Friday, May 29, 2020

Friday May 29 Ag News

Webinar to detail USDA coronavirus food assistance program for producers

The Coronavirus Food Assistance Program will be the focus of a joint webinar produced by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the Nebraska USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) this Thursday at noon CDT.

The program provides direct financial assistance to agricultural producers to offset market supply chain disruptions caused by COVID-19. It is being implemented by FSA, with county offices across Nebraska accepting applications through Aug. 28, 2020.

The webinar will present information on commodities covered under the program, payment rates and details on navigating the application process. It will be presented by Cathy Anderson, production and compliance programs chief with the Nebraska FSA. Additional analysis of the program’s impact on Nebraska will be provided by Brad Lubben, extension associate professor and policy specialist in the Department of Agricultural Economics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln

This is part of series of weekly webinars examining COVID-19’s impact on agriculture in Nebraska that is produced by the Agricultural Economics Extension Farm and Ranch Management team.

The webinar will be held live on Zoom for approximately one hour, including time for questions from participants. Registration is open to everyone at Additional information, a schedule of other upcoming webinars and recordings of all sessions will be available there as well.

LENRD board votes to support funding to restore and establish tree windbreaks

At their May board meeting, the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) Board of Directors signed a letter of support to apply for grant funding to restore and establish tree windbreaks across the district.  The Nebraska Forest Service is applying for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) grant with the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service and has requested the LENRD’s support.  If this RCPP proposal is selected for funding, the LENRD would provide $300,000 through the Nebraska Forest Restoration Partnership over the next five years as a match for the grant.  This match would be a reduction in the current tree cost-share budget.  In return, additional funds and technical assistance would be made available to the LENRD.  LENRD Natural Resources Technician, Todd Stewart, said, “This grant would allow further opportunities to expand our current programs and develop more windbreaks across northeast Nebraska.  I’m excited for the opportunity to work with area landowners to accomplish this.”

In other action, the board approved a contract with HDR to create a Board of Consultants to perform a peer review of the Willow Creek Dam Underseepage Study.  Through this process, experts in the field will review the study to determine which action to take to further secure the dam, located southwest of Pierce.  The two options proposed include a relief well system or a seepage berm as potential mitigation measures for the elevated piezometric pressures on the dam.  The board also voted to sign a contract with the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources to reimburse 50% or the LENRD’s costs paid to HDR for the review.

The board is also looking to gather more information and potential ways to reduce the toxic algae and improve water quality in the lake at the Willow Creek State Recreation Area.  The board voted to sign a contract with FYRA Engineering to study the internal phosphorus loading within the Willow Creek reservoir.  LENRD General Manager, Mike Sousek, said, “This is a multi-phase approach to determine what could potentially be done to combat the issue.”  The board voted 9 to 5 to begin with the first step in the process which involves the collection and analysis of core soil samples.

The board also approved an interlocal agreement for up to $1.7 million with the City of West Point for their levee project.  The agreement was set to expire in June and needed to be updated.  Work on the project will begin in 2021.  This project will protect the City of West Point from flood waters and bring the levee into compliance with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) standards.

In other business, the board voted to apply for a technical assistance grant through the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD).  The LENRD would provide $15,580 for one year to support hiring a full-time employee stationed in the Pierce NRCS office.  This individual would be working on nutrient management plans and irrigation water management in Pierce County.

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, June 25th at 7:30 p.m.  Watch for further updates and stay connected with the LENRD by subscribing to their monthly emails at

I-29 Moo University Launches New Dairy Podcast

Dairy producers in the I-29 corridor and across Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota have a new way of receiving information, thanks to a podcast launched by the I-29 Moo University dairy consortium. Extension dairy specialists from each state help to develop the topics for the bi-weekly podcast.

“The show’s focus is unique because it aims to discuss current issues faced by dairy producers along the corridor ranging from economics and animal health, to forage, labor and farm programs,” say’s Kim Clark, Nebraska Extension Dairy Educator, and one of three regular hosts for the program.

The first podcast was released on May 26 and featured Kim Clark, Jim Salfer, Minnesota Extension Dairy Educator and Fred M. Hall, Northwest Iowa Extension Dairy Specialist, discussing information for dairy producers concerning the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP).

Podcasts are recorded every two weeks, and feature commentary by I-29 Moo University Extension dairy specialists in conversation with other dairy industry experts.

“The podcasts offer another way for dairy producers and the dairy industry across the region to receive current and timely information and resources on dairy production practices, financial management and practical strategies in dealing with farm stress,” said Salfer.

Hall adds that the discussions are driven by current topics and questions from producers.

“We hope that producers will interact with questions and comments that can help develop more programs,” Hall said.

Each episode is 15-20 minutes and is available on the I-29 Moo University website (, as well as on each state’s dairy Extension website. Producers can also subscribe to the “I-29 Moo U Dairy Podcast” on iTunes and Spotify. Past episodes are archived, so listeners can tune in whenever they choose.

For more information, contact Kim Clark at or 402.472.6065; Jim Salfer at or 612.360.4506; or Fred M. Hall at or 712.737.4230.

Nebraska Ethanol Board June 10th board meeting to be held in Lincoln

The Nebraska Ethanol Board will meet in Lincoln at 9:00 a.m. Wednesday, June 10. The meeting will be at Hyatt Place (600 Q Street) in the conjoined meeting rooms I, II, & III. Board, staff and audience members will be able to adhere to COVID-19 recommended guidelines and spatial distancing of 6 feet apart.

Highlights of the agenda include:
    Budget Report & Budget Planning Fiscal Year 2020-21
    Fuel Retailer Update
    E30 Demonstration Update
    Renewable Fuels Nebraska Update
    Marketing Programs
    State and Federal Legislation
    Ethanol Plant Reports
    Board vacancies
 This agenda contains all items to come before the Board except those items of an emergency nature.

The Nebraska Ethanol Board works to ensure strong public policy and consumer support for biofuels. Since 1971, the independent state agency has designed and managed programs to expand production, market access, worker safety and technology innovation, including recruitment of producers interested in developing conventional ethanol, as well as bio-products from the ethanol platform. For more information, visit

Iowa Corn Farmers Thank Essential Healthcare Professionals

From one essential worker to another, Iowa Corn farmers provided a meal as a token of their appreciation to front-line healthcare professionals across the state of Iowa this week.  Iowa Corn partnered with Casey’s General Stores and Atlantic Coca-Cola Bottling Company to provide and personally deliver 1,500 Casey’s pizzas and 12-packs of Coke products to well over 100 hospitals in local Iowa communities including 14 hospitals across 12 counties in crop reporting district 4.

“Iowa Corn farmers say thank you, and we are stronger together in these difficult times,” said Iowa Corn Promotion Board (ICPB) President Roger Zylstra, a farmer from Sully, IA. “As the healthcare professionals are relentlessly keeping us and our families safe, Iowa’s corn farmers and livestock producers are working hard to continue to provide a safe, secure food system.”

There are over 4,000 products made from corn, many of which are included in Casey’s pizza and Atlantic Bottling’s Coke products.

“Casey’s is proud to partner with Iowa Corn farmers and Atlantic Bottling to say thanks to healthcare workers. Now more than ever, we all appreciate and applaud the courage of these workers who are serving our communities,” said Katie Petru, Director of Communications for Casey’s General Stores.

“Atlantic Coca-Cola Bottling Company is an Iowa company proud to partner with Iowa Corn and Casey’s supporting our medical professionals and emergency personnel in the local communities where we live, work, and play,” said John Otterbeck, Chief Marketing Officer for Atlantic Bottling Company. “We understand this is not an easy time for many, but Iowans are resilient and together we are stronger.”

Iowa Corn farmers and staff of ICPB delivered pizzas to the district 4 hospitals, which include: Audubon County Memorial Hospital in Audubon County, Stewart Memorial Community Hospital in Calhoun County, St. Anthony’s Regional Hospital and Manning Regional Healthcare in Carroll County, Crawford County Memorial Hospital in Crawford County, Greene County Medical Center in Greene County, Guthrie County Hospital in Guthrie County, Alegent Health Community Hospital in Harrison County, Burgess Memorial Hospital in Monona County, Horn Memorial Hospital in Ida County, Loring Hospital in Sac County, Myrtue Memorial Hospital in Shelby County, UnityPoint Health St. Luke’s and Mercy Medical Center in Woodbury County.

2020 Update for Veterinarians Program to Be Held Virtually

The 2020 Update for Veterinarians program will be held as a virtual webinar that can be viewed from home or office. The June 16 program, organized and provided by Iowa Beef Center, features six full hours of education and information focused on beef cattle production.

Chris Clark, beef specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, coordinates the program and invites practitioners who work with cattle to make plans now to register for the virtual event which will begin at 10 a.m.

“Organizing this event has been challenging as we try to navigate through the coronavirus pandemic, but I really want to provide an opportunity for quality continuing education as we approach the end of this licensure period," he said. "Using a virtual platform will allow this to happen in an easily accessible way."

Clark said attendees will hear about important and timely topics during the day's program.

"The morning presentation from Dan Thomson, chair of the Department of Animal Science at Iowa State University, will focus on some of the potential management, health and welfare issues associated with the disruptions of the cattle processing capacity and the back-up of market-ready cattle," he said. "Afternoon topics include diseases that are transmitted between wildlife and livestock, and practical application of pain management strategies in beef cattle practice. Finally, we’ll round out the afternoon with updates from the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory."

Six hours of continuing education credit have been approved for the program.

Financial benefit

Another benefit of this year's virtual learning platform is financial.

“Using the virtual format, I think we can keep costs pretty minimal and are providing this program free of charge this year," Clark said. "Preregistration for the Webex platform session is strongly encouraged for easier and faster access the day of the program."

See details and registration information on the main webinar page Once registered, participants will receive an email with a link to join the event the morning of June 16. Participants can join the event beginning at 9:50 a.m. and are encouraged to join a few minutes prior to the 10 a.m. start time.  If you have any questions, contact Clark prior to the event at or 712-250-0070.

Growth Energy Celebrates First Anniversary of Year-Round E15

This weekend marks the first anniversary of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) final rule allowing American drivers to fuel up with E15, a fuel blended with 15 percent ethanol, year-round. The rule, issued on May 31, 2019,  lifted summer restrictions and represented the culmination of a decade-long campaign that began with Growth Energy’s 2009 “Green Jobs Waiver” petition, which first opened E15 to all model year 2001 and newer light-duty vehicles.

“COVID-19 may have slowed fuel demand in recent months, but the promise of E15 remains stronger than ever as we mark the first anniversary of year-round sales,” said Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor. “This was a landmark victory for our members, congressional champions, retail partners, and consumers across the country who fought by our side to lift outdated barriers to higher-octane, lower-carbon fuel options.

“As motorists begin returning to the roads, E15 is poised for rapid growth. In fact, a survey by Pilot Flying J shows that 65 percent of U.S. drivers are reporting big plans for extra summer travel once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. And we already know that customers who try E15 are coming back again and again to take advantage of this more affordable, cleaner fuel. Last summer alone, E15 sales jumped 46 percent on a per-store basis from the previous year thanks to year-round sales.

“The future is even brighter. In just the last 12 months, we’ve seen a surge of interest from Growth Energy’s retail partners who are eager to offer consumers a cleaner, more affordable fuel choice. Nearly 400 new E15 locations have been added over the last year, bringing the total to 2,180, and the retail landscape continues to shift as the number of wholesale terminals offering pre-blended E15 continues to rise from only five in 2017 to nearly 200 today.

