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Articles from 2009 In December

New Decade: Big for Biofuels

Happy New Year! And Happy New Decade! This should be quite a decade as far as biofuels are concerned—starting with whether the EPA decides to allow 15% of ethanol to be blended into gasoline later this year and continuing on to the 30 billion gallons of renewable fuel required by 2020 under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2). Over this decade, we can expect to see big advances in the commercial production of cellulosic ethanol and much more.

As we begin this new decade, many industry leaders and farmers are also focused on producing biofuels in a sustainable manner. In fact, the Sustainable Biodiesel Alliance, Austin, TX, has published Baseline Practices for Sustainability.

The Alliance will hold its annual Sustainable Biodiesel Summit, Feb. 6-7, in Grapevine, TX. For more details, visit The Summit will be attended by farmers, community-scale producers and others interested in the sustainable harvesting and collection of biodiesel feedstocks as well as the sustainable biodiesel production and distribution. Bill Holmberg, chairman, Biomass Coordinating Council, American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), will be the keynote speaker. The Summit will include a tour of Willie’s Place at Carl’s Corner, the truck stop and biodiesel production facility invested in by singer and biodiesel promoter Willie Nelson.

The Summit is being held just prior to the National Biodiesel Conference, Feb. 7-10, also held in Grapevine at the Gaylord Texas Resort & Convention Center. For more information, visit One of the many interesting sessions at this meeting will be “Climate Change, Carbon Policy and the U.S. Biodiesel Industry.” As the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) points out, various legislative and regulatory actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will impact all sectors of the economy, including the biodiesel industry. This session will address how different policy options would impact the business.

Another interesting session will be “Black Gold, Texas Tea: Where Will Biodiesel Sit at the Oil Company Table?” No less than one billion gallons of biomass-based diesel per year over the next decade will be required under RFS2. NBB notes that if oil companies are not yet in the biodiesel business, the RFS will probably prompt them to add biofuels to their product lines, adding that this has “the potential to double biodiesel production in a single year.”

Similarly, oil company representatives will talk about their investments in ethanol during the National Ethanol Conference, Feb. 15-17, at the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center, Kissimmee, FL. For information, visit

Another important session for both farmers and ethanol producers will address the indirect land use change debate.

The theme for this year’s National Ethanol Conference is aptly entitled “Climate of Opportunity.” With discussions heating up over climate change, reliance on foreign oil and new job creation, this decade will indeed present a climate of opportunity for those who can produce biofuels—from feedstock to fuel—in a sustainable manner.

Mosaic announces realignment

The Mosaic Company has announced that it has realigned its business segments to more clearly reflect the Company's evolving business model.

The realignment includes moving from three to two business segments by combining the Offshore business segment with the Phosphates business segment. There are no changes to the Potash business segment.

The Company also announced the permanent closure and write-off of assets at the Green Bay plant and South Pierce phosphoric acid plant that were idled in 2006, in addition to other machinery and equipment in the Company's Florida phosphates operations. The estimated charge associated with these actions will approximate $50 million pre-tax, is non-cash and will be recorded during the Company's second fiscal quarter ended Nov. 30, 2009.

These actions are part of a broad effort to improve returns on invested capital in the company's phosphates business segment by eliminating idle operating capital and reducing operating costs.

"The change in financial reporting reflects our actions to further align our strong global distribution resources with our North American production assets," said Jim Prokopanko, chief executive officer and president of Mosaic. "Our strategic priorities in phosphates focus on growing the value of our business and maintaining our position as one of the lowest cost phosphate producers in the world," Prokopanko added.

More information on the company is available at

State Soybean Leader Urges Farmers to Tell Their Story

State Soybean Leader Urges Farmers to Tell Their Story

Sit down with Mark Henderson and he gets right to the point. There are grave challenges facing agriculture, because there are organized groups who have a different concept of what agriculture ought to be like on their agenda. But don't expect Henderson to cower to this pressure. He believes farmers have an unbelievable story to tell. What needs to happen now is they need to start telling it to the public, he insists.

Henderson is executive director of the Indiana Soybean Alliance, Indiana Corn Marketing Council and Indiana Corn Growers Association. He's wrapping up one year on the job, and recalls what brought him out of partial retirement to take on this challenge. He previously was a researcher with Dow AgroSciences.

"It's a great opportunity to tell agriculture's story," he says. "What a story we have to tell!

Henderson doesn't have a problem with farmers growing livestock to sell as meat or vegetables for local direct markets. He believes it's a different thing, however, when various groups imply and even push for all of agriculture to go that direction. "They're pushing agriculture the wrong direction," he says. "Some of those people never turn on organic farmers if they think their operations are too large."

Even some fo the initiatives coming out of USDA recently have been slanted heavily toward local food production and development of local markets. There's a large difference between providing products to meet someone's personal preference who ahs the money to afford it, and reversing the direction of agriculture.

"Agriculture does everything it does today on less energy, less labor, less fertilizer inputs than ever before. And at the same time we're taking better care of the environment. That's a great story. It just needs to be told."

