Tuesday, December 31st 2013
--Kale and coconut - and a lot more health news, much of it misleading. They're just a few trends consumers can look forward to in 2014, according to a survey of more than 500 registered dietitians by nutrition trade magazine Today's Dietitian and public relations firm Pollock Communications. The report identifies 14 top diet trends for 2014 - and points to the decidedly mercurial nature of the U.S. consumer. Winners among the trends include: “ancient grains” like quinoa, amaranth, spelt and Kamut; kale; coconut oil; chia seeds; and TV doctors and chefs, who increasingly show up on U.S. sets to peddle their diet wares. Consumers will also continue to turn to bloggers -- be they credentialed dietitians, so-called “mommy bloggers” or lifestyle experts -- for nutrition and health information. Losers could include a variety of disparate trends and food products, including fact-based information, “low fat” labels and wheat. Misinformation could be lending itself to a growing anti-wheat sentiment, the dietitians say. Fad, wheat-free food crazes like the Paleo diet (which urges adherents to eat unprocessed foods, mimicking the habits of cavemen) and gluten-free will be popular in 2014.
-- How are farmers using science and technology to grow healthier food? What’s the impact on our food, animal care and the environment? Students at Little Falls Community High School will get those questions answered on Friday, Jan. 10th. Adam Mueller, DVM, of Swine Services Unlimited Inc., in Rice, Minn., will address animal science students starting at 11 a.m. and continuing through 2 p.m. at Little Falls Community High School. Titled “Modern Animal Agriculture & Pork Production” the speech by Mueller will highlight how ongoing advancements in agricultural science are helping farmers raise better food while using fewer natural resources than ever before. “Farmers who raise pigs have been able to make great progress in animal health, food safety and protecting the environment,” said Mueller. “And farmers know they must always keep learning and working to get better at what they do.”
--Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA does not expect to take any actions under the Feedstock Flexibility Program (FFP) in the first calendar quarter of 2014. This announcement is required quarterly by the 2008 Farm Bill and determined based on crop and consumption forecasts. The December 2013 World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates report projects a level of U.S. FY 2014 ending sugar stocks that is unlikely to lead to forfeitures under the CCC sugar loan program.
--Minnesotans age 16 or older can try ice fishing or spear fishing without purchasing an angling or spearing license if they take a child younger than 16 fishing during Take-A-Kid Ice Fishing Weekend Saturday, Jan. 18 through Monday, Jan. 20, according to the Department of Natural Resources. “Take-A-Kid Ice Fishing Weekend is a great opportunity for family and friends to get those special kids in their life outdoors enjoying the fun and beauty of a Minnesota winter,” said Roland Sigurdson, DNR aquatic education supervisor. “What better way to celebrate our winter heritage than by passing on the tradition of ice fishing.” Ice fishing presents some unique challenges, but with basic equipment, a few skills, and good planning, ice fishing can be easy, enjoyable and exciting.
--Looking for an invigorating way to kick off the New Year? The Department of Natural Resources encourages people to ring in 2014 with a First Day Hike on Wednesday, Jan. 1, at a state park or trail. All 50 states are participating in the third annual event that invites everyone to celebrate the New Year amid the sights, sounds and wonder of the natural world with fun, guided hikes. “We have five First Day Hikes taking place at Minnesota state parks and trails on New Year’s Day,” said Courtland Nelson, director of the DNR’s Parks and Trails Division, “but if you can’t make it to one of those events, remember that Minnesota state parks and trails are open every day, even in winter, so come out and hike whenever and wherever it’s most convenient.” Check out the maps online or ask a staff person to recommend a route. “They know best, and we want you to have a good time so you come back,” Nelson said. Last year, First Day Hikes hosted 22,000 people, who covered nearly 44,000 miles in 700 state parks all across the country, according to Priscilla Geigis, president of the National Association of State Park Directors. “These family-friendly outings provide a great chance to get outside and experience the beauty of our parks, stay fit and build lasting traditions with loved ones,” Geigis said. First Day Hikes originated more than 20 years ago at the Blue Hills Reservation — a state park in Milton, Mass. America’s State Parks and American Hiking Society are teaming up to promote these hikes as a healthy and memorable way to start the New Year.
