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Articles from 2019 In October

dot-robot2-sized.jpg Dot Technology Corp.
BIG SPRAYER, NO DRIVER: The Dot Technology Corp autonomous vehicle already works with several different tools including this Pattison Connect sprayer. More implements are on the way.

Ag autonomy company enters new agreement

Startups have great ideas and there are a lot of them out there. But moving from idea phase to commercial success isn’t always easy. And making that leap often means a need for more resources. Dot Technology Corp. has carved an interesting niche in the ag-focused autonomous vehicle world and that work is getting a boost.

Dot has entered and agreement with Raven Industries, which involves the latter company acquiring a majority ownership interest in Dot. “It takes a lot of horsepower to make this thing go,” says Robert Saik, CEO, Dot Technology Corp. “We’ve been collaborating with Raven for more than a year and a half on guidance and monitoring.”

Saik explained that Dot was founded by Norbert Beaujot, who also owns SeedMaster, and made the initial investment to get the startup going. He adds that Beaujot invested heavily in the startup, and the Raven investment will help move the process toward full commercialization along. Beaujot named the company, and the robot, Dot after his wife Dorothy, Saik adds.

Raven will be leveraging the resources Dot has created in Regina, Sask., to build a broadacre-focused autonomy company. The company will continue to operate as Dot Technology Corp., and Saik will remain as CEO. “Raven wants us to work hard on Western Canada and the market we know best,” he says. “Dot was developed for that part of the country.” He acknowledges that earlier this year, the company did show off a row crop planter attachment, but that’s not an area of focus at this time.

“We have enough work to do and market here in our own backyard, and Raven is not changing that,” Saik says.

Adds Dan Rykhus, president and CEO, Raven Industries: “We are furthering our investment in and ownership of this unique, disruptive technology. By investing in Dot’s growth, we believe we have the ability to lead in the next revolution of production agriculture.”

Saik says the Raven purchase is good news because the Beaujot company did invest a lot in the startup. In addition, there’s good news for employees because the company stays where it is, and the work continues. “And it’s great news for farmers who are always looking at startups and wondering if they have the horsepower to stay,” he says. “It signals a good message to short line implement manufacturers too since this is an open architecture product and open to Dot-ready implements.”

He points to New Leader, Pattison and SeedMaster, as shortliners already making tools for Dot.

As for the startup and its expansion into the market? Saik says for now they sell and service machines within driving distance of the plant. How the dealer development strategy evolves will be determined in the future.

Changes at Raven

Ahead of the Dot announcement, Raven had issued a release about its strategic platforms for growth. For the future the company will advance two strategy platforms – Raven Autonomy and Raven Composites.

According to the statement the company released, the two platforms are a “result of the development and growth in these key markets and directly align with the company’s business model.” Raven is targeting autonomous ag technology which is expected to develop quickly over the next five years. The Dot investment is part of that strategy.

Raven Autonomy is designed to propel the Applied Technology Division to become an industry leader in autonomous solutions. The work will build in the companies established machine control technology. And Raven will work to innovate smart machine platforms and implements to achieve fully autonomous solutions for the farm.

Raven Composites will work to expand the Engineered Films Division working in reinforced composites. The work in this division will aim to innovate solutions to deliver thinner, lighter and stronger composites within the transportation, construction, automotive and packaging markets. The new materials would become alternatives to wood, metal and thicker plastics as designers work to reduce weight and improve strength and durability, according to the company.

Rykhus notes that to fully realize the company’s growth potential increased investment is needed across these areas. “We have been investing in R&D, production capabilities, strategic acquisitions, leadership development and a new enterprise resource planning software for quite some time -and now we are going to invest further. Together, these provide a solid foundation for executing this bolder strategy.”

The Dot Technology investment is the latest move by Raven’s Applied Technology Division. The transaction is expected to slow in November 2019.

You can learn more about Dot and its products at And learn more about Raven Applied Technology at

WFP_Todd_Fitchette_Farmworkers-7.jpg Todd Fitchette
Undocumented agricultural workers could gain U.S. citizenship under plan currently in the House of Representatives.

