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Articles from 2015 In July

Corn+Soybean Digest

5 Agriculture stories to read, July 31, 2015

In the 5 ag stories to read this week, Extension experts advise scouting for stink bugs and for Southern corn rust. Learn about options for crop insurance payments on prevented plant acres and options for rescue nitrogen applications. Finally, enjoy a gallery of old farm equipment laying around in the back 40.

Get instant yield maps with FarmLogs Flow

Get instant yield maps with FarmLogs Flow

​FarmLogs is known for their multi-functional mobile app. The company continues to bring new digital products to market, in hopes of making processes simpler and more efficient. And they've accomplished that with their new product: FarmLogs Flow, which creates yield maps.

FarmLogs Flow is a small, plug-in device that integrates with the FarmLogs platform and automatically creates yield maps, eliminating the complex and manual time consuming process of collecting, transferring, downloading and uploading yield files to get maps into software where they can benefit the farmer.

FarmLogs Flow yield maps

“I know firsthand from my family’s farm that when it's time to harvest, getting the crops out of the fields is the first priority and collecting data is secondary. Now, with FarmLogs Flow we don’t have to make a choice between the two. We get our yield maps while the combine is still in the field and can trust that FarmLogs will bring everything together in one place, making data collection and management easier than ever before,” said Jesse Vollmar, CEO and co-founder of FarmLogs. “Yield maps already help us pinpoint and quantify the variability in our fields. FarmLogs Flow makes it effortless and enables us to share that knowledge with advisors and incorporate field performance knowledge into our farm operation.”

Complete with built-in cellular connectivity and compatible with all late model Case, New Holland and John Deere combines, the FarmLogs Flow device plugs into a combine’s existing ISOBUS port allowing yield data to flow seamlessly into the FarmLogs platform while harvesting, without any additional work from the operator. Farmers are then able to get instant access to yield maps as fields are being harvested, making the entire FarmLogs experience even more valuable. Beneficial yield data owned by farmers is safely and securely stored in their FarmLogs account along with crop health maps, field scouting notes and weather data where it can easily be shared with anyone of the farmer’s choosing.

The device can be ordered from FarmLogs for delivery in August. Each device is leased for $749 annually with a one-year agreement. Get more information at

Corn+Soybean Digest
Time to rethink grain marketing approach

Time to rethink grain marketing approach

In 2007 I released my first book, “Grain Marketing is Simple (it’s just not easy).” Eight years later I am pleased to announce my completely revised and much anticipated 2nd Edition, to be released in September.

Why now? Because so much has changed in the past eight years. For example, grain prices doubled. The original edition has too many references to $2.50 corn, $4.00 wheat and $6.00 soybeans. How could I know that the price paradigm would shift so dramatically?

Production costs also doubled. In 2005, an efficient farming operation in the heart of the Corn Belt could produce corn for less than $2/bu. and soybeans for less than $5/bu. Today, those figures are closer to $4.50 and $11/bu.

Government policy has also changed. When I released the first edition, loan rates and deficiency payments were relevant. Today, a new farm bill and smaller safety net puts greater emphasis on your need for a grain marketing plan.

But here, in my mind, is the most important reason to update and release a 2nd Edition: the Second Golden Age of American Agriculture is over, and the time is right to return to a proactive approach to grain marketing.

The Second Golden Age of Agriculture?

I first talked of this era in my November 2013 CSD column. The First Golden Age of Agriculture occurred 100 years ago, in the decade leading up to and including WWI. The Second Golden Age (2007-2014) was another extended period of high prices for grains relative to production costs. In hindsight, 2007 was not the best time to offer the proactive approach to marketing outlined in my book. But offer I did and, while I stand by my approach, grain producers who ignored me also found success during the Second Golden Age of American Agriculture.

Why do I believe it’s over?

Demand growth has slowed. The growth in corn used for ethanol production has flattened since 2010. The impact was delayed by drought in 2012. “Corn is King,” but flat demand dulls the crown. A wavering economy in China threatens to flatten the demand for soybean imports.

