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Articles from 2018 In June

This Week in Agribusiness, June 30, 2018

Part 1

Note: The video automatically plays through all show parts once you start.

Max Armstrong and Orion Samuelson are joined by American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall to talk about all the agriculture news this week. Richard Brock of Brock Associates talks with Max and Orion about what he’s hearing from farmers out in the country.

Part 2

Richard Brock of Brock Associates rejoins Max and Orion to discuss ethanol exports and the Chinese market for corn, plus NAFTA. Chad Colby in the Colby Ag Tech segment visits Kinze to hear about crop progress in Iowa and their summer plans for new products. Agricultural Meteorologist Greg Soulje looks at weather for the Western United States. The segment ends with BASF “Plan Smart, Grow Smart.”

Part 3

Chad Colby rejoins the show to talk about camera technology beyond back-up cameras. Tim Craig, CEO of James Allen Insurance joins Max to talk about new insurance products to manage risk for livestock disease.

Part 4

Max and Orion get a report from Steve Bridge in Beijing, China where he’s learning all about tariffs and the complicated relationship between our two countries from Ambassador Terry Branstad. Agricultural Meteorologist Greg Soulje looks at weather for the Eastern United States. In Max’s Tractor Shed, Max introduces a 1973 Massey Ferguson 165 owned by Melanie Boone in Macon, Mo.

Part 5

In the farm broadcaster of the week segment Max and Orion chat with Ron Hays of the Radio Oklahoma Network in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The team also rolls through the numbers from the USDA and elsewhere.

Part 6

Orion Samuelson profiles Eastern Greene FFA in Bloomfield, Indiana., where they have a number of work to learn programs.  Member Mariah Lucas talks about the chapter’s fundraising efforts. Orion Samuelson is Orion Samuelson is disturbed by crimes in farm country and says you should watch your equipment and know how to recognize a scam. Greg Soulje offers his look at the weather for the week ahead.

Part 7

Max and Orion discuss a rally supporting pro-agriculture laws in North Carolina where farmers showed up, were polite, and got what they asked for.

Eastern Greene FFA

Orion Samuelson profiles Eastern Greene FFA in Bloomfield, Indiana., where they have a number of work to learn programs.  Member Mariah Lucas talks about the chapter’s fundraising efforts.

The weekly FFA Chapter Tribute is an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the good work of your local chapter. Tell us about what you're doing, give us some history from your group and tell our viewers of the work you do in the community. FFA chapters across the country deserve recognition for the work they do, make sure we include yours.

To have your chapter considered for this weekly feature, send along information about your group by e-mail to Orion Samuelson at [email protected] or to Max Armstrong at [email protected]. They'll get your group on the list of those that will be covered in the future. It's a chance to share your story beyond the local community. Drop Orion or Max a "line" soon.

The National FFA Organization, formerly known as Future Farmers of America, is a national youth organization of about 650,000 student members as part of 7,757 local FFA chapters. The National FFA Organization remains committed to the individual student, providing a path to achievement in premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education. For more, visit the National FFA Organization online, on Facebook at, on Twitter at

Scams and Thieves

Orion says you should watch your equipment and know how to recognize a scam.  

Samuelson Sez is a special feature of This Week in Agribusiness where Orion Samuelson shares his insights and perspectives into key issues of the day. You can reach out to Orion at [email protected]

1973 Massey Ferguson 165

In Max’s Tractor Shed, Max introduces a 1973 Massey Ferguson 165 owned by Melanie Boone in Macon, Mo. This tractor proves that history repeats itself.

Max's Tractor Shed is a regular feature of This Week in Agribusiness. Max Armstrong shares information about legacy machines, their stories and how they may still be at work today. If you have a tractor you want featured in Max's Tractor Shed, send a high-resolution digital picture, your contact information, and information about the tractor - what makes it special - to [email protected].

7 ag stories you might have missed this week - June 29, 2018

Collage with corn harvest, capitol building and angus beef cattle

Need a quick catch-up on the news? Here are seven agricultural news stories you might have missed this week. 

