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MIDDAY Midwest Digest, April 16, 2019

Gas prices have been climbing across the Midwest. 

A signal-less railroad crossing was the scene of an accident killing three people.

There have been 55 cases of measles this year.

A Michigan man moved in with his parents after a divorce, and moved out later. He filed a civil suit against his parents, who didn't send his pronography collection when he left their residence.

A former organic chemistry professor left money to Purdue Universiry to build a new chemistry facility.


Photo: milanklusacek/Getty Images

Sun rising on 2019 FPS in Decatur

sunrise at the Farm Progress Show
SHOWTIME: The Farm Progress Show returns to Decatur, Ill., this year, showcasing more than 600 exhibitors and field demonstrations.

Farm Progress is kicking off the fall farm show season Aug. 27-29 at its permanent show grounds in Decatur, Ill. — marking the 66th year for the show.

The three-day Farm Progress Show provides a learning opportunity for producers to stay up to date on the newest agricultural equipment, products, services and technologies. And with recent mergers in the industry, FPS 2019 will give producers a chance to interact with freshly minted brands.

“There have been a lot of mergers, and the people you used to buy things from wear different shirts with different logos than they used to. So what do all these mergers mean to your operation?” asks Matt Jungmann, Farm Progress Show manager. He says when farmers walk among the more than 600 exhibitors, “they’ll have plenty of opportunities to see for themselves. It’s a good place to figure out what all this change means.”

DowDuPont’s plans to split into three companies are well under way, with a Corteva Agriscience tent taking the place of Dow’s tent at last year’s Farm Progress Show in Boone, Iowa, as well as the upcoming show in Decatur.

“The exhibit field map is going to look a lot different than it did in 2017,” Jungmann says. “We try to make the show new and fresh every year, and I think the moves the exhibitors have made over the last couple of years will certainly do that for us. It’s going to be a new show with new brand names and new places.”

When asked how exhibitor enthusiasm is holding up after years of depressed commodity prices, Jungmann says demand for space is still growing.

“I’m very satisfied with the exhibitor turnout and demand for space. There are even folks who are wanting to expand their spots, which is good to see in this ag economy,” he says.

FPS is the annual start to the fall farm show season, held two weeks before Farm Progress’ Husker Harvest Days in Grand Island, Neb., Sept. 10-12. Both are the first stops in a circuit for new farm equipment. And at FPS, Jungmann is planning for another year of field demonstrations. An autonomous tractor will be demonstrated, as will harvest, tilling and tiling implements.

“In years past, we’d have had the corn planted for the demos by now. But it’s shaping up to be a wet spring,” Jungmann says. “We’ll still have the demonstrations and we’ll still get it planted, but just like with many farms right now, Mother Nature is impacting our plans a little.”

Putting beef back on school lunch trays

David Warfield did not like what he saw on the school lunch menu. There were no meals with beef as the main protein source.

It’s been a while since David, along with his wife, Sherry, paid much attention to a school lunch menu. Their children are grown. Now, they are interested grandparents. “I was just looking at the menu and noticed it,” Sherry said. “All they eat is chicken. Is that really a balanced diet?”

Make no mistake, it is a personal issue for the Warfields. David devoted his entire career to managing cattle operations — whether in Illinois, Tennessee or currently in southwest Missouri. Beef has always been on the dinner table.

About a year ago, the couple made it their mission to put beef back on the menu at their grandkids’ school in Butler, Mo.

The program

Warfield attended a Missouri Cattlemen’s Association Convention and heard Mark Russell, executive director of the Missouri Beef Industry Council, talk about a new program — MoBeef for MoKids.

Russell said that MoBeef for MoKids launched in October 2017 at Mount Vernon public schools in Lawrence County, which is the largest beef cow-calf county in Missouri.

“The goal of the program is to increase the amount of beef consumed by children,” he said, “and increase their knowledge about the health benefits of beef.”

Russell said beef provides 10 essential nutrients needed by growing children. “We want to educate and inspire them to eat beef for the next 50 to 60 years,” he said.

With the addition of Butler R-V School District, the program is in 10 schools across the state. Russell said that number continues to grow, but adding beef into schools requires local support.

The promoter

MoBeef for MoKids requires a commitment by local beef producers. So, David Warfield approached the Bates County Cattlemen’s Association.

Cattle are donated either directly from a producer or a business can buy one from a local farmer. “It takes more than one producer to make this happen,” Warfield said. “It is really a network of cattle producers coming together to bring beef into the schools. It is a community effort.”

Ultimately, one cow per month will feed all 620 students at Butler R-V Schools. While the cattle mainly end up as ground beef, Warfield noted the animals cannot be shelly cows, old and in poor condition.

