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Articles from 2017 In February

Crop markets charge higher on last day of the month

Green market chart maciek905/Thinkstock

Corn, soybean and wheat charged higher on Tuesday on apparent fund buying on the final day of February. The gains came as news circulated that President Trump wants to change how biofuels are blended with the nation’s fuel supply. It is not clear how the changes will affect demand for ethanol and biodiesel, but the markets for corn, soybeans, soybean oil and ethanol are higher today.

Listen to the report using the audio link on this page.


Farm Futures Senior Editor Bob Burgdorfer comes to Penton Farm Progress with experience as a reporter covering grain markets and other global news with Reuters, Inc. A journalism graduate from Kansas State University, Bob has also worked at daily newspapers and Knight-Ridder as a commodity reporter, covering grains and livestock. He has earned five writing awards for his coverage of Mad Cow Disease, immigration issues and other international breaking news stories.

For more corn, wheat and soy news, commodity marketing recommendations and daily commodity charts, subscribe to Farm Futures' free e-newsletter, Farm Futures Daily, and keep up during the day with Farm Futures on Twitter.

Benefit the soil

The American Soybean Association (ASA) congratulates the regional winners of the 2016 Conservation Legacy Awards.

Each winner will be recognized at the ASA Awards Banquet on March 3, 2017, at Commodity Classic in San Antonio, Texas. During the banquet, one of the farmers will be chosen as the national winner.

Check out the story of Matt Griggs. 

When Matt Griggs was first introduced to conservation-minded farming, it nearly broke his heart. In the mid-1990s, his father, Bobby, broke the news that the farm was transitioning from full conventional tillage to no-till methods. “I was a teenager, and loved driving tractors,” Matt says. “I literally cried. I asked Dad, ‘What are we going to do all summer long?’”  

Those tears have long since dried.

The Griggs family farm in west Tennessee now pushes the boundaries of sustainable agriculture by exploring new ways to not only protect, but restore the farm’s most important natural resource, its soil.

“Historically, this area has been primarily devoted to cotton,” Matt says. “Until the end of the 20th century, it was primarily farmed by conventional tillage on soil types that are highly erodible. I have seen on my farm the destruction that 100 years of cotton mono-cropping and intensive tillage can do. My topsoil, in some places, has been reduced to only 2 to 3 inches deep.”

 Family effort

That’s why the Griggs family has turned its attention to improving the soil and helping it regain its productivity. And it’s truly a family effort.

Matt Griggs’ great-great-grandfather started the farming operation and a cotton gin in 1882 at its current location.

Every generation of the Griggs family that has come along since then has contributed to this Tennessee Century Farm in some way. Matt came back to the farm after graduation from college in 2002 to farm with his father; when Bobby passed away in 2005, Matt took over operations with the help of his sister, Jocelyn Griggs Bundy, who keeps the farm’s financial records, and assistance from her husband, Eric Bundy, who serves as a “technical guru” on computer and digital issues.

Matt got married in 2005, and beginning in 2008, his wife, Kelly, devoted herself to full-time farm work, learning to operate all the heavy equipment and hauling grain in semi rigs. Many cousins and other relatives also pitch in as needed.

Matt credits a soil science professor, Dr. Bob Duck, with sparking the turnaround in his thinking about conserving the soil. “During my junior and senior years at the University of Tennessee-Martin, Dr. Duck convinced me to see that soil is more than just dirt.

He got me interested in it, and got me to questioning how we could do things that benefit the soil.”

Matt started incorporating other crops, specifically winter wheat, into the farm’s rotation, and almost immediately saw improvements in the soil. “It happened quickly,” he recalls. “We started to see increased organic matter, and yields started to improve. Our crops seemed to show a little less summer stress. That really encouraged me to start picking up more of these practices.”

Dealing with summer stress is one of the driving factors behind the Griggs family’s efforts to boost soil health.

“Here in Tennessee, we are subject to all kinds of weather extremes,” Matt points out. “Dry weather and high summer temperatures really put a stress on the crop.”

Water is usually the biggest limiting factor on crop production in west Tennessee. Ironically, the area receives about 52 inches of precipitation a year.

“We get plenty of moisture, we just don’t always get it at the right time,” he points out. “For each 1% of organic matter increase in the soil, we get anywhere from a half inch to an inch more water storage. In late July and August, that can make a huge difference — the difference between a breakeven crop or a profitable crop.”

