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Articles from 2006 In August


Let's get a little mud on the tires!

"There's a place I know where the dirt road runs out ...And we can try out the four-wheel drive, ...Come on, what do you say, I can hardly wait...let's get a little mud on the tires" - Brad Paisley, country western super star and 2003 Farm Progress Show performer

What a week at the Farm Progress Show in Amana, Iowa! The show started off in a steady drizzle on Tuesday, much to the dismay of many show visitors. But I have to say I give those folks lots of credit - they were the serious farmers who were there to see the new products and visit with exhibitors, come Hell or high water (literally).  And hey, what's a farm show without a little mud, anyway?

That day brought back memories of my first show in Iowa 20 years ago, the one and only time we had to cancel FPS. I drove into the show grounds that Monday night in a downpour, not realizing the impact of that rain and the six inches of rain that had fallen the day earlier. My car quickly was swallowed in a mud hole. Helplessly I abandoned ship in the middle of Tent City, as a drenched worker on a 4WD tractor came along and towed the car away. Entering the nearby tents we watched helplessly as the rains came up and bark chips slowly floated away.

Well I'm here to say this year's show was NOTHING like that - thanks in part to the show grounds at the Amana Farms, with their partially-paved streets and subsurface drainage. My hat is off to the Farm Progress Show team and a gritty band of volunteers who pulled all-nighters to get those show grounds into manageable condition for the thousands of visitors who would come over the three days.

Even so, parking the first day was an adventure. "Wait until you have about 100 yards between you and the guy ahead of you, then gun it!" the mud-splattered parking attendant told me as I slowly inched off the road and into the 'parking lot.' I flipped the 4WD button on the Explorer and managed to slide into my spot without too much trouble.

Later that day there were lots of helpful volunteers on Polaris Ranger ATVs with tires strapped to their front bumpers, giving people a friendly push as they exited the field. A colleague from here in our Decatur office said he especially enjoyed pushing out the Mini Cooper BMWs, Infinitis and Jaguars. Who brings those cars to a farm show? On the other hand, playing pinball with a Jaguar sounds like a lot of fun.


"We are going to have to start producing crops more efficiently in the future," says Robb Fraley, Monsanto's Chief Technology Officer.

That afternoon the sun came out and the clouds passed, giving us two glorious, dry days to finish the show. And despite the weather, what a show it was. Monsanto's Disney-esque exhibit included an on-field test plot highlighting the company's genetically-modified future. The company had planted these experimental crops earlier this season and surrounded the exhibit with a 10-foot fence and barbed wire. The crops will be destroyed shortly after the show. Inside, visitors saw dicamba-tolerant soybeans, drought-resistant corn (complete with an awning to 'prevent' rainfall from hitting the crop), soybeans with healthy Omega-3 acid, corn with better nitrogen utilization, and high-lysine corn for better ethanol conversion.

These are the kinds of crops we only dreamed about a few years ago. The company already has a game plan for putting these seeds into farmers' hands in the next three to five years. "As much as we've seen in these first 10 years of biotech, this is really just the beginning," Robb Fraley, Monsanto's Chief Technology Officer and the father of Roundup Ready beans, told a small group of Farm Progress Editors in an exclusive briefing during the show. "There's a massive amount of new products and technology coming."

And while Monsanto's presentation was a real crowd pleaser, the 400 other exhibitors on hand went all out as well. From Chevy Tahoe's elevated four stories, to platforms over combines to show off grain hoppers, visitors got an eye full. Even the field demos got started with corn harvesting on Wednesday. Tillage demonstrations and more corn harvesting happened as scheduled Thursday.

"The time you need to be selling is the time you are most concerned about the crop," says ADM Marketing Analyst Brian Burke.

Besides all the typically great events like the field demonstrations showing off the latest tools and technology, some excellent speakers were on hand to share their expertise. Archer Daniels Midland was there in full force, touting its Ag in America tour that helps educate consumers and students about the importance of agriculture in our economy. WGN broadcasters Orion Samuelson and Max Armstrong hosted their live shows from the ADM stage.