Immigration bill has wide support among agriculture and labor

A bipartisan House bill appears to have wide support among U.S. agriculture and the United Farm Workers Union. A long list of supporters was included in information released Oct. 30 that included national and state associations across the country.

Dubbed the “Farm Workforce Modernization Act,” the bill by Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., and a host of other U.S. Representatives seeks to provide earned legalization for certified agricultural workers, improve the H-2A program, and establish a mandatory e-verify program for the agricultural sector.

The bill was negotiated over several months with input from agricultural organizations and labor unions, according to a statement from Lofgren’s office. The act promises farmers a legal, reliable workforce while enacting the kind of merit-based immigration reform President Trump wants.

Provisions in bill include, but are not limited to:

  • Applicants must show at least 180 days of agricultural employment over the last two years;
  • Qualified applicants will receive five-year renewable agricultural visas and have an option for permanent resident status;
  • H-2A visa program improvements;
  • Wage reform; and,
  • Language said to streamline the filing of applications.

California farm leaders and local political leaders from various San Joaquin Valley locations, including several mayors, praised the news at a press conference hosted by the Nisei Farmers League in Fresno. Several pointed out that this is the first real attempt at significant immigration reform that aids American agriculture since Ronald Reagan was President.

“It was 33 years ago that we last dealt with immigration in this country in a major way, and here we are today trying to continue with what President Reagan started,” said Ryan Jacobsen, chief executive officer of the Fresno County Farm Bureau.

“This bill finally brings our priorities to the forefront,” said California Fresh Fruit Association President Ian LeMay.

According to LeMay, the bill allows agricultural workers who are otherwise here illegally or without documents to come into the certified agricultural worker program, bringing their families with them. He praised the changes it makes to H-2A, which he says are “meaningful and long overdue.”

On the enforcement side, LeMay continued by saying the bill’s e-verify provisions will address that.

While the bill is of interest to those in labor-intensive operations that include tree fruit and table grapes, even highly mechanized industries such like the pistachio industry are backing the bill.

“What happens in one part of agriculture affects all parts of it and needed immigration reform would provide agricultural employees for all of San Joaquin Valley Agriculture,” said American Pistachio Growers Executive Director Richard Matoian.

Eriburto Fernandez, United Farmworkers Foundation Regional Coordinator, said the UFW was part of the negotiations with Republican leaders and American agriculture that culminated in the introduction of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act.

“Throughout these negotiations there has been some challenging moments, but we are glad that an agreement was reached that would benefit hundreds of thousands of farmworkers throughout the United States,” Fernandez said. “It’s time for all American agricultural workers and their immediate families to be relieved from the palpable fear that paralyzes communities and threatens the stability of the agricultural industry.”

In a prepared statement, California Farm Bureau President Jamie Johansson said the immigration bill should enhance the lives of agricultural employees and their families, allowing them to earn legal status through continued agricultural employment.

“The people who work on farms and ranches are valued members of rural communities,” Johansson said. “Their contributions to our communities and our food systems should be recognized by a chance to gain legal status.”

Fowler, Calif. Mayor David Cardenas says the legislation should help bring agricultural workers from the shadows of the community because of their illegal status.

“We know all the disadvantages that immigrants that are not legal in the United States face,” he said. They go out to work in hiding, coming out early in the morning to try to be at the work sites before anything else can happen against their will.”

Cardenas said giving a pathway to citizenship for existing agricultural workers should bring peace, harmony, trust and confidence in that community, and will benefit entire families.

Other public statements released after the Lofgren bill was announced came from California Citrus Mutual, an Exeter-based commodity-specific organization that relies heavily on manual labor, and Western Growers Association, a southern California based association representing farmers of fresh produce in Arizona, California, Colorado and New Mexico.

“This legislation is critical to the sustainability of the fresh produce industry and our continued ability to grow fresh and health citrus products in California,” said California Citrus Mutual President Casey Creamer in the prepared statement.

