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Articles from 2020 In February

costello-merged.jpg Illinois House Democrats
READY TO SERVE: Jerry Costello II served in the Illinois House of Representatives for eight years, serving as chair of the Agriculture and Conservation committee.

Costello named Illinois director of ag

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker appointed Jerry Costello II to serve as the director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture at the end of February.

“With farming playing an important role in his family’s history and a career of public service, there’s no better person to lead the Illinois Department of Agriculture at this time than Jerry Costello,” Pritzker says. He asked for predecessor John Sullivan’s resignation in early January after Sullivan acknowledged he received a controversial email from a lobbyist eight years ago.

He joins the Governor’s cabinet from his position as the director of law enforcement for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, which he had held since May 2019. Costello represented the 116th district in the Illinois House of Representatives from 2011 to 2019, during which he served as chair of the Agriculture and Conservation committee.

“I’m honored to continue serving the people of Illinois and excited to take the helm at the department I once oversaw in the state legislature,” Costello says. He’s “acting director” until he’s confirmed by the senate.

A graduate of Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Costello joined the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division. Following his military service in Iraq in Operation Desert Storm, Costello returned to Illinois, where he became a police officer and started a family. Initially a patrolman, he would rise through the ranks and become assistant chief of police.

His family has a small farm in Franklin County, producing crops and raising cattle. Costello lives in Smithton with his wife Lori and their three children.

Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert, Jr., says Costello has a proven record in supporting agriculture from his time serving in the legislature.

He accomplished “items like enhancing tax incentives for biofuels, grant programs for agricultural education teachers, increasing access to highways for agricultural commodities and advocating for key items in the state budget for agriculture, to mention a few,” Guebert says.

“We look forward to working with Director Costello in his new role,” he concludes.

dfp-todd-fitchette-scga-ginner.jpg Delta Farm Press Photo
SCGA Ginner of the Year Award winner Charlie Jennings celebrates with his family following the SCGA honors banquet, Feb. 27 in Memphis, Tenn. Pictured are: David Cochran (back) Ken Jennings, Ann Jennings, Charlie Jennings, Kim Jennings, Buddy Cochran and Carolyn Cochran.

Charlie Jennings is 2020 SCGA Ginner of the Year

Charlie Jennings knew he wanted to be a cotton ginner almost as soon as he learned how to walk.

His mother worked at the gin and took him with her when she went back to work following his birth. He was born in October, in ginning season, so the gin became an important part of his early environment. "I remember her taking me with her when I was just two or three years old," he said.

He reminisced about his early exposure to cotton gins in remarks as he accepted the Southern Cotton Ginners Association Ginner of the Year Award, Feb. 27 in Memphis, Tenn.

"Not many people at that early age know what they want to do," Jennings said at the SCGA annual awards banquet. The SCGA Honors Banquet is held the evening before the annual Mid-South Farm and Gin Show.

Jennings, who manages Avon Gin, Inc., near Greenville, Miss., said the fascination with cotton gins has never ebbed. "When I was in elementary school, I waited for the 3 o'clock bell to ring so I could go to the gin to work."

Family affair

The gin was a family affair. Jennings' mom and grandmother worked for his grandfather, Howard Hearn, at Rebel Gin in Arcola, Miss.

His grandfather was an important influence and mentor. "He was with me until 2010," Jennings said.

"When my granddaddy retired in 1996, I was a senior in high school," he said. "I knew then what I wanted to do. Once ginning is in your blood, it's just there — that's all I know."

He said his grandfather encouraged him and had him go to work with a gin when he finished high school. "I spent a lot of time with my granddad. He ran a gin for 36 years," Jennings said. "I followed in his footsteps. This is a special honor for my granddad."

Jennings went to work for Burdette Gin in nearby Leland, Miss., after his grandfather retired. "I worked there five or six years," he said. "And I went through the USDA Gin School in Stoneville, Miss."

After completing the gin school, he went to work with Lummus in the Greenville, Miss., office.

