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Articles from 2009 In May


Peterson unhappy with climate change bill

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For agriculture it may be a good thing that House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., has major concerns with the climate change bill currently under consideration in the House.

The House Energy & Commerce Committee approved the American Clean Energy & Security Act (H.R. 2454) introduced by chairman Henry Waxman, D-Cal., and Edward Markey, D- Mass., by a vote of 33 to 25. The bill would create the first national limit on greenhouse-gas emissions.

Although Peterson said he would not support any climate change legislation in a hearing in May, National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson warned Peterson that failure to pass climate change legislation could lead to Environmental Protection Agency regulation of farm greenhouse gas emissions.

The 948-page bill only mentions agriculture six times. Peterson is highly displeased with the bill's lack of attention to the agriculture industry and is demanding that the bill be allowed to be considered by his committee. He says that jurisdictional issues and the lack of attention to agriculture in the current bill necessitate the opportunity for the Agriculture Committee to have some say in the legislation.

Rep. Zack Space, D-Ohio, offered a very detailed amendment during the markup that sought to add language outlining specific types of agricultural activities and practices associated with carbon sequestration- or as the amendment stated: "With respect to domestic offset project types.•bCrLf However, the amendment was later withdrawn from consideration.

In Energy and Commerce, an amendment by Congressman Lee Terry, R-Neb., to remove the impacts of international indirect land use changes from life cycle analysis of energy crops was defeated 36 to 20. Peterson says he will not support any bill that bases analysis on international indirect land use.

Peterson holds the keys to the votes of most members of the Ag Committee — 11 of whom are freshman members with districts that are considered vulnerable to defeat in the next election cycle. These members from rural districts will be listening to their constituencies as they voice concerns about the effects of this legislation on agriculture. A total of 28 Democrats on the Ag Committee have said they'll stand behind Peterson unless agricultural changes are made.

And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has called climate change her "flagship issue,•bCrLf will need those rural votes to pass the bill on the House floor later this summer.

The House Parliamentarian will have to determine which committees will need to also consider the bill before it would go to the House floor for a full debate. Peterson said he is awaiting that instruction before he decides how his committee will handle the legislation.

To make a bill work for farmers, farm groups want to make sure growers benefit from a cap-and-trade system and that it is overseen by USDA, not EPA. In addition, allies of the ethanol industry want to secure changes in the way biofuels are treated when it comes to accounting for indirect land use.

 

Oregon Ag Research Foundation Marks 75 Years

The Agricultural Research Foundation is celebrating its 75 year of operations by granting more than $500,000 to Oregon State University researchers.

 

"We wanted to do more than celebrate with an anniversary banquet," says Phil Walker, foundation president. "So we chose to create two special grants in addition to the start-up grants that have been the foundation's focus for 75 years."

 

The two special grants selected, each worth $100,000, will support work on native bee pollinators and the development of a bio-based herbicide.

 

Sujaya Rao, an OSU entomologist, heads the pollinator study, which seeks to enhance crop production in Oregon by augmenting and managing populations of native bumble bees.

 

David Armstrong, an OSU plant pathologist, heads the team examining a newly discovered herbicidal compound produced by soil bacteria that shows promise as a bio-control of grassy weeds.

 

The grants come at a critical time for agricultural research, as the recession puts a strain on funding, and university budgets face reductions.

 

"The Agricultural Research Foundation has always been very conservative with the money we hold in trust, and in 75 years we've never put their funding at risk or lost a dime from any research account," says Dorothy Beaton, foundation director.

 

The foundation depends on contributions from the farming industry to support research helping agriculture.  It is a private, non-profit affiliate of OSU composed of representatives of the state's major farm businesses.

 

"Agriculture improves through research," explains berry producer Steve Erickson, foundation vice president. "The foundation helps connect research and industry through our competitive grant program.

 

"It is an important part of the foundation's ongoing partnership with the OSU College of Agricultural Sciences."

 

In addition to the two special grants, each year the ARF awards about 32 competitive grants of up to $12,500 each. These start-up grants help OSU scientists launch new projects and build a track record to attract additional funding from other sources.

 

The latest round of fund grants will be announced in July.

Nebraska Corn Producers Support Ethanol Waiver

More than 4,000 Nebraska farmers returned yellow postcards to the Nebraska Corn Board, which has forwarded them to the Environmental Protection Agency as written comments in support of the ethanol waiver request.

 

EPA began accepting comments on the request to increase the ethanol blend rate from 10% ethanol (E10) to up to 15% ethanol April 21. The comment period was slated to end May 21, but was extended to July 20. That gives farmers and other supporters an opportunity to still have their voices heard on the waiver request.

 

"We've been receiving hundreds of postcards in the mail daily, and we certainly appreciate everyone taking the time to submit comments in this way and online," says the Nebraska Corn Board's Randy Klein.

 

"Since EPA decided to extend the deadline, we would like to encourage those who did not have the opportunity to comment in such a short time period to now follow through and help us keep the momentum going," he adds.

 

To submit comments electronically, the Nebraska Corn Board and Nebraska Corn Growers Association have setup links on their Web sites: www.NebraskaCorn.org or www.NeCGA.org.

 

Approving the ethanol waiver request will increase the allowable amount of ethanol that can be blended into gasoline, helping to expand the ethanol marketplace, according to Klein. In turn, this will create jobs, reduce our dependence on foreign oil and expand the use of cleaner-burning fuels, he says.

NDSU Biofuels Economist Sees Challenges for Corn Ethanol Plants

The greatest challenge the biofuels industry now faces is finding capital to construct new advanced and cellulosic plants, says Cole Gustafson, NDSU Extension biofuels economist.

 

"With unproven biofuels conversion technology, changing the Environmental Protection Agency's regulations and weak financial markets, new investment capital is going to be difficult to procure," he says.

 

In his latest, "New Energy Economics" column distributed by NDSU Extension Communications, Gustafson says the problem is EPA's new regulations.

 

EPA is proposing that conventional biofuels, such as grain ethanol, in the future must reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 20%. EPA plans to includes both "direct" and "indirect" causes of greenhouse gas emissions during the lifecycle of production. The latter component commonly is referred to as indirect land use change.

 

EPA finds that any new traditional corn grain ethanol plant would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by only up to 16%, so it would not qualify as a conventional biofuel.

 

In its proposed regulations, though, the EPA is grandfathering in traditional corn grain ethanol plants built before Dec. 19, 2007. Therefore, existing ethanol plants will be able to continue to operate and produce ethanol that conforms to the federal guidelines for the time being.

 

"It is uncertain how long this grandfathering provision will last," Gustafson says, especially as new technologies arise and production of conventional biofuels with a greater than 20% greenhouse gas emissions reduction occurs.

 

Corn grain ethanol plants will likely have to invest new technology, such as fractionation and new energy sources, to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

Late Corn Planting Could Cause Problems

Ohio weather conditions can turn on a dime. One minute, rains are preventing a timely corn planting, and the next minute sunny skies are paving the way to play catch-up.

Corn planting has been behind schedule most of the spring, according to the Ohio Agricultural Statistics Service. However, by the end of May nearly all of the corn could be in the ground, says Peter Thomison, an Ohio State University Extension agronomist.

"Although corn yield potential generally begins to decline after May 10, good yields are still possible with late May plantings," says Thomison.

It's when corn planting drags into June that the crop could be subjected to problems later in the season, as late planted corn is more sensitive to drought stress, more vulnerable to stalk quality issues, and more prone to disease and insect problems.

"A lot of times late planted corn is associated with lower yields because the crop is subjected to less favorable growing conditions (high temperatures and less moisture) during grain fill. That puts more stress on the crop and hurts the yield potential," says Thomison. "Much of what impacts the crop has more to do with what corn experiences later in the season than conditions at the time of planting."

Everything from a drought to a hurricane has the potential to hurt the corn crop more than late spring planting, says Thomison.

"The real issues growers will be facing this season once they do get their corn in the ground are controlling weeds and managing nitrogen fertility," says Thomison.

On the bright side, most growers do not need to be concerned about switching to shorter season hybrids.

"One argument for switching to shorter season hybrids right now is if a grower is concerned about drying down corn. Shorter season hybrids can help reduce drying costs," says Thomison. "However, for the most part, growers are better off sticking with the hybrids they have now. Soil temperatures have been fairly cool, and early planted corn is just now beginning to develop. So corn planted this week will not be that far behind early planted corn in terms of maturity."

