7 ag stories you might have missed this week - July 19, 2019

NolanBerg11/flySnow/SteveOehlenschlager/ThinkstockPhotos 7AgStoriesNEW051517-1540x800

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

1. The Labor Department has announced changes to the H-2A temporary agricultural worker program. The American Farm Bureau Federation welcomed the announcement. – American Agriculturalist

2. The Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture are hemorrhaging staff as less than two-thirds of the researchers asked to move from Washington, D.C., to Kansas City have agreed to the move. National Farmers Union is calling USDA’s relocation of the ERS and NIFA “misguided” and “detrimental to family farmers and ranchers and rural communities.”  – NPR, Missouri Ruralist

3. China is calling on President Trump to decide if he wants to reach a trade deal with the country. Trump has threatened to impose additional tariffs, which will likely further derail additional negotiations. There has been little sign of progress between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping since their meeting at the G20 summit late last month. – South China Morning News

4. Pork producers are losing $1 billion annually because of the trade war with China. The trade war with China has cost producers $8 per head, according to the president of the National Pork Producers Council, who testified before a House committee this week. – Bloomberg

5. A World Resources Institute report released this week says if we want to feed 10 billion people by 2050 we need to dramatically change the way we produce food, including increased reliance on genetically modified crops. – Farm Futures

6. Global sunflower oil trade is forecast to rise to the second highest mark on record, with strong demand from China, India and the European Union. Worldwide consumption is projected to top 19.9 million metric tons, making sunflower oil the fourth-largest consumed oil in the world. – Dakota Farmer

7. Bothwell Ranch is one of the few remaining orange groves in California’s San Fernando Valley. The 12-acre grove is at the center of a dispute between its owners, who have sought to sell it to luxury housing developers, and community members who believe it should stay an orchard. – The New York Times

And your bonus.

On Aug. 28, 2018, a tornado destroyed freestall barns that housed the milking herd, a machine shed and a heifer barn at Pebble Knolls Dairy near Brandon, Wis. The dairy farm is back up and running. – Wisconsin Agriculturalist

Feeder cattle volume starts seasonal decline

Feeder cattle volume is starting to see a seasonal decline. The prices were mostly steady to $5 higher early in the week, but did start to drop on Wednesday, so the highest prices were set early in the week.

Slaughter cow prices were mostly $1-2 higher during the past couple of weeks.

MIDDAY Midwest Digest, July 18, 2019

Stay safe during the heat wave, and keep yourself, and you pets, cool and hydrated.

Wheat harvest is moving along, despite being behind average pace.

This is the summer of contract talks for the big 3 of Detroit automakers.

If you're a thief, be careful with your wallet. A man stole tools and left his wallet in the garage he took them from.


Photo: GCapture/Getty Images


2019 Farm Progress Show A-to-Z Show Guide

The fall farm show season kicks off with the 2019 Farm Progress Show, which returns to Decatur, Ill., Aug. 27-29. This year’s event adds new features, exhibits and more to the show site, returning there for the ninth time since 2005.

Farm Progress Show organizers have a singular goal: to share the biggest, newest and best in agriculture with farmers and agribusiness, says Matt Jungmann, Farm Progress director of trade shows. And in fact, the reach goes far beyond the U.S.; representatives from nearly 50 countries are expected to attend the show this year.

“2019 has already been a tough year,” Jungmann says. “The Farm Progress Show is the first chance to put 2019 behind us and get to work on making 2020 a better year. Enjoy a little time away from the house before the harvest starts and spend some time with people who’ve had the same battles you have.”

Largest outdoor farm show

The Farm Progress Show, billed as the largest outdoor farm show in the U.S., is known for its field demonstrations — complete with more than 300 acres of corn harvest, tillage and stalk baling demos. Like most of the Midwest, planting conditions at the show site were less than ideal this year. But corn went in the ground May 17, and Jungmann says it’s on track for a late-August harvest.

Take a look through this slideshow for some of the best highlights of the show, the information you’ll need to attend and what you can look forward to.

Livestock industry shares concerns during House hearing

House Dems Pull PFAS Provisions from NDAA

The House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture held a hearing on the state of the livestock and poultry industry on July 16.

Here’s what the subcommittee chairman Jim Costa, D-California, issued this statement after the hearing.

“As the overall economy grows, it’s increasingly clear that its success isn’t shared evenly at all levels, especially in rural, agricultural areas,” Costa said. “I appreciate the seriousness of these issues and their impacts on farmers and ranchers, from animal health and disease threats, pending trade agreements, guest worker needs, and implementation of the 2018 Farm Bill, to predator management, consumer-facing issues, and so many others.”