ADM, which had hardly any presence at Farm Progress just a few years ago, seems to have come full circle these days, with dozens of blue-shirted ADM folks chatting up visitors in the company's impressive exhibit. This is one of the most encouraging trends I've seen at these shows, and I'm not just saying that because my wife works at the company. Brian Burke, an ADM market analyst, was on hand to give farmers daily market outlook seminars - an area where help is always welcome. "We're finding that there's still a lot of marketing being done on the 'I need cash' basis," he told me. "We want to help farmers avoid having to sell just because they need cash."

ADM folks also got a lot of questions on ethanol - a hot topic on the show grounds this last week. Our own Market analyst, Arlan Suderman, was on hand to give farmers a good overview of how to profit from the coming ethanol -driven market. Much of Arlan's presentation focused on the expected demand for corn based on new ethanol plants coming in the next 24 months. In fact, a new study by FAPRI predicts that 32% of U.S. corn will go eaten up by ethanol production by year 2010. The chart from Arlan's presentation - below - drives home that point.

I want to say thanks to all of you folks who came to the Hospitality Building to say hello. I especially want to say WOW to you folks who came out Tuesday despite the conditions. If you were there, drop me a note to tell me about your adventure.

So you got a little bit of mud on the tires - it was worth it!

LibertyLink 601 found in LSU AgCenter foundation seed rice

Independent lab tests have confirmed a sample of 2003 foundation seed rice of the variety Cheniere grown by the LSU AgCenter contained a trace amount of genetic material from LL601 — a LibertyLink genetically modified rice.

The test results received Wednesday (Aug. 30), however, indicated Cheniere foundation seed grown in 2005 appeared to be free of Liberty Link 601.

Those tests, validated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration, also indicated lots from 13 other varieties currently in the LSU AgCenter’s foundation seed program also appeared to be free of LL601. The other varieties involved in the initial testing included Cocodrie, Cypress, Trenasse, Pirogue, Bengal, Jupiter, Clearfield 131 and Clearfield 161.

“We are conducting a thorough inquiry to determine how this happened,” said David Boethel, LSU AgCenter vice chancellor for research. “We also are cooperating closely with officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in their investigation of the circumstances.”

The LSU AgCenter submitted samples to a testing lab soon after it was reported on Aug. 18 that trace amounts of LL601 were detected in samples of rice taken from Riceland Foods.

The long-grain rice from Riceland came from the 2005 crop held in storage facilities in Arkansas and Missouri, according to the USDA, but the agency said it didn’t know where the rice was grown.

LibertyLink lines of rice were developed by Bayer CropScience — to allow the Liberty herbicide to be sprayed on weeds without killing the rice plants. The USDA and the Food and Drug Administration have approved two LibertyLink lines similar to LL601, although those are not in commercial production, and federal authorities have concluded that LibertyLink rice poses no threat to food safety, human health or the environment.

Field research on LibertyLink was conducted in collaboration with Bayer CropScience at the LSU AgCenter’s Rice Research Station near Crowley, La., from 1999 through 2001.

At the time, LibertyLink technology was in the developmental stages. The research was focused on addressing control of a perennial problem for farmers known as red rice, which is the major weed problem facing rice producers in the southern United States.

“Weed control is one of our biggest problems, and we saw LibertyLink as one of several solutions,” said Ernest Girouard, a rice grower from Kaplan, La., who also is chairman of the Louisiana Rice Research Board. “Weeds can make a significant impact on yields and can make the difference between profitability and loss.

“Similar weed control technologies have had a significant positive impact on production of other crops.”

According to Steve Linscombe, a rice breeder who also serves as director of the LSU AgCenter Rice Research Station, standards set by the USDA were followed strictly in the research with LL601, and the field plots of LibertyLink rice were isolated from other rice plants.

“In fact, we made sure the distance between the LibertyLink plots and other conventional rice plots was further apart than what the research protocols required,” Linscombe said. “When there was a minimum requirement, we exceeded it.”

Further safeguards in the foundation seed protocols may also be what accounted for finding LL601 material in just one of the rice lots tested this month.

“The test results we received this week demonstrated that LL601 was found in the 2003 sample of Cheniere seed but not in 2005 seed,” Linscombe said. “That is probably a result of the rigorous screening and selection employed in our foundation seed program.

“It may mean it has been eliminated from the variety, but further tests are needed, including those being conducted by APHIS.”