Office work didn't suit him. He preferred working inside the gin. "I was cooped up in an office, and I wasn't used to that."

Buddy Cochran

Buddy Cochran, Avon Gin, offered him an escape and a job in 2003. He was 28 years old. He took advantage of that opportunity.

"I can't thank Mr. Cochran enough for having faith in in me at only 28 years old," Jennings said. Cochran said they were interested in hiring a gin manager who would be around for a while. They found one. He also noted that hiring Charlie came with a bonus. His grandfather parked his camper in the gin yard and helped Charlie when needed.

"Charlie was equal to the task from the start," Cochran said.

Jennings said the cotton gin industry is special. "If a competitor across the road or across the river has trouble, we know other gins will be ready to help. That's the kind of industry this is."

He said the work is not always easy on families and a gin manager's wife needs patience. "I have to thank my wife, Kim. She understands that when it's ginning season we are a little hard to deal with. We have a lot of long days and work a lot of weekends."

Jennings learned early that the ginning community is a big family. "Working for Lummus gave me the opportunity to meet a number of ginners. They may be strong competitors, but every ginner I know will help another ginner if he has a problem. It doesn't matter if the gin is across the road or across the river, they will be ready to help."

Jennings and his wife, Kim, have three children, Madelyn, Tyler and Abigail. Tyler, 12, is already showing interest in running a gin, which would make him a third-generation ginner.


"I want to thank the Southern Cotton Ginners Association for this honor," Jennings said. "I also want to thank them for all they do for the ginning industry."

He said the SCGA safety program is a tremendous benefit to the cotton ginners.

"I appreciate y'all," he said, to a standing ovation. "And I appreciate this award and am very honored."

This Week in Agribusiness, Feb. 29, 2020

Part 1

Max joins us from Commodity Classic in San Antonio, where he spoke with Kevin Ross, president, National Corn Growers Association, about his thoughts on the corn industry going forward.

Max also spoke with Bill Gordon, president, American Soybean Association, about the organization's outlook for 2020 and the soybean industry.

Part 2

Mike Pearson is also in San Antonio and spoke with Ted Seifred, Zaner Ag Hedge, about the impact of coronavirus, corn and soybean market outlook, planting intentions and the wheat market.

Chad Colby visits with Robert Saik, Dot Technology Corporation, about autonomous farm equipment and farmer reactions.

Part 3

Max spoke with Matt Lohr, chief, Natural Resources Conservation Service, about his connection with farmers and what the NRCS does for farmers.

Part 4

In the Plan Smart, Grow Smart series, Max visited with Corey Atley, Ohio farmer, and BASF innovation specialist Matt Cook, about fungicide trials and his farm operation.

Greg Soulje is in studio for the weather forecast.

Part 5

Greg Soulje is back with an extended weather outlook.

Part 6

There's a Farmall M in Max's Tractor Shed this week.

The FFA Chapter Tribute goes to Verona FFA in Missouri.

Time and financial limits for campaigns? That's what's on Orion's mind in Samuelson Sez.

Part 7

Max spoke with Bob Bowman, Commodity Classic co-chair, about the trade show and education at the show.

Verona FFA

The Verona FFA chapter in Verona, Missouri, has a greenhouse and does hands-on learning. Community members can bring projects to the shop so students can learn more skills. Member Will Koehler talks about his SAE project for the chapter.

The weekly FFA Chapter Tribute is an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the good work of your local chapter. Tell us about what you're doing, give us some history from your group and tell our viewers of the work you do in the community. FFA chapters across the country deserve recognition for the work they do, make sure we include yours.

To have your chapter considered for this weekly feature, send along information about your group by e-mail to Max Armstrong at They'll get your group on the list of those that will be covered in the future. It's a chance to share your story beyond the local community. Drop Orion or Max a "line" soon.