Here’s a quick look at what the witnesses shared.

“One of the most damaging threats to the U.S. pork industry has been the punitive, retaliatory trade tariffs that China and other countries have imposed,” said David Dee Herring, who testified on behalf of the National Pork Producers Council.

“The passage of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement is absolutely critical to the chicken industry not only in protecting the current marketplace, but growing it,” said Holly Porter, executive director, Delmarva Poultry Industry, Inc., Georgetown, Delaware. “We call on Congress to vote on USMCA as soon as possible.”

Rancher Steve Salmon of San Angelo, Texas, ran through a laundry list of concerns in his testimony on behalf of the Texas Sheep and Goat Raisers Association and the American Sheep Industry Association. Among the sheep industry priorities: a workable temporary foreign labor program, funding for the National Scrapie Eradication Program, support for sheep research, predator management and trade.

Kelley Sullivan Georgiades, owner and operator of Santa Rosa Ranch in Crockett, Texas, said passage of the USMCA is the most important thing Congress can do for U.S. ranchers. Sullivan Georgiades testified on behalf of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. She also called for a rejection of mandatory country of origin labeling.

“Biosecurity is all-important,” said David Will, general manager, Chino Valley Ranchers, Colton, California. He testified on behalf of the Egg Farmers of California, Pacific Egg and Poultry Association, and the United Egg Producers.

John Zimmerman, a Northfield, Minnesota, turkey farmer, echoed earlier comments, saying passage of the USMCA is the turkey industry’s No. 1 priority. Zimmerman testified on behalf of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association and National Turkey Federation.

Find more information from the hearing here.

Source: House Agriculture Committee, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset. 

$9M in USDA Farm to School grants announced

Sunshine Seeds/iStock/Getty Images Plus Child hands planting vegetables in soil

More than $9 million in USDA Farm to School Program grants to support 126 projects in 42 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have been announced.

“The farm to school grants announced today connect schools with the farmers, ranchers, and producers in their communities,” said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. “Everybody wins with Farm to School. USDA is proud to help the next generation better understand where its food comes from, while strengthening local economies.”  

The funded projects are expected to serve more than 3.2 million students in more than 5,400 schools.

This record-breaking year for the USDA Farm to School Grant Program was made possible by increased funding from Congress for fiscal years 2018 and 2019, which enabled USDA to award 52 more grants than the previous highest year of 2016 when 74 were granted. Grants range from $20,000 to $100,000 and fund equipment purchases and experiential learning activities, including planting school gardens, offering taste tests to children, and organizing field trips to local farms and food producers. 

Among the organizations that will receive Farm to School Grants are:

  • The Louisiana Department of Education, which intends to bolster existing Louisiana Farm to School (LaF2S) activities and develop Seeds to Success! This will guide schools in curriculum planning and promoting lifetime involvement in agriculture. 
  • The Parma City School District (Ohio), which will build and implement farm to table programming throughout the community through collaboration with all district programs, such as Career Technical Education, Special Education, and Nutrition Services.
  • Modoc Tribe of Oklahoma, which will develop a partnership with Miami Public Schools to facilitate planning the introduction and regular consumption of locally raised bison meat into the student lunch program.
  • In addition, two agricultural producers, Green City Growers, LLC (Somerville, Mass.) and the North Country Farmers’ Cooperative (Colebrook, N.H.) were also awarded grants.

USDA’s 2015 Farm to School Census found that in the 2013-2014 school year alone, schools purchased more than $789 million in local food from farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and food processors and manufacturers. Schools provide producers stable markets and long-term revenues, and the program introduces students to agricultural career paths.

Source: USDA Food and Nutrition Service, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

Will courts decide future of checkoff programs?

Getty-Images-Stockphoto Cattle-Angus-Steers-Getty-Images-Stockphoto-1125694574.jpg

Checkoff programs, commonly referred to as research and promotion programs, are a key part of production agriculture. There are nearly two dozen federal checkoff programs — including beef, soybeans, watermelons, potatoes, pork, among others — that are administered under authority of the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service. Other checkoff programs, like the rice checkoff in Arkansas and California, are purely state-based.

The programs have long been legally and politically controversial to some, but they have also enjoyed widespread support. The programs generate consistent funding through mandatory producer assessments to support a wide range of research, promotion and related activities designed to help expand markets, increase consumer demand, and develop new uses and technologies.