“We are also working with the leading retailers, as well as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and lawmakers in Congress, to build on our success with our partner Prime the Pump and turbo-charge the installation of new infrastructure that will bring higher biofuel blends to millions of additional motorists. Taken together, these efforts promise to drive the next wave of growth that will revitalize rural communities and displace more petroleum-based additives that poison our air.”

Growth Energy works with leading retailers including Casey’s, Cumberland Farms, Family Express, Holiday, Kum & Go, Kwik Trip, Minnoco, Murphy USA, Protec Fuel, Pump & Pantry, QuikTrip, RaceTrac, Royal Farms, Rutters, Sheetz, and Thorntons to give more drivers access to cleaner burning, high-octane Unleaded 88 at more than 2,000 stations across the U.S. These retailers sell between 2.2 to 2.5 million fuel gallons per year at each retail location, which amounts to over 200 percent more fuel gallons per year than what the average fuel retailer sells annually.

Growth Energy Identifies Omissions in EPA Report

Growth Energy today said the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new “anti-backsliding” report on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) side-steps the wide body of evidence supporting a clear scientific consensus around the clean air benefits of homegrown ethanol. The study, required by the Clean Air Act and released as part of a consent decree reached in February 2019, rehashed outdated information while omitting critical data on the environmental advantages of low-carbon biofuels.

“It’s disappointing to see this EPA miss another chance to correct outdated claims which minimize contributions of U.S. biofuels to clean air and a healthy climate,” said Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy. “The Renewable Fuel Standard has stood the test of time as America’s single most successful clean energy policy, driving down greenhouse gas emissions while displacing toxic petroleum-based aromatics, like benzene, a known carcinogen.

“The latest U.S. Department of Agriculture data show that ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 39 percent or more compared to traditional gasoline, with corn ethanol’s relative carbon benefits reaching as high as 70 percent. And a vast trove of public, private, and academic studies shows how continuous innovation has allowed us to ramp up biofuel production year after year, without expanding our environmental footprint. The data is clear. Without ethanol, we would be rolling back the clock, with higher emissions of particulate matter, carbon monoxide, and smog-forming pollutants linked to cancer, as well as neurological, cardiovascular, and reproductive damage.

“Clean energy leaders and health experts, including those at the American Lung Association, are all speaking out about the importance of alternative fuels like ethanol for protecting our respiratory health, now more than ever. And new research from experts like Dr. Steffen Mueller at the University of Illinois Chicago shows that cleaner biofuel blends can improve health outcomes and save lives.


The U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC) virtually hosted a global digital event, “COVID-19 and the Implications to Aquaculture,” on May 20 with approximately 900 global customers and soybean industry representatives from 60 countries. The event focused on the impact of COVID-19 on global aquaculture production and marketing supply chains. As global markets adapt to these times, U.S. Soy is ready to meet global needs in the aquaculture industry.

In the restricted travel environment caused by COVID-19, USSEC continues to innovate as an industry leader in digital engagement. It’s focused on connecting U.S. farmers with customers through online presentations and discussions, while offering valuable insights about the global/U.S. market.

“Our industry has always prioritized innovation and adaptability in order to better serve our customers and meet the needs within the global seafood industry, and the COVID-19 pandemic is no different,” said Jim Sutter, USSEC CEO. “At USSEC, we've had an active program in aquaculture for 35 years, with partners ranging from small fish farms in Asia, to large international operations across the globe. And no matter who we're working with, our top priority is to optimize and demonstrate the value and nutritional benefits of U.S. Soy in aquaculture diets.”

Some key takeaways from the event include:

    George Chamberlain, President, Global Aquaculture Alliance discussed how despite the impact of COVID-19, the demand for aquaculture is growing globally.
        “Asian customers are learning that fresh fish from retail and e-commerce is just as good and even more convenient than live fish. And Western consumers are learning to prepare seafood at home, so eventually when food service opens again, total consumption should be even higher. In the long term, we can expect the global population to increase which will mean greater food and protein demand in the future that cannot be met by today's food systems. Aquaculture is well positioned to address these challenges with healthy foods produced from environmentally and socially responsible systems.”

    Gorjan Nikolik, Senior Analyst — Seafood, RaboResearch Food & Agribusiness noted that while prices have been impacted, production and volumes have remained consistent and recovery could happen this year.
        “In the salmon sector we're going to have some losses primarily due to a low price point, but production and volumes have not been impacted that much, and we do expect a recovery before the end of this year, at least in prices.”

USSEC leadership also spoke at the event to reassure attendees that U.S. farmers and the U.S. Soy community are continuing work to meet customer needs globally:

    Monte Peterson, Chairman of USSEC, board member of the American Soybean Association and soybean farmer in Valley City, North Dakota, shared the farmer perspective in his opening remarks.
        “Despite facing a public health issue and continued global uncertainty, our commitment to producing a safe and reliable soybean meal for aquaculture has never wavered. Agriculture was recognized as critical infrastructure by the U.S. government. And with events like this, we can show how U.S. Soy farmers intend to honor that through their work, proceeding with planting for the 2020 harvest, and staying focused on being a reliable supplier to our customers.”

    Carlos Salinas, USSEC Senior Director of Soybean Meal, noted that the U.S. is positioned to meet increasing global demand.
        “As the global population increases, the demand for seafood and fish will continue to grow. And by 2030, 62% of all seafood produced for human consumption will be a product of aquaculture. With the help of U.S. Soy, expanding feed-based aquaculture can address the needs of both supply and demand. U.S. soybean farmers are an essential partner in the prosperity of the aquaculture community and are helping to revolutionize aquaculture globally. The value of these global partnerships is immeasurable. It's something that helps differentiate the U.S. Soy advantage for our customers.”

USSEC held two identical sessions to accommodate attendees from around the world.


Vietnam announced this week it will temporarily reduce its Most Favored Nation (MFN) tariff rates from 15 percent to 10 percent for frozen pork products. The United States is among countries able to receive the MFN rates and once implemented, this will level the playing field with other Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) countries that have free trade agreements with Vietnam. The temporary reductions will take effect July 10, through the end of the year.

A trade agreement with Vietnam is a top priority for U.S. pork producers, especially as the country battles African swine fever and needs safe, reliable and affordable sources of pork. In August 2019, the National Pork Producers Council helped secure a USDA grant enabling the Swine Health Information Center to run a research project in Vietnam to better under the disease in an active-outbreak setting.


The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) recently released a summary of its negotiating objectives for an upcoming trade deal with Kenya. Among objectives are securing comprehensive market access for U.S. agricultural goods in Kenya by reducing or eliminating tariffs; eliminating practices that unfairly decrease U.S. market access opportunities or distort agricultural markets including non-tariff barriers that discriminate against U.S. agricultural goods and restrictive rules in the administration of tariff rate quotas; and providing for enforceable and robust Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) that build upon World Trade Organization rights and obligations.

The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) announced Tuesday it is seeking input for a newly initiated investigation into the economic effect of eliminating tariffs on imported goods from Kenya. The investigation was requested by USTR in March as part of the process for negotiating a U.S.-Kenya trade deal, and ITC plans to complete its report by Sept. 16.


On Thursday, USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) updated its African swine fever (ASF) strategic plan and expanded it into a full response as part of ongoing efforts to strengthen response capabilities in the event of an outbreak. The USDA APHIS USDA Response Plan: The Red Book May 2020 elevates preparedness activities in the United States should ASF enter the country. ASF is an animal disease affecting only pigs and with no human health or food safety risks.

Among provisions, the response plan provides: a comprehensive feral swine response; an outline of USDA authorities and APHIS guidance specific to an ASF response; specific response actions that will be taken if ASF is detected; updated USDA APHIS National Stop Movement Guidance and changes to surveillance guidance. To view the Red Book, visit The agency anticipates there will be updates to the ASF Response Plan as new capabilities and processes become available.

LRP-Lamb Contracts Honored on Current Conditions

COVID-19 has impacted the industry on nearly every front, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture – acting on guidance from the American Sheep Industry Association and the Sheep Venture Company – has found one way to blunt a small portion of that damage.

USDA will now use the National Weekly Slaughter Sheep Report comprehensive price – when the formula price is not available to due confidentiality requirements – to determine Actual Ending Values on LRP-Lamb policies purchased prior to the COVID-19 impact.

“The Agricultural Marketing Service has suspended reporting of the National Weekly Slaughter Sheep Review (LM_LM352) formula price to comply with confidentiality requirements,” wrote USDA Risk Management Agency Administrator Martin R. Barbre in a bulletin to insurance providers and RMA field offices this week. “Without the formula price being released by AMS, the Risk Management Agency is unable to publish Actual Ending Values on any active LRP-Lamb endorsements in a manner that reflects current market conditions to appropriately compensate insureds for the coverage purchased prior to the market impacts of COVID-19, which ultimately led the discontinuance of the National Weekly Slaughter Sheep Review formula price.”

“On May 21, 2020, the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation Board of Directors suspended sales of the Livestock Risk Protection for Lamb due to data being unavailable to make offers and settle existing insurance contracts. Effective immediately, RMA will publish AEVs for active endorsements by replacing the National Weekly Slaughter Sheep Review formula price with the comprehensive price when the formula price is not available. The comprehensive price includes formula price transactions in addition to negotiated prices and is designed by AMS to allow price reporting to continue during periods when the formula price report is suspended. Because the comprehensive price includes formula price transactions, it closely follows the formula price.

“For any active LRP-Lamb endorsements, when AMS has not published the formula price for the ending date of the endorsement and the previous four weeks, RMA will use the National Weekly Slaughter Sheep Review comprehensive price to calculate the actual ending value instead of the formula price. RMA will continue to use the formula price to determine the AEVs, as outlined in the policy, if AMS publishes the formula price on the ending date of the endorsement and the previous four weeks.”

ASI Executive Director/SVC Secretary-Treasurer Peter Orwick extends the sheep industry’s appreciation to USDA for finding a work around to the serious issue of not being able to accurately settle insurance contracts due to lack of price reporting because of recent plant shutdowns and changes in purchase of lambs. The industry spent two months providing alternatives, and is pleased that USDA found one that works.

USDA Lamb Purchase Totals $2.675 Million

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced this week the purchase of $2.675 million in lamb shanks and chops under the Trade Mitigation Food Purchase and Distribution Program.

USDA purchased 200,000 pounds of lamb shanks and 159,600 pounds of bone-in lamb chops through the program. A total of 119,700 pounds of lamb chops and 80,000 pounds of lamb shanks were not purchased under the program due to vendor constraints.

“We appreciate USDA following through on the previously announced lamb purchase,” said American Sheep Industry Association President Benny Cox of Texas. “We hope the new distribution of lamb will strengthen the live lamb market for sheep producers and benefit needy families who will find American lamb at their local food banks in the months to come.”

USDA has a total of $17 million authorized for lamb meat purchases and ASI will continue to work with the department for prompt usage of the funds this year.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Thursday May 28 Ag News

Lower Elkhorn NRD to open by appointment only beginning June 1st

The Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) office in Norfolk will open its doors for appointments only beginning on Monday, June 1st.

LENRD General Manager, Mike Sousek, said, “We plan to start relaxing some of our restrictions and will allow the public to visit with staff in the office, by appointment only, to ensure a healthy and safe environment for everyone.”