The National FFA Organization, formerly known as Future Farmers of America, is a national youth organization of about 650,000 student members as part of 7,757 local FFA chapters. The National FFA Organization remains committed to the individual student, providing a path to achievement in premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education. For more, visit the National FFA Organization online, on Facebook at, on Twitter at

Rabbit Tractor autonomous tractor
ROBOT TRACTOR: Zack James believes small autonomous robots could do many jobs that larger equipment does today. He offers custom cover crop seeding and soil sampling with his Rabbit Tractor.

One man's dream for future of farming

When AgriNovus Indiana featured panel discussions with startup companies and established businesses at an annual summit in November, Zack James and his Rabbit Tractors startup was on a panel.

In fact, James was one of four would-be entrepreneurs who made a mock pitch to a panel representing the type of people who invest in venture capital projects. He also pitched his idea to some 500 farmers and agribusiness people in the audience. The panel of experts didn’t select his startup as the one they would most likely invest in if the simulation were real, but everyone who presented, including Rabbit Tractors, got at least one vote as the company to invest in.

Since then, James has displayed his product in as many places as possible, including the Indiana Farm Bureau annual convention in French Lick, Ind., and the Purdue Ag Alumni Fish Fry in Indianapolis. Wherever he goes, his small “tractor” draws attention.

The idea

James, Cedar Lake, Ind., believes small autonomous robots have a place in farming in the future. While they may never replace large machines for some tasks, he is drawn to their advantages.

“We’re looking at less soil compaction and more in-field efficiency,” James says. “We also see less travel time as a benefit, plus less downtime for maintenance.”

The unit he builds features four-wheel, all-electric drive with omnidirectional steering and a run time of more than five hours on one charge. It uses brushless electric motors and features a modular design, which allows it to collapse down to fit within 30-inch rows.

Eventually, James envisions several of these units working in the same field, all autonomous and all with the ability to communicate with each other. He calls it “swarm farming,” and believes it will find a home in the not-too-distant future.

The reality

If you’re not ready to buy a small autonomous robot that may carry the name Rabbit Tractor, but looks nothing like a 21st century farm tractor, maybe you would at least consider letting it work on your farm.

Right now, James is promoting services for 2020 that his unit can complete. You can contract with him to have his robots do the work when the time is right.

He’s offering cover crop seeding for later this year — either between the rows or over the top, as long as the crop isn’t over 40 inches tall. He can vary ground clearance from 24 to 40 inches on the robot frame. He also offers soil sampling and guarantees the robot can pull samples to the same depth each time.

James has already performed both services and is signing up acres for them now. Learn more and get price quotes at

What does the future hold? James is currently testing a smart sprayer system and hopes to have it ready for 2021.    

manure application in field with cover crops
COVER CROPS AND MANURE: Cover crops can be a valuable tool in managing nutrients from manure applications if used correctly.

Cover crops help with nitrogen management

Don’t overlook cover crops as an option to help with nitrogen management. Many cover crops are excellent nitrogen scavengers. These cover crops growing through winter can take up and hold on to leftover nitrogen or nitrogen produced from soybeans.

These cover crops can work the same as late-season applications of nitrogen. As the cover crops begin to break down in mid- to late summer, nitrogen scavenged earlier becomes available to the corn.

The trick is to make sure you allot for nitrogen that will be tied up early in the season until the cover crop residue breaks down and releases it. Presenting to the Top Farmer Workshop at Purdue University, Shalamar Armstrong, Purdue Extension agronomist, reported a yield advantage for applying nitrogen as starter following cover crops, especially cereal rye.

Cover crops can also be beneficial when using manure for nitrogen and other nutrients. Manure application timing is generally less forgiving than commercial fertilizer. You may have to apply manure in fall or early spring to relieve storage facilities.

If you apply manure into a green living cover crop, nutrients can be better held in place. Cover crops prevent nutrients from running off, leaching through the soil or volatilizing into the atmosphere. Those cover crops provide a bank to hold on to those nutrients until they begin to break down in the early summer, providing nutrients to crops.

