Friday, January 28, 2022

Thursday January 27 Ag News

Ashland-Greenwood Teacher Named Teacher of the Year for Bringing Agriculture into the Classroom

The Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation has selected Diane Starns for the 2022 Nebraska Agriculture in the Classroom Teacher of the Year honor. The Teacher of the Year is awarded to outstanding teachers that incorporate agriculture into their classroom through innovative ideas and lessons.

“The Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation is pleased to honor Diane Starns for her dedication to integrating agriculture into core classroom learning,” said Courtney Shreve, director of outreach education. “Diane gives more than asked and is a dedicated teacher who incorporates year-long learning with Nebraska Agriculture in the Classroom to help students understand the vital message that agriculture is their source of food, fiber, and fuel.”

Starns, a kindergarten teacher at Ashland-Greenwood Elementary, has been an educator for 24 years. Thirteen years ago, she received a flyer from Nebraska Agriculture in the Classroom about becoming involved with the Ag Pen Pal Program. She has now had the same pen pal for the past 13 years.

“Our Pen Pal’s letters were informative and appropriate for my kindergarteners. She would send us field corn, popcorn, soybean plants, and snacks containing a byproduct from corn and soybeans that she highlighted on the packaging!  Her letters were detailed about what was taking place on their farm at that time of the year,” said Starns. “It was easy to see that my students were very interested in what takes place on the farm, not only with animals but also with crops.  Not only did this cover science but also health, math, and literacy too!  We would write three to four friendly letters back to her sharing what we were doing in the classroom!”

Starns has used the lesson plans designed by the Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation. One of Starns’ favorite lessons is Farming in a Glove. This activity has each group of students create a small “farm” where they can see different seeds germinate. The “farm” is a clear plastic glove with a cotton ball in each of the fingers. A seed is placed on the moist cotton ball. To conduct the investigation, each group hangs one glove in the window and a second glove in a dark room or drawer. The students then monitor the gloves and record observations in a science journal.

“When the two weeks for the lesson concluded, the kids got to take the glove home and share it with their parents. They showed their parents how the seeds sprouted, and the roots were growing,” said Starns.  “Then in July, two parents sent me pictures of their kids with their plant grown from one of the seeds from this lesson! I was THRILLED!”

Starns will receive an expense-paid trip to the National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference, an accurate agriculture book bundle featuring 12 books and corresponding literature guides, and a $250 cash prize. The conference, held June 28 – July 1, 2022 in Saratoga Springs, NY, brings educators together from all over the United States to learn how to use agricultural concepts to effectively teach core subjects such as reading, math, science, and social studies. The conference features recognition for Teacher of the Year honorees, educational workshops, traveling workshops to agribusinesses and research facilities, and farm tours.

‘Thirteen years ago, I was sparked by the Ag Pen Pal Program, and now my students are benefitting from all the Nebraska Agriculture in the Classroom agricultural lessons I am incorporating throughout the school year,” said Starns. “I look forward to attending the national conference this year!”

USDA Announces Conservation Reserve Program Signups for 2022

Agricultural producers and landowners can sign up soon for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), a cornerstone conservation program offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and a key tool in the Biden-Harris Administration effort to address climate change and achieve other natural resource benefits. The General CRP signup will run from Jan. 31 to March 11, and the Grassland CRP signup will run from April 4 to May 13.

“We highly encourage farmers, ranchers and private landowners to consider the enrollment options available through CRP,” said Nebraska USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) State Executive Director John Berge. “Last year, we rolled out a better, bolder program, and we highly encourage you to consider its higher payment rates and other incentives. CRP is another way that we’re putting producers and landowners at the center of climate-smart solutions that generate revenue and benefit our planet.”

Producers and landowners enrolled 4.6 million acres into CRP signups in 2021, including 2.5 million acres in the largest Grassland CRP signup in history. There are currently 22.1 million acres enrolled, and FSA is aiming to reach the 25.5-million-acre cap statutorily set for fiscal year 2022.

