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Articles from 2019 In July

MIDDAY Midwest Digest, July 31, 2019

The war in Afghanistan is now the longest standing war. Soldiers from the Midwest were recently killed while deployed to the area.

Emerging markets is the name of the game in agriculture.

A Missouri state legislator has passed away while on a family vacation.

Cardi B had to cancel her concert in Indianapolis last night. 

There are only a few hours left of ice cream month. August is soybean month in Iowa.


Photo: Gabriel-m/Getty Images


Is now the time to buy farmland?


Last weekend, my husband Tyler and I made a cattle run down to Oklahoma, and on our way we stopped to visit the Pioneer Woman Mercantile.

In case you missed my recap, you can check it out here.

On our route, we drove through South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma. We saw rows and rows of corn fields, acres of hay fields and quiet rural communities featuring main street mom and pop businesses.

As we passed through cattle country, I was impressed by the vast rolling prairie that stretched to the horizon. Far from the hustle and bustle of urban cities, I felt at peace in a place where cattle were grazing as far as the eyes could see.

To me, as we traveled through the heartland of America, this is home. These are the foundation states, where food is grown and energy is derived. This is where our national security begins and ends, because after all, if our people were ever unable to have enough food, to keep their houses heated and the lights turned on or to have clothes on their backs, it would lead to famine, war, depression, homelessness and vulnerability as a nation.

So yes, these foundation states are incredibly important, and that’s why it’s troubling to see so much farm and ranch land be converted to concrete jungles as a result of urban sprawl and community development.

However, that’s par for the course. Supply and demand of farmland would dictate that the highest bidder wins the acres, and sometimes the owner is in the hands of the producer, and other times, it’s the developer who has the funds to purchase the land.

With commodity prices in the tank, market uncertainties continuing due to trade war disputes, increasing input costs and debt loads and more young people abandoning rural America in pursuit of more secure career opportunities, I believe we will see a lot of land exchange hands in the next couple of years.

So that begs the question, is now the time to buy farmland? I don’t think we have seen the low yet as far as land prices go; however, I also think there are enough buyers out there for the available supply of acres to keep prices pretty competitive.

But don’t take my word for it. I’m not a farmland realtor. Instead, check out these recent headlines to gather more information on agricultural land trends and see for yourself if now is the time to buy or to put your acres on the market.

1. “Farmland loss is a national crisis, and felt mightily in the West” by Hannah Clark, American Farmland Trust (AFT)

Clark writes, “Between 1992 and 2012, 31 million acres of farmland and ranchland disappeared according to research from our recently released ‘Farms Under Threat’ analysis — the most comprehensive study ever on agricultural land loss in the U.S.

“While 31 million acres may not sound like a lot, at AFT, it set off alarm bells. It represents as much agricultural land as is in the state of Iowa. And, perhaps more importantly, 11 million of those acres were our best and most productive agricultural land — land most suitable for intensive food production with the fewest environmental impacts.”

2. “Western farmland continues to disappear” by Brad Carlson for the Capital Press

Carlson writes, “Without the tools that a succession plan might utilize, large portions of the nation’s agricultural land base are vulnerable to fragmentation, conversion to non-agricultural uses, and transfer of ownership to non-farmers.”

3. “Calls picking up despite continued uncertainties in 2019” by Randy Dickhut, Farmers National Company

Dickhut writes, “The calls from landowners thinking about selling their land during the upcoming months are picking up. This is despite the uncertainties in ag this season and shows that landowners are looking for good advice during what is another chapter in a string of challenging years for agriculture. Landowners wanting to sell are thinking ahead to terminating leases and not negotiating rents for 2020. Lease negotiations for 2020 will be difficult with an expected late harvest season, grain price gyrations, and crop yields that will be quite variable by area. Sellers also have target time frames for when they want to close on the sale, so planning has to begin well in advance in order to properly list, market, and sell the property.”

