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Articles from 2012 In April

Corn+Soybean Digest

Think Like a Grower: Syngenta's Integrated Approach

Syngenta has unveiled a new strategy to "think like a grower," as part of a new integrated approach to doing business with farmers. By thinking like farmers, the company will be better able to develop integrated solutions to address growers' needs.

$500 salmon versus $10 trout

$500 salmon versus $10 trout

I guess you can call me a fisherman because I like to fish.  However, I am no “angler.” You definitely do not want me in the boat with you at a bass tournament.

Regardless, I love fish stories.

This one is a doozy. It is about dubious salmon that could be the world’s most expensive fish and thousands of remarkably inexpensive trophy trout that will be caught by thousands of fisherman young and old. The trout are in a beautiful 5,500-foot elevation mountain lake in the Sierra Nevada called Shaver Lake. It was drained last winter during the tourist off-season to make repairs on the dam. Fishermen seized this unique opportunity that would come with restocking the lake to turn a pretty good trout lake into a trophy trout heaven.

Southern California Edison owns the lake and made plans to restock it this spring after the dam repairs were done and the lake refilled.

However, local fisherman saw it as an opportunity to make it a very special fishing hole, raising $41,000 from local businesses, families and fundraising events to order (two years ago) 4,000 3- to 6-pound trophy trout to be raised at a local California Fish and Game hatchery. The first load of trophy trout was deposited in the lake in April. These trophy trout were in addition to 6,000 small 1.5- to 2-pound trout and 150,000 rainbow, brown, and kokanee fingerlings planted by the California Department of Game and Fish.

This project has put Shaver Lake at the top of fishermen’s bucket list. It is expected to be a great economic boon for the little mountain community for years to come.

The Shaver project begs a comparison to another fish project. It is the salmon restoration element of the San Joaquin River “restoration” in California’s Central Valley. The full river restoration could cost up to $1 billion with $20 million budgeted specifically to restore 40,000 salmon to the river if and when full flow is restored.

You can do the math. That’s $500 per fish — if the project meets budget and is successful in re-establishing the most southern salmon habit in North America. The trophy trout in Shaver cost right at $10 apiece, and not one dime of it is from your taxes.

I know salmon are much bigger than trout, but those San Joaquin salmon had better be world record lunkers to warrant a $500 apiece price tag. And yes, a lake fishing environment is much different that river fishing. I admit I am comparing Orcas to fish bait in the hard core fishing world.
However, this is more than a fish story. It is about wasting taxpayer money to “restore” salmon to a river that some people would like you to believe has not had salmon in it since the late 1940s.

Know when the last time salmon were pulled from the San Joaquin River in the heart of the Central Valley? 2011. Yep, last year’s above normal rains generated a big flow in the San Joaquin and large salmon were pulled from the river near Dos Palos by farmworkers. But, that’s another fish story.
No doubt the Shaver Lake Trophy Trout group does not want to get tangled up in the controversial San Joaquin River, but the comparison is too intriguing to ignore.

It is a fish story too good to pass up.

(For more on salmon, see: Genetically-engineered salmon caught in tangled regulatory net)

Corn+Soybean Digest

New Holland Sidewinder II Armrest


New Holland has come out with a second generation of the Sidewinder armrest, the Sidewinder II. Taking input from consumers and design cues from Fiat (automaker), the new armrest is movable and offers all controls at the tip of a finger, or thumb, rather. The Sidewinder II is available on the T6, T7 and T8 tractor models.

CWT Keeps Moving the Cheese

CWT Keeps Moving the Cheese

The dairy export market is an important part of keeping prices solid and the group - Cooperatives Working Together - keeps pushing those shipments. This week it announced it had accepted 13 requests for export assistance from Dairy Farmers of America, Darigold, Foremost Farms, Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperatives and United Dairymen of Association to sell a total of 393 metric tons( 866,417 pounds) of cheddar and monterey jack chees and 712 metric tons - 1.570 million pounds - of butter to customers in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and South America.

CWT Keeps Moving the Cheese, and Butter

So far this year, CWT has assisted member cooperatives in making export sales of Cheddar, Monterey Jack and Gouda cheese totaling 46.9 million pounds and butter totaling 40.8 million pounds to 26 countries on four continents. On a butterfat basis, the milk equivalent of these exports is 1.322 billion pounds, or the same as the annual milk production of 62,950 cows.