Sousek added, “As we navigate through these uncertain times, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.  We’re available to answer your phone calls and emails, and now you also have the option of making an appointment with us.  If you do not feel comfortable meeting face-to-face, there’s also a drop box at the main entrance (west door) for reports and permits.”

The LENRD will continue to monitor the developments with COVID-19, and implement the latest recommendations from federal, state and local authorities.  Visit the LENRD website, Facebook or Twitter, or sign up for our monthly emails for further updates.

Nebraska State Dairy Association Thanks Governor Ricketts for Relief Dollars for Small Dairy Farmers

The Nebraska State Dairy Association would like to thank Governor Ricketts for earmarking $100 million Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) dollars for small dairy farmers, beef, pork, and poultry producers. 

The new program will allow dairy, beef, pork and poultry producers between 1-10 employees to be eligible for a $12,000 CRF grant.

“Dairy farmers across the state have been struggling with low prices and rising input costs for years and the Covid-19 issue has only compounded those issues. With the rapid decrease in demand from the food service industry, stockpiles of dairy product rose, and we saw farmers in Nebraska dispose of their milk. These dire economic times have slashed our prices from a strong $18-$19 cwt in January to a bleak $10-$11 in April. The Nebraska dairy farmer needs more aid now than ever and I applaud Governor Ricketts for his leadership and lending a much-needed hand to the Nebraska dairy farmer.” said Mike Guenther, Nebraska State Dairy Association President

Nebraska dairy farmers are urged to contact the Department of Economic Development via the “Get Nebraska Growing Hotline” at (855)-264-6858 for information on applying.


Two University of Nebraska–Lincoln researchers have received $1 million in grant funding to continue research that could lead to the development of vaccines and genetic-selection tools to fight some of the world’s costliest swine diseases.

Husker researchers Daniel Ciobanu and Hiep Vu have each recently been awarded a three-year, $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. It is the third NIFA grant for each.

Ciobanu, an associate professor of molecular genetics in the Department of Animal Science, is working to identify the role a pig’s genes play in resistance to viral diseases. His research mostly focuses on porcine circovirus 2, a pathogen found in global swine populations that costs U.S. pork producers more than $250 million annually.

Vu, an assistant professor in the Nebraska Center for Virology and Department of Animal Science, is engaged in developing vaccines to protect pigs against viruses such as swine influenza and porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus, which affect swine production worldwide.

Their work may seem to go against each other in some ways, Ciobanu said. If the gene variant that makes an animal susceptible to a viral disease can be identified and over time eliminated from the swine population, is a vaccine even needed? But Ciobanu said their research actually complements each other.

“Hiep and I will have totally opposite kinds of objectives, but they tie together way more than other people believe,” Ciobanu said. “You can use both vaccination and host genome profiling to provide a better immune response. You can vaccinate only certain animals that are susceptible, and you don’t need to vaccinate everyone. This is valid in humans and could be valid in animals, as well.”

Ciobanu’s research will build upon data he began collecting eight years ago from more than 1,000 pigs infected with porcine circovirus 2 at the university’s Animal Science Complex. After genotyping the pigs with 60,000 data markers and conducting extensive DNA and RNA sequencing, a breakthrough discovery was made. The team has identified a gene called Synapogyrin 2 that is associated with resistance to porcine circovirus 2, the smallest virus that infects mammalian cells.

Early identification of pigs susceptible to the virus would improve the general health and welfare of swine populations worldwide, Ciobanu said, with potential benefits for other livestock species and even humans.

“If the swine industry can use this gene variant or mutation as a DNA marker to select for disease resistance, then they can assess its impact in cattle and other livestock and even in humans,” Ciobanu said.

The next phase of Ciobanu’s work will be done in vitro, using cell lines engineered with different mutations of Synapogyrin 2. Ciobanu and his team will test the different cell lines to see if the gene impacts susceptibility for viruses other than porcine circovirus 2.

Vu will use his grant to utilize molecular methods in his efforts to engineer a broadly protective vaccine that could protect against multiple, if not all, variants of swine influenza virus.

Agenda for Biodiesel Production Technology Summit released

BBI International and Biodiesel Magazine are pleased to announce that the agenda for the Biodiesel Production Technology Summit, set to take place Aug. 24-26, 2020, in Omaha, Nebraska, has been released and is now available online.

Featuring two full days of panel discussions by more than 30 experts, the Biodiesel Production Technology Summit provides a balanced mix of content including biodiesel and renewable diesel topics covering pretreatment, new process technologies, improving existing production technologies, posttreatment and much more.

Handcrafted by Biodiesel Magazine Editor in Chief Ron Kotrba from dozens of submitted abstracts, along with personal invitations to his deep industry connections after more than 15 years with the publication, the Biodiesel Production Technology Summit agenda is designed specifically for existing and future biodiesel and renewable diesel producers to learn about cutting-edge process technologies, new techniques and equipment to optimize existing production, and efficiencies to save money while increasing throughput and fuel quality.

The agenda paired with extensive networking opportunities and an exposition hall are anticipated to provide an unrivaled conference experience for all producers of biomass-based diesel. Co-located with the International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo, the combined events are expected to be the world’s largest gathering of biofuel producers.

In an unprecedented move, event owner and operator BBI International is providing unlimited free passes for producers of ethanol and biomass-based diesel to attend the FEW and Biodiesel Production Technology Summit. Registrants of the FEW will also be encouraged to freely attend technical sessions at the co-located Biodiesel Production Technology Summit in order to learn the latest information on biodiesel and renewable diesel, which may assist in decisions whether to co-locate biomass-based diesel production at their ethanol refineries.

“I am proud of the impressive agenda we have created for the inaugural Biodiesel Production Technology Summit,” said Kotrba, who also serves as program director for the biodiesel event. “Our speaker lineup features some of the largest, most respected and well-known companies and individuals in the sector.”

To view the Biodiesel Production Technology Summit agenda online, click here...

NPPC Urges Quick Senate Action on Legislative Relief for Hog Farmers

COVID-related challenges have taken a severe financial and emotional toll on U.S. hog farmers, and rapid federal government assistance is needed to help thousands of pork producers weather this crisis. At a press briefing hosted by the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) today, four pork producers addressed the crisis on their farms and called on the U.S. Senate to expeditiously adopt livestock agriculture provisions included in COVID-relief legislation recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives.

The impact of COVID-19 has caused hog values to plummet, creating a financial disaster for pork producers nationwide who face a collective $5 billion loss for the remainder of the year. Additionally, U.S. pork producers face staggering costs for the millions of hogs that will be euthanized as pigs back up on farms due to ongoing bottlenecks in the pork supply chain.

Livestock agriculture provisions included in the House-passed HEROES Act would provide much-needed relief measures to U.S. pork producers. NPPC urges the Senate to quickly adopt these provisions in companion legislation:
    Compensation for euthanized livestock that can't be processed into the food supply due to COVID-related packing plant capacity reductions;
    Expanded direct payments—without payment limitations—to livestock farmers who have suffered severe losses as COVID-related market disruptions have caused the value of their livestock to plummet;
    Increased funding for animal health surveillance and laboratories, which have been tapped to perform COVID-19 testing during this human health emergency; and
    Mental health assistance for our farmers who face an unimaginable animal welfare crisis.

"All pork producers are hurting, and immediate action is imperative," said NPPC President Howard "AV" Roth, a hog farmer from Wauzeka, Wisconsin. "We need the Senate to act quickly on companion legislation to provide this critical lifeline to hog farmers. Without prompt government assistance, many generational family farms will go bankrupt. This will destroy the livelihood of our communities and lead to consolidation and contraction in a farm sector that generates more than 500,000 jobs and $23 billion in personal income," he added.

"American pork producers are resilient people....We take an incredible amount of pride in raising a healthy product," said Kevin Hugoson, a fourth-generation hog farmer from Granada, Minn. Unfortunately, the challenges brought by COVID-19 have caused pork producers to lose more than $60 per animal. "There is no doubt, whether small or large, there's definitely going to be a change in the industry, with people not going forward and being able to survive this crisis....That's why it's so important for legislators to realize what a huge financial impact this is having on the pork industry."

Mike Paustian, a sixth-generation hog farmer from Walcott, Iowa, highlighted tremendous uncertainty for pork producers. "Our farm has been through a lot over the years and we've always been able to work our way through it. But it is different this time because of the magnitude of the disruption to the supply chain....It's very frustrating and hard to make long-term plans for our farm, not knowing what next week is going to look like, let alone three or six months down the road," he said. With continued uncertainty for pork producers, "more farms are just hanging on by a thread and eventually are going to have to call it quits" unless there is immediate and significant government assistance, he added.

Chad Leman, a third-generation hog farmer from Eureka, Ill., highlighted the difficult decisions that many farms are facing in having to euthanize pigs due to supply bottlenecks. "These are difficult times when you don't have a home for animals....There's just not enough capacity to turn pigs into pork," he said. Lawmakers need to understand the scope of the problem for hog producers, he explained. "This is not a few hundred pigs. This is millions of pigs that are backed up right now," he said. Pork producers are "going to need help to weather this storm because of the size of the problem," he added.

Weekly Ethanol Production for 5/22/2020

According to EIA data analyzed by the Renewable Fuels Association for the week ending May 22, ethanol production shifted 9.2% higher, or 61,000 barrels per day (b/d), to 724,000 b/d—equivalent to 30.41 million gallons daily and the largest volume since March. However, production remains tempered due to COVID-19 disruptions, coming in 31.5% below the same week in 2019. The four-week average ethanol production rate rose 7.8% to 651,000 b/d, equivalent to an annualized rate of 9.98 billion gallons.

Ethanol stocks thinned by 1.9% to a 19-week low of 23.2 million barrels. Inventories tightened across all regions except the Rocky Mountains (PADD 4), including a 7.8% drop in the West Coast (PADD 5). Total reserves are 2.4% above year-ago volumes.

The volume of gasoline supplied to the U.S. market, a measure of implied demand, rebounded by 6.8% to 7.253 million b/d (111.19 bg annualized). Gasoline demand remained 22.8% lower than a year ago.

Refiner/blender net inputs of ethanol followed, rising 4.7% to 712,000 b/d, equivalent to 10.91 bg annualized but 24.9% below the year-earlier level.

There were no imports of ethanol recorded for the eleventh consecutive week. (Weekly export data for ethanol is not reported simultaneously; the latest export data is as of March 2020.)

Indonesia Removes Ethanol Ban, Recognizes Octane Benefits Of Ethanol

US Grains Council newsletter

U.S. ethanol can now enter the Indonesian market by way of pre-blended fuel, following the recent removal of a ban on pre-blended product entering the country. This change creates a potential market of more than 200 million gallons (71 million bushels in corn equivalent).

The market development efforts to accomplish this policy goal began in December 2017,
undertaken jointly by the U.S. Grains Council (USGC), Growth Energy, Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service (USDA’s FAS).

Already the fourth most-populous country in the world, Indonesia is expected to grow to the sixth largest global gasoline market within a decade. This increased demand for fuel is driven by members of the country's rising middle class, who are dedicating part of their higher incomes to upgraded transportation options - especially from two-wheeled to four-wheeled vehicles.

