Farm News

Friday, July 25th 2014
Farm News
--The U.S. nitrogen fertilizer market will soon reach a point of saturation, following the sharp increase in capacity in recent years as the cost of natural gas - used in fertilizer production - fell with the fracking boom. That's a key finding in a report from Rabobank with the title, “A Shale Tale: the Aftermath of the U.S. Nitrogen Fertilizer Boom.” The report says further capacity addition in the short term is unlikely, considering market saturation and increasing fixed and variable costs for production. The recent rapid capacity expansion, however, could see the U.S. become self-sufficient in urea -- a key nitrogen fertilizer - as soon as 2017, according to the study. In the long term, further increases in U.S. nitrogen fertilizer capacity should not be ruled out. The report outlines production cost challenges the U.S. nitrogen fertilizer industry is facing. It notes that the recent surge in availability of cheap natural gas may be offset by exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) as the U.S. moves toward shipping part of its shale gas reserves to Europe and other regions. Higher construction costs are providing another challenge, as costs for engineering and procurement rise, according to the study. Investors for plant financing area also becoming harder to find as nitrogen fertilizer prices are pressured as a result of increased capacity supply outweighing global demand. The report notes that nitrogen fertilizer capacity that is due to come online will first feed into domestic demand, meaning that the U.S. could potentially reach self-sufficiency in urea by 2017. And if U.S. demand for granular urea imports starts to fade, producers will be forced to look for other destination markets such as Europe.




Thursday, July 24th 2014
Farm News
--USDA and CoBank announced today a partnership to create a $10 billion fund to improve rural infrastructure, an investment Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack called both a “historic investment” and a “great first effort.” The partnership was announced at the White House's Rural Opportunity Investment Conference, where USDA and CoBank officials sought additional funding from private entities to add to the fund. The fund will be used to distribute loans to improve infrastructure in rural communities such as wastewater treatment, roads and bridges, rural broadband and conservation projects. Capitol Peak Asset Management Company will assist CoBank in managing the fund, and loans will be distributed and repaid with the goal of creating an ongoing fund used to improve rural infrastructure. With USDA, CoBank and Capitol Peak all playing a role in the investments that will occur, Vilsack said loan applicants will be able to reach out to all three entities to begin the process. Vilsack half-jokingly compared the system to that of online dating service eHarmony in that they will work to partner the right project with the right investment plan. The loans will be offered with market conditions and will be implemented in the similar ways that USDA and CoBank already independently operate, but Vilsack and CoBank CEO Robert Engel both said the partnership will allow the companies to “break down the silos” that previously stood in the way of collaboration.

--Supporters of federally revised school nutrition standards are citing studies and testimonials that children are accepting the healthier food, but the School Nutrition Association (SNA) is requesting more flexibility for its members struggling to finance the changes. The Senate Agriculture Committee focused on the nutrition standards for meals sold through the USDA's National School Lunch Program, which took effect at the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year, during a hearing Wednesday. Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., cited a recent study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that finds 70 percent of elementary school leaders nationwide reported that students like the healthier school lunches implemented in fall 2012. The rule mandated by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 requires schools to offer more fruits, vegetables, and whole grain rich foods; offer only fat-free or low-fat milk; limit saturated fat, sodium and trans fat, as well as limit the calories offered in a meal. According to USDA, nearly 31 million students are participating in the National School Lunch Program each day and 22 million students receive free or reduced school lunch.




Wednesday, July 23rd 2014
Farm News
--USDA issued a reminder today that producers must have a Highly Erodible Land Conservation and Wetland Conservation Certification (AD-1026) on file in order to receive federal crop insurance subsidies, as mandated by the 2014 Farm Bill. The farm bill relinked conservation compliance with eligibility for premium support paid under the federal crop insurance program, administered through the Risk Management Agency. For farmers to be eligible for premium support on their federal crop insurance, the Farm Service Agency must have completed and signed AD-1026 form. This is the same form used for FSA and Natural Resource Conservation Service programs, so most producers should already have the certification on file, USDA's announcement noted. Producers who have not already filled out a compliance certification form must do so before June 1, 2015.




Tuesday, July 222nd 2014
Farm News
--Scott O'Malia is resigning from his position as a member of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission effective August 8th. O'Malia, a Republican who was appointed by Obama, said he was especially proud of the contributions he made to the CFTC as chairman of the body's Technology Advisory Committee. Before joining the CFTC, O'Malia served as staff director to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development.




Monday, July 21st 2014
Farm News
--Fruit growers who experienced serious crop losses due to extreme weather conditions in 2012 but did not have crop insurance can now apply for government assistance under a provision of the 2014 Farm Bill. Eligible producers can apply for assistance beginning on Wednesday through their local Farm Service Agency office. The aid is made available under new buy-up provisions in the USDA's Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program.




