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Articles from 2009 In February


Obama's call for farm subsidy cuts unwelcome in Congress

For the full article, click on the headline above.

In President Barack Obama's first speech to Congress, he said that the administration found $2 trillion of savings in budget cuts over the next decade. "Ending direct payments to agribusinesses that don't need them" was one of them.

Obama's proposed budget phases out direct payments over three years to farmers with sales revenue of more than $500,000 annually. The Administration seeks to re-direct the savings from the cuts to other USDA priorities, such as boosting increases in the fruits, vegetables, and nuts for school nutrition, Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack said.

Vilsack made a speech recently to a joint meeting of the National Association of Wheat Growers and the U.S. Wheat Associates Boards advising farmers that they should be thinking about developing other sources of income rather than direct payments.

The President's $3.5 trillion budget plan also calls for the elimination of cotton storage payments, a reduction in subsidies for crop insurance, and a funding cut for the Market Access Program that promotes U.S. goods overseas. 

Congress was lukewarm to the idea. Although Obama presents his budget, Congress still will write the final legislation.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, welcomed Obama's engagement in reforming large commodity program payments and direct payments, both issues he has sought reforms for in the past.

Harkin was skeptical of other proposals. "The savings from crop insurance appear large based on all the analysis and work during the farm bill debate on the crop insurance program's budget, premium subsidies to farmers, and compensation to companies and local agents." 

Even Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, one of the strongest proponents of tighter payment limits, warned the "sales revenue" approach does not ensure farm payments go to those who need it most since gross income or sales revenue does not reflect a farmer's ability to pay. "Just because I sell a lot of corn, doesn't mean that my input costs to grow that corn weren't even higher," he said.

Grassley also pointed out that direct payments are non-trade distorting in the World Trade Organization, and if money can be saved in agriculture, it should be tackled by capping programs like countercyclical payments or LDPs.

House Agriculture Committee ranking member Frank Lucas said direct payments allow farmers to show bankers and Farm Credit that they have the income to repay their loans. And, direct payments provide producers with the flexibility to respond to market signals when choosing crops.

"At a time when the USDA recently reported that U.S. net farm income is down 20% from last year, I find it hard to believe that this is the time the administration has chosen to take $10 billion out of the only stable form of support our producers can count on in a difficult economy. This proposal is ill-timed, ill-conceived, and completely out of touch with the realities of production agriculture," said Lucas.

Sen. Saxby Chamblis, ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, expressed concern over the proposals. "I believe it is unwise to completely alter the makeup of this farm safety net before we have the opportunity to assess the effects of the reforms included in the 2008 farm bill," he said.

Commodity groups also voiced their concerns with changing the farm safety net established in the 2008 Farm Bill.

In a joint statement from leaders of the national wheat, corn, soybean and sorghum associations representing 90% of the nation's crop area planted, said the 2008 Farm Bill includes many reforms that will assist farmers in becoming more financially sound.

"Production agriculture is a volatile business, and a workable farm safety net is vital to the security of our industry," the groups said. "The purpose of a five-year farm bill is to provide stability to producers, agricultural operations and the food system. The 2008 Bill should not be reopened before it expires in 2012."

Exciting Line-up for 2009-2010

To meet the growing need for diverse genetics and wide maturity ranges, Wyffels Hybrids has built a hybrid offering over the last three years that is the strongest and most widely-evaluated in the company’s history. With a focus on strong agronomics, high profitability and complete technology offerings, Wyffels is able to help growers stay on the cutting-edge of corn production.

“Our product performance, genetic diversity, and relative maturity range is at an all-time high leading to the strongest hybrid line-up in the history of the company,” says Fritz Behr, vice president of research at Wyffels Hybrids. “We’re very excited to release new genetic families in the 96 to 110 RM range that have proven themselves in our company research program, supplementing our full line-up that now extends from 96 to 117 RM.”

Starting with the 2006 class, Wyffels hybrids continue to prove themselves, winning many third-party trials such as Farmer’s Independent Research of Seed Technologies (F.I.R.S.T.), Purdue University’s Crop Performance Program and the University of Kentucky’s Hybrid Corn Performance Test.

