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Articles from 2017 In August

Cows in milking parlor Kobby Dagan/ThinkstockPhotos

Dairy producers can register, withdraw from Margin Protection Program

Starting Sept. 1, 2017, dairy producers can enroll for 2018 coverage in the Margin Protection Program (MPP-Dairy). They can also opt-out.

“Secretary Perdue is using his authority to allow producers to withdraw from the MPP Dairy Program and not pay the annual administrative fee for 2018,” said Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation Rob Johansson. “The decision is in response to requests by the dairy industry and a number of MPP-Dairy program participants.”

To opt out, a producer should not sign up during the annual registration period. By opting out, a producer would not receive any MPP-Dairy benefits if payments are triggered for 2018. Full details will be included in a subsequent Federal Register Notice. The decision would be for 2018 only and is not retroactive.

“The American Farm Bureau Federation is pleased by today’s announcement by the Agriculture Department to allow dairy farmers to exit the Margin Protection Program for dairy producers,” said AFBF president Zippy Duvall.

The voluntary program, established by the 2014 Farm Bill, provides financial assistance to participating dairy producers when the margin – the difference between the price of milk and feed costs – falls below the coverage level selected by the producer. 

MPP-Dairy gives participating dairy producers the flexibility to select coverage levels best suited for their operation. Enrollment ends on Dec. 15, 2017, for coverage in calendar year 2018. Participating farmers will remain in the program through Dec. 31, 2018, and pay a minimum $100 administrative fee for 2018 coverage. Producers have the option of selecting a different coverage level from the previous coverage year during open enrollment.

Dairy operations enrolling in the program must meet conservation compliance provisions and cannot participate in the Livestock Gross Margin Dairy Insurance Program. Producers can mail the appropriate form to the producer’s administrative county FSA office, along with applicable fees, without necessitating a trip to the local FSA office. If electing higher coverage for 2018, dairy producers can either pay the premium in full at the time of enrollment or pay 100% of the premium by Sept. 1, 2018. Premium fees may be paid directly to FSA or producers can work with their milk handlers to remit premiums on their behalf. 

“Approximately 24,000 dairy farms, representing 80% of the U.S. milk supply, are currently enrolled in the program, however, this year only 2% of the milk enrolled participated at levels above the basic coverage option,” Duvall said. “The low participation rate is due to the poor performance of MPP in providing a viable safety net to dairy farmers.” 

USDA has a web tool to help producers determine the level of coverage under the MPP-Dairy that will provide them with the strongest safety net under a variety of conditions. The online resource, available at, allows dairy farmers to quickly and easily combine unique operation data and other key variables to calculate their coverage needs based on price projections. Producers can also review historical data or estimate future coverage based on data projections. The secure site can be accessed via computer, Smartphone, tablet or any other platform, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Source: USDA Farm Service Agency, AFBF

Farm, appropriations bills will bear close watching in months ahead

While the House Agriculture Committee will write the 2018 farm bill, members of the House Ag Appropriations Subcommittee will be monitoring those deliberations closely, according to Rep. Robert Aderholt, chairman of the subcommittee.

The subcommittee has completed its work on the FY2018 ag appropriations bill, including providing funding for the cotton ginning cost share and cottonseed as an oilseed proposals being advanced by the National Cotton Council and research and promotion programs.

Congressman Aderholt asked members of the National Cotton Council’s board of directors to express their support for the ag spending bill when they speak with their members of Congress in the weeks ahead, “Tell them it’s a good, balanced bill,” he said at the NCC’s mid-year board meeting in Memphis, Tenn.

For more on the congressman’s speech, click on


3 things farmers are talking about

Here are three things I’ve been hearing about on my recent travels.

  1. Dicamba drift. Many farmers in Indiana frequently use dicamba products in their corn fields, so most guys don’t get to concerned when they see a little crinkle on the soybeans. However, I do not discount those who have concerns about damage to their crops. I know retailers have taken seriously the complaints and company reps were required to turn in any potential drift concerns in to the state chemist for investigation. Reading between the lines at one of the meetings, it seems the seed industry seems to have a great solution to the dicamba soybean problem: if we all plant the resistant beans, there will be far fewer complaints. That solution probably won’t sit well with specialty crop growers though.
  2. Yields. Always a topic at the dinner table was yields. We are pretty far along here. Recent rains have likely halted yield losses we had been suffering for 10 days. Even though we may be in one of the better areas, you don’t have to look far to find nutrient deficient crops. Pot holes are also commonplace. Many people mentioned the difficulty planting this spring. Some mentioned replanting twice, only to have it flooded out again. Recent travels revealed head tall corn that was even drowned out. The seed company set a record this year, it is one they don’t want to ever break… most units delivered for replant. It will be interesting to see how the later planted crops fare, so far August rains for the most part have failed to deliver in quantity.
  3. Non-GMO. I heard this more times than I expected. That either means more guys are growing non-GMO, or are thinking about it. For me that typically means it is time to move on to something else. Premium programs have been disappointing the last few years while weed control is getting more complex.

