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Articles from 2006 In February

Computer Program Puts Byte on Farmers' Weed Problems

Farmers bitten by weeds can byte back with a computer program WeedSOFT.

WeedSOFT provides producers with tools to identify weeds, select herbicides and set up a customized treatment plan. The software program's 2006 version offers a handful of new features, including weed management for hay crops.

First-time users can purchase the software for $50. Annual updates are $40.

"WeedSOFT is a computerized weed management decision aid for corn, soybeans, grain sorghum, wheat, grass pastures and forages," says Bill Johnson, Purdue Extension weed scientist.

"In the past, most people have used printed guides that are produced by industry or universities to help them make decisions on which herbicide products to use and how to use them. What we've attempted to do with WeedSOFT is take all of that information and put it into a computerized program."

The software also goes a step beyond weed control books, Johnson adds.

"This program has the ability to predict yield loss based on various weed infestations, which is a feature that we simply don't have in the printed guides," he says.

WeedSOFT is a collaborative effort of nine land-grant universities: Purdue, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska and Wisconsin; and Kansas State, Michigan State, OhioState and PennState universities.

To order or learn more about WeedSOFT, visit the WeedSOFT Web site at The site contains a printable order form.   

Mail orders should be sent to WeedSOFT,

P.O. Box 830915, Lincoln, NE68583-0915
. Orders also can be placed online at the WeedSOFT Web site.

Corn+Soybean Digest

The Road Warrior of Agriculture

The Economy: Small Problems Can Become Big Ones (Part 1)

My travels took me to Spokane, WA, to address my twelfth Executive Producer Roundtable sponsored by Northwest Farm Credit Services. My good friend, Dr. Ed Seifried, was a highlight for the producers by giving them a glimpse of the economy. The following are a few key points from his address:

The rise of energy prices and interest rates in tandem has resulted in a recession every time since 1971.

The worldwide economic growth is being held hostage by potential energy supply and terrorist disruptions.

Ben Bernanke is an inflation hawk in favor of inflation targeting. His critics say he’ll pursue price stability at the expense of employment and economic growth. As an academic, he is cited as being a possible theorist.

Inflation targeting strategies attempt to keep the Consumer Price Index (CPI) between 1.5 and 2.5 percent. Critics argue the inflation target ignores housing and equity prices. Core inflation was 2.3 percent for 2004. Add housing prices and the CPI would be 4.9 percent.

The rise in oil price slows GDP. As oil prices increase it enriches foreign economies so they can fund our deficit

Since 1984, GDP volatility in the U.S. is down by 60 percent. Why? Better monetary policy. The lower the inflation, the more favorable the environment. Better inventory management control has led to production price reduction, also.

My e-mail address

Editors' note: Dave Kohl, The Corn and Soybean Digest Trends Editor, is an ag economist specializing in business management and ag finance. He recently retired from Virginia Tech, but continues to conduct applied research and travel extensively in the U.S. and Canada, teaching ag and banking seminars and speaking to producer and agribusiness groups.

To see Dave Kohl's previous road warrior adventures type Dave Kohl in the Search blank at the top of the page.

This online exclusive is brought to you by The Corn and Soybean Digest

Corn+Soybean Digest

Thiesse's Thoughts

Crop Insurance Decisions

During the next couple weeks, many farm operators will be finalizing their crop insurance decisions for the 2006 crop year. March 15 is the deadline to purchase crop insurance for 2006. Producers need to analyze how crop insurance fits into their risk management and grain marketing strategies for the coming year. There are very few changes in the various types of crop insurance policies for 2006, as compared to last year. Most producers have a pretty good handle on the mechanics of standard APH (yield only) Multi-Peril Insurance policies, compared to RA and CRC revenue coverage policies (yield and price).

There has been more interest in the past couple of years in GRIP policies that are based on county average crop yields, due to the added coverage that is available at a fairly reasonable price.