“The removal of the ethanol ban in Indonesia is a tremendous development in this market and for our regional market development efforts to demonstrate the benefits of expanded ethanol use,” said Manuel Sanchez, USGC regional director for Southeast Asia. “We have worked tirelessly with our colleagues to demonstrate ethanol’s benefit, and this change in Indonesia is in line with other countries in this region that already blend ethanol into their fuel.”

Fuel blends in Indonesia are controlled by a state-owned oil company, Pertamina. The Indonesian government has encouraged Pertamina to reduce petroleum imports, while at the same time setting goals of achieving 23 percent of its energy needs from renewable resources by 2025. This tender change to allow ethanol fully supports those goals, as well as aspirations toward an E10 policy.

Through an in-country assessment in December 2017, a USDA Agricultural Trade Mission in July 2018, the Ethanol Summit of the Asia-Pacific and continued stakeholder conversations in 2019 and 2020, the Council and its partners have worked to explain how ethanol can meet these goals while providing cost-savings.

Pertamina has responded by removing a prohibition on ethanol as a component in gasoline import tenders. The removal opens the market for ethanol at a blend rate of up to 3 percent as a component of imported RON 88 and 7 percent for RON 92 gasoline.

RON 88 gasoline is consumed in two ways in Indonesia, as a low-octane, government-subsidized fuel and as a blend with RON 92. This resulting product - unsubsidized RON 90 - accounted for approximately 55 percent of total gasoline imports in 2019. RON 92 is imported as a finished grade gasoline sold under the brand “Pertamax.”

Industry analysis indicates under a five-year average price and with a fully-realized target of 10 percent pre-blended imported gasoline, Indonesia could save an estimated $750 million by replacing higher-cost aromatics with ethanol - or more if the country also directly imports ethanol. Ethanol use would also contribute to reducing the carbon intensity of the country’s transportation fuels and decreasing particulate matter and toxic emissions, both of which are harmful to the population.

On the U.S. supply side, the tender opening has the potential to realize more than 200 million gallons (71 million bushels in corn equivalent) of sales as pre-blended fuel. Although current volatility in oil prices will likely minimize short-term opportunities, the long-term value of ethanol remains.

“The long-term cost-savings for using ethanol in Indonesian gasoline will be measurable,” Sanchez said. “We will continue to engage with local leaders as they work to capture the full range of economic, environmental and health benefits associated with blends beyond 10 percent.”

RFA Thanks Governors’ Biofuels Coalition for Renewable Fuels Aid Push

The Renewable Fuels Association today thanked the Governors’ Biofuels Coalition, led by South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem and Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, for sending a letter to Senate and House leadership urging them to make sure emergency relief for the renewable fuels industry is included in the next COVID-19 stimulus package.

In their letter, the governors express support for two recently introduced legislative proposals that would provide crucial relief and assistance to renewable fuel producers hit hard by the impacts of COVID-19. Specifically, the governors encourage House and Senate leadership to support inclusion of the Renewable Fuel Feedstock Reimbursement Act of 2020 (introduced last week by Sens. Chuck Grassley and Amy Klobuchar) or the Renewable Fuel Reimbursement Program provision in the House-passed HEROES Act. “These initiatives provide responsible and much needed economic relief to the states’ biofuel producers,” the governors write. “These proposals will allow important agricultural processing facilities to retain their employees, resume production when warranted by market and health conditions, and support farmers by increasing commodity demand.”

“We appreciate the efforts of Govs. Noem and Walz on behalf of an industry that helps fuel the rural economy in South Dakota, Minnesota, and other states across the nation,” said RFA President and CEO Geoff Cooper. “These governors have seen first-hand how important ethanol and other renewable fuels are to their states, and they have witnessed the devastating impact the pandemic has had on ethanol plants and the communities they serve. We agree with the governors on the vital importance of ensuring Congress acts quickly to provide assistance to these businesses and the 350,000 men and women whose jobs are supported by the ethanol industry.” Currently, Cooper noted, fewer than 70 of 204 ethanol plants in the country are operating at full capacity, with nearly 60 facilities fully idled and capacity utilization at less than 60 percent.

Growth Energy Welcomes Support from Governors’ Biofuels Coalition

Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor today thanked the Governors’ Biofuels Coalition, led by Governor Kristi Noem of South Dakota and Tim Walz of Minnesota, who wrote a letter today urging House and Senate leaders to “ensure that relief for the biofuels industry is included in phase 4 of the Covid-19 emergency relief package that is currently making its way through Congress.”

“We’re grateful to Governors Walz and Noem for lending their continued support to our champions in the House and Senate, who are fighting to ensure the needs of America’s farmers and biofuel producers are addressed in ongoing relief efforts,” said Skor. “It’s critical that Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture act swiftly to deliver relief for thousands of rural communities, where the entire agricultural supply chain has been threatened by the closure of plants and lost markets for America’s farmers.”

April Hired Workers Up 9 Percent; Wage Rate Increased 2 Percent from Previous Year

There were 688,000 workers hired directly by farm operators on the Nation's farms and ranches during the week of April 12-18, 2020, up 9 percent from the April 2019 reference week. Workers hired directly by farm operators numbered 568,000 during the week of January 12-18, 2020, up 14 percent from the January 2019 reference week.

By Region
- April 12-18, 2020 
Northern Plains  (ND, SD, NE, KS):  42,000 workers  -  Gross rate $15.93/hr      
Cornbelt II  (IA, MO):  29,000 workers  -  Gross rate $15.79/hr 

Farm operators paid their hired workers an average wage of $15.07 per hour during the April 2020 reference week, up 2 percent from the April 2019 reference week. Field workers received an average of $14.19 per hour, up 3 percent. Livestock workers earned $14.10 per hour, up 4 percent. The field and livestock worker combined wage rate, at $14.16 per hour, was up 3 percent from the 2019 reference week. Hired laborers worked an average of 40.3 hours during the April 2020 reference week, down 1 percent from the hours worked during the April 2019 reference week.

Dean Foods Completes Sale of Assets to Dairy Farmers of America

Dean Foods Company announced it has completed the previously announced sales of substantially all of its assets, including the sale of the assets, rights, interests and properties relating to 44 of the company's fluid and frozen facilities to subsidiaries of Dairy Farmers of America.

Dean also announced it has completed the sale of the assets, rights, interests and properties relating to eight facilities, two distribution branches and certain other assets to Prairie Farms Dairy, and completed the sale of its facility in Reno, Nevada and its "Berkeley Farms" trademark and related intellectual property to Producers Dairy Foods.

"We are pleased to complete these transactions, which maximize value for our stakeholders and will enable substantially all of our businesses to continue operating and serving customers across the country," said Eric Beringause, President and Chief Executive Officer of Dean Foods. "Our team has put in considerable work over the last several months to find the right partners for our assets that would enable them to continue to succeed while preserving the most jobs possible and to ensure a smooth transition for our customers and partners. The completion of these sales is a testament to our employees' efforts. I also want to thank our entire team for their commitment and dedication to Dean Foods not only over the last several months, but over the past several years. Their hard work has helped Dean Foods build and grow brands and products that customers love, and I feel fortunate to have had the chance to work side by side with this extraordinary group."

Meanwhile, the dairy says part of the U.S. Department of Justice's approval of Dean Foods' transaction with DFA, DFA has entered into a Consent Decree with the DOJ under which DFA has committed to hold separate and ultimately divest the dairy processing plants located in DePere, WI, Franklin, MA and Harvard, IL together with certain assets related to the operations at each plant.

IGC: Global Grain Production to Hit Record High in 2020-21

Record harvests of wheat and corn will drive grain production to an all-time high in 2020-21 and push global stockpiles higher for the first time in four seasons, the International Grains Council said Thursday.

In its monthly report, the IGC raised its production and carryover stocks forecast for the 2020-21 agricultural season, while cutting its consumption forecasts.

The intergovernmental body now expects total grains production of 2.230 billion metric tons, an all-time high, thanks to record wheat and corn harvests. The forecast is 12 million tons higher than its previous estimate given in April and compares with an expected output of 2.177 billion tons for the current season.

That rise, along with a cut in the IGC's forecast for grain consumption in 2020-21, means the body has raised its forecast for grain stockpiles by 10 million tons, to 627 million tons. That would mark the first rise in stocks for four seasons, the IGC said.

American Farmers, Ranchers and Food Workers Call for Better Worker Protections at Meatpacking Plants to Stop COVID-19 Outbreaks and Protect Food Supply

Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, which represents over 250,000 workers in meatpacking and food processing, joined with a diverse group of American farmers and ranchers from Dakota Rural Action (DRA), Northern Plains Resource Council, Western Colorado Alliance, and the Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC) to call on meatpacking companies, the Trump Administration, as well as state and local governments, to take immediate and stronger steps to protect frontline meatpacking workers and our food supply from the deadly COVID-19 virus.

“The best way to protect our food supply is to protect the people who work within it,” said UFCW International President Marc Perrone. “From frontline food processing workers to farmers and ranchers, we are all critical to keeping American families fed during this crisis. Enacting strong worker safety standards inside meatpacking plants will help people outside of them as well and ensure every link in our food supply chain is secure.”

The broad coalition which came together to protect workers and the food supply is calling on meatpacking companies to take immediate safety steps to stop the ongoing spread of COVID-19, which include, but are not limited to: (1) increased worker testing at meatpacking plants, (2) priority access to PPE for all meatpacking workers, (3) halting line speed waivers, (4) mandating social distancing inside meatpacking plants, and (5) isolating workers with symptoms or who test positive for COVID-19.

The need to take these immediate safety steps reflects the significant threat still facing America’s meatpacking workers. According to the UFCW internal estimates, there have already been at least 44 meatpacking worker deaths and over 3,000 meatpacking workers testing positive for COVID-19. Because of the continuing spread, at least 30 meatpacking plants have closed at some point since March 2020 – with closures impacting over 45,000 workers and contributing to a 40 percent reduction in pork slaughter capacity as well as a 25 percent reduction in beef slaughter capacity.

The following statements are from the leading members of the diverse coalition:

“Too many workers are being sent back into meatpacking plants without adequate protections in place, reigniting more outbreaks in the plants and our communities,” said Nick Nemec, a farmer, cattle producer and DRA member from Holabird, SD. “Leadership at all levels has shown a lack of support and concern for the workers and the farmers. A safe food system starts with the safety and respect of those doing the work to produce and process the food. Our current system fails because it treats farmers and workers with little respect and little regard for our safety.”

"We support the workers’ call for mandatory worker protections,” said Kathryn Bedell, rancher and Western Colorado Alliance member from Fruita, CO. “If they don’t get protective equipment and safe working conditions, the food system will remain vulnerable and we all lose – producer, workers and consumers. For too long, the government agencies have stepped back and allowed global meatpacking companies to voluntarily comply with antitrust laws. We know from firsthand experience that this is a failed approach, because it has allowed the meatpacking cartels to manipulate prices paid to livestock producers to the detriment to our livelihoods, and to the detriment of our rural communities who depend on the cattle business.” 

“Safe food starts with safe workers,” said UFCW Local 304A member John Massalley who works at Smithfield in Sioux Falls, SD. “When meatpacking plants struggle to contain this virus, it’s not just the workers inside like me who are at risk, family farmers and ranchers are too. Regular testing is critical to stopping future outbreaks, keeping workers safe and protecting our food supply.”

