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Corn+Soybean Digest

ASA to Inform Growers Through Series of Soybean Rust Education Meetings

The American Soybean Association (ASA), a membership-driven policy organization representing 25,000 members, is presenting a series of seven one-day Soybean Rust Education meetings around the country that will help farmers in the United States be better informed about soybean rust and better prepared to deal with its eventual spread to the U.S. Without early detection and proper fungicide applications, soybean rust can cause yield losses of up to 80 percent, depending on the plant’s growth stage at infection.

“Growers need to have a better understanding of how to properly manage this disease before it arrives, and ASA is committed to helping inform and prepare growers,” says ASA President Ron Heck, a soybean producer from Perry, Iowa. “The meetings will bring together ASA leaders, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) officials, scientists, industry representatives, and soybean growers to discuss the latest information about soybean rust.”

At the rust education meetings, experts will talk about the approval status and registration of fungicide products to combat the disease in the U.S., discuss fungicide application techniques and equipment, and present identification and detection methods for soybean rust.

The Soybean Rust Education meeting dates and locations are:

July 21, 2004, Raleigh, N.C.

July 22, 2004, Plain City, Ohio

July 23, 2004, Memphis, Tenn.

July 27, 2004, Indianapolis, Ind.

July 28, 2004, Fremont, Neb.

July 29, 2004, Moline, Ill.

July 30, 2004, Mankato, Minn.

Registration for these meetings is free to current ASA members. A registration fee of $30.00 will be charged to non-members, which can be applied toward association membership. To register in advance for one of the meetings, go to www.SoyGrowers.com/rust for an online registration application, or contact ASA toll free at 800-688-7692. Continuing Education Units (CEUs) for meeting attendance have been applied for.

ASA’s Soybean Rust Education series is conducted in cooperation with the USDA and is sponsored by BASF Corporation, Bayer CropScience, Dow AgroSciences, John Deere, Sipcam Agro USA and Syngenta Crop Protection.

Corn+Soybean Digest

Myclobutanil Granted Section 18 to Control Soybean Rust in Iowa

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has authorized Section 18 emergency exemptions for the active ingredient myclobutanil to be used in Iowa for the control of soybean rust.

Use of myclobutanil – marketed under the brand names Laredo® EC and Laredo EW fungicides by Dow AgroSciences – will not be allowed until the presence of soybean rust has been confirmed in the continental United States by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Under this Section 18, use of this systemic triazole fungicide will be limited to a maximum of two applications.

Supreme Court to hear beef checkoff challenge

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments in a lawsuit brought by disgruntled beef producers who say they shouldn’t have to pay to promote their product. A ruling is expected early next year.

The lawsuit challenges mandatory producer contributions to the $50-million-a-year beef checkoff program that is currently funding the “Beef: It’s what’s for dinner” advertising campaign. But observers say the ruling could impact other producer-funded marketing and research programs.

“I am pleased that the U.S. Supreme Court has decided to review the issues regarding the Beef Promotion and Research Act,” said Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman. “USDA regards such programs, when properly administered, as effective tools for market enhancement.”

While the vast majority of the beef industry appears to agree with the secretary, a handful of North Dakota livestock producers say the campaign violates their free speech rights. They have also argued that the market promotion campaigns make no distinction between U.S. and imported beef.

Leaders of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association say they fully expected the case to reach the nation’s highest court and that the industry position favoring such programs would prevail.

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com

Weather may sweeten Georgia watermelon crop

Cool, dry weather in early spring slowed the growth of Georgia's watermelon crop. But it's expected to recover quickly. And the melons may even be a little sweeter than normal by harvest time.

“We had some below-average temperatures in March and early April, and that happens from time to time,” says Terry Kelley, a horticulturist with the University of Georgia Extension Service. “That put the crop a little behind in growth.”

But Kelley believes the crop will have no problem recovering now that temperatures across the state have become consistently warmer.

Most of the crop was planted on schedule. Planting began around March 15. A majority of Georgia's watermelons are planted on irrigated land into beds covered in plastic.

But the drought postponed the planting of some melons on land without irrigation. Many of those melons are being planted now, he says.