“We want to get the most product off the animal as possible,” he said. Each processed cow will yield about 500 pounds of meat for the school per month.

Warfield needed only one beef producer to get the program started.

The producer

Larry Burch did not give a second thought to donating one of his own stock to MoBeef for MoKids.

As a young boy growing up on a farm near Butler, Burch ate some form of meat three times a day. His favorite meal was his mom’s Sunday pot roast. “When you grow up liking what mom or grandma feeds you,” he said, “it shapes what you like as an adult.”

When the Bates County cattleman learned local schoolchildren were not eating beef, he stepped in. “It is important to start introducing kids to beef at an early age,” Burch said. “It is a great source of protein, vitamins and minerals. And is a healthy part of a diet.”

Burch, who has been in the insurance business for 42 years in the area, said finances are tight for many families. “Beef is just not on the dinner table like it was when I was growing up,” he said. “It is sad to me that some of our kids will never eat a good hamburger or steak.” He wanted to change that — for at least one meal.

Burch, who started his own herd in 1983 with only 60 head of cattle, runs a cow-calf operation of about 200 cows. He said there is just something about beef straight from the farm to the meat processor to the plate. “It is fresh. It is flavorful. It is how mom made it,” he said.

The processor

Finding a meat locker willing to butcher one cow a month, work with a school lunch supplier and be USDA-certified can be a tall order. However, just up the road in Clinton, Warfield visited Powell Meats.

“We wanted the beef processed locally,” he said. “And it needed to be by a USDA-inspected facility to meet school guidelines.”

Travis Powell knew it was a fit for his company. “We are big on supporting the community,” Powell, owner of Powell Meats, said. “It is about the kids, being able to provide them with a quality product.”

Powell Meats opened three years ago. “I bought the place to put a car dealership here,” he said, “but then realized the community would benefit from a local meat shop.”

It serves as a one-stop custom butcher shop processing anything from beef to goat. Powell even offers seafood from the Gulf Coast and the occasional alligator from the South. However, kids at Butler elementary and high schools will only eat beef.

Warfield said kids will taste the difference of locally processed beef. “There is a difference between it and the beef they buy in the store,” he explained. At Powell Meats, the product can properly age. “It is not just cut and wrapped,” Warfield added. “It can chill 48 hours or hang for two weeks, which only adds to the flavor.”

The product

Butler R-V School District Superintendent Darin Carter said the addition of Bates County to the donation of beef helps the school financially.

“We are a small town,” he said. “Without this program, it was hard to economically provide beef to our students. Now we can provide a healthy, nutritious, wholesome food product to our kids.”

Butler School food service director Tina Simmons said beef breaks up the monotony of chicken-filled menus. Students dine on dishes such as tacos, nachos, meatloaf, barbecue beef and sloppy joes.

“I think it is good that the younger generation has the opportunity to eat beef and enjoy it,” Simmons said. “I want them to know what local-grown beef tastes like. I hope they enjoy it.”

Agriculture is the biggest economic driver for this small town. Carter said the school already has a lot of support from the farming community, “but they continue to provide us with more.”

The Warfields are happy beef is back in school, but they are not stopping with only one school. The couple wants the program extended to schools in the county.

“MoBeef for MoKids allows our organization in school to talk about beef production and the nutritious aspects of beef,” David Warfield said. “Hopefully, it will put in our young people’s mind a positive image instead of the anti-meat agenda that is coming into many schools.”


MORNING Midwest Digest, April 16, 2019

Wet, cool weather looks to continue into May.

A river flooding in Nebraska split a district, so the school implemented a digital stream.

While this weather isn't great for planting corn, it's great for growing morel mushrooms.

A Wisconsin man and his wife were shot and killed in their home by their grandson.

Nashville, Ind., is turning to Vince Gill to entertain at the opening of a new music venue.



Photo: mdesigner125/Getty Images

Farm Progress America, April 16, 2019

Max Armstrong shares some background on the soybean checkoff and how the proceeds are used from funds raised. The program is guided by the United Soybean Board with more than 70 board members and the organization works in several areas. On new program is the Tech Tool Shed, a cooperative program with five universities and the latest release from the program is on data literacy.

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.

Photo: lamyai/iStock/Getty Images Plus

MIDDAY Midwest Digest, April 15, 2019

African swine fever could send hog profitability up by $100 a head.

A recent survey showed 23% of Americans claim no religious affiliation, the same as those who identify as Catholic or Evangelical. 

Mitch Albom asks his readers to look around, and ask if we're really doing a better job now, or before when people were more faith-based.


