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Articles from 2017 In November

Joe Outlaw Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Blair Fannin
Dr. Joe Outlaw, co-director of the Agricultural and Food Policy Center at Texas A&M University and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service economist in College Station.

Farm policy, new commodity innovations, trends highlight BIG Conference Jan. 10-11

An update on current farm bill policy as well as presentations on drone technology, maintaining a healthy beef cattle herd plus a number of issues and trends affecting production agriculture will be discussed at the 56th Blackland Income Growth Conference Jan. 10-11 at the Extraco Events Center, 4601 Bosque Blvd. in Waco.

Sponsors are the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce.

Dr. Joe Outlaw, co-director of the Agricultural and Food Policy Center at Texas A&M University and AgriLife Extension economist in College Station, will be the keynote luncheon speaker Jan. 10. Outlaw frequently interacts with members of Congress and key agricultural committee staff to provide feedback on the likely consequences of agricultural policy change.

“The BIG Conference features a number of commodity sessions including beef, horse, horticulture, cotton, grain, rural land management, forage and wildlife designed to help producers improve profitability and enhance stewardship practices,” said Bill Foshea, conference chair and Ellis County agriculture producer.

Jan. 10 registration, which includes lunch, is $25 at the door and includes commodity sessions covering beef, cotton, forage, grain, horse, rural land management and wildlife.

Jan. 11 registration, which includes lunch, is $25 at the door and includes the horticulture session.  

A BIG Recertification Program will be held concurrently. Preregistration is $60 and includes lunch or $70 at the door. Call 254-757-5180 to preregister.

Also Jan. 11, a private applicator training will be held. Registration is $75 and includes lunch. Preregister by calling 254-582-4022. Rounding out the event, a From the Ground Up program will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Registration is $40 and $25 for students. Call 940-552-9941 ext. 226 for registration.

The Mid-Texas Farm and Ranch show will be held in conjunction with the conference and will showcase the latest in farm and ranch equipment, seed, chemicals and ag-related services and technologies.

For a complete schedule, visit

Biofuel factory aerial view i-Stockr/Thinkstock

EPA announces final 2018 RVO numbers under RFS

Today’s announcement of the final 2018 Renewable Volume Obligation under the Renewable Fuel Standard is either pleasing or a missed opportunity, depending on your point of view. 

The numbers EPA announced Nov. 30 vary only slightly from the proposed standards issued in July.

The final numbers are 19.29 billion gallons of total renewable fuel, which includes 15 billion gallons for conventional biofuel. Advanced biofuel is set for 4.29 billion gallons, including 288 million gallons of cellulosic biofuel. The biomass-based biodiesel amount remains at 2.1 billion gallons.


The proposed numbers were 19.24 billion gallons of total renewable fuel and 2.1 billion gallons for biomass-based biodiesel.



Proposed RFS volume requirements, July 2017.

"Maintaining the renewable fuel standard at current levels ensures stability in the marketplace and follows through with my commitment to meet the statutory deadlines and lead the agency by upholding the rule of law," said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.

The National Corn Growers Association said they were pleased with the Trump administration’s commitment “to keep the RFS on track when it comes to conventional ethanol.” 

“Not only has EPA hit the mark with the 15 billion-gallon implied target, but EPA has also improved on the proposed rule by correctly growing the total 2018 volume from the 2017 level as intended in the RFS,” said North Dakota farmer Kevin Skunes, president of the National Corn Growers Association, in a media statement.

The American Soybean Association sees things a little differently.

“It’s fair to say that we’re very frustrated yet again by the lack of growth in these volumes by EPA; we can do more, and we’ve shown that year after year,” said American Soybean Association President Ron Moore of Illinois. “The flat nature of the biomass-based diesel and advanced biodiesel volumes continues to be a missed opportunity to capitalize on a valuable market for soybean oil.”


Renewable Fuel Volume Requirements for 2014-2018, December 2016.

What others are saying:

“The EPA’s on-time announcement upholds the statutory targets for conventional biofuels, which will provide much-needed certainty for hard-pressed rural communities,” said Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor.” We would like to have seen a boost to the target blending levels for cellulosic biofuels, and we will continue to work with the administration to advance the RFS goal of further stimulating growth and showing U.S. leadership in 21st century fuels.” 