Thursday, July 17th 2014
Farm News
-- When President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed Public Law 480 back on July 10, 1954, he was strongly motivated to help farmers deal with mounting surpluses and low prices. Little did he know that, 60 years later, this budding food aid program would be responsible for saving 3 billion lives and building goodwill in 150 countries around the globe. That was part of the historic perspective shared among a long list of dignitaries attending a Food for Peace celebration in the Kennedy Caucus Room in the Russell Senate office building on Capitol Hill last week. The official program was hosted by Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. and her ranking member, Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss. In 2013, 1.1 million metric tons of food valued at approximately $1.4 billion was sent to 46 different countries. The program also provided $577 million in grants to another 29 countries for local and regional purchase of food commodities. The Food for Peace program has not been without its critics and both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have suggested reforms that would allow more cash aid, rather than food aid donations to needy countries. In June, Senators Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Chris Coons, D-Del., introduced the “Food for Peace Reform Act,” legislation aimed at overhauling the U.S. food aid program.




Wednesday, July 16th 2014
Farm News
--The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) is giving the EPA a pat on the back for its proposal to change the rule that governs how it deals with temporary grain storage structures. The EPA, in a July 9 notice in the Federal Register, said it plans to take into account about a third of the capacity of temporary storage space when it calculates when a costly permit is required under the Clean Air Act. In a 2007 letter of interpretation, the agency had basically equated temporary structures with permanent storage facilities. In its recent proposal, the EPA noted that it is rescinding that interpretation since it is “now aware that (temporary storage facilities) typically handle the grain less time throughout the year than other types of permanent storage facilities, and may require different treatment.” NGFA, which represents grain elevator operators, feed manufacturers, grain merchants and users of grain products, among others, has been collaborating since 2009 with other grain handling organizations to urge EPA to rescind that interpretation. EPA is also proposing to add a new section to the rule that would apply to grain elevators built or modified after July 9, when its proposal was published in the Federal Register. This section, including new emissions limits for certain elevators, plus additional testing, monitoring and record-keeping requirements, “will warrant meticulous review by the industry,” NGFA said. The association said the last time the EPA conducted a comprehensive review of its new source performance standards (NSPS) for grain elevators was in 1984, when temporary storage structures were not in use. Such structures have a concrete/asphalt floor, aeration and a tarp cover, and also a permanent aeration tower and a conveyer system to move the grain to the permanent storage system. Commercial grain elevators built after 1978 with a permanent storage capacity over 2.5 million bushels are required to comply with stricter air-permitting and emission standards, as does any facility that has been modified since 1978 to expand its permanent storage capacity to more than 2.5 million bushels. Also subject to the NSPS are grain storage elevators with a permanent storage capacity exceeding 1 million bushels that are located at wheat flour mills, wet or dry corn mills (manufacturing products for human consumption), rice mills or soybean oil extraction plants. Grain-handling facilities located at feed mills, pet food manufacturing plants, cereal manufacturers, breweries and livestock feedlots are not covered by the current NSPS.
 
--Lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to approve H.R. 5021, the Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2014, by a vote of 367-55, even though many Democrats and Republicans admitted the legislation serves as only a short-term fix to the nation's transportation woes. The measure injects $10.8 billion into the nearly empty Highway Trust Fund, enabling surface transportation projects to continue through May 30, 2015. The Senate has yet to vote on a similar bill, but action is expected next week. The Senate Finance Committee passed highway legislation week that also includes provisions to help finance water infrastructure improvements. The provision clarifies the tax treatment of member-owned mutual ditch and irrigation companies, making it feasible to upgrade aging and degrading water delivery systems. Specifically, it permits a greater percentage of non-member income to be received by these companies, provided that the proceeds are used for the operations, maintenance, and capital improvements of water infrastructure. Current law says that mutual ditch and irrigation companies must receive 85 percent of their income from shareholder investments to maintain their nonprofit designation. However, a number of ditch companies have seen spikes in revenue, mostly from an upswing in oil and gas activity on land they own, and that increase in dollars has put them past the 85 percent threshold, leaving them to be taxed on the additional revenue. An amendment by Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pennsylvania, that would provide additional funding to the Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF), was discussed in a Senate Finance Committee markup of the Highway Trust Fund bill last week, but no action was taken on the measure. Casey's amendment would have increasedthe barge fuel tax by 9 cents a gallon, to 29 cents a gallon, to help pay for new construction and for infrastructure improvements to locks and dams along the 12,000 mile Inland Waterways System. Around 300 users of the system that would directly pay the increase unanimously support the amendment
 