Here is a look into Wyffels Hybrids’ 2010 hybrid release class:

• W1721, a 96 RM YieldGard VT Triple® hybrid with impressive roots and stalks and exceptional drydown. Look for this hybrid to be an early-season top yield leader.

• W3730, a 104 RM non-GMO hybrid with superior genetics that will maximize profitability on your refuge acres. An excellent choice for continuous corn acres, W3730 has a wide harvest window with excellent roots and stalks.

• W6261 is a 109 RM hybrid with YieldGard VT Triple® technology that has an excellent combination of stable, high yields plus rugged root and stalk strength. This shorter stature plant is highly recommended for continuous corn acres.

• W6440 is a 109 RM non-GMO hybrid with exceptional root and stalk strength. Strong agronomics coupled with fast drydown allow this hybrid to perform across many environments.

• W6871 is a 110 RM YieldGard VT Triple® hybrid with tremendous top end yield potential and excellent drydown. Its flex ear type allows it to perform on tough soils and in stress conditions.

Proven performance in your backyard

Wyffels’ extensive research and breeding program provide growers with the confidence to move to new, advanced hybrids. With replicated testing sites throughout Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky and Wisconsin, the Wyffels research team gathers extensive data and personal in-field observations. In most cases, research sites are placed to offer relevant research for a local area representing approximately 500,000 corn acres, helping to identify and advance exceptional hybrid combinations suited to your field conditions. A unique research and development process, along with our proprietary trait integration program, allows Wyffels to accelerate the release of diverse, high-performing and well-tested hybrids.

See the new 2010 hybrids in on-farm Wyffels Works sites this summer and fall. Contact your local Wyffels Seed Representative or District Sales Manager for information about site locations near you or visit www.wyffels.com.

New DuPont™ Accent® Q and Steadfast® Q Corn Herbicides Deliver More Options for Changing Weed Control Needs

WILMINGTON, Del., Feb. 23, 2009 – DuPont has received federal registration approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for two corn herbicides: Accent® Q and Steadfast® Q.

Both new herbicides provide corn growers with the flexibility to apply them under more diverse weather conditions, across more hybrids and with a wider range of adjuvants.

DuPont™ Accent® Q herbicide will provide selective postemergence grass control in field corn grown for seed or grain, popcorn and certain sweet corn hybrids. DuPont™ Steadfast® Q herbicide is for conventional or herbicide-tolerant corn. This contact plus residual product allows you to spray at an early post timing to control tough grasses that come up and compete with the corn.

“Accent® Q and Steadfast® Q herbicides offer consistent weed control with crop safety,” said Jeff Carpenter, corn portfolio manager – DuPont Crop Protection. “The introduction of these two new herbicides is another example of how DuPont is harnessing its patented, homogeneous blend technology to provide growers with answers to shifting weed control problems faster than ever before.”

According to Carpenter, the introduction of DuPont™ Accent® Q and Steadfast® Q follows the introduction of DuPont™ Resolve® Q corn herbicide, two new herbicide blends in soybeans, Enlite™ and Envive™; as well as a new wheat herbicide, Agility™.

“These are all examples of how DuPont is delivering on its promise to renew its product portfolio with herbicides that meet the needs of growers today and in the future,” he said.

DuPont is a science-based products and services company. Founded in 1802, DuPont puts science to work by creating sustainable solutions essential to a better, safer, healthier life for people everywhere. Operating in more than 70 countries, DuPont offers a wide range of innovative products and services for markets including agriculture and food, building and construction, communications, and transportation.

Cotton fungicides — tweaking

Growers are still learning to use fungicides on cotton, and the system will require some tweaking, says Jack Royal, a southwest Georgia cotton consultant.

“We’re continuing to look at fungicides to see if they work,” said Royal at the recent Beltwide Cotton Conferences held in San Antonio. “If we can make our growers $1 per acre more after all of his expenses, then it would be worth the trip. We’re all in the same boat — if the growers can’t stay in business, we can’t stay in business.”

