Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Tuesday August 23 - Pro Farmer Crop Tour (Nebraska) + Ag News

PF Crop Tour West: Heat Stress and Drought Limiting Nebraska Harvest Potential
Chad Smith, NAFB

The western leg of the Pro Farmer Crop Tour made its way through Nebraska on day two and found some tough crop conditions. After sampling several cornfields, the tour came up with a yield prediction of 158.5 bushels per acre, a 13 percent drop from the 182.3 bushels in 2021. Pro Farmer's Chip Flory is leading the western leg and says the results are a little unexpected.  

Flory says, “I think they're a little bit surprising based on the expectations that were in place before we set out here on the road. And I feel like we need to talk a little bit about the expectations before we come out here. And the bottom line is that the expectations were set by USDA’s estimate on August one, based on farmer surveys and the farmers’ estimates as of August one, what we've seen in South Dakota and Nebraska is how dramatically conditions have changed from August one to the third week of August. It played out in South Dakota. We're off 22 percent from a year ago on the crop tour findings, and here we are off 13 percent from a year ago on crop tour when USDA had the crop off 6.7 percent from last year.”

Similar to the South Dakota results, the Nebraska corn was short on grain length compared to 2021. This year, Nebraska’s grain length was 6.62 compared to 7.15 last year. Flory says dry weather and high winds after August first were devastating to the Nebraska corn crop.  

Flory says, “The crop gave it up, and it gave it up in a hurry. Quentin Bowen, who's in the crowd here in Nebraska City, said, ‘Listen, we're right on the edge of things. We can go either way, and we can go either way in a hurry.’ And without the rains, and then, in Nebraska, they had 100-degree temperatures and 30-mile-an-hour winds on August fifth, sixth and seventh, and it really, really hurt that dryland crop compared to a year ago. I don't think there's any question about that.”

Last year, dryland corn harvest estimates totaled 166.26 bushels an acre. This year’s dryland corn harvest estimate is 135.65 bushels, an 18 percent drop from 2021.

Turning to the soybean crop, the number of pods in a three-foot by three-foot square totaled 1,063.7, a 13 percent drop from 1,226.4 in 2021. He says the soybean estimates were less surprising than the corn numbers.  

Flory says, “I think the expectations were pretty close to on mark there because USDA’s August one yield estimate, not pod counts, was down 12.7% from a year ago. This year, the crop tour is off 13.3 percent from a year ago on the pod counts. So, I think we're kind of looking at the same crop that farmers commented on in their surveys in that August one crop production report.”

The moisture estimate for soybeans was 14 percent lower than the previous three-year average. Flory says even though there wasn’t a big surprise in soybeans, there are still concerns.  

Flory concludes, “It's an ordinary crop out here in Nebraska on the soybeans. It's ordinary. It doesn't surprise me. It doesn't disappoint me. The thing that I'm concerned about is the number of weeds. It's not every field, but the waterhemp is out there and it's back out with a vengeance in some of these fields. It's got to be part of your management plans for 2023 on how you're going to take care of that seed bank that's out there.”

After spending the night in Nebraska City, the western leg of the tour moves into western Iowa before ending up on Wednesday night in Spencer, Iowa.

The unrelenting Summer of 2022

Brian Bruckner, LENRD Assistant Manager

Drought is an insidious, slow-onset natural hazard that produces a complex web of impacts that ripple through many sectors of the economy, and unfortunately, we are witnessing many of the negative impacts right in our own backyard. The unrelenting heat and lack of precipitation are withering crops and pastures, causing heat stress for livestock and humans alike, and causing many communities to enforce watering restrictions to force conservation of groundwater. The spike in demand from all groundwater users is also taking its toll, with many well owners reporting a decline in the performance of their well, causing many to lower their pumps deeper into the well casing if they have the option. A seasonal decline in static water levels is typical with the onset of irrigation season, but conditions this summer tend to parallel those created during the acute drought that occurred in 2012. Many observation wells in the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) suffered record declines in depths to groundwater after that event, and many are curious to compare impacts to groundwater supplies once monitoring data has been collected following the 2022 pumping season.

