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Articles from 2010 In June

Good News, at Least Initially, for Sunflower Electric Power

A 45-day public comment period begins today on a new draft air quality permit that will allow Sunflower Electric Power to build a 895-megawatt unit to expand its generation capacity at Holcomb Station.

It will be interesting to see how the debate unfolds during the comment period. Intially, Sunflower had sought to build two 700-megawatt plants but KDHE Secretary Rod Bremby denied the air quality permit, saying carbon dioxide emissions from the plant represented a health hazard for Kansans. Developers of the plant had met all existing state and federal emissions regulations.

The denial triggered a year-long battle in the state legislature with then-Gov. Kathleen Sebelius twice vetoing legislation that would have overturned Bremby's decision.

Within days of Sebelius' appointment to the Obama cabinet, Gov. Mark Parkinson reached a compromise with Sunflower that would allow one 895-megawatt plant.

I've long held the Holcomb project should have been approved if for no other reason than to put cleaner technology on line than the existing coal-fired plants. It will be years, even decades, before renewable energies such as wind, solar or whatever else science can discover builds enough critical mass to replace fossil fuels for power generation.

We need to move forward one step at a time in the meantime. Here's to hoping Sunflower gets to make its move forward.

Back to School With Marketing Guru Ed Usset #32: Bull Spread


What do you call a futures trading strategy involving the simultaneous purchase of a nearby futures contract and sale of a deferred contract in the same commodity?     

Brandt introduces six grain handling products

At the largest outdoor farm show in Western Canada, Brandt launched six new products to meet the ever-changing needs of today's progressive farm operations.

These new products exemplify Brandt's continual adaptation and addition to its grain handling line up. Here are the new products: GrainVac 7500 HP, Grain Cart 1020 XR, Grain Bag Loader 2610 GBL, Grain Bag Unloader 8510 GBU, Transport Auger EZMOVE, and the Auger Max Bin Sensor.

Grain Vac 7500 HP

• High capacity: The 7500 HP is capable of moving up to 8,000 bushels per hour (in wheat at full bin with straight hose).

• Maximum efficiency: Exclusive cone separator technology uses no moving parts to direct the grain into the auger or air into the fan. No adjustments, crop to crop.

• Longer life: Double blade fan lasts twice as long as previous design. Advanced synthetic bushings, new rubber mounted middle flight to reduce stress on bearings and a replaceable upper tube.

"This new HP technology in Grain vacs is revolutionary. The separation of the grain from the air stream is done without damaging the grain or wearing out components," says Arnie Josephson, Brandt's general sales manager. "The 7500HP is so efficient, that it provides the highest capacity per horsepower in the industry."

Grain Cart 1020 XR

• High capacity: High volume grain tanks hold over 1,000 bushels of grain. The 20 inch auger provides unloading at a rate of 500 bushels per minute.

• Longer reach and greater clearance: Brandt's corner auger positioning provides industry leading unloading height and reach: an additional 24-inch of vertical clearance and an additional 24-inch of horizontal reach. Elbow style downspout features 105 degrees of rotation for controlling grain flow direction making it easy to fill corners and top up loads. Auger spout shipped field ready with no dealer setup required.

• Easy clean out: The wheel operated clean out door is easily closed and locked in place for a leak-free, positive seal. The clean out door can also be locked open for easy pit dumping and clean out. Pyramid body design provides 35 degree floor slopes on both front and rear for improved clean out.

Arnie Josephson explains, "Producers told us they would like to see two main improvements from existing grain carts: More clearance between the cart and the trailer while unloading to make it safer and easier for the operator, and better clean out. The 1020XR delivers on both these issues with exclusive design improvements over the competition."

Grain Bag Loader 2610 GBL

• High capacity: Loads 10 foot bags up to 300 feet long at a rate of 26,000 bushels per hour. Large 8' x 8' hopper can be loaded from either side or both sides simultaneously. Combined with the 17 inch auger, it makes for easier and faster grain bag loading to keep up with your busy harvest pace.

• Low horsepower requirement: Efficient design requires only 50-80 horsepower.