--The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) would be best served if it uses “do no harm” approach, Commissioner Scott O'Malia said in a speech to a group of lawyers. O'Malia, a CFTC commissioner since 2009, said working internally to fix issues is the best way to solve problems before unintended consequences take hold on the marketplace.  He was in New York Tuesday to address the Quadrilateral Meeting of the European Financial Markets Lawyers Group, Financial Law Board, Financial Markets Law Committee, and Financial Markets Lawyers Group for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York CFTC says its mission is “to protect market participants and the public from fraud, manipulation, abusive practices and systemic risk.” The commission most directly impacts the farm community through its oversight of agriculture futures markets. Complexities of market activity can easily lead to complexities in regulations, but O'Malia said CFTC should remain proactive in adjusting regulations to keep markets running smoothly. O'Malia said the commission has long lacked the financial backing to keep up with technological advances. For this reason, he praised the House for appropriating $52.6 million for technology investments in fiscal year 2015 and hopes to see that funding go towards improved automated surveillance.




Tuesday, July 15th 2014
Farm News
--Most Minnesota crops conditions showed improvement during the past week. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, only potato and hay crop conditions in Minnesota showed a slight decline. Corn conditions are 64 percent good to excellent while soybeans are 62 percent good to excellent. Fifty percent of the spring wheat crop is in good to excellent condition. Oat conditions are 66 percent good to excellent while sugar beets are 21 percent good to excellent. There were 5.4 days suitable for fieldwork, giving farmers time to apply herbicides and harvest the second cutting of alfalfa hay. Soil moisture continues to be high after all the rain. Topsoil moisture is rated 78 percent adequate and 21 surplus statewide, while subsoil moisture is rated 75 percent adequate and 23 percent surplus.

--Jerry and Jackie Januschka have been named the 2014 Farm Family of the Year for Morrison County.   In 1989, Jerry and Jackie began farming with Jerry’s parents after buying the farm across from Jerry’s parent’s farm, and then four years after that they transitioned all of the farmland to organic.  Today, they farm 1140 MOSA certified organic acres.  They grow hay, corn, soybeans, eatable beans, field peas, barley, and oats.  They also have grass fed beef, pastured chickens, and pastured pork. All of the farm families will be recognized in ceremonies beginning at 1:30pm Thursday, August. 7th at the annual Minnesota Farmfest on the Gilfillan Estate near Redwood Falls. The event is in the WickBuildings Farmfest Center on the estate grounds. The farm families represent each county participating in the program. They were chosen by local University of Minnesota Extension committees based on their demonstrated commitment to enhancing and supporting agriculture.

--The U.S. corn crop, the nation's biggest, continues to improve, with the fields in the best condition for this time of the growing season in years. About 76 percent of the crop in the 18 main growing states were rated in good or excellent condition as of July 13, up 1 percentage point from a week earlier and a full 10 percentage points better than at the same time last year, USDA said Monday afternoon in a weekly report. In five states - Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania and South Dakota - the combined good-excellent ratings topped 80 percent. Some 76 percent of the crop in Iowa was rated good or excellent, as was 75 percent of the crop in Indiana. Both states are major producers. Only one state North Carolina (16 percent), had combined poor or very poor conditions in excess of 10 percent. The crop conditions have led some analysts to predict record production well in excess of 14 billion bushels, more than the USDA's latest forecast for 13.860 billion bushels. The 2013 crop is the biggest on record, at 13.925 billion bushels. About 34 percent of the crop was in the critical silking stage as of July 13, compared to 33 percent, the average for the previous five years. For soybeans, the second most-valuable U.S. crop, 72 percent of the fields were rated good or excellent, the same as a week earlier but up from 65 percent a year earlier. About 41 percent of the plants were blooming, up from 37 percent at this time in 2013. The USDA is predicting a record soybean crop of 3.8 billion bushels, up from 3.289 billion last year. The spring wheat crop in the top six producing states was rated 70 percent good or excellent, the same as a week earlier and a year earlier. The winter wheat harvest was about 69 percent complete, just over the previous five-hear average of 68 percent, USDA said.
 
--The Minnesota Department of Agriculture  will host a series of waste pesticide collections in eight west central Minnesota counties from Monday, July 28th through Thursday, August 1st. Through these free collection events, Minnesota homeowners and farmers can safely dispose of unwanted and unusable pesticides. MDA has collected over 5.25 million pounds around the state since the program started in 1990.  The program accepts unwanted, unusable agricultural and consumer type pesticides including insecticides, fungicides, herbicides and rodenticides.  However, crop oils, adjuvants, pesticide rinsate, fertilizer, treated seed, contaminated soil and empty pesticide containers will not be accepted.  The collections are open to farmers, homeowners, commercial pesticide applicators, golf courses, lawn care companies, structural pest control operators and other pesticide users.  No pre-registration is required. Collection sites will accept up to 300 pounds of eligible product at no cost. MDA requests that citizens call 651-201-6562 to provide advance notification if they wish to drop off more than 300 pounds of product. One collections sites is in Todd County at the Prairie Lakes Coop south of Long Prairie on Monday, July 28th.  