--Minnesota concluded its second wolf season when the Department of Natural Resources closed the east-central zone on Saturday, Dec. 28. A total of 3,433 licensed hunters and trappers harvested 237 wolves during the early and late seasons. The harvest target was 220 wolves. Minnesota’s wolf population was estimated at 2,211 wolves last winter. The target harvest is based on about 10 percent of the mid-winter wolf population prior to pups being born. Wolf populations rapidly increase in the spring when pups are born and decline at various rates annually depending on mortality factors in addition to the wolf season. The DNR will complete an assessment of Minnesota’s wolf population status this winter and summarize data from the 2013 wolf season before setting the 2014 wolf season.
--Pending suitable snow cover, the Department of Natural Resources plans to fly white-tailed deer population surveys from December through March in central and southeastern Minnesota. “In the transition zone between agricultural and forested lands, which generally stretches from the northwest to southeast across Minnesota, we use aerial surveys to recalibrate the deer population model,” said Gino D’Angelo, DNR farmland deer project leader. “These survey flights help us make decisions on deer permit area designations that achieve our population goals.” DNR pilots will fly low-level helicopter surveys in 18 deer permit areas during daylight hours at an altitude of approximately 200 feet. Aerial elk surveys using both an airplane and helicopter are also planned for the Kittson County and Grygla elk ranges in northwestern Minnesota. The flights are conducted annually during winter. Questions about survey flights should be directed to the DNR’s farmland wildlife research office in Madelia, 507-642-8478, the northwest regional wildlife office in Bemidji, 218-308-2651 or the Rochester area wildlife office, 507-206-2859.
--Registration is now open for both PorkBridge and SowBridge distance educational programs. Both programs provide relevant and accurate information from a variety of university and industry experts without participants needing time off for travel. Both programs combine electronic information viewed on a computer with live presentations delivered by teleconference from topic experts. Subscribers receive a CD or web link (depending on their location) containing the topic’s specific presentation and additional information. Participants call in for the audio portion of each session and follow along with the presentation on their computer. PorkBridge is for people involved with grow-finish swine operations. Six sessions are offered every other month throughout the year. All sessions start at noon Central Time and last approximately 90 minutes, which includes time for questions. Cost is $125 for the series, covering supporting materials and one phone line per session. SowBridge is for people involved with managing or caring for boars, sows, and/or litters. Twelve monthly sessions take place throughout the year. All sessions start at 11:30 a.m. Central Time and last for 45 minutes, which includes time for questions. Cost is $250 for the first registration from an entity and $125 for each subsequent subscription from the same entity. Cost includes supporting materials and phone line access. Deadline to register is January 15, 2014 for both PorkBridge and SowBridge. Session dates can be found on the Minnesota Pork Board's web site. PorkBridge and SowBridge are sponsored by a group of 11 universities with Lee Johnston and Sarah Schieck of the University of Minnesota Extension serving as program coordinators.
--The Manure Applicators Workshop is for individuals who are certified commercial animal waste applicators who need continuing education hours and livestock producers who want to learn more about developments in manure application. Registration for the workshop is free. Individuals wanting to attend the Minnesota Pork Congress can register online. Cost of registration is $10 through January 3 and $15 at the door. A list of workshop topics and presenters can be found at mnpork.org.
--The checkoff’s Masters of Beef Advocacy (MBA) program – created to broaden the network of advocates engaging in discussions about beef with consumers – now boasts more than 4,500 graduates. These advocates share beef stories through social media, grocery-store promotions and school presentations. Two new MBA initiatives include the “Top of the Class” program for MBA grads who want even more specialist training to serve as resources for national media outlets, journalists and consumers looking for more information about beef production. The second initiative is an expansion of the MBA program into FFA programs nationwide. In addition, the checkoff is sending MBA curriculum and instructions to high schools across the country to engage more you in beef advocacy.
--MN Ag EXPO 2014 is set to take place on Jan. 8-9 at the Verizon Wireless Center in Mankato and promises to be bigger and better than ever. Each year, MN Ag EXPO brings together Minnesota’s corn and soybean farmers as well as ag researchers, policy leaders, ag media and agribusiness representatives for two days of educational sessions, grassroots policy development and valuable networking opportunities. “MN Ag EXPO is the event that all Minnesota corn and soybean farmers circle on their calendars every year,” said Minnesota Corn Growers Association president Ryan Buck. “It’s a great two days because the networking and educational opportunities help you become a better farmer. The panel discussions and speakers also bring you up to date on the latest ag policy developments and challenges facing farmers today.” To see the complete agenda and register for free, go to www.mncorn.org and click on the “MN Ag EXPO” tab near the top of the page. Panel topics this year include the Renewable Fuel Standard, farming and technology, international markets and environmental stewardship. There will also be more than 80 exhibitors at the trade show ready to answer questions about the latest farm research and let you know about the latest products that might help you increase yields and become a better farmer. The Minnesota Corn Growers Association and Minnesota Soybean Growers Association will both hold their annual meetings on Jan. 8. Panel discussions, trade show, silent and live auction and awards banquet will take place on Jan. 9.