• Easy to Use• The Grain Bag Loader can be loaded directly from combines, grain carts or trucks using the optional HP Truck Unloading Auger.

Grain Bag Unloader 8510 GBU

• High Capacity: 10 inch diameter cross auger and 17 inch main discharge auger unloads 9 or 10 foot bags (requires 9 foot option) at a rate of 8,500 bushels per hour.

• Precision Control: The bag roller is hydraulic-driven for more precise speed control. It is 16 feet long with discs at each end to keep bags aligned, and there are protruding points located every 17.25 inches to grip the bag. The roller assembly's weight is balanced and can be turned from transport to working position by hand.

• Easy Bag Removal: The Brandt 8510 Grain Bag Unloader features a 2 inch bag roller shaft and a spring-loaded clutch on the bag roller for easy bag removal with no tools required. The bag roller on the GBU is designed to accept 9 foot and 10 foot diameter grain bags and uses standard sprockets and spindles.

Transport Auger EZMOVE

• Universal auger mover: One model of Brandt EZMOVE auger mover fits all sizes and lengths of Brandt's standard and super charged augers. No need to weld lugs into place or touch up paint. It is designed to fit all Brandt augers and the fit-and-finish adds to resale value. Universal mount attaches unit directly to the undercarriage. No tube clamps required.

• Ease of use: Industry exclusive hydraulic steering requires significantly less effort than manual steering. Competitive units use manual steering which can be jerky and toss the operator around on uneven ground. The Brandt mover also provides on-the-go speed control not available on other movers. All auger and mover controls are at the operator's fingertips.

• Reliability: Welded gear on rim for maximum reliability, compared to set screws used by competitors.

Auger Max Bin Sensor

• Wearable, wireless pager beeps, vibrates and flashes to let you know the grain pile has reached the auger outlet without having to climb the bin or truck.

• Auger module easily mounts at auger outlet.

• A high contrast light can be turned on to illuminate the area below the Auger Max, perfect for working at night. A rear facing red flashing light can be turned on when transporting the auger.

"These new products were designed to provide the same productivity, reliability and durability standards that existing Brandt products deliver," explains Josephson. "Our customers rely on Brandt during the busy harvest season to enable a quick and safe harvest, and these new products will help them get the job done faster without costly delays."

For more information contact: Arnie Josephson, general sales ,anager, Brandt Agricultural Products Ltd. Phone: 1-866-4-BRANDT or Dave Norheim, U.S. sales manager, Phone: 701-240-0433 or

Monsanto submits refuge-in-a-bag product to EPA

Monsanto announced yesterday that it submitted to the EPA for registration a 5% refuge-in-the-bag (RIB) option for Genuity VT Double Pro Corn. Upon registration, this RIB product would contain both Bt seed and refuge seed. A farmer could plant the product to an entire field, which would create a refuge throughout the field.

This is the second RIB product Monsanto has submitted to the EPA for registration. Currently, the agency is reviewing Monsanto’s RIB for Genuity SmartStax corn, which the company submitted in December 2009.

Pending registrations, the company expects to have both RIB products commercially available to farmers in the Corn Belt for the 2012 growing season.

“Bt corn has revolutionized U.S. corn production,” says Jerry Hjelle, Monsanto vice president of Global Regulatory. “Planting a structured refuge limits yield potential and is inconvenient. Upon registration by EPA, Genuity VT Double Pro will be the first dual mode of action product for aboveground insect protection with a convenient 5% single-bag refuge solution.”

Arkansas Bioenergy Field Day Aug. 5

A Bioenergy Field Day has been set for Aug. 5 at the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture’s Pine Tree Experiment Station near Colt, Ark.

“We’ve got researchers from UA/Monticello and LSU looking at switchgrass and cottonwood as potential sources for bio-energy feedstock,” said Hal Liechty, UAM associate professor in the School of Forest Resources. “Currently, those can be used for things like coal-fire generation for electricity. There’s also potential to use them as cellulosic feedstock to produce liquid fuel.”

The project is looking at the production of those feedstocks.