GRIP insurance policies are based on historic NASS county average yields and base futures prices to establish a revenue base and on actual county average yields and final futures prices to establish the final crop value, and if any indemnity payments are paid.

Crop losses or actual yields on individual farm units have no bearing on any potential indemnity payments from GRIP policies, so it also probably good to carry Hail Insurance.

The mechanics of a GRIP insurance policy work very similar to a CRC or RA-HP policy, except GRIP is based off of historic county average yields, and CRC or RA-HP are based off of historic yields on a given farm unit.

The market price determinations for GRIP policies are the same as the calculations for CRC insurance policies, which use the average February CBOT futures settlement price for November soybeans and December corn to determine the base price, and average October settlement price for CBOT November soybeans and December corn to determine the harvest price.

Producers may choose GRIP insurance policy coverage levels at 70-90% of the County Revenue Guarantee (average county yield x base price).

Other Crop Insurance Considerations:
View crop insurance decisions from a risk management perspective. How much financial risk can you handle if there are greatly reduced crop yields due to weather problems and/ or lower than expected crop prices?

Take a good look at the 80% and 85% coverage levels, especially on soybeans. You’ll be surprised how much additional protection can be added at these higher coverage levels for a modest increase in premium costs.

Potential crop losses from Asian soybean rust and/or soybean aphids will be covered in 2006, provided reasonable efforts were made to control the problems.

Take the time to verify yields and keep good yield records from year to year. You can greatly enhance your insurance protection with APH or CRC and RA-HP options at little or no extra cost by doing a good job of maintaining the maximum APH on farm units.

Utilize an optional unit structure to maximize crop insurance protection with APH and CRC or RA-HP policies. In most years, you’ll have more crop insurance protection by establishing the smallest optional units that are possible on your farms, with the exception o GRIP Insurance.

More Information On 2006 Crop Insurance Alternatives:
A reputable crop insurance agent is the best source of information to make 2006 crop insurance decisions. The University of Illinois Farm Management Web site has some good crop insurance information, and an on-line Crop Insurance Premium Calculator. The web site is:

Editors note: Kent Thiesse is a former University of Minnesota Extension educator and now is Vice President of MinnStar Bank, Lake Crystal, MN. You can contact him at 507-726-2137 or via e-mail at

Corn+Soybean Digest

DuPont Canopy Herbicide Registered For Pre-emergence Use In Soybeans

The Environmental Protection Agency has approved the registration of DuPont Canopy herbicide for pre-emergence use in soybeans.

Canopy provides effective broad-spectrum weed control with early-season residual activity, which allows growers more flexibility in timing their postemergence glyphosate treatments.

"There is an increasing need for a pre-emergence partner with residual for glyphosate weed-control programs," says Jeff Carpenter, product manager for DuPont Crop Protection. "Canopy herbicide gives soybean growers the flexibility to make their burndown application in the spring and then time their glyphosate application closer to canopy stage, when it can be the most efficient."

The residual weed control in Canopy helps manage early-season weed competition for maximum yield potential. Carpenter says these benefits can be critical, especially in years when wet weather conditions may prevent a timely glyphosate application.

"Canopy delivers consistent burndown of winter annuals, even under cool, wet conditions," Carpenter says. "That's going to give growers more confidence about having a clean seedbed to plant into and help prevent regrowth of treated weeds, even when it's been too rainy and cold to get in the field with a glyphosate treatment. It also has two modes of action to help farmers deal with weed shifts and tolerance weed management."

With its two modes of action, Canopy controls more than 30 broadleaf weed species, including several that are ALS- or triazine-resistant. It also provides partial control of nearly a dozen other weed species.

For more information, visit your DuPont retailer or

Corn+Soybean Digest

Adopting New Bt Corn Is Age-Old Decision For Farmers

You can't teach old farmers new tricks for controlling corn rootworms.

A Purdue University study found that as farmers approach late middle age they are less likely to plant corn that produces Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a protein that kills corn rootworms and European corn borer insects that feed on plant tissues.