4. “Farmland ownership and tenure” by USDA’s Economic Research Service

According to the USDA’s Economic Research Service, “Trends and patterns in the ownership of agricultural land are of perennial interest to all involved with the farm sector. Farmland tenure, which broadly refers to the institutions governing the control and use of farmland, shapes many farm decisions, including those related to production, conservation, and succession planning. Given the relatively advanced age of many farmers, both tenure and ownership can also have important implications for access to land, an issue that is particularly salient for new and beginning farmers. A majority of U.S. land in farms is owner-operated—over 60%. The national share of farmland that is owner-operated has been relatively stable over the past 50 years, with a noticeable decline during the farm crisis of the 1980s.”

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

MORNING Midwest Digest, July 31, 2019

A Wisconsin community is supporting the family of some farmer brothers who've disappeared on a trip to Missouri.

Some topsoils have dried out after flooding this spring. About half of Michigan topsoil is short or very short of moisture.

If you're up overnight, you might see a meteor shower over the next week.


Photo: Nastco/Getty Images


Farm Progress America, July 31, 2019

Max Armstrong shares that Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., wanted to get information about hemp and he got plenty. Erica Stark, National Hemp Association, is pushing a ban on foreign imports of biomass from outside of North America. There is a concern about what pests or diseases the could be a problem with this new crop. Max looks at other issues that Stark raised.

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: Vitalij Sova/iStock/Getty Images Plus

How do I price my farm calls?

simonmayer-GettyImages Pickup truck on a farm
Time spent on farm calls can be expensive. Try to find the profitable solution for you and the affordable one for your clients

Unless you work in a university doing surgeries, the likelihood is you spend some time driving from one location to another to do vet work. And assuming you do not feel abnormally generous, you likely charge a farm call for this drive. The question that vexes many of us is how do we price this time spent going to the farm?

Of course, the first priority is to cover the costs of your trip. The fuel and oil changes need to be paid for, as well as the wear and tear on the pickup. The component that is more difficult to account for is the opportunity cost for the veterinarian’s service. In a perfect world we’d cover the full hourly rate, but that makes the farm call prohibitively expensive.

As a 2015 AVMA and AABP survey of bovine veterinarians found that 74.3% of veterinarians reported farm calls amounted to less than 10% of their gross revenue, we aren’t looking to make a fortune off farm calls. What then constitutes a fair price that encourages clients to use your services?

What's your time worth?

When driving to another location, the services we complete on the farm are the primary reason we are paid. But our windshield time takes away from work we could be doing on other farms or at the clinic. This opportunity lost to generate other income is considered a cost, hence the term “opportunity cost” is applied to it.

Knowing your practice helps you discover what compensation is required in the farm call to cover your opportunity cost. For example, if you spend the majority of your time processing large groups of cattle, the service charge for the processing on the farm likely covers the opportunity cost of driving. Conversely, if your day is spent going from farm to farm looking at individual sick animals, you’ll go broke if your driving only covers your pickup expenses.

To address opportunity cost, know what your target revenue for an average day is and compare it to how much time you spend driving per day. The price of the farm call should be enough for you to achieve that target. If you spend 25% of your day behind the wheel rather than 10%, then your farm call will need to be more expensive to make up for the opportunity cost.

Per mile or flat rates?

How that farm call is charged is also case dependent. Many clinics charge a flat rate per mile. Farms closer to the clinic take less time to drive to and the client then pays less as a result. This works well most of the time and seems fair.

The problem comes when you have the offer to do a big job a long way from the clinic. For example, you may have a local client who pastures cattle three hours away and wants you the preg check those cows. Would you give up a $2,500 chute job over $75 for a farm call?

A common alternative to address this problem is a flat fee. Usually it is broken into ranges, with an increasing charge per longer range until you reach a maximum level. This works great to land the aforementioned chute job, but what about the times when you are called to drive two hours to pull a calf?

Hybrid systems

Creating a hybrid of these two can help amend some of the negatives. Many clinics will do this and try to get the best of both worlds. An underutilized option to consider is having a herd work farm call and an individual treatment farm call. In this system, there is a maximum value for farm calls to do chute work. However, if the call is to treat 10 head or less, the call can be charged at a different rate. This hybrid leaves the door open for the big jobs, while covering your opportunity cost on the long-distance OB calls.