“The Farm Workforce Modernization Act address two critical needs for American agriculture: to retain existing, experienced workers and to ensure a reliable future flow of guest workers,” said Tom Nassif, president and chief executive officer of Western Growers. “What lies ahead is a very important process that will require the support of both political parties and the President.”

KCAnimalHealth.jpg KC Animal Health

Final Kansas City location determined for ERS, NIFA

It has been a month since the relocated offices of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (ERS) and National Institute of Food & Agriculture (NIFA) reported for work in the Kansas City region. On Thursday, USDA announced that it signed a lease for permanent office space at 805 Pennsylvania Ave. in downtown Kansas City, Mo., to serve as the new home to the two agencies, which were uprooted from their previous locations in Washington., D.C.

The uncertainty of the final office location – whether on the Kansas or Missouri side of the Greater Kansas City region – caused many employees to hesitate on making the move. In a statement, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the announcement of the permanent home for ERS and NIFA will “provide clarity on commute times and work/life balance for our employees.”

Perdue added, “The region is not only a hub for agriculture in America’s heartland but is also already proving to be a diverse talent pool in proximity to many land-grant and research universities. I’m confident Kansas City will continue to be a great home for the future of ERS and NIFA.”

In August 2018, Perdue announced the relocation plans, and by May, the Kansas City region was selected, but a permanent location was not named. Since Sept. 30, 2019 -- the first day to report for work as part of the relocation efforts -- both agencies have been housed in USDA’s Beacon Center and will remain in that space until the build-out of the permanent office is completed.

The move has brought an intense amount of opposition from past administrators as well as lawmakers on Capitol Hill. At a House biotechnology, horticulture and research subcommittee hearing earlier in October, discussion on the ERS and NIFA move to Kansas City dominated the hearing. Subcommittee chair Stacey Plaskett (D., V.I.) noted that 214 of the 329 appropriated positions at ERS are vacant. NIFA has 264 vacant positions out of 336 funded positions. USDA deputy undersecretary for research, education and economics Scott Hutchins noted that the hiring process has "accelerated tremendously."

An August 2019 report from the USDA Inspector General concluded that USDA had not received congressional approval, as required under law, for the move. In a letter to leaders of the House and Senate appropriations committees, concerned members noted that employees were given 33 days to decide whether they would accept relocation to a temporary location in Kansas City or lose their position.

“Although the USDA has granted requests for employees to telework on a case-by-case basis through the end of the year, as of Sept. 30, just 16 ERS employees and 45 NIFA employees have relocated to Kansas City,” the letter stated.

The members expressed concern that with only a fraction of reassigned employees opting to relocate, they were extremely concerned that the relocation would jeopardize the ability of ERS and NIFA "to continue their critical work as well as cause irreparable harm to the federal scientific workforce.”

In its announcement, USDA continued to offer reasons for relocating the offices: as a means to improve USDA’s ability to attract and retain staff with training and interests in agriculture; to place USDA resources closer to many of its stakeholders and to offer cost savings to American taxpayers.

With this new lease in Kansas City, the federal government will realize “significant savings” USDA said, which can be attributed to lower lease costs in the Kansas City region and to improved efficiencies, resulting in a smaller physical footprint realized through the co-location of the two agencies. Additional savings were realized due to the commitments of local and state stakeholders, including the state of Missouri; the Missouri Partnership; the Port Authority of Kansas City, Mo.; the city of Kansas City, Mo.; the Kansas City Area Development Council; the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City; the Kansas City Power & Light/Energy Co., and the University of Missouri.

The Missouri and Kansas delegation welcomed the site selection.

“With the National Bio & Agro-defense facility, the crucial research occurring throughout the KC Animal Health Corridor and Kansas’ school system and job market nearby for the families of the employees, both Kansas and Missouri will reap the benefits of this relocation. There are already several other USDA agencies in the area currently working with stakeholders, and I am committed to ensuring the agricultural research that will occur at this new location will not only benefit the employees but the agriculture community nationwide,” Senate Agriculture Committee chairman Pat Roberts (R., Kan.) said.

