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Articles from 2003 In March

Bayer CropScience moving more into biotechnology marketing

However, Bayer has not captured the value of that technology because it has not been in the seed business — until now. Bayer started in the cotton seed business with FiberMax cottons and has been capturing an increasingly bigger share of the cotton seem market every since. Bayer CropScience also markets canola and rice varieties and is working to expand into corn and soybeans.

Wichtrich, who began his career as a field rep in central California and the Salinas Valley, told cotton consultants at a Bayer sponsored conference that FiberMax varieties accounted for almost 11 percent of the cottonseed market last season and expects to substantially increase that this season.

FiberMax upland cottons have been gaining acceptance because of their super fiber quality, he said. Textile mills are asking for it by name.

"We are absolutely committed to cotton," he told consultants at the conference.

A cotton biotechnology new era is coming to FiberMax cottons as well with perhaps five new FiberMax Liberty Link cottons this season. Bayer has been marketing FiberMax Roundup Ready and Bt cottons as well. Bayer license its BXN technology to seed companies for development of cottons resistant to Buctril

Arizona and east

However, these Liberty Link cottons will be for Arizona and other parts east of the cotton belt.

So far there is no FiberMax Acala for the San Joaquin Valley. However,Wichtrich said Bayer CropScience is developing varieties with Acala quality for introduction into San Joaquin Valley Cotton Board trials.

FiberMax cottons have been grown in the San Joaquin Valley for the past four years for seed increase, however, in partnership with California Planting Cottonseed Distributors (CPCSD) of Shafter, Calif.

While there may not be many acres planted to FiberMax cottons in the near future, the herbicide Liberty will be registered for use in California for use in non-tolerant California cotton next season using hooded or shielded sprayers until layby, according to Mac Learned, Bayer CropScience technical service representative.

Liberty herbicide is a non-selective gluyfosinate ammonia herbicide that controls 39 broadleaf and 22 grasses and suppresses 25 others.

It can be used from cotyledon to 70 days before harvest.

Learned expects Liberty to be used where there are weed species shifts from herbicide resistant cotton. He said it offers excellent control on morningglory and pigweed.

Liberty and Rely, a herbicide registered on ornamentals, contain the same active ingredient.

Wichtrich said biotechnology advancements are moving from agronomic into valued added traits for farmers. These include improving the food value of crops; development of industrial products from plants; enhancing nutritional and taste values as well as more drought tolerance.

"We have the ability to modify genetics to meet the needs of the marketplace," he added.

While biotechnology continues to be a controversial subject, Wichtrich said the Bush administration is committed to its advancement, quoting the White House of biotechnology as stating that biotech will feed the poor nations of the world and will become more important in the future than building bigger missiles.

Kansas cotton acres may double

“You can grow three cotton crops for the amount of water it takes to grow one crop of corn in a normal year,” says Jerry Stuckey, who farms near Moscow. “At the cotton loan rate of 52 cents a pound, you can gross more per acre with two-bale cotton than 200-bushel corn, and you don’t have near the input costs with cotton.”

In 2002, planted cotton acreage in the southwestern Kansas counties of Stevens, Grant, Seward, Haskell and Meade was up nearly 10-fold to about 40,000 planted acres. This year, area farmers could plant an additional 30,000 to 50,000 acres says Stuckey, who also manages the new Northwest Cotton Growers Co-op Gin in Moscow, which began operating last fall.

(USDA’s 2003 Planting Intentions Report, released yesterday, put Kansas’s cotton acreage at 110,000.)

Long term, Stuckey and farmer Scott Young say southwestern Kansas cotton acreage could climb to 200,000 acres, about a quarter of the region’s irrigated corn acreage. Dryland cotton also could take off, since normal winter precipitation is adequate for cotton.

If current optimism for cotton holds, more ginning capacity will be needed before long. “We may build another gin in 2004,” says Stuckey.

Memories of last year’s drought, which decimated dryland crops and corn irrigated by low-capacity wells, have spurred interest from farmers who have never grown cotton. The availability of a local gin also has been important, says Stuckey, who formerly trucked his cotton 230 miles to Hereford, TX.

For a farmer new to cotton, getting started in the crop is relatively inexpensive, since cotton can be planted with equipment already on hand and harvesting can be hired. “All you need to buy is a hooded sprayer to apply Roundup,” says Stuckey, who recommends planting Roundup Ready cotton because of the ease of controlling weeds.

Farmers need hooded sprayers to apply Roundup or other glyphosate products beneath the cotton canopy after the fifth-leaf stage. A 12-row hooded sprayer costs about $10,000, says Young, who also operates Southwest Pivot, a Moscow machinery dealership.