--The Minnesota Department of Agriculture  will host a series of waste pesticide collections in eight west central Minnesota counties from Monday, July 28th through Thursday, August 1st. Through these free collection events, Minnesota homeowners and farmers can safely dispose of unwanted and unusable pesticides. MDA has collected over 5.25 million pounds around the state since the program started in 1990.  The program accepts unwanted, unusable agricultural and consumer type pesticides including insecticides, fungicides, herbicides and rodenticides.  However, crop oils, adjuvants, pesticide rinsate, fertilizer, treated seed, contaminated soil and empty pesticide containers will not be accepted.  The collections are open to farmers, homeowners, commercial pesticide applicators, golf courses, lawn care companies, structural pest control operators and other pesticide users.  No pre-registration is required. Collection sites will accept up to 300 pounds of eligible product at no cost. MDA requests that citizens call 651-201-6562 to provide advance notification if they wish to drop off more than 300 pounds of product. One collections sites is in Todd County at the Prairie Lakes Coop south of Long Prairie on Monday, July 28th.
 

 
 
 
Monday, June 14th 2014
Farm News
--Look for trade issues to make headlines this week as U.S. efforts continue to forge two major commercial treaties, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with 11 other Asia-Pacific nations, and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) with the European Union. Agricultural issues are among the major obstacles in both negotiations. U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and his top deputy, Wendy Cutter, are meeting with Japanese officials in Washington this week, seeking to make progress in the TPP talks, now almost a decade old. Multilateral negotiations, which did not involve top-level trade ministers, wrapped up in Ottawa on July 12 with no reports of breakthroughs. Japan has been resisting U.S. demands to make major cuts in its agricultural tariffs. Both countries are also seeking greater access to each other's automobile markets. President Obama has said he'd like to have a draft deal finished when he next visits Asia in November. The treaty would involve countries representing 40 percent of the global economy and almost 800 million people. In Europe, a sixth round of T-TIP negotiations will be taking place this week in Brussels. A major obstacle in the talks has been EU resistance to demands that it ease its rules against genetically-modified organisms (GMOs). A joint press conference with negotiators from both sides is set for Friday when the talks conclude. Meanwhile, a House Ways and Means subcommittee on Wednesday will be reviewing trade issues, specifically, what the World Trade Organization can do to more effectively address tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade, including sanitary and phytosanitary barriers to agricultural commerce that are not based on sound science.
 
 
 
 
Friday, July 11th 2014
Farm News
--The U.S. soybean crop will total a record 3.8 billion bushels, up 4.5 percent from the month-ago estimate, USDA said today in a monthly report. The department cited an increase in expected harvested acreage, as indicated in a June 30 acreage report. The previous crop came in at 3.289 billion bushels. Soybean exports in the marketing year that begins Sept. 1 will reach 1.675 billion bushels, up 50 million bushels from the June forecast, reflecting record U.S. supplies and cheaper prices. Ending stocks are projected at 415 million bushels, up 90 million from the June estimate. If realized, the supply would be the highest in eight years, USDA said. Average cash prices for the marketing year are forecast at $11 a bushel, down from an estimated $13 in the current year. USDA lowered its forecast for the corn harvest to 13.860 billion bushels, from 13.935 billion projected in July, again based on the June 30 acreage report. The department said the first survey-based forecast for corn, soybeans, cotton and rice will be released on Aug. 12. Analysts are predicting production well over 14 billion bushels, citing excellent growing conditions in many parts of the Corn Belt. Earlier this week, USDA said 75 percent of the crop nationally was in good or excellent condition, the best shape for this stage of development in more than a decade. The forecast for the average farm-gate price for the 2014-2015 crop year was lowered to $4 a bushel, from $4.20 projected in June and an estimated $4.45 in the current year.
 
--House Agriculture Committee members said at a hearing on Thursday they are worried about USDA's implementation of certain crop insurance provisions in the five-month old 2014 Farm Bill. At the same hearing, members on the General Farm Commodities and Risk Management subcommittee applauded USDA's Farm Service Agency for its timely deliverance of livestock disaster assistance. Through the Livestock Forage Program and Livestock Indemnity Program the agency has provided more than $1.2 billion to livestock producers, many of whom had been waiting for over two years for assistance. The only witness at the hearing, Michael Scuse, USDA's under secretary for farm and foreign agriculture services, provided an update on several commodity and conservation provisions included in the 2014 Farm Bill. Under the Farm Bill, a producer may choose to exclude any year from their APH if their yield in that year is less than 50 percent of the 10-year county average. Additionally, the final provision is retroactive, requiring a change not just to future yields, but also to the previous 10 years that can be used to calculate a producers' APH. Even though the provision technically allows farmers to exclude qualifying yields the day the law passed, Scuse said the information must still be verified by the agency in order to implement the changes.
Several members on the panel seemed concerned by the delay in APH adjustment, including Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., who said the APH adjustment in the farm bill is intended to provide relief “for anyone suffering from the prolonged drought.” However, Scuse noted that the agency is asking for compliance on June 15 of next year, but producers will have a period of time to adjust and come into compliance before the 2016 crop year without losing their subsidy. USDA has not determined the length of that time period. Scuse said FSA plans to implement MPP for dairy later this summer, and that he would consider sending an update to producers before it is finalized.
 
