Sunday, May 30, 2021

Friday May 28 Ag News

 Ricketts Proclaims May as “Renewable Fuels Month” in Nebraska

Friday, Governor Pete Ricketts signed a proclamation designating May 2021 as Renewable Fuels Month in Nebraska during a ceremony at U-Stop convenience store.  Following the proclamation signing, the Governor took part in a pump promotion to encourage Nebraskans to fill up their vehicles with ethanol fuel blends.

“Renewable fuels save drivers money at the pump, clean up the environment, and create great opportunities for Nebraska’s farm and ranch families,” said Gov. Ricketts.  “Nebraska is the second-leading producer of ethanol in the United States.  Our ethanol industry provides great-paying jobs for 1,400 Nebraskans.  Earlier this year, the State of Nebraska completed a study to demonstrate that E30 is safe and reliable to use in vehicles that are not flex fuels.  Promoting this research is one of the many ways we’re working to grow Nebraska by increasing the volume of ethanol in our nation’s fuel supply.”

Gov. Ricketts was joined by representatives from the Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA), the Nebraska Corn Board, the Nebraska Ethanol Board, and Renewable Fuels Nebraska for today’s event.

“Renewable fuels add value for our ag producers, economy, and consumers,” said NDA Director Steve Wellman.  “Farmers, ranchers, and livestock feeders see value through the grain markets and feed rations.  Renewable fuels add value to our economy by creating jobs and adding to the tax base.  Consumers receive value through lower prices at the pumps and reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.  In summary, renewable fuels boost Nebraska’s grain and livestock sectors, add to our thriving economy, and improve the air we breathe.”

“As a corn farmer, the ethanol industry plays a vital role in my livelihood,” said David Bruntz, chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board and a farmer from Friend.  “In addition to driving demand for Nebraska corn, ethanol benefits me as a consumer.  When I choose higher blends of ethanol at the pump, I’m saving money and doing my part to clean up our air.  Ethanol is the here-and-now solution to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve our environment.  Everyone wins with ethanol!”

“An important thing people can do to support renewable fuels in Nebraska is to ask their retailers to add E15 and higher blends,” said Jan tenBensel, Chairman of the Nebraska Ethanol Board.  “E15 is going to be the new standard fuel in Nebraska and in the Midwest, and in a few years, it will be the standard fuel in the United States.”

Nebraska now has 105 fuel retailers offering E15 and 122 retailers offering E85.

High levels of nitrate in our groundwater pose challenges for the future

The effects of groundwater contamination can be felt across the state, with most of the pollution sources pointing to commercial fertilizers.  Applying the right form at the right time at the right rate in the right place - this method of nitrogen management is referred to as the “4Rs”.  By using this method, producers can save time and money, all while protecting our groundwater.

One of the responsibilities of the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) is the development, management, utilization, and conservation of groundwater.  At the LENRD’s May board meeting, the members discussed ways to work together in managing resources for the future.

LENRD General Manager, Mike Sousek, said, “We have a rich history of agriculture in this state.  We want to work with producers to proactively manage our resources and secure the future that we desire for our children and grandchildren.”  He added, “As we continue to assess the nitrogen contamination across northeast Nebraska, we’ll be working to develop management plans as we challenge each other to improve the ways we protect our groundwater.”

The LENRD launched a website, bringing to light the concerns that are plaguing northeast Nebraska.  Visit to find out more about the rising levels of nitrate in our groundwater and the steps that are being taken to address the environmental and health issues associated with this problem.

Also, during the meeting, the board denied the additional funding request from the City of Randolph for Phase 2 of their flood control project in the amount of $356,952.25.  Phase 1 construction is underway and almost completed.  The Phase 2 design is nearing completion, with the estimated total costs coming in higher than the original estimate.  The LENRD has been partnering with the city on this project for the past 18 years and have contributed over $1.97 million to date.  The LENRD also assisted with the costs to study the project area for a total of $165,319.53.  Through the studies, it was determined the most cost-effective option was the widening of the Middle Logan Creek channel that runs through Randolph.  This project will allow for a large portion of the city to be taken out of the 100-year flood plain.

The board approved a bid from Unkel Construction to repair or replace the living room window at the superintendent’s residence at Maskenthine Lake, not to exceed $8,000.

The board also approved the Wellness Program for staff for a total of $3,220.  The Program encourages employees to take advantage of the wellness benefits available through the NARD health insurance, especially blood screenings.  Flu shots are also provided for the staff as well as incentives for increasing physical activity and healthy eating.

In other action, the board accepted, with regret, the resignation of fellow board member Bob Huntley of Norfolk.  In a letter to the board Bob said, “I was proud to represent the people of Subdistrict 3 and hope my replacement will be as dedicated as I have been over the years.”  Bob served on the board since 2005.  The board will advertise to fill the position.

To learn more about the 12 responsibilities of Nebraska’s NRDs and how your local district can work with you and your community to protect your natural resources, visit and sign up for our monthly emails.  The next board of directors meeting will be Thursday, June 24th at LENRD office in Norfolk at 7:30 p.m. and on Facebook Live.

Saunders County Corn Growers Annual meeting

The Saunders County CGA Annual Meeting is taking place on June 8th! The speaker for the evening is Anne Thompson, Director, PAC and Political Strategy for the National Corn Growers Association. She will give an update from Washington, D.C. There will also be an update from the Nebraska Corn Board and the Nebraska Corn Growers Association. See the graphic below for more information.

If you are planning on attending, please RSVP to or call (800)529-8030 by June 1st. The meeting will be held at the NRD Educational Building, Lake Wanahoo just north of Wahoo.  Social time at 6:30pm, meeting at 7pm.  See you there!

NE Corn Board to Meet

The Nebraska Corn Board will hold its next meeting on Thursday, June 3, 2021 at Divots Conference Center, 4200 W Norfolk Ave., Norfolk, 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 2021-2022.  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.

Webinar to cover US meat exports, livestock markets

The growing role of exports in livestock markets will be the focus of a Nebraska Extension webinar that will be held on Thursday at noon.

Exports account for a significant share of U.S. pork and beef production, especially for certain cuts, adding value to every animal produced. The U.S. Meat Export Federation is working to build a strong demand for U.S. high quality, high value beef and pork, highlighting sustainability and health as well as quality, to proactively address consumer questions in the (mis)Information age. The webinar will cover the current global demand for red meat, how U.S. beef and pork exports have been performing and how exports are related to livestock markets and meat prices.

It will be presented by Erin Borror, an economist with the U.S. Meat Export Federation, a nonprofit trade association that works to develop international markets for U.S. beef, pork, lamb and veal.

The webinar is part of a weekly series produced by the Extension Farm and Ranch Management team in the Department of Agricultural Economics. Registration is free at

NC Priority Bills Signed by Governor

Nebraska Cattlemen (NC) successfully acted on five priority designated bills during the first half of the 107th Nebraska Legislative session. Last January, Nebraska Cattlemen’s Board of Directors considered and took positions on 113 pieces of legislation, designating priorities for this session. We are pleased to announce that all priority designated measures have been signed by Governor Ricketts.

NC priority bills:
    LB252 (Williams) – “Dr Fox bill” Provide for refills of veterinary drug orders by veterinary drug distributors. LB252 was signed into law by Governor Ricketts on April 14th.
    LB572 (Halloran) – Change provisions of the Livestock Brand Act. LB572 was signed into law by Governor Ricketts on May 26th.
    LB396 (Brandt) – Adopt the Nebraska Farm-to-School Program Act. LB396 was signed into law by Governor Ricketts on May 27th.
    Broadband: LB338 (Bostelman) – Change provisions regarding broadband service and provide requirements for and change provisions relating to funding for broadband infrastructure. LB338 was signed into law by Governor Ricketts on May 5th. LB388 (Friesen) – Adopt the Nebraska Broadband Bridge Act. LB388 was signed into law by Governor Ricketts on May 27th.

Nebraska Cattlemen would like to thank the many Senators and staff who worked with Nebraska Cattlemen to develop and advance these bills this session.

    “The members of the Unicameral and their dedicated staff who respond to the needs of cattle producers across the state are very much appreciated”, commented William H Rhea III, President. He further commented, “It is very satisfying to have all our priorities addressed this year.”

Cattlemen Working to Address Labor Shortage

Nebraska Cattlemen applauds the efforts of our state and federally elected officials to address labor shortages for Nebraska Cattlemen’s producer members and supporting industries within the beef supply and marketing chain. Over the past year, Nebraska Cattlemen has been working with state and federal legislators and regulators to address the growing labor shortage.

“In addition to cattle market matters, the need for labor has elevated to a headline issue for our members – directly on their farms, ranches and feedlots, and in supporting industries such as processing facilities, transportation, and multiple supply sectors.” said William H. Rhea – President, Nebraska Cattlemen.

Nebraska Cattlemen is grateful for the ongoing support from Governor Ricketts by designating front line agriculture workers as essential to the economy and prioritizing this vital labor force for COVID-19 vaccinations and for his recent actions removing barriers that could disincentivize Nebraskans from returning to work. Additionally, Nebraska Cattlemen has engaged with Senators across the state to develop real time remedies such as workforce development programs and long-term solutions for housing challenges.

On the federal level, Nebraska Cattlemen is continuing to identify and act on solutions with Nebraska’s federal delegation to reform immigration policy to advance needed H2A visa restructuring and ensure state and federal resources are available for a legal immigrant workforce to successfully thrive in our communities. Nebraska’s Congressional delegation – in ongoing collaboration with Nebraska Cattlemen – has also identified the need to expand programs to help train Nebraska’s future food growers and processors through apprenticeship and specialized on-site training programs.

Nebraska Cattlemen will continue to fight for necessary changes to address labor shortages both short- and long term, in addition to prioritizing the ongoing exorbitant margin inequities among sectors within the cattle and beef marketing chain.

Extension offering course on managing conflict for farm and ranch families

Conflict and tension often arise in family farms and ranches. A new course, Dealing with Conflict Dynamics for Farm and Ranch Families, strives to provide Nebraskans with tools to build a better culture. Participants will gain the skills and resources necessary to overcome the conflict that may be hampering their family and business relationships. The course will be taught by renowned farm family coach Elaine Froese and hosted by Nebraska Extension’s Women in Agriculture Program.  

The Conflict Dynamics Training is a three-part course that will be held virtually from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Central time on June 15, 22 and 29, via Zoom. An internet connection is required, and participants should plan on attending all three sessions.  

Participants in this course will take a Conflict Dynamics Profile assessment to measure their personal conflict behaviors. The profile will help participants understand how they respond to conflict, what triggers can escalate conflict and how to manage conflict more effectively. Froese will then guide participants through a discussion on how to deal with conflict and tension on the family farm or ranch.  

The course fee is $35 per participant and the class size is limited to 20 people. Registration closes June 11. Because of the sensitive nature of the course, it will not be recorded.  

Registration is open at

Governors to DOJ: Continue Investigation into Meatpacking Practices

Thursday, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem and five other governors wrote to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), asking them to continue their investigation into anti-competitive practices in the meatpacking industry. The DOJ had originally sent investigative demands to the nation's four largest meatpackers in May 2020.

Noem was joined in signing the letter by Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, Montana Governor Greg Gianforte, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, and Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt.