Assisting CWT members through the Export Assistance program positively impacts producer milk prices in the short-term by reducing inventories that overhang the market and depress cheese and butter prices. In the long-term, CWT’s Export Assistance program helps member cooperatives gain and maintain market share, thus expanding the demand for U.S. dairy products and the farm milk that produces them.

CWT will pay export bonuses to the bidders only when delivery of the product is verified by the submission of the required documentation.

The Cooperatives Working Together (CWT) Export Assistance program is funded by voluntary contributions from dairy cooperatives and individual dairy farmers. The money raised by their investment is being used to strengthen and stabilize the dairy farmers’ milk prices and margins. For more information about CWT, visit

Grain Futures Trading Hours Questioned

Grain Futures Trading Hours Questioned

There's a new commodity trading market opening later this month and as it nears there may be some interesting questions raised. Intercontinental Exchange Inc., or ICE, will begin trading grain futures contracts on May 14, pending regulatory review, with trading hours stretching from 8 pm to 6 pm Eastern Time and starting at 6 pm Eastern Time on Sundays. The contracts would be cash settled based on the settlement price of the corresponding futures contract at the Chicago Board of Trade.

Grain Trading Hours Questioned

The contracts would provide direct competition to the CME Group in Chicago. As a result, traders report that the CME Group is considering responding by expanding trading to 22 hours per day, reaching from 6 p.m. when the overnight session currently begins to 4 p.m. the next afternoon. How will the CME Group respond? There have been rumors that the trading cycle would expand to 22 hours on that platform too, but the organization issued a statement - through e-mail - indicating that may not be the case: "At CME Group, we regularly engage with industry participants to discuss ways to enhance our markets. We will keep our customers and industry participants abreast of any planned changes, but have nothing formal to announce at this time."

Traders are obviously worried about the impact if USDA releases reports during trading hours.

Bryce Knorr, Senior Editor, Farm Futures, notes that ICE plans to use the Chicago Board of Trade for its settlement, so prices would be identical. "ICE claims it has a superior execution technology that will make it cheaper," he says. "The CBOT will be under pressure to trade whatever hours the ICE does or else risk losing business."

He notes the only differentiation CME Group can offer to the market are its swaps, which only see volume on USDA report days, limit move days, etc. "And they are not easy to trade," Knorr says. "Orders must go through a swaps dealers with no screen quotes shown for reference for most traders."

With a nearly-full day market about to open, the grain trade could find itself with a whole new look at the market.

Corn Growers Offer an RFS Reminder

Corn Growers Offer an RFS Reminder

With Congress heading home in May for local meetings, the National Corn Growers Association says it's a perfect time to remind lawmakers why the Renewable Fuel Standard is important to all Americans - especially the price consumers pay at the pump.

Says Garry Niemeyer, NCGA president: "Corn ethanol plays a pivotal role in America's fight to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Not only does it help diversify America's fuel supply but it also fosters a more vibrant economy.  Recently, ethanol reduced wholesale gasoline prices by $0.89 per gallon, saving the average American household $800."

Corn Growers Offer an RFS Reminder

In a press statement, NCGA points out that the Energy Independence and Security Act became law in 2007.  Included in the bill was an expanded Renewable Fuel Standard, which requires 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel to be blended into the nation's fuel supply by 2022. There is also an allowance for 15 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol by 2015. The act builds on the progress made by the 2005 Energy Policy Act, the first comprehensive energy legislation the nation has seen in more than a decade.

Ethanol producers and corn growers receive greater market certainty with the establishment of the expanded RFS. The RFS advances the use of domestically produced renewable fuels, encourages new technologies, brings much needed jobs to rural America and enhances U.S. energy independence. A broad coalition of stakeholders, including ethanol and agricultural organizations, environmentalists, oil companies and state air officials, supported the bill.

There are concerns that Congress may roll back the RFS, or trim ethanol supply needs, but with the savings per gallon the fuel already provides, consumers may be in for a shock at the pump beyond one that OPEC can deliver.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is working on promotion of an E15 blend of ethanol for use in later model cars. While some car makers are sending mixed signals about the idea, a group of ethanol companies is working to survey the market on the perceived benefits of the fuel. The RFS has value, even without the 10-cent per gallon blender tax break, and ethanol producers are working to tell that story.

Fast Wheat, Corn  Planting Pace Continues

Fast Wheat, Corn Planting Pace Continues

The USDA Crop Progress report shows that planters aren't wasting any time. From corn, to cotton to soybeans to spring wheat, the machinery is on the move.