“The peak of harvest may come a little later,” he says. “But consumers will see no real difference. There should be plenty of melons for the Fourth of July market.”

Georgia melons' big market is the July 4 holiday, when celebrating patriots include the sweet fruit in their cookout plans. Many growers schedule their planting each year to harvest fresh melons for this high-demand market.

Temperatures across the state have warmed. But dry weather remains across much of Georgia.

Watermelon growers don't like drought conditions. But they don't like rainy ones either, Kelley says.

Extremely wet springs and summers tend to increase disease problems for growers, who have to spend more money to control things like gummy stem blight. If the weather stays on the dry side, growers will have fewer disease problems.

Excessive moisture tends to saturate melons, too, and make them less sweet. In dry conditions, the grower who can irrigate can better control how much water his crop gets.

Sunshine contributes to melon sweetness, too. Dry conditions mean less cloud coverage. Less cloud coverage means more sunshine and sweeter melons.

Georgia farmers historically plant 27,000 to 28,000 acres of melons each year. But they may end up planting more this year because watermelon prices were strong last year.

Georgia farmers planted 26,000 acres of watermelons last year and got an average of 7.8 cents per pound, about two cents higher than in 2002.

No definite estimates have been released for this year's crop.

Georgia ranks third behind Florida and Texas in watermelon production. The state's crop was worth about $40 million last year.

Commentary: Protecting counter-cyclical payments

The 2003 cotton counter–cyclical payment is expected to be a little more than 3 cents per pound. That estimate comes from the University of Illinois, farmdoc.uiuc.edu. If it turns out to be correct, it will be a far cry from the 13.73 cents those with a cotton base received for the 2002 payment. It is also substantially less than they could have received, had they taken some precautions last spring.

Is it possible for a farmer to protect CC payments and if so, what is the best way to get it done? Those questions were hotly debated last winter as we moved into the second year of a brand new farm bill. With the benefit of hindsight and with the 2004 counter-cyclical marketing season still in front of us, this would be a good time to take another look at the issues.

Some leaders in the cotton industry were of the opinion last spring that the only thing a land owner/producer needed to do to protect their 2003 CCP was to plant 85 percent of their base and then make sure that the price they received for their cotton was at least as high as the APR (average price received) number the government will use to determine the payment. They reasoned correctly that if the producer was able to match the APR (which by no means is a given) they would then be assured of receiving at least the target price of 72.40. They then went on to say that any additional marketing positions such as the purchase of call options would be unnecessary and would in fact be labeled a speculation.

A few of us in the marketing advisory business took a different view. We agreed that planting the program acres and then marketing cotton at a price that at least matched the national APR number would return no less than the target price. We did not agree that purchasing call options last season was an unnecessary speculative position. Instead we saw it as a prudent risk management strategy. So who turned out to be right?

Obviously, since cotton prices went up at harvest, the purchase of calls last winter and spring looks like a good idea. Those clients who followed our advice and bought calls are certainly glad they did. But what if prices had gone down, and the calls our clients bought turned out to be worthless? Would we still be of the same opinion? As a marketing consultant concerned with helping my clients manage risk, my answer is yes!

’Price insurance

We see it as an insurance question. The CCP represents a valuable asset when commodity prices are low as they were last spring. Yet as we saw, the value of that asset is subject to substantial risk should prices trade higher. Call options appreciate in value in a rising market, the very price scenario that takes away CCP money. That makes them the logical tool to provide protection.

What if prices had gone down last harvest instead of up? In our case, had the market fallen below the strike price of our calls during the heart of the CCP marketing season (September – February), the calls our clients bought would likely have expired with no value. Those same low prices however, would have resulted in a low APR number which, in turn, would have enabled our clients to receive the major portion of the potential 13.73 cents in CCP money less the cost of the protection. They would have in effect bought “fire insurance” on a building that did not burn down.

Do call options provide perfect protection? No, because the actual sales numbers and percentages used to calculate the final government APR are not known until the end of the marketing period. The timing of the purchase and sale of the calls does require some finesse. Do call options provide enough protection to be of benefit? We think in certain situations they do and our experience last season bears that out.