--The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) proposed rollback of the Renewable Fuel Standard's (RFS) biofuel requirements for 2014 may lead to a $610 million shortfall to Minnesota's economy and a loss of 1,532 jobs next year. Estimates by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture indicate that the EPA's proposal, which calls for lowering the RFS' statutory levels for ethanol-based biofuels in 2014, will lower ethanol production and in turn have an adverse impact on the economy in Minnesota. In light of these developments, the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association (MBA) recently launched a campaign that provides Minnesotans with a platform to communicate their opposition to the EPA's proposal. The campaign is available on www.mnbiofuels.org and directs comments from the public to the EPA, White House as well as the state's senate and congressional representatives in Washington, D.C. The EPA has stated that all comments regarding its proposed 2014 RFS requirements must be received by Jan. 28th. The RFS, which was implemented in 2005 and expanded in 2007, had set the production and consumption volume for ethanol-based biofuels in 2014 at 14.4 billion gallons. However, the EPA has proposed to reduce that level by 10 percent to 13.01 billion gallons. In fact, the EPA's proposed level for 2014 is even lower than the volume for 2013, which is 13.8 billion gallons. Under the RFS, the availability of cheaper fuels with higher blends of ethanol such as E15 (which contains 15% ethanol) were expected to increase in tandem with the rise in ethanol production and consumption. E15, which was recently introduced in Minnesota at select gas stations, is on average 10 to 15 cents cheaper than regular gasoline. The EPA has stated that E15 can be used in all light duty vehicles manufactured from 2001 onwards. However, the supply and availability of E15 and other higher ethanol-blended-fuels will be limited should the EPA scale back on ethanol production in 2014. Should the EPA reduce ethanol consumption in 2014, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture expects the state's economic contribution from the biofuel industry, which averages $5 billion annually, to drop $610 million in 2014 as well as an expected loss of 1,532 jobs. In addition, Minnesota is expected to lose $101 million next year in value-added processing such as production of distillers dried grains, which are used as high protein livestock feed. Ethanol production is expected to fall 110 million gallons to 970 million gallons next year while Minnesota's annual corn use for ethanol would be reduced by 49 million bushels.
Monday, December 30th 2013
--Consumers can expect sharp increases in pork prices by summer as a viral disease that first appeared in U.S. swine herds earlier this year continues to ravage pig litters, according to analysts on a teleconference sponsored by U.S. pork producers. The disease, Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea (PED) probably killed about 1.4 million piglets in the three months ended Dec. 1st. PED was first confirmed in April, in Iowa, the country's top hog producer, and has since spread to at least 20 states, according to the USDA. Prices may start declining in the second half of the year as hog weights increase and more meat comes to market, he said. Retail pork prices are already near record highs, averaging $3.78 a pound in November, partly because of high energy costs. PED is not harmful to humans or other species, and meat from hogs that have had the disease is safe to eat. In swine, it causes severe diarrhea, vomiting and dehydration and can be fatal, especially in piglets whose immune system may not be strong enough to fight off the virus. The USDA says there is currently no effective treatment for PED, other than “control of secondary infections.” As of mid-December, Iowa had 621 confirmed PED cases, the most in the U.S., followed by 268 in North Carolina, 267 in Oklahoma, 177 in Minnesota and 133 in Kansas, according to the USDA. Each confirmed case can represent hundreds of infected animals.
--FDA has extended the comment period on its proposal to reduce trans fat in processed foods, the agency announced. Stakeholders now have until March 8th to comment, whereas the old deadline was next week. FDA had received almost 1,400 comments through the regulations.gov website. The proposal, if finalized, would require food manufacturers to receive FDA approval to sell products containing partially hydrogenated oils. Trans fat has been linked to heart disease, and can be found in a number of processed foods, including microwave popcorn, frozen pizza and coffee creamer. In recent years, many food manufacturers and retailers have voluntarily decreased trans fat levels in the products they sell. Since trans fat content information began appearing on nutrition facts labels in 2006, trans fat intake among American consumers has declined from 4.6 grams per day in 2003 to about 1 gram in 2012. The American Heart Association has praised FDA's proposal.
