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La Nina to stick around through 2012

El Nino will return and likely will bring a little more rainfall than usual to the Southwest.

But first, the region likely will experience from one year to 18 months of continued dry conditions, says Mark Fox, warning and coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service.

Fox spoke at the Ag Technology Conference in Commerce, Texas, in early December and said that although “forecasting weather is not the easiest thing to do it’s not the hardest either. It requires good observation, good models and common sense.”

All those factors point to continuation of La Nina conditions at least into spring and summer,” he said.

“Spring and summer likely will be dryer and hotter than normal,” Fox said. “But we don’t expect next summer to be as hot as it was in 2011.”

He said suggestions that drought conditions could persist into 2020 may be overblown. “We don’t have data to support that, but the climate for the next one to 1.5 years will be dry.”

He said outlook now is similar to the same period a year ago.

“Most models indicate that by the end of 2012, El Nino will take over and conditions will be wetter in 2013 and 2014.”

Fox said under the best of conditions Texas weather is “highly variable.” He pointed to last winter as an example. Most audience members responded that the winter of 2011 was colder than usual. In fact, last winter temperatures averaged about 3 degrees higher than normal. Most people recall the extremely cold week in early January, however, when temperatures plunged and snow and sleet covered the area.

“We had one really bad week, but we did not get a lot of winter rain,” Fox said. “There is no such thing as a normal winter. We will see wild swings one way or the other.”

He said the outlook last winter was for “way above average temperatures. We had about normal average temperatures.”

He also said late November and December rainfall may bring false hope to farmers and ranchers. Northeast Texas received as much as 5 inches of rain during that period, but Fox said the area needs a lot more and heavier rains to refill lakes, streams and stock tanks.

He also said computer models suggest a second straight year of La Nina. “Most models say it will be at least next year before we get out of this pattern. In Texas, models show a 40 percent chance of higher than normal temperatures and 50 percent or higher chances of less rainfall.

“I hope we’re wrong about that,” he said. But he also noted that the El Nino, La Nina phenomenon has been observed for 100s of years and it “affects weather cycles about every one to two years.”

Manage Crop Risk In Volatile Times

Manage Crop Risk In Volatile Times

Mark your calendar and plan to attend one of a series of upcoming meetings covering crop insurance and risk management information for 2012. Iowa State University Extension farm management specialist Steve Johnson will present "Managing Crop Risks in Volatile Times" and crop insurance specialists from Farm Credit Services of America will discuss the latest information and updates to help farmers make 2012 crop insurance decisions.

Farm Credit Services of America is sponsoring these 2-hour meetings, which include a meal. You are encouraged to pre-register now to reserve your spot at the meeting location nearest you. Pre-registration is required at least 48 hours before the meeting. More information about the "Growing On" 2012 educational meetings, along with online registration, is available at http://www.cropinsurancespecialists.com/

"Growing On" 2012 schedule, speakers and presentations

Steve Johnson will speak on "Managing Crop Risks in Volatile Times." The ISU Extension farm and ag business management specialist will offer insights related to grain marketing, government farm programs, crop insurance and other risk management strategies farmers can put to work on their farms. He'll share:

A 2012 outlook for crop market prices and input costs

What impact U.S. and global economies and outside markets and commodity fund investors will have on U.S. agriculture in 2012

How to use crop insurance with marketing strategies and tools

The critical factors shaping the 2012 Farm Bill

2012 crop insurance decisions and new online marketing tool

Farm Credit Services of America crop insurance specialists work full time – the entire year – with crop insurance. It's all they do. If you attend Growing On 2012 you can learn from them what the changes are in 2012 and how they may impact you and your farming operation. Also, at these meetings you will learn about an exciting new tool designed to help you create a marketing plan that incorporates crop insurance, a breakeven analysis and profit targets. You can track your marketable bushels including cash, futures, options and government payments, too.

Choose a "Growing On" 2012 presentation located near you

* Newton, Iowa: January 4, 2012 DMACC Conference Center, 600 N. 2nd Ave. West. Phone 800-674-9403. Registration: 9:30 AM CST. Program: 10:00 AM CST. Meal: 12:00 PM CST

* Marshalltown, Iowa: January 4, 2012 Iowa Valley Community College - Dejardin Hall, 3702 S. Center St. Phone 888-493-2159. Registration: 5:15 PM CST. Meal: 5:15 PM CST. Program: 6:00 PM CST

* Perry, Iowa: January 6, 2012 McCreary Community Building, 1800 Pattee St. Phone 800-369-5829. Registration: 9:30 AM CST. Program: 10:00 AM CST. Meal: 12:00 PM

* Eddyville, Iowa: January 9, 2012 Indian Hills Bio-Processing Training Center, 17601 Monroe Wapello Rd. Phone 800-383-0093. Registration: 9:30 AM CST. Program: 10:00 AM CST. Meal: 12:00 PM CST