“ACE members are very pleased that the statutory 15-billion-gallon volume for conventional biofuel will be maintained in 2018 and that EPA is increasing the advanced biofuel volume to 4.29 billion gallons.  This represents a modest step in the right direction for the RFS in 2018.  Beyond sending a generally positive signal to the rural economy, increased blending targets also reassure retailers that it makes sense to offer E15 and flex fuels to their customers,” said Brian Jennings, CEO of the American Coalition for Ethanol. “While the 288 million gallons of cellulosic biofuel EPA is calling for in 2018 is a small increase from the volume proposed earlier this year, it is disappointing the 2018 volume represents a decrease from the 2017 cellulosic biofuel level of 311 million gallons.  We firmly believe the technology exists to increase cellulosic biofuel targets.”

“The Trump administration deserves credit for rejecting political pressure to destabilize the RFS, but EPA’s failure to appreciably increase advanced biofuel levels brushes aside a huge opportunity to promote rural jobs and energy innovation,” said Advanced Biofuels Business Council Director Brooke Coleman. “Unwarranted cuts to cellulosic biofuel targets send the wrong signal to global investors in this emerging industry. The cellulosic biofuels industry is growing and stands ready to drive the next great wave of manufacturing jobs across the heartland.”

“We are disappointed that EPA did not significantly raise the advanced biofuel volumes in line with the industry’s ability to produce them,” said Brent Erickson, Executive Vice President of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization’s (BIO) Industrial & Environmental Section. “The agency is arbitrarily limiting growth for low carbon biofuels in 2018 and into the future by looking backward, rather than forward.”

“We feel the administration missed an opportunity in not continuing a sensible and consistent growth trajectory for biomass-based diesel,” said Renewable Energy Group Interim President and CEO Randy Howard. “We firmly believe the U.S. industry is fully capable of delivering increasing volumes of biomass-based diesel to meet a growing RVO as Congress intended when it created the RFS.  We will continue to work with EPA in 2018 to develop workable plans for additional growth in 2019.”

What comes next:

“Moving forward, we ask EPA to revisit the growth in cellulosic fuel production, particularly as first-generation ethanol producers expand cellulosic gallons made from feedstocks such as corn kernel fiber,” Skunes said. The NCGA is committed to working with EPA to increase consumer access to renewable fuels.

“We’re disappointed today, as we had originally pushed for a level of 2.5 billion gallons for biomass-based diesel in 2019 and 4.75 billion gallons of total advanced biofuels for 2018, but we’ll continue in our work to develop even greater capacity within our industry, and we urge EPA and the Administration to take another look at biodiesel and the value U.S. soybean farmers bring to the domestic energy discussion,” Moore said.

“America still imports 25% of its oil, and the need for domestic biofuel production is stronger than ever,” said Jeff Broin, POET CEO. “There is enough biomass in the U.S. to eliminate oil imports and give our nation true energy independence. By using starch and cellulosic feedstocks, we can grow US biofuel production and help stabilize farm incomes at a time when rural America needs it most. We will work with the administration and EPA going forward to restore growing biofuel targets that will spur innovation in rural communities.”

Max Armstrong's Daily Updates


Steve Alexander fills in for Max Armstrong.

I’ve lost count of number of politicians who campaign on making government run more like a business. Gov. Pete Ricketts is doing his part by changing the way some non-union government employees are paid.

Wisconsin has jobs for you and wants you to move there and work if you are a millennial or a military veteran.

A big new biofuel plant is being built in Wichita, KS, by Cargill. It will employ 35 full time workers.

Legionnaires’ disease has popped up in Illinois old folks’ home.

Yesterday, we heard about a 9-year-old boy who accidentally shot himself. Today, it’s a Nebraska boy who shot himself while out checking traps.

In Evansville, Ind., there is organization that advocates for separation of church and state. Says coach that prayed with team after football victory is violating separation of church and state.

Max is in Coralville, Iowa, at The Ag Data conference.

Weekly Export Sales: Grains struggle to keep pace

Corn, soybean and wheat export sales failed to feast around the Thanksgiving holiday. All three crops posted lackluster results for the week ending Nov. 23. 

