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Articles from 2007 In March


Budget battle won't hurt farm bill

The Congressional Budget Office has scored the federal ag budget and has decided the next farm bill will have much less to spend than in 2002. No wonder, considering how political decisions are made in this country: Whatever is working at the moment - i.e. high commodity prices fueled by renewables - must mean those kinds of prices will be expected over the life of the next farm bill.

Perhaps Senate Ag Committee chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) had similar concerns when he requested an additional $20 billion in funding. He won't get it. Instead, Sen. Kent Conrad (N. Dakota) wants to create a $15 billion 'reserve' fund, provided the cost can be offset in some other way.  The agriculture committees would have to either generate revenue or cut other programs as a spending offset.

Will any of this early posturing matter? Probably not, says Kansas State University policy gury Barry Flinchbaugh. He predicted the lower CBO number a month ago when I spoke with him in Atlanta.

"With farm prices what they are today, that baseline is going to come in around $10 billion when the average expenditures are $20 billion," Flinchbaugh said. "So what? They use the same price structure to calculate the baseline that they use to estimate the cost of a new farm bill.

 

"Secretary (Mike) Johanns cut the budget $10 million so the president can balance the budget by 2012. But he also added $5 million above the baseline. It's the best of both worlds.

 

"In any case, the federal budget deficit is partially a bogus issue, and has absolutely nothing to do with the farm bill," says Flinchbaugh.

 

Big farms demand new business model

Purdue University Ag Economist Mike Boehlje, who spoke at our Farm Futures Management Summit last December, has released a new article on the skills and attitudes needed by managers as grain farms grow larger. Boehlje is one of the few voices in Academia who really seems to have a knack for teaching farmers who to grow into their ever-growing farm operations. This article is one of several that Purdue releases on its Top Farmer Workshop website. You can read it here.

 

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Show-Me Agritourism

What's the best marketing strategy for those starting up an agritourism business? Promote, promote and then promote some more. Establishing your own Web site on the Internet can connect you to more customers and can be a cost-effective advertising tool.

Hugh McPherson, president of Maize Quest, New Park, Pa., offers these good tips on Web site promotion:

  • Hit the Internet with e-mails to your customer list and direct them to your Web site for details on special events and offers.
  • Feature large, colorful, detailed photos of your agritourism business, farm and services.
  • Keep your Web site fresh, and have it linked with as many other sites as possible.
    "Push" it in everything you do. Use a Web master who'll get you listed with productive search engines.

Missouri Ruralist Editor's Top Web site Picks

www.jamespecanfarms.com  
George and Elizabeth James founded James Pecan Farms near Brunswick in 1940. George James found, patented and developed four trees (one with son Bill) and helped established Brunswick as the Pecan Capitol of Missouri. In 1982, the James family built the six-ton World's Largest Pecan roadside monument.

Today the pecan farm and agritourism business is run by their son and daughter, who've added their own marketing style and savvy. James Pecan Farms features Grandma James' Homemade Pralines and other pecan snacks, condiments, soft drinks and salsas, as well as Americana gifts and Farmer James' books and CDs. They offer tours of the business, theatre, museum, and meals by reservation at Farmhouse Pantry, Tearoom and Gift Shop. Tour groups are welcome.

www.callawayfarm.com  
A creative calling card for corn maze fans. Features the Shryock family of Callaway County and their latest corn mazes. This year they are promoting a "Spirit of Missouri" corn maze.

The Shryock's big red barn serves as a central attraction at the farm as well as on their Web site. Information on the farm history, its maze creations, hay rides and seed plots are provided in a user-friendly manner.

www.turkeycreekranch.com  
The Edwards family opens their ranch gate to guests seeking a relaxing vacation in the picturesque Ozark Mountains. They bill themselves as a lake resort/dude ranch and their friendly Web site provides plenty of photos and information to entice tourists and vacation-seekers. A photo gallery and slide show, which focus on guest cabins, horseback riding, wildlife and magnificent scenery are top features of this Web site.

Turkey Creek Ranch is located near Bull Shoals Lake, Theodosia, Mo.


FYI
www.agrimissouri.com or call toll-free 1-866-466-8283

Daluge to Retire from UW-Madison

Rick Daluge announced that he will retire this fall after 24 years as short course director and 35 years overseeing alumni efforts for the University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

Daluge is a familiar face at agricultural events throughout Wisconsin, especially to alumni of the College's four-year and short-course programs.

"One thing I've learned during my short time at the College is that nearly everybody in Wisconsin agriculture knows and respects Rick Daluge," says CALS dean Molly Jahn. "The strong, loyal support we get from out alumni, both of our four-year and short course programs - is due in large part to Rick's efforts."

Daluge has served under six CALS deans. He was hired by the College in 1972 to serve as secretary-treasurer of the Wisconsin Agricultural and Life Sciences Alumni Association, as well as to coordinate student recruitment and job placement. In 1983 he relinquished the placement and recruitment roles to take over the short course program.