Marketing plan

Here is a brief run down of the cotton CCP strategy we presented to our clients last winter:

Our basic plan was to establish some cost parameters and, then, if the opportunity presented itself, protect 40 percent of program production (85 percent of base * program yield) with December calls and the other 60 percent with March calls. We would then cash in the calls throughout the CCP marketing season (August – July) on a schedule based on historical sales data. We also suggested that in the event we were able to cash in the calls and recover the equivalent of the entire 13.73 cents, we would do so. This strategy was presented to our clients last winter.

Here is how the recommended call strategy played out:

  1. Dec. 12, 2002; Bought Dec 60-cent calls @ 2.00 cents, covering 40 percent.
  2. June 02, 2003; Bought Mar 60-cent calls @ 2.50 cents, covering 60 percent.
  3. Sept. 05, 2003; Sold one-half of the Dec calls at 2.00 cents.
  4. Oct. 16, 2003; Sold the balance of the Dec calls at 14.10 cents.
  5. Oct. 30, 2003; Sold the Mar calls @ 22.40 cents.
  6. Net Results: 14.36 cents per pound credit.
  7. Estimated CCP: 3.24 cents per pound
In the interest of full disclosure, I must report that our clients found it very difficult to stay with our plan once cotton prices started going up. The increased value of the calls became too tempting and most of our clients cashed out of their positions earlier than suggested. Even though they did leave money on the table, our clients were able to net an additional 6 to 8 cents a pound over and above the expected CCP of 3.24. Considering the fact they also had the opportunity to price the crop itself at very profitable price levels, 2003 turned out to be a tremendous marketing season!

Will we have the opportunity to protect the 2004 counter-cyclical payment? That remains to be seen. As with any insurance question, you must be able to justify the cost of the protection when compared to the level of coverage. At this point, the cost appears to be too high although that could certainly change before the CCP marketing season rolls around.

Should we go with the same call strategy we used in 2003? Not necessarily. We are working with higher market prices this year, which means we likely will have to look at more complicated strategies.

In our opinion, protecting a valuable asset when you get the chance is always a good idea. We think that applies to your CCP whether you plant your base or not.

Steven H. Scott is an agricultural marketing consultant with Scott & Associates in Little Rock, Ark. Contact him at 1-800-206-2474 or:

e-mail: steve@scottagri.com

Feed prices squeeze catfish profits

MISSISSIPPI STATE, Miss. — Mississippi catfish producers saw profits last year after two years of losses, and are hoping feed prices in 2004 won’t put their operations back into red ink.

Jim Steeby, Extension aquaculture specialist with the National Warmwater Aquaculture Center in Belzoni, Miss., said feed prices have made it difficult to see a profit in the catfish industry.

“Last year, our average feed price was $230 a ton,” Steeby said. “This year’s feed prices are going to be at least $50 a ton above that price.”

Feed, which is primarily made of soybean meal, accounts for half the cost of catfish production. According to Mississippi State University’s Department of Agricultural Economics, producers can continue to make a profit if they get 75 cents a pound or more for their fish and feed doesn’t rise above $280 a ton.

Soybean prices had been low in recent years, but last fall they began to rise. As of early May, feed cost about $300 a ton.

Terry Hanson, MSU agricultural economist, said the cost of production in Mississippi is typically between 60 and 70 cents a pound.

“They’ve been losing money for about three years,” Hanson said of producers.

Prices hit a recent low in January 2003 of 52.9 cents a pound, well below the cost of production. By early May, prices had rebounded to about 75 cents a pound, Hanson said.

“Farmers have been trying to stay alive by feeding less and stocking less. A few years of doing this created lower numbers in the ponds, so processors are having to bid up the numbers to get the fish they need,” Hanson said.

Since more than half the catfish are sold in restaurants, Hanson said the improved economy means more people are eating out, which also is helping prices.

“The industry will survive because it has a good product and there’s a large quantity being sold, but prices need to go up more to enable producers to survive the short-term squeeze,” Hanson said. “It’s going to be rough and some more folks will probably go out of business.”