The 2004 study, based on surveys and discussions with about 1,000 Indiana farmers who grew at least 200 acres of corn, also revealed farmers experienced in biotech crops are more likely to plant Bt corn hybrids, while some growers are less inclined to use Bt varieties because they find planting parts of their fields in non-Bt "refuge" corn a hassle.

As young farmers become more comfortable with biotechnology, their adoption of genetically modified corn seed increases, says Corinne Alexander, a Purdue agricultural economist and the study's lead researcher. Older farmers who've never planted Bt hybrids aren't likely to start, however.

"What we found was age was a significant predictor in Bt corn adoption," Alexander says. "We found as producers get older and gain experience they are more likely to adopt Bt corn rootworm, but once they reach about age 48 they become less likely to adopt the technology."

The reasons, Alexander says, include time and profit potential. "For those farmers who are much closer to retirement, they receive a much smaller benefit from trying something new because they are only going to be farming for, say, another five or 10 years."

Indiana is an interesting case study for genetically modified corn adoption because the state has areas with severe, moderate and low corn rootworm problems, Alexander says.

"How a farmer controls corn rootworm in Indiana really depends on what sort of pest pressure they face," she says. "In southern Indiana, most farmers wouldn't treat for it at all because there are very few corn rootworm larvae in that part of the state. In the moderate region in northeast and central Indiana, farmers may use soil insecticides or seed treatments for control. In the high pressure northwest corner of Indiana, most farmers use soil insecticides and some use seed treatments."

The control dynamic changed in 2003 when Monsanto Corp. introduced a genetically modified corn resistant to corn rootworm. Seed with the corn rootworm Bt protein became widely available for growers in 2004. Despite the new insect resistance traits, only 21 percent of Indiana's corn was planted in biotech varieties in 2004 compared to 47 percent nationally, according to USDA.

"Producers now have four options" in the corn rootworm fight, Alexander says. "They've got the no treat option. They've got the seed treatment option. They've got the soil insecticide option. And, now, they have the Bt corn rootworm option."

The Purdue study also found that preventing non-Bt corn from being pollinated by nearby Bt corn crops is a factor in producer adoption of the biotech seed. In addition, some farmers indicated that the extra effort in planting non-Bt refuges in or near their Bt corn crops discourages them from planting the corn rootworm-resistant seed.

Farmers who plant Bt corn are required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to plant 20 percent of their acreage within, around or adjacent to those biotech crops in non-Bt corn hybrids

Among other findings in the Purdue study:
Growers who have planted genetically modified corn to control other corn pests would plant corn rootworm Bt hybrids, if given the opportunity. "We found that producers who had planted Bt corn that controls European corn borer in 2003 were significantly more likely to plant corn rootworm corn," Alexander says.

Europe's refusal to purchase many biotech grains – and the influence that decision has had on corn buyers within the U.S. – leaves some Indiana corn growers hesitant to plant corn rootworm-resistant hybrids.

Thuy Van Mellor, a research associate, assisted Alexander in the Purdue study. The study, titled "Determinants of Corn Rootworm Resistant Corn Adoption in Indiana," appeared in a recent edition of AgBioForum and can be read online at

Corn+Soybean Digest

Soybean Checkoff Touts Safety Of U.S. Poultry, Fights Avian Influenza Worldwide

With the recent case discovered in Iraq, avian influenza has been a hot topic in the news lately, but it doesn’t currently affect the health and safety of U.S. poultry. The soybean checkoff is working with other agricultural groups to make sure this stays that way.

“U.S. poultry has no cases of the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus,” says Phil Bradshaw, USB Animal Agriculture Initiative (AAI) Team Lead and soybean farmer from Griggsville, IL. “It is important to stress that U.S. poultry production is safe and a high quality product when prepared correctly.”