"Perhaps no person embodies the independent and untamable spirit of the United States better than the cattle producer," wrote Noem and the other governors. "But this way of life is under threat. Decades of consolidation in meatpacking has significantly limited the options that producers have to market their cattle and has created a situation where one segment of the beef industry has near total control over the entire market."

The governors highlighted the threat to consumers as prices of meat at the grocery store continue to rise, all while beef producers are struggling to make ends meet.

"The consistently high prices realized on the boxed beef side are not being reflected on the producer side, forcing consumers to pay a premium for beef while threatening many of our producers with the loss of their business," wrote the governors.

Survey Shows Iowa Land Rents up Significantly in 2021

Most farmers in Iowa are seeing a significant increase in what they pay for land rents this year, according to a recent survey conducted by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

According to the “Cash Rental Rates for Iowa 2021 Survey,” which is conducted annually and available in the May Ag Decision Maker, rates have increased an average of 4.5%, an increase of about $10 per acre, for a total per-acre rent of $232.

Land considered to be “high quality” saw an average of a 3.9% increase, up from $257 per acre in 2020 to $267 in 2021. “Medium quality” land saw a 4.5 percent increase, from $223 per acre in 2020 to $233 in 2021, and “low quality” land is up 4.8%, from $188 per acre in 2020 to $197 in 2021.

“This is the first substantial increase in cash rents since 2013, when rents peaked and four years of declining rents and three years of relatively stable rents followed,” said Alejandro Plastina, associate professor in economics and extension economist with ISU Extension and Outreach.

One bright spot for farmers has been a significant increase in commodity prices since late 2020 and into 2021. But Plastina said it’s unlikely crop prices will be high enough to offset the income farmers will lose as recent government payments expire.

In 2020, about one-third of net farm income was supported by government payments. Much of this came from emergency funding and market disruptions caused by COVID-19.

“The (USDA) Economic Research Service is projecting a decline in net farm income this year, despite the increase in commodity prices,” Plastina said. “Corn and soybean prices are going up and are very high compared to recent years, but for the whole farming operation, it’s very unlikely that prices will run up high enough to offset the loss of government payments.”

This month’s Ag Decision Maker also includes an article on “Computing a Cropland Cash Rental Rate,” a decision tool for estimating cash rental rates, and information on flexible farm lease agreements.

District 1 - Northwest Iowa

2020 - $239
2021 - $242

District 4 - West Central Iowa

2020 - $237/acre
2021 - $247/acre

District 7 - Southwest Iowa

2020 - $203
2021 - $214

The 2021 cash rent survey is based on 1,363 usable responses from Iowans about typical cash rental rates in their counties for land producing corn and soybeans, hay, oats and pasture. Of these, 41% came from farmers, 33% from landowners, 11% from professional farm managers and realtors, 9% from agricultural lenders and 6% from other professions and respondents. Respondents indicated being familiar with a total of 1.5 million cash rented acres across the state.

As always, Plastina reminds farmers and the industry that the survey uses averages, and is meant to be a reference for decision making – not a blueprint.

“This survey should be use as a discussion starter and not as a price setter,” he said. “It provides something to share between landowners and tenants as they discuss whether the county averages make sense to them and why, and as indicated in the survey report, they should handle the negotiation in terms of the actual characteristics of the farm.”


NPPC newsletter

On Wednesday, the Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) extended its COVID-19 emergency declaration for Hours of Service (HOS) waivers for the transportation of livestock and livestock feed through Aug. 31. HOS governs the amount of time commercial truckers can drive their loads and when they are required to rest between drives. The agency had previously extended the waivers through May 31. NPPC thanks the administration and FMCSA for ensuring the continuity of the U.S pork supply chain as an essential element of the nation’s food delivery infrastructure.  

USMEF Virtual Conference Highlights Market Diversification, Logistical Challenges, Trade Policy Outlook

Representing a wide range of agricultural sectors, members of the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) gathered in a virtual format for the federation's annual Spring Conference, held May 26-27.

USMEF Chair Pat Binger, who heads international sales for Cargill Protein North America, opened the conference by discussing the importance of market diversification in achieving sustained success for U.S. red meat exports.

"The most recent export results – which are from March – provide a great illustration of this," Binger said. "Our leading pork market – China – was down significantly, yet pork exports still set new volume and value records. The leading beef market – Japan – was also down, but beef exports set a new value record and beef muscle cut volume was the largest ever. We know there will always be twists and turns in our top markets, which makes diversification extremely important."

Binger noted that USMEF saw excellent growth potential in Southeast Asia, Central and South America and Africa, and in recent years has committed more staff and resources to these regions. This forward-looking approach has helped expand the global footprint for U.S. pork, beef and lamb.

USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom updated members on COVID-related restrictions in key export markets and gave a detailed recap of first quarter export results, which were highlighted by the record March performance. He said 2021 promises to be an outstanding year for red meat exports, but cautioned that the industry continues to face shipping delays and other logistical challenges.

"As optimistic as this report is, it could have been better," Halstrom explained. "Port congestion, shortages of refrigerated containers, a shortage of chassis to move those containers, increasing freight rates and delays in ocean shipments continue to be a major constraint. Not only is this a constraint on shipments, the U.S. may run the risk of jeopardizing our longstanding reputation as a reliable global supplier of U.S. beef and pork."

Halstrom said USMEF is working with industry partners to create greater awareness of these challenges among federal regulators and to propose solutions to improve the flow of outbound cargo.

On trade policy, Halstrom said USMEF is urging the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) to conclude free trade agreement negotiations with the United Kingdom and Kenya, which were launched by the Trump administration. He noted that a U.S.-Kenya FTA could serve to unleash much broader trade opportunities in Africa.

Speakers outline trade policy challenges for U.S. agriculture

Trade policy issues were also the focus a keynote address by longtime Washington policy analyst Jim Wiesemeyer, who gave USMEF members an update on the Biden administration’s agricultural policies and priorities and the implications for trade. Wiesemeyer noted that the U.S.-China Phase One Economic and Trade Agreement has delivered significant benefits for U.S. agriculture, but building on Phase One to complete a more comprehensive trade agreement with China could prove difficult. He offered similar thoughts on the U.S.-Japan Trade Agreement, which leveled the playing field for U.S. beef and pork in the Japanese market when it entered into force in 2020. Wiesemeyer said efforts to engage Japan in further trade negotiations could be complicated by Japan's desire for the U.S. to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The Biden administration's trade agenda was also discussed in a meeting of the USMEF Exporter Committee, where exporters received a trade policy outlook from guest speakers Darci Vetter and Carmen Rottenberg. Now vice chair for agriculture, food and trade for Edelman, Vetter is a former chief agricultural negotiator for USTR. Rottenberg is managing director of Groundswell Strategy, a consulting firm she co-founded after serving as administrator of the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service. Exporters also received updates on port congestion and container availability, efforts to expand U.S. beef access in South Korea and consultations with Japan on the safeguard threshold for U.S. beef. This safeguard triggered earlier this year, resulting in a 30-day period in which a higher tariff rate was imposed on U.S. beef cuts entering Japan.

Day 1 of the conference also included a meeting of the USMEF Feedgrain and Oilseed Caucus, where members received a spring planting report and grain market outlook from Dr. Sam Funk, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation director of agriculture analytics and research. USMEF Korea Director Jihae Yang discussed opportunities for U.S. beef and pork in Korea's booming e-commerce sector and Joel Haggard, USMEF senior vice president for the Asia Pacific, gave an update on African swine fever in China and highlighted China's rapidly growing appetite for U.S. beef.

The second day of the conference featured meetings of the USMEF Beef and Allied Industries Committee and Pork and Allied Industries Committee. Members received updates on U.S. beef marketing activities in China, Africa and the European Union. On the pork side, USMEF staff discussed emerging opportunities in Central America and Southeast Asia and provided an update on the competitive landscape in Japan. The Pork Committee meeting also included industry updates from the National Pork Board and National Pork Producers Council.

Conference closes with market insights from USMEF international directors

Binger kicked off the closing general session by highlighting the importance of USMEF’s experience in serving the red meat industry in international markets. With a number of new challenges facing the industry over the past year, he said this experience is more important than ever for maintaining and defending the international customer base while working to identify new opportunities.

In introducing four USMEF international directors, Jesse Austin, USMEF vice president for international marketing, echoed what members had heard throughout the two-day meeting: global demand for U.S. red meat is strong, especially through retail and e-commerce, while foodservice recovery is at different stages from market to market. In addition to Haggard and Yang, the panel featured USMEF Japan Director Takemichi Yamashoji and Gerardo Rodriguez, marketing director for Mexico, Central America and the Dominican Republic.

Common themes emerged from the four presentations, including the rapid digitization that is reshaping marketing channels and impacting consumer behavior. The directors also provided updates on COVID-19 case numbers, social restrictions and vaccination rates in their markets. Japan and Korea are currently experiencing new waves of infections with continued restrictions, while Mexico is finally seeing a decline in cases and a gradual loosening of restrictions. Except for international travel, Haggard reported that China is open with no restrictions.

Yang described the e-commerce boom in Korea, with food sales increasing sharply during the past year. Demand is very strong for convenient home meal replacement and restaurant meal replacement products as consumers prize convenience and quality. Yang also discussed the growing importance of eco-friendly messaging in Korea and highlighted recent USMEF marketing initiatives to promote U.S. industry sustainability.

Rodriguez discussed changes in Mexico and Central America, saying that in a short period of time consumers are becoming multi-channel buyers who now typically conduct research prior to purchase. He said lockdowns and social restrictions drove consumers to digital channels and businesses have been racing to adapt. Many companies that formerly operated business-to-business only are now marketing directly to consumers through digital platforms.

Yamashoji explained that e-commerce adoption and sales growth is occurring at a slower rate in Japan. The Japanese culture places great value on in-person experiences and face-to-face interactions, and consumers still prefer to go to a store to see and touch products before purchasing. Social media is booming, however, as consumers regularly seek new ideas on products to purchase, particularly for meal preparation.

Haggard talked about increased digitization and automation in China, noting that the marketing environment has grown much more complex. He pointed to livestreaming and gamification as recent examples of how consumers are seeking immersion into e-commerce “experiences” to buy products. Haggard assured members that USMEF remains focused on the fundamentals of market development, working to build core purchasing and distribution programs with partners in the trade, retail and foodservice sectors, while also adding new skillsets and directly reaching a greater number of consumers.

The next meeting of USMEF members is set for Nov. 10-12 in Carlsbad, California, where the 2021 USMEF Strategic Planning Conference will mark the federation's 45th anniversary.


Livestock Marketing Information Center

The lamb cutout value continues to set new record highs with the most recent record value of $464.33 per cwt set the first week of May. Last week the cutout value did drop by $9.61 per cwt (2.1%) to $454.73. Since the start of the year to the most recent record high value, the lamb cutout has gained $80.67 per cwt in value or 21.0%. The major primal values have also seen records set within the last several weeks. The shoulder (square cut), leg (trotter off), and rack (light) all reached record price levels last week to $378.47, $510.88, and $1,062.02, respectively. The loin (trimmed 4x4) reached its record level two weeks ago at $809.98 per cwt but has since decreased to $763.33.