* Lenox, Iowa: January 10, 2012 Lenox Community Center, 200 S. Main. Phone 800-593-5181. Registration: 11:00 AM CST. Meal: 11:00 AM CST. Program: 12:00 PM

* Oakland, Iowa: January 10, 2012 Oakland Community Center, 129 Harrison St. Phone 800-475-3128. Registration: 5:00 PM CST. Meal: 5:00 PM CST. Program: 6:00 PM

* Storm Lake, Iowa: January 11, 2012 Buena Vista University, 601 W. Fourth Phone 800-798-5250. Registration: 5:30 PM CST. Meal: 5:30 PM CST. Program: 6:30 PM

* South Sioux City, Iowa: January 12, 2012 Marina Inn & Conference Center, 4th & B St., South Sioux City, NE. Phone 800-383-0630. Registration: 9:00 AM CST. Program: 10:00 AM CST. Meal: 12:00 PM CST

* Carroll, Iowa: January 12, 2012 Carrollton Inn, 1730 Hwy. 71 N. Phone 800-383-0698. Registration: 6:00 PM CST. Meal: 6:00 PM CST. Program: 7:00 PM CST

* Mason City, Iowa: January 13, 2012 Prime N' Wine, 3000 4th St. SW/Hwy. 122 W. Phone 800-383-0399. Registration: 9:30 AM CST. Program: 10:00 AM CST. Meal: 12:00 PM CST

* Manchester, Iowa: January 16, 2012 Delaware County Pavilion, 200 E. Acres St. Phone 800-383-0378. Register: 5:30 PM CST. Meal: 5:30 PM CST. Program: 6:30 PM CST

* Festina, Iowa: January 17, 2012 Festina Community Bldg., 2351 County Rd. B-32 Phone 800-383-0370. Registration: 9:30 AM CST. Program: 10:00 AM CST. Meal: 12:30 PM CST

* Waterloo, Iowa: January 17, 2012 Hawkeye Community College, 1501 E. Orange Rd. Phone 800-369-3551. Register: 5:00 PM CST. Meal: 5:00 PM CST. Program: 6:00 PM CST

* Mt. Pleasant, Iowa: January 18, 2012 Faith Christian Church, 1302 E. Washington. Phone 800-235-1728. Register: 9:30 AM CST. Program: 10:00 AM CST. Meal: 12:00 PM CST

* Davenport, Iowa: January 18, 2012 Clarion Hotel & Conference Center, 5202 Brady St. Phone 800-659-5141. Register: 5:00 PM CST. Meal: 5:00 PM CST. Program: 6:00 PM

* Cedar Rapids, Iowa: January 19, 2012 The Hotel at Kirkwood Center, 7725 Kirkwood Blvd. SW. Phone 800-593-0151. Registration: 11:00 AM CST. Meal: 11:30 AM CST. Program: 12:00 PM CST

* Webster City, Iowa: January 19, 2012 St. Thomas Aquinas Parish Center, 1008 Des Moines St. Phone 800-711-0018. Register: 5:15 PM CST. Meal: 5:15 PM CST. Program: 6:00 PM

Plan to attend — Reserve your seat — Register today!

For farm management information and analysis, go to ISU’s Ag Decision Maker site www.extension.iastate.edu/agdm and ISU Extension farm management specialist Steve Johnson’s site www.extension.iastate.edu/polk/farmmanagement.htm.

Crop Insurance Changes For 2012

Crop Insurance Changes For 2012

Farmers will experience two pleasant changes when they renew their crop insurance policies for 2012. They'll have a chance to adjust their production histories to reflect current yield potentials. And, they'll see an overall reduction in premiums or cost for the insurance.

Federally subsidized crop insurance indemnity payments on 2011 crops are well on their way to breaking 2008's record payouts of $8.6 billion. One reason for the big payouts is relatively high 2011-crop futures prices a year ago set high spring revenue guarantees for revenue products. Indemnity payments farmers are now receiving on 2011 crops represent what would have been a lot of lost revenue.

Crop insurance sign-up deadline for 2012 is March 15

While crop prices have retreated from highs set in August, they remain at lofty levels. With a March 15 deadline looming for farmers to buy crop insurance for spring-planted crops, many will want to push a pencil on projected revenue guarantees on their 2012 crops.

Some marketing experts are predicting lower corn and soybean prices in 2012. Suppose bumper 2012 crops do let prices drift lower into harvest. Buying insurance products that base indemnity payments on planting time prices could be wise. "Buying up to higher levels of coverage may be a strong consideration, especially for corn and soybean producers," says Jan Eliassen, a consultant who works in risk management education for the crop insurance industry, USDA's Risk Management Agency and some state departments of agriculture.

Thirteen Iowa crops share the March 15 deadline: corn, wheat, oats, forage seeding, sweetcorn, popcorn, dry beans, grain sorghum, hybrid seed corn, green peas, soybeans, potatoes and barley. For more information on crop insurance choices in your area, contact a crop insurance agent well before the deadline.

Other changes for 2012 include trend-adjusted APH yields

"Farmers will encounter two pleasant changes when they renew their crop insurance policies for 2012," says William Edwards, an Iowa State University Extension ag economist. "They'll have a chance to adjust their production histories to reflect current yield potentials. Also, they'll see an overall reduction in premiums."

Many farmers have felt the 10-year average actual production history or APH yields used to determine multiple peril crop insurance guarantees did not accurately reflect their current yield potential due to improved crop genetics and practices introduced in recent years. A new feature called the trend-adjusted APH will address this concern.

"Trend-adjusted APH has been approved for both corn and soybeans in most of the Corn Belt, including all counties in Iowa," says Edwards. "Basically, a trend-adjustment factor has been estimated for each county. This factor is equal to the estimated annual increase in yield."

How the trend-adjusted APH yield can benefit farmers

Edwards provides the following example, for an insurance unit with 10 years of yield history for corn and an average yield of 163 bushels per acre. Assume the trend adjustment factor in the county where the unit is located is 2 bushels per acre per year.

So 2 bushels are added to each yield for every year since it was recorded. Adjustments range from 2 bushels per acre for the immediate past year to 20 bushels for a yield that was recorded 10 years ago. The adjusted APH yield is now the average of the adjusted fields, 174 bu. per acre, instead of the unadjusted average of 163 bushels per acre. That 174 bu. yield will be used to calculate the unit's crop insurance guarantee in 2012. Maximum adjusted average yield is equal to the highest yield in the years of yield history for the unit, plus the annual trend adjustment.

The trend adjusted APH is available for either yield protection policies, at all levels of guarantee except catastrophic or CAT coverage (50% yield guarantee). Group policies, such as GRP and GRIP, have used trend adjusted county yields since they were introduced and that procedure won't change.

Premium rates lowered for crop insurance policies in 2012

A study of historical crop insurance payments has concluded that loss payments in the Midwest have been decreasing in recent years, and a general reduction in premium rates is justified.

Changes in technology and weather trends are responsible for lower loss ratios, notes Edwards. Thus, USDA's Risk Management Agency says 2012 rates in Iowa will be 13% lower for corn and 9% lower for soybeans, on average. Adjustments will vary by county. Rates for other crops are being studied and possible adjustments will be made in 2013.

Biotech discount for planting certain hybrids has ended

Four years ago, the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation started a pilot project called the Biotechnology Endorsement. It provided a reduction in crop insurance premiums to farmers who planted certain approved corn hybrids. Generally, hybrids with traits that made them resistant to certain insects and glyphosate herbicides were deemed to be less likely to suffer a yield loss.

Farmers had to plant at least 75% of their corn acreage on the insurance unit to the approved hybrids to qualify for the discount. Now, the pilot project has ended, and the FCIC has determined that the approve hybrids are now prevalent enough in the states that were included in the project that it is no longer necessary to maintain a separate premium schedule for them.

Also, note that the biotech discount has ended. The Federal Crop Insurance Corporation Board has determined that the approved corn hybrids which qualified for the discount when the program started four years ago are now prevalent enough in states that were included in the project that it is no longer necessary to maintain a separate premium schedule for them.

Summing up: The deadline to buy federal crop insurance in Iowa is March 15. Relatively high planting time prices for 2012 crops can boost revenue guarantees provided by crop revenue insurance. Your crop insurance agent can provide you with more details to make the best decisions for your farming operation regarding crop insurance coverage.

For farm management information and analysis, go to ISU’s Ag Decision Maker site www.extension.iastate.edu/agdm and ISU Extension farm management specialist Steve Johnson’s site www.extension.iastate.edu/polk/farmmanagement.htm.

Office/home wireless setup can be easy

Setting up wireless Internet access for your home or home office may sound daunting, but with careful attention to detail and a little patience, it can be done in an afternoon.

First, decide whether wireless Internet access is right for your home or office. There are several benefits to wireless access. For example, it can allow you to use the Internet from anywhere in the office or house without being tied to a network cable. It also allows you to connect multiple devices (computers, iPads, gaming consoles) to the network.

However, wireless has some disadvantages as well. Some of these include setup, children’s access to the Internet without adult supervision, and freeloading neighbors.

Those who have children in the home need to be particularly aware of security issues related to wireless. The first rule of Internet safety is that children should always use the Internet in a public area where parents can easily see what they are doing. With wireless, children can access the Internet from their iPod Touches, iPads, and Netbooks, and parents are none the wiser unless they install filters to limit Internet access.

To set up wireless access, you will first need a high-speed or broadband Internet connection. High-speed Internet access is probably available through your local telephone company, cable company or satellite provider. If high-speed Internet access is not available in your area, contact your e-beat representative (http://srdc.msstate.edu/ebeat). Your representative can help you find broadband resources for your area.