The Delta aquaculture specialist said there was an oversupply of catfish in 2001 and 2002, but catfish acreage in Mississippi dropped from 113,000 acres in 2001 to 101,000 acres when tallied in February.

Acreage leaving catfish is going into timber, wetland programs or soybeans. Most of the lost acreage has been older ponds in need of repair, and Steeby said he doesn’t expect the acreage leaving catfish production to return.

Cool spring temperatures mean spawning was on track at 3 percent to 4 percent under way by the first of May and should conclude by mid-July. Producers have not yet started to feed heavily, and the only concerns have been off-flavor problems lingering from winter.

Contact: Jim Steeby, (662) 247-2915.

Bonnie Coblentz writes for Mississippi State University Ag Communications.

USDA announces $190M in loans for Internet access

WASHINGTON – Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman announced the approval of 20 rural broadband and telecommunication loans totaling $190 million to expand access to advanced Internet technology in 19 states.

“We are committed to ensuring that every household in America has access to broadband by the year 2007,” said Veneman. “This technology is important for families and businesses to succeed in a global environment.”

Veneman announced in January 2003 that USDA would expand efforts to bring farmers, rural residents and businesses greater access to improved telecommunication technology through loans and loan guarantees to rural telecommunications providers.

To date, she said, over $206 million in broadband loans have been approved in the program, which was authorized in the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002.

The rural broadband access program provides loans and loan guarantees for the construction, improvement, and acquisition of facilities and equipment for broadband service in eligible rural communities. Priority is given to applications that are proposing to serve areas where no residential broadband service currently exists.

Telecommunication companies like Nex-Tech, Inc. of Lenora, Kansas are improving the capability for rural businesses and farmers and ranchers to compete globally through better access to the Internet.

One of their customers, Osborne Industries, shared with Veneman how their local agricultural services manufacturing company is utilizing high-speed connection to better manage and market their products in domestic and international markets. Nex-Tech will receive a $5.4 million loan to further expand broadband access to 1,400 new subscribers.

Of the $190 million announced earlier this month, $150 million resulted from funding available through the 2002 farm bill. The remaining $40 million in loans announced came from Rural Development’s traditional telecommunications program.

Borrowers are required under the traditional program to ensure that all infrastructure built include broadband capability. Since 2001, the traditional program has provided $2.0 billion in funding, providing over 771,000 rural homes and businesses with access to high speed broadband connections.

USDA provides a number of other tools to advance broadband service in rural America. Included is the Distance Learning and Telemedicine grant program, with funding levels of $25 million a year. USDA has also used a broadband grant program called Community Connect as well as community facilities programs to build connectivity for rural homes and businesses.

USDA Rural Development's mission is to deliver programs in a way that will support increasing economic opportunity and improve the quality of life of rural residents. Rural Development provides investment and technical assistance to finance and foster growth in homeownership, business development, and critical community and technology infrastructure.

Further information on rural programs is available at a local USDA Rural Development office or by visiting USDA's web site at http://www.rurdev.usda.gov.

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com

Good Growers Needed For Farmers' Market

CRYSTAL SPRINGS, Miss. - As part of the Crystal Springs Tomato Festival to be held June 25 and 26, a Farmers' Market will be held downtown in Railroad Park (Saturday only), Festival officials said. At this time, organizers are looking for growers who will have produce ready to sell by late June.

“Any locally grown produce is acceptable,” a Festival official said. “In late June, this might include tomatoes, bell peppers, hot peppers, summer squash, snap beans, southernpeas, butter beans, cabbage, sweet corn, cucumbers, okra, greens, watermelons, cantaloupes, herbs, shiitake mushrooms, etc.

“Fruit crops can also be sold. These might include blueberries, peaches, plums, blackberries, etc. Honey, preserves, potted plants, or cut flowers are also welcome in the Farmers' Market.”

You don't have to be a full time grower to participate in this Farmers' Market, according to the official. “If you have enough surplus from your garden and would like to sell it, you are welcome to join in. All of the vendors who sold produce in last year's Farmers' Market did very well and most sold out.

There are two requirements: 1) All produce for sale MUST be grown in Mississippi. Please do not bring fruits or vegetables from other states. 2) You must fill out and return the application to be allowed to sell your produce.