In a joint statement from the congressional members, Sen. Josh Hawley (R., Mo.), added, “Moving these agencies to the heartland will help policy-makers better collaborate with the ag community they serve."

Rep. Roger Marshall (R., Kan.) said he will continue to work with colleagues in both chambers and on both sides of the aisle to continue to support the relocation in any way he can.

A long exposure of an elevated view of Kansas City, Missouri skyline at night. tomofbluesprings/ThinkstockPhotos

USDA selects permanent site in Kansas City

USDA has selected 805 Pennsylvania Avenue in downtown Kansas City, Mo., as the site for the Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture office.

“We’re excited to announce ERS and NIFA’s new, permanent home in downtown Kansas City, Missouri, and provide clarity on commute times and work-life balance for our employees,” said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. “Both agencies have been hard at work in the Beacon Center after relocating to the region over a month ago, and signing this lease is an important next step to facilitate their long-term efficiency, effectiveness, and service to our customers.”

Perdue announced the two agencies would be relocated to Kansas City in June. Kansas City was selected from a field of 136 from 35 states who submitted bids to host the offices. Perdue announced the relocation of the offices in August 2018.

Lawmakers from Kansas and Missouri praised the relocation, which has been controversial since it was announced.

“I’ve long advocated that USDA’s ERS and NIFA relocate to the Kansas City metropolitan area, knowing that regardless of what side of the border these facilities would land, it would be a positive development for the regional economy and so many institutions across Kansas and Missouri,” said Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas.

“I’m pleased to join the Kansas and Missouri delegations in welcoming these USDA facilities to the Kansas City Metro,” said Rep. Sharice Davids, D-Kansas. “Regardless of which side of the state line these facilities fall on, this move benefits our region as a whole, and positions these facilities closer to the people they serve. It also benefits the USDA, as our region has a wealth of institutional knowledge about the critical issues and opportunities facing our agricultural community.”

“Bringing these two important ag research agencies closer to the people they serve and the leading research institutions that support their mission is the right move,” said Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri. “There are tremendous opportunities and challenges ahead for the U.S. ag industry. In farm states like ours, ERS and NIFA can have a big impact on how farmers and ranchers operate every day and how they’ll move into the future. We’re glad to have them joining the more than 5,000 USDA employees and contractors who already call our area home.”

Blake Hurst, Missouri Farm Bureau president, said Missouri farmers are excited to hear NIFA and ERS will soon call downtown Kansas City, Missouri, home.

“U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue’s announcement recognizes what we already knew: Missouri is the epicenter of agriculture in the United States,” Hurst said.

Source: USDA and Kansas and Missouri congressional delegations, Missouri Farm Bureau, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset. 

WFP_Todd_Fitchette_Musco_Olives-269.jpg Todd Fitchette
Felix Musco, president of Musco Family Olive Company, is optimistic about the direction of the U.S. industry after a trade commission win last year enacted tariffs on imported olives. Musco is helping lead an industry charge to mechanize the harvest process and modernize growing practices to improve efficiencies.

Musco Family Olive Company optimistic of industry's future

Growers blindsided earlier this year by news that their contracts were being immediately cancelled saw a new dawn emerge when a competing processor stepped in with offers to buy that fruit.

Last March, growers with Bell-Carter Foods learned suddenly that their contracts would be terminated. The timing couldn’t have been worse as farmers faced a new growing season and no time to recover from their losses.

Blindsided by the cancellations, many of those growers would shed tears of joy three weeks later when Musco Family Olive Company stepped in and offered contracts for the 2019 season.


In its cancellation letter to growers, Bell-Carter Foods cited the need to “compete in a global marketplace” as reason for terminating the contracts. For Musco Family Olive Company, a family-run table olive processor with Italian roots, taking on the new contracts fit with company plans and the new life breathed into the industry by the 2018 U.S. International Trade Commission win.