Next, you will need a wireless router. There are several types of wireless routers: wireless N, wireless G, and wireless 802.11b/g/n. The term 802.11 refers to the group of individuals tasked to oversee the development of a standardized wireless platform back in the late 1990s.

The terms 802.11b, 802.11g, and 802.11n refer to the speed at which data can be transferred over the network using an unregulated radio frequency.

The 802.11g network supports up to 54 Mbps. The newest wireless network is the 802.11n; it can transfer 140 Mbps of data. You can think of the 802.11b network as a slow cooker, the 802.11g as an oven and the 802.11n as a microwave. A wireless router that is labeled 802.11b/g/n is new but will work with older devices.

Once you have your wireless router, plug the high-speed Internet, or Ethernet, cable coming from the modem into the first port on the back of the wireless router. This first port is labeled “Internet” or “data” on most routers. Leave the remaining four ports empty. At this point, it is important to follow the instructions that came with the wireless router. Each may vary a little.

After you have followed the instructions for setup, be sure to configure the wireless router. When configuring the wireless router, give the wireless network a unique name that others in your household can remember. The network name is also referred to as the SSID (service set identifier) and is the public name of the network.

Next you will need to enable the WPA, or Wireless Protected Access. By protecting your wireless router with an encryption key, you ensure that other people will not be able to access your wireless network. Older routers may need to update firmware to use WPA or WPA2. When setting up the router, you will be prompted to provide a passphrase that when applied will generate a set of keys. These keys can be put into other devices so that those devices can use your wireless network.

Wireless networks are flexible, but they must be used carefully. Be sure to decide how wireless will be used in your home before introducing it.

Washington State U Helps Afghanistan Farmers Improve Methods

Washington State U Helps Afghanistan Farmers Improve Methods

Washington State University's work to help secure and improve agriculture in war-torn Afghanistan will continue with two new initiatives recently funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Working as part of a consortia led by the University of California-Davis, WSU will receive $3.12 million to help strengthen the Afghani extension system. It will receive an additional $895,500 from a project led by Purdue University to improve the skills of agriculture-oriented faculty members at Afghan colleges and universities.

"These new programs build on our efforts to build both human and institutional capacity from previous programs implemented through our department," says Chris Pannkuk, director of WSU's International Research and Development in the Department of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences.

The Afghan Agricultural Extension Program is a three-year project intended to build the capacity of the Afghanistan Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock Extension service to deliver programs on the ground to farmers.

High impact priority areas include improved wheat and grain storage, fresh market and processing value changes, use of legumes in grain crop rotations, protecting food production for high value urban markets, and livestock production for improved health and well-being.

"We'll also be working to establish an integrative communications model to ease the development of extension policy, management, training and information exchange with our Afghan stakeholders," Pannkuk explains.

For the five-year Strengthening Afghan Agricultural Facilities project, WSU will conduct four primary activities, all aimed at helping develop faculty capacity, agronomy courses and curriculum, establishing labs and integrating them into educational programs, and developing ag production activities on  student and research farms.

WSU  plans to achieve the following:

n  Develop a series of annual technical assistant/training workshops targeting course curriculum development, lab development, applied research and staff visits.

n  Provide graduate education to five Afghan faculty members

n  Host a mid-career senior Afghan faculty member as a visiting scholar for four months each year.

2012 National Conservation Systems Conference

2012 National Conservation Systems Conference

Nearly a hundred farmers and researches will discuss issues of importance to soybean, rice, cotton, and corn growers at Tunica, Miss., Jan. 31-Feb. 1.

The 15th annual National Conservation Systems Cotton & Rice Conference, the Southern Corn & Soybean Conference, and the Southern Precision Ag Conference will be held at the Harrah’s Convention Center, sponsored by Cotton Incorporated, US Rice Producers Association, and United Soybean Board.

John LaRose, chairman of the steering committee for the conferences, produced by MidAmerica Farm Publications, says 48 farmers will discuss their farming operations during individual breakout sessions, and 58 researchers representing seven Southern universities will share their latest production research on cotton, rice, corn and soybeans.

“During any given hour, there will be over 20 unique breakout sessions to choose from,” he says. “This conference program is recognized by past attendees as the leading agriculture production conference for growers of these key crops.

“These conferences are must-attend for farmers wishing to hone their production methods. They offer farmers ways to trim inputs while boosting yields. In recent years both farmers and landlords have found that beyond tillage, there are many other farming resources that can be conserved through a properly designed conservation systems program.

‘The importance of conserving soil moisture, as well as reducing fuel, labor, seed, chemical, fertilizer and other input costs are keys to economic success for all farmers and landowners.”

Two nationally recognized growers will be highlighting the corn and soybean sessions.

Kip Cullers, three-time world soybean yield record breaker and winner of 13 National Corn Growers Association awards, will be presenting two soybean breakout sessions, and will also facilitate a roundtable discussion.