 
 
 
Thursday, July 10th 2014
Farm News
--An amendment that would provide additional funding to the Inland Waterways Trust Fund came up again today on Capitol Hill, in a Senate Finance Committee markup of bill to preserve the Highway Trust Fund. No action was taken on the measure. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Penn., has authored an amendment that would generate an estimated additional $80 million a year for the IWTF, according to Waterways Council Inc. WCI has members that include representatives from ports, waterways carriers, and agricultural producer groups, about 175 in total. The organization advocates for well-maintained ports and inland waterways. In today's markup for the highway bill, Casey was able to discuss - but not offer - the amendment and received words of support from committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore. Casey's amendment would increase the barge fuel tax by 9 cents a gallon, to 29 cents a gallon, to help pay for new construction and for infrastructure improvements to locks and dams along the 12,000 mile Inland Waterways System. Around 300 users of the system that would directly pay the increase unanimously support the amendment. Shortly after Casey discussed his amendment, the committee voted to report out the highway trust fund bill.



Wednesday July 9th 2014
Farm News
--The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) struck another blow in its seemingly endless battle with big oil companies for the American consumer's fuel dollar. RFA released a report Tuesday detailing practices that the organization says are preventing E15 (15 percent ethanol, 85 percent gasoline) and E85 from making it to many gas pumps across the country.  The report claims that while the five largest oil companies (Exxon, BP, ConocoPhillips, Chevron and Shell) may not own many retail gas stations, they still make it harder for higher blends of ethanol to make it to the consumer. RFA contends that the infrastructure and demand is in place to support distribution for E15 and E85, but monopolistic practices -- fuel contracts with supplier exclusivity or required warning labels on E85 dispensers, to name a few -- from the “Big Five” oil companies prevent independent retailers from providing the fuels. The report included a Consumer Choice Report Card, which graded retail gasoline chains on whether or not alternative fuel options were available at their outlets. Using Department of Energy Alternative Fuels Data Center figures, RFA marked 34 companies with an “F” for distributing E15 or E85 at less than 1 percent of branded stations. Using the data from the report card, RFA concluded that unbranded or independent stations are four to six times more likely to offer E15 than stations carrying a brand of one of the Big Five oil companies. In August, Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, asked the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate possible anticompetitive practices in the oil industry, but received a response Grassley described as “cookie cutter,” and little action was seen. Grassley hopes the information in this report will lead to further investigation from the FTC. As all parties involved await a ruling from the EPA on its proposal to reduce mandated biofuel use in the Renewable Fuel Standard, Dinneen pointed out that the renewable fuels and auto industries have responded to increased demand brought about by the RFS. Only one sector has refused to adapt, he said.

Tuesday, July 8th 2014
Farm News
--The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) has joined several agricultural groups in asking EPA to withdraw its “interpretive rule” concerning Clean Water Act (CWA) permit exemptions for certain farming activities near wetlands. EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers released the rule earlier this year at the same time as their proposal to define “Waters of the U.S.” The agency closed a public comment period for the interpretive rule on Monday, but comments on the Waters of the U.S. definition can be submitted until October 20th. Several agricultural organizations, including the American Farm Bureau Federation and National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) have also asked EPA to withdraw the interpretive rule, as well as the Waters of the U.S. proposal.

--Through the new Farm Bill, NRCS has been given the authority to enhance regional cooperation to more effectively implement and maintain conservation activities, thereby promoting the restoration and sustainable use of soil, water, wildlife, and related natural resources on regional or watershed scales. Through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), NRCS will co-invest in mobilizing creative and workable solutions to agricultural production and resource management challenges. These solutions will benefit not only individual farming, ranching, and forest operations, but also local economies and the communities and resource users in a watershed or other geographic area that depend on the quality of the natural resources. Through RCPP, NRCS will increase the opportunity for partners to bring innovative ideas and resources to accelerate conservation on private lands. RCPP partners will have the opportunity to join in this mission by developing project applications, as described in this notice, to address specific natural resource objectives in a proposed area or region. Partners will commit to activities to promote, implement, and evaluate the outcomes of conservation.   RCPP combines the authorities of four former conservation programs – the Agricultural Water Enhancement Program, Chesapeake Bay Watershed Program, Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI), and Great Lakes Basin Program. Assistance is delivered in accordance with the rules of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), and Healthy Forests Reserve Program (HFRP), and in certain areas, the Watershed Operations and Flood Prevention Program. The purpose of this notice is to announce the availability of nearly $400 million in CCC funding for RCPP and to solicit applications from potential partners who seek to enter into partnership agreements with NRCS under RCPP. Partners will work with producers and landowners to promote the restoration and sustainable use of natural resources on regional or watershed scales.