His goal is to keep the water on the farm as long as possible. “The experts tell me that we don’t have a runoff problem here in west Tennessee, we have an infiltration problem,” Matt says.

“If rainfall is going into the ground, it is not going across the ground, removing nutrients, topsoil, and residue. So my biggest goal is to get as much water as I can into the ground.”

In order to do that, he follows a number of conservation techniques such as terracing, contour farming, and water retention basins, but the real improvement has come by a commitment to cover crops. Matt started to experiment with radishes as a cover crop in 2011, then began to add other species such as cereal rye, vetch, winter peas, and crimson clover. He’s now using a cover-crop cocktail, typically a mix of five to seven different species, on 100% of the farm’s fields that are not planted to winter wheat.

“With cover crops, I am really starting to see improvements in my infiltration,” he says. “I have documented a 600% improvement in infiltration rates behind cover crops; an infiltration rate of 62 inches per hour for the first inch, and 12 inches per hour for the second inch. That compares to 2 inches per hour for straight no-till.”

When a summer thunderstorm drops an inch or two of rainfall in 30 minutes, “I know that I can capture all of it and store it,” Matt adds. “It can be used by the crop instead of capturing just a couple of tenths of an inch, with the rest running off into the creek.”


More productive

Boosting the soil works hand-in-hand with the Griggs family’s efforts to squeeze the most productivity out of the land with the fewest inputs.

Chicken litter applied over the top of cover crops in winter months helps build soils, while lime, phosphorus, and potash are variable-rate applied based on crop removal or soil test results — based on 2.5-acre grids. Both practices help protect the environment by applying only the right amount of nutrients where they are needed. All nitrogen needs for corn are variable-rate applied based on plant population.

Yields have responded to this change in approach; Matt documents a 100% increase in soybean yields compared to the farm’s baseline from 15 years ago; corn yields are up 50%, cotton yields are up 30%, and wheat yields have been boosted 35%.

Still, Matt sees the farm in the early stages of its journey. “I am at a good starting point on improving soil health,” he says. “But I want to go so much further. I really don’t know what the limit is on how much I can improve, but I want to see steady, measurable improvements each year, whether that is infiltration rates, organic matter increases, or fertility increasing. I will never get to the point that I think I have arrived.”

He thinks recent changes in how the farm terminates cover crops may open the door to more rapid improvement in soil quality. “In my opinion, to get the full benefit out of cover crops, they need to be terminated close to maturity,” he says. “High biomass is the quickest way to improve the soils and experience the immediate benefit from cover crops, which is weed control.”

Matt originally thought cover crops should be terminated early. “I have gotten away from early termination to ‘planting green,’’’ he says. “We now use a roller-crimper to terminate the crop, along with some herbicide to terminate a few of the species. Typically, the last couple of weeks that cover crops are growing is where you are going to get your biomass, and biomass is where you get an organic matter increase, and better control of weeds.” Custom made row cleaners that Matt designed have helped him handle this high residue mat, improving stands particularly for shallow-seeded cotton.

The Griggs family commitment to conservation is unwavering. “The Good Lord has given us the perfect system,” Matt says. “We just need to follow His design to help feed the world.”

Click here to download a PDF of the winners stories. 

Trump orders EPA to reconsider WOTUS

President Donald Trump shows executive order bearing his signature. 1540x800 Ron Sachs - Pool/Getty Images

President Trump signed an executive order Tuesday ordering the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers to reconsider the Waters of the U.S. rule.

“President Trump’s executive order to ditch the Waters of the U.S. rule is a welcome relief to farmers and ranchers across the country today," said American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall.

“The flawed WOTUS rule has proven to be nothing more than a federal land grab, aimed at telling farmers and ranchers how to run their businesses. The Environmental Protection Agency failed to listen to farmers’ and ranchers’ concerns when drafting the rule and instead created widespread confusion for agriculture. Under the rule, the smallest pond or ditch could be declared a federal waterway.

“Farmers and ranchers have been calling for a common-sense approach to regulatory reform, and today the Trump administration responded to that call," Duvall continued. "EPA has too long been characterized by regulatory overreach that disregards the positive conservation efforts of farmers and threatens their very way of life. Today’s action is as much a beginning as an end, and there is much work to do to ensure that any revised rule is transparent and fair for America’s farmers and ranchers.”