In 2018, the LENRD added a provision into its groundwater management plan that provides guidance towards steering a meaningful response to drought impacts, with a graduated menu of options dependent upon the severity of the drought. This provision utilizes the U.S. Drought Monitor, and the weekly maps that are created to illustrate the current drought designation, as the basis for providing information or activities that could be implemented to protect groundwater supplies. A refined map is released on Thursday of each week and the most recent version shows that approximately 45 percent of the LENRD is currently situated in an extreme drought, or D3 designation. As illustrated by the week-to-week comparison maps, the extreme drought area grew, though at a slower rate than the week prior.

A weather front brought rain showers to portions of the area earlier in the week, but amounts were not significant and geographic coverage spotty and therefore the drought stress continues. Year-to-date precipitation for Norfolk, NE is currently at 10.72”, and is the lowest amount of annual accumulated precipitation ever recorded for this location, with records dating back to 1894. By comparison, the annual accumulated precipitation for this station was 11.80” for the same date in 2012, another year that presented numerous drought related challenges for the region.

The topic has been at the forefront of discussions between the LENRD Board of Directors and staff, given the district’s responsibility to manage groundwater supplies. All high-capacity wells are equipped with flow meters to measure the total flow and annual amount pumped, and some irrigation wells in the district are annually limited on the total amount that can be pumped for irrigation purposes. Limits on these wells have been imposed for one specific reason; that being the need to protect existing groundwater uses while continuing to allow for new and/or expanded uses in some portions of the LENRD. Some well owners are approaching the annual cap that is in place for their well, and many utilize sophisticated tools to help them manage their irrigation scheduling. But given the lack of timely rainfall in many portions of the district the demand for supplemental irrigation is likely to continue until the crop reaches maturity.

In preparation for the future, a group comprised of board members has been designated by the Chairman of the LENRD Board of Directors to serve on the Ad Hoc Drought Response Committee. This committee will be tasked with closely monitoring pertinent pieces of information related to the drought and groundwater supplies. Though the future is unpredictable, the current pattern of deficit precipitation is likely to continue, and the ad hoc committee will be working on options that could be enacted by the board of directors if the negative conditions continue. Even if precipitation patterns return to normal, groundwater recharge may lag in some areas and an enhanced frequency of groundwater monitoring is ready to be implemented to provide scientific information as the basis for groundwater management decisions.

Most Nebraskans understand that drought it not uncommon to our region and given the dry and windy conditions we experienced earlier this year, most of us saw this coming. While we hope the future holds a wetter pattern, we also recognize that the drought could very well extend into the next year, and maybe even beyond. Some researchers are describing the dry conditions in western U.S. as the driest in 1,200 years. Though our current situation isn’t comparable to that in the west, the time for proactive measures is upon us to ensure that the long-term viability of the groundwater resource can be protected for the future.

Ag Sack Lunch Program Continues Statewide, with Virtual and In-person Options

The popular Ag Sack Lunch Program is returning for its 13th school year in 2022-2023, continuing its offerings which include both in-person and virtual presentations designed to increase agricultural awareness among Nebraska fourth-grade students and their families.

“We are excited to continue to offer virtual presentations to schools,” said Karen Brokaw, Ag Lunch Program coordinator. “We can reach schools who do not travel to Lincoln for a field trip. Response from the virtual presentations has been very positive and student engagement remained strong.”

The in-person program provides a free lunch and an ag-focused learning experience to fourth-grade students who visit Lincoln each year to tour the State Capitol Building as part of their educational curriculum. While they eat their lunches, students hear a presentation about the important role agriculture plays in Nebraska’s economy, as well as the crops and livestock species that are raised in the state. The sack lunches consist of Nebraska-produced food items to help students gain an appreciation for where their food comes from. Students also receive a deck of cards containing many agriculture facts including the games “Crazy Soybean” and “Old Corn Maid” to take home.

The virtual presentations include the same lively presentation on the importance of agriculture in Nebraska, connecting the food we eat every day with Nebraska farmers. Students also receive the fact-filled card games that feature Nebraska agriculture facts.

Registrations are now being accepted for fall and spring presentations for both virtual and in- person State Capitol visits. “It is important teachers make their reservations as soon as possible to ensure availability,” Brokaw said. Reservations can be made online at www.agsacklunchprogram.com.