Flat demand has given supply time to play catch-up, and it shows in the balance between prices and production costs. Every month since last July, corn prices received by Iowa farmers have been less than estimated production costs for the Heartland Region (as estimated and reported by USDA). Did you know that between November 2006 and June 2014 (92 months of the Second Golden Age), there were only 3 months when USDA reported an Iowa corn price less than production costs? For perspective, there were only 22 months in the previous decade (September 1996 – September 2006, or 120 months) when Iowa prices exceeded costs. It looks like the Second Golden Age has ended.

Prices won’t always be low. In fact, hoorah for an old-fashioned weather rally that came to the fore in late June. The proactive approach outlined in my 2nd Edition of “Grain Marketing is Simple” says that we need to pay attention to pricing opportunities before harvest. Let’s pay attention to this one, too. 

Winners of the 2015 Peanut Profitability Awards were honored during the Southern Peanut Growers Conference at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain Ga From left Southwest Farm Press Editor Ron Smith  Anthony Reed winner for the Southwest Brian McClam winner for the the upper Southeast Johnny Cochran winner for the lower Southeast and Marshall Lamb research leader with USDArsquos National Peanut Research Laboratory
<p>Winners of the 2015 Peanut Profitability Awards were honored during the Southern Peanut Growers Conference at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Ga. From left, Southwest Farm Press Editor Ron Smith; Anthony Reed, winner for the Southwest; Brian McClam, winner for the the upper Southeast; Johnny Cochran, winner for the lower Southeast; and Marshall Lamb, research leader with USDA&rsquo;s National Peanut Research Laboratory.</p>

Peanut Profitability winners discuss strip tillage benefits, fungicides

Winners of the 2015 Peanut Profitability Awards were recognized for the quality and quantity of their peanut crops and their successful production practices during the 17th annual Southern Peanut Growers Conference at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Ga. July 25.

“The aim of the Peanut Profitability Award has been to recognize those growers that have shown amazing adaptability in the face of change and who have continued to produce profitable crops,” said Forrest Laws, director of content for Farm Press at a breakfast honoring the three winners.

The three winners are Johnny Cochran, Sylvester, Ga., lower Southeast region; Brian McClam, Kingstree, S.C., upper Southeast region; and Anthony Reed, Thackerville, Okla., Southwest region.

“The Farm Press Peanut Profitability Awards Program began with the first ever Southern Peanut Growers Conference and the two have grown together over the years,” Laws said. “This year marks the sixteenth class of Peanut Profitability winning growers, and each class continues to impress with their innovative techniques of improving bottom line profits.”

Laws said the three farmers have overcome the perils of farming while improving their profitability. “When you say to someone that this grower was a recipient of the Peanut Profitability Award it means that you are standing in the presence of greatness, and that these individuals are very special growers,” Laws said. 

Program adviser for the awards is Dr. Marshall Lamb, research leader with the National Peanut Research Laboratory in Dawson, Ga. Lamb has designed a measurement tool used by growers in determining production efficiency. The awards recognize growers who produce the highest yields at the lowest cost per acre.

Lamb said the winners come from different producing regions but demonstrate similar methods in producing high yield, high quality crops through production efficiencies.

Strip it

During a lively question and answer session with the breakfast audience, the three winners shared their production successes and strategies. All thee stressed the benefits of conversation tillage and the need for a good fungicide program.

“The biggest advantage I see with conservation tillage is soil health,” Cochran said. “It’s a huge benefit to the overall soil fertility level,  just better soil health. I’ve been farming 30, 40 years and never until the last three years or four years of harvesting peanuts did I ever find earth worms when I would get down to pull a weed off a blade or do something with the soil, I’d actually see earth worms in the peanut field at harvest time so that has to be a huge benefit.”

Both McClam and Reed said that strip tillage has kept them in the peanut business.

McClam said by using strip tillage, washouts have gone away, but the biggest advantage he sees is a reduction in fuel costs. “I couldn’t farm without strip till,” he stressed.

As for Reed, strip tillage has eliminated wind erosion issues on his farm. He is now able to graze cattle on his fields until the day he sprays burn down herbicides and then come back two weeks later and plant his peanut crop. “I’m not sure that I could even be in the peanut business today if it hadn’t been for strip till and the improved technology of all the chemicals,” Reed said.