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said the executive order will restore the state's role in water regulation.

“EPA intends to immediately implement the executive order and submit a notice to the Office of the Federal Register announcing our intent to review the 2015 rule, and then to propose a new rule that will rescind or revise that rule," Pruitt said.

The American Soybean Growers Association praised Trump's actions.

"Our concern with the rule has always been about the nonspecific and overly broad nature of the rule as written, and never about the paramount goal of cleaner water and more environmentally sound farming practices," said ASA president Ron Moore, who farms in western Illinois. "We believe that farmers can be a productive voice in the discussion over water regulation, and we look for a seat at the table, because as farmers, our primary goals are the healthy soils and clean water that sustain us from growing season to growing season."

Sources: AFBF, EPA, ASA

What others are saying: 

The rule has been a top target for the GOP on Capitol Hill for more than two years. – Washington Examiner

Trump can not rescind the rule outright, that has to be done through formal regulatory process. – Townhall

The rule went into effect in August 2015, but 13 states sued blocking the regulation in those states. – Digital Journal

Max Armstrong's Daily Updates


We continue to see the weather fluctuating between the seasons here in our region.

Consumer confidence is at highest level in 15 years, both improved in February. Overall, consumer expect economy to continue expanding in months ahead.

Is all of the tough trade talk torpedoing pork trade with the world? Top formed last week and it appears big worry for futures market is tough trade stance carved against China and Mexico by Trump. Total frozen pork stocks down 16% from a year. Futures market forecasting downward change in demand. 

Some changes at Ohio based Bob Evans restaurants. The chain will add brunch menu every day.

Trump expected to clarify policies during speech to Congress

President Donald Trump speaks at the National Governors Association meeting in the State Dining Room of the White House February 27, 2017 Washington, DC. Aude Guerrucci/Pool/Getty Images

by Justin Sink and Margaret Talev 

Lawmakers, investors and the American public want President Donald Trump to provide some much-desired clarity on his policy agenda with his first address to Congress on Tuesday. 

Six weeks into his presidency, Trump is under increasing pressure to answer core questions about how he’ll deliver on his promises to bring fundamental change to U.S. health-care policy, the tax system, defense spending and immigration. Explanations have been elusive so far, and his prime-time speech could determine whether markets -- and voters -- believe Trump has a firm handle on his job.

White House officials who previewed the speech on Monday said Trump will argue that executive actions he’s signed have already paid off for voters, and that he’s ushered in an economic renaissance merely by promising tax relief and a relaxed regulatory state.

“The president will lay out an optimistic vision for the country, crossing traditional lines of party, race, socioeconomic status,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said on Monday. “The theme will be the renewal of the American spirit. He will invite Americans of all backgrounds to come together in the service of a stronger and brighter future for our nation.”

Shift of Narrative
The speech will offer Trump a chance to shift the narrative on a presidency that so far has been marked by a freewheeling leadership style and signs of chaos. Protests, staffing troubles and continued suspicions of his campaign’s connections to the Russian government have defined the short span of Trump’s term so far, overshadowing a buoyant economy and record highs in stock markets.

In an interview with Fox News that aired Tuesday, Trump sought to provide some answers on how his proposed budget would pay for a 10 percent increase in spending on defense without cutting “entitlement” programs such as Social Security and Medicare, which make up about two-thirds of the $4 trillion federal budget.

“I think the money is going to come from a revved-up economy,” Trump said. The U.S. gross domestic product will be “a little more than 1 percent and if I can get that up to 3 and maybe more that’s a whole different ballgame,” he said.

Trump said other factors involved in paying for his budget are job creation and seeking more money from other nations for help the U.S. provides. “When we help them, even militarily, we’re going to ask them for reimbursement.”

Taxes, Regulations
Spicer said Trump will lay out a legislative agenda including details on tax and regulatory overhauls that are sought hungrily by investors. 

U.S. stocks have led a global rally in riskier assets since Trump’s election, though gains have also come amid strengthening fundamentals from corporate profits to economic data. Almost $3 trillion has been added to the value of U.S. stocks since Nov. 8, as the S&P 500 Index has surged 11 percent to a record and the Dow Jones Industrial Average just capped a 12th day of closing at an all-time high, matching its longest-ever streak set in 1987.

