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Articles from 2018 In May

Brandon Hunnicutt in cab of tractor
MARKETING AID: Brandon Hunnicutt, who farms near Giltner, Neb., has been using FBN's Commodity Crop Marketing services since last year.

FBN adds crop marketing advisory services

Last year, the Farmers Business Network first launched its Crop Marketing services in June, offering growers a digital platform that lets them find the best prices when marketing their grain.

Now, FBN is stepping up its efforts to provide additional marketing opportunities to growers.

Devin Lammers, head of commodity crop marketing at FBN, says after visiting with growers over the last year, it became clear that a more comprehensive approach, with more support in the decision-making process, was needed.

"Most farmers know that with the deteriorating commodity markets, they need to be better at marketing their crop," Lammers says. "It might be a farmer who's been doing this for 40 years, and they realize they can't do the same thing, delivering grain off the combine at harvest. Or it may be a young farmer realizing that to be a successful venture, they really need to be a good marketer."

There's a lot of information out there surrounding crop marketing, and it's not easy to know how to put it to use. Marketing services might cost anywhere from $5 to $7.50 per acre, which might total anywhere from $6,000 to $25,000, depending on farm size. This is why more accessible decision support is needed, Lammers adds.

Decision support tools
A new tool being launched as part of FBN's Commodity Crop Marketing service is Cash Grain Management, which Lammers describes as a full-service advisory program for a flat fee of $2,000 per member. This includes the Market Intelligence service, providing in-depth data and analysis, a marketing newsletter with pricing recommendations based on analysis, and a personal, full-service advisory program.

"Advisers are working with that farm to personalize that to the operation, making a marketing plan, day-to-day decisions, providing a sounding board for the farmer's decisions, and oftentimes keeping the farmer honest," Lammers says, noting this might mean being honest about what the farmer's breakeven is, and realistic expectations for reaching a certain price for profit.

"Part of the conversation is establishing the plan, figuring out the breakeven, talking through the goals. We usually tell famers it's unrealistic to hit the market high every time,” he says. “We're trying to have a consistent marketing strategy that data and history have shown to be successful."

However, some farmers will just want to sign up for the Market Intelligence service. The subscription is $19 per month, or $199 per year. It includes weekly analysis-based marketing reports, webinars and updates on factors influencing the market, and what those influences mean for pricing and decision-making for the farmer. The Market Intelligence service also provides historical data on different times for spikes in the market.

Brandon Hunnicutt, who farms near Giltner, Neb., has been using FBN's Commodity Crop Marketing services since last year, including the Cash Grain Management and Market Intelligence services.

"I compare it to when ‘Moneyball’ was introduced into baseball. There was all this information you could use, but until we figure out how to use it to make better decisions, it's not doing any good," Hunnicutt says. "As we're getting into this, we're able to utilize more data, get to that data quicker, and are able to rely on the things we're seeing out there to make faster decisions. Through Market Intelligence combined with other FBN tools, they're bringing everything into one comprehensive unit."

New marketing services
Then there's the FBN Brokerage service, a low-cost commodity brokerage account where members can trade on the futures market. This includes several pricing tiers, with the lowest tier at $1.50 commission per side, up to about $4.50 per side when including exchange fees, NFA fees and clearing fees. This also includes access to FBN's Marketing Intelligence newsletter, as well as access to a third-party trading platform.

Among the new services offered is FBN's Cash Contract service, which allow members to forward-contract with more flexibility.

As part of its Cash Contract service, FBN is offering several different contract options, including:

 FBN's Independent Hedge-to-Arrive, which gives producers the assurance provided by an ordinary HTA by locking in a futures price with FBN, along with the flexibility to negotiate and market their grain for the basis they want

 an averaging contract that lets the grower market grain for a price that's averaged out rather than set at the time of the contract to avoid low points over the given time period

 FBN's Deferred Futures contract, where a farmer can deliver grain for a 70% cash price paid to the farmer upfront by FBN, but still lets the farmer defer locking in a futures price

FBN works with elevators, export buyers and end-users, such as ethanol plants and feedlots, to provide these opportunities.

"FBN is the buyer, and we can allow the farmer to take the grain wherever they want to," Lammers says. "As these programs grow and there are more bushels to sell, we will work with farmers however possible to pool that grain together and take it wherever we can get better prices. Ultimately, what we're trying to do for farmers is allow them to be their own elevator with financing stools, structured financing, and price discovery tools."