“Over the last 12 years, the Ag Sack Lunch Program has been successful in helping fourth-grade students understand where their food comes from,” said Kelly Brunkhorst, Nebraska Corn Board executive director. “We teach how Nebraska’s farming methods help protect the environment while ensuring food safety and animal health.”

The program is sponsored by the Nebraska Corn Board, the Nebraska Soybean Board, the Nebraska Pork Producers Association, Nebraska Beef Council, Midwest Dairy, Nebraska Poultry Industries and Nebraska Wheat Board.

Tensions Surrounding Chinese Beef Exports

Elliott Dennis, Extension Livestock Economist, University of Nebraska - Lincoln

Over the last several weeks there have been ongoing heightened tensions between the US and China over the Taiwan situation. This has caused some concern among producers about the sensitivity of the U.S. beef industry to Chinese purchases. Only several years ago, President Trump signed a trade deal with China in which the Chinese committed to purchasing additional U.S. exports in two phases. This has significantly raised the total quantity and value of beef leaving the U.S. to mainland China and strengthening the U.S. wholesale beef price. Even with the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chinese have continued to purchase U.S. beef.
U.S.-China Trade Agreement
The U.S.-China trade agreement did five primary things for the U.S. beef industry. One, it allowed for the continued protocol for the importation of U.S. beef and beef products into China. Two, China eliminated the cattle age requirements for the importation of U.S. beef and beef products. Three, China recognized the U.S. beef and beef products traceability system, acknowledged that there was a negligible risk of bovine disease, and agreed to follow the OIE standards if the U.S. health status would change. Four, it allowed for the importation of beef and beef products into China that was inspected by the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). Five, China adopted maximum residue limits for several hormones. Collectively, these five conditions allowed for more beef to enter mainland China.
Historical Performance of Chinese Imports of U.S. Beef
There was a minimal amount of beef that entered directly into mainland China before the two-phase trade deal with no single month topping a million lbs. exported. China is now the third largest importer of U.S. beef based on total quantity importing an average of 35 million lbs. of beef per month in 2021. Japan and South Korea continue to remain the U.S.’s largest trading partners with an average monthly export quantity of 58 and 51 million lbs., respectively. The total quantity shipped to the U.S. from China in 2022 is higher than in 2021 by about 10 million lbs. more per month. This brings their current market share to 17% of total U.S. beef exports. Based on data from 2021, we should see seasonal exports to China increase through August and then expect some decrease through the latter part of the year. Granted, this seasonality could differ given the industry only really has one complete year of purchase information.

Vulnerability of the U.S. Beef Complex to Chinese Policies
Some industry participants have expressed concern that the Chinese entering the market now makes the U.S. beef complex more vulnerable to the perceived subjective policies in China. One can test for this using a measure of market concentration (see Tonsor (2018) for a detailed example). Between 2010-2019, the average measure of concentration was 0.128 (0 is highly competitive and 1 is highly concentrated). When the Chinese stepped in and started buying U.S. beef beginning in 2020, the measure of concentration changed from 0.152 to 0.146 in 2020 and 2021, respectively. Year to date, the measure of concentration in 2022 is 0.149. The U.S. beef export market has become more concentrated in recent years but is far less concentrated than it was in the 1990s when the measure of concentration was approximately 0.312. In other words, the U.S. beef export market is not as vulnerable as some industry participants currently claim.

U.S. Beef Export Market Stronger After BSE?
The concerns with China highlight a larger story about how sensitive the U.S. beef export market is to both internal and external shocks. The largest of these shocks was BSE in December 2003. After BSE, many countries significantly reduced the total amount of trade with the U.S. – total trade quantity dropped by approximately 75%. However, this created opportunities for the U.S. to develop other markets. While the average quantity per country reduced from 25 million per year to 6 million per year between 2003 and 2004, the total number of countries with a positive trade quantity increased from 112 to 118. That number continued to grow over the next ten years while the primary U.S. beef export markets recovered. Similarly, the U.S. increased quantities into existing countries which have retained post-BSE trade levels even after the U.S. has regained access to other large export locations. Places like Ukraine, Moldova, Poland, and the Leeward-Windward Islands became major export destinations. The U.S. beef export market has shown that it will continue to expand, even if export access is lost to key countries.


– Todd Whitney, NE Extension Educator

Fair pricing of drought-stressed forage can be a challenge when harvest costs are higher per ton along with lower yields and reduced energy values due to drought.

Under normal conditions, grain content in a field is about 52% of the total biomass. So, when droughty corn fields are earless; the UNL rule of thumb: multiplying the corn grain value per bushel times 7.65 to equal the forage value per ton might need adjustment. For example, if the dry matter is only 30% versus the standard 35%; and field grain content is 40% verses normal 52%; then, the fair multiplier tonnage price would be 5 times the grain price instead of 7.65.

An alternative pricing method might be using hay values adjusted for moisture. However, drought many times drives hay prices higher than comparative silage prices. So, the normal rule of thumb: one ton of corn silage substituting for 1/3 the price of alfalfa hay per ton may also overvalue droughty forage.

The bottom line is that droughty crops have less TDN (total digestible nutrients) than normal forage, so ‘rule of thumb pricing’ should be slightly adjusted. Actual field sample nutrient content testing (regarding standing forage for grazing, greenchop or silage) is the fairest method for both the buyer and seller.

For example, if we use 72% TDN as normal for corn silage, then a droughty 60% TDN crop adjustment factor would equal 0.83 (60/72) or about 17% less value. Buyers bear the risk of over-estimating the value of drought-stressed corn which often has wetter content and less value than normal corn harvests.

Further value pricing might be improved by using free silage valuing spreadsheets on Nebraska Extension; Iowa State or South Dakota State University websites.

Norfolk Beef Expo – Entry Deadline

Melissa Nordboe, Extension Assistant, Cuming County

The 73rd annual Norfolk Beef Expo will be held September 11th at the Ag Complex on the Northeast Community College campus. All details and forms are available on our website at cuming.unl.edu or available in the Extension Office.

Entries are due to the Extension Office by August 31st in order to compete at the Norfolk Beef Expo. All entry fees will payable to the respective show and must be attached with the entry form.

USDA Announces Appointments to Equity Commission Subcommittee on Rural Community Economic Development

Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the 12 members of the newly established Equity Commission Subcommittee on Rural Community Economic Development (RCED). On April 7, 2022, USDA announced the call for nominations, and applications for membership to the RCED Subcommittee were accepted until May 6, 2022. Section 1006 of the American Rescue Plan directed USDA to create and fund the Equity Commission, signaling the beginning of the kinds of systemic, structural and cultural changes essential to advancing equity.

Following the thorough review of more than 500 application packages, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is appointing 12 individuals to serve on the USDA Equity Commission (EC) RCED Subcommittee. RCED Subcommittee members include representatives of community-based organizations, lending institutions, small business or cooperatives, tribal entities, and two members from the Equity Commission.

The new RCED subcommittee members are:
Cheryal Hills, Minnesota
David Carrasquillo-Medrano, Puerto Rico
Calvin Allen, North Carolina
Lakota Vogel, South Dakota
Valerie Beel, Nebraska

LaTonya Keaton, Illinois
Doug O’Brien, Maryland/Washington, DC
Curtis Wynn, Florida
Terry Rambler, Arizona
Larry Holland, Mississippi
Nils Christoffersen, Oregon
Shonterria Charleston, Georgia

“USDA is committed to ensuring that the underserved communities and populations that have been disproportionately impacted by the effects of economic and environmental shocks are prioritized as we address systemic inequities and build back trust,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “The diverse perspectives and expertise of the new RCED Subcommittee members will be critical to ensuring the Commission’s discussions and recommendations are balanced, insightful, and project the desired equity outcomes for everyone.”

“I am very excited to welcome this new RCED Subcommittee to join the work of the Equity Commission and Subcommittee on Agriculture,” said Deputy Secretary Jewel Bronaugh, who serves as co-Chair of the Equity Commission. “Overcoming the historic and systemic barrier that is the persistent poverty experienced by underserved rural communities is a charge that I feel personally connected to and believe will positively impact two-thirds of the 3,000 plus counties in the United States.”