Jerry Cox, whose Cox Farms has won more national championships than any other operation in National Corn Growers Association history with 21 national titles, will be presenting two breakouts sessions on corn production, as well as facilitating a corn roundtable discussion.

In October 2010, Cox was presented the Governor’s Award for Agricultural Achievement in corn production by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon.

Farmers from Mississippi, Texas, Alabama, Louisiana and Tennessee will be able to receive their state’s pesticide re-certification credits. Certified crop consultants can select from over 58 hours of qualifying sessions to earn CEU’s during the conference.

The conferences are co-sponsored by the University of Arkansas, Mississippi State University, University of Missouri, University of Tennessee, LSU AgCenter, Auburn University, and Texas A&M.

USDA-NRCS, Washington, and USDA-ARS centers in the southern states are also co-sponsors, as are Bayer CropScience, DuPont Crop Protection, FMC Corporation, Helena Chemical Co., HorizonAg, Monsanto/Deltapine, Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc., RiceCo LLC and RiceTec.

Agricultural media co-sponsors are Delta Farm Press and Southwest Farm Press.

The conference will feature a large trade show.

For full details and registration, visit http://www.mafg.net.

Australian farmers trek 18,000 miles in cotton picker quest

Ian Hayllor Dalby Queensland and son Jimmy right traveled a total of 18000 miles to buy a cotton picker in Tunica Miss and transport it back to Australia
<p> <strong>Ian Hayllor, Dalby, Queensland, and son Jimmy, right, traveled a total of 18,000 miles to buy a cotton picker in Tunica, Miss., and transport it back to Australia.</strong></p>

Nine thousand miles is a long haul to buy a cotton picker. Tack on another 9,000 miles to get home and you have the makings of an epic journey or a geographical accident. Throw in a couple of Australians kicking up Delta dirt in Mississippi, and the story takes on a surreal quality — a cotton odyssey.

But behind the odd circumstances are two Australian farmers with a granite grasp of farming and a blunt recognition of the problems facing agriculture. Despite breaking ground on the other side of the globe, they share a worldview strikingly similar to American farmers.

It was rain that put producer Ian Hayllor, Dalby, Queensland, and his son Jimmy on the road to the United States in search of a cotton picker. Starting in December of 2010, Queensland (Australia’s second largest state and more than twice the size of Texas) was hit with its worst floods in 130 years. The scope of damage was massive, with three-quarters of the state declared a disaster zone. “We got more rain in the last two years than we’d got in the previous 10. We thought we had a flood-free farm. It was a shock. We said, ‘It’s not coming in the house; it’s not.’ But it started coming in, almost through the floorboards — a foot deep. When the water went down, we washed the silt out of the house. The flood then came back. We cleaned up again and got on with it,” remembers Ian.

With the Hayllor’s farmland under water and prospects grim for crop production, their focus was on surviving the season. The Australian growing season is generally the polar opposite from its American counterpart. Despite the floods hitting in December and January, fields were still full of maturing crops.

“You could drive a boat across the farm from one end to the other,” says Jimmy.

The flood’s time frame coincided with Australia’s John Deere purchase window on new pickers. With his farm swamped and facing far greater concerns than a new picker, Ian let the Deere deadline roll by, despite having wanted to buy a round baler. When the water receded, irrigation ditches needed rebuilding; fields were full of silt; and furrows had to be put in. Without hesitation, Ian describes it as “the busiest time of our lives.”

After he got the operation back in order, his farm was blessed with a good run of weather and Ian found himself preparing for harvest with fair expectations of a limited crop. He knew his yields would be poor: “Some of the crops just looked dead, but they came back. We actually only lost 300 total acres to dead crops. But the season was so wet that all our acreage, dryland or not, just didn’t yield well.”

Mississippi round baler

With the next planting season looming, Ian made his move for a new cotton picker. He could have waited until 2012 and purchased one in Australia, but the stress of the season had taken a toll.

“If it had been a perfect season, we probably wouldn’t be over here in the U.S. It would have been clockwork like always and we wouldn’t have worried,” admits Jimmy.

Instead, Ian seized the moment and purchased a picker directly from the U.S. An import agent located a used Deere round baler at Parker Tractor in Tunica, Miss., and Ian bought it while the Australian dollar was trading at an unreal rate against the U.S. dollar ($1.10 as compared with the normal rate of about 75 cents). Even with a $70,000 shipping charge, Ian was quite satisfied with his find.

Australian cotton is already moving toward round balers. “There are a lot of round balers going to Australia, and if we left it for another year, our second-hand equipment would get less and less valuable as we see more and more round balers. We’ve been able to sell our existing machines for quite a reasonable price, to help pay for the new one. We’re selling two 9976 pickers — four-row and six-row, and then buying the one round baler, which we hope will do the job,” says Ian.