As for the picture posted with this blog, I saw the field along the highway. I have no way to confirm it was dicamba damage. However it does appear there was some sort of a sprayer clean out damage. The beans on the end are hurt the worst, the growing point stopped growing. Presumably that is where the spraying began. As the sprayer traveled down the field you may be able to see wedges as the booms were filled with new material. In balance of the sprayed area, you can see the odd growth with smaller leaves and longer internode. Harvest will be the only way to determine what damage was done. It appears there were beans in the field that we not sprayed which can be used a ‘check’.

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress.

Max Armstrong's Daily Updates


Veteran newsman Steve Alexander fills in with today’s report.

Today is final day of huge Farm Progress Show in Decatur, Illinois.

20 charged in Dubuque, Iowa, yesterday, in a scam where several elderly people around the Midwest received a call from a person posing as a sheriff deputy. The caller told them relative in jail, most often a grandchild. The caller knew the name of the grandchild. When the relative sent money, it went to scammer.

Battle against Asian carp continues. The Army Corps of Engineers has mounted underwater speakers in lock gates to scare carp away.

Rebecca Campbell and her three children had just sat down to supper when mom got piece of chicken lodged in her throat. Her 8-year-old son did the Heimlich maneuver and saved his mom’s life.

Midnight Star in Deadwood opened in 1991 and is now closed. It was filled with Kevin Costner’s movie memorabilia.

Will be Devil’s Tower UFO Rendezvoous Sept. 14-16.

BargeOnRiver Ron Chapple Stock/ThinkstockPhotos
Aerial of barge on Mississippi River in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Weekly Export Sales: Grain prices lift on higher volumes

Grain markets got a healthy boost in morning trading following USDA’s weekly export sales report. Corn and wheat exports were significantly up from a week ago, with the pace of soybean exports slipping slightly.

Corn captured 7.4 million bushels of old crop sales and 31.7 million bushels of new crop sales for a total of 39.1 million bushels – nearly double last week’s total of 20.7 million bushels and beating trade estimates significantly. Top destinations included China, Japan, Colombia, Peru and Guatemala. Cancellations of 4.81 million bushels were also reported, mostly coming from unknown destinations, with a small fraction also coming from Nicaragua and Venezuela.

Wheat saw sales of another 20.8 million bushels last week, ahead of 14.2 million bushels from the week prior and trade estimates of 16.5 million bushels. Export shipments of 26.5 million bushels was also well above USDA forecast of 18.2 million bushels. Top destinations included Japan, the Philippines, South Africa, Indonesia and Mexico. A modest amount of cancellations were also reported from unknown destinations and Colombia. 

Soybeans fell beneath USDA forecasts for export shipments, however, with 25.2 million bushels. Total sales of 61.8 million bushels topped totals from the week prior, which was 59.1 million bushels. Top destinations included China, the Netherlands, Japan, Indonesia and Bangladesh. Cancellations totaling 12 million bushels were reported last week for unknown destinations, Pakistan and Costa Rica.

Sorghum sales were up significantly compared to both a week prior and the 4-week average.

Rice field levees flooded

Baldwin: Weed problems increasing in Arkansas rice

We need some help on rice weed control and we need it fast. We have a lot of clean rice fields in Arkansas, but we also have a lot of ugly fields. In some areas of the state we have the most grown-up fields I have ever seen. Barnyardgrass and weedy rice seem to be the two main culprits, but sedges and sprangletop are rampant as well. I have seen field after field flat on the ground by heading, and I wonder if some  of them will even be harvested.

A lot of the weedy fields are under the care of excellent consultants who know what they are doing and have thrown the herbicide “kitchen sink” at the weeds to no avail. I hate to think how much money has been spent on some of these fields, but I know it is not sustainable.

Perhaps we can blame some of the problem on a wet year and residual herbicides dissipating much quicker than normal.

There is no question that herbicide resistance in barnyardgrass, the sedges and weedy rice is playing an increasing role. In some of the worst fields I have seen, the envelope on continuous rice and especially continuous Clearfield has been pushed too far.

There is a new sedge that I received numerous calls on this year — white sedge or white margin sedge. It is an annual sedge that gets very large and has a white shiny look to the leaves. The head resembles yellow nutsedge, but it is much larger and darker in color.

Control at this point is somewhat anecdotal. Apparently it is walking right through the ALS inhibitors. One consultant tried some propanil plus Basagran on it as a small field trial and had good results.

We are fortunate to have some new rice herbicides coming, and they cannot get here quick enough. Provisia rice, Loyant, and Rogue are all getting close. All of these have promise, and at the same time each will have some things we will have to learn to work with.