The RCED Subcommittee will work with the Equity Commission and its Agriculture Subcommittee to provide recommendations to the Secretary that specifically address issues and concerns to rural development, persistent poverty and underserved communities. The newly appointed subcommittee members reflect diversity in demographics, regions of the country, background, and in experience and expertise. As part of the application and selection process, USDA sought members who can share the voice and experiences of farmers, ranchers, and farmworker groups, people of color, women, Tribal and Indigenous communities, individuals with disabilities, individuals with limited English proficiency, rural communities, and LGBTQI+ communities.

After onboarding, the RCED Subcommittee members will join the Equity Commission and its Agriculture Subcommittee at the commission’s third public meeting on September 21-22, 2022.

If there are issues that should be considered by the Equity Commission and its Subcommittees, all stakeholders, including the general public and congressional representatives, are encouraged to submit public comments via email to equitycommission@usda.gov.

ISU Extension and Outreach Wants to Hear from Iowans through Online Survey

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach is conducting a statewide audience assessment.

“As technology continues to evolve, we want to learn how Iowans prefer to access, receive and engage with extension education – both in person and virtually,” said John Lawrence, Iowa State’s vice president for extension and outreach.

Through this survey, Iowans can tell ISU Extension and Outreach about the technology they prefer to use, the topics they want to learn more about and the issues they think will be important to the people in their communities over the next two years.

The survey is available online, www.extension.iastate.edu/survey, and will remain open through late September. Iowans may contact their ISU Extension and Outreach county office for more information.

“The more Iowans we can survey, the better we can engage all Iowans in research, education and extension experiences to address current and emerging real-life challenges,” Lawrence said.

ISU Extension and Outreach is part of the federal Cooperative Extension Service — a network of more than 100 land-grant institutions, including Iowa State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture serving communities and counties across the United States. Every county in Iowa has an elected extension council that decides how to support ISU Extension and Outreach educational programs at the county level.

Finalists Selected for Iowa Leopold Conservation Award

Three finalists have been selected for the inaugural 2022 Iowa Leopold Conservation Award®.

Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the award recognizes farmers, ranchers and forestland owners who inspire others with their dedication to land, water and wildlife habitat in their care.

Sand County Foundation and national sponsor American Farmland Trust annually present the Leopold Conservation Award to farmers, ranchers and forestland owners in 24 states for extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation. In Iowa, the award is presented with state partners: Conservation Districts of Iowa, Farmers National Company, and Practical Farmers of Iowa.

The 2022 finalists are:
    Vic and Cindy Madsen of Audubon in Audubon County: The Madsens use a complex crop rotation and cover crops to manage weeds and build soil health while growing organic corn, soybeans, alfalfa, oats and other small grains at Madsen Stock Farm. Rotationally grazing beef cattle on hilly areas of their farm maintains the ground cover needed to prevent erosion and promote biodiversity. Field borders and prairie strips of native prairie plants provide wildlife habitat and water infiltration.

    Loran Steinlage of West Union in Fayette County: Loran’s unique relay cropping system includes a diverse mix of grains and cover crops to regenerate soil and ensure clean water at FloLo Farms. As an early adopter of innovation, he welcomes scientific research to measure the impact and efficacy of new ideas. He consults on how to adjust farm machinery for conservation practices, and reaches international audiences through interviews, podcasts and events as an advocate for regenerative agriculture.

    Seth, Christy, Spencer and Tatum Watkins of Clarinda in Page and Taylor counties: To improve soil health and water quality, the Watkins turned tilled and highly erodible cropland into pastures with permanent forage to rotationally graze beef cattle at Pinhook Farm. More than 55 ponds have been built or improved on the land they own and rent. To provide habitat for wildlife and pollinators, ditches are not mowed until August. Seth welcomes opportunities to share his perspective on agricultural conservation and resiliency with others, especially youth.

The recipient receives $10,000, and their conservation success story will be featured in a video and in other outreach. The recipient will be announced at The Big Soil Health Event in Cedar Falls in December.

“These award finalists are examples of how Aldo Leopold’s land ethic is alive and well today. Their dedication to conservation shows how individuals can improve the health of the land while producing food and fiber,” said Kevin McAleese, Sand County Foundation President and CEO.