As profit margins tighten, becoming more efficient in the use of nitrogen is crucial. Explore ways to make your cropping system better. Consider spoon-feeding with multiple applications, making late applications right before tassel, using cover crops and conducting on-farm research trials to determine what works best on your farm.

Harrison is a district soil conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Tom J. Bechman contributed to this story.

Commodity groups promote stewardship, trade deals

The National Corn Growers Association has partnered with the Environmental Defense Fund to launch a program to accelerate the adoption of conservation practices.

The initiative, called Success in Stewardship Network, was announced at this week’s Commodity Classic held in San Antonio, TX.

The network will showcase success stories from individuals and the many state-level programs putting stewardship into practice, with the goal of building a network of corn farmers who are also conservation leaders.

“We feel this is critical for protecting our land and water for future generations,” says Callie Eideberg, director of ag policy and special projects at EDF. “We must break down the notion that only an elite group of farmers can improve environmental results. We want these practices to be adopted across all lands.”

Adopting such practices also helps farmers validate sustainability practices that more retailers like Walmart and Pepsi tout in their supply chains.

Profit matters

NCGA and EDF might seem strange bedfellows, but both groups find themselves working toward similar goals: helping farmers become more sustainable while maintaining profitability.  

“What we’ve learned is that it really is all about the economics and making sure it all pencils out,” says Eideberg. “If it can work financially on a farm, if a farmer can recognize they are more profitable by say, spending less on inputs, less time in the field through no-till -- that is a big savings at the end of the day. Then we see that these types of practices are really good for the environment, and good for the farmer’s bottom line.”

Adds Iowa farmer and NCGA president Kevin Ross: “Sustainability for farmers is nothing without the profit aspect.”

Trade wins

The national commodity group leaders praised the current administration for trade pacts with leading importers Japan, Canada, Mexico and China. And despite concerns over coronavirus, association leaders were confident these deals would eventually boost profitability.

“We’re feeling very good about these trade pacts,” says Ross. “When it comes to USMCA as well as Japan and China, it is long-term security. They are all good steps for us going forward. Coronavirus is certainly a concern and there are good people working on these issues right now, but people have to eat every day.”

American Soybean Association president Bill Gordon, Worthington, Minn., echoed those sentiments.

“We’re not seeing results yet, but in the long term (trade) is a key driver to success for the American soybean farmer,” he says. “You can look up and down main street and belts are tightening; it’s affecting rural economies. But trade deals have made farmers more optimistic.”

ASA leaders also touted WISHH (World Initiative for Soy in Human Health) as a success story.

“Look at what they did in Ghana, a country barely able to feed itself, becoming self-sufficient,” says Gordon. “And now we’re in Cambodia, looking at aquaculture projects, Afghanistan, teaching people how to farm and be business people; we want to move them into USSEC (U.S. Soybean Export Council). Being involved with USSEC helped me realize we had to think beyond China. There are success stories all over for USSEC and WISHH.

Commodity leaders agreed that when it comes to trade deals, the key word was patience.

“When you talk about China, it’s our largest soy export market and what a market it is,” says Davie Stephens, Kentucky farmer and ASA chairman. “With phase 1 (trade agreement), it’s going to take a while before we can really enjoy the benefits. When you look at USMCA, (Mexico and Canada) are our number two and three trade partners.”

Farmer leaders also touted wins in other areas, such as biodiesel tax credits, revised WOTUS (Waters of The United States) rules and infrastructure investment.

“WOTUS is truly a win,” adds Stephens. “I farm in three different watersheds. Working with this administration, it was a very confusing ruling in how it would be implemented and how it would impact farm decisions every day; where WOTUS is now, it’s going to let us be farmers, hold us accountable in terms of conservation, but not have that wonky state patchwork of regulations.”

ASA noted that U.S. Army Corps of Engineer plans to dredge the 256-mile stretch of Mississippi River from Baton Route to the Gulf, a stretch of water that accounts for 60% of U.S. soybean exports and 59% of corn exports. Dredging the shipping channel to deepen current 45-ft. levels to 50 ft. depth would add $461 million in annual value to soybean exports.