Currently, there are several legal and policy developments in the courts, Congress, and USDA that could impact the future operation of federal and state checkoff programs. These developments are briefly discussed below.

The courts: Constitutionality

The most important legal action involving checkoffs is the ongoing litigation brought by Ranchers Cattlemen Legal Defense Fund United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF USA), which directly challenges the flow of checkoff dollars under the national beef checkoff.

Under the beef checkoff, a mandatory assessment of one dollar is collected for every head of cattle sold. That assessment is typically first paid to states’ “qualified state beef councils” who retain 50 cents of that dollar and send the other half to the Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB). Both the states and CBB then spend those funds in accordance with the laws and regulations set out by Congress and USDA. R-CALF argues that the portion retained by many states is unconstitutional and that the full assessment should automatically go to the CBB unless producers in those states affirmatively “opt in” to having 50 cents be retained by the states’ beef council.

The case is far from over, but so far R-CALF has been successful and seeks to expand its success against the Montana Beef Council to more than a dozen other states. Indirectly, the outcome of this litigation will likely impact the national soybean checkoff due to its similarities with the beef checkoff and possibly other checkoff programs.

Congress: Re-introduction of Checkoff Legislation

In Congress, the Opportunities for Fairness in Farming Act (S. 741) has been reintroduced, which would apply to checkoff programs administered by the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service. As proposed, the bill seeks to create standards supporters say will increase transparency and significantly restrict the ability of the governing checkoff boards to enter into contracts or agreements with “a party that engages in activities for the purpose of influencing government policy or action that relates to agriculture.”

An earlier version of this bill failed to pass as part of the 2018 farm bill, but it did garner a significant number of favorable votes.

Another proposal, the Voluntary Checkoff Program Participation Act (S. 947), would convert all checkoffs administered by USDA Agricultural Marketing Service from being mandatory to voluntary at the point of sale.

USDA: Final Rule Impacting Beef and Soybeans

In May of 2019, USDA issued a final rule that allows beef and soybean producers in certain states to essentially “leap frog” their state soybean boards and beef councils by “redirecting” the full assessment to the CBB and United Soybean Board (USB). In so doing, the state boards and councils will not retain the portion of the federally required assessment that it otherwise would retain and expend.

Under this final rule, producers in states in which there is not a state law that requires assessments be directed to a state board or council are eligible to “redirect” assessments away from the state boards and councils and the CBB or USB.

Additionally, producers can “redirect” the assessments if they are in a state in which there is a state law that requires assessments be directed to a state board or council but the state law allows for producer refunds.

The concept of redirection has been a primary defense by USDA in the R-CALF beef checkoff litigation discussed above and could otherwise impact funding for states’ beef councils and soybean boards. In issuing the final rule, USDA recommends that producers contact their state soybean board or beef council to determine whether redirection is an option in their state.

Monoslope boosts cow comfort

beef cattle at trough
WINDY: Monoslope barns feature a feeding area upfront and a raised bed of compost in the back. The compost gets dried off by gusts of wind, funneled by a slope in the roof.

At Dean Bacon and Beef in LeRoy, Ill., cow comfort is the priority. That’s why the farm converted its old mud lots to pasture and invested in two new barns in 2015: a finishing lot and a cow-calf monoslope barn.

That investment is paying off. On a 95-degree-F day at the beginning of July, the cattle herd was quiet, calm and relaxed, thanks to optimal airflow through the precisely engineered structures. The finishing lot has the capacity for 600 head, while the cow-calf lot holds 180 bred cows or pairs.

“They’re cooler in there than we are out here,” says cattleman Derek Dean as he talks outside the cow-calf lot. He manages the cattle operation with father, Rick Dean. It’s part of a larger grain operation with family members Randy and Brack Dean, as well as Rick’s wife, Barb, and Randy’s wife, Chris.

Built by Longhorn Cattle and Swine Confinement Systems, the cow-calf monoslope barn stays open to the elements year-round. It’s 450 feet long and 62 feet wide. Along with a finishing building that’s 300 by 47 feet, the cow-calf barn is angled toward the south so strong winds gust through and dry out the beds of composting manure, corncobs and stalk bales.

“The more airflow you’ve got, the drier it is. The drier it is, the more comfortable they are,” Derek says, noting the 27-foot-tall roof on the south side angles down to 17 feet on the north end in the cow-calf barn, creating better airflow.