Corn export sales totaled 23.6 million bushels. That’s sharply lower than 42.6 million bushels from the week prior and 54% lower than the four-week average. Trade estimates had come in at 37.4 million bushels. The weekly rate needed to reach USDA’s forecast is now 26.5 million bushels.

Corn export shipments were a little higher, at 25.6 million bushels. Mexico was the No. 1 destination for the week, with 10.6 million bushels. Other top destinations included Japan (4.5 million bushels), Peru (4.4 million bushels), Colombia (2.8 million bushels) and Costa Rica (1.1 million bushels).

With 34.7 million bushels in export sales, soybeans were able to get a small lift from the week prior (31.9 million bushels), but couldn’t quite match trade estimates of 38.6 million bushels and were 25% lower than the four-week average. Still, the weekly rate needed to reach USDA’s forecast softened to 24.7 million bushels. 

Export shipments for soybeans were much more robust, at 80.9 million bushels. China accounted for the bulk of that volume, with 63.1 million bushels. Other top destinations included the Netherlands (3.1 million bushels), Thailand (3.0 million bushels), Vietnam (2.6 million bushels) and Mexico (2.2 million bushels).

Wheat export sales were down 8% from a week ago and 59% lower than the four-week average, with 6.8 million bushels in old crop sales and 100,000 bushels in new crop sales. That’s slightly behind last week’s total of 7.9 million bushels and moderately lower than trade estimates of 12.9 million bushels. The weekly rate needed to hit USDA’s forecast has now reached 14.1 million bushels.

Export shipments for wheat totaled 12.5 million bushels – 78% higher than a week ago and 16% above the four-week average. Primary destinations included the Philippines (3.5 million bushels), Japan (2.7 million bushels), Colombia (1.6 million bushels), Vietnam (1.5 million bushels), and Nigeria (1.3 million bushels).

Sorghum export sales hit a marketing year high, with 12.9 million bushels – 2% higher than the week prior and 26% over the four-week average. The volume was split between China (10.3 million bushels) and unknown destinations (2.6 million bushels). Export shipments also hit a marketing year high, with the majority going to China and small amounts also headed to Japan and Mexico. 

Cotton posted net export sales of 276,000 bales, which was 23% lower than a week ago and 14% below the four-week average.


Biofuel plant at sunset i-Stockr/ThinkstockPhoto

EPA expected to mandate use of 15 billion gallons of renewable fuels

by Jennifer A. Dlouhy and Mario Parker 

The Trump administration is set to keep biofuel quotas for motor vehicles largely unchanged, a move likely to draw tepid applause from Iowa corn growers and disappoint soy-based biodiesel producers.

The Environmental Protection Agency will mandate refiners use 15 billion gallons of conventional renewable fuels -- primarily ethanol -- next year, in a final rule set to be issued Thursday, according to an EPA official. But, rebuffing pleas from biodiesel producers, the agency also is set to maintain a 2.1-billion-gallon quota for that soy-based fuel in 2019, the official said. The official asked not to be identified discussing the regulation before its release. 

The final rule shows EPA "is listening to our concerns and taking them into consideration, but it also shows that we have more work to do," Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds said in an emailed statement. The agency is "discouraging investment and discouraging growth" by keeping biodiesel volumes flat, she added.

The EPA’s decision illustrates how the administration is trying to balance the needs of two competing constituencies for President Donald Trump: Midwest farmers who rely on the mandate to guarantee ethanol demand and oil refiners that insist the requirements are costly, burdensome and impractical. 

For more than a decade, federal law has compelled refiners to use renewable fuel -- up to 36 billion gallons in 2022 -- but tasked the EPA with setting the precise annual quotas. Many lawmakers supported the Renewable Fuel Standard with the expectation that first-generation corn-based ethanol would be replaced by alternatives made from corn stalks, algae or other materials such as switchgrass.

Overall Mandate

The EPA is set to require 4.29 billion gallons of advanced biofuel in 2018, a slight uptick from the current 4.28-billion-gallon quota and a 4.24 billion gallon proposal the agency outlined in July.

At least 288 million gallons of that would have to be the cellulosic biofuel from non-edible plant materials, below the current 311-million-gallon quota. That’s a modest increase from the EPA’s initial 238-million-gallon proposal. Production of cellulosic ethanol has lagged far behind what the measure’s supporters envisioned a decade ago.