“We’ve had an advantage in shipping in the United States,” says Stephens. “Dredging needed to be done in our lock and dam system. We need to keep an advantage over our competitors and infrastructure is one way to do that. Brazil will continue to improve and if we don’t keep up, we will be behind.”

Delays ahead?

Yet, this spring’s impeachment activities, along with the looming presidential election, could delay legislative progress on issues like immigration reform and infrastructure, notes Chandler Goule, CEO at National Association of Wheat Growers.

“If we had not had impeachment, by around March or April both parties would start working on legislation to position themselves for the election,” he says. “The Democrats need to get some things through the House to the president to maintain their majority, and the same with Republicans in the Senate. This will be a major roadblock for important legislation that we’ve already seen move through both chambers.”

Another roadblock is cost.

“Every time we run the infrastructure bill through Congress it comes through very large, so now they are talking about splitting them up - roads and rail in one, and rivers and ports in another, then piecemeal it through the house so it’s easy to digest,” Goule says. “What we’ve seen over the decades is, when you try to pass a large bill, it’s too hard for Congress to handle.”

Even so, “If we don’t make significant headway on infrastructure or immigration between now and May, I don’t see it happening until after election.”

Dave Milligan, newly elected NAWG president from Michigan, noted that crop insurance will be an issue his group monitors closely this year.

“It’s been very valuable for wheat growers along with all of agriculture,” he says. “We want to be sure it continues to be a valuable tool. Last year we were not able to plant all our crops for the first time in 40 years I’ve been farming, so it was very valuable to have that crop insurance.”

Pushing sustainability

Like NCGA, both ASA and NAWG will focus more on sustainability in 2020.

“A lot of our end users want to be able to say the crops they use are grown sustainabiy, so we’re working toward that – reduced chemicals and no-till, for example,” says Milligan. “Cover crops are now widely touted, keeping biological organisms in the soil year-round.”

Sustainability has been a buzzword in agriculture for years, notes Dan Atkinson, National Sorghum Producers chairman. “Unfortunately, everyone has a different definition for sustainability. The message we need to unite behind is, ag is the only industry that stores carbon in the earth every day,” he says. “I hope we can take our sustainability message to our customers and retailers.”

Commodity organizations are also watching carbon market development, but most leaders agree the concept needs work.

“I don’t think too many people are ready to buy in to this,” says Milligan. “There’s a lot of unanswered questions. You want to make sure it’s reputable and that you get paid. There’s interest in setting up standards, but I think we’re quite a ways away from this being effective.

“If you’re really serious about climate change and all you’re doing is selling what we already do to someone else, it’s almost like paying to pollute. It’s not solving the problem.”

Farm leaders also noted concern over sound science to write regulations.

“We have always relied on science-based facts and not just assumptions,” says Stephens. “We hope this goes forward. Glyphosate is very valuable to farmers across the United States. We want to make sure we keep that out there and are able to use it, in people’s everyday life, not just farmers.”

Milligan agrees.

“We have concern that consumer preferences are not in line with sound science,” he says. “Glyphosate is a very valuable tool in wheat, important in soil health and sustainability; sound science says there is nothing wrong with it, yet a lot of people say it’s not safe. We’ve gone through this with GMOs.

“It’s hard to get the message across that we grow safe food.”

corn grain in trailer BanksPhotos/Getty Images
TOO MUCH GRAIN? Farmers may need to adjust their crop plans as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue says lower prices are about supply, not about trade disruption.

Sonny Perdue: ‘We've got too much supply’

Don’t include a Market Facilitation Program payment in your 2020 farm management plan. That was the message from U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to a packed room of farmers and ranchers during this year’s Commodity Classic.

“I don't believe the Market Facilitation Program was created or instituted as a price support program,” Perdue said. “We have safety nets in the form of crop insurance and other things to deal with pricing in that area, and deal with reference prices in that way.”

