Thursday, August 28th 2014
--The Center for Farm Financial Management, part of University of Minnesota Extension, has just released a tool to help producers and landlords evaluate alternative land rental arrangements. FairRent for the web is a new and improved web version of the FairRent desktop software that CFFM has distributed for more than 20 years. Land rent negotiations are going to be very challenging this year. At current commodity prices it is going to be important for producers to know their costs and look at options to limit downside risk. "The common reaction we get to 'FairRent' is that there is no such thing," said Dale Nordquist, CFFM Extension economist. "And that will likely be true this year. It looks like there will be a large divide between break-even rental rates and the current market for cash rents. Given this divide, it will be even more important for everyone to be equipped with the numbers when they enter into this fall's negotiations." One option to limit risk might be a flexible cash lease, one that shares the risk of low prices and/or yields with the landlord while rewarding the landlord with a portion of the gains if prices and/or yields exceed expectations. The new web version of FairRent includes the option to evaluate seven different flex lease options as well as traditional cash rent and share rental returns. Another improvement is the inclusion of crop insurance in the analysis to show how insurance limits downside risk. FairRent is free. Sign up at https://fairrent.umn.edu/ and begin creating rental plans. Also, FINBIN is a great source of information of crop production costs for rental plans. It is at http://www.finbin.umn.edu/.
--The USDA announced today the rollout of the Dairy Margin Protection Program (MPP) and an online tool giving the nation's 46,000 dairy producers easy access to the program's 126 possible coverage options. The program was created in the 2014 Farm Bill and was required to be established no later than Sept. 1. As the program's name suggests, it puts more emphasis on producer margins - the difference between milk prices and feed costs -- than current milk prices as well as revenue support programs of the past. Producers can start enrolling in the program September 2nd. Coverage levels will be based on a producer's milk production history, which will be the highest level of annual production going back through 2011 and adjusted based on USDA's estimates of national average growth in the overall U.S. milk market. The online resource for the program will enable producers to see how various coverage levels, with price projections, can be applied to their specific operations. The online resource will be accessible by smartphone, tablet, or computer, and no producer data will be saved. Similar to new crop insurance provisions - which have yet to be unveiled by USDA - producers must be in compliance with conservation requirements. The final rule for MPP will be published in the Federal Register tomorrow and producers will have until Nov. 28 to enroll for 2014 and 2015 coverage. he online tool was created in a partnership between the USDA and the Program on Dairy Markets and Policy (DMaP), whose partners include the University of Illinois, University of Wisconsin, Cornell University, Pennsylvania State University, University of Minnesota, Ohio State University and Michigan State University. An update to the online tool is expected with the ability for producers to enter their own input costs to better determine margins. While FSA does not currently allow for online reporting, the online tool is capable of submitting MPP forms online, should that position change. Producers have the option to protect between 25 percent and 90 percent of their production in 5 percent increments. Margin coverage options will also be available in 50 cent increments between $4 and $8 per hundredweight.
Wednesday, August 27th 2014
--CHS, a leading energy, grains and foods company and the nation's leading farmer-owned cooperative, has announced a new program to better enable some of the 1,400 Cenex branded locations to meet consumer demand for an E15 ethanol blend. For Cenex retailers wanting to offer E15 in addition to their current gasoline products, the Cenex Tank Program will cover a significant portion of the cost to purchase and install an additional storage tank for the purpose of offering E15. The Cenex network was among the first in the country to offer mid-level ethanol blends under its brand and has achieved significant increases in ethanol sales over the last five years. As the nation's leading farmer-owned cooperative, CHS is involved in renewable fuels from the farm to the end-user. A long-time, global marketer of ethanol and distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS), CHS also produces ethanol at a recently acquired plant in Rochelle, Ill.
--The U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) said Mexican sugar subsidies are giving the country's sugar mills an unfair trade advantage and imposed duty deposits on their shipments into the U.S. Mills operated by the Mexican government will see a 17.01 percent duty deposit; sugar produced by the company GAM will face a 2.99 percent duty, while all other sugar from Mexico will see a 14.87 percent duty, according to the American Sugar Alliance (ASA). The decision involving so-called countervailing duties is preliminary. Thus the duty deposits will be collected until the government makes a final determination. The duties could go into effect as early as next week. The ASA filed the complaint charging unfair Mexican subsidies in March. The producers group also alleged that Mexico was dumping its surplus sugar into the U.S. at prices below the cost of production. The Commerce Department is scheduled to issue a preliminary ruling on the antidumping petition in October. The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) issued a preliminary ruling in May that there is evidence that Mexico's dumping and subsidization is injuring U.S. interests. ASA says Mexico's unfair practices are costing the U.S. industry about $1 billion a year. Final determinations by both the DOC and ITC will likely be made early next year. In July, a bipartisan group of lawmakers asked COD to think twice before imposing import quotas on sugar from Mexico to resolve its anti-dumping inquiry, saying they feared an increase in sugar prices. The group of senators, led by Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., said they oppose any potential agreement that would raise food prices for Americans by limiting imports. Trade with Mexico is supposed to be unfettered under terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement. The Sweetener Users Association, which represents U.S. candy makers, said no one should be surprised by a ruling that the Mexican government supports the country's sugar industry.
--The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released additional information on the Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO) availability for Spring 2015 crops and an online decision-making tool how SCO can interact with the new Stacked Income Protection (STAX) plan. Farmers and ranchers interested in learning how SCO can help them better manage unforeseen risks can now find maps showing where the option is available, commodity fact sheets, frequently asked questions, policy information and more at RMA's website www.rma.usda.gov. To help producers better understand the SCO and Stacked Income Protection Plan for producers of upland cotton (STAX) programs, RMA is also announcing an online Crop Insurance Decision Tool. This tool, located at http://prodwebnlb.rma.usda.gov/apps/CIDT/ on RMA's website, demonstrates how SCO and STAX plans work - how coverage is determined, when it pays, the approximate premium cost, and how it interacts with an underlying crop insurance policy. This user-friendly resource can help producers quickly explore and understand the variety of coverage options that these new products offer. Users will get estimates to help them make purchasing decisions. Producers should consult their crop insurance agent for detailed information and a premium quote specific to their operation. SCO is available for corn, cotton, grain sorghum, rice, soybeans, spring barley, spring wheat, and winter wheat in select counties for the 2015 crop year. A provision of the 2014 Farm Bill, SCO is a county-level policy endorsement that covers a portion of the deductible of the underlying crop insurance policy administered by USDA's Risk Management Agency (RMA). RMA plans to expand SCO to include additional counties and crops for the 2016 crop year. Producers may contact their crop insurance agents to discuss eligibility in time to sign up for winter wheat and spring crops.