“This pandemic didn’t create the crisis for workers and producers in the meat industry, but it has made a horrific situation even worse,” said Steve Charter, a Shepherd, MT rancher and Northern Plains Resource Council board member. “The consequences of this rigged system are now threatening the lives of meatpacking workers at the same time they’re killing the livelihoods of family ranchers. If leaders want to address this crisis, they need to start with enforcing antitrust laws, instead of abusing emergency authority to force workers to endanger their health. We must use this opportunity to create decentralized, local and regional food systems that are better for producers, consumers, and workers. Now, more than ever, we need policies that help folks who wear boots to work each day instead of shining the shoes of executives in board rooms.”

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Wednesday May 27 Ag News

Nebraska Cattlemen Thanks Governor Ricketts for Aid to Small Livestock Producers 

Today, Governor Pete Ricketts announced the availability of $100 million for livestock producers under the Nebraska Coronavirus Relief Fund Program.  Under the new program, beef, pork, poultry, dairy, and sheep/goat producers with between 1 and 10 employees are eligible for a $12,000 grant from the state.

Funding for this program comes from the state-administered Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF), created by Congress through the CARES Act with the intent to provide direct relief to states and local governments.

Nebraska's total share of CRF funds is $1.25 billion.

"Thank you to Governor Pete Ricketts for recognizing the extreme economic hardship that livestock producers have weathered over the past months. Severe market deterioration's coinciding with historic high beef prices for consumers and low cattle prices for producers have ravaged Nebraska's top industry. Smaller operations, in particular, are having an impossible time managing the per head losses stemming from this major market upheaval. Today's announcement will help get direct relief out to those producers who have been lost in the gap," said Ken Herz, Nebraska Cattlemen President.

Nebraska Cattlemen will keep our members up to date as full details of the program, including the application process, are announced.

NeFB on Announcement of Stabilization Grants for Livestock Producers

Steve Nelson, President, NE Farm Bureau Federation

“We greatly appreciate Governor Ricketts’ actions today to provide much needed assistance to our state’s livestock producers. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, prices paid to farmers for virtually all commodities have experienced double digit decreases, with those who produce livestock experiencing some of the greatest declines. Cattle producers have watched prices fall by as much as 25 percent, while our state’s pork producers have seen prices drop by more than 50 percent. Allowing Nebraska livestock producers to access assistance through the newly announced stabilization grants funded through the CARES Act is welcomed and an important step to help farm and ranch families protect our nation’s food production capacity.”

Senator Halloran, Colleagues Request Aide to Stimulate Local Meat Processing

Senator Steve Halloran, Chairman of the Agriculture Committee of the Nebraska Legislature, wrote to Nebraska’s Congressional delegation (see attached) requesting their consideration of options to incrementally increase the means available to connect farms through local processors with those in need through food banks during this immediate crisis. The goal is to also stimulate opportunities for producers to direct market to customers as well as for the public to procure meats locally in the long term. Senator Halloran was joined by 42 members of the Legislature who cosigned the letter.

The letter urges Congress to consider allowing the USDA to temporarily lift restrictions on meat processed by custom exempt processors to allow custom processed meats to be provided to food banks and other charitable food distribution programs if there was a severe disruption of federally inspected meat processing that was likely to persist for a prolonged period.  The letter would also urge Congress to consider means of assisting small local lockers and smaller commercial processors to meet federal meat inspection standards.

Senator Halloran emphasized that major federally-inspected meat processors in the state are a vital element of the Nebraska economy and measures to protect workers and otherwise reduce vulnerabilities to disruptions should be considered.  Senator Halloran added that the disruptions to that sector also presented an opportunity to explore means of revitalizing small to intermediate size processing operations in the state and consumer awareness of opportunities to source meat from these sources.

“With the disruption of major processing facilities, Nebraskans and others are interested in exploring other options for obtaining meat,” said Senator Halloran.  Perhaps a silver lining to the impact of Covid 19 on the meat processing sector is that there may be greater awareness of consumers in local processing and opportunities for small scale entrepreneurs and producers in the state to serve demand for locally raised and processed meat.”


The opening of some farmers markets is delayed this year because of COVID-19, and other markets are debating whether to open at all. This has left many consumers seeking local foods and Nebraska producers looking for markets for their meat, dairy, vegetables and fruit.

Buy Fresh Buy Local Nebraska, a program run by the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Department of Agricultural Economics, has developed an online directory to connect consumers with locally produced foods for home delivery or pickup.

Producers in the Local Food Resource List, available at, are members of the Buy Fresh Buy Local program. Farmers, along with farmers markets, restaurants and grocery stores that sell fresh local foods, can purchase membership to Buy Fresh Buy Local. The program uses membership fees for marketing and educational efforts that raise the profile of member businesses.

Earlier this year, 32 local producers joined the network after the program offered scholarships to producers affected by COVID-19.

“We now have over 100 members that are all across the state,” said program coordinator Skylar Falter. “We’re excited to get the word out about what they have — demand is really high right now.”

Over the past two months, Falter has seen an increase in farmers selling produce and other home-grown foods directly to consumers.

“What local food is about is community and culture, and when you know the people who are growing your food, it adds value to that meal and your life,” Falter said. “When you know where your food is coming from and you can talk to the farmer if you want to know how it is raised or grown.”

Supporting local producers also supports the state economy, she said. If each of the approximately 720,000 Nebraska households spent just $10 per week on locally grown foods, it could bring $371 million back into the state’s economy each year, according to Nebraska Extension.

Nebraskans can also find the 2020 Nebraska Food Guide and other resources at the website above.

Published each year, the Nebraska Food Guide explores the diversity of Nebraska-grown foods and includes information about seasonal produce, recipes, a searchable map of member farms and even poetry. The guide can be accessed online or readers can request a hard copy.

“The guide is a great resource for anyone who is a longtime local food supporter or someone who is just curious about learning more about where their food comes from,” Falter said.

More than 100 Buy Fresh Buy Local farmers, ranchers and local farm-to-table restaurants submitted the recipes, which are divided into spring, summer, fall and winter to promote the use of seasonal produce.

A new feature of the guide is the Loving Local Food Poetry, where Nebraskans can send their original poetry about local food.

“The poetry features people who live in Nebraska and their connection to agriculture, growing food and cooking,” Falter said. “It’s just really uplifting to read. It’s something to keep us connected and feeling positive during this time.”

For the past 10 years, Buy Fresh Buy Local Nebraska’s efforts have been to support the state’s farmers, ranchers and producers to increase their knowledge of food safety regulation, as well as increase their market share in both rural and underserved urban communities. The program is developing a sustainable food system that nurtures resilient relationships across the local food supply chain.

For more information, visit or

Ricketts Announces Appointment for New Trade Office in Germany

Today, Governor Pete Ricketts announced the appointment of Dr. Theo W. Freye to lead the Nebraska Department of Economic Development’s new office in Germany.  The office will be known as the Nebraska Center Germany.

“With his track record of success leading CLAAS North America in Omaha, Theo Freye has invaluable experience cultivating partnerships between American and German businesses,” said Governor Pete Ricketts. “Theo will be an excellent representative for Nebraska in Germany.”  

The Nebraska Department of Economic Development (DED) is the lead economic development agency for the State of Nebraska.  DED’s International Business Development team works to promote international investment in Nebraska and the growth of Nebraska’s businesses on a global scale.  Dr. Freye will represent Nebraska in Germany as a place for business and assist Nebraska companies in their expansion efforts in the country.  Nebraska Center Germany joins Nebraska Center Japan as the state’s second international office.

“We are incredibly pleased to have Theo Freye join the Nebraska Department of Economic Development to lead Nebraska Center Germany at a time when the state is increasingly involved in the country,” said DED Director Anthony Goins.  “With Theo’s assistance, we hope to capture the momentum from Gov. Ricketts’ November 2019 trade mission to Germany.”

Dr. Freye is the retired CEO (Speaker of the Executive Board) of CLAAS KgaA.  CLAAS is a $4.5 billion family-owned agricultural machinery firm headquartered in Germany.  During his 34-year career with CLAAS, Theo led efforts to expand the company internationally and guided its strategic growth.  Dr. Freye led the foundation and management of CLAAS North America in Omaha, Nebraska.  This facility is now the headquarters for CLAAS on the continent.  Theo held various leadership positions at CLAAS North America, including Chairman and President. 

Dr. Freye holds a Master's degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Braunschweig and a Ph.D. in Agricultural Science from the University of Hohenheim.

IRFA Urges Iowa Legislature to Reauthorize Biofuel Tax Differentials Before Session End

As Iowa’s elected leaders prepare to return to the State Capitol and wrap up the 2020 legislative session, Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) members urge legislators to take action on key biofuel legislation.

House File 2279 and Senate File 2403 would extend and modernize fuel tax differentials for E15 and higher ethanol blends and B11 and higher biodiesel blends, which are set to expire on June 30, 2020. With the passage of either bill, Iowa will not only continue to support renewable fuels but put millions of dollars back into the Road Use Tax Fund each year for vital infrastructure projects.

“If the legislature allows the biofuel tax differentials to expire, not only will it raise prices on consumers at the pump, it will also hurt Iowa’s farmers and biofuels producers who are suffering as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and trade disputes,” said IRFA Policy Director Nathan Hohnstein. “Since the implementation of the current tax differential, we’ve seen biofuel blend sales increase dramatically, but with June 30th just around the corner, it is imperative the legislature take action now. Iowa cannot afford to take a step backward in promoting the use of renewable fuels.”

Since the first fuel tax differential bill was passed, which included E10, Iowa has seen E10 and B11 and higher biodiesel blends go from niche fuels to making up 86% and 57% of sales in 2019 respectively. Hohnstein pointed to this as a sign the fuel tax differentials are doing what they are designed to do. Because of this success, the new fuel tax differential modernizes the ethanol side of the policy by applying it to E15 and higher blends, making millions of dollars available for road and bridge repairs.

“The fuel tax differential helped make E10 Iowans’ fuel of choice,” Hohnstein said. “Now is not the time to let up and jeopardize the progress we’ve made. If reauthorized, the modernized tax differential will continue to help grow sales of Iowa’s own home-grown higher blends of ethanol and biodiesel.”

Second Annual BeSure Campaign Aims to Help Bees

The second annual “BeSure!” campaign supported by National Corn Growers Association is underway and runs through July.  The effort focuses on helping pollinators by promoting best management practices and habitat creation all year long.

BeSure centers on promoting proper use of neonicotinoid products to protect honeybees and other pollinators critical to the food supply and ecosystem. This year, the campaign is seeking to reach not only growers and applicators, but also golf course, turf, and ornamental landscape managers.

In its first year, BeSure! focused its messaging on major crops in the Midwest that utilize neonicotinoid-treated seed, such as corn and soybeans. This year, the campaign is expanding to include neonicotinoid foliar sprays, soil drenches, and granule uses on fruits, nuts, vegetables, turf, trees, and ornamental plants that bees visit.

(It’s also extending outreach to include the citrus industry in California and Florida where neonicotinoids have been very effective in stopping invasive pests, such the Asian citrus psyllid that spreads the Huanglongbing (HLB) disease that is decimating Florida’s citrus industry and has cost the state more than 8,000 jobs and $4.5 billion in the last five years.)

“Neonicotinoids are widely used in agriculture and in a variety of landscape and nursery settings,” said Tom Smith, executive director of the National Pesticide Safety Education Center (NPSEC). “Regardless of the specific use and method of application, product label directions should always be followed, and responsible stewardship practices used to protect pollinators, such as avoiding conditions where product drift may occur and avoiding making applications when pollinators [such as bees] are actively foraging.”, an interactive website with up-to-date stewardship tips and information, explains how other neonic applications can be used responsibly, including the comprehensive Insect Pollinators and Pesticide Product Stewardship Guide.