Stuckey says his Redball hooded sprayer has helped reduce crop chemical costs in cotton and other crops. Rigged with extra nozzles, the sprayer can make applications over the row in addition to applying herbicides between rows beneath the hoods. He can band Pix at the same time he applies Roundup.


'Even dryland' cotton looking good

“Last year was a disaster,” says cotton farmer Lance Swanberg, “but this year is looking good,” He, along with his brother Marshall, under the name Swanco Farms, plant dryland cotton, all under conservation tillage, in Willacy County in the Rio Grande Valley.

Why the optimism? “It’s simply because we’ve had water,” says Swanberg. The fall and winter provided enough rain in South Texas to penetrate deep into the soil. “It

should sustain the crop for a long time.” Cotton producers who irrigate also benefit since most have pretty much given up hope of receiving the water Mexico owes them.

The Swanbergs are concentrating on protecting this crop and planted within a three week time period, which ends tomorrow. Conditions during that time were almost perfect for planting, a lucky break farmers needed. A concentrated planting date and a uniform stand will make boll weevil control easier.

“All of our cotton is a smooth leaf variety,” says Swanberg. The smooth leaf is a deterrent to white flies, although white flies are less of a problem in Willacy County than other places.

“Seed is a big expense.” Although Swanberg uses all certified seed, he said many producers are saving money by retaining their own seed after harvest, sending them to a processing plant for de-linting and holding in cold storage until planting season. He’s considering saving seed in the future. “We look for any way we can to save money.”

With good reason. The cotton market has been anything but healthy in the last few years. While growers need to get about 72 cents per pound of cotton lint to break even, prices have been stranded at about 40 cents per pound for years. “We’d like to see it

at 85 cents,” says Swanberg.

“Last year insurance barely covered half the expenses,” says Marshall Swanberg, the other half of Swanco. “We have to get a bale-and-a-half per acre plus a good price to make a profit.” He says the new farm bill should provide much-needed backup for farmers.

“There’s no way we could be in farming without government assistance,” he stressed.

The Swanbergs also produce grain, which, along with cotton, occupies the most acreage on their farms. Their most profitable crop is sugarcane. They also raise cattle and have been in the business of farming and ranching for more than 20 years.

John Norman, cotton Extension entomologist at the Texas A&M Research and Extension Center in Weslaco, is as optimistic as area farmers about this year’s crop. “Right now the market’s not quite to 60 cents a pound, but if it continues moving the way it has, we’ll be in good shape.” He also notes that the cotton coming up is looking good.

Norman says farmers in the Valley pretty much adhered to the three-week window for planting. “And very few of them had to replant.” He estimates that about 10,000 more acres of cotton will be planted in South Texas this year than last.

Norman warns farmers about boll weevils, which appear to be arriving in full force. Traps show twelve times the number of boll weevils compared to last year, which was too dry to see large numbers. This is the down side to the good news that there is plenty of moisture.


Forage grass from Japan gets new life

However, a three-year research agreement between the Grassland Farming and Forage Seed Association in Tochigi, Japan, and the Agricultural Research Service has allowed ARS scientists to give the ryegrass new life in America's Southern Plains. ARS scientists at the Grazing Lands Research Laboratory in El Reno, Okla., and the South Central Agricultural Research Laboratory in Lane, Okla., learned of this unique ryegrass through interactions with the Forage Seed Panel of the United States-Japanese Cooperative Program in National Resources.

Shiwasuaoba, whose name means "December flower" in Japanese, is a leafy, annual ryegrass that produces early spring yields comparable to those of other ryegrass cultivars. What makes it unique is that it matures extremely early, allowing its use for livestock grazing or haying up to three weeks sooner than annual ryegrass cultivars currently in use. As a result, farmers have use of a cool-season forage grass that can be quickly rotated with no-till summer crops such as vegetables and melons.

"Shiwa," as the cultivar is called by ARS researchers, was subjected to three years of forage performance evaluations under the supervision of plant geneticist Bryan Kindiger at El Reno and plant physiologist Vincent Russo at Lane. Additional evaluations are under way to identify its optimal agronomic conditions and potential rotation crops that would complement it.

Japanese researchers have applied for U.S. Plant Variety Protection for Shiwasuaoba. If it is approved, it will mark the first time Japan has released a forage grass in the United States. The Japanese Grassland Farming and Forage Seed Association maintains and licenses certified seed of the ryegrass.

ARS is the chief scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

MIG welding aluminum

From everyday maintenance to construction on the farm, your wire welder has that go-anywhere, weld-almost-anything flexibility that makes it one of your favorite pieces of equipment. And although mild steel is a more common metal on a farm, the presence of aluminum, which is considered somewhat more difficult to weld, is growing. Stock trailers and irrigation systems are examples of standard farm equipment made from aluminum parts.