“Also, we’re looking at different ways they can be used — wildlife habitat, carbon sequestration. That could mean additional money coming into the landowner for carbon sequestration. They could also prove to be helpful with nutrient retention, improving soil quality and other positive things.

“Another study is comparing cottonwood to other types of trees. So those who attend will be able to see the different growth rates and how the different trees are managed.”

This is the second growing season for the crops on the Pine Tree Station. “The switchgrass is doing really well and there will likely be a harvest this year,” said Liechty.

Cottonwood can be harvested every five or six years. Switchgrass can take several years to get established, but “once it gets going can be harvested annually.

“So, we’re looking at each of those crops individually as well as in combinations. A combination might include ‘alley-cropping’ where you have a 30- or 40-foot swath of switchgrass next to a 30- or 40-foot swath of cottonwood.”

One of the things being studied at the Pine Tree Station is “ecosystem services,” says Jon Barry, assistant professor and Extension forester for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture. “That’s providing wildlife habitat, improving water quality and things like that while still growing feedstock crops.”

Barry says besides agronomic topics, the field day agenda will have presentations explaining pertinent government programs (including BCAP, which pays for crop residue recovery) and a demonstration showing the conversion of biomass into fuel.

Field day registration will begin at 8 a.m. and speakers will start around 8:30 a.m. Lunch will be provided. For more information, contact Barry at (870) 777-9702 or e-mail


Emergency assistance for farm-raised fish

Disaster assistance is now available to livestock, honeybee and farm-raised fish producers that suffered losses in 2008 because of disease, adverse weather or other conditions.

The aid will come from the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP).

“American farmers, ranchers and producers should have protection from market disruptions and disasters,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “The assistance announced today will be particularly helpful to beekeepers whose bees suffered from Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) and will also assist other producers facing economic challenges.”

More than $10 million in disaster assistance, including more than $6 million to compensate beekeepers for 2008 losses will be issued. Under the program, producers are compensated for losses that are not covered under other Supplemental Agricultural Disaster Assistance Payment programs established by the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, specifically Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP), Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP), and Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments (SURE) Program. ELAP benefits related to 2009 losses are expected to be issued later this summer.

ELAP eligibility provisions have been amended for both honeybee and farm-raised fish producers. The modifications include allowing honeybee and farm-raised fish producers who did not replace their honeybees or fish that were lost due to a natural disaster to be eligible for ELAP payments based on the fair market value of the honeybees or fish that were lost.

For more information about USDA Farm Service Agency disaster assistance programs, please visit your FSA county office or

Louisiana struggles with weather

Drought hammered crops in central Louisiana after planting this spring, which will keep them from reaching their yield potential. The dry weather resulted in a good deal of replanting, as well, adding to farmers’ costs.

“A large portion of our corn crop is still dryland. It has the potential to recover, but it will not reach its potential. I think yields will be off slightly even if it is wetter the rest of the growing season,” says Ronnie Levy, LSU AgCenter Extension soybean specialist.

“Drought in the central part of the state has been severe,” says Daniel Stephenson, LSU AgCenter weed scientist. “A lot of cotton was replanted. Soybeans have an extremely poor stand in some areas. This affected herbicide performance. If a weed is not actively growing it will not uptake the herbicide.”

During most summers, some areas get blessed with abundant rainfall while others nearby get nearly nothing. That is the case in Louisiana this year.

“It depends on where you are. It’s kind of spotted rainfall across the state. Some farmers haven’t gotten enough rain to make a crop. In other areas, they got a big rainfall but also had a lot of rain runoff from fields. In fact, we had some soybeans damaged by heavy rain and farmers had to replant a large number of acres because of it,” Levy says.

“We are seeing signs of drought stress in some areas, which isn’t good. Even short periods of drought influence plant growth and productivity.”

Levy, who also worked with corn and feedgrains until recently, thinks newer corn hybrids with more drought tolerance may benefit Louisiana farmers. “We’re making some strides with the newer hybrids. It looks like we will continue to see some with higher levels of drought tolerance. That could be a benefit in the Deep South,” he says.