Royal, who has been in the crop consulting business for 31 years, says he has seen cotton make a comeback in his area. “Luckily, we can grow a variety of crops. We’re about 70-percent irrigated. We still plant corn and we have a good many peanuts in our area. We don’t plant a lot of back-to-back cotton — we might plant two years of cotton, then a year of peanuts, or we put a year of corn in there with the peanuts. That’s basically our rotation,” he says.

Royal says there weren’t many cotton disease problems in his area of Georgia last year, but that wasn’t the case throughout the state.

“In the southeast region of the state, there were problems, and there’s no doubt foliar diseases can be a problem. At times, they can be isolated. And like in southeast Georgia in 2008, some years are worse than others and some fields seem more susceptible than others,” he says.

It’s most likely, he adds, that weather patterns drive disease development. “On the east side of the state, conditions were extremely dry, and growers were irrigating a lot. They also got a hurricane earlier in the season. Overall, diseases seemed much worse in that part of the state,” he says.

The major foliar diseases of cotton are cercospora leaf spot, alternaria, stemphylium and aerolate mildew, he says.

The severity of the problems with these diseases varies, says Royal. “In my area, 95 percent of the cotton is planted in DP 555. A few spots can develop into a real problem,” he says.

The big question, he says, is do fungicides work on these diseases? “I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. When we compare untreated fields with fields treated with Headline at 6 ounces — where diseases are a problem — it’s obvious fungicides do work. We see a yield difference in the treated fields of about 370 pounds per acre,” he says.

It’s pretty well documented, says Royal, that a potassium deficiency can drive disease development. Potassium deficiencies cause weak cells in the plant that encourage the spread of disease.

In soil and petiole samples taken after severe disease development had occurred, there was significant difference between potassium levels in the soil between the treated and untreated fields, says Royal. However, there was a significant difference in the potassium levels in the petiole samples.

“This raises a lot of questions,” says Royal. “Did the treatment of Headline help with the uptake of potash from the soil? Did diseased foliage affect potash uptake? Why was the potassium level higher in the treated side than in the untreated? You have to start off with enough fertilizer potash in cotton, and if you cut fertilizer, you’ll cut yields. In my area, we run from a Greenville soil all the way down to an Americus soil. Since we soil test each year, and we put out our soil amounts, we always trim about 20 to 30 pounds off.

“If it calls for 100 pounds of potassium, we’ll put out about 70 to 80, and when we come back with our nitrogen at first bloom, it’s become a habit with our growers — and it seems to help especially on our deep sandy soils — to side-dress all of our cotton with 20 to 30 pounds of potassium in with our nitrogen before first bloom, and that usually carries us.”

Royal says he used to pull petiole samples on every field, using 200 or 300 petiole kits each year. “Over the years, we probably had less than five that came back with low potassium, and usually it was with heavy rain events and in very sandy soils. Some growers might be trying to cut back, and that’s the reason for the difference in the petiole uptake.”

In trials conducted in east Alabama last year, there was a slight increase in yield in fields treated with Headline, but it wasn’t enough to pay for the application, says Royal.

Farmers need to ask themselves if there is a value in using fungicides on cotton, he says. “There definitely is if you need it — if you know you’re going to have a problem. I don’t know which conditions need to occur to make the application cost effective. We do know that fungicides must be used preventatively. It’s like buying car insurance — you’ve got to have it because you don’t know whether or not you’ll need it. The trick is knowing when.”

Growers are still learning to use fungicides on cotton, says Royal.

“We’ve learned to use fungicides on grain and on corn. Eight years ago, I sprayed corn for the first time, and no one else was spraying corn. But we knew rust was coming in from the South. It made us look like a hero with our growers, and for several years after that, we didn’t need to spray corn.”