Over the years metal inert gas (MIG) arc welding of aluminum has become increasingly popular due to the advancement of welding technology. Because certain properties of aluminum are different from those of steels, some welding techniques and parameters are different.

Here are some tips for successfully welding aluminum with your all-in-one MIG wire welder:

  • Set the power source for reverse polarity (DCEP).
  • 100% argon shielding gas is generally used for MIG welding aluminum.
  • Use a wire diameter appropriate for your application. Generally, thicker wire works better for thicker applications and vice versa.
  • Use the appropriate wire type. ER4043 and ER5356 are the most common wire types for welding aluminum. However, they have different properties and melts at a different speed, which can affect your desired result.
  • When installing the wire spool, check both the spool tension and the drive-roll tension. The spool tension should be less than what would be set for steel wire. Drive-roll tension should provide an even wire-feed rate. Too much or too little drive-roll tension can cause burnback.
  • When installing the gun, be sure the liner extends from the outlet guide back into the drive roll and as far into the contact tube adapter as possible. If the liner is cut too short, it can cause the wire to tangle, creating what is called a bird nest.
  • Because aluminum forms a hard oxide layer when exposed to air, it is necessary to brush the weld area with a stainless steel wire brush before welding. This will help break up the oxide layer. Remaining oxide will be burned off during the weld process.
  • To ensure good arc starts, the end of the wire should be clipped. This removes any balled end that may have formed during welding.
  • The travel speed for welding aluminum is faster than that for steel due to the high thermal conductivity of aluminum. If travel speed is not increased, excessive melt-through is likely on thin aluminum.
  • Periodic inspection of the MIG gun and contact tip will prevent many of the wire-feeding problems associated with aluminum welding.
  • Finally, store aluminum wire in a plastic bag to protect it from dirt and moisture.

Following these basic guidelines will help ensure quality welds on aluminum with the MIG process and your wire welder.

David Anderson is manager of retail sales for Hobart Welders, Appleton, WI.

Corn+Soybean Digest

The Road Warrior of Agriculture

This past week I was in Kenton, OH, and Sioux Center and Lemars, IA. I spoke to nearly 600 producers.

Northwest Iowa

First, the Northwest Iowa area is a very productive region and should maintain that status in the future. It has good soils, very strong infrastructure, good access to markets, and a strong agrilender presence, which ensures a sound capital base. This area is also close enough to Sioux City and Sioux Falls for the lifestyle attributes that the younger generation is demanding when analyzing areas in which to locate.

A question asked in both Ohio and Northwest Iowa was, "Are people who are paying high amounts for land cash rents going to be able to continue to do so?"

My response is that both lenders and accountants indicate that margins for renters or people who lease are getting so thin that even the most efficient are not replacing machinery lines and upgrading both equipment and facilities. In economic terms, this is called "living off depreciation."

Landlords are going to be required to rethink the amounts charged to these producers. They could kill "the goose that laid the golden egg." That is, if fewer producers qualify for these high rents, this could lead to substantial discounts in rental value for marginal land or less productive land.

Landlords must realize that they want economically substantial renters that keep the stream of revenue from their 401K in land viable over a long period of time in a globally competitive environment.

  • It’s amazing how the Blue Bunny plant in Lemars is expanding. That plant sure kicks out a lot of ice cream!

  • During the Sioux Center meeting, I had a chance to visit with Vern DenHerder, a livestock and grain producer who was number 83 for the 1972 Miami Dolphins, the only undefeated team in NFL history. I have had a chance to meet a number of players from that team. They are very team-oriented and not into themselves. Vern is just a very classy individual.

  • Note Dolphin team salary in 1972 was just under $1.5 million. Today it is $56.1 million. Now, that’s time value of money!!

My e-mail address is:

Editors' note: Dave Kohl, The Corn and Soybean Digest Trends Editor, is an ag economist at Virginia Tech. He recently completed a sabbatical working with the Royal Bank of Canada. He is now back at Virginia Tech with his academic appointment, which is teaching, extension, and applied research.

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

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

Corn intentions lower than expected

According to surveys taken in late February and early March, U.S. corn growers could plant 79 million acres of corn for all purposes in 2003, virtually unchanged from 2002 but 4 percent above 2001.

Expected acreage is up in the eastern Corn Belt as growers switch back to corn after planting soybeans last year when persistent wet weather in the spring prevented them from seeding corn. However, all states in the Great Plains, except North Dakota, are decreasing their corn plantings as continued drought conditions are expected to persist into the 2003 crop year.

