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Close up of new high-tech gasoline pumps with a range of ethanol blends Lon Tonneson
MORE CHOICE: A range of ethanol blends is offered by new high-tech gasoline pumps.

Finally, some good ag news for a change

Inside Dakota Ag: Although U.S. agriculture has a long road to recovery, there are encouraging signs.

Despite the COVID-19 crisis, there are some good things happening for Dakota agriculture. Here are just a few of the bright spots in ag recently:

Planting better

Planting has gone better for many farmers in the Dakotas than it did last year. South Dakota is pretty much done planting most crops. North Dakota may have some prevented planting acres in the northeast and central parts of the state, but in other areas crops are up and growing.

E15 expansion

The North Dakota Corn Utilization Council and the North Dakota Ethanol Council have launched the North Dakota Unleaded88 Expansion Program. The goal is to partner with fuel retailers to provide drivers with Unleaded88, a higher octane fuel containing 15% ethanol and 85% gasoline.

“Expanding the availability of Unleaded88 creates more market stability when the agriculture industry is struggling with a number of significant uncertainties,” said Terry Wehlander, chairman of the North Dakota Corn Utilization Council, in a statement issued by the organization.

Biotech crop approval

USDA has approved a new biotech rule that will reduce regulatory costs and development costs for new plant varieties.

“We are pleased with USDA’s final rule streamlining the regulatory process for low-risk biotech crops to come to market,” said Caleb Ragland, Magnolia, Ky., chairman of the American Soybean Association’s regulatory committee, in a statement. “By establishing a common-sense regulatory process to ensure new biotech plants varieties are reviewed quickly with predictable timelines and allowed to go to market if they pose no risk, soybean growers can remain efficient and competitive through this continued access to innovation.”

Soy running shoes

Skechers is using soy-based rubber technology in its running shoes to improve grip, stability and durability, according to the United Soybean Board.

Skechers plans to use of soy rubber in its trail, work and safety footwear categories in the future, too. The company collaborated with Goodyear Tire and Rubber, which uses the same product in many of its tires.

Goodyear recently announced it will be increasing its use of soy oil rubber technology by 25% in 2020.

Many exports higher

According to a recent South Dakota Corn blog, U.S. export news is encouraging.

Chinese companies bought more than 1 million metric tons of soybeans and 686,000 metric tons of corn in May. In fact, in a 10-week period, gross sales of U.S. corn and pork were about eight times more than in 2017 before the start of the trade war.

Vietnam purchased three bulk vessels of dried distillers grains in a 60-day period. Feed demand for poultry, swine and aquaculture continues to grow in Vietnam. That country also made a policy step that opens up the opportunity to buy U.S. sorghum.

Canada, the No. 2 buyer of U.S. ethanol, will have a new clean fuel standard take effect in 2021, which opens up potential demand for increased ethanol sales. Ontario already started to transition to increased ethanol use.

The U.S. exported nearly 140 million gallons of ethanol to nearly four dozen countries in March, the latest month that comprehensive statistics were available from at press time. That’s very similar to the total for March 2019, pre-pandemic. The Philippines is the No. 6 buyer of U.S. ethanol, with a current 10% ethanol mandate and is considering going to 20%.

Mexico was the big buyer of U.S. corn during the last week of April at 141,000 metric tons, followed by Colombia at 139,600 tons and Saudi Arabia at 110,500 tons. Guatemala bought 76,400 tons of U.S. corn, and Taiwan purchased 74,900 tons.

Even though USDA reduced its annual forecast for pork and beef and exports, it still expects pork exports to be higher than in 2019, and beef exports to be down only about 9% compared with 2019. Many foreign countries prefer cuts of meat that are not popular in the U.S. so they aren’t directly competing with domestic demand.

More than 17,471 tons of pork were shipped to China in the week ending April 30, compared with just 3,879 tons in the same week last year, USDA figures show.

More to come

While there is still a long way to go in our economic recovery, according to South Dakota Corn’s blog, “the signs of opportunities and progress are encouraging.”

Amen to that. I hope the good news keeps coming.

Comment? Email lon.tonneson@farmprogress.com.

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