“Strides in hybrids and new technology have kept farmers in business in the U.S. and will continue to do so, increasing efficiency and productivity.”

This summer’s drought is the latest in several years of weather adversity to hit Louisiana.

“The weather has been very detrimental to the quality of the crop producers have been able to harvest. It’s hit every crop: sweet potatoes, cotton, corn, soybeans. We’ve had corn and cotton damaged by hurricanes. We’ve seen a lot of sweet potatoes with heavy rains close to harvest that caused a lot of losses,” Levy says.

Farmers responded by retooling production practices.

“Quality harvest is a big concern due to rainfall and weather events. We’re seeing increasing use of harvest aids to increase efficiency, shortening the time between when the crop matures and when it can be harvested. They’re taking the green plant material out that would raise moisture levels in the crop,” Levy says.

Getting the crop out of the field earlier reduces risk.

“It helps avoid some problems with insects and disease,” Levy says. “It means we can reduce the number of applications of insecticides and fungicides and also reduce the potential for soybean rust. Rust doesn’t seem to do well in extremely hot temperatures and doesn’t seem to develop until the weather cools down. Getting soybeans out earlier is a benefit as far as having a potential problem with rust. Later soybean crops has the potential to have more injury from rust.”

Corn+Soybean Digest

Soybean Checkoff Study Finds Argentina’s Differential Export Taxes Unfair

A study recently completed and released by the United Soybean Board (USB) and soybean checkoff shows Argentina’s regime of taxing its whole soybeans for export at a higher rate than it taxes its soybean meal, oil and biodiesel destined for foreign markets costs the U.S. soybean industry up to $500 million annually.

“Our examination of this complex issue shows what results is an unfair subsidy in Argentina for processed soy products,” says USB Vice Chairman Marc Curtis, who also serves as the chair of the organization’s global opportunities (GO) committee. “The difference in those tax rates has distorted the international soy marketplace.”

The soybean checkoff-funded study found that the lower tax burden on Argentina’s soybean meal, oil and biodiesel creates a strong economic incentive for processing soybeans in Argentina. The country then exports these value-added products rather than whole soybeans. Argentina represents the third-largest soybean-producing country behind the U.S. and Brazil, but is now the biggest exporter of processed soybean products such as soybean meal, oil and biodiesel. Figures from the study show Argentina exports 99% of its soybean meal and 93% of its soybean oil in an average year.

LMC International, an independent economic and business consultancy serving agriculture, conducted the study for USB. It concluded that if the different tax schemes never existed, the U.S. would have invested more heavily in soybean-crushing capacity with an eye on export markets, which would have boosted U.S. soybean prices.

“This study shows that the U.S. experienced a larger decline in its share of the soybean meal and soybean oil export markets, in part due to the export tax structure in Argentina,” says Tom Hammer, president of the National Oilseeds Processors Association (NOPA), the U.S. organization representing 15 different oilseed processing companies in the U.S. “Brazil eliminated its differential export taxes in the mid-1990s and its share of value-added soybean meal and oil exports declined fairly dramatically while its exports of unprocessed soybeans increased.”

USB’s GO program, which works to improve market access for U.S. soy, conducted the study as part of its ongoing efforts to examine unfair trade practices.

“We can help ensure our soybean checkoff does all it can do to keep U.S. farmers and the rest of the U.S. soybean industry competitive and make certain we have equal and fair access to all markets around the world,” says Curtis, who grows soybeans, corn and wheat near Leland, MS.

NOPA’s Hammer notes Argentina has kept its export tax regime since the early 1980s. He believes it’s time for U.S. soybean farmers and the entire U.S. soy industry to point out Argentina’s distortion of global soy markets and its detriment to the U.S. soybean processing industry.

“If Argentina wants to tax its soy exports, it needs to do so at the same rates,” says Hammer. “The higher soybean crushing margins that would emerge in the U.S. would result in additional soybean crushing here. That would result in more profit potential for U.S. soybean farmers and the entire U.S. soybean industry.”

To see a complete version of the soybean checkoff-funded study, go to the “Global Opportunities” under “Programs” on the USB website.

