Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Tuesday September 27 Ag News

 Higher input costs dictate preserving cattle health
Alfredo DiCostanzo, NE Extension Beef Systems Educator

Somehow when prices reach a certain high level, we all rush to review and attempt to control some of them but may forget to look for others that could merit attention.  Feed is an example of an input we readily look to manage.  We seek desperately to find a “deal” in purchasing grain, co-products or roughage, mostly to no avail.  For the most part, prices of energy-containing feeds track corn grain price, those of protein-containing feeds track soybean meal price, and prices of roughages respond to effects of weather on forage crops.  This leaves very little option to find bargain alternative feed prices.  If anyone does, they must be careful that quality or excessive moisture does not make an apparent good deal turn out bad.

Alternatively, as managers seek to keep costs to operate a feedlot from getting too high, an appropriate target to keep in mind this fall is keeping cattle alive and healthy.  Relatively speaking, feed costs represent 35% of finishing costs while feeder cattle costs, at 58% of finishing cost, represents the largest proportion of costs.  

In the fall of 2021, corn grain price averaged $5.50/bu and 500- to 600-lb feeder steers averaged $175/cwt.  Corn grain price is currently $7.00/bu and 500- to 600-lb feeder steers are selling for $206/cwt.  Increases in corn grain and feeder cattle price year over year are 27% and 15%, respectively.  Despite greater proportional increases in corn grain than feeder price, the projected effect of higher corn price on feeding costs is $100/head while the projected effect of higher feeder cattle price on feeding costs is $180/head.

Although fed cattle prices are supposed to be supported by lower beef supply and fewer cattle, this expectation is moderated somewhat by economic conditions in the US and beyond.  This optimism is readily tempered by observing live cattle future charts for the early portion of 2023:  they have been trading in the $150’s.  Therefore, the expectations for profit in cattle feeding must reflect this reality.  Using these and other estimates of cost, projections of net return per head are suggested to be in the range of $10 to $100/head.


Feeder calf, procurement, and transportation costs will cost feedyards from $1,200 to $1,300 per head for a 550-lb calf.  At these costs, for each 100 head, a single mortality percentage costs the lot $13/head.  At this weight, respiratory disease treatment costs range from $15 to $20/head.  Therefore, a single incidence of respiratory morbidity in a 100-head lot adds $0.15 to $0.20/head to the lot cost.  

Implications of morbidity or mortality on finishing cost are greater as cattle grow.  Because of high fuel and feed costs, each day on feed will cost from $2.30 to $3.00/head.  With these feed and yardage costs, a single mortality in 100 head at day 21 on feed will bring the cost of the lot to $14/head.  Similarly, morbidity increases of 10 percentage units, with $20 to $30/head treatment cost, drives cost of a 100-head lot $2.50/head.  

Because costs of filling a pen with cattle increased and fed cattle prices may continue to trade laterally, temptation to keep cattle on feed longer will creep in.  Choosing to keep cattle on feed longer will dictate that personnel continue to be vigilant of health issues; cumulative feeding costs reaching past $500/head will make a late-season death cost over $1,800 ($18/head) or more.  Late-season illness is usually sudden and with little symptoms.

When the prospects for net profit are positive but not large, even low incidence of morbidity and mortality eats away at profit rapidly.  Therefore, with high feeder cattle, feed and fuel prices, our attention must be placed on managing and watching cattle to preserve their health and well-being.

This is the time to schedule a visit by the consulting veterinarian.  Veterinarians are regularly updated on pathogens responsible for current respiratory and digestive disease and antibiotics or other medications to which they are susceptible.  A thorough discussion with the veterinarian should lead to updated protocols to prevent or identify, diagnose, and treat respiratory and digestive disease.  Also, this is the time to review incidence and response to foot conditions experienced in the yard:  footrot or digital dermatitis.  Cattle kept on feed longer will have a greater propensity for late-season digestive and foot disorders.

Personnel responsible for reading bunks, riding pens, pulling, and treating cattle should be reminded of the importance of their role in identifying cattle displaying signs of illness or any other condition.  In some cases, a discussion on the implications of death and illness costs to the feedlot bottom line is in order.

Pen-riding protocols should be reviewed and posted in the office and at hospital sites.  Personnel tasked with administering disease-prevention and treatment should also be presented protocols verbally and in writing.

Preparations for cattle arriving at the yard include cleaning and disinfecting water troughs thoroughly before arrival and at regular intervals (7 days or fewer) after arrival.  At the processing or hospital facility, thorough cleaning, disinfecting, and greasing equipment is recommended.  Also, at the hospital or processing facility, managers should make sure that tagger and tag removal equipment, refrigerator, vaccine cooler, and equipment to administer vaccines, antibiotics, implants, and dewormers is in good working order and resupplied.  

Other items to keep in mind, in addition to recommendations by consulting nutritionists and veterinarians:  water supply should be ample, and from a fresh and clean source and strategic inclusion of long grass or mixed legume-grass hay during the first days after arrival helps attract calves to the bunk.  