Henderson also believes ethanol produced form corn ahs gotten a bad rap. The darling for just a short time, suddenly everyone seems enthralled with cellulosic ethanol, he notes. But currently it's a concept, hardly an up and going production system. USDA offers programs through FSA offices for producers to get cost-share for delivering cellulosic ethanol to processing plants. There's just one problem- there's only one approved processor in Indiana, and it's for wood products.

The groups Henderson works with are doing what they can to get the true message about agriculture out to the public, he notes. Look for new promotional and educational efforts coming soon.

For more of Henderson's comments, watch for upcoming issues of Indiana Prairie Farmer magazine. 

New Year's Resolutions for Farmers

New Year's Resolutions for Farmers

Research shows that about 50% of all American's resolve to make some type of change or improvement when a new year begins. The most common New Year's resolution is to lose weight while the second most common is to pay down or get out of debt.

For farmers and ranchers in Missouri, University of Missouri Extension specialists have several profit-focused resolutions to recommend.

Gordon Carriker, an agriculture business specialist, recommends these farm-focused resolutions:

* I will renew any verbal leases I have, because a verbal lease for longer than a year is invalid in Missouri under the statute of fraud. For any verbal leases I have I will work with my tenant/landlord to put them in writing, not because I don't trust my tenant/landlord but, because that's just a good business practice and it will eliminate any chance of misunderstandings.

* I will review my financial records and determine if there is anything I can do before the year to save me income taxes and I will do this earlier next year, say in September or October.

* I will start keeping better financial records so I can better evaluate my farm as a business.


Brie Menjoulet, the agronomy specialist that serves Hickory, Dallas, Webster and Greene County, offers these resolutions:

* I will scout for and attempt to control invasive weed species on my property.

* I will implement buffer zones to help reduce nutrient runoff.

* I will calibrate my sprayer and replace nozzles if needed.


Eldon Cole, a livestock specialist, recommends the following New Year's resolutions for area beef producers:

* I will register for my premise number.

* I will tag my cows and calves and record birth dates of calves thus making them eligible for age and source verification programs.

* I will sell my old, cull cows before they die of old age.

* I will rotate my pastures at least once a week.

* I will attempt to establish some legumes in my fescue fields.

* I will harvest my fescue, orchardgrass and brome hay before the third week of May.


Bob Schultheis, a natural resource engineering specialist in Webster County, recommends these resolutions:

* I will soil test my fields before applying lime or fertilizer in order to save money.

* I will cut my fescue hay by mid-May instead of mid-June to maximize forage nutrient content.

* I will test my forages before feeding to be sure the animals are getting proper nutrition.

* I will "shift up and throttle back" my tractors and trucks whenever possible to save up to 30% on fuel.

* I will clean dust and dirt on off machinery fans, motors and lights to make them run more efficiently.

* I will not allow riders on tractors, farm equipment, riding lawn mowers or all-terrain vehicles, in order to protect their safety.

* I will shut off running farm equipment before working on it.

Source: MU Extension Southwest Region News Service

Monsanto Won't Force a Switch to New Roundup Seed

Monsanto Won't Force a Switch to New Roundup Seed

Monsanto, a leading U.S. seed and crop technology company that markets it's products around the globe, has told soybean organizations in various states as well as companies that license the use of technology traits from Monsanto, that it will let farmers continue to grow its first-generation Roundup Ready soybeans after the patent on the seed's genetic trait expires in 2014. Monsanto in 2009 introduced a newer and more expensive version of the glyphosate resistant soybean, Roundup Ready 2 Yield. That prompted speculation that the company would refuse to allow farmers and licensees the use of the original Roundup Ready genetic trait after 2014. But in a letter in December that was sent to farm organizations and farmers, James Tobin, vice president of marketing at Monsanto in St. Louis, said, Monsanto will not use variety patents against U.S. farmers who save soybean varieties containing the Roundup Ready 1 trait for planting on their own farms after the patent expiration.

Roundup Ready has been main biotech tool for weed control

Tobin also said, "Over the last few weeks we have confirmed with seed company licensees that they can continue to provide farmers with soybeans containing the Roundup Ready 1 trait through the patent expiration and beyond. Roundup Ready has been the primary biotech tool to be used with Monsanto's glyphosate herbicide Roundup, to fight weeds on fields across America. It is used to a more limited extent in many other countries, too.  Because Roundup is used so widely, the generic trait to resist it has become a virtual necessity for all other seed companies and its licensing hasn't only expanded Monsanto's revenues and profits, but also has generated controversy in competition with other companies that produce seed products and weed control products.

Governor Reappoints Duncanson to Environmental Quality Board

Governor Reappoints Duncanson to Environmental Quality Board

Governor Tim Pawlenty recently reappointed Kristin Weeks Duncanson to the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board.

Duncanson, of Mapleton, is a partner with Duncanson Growers, a diversified family farm in Mapleton, and owns AgIssues Management, a small grass-roots communications firm.