They scrape the concrete alley where cattle feed every week, but leave the rest of the space to be cleared out once a year, so the area builds up and creates a comfortable yet dry mat. Energy from the composting effect under the mat helps keep calves warm through Illinois winters.

The sun shoots rays into the barn in the winter, and barely peeks in during the summer, adding to cow comfort.

“Building these was quite a process, but well worth it — especially this spring with all the rain and cold weather,” Rick says, adding that they have comfortable rubber mats and a large fan in their feedlot barn.

Rick and Derrek Dean
FAMILY: Rick (left) and Derek Dean operate Dean Bacon and Beef in LeRoy, Ill.

The Deans also built a commodity barn with four bays in 2015. With this structure, they’re able to buy feed in bulk when it’s being sold at cheaper prices and store it away from rain.

“We’re using our own grain and adding nutrition from the ethanol industry — [dried distillers grains], gluten meal, germ meal and a syrup product,” Rick says, referring to corn condensed distillers solubles. “The ethanol byproducts really enhance our rations.”

When asked how their efforts on cow comfort and nutrition are panning out, Derek concludes, “We’re getting really good rate of gains. We’re putting 3.5 pounds on a day from the time they’re weaned to the time they go out. They are marketed around 1,400 pounds.”

Be like a flea: Jump to the height of your natural capacity

Be like a flea - jump to your full potential

“I used to believe that the power was in the answer. It is not. The power is in the question.”

That’s one of the many words of wisdom that Tom Field, a Colorado commercial cow-calf producer and head of the Engler Entrepreneurial Program at the University of Nebraska Lincoln dropped on a packed crowd of young beef producers (with a few gray heads sprinkled in) during the Young Producer’s session at the recent Beef Improvement Federation meeting in Brookings, S.D.

Field says we live in a VUCA world—volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. “And that is not going to change in the foreseeable future. So the power of the questions you use is even more important today and will get even more important [in the future] because this is the world we live in. This is our normal. If you don't like this, you have chosen the wrong era to be alive.

“And you know what? Huge opportunities in the midst of this.”

Field says people usually aren’t interested in change because change isn't that much fun. “And those of us in agriculture really seem to be resistant to change. [But] let me tell you what; the world is interested in us.”

He showed a list of 600-700 ag-focused companies in the Silicon Valley, many that are focused in livestock production. “And many of them run by people who didn't grow up in agriculture, but almost all of whom are investing serious capital and intellectual capacity in changing the way we do business,” he says.

“It’s one of the greatest opportunities in our history. For the first time in a very, very long time, an entire generation of very bright, smart, disruptive people care about what we're doing. They want into agriculture. Now they may want to do it differently than we've done, but we get a chance to access a brand-new generation of talent if we'll choose it.”

But to take advantage of opportunities, Field says we can’t hold ourselves back. He uses the flea as an example.

“A flea can jump about 8 inches. That's close to about 180 times their length. That's their natural capacity,” he says.

But take a population of fleas and stick them in a jar. Not just any jar. This closed system is about 4 inches high. Punch a few holes in the lid and leave them in there for three days—72 hours.

“We can pull the lid off of that and a population of creatures that could jump 8 inches will not leave that jar because they've now been trained to jump no higher than 4 inches. Is that what we've done to our children and our employees? That we put them in the jar, capped it and trained them to only use half of their natural capacity?”

If that question didn’t make the assemblage a little uncomfortable, he hit them with this: “If all of your friends are cowboys or cowgirls, you have a problem. Your circle is too narrow. You want to really learn innovation, you're going to have to hang out with people who don't necessarily think, talk, behave or look like you.”

He says their ranch in Colorado has gotten a lot better because his dad did something really interesting about 20 years ago. “He started inviting people to our brandings who were people who had been critical of agriculture in our county. You ought to come to our brandings now. It's the craziest group of people. There are nurses, the county attorney, you've got hair down to here, hippies, cowboys, doctors, lobbyists, it’s everybody.”

And everybody has learned some skill at the branding table. “Most importantly, what we've learned is to listen to what they're observing, what they're having to say about the land, people, product, the way we do things. Pretty valuable.”

MORNING Midwest Digest, July 18, 2019

In the midst of the heatwave, a "concerned scientists" group is offering a warning if actions aren't taken against climate change.

Grain traders are looking to next week, as prices slip. The wheat harvest is also behind.

A suspect in an Iowa triple homicide has been deported from the U.S. twice.

Two men in Michigan did about $70,000 in damages to a car dealership after taking parts from cars.


Photo: leolintang/Getty Images