Monday, July 7th 2014
Farm News
--Raspberries and blueberries are peaking in southern and central Minnesota as the strawberry season is underway in the northern region of the state. Cool, wet weather delayed the growing season slightly, but berry lovers can expect a variety of berries ready to be picked and enjoyed throughout the state this month. In northern Minnesota, strawberry growers expect an exceptionally plentiful harvest. Ter-Lee Gardens in Bagley expects their strawberry harvest to start this week. The 2014 Minnesota Grown directory boasts 50 summer raspberry producers and 31 blueberry farms selling pick-your-own, pre-picked, or both. Minnesota Grown spokesperson Jessica Miles says visiting a pick-your-own berry farm is a fun, family-friendly summer day trip.  She suggests calling ahead before visiting to ensure availability of berries and favorable picking conditions. An interactive map feature on the Minnesota Grown website makes it easy to find a berry farm. The FREE, printed Minnesota Grown directory is also available and has easy-to-use lists, an index, and farms by region. Both of the resources are available at www.minnesotagrown.com, or you can order a print copy by calling 1-888-TOURISM.

--There may be lots of talk on Capitol Hill this week, but not necessarily legislative action, on a highway trust fund bill. Agricultural stakeholders are especially interested in how an amendment offered by Sen. Bob Casey, D-Penn., may fare. The amendment calls for a 9 cent per gallon increase in the barge fuel tax, which provides funds to improve the nation's inland waterways, which carry much of the nation's agricultural production to ports for export. The Iowa Corn Growers Association has issued a Call-to-Action to its members to contact lawmakers to show their support. Other agricultural organizations as well as the Waterways Council Inc. and the shipping industry back the amendment. In an op-ed last week, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, urged immediate action on the transportation bill, saying that a delay would mean postponed highway projects and higher unemployment. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, in a weekly call with reporters last week, said he expected action on the measure soon, but not necessarily this week. Meanwhile, various House and Senate committees have scheduled hearings on biotechnology, the surge of immigrants on the southern border, the EPA's “Waters of the U.S.” proposal, and the new Farm Bill's policies on commodities and crop insurance. The House is also scheduled to consider H.R. 4923 - the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. U.S. officials will also be working to get more American farm goods into foreign markets. They'll be in Ottawa, where trade negotiators continue their attempt to forge the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership. The sessions, which do not include trade ministers, began July 3 and continue through July 12. Deputy Agriculture Secretary Krysta Harden will be in China as part of the U.S. delegation to the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue. During the trip Harden will meet with Chinese importers of U.S. agricultural products and visit facilities that handle American products, including a soybean crushing facility and a denim factory.



Thursday, July 3rd 2014
Farm News
--The EPA today issued a rule designed to maintain liquidity in the market for the renewable identification numbers, or RINs, established under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS.) A second rule was issued listing additional fuels that can qualify for RINs and certifying corn kernel fiber as a “crop residue.” RINs are generated by renewable fuel producers and importers, representing volumes that meet the requirements for renewable fuel under the RFS program. They can be transferred between parties and used by petroleum refiners and importers to show compliance with their RFS volume obligations. EPA notes that cases of fraudulently generated RINs damage the RIN market, making it difficult for small renewable fuel producers to sell their RINs. The EPA said the Quality Assurance Program provides a way to ensure RINs are properly generated through a voluntary third-party assessment. A second EPA rule certified additional fuels that could qualify for cellulosic or advanced biofuel RINs under the RFS program. They include compressed natural gas, liquefied natural gas, and electricity used as transportation fuel produced from certain sources of biogas. The sources include landfills, municipal waste¬-water treatment facility digesters and agricultural digesters. The rule also specifies the number of cellulosic biofuel RINs that may be generated for fuel made from various cellulosic feedstocks, and provides guidance regarding the feedstocks that EPA considers to be crop residue, including clarification that corn kernel fiber is considered a crop residue.