She is a past president of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association and a member of its Board of Directors, a member of the American Soybean Association Board of Directors and chair of its SoyPAC, a board member and vice chair of the Minnesota Agri-Growth Council, a member of the National as well as the Minnesota Corn Growers Associations, Minnesota Pork Producers Association, National Pork Producers, National Cattlemen's Association, serves on the church council at St. John Lutheran Church of Mapleton, and is a masterpiece art instructor. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.

Duncanson, who was appointed to the EQB as a public member in November, is reappointed to a four-year term that expires on January 6, 2014.

The Minnesota Environmental Quality Board helps coordinate the actions of the major state agencies and is charged with providing the Governor and the Legislature tools to address environmental issues that do not fit under the other state environmental agencies. The board consists of 16 members, including five public members – two of whom must have knowledge of water management issues in the state – appointed by the Governor.

SD Financing Reduces Interest Rates

SD Financing Reduces Interest Rates

The South Dakota Department of Agriculture has programs available that partner borrowers with local lenders to provide lower interest rates

The SDDA's current rate is 4.5% and affects the Livestock Loan Participation and Rural Development Agricultural Loan Participation programs.

The Livestock Loan program partners SDDA with a local lender to provide opportunities for livestock operators with current facilities, equipment and feed.  The SDDA can finance 50% of the total loan amount, or a maximum of $100,000, for up to 5 years.

The Rural Development Loan program is designed to help producers purchase land, buildings, equipment, machinery, or other improvements for a new or existing operation.  This loan also works in conjunction with a local lender and can provide up to 80% of the total loan amount, or a maximum of $300,000, for up to 10 years.

In addition to the participation loans, SDDA also has guaranty loans and bond programs, which can provide producers with low-interest financing.

For additional information on financial programs offered through the Value Added Finance Authority, contact your local lender or Michael Schelske, Loan Administrator with SDDA, at 605-773-5436.  Program summaries and application forms are available at

Source: SD Department of Agriculture

Grazing Conference Comes to Ohio

Grazing Conference Comes to Ohio

Grassland farmers across the Midwest looking for the latest production information for their livestock have the opportunity to attend the annual Heart of America Grazing Conference in January.

The conference will be held Jan. 20-21 at the Roberts Centre, Exit 50 on Interstate 71 and U.S. Route 68, 123 Gano Rd., in Wilmington, Ohio. Each year the meeting rotates among five states, including Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois and Missouri.

Registration by Jan. 13 is $65, which covers all program materials and meals. Attendees may also attend one day: $25 for Jan. 20 or $45 for Jan. 21. After January 13, prices are $75 for total registration, $35 Jan. 20 and $55 Jan. 21. Ohio Forage and Grassland Council members receive a $5 discount on full registration or the Jan. 21st registration fee.

Ohio State University Extension specialists Steve Loerch and Dave Barker will be discussing forage and grazing management. In addition, the keynote presentation at the opening banquet on Jan. 20 will be "International Grazing." Speaker Ben Bartlett, a Michigan State University Extension educator, has led several groups on international trips to observe grazing operations.

The presentations on the second day will feature Justin Sexten, University of Missouri Extension beef specialist, who will discuss the eight steps to stretching your pasture; Howard Straub, a pasture-based dairy farmer from Michigan, who will be sharing the economics of his grazing operation; and Ben Bartlett, who will be presenting on "Low Stress Livestock Handling."

In addition to presentations, there will be breakout sessions focusing on beef, sheep, goat, and dairy and advanced grazing management. Speakers include Katherine Harrison of Blystone Farms, who will discuss direct marketing; Jake Wolfinger, Ohio Young Cattleman of the Year, who will be discussing his use of oats as a late summer and fall forage crop; and Curt Cline, a sheep producer whose farm was selected for the 2008 American Sheep Industry Environmental Stewardship. There will also be a panel discussion of experienced grazing dairy farmers.

For more information, log on to or contact OSU Extension educator Jeff McCutcheon at 419-947-1070 or e-mail

State Agencies Encouraged to Apply for USDA Matching Funds

State Agencies Encouraged to Apply for USDA Matching Funds

USDA has invited state departments of agriculture, state agricultural experiment stations and other state agencies to submit proposals that help to market, transport and distribute United States-produced food and agricultural products domestically and internationally. Selected proposals will be funded through the Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program.


Deputy Ag Secretary Kathleen Merrigan points out that this program is a great way for state agencies to tackle some of the distribution and market issues our farmers are facing.  Edward Avalos, Under Secretary for USDA's Marketing and Regulatory Programs, emphasizes that these funds are used to focus on barriers, challenges, and opportunities in marketing, transporting, and distributing food across the United States.


The FSMIP is a matching grant program administered by Agricultural Marketing Service, with funds allocated on the basis of one round of competition. USDA is particularly interested in proposals that involve collaboration among the states, academia, producers and other stakeholders and in proposals that have state, regional or national significance. Federal funds awarded to any project must be matched by non-federal funds or in-kind resources.