Brooke Coleman, head of the Advanced Biofuels Business Council, said the EPA’s targets "miss a valuable opportunity to accelerate growth" in cellulosic ethanol production by keeping levels below the 2017 quota. 

"Unwarranted cuts to cellulosic biofuel targets send the wrong signal to global investors in this emerging industry," Coleman said by email.

Biodiesel production also has grown, and EPA is set to disappoint those producers in keeping the mandate steady at 2.1 billion gallons.

Biodiesel advocates had argued that number fell far short of potential production, with the industry’s leading trade group pushing for a 2.5 billion gallon target in a Nov. 16 letter to Trump. The proposed -- and now final -- 2.1 billion gallon quota is so low that it’s "sending the wrong signal to an industry poised for robust, sustainable growth," the National Biodiesel Board wrote. 

Members of that industry trade group swarmed Capitol Hill this week to voice their concerns with the earlier proposal. Industry officials argue they have current capacity to produce 2.6 billion gallons of biodiesel. And they argue that the production of ethanol and biodiesel are increasingly linked, especially as more biodiesel is made using corn oil, an ethanol byproduct. 

Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, said he was disappointed by the lack of an increase in biodiesel levels and the cut in the quota for cellulosic ethanol, especially when "increases are justified."

"This final rule does little to encourage investment and growth in advanced biofuels," Grassley said in an emailed statement. By contrast, "Congress intended for the RFS to drive growth in biofuels across all categories." 

The 15-billion-gallon quota for conventional renewable fuel mirrors the current target and sets up a disappointment for oil refiners that had argued that amount would exceed a 10% "blend wall," or the amount that can be easily blended into the fuel supply.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt previously committed to set final quotas at levels "equal to or greater than the proposed amounts." That concession came in an October letter to farm-state senators after they agreed to stop blocking the confirmation of a top EPA official over possible changes that could undermine the biofuel mandate.

The final plan shows Pruitt sticking by that pledge -- but not making aggressive moves to go beyond it.

Trump visited ethanol plants while campaigning for president and promised Iowa’s voters he would protect the mandate if they elected him.

Pruitt is scheduled to meet with farmers and biofuel groups in Nevada, Iowa, on Friday, according to people familiar with the meeting, who asked not to be named because the details haven’t been made public.

--With assistance from Ari Natter.

To contact the reporters on this story: Jennifer A. Dlouhy in Washington at; Mario Parker in Chicago at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jon Morgan at

Mark Drajem, Elizabeth Wasserman

© 2017 Bloomberg L.P

Opioids written in chalk on blackboard with crushed powder, spoon, syring and prescription vial. karenfoleyphotography/ThinkstockPhotos

AFBF, NFU survey: 74% farmers, farm workers impacted by opioid abuse

A poll sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Farmers Union finds that 74% of farmers and farm workers have been directly impacted by opioid abuse. 

While just under half of rural Americans say they have been directly impacted by opioid abuse, three in four farmers say it would be easy for someone in their community to access opioids illegally, and just under half of rural adults – 46% – say the same, according to a Morning Consult survey. The poll is a first step in the AFBF and NFU collaboration on the issue. 

“We’ve known for some time that opioid addiction is a serious problem in farm country, but numbers like these are heartbreaking,” AFBF President Zippy Duvall said. “Opioids have been too easy to come by and too easy to become addicted to. That’s why we are urging everyone we know to talk to their friends, family, co-workers – anyone at all they know or suspect needs help. And because opioid addition is a disease, it’s up to all of us to help people who suffer from it and help them find the treatment they need. Government cannot and will not fix this on its own. Rural communities are strong. The strengths of our towns can overcome this crisis.”

“The opioid crisis is not just some talking point or abstract issue—it is an enormous challenge for both rural and urban America, and we as a country need to come to grips with it,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “These responses demonstrate the reach of the unrelenting and deadly crisis that is gripping farm families across the country. Farm and rural communities currently face major challenges in the fight against addiction, like access to services, treatment and support. Time and time again, farmers and ranchers have come together to help their families and their neighbors through challenging situations. That same resolve and compassion will help us break the grips of opioid addiction in rural America.” 