Numerous industry organizations have partnered with Growing Matters, a coalition of companies that are spearheading the BeSure! initiative. The campaign has been endorsed by the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA), the National Corn Growers Association, the American Soybean Association, the National Pesticide Safety Education Center (NPSEC), CropLife America and the Agricultural Retailers Association, among others.

Retail Fertilizer Price Changes Float in Narrow Range

Retail fertilizer prices continued to float between slightly higher and slightly lower than last month during the third week of May 2020, according to retailers surveyed by DTN.  This marks the seventh consecutive week prices have not moved a significant amount, which DTN designates as 5% in either direction.

Once again, five fertilizers were higher in price compared to last month, but the gains were contained to a $1-$2 range. MAP had an average price of $434 per ton, urea $387/ton, 10-34-0 $469/ton, UAN28 $237/ton and UAN32 $280/ton.

The remaining three fertilizers had a slightly lower price. DAP had an average price of $409/ton, down $1; potash $367/ton, down $3; and anhydrous $490/ton, down $2.

On a price per pound of nitrogen basis, the average urea price was at $0.42/lb.N, anhydrous $0.30/lb.N, UAN28 $0.42/lb.N and UAN32 $0.44/lb.N.

Retail fertilizers are all lower in price from a year ago. MAP, DAP and anhydrous are all 18% less expensive, UAN28 is 12% lower, UAN32 is 11% less expensive, urea is 10% lower, potash is 6% lower and 10-34-0 is 4% less expensive from last year at this time.

FFAR Accelerates Development of New Crop Varieties for Growers

Farmers regularly face challenges from insects, disease and climate change – which can threaten US food security. To help farmers overcome these obstacles, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) is providing research funding to develop transformative tools and technologies that allow scientists to rapidly introduce new traits into multiple crop species. Such tools and technologies would ultimately increase food security by providing more resilient, diverse and profitable crops for growers. This request for proposals is funded through FFAR’s Crops of the Future Collaborative and is accepting applications starting today.

Introducing a new trait into a crop using traditional breeding methods requires 8-10 years before the enhanced crop reaches farmers. This program is developing methodologies to reduce this timeline by several years, getting improved crops into the hands of farmers sooner.

“These tools and technologies could introduce any crop trait into any crop variety, resulting in more diverse, sustainable and nutritious crops,” said FFAR Executive Director Sally Rockey. “The lack of rapid crop breeding tools is one of the biggest bottlenecks preventing the commercialization of underutilized crops. FFAR’s Crops of the Future Collaborative aims to address this.”

The Crops of the Future Collaborative seeks applications for crops species that are well suited for sustainable agriculture, valuable for human nutrition and considered an under-appreciated crop that has not benefited from rapid breeding methods. Full application criteria, deadlines and eligibility requirements are available on the Crops of the Future Collaborative website.

The Crops of the Future Collaborative is a consortium of industry partners that jointly contribute to pre-competitive research projects, fostering a comprehensive approach to address some of agriculture’s most complex challenges. The consortium is pursuing research into how a crop’s genetic information encodes important characteristics such as nutrition, disease resistance, productivity and environmental efficiency. The resulting breakthroughs create more sustainable food systems and benefit stakeholders across the value chain, from producers to consumers.

China's Pork Imports in April Jump 170% to Record High

China, the world's top pork consumer, imported a record 400,000 tonnes in April, up nearly 170% from a year earlier, customs data showed, as buyers took advantage of low prices to stock up on meat.

According to Reuters, China imported 1.35 million tonnes of pork in the first four months of this year, surging 170.4% from the same period a year ago, after a plunge in domestic production kept prices much higher than other markets.

The deadly African swine fever disease has reduced China's pig herd by at least 40%, slashing pork output and sending prices of the country's favorite meat to record highs.

China has been buying from overseas markets, including the United States, where pork prices are among the cheapest in the world, and initially fell as infections with COVID-19 began spreading in the country, hitting demand.

Though Chinese pork prices have also fallen steadily since early February, they are still about double where they were a year ago, and were three to four times U.S. pork prices in March, before plant shutdowns caused the latter to spike in mid-April.

The jump in U.S. prices is likely to reduce imports in the coming month, while Chinese pork prices are still falling on weak domestic demand, Reuters reported.

U.S. pork exports to China set a record for the period from January to March, according to data from the U.S. Agriculture Department.

China also brought in 160,000 tonnes of beef in April, up 28% from the previous year. Imports of the meat in the first four months of the year rose 54% to 680,000 tonnes, customs data showed.

Deere Reports Second Quarter Net Income of $665.8 Million

Deere & Company reported net income of $665.8 million for the second quarter ended May 3, 2020, or $2.11 per share, compared with net income of $1.135 billion, or $3.52 per share, for the quarter ended April 28, 2019. For the first six months of the year, net income attributable to Deere & Company was $1.182 billion, or $3.73 per share, compared with $1.633 billion, or $5.07 per share, for the same period last year.

Worldwide net sales and revenues decreased 18 percent, to $9.253 billion, for the second quarter of 2020 and decreased 13 percent, to $16.884 billion, for six months. Net sales of the equipment operations were $8.224 billion for the quarter and $14.754 billion for six months, compared with $10.273 billion and $17.214 billion last year.

"John Deere's foremost priority in confronting the coronavirus crisis has been to safeguard the health and well-being of employees while fulfilling its obligation as an essential business serving customers throughout the world," said John C. May, chairman and chief executive officer. "We've had good success in these areas thanks to the proactive measures we have taken to keep employees safe and our production facilities and parts distribution centers operational. At the same time, the company has reached out to our local communities to help those in need as a result of the pandemic. Deere and its employees have provided generous support to area food banks and other organizations offering assistance during this difficult time."

Deere & Company Announces Quarterly Dividend

The Deere & Company Board of Directors declared a regular quarterly dividend of $0.76 per share on common stock, payable August 10, 2020, to stockholders of record on June 30, 2020.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Tuesday May 26 Ag News


For the week ending May 24, 2020, there were 4.5 days suitable for fieldwork, according to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service. Topsoil moisture supplies rated 1 percent very short, 8 short, 78 adequate, and 13 surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies rated 1 percent very short, 10 short, 82 adequate, and 7 surplus.

Field Crops Report:

Corn condition rated 0 percent very poor, 1 poor, 17 fair, 65 good, and 17 excellent. Corn planted was 97 percent, ahead of 78 last year and 89 for the five-year average. Emerged was 77 percent, well ahead of 43 last year, and ahead of 61 average.

Soybean condition rated 0 percent very poor, 1 poor, 18 fair, 66 good, and 15 excellent. Soybeans planted was 89 percent, well ahead of 51 last year and 62 average. Emerged was 56 percent, well ahead of 18 last year and 25 average.

Winter wheat condition rated 1 percent very poor, 7 poor, 22 fair, 64 good, and 6 excellent. Winter wheat headed was 22 percent, ahead of 16 last year, but behind 40 average.

Sorghum planted was 56 percent, well ahead of 22 last year, and ahead of 37 average.

Oats condition rated 0 percent very poor, 7 poor, 31 fair, 58 good, and 4 excellent. Oats planted was 96 percent, near 93 last year and 97 average. Emerged was 91 percent, ahead of 75 last year, and near 90 average. Headed was 9 percent, ahead of 1 last year, and near 8 average.

Dry edible beans planted was 18 percent. Emerged was 1 percent.

Pasture and Range Report:

Pasture and range conditions rated 1 percent very poor, 1 poor, 16 fair, 75 good, and 7 excellent.


Rain throughout the week resulted in 2.5 days suitable for field work during the week ending May 24, 2020, according to the USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service. Below normal temperatures have slowed crop growth.

Topsoil moisture levels rated 0% very short, 2% short, 76% adequate and 22% surplus. Subsoil moisture levels rated 1% very short, 3% short, 79% adequate and 17% surplus.

Iowa farmers have planted 97% of the expected corn crop, 3 weeks ahead of last year and almost 2 weeks ahead of the 5-year average. Corn emergence was at 82%, an improvement of 20 percentage points from the previous week. The first corn condition rating of the season was 0% very poor, 2% poor, 17% fair, 67% good and 14% excellent.

The soybean crop moved to 92% planted, nearly a month ahead of last year and over 2 weeks ahead of average. Farmers in Southwest Iowa have over 25% of their soybeans left to plant. Fifty-two percent of the soybean crop has emerged, doubling the amount of soybeans emerged from the previous week.

Ninety-five percent of the oat crop has emerged. Oat condition rated 81% good to excellent.

Hay condition rated 73% good to excellent.

Pasture condition improved to 66% good to excellent. There was little stress on livestock although feedlots remain muddy.

USDA:  U.S. Corn 88% Planted; Soybeans 65% Planted

Corn was 88% planted and 64% emerged, and soybeans were 65% planted and 35% emerged as of Sunday, May 24, according to this week's USDA NASS Crop Progress report.  Winter wheat condition was estimated at 54% good to excellent, up 2 percentage points from 52% the previous week.

National Crop Progress Summary

                                             This        Last        Last          5-Year
                                            Week      Week       Year          Avg.
Corn Planted                         88           80            55              82
Corn Emerged                       64          43             28             58
Corn Condition  (G+E)         70  (first rating for the year)

Soybeans Planted                 65          53             26              55
Soybeans Emerged               35         18               9               27

Winter Wheat Headed         68          56            63              72
WW Condition  (G+E)        54          52            61              --

Spring Wheat Planted         81          60            80              90
Spring Wheat Emerged       51          30           41               65

Sorghum Planted                 39           32           27               38


Farmers and Ranchers in Nebraska Can Now Apply for Financial Assistance Through USDA’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program

Agricultural producers can now apply for USDA’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), which provides direct payments to offset impacts from the coronavirus pandemic. The application and a payment calculator are now available online, and USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) staff members are available via phone, email, fax and online tools to help producers complete applications. The agency also set up a call center in order to assist with service to customers across the nation.

“We know Nebraska producers are facing a tough time, and we are making every effort to provide much needed support as quickly as possible,” said Nancy Johner, state executive director for FSA in Nebraska. “FSA is available over the phone and virtually to assist you through the application process, whether it’s the first time you’ve worked with FSA, or if you know us quite well. This will be an extremely busy time for our offices. We ask for our customers to have patience due to the volume of calls we will be receiving. We understand the importance of this program and will do our best to assist you.”

Applications will be accepted through August 28, 2020. Through CFAP, USDA is making available $16 billion for vital financial assistance to producers of agricultural commodities who have suffered a five-percent-or-greater price decline due to COVID-19 and face additional significant marketing costs as a result of lower demand, surplus production, and disruptions to shipping patterns and the orderly marketing of commodities.

“We also want to remind producers that the program is structured to ensure the availability of funding for all eligible producers who apply,” Johner said.

In order to do this, producers will receive 80 percent of their maximum total payment upon approval of the application. The remaining portion of the payment, not to exceed the payment limit, will be paid at a later date nationwide, as funds remain available.

Producers can download the CFAP application and other eligibility forms from Also, on that webpage, producers can find a payment calculator to help identify sales and inventory information and calculate potential payments.

Additionally, producers in search of one-on-one support with the CFAP application process can call 877-508-8364 to speak directly with a USDA employee ready to offer assistance. This is a good first step before a producer engages the team at the FSA county office at their local USDA Service Center.

Applying for Assistance

Producers of all eligible commodities will apply through their local FSA office.

“We encourage producers to visit the website as viewing the online application and calculator tool should help them understand the information necessary for a completed application,” Johner said. “They also have the option to complete the application online or schedule a phone appointment with county FSA office staff to do it.”

From the CFAP online calculator tool, producers can convert their responses into a completed application that they will then print and submit to their local FSA office. Producers also can apply for assistance by making a phone appointment with staff at their local FSA office. Completed and signed applications will need to be submitted to the local FSA office either electronically or via hand delivery. Producers are asked to contact their local office to determine the preferred method. Find contact information for county FSA offices at

Documentation to support the producer’s application and certification may be requested after the application is filed, so producers should retain this information. FSA has streamlined the signup process to not require an acreage report at the time of application and a USDA farm number may not be immediately needed.

Additional Commodities

USDA is also establishing a process for the public to identify additional commodities for potential inclusion in CFAP. Specifically, USDA is looking for data on agricultural commodities, that are not currently eligible for CFAP, that the public believes to have either:
-    suffered a five percent-or-greater price decline between mid-January and mid-April as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,
-    shipped but subsequently spoiled due to loss of marketing channel, or
-    not left the farm or remained unharvested as mature crops.

More information about this process is available on

More Information

To find the latest information on CFAP, visit or call 877-508-8364.

Nebraska FSA is partnering with two stakeholders in the coming week to present “Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) in Nebraska: What You Need to Know” to assist farmers and ranchers with understanding and applying for this important program. These information sessions are scheduled for:
-    Thursday, May 28, noon-1 p.m. CT: Facebook Live event hosted by Nebraska Farm Bureau. To access the event,visit the Nebraska Farm Bureau Facebook page. The session will be recorded and archived on Nebraska Farm Bureau’s Facebook page and the organization’s website.
-    Thursday, June 4, noon-1 p.m. CT: Webinar hosted by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Agricultural Economics Department as part of its series, “COVID-19’s Impact on Nebraska Ag.” To register, type into your internet browser. The session will be recorded and available on the website after the event.

USDA Service Centers are open for business by phone appointment only, and field work will continue with appropriate social distancing. While program delivery staff will continue to come into the office, they will be working with producers by phone and using online tools whenever possible. All Service Center visitors wishing to conduct business with the FSA, Natural Resources Conservation Service, or any other Service Center agency are required to call their Service Center to schedule a phone appointment. More information can be found at

Coronavirus Food Assistance Program to be Discussed During May 29 Webinar

Financial help is available for producers impacted by the price declines and additional marketing costs associated with COVID-19.

The Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, a federal program offered through the United States Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency, is accepting applications for funding from livestock and crop farmers.

To help explain how the program works, a pair of specialists with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach and specialists with the Farm Service Agency in Iowa will hold a public webinar May 29, from 11 a.m. to noon.

The webinar will walk producers through the details and definitions that are key to this program, and will help equip them for the application process. The presenters will also answer common questions. There is no fee, but participants must register in advance here....

Of the $16 billion available, $9.6 billion is set aside for the livestock industry ($5.1 billion for cattle, $2.9 billion for dairy, and $1.6 billion for hogs). There is $3.9 billion for row crop producers, $2.1 billion for specialty crop producers, and $500 million for other crops.

To qualify for a payment, a commodity must have declined in price by at least 5% between January and April 2020. Other requirements and payment information will be discussed during the webinar.

Speakers will include Chad Hart, professor and extension grain markets specialist with Iowa State University; Kristine Tidgren, director of the Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation at Iowa State University, and holder of the Leonard Dolezal Professorship in Agricultural Law; and Katie Kramer and Justin Muir, agricultural program specialists with the Farm Service Agency in Iowa.

The program will be recorded and made available for replay on the Ag Decision Maker and the Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation websites.

For more information, contact the webinar presenters. Hart can be reached at 515-294-9911, or Tidgren can be reached at 515-294-6365, or

NE Corn Board to Meet June 10-11, 2020, in York

The Nebraska Corn Board will hold its next meeting on Wednesday, June 10, 2020 and Thursday, June 11, 2020 at the Holthus Convention Center, 3130 Holen Ave., York, Nebraska.

The meeting is open to the public, providing the opportunity for public comment. The Board will conduct regular board business, consider funding requests and set the budget for fiscal year 2020-2021.

A copy of the agenda is available by writing the Nebraska Corn Board, PO Box 95107, Lincoln, NE 68509, sending an email to or calling 402/471-2676.

The Nebraska Corn Board is funded through a producer checkoff investment of 1/2-cent-per-bushel checkoff on all corn marketed in the state and is managed by nine farmer directors. The mission of the Nebraska Corn Board is to promote the value of corn by creating opportunities.

UNL AgEcon Webinars on NE Ag + COVID-19 Continue Into June

UNL Ag Econ - Farm & Ranch Mgt Team webinar series on COVID-19's impact on agriculture in Nebraska continues.... the next one is set for Thursday, May 28, at Noon... the topic for Thurwsday's webinar is "Ethanol: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow", and it features Roger Berry, Administrator of the Nebraska Ethanol Board.

Future webinars are scheduled for the month of June, they include:
-    Tuesday, June 2, 7 p.m.: Risk Management and Livestock Risk Protection (collaboration with Nebraska Cattlemen)
-    Thursday, June 4, noon: Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) in Nebraska: What You Need To Know (with Nebraska FSA).-
-    Thursday, June 11, noon: Grain Marketing Updates
-    Thursday, June 18: noon: Force Majeure: How Extraordinary Events Can Impact Ag Contracts

Visit to register for these upcoming webinars and to see the archive of past webinars.

Management Strategies for Minimizing Early Pregnancy Loss

Sydney O'Daniel, Nebraska Exension Beef Educator
Rick Funston, Nebraska Extension Beef Cattle Reproductive Physiologist

As we approach the breeding season, cows and heifers are faced with a variety of stressors from the metabolic pressure of providing for a calf to changes in environment. Stress during early pregnancy is well documented to cause embryonic death and loss of pregnancy. However, making strategic management decisions during the fragile 2 months after breeding can help minimize those losses. Key areas to review management practices to minimize early pregnancy loss are transportation, temperature while being worked or transported, method of pregnancy diagnosis, and nutrition from calving to breeding. 

Transportation Stress

Transporting cows to summer pasture oftentimes coincides with the breeding season. Especially, if cows or heifers are artificially inseminated and need to be near working facilities during that time. It is important to plan transportation, or other stressors, strategically to prevent early pregnancy loss and reducing overall pregnancy rates. 

Research conducted at Colorado State University has found that transporting cattle between days 5 and 42 post insemination can result in a 10% reduction in pregnancy loss. This window of time is crucial for blastocyst formation, maternal recognition of pregnancy, and adhesion to the uterine wall. When cattle are loaded into a trailer and transported to a new place, they may become stressed and release a cascade of hormones that can alter the uterine environment making it less ideal for supporting a pregnancy. Prior to day 5, the embryo is still in the oviduct and protected from changes in the uterine environment. After day 42, the embryo has implanted into the uterine wall and is less susceptible to changes in environment. While transporting on days 5 to 42 pose the greatest risk, waiting to haul cows and heifers until a week or two after day 42 may help prevent late embryonic loss. Ultimately, stress during those critical time points may disturb important early embryonic processes and lead to embryonic mortality and increased pregnancy loss.

Some general guidelines for when to transport pregnant cows and heifers post breeding:
Recommended time to haul: Days 1 - 4 or after day 60
Risk of pregnancy loss: Days 5 - 55 or 60

Heat Stress

Another key to minimizing pregnancy loss when transportation is necessary, is to avoid hauling cows on excessively hot days (approximately 90° - 110° and 40% humidity or more). Research conducted at Oklahoma State University found that cows exposed to heat stress 8 – 16 days after breeding, had decreased progesterone concentration, increased prostaglandin concentrations, and reduced embryonic weights. A 2 - 2.5 degree increase in rectal temperature (representative measurement of body temperature) for as little as 9 hours has been found to reduce embryo development. Planning to haul cows on days with more moderate temperatures can help reduce stress on heifers and cows and ultimately prevent early pregnancy loss.

Pregnancy Diagnosis

Implementing a pregnancy diagnosis method is key for making sound managerial decisions regarding open females. However, some pregnancy diagnosis methods carry more risk than others regarding early pregnancy loss. Currently, there are 3 options available for pregnancy diagnosis: transrectal palpation, transrectal ultrasound, and a blood test. Obviously, a blood test is the least invasive method but results are not immediate and that may not be practical for producers wanting to sort females on pregnancy check day. Transrectal palpation and transrectal ultrasound allow for immediate results but pose a greater risk for early pregnancy loss and can vary greatly based on stage of pregnancy and skill of the technician. Additional research conducted at Colorado State University found that transrectal palpation between days 42 - 74 had greater fetal losses (2.68 vs 1.38%) than transrectal ultrasound, and that heifers evaluated by inexperienced technicians had greater fetal losses than those evaluated by experienced technicians (2.07 vs 1.06%). It was also found that heifers evaluated prior to 53 days had nearly a 3 fold increase in pregnancy loss than those evaluated after 53 days of pregnancy (3.46 vs 1.26%). While an experienced technician can determine pregnancy by transrectal ultrasound as early as 25 – 30 days or by transrectal palpation by 35 – 45 days, pregnancy diagnosis prior to 40-50 days of pregnancy carries an increased risk of disturbing those fragile early stages of development.

Nutrition at Breeding

It is well established that deficiencies in protein and energy at breeding time has detrimental effects on fertility. Traditionally, it is recommended that cows should be at a BCS of 5 and 1st calf heifers should be at a BCS of 6 at calving for optimal reproductive performance. Managing cows and heifers to be on a positive plane of nutrition at the time of breeding is essential for the establishment of pregnancy.     Studies at University of Nebraska have found that thin cows, that are on an increasing plane of nutrition and gaining weight, can have equivalent pregnancy rates as cows in moderate condition that are maintaining their body weight at breeding. However, thin cows that are determined to be losing condition can have a reduction in pregnancy rates up to 30% which may be a result of embryonic loss or anestrous at the time of breeding. Having a sound nutritional program is key to optimizing reproductive function during the breeding season.

Plenty of BEEF in Cold Storage – USA Does Not Need Any Beef Imports

The Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska, says the U.S. does not need any more beef imports. According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s May 2020 ‘Cold Storage’ report, the USA beef supply at the end of April 2020 was 490 million pounds.

That is 13.9% higher than last year, which is 6% higher than 5 years ago. With this amount of beef in cold storage, beef supplies should not be limited nor should retail beef prices be high during this Covid-19 crisis.

With plenty of beef in ‘cold storage’ and ample cattle here in the USA ready to be harvested on a regular basis; the USA has no need to import any beef. The chart below shows the facts:

USA cattle ranches, producers and feeders continue to be in a crisis with grossly low cattle market prices resulting in hundreds of dollars of losses per animal, and no Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (M-COOL) and large quantities of beef imports.

According to USDA, the U.S. was the largest importer of Mexican beef. Without M-COOL, most Americans are unaware of the source of their beef and what they are feeding their families. Also according to the USDA, total live cattle imports from 2019 were just over 2 million head, over 7% higher than in 2018. In addition, the U.S. has imported more than a quarter-million head of cattle from Canada so far this year.

