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Articles from 2017 In November

Hey rancher; What’s your real job?

Jamie Purfeerst Rancher

I’m not talking about our job description as human beings, followers, moms, dads, friends or even family. Those are pretty detailed, but pretty simple. I’m talking more about what our job is as ranchers, or cattle producers.  

I probably will get some disagreement here, but our primary responsibility isn’t about taking care of the environment or making money. Those are moral imperatives and part of the reason we are in business, but they aren’t our primary responsibility. Even taking care of the animals, while part of our code and why we do what we do, isn’t the primary reason.

Ultimately, we exist to feed the world, but even that doesn’t require ranchers, per se. Sure, a good part of the world is not farmable, and cattle harvest grass better than anything in the world, but the world can eat grain or pork, and we have even proven that the world will eat chicken if it is hungry enough.

We have to provide a product that the world not only wants to eat, but wants to eat more than the alternatives. There are a lot of factors that go into that equation – cost of production, safety, eating attributes, peoples’ perception of what we do and how we do it, to name just a few. It is these factors that we address as managers, and as an industry, and how we do it, that determines our success.

I think those other factors control so much of our thought process that it is difficult to remember that we are in the business of feeding the consumer and providing great eating experiences. Don’t get me wrong; everything we do, from genetic selection, management practices to herd health, is geared toward making that eating experience better. But if we are honest with ourselves, it is often secondary.

Without profits, land and the animals, we don’t have an industry or an individual business. But then again, we don’t have much of either without that happy consumer.

It has been discussed and cussed for years that the real difficulty in becoming truly customer centric is that we have so many customers in between us and the final consumer that the connection is very difficult if not impossible to make. But maybe it’s a little easier now than in the past. And it’s a connection that we simply have to accomplish.



Steve Alexander fills in for Max Armstrong.

I’ve lost count of number of politicians who campaign on making government run more like a business. Gov. Pete Ricketts is doing his part by changing the way some non-union government employees are paid.

Wisconsin has jobs for you and wants you to move there and work if you are a millennial or a military veteran.

A big new biofuel plant is being built in Wichita, KS, by Cargill. It will employ 35 full time workers.

Legionnaires’ disease has popped up in Illinois old folks’ home.

Yesterday, we heard about a 9-year-old boy who accidentally shot himself. Today, it’s a Nebraska boy who shot himself while out checking traps.

In Evansville, Ind., there is organization that advocates for separation of church and state. Says coach that prayed with team after football victory is violating separation of church and state.

Max is in Coralville, Iowa, at The Ag Data conference.

EPA expected to mandate use of 15 billion gallons of renewable fuels

i-Stockr/ThinkstockPhoto Biofuel plant at sunset

by Jennifer A. Dlouhy and Mario Parker 

The Trump administration is set to keep biofuel quotas for motor vehicles largely unchanged, a move likely to draw tepid applause from Iowa corn growers and disappoint soy-based biodiesel producers.

The Environmental Protection Agency will mandate refiners use 15 billion gallons of conventional renewable fuels -- primarily ethanol -- next year, in a final rule set to be issued Thursday, according to an EPA official. But, rebuffing pleas from biodiesel producers, the agency also is set to maintain a 2.1-billion-gallon quota for that soy-based fuel in 2019, the official said. The official asked not to be identified discussing the regulation before its release. 

The final rule shows EPA "is listening to our concerns and taking them into consideration, but it also shows that we have more work to do," Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds said in an emailed statement. The agency is "discouraging investment and discouraging growth" by keeping biodiesel volumes flat, she added.

The EPA’s decision illustrates how the administration is trying to balance the needs of two competing constituencies for President Donald Trump: Midwest farmers who rely on the mandate to guarantee ethanol demand and oil refiners that insist the requirements are costly, burdensome and impractical. 

For more than a decade, federal law has compelled refiners to use renewable fuel -- up to 36 billion gallons in 2022 -- but tasked the EPA with setting the precise annual quotas. Many lawmakers supported the Renewable Fuel Standard with the expectation that first-generation corn-based ethanol would be replaced by alternatives made from corn stalks, algae or other materials such as switchgrass.