For King Corn, Iowa farmers were stellar performers moving the "planted" needle from 9% on the dial last week to 50% this week - that now puts Iowa ahead of its 32% five-year planted average for April 29. Other states that had week-over-week jumps included Minnesota from 11% to 48%; Nebraska from 14% to 44%; and South Dakota from 8% to 31%. For the 18 key states that planted 92% of corn acreage last year, total corn planted topped 53%, running well above the 27% average.

Fast Planting Pace Continues

For soybean growers, the acres are starting to pile up too. Illinois doubled soybean acres planted from 5% to 13%, Indiana moved from 11% to 28%; Kentucky from 7% to 18%, and Ohio jumped from 7% to 16% planted. But corn planting delays in Iowa, Minnesota and elsewhere kept planters devoted to corn for now. Overall, the 18 key soybean planting states are at 12% planted versus a 5% 5-year average.

Cotton planting is running ahead of schedule too, with all but North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia beating their five-year averages. Drought-solving rains in some parts of the region are probably bringing a welcome delay to planting, but overall the key cotton states are 26% planted versus a 19% 5-year average.

As for spring wheat planting? The records continue. Every one of the six spring wheat producing states is well ahead of the 5-year average and so far 74% of the crop is planted in those states versus 32% for the average. In fact South Dakota shows 97% completed with Minnesota right behind at 93%. And emergence is ahead of schedule too with 30% emerged for the six key states versus 8% in a normal year.

Photo gallery: Jasper Winery in Des Moines, Iowa, affected by abnormal spring weather

Jasper Winery is a small family-owned and -operated winery with two locations in Newton and Des Moines, Iowa. Ag editors from around the Midwest were invited to an event hosted by Titan Tire of Des Moines on Tuesday, April 24, where the winery owners described how the unusual spring weather has affected their operations, just as it has for many corn and soybean growers. There are more than 90 wineries in the state of Iowa as of 2012 and more than 1,000 acres of grapes that are grown, according to Jean Groban, Jasper co-owner. Most of the grapes used by Jasper are French-American hybrid grapes which have been developed by the University Minnesota or Cornell University. The grapes grown by Jasper took a hard hit due to a recent frost in Iowa. "The primary buds have died, and we'll lose probably 50% of our crop this year and we'll go to secondary buds, which are germinating right now, but they are not as fruitful," says Paul Groban, co-owner. Here is a look into their Des Moines location facilities, the grapevines and the end product.

Grapes may help anxiety and memory loss

Grapes may help anxiety and memory loss

New research presented this week at the Experimental Biology conference in San Diego, Calif., suggests that grape consumption may be able to positively affect anxiety and related hypertension, as well as cognitive impairments associated with anxiety. Researchers observed a protective role of grapes on anxiety-like behavior, learning and memory function, and hypertension in rats.

The researchers attributed these benefits to the antioxidant effect of grapes.

The researchers noted that while anxiety disorders, cognitive impairment and hypertension are distinct and complex diagnostic categories, they also share key similarities and can often overlap. For example, of the approximately 40 million people in the U.S. that have anxiety disorders, 10 million of them have hypertension. Additionally, oxidative stress is thought to contribute to learning and memory deficits, although exactly how this occurs is not yet clear.

(For more, see: Grapes linked to heart disease reduction)

This study, conducted by a team out of the University of Houston, investigated the role of oxidative stress in the combined occurrence of anxiety-cognitive impairment and hypertension, using a rat model of oxidative stress. They found that feeding the animals a grape-enriched diet for two weeks prevented the anxiety-like behavior, learning and memory impairment, as well as the rise in blood pressure that was observed in the rats with induced oxidative stress but no grapes in their diet.

“These results suggest promising potential for grapes in a very important area of health,” said Samina Salim, Ph.D., the lead investigator. “We attribute the benefits of the grapes to their antioxidant activity and their ability to combat oxidative stress.”

(For more, see: Wine consumption a toast to health)

The study was supported by two grants from the National Institutes of Health, and a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship award. Grapes were provided in the form of a freeze-dried whole grape powder by the California Table Grape Commission.

The Experimental Biology conference is a multidisciplinary, scientific meeting focused on research and life sciences, covering general fields of study such as anatomy, biochemistry, nutrition, pathology and pharmacology. The conference is comprised of nearly 14,000 scientists and exhibitors.