--After almost two years of controversial contract negotiations which threatened the stability of U.S. agricultural exports, the longshoreman who load grain here have voted to ratify a new collective bargaining agreement with several grain companies and will return to work on Wednesday. A tentative agreement was reached August 12th. The vote included members of ILWU Local 8 in Portland, Ore., and Local 4 in Vancouver, Local 21 in Longview, Local 19 in Seattle, and Local 23 in Tacoma, Wash., who collectively voted 88.4% in favor of a tentative agreement with Louis Dreyfus Commodities, United Grain Corporation and Columbia Grain Inc. that will be in effect until May 31, 2018. Members voting in favor totaled 1,475; those voting against numbered 193. Negotiations for the new agreement began in August of 2012, involved 70 separate sessions, and included lockouts at Portland's Columbia Grain and Vancouver's United Grain facilities. At times, USDA discontinued grain inspections because of what the agency described as security concerns, essentially shutting down outbound shipments. Terms of the agreement include work rule changes and wage increases over the life of the agreement.
--USDA is making $200 million in grant money available for state Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) agencies to conduct employment and training pilot projects to help SNAP participants find jobs. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack made the announcement Monday at the Employment Center in Arlington, Virginia, which he said reports an 80 percent placement rate in finding jobs for SNAP participants. USDA provides $400 million every year to states for employment training for SNAP beneficiaries. The competitive grant program will help the agency find the most effective programs for all 50 states and help to find “better use of the $400 million we are currently spending on employment and training,” Vilsack said. As part of the 2014 Farm Bill, the grants will fund up to 10 pilot projects to test methods designed to increase employability and help people transition out of the welfare program. States can make joint applications, so more than 10 states could benefit depending on the “creativity” of the applicants, Vilsack said. Grant applications are due Nov. 24 and awards will be announced in February. The grants will fund the programs for three years and USDA expects projects to be operational by Oct. 1, 2015. Of the $200 million made available, $35 million will be set aside for project evaluation. Vilsack said he expects experts from state universities and other third parties to conduct evaluations that provide sufficient data. Proposals to evaluate the impact of the pilots are due Oct. 1 of this year. Vilsack said USDA will look for pilot programs that use strong partnerships to operate, focus on the long-term unemployed, and use a structured method to match applicants to available jobs.
Tuesday, August 26th 2014
--A federal judge ruled over the weekend that a law approved in Kauai of Hawaii regulating the use of pesticides and genetically modified crops is invalid. U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Kurren of the District Court of Hawaii said Kauai County Ordinance 960, which would affect the operations of Syngenta, DuPont Pioneer, Dow AgroSciences, and BASF, is preempted by state law. The Kauai County Council voted to enact the law in November 2013. Although the Kauai mayor vetoed the bill, the council overturned the veto in a 5-2 vote. In January 2014, Syngenta, Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc. (owned by DuPont), Agrigenetics, Inc. (owned by Dow Chemical), and BASF Plant Science LP, which collectively farm about 12,000 acres on the island, sued the County, claiming the law is not legally valid. The bill's provisions required farms to disclose pesticide use and the presence of genetically modified crops if they use more than five pounds or 15 gallons of restricted-use pesticides per year. The bill also required a 500-foot buffer zone near schools and homes and several other locations. Penalties in the bill included a potential civil fine of $10,000-$25,000 per day, per violation. The law's effective date was extended to October, but the judge's ruling stops the county from enforcing the ordinance altogether. Earthjustice, the Center for Food Safety, Pesticide Action Network of North America, Ka Makani Ho'opono, and the Surfrider Foundation were defendants in the lawsuit.
--Minnesota organic farmers and processors can apply for a rebate of up to 75 percent of the cost of their organic certification. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is accepting applications for the Minnesota Organic Cost Share Program from now until October 31, 2014. Organic certification is a third-party verification system assuring consumers the organic products they buy are produced in accordance with federal organic regulations. Organic operations must follow National Organic Standards and are monitored through review of their records and on-site inspections at least once a year. Funds for the cost share program come from a cooperative agreement with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Operations that received certification (or had ongoing certification) between October 1, 2013 and September 30, 2014 are eligible for reimbursement of up to 75 percent of certification-related costs with a maximum of $750 per category (crop, livestock, processing/handling, wild harvest). To qualify, applicants must be certified organic by a USDA-accredited certifying agency. The MDA has already mailed application packets to more than 1,000 certified organic operations in the state. Any certified organic farmer or processor who did not receive a packet can obtain all the program details and necessary materials on the MDA's web site www.mda.state.mn.us/organic or by calling 651-201-6012.
--Iowa soybean farmers say yield is the top factor in determining the seed they'll plant and the person on whom they rely for objective information is their seed dealer. Though farmers overwhelmingly support continued production of genetically-modified crops in addition to other types of crops, about 60 percent of those responding don't favor federal labels for foods produced with genetically engineered materials. These findings are from a just-completed survey of 130 Iowa soybean farmers conducted by Agri-Pulse and the Iowa Soybean Association. Almost 95 percent of Iowa farmers responding to the survey say they support production of seeds - with 44.6 percent saying they support the continued production of genetically-modified crops and 50 percent answering that they support all forms of seeds, whether produced as organic, conventional or through biotechnology. When asked if they favor a federal label indicating which foods are produced with genetically engineered materials, 61.5 percent said no, 17.6 percent said yes, 19.2 percent weren't sure, and 1.5 percent did not answer. The farmers were asked to rate factors important to them when selecting soybean varieties for their farms, ranking them from one to eight with one being the highest.
Monday, August 25th 2014
--State officials might improve their record in detecting fraud in USDA's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) if financial incentives were provided that would help support the costs of investigation, according to the federal Government Accountability Office (GAO). In a 60-page report released last week, GAO said it reviewed procedures and interviewed officials in 11 states that together serve about a third of the 47 million Americans who receive SNAP benefits - formerly Food Stamps - each month. States help administer the federal government program, which handed out $76 billion in benefits in fiscal year 2013. The report, which was requested by Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Al., the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, noted that there are currently no rewards for the state investigative agencies, and it recommends that USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) consider such financial incentives. GAO also said that despite increasing its oversight of state anti-fraud activity in recent years, FNS “does not have consistent data on states' anti-fraud activity because its reporting guidance lacks specificity.” Additionally, GAO said it found limitations in the effectiveness of certain website monitoring tools used to detect trafficking in SNAP benefits. Manual searches for suspicious posts often proved to be more effective, GAO noted. GAO also called on the Secretary of Agriculture to “establish additional guidance” to help states analyze SNAP transaction to better identify households that are selling SNAP benefits and then seeking replacement cards.
GAO noted that USDA officials agreed with its recommendations.