Although another difficult year feeding cattle awaits, it is my hope that these observations will help in preparing for it.  Although we are assured nothing, not being prepared will ensure we do not succeed.

Cuming County 4-H Members Compete at Regional Crop Scouting Competition

The Kornhusker Kids 4-H Crop Scouting Team competed in the Regional Youth Crop Scouting Competition held in West Lafayette, Indiana on Thursday, September 15th. In order to make it to regionals, teams had to finish in first or second at the state contest. The team composed of Logan Consbruck, James Rolf, Ian Schiller, Isaac Wooldrik and Brayden Rolf finished in 1st place at the state contest in August held in Ithaca, NE.

The Regional contest was held at Purdue Extension at the Beck Agricultural Center. The contest composes of ten stations including corn growth and development, soybean growth and development, disease ID & management, weed/herbicide ID, sprayer calibration, cover crops, forages, nutrients, and diagnostics. Each team would rotate through the stations and had a time limit to complete the questions/quiz.

The Kornhusker Kids finished in 5th place out of 11 teams. The team was coached by Chris Schiller & Brian Rolf.


– Ben Beckman, NE Extension Educator

Pastures and hay meadows provide higher quality feed, are more productive, and require fewer inputs when they have good forage legumes growing in them.

Outside of moisture, nitrogen is often the limiting nutrient in pasture production.  While commercial fertilizer may be a quick and easy option, it’s costly.  Instead, let’s grow our own N using legumes.

Do you have a pasture area or hay meadow that is relatively free of weeds and makes up no more than about 15 percent of your total pasture acres?  If so, here is what I want you to do.  From now until that grass will grow no more this year, graze that grass hard.  Grub it down, then graze it some more. With dry weather this summer, maybe you have already accomplished this on a portion of your ground already.

Now why would I recommend overgrazing?  Surely it will hurt the grass.  Well, that's exactly what we want.  Next spring, you will interseed legumes like red clover, white clover, and alfalfa into that grass to make it more nutritious and productive.  We may even consider a winter frost seeding if conditions are right.

The biggest challenge to establishing legumes into a grass sod is competition by that existing grass on new, slow growing legume seedlings.  Anything you do to reduce competition and slow down grass growth will help.  Overgrazing this fall prior to next spring’s seeding will weaken the grass and slow its spring growth, thus giving new legume seedlings a better chance to get started. With drought causing unplanned overgrazing this summer, interseeding may be a way to make some lemonade out of that particular lemon. Of course, all this depends on moisture next spring to work.

While you’re at it, also collect some soil samples.  Then analyze them and apply any needed fertilizer.  Legumes especially need good phosphorus and the proper soil pH.

So, add some legumes to your pasture next spring.  Graze your grass this fall until virtually nothing is left.  Then, keep grazing a couple weeks more just to make sure. Legumes you add next spring will establish better because of it.

Nominations Open for Women Impacting Agriculture

The Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Women in Ag Leadership Conference is seeking Women Impacting Agriculture nominees. The winners will be honored at the 2022 Women in Ag Leadership Conference, to be held Nov. 29-30.

“The goal of the award is to honor women who are making positive changes in Iowa agriculture,” said Madeline Schultz, Women in Ag program manager with ISU Extension and Outreach.

Schultz invites nominations for women in all areas of agriculture including owners, managers and employees of Iowa farms, agricultural businesses and organizations. Nominees must also have a connection to ISU Extension and Outreach, either serving as a volunteer, Iowa State University alum or any unpaid position within the organization.

Honorees will receive a cash award, a personalized gift and conference registration. 2020 honoree Emily Boettcher said she enjoyed getting to network with new people and still keeps in touch with them today. She believes the award is a great example of the encouragement women in agriculture should share with each other.

“I would encourage people to nominate others,” said Boettcher. “They (people in agriculture) make the world go round.”

Nomination forms and additional information can be found at

All Iowans who know a woman making a difference in agriculture are invited to submit their nominations no later than Friday, Oct. 7.

Questions can be directed to Schultz at

IDALS Welcomes Applications for Water Quality Demonstration Projects

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig today announced that Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship is accepting applications for water quality demonstration projects. Iowa has a long and well-established track record of utilizing demonstration projects to spur the development of new or improved conservation practices that are helping to protect water quality. The selected projects will help deliver education, outreach, and technical assistance to farmers and landowners to advance the implementation of conservation practices.

“With the assistance of both public and private partners, these water quality projects will help farmers and landowners in establishing additional conservation practices and infrastructure that will positively benefit our state’s water quality in the years ahead,” said Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig. “Continuous conservation innovation paired with long-term dedicated water quality funding will help us accelerate and scale up our efforts to meet the goals outlined in the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy.”

Demonstration projects should focus on outreach and technical assistance that will directly lead to the adoption of water quality focused conservation practices. Successful applicants will need to demonstrate a proven track record of delivering the necessary planning, development, and design of projects and practices. Strong partnerships with stakeholders that have or will be contributing significant resources to the project are also critically important.

Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs), counties, county conservation boards, other units of government, not-for-profit non-governmental organizations (NGOs), public water supply utilities or watershed management organizations are eligible to submit applications. Applicants are also encouraged to partner with additional stakeholders that can assist with outreach and technical assistance.

The applications must be received by 4:30 p.m. on Friday, November 18, 2022. Projects selected to receive funding will be announced in early December and are projected to start on January 1, 2022. Project application guidance can be found here or can be requested by contacting the Department’s Division of Soil Conservation and Water Quality at 515-281-5851.

U.S. Red Meat Industry Commemorates 45 Years in Japan

Leaders representing the U.S. red meat industry recently traveled to Tokyo to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the inaugural U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) office, which opened in Tokyo in 1977. Japan has consistently been a top customer and is the leading international market for U.S. red meat, purchasing nearly $4.1 billion in 2021. Through July 2022, U.S. red meat exports to Japan reached $2.4 billion.

The U.S.-Japan trade partnership is highly valued by those in the U.S. pork, beef and lamb industries. While in Tokyo for meetings, market visits and a celebration event attended by 200 importers, distributors, trade media and U.S. exporters, industry representatives expressed appreciation for the business relationships developed over the past 45 years and expressed a commitment to serve the Japanese market well into the future.

Industry representatives participating were: USMEF Chair Mark Swanson of Fort Collins, Colo., founder of Tru Grit KGMS Enterprises LLC; Dean Meyer, USMEF chair-elect and livestock and grain producer from Rock Rapids, Iowa; Norman Voyles, Cattlemen’s Beef Board chair and beef producer from Martinsville, Ind.; Dan Gattis, Texas Beef Council chair and rancher and attorney from Georgetown, Texas; Molly McAdams, executive vice president of the Texas Beef Council; and Craig Floss, CEO of the Iowa Corn Promotion Board.

Pork Industry Guides US Swine Health Improvement Plan Forward

More than 250 producers, veterinarians, swine health officials, state pork association officials and others recently met as delegates to the US Swine Health Improvement Plan (US SHIP) meeting in Bloomington, Minnesota. The delegation discussed and passed resolutions and standards to bring more clarity and definition to the project as it works toward its goal of becoming a full USDA program designed to safeguard, certify and improve animal health.

“We’re very pleased with the great discussions and action that took place at the 2022 house of delegates meeting as we seek to move the program forward,” said Tyler Holck, DVM, US SHIP Senior Program Coordinator, Iowa State University. “We would like to see even more producers, live-animal marketers and packers across the country join their peers in participating as we seek to grow this program in the months and years ahead.”

Speakers and delegates representing 31 states discussed traceability, surveillance, feed biosafety, site biosecurity and live-haul sanitation. Voting delegates approved eight resolutions for further assessment and consideration of four standards related to traceability, feed biosafety (2), live haul sanitation, surveillance (2), feral pig risk mitigation and governance. Working groups and/or pilot projects will begin in the next year for all areas with findings and recommendations to be presented at the 2023 US SHIP delegates’ meeting.

“Those who attended this meeting offered invaluable input and showed a high level of collaboration that should help make US SHIP even more successful as it moves ahead,” said Dusty Oedekoven, NPB’s chief veterinarian. “The industry needs to do everything it can to prepare for an event such as African swine fever, and this program can and should help us achieve that goal. I would urge producers to contact their official state agency and enroll in SHIP.”

Specifically on foreign animal disease, Holck said, “US SHIP aims to incorporate a number of the foreign animal disease preparedness efforts into a singular USDA certification (ASF-CSF Monitored) of US swine production premises, live animal marketing operations and slaughter facilities.”

Per US SHIP’s original intent, the plan is to mitigate risks of disease introduction and provide a practical means for demonstrating evidence of freedom of disease (outside of foreign animal disease control areas) in support of ongoing interstate commerce and a pathway towards the resumption of international trade.

“We are encouraging all segments of the US pork industry to participate in US SHIP,” Holck said. “When fully implemented, the program is designed to be applicable across the full spectrum of U.S. pork industry participants from the small show pig farmer to the large commercial producers and slaughter facilities.”

US SHIP Official State Agencies across the US began the process of enrolling sites last March. To date, approximately 40 percent of the US breeding herd and growing pigs across 31 states have enrolled in US SHIP. The pilot program is on an expedited path towards becoming a USDA program by 2024.

US SHIP has been endorsed by the National Pork Board, National Pork Producers Council, North American Meat Institute, American Association of Swine Veterinarians, United States Animal Health Association and the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians.

Oedekoven added, “As a major funding partner of US SHIP using Pork Checkoff funds, we’re encouraged to see the level of industry engagement and solidarity behind the core objectives of the plan to help improve the nation’s foreign animal disease readiness and protect our ability to maintain continuity of business in the face of a potential foreign animal disease outbreak.”