The Senate passed its version of the farm bill, 86 to 11, on June 28. The bill renews subsidies for farmers and crop insurance companies and food aid for low-income families. The House passed its version of the farm bill on a partisan 213-211 vote on June 21. The bills will be reconciled in a conference committee. – Farm Futures

Gregg Doud, chief ag negotiator for the U.S. Trade Representative, and Greg Ibach, USDA undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs, say the Trump administration’s effort to hammer out better trade deals with China, Mexico, Canada and other key importers of U.S. ag products will help increase export demand over the long term and improve farmers’ access to markets. – Wallaces Farmer

Corn and soybean acres are estimated to be 1% lower compared to a year ago, according to USDA’s acreage report released June 29. All wheat acres are up 4%, with cotton acres up 7% over last year. – Farm Futures 

The Trump EPA announced its latest biofuel quotas on Tuesday. The Environmental Protection Agency is set to maintain a 15-billion-gallon quota for corn-based ethanol while the target for advanced biofuel would be 4.88 billion gallons. The biodiesel quota is proposed at 2.43 billion gallons for 2020. Biofuel groups generally supported the plan, but called for an end to waivers. – Wallaces Farmer

American Farm Bureau Federation is out with its summer picnic marketbasket survey, which found grocery prices are nearly steady from last year with the cost of a summer cookout for 10 at $55.07. – American Agriculturalist 

The U.S. hog herd once again reached new highs, according to the June 28 Hogs and Pigs Report. The nation’s hog herd was at 73.5 million head on June 1, up 3% from the previous year and the highest level since USDA began estimates in 1964. – National Hog Farmer

It’s estimated there are 14 million to 20 million acres of sodium or salt-impaired soils in the Dakotas. One Park River, N.D., farmer applied beet lime or gypsum, which had an immediate impact. – Dakota Farmer 

And your bonus:

Just in time for the Fourth of July, red, white and blue paint adorn 30 large round bales stacked, tied and secured together to create a tribute to America and its veterans on Missouri State Highway 19 north of Montgomery City, Mo. – Missouri Ruralist

MIDDAY Midwest Digest, June 29, 2018

In a week, the employment government report comes out. The lowest unemployment rate is in college towns and tourist destinations. Iowa has two cities with the lowest unemployment rates. 

The railroads need workers, and some are offering hiring incentives.

Now that the Senate has passed a farm bill, there's much work to be done in conference committee to smooth out the House and Senate versions to make one farm bill.

A man installed a camera in his shoe to take pictures of things he probably shouldn't, and it blew up.

MORNING Midwest Digest, June 29, 2018

Be forewarned, Tuesday to Thursday will be a big travel period, and AAA expects it to be up 5% from a year ago.

The Senate passed a farm bill yesterday to reauthorize farm programs, and it omits controversial work requirements from the House version. It now goes to conference committee.

Hog futures are expected to fall this morning after release of the quarterly hogs and pigs report. It showed the highest estimate of hogs and pigs since records started being kept.

Toy stores are becoming obsolete in the age of online shopping. The last of the Toys R Us stores closed yesterday.

Farm Progress America, June 29, 2018

Max Armstrong offers a way to expand your celebration of the dairy industry beyond June Dairy Month with National Ice Cream Month in July. Max offers some history of the celebration including National Ice Cream Day.

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: LauriPatterson/iStock/Getty Images Plus

WESA moves 2019 fall market to June


WESA has announced that its 2019 September show will be moved to June. The dates are June 19-21, 2019.

WESA said it moved the show dates after both exhibitors and buyers were expressing that September dates aren’t fitting their schedule very well. Both, buyers (via survey) and manufacturers (during a general membership meeting), expressed that moving the fall show to June would be beneficial as September is too late in the year.

Not only is WESA moving the market to June, but that also means that the 2019 WESA June Market will coincide with the Outdoor Retailer show for two days. That’s a bonus for everyone involved as retailers can shop both Markets, which will drive up attendance and sales for manufacturers.

Again, the 2019 June Market will take place June 19-21, 2019, Wednesday through Friday, which is also a new show day pattern.

How do you compare to other ranchers?

Carla Leland Red Angus Cattle

In the 1980s and 1990s, I’d tell cattle producers that the most important factor to having a profitable beef cow herd was determined by the year that they started their beef cow herds. If they started a herd on the upward portion of the beef price cycle, they probably made it in the beef cow business.