The rise in the lamb cutout value has filtered down to feeder and fed lamb prices. The national negotiated live slaughter lamb price reached $198.88 and is quickly closing in on the record price of $204 set nearly a decade ago in July 2011. Since the start of the year, the slaughter lamb price has gained 29.1% ($44.85 per cwt) which has exceeded the 21.0% gain in the cutout value over the same period. The three-market average (CO, TX, and SD) feeder lamb price has fluctuated since the start of the year but has managed to average over $260 per cwt this year which is well above the five-year average of around $200 per cwt.

Weekly sheep and lamb slaughter started to see levels increase the last week of February which would be expected given Easter was earlier this year on April 4th. Typically slaughter levels will start to decline following Easter but this year the pace has remained steady. Since the last week of February, preliminary estimated weekly sheep slaughter averaged about 36,000 head, but actual weekly slaughter averaged about 41,500 head, around 5,500 head higher on average. Recent weeks have seen actual slaughter as much as 10,000 head higher than the estimated slaughter for the same week. These are levels well above pre-pandemic weekly slaughter and higher than levels prior to the close of the Mountain States Rosen plant in July 2020. The higher actual slaughter shows that the increased slaughter capacity is starting to take effect in the industry. Record cutout values highlight the post-pandemic demand recovery that is starting to occur which is giving an economic incentive for packers to slaughter lambs and producers to actively market lambs.

Farmers Deserve the Right to Repair Their Tractors

Hannah Packman, National Farmers Union Communications Director

Thanks in large part to the introduction of machinery like tractors and combines, farms today are far more efficient and productive than they were a handful of generations ago. Though these time- and labor-saving technologies can run tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars, farmers often aren’t able to fix their machinery themselves – which has significant implications for their finances, privacy, and security.

A few decades ago, any given farmer often had the skills and tools needed to quickly make repairs if their machinery broke down. These days, however, it’s not so straightforward. Most modern farm equipment is technologically advanced, containing computers and sensors that collect and transmit data. As a result, specific software tools are typically necessary to address mechanical failures and other issues.

However, most companies refuse to make those tools available to farmers, making it exceptionally difficult to fix broken machinery on their own. They can’t even go an independent mechanic, since manufacturers won’t sell them parts or diagnostic tools either. This leaves farmers essentially no choice but to take their broken equipment to a licensed dealership.

This isn’t cheap. A farmer might spend thousands of dollars on a simple adjustment they could have done themselves with the appropriate resources. On the other hand, this arrangement has proven wildly lucrative for manufacturers; for Deere, as an example, parts and repairs are up to six times more profitable than selling the equipment itself.

But money isn’t the only problem – it’s also a matter of time. Oftentimes on a farm, tasks like planting and harvesting have to be done within a window of just a few days when the moisture content, ripeness, or weather conditions are just right. If, god forbid, machinery breaks during that window and a dealership can’t make an appointment immediately, the wait can cut severely into the farmers’ annual yields and income.

There’s also the issue of privacy. Equipment manufacturers collect lots and lots of data about soil, weather, yields, and other factors, which they can then share with or sell to “affiliates and suppliers.” This intentional data sharing in and of itself is worrying for farmers’ privacy, but even worse is the possibility of hackers accessing that information. Just last month, a security expert found vulnerabilities in John Deere’s apps that would have allowed outsiders to download the company’s data on farm equipment and vehicle owners.

In addition to data breaches, there are other potential security risks. Because most modern tractors can be operated and shut off remotely, some farmers and experts worry that hackers could disable thousands of tractors at a time. Such a widespread disruption could affect the entire country’s agricultural production, threatening livelihoods and food security.

Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of alternatives for farmers who want to buy equipment they can fix. About 95 percentof large farm tractors are made by just three companies: Deere, CNH Industrial, and AgCo, all three of which engage in the kind of resource restriction that prevents on-farm repairs. Instead, some farmers have resorted to buying decades-old tractors that don’t require copyrighted software to repair.

Farmers shouldn’t have to choose between outdated equipment or the inability to fix their own tools. That’s why National Farmers Union will continue to fight for Right to Repair legislation that allows farmers and independent mechanics access to diagnostic software, information, and other tools necessary to repair modern equipment.

Statement by Agriculture Secretary Vilsack on the President’s Fiscal Year 2022 Budget

The President proposes historic investments to spur new job creation and opportunities in rural America; help restore America’s advantage in agriculture; leverage all of USDA’s expertise to address climate change; and support a stronger nutrition safety net.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack released the following statement today:

“The Biden-Harris Administration today submitted to Congress the President’s Budget for fiscal year 2022. As the Administration continues to make progress defeating the pandemic and getting our economy back on track, the budget makes historic investments that will help the country build back better and lay the foundation for shared growth and prosperity for decades to come.

“The President’s budget gives USDA a new set of tools to address the urgent challenges of our time—racial injustice, a changing climate, and hunger. When we invest fairly and equitably in American families and communities, we lay the foundation for decades of American prosperity.

“The budget includes the two historic plans the President has already put forward—the Americans Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan—and reinvests in education, research, public health, and other foundations of our country’s strength. At the Department of Agriculture, the budget would:
    Expand Broadband Access. $700 million is being requested for Reconnect to provide access to quality broadband to rural residents and address challenges for Tribal communities. High-speed internet would serve as an economic equalizer for rural America while creating high-paying union jobs in rural America. This investment also builds on the $100 billion of funding proposed in the American Jobs Plan.
    Supports a Strong Nutrition Safety Net. Women, infants, and children have better health outcomes when healthy, nutritious food is on their table. This budget requests $6.7 billion for the for Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) to help vulnerable families, address racial disparities, and combat rising food insecurity.
    Combat the Climate Crisis and Conserve Our Nation’s Lands. The budget increases funding for climate smart agriculture, climate resilience and clean energy by nearly $1.5 billion. This funding supports effective land management decisions and partnerships with local communities and Tribal Nations to address climate adaptation, conservation, and ecological resilience. This work will address the underlying conditions of drought that are leading to longer, hotter fire seasons.
    Invests in Critical Research and Development Capacity for Farmers. American farmers must be able to compete in world markets to thrive, all while protecting the health of America’s soil and water. This request provides $4 billion for USDA’s research, education, and outreach programs focused on making investments in agricultural research to put science and data-driven tools and American technologies in the hands of farmers. We need to equip America’s farmers to out-compete the world.

“Enacting the budget policies into law this year would strengthen our nation’s economy and lay the foundation for shared prosperity, while also improving our nation’s long-term fiscal health.”

For more information on the President’s FY 2022 Budget, please visit:  

AGCO enters into targeted spraying technology collaboration agreement with Bosch, BASF Digital Farming and Raven Industries Inc.

AGCO (NYSE: AGCO), a global leader in the design, manufacture and distribution of agricultural machinery and precision ag technology, announced it has entered into a proof of concept (PoC) collaboration agreement with Robert Bosch GmbH, BASF Digital Farming GmbH and Raven Industries Inc. (NASDAQ:RAVN), with the objective of evaluating targeted spraying technology to make the application of crop protection products more effective and efficient by reducing crop input costs while driving farm and environmental sustainability.

To support the reduction in herbicide application, the targeted spraying PoC will focus on real-time sensing technology to make crop protection decisions. By detecting weeds in growing crops as well as on fallow ground, day or night, this technology will execute precise targeted product placement down to the individual plant level. In addition to the environmental benefits, targeted spraying will help enhance farmer profitability by only spraying the herbicide where needed. This makes the use of more efficient herbicides affordable allowing for much better weed control. Where optimal herbicides are already used, the smart sprayer provides a volume and cost reduction.

The initial concept is being evaluated on a Fendt Rogator sprayer in Europe with plans to extend to North America in 2022.

“Farmers have long been searching for innovative ways to minimize chemical usage and reduce passes through the field to achieve their crop protection goals. Combined with the potential for further regulatory pressure, we believe this collaborative spraying effort advances our farmer-first focus and is further evidence that we will work with the best-in-class partners to serve farmers’ needs. This effort is aimed at validating targeted spraying solutions, delivering a reduction in product use to achieve the same results as broadcast spraying in both pre- and post-emergence with the flexibility of spraying day or night,” said Seth Crawford, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Precision Ag and Digital for AGCO.

Coupled with AGCO’s application equipment expertise, Bosch brings capabilities in hardware, machine learning and artificial intelligence as well as digital services. xarvio™ Digital Farming Solutions provides an automated, real-time, in field agronomic decision-making engine for weed management and crop optimization. Raven Applied Technology is committed to sprayer efficacy and operational efficiencies that further enable precision control of chemicals for targeted spraying applications.

“Raven is excited for this collaboration. The expertise of each organization will undoubtedly provide industry changing solutions for some of agriculture’s greatest challenges,” said Dominic Walkes, Raven Applied Technology Director of Strategic Initiatives. “This smart spraying proof of concept is the first of many that will aid in advancing solutions for a more sustainable future.”

The combined power of the technologies that this collaboration is focused to deliver will empower farmers to drive greater efficiency in their operations while helping to protect the environment through reduced chemical usage in line with AGCO’s commitment to providing farmer-focused solutions to sustainably feed the world.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Thursday May 27 Ag News

 Ricketts Announces “Stop 30 x 30” Town Hall in Norfolk on June 3rd

Recently, Governor Pete Ricketts announced that he will be hosting a series of “Stop 30 x 30” town halls across Nebraska.  30 x 30 is a goal set by President Joe Biden to permanently protect in its natural state 30 percent of the nation’s land and waters by 2030.

At the town halls, Gov. Ricketts and others will deliver remarks about the 30 x 30 plan, and how Nebraskans can push back on President Biden’s radical climate agenda.  Details for the Governor’s town hall in Norfolk on June 3rd are below.  Additional dates and times will be announced shortly.

Stop 30 x 30 Town Hall in Norfolk

When:  1:00-2:00PM CT on Thursday, June 3, 2021
Where:  Johnny Carson Theater, 801 Riverside Blvd., NORFOLK

More information about Governor Ricketts’ opposition to 30 x 30 can be found at

AFAN Receives Grant from Nebraska Environmental Trust

AFAN announced today that it will receive $15,000 from the Nebraska Environmental Trust for the “Leopold Conservation Award Video Project” project. The Trust Board announced funding for the project at its meeting on April 8, 2021, in Lincoln. This is the 3rd and final year of funding. The project is one of the 113 projects receiving $18,350,515 in grant awards from the Nebraska Environmental Trust this year. Of these, 42 were new applications and 71 are carry-over projects.

In his book, A Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold called for an ethical relationship between people and the land they own and manage. Since 2006, the Nebraska Leopold Conservation Award (LCA) has been presented to families who internalize this land ethic and are dedicated to leaving their land better than they found it. The LCA Video Project captures the landowners’ ethics in their own words, giving recipients an opportunity to share their stories. With online media becoming the primary source from which most Americans receive information, visual media is essential for not only archival purposes but for educating the general public on conservation practices occurring every day in Nebraska. Aside from actually setting foot on these operations, these videos are the next best way to experience the exceptional efforts of these agricultural families. The project involves a full day of crew time interviewing the landowner and filming their conservation practices. The video will be professionally produced first as a stand-alone piece shown during speaking engagements, conventions, the Nebraska State Fair’s Grain Bin Theater (shown year-round), and trade shows, and second to be placed on the Foundation’s YouTube channel, award partner, and sponsor websites, and other online video outlets.