NCGA Calls on Farmers to Contact EPA Regarding Atrazine

The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) is encouraging growers to join its call-to-action and submit comments to the EPA on the important role atrazine, a popular herbicide, plays in their work.

The call-to-action was launched over the summer as EPA began revising its registration for atrazine. EPA is proposing a level of concern for atrazine at 3.4 parts per billion, down from the current level of 15 parts per billion.

The move would significantly impair the effective use of atrazine on farms, according to NCGA.

“Atrazine allows corn growers to experience higher yields using less land with fewer inputs, which is good for the environment and saves growers money,” said Brooke S. Appleton, vice president of public policy at the National Corn Growers Association. “Reducing the effectiveness of this important herbicide will hinder the work of farmers and turn the clock back on our conservation efforts.”

Since the organization launched the call to action on July 20, more than 3,000 growers have taken action through NCGA’s website. The response on this issue needs to reflect its importance to our industry, according to NCGA leadership.  

EPA’s open comment period closes on October 7.

NAMI Calls for Swift Senate Approval of Esteban, Taylor and McKalip Nominations

The North American Meat Institute (NAMI or the Meat Institute) called for swift consideration of three nominations critical to the meat and poultry industry pending before the full Senate: Jose Emilio Esteban to be Undersecretary of Agriculture for Food Safety, Alexis Taylor to be Undersecretary of Agriculture for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs and Doug McKalip, nominated to be Chief Agricultural Trade Negotiator at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR).

“The meat and poultry industry supports the nominations of Esteban, Taylor and McKalip,” said Meat Institute President and CEO Julie Anna Potts. “Their leadership in food safety and trade is much needed and with strong bipartisan support, they should be considered without further needless delay.”

Esteban and Taylor’s nominations were reported favorably out of the Senate Agriculture Committee earlier today. Earlier this month, McKalip’s nomination was also reported favorably out of the Senate Committee on Finance which has jurisdiction on trade issues. All three await final consideration by the full Senate.

Jose Emilio Esteban
“Dr. Esteban is well respected and well qualified to lead the food safety mission at the Department,” said Potts. “A veterinarian and an epidemiologist with decades of experience at USDA, Esteban is uniquely qualified to ensure sound science drives food safety and public health decision-making.”

Alexis Taylor
“Alexis’ experience working in Congress, in the Department and as Oregon Secretary of Agriculture make her uniquely qualified for this role,” said Potts. “She is the right person at the right time to lead the nation’s focus on strengthening exports, expanding access to new markets and navigating an increasingly unpredictable global economy. We look forward to working with her especially as meat and poultry products are seeing record demand at home and abroad.”

Doug McKalip
“It is important to have an advocate like Doug McKalip fighting for U.S. agriculture within USTR who will defend and promote our interests in diverse, growing markets by reducing trade barriers, expanding market access and ensuring a level playing field for our exporters,” said Potts.

USMEF Statement on Advancement of Under Secretary for Trade Nomination

Today the Senate Agriculture Committee reported favorably on the nomination of Alexis Taylor to serve as USDA under secretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs.  U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) President and CEO Dan Halstrom issued this statement in support of the nomination:

USMEF thanks the Senate Agriculture Committee for advancing the nomination of Alexis Taylor, an outstanding nominee who has strong, bipartisan support on Capitol Hill. USMEF had many opportunities to work with Ms. Taylor in her previous roles at USDA and we are confident she will continue to be a strong and effective voice for U.S. agriculture. We fully support her prompt confirmation by the Senate.

Statement On Passage Of Alexis Taylor through Senate Ag Committee  

Today, Brian Kuehl, Executive Director of Farmers for Free Trade, the nation’s leading ag trade advocacy coalition, released a statement commending the Senate Ag Committee on sending the nomination of Alexis Taylor to be Under Secretary For Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs to the full Senate.   

“It’s encouraging to see the nomination of Alexis Taylor move through the Senate Ag Committee in a bipartisan manner. Our farmers, ranchers and processors rely on overseas market to successfully run their operations. It is imperative that we have a full team of negotiators on the field to bolster American exports and having Alexis Taylor as Undersecretary of Ag Trade at USDA is essential to doing that.The full Senate should move her nomination forward as soon as possible.

"We are also asking the Senate to move swiftly in confirming Doug McKalip as Ag Trade Negotiator at USTR. We are concerned to see that Senator Menendez has placed a hold on the nomination of Mr. McKalip. Regardless of Senator Menedez’s intentions behind the hold, further delaying the ag negotiator position is self-defeating and a disservice to American farmers who rely on exports. We encourage Senator Menendez to work with the administration to lift the hold as soon as possible.”

Biden-Harris Administration Makes $500 Million Available to Increase Innovative American-Made Fertilizer Production

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the Biden-Harris Administration is making $500 million in grants available to increase American-made fertilizer production to spur competition and combat price hikes on U.S. farmers caused by the war in Ukraine.