If they started a herd on the downward side of the beef price cycle, the odds were against them.

I still think there is a lot of truth to these statements yet today. Unfortunately, when you start a beef cow herd is critical.

Let’s study herds in four states over the first seven years of the current cattle cycle. My data source is the University of Minnesota’s FINBIN data (from North Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota and Utah). Farm business management data was collected on 1,766 herds over the seven-year period of the current cattle cycle (2010 through 2016). New herds were added and other herds dropped out over this seven-year period. Each column in Figure 1 is the average of those herds that were in the database for that year.

The seven-year average number of cows in a herd in the four states was 131 cows; the average herd size varied considerably. Minnesota had the smallest average-sized herds of 70 cows per herd. Utah had the largest, with 358 as the average number of cows in a herd. North Dakota’s average herd size was 156 cows, and the Nebraska herd average was 149 cows.

These herd sizes are not meant to be representative of these respective states — they are just the average herd sizes of the ranchers participating in each state’s Farm Business Management Extension Program.

Further study of the individual state data did not reveal any trend upward or downward in herd sizes through these seven years. This adds support to my general belief that cattlemen generally do not change herd sizes in response to the cattle cycle. Should they? This will be a subject of a future Market Advisor.

Looking at the data

There are numerous factors to consider when evaluating trends.

Calving percentages: The seven-year average calving percentage for all herds was 93.2% and tended to be in the low 90s each year. Each of the four states also averaged in the low 90s for the seven-year period.

Calf death loss: This is a measure of the portion of the live calves born that are lost from birth to weaning. The four-state average was 5.9%. The variation in the four-state averages was very small.

Weaning percentage: The four-state average weaning percentage over seven years was 87.7%. Once again, there was very little variation from state-to-state averages.

Average weaning weight: The seven-year average weaning weight for the four states was 540 pounds. I would expect some variation in average weaning weights by state due to considerably different production environments. Surprisingly, at least to me, there was only a 17-pound difference in the seven-year averages from lowest to highest of the four states.

Pounds weaned per female exposed: I prefer this measure of herd production as I found that it correlated the best with profits in my past integrated resource management (IRM) herd studies. Be careful, and be sure that you use “females exposed” and not “females left after culling open cows,” as often happens.

Again, I would expect some environmental effect among these four regions, and there was (Figure 2). Years 2012, 2013 and 2014 were the lowest years, and I have no explanation.

Labor hours per cow: In general, I always suggest that beef cows do not take a lot of labor per cow. The data support this in that the seven-year average of the four states was six hours per cow.

Again, this varies considerably by state and herd size. North Dakota and Nebraska herds over this seven-year period averaged five hours per cow. Minnesota’s smaller-sized herds averaged nine hours per cow. And, as expected, Utah, with its bigger herds, averaged four hours per cow.

Labor measured in cows per FTE (full-time employee equivalent): I continually hear a lot of discussion about the efficiency of manpower in running beef cows. Given the wide range in herd sizes of these four states, I expected a major difference here by state.

The seven-year herd average is 466 cows per FTE for the four states; however, there is a difference by state. North Dakota study herds average 530 cows per FTE, Nebraska averaged 457 cows per FTE, Minnesota averaged 307 and Utah averaged 704 cows per FTE. I fully expected to see significant economies of scale with respect to labor in beef cow herds.

Labor and management charge per cow: Ranchers generally do not consider a labor and management charge when they figure their costs of production. The farm business management associations, however, do put a charge on labor and on beef cow herd management.

The seven-year average labor and management charge for the four states combined was $70 per cow. There is considerable difference in the average labor and management cost per cow by state. North Dakota’s seven-year average was $73 per cow. Nebraska’s average was $71 per cow. Minnesota’s labor and management charge over the seven years averaged $96 per cow. Utah’s labor and management cost per cow was $36 per cow. Clearly, there are economies of scale in beef cow herds when it comes to labor and management cost.

Next month we will look at the economics of the herds in these four states over this same seven-year period in the current cattle cycle. I assure you that we will see some cattle cycle effects on the economic analysis of these herds.

Hughes is a North Dakota State University professor emeritus. He lives in Kuna, Idaho. Reach him at 701-238-9607 or [email protected]