There is no fee for participants. Please fill out the application below and return it to Rick Snyder, professor & vegetable specialist, Truck Crops Experiment Station, P.O. Box 231, Crystal Springs, MS 39059, or fax it to (601) 892-2056.

Applications need to be returned by June 18.

Complete information on the Tomato Festival can be found on the Internet at http://www2.msstate.edu/~ricks/cstomato/tomfest.html.

Application to Participate in the Crystal Springs Farmers' Market Saturday, June 26, 2004

Name:

Address

Town:

Phone:

Email:

List Vegetables You Intend to Sell:

List Fruits You Intend to Sell:

Other (cut flowers, honey, preserves, etc):

Return this application to Dr. Rick Snyder, Professor & Vegetable Specialist, Truck Crops Experiment Station, P.O. Box 231, Crystal Springs, MS 39059, or fax it to 601-892-2056.

Note: Please return application by June 18, 2004.

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com

New low-coumarin sweet clover only few years away

OVERTON, Texas – A new low-coumarin sweet clover could be in the hands of Texas beef producers in three or four years.

"These new sweet clovers will not cause bleeding disorders in livestock and will produce high-quality grazing and hay due to fine stems," said Ray Smith, Texas Agricultural Experiment Station legume breeder.

Smith, working with forage researcher Dr. Gerald Evers, began the breeding program in 1999. Both researchers are based at the Texas A&M University System Agricultural Research and Extension Center at Overton.

Sweet clovers are well adapted to the alkaline soils and climate of Central Texas. Several varieties were regularly grown throughout the region until the 1950s.

Sweet clover had some drawbacks, such as a thick main stem that limited digestibility and slowed drying when cut for hay, and a high coumarin content.

Coumarin is a fragrant crystalline compound found in several plant species, including tonka beans and sweet clovers that is widely used in perfumes.

Coumarin itself is not toxic to ruminants. But when sweet clover hay is not dried properly and becomes moldy, coumarin converts to dicoumarol, a compound similar to modern blood thinners. Cattle eating dicoumarol-contaminated hay can experience internal bleeding, which can be fatal severe enough in some cases to result in death.

Smith began the program with hand and bee-cage crosses between Denta and Emerald sweet clovers in March through May 2001. Denta is a low-coumarin cultivar of biennial white sweet clover, but because it is a biennial, it is poorly adapted to Texas. Emerald is a fine- and multi-stemmed white sweet clover but has a high-coumarin content, Smith said.

Bee-cage crosses are just what they sound like. Bumblebees are released inside a closed container with both species of plants. The bees naturally cross-pollinate the plants.

"They do a much better job than we can do by hand," said Indre Pemberton, research associate who worked on the project.

The seedlings were grown for 60 days and tested for coumarin content. Hybrids between Denta and Emerald were identified by the presence of coumarin.

From 338 hand crosses, 36 hybrids were identified; 47 hybrids were identified from bee-cage crosses. These resulting hybrids were self-pollinated in a greenhouse and about 240,000 seed were produced.

From the resulting seedlings, Smith evaluated 10,500 plants.

"Our objective was to initiate a simultaneous screen for low-coumarin, fine-stem or multiple-stem trait, and annual growth habit," Smith said.

With so many plants to evaluate, Smith had to develop techniques to rapidly screen for multiple-stem trait and low-coumarin content.

From a preliminary study, he learned to identify the multiple-stem trait in young sweet clover seedlings. This was done by looking for tiny stems emerging from the first leaf juncture of the immature plant. Smith then used sodium hydroxide solution – a single drop per leaf – to chemically change the coumarin in leaf sample into a compound that glowed under ultraviolet light. The test made it relatively easy to distinguish between plants that had high- or low-coumarin content.

About 500 plants made passed both the low-coumarin and multiple-stem tests. In order to speed up the program, these crosses were planted in a greenhouse under artificial lighting in November 2002. More plants were discarded because of severe powdery mildew infection and/or general low vigor or failure to flower, reducing the selections to 143 plants. These 143 clovers were planted near Thrall on blackland soils, and the evaluation process continues.