Arkansas and Tennessee corn producers intend to increase their plantings to 350,000 acres and 740,000 acres, increases of 30 percent and 7 percent over last year. Intended plantings for Mississippi are 550,000 acres, unchanged from last year’s acreage, while Louisiana intends to decrease plantings by 10 percent to 520,000 acres.

Soybean growers intend to plant an estimated 73.2 million acres of soybeans, down 1 percent from last year and, if realized, the lowest planted area since 1998. This is the third consecutive year that soybean acreage has declined in the United States. Growers in most of the Corn Belt and central Great Plains intend to plant fewer acres in 2003. Expected increases in acreage, offsetting some of the decreases are expected in the northern Great Plains, upper Mississippi Valley, Atlantic Coast, and Delta regions.

Mississippi and Louisiana soybean producers intend to increase acres to 1.5 million acres and 850,000 acres respectively, while Tennessee and Arkansas expect slight decreases.

All cotton plantings for 2003 are expected to total 14.3 million acres, 2 percent above last year. Upland acreage is expected to total 14.1 million acres, a 2 percent increase from 2002. Producers in the Southeast and Arizona intend to decrease acreage from last year. All other cotton-producing states intend to increase planted acreage, except for Oklahoma growers who intend to plant the same acreage as last year.

American-Pima cotton growers intend to decrease plantings to 200,000 acres, down 18 percent from 2002. The decrease is primarily in California, where producers are intending to plant 40,000 acres less than last year.

The greatest year to year rise in cotton plantings comes in Kansas, which expects to increase its acreage from 80,000 acres to 100,000 acres, a 38 percent bump. Cotton acreage is expected to rise in all Mid-South states, including Arkansas, 1.03 million acres, a 7 percent increase; Louisiana, 530,000 acres, a 2 percent increase; Mississippi, 1.125 million acres, a 7 percent increase; Tennessee, 600,000 acres, a 5 percent increase; and Missouri, 410,000 acres, an 8 percent increase.

All wheat planted area is expected to total 61.7 million acres in 2003, up 2 percent from 2002. Winter wheat planted area for the 2003 crop is 44.3 million acres, up 6 percent from 2002.


'Unsound' science underlies trade barriers

The Hearing on Artificial Barriers to U.S. Trade and Food Aid focused on the European Union's moratorium on agricultural biotechnology and how it may have influenced some developing African countries to reject much-needed U.S. food aid because the shipments contained corn produced with biotechnology.

"There has been a concerted campaign by some international non-governmental organizations based in Europe to convince hungry African countries that food that has been safely grown and consumed for years in the United States is unsafe, and if they permit their citizens to consume this food aid they will somehow loose export markets in Europe,” said Leon Corzine.

“While we are concerned about the potential disruption in this outlet for U.S. corn, we are more concerned at the prospect of scare mongering about the safety of U.S. corn affecting the livelihood of citizens in the region," said Corzine, chairman of the Biotechnology Working Group for the National Corn Growers Association.

John Kilama, president of the Global Bioscience Development Institute, said there is no credible scientific evidence that any foods derived from genetically modified crops have an adverse impact on human health or any environmental degradation.

“Despite the fact that there is abundant information about the safety of genetically modified foods, many countries in Africa continue to be reluctant to move quickly to acquire the biotechnology to support their agricultural programs,” he said. “Africans are concerned that Europe will retaliate against African exports if Africans accept genetically modified organisms from the United States."

Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said he too is concerned about what he calls the politicizing of agricultural biotechnology.

"We can no longer underestimate the importance of this issue,” he noted. “Not only are U.S. farmers and ranchers hurting, but the lives of millions, primarily in Africa, are in the balance as a result of policy which is not based on sound science, as is evidenced by the fact that American consumers have been consuming genetically enhanced food for years. This is something that the Committee and the agricultural community take very seriously."

Rep. Charlie Stenholm, D-Texas, the committee's ranking minority member, said "I believe that the US and the EU have a responsibility, as developed nations, to lead by example in developing regulatory systems that not only promote safe food, but also promote a better and more secure food supply.

“I am disappointed that Europe has so far been unable to construct a science-based regulatory system for food that encourages development of new technologies that can benefit developed and developing countries around the world."

The European Union’s moratorium on genetically-modified products translates into an annual loss of over $300 million in corn exports for U.S. farmers, according to House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.

During the hearing, Speaker Hastert called for the end of the European Union's "protectionist and discriminatory” trade policies.

