC staff remain in close contact with customers and governments in the United States and around the world.

“We have everyone within the Council network working at home and making the best use of technology that we can to weather this storm,” LeGrand said. “What we’re trying to do is collect information by by maintaining our contacts and reporting back to the U.S. industry and vice versa.”

LeGrand issued a letter to those contacts this week, sharing important updates on the status of the U.S. grain export infrastructure. Operations are continuing largely as normal, at this time, with the exception of some concerns indirectly related to the coronavirus from a lack of containers.

“We have been in contact with a wide range of U.S. agriculture organizations at the state and national levels; coalitions focused on transportation; and private companies operating on the Mississippi, Illinois and Ohio river system and at export facilities in the New Orleans region as well as the Pacific Northwest region,” LeGrand wrote. “In all cases, we have heard back that operations are ongoing and facilities are taking precautions, such as increased sanitary protocols and social distancing, to ensure the spread of COVID-19 does not require a change in that status.”

The efficiency of the U.S. grain supply chain aids in this process. Much of U.S. agriculture and export infrastructure - from farms to ports - is relatively isolated. Most export facilities operate with limited employees, sometimes as few as two or three, and increasingly benefit from automation, which creates efficiencies, reduces costs and keeps operations in line with social distancing guidelines.

At the national level, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have declared U.S. agriculture and food infrastructure and the employees who work within it as “essential,” meaning they will continue to operate as normally as possible throughout this crisis.

The pandemic and its effect on the global economy continues to evolve rapidly, but the entire U.S. grain industry is cooperating and advocating for continued, stable operations in a very uncertain time. The Council will continue to provide regular updates and, as always, staff members - no matter their location - remain available to answer questions via e-mail or phone.

“We would like to thank you for continuing to put your trust in our farmers, exporters and staff members to help you buy what you need to run your businesses and to feed your communities,” LeGrand wrote to customers. “Each of us realizes the gravity of this situation and the importance of ensuring our work together continues unimpeded until this crisis resolves.”

FSA Makes Changes to Farm Loan, Disaster, Conservation and Safety Net Programs to Make it Easier for Customers to Conduct Business

USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) county offices are open by phone appointment only until further notice, and FSA staff are available to continue helping agricultural producers with program signups, loan servicing and other important actions. Additionally, FSA is relaxing the loan-making process and adding flexibilities for servicing direct and guaranteed loans to provide credit to producers in need.

FSA Service Centers are open for business by phone appointment only. While our program delivery staff will continue to come into to the office, they will be working with our agricultural producers by phone and using email and online tools whenever possible.

“FSA programs and loans are critical to America’s farmers and ranchers, and we want to continue our work with customers while taking precautionary measures to help prevent the spread of coronavirus,” FSA Administrator Richard Fordyce said. “We recognize that farm loans are critical for annual operating and family living expenses, emergency needs and cash flow through times like this. FSA is working to find and use every option and flexibility to provide producers with credit options and other program benefits.”

FSA is delivering programs and services, including:
    Farm loans;
    Commodity loans;
    Farm Storage Facility Loan program;
    Disaster assistance programs, including signup for the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus (this includes producers now eligible because of losses due to drought and excess moisture in 2018 and 2019);
    Safety net programs, including 2020 signup for the Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage programs;
    Conservation programs; and
    Acreage reports.

Relaxing the Farm Loan-Making Process

FSA is relaxing the loan-making process, including:
    Extending the deadline for applicants to complete farm loan applications;
    Preparing Direct Loans documents even if FSA is unable to complete lien and record searches because of closed government buildings. Once those searches are complete, FSA would close the loan; and
    Closing loans if the required lien position on the primary security is perfected, even for loans that require additional security and those lien searches, filings and recordings cannot be obtained because of closed government buildings.

Servicing Direct Loans

FSA is extending deadlines for producers to respond to loan servicing actions, including loan deferral consideration for financially distressed and delinquent borrowers.

FSA will temporarily suspend loan accelerations, non-judicial foreclosures, and referring foreclosures to the Department of Justice. The U.S. Attorney’s Office will make the determination whether to stop foreclosures and evictions on accounts under its jurisdiction.

Servicing Guaranteed Loans
Guarantee lenders can self-certify, providing their borrowers with:
    Subsequent-year operating loan advances on lines of credit;
    Emergency advances on lines of credit.

FSA will consider guaranteed lender requests for:
    Temporary payment deferral consideration when borrowers do not have a feasible plan reflecting that family living expenses, operating expenses and debt can be repaid; and
    Temporary forbearance consideration for borrowers on loan liquidation and foreclosure actions.

Contacting FSA

FSA will be accepting additional forms and applications by facsimile or electronic signature. Some services are also available online to customers with an eAuth account, which provides access to the farmers.gov portal where producers can view USDA farm loan information and payments and view and track certain USDA program applications and payments. Customers can track payments, report completed practices, request conservation assistance and electronically sign documents. Customers who do not already have an eAuth account can enroll at farmers.gov/sign-in.

FSA encourages producers to contact their county office to discuss these programs and temporary changes to farm loan deadlines and the loan servicing options available. For Service Center contact information, visit farmers.gov/coronavirus.

Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. Shares Tips For Beef Safety At Home

With more time at home, consumers can confidently reach for beef as a reliable staple to nourish themselves and their families. Beef is not only an excellent source of protein; it also provides bodies with the strength to thrive throughout all stages of life. 

To ensure consumers are armed with knowledge to have the best eating experiencing with beef, the Beef Checkoff is here to provide some quick tips on how to safely handle and prepare beef when cooking at home.

Storing Beef:
    Refrigerate or freeze beef as soon as possible after purchasing.
    Ground beef can safely be stored in the refrigerator for one to two days before cooking or freezing. Once in the freezer, ground beef can be stored for three to four months before quality is impacted.
    Steaks and roasts can safely be stored in the refrigerator for three to five days before cooking or freezing. Once in the freezer, steaks and roasts can be stored for four to 12 months before quality is impacted.
    If you plan on freezing, repackage your beef into the right-size portion for upcoming meals.
    For longer storage, remove beef from original packaging and place into freezer bags or similar air-tight packaging to remove as much air as possible.

    Defrost beef in the refrigerator, never at room temperature.
    Account for 12 to 24 hours to defrost ground beef and steaks.
    Use a plate or tray to catch any juices.

    Wash hands well in hot, soapy water before and after handling raw meat and other fresh foods.
    Keep raw meat and juices away from other foods.
    Wash all utensils, cutting surfaces and counters after contact with raw meat.

    Always use a meat thermometer.
    Ground beef should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160°F
    Steaks and roasts should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145°F.
    Don’t forget to refrigerate leftovers within two hours after cooking.

“Beef is a nutrient rich protein that can be a great freezer staple for a variety of dishes and meals,” said  Alisa Harrison, senior vice president of Global Marketing and Research at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff. “With a few simple tips when it comes to storing, handling and cooking beef at home, families can feel confident that their beef meals will be delicious and flawlessly prepared.”

When you’re ready to get cooking, make sure to visit BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com for more information on safe handling, hundreds of recipes, and even online cooking lessons. With step by step instructions and tips for a dozen different cooking methods, from grilling to pressure cooking, the cooking lessons are a great resource for all levels of home chefs.

GAO Finds USDA Improperly Paid More Than $930 Million In Farm Programs

In its latest report, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found government agencies made about $175 billion in improper payments. Of that total, USDA was responsible for $6.7 billion in improper spending to food stamps or farm programs.

The improper payments boil down to payments that never should have been made in the first place, or those made in the wrong amount, according to GAO. Improper payments increased year-over-year as 2018 only resulted in $151 billion spent incorrectly.

“However, the federal government’s ability to understand the full scope of its improper payments is hindered by incomplete, unreliable or understated agency estimates; risk assessments that may not accurately assess the risk of improper payment; and agencies not complying with reporting and other requirements in the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act of 2010,” the report continues.

Of the $6.7 billion USDA spent improperly, just under $1 billion of it went directly to farmer-facing programs. These improper payments are as follows:
    $612 million paid through Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage, improper payments were not reported in 2018.
    $282.5 million paid in crop insurance funding, compared to $184.2 of improper payments in 2018.
    $42.5 million in crop disaster assistance programs—about 23% of the payments were improper, the highest percent by farm program and up from $26.6 million in 2018.

“Improper payments… continue to be an area of fiscal concern in the federal government,” GAO reports. “Improper payments have been estimated to total almost $1.7 trillion government-wide from fiscal years 2003 to 2019.”

Sorghum Checkoff Extends Leadership Sorghum Class V Application Deadline

Due to current adverse circumstances, the Sorghum Checkoff has extended the application deadline for Leadership Sorghum Class V to April 10, 2020.

The program is designed to develop the next generation of sorghum leaders and exposes class members to various aspects of the sorghum industry, offers personal and professional development and networking opportunities over a 15-month time period.

USDA-approved criteria states eligible applicants must be farmers actively engaged in sorghum production within the U.S. and U.S. citizens. The program will accept 15 members into the program's fifth class. More information on the class schedule and program criteria can be found at LeadSorghum.com.

Full consideration will be given to all applicants regardless of age, gender, race or occupation. Every effort will be made to select a class, based on the applicant pool, which is representative of the entire sorghum industry, its diversity and rural community interests.

Applications for the program are available at LeadSorghum.com and are due by 5:00 p.m. CST April 10, 2020. Accompanying reference forms must be submitted by the April 10 deadline, as well. Following the application deadline, all applications and references will be reviewed by a selection committee.