Third generation owner and Chief Executive Officer Felix Musco looks back at the anti-dumping dispute that led to a 37.5 percent tariff on imported black olives as the breath of life the U.S. industry needed to move forward with plans to modernize the table olive industry and make it competitive in global markets.

Musco wouldn’t say just how many former Bell-Carter growers were given new contracts, though he did characterize it as “a significant number of them.”

Industry Optimism

The trade dispute win allows U.S. table olive growers to modernize an industry plagued by high input costs through hand-harvested fruit. Advances in technology and leadership within the small industry is pushing to mechanically harvest the crop with machines like those used for harvesting pistachios and prunes.

New orchard designs are already being employed to boost tree counts to 250 per acre on double-line drip – proven methods that will reduce input costs and help grow the industry Musco says already enjoys positive perceptions from domestic and international buyers for its high quality.

The move could also help the company solidify its leading role in the industry as a provider of ripe olives to institutional markets and consumers, which it does under its own label.

“We do a lot of private label as well,” Musco said.

Musco offers conventional and certified organic olives to a host of markets both institutional and private consumer. Its consumer-based “Olives on the Go” packaging offers customers a convenient way to snack on olives from packaging that does not need refrigeration and can easily be carried.

Musco’s confidence in the direction of the U.S. table olive industry is such that he is offering upwards of one million table olive trees for free to growers willing to commit to modern, mechanical harvest of table olives. He hopes to have 5,000 acres of modern table olive orchards, defined as trees and fruit capable of mechanical harvesting, being harvested within five years.

The company’s Tracy processing plant is also undergoing expansion as it seeks to further its sustainability. New ponding basins will be complete later this year, increasing capacity in the closed loop system, ensuring the plant can fully recycle additional water used in processing as it takes on higher volumes of fruit.

The ponding basins are part of a system that allows Musco to grow NyPa, a type of salt-loving forage grass irrigated by the brackish wastewater left over from processing the olives. Over 100 acres of the grass is grown on the hillsides next to the processing plant, eliminating its need for the plant to be connected to the local public water treatment system, according to John Pieretti, vice president of plant operations.

Most of the water generated from the olive processing can be land-applied to irrigate the NyPa, while the rest is stored in holding ponds. Consistent winds in the region that are used to power wind generators in the area aids this process by speeding up the evaporation on these ponds. Once that water is evaporated and the remaining materials are dried, they can be easily removed.

Processing Olives

Musco receives olives at two plants – one in the southern San Joaquin Valley community of Lindsay and the other in the Sacramento Valley community of Orland. After the fruit is graded at the two facilities it is trucked to its Tracy facility, where it undergoes processing and storage. Fruit can be moved through the system year-round because of the ability to store unfinished fruit in a host of onsite tanks.

Olives are picked and arrive unripened. They are initially processed that way until the time to debitter the fruit, remove the pits and turn it black prior to packaging in the various forms Musco offers.

Pits removed from the olives are later sold for biomass.

Growing Olives

Dennis Burreson is a Northern California olive grower and Musco’s vice president of field operations and industry affairs. He’s grown olives much of his life and is likewise optimistic about the industry in the wake of changes in U.S. trade policy and technology.

Burreson recently took advantage of the company’s offer to provide nursery stock, planting additional acreage of olives earlier this year between Corning and Orland that he expects to mechanically harvest for the first time in 2021.

He now has 400 acres of table olives as part of 1,500 acres of farming operations that includes almonds and walnuts. He recently pulled the last of his prune trees and years earlier stopped growing blueberries as he looked ahead to streamlining his olive production.

“The economics are quite favorable for olives,” he said.

Culturally, the trees are trimmed differently to allow machines to attach to the trunk and shake the olives off the tree. Unlike previous practices that barely trim olive trees and leave branches hanging almost to the ground, modern practices will shape the trees much like an almond tree in stature and size.

This year’s olive crop was exceptional for Burreson, who showcased an orchard he said yielded 10 tons per acre. At current prices, this is more profitable than almonds or walnuts, he said.

“Ten tons is exceptional,” he said. “Then again, maybe it’s not if we do it right.”

Olives are alternate bearing, meaning they tend to produce heavy crops every other year. Burreson believes good yields from well-managed olive trees during “on-year” production should yield over seven tons per acre.

Another benefit to olives is their drought tolerance. Using double-line drip irrigation, Burreson says he can irrigate with less than two acre-feet per year – or less than half of what almond trees need to produce effectively. Olives also tend to be better anchored to the ground than almonds, which is a consideration in regions like the Sacramento Valley, where strong winds in the spring, combined with water-saturated soils, can easily topple trees with shallow root systems.

Table olives see resurgence in California

California table olive production received a breath of life last year when the U.S. International Trade Commission agreed with American growers that foreign subsidies were unfairly harming the U.S. industry. This led to a 37.5 percent tariff on imported olives.

Musco Family Olive Company in Tracy, Calif. benefitted from this, and shortly thereafter gave new contracts to California growers who had their contracts from Bell-Carter suddenly terminated at the beginning of the 2019 growing season.

Musco is working to grow the California industry by offering a limited number of nursery trees at no cost to growers willing to engage in mechanical harvest practices and other modern practices within their olive orchards. The comnpany is also embarked on the expansion of their Tracy processing plant.

gas prices rise

Few stations offer E15

By Jeffrey Bair and Jacquelyn Melinek

Donald Trump’s effort to boost corn demand by allowing year-round sales of ethanol-blended gasoline has run into a logistical problem. Few stations offer it.

In corn country, gasoline with a 15% blend of ethanol is now pretty accessible year-round. But in large population states including California, New York and Texas it remains limited, and individual station owners are hesitating to put up the money to retrofit their pumps.

In a nod to the president’s Midwest voter base, U.S. officials in May allowed summertime sales of E15 gasoline containing up to 15% ethanol, a fuel made from corn and other crops. That move offered the promise of a surge in year-round sales, potentially stealing market share from the E10 mix. But while 30 states now have stations selling E15 year-round, the number offering it nationally is below 2,000, mostly located in Minnesota and Iowa. according to the Growth Energy trade association.

In oil-mad Texas, for instance, gas made with no ethanol whatsoever is getting more of a boost, with the number of stations offering it rising to 283 in two years.

“The largest challenge for E15 is getting more states to change their laws to allow it,” Corey Lavinsky, a biofuels analyst at S&P Global Platts, said in an interview. “Demand should not be an issue. E15 can be sold at a lower price than the competitor across the street selling E10.”

But to get there, stations need to spend as much as a quarter-million dollars to retrofit their pumps and do a better job marketing E15 as a less expensive, higher-octane alternative for consumers at the pump.

“The market is going to drive this. If there is demand for a product, our guys are going to be the ones to sell it,” said Paige Anderson, government relations director at the National Association of Convenience Stores.

A new Trump administration plan outlined on Oct. 4 aims to stoke U.S. demand for ethanol, in part by seeking greater funding for infrastructure projects to get higher biofuel blends to consumers. Under that deal, the Environmental Protection Agency also will pursue streamlining requirements for labels meant to prevent motorists from dispensing E15 into automobiles not authorized to use the fuel, amid criticism from ethanol producers the warnings scare off consumers.

Boaters, bikers and recreational vehicle owners complain that it negatively affects gasoline that’s unused over time, and older cars can’t handle it. That’s led to some general skepticism by all carmakers.

There is some progress. In Midwest corn belt states, more stations are offering E15 and more motorists are buying it. In Minnesota, for instance, 50.6 million gallons of E15 had been sold by the end of August, according to the state’s Commerce Department. By the end of this month, the amount sold is expected top the 59.4 million gallons sold in all of 2018.

New York Savings

And in New York state, regulators are taking public comment on how to sell it and could become the 31st state to approve its sale. New York’s commissioner of agriculture and markets’ office, which said that 90% of New York vehicles can take E15, estimates savings of 4 to 10 cents a gallon because of the larger share of ethanol.