--A friendly competition among the nation's food banks to sign up the most donors in the U.S. Food Waste Challenge is drawing to a close, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Feeding America will determine a winner in early September. The food bank that registers the most donors as participants in the U.S. Food Waste Challenge will be honored in an event hosted by the Department of Agriculture. The competition was launched on July 22 and closes this week. Food bank donors and partners can join the competition by signing up for the U.S. Food Waste Challenge on Feeding America's website and listing the activities they will undertake to help reduce, recover, or recycle food waste in their operations. USDA's Economic Research Service estimated food waste in the U.S. at between 30-40 percent of the food supply. "When we do our part to lower food waste, we can help ease pressure on our natural resources and feed families in need," said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. "Through the Food Waste Challenge, food banks, producers, manufactures, and retailers are stepping up to do just that." The U.S. Food Waste Challenge was inaugurated in June 2013 by USDA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and calls on businesses and organizations to join the effort to reduce food waste in the United States. The goal of the U.S. Food Waste Challenge is to lead a fundamental shift in how we think about and manage food and food waste in America. Participants join the Challenge by listing what activities they will undertake to help reduce, recover, or recycle food waste in their operations. The Challenge includes a goal of 400 partners by 2015 and 1,000 by 2020. By joining the U.S. Food Waste Challenge, businesses that donate to the nation's food banks are adding their voice to the growing movement to reduce food waste and keep wholesome food where it belongs: on someone's plate. More information about the U.S. Food Waste Challenge is at www.usda.gov.
Friday, August 22nd 2014
--Cows raised on organic and conventional dairy farms in three regions of the United States show no significant differences in health or in the nutritional content of their milk, according to a USDA-financed study by three land grant universities. The organic herds also produced 43 percent less milk per day than conventional non-grazing cattle, the study found, and 25 percent less than conventional grazing herds. Scientists at Oregon State, Wisconsin-Madison and Cornell universities analyzed results of nearly 192 organic dairy farms and 100 conventional operations in New York state, Oregon and Wisconsin in the five-year study, funded by a $1 million grant from USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). The researchers also found more conventional farms (69 percent) used veterinarians than organic dairies (36 percent). Organic dairy farmers often perform their own veterinary work, Gamroth said, because they feel that vets do not always know or follow organic standards for care. Some organic herds in the study also showed a strain of bacteria, commonly known as Strep. ag., that conventional herds eliminated long ago, by using antibiotics. Organic farms did perform better in some areas of health: cows had fewer hock lesions-injuries to the legs that often form from being housed for long periods. Calves on organic farms were also fed a greater volume of milk and were weaned at an older age than on conventional farms.
--California citrus producers can once again export their products to China after a 16-month suspension, USDA announced today. China banned California-origin citrus in April 2013 after finding brown rot, a soil fungus that affects stored fruit, in some shipments, USDA said in a news release. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the market-reopening was “the result of a lot of effort by a number of USDA employees, who worked very closely with their foreign counterparts to resolve China's concerns.” Vilsack also addressed the issue with Chinese officials during the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade in December 2013. The final resolution came between USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the Chinese General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection, and Quarantine (AQSIQ). The agreement to allow exports to resume was reached earlier this month, USDA said. California's citrus exports are valued at $30 million annually, USDA said.
--With a major presence in Nebraska, Cargill has become the title sponsor of a year-round education exhibit, “Raising Nebraska,” pledging $1 million dollars over five years. Raising Nebraska is a 25,000 square foot education exhibit that will serve as a year-round, interactive experience focused on where Nebraska agriculture is today-and, where it will be in the future. The exhibit shows how Nebraska farmers and ranchers are positioning themselves to meet the global demand for food, feed, fuel and fiber-while protecting natural resources and being environmentally responsible. The exhibit is the result of a partnership between the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources (IANR) at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the Nebraska Department of Agriculture and the Nebraska State Fair. Key areas of focus for the exhibit include food security, water management, technology and innovation, animal agriculture, the new bioeconomy, crop production, environmental stewardship, the economic impact of agriculture in Nebraska and consumer-focused information about food production and food safety.
Thursday, August 21st 2014
--Congratulations to Minnesota's 61st Princess Kay of the Milky Way, Jeni Haler from Carver County. Haler was crowned from 12 finalists at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds band shell last night. Haler, who is from Norwood Young America and a sophomore at the University of Minnesota, is no stranger to being a princess as she is also a Minneapolis Aquatennial princess this year. Haler will spend the first hours of her reign sitting in the large spinning cooler at the milk stand building having her likeness carved into a block of butter. Each of the finalists will their likeness carved during the fair. Locally, two Stearns county dairy princesses vied for the crown, Sabrina Ley of Belgrade and Leah Middendorf of Sauk Centre both representing Stearns County. Ley was also named one the two runners-up.
--Nestlé, the world's largest food company measured by revenue, announced new animal welfare standards for its supply chain today, in partnership with World Animal Protection. Nestlé, whose brands include Dreyer's, Lean Cuisine and Butterfinger, is the first major food company to form an international partnership with an animal welfare NGO. The new standards include spacing requirements for livestock pens, as well as veterinary practices that reduce pain. As part of its Commitment on Farm Animal Welfare, the company will first focus on eliminating the following practices: dehorning; tail docking; disbudding and castrating cattle without anesthetic, as well as removing veal crates; sow gestation crates, tail docking and surgical castration for pigs. For poultry, the company said it will eliminate cage systems, particularly barren battery cages, and fast-growing practices. Nestlé also said it would work with its suppliers to use antibiotics in line with World Organization for Animal Health standards, and phase out the use of growth promoters. The company's Responsible Sourcing Guidelines, which include the updated animal welfare standards, apply to hundreds of thousands of farms worldwide. Nestlé has about 7,300 suppliers that directly provide animal-derived products, and each of those suppliers buys from others.
--The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) today published its final amended rule for the “Modernization of Poultry Slaughter Inspection,” adding a fifth program for young chicken and all turkey processing plants after what it calls a successful 15-year trial. Under the New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS), government inspectors who previously helped sort poultry carcasses will be moved to the end of the slaughter process to conduct carcass-by-carcass inspections for food safety problems after company employees have already checked carcasses for sores and bruises. Each inspection line will also have one off-line inspector taking samples for microbial testing, examining plant and equipment sanitation, observing company employees, and conducting other food safety activities. FSIS said the current inspection system, which dates back to 1957, emphasized visual carcass inspection, but a new approach will allow a renewed focus on contamination prevention instead of looking for “visual defects such as bruises, scabs, or sores.” Under NPIS, the production line at young chicken facilities will continue to move at the rate of 140 birds per minute, while the line at turkey facilities will be speeded up slightly, from 51 birds per minute to 55. The final rule comes after a two year review of the more than 250,000 responses the government received during a 120-day comment period in 2012. The announcement of a pending rule was made at the end of July, but the final rule's full text was published today. USDA estimates NPIS will prevent nearly 5,000 foodborne illnesses each year. Groups including the National Chicken Council (NCC) call the rule “the top priority for our industry.” Opponents such as Food and Water Watch and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., say NPIS will not allow enough time for inspection and will reduce the number of USDA inspectors in processing plants. The rule goes into effect Oct. 20, and companies seeking to operate under NPIS have until Feb. 23, 2015, to notify USDA of their plans to do so. Companies have the option of continuing under their current inspection program.