Pork Losses Could Continue Through First Quarter 2010

The H1N1 flu and rising feed prices have once again put the pork industry into deep losses, continuing the trend of "red ink" dating back to the fall of 2007.

 

"While recovery in hog prices is expected as the world tries to return to more normal consumption, the financial stress may be near a breaking point for some producers," says Chris Hurt, Purdue University economist.

 

In April 2009, hog prices were ready to turn upward. Then on the 24th came the first word of a human flu the media had called "Swine Flu."

 

"Lean carcass values closed that Friday at $61 on April 24, but just seven trading days later prices dropped by $10," adds Hurt.

 

Rising feed prices have also been a growing threat to profitability. From April 24 to May 22, July corn futures rose by $.45 per bushel and July soybean meal futures by $57 per ton.

 

"On April 24, hog producers were losing about $5 per head. Now, that number is about $25 per head," Hurt says. "Most everyone in the industry has been financially weakened and the outlook is more uncertain than usual."

 

Recovery in pork prices should be the norm as U.S. consumers return to more normal buying patterns. World consumers who, in the first quarter of 2009, had already reduced their purchases from the U.S. will probably take longer to return to normal buying patterns.

 

Live hog prices in the second quarter are expected to average in the mid $40s. Prices should recover in June with prices moving up to the very high $40s and low $50s.

 

Prices are expected to average in the very low $50s in the third quarter and then finish the year in the mid-to higher $40s. In 2010, prices are expected to continue to improve in the spring and summer at the mid $50s.

 

"With current futures prices for corn and soybean meal, the costs of producing pork is estimated at about $50 per head and moving higher to about $52 this summer," Hurt warns.

 

Unfortunately, these costs are higher than expected hog prices for the rest of this year and through the first quarter of 2010.

 

"Losses for the last-half of this year are estimated at $7 per head. For the entire year of 2009, losses would be $12 per head compared with $17 per head of estimated loss in 2008," cautions Hurt.

Organic Transition Cost Share Sign-Up Extended to June 12

Because of overwhelming interest in the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service's new organic transition cost-share program, the Wisconsin Natural Resource Conservation Service has extended the application period to June 12.  Wisconsin's share of the $50 million set aside for the program is $1.2 million. Producers new to organic farming and those adding acreage to an existing organic farm may be eligible.

 

"Wisconsin is second only to California in numbers of organic farms and we have strong markets for organic crops," said Rod Nilsestuen, Wisconsin Secretary of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection. "This is an opportunity for these farmers to transition additional acres, or for farmer who may be considering going organic to begin the process with some financial support during the three year transition period."

 

"We encourage all farmers interested in converting to organic to contact their local USDA Service Center right away," said Laura Paine, Organic Agriculture Specialist for DATCP.  "This is a busy time of year for farmers, but as long as the application is submitted by June 12, the transition plan can be developed later in the season."

 

With funds for planning assistance under the NRCS Conservation Activity Plan program, farmers can hire a crop advisor to help them map out their three-year organic transition period. Certified or transitioning organic producers can also sign up for numerous supporting conservation practices that can be used to improve the overall environmental performance of their farming operation.

 

"Organic is an important component of Wisconsin's diverse agricultural economy," said Nilsestuen. "We appreciate the partnership that NRCS has shown with this program and as an active participant in the Wisconsin Organic Advisory Council."

State Fair's Free 2009 Entertainment Lineup Announced

The Minnesota State Fair's free entertainment lineup features more than 100 acts - all free with the price of admission. In addition to musical genres from Americana to Zydeco, the schedule includes comedy, magic, dance, lumberjacks, skateboarding and BMX, stories of the outdoors and more.

 

To the Bandshell Tonight! Series on the Leinie Lodge Stage, the fair welcomes ABBAMANIA, a tribute to ABBA; The Original Wailers, made up of Bob Marley's band members; Minneapolis pop-rock group Quietdrive; Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, whose high-energy funk-rock show mesmerized fair guests in 2008; classic horn-based rock band Blood, Sweat & Tears; and western & comedy legends Riders In The Sky.

 

Other popular free acts performing at the 2009 fair include: country up-and-comers Joey & Rory; the Barbary Coast Dixieland Show Band, rockabilly artist Deke Dickerson; bluegrass band Monroe Crossing; high-energy rockers the White Iron Band; African-jazz group Yawo; R & B artists Paul Cebar Tomorrow Sound; hard-driving string band Pert' Near Sandstone; vintage-swing group Café Accordion Orchestra; Americana band The Front Porch Swingin' Liquor Pigs; comedian Sean Emery and nationally-known a cappella group Tonic Sol-Fa.