“Under the leadership of President Biden and Vice President Harris, USDA is creating a resilient, secure and sustainable economy, and this support to provide domestic, independent choices for fertilizer supplies is part of that effort,” Vilsack said. “USDA believes in the growth of innovative, local businesses owned and shared by people who can best serve their own unique community’s needs, fill gaps, and build opportunities. Recent supply chain disruptions have shown just how critical it is to invest in the agricultural supply chain here at home. The Fertilizer Production Expansion Program is one example of many Biden-Harris Administration initiatives to bring production and jobs back to the United States, promote competition and support American goods and services.”

The Biden-Harris Administration’s Fertilizer Production Expansion Program is part of a whole-of-government effort to promote competition in agricultural markets. The funds are being made available through the Commodity Credit Corporation.

Grants will be used to support independent, innovative and sustainable American fertilizer production to supply American farmers. Funds also will expand the manufacturing and processing of fertilizer and nutrient alternatives in the U.S. and its territories.

The program will support fertilizer production that is:
    Independent, and outside the orbit of dominant fertilizer suppliers. Because the program’s goal is to increase competition, market share restrictions apply.
    Made in America. Products must be produced by companies operating in the U.S. or its territories, to create good-paying jobs at home, and reduce the reliance on potentially unstable, inconsistent foreign supplies.
    Innovative. Techniques will improve fertilizer production methods and efficient-use technologies to jumpstart the next generation of fertilizers and nutrient alternatives.
    Sustainable. Ideally, products will reduce the greenhouse gas impact of transportation, production and use through renewable energy sources, feedstocks and formulations, incentivizing greater precision in fertilizer use.
    Farmer-focused. Like other Commodity Credit Corporation investments, a driving factor is providing support and opportunities for U.S. agricultural commodity producers.

Eligible entities are for‐profit businesses and corporations, nonprofit entities, Tribes and Tribal organizations, producer‐owned cooperatives and corporations, certified benefit corporations, and state or local governments. Private entities must be independently owned and operated to apply.

The maximum award is $100 million. The minimum award is $1 million. The grant term is five years.

The Department will begin accepting applications in the coming days via Notably, there will be two opportunities for submission.

The Department plans for a 45-day application window for applicants to receive priority for projects that increase the availability of fertilizer (nitrogen, phosphate or potash) and nutrient alternatives for agricultural producers to use in crop years 2023 or 2024.

The Department will also offer an extended application window, providing an additional 45 days (90-day application window) to receive applications for financial assistance to significantly increase American-made fertilizer production to spur competition and combat price hikes. This extended application window will support applicants who need more time to make additional capacity available.

Statement from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on the Biden-Harris National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health

“The release of the Biden-Harris National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition and Health is a defining moment for our nation. It sets us on a path to end hunger, enhance nutrition, and improve health outcomes in this country. This strategy compiles recommendations from dozens of listening sessions held over the summer. I want to thank the individuals and organizations who shared their lived experiences, galvanized their networks, and made recommendations to improve the lives of all Americans.

“I am particularly excited by the Strategy’s pathway to provide healthy school meals to all students. This approach would reorient the school meal programs from an ancillary service to an integral component of the school day and allow schools to focus on providing the highest quality meals and engaging children around the importance of healthy food. Providing all school children access to healthy, nutritious meals will drive better health and give them the tools to reach their full potential, which means a better and fuller future for our nation.

“Today’s release of the strategy is just the beginning. The recommendations made in the Biden-Harris National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health are significant, and will require ongoing work to implement and execute on the proposals. The Strategy lays out big goals, and we need everyone - local, state, and tribal governments, Congress, private companies, nonprofit organizations, and everyday citizens - to work together to achieve them.”

NGFA supports the Reliable Rail Service Act

The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) issued a statement supporting the Reliable Rail Service Act, a bill introduced today by Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., that would better define Class I rail carriers’ common carrier obligation.

The Staggers Act of 1980 required rail carriers to serve the wider shipping public “on reasonable request,” a principle known as the common carrier obligation. However, more than 40 years later, the common carrier obligation remains poorly defined with no established criteria.

The Reliable Rail Service Act statutorily clarifies the common carrier obligation and establishes specific criteria for the Surface Transportation Board (STB) to consider when determining whether a railroad is meeting this obligation to provide rail service. If the STB determined a carrier was not meeting its common carrier obligation, the bill would empower the STB to prescribe service standards consistent with the needs of the shipper making the request.

“NGFA thanks Sen. Baldwin for her leadership in responding to severe rail service issues that have caused supply chain disruptions, endangered the delivery of feed to livestock, led to grain processing facilities slowing and shutting down, and negatively impacted U.S. grain exports,” NGFA President and CEO Mike Seyfert said. “Clarification of the common carrier obligation has been needed for decades and this bill would strengthen STB’s oversight authority to help address our nation’s freight railroad supply chain challenges and improve rail service for agricultural shippers.”