"In our area, there are growers who are able to produce different crops — we have the ability to grow popcorn, white corn, non-GMO crops and now pulses — but they don't always know where to market their crops," Hunnicutt says. "When you can grow those crops, and you can say we have other markets available through these contracts, you might get a better bid, instead of taking whatever local bid we can get. When you're marketing from a wider area, you're also protecting the risk for the end-user."

Labor protest
Gerawan employees demand their votes be counted to decertify UFW representation in a march on the Agricultural Labor Relations Board in Visalia, Calif.

Appellate court orders ballots counted in Gerawan case

An appellate court ordered California officials to count ballots cast to decertify the United Farm Workers Union from representing employees at Gerawan Farms in Reedley, Calif. Those ballots have been locked up, uncounted, since 2013 on orders of the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB).

An estimated 2,500 ballots were said to be cast in the effort, according to court documents.

The decision by the Fifth District Court of Appeal orders the ALRB to count ballots they impounded during an odd set of circumstances that included a 17-year hiatus of labor negotiations after a 1994 employee vote in favor of labor union representation.

“This has been a long time coming,” said George Radanovich, president of the California Fresh Fruit Association of the latest court decision.

California Assemblyman Jim Patterson, who has supported Gerawan employees in their attempt to decertify UFW representation, applauded the court’s decision, calling it “the next step in the most important civil rights battle of our time.”

At issue for Gerawan employees has been their right to decertify UFW representation, which they attempted in a vote in 2013. These were not the same employees who voted in favor of union representation nearly 20 years earlier.

Conversely, labor union proponents argued Gerawan committed unfair labor practices, a claim Gerawan denied, but was declared guilty of by the ALRB. The latest appellate court decision states the ALRB “erred in several of its findings of unfair labor practices as well as in the legal standards applied in reaching its remedial conclusions,” which included the decision to not count the votes.

Brief history

Court records report that Gerawan employees voted in 1994 for UFW representation. One meeting between Gerawan management and the UFW took place after that vote with the union telling Gerawan at the close of the meeting it would return with a revised proposal. The union failed to return.

In 2012, and without explanation to its 17-year absence from the negotiating table, the labor union contacted Gerawan with intent to restart negotiations. Though Gerawan demanded an explanation into the union’s nearly two-decade absence, the UFW refused comment on the matter. More than 10 bargaining sessions in early 2013 ended with a UFW petition for mandatory mediation and conciliation (MMC) from the state after talks failed to produce an agreement.

A completely new set of employees then voted to decertify the labor union, which was seeking a decision from ALRB through MMC. That vote was held in late 2013, but rather than promptly tallying the ballots, court documents report those ballots were impounded and never counted.

In August, 2014 hundreds of Gerawan employees marched on ALRB offices in Visalia, Calif., carrying a petition asking the ALRB to count their votes. Court records show that a month later an administrative law judge heard arguments that Gerawan assisted in the decertification process by allowing an employee to gather pro-decertification signatures.

The case ultimately became entangled in legal proceeding as both sides accused the other of misconduct.


SALES PACE: Marketing time to sell a farm is still 90 days.

With promises of good yields, more optimism in land market

There is a lot of land being put on the market right now. Farmers recently got their corn and soybeans planted. Commodity prices are a little higher, and combined with good yields last year and promise of good yields this year, farmers are a little more optimistic than they were last year at this time. Marketing time to sell a farm is still 90 days.

BigIron Realty, Columbus, Neb., a licensed real estate broker in eight states, compiles the reports for this column, but not all sales are handled by BigIron each month. Contact Big Iron at 800-887-8625. The following are several of the most recent sales.

Eastern Nebraska

Butler County: A total of 80 acres sold at private treaty for $680,000, or $8,500 per acre. This is a pivot-irrigated farm with a newer seven-tower Zimmatic pivot and an all-electric well. This property lies mostly flat and has good gravel road access. — Compliments of BigIron Realty

Cass County: At auction, 76.32 acres sold for $575,000. This land is a flat to gently rolling dryland farm located on Highway 34 south of Elmwood. — Compliments of Farmers National Co.

Northern Nebraska

Wheeler County: Selling for $1 million, 798.95 acres of Sandhills pasture offers three wells, two of which are new solar-powered submersible wells. — Compliments of BigIron Realty

Central Nebraska

Custer County: At online auction, 146.42 acres sold for $768,705. This is pivot-irrigated cropland with a seven-tower Valley center pivot and a 50-hp motor. The well is rated at 800 gallons per minute at 46 psi, with 8-inch casing and four stage bowls. — Compliments of BigIron Realty

Custer County: At auction, 350 acres sold for nearly $1.93 million. This farm is pivot- and gravity-irrigated cropland, which has an eight-tower and seven-tower Reinke pivot, irrigation pipe, and both a diesel and electric power unit. — Compliments of Farmers National Co.

Variable germination and emergence in soybean: Which seeds are still viable?

Variable germination and emergence in soybean: Which seeds are still viable?

Source: Wisconsin Soybean Extension Program 

Many of us, including myself, have planted under less than ideal soil conditions this spring. Often the ground was worked a little on the wet side leading to clods and variable seeding depths for our soybean crop. Reports of variable and delayed emergence in conventional (more common) and no-till soybean is raising replant and seed viability questions in several areas across the Midwest. If soybean was planted into dry soil and had not imbibed water (seed did not swell) then there is little to no concern for growers. Once a significant rainfall event occurs, the soybean will imbibe water, germinate, and should emerge normally. For yield estimates, we would assign the day it rained as the new planting date.

The more difficult question to answer is “How viable is the soybean seed once imbibition and/or germination has begun?” The critical seed moisture content for soybean germination is 20%. A soybean seed that has imbibed water, has a split seed coat, or has an emerged radicle will continue to germinate and grow as normal once the seed is re-hydrated if the seed (embryo) remains above 20% moisture (Senaratna and McKersie, 1983) (Image 1).

Figure 1. Soybean germination

If the moisture content within a soybean seed falls to 10% due to dry conditions after germination has started, then a dramatic difference exists among the different seed germination stages. If the seed has imbibed water for 6 hours (seed is swollen, but the seed coat has not broken), then the seed is dehydrated to 10% moisture, germination is not affected. If the seed has imbibed water for 12 to 24 hours (seed coat broken, but prior to radicle emergence), then germination is reduced to 60 to 65%. If the radicle has emerged and seed moisture levels drop to 10%, then no survivors can be expected (Image 2).

Image 2. Variation in soybean imbibition

To test seed viability, growers can conduct a simple germination test. First excavate 100 soybean seeds and wrap them in a damp paper towel. Place these seeds in a warm location, and after 24 to 36 hours, count the number of seeds that have germinated (Image 2). Remember that a typical soybean germination is 90% (Image 3).

Image 3. Soybean germination roll test

Originally posted by the Wisconsin Soybean Extension




Max Armstrong's Daily Updates

MIDDAY Midwest Digest, May 31, 2018

Founded in the heartland of America, Sears and K-Mart have closed stores due to declining business, along with online competition. 

Bob Barker contributed $1 million to Drury University, his alma mater. 

National Donut Day is tomorrow, and is 80 years old this year. It started as a fundraiser in Chicago for the Salvation Army.


Donald Trump gestures while at podium. Mark-Wilson/GettyImages

Trump's steel, aluminum tariffs take effect June 1

Trying to keep track of the tariff tit-for-tat surrounding Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs and the off-again, on-again trade dispute with China? You’re not alone.

Here’s the latest: Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the Trump administration will impose tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum from the European Union, Canada and Mexico, which together supply nearly half of America’s imported metal effective midnight May 31, according to The New York Times. 

U.S. Grains Council President and CEO Tom Sleight said the council is concerned that agriculture will be the first hit by counter measures from Mexico, Canada and the European Union.

“These countries are among our closest neighbors and friends,” Sleight said. “We have spent years building markets in these countries based on a mutual belief that increasing trade benefits all parties. We had strong hopes this situation would be averted permanently, but it now appears we need to prepare for retaliation and its direct impact on U.S. farmers.”

The move follows months of back-and-forth from the administration. Here’s a look back through the Farm Futures archives.

On March 1, President Trump announced the U.S. would put tariffs on steel and aluminum imports to protect national security. It was expected to spur global retaliation. Mexico had said as much a day earlier.

The U.S. Wheat Associates and the National Association of Wheat Growers were none too pleased with the announcement, issuing a statement saying the risks of retaliation by such a policy have serious potential consequences for agriculture.