--The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) late Wednesday asked a federal appeals court to reverse a lower court ruling that upheld the EPA's pollution limits for the Chesapeake Bay watershed. While the lower court's ruling was restricted to areas surrounding the Chesapeake Bay, its decision could have sweeping effects on states and economic activity across the country, AFBF said in a news release. EPA has claimed that its Bay limits were developed in cooperation with the Bay states. AFBF says the appeals court will decide whether EPA has the power to set only the “total” allowable pollutant load for waters, as the Farm Bureau and its allies maintain, or also to set individual limits for farming, construction or other activities across the landscape, as EPA claims. AFBF maintains that Congress reserved such land use decision-making exclusively for the states. AFBF also noted that because restoration of the Bay does not depend on what it said are the “unlawful” aspects of the TMDL before the court, cleanup would continue with a court ruling in AFBF's favor. According to the AFBF brief, a ruling in its favor would not disturb the total pollutant limit set by EPA for each segment of the Bay. In addition, a ruling removing the challenged EPA source limits or “allocations” from the TMDL “would in no way impair the ability of any state to achieve those objectives. It would only allow them the freedom-as Congress intended-to set different allocations and deadlines, if they so choose.”
Wednesday, August 20th 2014
--A Marine Corps veteran contacted the Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC) three years ago to seek help expanding his small egg business. He now sells a variety of meat and egg products at farmers markets, all recently stamped with a label that notes they are “Homegrown by Heroes.” FVC, which supports veterans returning to or beginning careers in the farming industry, is working to expand the Homegrown by Heroes (HBH) program launched this year in every state and beyond farmers markets. The HBH marketing program is available nationally and provides farmer-veterans with a distinctive label they can use on their agricultural products to be displayed at point of sale. Matt Soldano, who served in the Marine Corps from 2002-2006, became HBH certified in June and he says he's already seen sales enhanced from the logo on his egg and meat products. The label informs consumers that the product was produced in the United States by a veteran who served in the military. The Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA) created the HBH label as part of its Kentucky Proud marketing program in 2013 and FVC partnered with the state to take over the national launch earlier this year. When Soldano resigned from active duty, the New Jersey-based veteran began Southtown Farms, LLC with a dozen hens, selling eggs to neighbors. This year he will grow 800 laying hens, 2,500 broilers, 100 turkeys, 50 ducks and 30 pigs on his 40-acre farm. Additionally, he is in the process of building an on-farm store where customers will be able to come directly to purchase products and see how their food is produced. Since the national label program officially launched in mid-May, FVC Executive Director Michael O'Gorman said the coalition has received about 150 applications, and 50 farmers now have certifications. FVC's goal is to certify 500 applications with the label by the end of the year.
--Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the release of a report compiled by the U.S. Forest Service, which says the cost of fighting forest fires increased over the last 20 years as the budgets for other forest programs, including those that can help prevent fire damage, have shrunk. According to the report, the Forest Service's firefighting appropriation has rapidly risen as a proportion of the Forest Service's overall budget, increasing from 16 percent in 1995 to 42 percent today, forcing cuts in other budget areas. Vilsack said the Forest Service's non-fire program budgets are affected by "fire borrowing." In most years since 2000, agency costs for fire suppression are covered through transferring, or "borrowing" additional funds from other Forest Service programs. Vilsack asked Congress to allow existing disaster funds to provide resources for wildfires in years when Forest Service and Department of Interior fire costs exceed the amount that is budgeted, rather than forcing borrowing from non-fire programs. The report acknowledges that fire staffing has increased 110 percent since 1998, but it says staffing for those dedicated to managing National Forest Service lands decreased 35 percent over the same period.
Tuesday, August 18th 2014
--USDA today announced $25 million in funding intended to help rural businesses grow, diversify, and create jobs in the department's ongoing effort to support local and regional food systems. The funding is distributed through the Value-Added Producer grants, an element of the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative. The grants can be used for a wide range of purposes, but often help businesses develop markets for niche and specialty products. Through the grants, $25 million will be dispersed among 247 businesses in 46 states, Puerto Rico, and Micronesia. One such business is Miles Smith Farm LLC in Loudan, N.H., where Vilsack made the announcement. Miles Smith Farm's grant is to market and produce burgers made from 55 percent grass-fed beef and 45 percent ground organic pork. The mix, which the farm's owner calls “the burger that squeals with flavor,” hopes to produce a burger with fat and flavor levels a grass-fed burger cannot produce alone. Since 2009, USDA has awarded 863 Value-Added Producer Grants totaling $108 million. Twenty percent of the grants and 16 percent of total funding has been awarded to beginning farmers and ranchers. The 2014 Farm Bill increases mandatory funding for the program from $15 million to $63 million over five years.
--Expectations of a potentially record corn crop are bolstered by USDA's crop progress report, which said current conditions are better than last year's record harvest. Corn and soybeans are both in better condition than last year, the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) said in its weekly crop progress report released Monday afternoon. Nationwide, corn is pegged at 72 percent good-to-excellent, compared to 61 percent at the same time last year. Soybeans show a similar jump, going from 62 percent good-to-excellent last year to 71 percent this year. Both corn and soybeans are projected further ahead than last year in maturity. Nationwide, 83 percent of soybeans are setting pods compared to 70 percent at this time last year and the 79 percent five-year average. Corn reaching the “dough” stage of development is at 70 percent, much higher than the 49 percent observed last year and the 63 percent five-year average. Corn in the “dented” stage - which comes immediately after dough - is at 22 percent nationwide, which is higher than the 10 percent seen last year but lower than the 27 percent five-year average. Since crops may mature more quickly this year, logic would dictate an earlier harvest is also expected. However, Bertels said that due to potentially scarce propane (a fuel commonly used in grain dryers), rail and storage issues at elevators, and unfavorable market conditions, many producers may opt to simply wait and allow their grain to dry in the field rather than harvesting at a condition that would require use of a grain dryer.
Monday, August 18th 2014
--In a letter sent today to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) asked U.S. negotiators on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to insist that Japan eliminate its tariff system for pork imports. The letter notes that Japan's current TPP offer includes exemptions from tariff elimination for certain "sensitive" products, including pork. NPPC President Howard Hill said the tariff system, or “Gate Price,” is associated with a history of fraud and criminal activity. He also said it discriminates against Japanese consumers by putting upward pressure on food prices and has prompted Japanese meat processing companies to translocate to other Asian nations. 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 Obama Administration is working to complete “the most ambitious, far-reaching, cutting-edge trade agenda in history, which will give the U.S. premium access to 2/3 of the world economy,” Froman said. Japan is the top export market for U.S. pork, which shipped nearly $2 billion of products to the nation in 2013.