 

New in 2009, ShenaniGuns! Comedy Wild West Show will raise a ruckus when a Texas town comes to life near Heritage Square. This free adventure features slapstick fun for families and runs three times daily.

 

Free entertainment venues at the fair include: Leinie Lodge Bandshell, The North Woods (sponsored by Cal Spas of Minnesota), The X-Zone (sponsored by Coca-Cola), International Bazaar Stage (sponsored by Summit Brewing Co.), Family Fair Stage at Baldwin Park (sponsored by Green Mill Restaurant), Heritage Square Stage (sponsored by August Schell Brewing Co.), and Ramberg Senior Center Stage.

 

Two upcoming Grandstand on-sale dates remain. On sale Saturday, June 6: Jason Aldean with special guest The Eli Young Band (Aug. 28) and A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor (Sept. 4). On sale Saturday, June 13: Randy Travis with special guest Joe Nichols (Sept. 1).

 

Tickets are available through Ticketmaster at 800-745-3000, www.ticketmaster.com or any Midwest Ticketmaster Center. For State Fair Box Office or mail order information, please call (651) 288-4427.

 

The entire lineup of Grandstand and free entertainment artists is available at www.mnstatefair.org.

 

The 2009 Minnesota State Fair runs Thursday, Aug. 27 through Labor Day, Sept. 7.

Jefferson City Added to NAIS Listening Session Schedule

Missouri livestock producers will now have the opportunity to voice their opinion regarding the implementation of the National Animal Identification System. USDA has scheduled additional public listening sessions this month in Missouri and other key livestock states across the nation.

 

USDA seeks to engage stakeholders and producers to hear not only their concerns about NAIS, but also find potential or feasible solutions to those concerns. The information and ideas gathered will assist Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in making decisions about the future direction of animal traceability in the United States.

 

USDA held initial sessions at seven locations around the country last month. The additional sessions, announced in the May 22 Federal Register, are scheduled as follows: June 9 in Jefferson City, Mo.; June 11 in Rapid City, S.D.; June 16 in Albuquerque, N.M.; June 18 in Riverside, Calif.; June 25 in Raleigh, N.C.; and June 27 in Jasper, Fla.
 
For more information, visit
www.usda.gov/nais/feedback.shtml

Planting Woes Continue in Indiana

A break in the rain cycle Memorial Day weekend allowed many farmers in central Indiana to finally get in the field. Running both a corn and bean planter and no-tilling a high percentage of ground, one farmer says he knocked out more than 700 acre in three and a half days. Unfortunately, he needs at least that much more time to finish. Like many others, he's hopeful the break he needs to finish planting will come this week.

 

In northwest Indiana, Bill Pickart, landowner and sales rep for Select Hybrids, Camden, says many in his area are wrapping up planting corn. However, they still have plenty of soybeans to plant. That area of the state is typically one of the earliest areas to complete planting.

 

And even then, he notes that certain areas have received more rain than others. As much as 5 inches of rain fell one weekend near Camden.

 

In the southeast part of the state, things were looking up for it to finally dry out and let farmers get in the field. Then Memorial Day weekend came, and rains hit before they did elsewhere. One source in Ripley County says he received 3 inches over that time, and that farmers got rained out just as they were ready to plant his fields. Soils in that corner of the state have been soggy anyway, except for an area down near the Ohio River, where planting was completed on lighter soils on time. 

 

Stories about people experiencing problem with wet fields and mud are circulating. Some come with pictures verifying what happened, such as a 36-row planter stuck in the mud that took an army of people and an excavator to get out.

 

There are also stories circulating about farmers having problems crossing the covered REX pipeline that runs from western Indiana toward the eastern border. Eventually, it will cross the entire state and go on toward the eastern U.S.

 

In one verified incident, a planter sank, and had to be removed by crane. The planter was heavily damaged. In other cases, supposedly field cultivators have been damaged from incidents involved in crossing the pipeline.

 

So remember, no one likes planting in June or fighting mud, but it can always be worse. And if last year is any indication, there is still time to rescue a good crop out of this backwards season.