Disease management

All three also rely on effective fungicide management programs to build yields and quality.

Last year, Cochran said he used a three-spray program with DuPont’s Fontelis fungicide. “This year, if we have heavy white mold pressure like I think these high temperatures are going to bring, we may very well be on a third Fontelis application this year as well. If not, it will be Headline later in the season.”

Planting 100 percent of his acreage to the variety Bailey, McClam said he applies Fontelis at 60 days and then applies Syngenta’s Bravo fungicide at 80 days. “We’re doing a lot better job at scouting to make sure we are spraying at the right time,” he added.

McClam noted that he did a trial on his farm last year with Wayne Nixon, Severn’s agronomist, where a combination of Abound, Folicur and Bravo were used at his last fungicide application and it provided a yield increase so he plans to use that combination all away across his farm this year.

Reed said he now uses a one year in four year rotation with his peanuts which has allowed him to reduce his fungicide applications compared to the rotation system he used in the early 2000s of two years on and two years off. He now uses a combination of Folicur and Headline as well as some Bravo with Tilt which has helped him work out the sclerotinia blight issues he had in his earlier rotation pattern. “The rotation has been the biggest improvement,” he noted.

Concerned about policy future

The Peanut Profitability Award winners were asked where they saw the future of the peanut industry in light of the new farm bill.

McClam said he is concerned about the new farm bill because his part of South Carolina is relatively new to the peanut industry and doesn’t have the base and high yields that other peanut producing states such as Georgia enjoy.

“We have some farmers in my community that when they go to the mail box this year, they are going to be pretty disappointed because where we are on yield and with our three and four year rotation, we just haven’t had  time to build a lot of base,” McClam said.

Reed noted that he is fortunate because he has a good base on his farm. “I would rather sell peanuts at a good price than have the base payments, but the base payments are going to be very instrumental in keeping me above water,” he added.

Cochran said he is concerned that the new farm bill will create an oversupply of peanuts that will be hard to sell. “I think one thing this program is going to do is make good marketing people out of the shellers and manufacturers because there are a lot of peanuts that are going have to be moved. We’re fortunate in Worth County that we have good yields, we have a good base and a long history of growing peanuts. I’ll be the first to say that I would rather sell to a market price than I would to a government price.”

New Clean Water Act rule takes effect in August

New Clean Water Act rule takes effect in August

A rule that revises which bodies of water are subject to Clean Water Act regulations will take effect this month, which has some farmers worried they will come under stricter federal scrutiny.

Agricultural water has always been exempt from Clean Water Act regulations, but the new Clean Water Rule incorporates several types of water that were never regulated before and are common on farms. Tributaries and waterways adjacent or connect to a previously jurisdictional waterway must now comply with the Clean Water Act, said Naveen Adusumilli, LSU AgCenter economist.  

Drainage ditches and irrigation runoff, for example, are not specifically regulated by the act but drain into those that are.

“Can farmers dig a ditch now, and how will it be regulated? It is unclear right now,” Adusumilli said.

The changes are spelled out in the Clean Water Rule, which will be implemented on Aug. 28 and was written to clarify a vague term in the act that caused uncertainty in interpretation of the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers’ regulatory authority.

The two agencies jointly enforce the act, which applies to “waters of the U.S.” -- wetlands and navigable waterways that are used for commerce. The original definition is vague about whether regulations apply to seasonally flowing streams and waterways that are near regulated waters, and much of that confusion remains.

The Clean Water Rule brings land in 100-year floodplains under jurisdiction. But those lands are dry most of the time, Adusumilli said, so it is unclear when exactly they would be subject to Clean Water Act standards.

Under the new rule, a waterway with a “significant nexus” to a navigable waterway is also jurisdictional. The nexus is considered significant if the waterway performs any of nine functions, including trapping sediments or nutrients.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty with some of those definitions,” Adusumilli said. “How do farmers identify if those functions are there? Who’s going to help? At this time, we don’t know who the final authority will be to assess those situations.”

Though the rule has been finalized, the EPA and Corps must now determine how to enforce it. Meanwhile, attorneys general from 27 states are challenging the rule in a lawsuit.