Photo: deyanarobova/Getty Images

On Earth Day, sustainability & eating beef


One of the most dangerous and erroneous myths about beef production is that it is destroying the planet. This misconception continues to be perpetuated and has led to a growing number of campaigns — from Meatless Mondays to EAT-Lancet’s proposal to slash our meat consumption by 90%.

Additionally, we are seeing plant-based and lab meat companies repeating these falsehoods, with claims that their vegetarian and petri-dish products are more environmentally friendly, sustainable and the perfect protein alternative for planetary health.

BEEF has a wealth of information available to debunk this myth. You can check out a few of our most popular articles here:

With Earth Day less than a week away (April 22), we have a great opportunity as producers to share our sustainability story with consumers.

One unique way that I have recently tackled this subject is with my newly released children’s book, “Can-Do Cowkids.” Published by the Georgia Beef Board and illustrated by Michelle Weber, the story not only explores beef industry careers with young readers, but it also introduces the concept of how cattle grazing is critical for managing our natural resources and converting cellulosic materials to nutritional beef.

I’m often asked what my favorite part of “Can-Do Cowkids” is, and besides having my three children featured in the illustrations, I love the pages where kids get to learn about how cattle ranchers manage grasslands.

A snippet from the book reads, “I see different types of grasses and pretty wildflowers, too. There’s so much life in the grass. Our pastures are home to earthworms, bees, ants, butterflies and tiny bugs. Mice, rabbits, deer and foxes live here, too. Mom says that’s a great sign of a healthy landscape.

“Cattle grazing promotes new grass to grow, which helps both wildlife and livestock thrive!

“Wow! Cows are amazing!

“Ranchers manage their pastures and fields to promote healthy soil to grow food for us to eat. By using our land, water and natural resources wisely, farmers can protect the planet and nourish hungry people, too!”

Conversations can be as simple as these pages in a children’s book or as complicated as discussing how grasslands capture carbon, reduce erosion and provide habitat for bees and wildlife.

Of course, it all depends on your audience. And it starts with putting yourself in a place where you can be vulnerable, transparent and open for conversations back and forth with consumers who may feel differently than you.

Many in our society believe we can take the steep, hilly, rocky and rough terrains often used for cattle grazing and covert them to fields to grow almonds, broccoli and peanuts. This is not only unrealistic and counterproductive, but it would be damaging to these beneficial grasslands.

Krista Ehlhert, South Dakota State University assistant professor and Extension range specialist, recently wrote about the importance of plant biodiversity in rangelands. This is a great conversation piece when discussing the topic of cattle grazing and pastures.

Ehlert writes, “We often think of biodiversity in the context of animals, such as those that are threatened or endangered; however, biodiversity is equally important among plants, which are found throughout our rangelands.

“Biodiversity is defined as the variability among living organisms, and quite simply can be thought of as ‘the spice of life.’ It can exist at multiple spatial scales, which means we can talk about biodiversity at small scales (species) or extremely large scales (across an ecosystem or landscape). Biodiversity is not static and can vary over time. Without biodiversity, our ecosystems across the world would look and function very differently,” Ehlert writes.

“Aesthetics, economics, and ecosystem services are some of the key reasons why biodiversity is important. Most people appreciate the look of a rangeland covered in perennial grasses such as Western wheatgrass that is scattered with purple coneflower. This heterogeneous mix of plant species creates visual interest and is great to enjoy during recreational pursuits such as hunting or hiking.

“At the same time, there are direct benefits to having a heterogeneous or multi-species mix of plants. Obvious benefits include food and fiber production and forage for grazing animals, which have tangible economic benefits.

“Less obvious, but equally important benefits include the functioning of key ecosystem services such as mitigating climate and moderating weather, soil creation and stabilization, nutrient cycling, and water storage and purification. Without a diverse mix of species, these benefits are negatively affected, which can have consequences for forage production, wildlife habitat and overall ecosystem health.”

You can read her article in its entirety by clicking here and follow along for additional resources as she discusses the threat of rangeland due to conversion of cropland, fragmentation, urban sprawl, commercial development, improper grazing practices or an influx of invasive plant species.

As Earth Day approaches, consider how you might broach this topic on social media or in your communities. Cattle grazing, and the resulting nutritious beef we get from ranchers managing these rangelands, is sustainable and environmentally friendly.
Unfortunately, our consumers are hearing a different story. Now is the time to engage.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of or Farm Progress.

Weather affecting feedlot performance

DarcyMaulsby/iStock/Thinkstock Cattle in feedlot

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has estimated that year-to-date U.S. beef production is down 1.0% year over year. According to Derrell Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension livestock marketing specialist, adverse weather has been somewhat responsible for slowed cattle finishing.