--A middle-income family with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend about $245,340, an overall 1.8 percent increase from 2012, according to a report released Monday. USDA published the annual Expenditures on Children and Families report, also known as the Cost of Raising a Child. The cost of $245,340 for middle-income family to raise a child born in 2013 is $304,480 adjusted for projected inflation, and includes food, housing, childcare and education, and other child-rearing expenses up to age 18. Costs associated with pregnancy or expenses occurred after age 18, such as higher education, are not included. While this represents an overall 1.8 percent increase from 2012, the percentages spent on each expenditure category remain the same, USDA noted. As in the past, the costs by location are lower in the urban South ($230,610) and rural ($193,590) regions of the country. Families in the urban Northeast incurred the highest costs to raise a child ($282,480). The report is based on data from the federal government's Consumer Expenditure Survey. For the year 2013, annual child-rearing expenses per child for a middle-income, two-parent family ranged from $12,800 to $14,970, depending on the age of the child. The report, developed by the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP), notes that family income affects child-rearing costs. A family earning less than $61,530 per year can expect to spend a total of $176,550 (in 2013 dollars) on a child from birth up to age 18. Middle-income parents with an income between $61,530 and $106,540 can expect to spend $245,340; and a family earning more than $106,540 can expect to spend $407,820.
--The public comment period for the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) proposed changes to its Agricultural Worker Protection Standards, published on March 19, 2014, closed Monday. The current worker protection standard regulations were last codified in 1992. EPA's proposed changes increase requirements for worker training regarding the safe use of pesticides, including how to prevent and treat pesticide exposure. The agency increased training from every five years to every year and proposed that children under 16 be legally barred from handling all pesticides. In May, the agency extended the comment period for 60 days, until August 18, 2014, in response to requests from growers, industry, farmworker advocates and states for more time.
Friday, August 15th 2014
--A small Minnesota organic dairy has prevailed in its legal effort to force a buyout by a utility building high-voltage power lines along the property. The case involving the Cedar Summit Farm near New Prague was seen as an early test of Minnesota’s revised “Buy the Farm” law. The ruling by Scott County Judge Caroline Lennon applies only to that farm, but other landowners in the route of the CapX2020 line from South Dakota through Minnesota have been watching closely. David and Florence Minar elected to force a purchase of their legacy farm rather than operate under the new power lines. Lennon ruled they were within their rights to do so and now the utility is on the hook, perhaps for $1.4 million or more. An appeal is possible.
--In a letter sent today to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) asked U.S. negotiators on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to insist that Japan eliminate its tariff system for pork imports. The letter notes that Japan's current TPP offer includes exemptions from tariff elimination for certain "sensitive" products, including pork. 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. Japan is the top export market for U.S. pork, which shipped nearly $2 billion of products to the nation in 2013.
--The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) will launch a new campaign to “Protect Minnesota Pollinators” in yards and gardens, along roadsides and on farms. The public is invited to attend the launch on the opening day of the Minnesota State Fair North Hall of the Agriculture/Horticulture Building on the Minnesota State Fairgrounds and be among the first to sign the Minnesota Pollinator Promise to help protect insect pollinators. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s campaign will help increase public awareness of the importance of insect pollinators, not only to our food chain, but also to a healthy environment overall. The campaign provides Minnesotans with easy guidelines on how they can help Minnesota pollinators, and asks each of us to take one small step to help them. Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson will introduce the campaign; he will be joined by members of the Minnesota legislature as well as academic, business and community leaders who have worked with the MDA to develop Best Management Practices to protect pollinators. Together with members of the public, they will be the first Minnesotans to make the Minnesota Pollinator Promise to help protect Minnesota’s pollinators.
--Twelve students from across the Midwest have been selected to serve as National and State Ambassadorsfor Fuel Up to Play 60, an in-school nutrition and physical activity program created in partnership with the National Dairy Council, Midwest Dairy Council and the NFL, in collaboration with USDA. Fuel Up to Play 60 encourages students to eat healthy, be active and make positive, healthy changes in their schools and communities. They are: Frank Martinez-Colon and Taylor Fautsch of Rochester, Minnesota, Austin Brigham of Huntington, Arkansas, Gage Kemp of Dubuque, Iowa; Griffin Zweibeck and Sulaimaan Kabir of Chicago, Illinois; Piper Hartzler of Wichita, Kansas; Alaina McAlister of St. Louis, Missouri; Maddy Kamstra of Valley City, North Dakota; Rachel Diehm of Papillion, Nebraska; Remington Ward of Locust Grove, Oklahoma and Alexis Vandenhoek of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Five National Ambassadors and 59 State Ambassadors from across the country lead the Fuel Up to Play 60 Student Ambassador Program, which engages youth directly as leaders to increase access to nutrient-rich foods and 60 minutes of physical activity at school. From smoothie stations to walking clubs, Fuel Up to Play 60 helps students create healthier school environments in nearly 74,000 schools nationwide. The program also encourages and recognizes schools and students with rewards, and provides leadership opportunities such as representing the program at local events, round table discussions, in the media and more. Selected from a nationwide search and extensive application process, these State Ambassadors along with School and National Ambassadors had the opportunity to attend the Fuel Up to Play 60 Student Ambassador Summit in Arlington, Texas July 14-16. The Summit provided Student Ambassadors the opportunity to meet their fellow Ambassadors, learn leadership skills and help shape the program for the 2014 – 2015 school year. Students also had the chance to meet NFL players and participate in exciting events including physical activity drills and an ultimate cook-off with their peers. For more information about Fuel Up to Play 60 and the Student Ambassador Program, visit www.FuelUpToPlay60.com or find us on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/FuelUpToPlay60.
--Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today awarded nearly $40 million in loans for new or improved broadband service in rural parts of Minnesota, North Dakota and Texas. The loans are being funded through USDA Rural Utilities Service's Telecommunications Infrastructure Loan Program to finance projects to expand voice, video and data services. This funding is part of the Obama Administration's vision for stronger rural economies, which are vital to building a more prosperous America. The Red River Rural Telephone Association is receiving an $8.5 million loan to construct 145 miles of buried fiber optic cable in Abercrombie, Colfax, Fairmount, Great Bend, Hankinson, Lidgerwood, Mooreton and Wyndmere in North Dakota; and in Barnesville and Rollag in Minnesota. This project will complete Red River's fiber-to-the-premises network. The upgraded system will meet current and future requirements for voice, video and high-speed data services to subscribers. The Griggs County Telephone Company will use a $4.7 million loan to deploy fiber-to-the-premises in Binford and Cooperstown, N.D. Griggs County also will use loan funds to make improvements in the system's four exchanges. The project will provide expanded voice, video and data services to 682 subscribers. The Dakota Central Communications Cooperative received a $2.2 million USDA broadband grant in 2010 to bring fiber-to-the-premises service to Gackle and Streeter, N.D. This network connects more than 400 rural subscribers. Thanks in part to this funding, Daktel (along with Dickey Rural Networks) has constructed what is believed to be the largest 100% fiber-to-the-home network in the United States. It covers 10,000 square miles and reaches roughly 18,000 homes.