Some questioned whether the Trump administration’s policy would erode farmer support, with American Soybean Association president John Heissdorfer giving his opinion at Commodity Classic.

“I’m still supportive,” Heissdorfer said then. “The tax program was as good as we could expect. He’s done several things that loosened regulations that will help us. But the tariffs? We need to see this through before we react. 

“But, at this point he has put industry ahead of agriculture, and agriculture is who put him in office.”

World Trade Organization Director-General Roberto Azevedo called on member nations to reflect and avoid escalation of new, unilateral trade barriers.

Bryce Knorr says the trade dust-up could have serious implications for agriculture if other countries retaliate by raising more barriers to U.S. farm exports and Republican leaders pressured Trump to stop or curtail the steel and aluminum tariffs. Meanwhile, Trump’s advisers defended the tariffs and downplayed their impact. White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said America’s trading partners are “getting the better part of the deal” and have no incentive to get into “any conflict” with the U.S. 

On March 9, Trump imposed the tariffs, but he gave concessions to Mexico and Canada, as long as they reach an agreement on the North American Free Trade Agreement that is to his liking and opened the door to further exclusions.

Economists polled by Bloomberg didn’t expect the tariffs to have a big economic impact, causing only a small decrease in jobs and drop in U.S. economic growth.

Cranberries, peanut butter, bourbon whiskey and Harley Davidson motorbikes are among the items singled out by the EU for retaliation.


25 business professionals selected for Texas agricultural leadership program

Twenty-five agriculture professionals have been selected for the Governor Dolph Briscoe Jr. Texas Agricultural Lifetime Leadership, or TALL, Program as Cohort XVI.

The two-year program, led by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, is an intensive study of agriculture worldwide that equips agriculture industry professionals to lead their fields, according to Dr. Jim Mazurkiewicz, program director.

The program is a competitive leadership development program that includes seminars with experts, on-site tours, meetings with business and government leaders, international study and personal skills improvement,” Mazurkiewicz said.

Dr. Jim Mazurkiewicz, Regents Fellow and director of the Texas Agricultural Lifetime Leadership program for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo)

Surveys from past participants consistently rank the TALL experience higher than experiences in their previous professional activities and collegiate engagements.

TALL XVI 2018-2020 participants by county are:

  • Stephanie Bradley-Fryer, Jones.
  • Travis Britt, Bastrop.
  • Casey Crabtree, Randall.
  • Jessica Escobar, Travis.
  • Sarah Franklin, Atascosa.
  • Steven Hayes, Parker.
  • DeLinda Hicklen, Terry.
  • Colt Hoffmann Falls.
  • Rob Hughes, Angelina.
  • Preston Ingram, Hopkins.
  • Kristen Lambrecht, Montgomery.
  • Michael Lawrence, Lamb.
  • Sara Lemoine Knox, Coleman.
  • Kassidy Martin, Jones.
  • Matthew Okeson, Dallas.
  • Liza Parker, Bell.
  • James Plyler, Travis.
  • Katy Slough, Hansford.
  • Seth Sowder, Lamb.
  • Matt Thomas, Hill.
  • James Uhl, Schleicher.
  • John Van de Pol, Lamb.
  • Robert Ward, Fort Bend.
  • Leanne Wiley, Austin.
  • Travis Wilson, Wise.

For more information about the TALL program, visit

Grills Family and Scott Kay

Farmers talk dicamba stewardship

­­­­­­­­­In a recent webinar by BASF, to ensure farmers understand the label requirements of dicamba and the difference between dicamba and auxin herbicides, two Tennessee brothers talked about the important stewardship needed for dicamba technology success.

Hunter and Rusty Grills operate a ninth generation family farm in northwestern Tennessee where they grow soybeans, corn and wheat.  Their farm is 100% dicamba tolerant, because Rusty says the new technology is helping control pigweed after a wet start to the 2018 growing season.

Solved early wet conditions

“If you don’t have a pigweed problem, you are very lucky. I feel it will be a continuous fight for the rest our lives,” says Rusty.  He adds that dicamba is a tool in the weed fighting toolbox to help clean up fields due to the wet conditions his family farm has experienced so far in 2018. He says preventing the weeds was not possible because they couldn’t get into the fields because of the wet conditions.