Foreign currency markets have lost some of their enthusiasm for the Trump trade, with the U.S. dollar lower by more than 3% since Jan. 3 after surging 6.5% following the election, according to the Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index. 

Trump’s expected to outline homeland protection measures including new immigration restrictions and border security spending. Trump has said he will also discuss his plans to replace the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, a proposal of keen interest to health insurers including UnitedHealth Group Inc. and Anthem Inc. and hospital chains including HCA Holdings Inc.

Spur Congress
Congressional Republicans will look for any endorsement by Trump of a border-adjusted tax, a roughly $1 trillion revenue-raiser that sits at the heart of House Speaker Paul Ryan’s plan to slash corporate and individual tax rates. The plan is struggling for support, and proponents are eager for a boost from Trump, who has so far sent mixed signals on the proposal.

Under the border-adjustment plan, the current corporate income tax would be replaced with a 20% levy on imports and domestic sales, while exempting exports. The measure has stirred sharp divisions among businesses: Retailers, automakers and oil refiners that rely on imported goods and materials oppose it, while export-heavy manufacturers support it. Critics argue that the plan would raise prices for consumers, while proponents say that, in theory, international currency-exchange rates will adjust to prevent raising consumer prices or favoring exporters.

Obamacare Divisions
Trump has shown signs of breaking from congressional Republicans on Obamacare. Governors meeting in Washington on Saturday were presented with an analysis of a House Republican repeal bill that suggested many people may lose their insurance under the measure and states would lose billions of dollars. Trump has previously vowed that no one would lose their coverage.

There are divisions among congressional Republicans over whether a replacement plan should subsidize insurance, and if so how generously and how to finance such a policy. Trump may use his speech to push one side to compromise, particularly since it’s clear he’s getting impatient.

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, chairman of the National Governors Association, said Trump asked Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price when a bill would be proposed during a meeting Monday with the governors group. Price told Trump a bill would be delivered in three or four weeks. 

“Trump said, ‘I want it in two.’ Or something like that,” McAuliffe said.

Opposition Protests
Groups critical of Trump’s policies are organizing protests ahead of the speech. Congressional Democrats announced they had invited several guests intended to send pointed messages to the new president, including undocumented immigrants. The House Democratic Women’s Working Group is encouraging all the female lawmakers in the party to wear white, the color of the suffragette movement, for the president’s address.

Second-ranking Senate Democrat Dick Durbin of Illinois is bringing an undocumented immigrant who came to the U.S. with her Pakistani parents at age 3. Now a medical student at Loyola University, she was granted deportation relief in 2012. Two House Democrats from Arizona, Raul Grijalva and Ruben Gallego, are bringing the teenage children of a Phoenix woman who was recently deported after a routine check-in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Senator Kamala Harris, a California Democrat, announced her guest for Trump’s address will be a biomedical researcher who was the first student to earn a doctorate under the protection of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, created by former President Barack Obama to shield children brought to the U.S. without immigration papers from deportation. Trump has so far continued the program.

Rosie O’Donnell, a comedian with whom Trump has long had an openly hostile relationship, was billed as a headliner for a protest event called the “Resistance Address” to take place outside the White House. The rally was expected to draw members of the ACLU, Civic Action, health and environmental advocacy groups and organizations representing gays, immigrants, and minorities.

President’s Guests
The president also is inviting guests who are representative of issues he intends to highlight. Among those sitting with first lady Melania Trump on Tuesday will be Maureen McCarthy Scalia, the widow of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. The Senate Judiciary Committee begins hearings next month on Trump’s nominee to fill the Scalia vacancy, federal appeals court judge Neil Gorsuch.

Also in the first lady’s box will be Jessica Davis and Susan Oliver, the widows of two California law enforcement officers who were killed in the line of duty by an undocumented immigrant. Another guest is Jamiel Shaw Sr., whose son was shot by a gang member in the country illegally, according to the White House.

One issue on which Trump has been largely silent is how he’ll handle employers that hire and rely on undocumented workers, such as farmers, meat-packers, restaurateurs and hoteliers. The most anti-immigrant, populist wing of the Republican Party that has formed the base of Trump’s support strongly believes that employers must be targeted in order to make a dent in undocumented immigration. More mainstream Republicans have in previous years pushed simply for more legal avenues of immigration, such as additional skilled-worker visas and other temporary worker programs. 