Jim Dinklage, President of ICON reiterates that America must reinstate Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (M-COOL), markedly reduce beef imports, and prevent large packers from controlling and manipulating the beef market so there is no longer a gross disparity in profits between the controlling packers and the producers of beef in the United States of America.

R-CALF: NCBA’s Claim of Low Import Volumes Contradicted by USDA Study

In response to President Donald J. Trump’s suggestion last week that the United States should end cattle imports, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) issued a news release defending cattle imports and claiming that only about 12 percent of beef consumed in the U.S. is imported product.

But R-CALF USA says that number understates the actual percentage of imported beef consumed in the United States on an annual basis. R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard cited a study published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Economic Research Service (ERS) in 2012 titled “US red meat production from foreign-born animals” that shows that during the decade prior to the study, imports of beef into the United States and beef produced from imported livestock accounted for roughly 18 percent of U.S. beef supplies.

Bullard says that imports derived from imported cattle and beef have been trending upward since 2011 and spiked in 2014 and 2015, which coincided with the drastic collapse of U.S. cattle prices beginning in 2015.

“Based on the USDA study and today’s import data, we estimate that imports continue to comprise about 18 to 20 percent of U.S. beef supplies,” said Bullard.

He also said it is important that the industry be informed of factual data regarding imports and that for far too long the meatpacking lobby has tried to downplay both the volume of and impact from the increasing volumes of imported beef and beef derived from imported cattle.

“We find it unconscionable that while America’s independent cattle producers are unable to sell all their slaughter-ready cattle to U.S.-based beef packers, those same beef packers are importing thousands of head of slaughter-ready cattle from Canada, thus depriving America’s cattle producers of access to their own domestic market in this time of crisis,” Bullard concluded.

Most Recent USDA Data Projects Imports to Remain at 11 Percent of U.S. Consumption

Discussions about beef imports were put in the spotlight this week. NCBA agrees that the industry should have a conversation about imports and where we’re sourcing beef, but it’s important that the conversation be rooted in facts, not back of the envelope estimates using data from nearly a decade prior.

In response to R-CALF’s May 22, press release on trade levels, NCBA would suggest that it’s important that any reasonable discussion on trade include the most recent information available. Global beef trade is dynamic and trade levels rise and fall based on factors such as changes in currency valuation, areas of drought or moisture, global consumer demand, and many other variables, so utilizing old trade data is just the latest demonstration of R-CALF’s willingness to cherry-pick the facts to drive their agendas.

Current USDA data available here,  projects current U.S. beef import numbers for 2020 at 1.334 million metric tons, while domestic consumption is estimated at 12.389 million metric tons, amounting to imports totaling 11 percent of U.S. beef consumption during 2020. In 2019, the most current full-year data available shows imports of 1.387 million metric tons, versus consumption of 12.407 million metric tons, with U.S. imports again totaling 11 percent of total consumption.

IDALS Launches Disposal Assistance Program for Pork Producers Affected by COVID-19

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig announced today that the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship is launching a disposal assistance program to help pork producers who are unable to harvest pigs due to COVID-19 supply chain disruptions.

“COVID-19 has caused unprecedented, ongoing disruptions to the food supply chain,” said Secretary Naig. “Pork producers are going to extraordinary lengths to donate pork to food banks and identify other markets for their animals but, in many cases, it’s not enough to make up for the backlog happening on farms. Producers are being forced to make very difficult decisions and this is one way the state is working to support them during these extremely challenging times.”

COVID-19-related worker shortages are causing meat processing facilities to drastically reduce production. Iowa State University estimates that, as of mid-May, approximately 600,000 pigs in Iowa were unable to be harvested.

Producers are working with the Resource Coordination Center, operated by the Department, Iowa Pork Producers Association, Iowa Pork Industry Center and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, to explore every option to harvest livestock. This includes changing the animals’ diets to slow the rate of growth, contacting other meat lockers, and making donations to the Pass the Pork program.

When producers are unable to harvest their livestock, they may be forced to humanely euthanize their animals to prevent welfare issues. The Iowa Disposal Assistance Program will provide financial resources to help cover the cost of disposing of animals in an environmentally-sound way.

“I want to thank Gov. Reynolds for allocating funding for this program to provide support for our livestock producers as they deal with this unprecedented market disruption,” said Naig.

The Department is offering producers $40 per approved animal to help cover some of the disposal costs for market-ready hogs (weighing at least 225 pounds). Producers must provide documentation, including proof of proper disposal, and an affidavit from their herd veterinarian confirming impending welfare issues, to receive funding.

The disposal assistance funding will be made available to Iowa producers in at least three rounds. Each approved applicant will receive funding for at least 1,000 animals and up to 30,000 animals per round, depending on the number of applicants.

To qualify for the first round of funding, producers must submit their applications to the Iowa Department of Agriculture between May 26-29. The first round of applicants will be notified of approval on June 1. The first round of approved applicants must properly dispose of their animals by June 5. Disposal claims must be received by the Iowa Department of Agriculture by June 8.

The Department will begin accepting applications for the second and third rounds of disposal assistance on June 1 and June 9, respectively. The Department is also exploring options to assist producers who have conducted euthanasia and disposal between May 1-26, 2020.

To apply for the disposal assistance program, visit Questions about the program can be directed to (515) 281-5321 or

Pizza Hut Giving Free Pizza to Class of 2020 Grads

America's dairy farmers and Pizza Hut are joining forces to help bring some much-needed joy to the graduating class of 2020. Together, they are honoring high school grads by giving away half a million pizzas to graduates and their families.

"Our brand has a long history of celebrating moments that matter - like graduations - and Pizza Hut takes pride in being a part of our customers' big days. So, it's only natural that we'd be there for students and their families to help celebrate the accomplishments of the graduating class of 2020," said George Felix, chief marketing officer, Pizza Hut. "We're proud to partner with America's hard-working dairy farmers to bring students who are missing out on their chance to cross the stage with their diploma, an opportunity to celebrate with their favorite Pizza Hut pizza."

"We are so excited to partner with Pizza Hut to help high school seniors and their families celebrate this special milestone in their lives," said Marilyn Hershey, a Pennsylvania dairy farmer and chair of Dairy Management Inc., a dairy promotion organization funded by America's dairy farmers and importers. "America's dairy farmers have great appreciation and respect for the hard work that graduating students have put in and nothing celebrates that better than cheese and pizza enjoyed with family and friends."

With half a million free pies up for grabs, graduates can score big for their grad parties. To claim a free pizza, visit, sign into your Hut Rewards account, and a digital coupon for a free one-topping Medium Pizza will be deposited into your account while supplies last.

Those ordering can select their preferred method when ordering over the phone, through the official Pizza Hut app or on the Pizza Hut website.

RFA Calls on EPA to Deny Secretive “Gap Year” Refinery Waiver Requests

The Renewable Fuels Association on Friday urged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to deny new petitions submitted by refiners for past-year waivers from their renewable volume obligations. In a letter to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, RFA President and CEO Geoff Cooper argued that granting such waivers would be unlawful, inconsistent with the statute, and contrary to EPA’s own policies and regulations. According to the letter, the petitions are nothing more than a “thinly veiled attempt to circumvent” the Tenth Circuit’s decision in January, in the case of Renewable Fuels Association et al. v. EPA, that struck down a number of exemptions granted by the agency.

In the letter, Cooper cited May 20 testimony by U.S. Department of Energy Under Secretary Mark Menezes, who described these new petitions as “gap filings” intended to establish, without regard to merit, a continuous string of exemptions “to be consistent with the Tenth Circuit decision.” In January, the court found that refiners may only receive an exemption if it is an extension of a previously existing exemption. In light of the court’s ruling, some small refineries are now seeking retroactive exemptions for previous years to “fill the gaps” so that they may argue they had a continuously extended exemption.

According to RFA, some refiners are trying to “…pretend there could have been a hardship years ago that could justify the granting of an exemption today, years after the compliance deadline had passed for the year the exemption is sought. It is utterly preposterous that EPA would even consider requests for prior-year exemptions from refineries who readily complied with that year’s RFS obligations and who did not originally seek exemptions during the year of purported ‘hardship.’ Now, these refiners are attempting to re-write history in a cynical attempt to maintain an illegally exploited compliance loophole.”

In his letter, Cooper also noted that these prior-year petitions are not being counted on the EPA’s online small refinery exemption “dashboard,” significantly undermining the promise of increased transparency made by EPA following the secretive issuance of 54 exemptions from the 2016-2017 RFS compliance years. “Clearly, only refiners applying for past-year petitions know what is going on at EPA, while biofuel producers and the general public are again being kept in the dark.”

“We urge EPA to clarify that small refinery exemption extension petitions for past compliance years are inconsistent with the RFS and will not be entertained by the Agency,” Cooper concluded. “We also urge that EPA expeditiously deny any petitions that have already been received, or that are received going forward, for past compliance years.”

Market Disruptions

Matthew Diersen, Risk & Business Management Specialist, South Dakota State University

The May Cattle on Feed report released last week showed a lower level on feed compared to a year earlier. Despite wide ranges of trade estimates for placements and marketings, once averaged together they were close to the actual numbers for April 2020. Marketings were 76 percent of the level from last April, while placements were 78 percent of last April. The lower marketings were COVID-driven. The disruptions have also lead to an increase in slaughter weights. The estimates of cattle on feed for more than 90 and 120 days increased sharply at a time of year they would usually begin a seasonal decline.

After a low level of placements during March, placements were again lower during April. There has not been a clear pattern in placement weights; most categories have just been lower for a couple of months. For some perspective, an examination of feeder sales showed the largest slowdown during March. Using the LMIC's compilation, Sales of Feeder and Stocker Cattle, the total volume of such cattle sold direct and through auctions was down 12 percent from a year earlier in April and down 47 percent from a year earlier in March. A rough estimation suggests about 0.5 million head fewer than normal did not trade in March and may not have yet traded. Some of the discrepancies may be due to AMS reporting challenges. However, the main takeaway is that there are a variety of weights of feeders that need to move to feedlots.

One marketing channel that has been disrupted is the forward contract segment. Producers, generally speaking, use forward contracts to assure an outlet for cattle. In past conversations, feedlots have considered forward sales if they were concerned about slaughter capacity at a given time of year or for a given location. Contract volume slowed dramatically in March and April. The AMS tracks such volume in a Direct Slaughter Cattle report, LM_CT153. Typical forward volume, new signings, are 30,000 to 50,000 head a week across delivery months. That volume dropped below 9,000 head in early April and is starting to return to more normal levels. However, for specific months, June 2020 for example, the cumulative volume has not changed much since the COVID-related disruptions began. A trade-off when using a contract is relationship risk. Will the buyer fulfill the terms of the agreement? Will the seller give up a better opportunity?

Relationship risk is less of a concern when using futures contracts. There is either an unknown counter-party wanting to own cattle or a nameless speculator willing to risk capital in the market. Live cattle can be delivered to settle a futures contract. In late April (with the most-recent contract to expire) there were very few tenders for delivery. However, as the contract settled, tenders increased. In an AMS report on May 12, there were 40 contracts delivered and 13 still scheduled for mid-May delivery. The futures prices, at settlement, would thus reflect the cost of holding cattle until slaughter.