Before buying the round baler, he’d been running three module builders and three boll buggies, with the requisite workers to run them. “We’re looking at cutting back on labor and making the farm more efficient. The boys are getting fed up with working 24 hours a day, for some reason. I’m trying to make life easier for everyone, and the baler picker is a one-man operation; so we go from having eight to 10 staff, back to two or three. That’s the attraction.”

Custom-harvesters were never an option for the Hayllors. “We’ve got 12 months of hard work in that crop, and we’re not going to risk it on a contractor that may not turn up,” says Ian.

“There are custom-harvesters, but we want to pick our own. Why let someone else have all the fun?” adds Jimmy.

Like an apostle of self-sufficiency, Ian clearly wants his machine in his shed, on his land, ready to pick his cotton. Back in the 1980s, he ran a major custom-harvesting operation, but wisely sold out just before harvesting outfits popped up everywhere. “We sold all our pickers to buy land. Land is a better asset than machinery — and we slowly built up our business.”

Mineral rights

It would be difficult to find a more articulate spokesman for agriculture than Ian Hayllor. He speaks with calm confidence and seems at equal ease discussing clogged irrigation pumps and tractors — or genetic science and the fine print of agricultural legislation. It’s no exaggeration to describe Ian as having a finger on the pulse of Australian agriculture. He serves on a host of Australian ag committees and boards: Surat Basin Engagement Group, NFF CSG Task Force, Arrow Surat Community Reference Group, Origin Technical Information Group, Healthy Head Waters Programme and is chair of the Environmental and Property Protection Assoc Inc (EPPA). But despite the lengthy resume — he’d rather talk boots-on-the-ground farming.

Throw Ian a question about farming — and expect a thorough answer. When asked about what challenges Australian farmers face, Ian pulls no punches: He doesn’t trust the mineral companies, has no patience with the environmental ‘greens’, and believes the government is a broken machine. It’s plain talk — and he backs it up with a litany of examples.

Australia is in the midst of a historic mining explosion and the repercussions have slammed against the agriculture industry. Coal mines and natural gas wells are sucking cash out of the Queensland ground. They’re also draining the Australian labor pool, paying up to $200,000 per year to anyone willing to drive a truck underground for a 12-hour shift or run a drill a mile underground. Ian said he had just lost a 21-year-old farmhand who bolted for a $120,000 start-up wage at the mines.

Such is life on the playing fields of Western capitalism. However, there is far more to the picture: the playing fields in Australia are by no means level. They are tilted toward the ‘company’ at a 90-degree angle. In Australia, anything that is underground belongs to the government and not the farmer. Period. Full-stop.

Regardless of what is below a farmer’s soil, the mineral rights belong to the suits-and-ties in government. The mineral rights are sold by the government to mining companies, and the landowners get ‘interference compensation’ at a rate of $5,000 to $10,000 per well each year. If a natural gas well (maybe in the middle of cotton field) generates $1 million annually and is projected to have a 15-year run — then the register rings at $15 million for the company/government and the landowner gets $75,000-$150,000 (minus 15 years of lost crop production).

“The government sells the companies the lease, giving them the legal right to come on your property. You can’t stop them … you can never stop them. The government is basically selling eminent domain to the gas company,” describes Ian.

The farming implications are immeasurable: “They’ll only take about 2 to 3 percent of our land, but if they put a road the wrong way across a field, it’s going to have a tremendous impact — drainage and machinery operation. They’re gas people and they don’t understand farming. Our government is broke. They cannot manage the finances of Australia, and so they rely on the energy sector — gas, coal, iron ore. Agriculture is not respected by government.”

Another of Ian’s concerns (paralleling U.S. farmers) is a shortage of water. Australian farmers are grinding it out with ‘greens’ and government over water restrictions and cuts in allocations.

Water wars, cotton yields

“The water issue is a big debate at present. We just had two of the wettest years on record, but they’re talking about taking back 60 percent of allocations. It’s massive, the biggest irrigation area in Australia and the green environmentalists want to take away 60 percent of our water,” Ian says.

He believes the water constraints have only just begun.

“I think you’re going to face cutback after cutback for the next fifty years. The greens, they’d like to shut down agriculture if they could. I’m not sure what we’d eat, but they don’t quite understand the real world. They buy their food in shops, so they don’t really need agriculture.”

For all his frustration with regulations and restrictions, Ian’s sheer enthusiasm for agriculture is undaunted. Born in England, (about as geographically removed from a cotton field as one could get) Ian took a vacation to Australia in 1980 — and never left, becoming a poster-child for self-sufficiency: “I went to Australia and loved the blue skies and open spaces. I was 23 years old. While in Australia, I was lucky enough to meet an English farmer who was looking to buy an Australian farm. We knew each other for a week — and bought a farm together. I stayed and he went back to England. I don’t have a cotton background — no cotton grown in England. I started off and built up the business over the last 30 years.”