Determining exactly what farm call pricing and system works for your situation is an individual decision. Factors such as the quality of your clients’ facilities, having your own haul-in facility, the breadth of your practice area and personal preferences all factor in to deciding the best way and amount to charge for a farm call. Once you can strike that balance between covering your opportunity cost for driving while not discouraging people to work with you, you’ll have happy customers and be happy with yourself. At least until gas prices go up again.

Kubota steps up with bigger tractors

Willie Vogt Kubota-m8.jpg
GOING BIGGER: With the launch of the M8 Series, Kubota expands its tractor line. Built by Buhler Industries, the new machines open new opportunities for the orange tractor line.

With plenty of fanfare, and a little obligatory concert fog, two new tractors rolled into view at a national Kubota dealer event this week. The news was the launch of the Kubota M8 series, built by Buhler Industries in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. The new machines are Kubota-designed and will offer more power for key segments of the market.

Todd Stucke remembers starting the conversation in 2013 with Kubota about the need to grow bigger in tractors. Stucke is senior vice president of sales, marketing and product support for Kubota, and he notes that the challenge for the company was designing and building a totally new and larger tractor, without stressing “internal resources.” The aim was to bring in bigger machines, and maximize engineering and design talent.

From that early idea came the approach of having the tractors purpose-built by Buhler Industries in Winnipeg. “This is a custom OEM [original equipment manufacturer] product that has Kubota DNA,” Stucke says. “They’ve been good to work with, and responsive.”

Stuck explains that Kubota brought its manufacturing practices to that Winnipeg plant, and that the process taught both companies new things along the way. And the process continued. “From when we saw prototype No. 1 through what we have today is an evolution that used their expertise and ours.”

Stucke emphasizes that the M8 follows on the M7, and that product relationship is clear. Today, the M8 Series is a next-generation model for the company.

Some specs

While Stucke says the process started in 2013 to begin creating this new product, the relationship that created the original equipment manufacturing relationship was formalized in 2016. Essentially, it took six years to bring this tractor from idea to the market. In that time, Kubota also built on its brand, acquiring Kverneland, with its hay and tillage tools; and Great Plains, with its tillage, planting and application equipment. And in many cases, those acquisitions brought along implements that required more horsepower to pull than Kubota had available.

As Stucke says: “The M8 allows us to aggressively fill a higher-horsepower customer need across the large utility and midsize row crop tractor market — for material handling and hay-tool application on dairy and livestock operations, as well as a variety of fieldwork. Built with an operating experience focused on easy-to-control comfort, confident workability and intuitive controls for precision farming, the M8 will maximize return on investment for Kubota customers today and well into the future.”

There are two models in the M8 Series, and both are powered by a Cummins six-cylinder B-Series, 6.7-liter diesel engine. The engine meets tough emission standards in the Unites States, and future tighter regulations called Stage 5 are proposed for Europe. Kubota does not make a six-cylinder engine, so management turned to this outside supplier for power.

The M8-191 clocks in at 190 engine hp. The M8-211 hits 210 engine hp. The Cummins choice was popular among dealers who got to see the new machine. “Cummins is well-known in the ag market,” Stucke notes. “And when these machines come out, all service will be handled by Kubota dealers.”

In some markets where Cummins power is used, service is provided by a separate Cummins-certified network, but Kubota and its leaders want to have customers going to Kubota dealers for support.

The engine is mated to either a semi-powershift transmission or the KVT continuously variable transmission that farmers are familiar with on the M7 Series. Both M8 models will feature four-wheel drive as standard.

The tractors feature a spacious cab that one dealer likened to the size of a combine cab. In fact, the cab has 148 cubic feet of space and is a roomy operating platform for the machine.

Production of market-ready models will begin in January, with a gradual introduction to the dealer network. Based on comments from dealers at the premier event, many are ready to go to market now. Preproduction models were on hand for the launch, and over the next few weeks, Kubota and its dealers will review these near-final models for any needed tweaks, Stucke says.

During the event, Haruyuki “Harry” Yoshida, president and CEO of Kubota Tractor Corp. and Kubota North America, said that in “five years we will look back … and celebrate the pioneers of this tractor launch. And we will not only meet the needs but exceed expectations.”

Farmers will get their first look at the new machines at the fall farm shows starting with the Farm Progress Show, coming up Aug. 27-29 in Decatur, Ill. 



Yes, there’s a premium for BQA-certified cattle

Vaccinate your calves

Editor's note--this article has been updated from the original by the author.

The beef industry’s Beef Quality Assurance program is now firmly embedded in the fabric of the beef business. And beef producers have a number of reasons why they get certified. According to a survey that Colorado State University (CSU) did half a dozen years ago, the two principal reasons are that it’s the right thing to do and that producers who get certified are looking for ways to continually improve their operations.

Those are indeed noble, says Jason Ahola, professor of beef production systems at CSU. But a fair percentage said there has to be a financial incentive as well. “We all have to realize it’s a tough business and it comes down to profitability. We’d like producers, if they’re to spend time doing something, to be paid for it, especially something that’s going to help beef quality, beef value and consumer demand,” he told me at the Cattle Industry Summer Meeting in Denver.

So a group of researchers at CSU thought it was time to answer that question—does BQA certification add value to calves and feeder cattle?

The answer is yes. $2.71 per cwt, plus or minus about 90 cents, when compared to non-BQA lots with otherwise similar sale, cattle, and value-added characteristics, says Daniel Mooney, CSU Extension ag economist.

READ: Will BQA certification someday become a requirement?

Ahola and Mooney presented research that verifies the premium during a BQA Producer Forum at the Summer Meeting.

To arrive at that figure, the CSU team looked at data from Western Video Market for nine western states from 2010 to 2017. It is a retrospective look with prices adjusted for inflation to a 2017 baseline, says Mooney, and there was a lot of noise to sort through to find a solid number.

That noise, Ahola says, is that there are a lot of variables that drive price. So they chiseled down through the data, looking at whether or not a BQA mention in the lot description would make a buyer more willing to be a bidder.

What they found is that somewhere around 8% of the lots offered for sale during that period included information that the cattle came from a BQA-certified outfit.

While that seems like a small number, it may well be higher because a rancher has to volunteer that information. So it’s likely that more calves came from a BQA-certified ranch, but that wasn’t mentioned in the lot description.

They then applied an economic model that allowed them to separate those many variables and compare BQA-certified lots with non-certified lots. Out of the 50,000 or so lots they analyzed, about 8,800 ultimately became part of the data set. That covers about a million head of calves and feeders, so the $2.71 figure is very robust.

Related: Value-added calves worth the extra effort

While the model looked specifically at premiums related to a mention of BQA certification, calves often are eligible for a variety of value-added programs. It's important to understand, however, that while calves may qualify for several premium programs, they aren’t additive. “It’s a package deal,” Mooney says. The more value-added attributes a set of cattle have, the more they will tend to draw higher bids.

The researchers focused on video auctions because the data is readily available. The next step is to develop the infrastructure to capture that sort of data from sale barns.

So, why should you get BQA certified? Because it’s the right thing to do and it will help you improve your operation. And you very well could be paid for it.

“Something we hope to come out of this research is improving some of the ways [BQA certification] information is communicated in auctions and having BQA stand out as a stand-alone option to check. Having that information communicated to buyers would be a great outcome,” Mooney says.


MIDDAY Midwest Digest, July 30, 2019

The U.S. corn crop is lagging well behind average, and soybeans have a long way to go, too.

Debris from a Great Lakes shipwreck has been found near the coast of Michigan.


Photo: aardenn/Getty Images


What I’ve learned from Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman


From 2006 to 2007, I was a National Beef Ambassador traveling the country on behalf of America’s cattlemen and women. The program was a project of the American National CattleWomen and was funded, in part, by the Beef Checkoff.

During that time, I had a blog called, “Chewing the Cud.” Blogs were brand new at the time, and I was convinced that only my mother would read what I wrote. However, I continued to write because I felt like this was a great platform for sharing information about beef production and ranch life with the rest of the world.

Ultimately, Chewing the Cud became a great testing ground for what would become BEEF Daily. In 2008, I was an intern for BEEF, and then editor Joe Roybal was looking for ways to drive traffic to the online website. I suggested adding a blog to create a community on the site. The blog would be in addition to the articles already featured online, but through comments, social media engagement and a regular newsletter, BEEF Daily could be a way for folks to discuss hot industry news with me (a young aspiring beef producer) and the rest of the BEEF community.