Why Central Texas trials instead of East Texas where Smith is based?

"Sweet clover is more adapted to Central Texas than to East Texas," explained Charles Long, resident director of research at the Overton center.

"The Experiment Station is a statewide organization. This project is an excellent example of how research based in one part of the state may benefit producers in other regions."

Robert Burns is a writer for Texas A&M University.

e-mail: rd-burns@tamu.edu

Corn+Soybean Digest

Pesticide spray drift isn't good to the last droplet

When spraying pesticides, don't let others get your drift.

"It is bad enough when your drift damages your crops, your lawn or your garden. But when the damage is to your neighbor's field or flowerbeds, then you've got a real problem," says Erdal Ozkan, an Ohio State University Extension agricultural engineer.

Spray drift is one of the more serious problems pesticide applicators have to deal with. Three-fourths of the agriculture-related complaints investigated by the Ohio Department of Agriculture in 2003 involved drift.

"This shows the seriousness of the problem," Ozkan says. "Drift will be even a bigger problem in the future since there is an increase in acreage of genetically modified crops and use of non-selective herbicides for weed control. Even a small amount of these non-selective herbicides can cause serious damage on the crop nearby that is not genetically modified."

Drift is the movement of a pesticide through air, during or after application, to a site other than the intended site of application. It not only wastes expensive pesticides and damages non-target crops nearby, but also poses a serious health risk to people living in areas where drift is occurring.

"Eliminating drift completely is impossible," Ozkan says. "However, it can be reduced to a minimum if chemicals are applied with good judgment and proper selection and operation of application equipment."

Major factors influencing drift include spray characteristics, equipment/application techniques, weather conditions and operator skill and care.

"Conscientious sprayer operators rarely get into drift problems. They understand the factors that influence drift and do everything possible to avoid them," Ozkan said.

Spraying under excessive wind conditions is the most common factor affecting drift. "The best thing to do is not to spray under windy conditions. If you don't already have one, get yourself a reliable wind speed meter as soon as possible. Only then can you find out how high the wind speed is," Ozkan says.

After wind speed, spray droplet size is the most important factor affecting drift. Research has shown that there is a rapid decrease in the drift potential of droplets whose diameters are greater than approximately 200 microns – or about twice the thickness of human hair.

"If operators of sprayers pay attention to wind direction and velocity, and have knowledge of droplet sizes produced by different nozzles, drift can be minimized," Ozkan says. "The ideal situation is to spray droplets that are all the same size, and larger than 200 microns. Unfortunately with the nozzles we use today, this is not on option. They produce droplets varying from just a few microns to more than 1,000 microns. The goal is to choose and operate nozzles that produce relatively fewer of the drift-prone droplets."

Using low-drift nozzles is one of the many options available to growers to reduce drift.

Following are other drift-reduction strategies to keep drift under control:

  • Use nozzles that produce coarser droplets when applying pesticides on targets that do not require small, uniformly distributed droplets, such as systemic products, preplant soil incorporated applications and fertilizer applications.
  • Keep spray volume up and use nozzles with larger orifices.
  • Follow recent changes in equipment and technology, such as shields and air-assisted and electrostatic sprayers that are developed for drift reduction in mind.
  • Keep the boom closer to the spray target. Nozzles with a wider spray angle will allow you to do that.
  • Keep spray pressure down and make sure pressure gauges are accurate.
  • Follow label recommendations to avoid drift with highly volatile pesticides.
  • If you are not using low-drift nozzles, try adding Drift Retardant Adjuvants into your spray mixture.
  • Avoid spraying on extremely hot, dry and windy days, especially if sensitive vegetation is nearby. Try spraying during mornings and late afternoons. Although it may not be practical, from the drift reduction perspective, the best time to spray is at night.
  • Avoid spraying near sensitive crops that are downwind. Leave a buffer strip of 50-100 feet, and spray the strip later when the wind shifts.

"Good judgment can mean the difference between an efficient, economical application, or one that results in drift, damaging non-target crops and creating environmental pollution," Ozkan says. "The goal of a conscientious pesticide applicator should be to eliminate off-target movement of pesticides, no matter how small it may be."