Meanwhile, buyers of 0% ethanol covet purity, with ethanol-blended fuel having 60 to 80 components when compared with 16 for E0, said Andy Deel, division manager of consumer products at retail seller VP Racing Fuels in San Antonio, Texas. “It’s like a small-batch whiskey,” he said. “We only put what we think should be in the product.”

Retailer Buc-ee’s will add E0 pumps at a store in Ennis near Dallas in the first quarter of 2020 to give it 14 such outlets. Racetrac, Murphy USA and QuikTrip also added the grade in the state.

“Texas is going a little bit retro,” said Tony Castro, fuel director at Circle K in San Antonio.

To be sure, ethanol-free gasoline is more of a curiosity than a market mover and is hard to find in big cities lacking boaters and hunters.

New York leads the nation with about 1,000 E0 stations with the recent additions of E0 at Stewart’s Shops. Stewart’s added the grade at 275 upstate stores to fill demand for boats, ATVs and lawn-care equipment, spokeswoman Erica Komoroske said.

Adding ethanol is certain to boost octane, which could woo some drivers. The 750-store Racetrac chain brands its E15 as Unleaded 88, higher than the typical 87-octane for regular gasoline, and sells it at about 200 stores.

“What the consumer has told us is they like more affordable fuel,” said Michael O’Brien, vice president for market development at Growth Energy. “They like that the octane is higher with E15, so that’s better for the engine, and they like that they are doing something for the environment.”

--With assistance from Jennifer A. Dlouhy.
To contact the reporters on this story:
Jeffrey Bair in Houston at;
Jacquelyn Melinek in New York at
To contact the editors responsible for this story:
David Marino at
Reg Gale, Catherine Traywick
© 2019 Bloomberg L.P.

State board to hear report on California's ag future

The California State Board of Food and Agriculture will hear a presentation from the UC Agricultural Issues Center on California’s Agricultural Future and have updates on CDFA’s CalCannabis and Farmer Equity programs at its upcoming meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 5.

The Board will also hear from the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance. The meeting will be held from 10:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the California Department of Food and Agriculture, 1220 N Street – Main Auditorium, Sacramento, CA 95814.

“As the nation’s largest agricultural producer and exporter, we need to understand the potential scenarios facing our agricultural sector over the next 20-30 years,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. “Working with the UC Agricultural Issues Center and others, we hope to provide context on our future agricultural landscape and the economic drivers that will help to shape the future of agriculture and what that means for our rural communities.”

Invited speakers include: Erin Fitzgerald, U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance; Daniel Sumner, UC Agricultural Issues Center; Rupal Patel, California Harvesters; Richard Parrott, CDFA’s CalCannabis Program; and Thea Rittenhouse, CDFA’s Farmer Equity Advisor.

“The U.S. Farmer and Rancher Alliance has helped to articulate the voice of farmers across the nation,” said President Don Cameron, California State Board of Food and Agriculture. “As the organization looks to expand the message through collaboration and innovation on sustainability – California can be an important part of the discussion.”

The California State Board of Food and Agriculture advises the governor and CDFA secretary on agricultural issues and consumer needs. The Board conducts forums that bring together local, state and federal government officials; agricultural representatives; and citizens to discuss current issues and concerns to California agriculture.

All meetings are open to the public and attendance is welcome.

Follow the board on twitter at:

Source: California Department of Food and Agriculture, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset. 
Max Armstrong's Daily Updates

MIDDAY Midwest Digest, Oct. 31, 2019

There's a petition to change the day of Halloween.

Daylight Saving Time is this weekend. 

Critics turned out in mass to complain about the EPA's proposal to increase ethanol consumption.

The bourbon industry is thriving in Kentucky.

bearden-rebel-heifer-2.jpg Rebecca Bearden
Getting ready for sale day on Blackjack Ranch in Alabama.