EPA officials have said their agency will not regulate agriculture activities or expand its authority to waters not already under its jurisdiction. They maintain that exemptions made for agriculture in the Clean Water Act, such as waiving Section 404 permit requirements for farms, ranches and forestry operations, will continue.

Ted Kendall from left Bolton Miss producer Mike McCormick president Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation and Jimmy Whitaker Satartia Miss producer were among those attending the joint annual meeting of the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federationrsquos soybean wheat and feed grains policy committees
<p><em><strong>Ted Kendall, from left, Bolton, Miss., producer; Mike McCormick, president, Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation; and Jimmy Whitaker, Satartia, Miss., producer, were among those attending the joint annual meeting of the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation&rsquo;s soybean, wheat, and feed grains policy committees</strong></em></p>

Agriculture’s challenge: How to counter lack of trust in today’s food system

U.S. agriculture is doing a better job of telling its story to the consumer public and being more proactive, says Allyson Perry, but it’s still too often going about it in the wrong way.

“We have a great story to tell,” she says. But trying to win public opinion with information about science, economics, or best management practices “just doesn’t resonate with consumers — they don’t want to hear it.”


Rather, says Perry, who is senior project manager for the Center for Food Integrity, a member-driven organization with a mission to build consumer trust and confidence in today’s food system, “It’s about developing long term relationships with your consumers, keeping in mind who your consumers are. It takes time to change perceptions, which doesn’t happen overnight. But consumer perceptions can change in our favor if we use the right communications tactics.”

Perry spoke at the joint annual meeting of the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation’s soybean, wheat, and feed grains policy committees.

The center conducts a nationwide survey each year to determine consumer trust in, and attitudes about, the U.S. food system. The findings, she says, show that “agriculture doesn’t have an image issue — it has a trust issue. There is a lack of trust in today’s food system.”

Stay current on what’s happening in Mid-South agriculture: Subscribe to Delta Farm Press Daily.

And trust, she says, is based less on the competence of farmers and the soundness of their practices than on values shared by three key groups: moms, millennials, and foodies.

Millennials, ages 19-34, are the fastest growing segment of our population, at 37 percent, Perry says. “The way they feel about their food is going to impact their buying habits. They are the least trusting of all generations.”

Moms, those with children at home under age 18, are 30 percent of the population. “They’re making decisions about their family’s food every single day.”

Foodies, at 27 percent, are those who have a refined interest in food and alcoholic beverages. “They study food, they research food, they talk about food. It’s a growing segment of the population.”

Agriculture’s goal used to be, Perry says, “if we educate the consumer they will logically understand us and forget the unfavorable nonsense being promoted by activists — if we just educate them about agriculture, they will come around.“So, we tried it. We educated them. And when they didn’t come around, we tried to educate them some more. And they still didn’t come around. Because what they’re asking are questions based on their values, not on scientific information.

Consumers: Is it morally right?

“You can talk about the science and economics of GMOs all you want to, but that doesn’t answer their questions. What they’re really asking is, ‘Is it morally right for you to do this?’ Science and economics don’t connect with their concerns.”

Agriculture’s goal should be to better understand the moral and social concerns of consumers, Perry says. “We need to lead with a common values statement — to give them information about agriculture and food in ways they can trust, and that will reflect back on us favorably.”

Today’s instantaneous communications have had an impact on consumers, Perry says. “For so long, we operated on the traditional model — an expert who shared details about a subject, and then people made up their minds. Now, we have a tribal communications model, in which people are heavily involved in Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. They’re looking to family, friends, neighbors, and others for confirmation of their biases.

"In agriculture, we tend to be logical and scientifically oriented. We think everyone else can see our logic and our science — but they don’t," says Allyson Perry.

“Back then a sound bite on the news was nearly a minute; now it’s 7 seconds at the longest. Now everyone is a communicator. If you’ve got a smart phone, you’re a communicator: You can take photos, you can post them for the world to see; you can post your opinion, you can be an expert.

“And bad news always sways more than positive news. It takes just one bad piece of information to neutralize five pieces of positive information. So, we in agriculture are often in an uphill battle as the activist organizations and the media play up the negative aspects of GMOs, animal antibiotics, pesticides, etc.”