CRP Signups

General CRP helps producers and landowners establish long-term, resource-conserving plant species, such as approved grasses or trees, to control soil erosion, improve water quality and enhance wildlife habitat on cropland. 

Meanwhile, Grassland CRP is a working lands program, helping landowners and operators protect grassland, including rangeland and pastureland and certain other lands, while maintaining the areas as working grazing lands. Protecting grasslands contributes positively to the economy of many regions, provides biodiversity of plant and animal populations and provides important carbon sequestration benefits to deliver lasting climate outcomes.  

Alongside these programs, producers and landowners can enroll acres in Continuous CRP under the ongoing sign up, which includes projects available through the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) and State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE). Nebraska is accepting applications under its Migratory Birds, Butterflies and Pollinators SAFE initiative for first round consideration through Feb. 18. Signup also is ongoing for Nebraska’s Platte-Republican Resources Area CREP.   

Two Upcoming UNL CAP webinars

Cost of Production for 2022 Crop Enterprises with the Ag Budget Calculator

Glennis McClure, Farm and Ranch Management Analyst, UNL; and Jay Parsons, Farm and Ranch Management Specialist, UNL

It’s as easy as ABC to create and customize crop enterprise budgets for 2022. During this webinar, we’ll provide an overview of the new Agricultural Budget Calculator (ABC) that has been developed for cost of production forecasting. With the 2022 Nebraska Crop Budgets available to download into user’s accounts, these budgets can be modified to fit your individual situation. Program users can also start from scratch and develop their own enterprise budgets. We’ll briefly highlight the analysis features built into the program, including a risk module.

Annual Beef Heifer Replacement Forecasts for the 2022 Production Season by UNL’s Beef Economics Team

Randy Saner, Extension Educator, and Matt Stockton, Agricultural Economist

Year in and year out, cow-calf producers make decisions related to maintaining the cow herd and its profitability. Good decisions today make it possible to stay in the business and take advantage of future opportunities. One of these choices relates to the retention and/or purchase of replacement cows. So, what is a respectable value of a beef replacement heifer for the coming seasons? This choice while simple in principle is complicated by many factors, future costs and values, productivity, and productive life of the purchased animals, etc. The University of Nebraska Beef Economics team seeing this need has create a series of annual forecasts of heifer values. The upcoming webinar exams a series of breakeven values for replacement cows based on productivity, longevity, costs and expected future values.

These webinars are presented by the Center for Agricultural Profitability at the University of Nebraska.  You can get more information and register at  

Nebraska research studying benefits of grass restoration amid cropland

A new study led by Daren Redfearn, professor of agronomy and horticulture and forage systems specialist, is exploring whether a targeted restoration of perennial grasses amid cropland could bring about a variety of benefits.

University of Nebraska–Lincoln researchers are leading a study of how a targeted restoration of perennial grasses amid cropland could bring about a variety of benefits, ranging from reduction in water and fertilizer use to expansion of wildlife habitat to encouragement of new bioenergy industry.

The four-year, $4 million project will be conducted on University of Nebraska research plots and 12 to 15 on-farm sites in the Republican River Basin in west central and western Nebraska, said Daren Redfearn, the Husker forage systems specialist leading the work.

The project, Expanding the Conversion of Habitat in the Northern Great Plains Ecosystem, or EXCHANGE, has its genesis in a U.S. Department of Energy goal to reduce water and fertilizer use on crops by 25%. EXCHANGE is funded through the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

“We said the easiest way to do that would be to just not grow on 25% of the area under those pivots and not fertilize it and not water it,” Redfearn said.

So researchers will plant what some call “prairie strips” on less productive areas within cropland — species of native perennial warm-season grasses, including switchgrass, big bluestem and Indiangrass. They also will be planted in corners of irrigated areas that are not easily reached by pivots.

Establishing perennial grasses in their native habitat is nothing new, Redfearn said.

“What makes our proposed technology unique and innovative is using limited irrigation on native perennial tallgrasses within irrigated row-cropped landscapes,” he said.

Researchers believe that limited irrigation of these grasses, using much less water than adjacent crops, ultimately will produce more biomass than other warm- and cool-season grasses typically planted in the region.