When Ian talks cotton, his sentences are punctuated with expectation and he says 2012 could be a tremendous year for Australia. Ian grows Sicot 71 BRF and it’s been an incredibly good yielder. He estimates that his cotton fields have seen a 2.5 percent yield increase annually for the past 30 years — with half the increase attributed to improved variety and the other half from improved management. Over the last 20 years, Ian’s bales-per-acre average has been in the 3.5-3.75 range. “When I first started growing cotton, 3 bales was a very good crop. Now if you don’t hit 5 bales, you cry.”

Overall, Australian cotton yield numbers are outstanding. “This year they’re saying the very best crops brought 7 bales to the acre. That is hard to believe. You could walk on it and not fall through. But we’ve seen 5.5-bale cotton on our farm, and there are farms that average 6-bale cotton. We were jealous, because with the flood we only averaged 3 bales, our worst average in 20 years.”

Admittedly, Ian’s farm role is a balancing act — with his time divided between regulatory issues and government battles, while Jimmy is hands-on at the farm. With wife Deb, Jimmy and another son Dan, Ian farms approximately 9,000 acres. This coming season, he hopes to plant 3,500 acres of cotton (half of it irrigated); 2,500 acres of wheat; and the rest of the acreage in corn and sorghum. Beyond government red tape, water problems, and environmental legislation, day-to-day farm operation is what Ian thrives on.

Kangaroos and cockatoos

He’ll soon have a John Deere round baler stirring up kangaroos and cockatoos as it runs the rows of his Queensland farm. It seems odd, but kangaroos can be a serious crop pest. “They are not a real problem in cotton, but they sure are in wheat. If you’ve got an irrigated crop and everything else is dry, they all come to the crop and eat it. There are people who are professional kangaroo shooters — that’s what they do for a living. But some farmers, because there are so many of them, have to just go and shoot them.”

On Ian Hayllor’s farm, the wildlife is different and the geography is flipped, but his feel for the land is no different from any American farmer. “I love seeing things grow. There is nothing more rewarding — on the cropping side — than having a really good crop. Everybody is happy when you’re harvesting a good crop. You can work with family; it’s a family concern. The kids grow up, and they were farming as soon as they could walk. They used to love helping to irrigate — playing in the mud and water. It’s that family atmosphere.”

Australia’s 2012 cotton harvest will begin in April; Ian and his Mississippi Delta picker will be waiting. “We’ve been looking forward to ending this last cotton crop — it was difficult and disappointing. But we’re starting the new one already. It’s the next challenge and there’s something new around the corner,” says Ian.

“You drive around and see a good crop, then you can’t stop smiling.” In that regard, maybe 9,000 miles isn’t that far after all.

cbennett@farmpress.com

California’s first 2011 snow survey set for Jan. 3

California’s first 2011 snow survey set for Jan. 3

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) will conduct this winter’s first snow survey on Jan. 3.

One center of attention will be the manual survey scheduled for 11 a.m. off Highway 50 near Echo Summit.  This and other manual and electronic surveys up and down the state will determine the amount of water in the early winter snowpack.

Statewide electronic readings indicate that today’s snowpack water content – near the end of an unusually dry December – is only 24 percent of normal for the date.  At this time last year (Dec. 27), the statewide snowpack water content was 202 percent of average.

Despite the low early readings, the snowpack and its water content can be expected to increase through the winter months to April 1, when melting snow begins flowing into streams and reservoirs.

“Thanks to good reservoir storage left over from last winter’s storms, we anticipate an adequate water supply next summer,” said DWR Director Mark Cowin. “Our initial estimate is that we’ll be able to deliver 60 percent of the slightly more than 4 million acre-feet of water requested from the State Water Project, and we hope to increase the percentage as winter storms develop.”

The initial delivery estimate for this calendar year was only 25 percent of the slightly more than 4 million acre-feet requested by the 29 public agencies that distribute State Water Project (SWP) water to 25 million Californians and nearly a million acres of irrigated farmland.  As winter took hold, a near-record snowpack and heavy rains sweeping the state resulted in deliveries of 80 percent of requests in 2011.  The final allocation was 50 percent in 2010, 40 percent in 2009, 35 percent in 2008, and 60 percent 2007.  The last 100 percent allocation – difficult to achieve even in wet years because of Delta pumping restrictions to protect threatened and endangered fish – was in 2006.

DWR and cooperating agencies conduct manual snow surveys around the first of the month from January to May.  The manual surveys supplement and check the accuracy of real-time electronic readings as the snowpack builds then melts in spring and summer.

Most of the state’s major reservoirs are above normal storage for the date.

Lake Oroville in Butte County, the State Water Project’s principal storage reservoir, is at 115 percent of average for the date (72 percent of its 3.5 million acre-foot capacity).  Lake Shasta north of Redding, the federal Central Valley Project’s (CVP) largest reservoir with a capacity of 4.5 million acre-feet, is 108 percent of average for the date (68 percent of capacity).  San Luis Reservoir in Merced County, an important storage reservoir south of the Delta, is at 139 percent of average for the date (94 percent of capacity).   San Luis, with a capacity of 2,027,840 acre-feet, is a critically important source of water for both the SWP and the CVP when pumping from the Delta is restricted or interrupted.