Agriculture and agribusiness have spent a lot of time and effort trying to convince the public that the activists are wrong, says Perry.

“But, we haven’t always communicated in the best ways possible — we cited a lot of science and a lot of economics. But the activists figured how to connect with people by using touchy-feely, your-values-align-with-mine messages. And it worked.

“We haven’t done that, because in agriculture we tend to be logical and scientifically oriented. We think everyone else can see our logic and our science — but they don’t. 

“We’re never going to change the minds of the extremists, but we certainly have an opportunity to change the minds of the reasonable majority who truly want to know that we share their moral and social values.”

Looking for shared values

Touchy-feely, she says, is “something agriculture has run from for years when we’ve tried to communicate with consumers. But the activist groups have embraced touchy-feely, and they have made headway. They communicate that their values connect with the consumer’s values: ‘There is no way I would ever mistreat an animal; there is no way you would ever mistreat an animal; so you must surely align with us.’ Research shows shared values are three to five times more important than facts.”

“Agriculture’s goal should be to give consumers information about agriculture and food in ways they can trust, and that will reflect back on us favorably,” says Allyson Perry.

A loss of trust in institutions began in the 1960s, Perry says, with Vietnam, Kennedy assassinations, and other social upheavals. “As agriculture has become more removed from the general public, we have become an institution. We know we can still be trusted, and that our food is every bit as safe or safer than it was 50 years ago. But thanks to the negativity of the activists and the media, much of the public now sees us as another institution that can’t be trusted.”

An affluent society has helped to create and foster some of these issues, she says. “When you’re not worried about your next meal, you can have the luxury of opposing GMOs in your food.”

Trust involves three components, Perry says:  

• Confidence (Are you smart? Are you skilled? Do you know what you’re doing?)

• Competence (Do you value the same things I value? If you do, I’m going to trust you and give you freedom to operate, without heavy oversight, regulation, litigation, legislation. “In an earlier time, when consumers trusted farming, you were able to operate without any of these constraints, and you did it well.  Now, you no longer have that social license.”)

• Influential others (those you trust, whose opinion you trust).

Because of the controversy over GMOs, pesticides, and other issues, Perry says, today’s farming practices aren’t trusted by many consumers. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, she says their survey shows consumer trust in today’s food system at 5.84.

“They trust family farms, but believe commercial farms put their interests above those of consumers. Big is bad, they believe, but they don’t know what big is, can’t define it. They think if you got big, you surely must have done it through unethical activity — therefore, you don’t share my values and you aren’t someone I trust. But consumers believe small farms have similar values to theirs."

The Center for Food Integrity survey showed “keeping healthy food affordable” ranked No. 1 with millennials and foodies and No. 2 with moms.

Other key concerns with all groups were the rising cost of food, rising healthcare costs, and the U.S. economy.


Aug. 5 UA Food and Agribusiness Webinar to feature Farm Futures' Bryce Knorr

After weeks of erratic weather conditions, it’s finally beginning to look like the Midwest will have corn and soybean crops to harvest this fall.

The same can be said for crops in the Mid-South and Southeast, which also struggled during planting, although the corn crops in the southern portions of the two regions are almost ready for harvest and early season soybeans won’t be far behind.

Yes, after an unusual start to the growing season this summer, prospects for the 2015 crops are starting to take shape. Bryce Knorr, senior grain market analyst with Farm Futures, will discuss those during the next University of Arkansas Food and Agribusiness Webinar.

Knorr, who has been analyzing and writing about the commodity markets for nearly 30 years, will present the results of Farm Futures’ exclusive grower survey, along with updated projections from weather models and what they mean for prices ahead of USDA’s key estimates Aug. 12. The webinar will begin at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 5.

To register for the webinar, click on

Knorr first joined Farm Futures in 1987. In addition to analyzing and writing about the commodity markets, he is a former futures broker and is a registered Commodity Trading Adviser.

He conducts Farm Futures exclusive surveys on acreage, production and management issues and is one of the analysts regularly contracted by business wire services before major USDA crop reports. Besides the Morning Call, he writes weekly reviews for corn, soybeans, and wheat that include selling price targets, charts and seasonal trends.