Potential impacts of this approach include:
    Reduction of landscape-scale irrigation water use and improved groundwater sustainability
    Reduction of fertilizer and herbicide inputs and improved nutrient retention and farm net returns
    Increased soil carbon and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to help mitigate climate change and provide additional revenue streams
    Increased biodiversity by restoring wildlife habitat, primarily for birds and pollinator insects
    Encouragement of a new bioenergy market for growers

“This project could serve as a large-scale regional model for altering the culture of agriculture while providing economic opportunity for family farms and serving as a model system for the emerging bioeconomy,” Redfearn said.

Ultimately, the approach could lead to construction of new biorefineries in the region to process the grasses.

“You can’t haul those bioenergy grasses much further than 40 or 50 miles and make that cost-effective,” Redfearn said. “But even if that doesn’t happen, there still are plenty of livestock in that area that can utilize those grasses. They’ll get used one way or another.”

The project will also produce an all-encompassing life cycle economic analysis.

“We need to identify a monetary value to all these ecosystem services. A lot of people have an interest in that, but no one’s figured out how to do it,” Redfearn said. “We have an opportunity to assign some value” to the individual impacts of the research that will help determine its feasibility for expansion.

Other Nebraska investigators include Andrew Little, assistant professor in the School of Natural Resources; Jay Parsons, professor of agricultural economics; and Julie Peterson, associate professor of entomology. The university also is partnering with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service and Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, Illinois.

Pork Producers Name 2022 Youth Leadership Team

Kiley Allan, Le Mars; Kirby Cook, Winthrop; and Maggie Staudacher, Indianola, are members of the 2022 Iowa Pork Youth Leadership Team. They were selected from the nine young Iowans who competed for the honor the last week of January.
The Iowa Pork Producers Association (IPPA) sponsors the contest, which includes interviews, speech presentations, and knowledge of pork and pig production. Their previous community involvement and experience are also considered. The top female contestant is crowned pork queen, and the top remaining contestants, male or female, are named youth ambassadors.
Allan, a freshman at Iowa State University, will reign as the 2022 Iowa Pork Queen. Cook and Staudacher are Pork Ambassadors. Each receives a $4,000 scholarship and plaque noting their award. According to their predecessors, the most valuable things they will gain are the many growth and leadership opportunities provided by these positions. Over the next year, the IPPA Youth Leadership Team will participate in public activities promoting pork and pig production, from county activities around Iowa to the Iowa State Fair and World Pork Expo.
Kiley Allan
Kiley Allan is the daughter of Mark and Alise Allan of Le Mars in Plymouth County. She is a freshman at Iowa State University in Ames, where she is majoring in agricultural communications and animal science. She is seeking a career that involves closing the information gap between the farm and consumers, to prevent misconceptions about the pork industry and agriculture.
Kirby Cook
Kirby Cook is the son of Aaron and Trish Cook of Winthrop in Buchanan County. He is a senior at East Buchanan High School in Winthrop. He plans to pursue a degree in agricultural studies at Iowa State University in Ames, and eventually return to his family’s farm for a career in hog and grain farming.
Maggie Staudacher
Maggie Staudacher is the daughter of Mike and Rene Staudacher of Indianola in Warren County. She is a sophomore studying animal science at Iowa State University in Ames, with plans to go on to veterinary school and become a large-animal veterinarian.

IPPA Honors Iowa's Master Pork Producers, Pork Partners

At the 2022 Iowa Pork Congress banquet, the Iowa Pork Producers Association introduced the 2021 class of Master Pork Producers and Master Pork Partners.
A Master Pork Producer award denotes an individual’s or family’s excellence in pork production, as measured by their pork production statistics, their commitment to We Care® principles, and their contribution to their community. The We Care principles outline a pig farmer’s responsibilities to uphold high standards for animal well-being, food safety, the environment, as well as support of their local community.
IPPA’s 80thth class of Master Pork Producers are:
    Jerry & Nancy Croghan, Manning, Shelby County
    Tim Sadler, Cresco, Howard County
    Dan Thoma, Brandon, Buchanan County

 IPPA started the Master Pork Producer Award program in 1942 and has now named 1,499 Iowa pig farming businesses as Master Pork Producers.
IPPA created the Master Pork Partner Award in 2014 to recognize outstanding production partners who have made positive impacts in Iowa pork production, even though they don’t have active daily roles at a specific production site.
The 2021 Master Pork Partners are:
    Grant Weaver, Waterloo, a buyer for Tyson Fresh Meats in Waterloo
    Bob Rose of Independence, trucker and owner of Rose Transfer
    Cara Haden, DVM; Independence, a veterinarian with Pipestone Veterinary Services

 The award winners are nominated by their peers and neighbors, and represent the diversity of Iowa’s pig farms. This production diversity helps maintain the strength of the industry and enables Iowa producers to compete successfully in the domestic and international commodity and niche markets.
The Iowa Pork Producers Association and Iowa State University Extension co-sponsor the Master Pork Producer program to demonstrate the character and breadth of Iowa pork production. Nominations for the 2022 Master Pork Program awards will open in May.

Outstanding Achievement on Behalf of Soy Industry Recognized

A must-attend summer event, a dedicated farm and food broadcaster and a first-generation farmer were among those touted for outstanding achievement benefiting the soy industry. The recognition was given in eight categories by the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) during its annual Winter Soy Summit held Jan. 25 in Des Moines.

“Many people are driven to deliver for Iowa soybean farmers,” said ISA President Robb Ewoldt of Davenport. “It’s critical to recognize these meaningful contributions and celebrate an industry that continues to be a positive force for our state and country.”

Whether a lifelong soybean farmer, innovator in production, or a champion for fellow farmers, the 2022 ISA Leadership Award recipients have demonstrated a passion for the future of soy. Award categories, sponsors and recipients were:

Legacy of Leadership Award (presented by Stine Seed): Rolland Schnell, a soybean farmer and past ISA president from Newton, has advanced the goals of the association through his longstanding commitment to enhance the industry.  

Rising Star Award (presented by Farm Credit Services of America): Nathan Behrends, an Iowa State University student from Wiota, actively promotes Iowa agriculture and plans to remain involved in the industry through future personal and professional endeavors. The award includes a $1,000 stipend for educational expenses.

New Leader Award (presented by Corteva Agriscience): James Hepp, a soybean farmer from Rockwell City, continues to deepen his involvement in ISA programming while growing his commitment of service to the industry and his local community.  

Environmental Leader Award (presented by Agri Drain): Michael Vittetoe, a soybean producer from Washington, is a leader in integrating sustainable practices on his multi-generational operation. Through his work with ISA’s Research Center for Farming Innovation (RCFI), Michael has implemented unique strategies to improve soil health and enhance water quality.  

Innovator in Production Research Award (presented by John Deere): Kevin Prevo, a soybean farmer from Bloomfield, highlights the role precision agriculture plays in managing practices to improve farm profitability. His experiences have allowed ISA to continue finding new opportunities for farmers to implement cutting edge approaches.  

Friend of the Iowa Soybean Farmer Award (presented by Cargill): Andy Petersen, cohost of WHO Radio’s “The Big Show”, continues to play an important part in the agricultural reporting space. His support of both the soybean industry and agriculture has connected more consumers and producers to ISA messages, events and programming.  

Advocate for Iowa Agriculture Award (presented by Bayer Cropscience): Presented to the Iowa State Fair. The annual event is nationally recognized and a staple of Iowa summers since it began in 1854. The fair highlights the hard work, strength and dedication of Iowa’s agriculture community and gives visitors a firsthand look at agriculture’s role in their everyday lives.  

Policy Champion Award (presented by Champion Seed): Wayne Fredericks, a soybean farmer and past ISA president from Osage, has been a lifelong advocate on behalf of  producers across the state. His relationship building with elected officials and collaborative spirit showcase a dedication to advocacy on the local, state and national levels.  

“This year’s crop of award recipients are valued voices to our industry,” said Ewoldt. “We look forward to the many contributions they will continue to make benefiting soybean farmers.”