Joe liked the idea, and the rest is history! BEEF Daily officially launched in September 2008, and here we are, almost 11 years later, still interacting and exchanging ideas every Monday-Thursday!

At the heart of everything I do, I truly love blogging, engaging with producers and consumers alike and sharing my personal story online. You’ve watched me graduate from college, get engaged and married, purchase a ranch, expand our cow herd, become a mother to three children, author two ranch-themed books for kids and travel the country speaking to agricultural groups.

As a whole, the BEEF Daily audience is loyal, inquisitive and interactive. You’ve taught me so much over the years and this platform has given me a sounding board as I work toward my goals as a cattle rancher in South Dakota. I’m truly grateful for all of you for reading, as well as for the BEEF team who continues to believe in me and what I write.

Now as I look back on my time as the BEEF Daily blogger, I definitely want to give credit to those who I’ve admired and emulated. One of those folks is someone I’ve never met in person, but I’ve followed online since the very beginning of her blog. Despite having never met, my photo (a senior portrait at that) was featured on her blog post in 2007. You can read that post here.

Ree Drummond (The Pioneer Woman) is a ranch wife, blogger, author, cooking show host, kitchenware designer and more. She has mastered the art of blogging, photography, cooking, speaking, writing, marketing and advocating for agriculture.

She got her start about the same time as me, and I always admired her style and ability to connect an urban audience with her quiet life in the remote countryside of Pawhuska, Okla. Now a bonafide celebrity, Drummond has not only become and exceptional advocate for agriculture, but she also has a lot to teach our industry about building relationships, reaching consumers and maximizing opportunities with value-added agricultural enterprises.

Last weekend, my husband Tyler and I took a road trip to Fletcher, Okla. to pick up a couple of our embryo heifers in a recip herd located there. Along the route was Drummond’s, Pioneer Woman Mercantile, a gorgeous western boutique, coffeehouse and restaurant located in Pawhuska, Okla. Since the opening of the Mercantile a couple of years ago, Drummond has since built a sweets shop and a boarding house, as well as her “Lodge,” which is where she films her cooking television show.

Taking a quick detour off the interstate, Tyler and I spent a few hours in Pawhuska, exploring Ree’s shops, drinking iced coffees and dining on ribeyes and chicken fried steaks. If you have ever followed her blog or watched her show, it felt like you were dropped into Ree’s charming little world on the ranch. It was a feel-good tourist stop that celebrated American ranching, and it was a treat to see Ree's work in person, after years of admiring what she does online.

So what can we learn from Ree? Undoubtedly, there are few of us who have the resources that she does. After all, the Drummonds rank as one of the top landowners in the country. However, even if we don’t have the buying power that Ree does, we do have a voice just like her. And we can use it effectively to share own agricultural stories in a way that is authentic to ourselves and our lives in the cattle business.

  • Do you know how to man the grill like a pro? Share it on social media.
  • Do you think your cattle are a beautiful site to be seen on the ranch? Snap a picture and share it online!
  • Do you think it’s a blessing to work alongside your family every day in your operation? Introduce your clan to the world on Facebook!
  • Do you enjoy even the most mundane tasks on your ranch? Guess what? They aren’t average to consumers. Share the “dull” stuff, and you would be amazed how interested an urban audience would be to learn more about what you do!

Engagement doesn’t have to be negative. It doesn’t have to incite hate from activist groups or vegan trolls. Social media engagement and effective agricultural advocacy can be fun, insightful and interactive, especially if you take a page from Ree’s book and focus on the wonderful sites, sounds, smells and tastes of country life.

I tip my hat to you, Ree Drummond. You make advocacy look easy, and you represent our industry well! Cheers!

And to all of you BEEF Daily readers — thanks for tagging along for the adventure over the last 11 years. Here’s to many more years to come!

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

MORNING Midwest Digest, July 30, 2019

What will the fed do with interest rates this week?

The corn crop is still considerably behind average progress. 

Nebraska officials are ordering an investigation into dam failure this spring.

Lake Michigan continues to be the deadliest of the Great Lakes.

According to surveys, more than half of Americans can't swim.


Photo: Fokusiert/Getty Images