Overall Mandate

The EPA is set to require 4.29 billion gallons of advanced biofuel in 2018, a slight uptick from the current 4.28-billion-gallon quota and a 4.24 billion gallon proposal the agency outlined in July.

At least 288 million gallons of that would have to be the cellulosic biofuel from non-edible plant materials, below the current 311-million-gallon quota. That’s a modest increase from the EPA’s initial 238-million-gallon proposal. Production of cellulosic ethanol has lagged far behind what the measure’s supporters envisioned a decade ago.

Brooke Coleman, head of the Advanced Biofuels Business Council, said the EPA’s targets "miss a valuable opportunity to accelerate growth" in cellulosic ethanol production by keeping levels below the 2017 quota. 

"Unwarranted cuts to cellulosic biofuel targets send the wrong signal to global investors in this emerging industry," Coleman said by email.

Biodiesel production also has grown, and EPA is set to disappoint those producers in keeping the mandate steady at 2.1 billion gallons.

Biodiesel advocates had argued that number fell far short of potential production, with the industry’s leading trade group pushing for a 2.5 billion gallon target in a Nov. 16 letter to Trump. The proposed -- and now final -- 2.1 billion gallon quota is so low that it’s "sending the wrong signal to an industry poised for robust, sustainable growth," the National Biodiesel Board wrote. 

Members of that industry trade group swarmed Capitol Hill this week to voice their concerns with the earlier proposal. Industry officials argue they have current capacity to produce 2.6 billion gallons of biodiesel. And they argue that the production of ethanol and biodiesel are increasingly linked, especially as more biodiesel is made using corn oil, an ethanol byproduct. 

Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, said he was disappointed by the lack of an increase in biodiesel levels and the cut in the quota for cellulosic ethanol, especially when "increases are justified."

"This final rule does little to encourage investment and growth in advanced biofuels," Grassley said in an emailed statement. By contrast, "Congress intended for the RFS to drive growth in biofuels across all categories." 

The 15-billion-gallon quota for conventional renewable fuel mirrors the current target and sets up a disappointment for oil refiners that had argued that amount would exceed a 10% "blend wall," or the amount that can be easily blended into the fuel supply.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt previously committed to set final quotas at levels "equal to or greater than the proposed amounts." That concession came in an October letter to farm-state senators after they agreed to stop blocking the confirmation of a top EPA official over possible changes that could undermine the biofuel mandate.

The final plan shows Pruitt sticking by that pledge -- but not making aggressive moves to go beyond it.

Trump visited ethanol plants while campaigning for president and promised Iowa’s voters he would protect the mandate if they elected him.

Pruitt is scheduled to meet with farmers and biofuel groups in Nevada, Iowa, on Friday, according to people familiar with the meeting, who asked not to be named because the details haven’t been made public.

--With assistance from Ari Natter.

To contact the reporters on this story: Jennifer A. Dlouhy in Washington at [email protected]; Mario Parker in Chicago at [email protected]

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jon Morgan at [email protected]

Mark Drajem, Elizabeth Wasserman

© 2017 Bloomberg L.P


Max Armstrong is in Coralville, Iowa, at The Ag Data Conference today.

$90 million biodiesel plant is under construction in Wichia, KS. Cargill is building the facility.

Gov. Scott Walker wants to spend $7 million on national marketing campaign to attract workers.

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts is changing way state employees are going to be paid.

A family wedding at South Pacific island turned into tragedy when two family members drowned while kayaking in the ocean.

Yesterday, we talked about 9-year-old Missouri boy shot in hunting accident. Today, Nebraska boy shot himself while checking traps.

An organization that focuses on separation between church and state, The Freedom From Religion Foundation, is criticizing football coach who prayed with his team after a victory.

Farm Progress America, November 30, 2017

Max Armstrong shares a look at the new process on renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement where tensions between the three countries continue. Negotiators are offering stricter counter proposals. Max shares the state of current progress on the discussions.

Farm Progress America is a daily look at key issues in agriculture. It is produced and presented by Max Armstrong, veteran farm broadcaster and host of This Week in Agribusiness.

70% of American adults shopped Thanksgiving weekend


 From Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday, more than 174 million Americans shopped in stores and online during the just-concluded holiday weekend, beating the 164 million estimated shoppers from an earlier survey by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics.