The Nebraska Legislature created the Nebraska Environmental Trust in 1992. Using revenue from the Nebraska Lottery, the Trust has provided over $349 million in grants to over 2,400 projects across the state. Anyone – citizens, organizations, communities, farmers, and businesses – can apply for funding to protect habitat, improve water quality and establish recycling programs in Nebraska. The Nebraska Environmental Trust works to preserve, protect and restore our natural resources for future generations.

Seven College Students Begin Summer Internships Sponsored by Nebraska Corn

Seven college students are beginning internship programs supported by the Nebraska Corn Board (NCB) and the Nebraska Corn Growers Association (NeCGA). Although these internships may vary in scope, location, and duration, each is designed to provide students with an overview of Nebraska’s corn industry through real-world professional examples and experiences.

“While the Nebraska Corn Board has been offering these internships for many years, the COVID pandemic meant many of our students had to work remotely or postpone their internships last summer,” said David Bruntz, chairman of NCB and farmer from Friend. “I’m pleased our selected students will have a much more typical experience this summer. These internship opportunities are really designed to help support the future leaders of the agricultural industry. It’s always exciting to meet these students early in their professional careers and see how they develop and enhance the industry over the next several years.”

Each of the interns will work at various locations across the U.S. with key cooperator partners of NCB. Students will be based in the offices of the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), U.S. Grains Council (USGC), U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), NCB, and NeCGA. Most of the internships will complete at the end of the summer but three will run throughout the entire year.

NCGA is hosting two of the interns. Chloe Higgins is majoring in economics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL). She is interning with the NCGA office in Washington, D.C. Danie Brandl is interning with the NCGA office in St. Louis, Missouri. Brandl is majoring in agricultural education at UNL.

“Throughout my internship experience, I would like to gain knowledge of how NCGA works and how it advocates for farmers,” said Brandl. “I would also like to gain more experience and knowledge that will help me in the agricultural industry.”

Malina Lindstrom is interning with USMEF in Denver, Colorado. Lindstrom is majoring in animal science and agricultural and environmental sciences communication at UNL.

Two students are interning with USGC in Washington, D.C. Patrick Baker is a political science and global studies major at UNL and Payton Schaneman graduated from UNL earlier in May with a degree in agribusiness. While Baker’s internship will end in August, Schaneman’s internship experience will last for an entire year.

“Through growing up in a rural Missouri farming community, I have been exposed to agriculture and farming for my entire life,” said Baker. “In going to college and exploring my own passions of international relations and foreign policy, I began to realize the importance of Midwestern farmers in relation to American exports. In learning about the work that the U.S. Grains Council does to connect farmers to foreign entities, I knew that I wanted to learn more and get hands-on experience with this organization.”

Two of the internships are located in Lincoln and are year-long experiences. Sophia Svanda is an agricultural and environmental sciences communication major and is returning for her second year interning with NCB. Wesley Wach is majoring in agricultural economics and works with NeCGA. Both students attend UNL and will spend the next full year assisting with the coordination of communications and promotional efforts with their respective organizations.

“In just a year, I have already learned so many things from my internship experience,” said Svanda. Through different projects assigned to me, guidance from the staff and board members, and conversations with farmers and other advocates, I’ve gained many new skills and knowledge that I didn’t have before. My time with Nebraska Corn has already given me so much, and I am certain by the time this experience is over, I will walk away fully prepared and ready to be a leader in the ag industry.”

In addition to the students gaining real-world experiences throughout the summer and helping fulfill the duties and missions of their respective organizations, the interns are also able to gain valuable insight on possible future careers.

Each intern will document their learning experiences through progress updates and social media posts. To keep up with the students throughout the summer, visit or follow the Nebraska Corn Board on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.


The Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln is set to host the East Campus Discovery Days and Farmer’s Market, a fun, family friendly event for all ages, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 12, July 10 and Aug. 14 on East Campus.

The event is more than a farmer’s market. It will offer hands-on, science-focused experiences from various Nebraska departments, as well as a vendor fair, live music and food trucks. Campus visitors will also have the opportunity to tour the Backyard Farmer Garden; arboretum; newly renovated Dairy Store and Dinsdale Family Learning Commons; and Nebraska Hall of Agricultural Achievement interactive digital kiosk.

“Hosting a farmer’s market on East Campus will be an incredible addition to all of the other amazing things happening on campus,” said Jessie Brophy, director of external engagement for IANR. “This new series of events presents a wonderful opportunity to connect Nebraska’s farmers and producers with our community members to provide access to locally produced, nutritious food.”

Through the market, Nebraska seeks to offer the East Campus community, neighbors and friends access to science literacy opportunities, locally produced fresh food, value-added artisans, on-campus family activities and an avenue for producers to sell their products. The market activities are free and open to the public, while food and crafts will be available for purchase.

Among the vendors attending the market are Kimmel Orchard and Vineyard, which will sell its famous apple donuts; the UNL Bee Lab, selling honey and sharing information about pollinators; and the Country Baker, bringing breads, muffins and rolls.

Other vendors include Sandhill Ben’s Gourmet Seasoning, The Chocolate Tortoise and Titania Ceramics.

The Biological Systems Engineering Department will display university robots and tractors, and offer hands-on activities for youth. Nebraska’s PGA Golf Management program will host PuttSkee, a combination putting green and arcade skeeball game.

The East Campus Discovery Days and Famer’s Market is supported by the university. For more information on the market, including a full list of vendors, visit For additional information, contact Brophy at or Kirstin Taylor at

Plymouth’s West End Farm to be featured on Women in Ag Webcast

“Open for Business: A Nebraska Women in Agripreneurship Series” will feature Katie Jantzen, founder of West End Farm, during its next live webcast on June 8 at 6:30 p.m.

Produced by Nebraska Women in Agriculture, the monthly webcast series highlights the entrepreneurial spirit of women in agribusiness from across the state, offering creative insights and the stories behind what it takes to build a business.

The conversations focus on surviving business shocks such as disasters, regulatory changes and shifting family dynamics. Featured business leaders are interviewed by Brittany Fulton, extension assistant with the Nebraska Women in Agriculture program.

Jantzen founded West End Farm in 2017 on part of her family's farm near Plymouth. She raises 47 different types of vegetables, berries, melons and herbs, and also sells honey, jam and baked goods. West End Farm features approximately one-half acre in vegetable production, including a newly constructed high tunnel, a small berry patch and 10 honeybee hives. The main marketing venue for her crops is the farm's CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program, in which customers sign up for a produce subscription and receive a weekly box of fresh vegetables all season long.

She also sells her products at the Beatrice Farmers Market and to a couple of wholesale accounts. Jantzen’s interest in local food has been influenced by a range of experiences, including growing up on a dairy farm, studying environmental science in college, managing a community gardening program for a food pantry and working on CSA farms in several states.

When not working on the farm or at her town job, Jantzen is also involved in a variety of food and agriculture organizations, including the Southeast Nebraska Food Partners food coalition, Nebraska Food Council, Nebraska Farmers Union, Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society and Women in Local Food and Farming, as well as several research projects with the Center for Rural Affairs.

The webcast is free to attend but registration is required on the Nebraska Women in Agriculture program website,

 2020/2021 Corn Export Cargo Quality Report: Overall Good Quality for U.S. Corn

The quality of U.S. corn assembled for export early in the 2020/2021 marketing year was rated at U.S. grade No. 2 or better on all grade factors, with higher test weight and lower total damage and broken corn and foreign material (BCFM) than 2019/2020 export samples, according to the U.S. Grains Council’s (USGC’s) 2020/2021 Corn Export Cargo Quality Report, released this week.

“To help fulfill our mission of connecting U.S. farmers to global markets, the Council is pleased to offer this report as a service to our international customers. We hope it continues to provide valuable information about the quality of the U.S. corn crop to our trading partners,” said USGC Chairman Jim Raben, a farmer from Illinois.

“Favorable growing season conditions experienced by the 2020 U.S. crop likely benefitted the quality of the corn assembled for export early in the 2020/2021 marketing year. The quality information provided in the report is important to foreign buyers and other industry stakeholders as they make decisions about grain origination and grade while finalizing their purchase contracts and processing needs for corn for feed, food or industrial use.”

The 2020/2021 Export Cargo Report provides information about the quality of U.S. yellow commodity corn assembled for export early in the marketing year and creates value for all stakeholders for evaluating the year-to-year changes in the U.S. corn crop.

Highlights of the aggregate quality attributes of the 2020/2021 export samples included:
- Higher average test weight [57.9 pounds per bushel (lb/bu) or 74.5 kilograms per hectoliter (kg/hl)] than 2019/2020 and the five-year average, indicating overall good quality.

- Most (92.7 percent) samples at or above the limit for U.S. No. 1 grade compared to 73.1 percent of the samples in 2019/2020.

- Lower average BCFM (2.8 percent) than 2019/2020, the five-year average and the maximum limit for U.S. No. 2 grade. BCFM predictably increased from 0.8 to 2.8 percent, as the crop moved from harvest through the marketing channel to export.

- Lower average total damage at export (2.3 percent) than 2019/2020 but similar to the five-year average.

- Nearly all (96.6 percent) of the samples at or below the limit for U.S. No. 2 grade.

- Average heat damage of 0.0 percent, the same as 2019/2020 and the five-year average, indicating good management of drying and storage of corn throughout the marketing channel.

- Average 100-kernel weight (37.01 grams) higher than 2019/2020 and the five-year average, indicating heavier kernels in 2020/2021 than last year and the five-year average.

- All but one of the samples tested below the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) action level for aflatoxin of 20.0 parts per billion (ppb). A total of 98.3 percent of export samples had levels of aflatoxin below the Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS) “Lower Conformance Limit” of 5.0 ppb in 2020/2021, a slightly higher proportion than in 2019/2020 (96.3%).

- All the samples below the 5.0 parts per million (ppm) FDA advisory level for DON, the same as 2019/2020. Of the 180 samples tested for DON in 2020/2021, 95.6% showed levels of DON below 1.5 ppm, a lower proportion than in 2019/2020 (98.3 percent).

- Of the 180 samples tested for fumonisin, 179 or 99.4 percent tested below the FDA’s strictest guidance level for fumonisin of 5.0 ppm.

The export quality report is based on 440 samples taken at the point of loading for international shipment early in the 2020/2021 marketing year.

This report and its sister report, the 2020/2021 Corn Harvest Quality Report, provide an early look at the grade factors established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as well as chemical composition and other quality characteristics not reported elsewhere.

Reports in this series of quality reports – 10 in all - use a consistent and transparent methodology to allow for insightful comparisons across time.

The Council rolled out the preliminary results from the export quality report in a series of webinars for customers in Latin America and the Caribbean in early May and a joint virtual crop quality seminar between potential buyers, end-users and Council staff from Japan, South Korea and Taiwan last week. More rollout events are planned in Mexico and other markets around the world in the coming months to help establish clear expectations with buyers and end-users regarding the quality of corn this marketing year.

“The Council is dedicated to the furtherance of global food security and mutual economic benefit and offers this report to promote continuous trade expansion,” Raben said. “By providing this reliable and timely report on the quality of U.S. corn destined for export, buyers can make well-informed decisions and have confidence in the capacity and reliability of the U.S. corn market.”

 China's Nine Consecutive U.S. Corn Buys Show Feed Demand Recovery, Stock Building

China’s most recent purchase of U.S. corn on May 20 marked its ninth consecutive business day of marketing year 2021/2022 corn buying, adding to 22.996 million metric tons (MMT) of U.S corn (905.31 million bushels) already sold in the 2020/2021 marketing year, 59 percent of which has been shipped.