Commercial production of genetically modified crops has become common. The USDA estimates that more than 60 percent of corn, 83 percent of cotton and almost 89 percent of soybeans grown in the United States this year were genetically modified for various traits, including herbicide tolerance and insect resistance.

“The LSU AgCenter’s foundation seed program has been extremely important to the U.S. rice industry. Over the years, the LSU AgCenter rice variety development program has released varieties that are among the most widely planted throughout the southern U.S. rice-growing area,” Boethel said.

e-mail:

New USDA insurance tools for pasture, rangeland and forage

Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns has announced the availability of two new risk management tools for pasture, rangeland and forage, beginning with the 2007 crop year.

“These new insurances tools will help farmers and ranchers, especially with operations located in drought impacted areas, to improve their risk management capabilities,” said Johanns. “Designed to operate in a variety of range and pasture environments, these products utilize innovative technology to determine when a producer has suffered a loss.”

The new insurance products, the Rainfall index insurance program and the Vegetation index insurance program, are offered by the Risk Management Agency (RMA) and are available through approved insurance providers. These programs will provide livestock producers the ability to purchase insurance protection for losses of forage produced for grazing or harvested for hay.

The Rainfall index insurance program will be pilot tested in 220 counties in Colorado, Idaho, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, North Dakota and Texas and is based on rainfall indices as a means to measure expected production losses. The Vegetation index insurance program will be pilot tested in 110 counties in Colorado, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and South Dakota and is based on satellite imagery that determines the productivity of the acreage as a means to measure expected production losses. Together, these pilot programs will be available to provide coverage on approximately 160 million of the 640 million acres of grazing land and hay land in the United States.

Development of the two programs was provided through provisions of the Agricultural Risk Protection Act of 2000, which established the development of a pasture, rangeland and forage program as one of RMA’s highest research and development priorities.

Both insurance products are designed to allow maximum flexibility for the producer. For instance, producers are not required to insure all their acres, but rather may elect to insure only those acres that are important to their grazing program or hay operation. Further, producers are not required to insure the acreage for the entire crop year. The crop year is divided into intervals and producers may elect to insure their acreage for only those intervals where the risk is the greatest.

Both of these products became available for sale from crop insurance agents beginning in late August. The sales closing date is Nov. 30, 2006. More detailed information about these two new pilot programs is available on the RMA Web site at: http://www.rma.usda.gov/policies/pasturerangeforage/

Editor's Notebook

Aug. 30 – The text hardly had time to scroll across the screen Tuesday before farm organizations and legislators began responding to the Bush Administration’s latest inadequate response to a disaster that has cost America’s farmers millions of dollars the past two years.

They simply don’t get it.

True, cotton farmers made bumper crops the past two seasons. They’ll not come close to those lofty yields in 2006 and while gins were pushing out bales at a record pace last fall, grain farmers and livestock producers were pushing equally hard to survive after a devastating summer. Corn and milo yields across much of the Southwest fell far below average. Pastures had withered under relentless heat and drought. Small grain planting conditions last fall prevented seeding much of anticipated acreage and a good portion of what was planted either never came up, came up too late to vernalize or simply emerged and died.

Ranchers have gone through more than 18 months trying to salvage as much of their herds as possible with meager water and feed supplies. Sale barns are busy; cattle prices will fall.

This disaster, this drought, rivals those of the 1950s, according to farmers we’ve talked to who survived them.

Rural economies are hemorrhaging. Farmers need a transfusion not a band aid.

And a band aid, not a particularly big one either, is what Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns offered Tuesday.

The National Association of Wheat Growers response hit my computer first.

“We … are very disappointed with the details of the Secretary’s announcement,” said Dale Schuler, NAWG president and a wheat farmer from Carter, Mont.

“Wheat growers across the country are facing the worst droughts in decades. A much broader, more comprehensive package is needed - now.”

Wheat growers also expressed disappointment in the way payments would be made-- from the counter cyclical program, which does not help wheat producers since it’s based on a target price and shortages caused by drought and other disasters push prices above the counter cyclical trigger.

Collin Peterson, Ranking Democratic Member, House Committee on Agriculture, said the effort was appreciated but inadequate.

“The disaster assistance funds will bring relief to some farmers and ranchers, but it does not mitigate the need for Congress and the Administration to work together to provide comprehensive crop and livestock disaster assistance for 2005 and 2006,” Peterson said.

“The assistance measures announced today are a small step in the right direction.”

He plans to pursue comprehensive agriculture disaster assistance after the congressional recess for “other American farmers who continue to struggle without relief.”

National Farmers Union president Tom Buis said, “the response is not strong enough.

USDA's release of $780 million is not commensurate with the staggering amount and severity of disaster we've seen across the country. More than 80 percent of counties nationwide were declared federal disaster areas in 2005. This year we've already seen more than 50 percent of counties declared disaster areas, as drought conditions continue to get worse.”

Criticism is bi-partisan. Oklahoma Congressman Frank Lucas said the relief effort “falls about $3 billion short of what is needed.”

Lucas said a drought assistance package he sponsors goes farther and “will provide more than four times the assistance that this USDA plan will provide, with an estimated $3.3 billion in drought and disaster assistance for producers.

“Most distressing about the USDA plan is that the bulk of the funding will come from counter-cyclical payments, which aren't available to wheat producers, who have the largest dollar losses in our state. Wheat producers won't see a dollar of this assistance, and that is unacceptable.”

Unacceptable, indeed.

Secretary Johanns and others in the administration would do well to pay closer attention to the plight of the country’s most important industry.

e-mail: rsmith@farmpress.com

More farmers taking harder look at no-till system

Sustained high fuel prices in the United States are forcing farmers to consider ways to save, leading some to wonder if they could cut back on fuel costs by switching to a no-till production system. While no-till might reduce fuel bills, other expenses could negate potential savings. The larger benefits of a no-till system still make it worth considering, says Chad Godsey, cropping system specialist with the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service.

“A producer will definitely save on fuel, but other expenses may increase, such as herbicide costs,” Godsey says. “Producers should adopt no-till practices to maintain long-term sustainability, not to save on fuel for a year or two. Fuel savings will be minimal compared to the benefits of improved soil quality.”

Long-term soil productivity is the biggest attribute of no-till, according to Godsey. Tilling soil causes it to lose carbon, which accounts for more than half of soil’s organic matter, which is critical to overall soil productivity as well as water-holding capacity.

Moisture savings is the second-most important benefit of no-till, he says.

As an example, Godsey estimates conventional-till systems with little or no surface residue precipitation storage efficiency is 20 percent. That means out of a 10-inch rainfall during the fallow period, only 2 inches are conserved.

“Precipitation storage efficiency estimates in no-till have been 40 percent. You can conserve two times as much moisture in a no-till system compared with a conventional-till system,” Godsey says.

Other benefits of no-till include reduced wind and water erosion, decreased soil compaction and reduced labor.

New herbicides, pesticides and improved cultivars have made no-till possible, and its benefits have been proven. Not everyone is ready to switch, however.

“I think no-till producers are in the minority, especially in Oklahoma,” Godsey says. “I would guess that only 7 to 8 percent of planted acreage in Oklahoma is in continuous no-till. Even though the concept of no-till has been around for decades, it is still relatively new compared to conventional till methods — no-till is not what their parents and grandparents practiced.”

If farmers are truly interested in adopting a no-till system, Godsey advises them to plan carefully and seek information from Extension and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. But, perhaps his best recommendation is to find a mentor — another producer who has experience with no-till.

“They have experience and have worked through some of the same problems you will probably encounter,” he says.

Online tool helps in cotton weed resistance fight

The National Cotton Council is hosting a new online Weed Resistance Learning Module to help cotton producers stay ahead of the game in fighting weed resistance.

Available at http://www.cotton.
org/tech/pest/wrm/
, the learning module is free to users and is sponsored by The Cotton Foundation with financial support from Monsanto, Syngenta and Dow AgroSciences. The course’s overall aim is providing producers a resource on how to prevent the occurrence of herbicide-resistant weeds, thus helping them maintain long-term stewardship of their acreage. Practical guidelines are offered such as preventing weeds from setting seed during harvest.

“Some weeds may have withstood herbicide treatments, and it is imperative that growers scout their fields for those weeds,” said NCC Chairman Allen Helms, a Clarkedale, Ark., cotton producer. “Particularly at harvest, it is important to prevent the weed seed from being dispersed throughout the field or to other fields. It’s also a good time to note where problems occurred throughout fields during the growing season for help in developing next season’s strategy.”