We also need a registration for Warrant in rice. This herbicide has shown a lot of promise in research, but any interest in a registration seems to be on-again, off-again.

If we cannot get these new herbicides in place soon we will have increasing acres we cannot grow rice on. However, we cannot simply continue trying to fix a herbicide problem with another herbicide. A long look needs to be taken as to why a lot of acres are in the mess they are in and correct some overall management issues.

House Agriculture Committee listening session at FPS 2017 Holly Spangler

5 important themes from House farm bill listening session

Wednesday the House Agriculture Committee held its fourth listening session Aug. 30 on the sidelines of the Farm Progress Show in central Illinois. As the committee gears up to put all the pieces together in the upcoming months for writing the farm bill, a few nuggets were revealed from the opportunity to hear from farmers and those impacted by the farm bill.

As we look into the finalizing of the bill, here are five topics that likely could prove important or beneficial moving ahead.

Crop insurance

Crop insurance was easily the most commonly mentioned request during the over three hours of 2-minute testimonies provided. Several farmers discussed the effective safety net which has offered them a cushion when disaster strikes on their farm ranging from replants after floods, hail storms or droughts.

Linda Carleton, a farmer from Illinois, said she opposes any measure to reduce the premium assistance currently provided to farms. “Premium assistance encourages expanding of coverage options from green beans to soybeans,” she said. “Removing established farmers is doing the same thing as healthy people from crop insurance.”

Richard Guebert, Jr., who farms near Ellis Grove, Ill., and serves as president of the Illinois Farm Bureau, added that crop insurance works best with high levels of participation. “We must avoid means testing. It would reduce the pool and soundness of these programs.”

A fifth generation farmer from Iowa added enterprise units are more affordable and easier to manage on the farm and should remain.  Dave Janson, president of Strategic Farm Marketing in Champaign, Ill., said products such as whole farm insurance is gaining traction. He also warned against eliminating the harvest price as it is critical especially for livestock farmers. “It allows farmers to forward contract without fear of overselling their crop,” Janson said.  

In a press conference following the session, House Agriculture Committee chairman Mike Conaway recognized, “The most consistent thing they said all day was, ‘Don’t mess with crop insurance,’” he said.

FMD vaccine bank

A handful of those who testified at the hearing called for funding for a foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) vaccine bank. It is one of the National Pork Producers Council’s top priorities and NPPC President Ken Maschhoff of Illinois was one of the first to ask for it during the session. The cost to build up vaccine supplies in case of an outbreak would be $150 million, compared to the $200 billion over 10 years which could result if a case occurs.

Maschhoff said establishing the vaccine bank would adequately protect the livestock sectors. “In doing so, the U.S. economy all understand it’s not just agriculture at stake, but the entire economy as a whole.”

Heather Hampton Knodle, on behalf of the American Agri-Women, said the funding is necessary, and an easy offset for the program is by offsetting those costs from the organic program. “The funding is there. We should not be telling people one production practice is better than another.”

Later on in the session, a young organic farmer pointed out that the organic cost share program is a “drop in the bucket compared to all the funding in conventional agriculture” and organic funding should be expanded, not diverted back towards conventional agriculture.

Interestingly, later in the day I was speaking with John Heisdorffer, who serves on the board of directors for the American Soybean Association. He farms 1,000 acres in southeastern Iowa and finishes 10,000 hogs. As a member of ASA and a hog producer I thought he would be a shared champion of the FMD goal, however, he said he hadn’t heard mention of it prior. It makes one wonder whether the livestock and commodity groups have shared their main goals heading into the debate.

Role of conservation

It appears the discussion of working lands versus idled conservation efforts will again be prominent going forward. Chip Bowling, past president of the National Corn Growers Association who farms in the Chesapeake Bay, said adequate funding must be maintained for conservation programs and ones that are based on sound science and performance driven. NCGA is seeking to have Title 2 (conservation title) funds targeted towards the most environmentally effected areas for Conservation Reserve Program idling, and also supports advancing efforts on working lands and supporting cost-share programs.

Several farmers also noted the importance of incentivizing producers with a carrot rather than a stick to reduce nutrients and encourage proper nutrient management. Steve Stierwalt, farmer from Champaign, Ill., said he’s seeking the farm bill to help with a market approach to conservation. With a growing push on marketers to offer an identifier on how it is raised it could help farmers take the next step in conservation.

He explained in addition to the push of cost-shares, developing a pull method to use bulk commodities that were sustainably raised could be more fruitful instead of trying to get farmers to do things they don’t understand well to receive cost-share.  “Let’s develop a market where farmers want long-term sustainable way of getting conservation done,” Stierwalt said.

Trade programs

Earlier this year the President proposed eliminating funding for the two hallmark USDA programs for the expansion of foreign markets: the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Foreign Market Development program (FMD).