Immigration attorneys expect it’s only a matter of when -- not if – Trump will shift his focus to employers. Under former president Barack Obama, the government scaled back workplace raids employed under George W. Bush that saw thousands of undocumented workers marched from meatpacking plants in handcuffs and deported. Robert Loughran, a partner at immigration law firm Foster LLP, says that his firm has already started hiring new attorneys and legal assistants to prepare for any drastic action against employers. 

“We’re gearing up for a series of work site raids in the next 90 days,” said Loughran.

Infrastructure Plans
Trump told governors at the White House on Monday that he’s going to have “a big statement tomorrow night on infrastructure” and “we’re going to start spending on infrastructure big.” But governors said afterward the president didn’t share the details with them. 

The president has vowed to raise as much as $1 trillion over the next decade to upgrade aging roads, bridges, airports and other assets. The program would rely on the private sector, but Trump otherwise hasn’t said how it would be funded or what types of infrastructure will qualify.

“We spend $6 trillion in the Middle East and we have potholes all over our highways and our roads,” Trump said. “So, we have to fix our infrastructure. It’s not like we have a choice. We have no choice, and we’re going to do it.”

Democrats and some Republicans say the nation’s needs won’t be met without more direct federal spending.

Ryan has said he wants to see $40 in private spending for each additional tax dollar spent on infrastructure, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he will oppose a stimulus spending plan. Congressional Democrats say they are willing to work with Trump on an infrastructure plan but not if it is focused on a tax credit or other incentives for private investment. 

Democrats’ expectations for the speech are low. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said he expects Trump to use populist rhetoric and “grandiose promises” to the working class while promoting policies that undercut them. 

“It will be all the usual bluster and blame,” Schumer said. 

--With assistance from Sahil Kapur, Mark Niquette, Anna Edney, Jeremy Herron, Lauren Etter and Laura Litvan.

To contact the reporters on this story: Justin Sink in Washington at; Margaret Talev in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Alex Wayne at

Elizabeth Wasserman, Elizabeth Titus

© 2017 Bloomberg L.P

Sharing soil success

Each winner will be recognized at the ASA Awards Banquet on March 3, 2017, at Commodity Classic in San Antonio, Texas. During the banquet, one of the farmers will be chosen as the national winner.

Check out their stories: 

Andy Bensend has been on a journey for a good 30 years now — a voyage of learning that has put him in touch with an environmentally sensitive, yet highly productive, approach to farming. 

He’s not shy when it comes to talking about his journey, but he would rather show his fellow farmers the fruits of this approach by demonstrating them.

He often hosts events on land that he farms in northwest Wisconsin near the town of Dallas in Barron County.

One of those demonstrations from a couple of years ago still stands out in the mind of Tyler Gruetzmacher, conservationist for Barron County’s Department of Land Services. “It was a wet summer, and Andy cleared out a 100-foot square in a standing corn field the day before he hosted a field day on his farm,” he recalls. “The field was a heavy silt loam, and a thunderstorm soaked the field overnight. I went out to perform an infiltration test and found that this saturated soil was able to infiltrate an inch of water in only five and a half minutes. When a soil absorbs water that fast, it can’t rain hard enough to cause runoff.”

Hearing that anecdote brings a smile to Bensend’s face. “If there’s one thing I’ve learned over these years, it is the fact that the best way to reduce soil erosion is to make sure the water that falls doesn’t need to leave the farm,” he says.

“If we can keep the soil working like a sponge to absorb the rainfall, instead of moving water sideways across the surface toward a stream or waterway, we have nearly eliminated the opportunity for off-target movement of phosphorus, sediment, and all the other things that can be problematic when they show up downstream.”

North country farming

Locals describe Barron County as a peninsula of agriculture jutting into the north woods of Wisconsin. Traditionally a top dairy county, it has changed with the consolidation of that industry into a mix of cash grain along with fewer but larger dairy operations. Bensend’s farming career and quest for conservation has been driven by these changes. “When I was in high school, there were about 70 operating dairy farms in Dallas Township,” he recalls. “Today, I think the number is closer to six. The difference is the size of those dairy herds has grown dramatically.”