During his tenure as director, the Farm and Industry Short Course has graduated about 2,400 students - roughly one-third of its living alumni. Most of his former students have remained in the state, and many have gone on to leadership positions in farm groups, agricultural businesses and government.

Daluge has been able to maintain enrollment in the short course program despite the fact that Wisconsin farm numbers are half what they were when he took over the program.

"I think we have done a good job of keeping the program relevant by updating our curriculum" he says. "For example, in addition to our production agriculture courses, we now a have green industry track with courses in horticulture and greenhouse management."

Since Daluge started with WALSAA, the group's membership has grown from 300 to more than 2,000. He helped the group establish endowments totaling $570,000 that fund more than $20,000 annually in scholarships. He also helped start the group's signature event, the Football Fireup, that draws about 1,000 alumni back to campus for a a pre-game picnic each fall.

"The nice thing about this job is that as I travel across the state I'm constantly running into former students." Daluge says. "They're all over, and the diversity of what they're doing and what they've accomplished is simply amazing."

More Meetings Scheduled to Inform Farmers About Health Co-op

A new health care cooperative aimed at helping farmers and small agribusinesses find affordable and effective health insurance will be the topic of discussion at during several upcoming meetings this month. The Wisconsin Federation of Cooperatives is sponsoring the forums to introduce producers to the new Farmers' Health Cooperative of Wisconsin program.

"FHCW is an innovative health care plan written by farmers, for farmers," says WFC President Bill Oemichen. "The co-op's health insurance plans are designed to address the needs and wants of farmers and other agribusinesses at an affordable price."

Oemichen says co-op members will benefit from a choice of six products, the freedom to choose their own doctors and hospitals, first dollar coverage of preventive care and a comprehensive benefit package most farmers can't access today.

The meetings will feature presentations on the new cooperative and the available health plans, and staff from WFC and its partner, Agri-Services Agency will answer questions from attendees. The Farmers' Health Cooperative of Wisconsin has been created under the Co-op Care law crafted by WFC to help farmers and small employers gain leverage in the health insurance market.

The meetings are being held at the following locations:

* March 26: Mayville Park Pavilion, Mayville - 10 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.

* March 27: Rosendale Town Hall, Ripon - 10 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.

* March 29: Burnett Town Hall, Burnett - 10 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.

In addition to the Town Hall meetings, farmers and businesses primarily serving agriculture are invited to contact the Farmers Health Cooperative of Wisconsin for more information by calling 800-539-9370.

Burning Season Is Ahead: Plan Accordingly

Planned burning season is approaching, and this is a great way to reduce brush and invasive plant species, improve grass production, and even reduce the risk of wildfires, says Walt Fick, rangeland management specialist with K-State Research and Extension.

Open burning is prohibited in Kansas except in certain situations, including agricultural purposes, he says.

How often to burn depends on rancher goals or whatever a rancher is trying to accomplish, Fick says. Maintaining tallgrass prairie requires a burn every two to four years, but a less frequent use of fire is necessary on grasslands receiving less precipitation.

"K-State has been studying burning and its effects on the prairie in one way or another since 1918," Fick says. "Burning at different times of the year produces different results."

Kansans who have acreage enrolled in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Conservation Reserve Program must burn during the Feb. 1-April 15 period.

If a landowner's main purpose for burning is to help create better wildlife habitat, he or she should burn earlier, rather than later in the spring – generally in the February through March time period, Fick says. Burning earlier does less damage to broadleaf plant species.

To control eastern red cedar -- which has proven a particularly invasive plant species on the Kansas prairie -- the burning time is not so critical, he says. For other brush control, however, a later-season burn once the woody plants have leafed out is better. That's more in the mid-April to early May time frame.

If burning during the spring to enhance forage for beef stocker gains, a late spring burn (mid- to late April) works best. The burn should take place just after the warm-season grasses have started growth and are 1 to 1.5 inches tall, Fick says. Timing is not as critical for cow-calf operations.

No matter the primary reason for burning, however, property owners must be mindful of the weather forecast and the need to protect people and property.

"Anyone planning a prescribed burn on their property has a number of free resources available to help make the burn safe and effective," says state of Kansas climatologist Mary Knapp, who is in charge of the Weather Data Library, based at Kansas State University. "The National Weather Service has introduced a new Fire Weather Forecast product to help property owners in Kansas plan the appropriate timing of burns."

The Kansas WDL's fire information page is at: www.oznet.ksu.edu/WDL/fire_weather_links.htm. The link to the National Weather Service Fire weather page (fire.boi.noaa.gov/) and the northeast Kansas NWS product can be found at www.crh.noaa.gov/top?n=fire.  

K-State Research and Extension has several publications on burning available at its county and district Extension offices. The publications are also available for downloading at Extension's Web site www.oznet.ksu.edu/library. Fill in the name and publication number in the Search function.
• Prescribed burning as a management practice L-815 (2000)
• Prescribed burning – planning and conducting L-664 (1996)
• Prescribed burning safety L-565 (1996)
• Prescribed burning equipment L-876 (1993)
• Protecting your property from wildfire MF-2241 (1997)
• Management following wildfire L-514 (1992)

The publications delve into smoke management and fire techniques, such as the ring fire and back fire methods. They include detailed safety information.