To learn more about the recipients, visit

ADC invites dairy farmers and organizations to ‘Future of Federal Milk Pricing Forum’ Feb. 15 via webinar

The American Dairy Coalition (ADC) invites dairy farmers and their state and national organization leaders to participate in the upcoming webinar: “Future of Federal Milk Pricing Forum” February 15 from 12:00 to 1:30 p.m. EST by webinar.
The forum will begin the process of building ‘farmer consensus’ around updated milk pricing strategies that are more acceptable at the farm level.
Cooperatives and processors are having these same conversations, but ADC’s first forum is by farmers for farmers and is strictly focused on hearing directly from farmers, presidents of state and national dairy farmer organizations and/or their leadership.
“As the industry attempts to update the federal milk pricing system, ADC wants to bring farmers together for early input. This is an important initial step in beginning a consensus-building process while ensuring the voice of actual dairy farmers is heard,” says ADC CEO Laurie Fischer. “When you register for the forum, please reserve a spot if you would like to speak and provide input on solutions to all webinar attendees.”

The 90-minute webinar will be moderated by Dave Natzke. As an editor with Progressive Dairy, Natzke’s primary editorial focus includes dairy policy, markets, pricing and risk management with emphasis on their impacts on dairy producer milk checks and businesses.

Three panelists will offer introductory comments before the ‘floor’ is opened to those registering for 3-minute time slots:
    Calvin Covington, a retired co-op CEO, will talk about what FMMOs do and don’t do as well as what they can and cannot do. He has experienced the FMMO hearing process in the past.
    Frank Doll, a dairy producer and American Farm Bureau Dairy Policy Committee member will review the recommendations that recently came out of the AFBF dairy working group.
    Mike McCully, a dairy industry consultant, will provide a perspective on how changes to the Class I fluid milk pricing formula impact farm mailbox milk prices.

In November, a bipartisan U.S. Senate bill was introduced that, if passed, would require USDA to hold national FMMO hearings. Recently, Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack told producers in Wisconsin that FMMO hearings will not be held until there is “consensus within the dairy industry.” At the same time, 2023 Farm Bill discussions, where milk pricing changes may be considered, are getting underway.
“The FMMO system is complex with regional, national and global factors. We have seen the impact of a pricing change in the Class I formula that was made legislatively in the last Farm Bill without a vetted hearing process or farmer input. We must never let this happen again,” Fischer notes. “Our webinar offers dairy farmers and their state and national organizations the opportunity to have a voice and to provide leadership in how milk is priced in the future.”
Some questions to consider for input include:
    What are your top three federal milk pricing concerns that you feel need immediate attention and change?
    Looking outside your paradigm and using a 'blank page' perspective, what role would you say the government should play in the following:
    The pricing of milk?
    Oversight of timely payment?
    Accurate weights and measures?
    Benchmarking indexes?
    Price Discovery?
    Since only Class I regulated plants are legally mandated to pay the FMMO minimums, should the FMMO system be limited to just Class I?
    What pricing tools are helpful to farmers to manage risks?
These are just some thought-starters, and Fischer explains that the main goal of this forum is to hear dairy farmer perspectives.
To fill out the registration form to listen and/or to give input scan the QR code with a cell phone or go to this link:
Those registering will receive the webinar link and access information to participate on Feb. 15, and those requesting a time to speak will receive an additional follow-up email from the ADC staff.

RMA Extends Crop Insurance Flexibilities to June Due to COVID-19

Because of the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is extending program flexibilities to Approved Insurance Providers (AIPs) and agricultural producers until June 30, 2022 or later. Originally, these flexibilities were expiring this month.

 “Our priority is to keep our producers and partners as safe as possible, while at the same time continuing to provide the best service we can,” said Marcia Bunger, Administrator of USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA). “These unique times call for everyone to be cautious and as flexible as possible, and these added flexibilities will help us achieve those goals.”