Average spending per person over the five-day period was $335.47, with $250.78 — 75 percent — specifically going toward gifts. The biggest spenders were older Millennials (25-34 years old) at $419.52.

“All the fundamentals were in place for consumers to take advantage of incredible deals and promotions retailers had to offer,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “From good weather across the country to low unemployment and strong consumer confidence, the climate was right, literally and figuratively, for consumers to tackle their holiday shopping lists online and in stores.”

Retailers’ technology investments paid off with consumers seamlessly shopping on all platforms through the long weekend. The survey found that over 64 million shopped both online and in stores. In addition, over 58 million shopped only online, and over 51 million shopped only in stores. The multichannel shopper spent $82 more on average than the online-only shopper, and $49 more on average than those shoppers who only shopped in stores.

Read more


Change of lead at Hobby Horse Clothing

After more than 40 years in the lead here, founder Suzanne Vlietstra will be retiring at the end of 2017. She will be handing over the reins of Hobby Horse Clothing Co. to Kristin Darnall-Titov.

Darnall-Titov been a Hobby Girl since she was seven years old. Over the years she modeled in dozens of the company’s catalogs.

“Part of the fun of running this business for so long, for me, is seeing ‘my kids’ grow up, and more than a handful have made me proud. Always determined and focused, Kristin is one of those people who always has a plan, who sets goals and achieves them, who finds a way. She leased and groomed and catch-rode horses while saving up for her own, and then bought and sold those horses, no matter how beloved, to keep moving towards her dreams,” said Vlietstra in her blog post.

“Kristin and I come from similar backgrounds. Both of our single-parent mothers were school teachers who did all they could to make show ends meet. Where my mom Mary Lou made costumes for haunted houses to buy my first show saddle, Kristin’s mom Lynell worked at a fast-food joint after her teaching day ended to get her daughter to all the shows in the circuit. Our moms supported our horse hobby... and these great ladies later became dear friends, discussing the many adventures of their horse-crazy daughters.”

“Ask any entrepreneur: it’s very hard to find the right person to take over your business that you’ve raised from a seed. It’s a financial choice, sure, but it’s also an emotional decision: who can I trust to keep things going, who will take care of my customers and my employees, who will keep the good and update the things that are ready for change? Who will respect what I’ve built, but take it forward in ways that I cannot?” wrote Vlietstra.

Here is a video on the passing of the reins -


Tips for grazing cattle on corn residue

cows grazing
GOOD GROCERIES: Crop residue is an underused resource that can help reduce the cost of overwintering beef cows.

Hay supplies are limited in parts of Iowa going into winter, following last summer’s dry weather. Hay for sale is fetching high prices. It’s more important than ever to take advantage of grazing cattle on corn crop residue. Crop residue is often an underused resource that can help reduce the cost of wintering beef cows.

“While we call this ‘cornstalk grazing,’ in reality the cattle eat very little of the stalks,” says Joe Sellers, an Iowa State University Extension beef specialist. “Many acres of cornstalks are also mechanically harvested for bedding and feed. But in that case, nutrients are removed from the field and need to be replaced. Grazing will recycle nutrients.”

Corn crop residue helps meet feed needs
Cattle prefer to eat the grain first, followed by the husk and leaf and finally the cob and stalk. Under normal harvest conditions, there is very little grain left in the field. If cows have husk and leaf to select, they will consume a diet that is 52% to 55% total digestible nutrients (TDN) and about 5.5% to 7% crude protein. University of Nebraska data indicates there will be about 16 pounds dry leaf and husk per bushel of corn yield.

Sellers suggests these best management practices for corn residue grazing:

• Strip grazing. This will improve use of the crop residue. Graze smaller areas for a few days and then move to ungrazed fields.

• Supplemental feeding. Pregnant cows in midgestation can graze recently harvested crop residue with no supplementation other than free-choice mineral. Cows nursing calves and cattle grazing a single field later in the window would require both protein and energy supplementation. Corn coproducts such as distillers grains with solubles or corn gluten feed can be a good option.

• Evaluate each field. Due to high winds in Iowa in October, there may be fields with more lodging and, as a result, extra grain left in some fields. The amount of corn ears and grain needs to be evaluated, cattle need to be adapted to the grain, and grazing should be allocated in small portions to reduce the risk of acidosis.