Similar language is included in the Freight Rail Shipping Fair Market Act (H.R. 8649), introduced in the House on Aug. 2 by House Transportation and Infrastructure Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee Chairman Donald Payne Jr., D-N.J.

 LMA Hosts 2022 Washington D.C. Fly In

Livestock Marketing Association (LMA) members and staff traveled to Washington D.C. September 18-20, 2022, for the LMA D.C. Fly In. This was the first LMA D.C. Fly In hosted by the association since spring of 2020. Over the course of two days, approximately 50 LMA members and staff met with Senators, U.S. Representatives, Congressional staff people, and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) officials.

LMA members advocated for Congress to pass bills that would update an outdated Packers and Stockyards Act rule prohibiting owning both a livestock auction and a packer. This is an antiquated rule that predates the current, transparent method of selling livestock at an open auction. A pair of bills would address this issue by allowing livestock auction owners to invest in small and regional packers. At the same time, very large packers would still be prohibited from owning a livestock auction.  The Amplifying Processing of Livestock in the United States (A-PLUS) Act (H.R. 7438) is being championed by Representatives Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) and Jimmy Panetta (D-CA). The Senate companion, the Expanding Local Meat Processing Act (S.4709) is being championed by Senators Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) and Joni Ernst (R-IA). LMA members also spoke about a need to update Packers and Stockyards Act prompt payment requirements due to slowing mail service and a desire to incentivize electronic payment as the more efficient method.

Fly In attendees also met with leadership of the USDA Packers and Stockyards (P&S) Division; Andy Green, USDA Senior Advisor for Fair and Competitive Markets; and Dr. Rosemary Sifford, Chief Veterinary Officer of the United States and USDA APHIS VS Deputy Administrator.

In addition to meetings with legislators and regulators, LMA hosted a briefing to educate staff of the House of Representatives and Senate on the livestock marketing industry. The briefing featured Will Epperly, 2022 World Livestock Auctioneer Champion, mock selling pies to legislative staff to simulate the process of buyers purchasing livestock in an auction market.

“I’m thrilled with the LMA members and staff who took time out of their busy schedules to engage with decision makers at the D.C. Fly In” said Chelsea Good, LMA Vice President of Government and Industry Affairs & Legal. “Participants made an important commitment not only for their own businesses but our industry as a whole. Developing personal relationships with legislative offices, building a base understanding of the livestock marketing industry, and discussing current issues are all key to making sure livestock market interests are well represented in federal policy.”

LMA members who attended this year’s D.C. Fly In were Jim Akers, Ky.; Randel Arnett, Ky.; Mark Barnett, Tn. & Ky.; Jade Baumeister, Texas; Will Epperly, Iowa; Jerry Etheredge, Ala.; Sara Evans, Ky.; Darrell Ford, Ark.; Aimee, Ben and Seth Hale, Texas & Okla.; Ashley and Peyton Hale, Okla.; Jennifer Houston, Tenn.; Alisha Hudson-Roach, Va.; Matt and Wendy Huntley, Kan. & Okla.; Cale and Nicole James, Okla.; Bracken Marburger, Texas.; Paike, Sami and Skye McNiel, Okla.; Joe Nelson, Minn.; Jake Parnell, Calif.; Brody Peak, Kan.; George Raftopoulus, Colo.; Steve Sterchi, Ky.; Mike VanMaanen, Mo.; Melody Varner, Okla.; Chandra and Ryan Wegener, Kan.; Elizabeth and Ryan Zeltwanger, Kan.; and Cheyenne and Zach Zumstein, Idaho.

LMA staff who attended D.C. Fly In included Natalie Ayers, Communications and Strategic Media Coordinator; Joe Barbour, Region Executive Officer; Pierce Bennett, Director of Government and Industry Affairs; Jesse Carver, Region Executive Officer; Chelsea Good, Vice President of Government and Industry Affairs & Legal; Izabella Michitsch, Director of Events; Jara Settles, General Counsel & Vice President of Risk Mitigation; Lucas Simmer, Government and Industry Affairs Administrator; Dan Stark, Chief Financial Officer, Craig Taylor, Region Executive Officer; and Cynthia Zamora, Financial Risk Mitigation Associate.

Local livestock markets across the country work hard to bring in multiple buyers to bid competitively on sale day, providing true price discovery of the value of all types of livestock, maximizing the return to the seller. At the same time, they provide buyers with a centralized location with a ready supply of livestock in the offering. The D.C. Fly In is an opportunity to share with policy makers the importance of these businesses and to ensure that they are not overly regulated in ways that impede progress.

Record Turkey Prices Expected as Thanksgiving Approaches

Families can expect to pay record high prices at the grocery store for turkey this upcoming holiday season thanks to the impacts of the bird flu and inflation. American Farm Bureau Federation economists analyzed turkey and egg costs in their latest Market Intel.

The retail price for fresh boneless, skinless turkey breast reached a record high of $6.70 per pound in September, 112% higher than the same time in 2021 when prices were $3.16 per pound. The previous record high price was $5.88 per pound in November 2015, during the 2015 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) outbreak.