As that has happened, the area devoted to hay and forage has shifted to row crops. “With that has come the challenges with trying to keep our topsoil where it belongs,” Bensend says.

“During the 1930s this area had a lot of soil erosion. My grandfather was a land contractor and built many waterways.

I grew up watching that conservation work, and it really instilled in me the need to protect our most precious natural resource, our soil.”

Bensend’s farming career got off to a rough start. After graduating from college, he bought a 240-acre farm and 50 dairy cows in 1981; the brutal farm economy put an end to his dream of farming as he liquidated in 1985. But he took a job in sales management with a seed company and began renting some marginal crop acres to farm on the side.

Eventually he developed a winning formula based on no-till, integrated pest management, crop rotation, minimal equipment investment, and perseverance.

Today, his enterprises include more than 4,000 acres of primarily corn and soybeans, using no-till or strip-till practices; he also has a custom farming business that serves area dairy producers, in addition to a consulting service that assists area farmers with agronomy and nutrient management planning.

The key to his farming success has been the ability to restore productivity to land that has been depleted by erosion or other factors. “My strategy has been really quite simple,” Bensend says. “Number one is to reduce tillage. My goal is to eliminate tillage almost entirely. The second is to correct deficiencies. If we can use livestock waste, manure is a great way to correct some of those deficiencies.”

The next step is to restore soil quality.

“Soil health can be improved by a growing crop on the ground at all times,” Bensend says. “In the last five to seven years we have really tried to ramp up the use of cover crops in our operation.

When we have the chance to have something green and growing on that ground, we try to capture that opportunity.”

Reducing tillage allows organisms in the soil to flourish. “Earthworms are my moldboard plow,” he says. “They take the residue that is on the surface and move it underground where they eat it, digest it, and leave a wonderful source

of nutrients. At the same time, they leave channels that allow rainfall to permeate the soil and a path for roots in the subsequent crop to follow deep into the soil profile.”



 Always learning

Bensend continues to look for innovations that can push this conservation minded approach. He helped found a local group of like-minded growers, called Farmers of Barron County Watersheds, that helps promote use of such things as cover crops.

“Our early harvested crops, such as corn silage, or soybeans harvested up to early October, leave us an opportunity to put cereal crops on those acres,” Bensend says. Cereal rye, winter wheat, or barley are used to establish a green, growing crop to protect the soil until planting time.

The farmer-led watershed group has been demonstrating the use of cover crops, and researching different seed mixes, methods of seeding, and timing.

“It is important to see how these technologies can work, and the net impact they can have,” Bensend adds.

He’s also tracking the productivity of land over the long haul. “Thirty years ago, when I embarked on this strategy of no-till, I was a young person who had very little equity, and I had to farm in a different way than most farmers,” Bensend says. “We soon began to realize some real changes were going on in our soils. As we began to work on these disadvantaged soils, over time we watched the productive level of those acres begin to rise.”

About 20 years ago, he saw that yields were running very close to parity with neighbors who were using conventional tillage.

“About 10 years ago, we began to see that our productive capacity was surpassing traditional cropping systems,” he says. “We are very confident that we are on the right track. It has taken a long time, but we like where we are headed.”

Staying on that path means a continued commitment to conservation — more than 15 acres of waterways were built and seeded on rented land in 2016 — while continuing to seek ways to farm in harmony with these rolling, scenic hills.

“We often reach out to our nonfarm friends to explain that profitability and conservation are not mutually exclusive,” Bensend says. “It is possible to be conservation minded and to do everything right from a soil quality and soil health standpoint without forcing yourself to operate at a loss.”

In fact, Bensend is convinced that the strong conservation mindset can actually boost economic sustainability of a farm. “Those activities that are strongly entrenched in good soil quality building efforts will yield better economic

returns,” he insists. “Over time, we have watched it happen, seeing our yields improve at a faster rate than our contemporaries who farm conventionally. There is no doubt conservation and profit can co-exist.”


Click here to download a PDF of the winners stories. 


Weekly Grain Movement – Feb. 28, 2017

Basis bids for corn rose several cents at Gulf export points in the past week as exporters move more corn to the Gulf to make up for weather-delayed rail shipments in the Pacific Northwest.