He admitted the MFP payments helped farmers. “It literally changed the color of some bottom lines,” Perdue said.

Last year, farmers were faced with weather disasters accounting for nearly 20 million in prevented plant acres. And then there were the added trade disruptions that caused many farmers not to be able to market their crops. Much of the grain was held on the farm or in county elevators.

Payments made

The third round of 2019 MFP payments was set to go out at the beginning of February. These payments assist farmers suffering from damage because of trade retaliation by foreign nations. It is based on a single county payment rate multiplied by a farm's total planting of MFP-eligible crops in 2019.

In the end, Perdue said small farmers saw payments on average of $55 per acre, while larger enterprises realized $47.

“We think generally [MFP payments] have been very much accepted and appreciated,” he said. However, it is not a marketing plan for farmers in the future. Rather, farmers may go back to Economics 101 and the basic law of supply and demand. Right now, Perdue contends, there is too much supply.

Mindy WardUSDA Sec. Sonny Perdue speaking to reporters during this year’s Commodity Classic

MANAGING FOR 2020: U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue spoke to reporters during this year’s Commodity Classic and said that farmers need to start looking at supply and demand when making planting decisions for their farm.

Focus on supply

“When trade is not disrupted or tariffs are not affecting trade, if we see exports flow and markets do not rise in respect to that demand, what does that indicate?” Perdue asked. “Pricing is a function of supply and demand. If demand increases and the price doesn't, that still means that we've got too much supply.”

When farmers make planting decisions on corn and soybeans or other crops, they need to look at supply. Perdue said if the U.S. goes back to export levels seen in the past and prices don't rise, “We need to look at the level of productivity, individually and corporately, in order to adjust that.”

Return to 'normal'?

However, some farmers are waiting for prices to return to agriculture’s golden years of 2009 to 2014. That is the era farmers today tend to use to determine what “profitability in agriculture” looks like, Perdue said. “That is what we like to think is normal,” he said. “I’ve been in agriculture a long time. It wasn’t normal to me. Those were career-high years.”

Perdue said he would love for agriculture to return to those days, but noted it is not here yet. Still, his department is predicting above-average income for farmers given the 30-year average.

“I’m not trying to sugarcoat the fact that farming is not in a gloriously overly profitable period right now,” he added. “But farmers will do what they’ve always done, do the best with what they've got out there, and what they're given from the market perspective.”

However, he noted that if another trade disruption does take place, President Donald Trump stands by farmers and will not let them suffer and be disrupted by any other force. “He will do that,” Perdue added. “He’s got your back.”


Farm Futures survey says farmers favor corn in 2020

Missed some grain markets this week? Here's what you missed.

Ag marketing IQ

As we progress into spring, the focus will shift toward potential new crop production and away from the old crop balance sheet. At the end of March, USDA will release a Planting Intentions report which will show the intended acres for Corn, Soybeans & Spring Wheat for the 2020/21 production year. About a month and a half later, USDA will release the first official 2020/21 balance sheet via the May WASDE report. This report will use the acres from the Planting Intentions report and will apply a TREND LINE yield to those acres.

With much fanfare a few weeks ago, Chinese and U.S. officials signed Phase I of a trade pact designed among other things, to stimulate exports of U.S. agricultural products to the world’s most populous nation. The soybean market was especially interested in the agreement as using 2017 as a baseline, the deal might result in the U.S. exporting in excess of 1.1 billion bushels with some analysts tossing out volumes on the order of 1.05 bbu in Year 1 and possibly as much as 1.6 billion bushels in Year 2 of the deal. Either would be a welcome improvement from Calendar Year 2018 exports of a meager 303 million as the trade dispute unfolded, and considerably more than the January-November 2019 total of 733 million.