USDA also recently reported that total cattle slaughter is up 0.7% year to date, with steer slaughter down 3.9% and heifer slaughter up 7.6%. Dairy cow slaughter is up 5.0%, beef cow slaughter is up 1.1% and bull slaughter is down 8.8% compared to the same period last year. Peel said slaughter totals across classes mostly reflect underlying herd dynamics.

“Weather impacts are more evident in cattle carcass weights,” he said. “Carcass weights are declining seasonally thus far but are well below year-ago levels.”

Peel relayed that weekly data show that steer carcass weights are 12 lb. below a year ago, heifer carcasses are down 11 lb. and cow carcasses are 18 lb. lighter year over year.

“Lighter cow carcass weights are particularly surprising given that dairy cows are making up a bigger proportion of cow slaughter and are typically heavier than beef cows,” he said.

Steer carcass weights year to date have averaged 866 lb., down 7.3 lb. year over year, and heifer carcasses are at 804 lb.,11.7 lb. lighter compared to last year. Cow carcasses are averaging 645 lb., 14.3 lb. lighter than last year.

Feedlot survey data from Kansas also show the weather impacts in more detail, Peel noted. For the month of February, average daily gain (ADG) in closed-out steer pens was 3.43 lb., down slightly from ADG of 3.48 lb. one year ago. Feed conversion was sharply higher, at 7.08 lb. of feed per pound of gain (F/G), compared to F/G of 6.22 last year. Peel said this indicates the additional feed required to support animal maintenance and growth.

Further, he pointed out that steer death loss has been higher as well, at 1.68% this year versus 1.59% last year.

Last, cost of gain (COG) is higher now compared to last year, which Peel said is partly due to the weather. However, he said it also may reflect changes in feed costs. The February 2019 steer COG was reported at $85.26/cwt., compared to $79.73/cwt. last year.

The impact on feedlot heifers may be even more apparent, according to Peel. February heifer ADG was 3.18 lb., compared to 3.34 lb. in February 2018.  Feed conversion was 7.31 F/G, compared to 6.40 F/G one year ago. Heifer death loss was 1.53% in February versus 1.29% last year. Heifer COG for February was $89.17/cwt. versus $80.56/cwt. last year.

“As is often the case, adverse weather is largely a management headache, with significant economic impacts mostly borne by individual operations," he said. "However, there are, no doubt, some market-level impacts given the lengthy and widespread period of poor cattle production conditions experienced this winter.”

Peel noted that reduced beef production appears to have supported boxed beef prices, reducing supplies somewhat so far this year compared to earlier expectations.

“Fed cattle prices have likely been supported as well, though the weather impacts have not been as obvious as some had expected,” he said. “Fed cattle prices may have peaked seasonally, but continued weather impacts and the onset of summer beef demand should provide continued support for a few more weeks and possibly another chance for a spring price peak.”

Emergency CRP grazing offered in Iowa after flooding

dung beetles play significant role in pasture health

U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency (FSA) state executive director Amanda De Jong announced that, effective immediately, emergency grazing use of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres is approved in Iowa through May 14, 2019. The authorization was granted to address the impacts of the recent extreme weather, including flooding. Participation is limited to livestock producers who lost pasture or fences due to the flooding.

“By allowing emergency grazing, we expand the available resources to help Iowa producers respond to recent weather events,” De Jong said.

Producers who are interested in the use of emergency grazing of CRP acres must request FSA county office approval before moving livestock onto the acres. Producers whose livestock grazing land was adversely affected by the flood must file a CCC-576 Notice of Loss or provide written certification of that loss. The request must include a modified conservation plan, with grazing provisions, from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

CRP participants can allow others to use their CRP acres under this emergency grazing authorization. However, the livestock owners will also need to complete FSA paperwork indicating that their grazing land was adversely affected by severe weather. There will be no reduction in CRP rental payments to CRP contract holders who use the emergency grazing authorization. CRP contract holders are not permitted to charge livestock producers for the emergency grazing option.

For several weeks now, the Iowa Cattlemen’s Assn. said it has been working to help producers across the state adjust to the inclement and disastrous weather that has plagued the state.

While weather and natural disaster continues to affect our producers and the production livestock they tend to each and every day, we will continue to work with FSA on Livestock Indemnity Program flexibility and work with local offices to ensure this assistance goes into widespread use on behalf of Iowa’s beef business during a very challenging time,” the organization said in a news release.

For more information on eligible practices or to request approval for emergency grazing use of CRP acres, contact a local FSA office, or visit