Corn+Soybean Digest

NASS Reports Slight Change in Corn and Soybean Acreage

The USDANational Agricultural Statistics Service’s (NASS) latest acreage report is showing corn and soybean planted acreage is up 2% from 2009 on both accounts. Cotton planting took a big leap with a 19% increase. Wheat acres are odd man out with an acreage decrease of 8%.

Corn planted area for all purposes in 2010 is estimated at 87.9 million acres, up 2% from last year. The largest increases in planted acreage compared to last year are reported in Illinois and Kansas, both up 600,000 acres from 2009. Other notable increases were shown in Indiana, up 400,000 acres; Missouri, up 300,000 acres; and Ohio, up 250,000 acres. The largest decrease in planted acreage is reported in Iowa, down 400,000 acres, while both Nebraska and South Dakota are down 350,000 acres from the previous year.

Soybean planted area for 2010 is estimated at a record high 78.9 million acres, up 2% from last year. Area for harvest, at 78.0 million acres, is also up 2 percent from 2009, and will be the largest harvested area on record, if realized. Compared with last year, planted acreage increased by 300,000 acres or more in Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota and Nebraska. The states with the largest declines compared with last year are Arkansas, down 270,000 acres, and North Carolina, down 250,000 acres. Record-high planted acreage is estimated in Kansas, Nebraska, New York and Pennsylvania, and planted area will tie the previous record high in Minnesota and Oklahoma.

Plantings rise for cotton, corn, soybeans

U.S. producers planted more cotton, corn and soybeans this year and reduced plantings of wheat, according to USDA’s June 30 Acreage Report.

Cotton acres are estimated 19 percent higher, while corn and soybeans are both up 2 percent from last year’s plantings. Soybean acreage, if realized, would be a record.

Cotton plantings for 2010 are estimated at 10.9 million acres, 19 percent above last year. Upland planted area is estimated at 10.7 million acres, also up 19 percent from 2009. Increased planted acres are expected in all states except Louisiana, where acres are unchanged from last year’s record low. In Alabama, California, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee, planted acreage increased over 30 percent, with California experiencing the largest percentage gain with a 76 percent increase. American-Pima cotton growers planted 209,000 acres, up 48 percent from 2009.

The increase is 400,000 acres over USDA’s March report on intended plantings and is expected to be negative for the market.

Corn planted area for all purposes in 2010 is estimated at 87.9 million acres, up 2 percent from last year. The largest increases in planted acreage compared to last year are reported in Illinois and Kansas, both up 600,000 acres from 2009. Other notable increases were shown in Indiana, up 400,000 acres; Missouri, up 300,000 acres; and Ohio, up 250,000 acres. The largest decrease in planted acreage is reported in Iowa, down 400,000 acres, while both Nebraska and South Dakota are down 350,000 acres from the previous year.

Soybean planted area for 2010 is estimated at a record high 78.9 million acres, up 2 percent from last year. Area for harvest, at 78 million acres, is also up 2 percent from 2009, and would be the largest harvested area on record, if realized.

Compared with last year, planted acreage increased by 300,000 acres or more in Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, and Nebraska. The states with the largest declines compared with last year are Arkansas, down 270,000 acres, and North Carolina, down 250,000 acres. Record high planted acreage is estimated in Kansas, Nebraska, New York, and Pennsylvania, and planted area will tie the previous record high in Minnesota and Oklahoma.

Wheat planted area is estimated at 54.3 million acres, down 8 percent from 2009 and the lowest U.S. total since 1971. The 2010 winter wheat planted area, at 37.7 million acres, is 13 percent below last year. Of this total, about 28.5 million acres are hard red winter, 5.8 million acres are soft red winter, and 3.4 million acres are white winter. Area planted to other spring wheat for 2010 is estimated at 13.9 million acres, up 5 percent from 2009. Of this total, about 13.3 million acres are hard red spring wheat. Durum planted area for 2010 is estimated at 2.68 million acres, up 5 percent from the previous year. Growers in North Dakota planted more wheat than Kansas for only the fourth time on record.