The use of non-tariff barriers, he said, represent an imminent threat to the cause of free trade. “Over the last few years, we have seen country after country implementing protectionist, discriminatory trade policies under the cloak of food safety – each one brought on by emotion, culture, or their own poor history with food safety regulation. Simply put, non-tariff protectionism is discriminatory and detrimental to the free movement of goods and services across borders.

Hastert called the European Union’s moratorium on genetically modified products “indefensible. This is a non-tariff barrier based simply on prejudice and misinformation, not sound science. In fact, their own scientists agree that genetically modified foods are safe.

"We should all be concerned that this irrational and discriminatory policy is spreading. China, for example, has developed new rules for the approval and labeling of biotech products. An overwhelming portion of the entire $1 billion U.S. soybean export crop is genetically modified. Although implementation has been delayed, such a labeling program would certainly result in higher food costs for consumers and higher production costs for farmers.”

There is general consensus, he says, among the scientific community that genetically modified food is no different from conventional food. What's different, Hastert said, is not the content of the food, but the process by which it is made. “Labeling genetically modified products would only mislead consumers and create an atmosphere of fear.

"Biotechnology products are screened by at least one, and often by as many as three, federal agencies. From conception to commercial introduction, it can take up to 10 years to bring a biotech variety to market. Throughout the process, the public has ample opportunity for participation and comment, and data on which regulatory decisions are based are readily available,” Hastert said. “Still, regardless of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, bans on genetically modified products continue to persist and multiply. The worldwide impact has been staggering.

"Clearly, the long-term impact of these prohibitive policies could be disastrous for U.S. farmers in terms of competitiveness and the ability to provide food for the world's population,” he said.

Hastert said the U.S. government should immediately take a case to the World Trade Organization regarding the current EU moratorium. “After all, the price of inaction is one we can no longer afford to pay,” he said.


NFU criticizes June 6 signup date

“National Farmers Union is pleased USDA is seeking to expedite the rule making process for the Agriculture Assistance Act of 2003,” the statement said, referring to comments by Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman that USDA would go direct to a final rule on some program provisions to speed up the rulemaking process.

“However, the announcement that sign-up for the disaster program will not begin until June 6 will leave many producers who have suffered production losses during the 2001 or 2002 crop years in a position where they may have difficulty arranging financing to plant a crop this spring,” it said.

“The 2000 disaster program took 5.5 months from date of enactment to get checks going out,” a USDA spokesperson said in response. “Despite this year's program being more difficult to implement and, despite our not having any lead time (because we did not know what the bill would look like for sure until it was passed), we will expect to get payments out in only 4.5 months.”

NFU leaders also said they were concerned about the use of the price election for MPCI/APH crop insurance policies rather than crop revenue coverage or revenue assurance lines.

“USDA has also announced that the cap on disaster payments and the valuation of actual production used in determining the level of producer payment will be based on higher of the National Agriculture Statistics Service season-average price or the price election for MPCI/APH policies,” the NFU said.

“This mean that producers who insured their crops under one of the available revenue insurance products, such as Crop Revenue Coverage or Revenue Assurance, will not be able to utilize those potentially higher price guarantees in establishing the disaster payment cap for their production.”

In addition, the NFU said, the secretary has not clarified whether the crop insurance indemnity reductions from the payment cap will be net of the producer paid premium or the gross indemnity received by the producer.

“We urge USDA to clarify the treatment of producer paid crop insurance premiums and to further expedite the program sign-up and distribution of benefits to producers,” the statement said.

A USDA spokesperson said the season-average price for determining the cap will permit almost all producers with crop insurance to receive a full disaster payment.

“The law is clear.” She said. “It says the cap is the value of the crop had a loss not occurred. The price used in revenue policies can only be collected IF a loss occurs, so it is clearly not the relevant price had a loss not occurred. USDA in fact is being quite farmer friendly by using a post-drought price to calculate the cap – which is what the NASS price is.

“We are using the net indemnity in our calculation not the gross indemnity. It will be calculated as gross indemnity less the producer paid premium.

In a press briefing on Friday, the secretary said crop disaster payments would be calculated using the same formula as used for the 2000 crop so that crop losses for 2001 and 2002 will be valued using the price election for Actual Production History crop insurance policies or, if that is unavailable, a five-year average.

She said crop disaster payments will also be subject a formula, which states that the sum of the crop not lost, the disaster payment and the crop insurance indemnity cannot exceed 95 percent of the crop value if there had been no loss.

“Crop disaster payments will be reduced if the 95 percent limitation is exceeded,” she said. “The value of the crop not lost and the 95 percent limitation will be valued at either the actual production history price election or the National Agricultural Statistics Service season average price.

“That is an approach that is consistent with the recommendation of many of the farm organizations that have come into visit with our officials at USDA.”