He says it’s important in their farming operation to fight weeds from different angles in an effort to stop pigweeds. This has included Roundup, Liberty programs or dicamba.

Rusty’s brother, Hunter, agrees that stewardship is key to the weed fighting program.

2018 dicamba stewardship different than 2017

“We’re not owners of the earth, we are stewards. We have to be responsible and use the right product under the right conditions at the right time,” says Hunter. It’s important for farmers to be the best stewards possible to secure not just the farm’s future but the future of the dicamba technology as well.

Hunter says he had the restricted pesticide license already but the additional dicamba training offered by the University of Tennessee and BASF is working as a reminder of what must be done – including proper tank clean out, using the right nozzles, ensuring there are buffers in fields and the chemicals are applied at the proper rate at the proper time.

It’s important for farmers to keep up to date with dicamba labels and remember the checklist before heading to the fields. Most importantly, communicate with neighbor farmers about what is in their fields before an application, Hunter says.

Rusty adds that the most important thing for farmers to do in 2018 is to:

  •  Prevent a weed problem before it happens
  •  If possible, rotate crops
  • Be aware of the crop rotation in relation to neighbors
  • Change up the chemistries in fields to fight weeds.

One clear difference the Grills noted, comparing 2018 with 2017 requirements, is the spraying hours required for dicamba. Under the restricted label, the herbicide has to be sprayed between 7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.

Improved dicamba training

BASF has been busy with training for Engenia herbicide, designing digital tools for farmers and providing the right equipment for farmers to use on their sprayers. The company designed training so producers and other ag professionals can learn how dicamba can impact not only the farmland it’s being applied to but neighbors as well.

BASF worked with universities to hold 500 training sessions so producers could learn the difference in nozzles, boom heights required and to learn what a temperature inversion is to reduce the impact of dicamba damage.

For more details, visit the Engenia Herbicide Stewardship Portal. And here is the Engenia herbicide spray checklist. For states with more specific applications (Arkansas, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Tennessee), you find these checklists here.

Senior Hurricane specialist Stacy Stewart works at the National Hurricane Center to track the first tropical or subtropical depression of the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season on May 24, 2018, in Miami, Florida. Joe Raedle/GettyImages
Senior Hurricane specialist Stacy Stewart works at the National Hurricane Center to track the first tropical or subtropical depression of the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season on May 24, 2018, in Miami, Florida.

Drought narrative takes a plot twist

Droughts ebb and flow – that’s simply part of their nature. An occasional peek at the U.S. Drought Monitor, which is updated weekly, offers a glimpse into drought’s ever-shifting footprint.

That’s been especially true over the past nine or ten months. Starting last August, U.S. drought built slowly but steadily throughout this past fall and winter, only to degrade just as significantly throughout this spring.

Drought’s current footprint – covering 42.6% of the U.S. – sits at the lowest level since late November, when it covered a nearly identical 42.7% of the country. This drought hit a crescendo in late January, affecting 67.1% of the country, diminishing nearly constantly over the next 17 weeks.

Regional differences continue to abound. Currently, the most intense drought exists in the desert Southwest extending eastward into southern Colorado, southern Kansas, western Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle. Much of this area will suffer long-term impacts, which the U.S. Drought Monitor defines as lasting longer than six months with hydrological and ecological effects.

Meantime, drought is largely nonexistent east of the Mississippi River, notes Climate Prediction Center meteorologist Anthony Artusa. That’s good news – except it brings little relief to current drought-stressed areas.

“[Through June 4], most predicted heavy rain areas are expected to be east of the Mississippi River, where little dryness and drought currently exist,” he notes. “West of the Mississippi River, smaller-scale heavy rain areas of a convective nature are forecast over North Dakota, Nebraska, and southwestern Missouri.”

From June 5 to June 9, CPC predicts normal or below-normal rainfall across most of the contiguous U.S., Artusa adds.

NOAA’s three-month outlook for June, July and August predicts wetter-than-normal weather to continue east of the Mississippi River, with abnormally dry conditions more probable in the Pacific Northwest this summer.

Weather impacts: May 28-June 1

Warmer temperatures took over most of the country in the past week. This has meant pop-up thunderstorms in some areas of the Midwest and for others, drier conditions have developed. Check out the gallery to see maps of modified growing degree days and corn stress degree days.