• Manage soil conditions. Many studies have shown well-managed corn residue grazing does not reduce the subsequent corn or soybean yields. Not grazing when fields are muddy and removing the cattle before spring thaw and rainy weather will ensure success.

• Cover crops work well. Some fields may have a combination of corn crop residue and cover crops, such as cereal rye. This would be an even better quality feed for your herd.

• Plan winter grazing. University of Nebraska-Lincoln has a grazing calculator that may help you plan your winter grazing.

UNL also is managing an exchange to connect landowners with potential graziers on crop residue and cover crop acres. A group from Iowa including Iowa Beef Center staff and Practical Farmers of Iowa are in discussions with UNL to see if Iowa can join that effort.

Source: Iowa State University




Mowers fit almost any farm job

By Farm Progress staff

Whether you’ve got a ditch bank to mow or just your backyard, companies that make mowing equipment have you covered with a wide variety of new and improved products.

Woods ditch-bank mower, which runs off hydraulics, is a move forward; however, it’s almost overshadowed by Woods completely new Bat Wing rotary cutter. Woods specifically sent its engineers and marketing people to customers to find out what they wanted in a rotary mower.

Once they had dozens of ideas in hand, they sorted through the ones that fit their system best and incorporated many of them into their new mower. It even includes a patent-pending lift-assist system for the PTO shaft which, makes hooking up to the machine simpler and less frustrating.

Hooking up the PTO was one thing customers said they would love to see improved in a new machine. This new model also features a sleek design and tons of features based on what customers said they would improve an already popular machine.

Meanwhile, many companies were busy designing new models of zero-turn mowers for lawn and barn lot care and maintenance. Whether it’s Scag’s redesigned tiger Cat II or Dixie Chopper’s Black Hawk machine, these new models include features that should not only add to operator comfort, but also add to dependability and longevity of the machines.

There are other new models from various companies included in the lineup, which Farm Progress editors found at farm shows. Be sure to look through the entire lineup of new products designed to help you get mowing jobs done more efficiently.

New rule changes school lunch standards

michael flippo/ThinkstockPhotos Black school lunch tray on a white background

The new School Meal Flexibility Rule, published Nov. 29, makes targeted changes to standards for meals provided under USDA’s National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs, and asks customers to share their thoughts on those changes.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said the rule reflects USDA’s commitment, made in a May proclamation, to work with program operators, school nutrition professionals, industry, and other stakeholders to develop forward-thinking strategies to ensure school nutrition standards are both healthful and practical.

“Schools need flexibility in menu planning so they can serve nutritious and appealing meals,” Perdue said. “Based on the feedback we’ve gotten from students, schools, and food service professionals in local schools across America, it’s clear that many still face challenges incorporating some of the meal pattern requirements. Schools want to offer food that students actually want to eat. It doesn’t do any good to serve nutritious meals if they wind up in the trash can. These flexibilities give schools the local control they need to provide nutritious meals that school children find appetizing.”

This action reflects a key initiative of USDA’s Regulatory Reform Agenda, developed in response to the President’s Executive Order to alleviate unnecessary regulatory burdens. Other USDA initiatives of this kind will be reflected in the forthcoming Fall 2017 Unified Agenda of Federal Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions.

The interim final rule gives schools the option to serve low-fat (1%) flavored milk. Currently, schools are permitted to serve low-fat and non-fat unflavored milk as well as non-fat flavored milk. The rule also would provide this milk flexibility to the Special Milk Program and Child and Adult Care Food Program operators serving children ages 6 and older. States will also be allowed to grant exemptions to schools experiencing hardship in obtaining whole grain-rich products acceptable to students during School Year (SY) 2018-2019.

Schools and industry also need more time to reduce sodium levels in school meals, Perdue said. So instead of further restricting sodium levels for SY 2018-2019, schools that meet the current – “Target 1” – limit will be considered compliant with USDA’s sodium requirements.

This rule will be in effect for SY 2018-2019. USDA will accept public comments on these flexibilities via to inform the development of a final rule, which will address the availability of these three flexibilities in the long term.

USDA's Food and Nutrition Service administers 15 nutrition assistance programs that include the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), and the Summer Food Service Program. 

Source: USDA