EPA and ARS Research Manure Runoff

How can farmers spreading manure in winter prevent water pollution from manure runoff? The Agricultural Research Service and the Environmental Protection Agency are collaborating to study this problem at the North Appalachian Experimental Watershed Unit at Coshocton, Ohio.

The study looked into the practice of leaving manure-free land at the edges of fields as a way of preventing manure runoff over frozen soil.

NAEW researchers have been testing runoff for many years. ARS technician Jim Buxton does the water sampling, with funding support from EPA. EPA scientists analyze the samples for E. coli and enterococci pathogens. Enterococci bacteria have replaced fecal coliform bacteria as indicators of the likely presence of other pathogens in water that can also infect people.

The study aims to find a way to avoid the costs farmers now incur from storing manure over winter, while keeping environmental impacts at a minimum.

Congresswoman Challenges USDA Risk-based Meat Inspection

USDA's proposed risk-based meat inspection system should not be implemented until a rulemaking process and better data are in place, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D.-Conn., said at a hearing Thursday.

The risk-based system, which USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service hopes to implement at meat processing plants sometime in late summer, would shift inspection resources away from plants with strong safety records and towards problem areas.

DeLauro, chairwoman of the House agricultural appropriations subcommittee, doesn't think FSIS is ready to implement the system, though. "While I am very supportive of the concept of considering risk when regulating public health issues, a RBI (risk based inspection) system should be based on meaningful scientific data in order to rank product risk and determine establishment risk. It seems to me that USDA currently lacks this data and that moving forward with this system right now would be misguided and potentially dangerous...We know that even the meat industry has expressed concern about the timing of the plan and is urging USDA to slow down."

The National Turkey Federation expressed support for risk-based inspections in a statement Thursday. The group's director of scientific and regulatory affairs says NTF supports the system because it relies on scientifically based criteria.

USDA Risk-based Meat Inspection Questioned

USDA's proposed risk-based meat inspection system should not be implemented until a rulemaking process and better data are in place, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D.-Conn., said at a hearing Thursday.

The risk-based system, which USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service hopes to implement at meat processing plants sometime in late summer, would shift inspection resources away from plants with strong safety records and towards problem areas.

DeLauro, chairwoman of the House agricultural appropriations subcommittee, doesn't think FSIS is ready to implement the system, though. "While I am very supportive of the concept of considering risk when regulating public health issues, a RBI (risk based inspection) system should be based on meaningful scientific data in order to rank product risk and determine establishment risk. It seems to me that USDA currently lacks this data and that moving forward with this system right now would be misguided and potentially dangerous...We know that even the meat industry has expressed concern about the timing of the plan and is urging USDA to slow down."

The National Turkey Federation expressed support for risk-based inspections in a statement Thursday. The group's director of scientific and regulatory affairs says NTF supports the system because it relies on scientifically based criteria.

Corn+Soybean Digest

Planting Intentions

**Click here to listen to the audio clip from Mark Schultz.**

Farmers will plant more corn this year as ethanol drives up demand

MINNEAPOLIS - March 30, 2007 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture released findings from its 2007 prospective plantings survey this morning, which show growers' plans to plant more acres of corn this year - more than 90 million - than in any year since World War II. That is an increase of 15 percent from last year's 78 million acres planted. The prospective planting survey is a strong signal of how this year's corn crop and prices will turn out, which can also affect livestock feed and consumer prices at the supermarket.

The USDA report shows growers' intentions to reduce soybean acreage by 11 percent from last year, to 67 million acres, in efforts to capitalize on soaring corn prices caused at large part by demand for ethanol. As President Bush pushes for increased ethanol production and use, corn prices have jumped to $4 per bushel from around $2 just two years ago.

High corn prices can spell trouble for livestock farmers, who need grains to feed their cattle, swine and poultry. The possibility of a rainy spring or a dry summer also has the market on edge, as either could drive demand and prices even higher. Eventually, high corn prices could lead to higher prices at the supermarket on meats and other corn-based foods.

"I want to emphasize that these are intentions of what people are going to look at planting. That can still change based on the weather situation as we move into the next two to three weeks," said Mark Schultz, vice president of Northstar Commodity, which provides commodity market analysis, trading and risk management services for growers, grain elevators, processors and investors around the world. "If it's ideal planting for corn, I expect those corn acres to go in. If it's not ideal planting, watch them switch back to soybeans."

About Northstar Commodity
Northstar Commodity provides information, analysis and advisory services to grain and livestock producers and agricultural businesses throughout the United States. Northstar Commodity is a division of AgMotion, Inc., along with US Commodities and AgMotion Technologies. AgMotion is based in Minneapolis and has offices in Kansas City, Kan., West Bend, Wis., and Irapuato, Mexico. As with all financial products and services, past performance is not an indication of future results. This news release may contain forward-looking statements that are subject to certain risks and uncertainties that may cause actual results to differ materially from those projected on the basis of such forward-looking statements. (www.northstarcommodity.com)