“The landowner plays a critical role in the conservation of America’s farmland resources. Sustainable practices not only benefit the local environment and community, but also improves the quality and value of the land as an asset for the current owner, and future generations,” said Clayton Becker, Farmers National Company President. “This is why Farmers National Company is honored to sponsor this prestigious award recognizing hard work and a commitment to conservation.”

“The conservation ethic inspired by Aldo Leopold is very strong in Iowa. He was born and raised in Iowa where he learned to love the land. These three finalists truly exemplify the Leopold conservation ethic in their farming operations and lives,” said John Whitaker, Conservation Districts of Iowa Executive Director.

Earlier this year, Iowa landowners were encouraged to apply, or be nominated, for the award. Applications were reviewed by an independent panel of agricultural and conservation leaders.

“As the national sponsor for Sand County Foundation’s Leopold Conservation Award, American Farmland Trust celebrates the hard work and dedication of the Iowa award finalists,” said John Piotti, AFT President and Chief Executive Officer. “At AFT we believe that conservation in agriculture requires a focus on the land, the practices and the people and this award recognize the integral role of all three.”

“What an impressive round of finalists for Iowa’s first Leopold Conservation Award. The dedication these farmers and landowners exhibit to preserving Iowa’s natural resources is exceptional,” said Sally Worley, Practical Farmers of Iowa Executive Director. “Their leadership and commitment to conservation is worthy of acknowledgement, both to appreciate their efforts and to inspire others.”

The Iowa Leopold Conservation Award is made possible through the generous support of American Farmland Trust, Conservation Districts of Iowa, Farmers National Company, Practical Farmers of Iowa, Sand County Foundation, Soil Regen, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Nancy and Marc DeLong, Iowa Corn, Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance, and Iowa Farmers Union.

In his influential 1949 book, A Sand County Almanac, Leopold called for an ethical relationship between people and the land they own and manage, which he called “an evolutionary possibility and an ecological necessity.” Sand County Foundation presents the Leopold Conservation Award to private landowners in 24 states with a variety of conservation, agricultural and forestry organizations.

USDA Begins Accepting Applications for $100 Million in Biofuel Infrastructure Grants

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that USDA is accepting applications for $100 million in grants to increase the sale and use of biofuels derived from U.S. agricultural products.

USDA is making the funding available through the Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program (HBIIP). This program seeks to market higher blends of ethanol and biodiesel by sharing the costs to build and retrofit biofuel-related infrastructure such as pumps, dispensers and storage tanks.

“The Biden-Harris Administration recognizes that rural America is the key to reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and giving Americans cleaner, more affordable options at the pump,” Vilsack said. “Biofuels are homegrown fuels. Expanding the availability of higher-blend fuels is a win for American farmers, the rural economy and hardworking Americans who pay the price here at home when we depend on volatile fuel sources overseas.”

This additional funding follows an April investment of $5.6 million through HBIIP that is expected to increase the availability of biofuels by 59.5 million gallons per year in California, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and South Dakota.

In June, USDA also announced that it had provided $700 million in relief funding to more than 100 biofuel producers in 25 states who experienced market losses due to the pandemic.

These investments reflect the goals of President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, which addresses immediate economic needs and includes the largest ever federal investment in clean energy for the future. The law includes another $500 million aimed at increasing the sale and use of agricultural commodity-based fuels. This funding will allow USDA to provide additional grants for infrastructure improvements related to blending, storing, supplying and distributing biofuels.

Gas prices continue to fall, at the fastest pace in over a decade. Biofuels are an important part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to lowering gas prices for the American people.

Under HBIIP, USDA provides grants to transportation fueling and distribution facilities. These grants lower the out-of-pocket costs for businesses to install and upgrade infrastructure and related equipment.

The $100 million available now will support a variety of fueling operations, including filling stations, convenience stores and larger retail stores that also sell fuel. The funds will also support fleet facilities including rail and marine, and fuel distribution facilities, such as fuel terminal operations, midstream operations, distribution facilities as well as home heating oil distribution centers.

The grants will cover up to 50% of total eligible project costs – but not more than $5 million – to help owners of transportation fueling and fuel distribution facilities convert to higher blends of ethanol and biodiesel. These higher-blend fuels must be greater than 10% for ethanol and greater than 5% for biodiesel.