Thursday, August 14th 2014
--Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack yesterday announced that USDA is seeking applications for grants that will be awarded to organizations to provide critical financial and technical assistance to recipients to develop and strengthen their capacity to carry out housing, community facilities and community and economic development projects. USDA is making nearly $6 million available to qualified organizations under the Rural Community Development Initiative. Recipients must be non-profit organizations, low-income rural communities, or federally recognized tribes. Intermediary organizations are required to provide matching funds at least equal to the RCDI grant. The grants do not go directly to business recipients but rather through qualified intermediaries. The deadline for submitting RCDI applications is November 12, 2014. Applications must be submitted to the USDA Rural Development state office where the applicant's headquarters are located. More information about the program and how to apply is available on page 47427 of the August 13, 2014 Federal Register.
--Faced with tougher and more resistant weeds, corn and soybean farmers are anxiously awaiting government decisions on a new version of a popular herbicide — and on genetically modified seeds to grow crops designed to resist it. Critics say more study is needed on the effects of the herbicide and they are concerned it could endanger public health. The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to rule this fall on Dow AgroSciences’ application to market Enlist, a new version of the 2,4-D herbicide that’s been around since the 1940s. It’s partly a game of catch-up for the agriculture industry, as many farmers are dealing with weeds that have become resistant to glyphosate, an herbicide commonly used on corn and soybeans now.If approved, the 2,4-D would be used in combination with glyphosate. An Agriculture Department decision on the company’s genetically modified seeds also is expected this fall. In the department’s final environmental review released last week, the USDA recommended approval. The agency said that if both the seeds and herbicide are approved, the use of 2,4-D could increase by an estimated 200 to 600 percent by the year 2020. While the USDA only oversees the safety of the plants, the EPA oversees the safety of the herbicide for human and environmental health. The agency has already found the chemical safe several times for other species as well as for the public and agricultural workers. 2,4-D is now used on other crops, including wheat, and on pastures and home lawns. It is the world’s most popular herbicide and the third most popular in the United States, behind atrazine and glyphosate. Most corn and soybeans grown in the U.S. are already genetically engineered. Before Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide was introduced in 1976, most farmers tilled their fields prior to planting, flipping the soil over and burying the weeds to kill them. The technique exposed tilled earth to the air, creating problems with erosion and runoff and releasing greenhouse gases. Herbicide-resistant seeds introduced in the 1990s allowed farmers to spray fields after their plants emerged, killing the weeds but leaving crops unharmed. In its environmental assessment, the USDA said increased resistance is a risk, and farmers will have to find ways to adapt if they find it decreases in effectiveness. The agency said it’s hard to predict how that will play out, however.
--Claims of overreach of corporate power in farming and discussion of "Medicare for All" health care for Minnesota will be addressed at the 34th Farm Picnic, Sunday in Pierz. Corporate farming will be addressed at the picnic which is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday at Pierz Park, Pierz. The Farm Picnic is co-sponsored by Minnesota COACT and Morrison County Farmers Union. The other topic will be using the federal waiver in Obamacare to enact single-payer "Medicare for All" health care for Minnesota. The waiver gives states the right to create their own health plans in 2017. Presenters will be Paul Sobocinski of the Land Stewardship Project and Dr. Laurel Gamm, co-chair of Physicians for a National Health Program-MN. They will be joined by Thom Petersen, Minnesota Farmers Union government relations director. Serving of the traditional country dinner of ham, sweet corn, and potato salad begins at 2 p.m. The Minnesota Farmers Union-NFO Direct Marketing Program is providing the ham, and the Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls are offering the potato salad, fresh baked bread, and garden vegetables. Morrison County dairy princesses will serve milk and ice cream.
Wednesday, August 13th 2014
--The federal government predicts Minnesota farmers will produce 1.34 billion bushels of corn this year, up 40 million bushels from last year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s production outlook for Minnesota also predicts corn yields averaging 168 bushels per acre, up eight bushels from 2013. Minnesota soybean production is forecast at 312 million bushels, up 15 percent from last year. The average yield is expected to be 42 bushels per acre, one bushel more than 2013. Tuesday’s data is part of a national forecast for a record-breaking corn harvest of 14 billion bushels, surpassing earlier expectations. The USDA also says soybean production nationwide also will set a new record of 3.8 billion bushels. The resulting lower prices won’t immediately cut grocery costs, though livestock producers will pay less for feed.
--Cereal giant Kellogg is joining General Mills in promising industry-leading steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in its agricultural supply chains.Among other things, the maker of Corn Flakes and Keebler Cookies said it will for the first time establish targets to reduce “Scope 3” greenhouse gas emissions, where most of the company's value chain climate pollution occurs, largely from agricultural production. Scope 1 and 2 cover direct emission sources, such as fuel used in company vehicles, while Scope 3 covers all indirect emissions due to an organization's activities, including emissions from both suppliers and customers.
--The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) is asking the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to make “significant changes” in its proposed rules implementing the sanitary food transportation provisions of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The proposed rules establish certain criteria, including conditions, practices, training and record-keeping for the sanitary transportation of food. NGFA submitted its suggestions for the proposed rules during a comment period that ended July 31. It's not known when FDA will release its final rules. President Barack Obama signed FSMA into law in January 2011. The law is considered the most sweeping reform of the food safety laws in more than 70 years. In addition to a rule on sanitary transportation under the act, the FDA has also proposed: preventive control requirements for human and animal food, standards for produce safety, a Foreign Supplier Verification Program for importers, a program for the accreditation of third-party auditors, and focused mitigation strategies to prevent intentional adulteration of the food system. The rules regarding sanitary food transportation would apply to shippers, carriers and receivers transporting agricultural commodities, food, feed and feed ingredients, and other agricultural products by truck and rail.
Tuesday, August 12th 2014
--USDA's Risk Management Agency (RMA) today announced that the Stacked Income Protection Plan (STAX) will be available to upland cotton producers through the federal crop insurance program beginning with the 2015 crop year. STAX is one of the new risk management options included in the 2014 Farm Bill. For the 2015 crop year, STAX will be available for upland cotton in all counties where federal crop insurance coverage for upland cotton is currently offered. STAX is an area-based revenue policy that may be purchased on its own, or in conjunction with another companion upland cotton crop insurance policy, USDA noted in its announcement. The program may begin paying when revenue drops below 90 percent of the expected revenue for the area and a full indemnity may be payable when area revenue falls below 70 percent of the expected level. The amount of actual coverage and indemnity will depend on a producer's choice of a trigger yield, coverage range and other elections made under the STAX policy. Until STAX is available, USDA's Farm Service Agency will accept enrollment for the Cotton Transition Assistance Program (CTAP) through Oct. 7, 2014, to provide interim payments to cotton producers during the 2014 crop year. CTAP applications approved before Oct. 1 are subject to congressionally mandated automatic reductions of 7.2 percent for the 2014 crop year, and applications approved after Oct. 1 will be reduced by the required 7.3 percent for the 2015 crop year. These reductions to program payments are required under the Budget Control Act of 2011.
--Cargill agreed to settle allegations that it violated the Clean Water Act (CWA) at two different large oil storage facilities located in Blair, Neb., and Eddyville, Iowa. The Clean Water Act requires facilities that store large quantities of oil to develop a Facility Response Plan (FRP) that outlines procedures for addressing “worst-case” discharges of oil. The settlement resolves FRP violations. Through the settlement with EPA Region 7, Cargill will pay a civil penalty of $187,500 to the United States. EPA identified the lack of a response plan during 2013 site visits the Cargill facilities. Each facility required an FRP because the storage capacity of its denatured ethanol tanks exceeded 1 million gallons. In June 2014 Cargill submitted to signed and effective FRPs to EPA. Each of Cargill's two facilities produces and stores more than 1 million gallons of oil. Combined, the two facilities have a total estimated storage capacity of more than 7 million gallons.
Monday, August 11th 2014
--The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) announced the release of new funding for its Tradeshow Support Program (TSP). This helps small Minnesota food and value-added agricultural companies exhibit their products at tradeshows, like the Midwest Pantry’s “Local Food and Gift Show,” held August 10 in Northeast Minneapolis, where 2014’s funding was first announced. The TSP helps Minnesota food companies do more in-store product demonstrations and attend more sales events to help with market access. The Midwest Pantry Local Food and Gift Show highlighted how funds help cutting-edge local food merchandisers and entrepreneurs secure deals with wholesale buyers. Small food companies face the same startup perils as any entrepreneur, but the wave of interest in artisan, local and healthy foods creates market opportunity. Nearly 50 small Minnesota food companies participated in the first full year of the TSP. Those companies projected sales above $800,000 and accessed an estimated 3,300 new stores in 90 new markets. The MDA hopes to help more new food companies attend their first tradeshows with its 2014 funding. For more information about how the Minnesota Department of Agriculture helps Minnesota food companies, please visit:http://www.mda.state.mn.us/food/business/processedfoods.aspx. TSP funding is limited and available through the MDA’s Agricultural Growth, Research, and Innovation program.
--Dean Foods, the nation's largest bottled milk company, lost $6 million in its most recent quarter, in a time CEO Gregg Tanner describes as “even more challenging than we had originally anticipated.” The loss on sales of $2.4 billion contrasts with a $65 million profit on sales of $2.2 billion in the 2013 second quarter. Following the disclosure, the price of Dean Foods shares on the New York Stock Exchange declined by more than 9 percent in pre-market trading. The company said that it improved its share of U.S. fluid milk sales volume to 35.9 percent, compared with 35.7 percent in the first quarter of 2014. However, nationwide fluid milk sales volume in April and May declined approximately 4 percent from the same time last year, according to USDA data cited by Dean. Dean also sustained the loss of “private label business from a significant customer” during the quarter and acknowledged that the “slight trend toward private label white milk represents a headwind to our profit and loss.” Bellairs said that about 1 percent of the company's fluid milk volume shifted from higher-profit brands to lower-margin private label, a trend he described as a financial “headwind.” To reduce costs, Dean closed 12 bottling plants this year, “four of those in June and July,” in an accelerated “optimization” program.
--Russia's ban on U.S. poultry imports will not have a major impact on the U.S. industry, according to the National Chicken Council and USA Poultry and Egg Export Council. Russian President Vladimir Putin last week ordered restrictions on imports of agricultural products from the U.S. and the European Union for imposing economic sanctions on Russia as a result of Russian incursions in Ukraine. The U.S. poultry producers pointed out that Russia is the second-leading market for U.S. chicken, in terms of volume, purchasing 267,000 metric tons valued at $303 million in 2013. Still, that represented only about 7 percent of total U.S. poultry export volume. In the mid-1990s, before the expansion of Russia's poultry industry, exports to Russia were as much as 40 percent of that total, the councils said. A decree signed by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev bans imports of beef, pork, poultry meat, fish, cheese, milk, vegetables and fruit from Australia, Canada, the EU, the US and Norway. The bans will last for a year, until Aug. 7, 2015, the RIA Novosti news service said. Medvedev said Russia has been forced to respond to the sanctions imposed by the western countries, measure that he called a “dead-end track.”Alcohol imports from both the EU and the US will not be restricted. The prime minister said that Moscow still has a lot of trading partners abroad, which it had not placed on the retaliatory sanctions list. Russia's agricultural watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor has announced plans to increase imports from Chile, which could include vegetables, fruit, fish, shellfish, meat and milk. In 2013, Russia imported $6.7 billion of meat and meat products in total. The largest shipments came from now-banned countries like Denmark (6.6 percent of total Russian meat products), Germany (6.4 percent), USA (5.3 percent), and Canada (3.8 percent).
Friday, August 8th 2014
--Cargill Inc. said net earnings for its fiscal fourth quarter fell 12 percent from a year earlier, to $424 million. The company cited weaker economic conditions in some countries and the negative impact of a change in Venezuela's effective currency exchange rates. Full-year profits at Cargill, which will mark its 150th anniversary in 2015, fell to $1.87 billion from the previous year, when earnings nearly doubled as the company recovered from the effects of a severe U.S. drought in 2012. Cargill's fiscal year ended May 31st.
--House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., and Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, wrote to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack requesting he restore grain inspection services at the Port of Vancouver in Washington State. A labor conflict between United Grain and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union that began over a year ago caused state grain inspectors to stop entering the facility due to threats from union pickets. USDA recently said it would not direct federal staff to take over grain inspections at the port. In a press call with media this week, Vilsack said, “It is incumbent on me to make sure that any decisions are made with safety in mind,” regarding the safety of federal employees. However, USDA officials who conducted safety inspections at the facility told Lucas and Conaway that there were no safety concerns to prevent USDA grain inspectors from entering the facility, according the letter. Additionally, the letter noted that USDA denied the congressmen a briefing by a USDA security team as well as access to a safety report on the situation submitted to the Administrator of the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration.
--Former U.S. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman has been elected board chairman of the newly established Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research. The 15-member board chose Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum as vice chairman at the group's inaugural meeting on Thursday. Authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill, FFAR will operate as a non-profit corporation seeking and accepting private donations in order to fund research activities that focus on problems of national and international significance. Congress provided $200 million for the foundation, which must be matched by non-federal funds as projects are identified and approved. Agriculture Secretary Vilsack announced the members selected for the board in July. Directors will serve three-year terms. The board must now select an executive director and staff. The research funded by FFAR will tackle issues including plant and animal health; food safety and nutrition, renewable energy, natural resources, and environment; agricultural and food security; and agriculture systems and technology. Glickman is currently the chairman of the Food Research and Action Center in Washington, D.C.
Thursday, August 7th 2014
--USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) Administrator Juan Garcia is retiring after 37 years with USDA, the agency announced today. Garcia's departure falls within a critical time at FSA, when multiple programs are being developed after passage of the 2014 Farm Bill. However, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said Garcia's work contributed to the implementation of 2014 Farm Bill disaster assistance programs in record time. Garcia was selected to serve as Administrator of FSA in July 2012. He previously served as Deputy Administrator for Farm Programs. He also served as State Executive Director for Texas and as the Agricultural Program Manager (APM) for the Farm Service Agency in Texas. Prior to his selection as the APM, Garcia worked as a District Director and served earlier in his career as County Executive Director. Garcia is a three-time recipient of the FSA Administrator's Award for Service to Agriculture. A native of Lyford, Texas, Garcia was raised on his family's 500-acre farm. He received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Animal Science from Texas A&I in Kingsville (now Texas A&M University-Kingsville) and was recognized as the College of Agriculture's 2010 Hall of Honors Alumnus. Garcia and his wife, Belinda, have three grown children.
--Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack joined Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe at a ceremony today to launch the release of new Farmers Markets Limited-Edition Forever stamps. The release of the stamps, which depict a table covered with products found at a typical farmer's market, coincides with USDA's 15th annual National Farmers Market Week, from Aug. 3 through Aug. 9. According to USDA, there are 8,144 farmers markets listed in USDA's National Farmers Market Directory, which is a 3.6 percent increase from 2012.
Wednesday, August 6th 2014
--Russia intends to ban all U.S. agricultural products, which last year totaled about $1.2 billion, as well as fruits and nuts from the European Union, in retaliation for sanctions imposed on Moscow over the Ukrainian crisis, the country's agricultural watchdog said. The U.S. poultry industry, which shipped products worth about $300 million to Russia last year could be among biggest loser. Tree nuts were the second biggest export category ($170 million), followed by soybeans ($160 million.) Putin is responding to several rounds of sanctions imposed by the U.S. and EU on Moscow over the crisis in Ukraine, mostly targeting Russia's financial, energy, and defense sectors. In late July, the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council began advising its members to “extend due diligence” with shipments to Russia, after Moscow began threatening to suspend imports, ostensibly because of disease concerns.
--Consumers are paying more for their favorite candy bars despite the fact that sugar prices have remained relatively flat over the past 30 years, according to a report released today by the American Sugar Alliance (ASA) , a sugar producers group, at the 31st International Sweetener Symposium in Stowe, Vermont. Sugar accounted for roughly 4 percent of a candy bar's cost in the ‘80s but today that percentage has fallen to 1 percent, ASA noted. And that percentage could drop further as major manufacturers, Hershey Co. and Mars Chocolate, announced price hikes in July. Sugar accounted for roughly 4 percent of a candy bar's cost in the ‘80s but today that percentage has fallen to 1 percent, ASA noted. And that percentage could drop further as major manufacturers, Hershey Co. and Mars Chocolate, announced price hikes in July.
Tuesday, August 5th 2014
--Land O'Lakes, Inc. announced today record second quarter and first-half sales and earnings with year-to-date sales up more than 6 percent to $8.33 billion. The member-owned food and agribusiness cooperative's year-to-date net earnings increased 50 percent to $221.1 million. n the last three months ending on June 30, Land O'Lakes, Inc. reported net earnings of $96.4 million, a 27 percent year-over-year increase, on sales of more than $4 billion, a 6.6 percent increase compared to the same period last year. For the first half of 2014, Land O'Lakes, Inc. had earnings of $221.1 million, a 50 percent increase over the first six months of 2013, on sales of $8.33 billion which was 6.4 percent higher than the 2013 financial report. Increased sales are attributed to good performance in the butter and cheese markets, amplified alfalfa and soybean production, strong egg pricing and increased animal milk replacement sales. The company ranks 199 on the Fortune 500 and has been in operation for more than 93 years. Brands include Land O'Lakes Dairy Foods, Purina Animal Nutrition and WinField. The company does business in all 50 states and more than 60 countries. Land O'Lakes Inc., total debt as of June 30, 2014, was $1.54 billion, down $114 million from the same date one year ago. The decrease was primarily due to Moark asset sales, offset by increased working capital.
Monday, August 4th 2014
--The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) has announced that the enrollment deadline for the 2012 and 2013 Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP) has been extended to August 15th. Originally, program sign-up was scheduled to end this past Friday. The new deadline gives livestock, honeybee, and farm-raised fish producers who experienced losses because of disease, adverse weather, wildfires or colony collapse disorder between October 1st, 2011 and September 30th, 2013 an additional two weeks to enroll in ELAP. Producers are encouraged to contact their local FSA service for additional information regarding ELAP.
--After the largest spike in more than two years, milk prices for area producers have started to slide in recent months.The price per 100 pounds peaked at $26.60 in April, according to the latest data from the National Agricultural Statistics Service. In May, it was $24.80, in June it was down to $23.60, the lowest price of the year. After annual gains of 20 and 25 percent respectively in average annual price during 2010 and 2011, milk prices held relatively flat the past two years. A year ago, the price was $19.10, but since then took off. The price of a baled ton of alfalfa also declined in June to $170, its lowest figure since last August. Dry conditions in other parts of the country helped contribute to price increases of up to 40 percent. Through the first half of 2014, half of last year's rise has evaporated. The price of oats showed a decline in the year-over-year price every month during the second quarter. The average annual price this year has been $3.80 per bushel, almost identical to 2013. Potato prices have not been available the past two months in order to protect proprietary data. The most recent price for 100 pounds was $10.40, up a few cents from last year.
Friday, August 1st 2014
--An “asset bubble” may be developing in farmland prices which have risen now for 12 straight years, Rabobank Food and Agribusiness Research and Advisory (FAR) group warns in a report. The report - Land Values 2014: At the Tipping Point - says farmland values rose in recent years because of low interest rates, high commodity prices, and limited availability of real estate for sale. However, commodity prices have fallen sharply. in some case approaching four-year lows, and interest rates are beginning to work their way up. The report noted the drop in commodity prices has the potential to drive land rental values down as margins tighten. USDA is predicting a corn crop rivaling the record harvest of 2013 as well as healthy soybean and wheat crops, so reserves for all three commodities will likely force prices lower, the report said. Interest rates also play a large factor in what a producer is willing - or can afford - to pay for land, and the report said higher rates could make renting a more desirable option than buying. The report said recent announcements by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen regarding plans to cut back quantitative easing programs may be signaling higher rates. Land values have risen most dramatically in the Midwest, where the effects of a bubble may be most acute. According to USDA and Rabobank data, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas all reported increases of more than 100 percent between 2005 and 2013. South Dakota and North Dakota all showed increases of more than 218 percent, and Nebraska showed the biggest increase, a 242 percent jump. Because putting lower yielding, marginal land into production was feasible during periods of high commodity prices, producers began to take a more aggressive stance in the land market in recent years. Producers still purchase 80 percent of available farmland, but Rabobank predicts interest in buying land will plateau much like the prices of the land on which they will be bidding.
--The Commodity Credit Corporation has released it’s lending rates for August and rates remained unchanged from July.
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