While avian flu is not currently a threat to the U.S., the soybean checkoff is not forgetting countries that are afflicted with the virus. Few problems with avian influenza have been experienced in poultry industries that have incorporated checkoff-recommended production practices. Avian influenza is more of a problem in nonconfined poultry units. U.S. Soybean Export Council is working with a number of countries on avian-flu-related issues.

“The soybean checkoff has worked with countries to reduce the problems associated with avian influenza, and we’ll continue to do all we can to help ease the impact of this virus,” says Benny Cooper, USB International Marketing Committee Chair and soybean farmer from Kevil, KY.

In Romania, avian flu outbreaks and concerns led to a 10-25 percent decrease in production numbers in the poultry and feed industries. Despite avian-flu concerns, Transavia, one of the top poultry companies in Romania, will invest $12 million in a new project with a goal of doubling its production and processing capacities. Transavia benefited from checkoff-funded technical assistance and will open a new full-fat-soybean processing plant in early 2006.

Egypt is so far free of avian flu, but news of outbreaks within the region led to reduced prices for chicken and eggs. Price cuts maintained consumption levels but led to losses of $1 million/day for the Egyptian poultry industry. Checkoff representatives are working with Egyptian poultry leaders in launching a public relations campaign telling consumers that they face no threat from avian flu.

The impact of avian flu in China has varied greatly. Although some companies have been hit hard, overall it seems that soybean meal demand has continued to grow. Perhaps increased pork demand has helped fill the void created by avian flu.

In addition, the U.S. Grains Council, along with the U.S. Soybean Export Council and U.S.A. Poultry and Egg Export Council, is requesting federal funding to develop a promotional campaign to increase poultry consumption. The program would state that poultry is healthy and safe to eat and would cover Russia, the Middle East and North Africa, if approved.

United States, Colombia Conclude FTA Talks

After back-to-back nights of burning the oil over the weekend, trade negotiators from the United States and Colombia concluded Colombia Free Trade Agreement talks early Monday morning.

The final version gives immediate duty-free treatment to high quality beef, cotton, wheat, soybeans, soybean meal, key fruits and vegetables including apples, pears, peaches and cherries along with many processed food products including frozen French fries and cookies.

The U.S. Trade Representative reports that the following U.S. farm products will benefit from improved market access: pork, beef, corn, poultry, rice, fruits and vegetables, processed products and dairy products.

Rice is the most sensitive product for Colombia and has a tariff phase-out period of 19 years. The U.S. sugar industry was protected in the agreement, reports USTR.

Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab expects Congress to take up the agreement this fall, potentially after the November elections. U.S. and Colombian officials will spend the next few weeks reviewing their agreement, and then a notice of intention to sign starts a 90-day clock, after which the agreement can be signed.

The Colombian agreement is part of a broader Andean Free Trade Agreement. An agreement with Peru is expected to be approved this summer. An Ecuador FTA is possible in the upcoming months also.

In 2005, Colombia and the United States had $14.3 billion in two-way trade, and Colombia is currently the second largest agricultural market for the United States in Latin America.

Column: Chambliss says farmers should get credit

Saxby Chambliss says farmers should get a “deficit reduction” credit for the $13 billion the government was expected to spend on farm programs in the first three years of the 2002 farm bill but didn’t.

Chambliss, the Senate Agriculture Committee chairman, said farmers are willing to share in the Bush administration’s budget-cutting efforts, but he says they made a big down payment to that end in 2002-04.

That was then and this is now, says Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns. He says that, even with the farm program reductions the president proposed on Feb. 6, the administration expects to spend $7 billion more in FY 2007 than projected in the 2002 farm bill.

This classic case of glass half full or glass half empty may be just the first in a series of dust-ups over the 2007 farm bill, which promises to strain the already tenuous relationship between farm-state congressmen and USDA.

In outlining the details of the president’s proposal, Johanns acknowledged that expenditures were lower than originally projected during the first three years after President Bush signed the 2002 farm bill. That began to change in 2006, however.