His other weekly reviews on basis, energy, fertilizer and financial markets and feature price forecasts for key crop inputs. A journalist with 38 years of experience, he received the Master Writers Award from the American Agricultural Editors Association.

Farm Futures is a member of the Penton Agriculture Group along with the Farm Press Publications, Delta, Southeast, Southwest and Western Farm Press.

Polaris launches the 2016 RZR

Polaris launches its new 2016 models, and here we focus in on the new RZR. Key features include increased performance, better power and stamina to help growers get tough jobs done on the farm all day long.

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USDA Weather recap: Drier air in Midwest; hot weather in south

In the north, cooler, drier air pushed into much of the Midwest, although showers lingered across the southern and western Corn Belt. In particular, rainfall totals of 1 to 2 inches or more were common across Missouri and southern Illinois. Across the remainder of the lower Midwest, favorably dry weather allowed water to drain or evaporate from still-soggy fields.

Heat baked the south-central U.S., increasing crop stress in an area that had experienced significant flooding just two months ago. Triple-digit high temperatures were reported as far north as the central Plains, although rain helped to offset the effects of the heat in southern Kansas, northern Oklahoma, and the Texas panhandle.

Meanwhile, hot, humid weather across the South pushed weekly temperatures at least 5°F above normal in several locations from the Mississippi Delta into Georgia and South Carolina. Scattered showers, heaviest in the southern Atlantic region, partially offset the effects of heat in some areas, but bypassed the western Gulf Coast region and parts of the interior Southeast.

Elsewhere, cool, showery weather from southern California to the Intermountain region contrasted with warm, mostly dry conditions across the northern tier of the West. Early-week showers in southern California, associated with the remnants of Hurricane Dolores, were highly unusual for this time of year.

Download the full USDA weather report.

Agriculture has been separated from science education, study suggests

Agriculture has been separated from science education, study suggests

University of Florida Institute of Food and Ag Sciences research Katie Stofer says agriculture has been effectively separated from other sciences.

Stofer, an agricultural communications professor who surveyed 29 science museums in cities of all sizes across the U.S., found that the word "agriculture" is unlikely to appear, even though exhibits may relate to ag or ag practices.

Related: AGree releases plan for food and ag research reform

Researcher Katie Stofer found that science museums across America, for the most part, do not use the word “agriculture” in their exhibits. Image courtesy of University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

To make the list of large science museums in the survey, the facility needed a budget of at least $10 million annually and at least 200,000 visitors. The results showed that none of the facilities included the word "agriculture" in an exhibit title or description, but Stofer says about 45% of the 316 exhibits could be categorized as "probably" agriculture related at the least, based on exhibit titles and descriptions.

Stofer said the results will help show educators and museum officials about agriculture's role in teaching science, technology, engineering and math.

"Museums are fundamental places for the public to support efforts in public education," Stofer said, "yet, many science museums do not explicitly highlight Ag-STEM connections through exhibits."

Bringing 'agriculture' into STEM education
Researchers in agriculture and environmental fields use science to solve global issues, including hunger, disease and water conservation. Stofer points out in her study that scientists and other experts must find ways to feed 9 billion people globally by the year 2050.


"This is the crux of the food security challenge facing the world, a challenge that crosses applied fields like agriculture as well as underlying basic disciplines of science, technology, engineering and math," Stofer said.

For much of the 20th century, agricultural education was separated from science and math -- and to some extent from technology and engineering -- in secondary schools in the U.S.

While STEM classes were considered college preparatory courses, agricultural education was considered a pathway to a vocational career after high school graduation, Stofer said.

Related: Paper describes 5 ways to boost lagging K-12 ag education

This separation persists even in 2015, and could be one reason for the scarcity of STEM-skilled, particularly Ag-STEM-skilled employees, in the American workforce, she said.

Rebranding science museum exhibits with agriculture-related words, like "plant diseases" or "nutrition" would help, Stofer said.

"We've got all this information about science; we're just not contextualizing it around agriculture, but we could," she adds.

Source: University of Florida