The survey found:

  • Half of farmers and farm workers (50%) say addiction to opioids is a disease, rather than due to a lack of willpower.
  • Three in four farmers (77%), as well as those who work in agriculture generally (76%), say it would be easy for someone in their community to access a large amount of prescription opioids or painkillers without a prescription.
  • Rural adults overwhelmingly recognize that opioid abuse can begin accidentally with the use of what are deemed safe painkillers, or opioids (75%).
  • Rural adults are largely unaware that rural communities are impacted the most by the opioid crisis (31%).  And, they say opioid abuse is a major problem in urban communities more so than in rural communities by a 10-point margin (57% vs. 47%).
  • One in three rural adults (34%) say it would be easy to access treatment for addiction to prescription drugs or heroin in their local community. But, less than half (38%) are confident they could seek care that is either effective, covered by insurance, convenient or affordable.
  • One in three rural adults say there is a great deal of stigma associated with opioid abuse in their local community (31%), and that the stigma of abuse and addiction contributes a great deal to the opioid crisis (32%).
  • A strong majority of rural Americans believe increasing public education surrounding resources (68%) and reducing the shame or stigma around opioid addiction (57%) are effective means for solving the opioid crisis.

Source: AFBF

Max Armstrong's Daily Updates

Farm Progress America, November 30, 2017

Max Armstrong shares a look at the new process on renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement where tensions between the three countries continue. Negotiators are offering stricter counter proposals. Max shares the state of current progress on the discussions.

Farm Progress America is a daily look at key issues in agriculture. It is produced and presented by Max Armstrong, veteran farm broadcaster and host of This Week in Agribusiness.

Max Armstrong's Daily Updates


Max Armstrong is in Coralville, Iowa, at The Ag Data Conference today.

$90 million biodiesel plant is under construction in Wichia, KS. Cargill is building the facility.

Gov. Scott Walker wants to spend $7 million on national marketing campaign to attract workers.

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts is changing way state employees are going to be paid.

A family wedding at South Pacific island turned into tragedy when two family members drowned while kayaking in the ocean.

Yesterday, we talked about 9-year-old Missouri boy shot in hunting accident. Today, Nebraska boy shot himself while checking traps.

An organization that focuses on separation between church and state, The Freedom From Religion Foundation, is criticizing football coach who prayed with his team after a victory.

Big deliveries weigh on wheat and corn

Big deliveries weigh on wheat and corn

Big supplies of corn and wheat finally came home to roost on Thursday. After 2,000 lots of soft red winter wheat and 800 corn were registered Wednesday, deliveries against December futures were heavier than expected. That sentiment weighed on futures overnight, especially wheat. The tone in outside markets remains upbeat. Dow futures posted new record highs overnight, and crude oil also rallied. OPEC and its allies agreed to extend production cuts through 2018 if needed to keep prices from slipping.

Knorr discusses overnight market moves with Pam Jahnke, Wisconsin Farm Report, and you can listen using the audio tool below.

Senior Editor Bryce Knorr first joined Farm Futures Magazine in 1987. In addition to analyzing and writing about the commodity markets, he is a former futures introducing broker and is a registered Commodity Trading Advisor. He conducts Farm Futures exclusive surveys on acreage, production and management issues and is one of the analysts regularly contracted by business wire services before major USDA crop reports. Besides the Morning Call on he writes weekly reviews for corn, soybeans, and wheat that include selling price targets, charts and seasonal trends. His other weekly reviews on basis, energy, fertilizer and financial markets and feature price forecasts for key crop inputs. A journalist with 38 years of experience, he received the Master Writers Award from the American Agricultural Editors Association. And you can follow Farm Futures throughout the day on Twitter at, and be sure to like or follow the new Farm Futures Facebook page.

Pam Jahnke is Farm Director of the Wisconsin Farm Report that is carried on 16 stations in Wisconsin.  Known as the "Fabulous Farm Babe" Pam studied broadcast journalism and broad area agriculture at the University of Wisconsin - River Falls. After college, Pam moved into her chosen field, doing farm broadcasting, radio and television, from Green Bay to Eau Claire, WI - and she's never looked back.  Pam often says she feels like farm broadcasting and communicating on behalf of food producers is exactly what she was made for. Pam has been named "Friend of Agriculture" by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture for her assistance in raising awareness of the "Harvest of Hope" program. She has also served as president of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting.