Farm Progress is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Serving: United States

Sitemap


Articles from 2019 In March


DFP-Brobb-Seedhouse.jpg Brad Robb
If Cotton Incorporated’s Tom Wedegaertner’s research efforts deliver the results he envisions, cottonseed will one day find many new end-uses that will hopefully escalate it up the value chain.

Gossypol no longer a limiting factor to potential cottonseed markets

The U.S. produced slightly under 21 million bales of cotton in the 2018 crop year. Tom Wedegaertner, Cotton Incorporated’s director of cottonseed research, calculated that volume of seed cotton delivered almost 6.5 million tons of whole cottonseed to the cottonseed market.

Unlike the 2015 crop that added only 4 million tons of cottonseed to the market, that extra 2.5 million tons of whole cottonseed puts extra pressure on the dairy and crush industries — the two main users of whole cottonseed.

“When our industry was having those fairly short crops, we all remember those nice seed rebate checks that were written because cottonseed prices were good,” says Wedegaertner, to a packed crowd of producers and ginners at the Southern Cotton Ginners annual meeting held recently at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis, Tenn. “The crush, of late, has flatlined at 2 million tons a year, so we’ll be looking at the dairy cattle industry to consume that residual volume of cottonseed once again.”

Wedegaertner knows prices for cottonseed will probably slide due to a larger crop. With 4 million tons of cottonseed going into the dairy cow market, he hopes dairy cows stay hungry for the fuzzy feedstuff.

“If we harvest 21 million bales of cotton from the crop that’s about to be planted, that will equate to 7 million tons of cottonseed flowing into cottonseed houses at 516 gins across the country,” adds Wedegaertner. “Once you take off 2 million tons for the crush, that will leave 5 million or so tons to push toward the dairy industry, but you have to remember, a dairy cow can only consume about a half a ton of whole cottonseed per-year.”

With 5 million tons of extra cottonseed, 10 million dairy cows are needed, but there are currently only about 9 million in the U.S. “Our goal is to somehow get dairymen to feed their cows higher levels of cottonseed,” says Wedegaertner. “We’d really like to see them feeding each cow about 5 pounds of cottonseed per-day rather than the 3 pounds the average cow eats currently.”

Genetics, Protein, and Research

Wedegaertner told his board most of the feeding research on which he relies to develop his programs was conducted back in the late 1980s. Like most animals, the genetic potential of dairy cows has changed a great deal since then, and so have their feeding practices.

“If you look through the Journal of Dairy Science, you’ll see most of the cottonseed-related research is being done by the palm oil industry and the feed industry folks who are looking for a substitute feed for cottonseed because it’s gotten so expensive,” explains Wedegaertner. “Twenty years ago, nobody believed a dairy cow could produce more than 100 pounds of milk per-day, or you could feed them more than 5 percent fat — well, that’s all changed.”

Wedegaertner wants research confirming how today’s cows are producing 120 and even up to 140 pounds of milk each day, and instead of the 5 percent fat recommended by nutritionists in past years, many are advising up to 10 percent be added to their diet. “Cottonseed fits in very well with that kind of recommendation, and I want confirming science to back it up for our marketing programs,” says Wedegaertner.

Wedegaertner also says the single biggest factor limiting the value of protein in cottonseed is gossypol. It limits the amount of cottonseed meal that can be fed to a variety of animals, including chickens. When high levels of gossypol are ingested, it binds to the animal’s blood and makes it difficult for oxygen to be carried throughout the bloodstream.

World demand for protein is on the rise, as is the world’s population. “You can hardly sit down to a meal these days without some type of chicken product being served,” adds Wedegaertner. “As our population continues to escalate, demand for feed chickens and laying hens will increase, and we want cottonseed to capture some of that expanding feed market.”

Ultra-low Gossypol

Another development that should open market opportunities for cottonseed is the breakthrough in Ultra-low Gossypol (ULG) cotton. Even though glandless cotton has been around for decades, it has never been commercially viable because insects destroy it in the field.

“Gossypol is a naturally-occurring toxin, so it’s a great deterrent to a wide range of cotton pests,” says Wedegaertner. “Well, we finally made a breakthrough thanks to biotechnology, and scientists can now significantly-lower gossypol levels in the plant itself while blocking its production in the plant’s seed.”

The next question to consider is what will be done with this development. Since cottonseed and cottonseed meal are mostly being fed to cattle (whose feed rations can be the lowest on the protein value chain), Wedegaertner wants to move cottonseed up the chain to chickens, pigs, and aquaculture.

“Because we can produce cottonseed without those dangerous levels of gossypol, we’re looking at replacing fish meal which commands a price around $1,400 a ton,” adds Wedegaertner.

USDA granted ULG a “deregulated” status last September, but FDA has yet to tender its stamp of approval. Once that is given, Wedegaertner believes backcrossing ULG into conventional varieties will occur.

“Once seed increase efforts begin, we would hope to see ULG plants in fields within three years,” says Wedegaertner. “We also instituted some human feeding studies with cottonseed oil compared head-to-head against olive oil, and the results were outstanding.”

This Week in Agribusiness, March 30, 2019

Segment 1

Delaney Howell talks to farmers about its impact and how they’ll move forward.

Chris Norberg, BASF Innovation Specialist, shares insight about planting and ground conditions.

Darin Newsom, Darin Newsom Anlaysis, Inc., lends his market knowledge to viewers, and how the flood and planting will impact market action.

Segment 2

Darin Newsom is back in the newsroom talking livestock markets.

Chad Colby shares his ag tech info and the cell phone accessories that are available.

Segment 3

Chad Colby is back to compare tires and tracks on tractors.

Susan Littlefield, farm broadcaster, reports from Nebraska, about hay donations and other flood recovery efforts.

Segment 4

Max visits with Andrew Fansler, Indiana farmer, who didn’t grow up on the farm, about his background and farm operation. Greg Soulje shares the weather outlook for the week.

Segment 5

Greg Soulje is back with an extended weather outlook.

Segment 6

What’s in Max’s Tractor Shed? A 1958 Cockshutt D50.

This Week in Agribusiness salutes the Bath County High School FFA in Owingsville, Kentucky.

USDA reports are out and Steve talks about acreage and ending stocks.

Segment 7

Max talks about the Half Century of Progress show, the biggest vintage farm show in America.

Orion Samuelson celebrates his birthday this week.

Bath County High School FFA

Bath County FFA, Owingsville, Kentucky, is saluted this week. The chapter has 82 memebers and a history of winning top awards in ag mechanics and crop production. The chapter has a greenhouse operation, livestock projects and more. Member John Wells says they keep busy with activities and helping neighbors work on projects.

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 Orion Samuelson at orion@agbizweek.com or to Max Armstrong at max@agbizweek.com. 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 www.ffa.org, on Facebook at facebook.com/nationalffa, on Twitter at twitter.com/nationalffa.

tractor and sprayer in field
THE NEED: If you’re switching products often, especially if you’re using dicamba, it’s convenient if you can clean out the ends of sprayer booms easily. Removable caps that lock in place make it possible.

Simplify spray boom cleanout

Do you handle the spraying on your farm? Is cleaning out the sprayer when changing products burdensome? Has dicamba soybean herbicides intensified the need for complete cleanout? Do you want to simplify your life?

If you answered all four questions with “yes,” then Matt Wagner has a simple solution. Wagner is national accounts manager for TerreMax, an Indiana company that produces all types of products for liquid handling. TerreMax is located in Fontanet.

TerreMax received a patent for Safety Camlocks, cam couplers for liquid systems with an exclusive cam-lever locking mechanism.

“The cam-locking lever makes them easy to use,” Wagner explains. “You simply snap the levers over the end of the pipe or boom or whatever you’re attaching the cam to. It locks in place. When you’re ready to remove it, you push the safety lock buttons to undo the connection.”

Wagner sees the product being a fit for someone who wants to make it easier to access the ends of booms on sprayers. Unless end booms have a cleanout, liquid material accumulates in blind ends. Residues can build up wherever there is an end cap.

TerreMax is ISO 9001-certified, Wagner notes. The safety camlock and camlock couplers are manufactured at the Indiana facility. Learn more at terremax.us, and check out the photos below.

Safety Camlock
BEFORE: Here are the two pieces to be connected before the connection occurs. Imagine that the piece on the right is attached to the end of a spray boom.
Safety Camlock
AFTER: Simple locks snap over the piece connecting to the cap and hold the cap firmly in place.
Blue background with red/pink line. lukas_zb/Thinkstock
Rising volatility may have farmers looking at new crop soybean sales for 2017 already

Funds give, funds take away

Big speculators weren’t exactly caught leaning the wrong way by Friday’s USDA reports. They were still bearish ahead of the data dump, but they did cover some of those bets before the numbers hit and they started selling again.

Here’s what funds were up to through Tuesday, March 26, when the CFTC collected data for its latest Commitment of Traders.

032919TrackingTheFunds770.jpg

Nothing but cover

Big speculators trimmed bearish bets in most ag commodities this week, covering 128,837 contracts of their net short position. But that still left the hedge funds short more than 300,000 contracts.

032919COTCorn770.jpg

Just a blip

Big speculators bought back 54,874 corn contracts as of Tuesday, but that amounted to little more than a fifth of their bearish bets. They still held a net short position of 207,878 lots, a fairly extreme level of selling.

032919COTSoybeans770.jpg

Cautious traders

Big speculators cut down on their net short soybean position for the second straight week, but knocked only 9,755 lots off the bearish bets. Another round of trade talks in Washington next week could make a difference in whether the funds stay bearish.

032919COTSoybeanOil770.jpg

Feeling no love

Soybean oil was one of the few ag contracts hedge funds sold this week, as they turned a small bearish bet into a larger one. They extended their net short position by 20,098 contracts.

032919COTSoybeanMeal770.jpg

Half empty

Funds are still short soybean meal, but they moved closer to neutral before the USDA report. Big speculators bought back a net 15,257 contracts, cutting the bearish bet by more than half.

032919COTChicagoWheat770.jpg

Too little, too late

Big speculators covered a little of their bearish bet in soft red winter wheat for the third straight week, buying back a net 9,828 contracts. But they were still net short 90,027 lots.

032919COTKCWheat770.jpg

Treading water

Big speculators stopped selling hard red winter wheat this week after pushing their bearish bets to the widest level in more than three years. But the covering was light, just 1,838 net contracts.

032919COTMplsWheat770.jpg

Cause for hope?

USDA forecast lower spring wheat acres than some expected, and large traders appeared to be moving in that direction too. They covered most of their bearish bets as of Tuesday.


032919CrudeOilFutures770.jpg

$60 or bust

Money managers bought crude oil for the fifth straight week, adding more than $1.5 billion in futures and options as prices too another run at $60.

 

China and U.S. make progress in trade talks

China and U.S. make progress in trade talks

by Jeffrey Black and Jenny Leonard

Chinese and U.S. negotiators made “new progress” in trade negotiations as both sides discussed the wording of an agreement that’s designed to resolve a bilateral trade dispute, according to Beijing’s official news agency Xinhua.

The report echoed officials familiar with the talks who said negotiators have been working line-by-line through the text of an agreement that can be put before President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin held meetings in Beijing Friday partly to ensure there were no discrepancies in the English- and Chinese-language versions of the text, and also to balance the number of working visits to each capital, according to the officials, who asked not to be identified because the talks aren’t public.

In a tweet, Mnuchin called the talks “constructive” and confirmed Chinese Vice Premier Liu He is due in Washington next week. Speaking Friday afternoon on CNBC Television, White House chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow said the two sides made “good headway” and U.S. negotiators were probably on their flight back to Washington.

The focus on the joint wording has become a key issue after U.S. officials complained that Chinese versions of the text had walked back or omitted commitments made by negotiators, the unnamed officials said. The two sides have very different understandings of certain words, according to one of the officials, who noted that China’s Vice Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen started his career as a translator at the ministry.

The burst of diplomacy suggests both sides remain determined to reach an agreement that would avoid any escalation of a trade war that has seen them impose duties on $360 billion of each others’ imports. China wants the U.S. tariffs imposed on Chinese goods lifted but Trump said last week the duties would remain in place for a “substantial period of time.”

‘Significant Risks’

Kudlow, who runs the White House’s National Economic Council, said the U.S. could raise tariffs if China doesn’t comply with an eventual deal. “If they don’t stick to it, there will be significant risks” to China, he said.

At stake is a deal that could resolve a conflict that’s roiled markets and cast a shadow over the global economy. Kudlow said the Trump administration is focused more on getting a good agreement than a quick resolution to the trade dispute.

The pact “has got to be right for the U.S.A., whatever the timetable is,” Kudlow said. “A little patience isn’t a bad thing. It’s been less than a year in this round. We went there, they’re coming here. That’s a good sign. These are all very positive signs.”

As China nears agreement with the U.S., officials are keen to maintain an appearance of equality between the two sides, which explains the focus on matching visits to Beijing and Washington, the people said. While talks have taken place by phone over the past month, the last face-to-face meetings took place in Washington in February.

Key Areas

The key areas where the U.S. is demanding better terms include China improving treatment of U.S. intellectual property, opening up market access for American companies and agreeing on an enforcement mechanism for the trade deal, Kudlow said Thursday. The U.S. wants regular meetings to assess whether China is living up to promises, and wants to be able to impose tariffs on China -- with no threat of counter-retaliation -- if it fails to do so, he said.

The U.S. focus on translation issues came after negotiators felt China was backtracking on previous commitments it made on IP and tech issues. After the latest round of face-to-face talks, Chinese negotiators frustrated U.S. officials by sending back text on IP with entire sections crossed out that had already been agreed to by Lighthizer and Liu, people familiar with the situation said.

Kudlow has said numerous times the U.S. won’t remove all tariffs on Chinese goods. “Would some be withdrawn? I don’t really want to get into that,” he said Friday. “These things are done as a matter of the negotiations, and that’s up to Mr. Lighthizer.”

--With assistance from Peter Martin.To contact the reporters on this story: Jeffrey Black in Hong Kong at jblack25@bloomberg.net ;Jenny Leonard in Washington at jleonard67@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Daniel Ten Kate at dtenkate@bloomberg.net ;Sarah McGregor at smcgregor5@bloomberg.net Randall Woods, Alister Bull

© 2019 Bloomberg L.P

Image of grain bins with words Grain market week in review with Bryce Knorr and Ben Potter in white. Entire image has red tint.

Grain market week in review - March 29, 2019

Missed some market news this week? Check out what Bryce Knorr and Ben Potter have been following this week.

Audio

Grain markets are mixed this morning, trying to hold on to momentum from last week’s rally. While floods and wet fields remain a top concern for farmers ahead of Friday’s USDA reports, financial investors are watching inversions in global credit markets that could be a symptom of a weakening world economy just as trade talks with China resume.

Big speculators were bearish on commodities over the winter thanks to large supplies and the trade war with China. Farmers aren’t back in the field yet due to wet conditions but signs of spring are emerging, as those hedge funds buy back some of their short positions ahead of big reports on stocks and acreage from USDA on Friday. Outside markets are also trying to turn the corner on anxiety caused by Brexit and fears of slowing global growth.

Uncertainty again is the watchword this morning, with many markets drifting lower including grain futures. While farmers wonder when they’ll get into the fields this spring, more storms are headed to the Missouri River Valley this weekend. Negotiators from the U.S. and China renew talks later this week in Beijing, trying to hammer out a trade deal and Parliament in Britain holds yet more votes on Brexit today that could lead to the resignation of Prime Minister Theresa May.

It’s been a bumpy ride for grain markets this week as traders get ready for one of the major data dumps of the year on Friday, when USDA releases grain stocks and prospective plantings estimates. Soybeans took the brunt of pre-report jitters Wednesday because bullish news from the government for either old or new crop is looking unlikely. Concerns about trade talks with China getting started again in Beijing today are also in play, and ideas tariffs may not disappear immediately with a deal have some farm groups nervous about the outcome of the discussions.

Talk about the calm before the storm! Grain markets were extremely quiet overnight, keeping to small ranges in low volume trade. That torpor likely will stop at 11 a.m. CDT time, when USDA releases grain stocks and prospective plantings reports. Plenty of questions could add to the mix, from trade talks with China to weather and another vote on Brexit in the British Parliament.

USDA data

Grain export inspections ticked mostly higher last week, with China fueling the pace for U.S. soybeans. As negotiators between the U.S. and China hold another round of talks this week, the uphill climb faced by U.S. soybean growers is taking shape.

U.S. soybean growers are once again caught in the crossfire of the trade war with China, even as truce talks are underway again. Resumption of the negotiations in December brought an initial burst of buying with promises for more. But with officials from the two sides meeting in Beijing, with another round likely in Washington soon, China’s buying has mysteriously dried up.

There were four reported export sales this week. There were three wheat sales, with Iraq and Egypt taking 15.4 million bushels of wheat, and one soybean sale, with China taking 30 million bushels of soybeans.

Grain futures are lower this morning, paced by selling in corn after USDA reported much larger than expected March 1 inventories and prospective plantings. USDA is calling for smaller corn stocks, moving from 8.892 billion bushels down to 8.605 billion bushels. But this estimate is much more aggressive than analysts anticipated after offering an average guess of 8.309 billion bushels. For soybeans, USDA is expecting an even bigger drop in acreage this year than analysts had previously anticipated, moving from last year’s total of 89.2 million acres all the way down to 84.617 million acres. Analysts predicted a smaller drop with an average trade guess of 86.2 million acres, which included a Farm Futures estimate of 85.9 million acres.

Recaps

Grain futures are narrowly mixed this morning as a quiet overnight session belies what could be a chaotic day of trading from LaSalle Street to Wall Street. In addition to key USDA reports due at 11 a.m. CDT, the British Parliament is set to hold yet another Brexit vote today, and failure could mean a hard exit from the EU in just two weeks.

USDA’s latest round of acreage and grain stocks data held plenty of bearish news for corn prices, which plummeted about 4.5% lower in Friday’s session. USDA’s numbers for soybean and wheat weren’t so bad, but those grains also suffered moderate losses on spillover weakness today.

Outlook

Basis outlook - While weather continues to roil cash grain markets this spring, basis last week also showed signs of influence from demand factors, for better or worse, as trade talks with China enter what could be a crucial home stretch. Floodwaters are expected to slowly start receding this week on the lower Mississippi River. Northern stretches likely will remain closed into April while snow and ice melt in the Upper Midwest. Lake Pepin south of the Twin Cities still had 22 inches of ice last week, and much of Minnesota, Northern Wisconsin and the central to eastern Dakotas are still snow covered.

Corn outlook - I’ve been bullish on corn for a while, believing tightening supplies over the next year would eventually spur higher prices. I still favor that scenario but growers need to balance risk and reward headed into one of the most crucial weeks of the season.

Soybean outlook - Farmers will plant fewer soybeans this year, that much is clear. Don’t expect USDA’s March 29 estimate to be the last word on the subject, thanks to weather, economics and history that could leave the final accounting in doubt for months.

Energy/ethanol outlook - Houston has a problem, and it could bring at least a little good news for farmers struggling with low profit margins on 2019 crops. The big petrochemical fire at the energy hub of the Gulf added to shipping woes that built over the winter due to fog. Ships stayed at anchor, unable to load crude oil from a burgeoning U.S. supply. That caused stocks to increase last week, apparently halting, at least for now, the attempt by crude oil futures to top $60 a barrel. Futures flirted with that level this week again but were unable to manage a close above the target, which is also close to the 50% retracement of crude oil’s selloff over the fall and winter.

Fertilizer outlook - The only thing certain about weather this spring is uncertainty. While farmer plans remain up in the air following release of Friday’s prospective plantings estimates from USDA, there’s still potential for a significant gap between intentions and what actually goes in the ground. The uncertainty is just one factor in a fertilizer market where supplies appear to be building – just not in the places farmers need them.

Wheat outlook - It was high time for the wheat market to move and it finally did on Tuesday. But bearish logic remains unchanged for this market unless fundamentals of supply and demand change radically in coming weeks. Make no mistake: The turnaround from contract lows is driven by short covering from funds that are bearish wheat.

Financial outlook - Anxieties are growing in financial markets as well, and not only on Wall Street. Nonetheless, stock prices are rallying, getting close to a breakout that could trigger a test of last fall’s all-time highs. So what do investors know that the rest of the world is missing?

Energy/ethanol outlook - Houston has a problem, and it could bring at least a little good news for farmers struggling with low profit margins on 2019 crops. The big petrochemical fire at the energy hub of the Gulf added to shipping woes that built over the winter due to fog. Ships stayed at anchor, unable to load crude oil from a burgeoning U.S. supply. That caused stocks to increase last week, apparently halting, at least for now, the attempt by crude oil futures to top $60 a barrel. Futures flirted with that level this week again but were unable to manage a close above the target, which is also close to the 50% retracement of crude oil’s selloff over the fall and winter.

San Joaquin River
Unimpaired flows down rivers like the San Joaquin will have to increase in a state plan that opponents say will cripple the agriculture industry in California.

Feds sue water board over flows decree

The federal government is making good on its threat to sue the California State Water Resources Control Board over a minimal flows plan that officials say threatens operations of the New Melones Dam east of the San Joaquin Valley.

Suits by the U.S. Departments of Justice and Interior in state and federal courts allege the water board failed to follow state environmental laws in its Dec. 12 decision to require unimpaired flows of up to 40 percent to 50 percent in the Stanislaus, Merced and Tuolumne rivers.

Farm groups had implored the board to reject the mandate, which was imposed after voluntary agreements with water agencies on the Merced and Tuolumne rivers proved elusive. So, too, had officials from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which threatened legal action if the water board devalued the federal government’s investment in its water projects.

"The plan poses an unacceptable risk to Reclamation’s water storage and power generation capabilities at the New Melones Project in California and to local recreational opportunities,” bureau Commissioner Brenda Burman said when the suits were filed March 28. “We pledge our commitment to environmentally and economically sound water management for California’s farms, families, business, and natural resources, and the American public as a whole.”

George Kostyrko, a spokesman for the water board, told The Associated Press the agency looks forward to defending the plan, which he says involved years of analysis and public input.

The suits allege the board's decision violated the California Environmental Quality Act, a statute that requires state and local agencies to identify the significant environmental impacts of their actions and to avoid or mitigate those impacts, if feasible.

Alleged violations

The agencies argue the board violated CEQA in three ways:

  • By failing to provide an accurate, stable and finite project description, because the board analyzed a project materially different from the project described in the project description;
  • By improperly masking potential environmental impacts of the amended plan by including carryover storage targets and other reservoir controls – mitigation measures – in its impacts analysis and by not analyzing the impacts of the amended plan on the environment without reservoir controls; and
  • By failing to adequately analyze the impacts of the amended plan, including with respect to water temperature and related water quality conditions, and water supply.

“The environmental analysis by the California State Water Resources Control Board hid the true impacts of their plan and could put substantial operational constraints on the Department of the Interior’s ability to effectively operate the New Melones Dam, which plays a critical role in flood control, irrigation, and power generation in the Sacramento region,” said Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark for the DOJ’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The Department of Justice will continue to advocate on behalf of our federal partners, especially when it comes to the proper application of federal and state environmental laws.”

As alleged in the lawsuits, the United States will be forced to encounter operational constraints on the New Melones Project, loss of available surface water supplies for New Melones Project purposes, including Central Valley Project (CVP) water service contracts, and involuntary dedication of federal reservoir space for board purposes.

The New Melones Dam is a federally owned Reclamation facility and a component of the federal CVP.  The dam holds back water from the Stanislaus River under permits issued by the state, and delivers water from storage to irrigation and water districts under contracts entered into under federal reclamation law, the departments explain in a news release.

The lawsuits contend that the new flow objectives will significantly reduce the amount of water available in New Melones reservoir for meeting congressionally authorized purposes of the New Melones Project, including irrigation, municipal and industrial purposes, power generation, and recreational opportunities at New Melones. The reduced water available for New Melones Project purposes would also impair Reclamation’s delivery of water under contracts it presently holds with irrigation and water districts, the agencies assert.