An export report for the week-ended Thursday showed 736,957 metric tons of grain was loaded at the PNW ports, down nearly 8% from the prior week and down 9% from a year ago. Also a USDA report said BNSF’s rail grain carloads to the PNW during a week in early February were down 26% from a year ago.

The weather problems on the rail routes to the PNW have occurred since December and included freezing rain, drifting snow, avalanches and frigid weather.

A river shipper in the Quad Cities said they are being told it may be April before rail traffic to PNW returns to normal. The higher values at the Gulf provided opportunities for river shippers to book sales. Corn for March shipment was bit 47 over the CBOT March this week, up 2 cents from a week ago.

The shipper said navigation on the Mississippi River near him should resume late next week, which is about normal.

Soybean bids at the Gulf have softened prompting interior Midwest grain elevators to ship to local processing plants. An Illinois elevator said grain dealers are holding a lot soybeans and are constantly watching for market fluctuations to make a sale.

“You are going to have spikes, particularly if someone needs a vessel loaded quickly,” the Illinois elevator said of the Gulf export market. “Selling soybeans is pretty tough right now. Elevators in Illinois have a lot of soybeans.”

Active Grain Vessel Loading

Grain vessel loadings at the Gulf remained active with USDA reporting 43 vessels loaded during the week of Feb. 16, up 5% from a year ago. Sixty seven vessels are expected to be loaded in the next 10 days, up 2% from a year ago.

Barge grain shipments during the week ended February 18 totaled 740,704 tons, up 9% from the prior week and up 98% from a year ago, according to USDA’s Grain Transportation Report.

In the rail sector, grain car loadings totaled 20,477 for the week ended Feb. 11, down 20% from the prior week and down 9% from a year ago.

For truckers, the U.S. average diesel fuel price increased a penny during the week ended February 20 to $2.58 per gallon. That is up 59 cents from a year ago.

USDA’s latest weekly grain inspections are detailed in the following table and charts.

Topcon Agriculture features new X35 console

Topcon console

Topcon Agriculture has introduced a new generation of touchscreen displays that provide updated functions and benefits to users.

Dubbed “X35,” the 12.1 inch console runs Topcon Horizon software, providing icon-based and user-definable views for a variety of farm-operating functions. It's designed to allow for easy upgrades depending on the operator’s needs.

By connecting multiple Ag cameras to the X35, the operator can control and view multiple places simultaneously. The system includes ISO section control of up to 200 sections, designed to allow the operator to cover more sections in one pass with larger implements.

As with previous X30, the X35 display is an all-in-one system with full ISOBUS Universal Terminal and ISO Task Controller. It provides variable rate control for up to eight products.

The X35 is designed to allow full data management capability through its cloud-based technology.

Topcon Agriculture Group is a division of the Topcon Positioning Group in Livermore, Calif. Topcon provides advanced IoT connected field and farm management solutions for aftermarket and OEM customers in the agriculture industry.

Max Armstrong's Daily Updates


Fewer than 33 million people watching Oscars. Smallest audience in more than 9 years.

This is the day that Donald Trump will torpedo the Obama administration WOTUS rule.

Folks in Minnesota who want to buy booze on Sunday will no longer have to cross the state lines to do so if bill working through Legislature makes it to governor. Gov. Dayton said he won't veto the bill. 

The southern Illinois town of West Frankfort has rallied around Juan Carlos Hernandez Pacheco, who manages the La Fiesta Mexican Restaurant. He has been in the states for 20 years, but has never obtained legal status. He's become a real role model in the town. Letters on his behalf by mayor, police chief, even county prosecutor.

2017 crop marketing and risk management workshops set

2017 crop marketing and risk management workshops set

Mississippi State Department of Agricultural Economics, Extension Service, and Mississippi Farm Bureau will host two area crop marketing workshops March 8 at the Delta Research and Extension Center in Stoneville, Miss., and March 9 at the North Mississippi Research and Extension Center in Verona, Miss.

The programs will start at 10 a.m. and end around 3p.m.

Topics to be covered include:

  • Risk and risk management
  • Futures markets
  • Hedging
  • Options, puts, and calls
  • Enterprise budgets and estimating breakeven/cost of production
  • Creating a marketing plan
  • Crop insurance as part of a risk management/marketing plan

For more information and to RSVP for either event, contact Dr. Brian Williams, assistant Extension professor, Mississippi State University, at or (662) 325-2676.