On this ranch, your productivity must outweigh your stubbornness

Good help is hard to find. I have no doubt that “growing your own” was a significant factor in Daddy and Mama’s choice to have two kids. That was probably the exact number the ranch could support in terms of room and board without going under. The return on investment was more fruitful when we were old enough to reach the tractor pedals and work cattle without serious injury. Daddy made sure that one or both of us would continue his life’s work.  That love for livestock became a part of our identities and the ability to manage the whole operation was a learned skill that my sister embraced and one in which she continues to excel. Rachel not only sets her cattle up for success, she also places her family members in roles she knows they can’t screw up or at least in roles she knows they are prepared to fix if they do screw up.

The very basic endeavor of “working” cattle is usually where this talent is manifested most prominently. When it comes to vaccinations or branding, she can on count me to push them calmly from the holding pen into the chute, at least until the pen has only the two or three stubborn ones that have avoided eye contact. The older mama cows know the drill but resist as a test of sheer will I suppose. “Will I be able to scale that fence?” “Will I roll that person with the whip flag?” or “Will I destroy that one panel you thought you could corner me with?”

These special ladies are usually beyond my pay grade as a solo artist and require backup in the form of my brother-in-law who is also placed aptly by my sister at the squeeze chute head catch. In the event the entire chute comes apart, he is there to repair it. However, he will leave his most desired post to assist me in convincing these cows that none of those “wills” will work today. His will is stronger.

The Labor Day works were a good example. It was 90 degrees at 8 am, but we were thanking God that He had sent a shower the Sunday before to keep the dust down. All went well with the first set of heifers, mostly. Rachel and Brant were attempting to pen the entire bunch, but one of these renegade girls had made her way across the electric fence and into the herd with the older cows the previous night. This heifer was allegedly in heat and had found a friend with whom to commiserate. Rachel and Brant left her there since we were planning to work those older cows after the heifers. After we fininshed the heifers in a reasonable period of time, Rachel and Brant set out to pen the older cows.

The problem was the “hot no-penner” wasn’t planning on being penned period and somehow convinced her newfound friend to stay behind as well. When the traditional ATV with assorted grain didn’t work, Brant ran to get the red F-250 with the big feeder on the back.

After this almost fool-proof method failed, a switch flipped within Brant. He made the executive decision to chase them down with Rachel’s relatively new black Chevy Duramax flatbed rigged with a bail extender and currently supporting various five-gallon buckets of diesel, lariat ropes, net wrap, and cat food bags, none of which were tied down. He raced after the maverick pair with the wrath of a young wrangler who had just been told “he couldn’t.”  I would have bet my custom Montana-made buckaroo boots that there was no way he would herd these two into the trap with a flatbed. Well, I would’ve lost one boot.

After a few minutes of bouncing over terraces and in and out of bull holes, he managed to separate the two and line the hot heifer up against the electric fence. She appeared to be making a bee line for the trap when all of sudden she decided to jump the fence and return to her original herd, the one we’d just worked and released. Since there was no way to pen those poor girls again because they’d retreated to the woods, Brant set his sights on the older cow.

He surprisingly had more success with this one because she had zero desire to test the electric fence and ran right into the trap with the others, huffing and puffing her way to the catch pen. Hot and bothered, the poor thing refused all offers of water and filed into the holding pen with the rest. They all worked reasonably well, though I did have to implore upon Brant’s much-needed “how to out-will the remaining stubborn two” backup skills.

Rachel had originally planned another project for the following Tuesday, but given the events of that Monday, all she could think about Tuesday morning was that it was sale day and if she could pen the un-pennable (and various others on the short list), she’d be on her way to the auction. I guess miracles never cease or the test of wills was over because the previously hot heifer penned and loaded as though she knew her time was up.

As Rachel was about to pull out of the front yard, she joked, “Hashtag, no regrets.”

The take-home message: if you plan to stay on this ranch, your productivity must outweigh your stubbornness. Learn from the rebel heifer, at least behave long enough to get your shot.