Applications must be submitted by 4:30 p.m. ET Nov. 21, 2022. Visit the HBIIP webpage to learn more, sign up for webinars and apply.

Additional information also is available on Grants.gov or page 51641 of the Aug. 23, 2022, Federal Register.

USDA is offering priority points to projects that advance key priorities under the Biden-Harris Administration to help communities recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, advance equity and combat climate change. These extra points will increase the likelihood of funding for projects that will advance these key priorities for people living in rural America.

NCGA Applauds New Round of USDA Grants to Extend Infrastructure for Biofuels

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced today that USDA is now accepting applications for $100 million in competitive grants to increase the sale and use of higher blends of biofuels like ethanol. The funding, made available through USDA’s Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program, will help more fuel retailers and distributors offer consumers lower-cost and lower-emissions fuels, like E15 and E58, by sharing the cost to expand infrastructure such as pumps, dispensers and storage tanks.

“Higher blends of ethanol, like E15 and E85, are homegrown fuels that save consumers money at the pump while cutting emissions and improving the nation’s energy security,” said Iowa farmer and NCGA President Chris Edgington. “That is why corn growers applaud USDA for investing in additional infrastructure to help more retailers reach more consumers with clean, affordable biofuels.”

USDA will provide cost-share grants of up to 50% of total eligible project costs and expects to fund approximately 200 grant awards with the allocated funds. Applications will close November 21 at 4:30 ET, and interested applicants can find more information from USDA here.

NCGA and state corn grower associations are also offering technical and other support for retailers interested in applying for these infrastructure grants

W.D. Farr Scholarship Program Seeking Applications

The National Cattlemen’s Foundation (NCF) is accepting applications for the annual W.D. Farr Scholarship program. Established in 2007, the scholarship recognizes outstanding graduate students pursuing careers in meat science and animal agriculture. Two $15,000 grants are awarded to graduate students who demonstrate superior achievement in academics and leadership and are committed to the advancement of the beef industry.

Graduate students must apply online by submitting a cover letter, curriculum vitae, description of applicant’s goals and experience, a short essay, statement of belief in the industry, as well as a review of the applicant’s graduate research and three letters of recommendation by Sept. 30, 2022. The 2022 scholarship recipients will be recognized at the 2023 Cattle Industry Convention and NCBA Trade Show in New Orleans, Feb. 1-3, 2023.

The scholarship honors the successful career of the late W.D. Farr, a third-generation Coloradan, pioneer rancher, statesman and banker who was known for his extraordinary vision. His dedication to improving agriculture, livestock and water development resulted in significant changes in farming methods that have influenced the practices of ranchers and farmers throughout the nation. Farr was the first president of the NCF and served as president of the American National Cattlemen’s Association, which would later become the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA). Farr died at age 97 in August 2007.

The NCF advances the future of the beef industry by assisting in the education of the next generation of beef industry professionals. For more information and to apply for the scholarship, visit www.nationalcattlemensfoundation.org.  

Tyson Foods to Invest $200 Million in its Texas Beef Plant

Tyson Foods announced today the company will invest $200 million at its Amarillo, Texas beef plant to expand and upgrade operations and build a new team member well-being area.

The project will begin this fall and involves construction of a 143,000 square foot addition to the existing beef complex to house upgraded team member well-being areas including locker rooms, cafeteria and office space. The project will also expand and enhance the facility's existing operations floor. Expected to be completed by 2024, it will improve team member experience and overall operational efficiencies. While the project is not expected to add jobs to the plant, Tyson Foods' Amarillo facility employs 4,000 team members and generates an annual payroll of $180 million.

Kevin Carter, Executive Director, Amarillo Economic Development Corporation stated, "Thank you to Tyson Foods for its continued commitment to the Amarillo area. Today's announcement solidifies Tyson's position as a top economic driver in our community for years to come and the $200 million capital expenditure illustrates a significant investment in Tyson Foods' future in Amarillo."

The Amarillo plant is one of the largest of the company's six beef facilities. The complex produces commodity cuts of fresh beef and specialty products and includes a ground beef patty operation. These products are packaged and boxed for sale to retail and foodservice customers throughout the U.S. and internationally.

"It's exciting to see the economic growth in Potter County," said Potter County Judge Nancy Tanner. "Amarillo continues to be a place where existing businesses are able to thrive and expand, and we are seeing that with Tyson Foods' commitment."

The expansion modernizes the facility and prioritizes team member safety, ergonomics and food safety, and incorporates enhanced automation and new technologies. The new space also supports several of the company's sustainability efforts through energy and water conservation improvements. Specially designed water utility equipment, pumps, and piping will automate and allow for a reduction in water usage.

"We're committed to be the most sought-after place to work and while we've invested heavily in new benefits for our team, this project will improve the onsite work experience for our team members, while making our operations more efficient," said Shane Miller, Group President, Tyson Foods Fresh Meats.

In 2021, the company awarded nearly $400,000 to the Wesley Community Center and Maverick Boys and Girls Club of Amarillo to refurbish their facilities to accommodate the children of Tyson team members employed at the company's Amarillo beef plant.

12 new hybrids added to corn portfolio to deliver best-in-class performance

Golden Harvest announced today the addition of 12 new hybrids to its corn portfolio for the 2023 season. The new corn seed products, which include 10 corn hybrids and two conventional corn hybrids, feature improved agronomics and increased yield potential. The new hybrids join a game-changing Golden Harvest® corn portfolio that outperforms competitors in fields across the Corn Belt.
Golden Harvest announced the addition of 12 new hybrids to its corn portfolio for the 2023 season.

Research and development drive increased corn yield potential
The 12 new corn hybrids range in relative maturity from 87 to 117 days and feature industry-leading corn traits for insect control:
    Five hybrids include the Duracade™ trait for above- and below-ground insect protection and best-in-class corn rootworm control.
    Five hybrids include the Viptera™ trait, the most comprehensive above-ground insect control trait and the only effective western bean cutworm control trait.

In addition to leading insect control traits, the new corn hybrids help deliver value in the field and at harvest.

"With investments in research and development, trait introgression, and trialing, we are seeing great improvements in our newly advanced hybrids," said Rex Gray, Golden Harvest corn product manager ― West. "Because of their improved agronomics, standability, disease tolerance, test weight and yield potential, our newest products truly are a step-up when compared to our key competitors."

In specific geographies, Golden Harvest will offer a new Enogen® corn hybrid for the 2023 season. In the ethanol market, Enogen corn for fuel enhances the ethanol production process by improving process efficiency, while Enogen corn for feed hybrids help deliver more available energy when incorporated into dairy or beef cattle rations.

Game-changing corn performance in competitive trials
In addition to the 12 new corn hybrids, Golden Harvest offers six key corn hybrids that outperform the competition in trials across the Midwest.

Farmers can consider these data points as they put together their 2023 corn crop plans:
    Golden Harvest® corn G91V51-D brand outyielded DEKALB® brand corn products by an average of 0.7 bushels per acre (bu/A) in 207 comparisons.
    Golden Harvest corn G02K39-AA brand outyielded DEKALB and Pioneer® brand corn products by an average of 4 bu/A in 2,044 comparisons.
    Golden Harvest corn G10D21-VZ brand outyielded Pioneer brand corn products by an average of 2.4 bu/A in 1,740 comparisons.
    Golden Harvest corn G10L16-DV brand outyielded DEKALB and Pioneer brand corn products by an average of 2.2 bu/A in 3,916 comparisons.
    Golden Harvest corn G11V76-AA brand outyielded DEKALB and Pioneer brand corn products by an average of 2.2 bu/A in 2,466 comparisons.
    Golden Harvest corn G15J91-V brand outyielded DEKALB and Pioneer brand corn products by an average of 3.4 bu/A in 4,303 comparisons.

"Our game-changing corn hybrids deliver best-in-class performance across the industry," said Andy Ackley, Golden Harvest corn portfolio manager ― East. "We put agronomics first and focus on placing the right management structure on the right acre to bring farmers broad adaptability, high yield potential, solid agronomics and great late-season health. Golden Harvest corn hybrids are the cornerstone on which to build a whole farm corn solution package farmers can count on."

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