As far as the growers in his area, Royal says they’ll be planting DP 555 for two more years. “We know we can get the seed this year, and if we can get it in 2010, we’ll plant it. We don’t know if the new varieties will be different — there are a lot of unanswered questions. Right now, I can’t go to my growers and suggest they spray every acre with a fungicide, based on the data I’ve seen. We’ll continue to look at it, and see if we can find a niche.”

e-mail: phollis@farmpress.com

Agrisure® 3000GT triple stack hybrids boosting yields, especially in stressful environments

Agrisure® RW hybrids are accepted tools for boosting yields in corn crops with corn rootworm pressure; however, new data from Syngenta indicates hybrids containing the Agrisure RW trait, such as the Agrisure 3000GT triple stack, may generate incremental yield increases even in the absence of such pest pressure, and especially under stress conditions such as drought.

Syngenta strip trials1 in 2007 and 2008 compared yield performance of either Agrisure 3000GT hybrids or Agrisure CB/LL/RW hybrids to their respective Agrisure CB/LL isolines. Following a crop other than corn and using local best management practices, the hybrids containing the Agrisure RW trait posted an average 3 bu/A gain over their non-rootworm-traited counterparts. The yield gains were even higher in continuous corn situations. There, the Agrisure RW hybrids yielded an average of 4.6 bu/A more than their non-RW comparison hybrids. Managed stress testing environments lead to an even greater yield advantage at 10.6 bu/A2.

Syngenta Agronomy Marketing Manager Bruce Battles cites several factors in the performance of the Agrisure RW hybrids. “Trials indicate hybrids with the Agrisure RW trait appear to have improved yield potential compared to controls under stressful environments without rootworm pressure,” Battles said. “In addition, the data indicates that the Western corn rootworm variant, and the Northern corn rootworm extended diapause, are expanding. As a result, you may have fields where the corn rootworm pressure is either underestimated, or not even acknowledged.”

Agrisure Marketing Manager Tracy Mader said the data prove why sales of hybrids with the Agrisure RW trait have expanded to new or non-traditional geographies. Sales have also expanded because of the recently enhanced Biotechnology Endorsement program, which can help growers in select states qualify for reductions on their federal crop insurance premiums by planting hybrids with approved trait stacks that include the Agrisure RW trait.

Agrisure Corn Traits is a system of high-performance in-seed traits providing resistance to European corn borer (the Agrisure CB/LL trait) and corn rootworm (the Agrisure RW trait) and conferring tolerance to glyphosate herbicides (the Agrisure GT trait) or glufosinate herbicides (the Agrisure CB/LL trait). Growers seeking a triple stack of all Agrisure insect protection and herbicide tolerance offerings can get full protection and weed control flexibility in the Agrisure 3000GT trait stack, which combines all current Agrisure traits.

Syngenta is one of the world’s leading companies with more than 24,000 employees in over 90 countries dedicated to our purpose: Bringing plant potential to life. Through world-class science, global reach and commitment to our customers we help to increase crop productivity, protect the environment and improve health and quality of life. For more information about us please go to www.syngenta.com.

Syngenta Seeds Announces Nine New NK® Soybean Products

GOLDEN VALLEY, MINN. — February 25, 2009 — Syngenta Seeds, Inc., one of the world’s leading agricultural seed providers, has released nine new NK Soybean products for the 2009 growing season. The new brands deliver outstanding disease resistant packages including Soybean Cyst Nematode (SCN) resistance in several varieties and are all available treated with CruiserMaxx® Beans seed treatment.

The new NK Soybeans products are available through Garst®, Golden Harvest® and NK Seeds dealers (see the attached fact sheet for further details regarding each new soybean brand). The brands range from early-mid Maturity Group I to late-Maturity Group IV and have performed strongly in performance trials.

“Our newest seed products demonstrate Syngenta’s commitment to delivering elite genetics and agronomic packages that help growers reach new levels of yield,” said Gene Kassmeyer, head of the Syngenta Seeds soybean product line. “We are seeing breakthroughs in soybean genetics by investing in our breeding programs, maintaining genetic diversity and through the experience of our breeders.”