China’s purchase of 10.744 MMT of corn (422.97 million bushels) for 2021/2022 – more than three months before the new marketing year even begins – sets a historic pace for U.S. export sales. Mexico, the second-highest U.S. corn purchaser, had also bought more than 1.808 MMT of corn (71.18 million bushels) for the new marketing year as of May 20.

Some of China’s recent purchases of U.S. corn will likely go into the country’s state reserves, but much will go directly to the feed and livestock industry.
“No one knows how much of China’s corn imports are going into official state reserves, but the amount going into reserves may be just for annual replenishment rather than for rebuilding depleted reserves,” said Bryan Lohmar, U.S. Grains Council (USGC) director in China.

“Private stocks held by end users, however, are growing, prompted by the depletion of the temporary reserves built up in the early part of the last decade and sold off at auctions held every summer since 2016.”

With these temporary reserves depleted, private end users are more exposed to supply shocks and, therefore, may be increasing their own private stocks and pipelines.

“The concern over depleted temporary reserves and greater exposure to supply shocks may be affecting official reserve decisions, too, so they may also be growing. We just don’t know.”

Corn feed demand in China has also increased due to the expansion of poultry production and the Chinese government's aim to modernize its pork production. U.S. corn imports have been going directly to feed mills to support this demand.

“Higher corn inclusion in feed rations is associated with the larger, more modern, production facilities that are rapidly expanding at the expense of more rudimentary, village-level production that was hit hard by the African Swine Fever (ASF) outbreak,” Lohmar said.

While stock replenishment suggests some corn demand is short term and will not continue in future years, a large amount of wheat and rice going into feed rations could indicate that feed grain demand growth is real.

“USDA estimates 40 MMT of wheat (1.47 billion bushels) used for feed - far greater than any future year, and estimates at least 9 MMT of rice used for feed, also far greater than previous years,” Lohmar said. “Industry estimates are even greater. But these two food grains are even more sensitive than corn, so many expect that large substitution of wheat and rice into feed rations to replace corn will not last for more than one or two years, providing more opportunity for corn demand growth even as corn stocks rebuilding is satiated.

“Since things like recycled food waste – which may well have been a significant component of feed in village-level operations – is a clear vector for ASF, it is strictly outlawed and even village-level producers have strong incentives not to use it. This is generating expanded inclusion of corn in feed rations and will cause corn demand to grow as swine inventories recover from the ASF outbreak.”

The United States has also shipped 5.8 million metric tons (228.33 million bushels) of sorghum to China as of May 20, with another 937,400 metric tons (36.9 million bushels) in outstanding sales.

According to the Council’s grains in all forms (GIAF) portal, supplied with information obtained by the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service’s (USDA FAS’s) Global Agricultural Trade System (GATS), the country shows total shipments of 96.9 million gallons of U.S. ethanol (2.31 million barrels) between September 2020 and March 2021.

In addition, U.S. barley can now be exported to China following the approval of a phytosanitary protocol by both countries, a market development achievement years in the making finally accomplished with the boost of the U.S.-China Phase One deal signed in 2020. Chinese brewers are also showing increased interest in U.S. barley malt.

Due to the in-country investment and the reputation the Council has forged over nearly four decades of relationship building in China, the Council has been at the forefront of helping lead the modernization and industrialization of the swine industry, the creation of a dairy technical training center and resolved countless trade servicing issues in the country.

International Grains Council Trims 2020-21 Production Forecast

The International Grains Council on Thursday cut its forecasts for grain harvest this year thanks to slightly lower levels of corn crops than expected.  The intergovernmental body said grains production in the 2020-21 season would total 2.22 billion metric tons, 6 million tons less than it forecast last month.  For the 2021-22 season, the IGC raised its forecasts for grains harvest by 5 million tons to a record 2.292 billion tons.

The IGC said corn, wheat, and rice consumption would be higher than previous forecasts, while soybean consumption would be a million tons lower.

The IGC said grains markets would be tight this year, forecasting stocks to drop by 17 million tons. For the 2021-22 season, the council expects stocks levels to drop a further 5 million tons, despite record crop production levels.

Surging corn prices in recent months have driven expectations that livestock farmers might switch to cheaper sources of animal feed such as wheat.

Scott Stump Named New FFA Chief Executive Officer

The National FFA Organization and the National FFA Foundation named Scott Stump the new chief executive officer of both organizations, effective Monday, June 21.

Stump, who lives on a small ranch in Stoneham, Colorado, with his wife, Denise and three children, Brady, Ross and Emma, has a background rich in agricultural education, career and technical education and FFA. He received his bachelor’s in agricultural education from Purdue University and his MBA from Western Governor’s University.

“It is with great anticipation that I return to National FFA in this leadership role,” said Stump, CEO of the National FFA Organization. “I know from personal experience as a student and as a parent the positive difference FFA makes in the lives of students across this nation. I look forward to working with FFA’s talented national staff, committed board members, state and local leaders and supporters to advance and expand our collective impact.”

National FFA Advisor and Board Chair Dr. James Woodard shared the news with state FFA and agricultural education leaders and National FFA staff earlier today.

“The opportunity to select Scott Stump as the new CEO is exciting for the National FFA Board of Directors. Scott is a leader with credibility, vision and passion for the agricultural education profession,” Woodard said. “The process for selecting Scott was both inclusive and transparent. The respondents of the survey provided great insight into the needs of the organization. I want to professionally thank all who provided input to the selection process. “

After an extensive search process, the Joint Governance Committee of the National FFA Board of Directors and National FFA Board of Trustees selected and approved Stump as CEO.

“On behalf of the National FFA Foundation Board of Trustees, we are both humbled and excited to welcome Mr. Scott Stump to our team. Scott brings decades of experience to the table, having been a part of FFA and agricultural education at nearly every level –including student member, classroom teacher, state staff and national staff,” said Ronnie Simmons, chair of the National FFA Foundation Board of the Trustees.“With a Smith-Hughes style philosophy of agricultural education, Scott’s ideals and beliefs are built on a strong foundation giving him the capacity to lead and influence others. It is evident that these beliefs are the driving force behind his vision that agricultural education will continue to be the difference-maker in the lives of students across the nation.”

Stump began his career as an agriculture teacher in Manchester, Indiana, where he taught for two years. He then worked for the National FFA Organization, where he managed the national officer team and the National FFA Convention& Expo. From 2007 through 2014, he served as the assistant provost and state director for career and technical education with the Colorado Community College System. During his CCCStenure, Stump also served as state FFA advisor, agriculture program director and interim president of Northeastern Junior College during the institution’s presidential search process. In 2015, Stump was named COO of learning solutions provider Vivayic, Inc. In July 2018, he was confirmed by the U.S. Senate to serve as the assistant secretary of career, technical and adult education for the U.S. Department of Education, where he served until January. He currently serves as senior advisor with Advance CTE, where he leads and contributes to major initiatives and projects, including Advances CTE’s Postsecondary CTE Leaders Fellowship Program and Advancing the Framework. He also supports their federal advocacy, state policy and technical assistance efforts.

Senate EPW Committee Passes Bipartisan Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act of 2021
ASA Newsletter

On Wednesday, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee unanimously approved (20-0) the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act of 2021. This bipartisan 5-year authorization bill would replace the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, which expires Sep. 30, 2021.

 The bill contains various transportation infrastructure-related components, including:
    Authorization of $303.5 billion in spending over the next five years – an increase of 34% compared to the FAST Act.
    Providing states with 90% of overall highway funding through the same formula funding structure as the FAST Act, allowing states to prioritize projects as they see fit.
    Creating a rural transportation grant program to provide competitive grants to expand surface transportation infrastructure in rural areas.
    Addressing carbon reduction goals, including by providing $6.4 billion for states to reduce transportation emissions and authorizing $2.5 billion for infrastructure grants to EV charging and alternative fueling.
    Expanding the 2015 FAST Act pilot program for state departments of transportation to explore alternatives to the gas tax for funding the Highway Trust Fund to include local/county governments and metropolitan planning organizations.

The bill will now advance to the Senate floor, where negotiations related to a larger infrastructure package remain ongoing among Senate Republicans and the Biden Administration. Congress now has until Sep. 30 to reauthorize baseline funding for U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) surface transportation programs.

Beef Checkoff-Funded Packer Trade Group Attempts to Derail Effort to Address Food Crisis

Last Thursday R-CALF USA announced a drive to encourage 200 members of Congress to join a bipartisan and bicameral letter authored by U.S. Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD) and U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) that calls attention to the food crisis in America. The letter urges the U.S. Attorney General and Congress to work together to reform the nation’s cattle and beef markets. It explains that consumers are paying an unnecessary, over-inflated price for beef in the store while the nation’s cattle ranchers and farmers are on the verge of going broke.

This week, R-CALF USA obtained a document circulated in Congress by the North American Meat Institute (NAMI), which claims to be the leading voice for the meat and poultry industry. According to R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard, the NAMI document attempts to dissuade members of Congress from joining the joint Rounds/Smith letter. R-CALF USA is now circulating its rebuttal to the NAMI document.

Bullard says NAMI received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the national beef checkoff program during the past four years and is now lobbying against the interests of both cattle producers and consumers who desire meaningful reforms in the cattle and beef markets. He says the NAMI document is an attempt to deceive Congress into believing everything is just fine in the cattle and beef markets.

But Bullard says the opposite, that the market is completely dysfunctional, marked by consumers paying record-high prices for beef at the store while cattle producers are receiving seriously depressed prices – the same prices they received over a decade ago. He said the spread between retail beef prices and the price of cattle have never been greater, meaning consumers on one end of the food chain and producers on the other are being exploited.

The NAMI document claims cattle prices are responding to normal supply and demand signals. Bullard says that is completely false as evidenced by upward trending beef prices and downward trending cattle prices since 2017.

“If cattle prices were responding to supply/demand signals, the exceptional beef demand for the past several years along with the record exports would have driven cattle prices upward. Instead, cattle prices have been driven down and consumer beef prices have been driven up,” he said.   

The NAMI document points out that because cattle producers received COVID-19 subsidies from the government, their income was higher in 2020 than any time since 2016. But Bullard said cattle prices have been seriously depressed since 2014 and the 2020 government subsidies did not come close to restoring the income lost from the dysfunctional cattle market.

“Cattle producers lost in excess of $600 per head in 2020 compared to 2014, yet retail beef prices increased significantly during that period. The COVID payments did not make up that loss even though consumers were paying more than enough for beef to have done so.

“The cattle and beef markets are broken and the NAMI is trying to fool Congress into complacency so they don’t do anything about it,” Bullard concluded.  

2020 Summary of U.S. Agricultural Confined Space-Related Injuries and Fatalities

Purdue University Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering

The following are highlights from the 2020 findings:
• No fewer than 64 fatal and non-fatal cases involving agricultural confined spaces were documented in 2020, representing a 4.5% decrease over 2019
• There were no fewer than 35 grain related entrapments in 2020 representing a 7.9% decrease over 2019, with the balance of grain related incidents involving entanglements and falls
• Three incidents involved more than 1 victim
• Three incidents involved manure storage pits or lagoons
• Eight additional grain dust explosions resulting in nine non-fatal injuries were documented1
• Three female cases were documented in 2020, two of which involved falls from storage structures
• 50% (32) of 2020 cases were fatal compared to 61% historically
• Illinois reported the most cases in 2020 (17), which was more than double the next two highest reporting states, Minnesota and North Dakota
• Illinois also reported the most grain-entrapment cases in 2020 (10). Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois have historically recorded the most grain entrapment cases
• Six cases in 2020 involved a youth under the age of 21, none of which involved grain entrapment and one involved manure handling or storage
• OSHA Regions 5 and 7 have historically accounted for nearly 70% of all documented agricultural confined space-related incidents
• The number of agricultural confined space-related fatalities documented exceeded the number of reported mining-related fatalities in 2020 (35 versus 29)

Read the full report here:  

RFA Revives Annual ‘Ethanol Days of Summer’ Contest

As fuel demand continues to increase and more consumers are returning to the roads this summer, the Renewable Fuels Association is again sponsoring the “Ethanol Days of Summer” contest, which begins Memorial Day. The contest encourages consumers to submit pump prices for flex fuels like E85 and ethanol blends like E15 to the popular website or through its mobile app. Simply submitting your fuel prices this summer enters you in a random weekly drawing for a $100 fuel gift card.
To enter, contest participants must have or create an account on or on the app, where they can submit pricing for a chance to win. Pricing on the crowd-sourced website is updated routinely and gives consumers instant access to fuel prices that nearby drivers have reported. Winners will be chosen weekly until Labor Day and users can submit prices for multiple stations each day. No purchase is necessary to participate, and more information can be found at
More than 5,100 stations are now selling E85 across more than 2,700 cities, and roughly 2,100 stations in 30 states offer E15. Among other information, contains a nationwide map of E85 and E15 stations and historical pricing, along with a public forum to allow consumers to pose questions and have discussions. An ethanol savings calculator is also featured, allowing users to see how much money they can save by using higher ethanol blends.
“We are excited to bring back our summer contest as more drivers return to the open road. This contest has been popular with existing users of higher blends and recruiting new consumers,” said RFA Vice President of Industry Relations Robert White. “Ethanol lowers the price that consumers pay at the pump, lowers the amount of carbon in their fuel and their greenhouse gas emissions. We have more stations offering higher blends each week and we want consumers to find those stations and have some fun doing it.”
In 2019, the last year RFA held the contest, more than 4,000 new users registered at, with 98 different contest winners who collectively received $5,000 in free fuel.

Numerous Health Benefits Found in Summer-Favorite Watermelon

No summer barbecue is complete without fresh watermelon. As the nation moves towards the summer grilling season, you may want to consider how watermelon's fruit chemistry can affect your overall health. Researchers in the USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) recently identified over 1,500 small molecules of diverse chemical characters in the fruit, known as phytochemicals. They concluded that eating watermelon is an excellent way to increase your intake of antioxidants, non-protein amino acids and lycopene. This means that every time you eat watermelon, you’ll be improving the health of your cells, organs and nervous system.

The research specifically finds that the antioxidants in watermelon can help your body fight free radicals and slow down cell damage. The fruit's non-protein amino acids will also help to repair your body tissue, break down food from other meals, and even regulate your blood pressure.

"Watermelon could be part of the refreshing and healthy fruit options on your summer picnic table," said USDA-ARS scientist Larry Parnell. "The fruit has gone through many years of evolution, domestication, and selection for desirable qualities—mainly those associated with flesh color, texture and nutrient and sugar content. But our research continues to find that the fruit contains a wide range of nutrients that improve your overall health."

Most Americans purchase the sweet dessert watermelon species, Citrullus lanatus, at their local grocery store or farmer's market.  This species is among the most important vegetable crops grown and consumed throughout the world, with over 100 million tons in annual global production.  The fruit also has more lycopene than a raw tomato, which is linked to healthy eyes, overall heart health and protection against certain cancers. Other nutrients, like carotenoids, flavonoids, carbohydrates and alkaloids, are also found in the flesh, seed, and rind.

"I worked with Dr. Parnell and the team to develop a pioneering concept of using big data and computational biology to identify and catalog all of the phytochemicals that exist in edible fruit," said ARS researcher Amnon Levi. "The research to identify the metabolic pathways and genome sequence of genes involved in the production of beneficial phytochemicals could be highly useful for plant scientists and breeders aiming to improve nutrient content in fruits and vegetables."

The watermelon's phytochemicals are human-cell-protecting compounds found in fruit, vegetables, grains and beans. All of these nutrients can contribute to your overall health in numerous ways.

Watermelon was introduced to Europe via Moorish Spain in the 10th century. Since then, watermelon has been cultivated successfully in warmer Mediterranean regions before being brought to the Americas by European colonists during the 16th century. Today, watermelon is grown in 44 U.S. states, while major production is centered in California, Florida, Georgia and Texas.

Fruits and vegetables are a part of a healthy, balanced diet, with the recommendation being 1.5 to 2 cups of fruit and 2 to 3 cups of vegetables per day.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Wednesday May 26 Ag News

 Ricketts Signs Legislation to Expand Broadband Internet Access in Nebraska

Today, Governor Pete Ricketts signed Legislative Bill (LB) 388 into law during a ceremony at the State Capitol.  The bill provides $20 million in matching grants annually to expand access to high-speed broadband across Nebraska.  LB 388 was introduced by Senator Curt Friesen of Henderson at the request of Gov. Ricketts and prioritized by Speaker Mike Hilgers of Lincoln.  It passed final reading with a 49-0 vote.

“In our digital world, high-speed broadband internet is basic infrastructure we need to grow our entire state,” said Gov. Ricketts.  “LB 388 expands quality broadband internet so that more Nebraskans can work from home, participate in remote education, access telehealth services, engage in e-commerce, and enjoy online entertainment.  Thank you to the Legislature for helping to grow Nebraska by investing in our broadband infrastructure.”

LB 388 will bring fast, reliable broadband connectivity to an expected 30,000 households.  Broadband networks funded by LB 388 will be built to upload and download speeds of 100 Mbps, which is much faster than the current minimum standard of 25/3 Mbps set by the Federal Communications Commission.

Last year, the State directed $29.5 million of federal coronavirus assistance into the Rural Broadband Remote Access Grant Program to help bring better broadband to Nebraskans as many services moved to virtual platforms during the pandemic.  

Nebraska Ethanol Board June 9 Board Meeting to be held in Lincoln

The Nebraska Ethanol Board will meet in Lincoln at 12 p.m. Wednesday, June 9. The meeting will be at Hyatt Place (600 Q Street). The agenda highlights include:
    Budget Report & Budget Planning Fiscal Year 2021-22
    Economic Impact Study
    Fuel Retailer Update
    Nebraska Corn Board Update
    Renewable Fuels Nebraska Update
    E30 Demonstration Update
    Marketing Programs
    NEB-hosted Conferences & Events
    State and Federal Legislation
    Ethanol Plant Reports

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  


– Ben Beckman, NE Extension Educator

Yellow-green patches in a pasture might look pretty for the uninitiated, but the tell-tale bloom of leafy spurge not a spring sight many of us want to see.

While there are many plants livestock producers may consider pasture weeds, one that is held in particular dislike is leafy spurge.  Besides being on the Nebraska noxious weed list and requiring control, this hardy perennial spreads aggressively through seeds and root buds.  With an extensive root system that can reach depths up to 15 ft., once established spurge is hard to control.

While biological and cultural control methods may provide some reduction in growth and seed production, those wanting complete control might consider an herbicide treatment as the best option.

Multiple chemicals have action on spurge, however for spring treatments, control at bud or true flower stage is recommended.  Early application at the bud stage is limited to 2,4-D ester or Gunslinger/Grazon P+D.  A later flower stage application opens up or options to Curtail/Cody/Stinger, Streamline, a mix of Sharpen + Plateau or a mix of Overdrive + Tordon.

Unfortunately, a single treatment will not control spurge, so continued monitoring and retreatment is necessary. An effective strategy is pairing spring applications that prevent seed production with a fall treatment to control new growth.

Leafy Spurge can easily take over a pasture, but with vigilance and regular treatment, control can be achieved.


Extension offering free suicide prevention training

An upcoming online training will teach participants how to recognize and respond to potential signs of crisis and suicidal behavior.

Life can be stressful in the best of times. For Nebraskans, the last few years have been particularly challenging. The recent disasters and the pandemic have changed how we work, juggle family and finances, manage our health and the health of our loved ones. These challenges can contribute to being overwhelmed and increase one’s anxiety.

In response to addressing life’s uncertainty, Nebraska Extension will offer an online “Question. Persuade. Refer.” training. QPR is a suicide prevention program that teaches participants three steps to help save a life from suicide.

An individual who is trained in first aid, CPR or the Heimlich maneuver can help save lives. And people trained in QPR learn how to recognize the warning signs of a suicide crisis and how to question, persuade and refer someone to get help.

This 90-minute training will be held online, via Zoom, on June 17 at 2 p.m. CDT. There is no cost to attend the training, but registration is required at The class is limited to 30 participants.

This material is based upon work supported by USDA/NIFA under Award Number 2019-77028-30436.


In the Northern Plains Region (Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota) there were 35,000 workers hired directly by farm operators on farms and ranches during the week of April 11-17, 2021, down 17% from the April 2020 reference week, according to USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service. Workers numbered 27,000 during the week of January 10-16, 2021, down 23% from the January 2020 reference week.

Farm operators paid their hired workers an average wage of $16.53 per hour during the April 2021 reference week, up 4% from the April 2020 reference week. Field workers received an average of $16.55 per hour, up $0.66. Livestock workers earned $15.40 per hour, up $0.81 from a year earlier. The field and livestock worker combined wage rate, at $15.95, was up $0.75 from the April 2020 reference week. Hired laborers worked an average of 43.0 hours during the April 2021 reference week, compared with 41.5 hours worked during the April 2020 reference week.

Farm operators in the Northern Plains Region paid their hired workers an average wage of $16.59 per hour during the January 2021 reference week, up 1% from the January 2020 reference week. Field workers received an average of $16.94 per hour, up $0.11. Livestock workers earned $15.14 per hour, up $0.51 from a year earlier. The field and livestock worker combined wage rate, at $15.85, was up $0.30 from the January 2020 reference week. Hired laborers worked an average of 42.0 hours during the January 2021 reference week, compared with 40.9 hours worked during the January 2020 reference week.


There were 20,000 workers hired directly by farms in the Cornbelt II Region (Iowa and Missouri) during the reference week of January 10-16, 2021, according to the latest USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service – Farm Labor report. Farm operators paid their hired workers an average wage rate of $16.79 per hour, up 81 cents from January 2020. The number of hours worked averaged 38.4 for hired workers during the reference week, compared with 37.2 hours in January 2020.

During the reference week of April 11-17, 2021, there were 25,000 workers hired directly by farms in the Cornbelt II Region (Iowa and Missouri). Farm operators paid their hired workers an average wage rate of $16.69 per hour during the April 2021 reference week, up 90 cents from April 2020. The number of hours worked averaged 39.9 for hired workers during the reference week, up from 37.9 hours in April 2020.

April Hired Workers Down 11 Percent; Wage Rate Increased 6 Percent from Previous Year

There were 613,000 workers hired directly by farm operators on the Nation's farms and ranches during the week of April 11-17, 2021, down 11 percent from the April 2020 reference week. Workers hired directly by farm operators numbered 506,000 during the week of January 10-16, 2021, down 11 percent from the January 2020 reference week.

Farm operators paid their hired workers an average wage of $15.97 per hour during the April 2021 reference week, up 6 percent from the April 2020 reference week. Field workers received an average of $15.19 per hour, up 7 percent. Livestock workers earned $14.81 per hour, up 5 percent. The field and livestock worker combined wage rate, at $15.06 per hour, was up 6 percent from the 2020 reference week. Hired laborers worked an average of 40.9 hours during the April 2021 reference week, up 1 percent from the hours worked during the April 2020 reference week.

Farm operators paid their hired workers an average wage of $16.21 per hour during the January 2021 reference week, up 6 percent from the January 2020 reference week. Field workers received an average of $15.23 per hour, up 7 percent, while livestock workers earned $14.87 per hour, up 5 percent from a year earlier. The field and livestock worker combined wage rate, at $15.08 per hour, was up 6 percent from the January 2020 reference week. Hired laborers worked an average of 40.2 hours during the January 2021 reference week, unchanged from the hours worked during the January 2020 reference week.

U.S. Agricultural Exports in Fiscal Year 2021 Forecast Up $7.0 Billion to Record $164.0 Billion; Imports at $141.8 Billion

U.S. agricultural exports in fiscal year (FY) 2021 are projected at $164.0 billion, up $7.0 billion from the February forecast, led by increases in corn, soybeans, and livestock, poultry, and dairy products. Corn exports are forecast $3.2 billion higher to $17.2 billion due to record volume and higher unit values, driven by strong demand and reduced competition. Soybean exports are projected up $1.5 billion to $28.9 billion as volumes are forecast at record levels and demand from China remains strong. Overall livestock, poultry, and dairy exports are projected to increase to $34.2 billion, $1.6 billion higher than the February projection, due to increases in the dairy, pork, and beef forecasts. Dairy exports are forecast at $7.0 billion, up $500 million due to higher volumes and unit values, particularly for skimmed milk powder and whey and whey products. The forecast for pork exports is up $400 million, on higher unit values and recovering demand in several markets. Beef and veal, beef and pork variety meat, and poultry and product exports are projected up $200 million each. Cotton exports are forecast up $200 million on higher volumes. The forecast for horticultural exports is reduced by $400 million to $34.1 billion due to lower tree nut unit values. 2 Outlook for U.S. Agricultural Trade, AES-116, May 26, 2021 USDA, Economic Research Service and Foreign Agricultural Service

Exports for China are raised $3.5 billion from the February forecast to a record $35.0 billion due to record shipments of soybeans, corn, tree nuts, beef, wheat, and poultry products. China is forecast to remain the largest market for U.S. agricultural exports in FY 2021, followed by Canada and Mexico.
U.S. agricultural imports in FY 2021 are projected at $141.8 billion, up $4.3 billion from the February forecast. This increase is primarily driven by expected rising imports of livestock, horticultural, and sugar and tropical products.

The forecasts in this report are based on information available at the time of the May 12 World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) release. Further, the adoption of the World Trade Organization (WTO)’s internationally recognized definition of “agricultural products” will take effect in the August release.

USDA Forecasts Record Farm Exports in FY 2021

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s quarterly agricultural trade forecast, released today, projects fiscal year 2021 U.S. farm exports at $164 billion – the highest total on record. This represents an increase of $28 billion, or 21 percent, from last fiscal year’s total, and a $7-billion increase from USDA’s previous FY 2021 forecast published in February. The annual export record of $152.3 billion was set in FY 2014.

“U.S. agricultural trade has proven extraordinarily resilient in the face of a global pandemic and economic contraction. This strength is reflected in today’s USDA export forecast,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “As we conclude World Trade Month, it’s clear that trade remains a critical engine powering the agricultural economy and the U.S. economy as a whole. Today’s estimate shows that our agricultural trading partners are responding to a return to certainty and reliability from the United States. Yesterday’s action regarding the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement also made it clear that our trading partners must play by the rules. Ensuring that all U.S. producers and exporters have access to global markets is a key to building back better and ensuring the continued strength and resiliency of rural America.”

Key drivers of the surge in exports include a record outlook for China, record export volumes and values for a number of key products, sharply higher commodity prices, and reduced foreign competition.

China is poised to be back on top as the United States’ number one customer, with U.S. exports forecast at $35 billion, eclipsing the previous record of $29.6 billion set in FY 2014. This growth is led by Chinese demand for soybeans and corn. Other top markets, in order, are Canada, Mexico, Japan, the European Union, and South Korea, with demand remaining strong across the board.

USDA projects that total exports of bulk commodities and meat will reach record levels for both volume and value in FY 2021. On the bulk commodity side, this is true for both corn and soybeans exports, with sorghum export value also at a record. On the meat side, beef and pork export values and volumes are projected at an all-time high, as is broiler meat volume.

Gillibrand, Shaheen Lead Bipartisan Letter To Secure Additional Payments For Dairy Farmers

U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Chair of the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock and Dairy, and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) led a bipartisan letter urging the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide additional relief to dairy farmers. In the letter, the senators highlight the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on costs facing dairy farmers, as well as the impact of a milk pricing change that resulted in $725 million in lost income for dairy farmers and disproportionately impacted small and mid-size dairy operations. They called on the USDA to provide more direct payments and assistance through USDA programs such as the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), or through other new or existing programs, to help reduce the strain on dairy farmers.  

“The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted dairy supply chains and has caused disruptive price volatility,” the senators wrote. “Feed, labor, farm equipment, and energy costs have all increased as the result of the pandemic and contributed to lower profits for dairy farmers. In addition, dairy farmers have experienced challenges receiving a fair price for their milk as a result of the change to the … milk price formula ... that has caused dairy farmers collectively to lose out on $725 million dollars in income since the change was implemented in May 2019.”

They continued: “We appreciate USDA’s work to implement the relief for farmers provided by Congress, as well as the agency’s commitment to support dairy farmers during the COVID-19 pandemic across a variety of programs; however … the agency should continue issuing payments to dairy farmers under CFAP, or through any further assistance programs that USDA conceives, including the Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative, for the first six months of 2021 and make these payments retroactive to January 1st. Continuing these payments would help alleviate the loss of dairy farms we are seeing in the Northeast and around the country and give dairy farmers additional relief as they continue to face the fallout of this pandemic.”

In April of 2020, USDA announced the conception of CFAP, with funds provided by Congress, to assist farmers and consumers in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Included in CFAP were direct payments to dairy farmers to offset pandemic-related economic losses for farmers. This assistance was critical to farmers, especially as many were forced to dump their milk after losing buyers and income. These payments were put on pause in January of 2021 when the Administration announced it was doing a 60 day regulatory review. However, when the review was concluded, no further payments to dairy farmers were announced.

Even before the pandemic dairy farmers across the nation were facing the challenges of volatile milk prices that have been dropping for decades, as well as increased competition from non-dairy “milk” products. This has led to a substantial loss of licensed dairy herds, with the United States losing almost 40,000 dairy herds since 2003.

Prior to the 2018 Farm Bill, Class I milk was calculated using the “higher of” Class III or Class IV price plus the applicable Class I differential. This was changed in the most recent Farm Bill to an averaging method of Class III and Class IV plus $0.74. This change, compounded by government intervention in cheese markets as a result of the pandemic, has resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in lost income for dairy farmers from May 2019 through April 2021. This has led to increased calls from industry for USDA to hold Emergency Federal Milk Marketing Order National Hearings to resolve this issue with the Class I mover.

At the beginning of the 117th Congress, Gillibrand was named as the Chair of the Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy, Poultry, Local Food Systems, and Food Safety and Security. In this capacity, Gillibrand is committed to find ways to guarantee dairy farmers receive a fair price for their milk moving forward, and to recoup losses caused by the new Class I pricing formula. New York is home to one of the most diverse agricultural industries in the country and is largely composed of small and medium-sized family operations. Milk is New York’s number one agricultural product.

Co-signers onto the bipartisan letter include U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Susan Collins (R-ME), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Bob Casey (D-PA), Richard Blumenthal (D-RI), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Ed Markey (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Angus King (I-ME), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and Dick Durbin (D-IL).

Weekly Ethanol Production for 5/21/2021

According to EIA data analyzed by the Renewable Fuels Association for the week ending May 21, ethanol production slowed by 21,000 barrels per day (b/d), or 2.0%, to 1.011 million b/d, equivalent to 42.46 million gallons daily. Production was 39.6% above the same week last year, which was affected by the pandemic, but it was 4.4% below the same week in 2019. However, the four-week average ethanol production volume scaled up 1.7% to 994,000 b/d, equivalent to an annualized rate of 15.24 billion gallons (bg).

Ethanol stocks thinned by 2.3% to 19.0 million barrels, their lowest point since 2016. Stocks were 18.1% below the year-ago level and 16.1% under the same week in 2019. Inventories declined across all regions except the Gulf Coast (PADD 3) and Rocky Mountains (PADD 4).

The volume of gasoline supplied to the U.S. market, a measure of implied demand, expanded 2.8% to a 62-week high of 9.48 million b/d (145.31 bg annualized). Gasoline demand was 30.7% above a year ago and 0.9% above the same week in 2019.

Refiner/blender net inputs of ethanol eased 1.8% to 906,000 b/d, equivalent to 13.89 bg annualized. This was 27.2% above a year ago but 4.4% below the same week in 2019.

There were zero imports of ethanol recorded for the twenty-third consecutive week. (Weekly export data for ethanol is not reported simultaneously; the latest export data is as of March 2021.)

UAN28, UAN32 Prices Increase 4% as Fertilizer Price Rally Slows

Retail fertilizer prices continue to inch higher with the overall pace of gains slowing from its spring surge, according to locations tracked by DTN for the third week of May 2021. None of the eight fertilizers' prices were significantly higher from last month, which DTN designates as 5% or more. The largest price increase, 4%, was seen in UAN28 and UAN32.

DAP had an average price of $642/ton, up $15; MAP $708/ton, up $5; potash $440/ton, up $8; and urea $521/ton, up $11. 10-34-0 had an average price of $620/ton, up $8; anhydrous $716/ton, up $9; UAN28 $361/ton, up $13; and UAN32 $407/ton, up $16.

On a price per pound of nitrogen basis, the average urea price was at $0.57/lb.N, anhydrous $0.44/lb.N, UAN28 $0.65/lb.N and UAN32 $0.64/lb.N.

With retail fertilizer prices moving higher over recent months, all fertilizers are now higher in price from a year ago. Potash is now 20% more expensive, 10-34-0 is 32% higher, urea is 35% more expensive, UAN32 45% higher, anhydrous is 46% more expensive, UAN28 is 53% higher, DAP is 57% more expensive and MAP 63% is higher compared to last year.

Bayer Further Commits to Crop Protection Innovation with Planned Introduction of Diflufenican

New seed innovation has long dominated the row crop landscape, but it’s not the only part of production Bayer Crop Science has its eyes on.  Bayer has a history of leading innovations in crop protection and that commitment is still very real in today’s climate.

One such innovation is Diflufenican, a new herbicide for North America. Diflufenican, which will be introduced under the brand name ConvintroTM mid-decade, aims to tackle two of the most prolific weeds facing farmers today – waterhemp and Palmer Amaranth. Pending EPA-approval, Convintro products will be available to soybean growers for burndown and pre-emergence applications. The herbicide will also serve as a new weed control tool for corn growers.

“Diflufenican has been used for years in Europe, managing broadleaf weeds in crops such as lentils and winter cereals,” adds Robert Schrick, broadacre crop protection business lead for Bayer. “The addition of a product with Diflufenican as the active ingredient for soybean and corn use is not only a first for North America, but a completely new site of action for Palmer Amaranth and waterhemp control in soybeans and corn, providing farmers another tool to add to their weed management plans.”

Providing a new site of action will help soybean farmers manage yield-robbing weeds, but Schrick notes a balanced approach to management is still the right approach. “When it comes to weed management, a best practice is still to use multiple sites of action,” says Schrick. “Management plans that cover multiple years and crops will help farmers avoid issues like resistance.”

Bayer’s focus on farmer-centric solutions spans its broad product portfolio, at a time when new tools in crop protection couldn’t be more important. Bayer recognizes that farmers are facing increasing challenges managing pests and is working with them to provide solutions that set them up for success in the future.

Bayer’s crop protection product research encompasses new and old chemistries, giving a different look at some of those some age-old problems.“Effective options in integrated weed management are a necessity,” adds Frank

Rittemann, Bayer product manager for corn, soy and cotton herbicides. “We are taking a look at chemistries that control some of farmers’ most challenging pests and we’re relying on science to bring those options to the market, including previously untapped sites of action.”

Bayer research also continues to explore opportunities to challenge the status quo and work toward new innovations for its customers. “While there may be no proverbial silver bullets, our crop protection focus will provide continuous advances, adding additional tools where farmers need it most,” said Rittemann.

U.S. Dairy Applauds Congressional Dairy Champion Letter Urging USDA to Make Low-fat, Flavored Milk School Flexibilities Permanent

A bipartisan group of more than 50 members of the U.S. House of Representatives today sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack urging USDA to address the underconsumption of dairy foods among American school-aged children, specifically by making permanent a current flexibility that allows schools to offer low-fat flavored milk—a nutrient dense option for improving the quality of children’s diets.

The letter cites the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee report, which found that 79 percent of 9–13-year-olds, who rely on the school meal programs to meet their nutritional needs, are not meeting the recommended intake of dairy foods. “Both the 2015 and 2020 editions of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs) amplified this concern, stating that, beginning at a young age, average dairy consumption falls short of recommended amounts,” the letter states.

While current USDA flexibilities allow schools to offer low-fat flavored milk through the 2021-2022 school year, USDA has before it a proposed rule that would make these flexibilities permanent. Importantly, this action would remain consistent with the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) today issued the following statements applauding the lawmakers’ proposed solution to addressing underconsumption of dairy among school-aged children:

“Milk benefits children in many ways – but it can’t benefit them at all if they don’t drink it, and ensuring that they do so requires a wide range of options,” said Jim Mulhern, President and CEO, National Milk Producers Federation. “Milk’s unique nutritional package is of great benefit to the nation’s schoolchildren, and this message to Secretary Vilsack strongly supports the critical goal of boosting consumption of essential nutrients of public health concern, including calcium, potassium, and vitamin D. The 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee report found that 79 percent of 9-13-year-olds, who rely on school meals to meet their nutritional needs, are not meeting the recommended intake of dairy foods. Milk provides the foundation of a lifetime of better health, and we thank the signers of this letter, led by Reps. Courtney and Thompson, for recognizing and advancing its benefits.”

“Milk, including low-fat flavored milk, is an important way for children to access the nutrient profile of dairy, providing thirteen essential nutrients and unique health benefits,” said Michael Dykes, D.V.M., President and CEO, International Dairy Foods Association. “IDFA appreciates the leadership of the more than 50 champions for dairy in the House of Representatives for encouraging USDA to prioritize dairy in federal nutrition programs, specifically through the inclusion of low-fat flavored milk in school meal programs. Right now, USDA has before it a proposed rule that would return to flexibilities allowing flavored, low-fat milk to be served in child nutrition programs, and IDFA strongly encourages the USDA to adopt school milk flexibility in the rule as a long-term solution. By doing so, the USDA would help ensure more kids meet the recommended intake for dairy set forth in the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.”


The American Wool Assurance website launched last week at, allowing American sheep producers to take a crucial step in certifying their wool through this voluntary, American industry-driven certification process.
The American Sheep Industry Association worked with Colorado State University the past two years to develop the voluntary program and standards that will allow manufacturers to purchase American wool with confidence that the animals producing that wool have been raised with a high level of care. Industry input from producers, shearers, buyers, extension, animal welfare experts and processors was critical in development of program standards.
“This is something that consumers and brands are asking for increasingly, and so it has become important to retailers, processors and wool buyers in recent years,” said ASI Deputy Director Rita Samuelson, who oversees wool marketing for the association. “We announced the standards for the voluntary American Wool Assurance program earlier this year and we know that many in the textile trade are anxious to buy wools with the assurance of best animal care practices. Launching the website and the accompanying education courses are important steps in the process. Most importantly, this process allows American wool producers to share their stories of using premium animal welfare practices, as well as their rich wool heritage.”
Sheep producers interested in earning certification should go to and sign up as soon as possible. After filling out the initial sign-up form – which is for those involved in wool production only – users are then able to access the educational courses that are required to complete Level I (Educated) of the voluntary program. Producers must also complete ASI’s Sheep Safety and Quality Assurance course to complete the first level. Those who have previously completed the SSQA course will not have to complete it again.
The SSQA course – which is in the process of being updated – provides a foundation for care and handling of sheep. The AWA course narrows the focus to wool sheep handling and production. It will guide producers through three learning courses: an overview of AWA, year-round standards and shearing standards. The courses are user-friendly and can be accessed on any computer or mobile device with an internet connection. The AWA course should take about an hour for most producers to complete.

Following Level I accreditation, growers can become certified in Level II (Process Verified), which involves an evaluation by a second party such as a veterinarian or extension agent. Level III (Certified) requires an independent audit. To prepare for these next levels, growers are encouraged to develop an operating plan and hold records relating to each of the AWA standards. Additionally, training for veterinarians, extension personnel and auditors to assist with Level II and III certification is currently being developed and will occur late this year and into next.
Following accreditation, growers can share their unique code with wool buyers, enabling buyers to verify the status of their certification. Additionally, as traceability becomes increasingly important, wool growers can choose if they would simply like to share the status of their certification, or if they would like to share more information, such as ranch name and general location.
“Accreditation in AWA certifies what growers are already doing, prioritizing the proper care of their sheep and provides another marketing tool for them,” Samuelson said. “ASI suggests consulting with your wool warehouse or buyer for more information before making production and marketing decisions, as prices for certified wool will vary based on a number of factors. However, the feedback from wool buyers and processors is that international wools in an assurance program sell with a premium.”

Cattle Feeders Hall of Fame Inductees to be Honored at 2021 Cattle Industry Convention

Cattle Feeders Hall of Fame inductees and award winners will be honored on Aug. 9, 2021, during the 12th annual banquet, held in conjunction with the nation’s largest cattle industry gathering. The Cattle Feeders Hall of Fame banquet will precede the 2021 Cattle Industry Convention and NCBA Trade Show, to be held in Nashville, Tenn., Aug. 10-12.

The Cattle Feeders Hall of Fame was established in 2009 to honor the exceptional visionary men and women who have made lasting contributions to the cattle-feeding industry. Inductees for 2021 are Johnny Trotter, president and CEO of Bar-G Feedyard in Hereford, Texas, and Steve Gabel, founder of Magnum Feedyard in Wiggins, Colo.

Dr. Gary C. Smith, visiting professor in the Department of Animal Science at Texas A&M University, will receive the Industry Leadership Award. George Eckert with Green Plains Cattle Company in Garden City, Kan., and Gaspar Martinez with Harris Feeding Company in Coalinga, Calif., will receive the Arturo Armendariz Distinguished Service Award.

“I’m excited we can gather in person to recognize this year’s honorees who have devoted their careers to preserving our mission and improving production practices in the industry,” said Cliff Becker, senior vice president, Farm Journal and Cattle Feeders Hall of Fame board member. “We can’t wait to honor these men who have made extraordinary contributions to the cattle feeding industry.”

Attendees of the Cattle Feeders Hall of Fame banquet will find it convenient to stay in Nashville for the Cattle Industry Convention and NCBA Trade Show, which starts the next day. That event will feature important industry meetings, motivational speakers, valuable education, music and entertainment, a massive trade show, producer recognition, a Cowboy’s Night at the Opry and much more.

Cattle Feeders Hall of Fame banquet tickets are $200 per person in addition to convention registration. All proceeds from banquet ticket sales and corporate sponsorships benefit future Hall of Fame initiatives. As an added incentive, Cattle Feeders Hall of Fame banquet attendees will receive a $50 discount on their Cattle Industry Convention registration, courtesy of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

Information on the 2021 Cattle Industry Convention and NCBA Trade Show, including tickets to the 2021 Cattle Feeders Hall of Fame banquet, can be found at Ticket sales and convention registration open June 1, 2021. For more information on the Hall of Fame visit

 Louisiana Ag Workers File Landmark Lawsuit Against Herbicide Manufacturers

Two former Louisiana agricultural workers suffering from Parkinson's disease have filed historic lawsuits against the manufacturers of the herbicide paraquat. The plaintiffs, including a former LSU AgCenter extension agent, worked in the state's ag industry, and were exposed to the toxic chemical for years.

In 2020, a peer-reviewed study by three LSU researchers found a clear correlation between Parkinson's disease and the use of paraquat in rural areas of Louisiana.

The lawsuits, filed May 25th by the New Orleans firms of Herman, Herman & Katz, LLC and the Sangisetty Law Firm and the Los Angeles firm of Arias, Sanguinetti, Wang, Torrijos, allege that Chevron USA, Inc. and Syngeta AG failed to warn of the risk of contracting Parkinson's disease from chronic, low-dose exposure to its herbicide. Punitive damages are also sought for alleged deceptive and unlawful marketing practices.  

The Paraquat Link to Parkinson's

Parkinson's disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder of the brain that primarily affects the body's motor system. There is currently no cure or treatment to stop or reverse its progression.

Paraquat was introduced into the U.S. in the 1960s and marketed as a safe and effective method of controlling vegetation. It has regained popularity as vegetation has become resistant to other herbicides.

Agricultural workers may be exposed by inhalation through the nose or mouth or absorption through the skin. It may take years for the effects of exposure to show up.

In 2019, legislation was proposed to ban paraquat in the U.S., but the bill died in Congress.

Will Nationwide Cases Be Consolidated?

The recently filed lawsuits may soon be consolidated as multidistrict litigation (MDL) with other paraquat cases nationwide. A judicial panel will meet in Washington May 27 to hear arguments about whether the cases should be transferred to a single judge for pre-trial proceedings.

Stephen J. Herman, co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs in the MDL following the BP Oil Spill, sees the consolidation of paraquat cases as a leveling tool for victims of the herbicide. "An MDL allows--indeed requires--the best lawyers from around the country to pool their knowledge, experience and financial resources, so that the farmer in Ruston can go toe-to-toe with a company like Chevron," Herman said. "With our track record in these cases and decades-long relationships with the nations' leading firms, Herman, Herman & Katz is uniquely positioned to fight for our ag workers."