Extended flexibilities include:  
    Allowing notifications to be sent electronically, including policy related information over the phone or other electronic methods to select policy elections by sales closing, acreage reporting and production reporting dates, including options, endorsements and their forms.  Producers may sign electronically or within 60 calendar days.  
    Allowing producers to submit a request for a written agreement after the sales closing date.  
    Allowing producers with inability to physically sign a written agreement because of COVID-19 to do so after the expiration date.  
    Providing additional time for AIPs to accept Regional Office Determined Yield, Master Yield, and Irrigated Determined Yield requests for Category B (annual) crops.    
    Allowing AIPs to request a 30-day extension to submit Determined Yield requests for Category C (perennial) crops.  
    Waiving the witness signature requirement for approval of Assignments of Indemnity.    

Additional details can be found in RMA’s Jan. 20, 2022 Manager’s Bulletin, the frequently asked questions or    

Additional Pandemic Assistance  

These flexibilities are part of USDA’s broader response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, RMA recently provided $59.5 million in premium support for producers who planted cover crops on 12.2 million acres through the new Pandemic Cover Crop Program. Also, USDA’s Pandemic Assistance for Producers has provided additional support for producers by improving and retargeting existing programs and creating new efforts, like PCCP, to reach a broader set of producers. USDA is currently accepting applications for two new pandemic assistance programs: the Organic and Transitional Education and Certification Program by Feb. 4, 2022 and the Spot Market Hog Pandemic Program by Feb. 25, 2022.     

For specialty ag exporters, supply chain delays remain major crisis

The holiday rush may be behind us, but the supply chain crisis has not subsided, especially for many U.S. agricultural processors located in the Upper Midwest.

Specialty Soya and Grains Alliance (SSGA) members who export high-quality, Identity Preserved grains and oilseeds continue to have major difficulties getting the equipment they need to fulfill their orders and meet the needs of their overseas customers.

Many containers bringing consumer imports to the U.S. continue to be sent back overseas empty instead of inland where ag processors have supplies ready to be shipped.

“Specialty agriculture needs containers for food grade exports due to a food supply chain that has reached a condition critical situation,” said Rob Prather, SSGA chairman and chief strategic ambassador for Global Processing, an Iowa-based company that grows, processes and supplies Identity Preserved, non-GMO soybeans and soy ingredients. “This isn’t just a global supply chain issue; it’s a global food supply security issue.”

The United States produces the finest agricultural products in the world, including Identity Preserved soybeans and specialty grains used around the globe by food and beverage manufacturers. SSGA members’ customers abroad specifically want these products. They’ve ordered them, and they’re waiting for them.

Specialty crops shipped via container are a growing market because of consumer demand around the world. The United States must be a reliable supplier, and that means the supply chain must work for everybody. It is wrong for shipping lines, which have been enjoying record profits throughout this crisis, to deny service to ag exporters. Some SSGA members have reported they are able to ship just 40-60% of their orders because of these continuing supply chain issues.

“Dialogue must continue, and SSGA is calling on companies throughout the supply chain to participate and find ways to reposition containers where possible and unclog this system, which is so vital to the global food supply,” said Eric Wenberg, SSGA executive director. “As an American, I am surprised that one our country's top exports is air -– in the form of empty containers. Let’s slow down the system enough so we can put something in those empty containers.”

SSGA was among the first groups to sound the alarm on the supply chain crisis, and that was 15 months ago. Continued lack of service, carrier cancelations, delays and rising freight rates and fees have made the situation as difficult as it’s ever been, according to some SSGA members.

This hasn’t just affected business either. There are real people working to make sure every link in the supply chain remains strong, and the human toll has caused hardships to logistics staffs, as well as farmers, truckers, suppliers and customers.

SSGA supported the Ocean Shipping Reform Act that overwhelmingly passed the U.S. House of Representatives in December and is encouraging the Senate to move forward with the legislation, which would strengthen the Shipping Act and prohibit ocean carriers from unreasonably declining opportunities for U.S. exports.

More solutions are needed and fast. While time is of the essence, SSGA is hosting a shipping conference, Transportation Go, March 3-4 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and encourages anyone interested in solving this crisis to join us bring your best ideas to the table. More information at

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