--The U.S. hog and pig inventory totaled 65.9 million as of Dec. 1, down 1 percent from a year earlier and down 2 percent from three months earlier, the USDA said in a quarterly report. About 5.76 million sows were being held back for breeding at the start of the month, down 1 percent from a year earlier and 1 percent from Sept. 1, the USDA said. The decline indicates reluctance among producers to expand herds, despite a dramatic drop in corn prices and a resulting decline in feed costs. A smaller herd may point to higher retail pork prices, which in November averaged $3.776 a pound, up almost 30 cents from a year earlier.
Thursday, December 19th 2013
--The U.S. Forest Service will waive fees at most of its day-use recreation sites on Jan. 20, 2014, in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The fee waiver day is the first of four such days and one full weekend offered by the agency during 2014. The other scheduled fee-free days observed by the Forest Service are President's Day weekend Feb. 15-17; National Get Outdoors Day on June 14; National Public Lands Day on Sept. 27; and Veterans Day weekend from Nov. 8 to 11. The program is in cooperation with other federal land management agencies under the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act. Fees are waived generally for day-use areas, such as picnic grounds, developed trailheads and destination visitor centers. Concessionaire operated sites may be included in the waiver if the permit holder wishes to participate. Contact your local national forest or grassland to learn if your destination requires a fee and if that fee is waived.
Wednesday, December 18th 2013
--A coalition of agricultural organizations indicated today they may oppose a final Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement if it includes Japan. In a letter sent to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, the 17 groups said Japanese negotiators will not present a comprehensive offer on agricultural products, including elimination of tariffs. Signatories on the letter include: USA Rice, American Meat Institute, American Soybean Association, International Dairy Foods Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Cattlemen's Beef Association, National Chicken Council, National Corn Growers Association, National Oilseed Processors Association, National Pork Producers Council, U.S. Wheat Associates, and the American Farm Bureau. The TPP is a regional trade negotiation that includes the United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam, which account for nearly 40 percent of global GDP. The United States shipped $13.5 billion of food and agricultural products to Japan in 2012.
--The Senate approved today, with a 64-36 vote, a two-year budget bill (H.J. Res. 59) that seeks to ease sequestration rates for some federal agencies and to avoid another government shutdown in January. The vote sends the bill to President Obama for his expected signature. The House previously approved the bill on a 332-94 vote. Nine Republican senators joined 53 Democratic and two Independent senators in support the bill. The legislation, authored by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray, D-Wash., seeks to provide $63 billion in temporary sequester relief divided evenly between military spending and domestic spending. The bill also aims to provide $85 billion in mandatory savings, and reduce the deficit by $23 billion over the next 10 years.
Tuesday, December 17th 2013
--A state judge in South Dakota is hearing oral arguments today on ABC News' motion to dismiss a $1.2 billion defamation suit brought by Beef Products Inc. (BPI). The proceedings began at 1 p.m. at the Union County Courthouse in the small town of Elk Point. BPI sued ABC News in September over alleged false statements made in its March 2012 reports about a product the Dakota Dunes, South Dakota-based company calls lean finely-textured beef (LFTB). The company said ABC, which repeatedly referred to the meat as “pink slime,” misled consumers into believing LFTB was unhealthy and unsafe. ABC moved to have the suit dismissed, asserting that even if every fact BPI alleged is true, there is no legally justifiable case against ABC. The oral arguments will help Judge Cheryle Gering decide whether all or part of the case will progress to the evidence-gathering phase. The consequences of the case could be severe. South Dakota has a food disparagement law that allows for tripled damages, which multiplies the $400 million in lost profits BPI seeks to $1.2 billion, making this one of the biggest defamation cases in U.S. history.
--Horse slaughter operations may be able to move forward after a federal appeals court on Friday lifted a temporary hold on USDA inspections of the facilities. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver decided that animal protection groups, including the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and Front Range Equine Rescue, “failed to meet their burden” for continuing an injunction on the operations. Congress effectively banned horse slaughter in 2006 by halting USDA plant inspections. Due to Congressional action that lifted the ban in 2011, USDA is required to grants inspection for facilities to engage in commercial horse slaughter. Proposed operations include Valley Meat Co. in New Mexico, Responsible Transportation in Iowa, and Rains Natural Meats in Missouri. Although horse meat is not sold for human consumption in the United States, some horse welfare groups, including the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), do not oppose the facilities due to the overpopulation of horse herds on native lands and the subsequent resource depletion. Another issue is one of animal welfare-specifically, abandonment of unwanted horses, as well as inhumane transportation to foreign slaughter facilities.
--The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) announced Monday that Commissioner Mark Wetjen will serve as acting chairman when current Chairman Gary Gensler leaves the agency at the end of the year. President Barack Obama has nominated Assistant Treasury Secretary Timothy Massad to serve as CFTC Chairman last month, but a confirmation hearing still needs to take place in the Senate.
--An apple bioengineered to resist browning will be one step closer to non-regulated status and industry experts say the apple should be approved by the Agriculture Department early next year. The apples were developed by the Canadian biotechnology company Okanagan Specialty Fruits and have undergone extensive field-testing, according to president and founder Neal Carter. Last month, USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) recommended two varieties of the apple (Arctic Golden and Arctic Granny) be granted non-regulation status.
Monday, December 16th 2013
--Minnesota teachers have an exciting new resource for planning, planting and harvesting a school garden with their students. It’s a garden guide bursting with delicious ideas to build connections between the classroom, school garden and cafeteria. Minnesota Agriculture in the Classroom (MAITC) has published the new comprehensive garden guide: Minnesota School Gardens: A Guide to Gardening and Plant Science. The colorful 268 page guide features 31 K-12 lessons linked to the Minnesota Academic Standards in science, social studies, language arts, health and math. The guide contains a wide variety of K-12 lessons. Examples include: Plant It, Map It; It all Begins with Soil; A Bug’s Life; What Are We Eating; Food Safety and more. The new garden guide is available online, in hard copy or as a flash drive. The guide is free and can be accessed or ordered at www.mda.state.mn.us/maitc using the MAITC online order form. The MAITC Minnesota School Gardens publication was developed in cooperation with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and the Minnesota Grown Program. MAITC offers a wide variety of educational resources, grants and professional development to Minnesota’s education community.
--As 2013 comes to a close, land owners are beginning to look towards 2014. Kent Olson, an economist with UofM Extension shared some thoughts on 2014 land rents. In 2014, a share lease or other form of flexible lease may be needed to help both landowners and tenants survive the adjustment period to new market conditions. Land rental costs have not fallen to the same extent as the recent drop in crop prices. Projections of revenue and expenses for 2014 do not bode well for positive net returns, especially for a tenant. Moreover, crop price projections do not indicate a foreseeable return to the levels of recent years. Adjustments in leases may be slow. Given the financial position of many farms, some tenants in a traditional cash rent lease may be willing to pay rent for which they will lose money in 2014 on rented land. The current tenant may not want to lose acreage, so they sign the owner's lease agreement for the high rent knowing they are losing money. Another option for 2014, or a subsequent year, is for the tenant and landowner to accept that crop price levels have changed and both the land market and land rental market are likely to change or have changed. Then the two parties can negotiate over their expectations. Tenants will have to change their expectation for returns to labor and management. Landowners will have to adjust their estimated land value and expected rate of return. The amount of adjustment each party has to make will depend on the competitiveness of the rental market and which party has more bargaining power. To learn more about agricultural business management from Extension, visit http://www1.extension.umn.edu/agriculture/business/.
--Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack last week announced more than $1.8 billion in funding for electric utility infrastructure projects in 25 states and one territory to improve service for more than 37,000 rural customers. The projects include more than $45 million for smart grid technology, $73 million for renewable energy projects and over $213 million targeted to benefit Native Americans. This funding will build or improve more than 6,500 miles of line to deliver electricity to rural America. Last week's funding announcement is provided through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Rural Utilities Service Program. In North Dakota, the Nodak Electric Cooperative will receive a loan of $31 million to serve 920 consumers, build 450 miles of line, and make other system improvements. The loan amount includes $2.4 million for smart grid projects and $540,000 for service to Native Americans. North Dakota is part of USDA's StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity which leverages community resources in persistent poverty areas in targeted states. For more information, visit usda.gov.
Friday, December 13th 2013
--The Farm Service Agency reminds producers who plan to apply for Commodity Credit Corporation Market Assistance Loans for 2013 grain and want the loan proceeds in the 2013 calendar year should make their applications no later than Wednesday, December 18th. The MAL program remains an option for those producers who wish to store their grain and delay the sale of the commodity until more favorable marketing conditions emerge. For more information contact the Morrison County FSA office at 632-5477.
--The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) has confirmed that stingless wasps are doing their job in attacking emerald ash borer (EAB).The wasps are part of a biological control effort to naturally slow the spread of EAB. These biocontrol efforts have been funded by the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative Citizens-Commission on Minnesota Resources. Emerald ash borer was first discovered in Minnesota in 2009. To prevent the spread of EAB during the winter months, MDA reminds Minnesotans to buy firewood locally from approved vendors and burn it where you buy it, and to be aware of current quarantine restrictions. If you live in a quarantined county, be aware of the special restrictions on movement of products such as ash trees, ash limbs, and firewood.
Thursday, December 12th 2013
-- The U.S. Department of Agriculture has been made aware that there is a fraudulent letter circulating to producers and/or contractors. The signature line in these letters reads “Frank Rutenberg” and the sender claims to be a USDA employee seeking information about the recipient. These letters are a fraud, the sender is fictitious and recipients should not respond to these letters.Should you receive one of these fraudulent letters, please notify your local Farm Service Agency or a USDA Service Center representative.
-- With research showing that increased physical activity and better nutrition can lead to improved academic performance, Fuel Up to Play 60 – the nation’s largest in-school nutrition and physical activity program, founded under the leadership of America’s dairy farmers – celebrates five successful years of empowering students to drive healthy changes in schools across the country. To mark the occasion and look to the future, today the National Dairy Council, National Football League, GENYOUth Foundation, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Education recommitted their efforts and assets for five more years to help Fuel Up to Play 60 continue to build on its success in creating healthier school environments. The $250 million public/private partnership is complemented by the support of health professional, education, physical activity, nutrition, government and corporate organizations who come together to positively impact school health. To join Fuel Up to Play 60 and learn more about the program, please visit www.FuelUpToPlay60.comor follow #5MoreYears on Twitter. To get involved with GENYOUth Foundation and learn more about how to make a significant impact on the health of America’s youth, please visitwww.genyouthfoundation.org.
-- The Minnesota Corn Growers Association and the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association are proud to announce that the MN Ag EXPO 2014 will be at the Verizon Wireless Center in Mankato, MN, January 8-9, 2014. MN Ag EXPO will bring together Minnesota's top corn and soybean producers, as well as researchers, ag media and agribusiness representatives for two days of educational opportunities, grassroots policy development and networking. There will be a large tradeshow on January 9th from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. that is a terrific venue to meet and interact with top companies and producers. Check out mncorn.org for more information.
Wednesday, December 11th 2013
-- The U.S. Forest Service now offers access to variety of visitor maps for people using Android and iOS devices. The PDF Maps Mobile App, developed by Avenza Systems Inc., is available as a free download from iTunes and the Android Play Store. The app provides access to Forest Service maps, such as motor-vehicle-use maps, which are free. The maps are geo-referenced with the user’s location appearing as a blue dot. The app works on iPhones (3GS or newer) and iPads with WiFi+3G. It also works with Android 4 or newer operating systems on devices with at least 1 gigabyte of memory. Almost 700 Forest Service maps are available through the app. In areas of national forests and grasslands where Internet connections are unavailable, the app and static maps work well if users download the maps prior to their visit. The apps and maps also will be useful for wildland firefighters. In geographic areas with internet availability users will be able to use the products with live data. The interactive map is expected to be available on a limited basis starting in March 2014. The Forest Service’s seven regions are tasked with uploading maps. Users should contact the regional office where a forest or grassland is located if maps are not available on the app. Paper maps are still available for purchase online at the National Forest Store.
-- Private exporters reported to the U.S. Department of Agriculture export sales of 290,000 metric tons of soybeans for delivery to China. Of the total, 230,000 tons is for delivery during the 2013/2014 marketing year and 60,000 tons is for delivery during the 2014/2015 marketing year. The marketing year for soybeans began September 1st.
Tuesday, December 10th 2013
--To buy more time for farm bill talks, the House is expected to take up this week a short-term extension of current law through January. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has already signaled he is open to this option and a vote could come as early as Wednesday on the suspension calendar. This is the second such extension Congress has been forced to take up since the 2008 farm bill expired almost 15 months ago. But the circumstances now are very different. Last year at this time, the House had yet to even act on a farm bill and a long-term extension was needed through this past September. The legislative process is much farther along now—albeit still tortured. And there is a genuine hope that a House-Senate conference can report a farm bill back for final action in January.
--U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced a series of sweeping changes to a popular loan program for rural homebuyers. The changes are part of an extensive overhaul that will strengthen rural housing markets, increase the availability of rural home loans and spur the construction of new homes in rural areas. The changes take effect Sept. 1, 2014 and make several improvements to USDA Rural Development's Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program. Among other things, they expand the types of lenders who are eligible to participate. Collectively, these changes will make housing loans more readily available to residents in underserved communities, such as those targeted by USDA's StrikeForce initiative. Through StrikeForce, USDA staff work with state, local and community officials to increase awareness of USDA programs that help rural residents, businesses and communities. As part of the overhaul, Rural Development has begun a series of enhancements to automate processes, reduce paperwork and reduce loan approval times.
--Minnesota Agriculture in the Classroom (MAITC) is accepting grant applications for its 2014 Ag Literacy Grant Program. Up to $400 of special project grant funding is available to K-12 practicing teachers wishing to bring agriculture “to life” in the classroom, garden or on a field trip. MAITC is looking to support grant applications for field trips to farms or agriculture processing sites, school gardens, and other unique projects aimed at educating youth about agriculture. To access the online grant application, please visit, www.mda.state.mn.us/maitc. All 2014 calendar year grants will be funded based on applications received by the January 15, 2014 deadline.
--To ensure maximum participation and opportunity to learn about the upcoming beef referendum, the deadline for Minnesota beef producers to request a ballot has been extended until Friday, January 17th. To ensure producers are on the list to receive a ballot by mail, they can request it in one of three ways. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s website has a ballot request form: http://www.mda.state.mn.us/ballots or producers can call the MDA at 651-201-6013. Lastly, they can request a ballot by calling the Minnesota Beef Research and Promotion Council at 952-854-6980. The Minnesota Beef Research and Promotion Council is proposing to increase the amount of the current state checkoff by an additional $1.00 per head on all bovine animals marketed within Minnesota by each producer or feeder. The additional $1.00 per head is voluntary. Dairy cows purchased by a dairy producer specifically for milk production are not subject to the checkoff. Dairy cows and veal calves sold by a dairy producer for the purpose of slaughter are subject to the checkoff. Producers who request a ballot by the January 17, 2014 deadline can expect to receive a ballot in the mail in early March 2014. To learn more about how the Minnesota Beef Council utilizes checkoff dollars, producers are encouraged to contact the council at 952-854-6980.
Monday, December 9th 2013
--The renewable fuels standard has been front and center this week in Washington, D.C. On Thursday, the Environmental Protection Agency held a hearing on its proposal to roll back total 2014 renewable fuel blending requirements to 15.52 billion gallons, which is 1 billion gallons less than 2013 totals.
--Conservation tillage is the focus of the ninth annual University of Minnesota Extension Conservation Tillage Conference and trade show Feb. 17 and 18, at the Holiday Inn and Suites, St. Cloud. Experts from the University of Minnesota and neighboring states will present the results of extensive research comparing tillage systems, including strip tillage. In addition, experienced conservation tillage farmers will answer questions and provide management tips. The Conservation Tillage Conference runs from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, February 18th, and from 8:00 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. on Wednesday, February 19th. For more information visit www.TillageConference.com.
Friday, December 6th 2013
--Minnesota’s Dairy Research and Promotion Council and the Minnesota Turkey Research and Promotion Council are holding elections for their board members. These board members decide where producer check-off dollars are spent. Dairy elections are broken down by districts at the county and township level and turkey elections are broken down by region. Ballots for dairy will be mailed to producers January 10th and must be returned with a postmark no later than January 27th. Board members for the Minnesota Dairy Research and Promotion Council serve a two year term. Ballots for Turkey will be mailed to producers January 17th and must be returned with a postmark prior to February 3rd. There is one position open in each of the regions listed below plus two grower-at-large positions and one breeder-at-large position are open. Board members on the Minnesota Turkey Research and Promotion Council serve a three year term. Local counties holding elections include: Todd, Wadena and Cass.
--Minnesota’s agricultural exports hit a record-high of $8.2 billion last year, according to figures released by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA). The 2012 total is a 14 percent increase or almost $1 billion more than 2011. Minnesota also moved up in the national rankings of largest agricultural exporting states by securing the number four spot, which is up two places from 2011. Minnesota’s top export commodities were soybeans, corn, pork and feed, which accounted for more than 60 percent of the state’s total agricultural exports. More than one-third of Minnesota’s total agricultural production is exported. Agriculture is Minnesota’s second-largest exporting sector with major markets in China, Mexico, Japan, Canada, Korea and Taiwan. According to Su Ye, MDA’s chief economist, agricultural exports support more than 68,800 jobs in Minnesota and generate additional economic and business activities in many non-agricultural sectors, such as manufacturing, transportation, services and many more.