(An acre-foot is 325,851 gallons, enough to cover 1 acre to a depth of 1 foot.)

The mountain snowpack that melts into reservoirs, streams and aquifers provides approximately one-third of the water for California’s households, industries and farms.

The news media is invited to accompany DWR snow surveyors near Echo Summit on Jan. 3.  The location is Phillips Station at Highway 50 and Sierra at Tahoe Road approximately 90 miles east of Sacramento.  Measurements will begin at 11 a.m.  Reporters and photographers should bring snowshoes or cross-country skis and park their vehicles along Highway 50.  Results should be available by 1 p.m.

Statewide snowpack readings are available on the Internet at:

http://cdec.water.ca.gov/cgi-progs/snow/DLYSWEQ

Electronic reservoir level readings may be found at:

http://cdec.water.ca.gov/cdecapp/resapp/getResGraphsMain.action

Increased pork demand supporting corn market

Increased pork demand supporting corn market

Increased export demand for U.S. pork is raising pork profitability and leading to an overall rise in the national hog inventory according to a December report released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service and Economic Research Service.

The National Corn Growers Association welcomes this growth, which translates into stronger demand for corn and distillers dried grains.

“Corn farmers value our relationship with the hog industry, which consistently provides an important market for our product,” said NCGA President Garry Niemeyer.

“In 2011-12 marketing year, it is estimated that hogs will consume 960 million bushels of corn. As demand grows for pork both internationally and domestically, corn farmers benefit also thus reinforcing the importance of cooperation among all sectors in the agricultural community.”

USDA Economic Research Service projects a significant increase in pork exports during the fourth quarter of 2011, with 1.4 billion pounds of pork exported during this period. This 22 percent increase over fourth quarter exports in 2010, if realized, would set total 2011 U.S. pork exports at more than 5.1 billion pounds.

Further agency estimates indicate these levels will hold in 2012.

In addition to strong demand for U.S. pork abroad, domestic demand could also see a slight increase in 2012. Service estimates foresee this demand increase as the market balances against projected reductions in beef and poultry production.

The rise in demand has already increased production, which should be sustained in the coming year. NASS reports indicated that, as of Dec. 1, the total U.S. hog inventory stood at 65.9 million head, two percent higher than at that time last year with the breeding herd expanding at the same rate during that period.

While the rate of sows farrowing fell by one percent from Sept. 1, an increase in the number of viable pigs produced per litter hit a record high of 10.02 offsetting the drop in sows.

The overall increases in pork production, export and in domestic demand have not only resulted in a rise in demand for corn, but also in demand for distillers dried grains, an ethanol co-product.

Hog sector interest in and demand for DDGs increased steadily over the past few years to take advantage of the quality protein option that it offers at a low cost.

For the full report, please click here.

Kentucky’s winter wheat meeting set for Jan. 10

Kentucky’s winter wheat meeting set for Jan. 10

Specialists with the University of Kentucky Wheat Science Group will present timely information related to the 2012 wheat production year during their winter meeting from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. CST Jan. 10 at the James E. Bruce Convention Center in Hopkinsville.

The UK College of Agriculture specialists will give presentations on the following topics: row spacing, variety testing, a climate change project, remote sensing for variable rate nitrogen applications, barley yellow dwarf virus, nutrient survey of winter wheat tissue, invasive stink bugs, herbicide-resistant weeds and the 2012 farm bill.

In addition, Phil Needham from Needham Ag Technologies will discuss fungicide application technologies.

The Kentucky Small Grain Growers Association will provide lunch.

Pesticide applicator continuing education units are available for three general hours and one specific hour in categories 1A, 10, 12 and 14.

Continuing education units for Certified Crop Advisors are available in the following categories: one in nutrient management, one in crop management, 1.5 in integrated pest management and 0.5 in professional development.

Pre-registration is not required. For more information, contact Dottie Call, UK Wheat Science Group coordinator at 270-365-7451, ext. 234 or email dcall@uky.edu.

The James E. Bruce Convention Center is located at 303 Conference Center Drive in Hopkinsville. From the north, take exit 5 on Pennyrile Parkway. Turn right onto Lovers Lane (State Road 1613) and take another right on to Conference Center Drive. From south of Hopkinsville, take exit 81 on Interstate 24 to Pennyrile Parkway toward Hopkinsville. On the parkway, take exit 5 to Lovers Lane. Take a right on Conference Center Drive.

Those with a GPS will need to use the address of 5305 Ft. Campbell Blvd., Hopkinsville, Ky. 42240. This is the Murray State University Hopkinsville Regional Campus. From there, at the first stop sign, turn right. At the next stop sign, turn left and continue on to the convention center.