Helms said that cotton growers will appreciate this interactive course and the around-the-clock access they have to it as they evaluate their current weed management program or consider developing a program.

Andy Jordan, vice president of the NCC’s Technical Services, said weeds that have become resistant to herbicides can cause problems for producers for years, including reduced yields and increased control costs. This course, he said, details the fundamentals of weed resistance management practices, such as rotating herbicides and using mixtures or sequential applications of herbicides with different modes of action — steps that can prevent resistant weeds from causing havoc in the fields.

“A cotton farmer’s goal is to prevent herbicide-resistant weeds from showing up in the fields,” said Ginger Light, course author and researcher at Texas Tech University. “This course provides the farmer with information to achieve that goal. It gives farmers an introduction to what herbicide-resistant weeds are and the types of growing conditions that cause herbicide-resistant weeds to occur. This tool also explains the types of resistance and how they develop. If producers know the background information on weeds’ capabilities, it will help them solve the problem of resistance more efficiently.”

Andy Kendig, University of Missouri Extension weed specialist, said, “herbicide resistance is a major concern, and, unfortunately, it can be very complicated. This course does a good job of explaining resistance and resistance prevention so growers can take appropriate steps to prevent resistance on their farms.”

The Weed Resistance Learning Module also provides general resource information on cotton herbicides and a list of contacts in each state for producers who have questions on management practices.

For more information, call the NCC at (901) 274-9030.

’06 California almond harvest begins

California’s 6,000 almond growers are moving into high gear gathering the state’s fourth 1-billion-pound crop in the past five years.

And everyone is all smiles with harvest time prices of $2.45 cents per pound for Nonpareil and $1.90 for California varieties.

Between 70 million and 80 million pounds of this year’s crop will be hulled and shelled through one of the five hulling/shelling plants operated by Central California Almond Growers Association (CCAGA) in Kerman, Calif. and Sanger, California. CCCAGA is the largest huller/sheller in the world and will process $200 million worth of almonds by Thanksgiving.

The association is opening this season with a new state-of-the-art $9.5 million huller/sheller in Kerman to handle a large portion of the crop delivered by the association’s 453 members harvested from 50,000 acres or orchards in a service area stretching from Pixley, Calif. to Chowchilla, Calif. in the Central San Joaquin Valley.

California’s 2006 estimated 1.05 billion-pound meat pound crop is 11 percent above last year’s 915 million pound crop. It is not a record, but it is remarkable.

Madera, Calif. almond grower Don McKinney and chairman of the CCAGA board is surprised by the crop set in spite of low chilling hours resulting in a early bloom; a frost that hit some early varieties and wet cool conditions through the spring that inhibited bee pollination. The all-important Nonpareil variety representing about 40 percent of the state’s crop set well and looks good.

“Growers I have talked to are individually all over the board. Some say they are better off than last year. Others say yields are worse than last season. Overall, I think we have a pretty good crop,” said McKinney.

However, he believes some growers may be surprised at leaf footed bug damage this year. This pest surfaces about every 10 years in almonds and has been particularly troublesome the past two seasons, said McKinney.

“You can sort of tell how much damage you have had by the number of nuts on the ground. If you look there for damage this year, you are kidding yourself because probably 50 per cent of the damaged leaf footed bugs nuts are still stuck on the trees,” said McKinney.

When almonds stung by the leaf footed bug go to the sheller/huller, there is no marketable meat inside the shell.

“I don’t think it hurt the overall crop, but everyone has some damage. Some may be severe,” said McKinney.

CCGAGA president and CEO Mike Kelley has received a report from a Pixley area grower who estimates he has lost 70 percent of his crop to the insect that inflects its damage by puncturing the hull before it hardens. It often oozes a gummy residue from the hole, but not always.

Regardless of insect damage, McKinney believes the USDA/NASS office has a “very good handle” on acreage and therefore yield forecasting.

McKinney believes the surprising 1 billion pound crop in the wake of all the early problems is a combination of more young acreage producing above average yields and a good crop on some varieties.

California is the only state in the nation producing almonds and no other California crop has seen the meteoric rise in acreage, yield and prices like almonds over the past decade. While the unprecedented demand for almonds has many growers and handlers wealthy, it also has attracted thousands of new acres. This is making than a few growers and handlers nervous about the future when bearing acreage is expected to reach 750,000 acres, 200,000 more than is producing now.

This is McKinney’s 35th almond harvest. He says he has farmed through at least four almond production/price up and down cycles.

“There have always been those who were scared to death we could not sell 500 million pounds, then we’d never sell 750 million pounds and when we got to 1-billion pounds, everything would collapse. We have now sold virtually five straight 1 million pounds at record or near record prices for growers,” said McKinney.

Prices will eventually moderate from the stratospheric levels of the past two seasons, McKinney admits, but he does not see the sky falling. “The future does not scare me. This industry is in good shape with organizations like the Almond Board, Blue Diamond and strong independent handlers. The Almond Board has done a terrific job of creating demand. There are so many bright, energetic people in this business, I think the future is very positive,” he added.

Kelley points out that the market has grown at a steady annual rate of 5.4 percent since 1980.

“We need at least one billion pounds per year now just to meet market demands. As longs as Oprah keep talking about how good almonds are; as long as the heart association and doctors keeps talking about how healthy almonds are, demand will be there,” said McKinney.

e-mail: hcline@farmpress.com

Arkansas wheat acres expected to double for 2007

Arkansas wheat producers are expected to double their wheat acres this fall, provided Mother Nature cooperates at planting time and prices remain relatively high.

This harvest season, the state’s wheat growers produced their highest average yield ever in Arkansas, at 61 bushels per acre, noted University of Arkansas wheat specialist Jason Kelley. “We beat our previous record by almost 10 percent, which is phenomenal.”

A dry spring at harvest contributed to excellent quality in the wheat crop as well, Kelley said. “In past seasons, we’ve had some issues for wheat dockage due to test weight. But overall, our test weights were very high this year. In our county variety trials, it was common to find test weights as high as 61-62.”

The big surprise has been wheat prices, spurred higher due to lower U.S. wheat production and problems the Great Plains had in its hard red winter wheat crop.

Many Mid-South wheat producers have taken advantage of those futures prices to lock in wheat prices for the next three crops. “Producers don’t get real excited about $3 wheat. But when you get $4.50 wheat, that is what is really driving the acres. We have a lot of producers who have wheat booked for 2007 and 2008,” Kelley said. “Even prices for 2009 wheat at the Chicago Board of Trade are still high.”

Producers who are financially sound have probably booked a larger percentage of their wheat than those who are not, noted Kelley. “It may seem like 2008 is a long ways off for those who are in limbo over whether they’re going to be able to farm after this year. So I don’t know if those farmers have taken advantage of the prices. Those growers are the ones who really need to be able to do that.”

There are some indications that wheat prices are already getting some pressure. “Everything can change quickly, in the United States and globally. Two or three countries with exceptional yields, more acres and better yields in the United States and there could eventually be a lot of wheat on the market. And we know what that does for prices.”

But for now, excellent yields for Arkansas growers and high prices translate into more wheat acres in a big way. “If we get a good planting window, we’ll probably plant close to 750,000 acres to wheat this fall.”

That’s double the 370,000 acres planted in 2006, but still down significantly from the 1 million acres Arkansas planted 10 years ago.

Despite the higher expected acres, Kelley expects ample supplies of wheat seed for this fall. “There may be limited supplies of some of the brand new varieties that did exceptionally well in our state variety trials. But I don’t think our producers are going to have trouble finding seed.”

Some of the more popular varieties of 2005-06 include AgriPro Beretta and Delta King 9410, both of which are expected to be in good supply.

Kelley said disappointing yields in soybeans for producers using the early soybean production program, could also be a factor for going to more wheat this fall. “The soybean price is down, too. So a lot of those guys may be looking at planting more wheat. There may be more of a trend toward double-cropped wheat and beans.”

Kelley says one practice catching on in Arkansas is planting wheat on bedded ground. “We have seen higher yields in wheat planted on a wide bed, especially during wet years. A lot of producers will plant no-till soybeans right on top of those beds after harvesting the wheat. We’ve had a labor crunch and any steps you can cut out between wheat harvest and bean planting, will be a benefit.”

As for the coming season, Kelley advises growers not to skimp on fertilizer. “Based off last year, fertilizer and the application cost account for half of the budget. Fertility is an issue. If producers don’t have current soil samples, get out and get some. There may be some fields that need it and there may be some fields that don’t.”

Another way to reduce input costs is to plant a variety that has a good disease package. “Hopefully, you wouldn’t have to spray a fungicide on it. That could save you some money.”

Currently, fungicides are applied primarily on seed wheat fields. “Overall, about 20 percent of our wheat gets a fungicide application in any given year,” Kelley said.

e-mail: erobinson@farmpress.com

Sam Moore represents Kentucky in Sunbelt competition

Sam Moore’s initiation into the world of agriculture wasn’t very glamorous or rewarding. It came as a high school student and included planting 100 acres of row crops and looking after 20 cows.

After graduating from high school, he married his high school sweetheart, Helen. They immediately decided to start their own farm and purchased 120 acres. The operation included several acres of tobacco and 30 milking cows.

Forty-three years later, that 120-acre farm has grown into a versatile and successful operation of more than 4,200 acres and Moore being selected as the 2006 Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year for Kentucky.

He was selected in judging by the Kentucky Farm Bureau and was nominated by Marshall Coyle.

Moore is also the first Farmer of the Year for Kentucky as the Blue Grass state was added this year in competition for agriculture’s most prestigious award.

Moore now joins the other eight state winners as a finalist for the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year Award for 2006, which will be announced during the Sunbelt Expo in Moultrie, Ga., on Tuesday, Oct. 17.

As the Kentucky state winner, Moore will now receive a $2,500 cash award and an expense paid trip to the Sunbelt Expo from Swisher International of Jacksonville, Fla., a jacket and a $200 gift certificate from the Williamson-Dickie Company, a commemorate fireproof home safe from Misty Morn Safe, Co, and a $500 gift certificate from Southern States. He is also now eligible for the $14,000 that will go to the overall winner and the use of a Massey Ferguson tractor for a year from Massey Ferguson North America.

Swisher International, through its Swisher Sweets cigar brand, and the Sunbelt Expo are sponsoring the Southeastern Farmer of the Year Award for the 17th consecutive year. Swisher has contributed more than $700,000 in cash awards and other honors since the award initiated in 1990.

“My dad was a construction worker and usually left home on Monday morning and returned on Saturday night,” says Moore. “He allowed me to use the equipment we had and paid me one-fourth of everything we could make.

“After buying our first 120 acres, we began leasing or purchasing farms as we could,” he adds. “We also adopted a conservative approach to growth.”

That growth today includes 1,500 acres of corn yielding 152 bushels per acre and 1,200 acres of soybeans with a yield of 48 bushels per acre. There’s also 150 acres of silage with a 22-ton per acre yield and 150 acres of mixed hay, yielding 4 tons per acre.

The operation also includes a very successful cattle operation with 400 head of purebred Angus cows, 60 head of Angus heifers and 30 head of Angus bulls.

“Most of our purebred Angus beef cattle are marketed as breeding stock,” says Moore. “All our cows, bull and heifers are registered Angus. We enjoy quite a bit of repeat business with our cattle because of our dedication to offering high-quality Angus breeding stock.”

The corn and soybeans produced are sold through cash sales while there has been a steady increase of the grain storage on the farm with a current capacity of 100,000 bushels.

“We also own 50 percent of Green River Mill,” adds Moore. “It’s a feed, seed, fertilizer supply store. It also provides a real service to area farmers.”

Moore and his wife Helen have four grown children. Daughter Shannon is a financial consultant; another daughter Sharla is a training coordinator for the Kentucky cabinet for health and family services. Sons Woody and Kyle work in the family businesses while Kent is a sales manager for an agri-business supply company.

“I am especially proud that we are building a family farming operation and have two of the sons involved,” says Moore. “Our major goal is to improve every acre we own or rent.”

Moore’s farm, along with the other eight state finalists, was visited by a distinguished panel of judges during the week of Aug. 7-11. The judges for this year include Eric Raby, vice-president, marketing, Massey Ferguson North America; Rogers Reynolds, retired executive with Farm Credit; and Jim Butler, retired agricultural engineer and research leader.