After several weeks of very narrow trading ranges, we did end up with the mini-flush event in corn. In the case of soybeans, this week’s downside probe was nothing more than a head-fake trade. Because of this viewpoint, I am not concerned about this week’s weakness becoming a protracted decline. Current weakness is only temporary, it will not be the dominant theme of the next several weeks.

When searching for market price direction for corn, soybeans, and wheat for the coming weeks, the likely scenario will be quiet trade, with steady to lower prices. The market will hinge around short-term demand loss due to coronavirus concerns, and quite frankly, a lack of fresh market news to excite prices.

Farm Futures survey

According to a January Farm Futures survey, farmers favor corn acres in 2020. Farmers intend to increase corn acreage by 7.68% this year too 96.6 million acres. If these plans hold true, this would be the second largest planting on record, following 2012's total of 97.3 million acres. Farmers intend to plant 4.5 million more soybean acres in 2020 than in 2019. Winter wheat acres planted for 2020 harvest were down 1.14% to 30.8 million acres in USDA's Winter Wheat report.

Market reports

Yesterday, the Dow closed down nearly 1,200 points, sealing the biggest one-day drop in its entire history after worries the coronavirus is spreading and could develop into a full-blown pandemic, coupled with some doubts that the Trump Administration is ill-prepared to handle a large-scale outbreak in the U.S., would that occur. Broad losses in other commodities have applied plenty of headwinds to grain futures this week, and Friday looks to be in store for more of the same. Soybean futures were down double digits earlier in overnight trading, with wheat showing more moderate losses and corn mostly treading water heading into today’s session.

Corn and wheat futures finished Friday's session narrowly mixed but mostly higher, with soybean futures dropping about 0.25% lower on worries about the coronavirus impact on short-term Chinese purchases and overall global demand. Some end-of-month short-covering kept losses partly in check.

USDA reports

USDA turned in a mixed but mostly bearish set of grain export inspection data Monday morning for the week ending February 20. Corn continues to show the most promise for now, coming in at the high end of trade estimates. But wheat fell to the low end of trade guesses, with soybean volume falling to nearly half of the prior week’s tally.

USDA’s latest grain export sales report for the week ending February 20 showed some relatively bearish results for corn, soybeans and wheat – all of which saw a reduction in volume compared to the prior four-week average. Wheat trends were the most positive but still unimpressive after inching 10% above last week’s tally.

Bette Brand succeeds LaVoy at USDA Rural Development

Bette Brand succeeds LaVoy at USDA Rural Development

Bette Brand will serve as USDA Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary following the retirement of Donald “DJ” LaVoy.

“DJ LaVoy is a true public servant and brought decades of leadership in economic development and affordable housing. We are appreciative of his service here at USDA and wish him nothing but the best as he heads into retirement,” said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. “The mission of Rural Development to improve the economy and quality of life in rural America will continue to advance with Bette at the helm. She is perfectly suited for this role.”

Brand most recently served as Administrator of Rural Development’s Rural Business Service agency. She came to USDA after 35 years with Farm Credit of the Virginias, where she served as chief advocate for the agriculture industry and rural businesses, supporting producers at the state and national level and educating policymakers and consumers on agriculture.

Prior to this, Brand served as Chief Sales Officer, overseeing the business development of a $1.6 billion credit portfolio, managing a team of commercial agriculture and agribusiness lenders, and supervising FCV’s marketing and branding. She has wide-ranging experience promoting rural communities, having served on the Virginia Agribusiness Council, the Virginia Horse Council, the Virginia Cooperative Council, and the Virginia Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom.

Since her arrival to USDA in January 2018, Brand has prioritized increasing rural America’s access to capital, investing in innovative technology, and helping businesses create jobs.

Related: Perdue swears in LaVoy

LaVoy has more than 22 years of experience working as a leader in affordable housing and economic development at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. LaVoy created and served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Real Estate Assessment Center where he was responsible for driving agency innovation. LaVoy led the replacement of numerous, outdated IT data collection systems with data streaming, and web portals architecture in a cloud environment.

Source: USDA, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.