Inflation is adding to the price hikes. All retail food prices were 11.4% higher in August compared to the same time last year. Despite the higher prices, there should be enough turkeys available for the Thanksgiving demand.

“All of us are feeling the pain of higher prices at the grocery store,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “HPAI outbreaks in the spring and an uptick in cases in the fall are taking a toll, but farmers remain dedicated to ensuring America’s food supply remains strong.”

It is important to understand that farmers aren’t profiting from record high retail prices. High supply costs from feed, fuel, fertilizer and labor make raising turkeys even more expensive. USDA’s most recent Farm Sector Income Forecast predicts record high total production costs, increasing by 17.8% from 2021 to $437.4 billion in 2022.

While egg prices have come down from record highs in July, the average price for a dozen grade A eggs is $2.34, 27% higher than the same time in 2021, and 44% above the five-year average of $1.29.

Regenerative Ag Not a One-Size-Fits-All Approach

As more food companies move toward regenerative agriculture commitments to meet bold sustainability goals, close collaboration between the food industry and farmers is key to ensuring true sustainability along the supply chain. That was the overarching message when soybean farmers and food companies discussed the complexities of regenerative agriculture during a September virtual roundtable meeting hosted by the United Soybean Board (USB) and The Center for Food Integrity (CFI). The meeting was part of a broader effort by USB and CFI to foster collaboration between farms and food companies on the topic of sustainability.

Farmers shared their on-farm sustainability efforts to enhance soil health and sequester carbon through practices such as no-till and cover crops, and food companies detailed their current projects and how they work with farmer suppliers. While there was no consensus on a specific definition for regenerative agriculture, all agreed it’s about continuously improving farm sustainability while protecting natural resources and farmer livelihoods.

“It’s farming in a way that maintains productivity and improves ecological outcomes,” said Jason Rowntree, C.S. Mott Professor of Sustainable Agriculture with the Department of Animal Science at Michigan State University and director of MSU’s Center for Regenerative Agriculture.

“It’s about improving water function and cycling, soil carbon and sequestration and soil health,” said Rowntree. “But at the end of the day, regenerative agriculture is about the farmer. It must be profitable and edifying and something they can accomplish.”   

Food companies described how they are working with farmers to reach sustainability goals. In 2018, Smithfield Foods committed that 75% of its grain would be sourced from farmers with established regenerative agriculture practices.

“To date, we’ve engaged more than two million acres in our sustainability initiatives,” said Brooke Wynn, senior director of sustainability for Smithfield Foods. “We’ve achieved that by working with agronomists to provide technical assistance to farmer suppliers on topics like nutrient management and the use of cover crops. We’ve also provided seed to farmers at reduced cost to help them put these best practices in place.”     

“Grain production is 20 to 25% of our carbon footprint,” said Wynn. “We are striving to reduce emissions without lowering yields. At the end of the day, that’s what everyone wants.”

Cargill has worked across various supply chains over the years to enhance sustainability, including row crops, beef, cocoa in West Africa and palm in southeast Asia.  

“What we find with regenerative agriculture is these principles around soil health and improving farmer profitability can be applied across geography and across farm size,” said Ashley McKeon, director of regenerative agriculture at Cargill. “We see regenerative agriculture as feeding a growing population, while improving farmer profitability and having positive environmental outcomes – a triple win. We asked ourselves how our company could play a role.”

Two years ago, Cargill set a commitment to advance regenerative agriculture across 10 million acres in North America by 2030.

“We immediately set the foundation and received an enthusiastic response that included farmers interested in engaging with us and enrolling in our programs,” said McKeon. “In our row crop sourcing, which includes soybeans, corn, wheat and cotton, we’re supporting regenerative agriculture practices like reduced tillage and cover crops on over 668,000 acres. We’re confident we’ll get to a million acres by the end of this year.”

The good news, said McKeon, “is we’re not starting from ground zero with agriculture. Many farmers have been doing this for a long time. Our job is to help build on successes and remove some barriers that have gotten in the way of larger-scale adoption.”

“When we interviewed some of our growers, they said they want simplicity, transparency and flexibility to suit their specific operation,” she said. “Our goal is to focus on the outcome, not dictate practices.”

It's an approach Tony Mellenthin, Wisconsin soybean farmer and USB farmer-leader, appreciates.

“There’s no one-size-fits-all,” he said. “What works for a southern farmer may not work for a northern farmer in terms of conservation practices. But even though their approaches may look different, they’re still improving the sustainability of U.S. agriculture.”

When PepsiCo made a commitment last year to spread regenerative agriculture across all acres from which they’re purchasing, they did so because strong and resilient agricultural communities are the basis for maintaining their own growth, as PepsiCo is on a growth trajectory.