During the listening session Maschhoff was the first to call for funding levels to be maintained for market access development programs.

“Foreign markets are so critical to the products that we raise,” added Ron Moore, who farms near Roseville, Ill., and serves as president of ASA. “We need a robust trade title that supports foreign market development and strengthens market access programs.”

Enough money

John Williams, a farmer from southeast Illinois, quoted former president John F. Kennedy: “The farmer is the only man in our economy who buys everything at retail, sells everything at wholesale, and pays the freight both ways.”

Williams and others shared the upcoming farm bill needs to be done without a budget ax hanging over legislators. “We need a strong farm bill written at a tough time,” he said, adding the reauthorization needs to be done on time. “I deal with enough uncertainty.”

Moore echoed the sentiment that a strong farm bill should be the goal. Things need to be addressed and not addressed out of a necessity of what should be on the chopping block.

House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson joked that between himself and Conaway, who are both certified public accountants, will make sure the farm bill math pencils out. “This is maybe the first time in Congress that two CPAs have chaired a committee,” he said. “Maybe for once we’ll get the numbers right.”


Perdue and Conaway talking with someone at Farm Progress show.
On Wednesday, House Ag Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-Texas) and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue walked the grounds of the Farm Progress Show in Decatur, Ill. They talked both technology and, here, the difference between central Illinois soils and Georgia soils.

Secretary Perdue tests new tech at FPS 2017

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue visited what he termed the “Super Bowl of Farm Shows” in visiting the 2017 Farm Progress Show in Decatur, Ill., on Wednesday.

“I’m like a kid in a candy store here,” Perdue said of the new “big toys” on the grounds. Perdue said the equipment technology in agriculture is fascinating in terms of not only a mechanical perspective, but what it means from a data collection perspective.

“How it can make the American farmer produce even better than he has been is absolutely thrilling for me to see,” Perdue said. "As farmers are able to do more with less inputs and precision agriculture, they’re doing a better job with less runoff and improved environmental and conservation efforts, he added.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue stopped by the University of Illinois tent, talking here with College of ACES Dean Kim Kidwell (left, in orange) and Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.).

Following discussion on the show grounds, Perdue toured the AGCO field demonstration plot with members of the House Agriculture Committee including Chairman Mike Conaway (R-Texas).

On the regulatory front, Perdue also said he’s trying to “unwind some of the regulatory impediments in agriculture” dealing with the Department of Interior, Army Corps of Engineers and Department of Energy. He said a big win on the environmental regulatory side came in the appointment of Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt to draw back onerous rules such as the waters of the U.S. rule. 

Free trade?

Many farmers are concerned about the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and ability to maintain U.S. agricultural ag exports. He reiterated recent statements about the need to take into consideration trade deficits experienced across the entire U.S. economy in doing the NAFTA modernization. He said the U.S. industry is blessed with a productive agriculture industry, but solutions are needed to address the deficits that exist within other segments of the economy.

Perdue stopped short of guaranteeing NAFTA would do no harm to agriculture as many agricultural groups have called for within negotiations. “I cannot reassure [farmers] of the outcome right now as we reconcile the overall economy,” he said, but said trade remains a top priority at USDA.

The ag secretary said negotiators are hopeful to have discussions wrapped up by December. Two more negotiating rounds are slated in September in Mexico and Canada.

Perdue said he hopes to inspire young people to be involved in agriculture as the demographics of an aging farm generation continue to climb. 

Fatka is policy editor for Farm Futures.

Max Armstrong's Daily Updates


Steve Alexander fills in for Max Armstrong. It’s the final day of the Farm Progress Show. It brings in $10 million to the area, economist estimates.

One of the most dangerous things a police officer does is a traffic stop. An Indiana state trooper was hit by a passing car as he walked to car pulled over on Interstate 865. He was taken to the hospital and is listed in serious but stable condition.

Police are defending the decision an officer made to shoot an Evansville, Ind., man who was chasing an officer with a baseball bat.

Several elderly people around the Midwest received a call from a person posing as a sheriff deputy. The caller told them relative in jail, most often a grandchild. The caller knew the name of the grandchild. When the relative sent money, it went to scammer.

Rebecca Campbell got a piece of chicken stuck in her throat. Her 8-year-old son knew what to do. Did the Heimlich maneuver and he saved his mom’s life.

Max Armstrong's Daily Updates

Farm Progress America, August 31, 2017

Max Armstrong shares insight from a recent Kansas listening session held by Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., where the senator shared the value of the safety net of crop insurance. Roberts has been involved in listening sessions across the country. He also discussed the need for regulatory reform and strong trade support for agriculture.

Farm Progress America is a daily look at key issues in agriculture. It is produced and presented by Max Armstrong, veteran farm broadcaster and host of This Week in Agribusiness.

Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images