Thursday, December 5th 2013
--Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson today announced that $1 million in grant funding is being made available to livestock producers in the state for on-farm improvements. The Livestock Investment Grants help farmers stay competitive and reinvest in their industry. The 237 grant recipients to date have invested an estimated $75 million in upgrades to their operations since the program began in 2008. The deadline to apply for the grant program is February 21st. More information on the Minnesota Livestock Investment Program can be found on the MDA website at www.mda.state.mn.us/livestockinvestmentgrant.
Wednesday, December 4th 2013
--The CEO of Ducks Unlimited, Dale Hall, and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack pushed Congress to complete a five-year farm bill with a strong conservation title as soon as possible. A conference committee is currently in negotiations over the provisions of the House- and Senate-passed farm bills with a goal for completion before the end of the year. Hall said he is concerned about the potential for another one-year extension of the 2008 farm bill. Hall emphasized the priorities of Ducks Unlimited in a farm bill, including a Sod Saver provision that reduce the amount of crop insurance assistance provided to farmers that grow crop on native sod. He also emphasized the preference for a Senate farm bill provision linking conservation compliance to crop insurance, which Secretary Vilsack seconded. In a release issued Tuesday, USDA said it has partnered with more than 500,000 farmers, ranchers and landowners on conservation projects since 2009. USDA also noted that outdoor recreation adds more than $640 billion every year to our economy. He noted that USDA staff is attempting to plan how it would implement the provisions of 1949 permanent law, which is enacted if neither a five-year bill nor an extension is passed.
Tuesday, December 3rd 2013
--The U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have announced an expanded partnership to support water quality trading and other market-based approaches that provide benefits to the environment and economy. Water quality trading provides a cost-effective approach for regulated entities to comply with EPA Clean Water Act requirements, including water quality-based effluent limits in National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits. Trading would allow regulated entities to purchase and use pollutant reduction credits generated by other sources in a watershed. Cost savings and other economic incentives are key motivators for parties engaged in trading. Water quality trading can also provide additional environmental and economic benefits, such as air quality improvements, enhanced wildlife habitat, carbon capture and storage, and new income and employment opportunities for rural America. EPA and USDA are working together to implement and coordinate policies and programs that encourage water quality trading. The Department and the Agency will identify opportunities to work collaboratively to help improve water quality trading programs across the country. Cooperative management and technical assistance will improve resource management and public services, and accelerate implementation.
--Negotiations over a long-term farm bill are likely to intensify this week as House lawmakers return to town and top conferees huddle to strike a deal by the end of the year. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., ranking member Thad Cochran, R-Miss., House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., and ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., held a few meetings and phone discussions before the holiday break. The conferees reported no significant progress, leaving several thorny issues unresolved. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., recently sent a letter to farm bill conferees urging them to reach an agreement on controversial provisions rather than consider another long-term extension. On another front, House Republicans are expected this week to keep up their criticism of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, through hearings and floor statements. Meanwhile, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman will travel this week to Vietnam and Malaysia for government meetings on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). In addition, Froman will travel to Bali, Indonesia to participate in the ninth annual World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference.
--The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) have announced interest rates for December 2013. The CCC borrowing rate-based charge for December 2013 is 0.125 percent. The interest rate for commodity and marketing assistance loans disbursed during December 2013 is 1.125 percent. Interest rates for Farm Storage Facility Loans approved for December 2013 are as follows, 2.000 percent with seven-year loan terms; 2.625 percent with 10-year loan terms and; 2.875 percent with 12-year loan terms. Further program information is available from USDA Farm Service Agency's (FSA) Financial Management Division at 202-772-6041.
Monday, December 2nd 2013
--The Minnesota delegation will travel to Vietnam and Thailand December 10-18, 2013. Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) Commissioner Dave Frederickson will lead a group of eight delegates to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and Bangkok, Thailand for the feed-focused trade mission. The delegation includes representatives of feed and feed ingredient companies as well as stakeholder organizations from Minnesota. The primary mission goal is to arrange one-on-one meetings between Minnesota suppliers and potential overseas importers. The group will also visit a local feed mill, attend an aquaculture conference, host a networking reception in each country and coordinate an educational event for local livestock producers. This is the MDA’s third Minnesota feed mission to Southeast Asia since 2011. The first Vietnam mission resulted in $14 million in actual sales after 12 months; the 2012 mission to the Philippines and Indonesia resulted in actual sales of $3.8 million after 6 months (12-month sales data still forthcoming). This mission received generous funding support from the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council and the Minnesota Corn Research & Promotion Council. The group will also be supported in-country by the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, U.S. Soybean Export Council, and the U.S. Grains Council. For more information on international trade and agriculture, please visit www.mda.state.mn.us/international.
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