“Expenditures increased to historically high levels, well above the 2002 farm bill estimates. Actual CCC expenditures were over $20 billion in 2005. They are projected to exceed $21 billion in 2006,” he told reporters. “Last year there was an expectation that the farm bill expenditures would end up below the 2002 projections. But that’s not the case.”

Well, duh. Most farmers who followed the deliberations would say this is how the 2002 law was intended to work. Farm prices were higher in 2002-04 for a variety of reasons, and farm program payments were lower. Farm prices dropped for almost every major program crop in 2005, and payments were higher.

In his comments to reporters, Johanns conceded that Commodity Credit Corp. expenditures are highly variable, reflecting the impact of weather and growing conditions on crop production and the resulting changes in commodity prices.

But the only number that matters is the deficit, which farmers must share in reducing even though agriculture would take the third highest cut – behind Justice and Transportation – of any department in the president’s budget.

Johanns said the president’s proposal, which includes a 5 percent across-the-board reduction in commodity payments and a cap of $250,000 on payments to individuals, will save the government $1 billion in 2007 and $7.7 billion over the next 10 years.

He said some may have been surprised at a vote on a payment limit amendment in the Senate last fall. “It was defeated, but a substantial number of senators were very, very convinced this was the appropriate direction.” (The vote, 53-46, also shows more senators were opposed to it.)

Johanns says the administration is months away from weighing in on the new farm bill. But it’s becoming increasingly clear farmers will get their share – and then some – of the administration’s new farm policy.

UC co-hosts niche meat marketing conference in Chico March 21-22

Ranchers interested in carving out a marketing niche for their specialty meat products will get the latest information on economics, processing, organic production and grass finishing at a conference co-hosted by the University of California Cooperative Extension March 21 to 22 in Chico.

Niche meats are growing in popularity as consumers hunger for exotic flavors, such as grass-fed beef, goat, sheep and other livestock; while others seek to support small-scale farming and conservation; and health-conscious consumers pursue more nutritious meat produced and processed using non-conventional methods. But moving into niche meat production can be complicated.

"Many people involved with niche meat today need a better understanding of the economics of their marketing enterprise," said Roger Ingram, the UC Cooperative Extension livestock farm advisor in Placer and Nevada counties. "Does it make sense to do it all yourself? If someone offers you $1.50 a pound hot carcass weight, should you take it?"

These questions will be addressed by the conference keynote speaker, Dave Pratt, chief executive officer of Ranch Management Consultants. Pratt's expertise on sustainable agriculture and profitable ranching is sought after around the world. He believes the high prices paid in supermarkets for niche meat products may lead some ranchers to assume producing it is profitable. However, that's not always the case.

"Most grass-fed operations that I've looked at operate at an economic loss," he said. "It is business structure, not price that drives profit. Overhead costs exert three times the pressure on profit as product price."

Profit secrets

In his presentation, Pratt will convey his "three secrets to profit" and how they relate to niche meat marketing enterprises.

Processing is also a stumbling block for many niche-meat producers. The conference will include a processor panel that will address the current situation, plans for and barriers to expansion, and ways producers can work collaboratively with processors.

Organic production and grass-finishing will be discussed the second day of the conference. Organic topics will include market trends, certification, animal requirements and processing. Results from a new UC organic beef niche market cost study will be presented for the first time. The grass-finishing section will cover animal requirements, forage flow, filling in the forage gaps and using crop by-products.

The final afternoon will be devoted to a meeting of the Northern California Lamb Producers Feasibility Study Committee, which is evaluating niche market opportunities for lamb.

The Niche Meat Marketing Conference will be held at the Chico State Farm, California State University, Chico. Registration for the two-day conference -- which includes two lunches, dinner and proceedings -- is $70 before March 13 and $80 thereafter. To register, send a check payable to "UC Regents" to Niche Meat Marketing Conference, 11477 E Ave., Auburn, CA 95603. For more information, contact Robert Ingram at (530) 889-7385,