“We know we’re going to need strong farms into the future. Our goal is to keep farmers farming and do it in a way that improves their resilience as our climate changes,” said Margaret Henry, senior director of sustainable ag strategy at PepsiCo who grew up on her family’s Kentucky dairy farm. “Farmers are experiencing 10-year and 20-year weather events almost every year now and it’s hurting their pocketbooks directly.”

Data collection for measuring outcomes was discussed, with varying opinions on how to prove if regenerative practices are working. Henry recommended a balanced approach.

“We need enough data, but we don’t need so much that we’re doing mostly ‘farm bothering’ rather than ‘farm partnering’,” she said. “We will always push for the most reasonable, simple level of data collection that's credible and accurate, without having farmers spend a quarter of their time entering data on computers or giving up their rights to their data and privacy. Farmers should be in the field, farming, and hopefully our efforts will help them do that sustainably, long into the future.”

The demands at the farmgate for sustainable and regenerative practices will only continue to grow, according to Henry.

“Over the next 24 to 36 months in the food and beverage space, we’re going to see a tremendous scaling of what five years ago, we were doing this on a few thousand acres. Now we’re seeing scaled engagement all over the country reaching millions of acres and that momentum is only increasing.”

New research shows potential of Syngenta's Enogen corn to pay financial and sustainability dividends for dairy industry

Syngenta Seeds unveiled new research today quantifying the benefits of using Enogen® corn for livestock feed in dairy operations. In addition to being a practical and scalable way for dairy producers to reduce certain environmental impacts, Syngenta found that when comparing Enogen corn to traditional feed products, a U.S. dairy farm operation could potentially yield a financial savings of $132 to $208 per milking cow.

The financial value assessment1, conducted in partnership with model developers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Animal and Dairy Sciences and Agronomy Departments and Rock River Laboratory, evaluated factors such as milk content, expected milk revenue, and associated corn silage costs, resulting in a final metric of Income Over Feed Cost (IOFC).

"Confirming that Enogen isn't just a difference-maker for environmental efficiency but for farmers' bottom lines is significant," said Eric Boeck, Syngenta's Regional Director for North America Seeds. "I've never met a farmer who isn't willing to innovate to make their operation more sustainable, but they also wouldn't be doing their job if they weren't assessing the cost involved. Knowing that Enogen can result in a win-win for them raises its ceiling as a solution for dairy producers across North America."

Enogen corn contains an efficient alpha amylase enzyme that converts starch to usable sugars quickly, delivering more available energy to dairy cows while being easily digestible. When fed to dairy cattle as silage, Enogen corn can increase feed efficiency for dairy farmers by about 5%2, which is highly significant when factoring in the millions of dairy cows in just the U.S. alone.

"When we're searching for solutions that can move the needle across an entire industry, the impact of a new product or new technology is important, but it needs to be something producers can incorporate into their operations without too much disruption – the simpler, the better," said Randy Shaver, Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Animal and Dairy Sciences Department. "When you add financial benefits of this magnitude to something that's already able to improve feed efficiency just by changing corn hybrids, you're going to get the attention of a lot of dairy producers."

In addition to the financial value assessment, Syngenta Seeds conducted a life cycle assessment (LCA) for the dairy industry and unveiled a similar LCA for the beef industry in 2021, which demonstrated the potential for reducing the environmental footprint of livestock production by switching to Enogen corn in feed rations. The dairy-specific LCA, completed by sustainability firm Sustainable Solutions Corporation, highlights potential reductions in environmental impacts, including lower emissions of greenhouse gases and lower use of land, energy and water.

Specific findings show that, per 1,000 dairy cows3, a farm operation could potentially yield the following savings by switching to Enogen silage:
-    More than 1.4 million kg CO2e in greenhouse gas reduction, equivalent to removing 314 passenger cars from the road for one year.
-    More than a 249-acre reduction in land use for growing corn, equivalent to 189 American football fields.
-    More than 13 million fewer gallons of water used, enough to fill 21 Olympic-size swimming pools.
-    220,000 kWh in energy savings, enough energy to power 19 average homes for a year.

"This is an example of how a more efficient solution for the animal itself benefits every other part of a farm operation. Conducting a life cycle analysis helps to understand and quantify the benefits for the animal, the farmer, and the planet," said Tad Radzinski, President of Sustainable Solutions Corporation.

Agriculture alone is responsible for 12% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and the whole food value chain accounts for 25% of emissions. Syngenta Seeds, as part of Syngenta Group, is committed to helping the agriculture industry reduce its carbon footprint and play a role in meeting the world's net zero target. In June 2020, Syngenta Group announced new targets and investment objectives as part of a $2 billion commitment to help farmers address the effects of climate change and improve long-term agricultural sustainability.

Enogen corn for feed, currently available commercially in the United States and Canada, represents a significant opportunity for the agricultural industry to take meaningful steps to reduce its overall impact on the environment. Syngenta Seeds is continuing to explore possibilities to bring Enogen technology to other countries around the world while continuously investing to accelerate innovation to support farmers with more sustainable agriculture.

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