Wednesday, July 2nd 2014
Farm News
--The Agricultural and Food Policy Center (AFPC) at Texas A&M University has released a preliminary version of a 2014 Farm Bill decision-aid tool for farmers. The Texas Corn Producers Board worked with AFPC to develop the tool. Financial assistance was also provided by USDA. Stephanie Pruitt, the board's communications director, said some farmers on the board have seen the product and are excited about it. The preliminary version of the tool helps farmers gather their information, enter the data, and analyze their options. Farmers can simply run analysis again when the final version is released, after USDA's Farm Service Agency finalizes its interpretations of the 2014 Farm Bill, to assist with making their farm-program decisions. The online tool is available on the AFPC website. Prior to using the tool, farmers are encouraged to watch or listen to two videos that explain how to enter the data.
 
--Diesel drivers on Minnesota roads and highways will be running on cleaner fuel this summer as they start filling up with the nation’s first, required 10 percent biodiesel blend. Known as B10, this higher blend will be sold annually from April 1 through September 30. A five percent mixture that works better in Minnesota’s winter weather, called B5, will be used between October and late March each year. “This new law puts Minnesota at the forefront of promoting cleaner, home-grown fuels,” said Governor Mark Dayton. “Minnesota’s nation-leading biodiesel mandate is great news for our state’s farmers – whose crops will now be in even greater demand – and another important step toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions.” Not only is switching to biodiesel a benefit for our environment, it is good for our economy. Minnesota biodiesel is a local product – mostly supplied by homegrown soybeans – which are one of the state’s leading cash crops. Biodiesel contributes more than $900 million annually to the Minnesota economy. “Growing our own renewable energy from our farming community strengthens our energy future moving forward,” said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. “Using products grown locally rather than importing into our state reduces our energy dependence.” Minnesota has always been a leader in biodiesel and has three plants in full production. The plants, located in Glenville, Brewster and Isanti, produce a combined 63 million gallons of biodiesel annually. The Minnesota Soybean Growers Association estimates B10 will create an additional demand of 20 million gallons of biodiesel each year, bringing total demand to 60 million gallons annually. “I’m pleased and proud to see a clean and renewable fuel being produced from seeds sown and soybeans grown, raised and harvested right here in Minnesota,” said Minnesota Department of Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson. “A strong agricultural future for our state is secured by value added opportunities like this, to produce and consume a higher blend of biodiesel.” Although only diesel drivers can burn the B10 blend, the effects of this new requirement are felt in rural economies, urban air quality and around the state’s workforce producing this homegrown renewable fuel.

--The hog dog in all its varieties - including corn dogs, sausages and chili dogs - will be celebrated in July during National Hot Dog Month. Special homage to the delicacy is reserved for the Fourth of July, when, according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council (NHDSC), 150 million hot dogs will be consumed. That's enough to stretch from D.C. to L.A. more than five times. NHDSC offers some tongue-in-cheek tips for Independence Day hot dog etiquette such as: Don't take more than five bites to finish a hot dog, don't use ketchup on your hot dog after age 18, and never use utensils with hot dogs. The tips are optional, of course, but celebrating the Fourth of July without a hot dog is clearly not. The unofficial hot dog season runs from Memorial Day through Labor Day, NHDSC says, a period when Americans consume 818 hot dogs every second for a total of 7 billion hot dogs. In May, the corn dog was named regional “top dog” of hot dogs, according to a national survey. The New York dog, with mustard and onions, was the second choice, followed by the Chicago version featuring mustard, onions, relish, tomato slices, a dill pickle spear, a sport pepper and celery salt on a poppy seed bun. The survey was conducted among 2,100 U.S. adults above age 18 by the Harris Poll for NHDSC. This year, NHDSC is running a hot dog selfie contest through July 14. They are looking for unique photos of hot dog fans with their favorite hot dog. The best photo taken at Ben's Chili Bowl in Washington, D.C., wins a gift card to the legendary hot dog outlet. Riley said national hot dog month began in the 1950's and has been sponsored by NHDSC since 1994. On July 23, on the official National Hot Dog Day, they will host a celebration on Capitol Hill, which usually draws more than 1,000 people.




Tuesday, July 1st 2014
Farm News
--The three members of North Dakota's congressional  delegation are urging the National Corn Growers Association to house the new National Agricultural Genotyping Center in Fargo, on the North Dakota State University (NDSU) campus. In a letter to the NCGA, Senators Heidi Heitkamp and John Hoeven and Rep. Kevin Cramer said the center would be able to use existing research infrastructure and to collaborate with scientists at NDSU. They described the opportunity as a “win-win” for all parties involved. The USDA's Agricultural Research Service has a facility on the NDSU campus. The National Agricultural Genotyping  Center is a non-profit corporation that focuses on agricultural research to develop new tests for plant diseases in corn, soybeans, and other crops. It is being established through a partnership with NCGA, the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center. According to a press release from Heitkamp, NDSU is the ideal location for the center because of its affiliation with USDA's Red River Valley Agricultural Research Center, its 14 public crop-breeding programs and a new advanced greenhouse. North Dakota is also the leading state in crop diversity with 42 varieties eligible for planting each year, she noted. The goals of the project are to help increase food production, security and safety, to make high-throughput genotyping available to all agriculturists, and to drive business development in the bio-economy.

--About 84.8 million acres in the U.S. were planted with soybeans this year, up 11 percent from last year, as growers chased the higher prices offered by the oilseed in relation to corn, USDA said today in a report based on a survey of thousands of farmers in early June. Some 91.6 million acres were planted with corn, down 4 percent from 2013 and the lowest planted acres in the U.S. since 2010, USDA said. Still, it's the fifth largest planted acreage for the crop since 1944. In a USDA survey in March, farmers said they intended to plant 81.5 million acres with soybeans and 91.7 million acres with corn. Corn is the biggest U.S. crop, followed by soybeans. For corn, 93 percent of the acreage was planted with biotech varieties, up from 90 percent in 2013. About 94 percent of the soybean crop was sown with biotech seeds, up from 93 percent. The figure for cotton was 96 percent, up from 90 percent, USDA said. In a separate report, USDA said unsold supplies of U.S. corn totaled 3.85 billion bushels as of June 1, up 39 percent from a year earlier. Usage for the three-month period from March through May was indicated at 3.15 billion bushels, up from 2.63 billion in the same period a year earlier. Soybean stockpiles were reported at 405 million bushels as the month began, down 7 percent from June 1, 2013. Indicated disappearance for the quarter ended May 31 totaled 589 million bushels, up 4 percent from a year earlier, USDA said. All wheat old-crop supplies on June 1 were 590 million bushels, USDA said, down 18 percent from a year earlier. The March-May indicated disappearance was 467 million bushels, down 10 percent from the same period a year earlier.

--The Commodity Credit Corporation borrowing rate for July is .125 percent.  Crop commodity loans are at 1.125 percent. Farm Storage Facility Loans are at the following rates: 7-year loans, 2.125 percent; 10-year loans, 2.625 percent; and 12-year loan terms are at 2.75 percent.

--Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack yesterday announced continued progress in implementing provisions of the 2014 Farm Bill that provide new risk management options for farmers and ranchers. These improvements to crop insurance programs will provide better protection from weather disaster, market volatility and other risk factors to ensure farmers aren't wiped out by events beyond their control. Vilsack also announced new support for beginning farmers that will make crop insurance more affordable and provide greater support when new farmers experience substantial losses. These announcements build on other recent USDA efforts to support beginning farmers. The Farm Bill authorizes specific coverage benefits for beginning farmers and ranchers starting with the 2015 crop year. The changes announced today exempt new farmers from paying the $300 administrative fee for catastrophic policies. New farmers' premium support rates will also increase ten percentage points during their first five years of farming. Beginning farmers will also receive a greater yield adjustment when yields are below 60 percent of the applicable transitional yield. These incentives will be available for most insurance plans in the 2015 crop year and all plans by 2016. Starting in the fall of 2014, producers who till native sod and plant an annual crop on that land will see reductions in their crop insurance benefits during the first four years. Native sod is acreage that has never been tilled, or land which a producer cannot substantiate has ever been tilled for the production of a crop. The provision applies to acreage in all counties in Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota that is greater than five acres per policy and is producing annual crops.

--U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced yesterday the allocation of $5 million to support 19 projects under the National Clean Plant Network funded under the Agriculture Act of 2014. NCPN-funded facilities provide high-quality propagative plant material that is free of plant pathogens and pests that can otherwise cause economic losses to the American specialty crop industry, which includes fruits and vegetables and other crops. The Farm Bill funds provided to the NCPN help maintain the infrastructure necessary for growing disease and pest-free plants, improving diagnostic capabilities and providing therapeutic treatments in specialty crop plants, and establishing foundation stock . The goal is to make sure that disease-free, certified planting materials are available and ensure the global competitiveness of U.S. specialty crop producers. This year, 22 proposals requesting $7.8 million were submitted to NCPN to support developing and propagating pest-free fruit trees, grapes, hops, berries, citrus, roses and sweet potatoes. The NCPN Governing Board, which is comprised of representatives from USDA APHIS along with representatives from USDA's Agricultural Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture, and members of the National Plant Board, recommended the projects to be funded and the level of funding. The first priority for funding was given to projects that support existing facilities with established capabilities for maintaining and providing nuclear/foundation stock, and for conducting diagnostics and different therapeutic treatments. These facilities develop clean or disease-free plant material to the nursery industry, enabling growers to establish healthy orchards/vineyards/field plantings.