The latest release follows Syngenta’s addition of 19 soybean products earlier in the growing season. Research shows that NK Soybeans have yielded more than 60 bushels/acre (bu/A) twice as often as the competition, with some exceeding 90 bu/A.

“Our yield results represent Syngenta’s commitment to delivering results for growers now. Soybean yields are built around genetic advancements, and these products are examples of that,” said Steve Knodle, NK Soybean Marketing Manager for Syngenta Seeds. "Growers are telling us that NK Soybeans are delivering better yields and in some cases their best yields. We are excited to bring these new soybean releases to more growers and show them how Syngenta is aiming to make the best even better to fit their farm.”

WEEKLY FERTLIZER REVIEW: Fertilizer Prices Mostly Steady At Major Terminal Points

Once-volatile fertilizer prices are starting to show signs of stabilization, though the industry continues to be roiled by merger and takeover talk.

Prices were mixed for major products in the latest week, with no big moves seen. That left most eyes watching the competition to own assets, which focused on Agrium's $3.6 billion bid for CF Industries. CF didn't reject the offer outright, but said it would need time to study the proposal.

Agrium's move came after CF ramped up its own attempt to take over a rival by making nominations for three seats on the Terra Industries board, while indicating it would begin to tender for shares of that company's stock. Industry analysts speculated that CF might sweeten its offer for Terra; the Agruim deal would depend on CF abandoning its own takeover attempt.

To read Bryce Knorr's complete weekly fertilizer review, click HERE.

Direct Payment Proposal Concerns Farm Groups; Legislators

Members of Congress and farm groups are concerned about President Obama's planned three-year phase out of direct payments to farmers with sales of at least $500,000 per year. USDA Budget Director Scott Steele has confirmed the limitations will apply to whole-farm sales, not just crop sales or adjusted net income. Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., says he is greatly concerned by several parts of the President's budget.

"Efforts to cut direct payments and make other sweeping changes to current farm policy will only inject additional uncertainty into the farm economy," Chambliss said. "I believe it is unwise to completely alter the makeup of the farm safety net before we have the opportunity to assess the effects of the reforms included in the 2008 farm bill."

House Ag Committee Ranking Member Frank Lucas, R-Okla., also opposes President Obama's budget proposal, calling it ill-timed, ill-conceived, and completely out of touch with the realities of production agriculture.

"This proposal attacks family-run farms all across rural America," said Lucas. "The people who provide us with the safest, most abundant food supply in the world are being asked to shoulder the burden of our economic crisis. We made a commitment to our producers when we passed the 2008 farm bill. Now, during an economic crisis, when our producers are trying to make planning decisions, when they're trying to address higher input costs, we're going to renege on our promise to them. "

Steele says that the proposed budget is only an overarching outline, and "much lively debate" is anticipated before the final version is presented to Congress in April.

Gross Sales Will Be Used for Payment Limits

Members of Congress and farm groups are concerned about President Obama's planned three-year phase out of direct payments to farmers with sales of at least $500,000 per year. USDA Budget Director Scott Steele has confirmed the limitations will apply to whole-farm sales, not just crop sales or adjusted net income. Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., says he is greatly concerned by several parts of the President's budget.

"Efforts to cut direct payments and make other sweeping changes to current farm policy will only inject additional uncertainty into the farm economy," Chambliss said. "I believe it is unwise to completely alter the makeup of the farm safety net before we have the opportunity to assess the effects of the reforms included in the 2008 farm bill."

House Ag Committee Ranking Member Frank Lucas, R-Okla., also opposes President Obama's budget proposal, calling it ill-timed, ill-conceived, and completely out of touch with the realities of production agriculture.

"This proposal attacks family-run farms all across rural America," said Lucas. "The people who provide us with the safest, most abundant food supply in the world are being asked to shoulder the burden of our economic crisis. We made a commitment to our producers when we passed the 2008 farm bill. Now, during an economic crisis, when our producers are trying to make planning decisions, when they're trying to address higher input costs, we're going to renege on our promise to them. "

Steele says that the proposed budget is only an overarching outline, and "much lively debate" is anticipated before the final version is presented to Congress in April.