Only the latest

The federal actions follow earlier suits filed by districts in the San Joaquin Tributaries Authority and the California Farm Bureau Federation, challenging the state’s right to arbitrarily increase flows in the three rivers.

The board had delayed its decision from last summer as Department of Water Resources director Karla Nemeth and Department of Fish and Wildlife director Charlton Bonham worked on voluntary agreements with water users as potential alternatives to imposing minimum river flow requirements as part of the Bay-Delta Plan, a management blueprint for the estuary that includes the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

The state reached pacts in numerous watersheds north of the Delta that were to be involved in Phase 2 of the updated Bay-Delta Plan, including the Sacramento, Feather, Yuba, American and Mokelumne rivers. The agreements include some additional flows at needed times while placing a big emphasis on improving habitat.

On the Tuolumne River, the Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts and San Francisco Public Utilities Commission agreed to establish a $38 million conservation fund to restore floodplain as well as river-rearing habitat while setting up a “robust” flows plan, Bonham says.

Talks with water agencies along the Stanislaus and Merced rivers failed to reach an agreement before the water board’s December hearing. Districts say they were unable to finish their negotiations by the water board’s hard deadline, despite being extremely close.

“It’s the decimation of a large portion of agriculture in the middle of the nation’s most productive food belt that should concern everyone,” Oakdale Irrigation District general manager Steve Knell has said. “All this loss of productive agriculture to gain 1,103 more salmon a year – per the state’s own analysis – doesn’t make sense.”

The United States is represented in this action by Assistant Attorney General Clark and United States Attorney McGregor W. Scott; with lead counsel Stephen M. Macfarlane, Romney Philpott, Erika Norman of the Natural Resources Section; and Kelli L. Taylor of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California, according to the federal release.

2019 Midwest Flood

A look at flooding along the Missouri River

Andy Spiegel looks out at the water and shakes his head. “We’ve never had a flood this time of year. This is unknown territory for us,” he said. “It does look like it is going be a lot longer lasting than before.”

Spiegel can only wonder what the next few months have in store. “We worry about big rains,” he said. “They usually come in the spring and summer.” Additional moisture will only add to the growing problem from the 2019 Missouri River flood.

Only eight years ago, the family endured another catastrophic flood event. “In 2011, it was around for a long time, but that happened in summer,” Spiegel said. “The water receded by fall. Then we had great weather to repair the damage.”

This year, he is not that optimistic. “They are talking multiyear project to get levees fixed,” he said. “We are talking unprotected crop ground for years to come.”

Spiegel shared his concerns with USDA Under Secretary Bill Northey. Northey recently visited the family farm north of Watson, Mo., in Atchison County to view the devastation up close.

Click through the slideshow for a view of more of Northey’s trip.

Weather station in farm field Simply Creative Photography/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Why putting a value on farm data is such a struggle

The value of data is one of the things we struggle with the most. There is so much data and so little time.

The question I tried to answer yesterday was where does weather data fit in? A few years ago I had a weather station. I used it with some success, but it seemed like other stations on the network didn’t report properly.

An example would be my rain gauge across the road would say 1-inch, my eyes would tell me 1-inch, but the station would report .2-inch. When my subscription was done, I sent the station back. Looking back, the biggest issue is that nothing was tied back to my crop or my yield. It was only an expensive remote rain gauge.

I spent an hour on the phone with the weather station people yesterday. They tell me the problems have been fixed. The account manager was very good and reviewed how things have changed, what to expect, and options that are available to me. Everything made sense and I was onboard.

When getting down to making the decision, it began to feel like I was going through the exit rooms of one of those time share sales seminars. The deals just kept getting better. Usually that is a ‘walk away’ signal for me, but since I knew I was probably going to pull the trigger anyway, I just held out until the deal seemed right. So, I guess we’re going to try it again this year.

‘But why?’ you ask, ‘What do you want weather data for?’ I want weather relevant to our fields, not interpolated from miles away. The data management service we are now using is pulling together all the aspects of our farm. From the grid sampled soil tests, to applications (fertilizer, seed, chemistry), to in crop tissue and soil tests, to yield, and weather. When we have successes or failures, I want as many of the variables tracked as possible. I believe going forward, this analysis will allow us to make better decisions.

 The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress.