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Articles from 2011 In September


U.S. rice farmers at door of China's massive market

A recent visit by a Chinese rice delegation to the U.S. rice industry included stops at farms in California and the Mid-South. At a stop in Arkansas, Greg Yielding, who heads the Arkansas Rice Growers Association, spoke about the tour make-up, the delegation’s main concerns and current Chinese policy regarding U.S. rice.

National Sorghum Producers outline ongoing budget brouhaha

National Sorghum Producers outline ongoing budget brouhaha

As the federal government closes out its fiscal year, most observers would agree that the budget process has turned into a real mess.

Earlier this week, the House and Senate narrowly reached an agreement on a continuing resolution that extended the spending authority for federal agencies until Nov. 18, thus avoiding the threat of another government shutdown.

In essence, congressional leaders simply punted the problem about six weeks down the road to a time when they’ll have to find a way to avert another showdown between Republican deficit hawks and Democrat pro-government hardliners.

How did the Congress get in this mess and what might happen in the weeks ahead? The National Sorghum Producers has compiled a recap of the deficit reduction battles of recent weeks under the heading, “Federal Deficit Reduction & Your Farm – Part 1: Committees, Gangs and Groups,” in the Sept. 29 issue of its weekly Sorghum Notes:

“Super committee, a gang of six, a group here, a plan there. You’ve heard about the numerous budget scenarios for the last several months on the evening news, but what do they mean when it comes to sorghum and farm policy? Over the next few weeks, NSP explains what has been proposed and what is currently on the table when it comes to cuts to agriculture.

“In the first of this two-part series, we will chronologically revisit the proposed deficit reduction plans that have outlined major cuts to agriculture.

“December 2010– After 10 months of work, the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility, or the Simpson-Bowles group, proposed $15 billion in cuts to agriculture over 10 years.

“April 2011– House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s plan, the Path to Prosperity, proposed almost $30 billion in cuts to agriculture over the next 10 years with direct payments and crop insurance in the plan’s cross hairs.

“June 2011– The Biden Group, a group of six lawmakers chaired by Vice President Joe Biden, was charged with finding $2.5 trillion in budget cuts. The Biden Group proposed $34 billion in cuts to agriculture but negotiations broke down at the last minute.

“July 2011– The bipartisan ‘Gang of Six’ proposed a solution to U.S. debt ceiling crisis that would cut $11 billion to agriculture over the next 10 years, but Senator Tom Coburn resigned from the group, ending its chances of bipartisan success.

“August 2011– The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, or the ‘Super Committee’, was created by Budget Control Act of 2011 to reduce the deficit by at least $1.5 trillion before Nov. 23. The committee consists of 12 members of Congress, half from the Senate and half from the House with each delegation equally divided between Democrats and Republicans.

“September 19, 2011– President Obama reveals his American Jobs Act, which proposes $33 billion in future cuts to agriculture, calling for elimination of direct payments (assuming higher enrollment in ACRE as a result), cuts to crop insurance subsidies to both companies and growers, cuts to the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), and continuing the widely criticized Supplemental Disaster Assurance Program (SURE) for 5 years with a price tag of $8.4 billion.

“October 14, 2011– Committees of jurisdiction, like the Ag Committee, may present recommendations for budget cuts to the Super Committee, which may then choose to use or scrap them.

“November 23, 2011– The Super Committee must report to Congress with its deficit reduction plan and prepare for an up or down vote.

“December 23, 2011– Congress is due to vote on cuts.

“Then what? If the Super Committee succeeds in cutting $1.5 trillion from the federal budget and both the House and Senate approve the plan, the country theoretically gets to move on to other priorities. If the Super Committee recommends any less than $1.5 trillion in cuts, the balance will be gained from an across-the-board reduction process called sequestration. Next week, we’ll take a look at agriculture’s seat at the table, and specifically, what the National Sorghum Producers is doing to make sure your voice is heard in ongoing negotiations.” 

Farmers will have to make do with current herbicides for foreseeable future

The crop protection industry has done a good job of responding to growers’ needs for new herbicides in recent decades. But the pipeline for new compounds has about dried up, says Iowa State University’s Mike Owens. Owens told farmers attending a Bayer Crop Science Respect the Rotation event in Ellsworth, Iowa, recently that it could be 10 years before a herbicide with a totally new mode of action hits the market. He says that means they need to protect the herbicides they have from resistance problems.

Chinese rice delegation: pest concerns and current policy

A recent visit by a Chinese rice delegation to the U.S. rice industry included stops at farms in California and the Mid-South. At a stop in Arkansas, Greg Yielding, who heads the Arkansas Rice Growers Association, spoke about the tour make-up, the delegation’s main concerns and current Chinese policy regarding U.S. rice.

Meat Recall Leads to Russian Ban

Meat Recall Leads to Russian Ban

On Wednesday, Tyson Fresh Meats in Emporia, Kan. recalled 131,300 pounds of ground beef products that potentially were contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 and could be linked to an outbreak of illness.

Apparently following the recall Russia has banned imports of beef produced in the state of Kansas.

The Russian news agency Interfax has reported that Gennady Onishchenko, the head of Russian consumer watchdog Rospotrebnadzor, said, "In order to prevent the product coming to the Russian market, we introduced a ban."

At the same time Russian news agency ITAR-TASS reported that while stricter controls over meat products imported from the U.S. were being imposed by Rospotrebnadzor in the wake of the recall, no specific products had been banned.

"We've seen the media reports regarding statements from Russia, but we have not received confirmation, so we're not in a position to comment at this time," said Tyson spokesman Worth Sparkman.

According to the USDA, about 60 tons of ground beef, which was produced on Aug. 23 this year, possibly, contains E. coli O157:H7. Several cases of poisoning were registered in early September. Laboratory research confirmed the presence the bacteria in the ground beef produced by this plant.   

As soon as this happened, instructions were given by the relevant Russian bodies to toughen control over the U.S. meat. According to the press secretary of the Federal Service For Veterinary and Phytosanitary Supervision of Russia (Rosselkhoznadzor) Alexei Alexeyenko, the monitoring was never cancelled. Only now it has become total, which means that all shipments of meat coming from the USA are under check.

"The control was toughened as soon as the first reports, unofficial though, came," Alexeyenko said. "Officially, the U.S. services have not notified us yet. We ourselves made an inquiry and immediately took emergency measures. Thus, all produce coming to Russia is under strict control now."

K-State Olathe Campus Filling Up

K-State Olathe Campus Filling Up

Many of the initial 10 laboratory spaces at theOlathe campus of Kansas State University, which opened April 26, have already been filled.

"It's exciting to see the diverse range of projects and partnerships we have lined up as more companies are realizing the resources that Kansas State University has to offer," said Dan Richardson, chief executive officer of K-State Olathe. "Because of that, the Olathe campus is benefiting not only K-State's programs and the university's faculty members, but is also being used to meet industry's needs."

Olathe campus

One such partnership is with Ceva Biomune, a Lenexa-based company that develops and produces vaccines for swine and poultry. On Sept. 15 Ceva moved into lab space at K-State Olathe, where it will expand its research and development to swine vaccines and diagnostics. Ceva Biomune is one of several U.S. subsidiaries of Ceva Sante Animale, a global organization that is currently one of the fastest growing animal health companies in the world.

The initial collaboration between Ceva Biomune and K-State Olathe is expected to last between 18 months and two years, and serves as a bridge during Ceva's expansion of its existing research and development facilities in Lenexa, Richardson said. Ceva officials have expressed their interest in working with K-State researchers and graduate candidates on the Olathe campus.

Two of the campus' laboratories will be dedicated to the Urban Water Institute. The institute will focus on connecting more than 30 K-State water-related experts from four colleges with water-related companies and service industry in the Kansas City metro area. According to Richardson, the consortium will identify and create technologies that address issues related to water usage in urban areas.

Also expanding its operations to the K-State Olathe campus is the Advanced Manufacturing Institute. The institute is part of K-State's College of Engineering and a Kansas Department of Commerce Center of Excellence. It will support collaborative product and technology development with its industrial partners and help facilitate collaborations with faculty on the Manhattan campus.

"With AMI here, I envision faculty working with industry to solve a problem, which AMI can then take and develop into viable technology that can then be scaled up for commercial use," Richardson said. "It's a really valuable piece that's being added to the campus, and something that nobody else is offering."

Each laboratory at K-State Olathe is essentially a clean slate for university and industry researchers, Richardson said. The campus provides tables, sinks, fume hoods and other mobile pieces that can be placed anywhere in the lab space.

"It's very flexible so that as researchers decide to use the lab they can help design it the way they want to use it," Richardson said. "That way when an industry starts its project, all it has to do is bring its researchers and their research equipment."

While 10 laboratory spaces have been built, Richardson said some unfinished space in the International Animal Health and Food Safety Institute has been set aside for future use. That space could be converted into more general use laboratories or even into specialized laboratories and work spaces, office space or an interactive teaching space.

Kansas Awarded $505,000 To Help Businesses Pursue Exports

Kansas Awarded $505,000 To Help Businesses Pursue Exports

The Kansas Department of Commerce and the Department of Agriculture have been awarded a grant of more than $505,000 from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) through the State Trade and Export Promotion Grants Program (STEP). The money is to be used to encourage Kansas businesses to explore export markets.

"This is great news for Kansas and for businesses interested in expanding their markets overseas," Kansas Commerce Secretary Pat George said. "Kansas businesses exported close to $10 billion in products and services last year, and I expect that amount will be higher this year. This grant will be a key driver in helping businesses start or expand their international trade opportunities."

Much of the money will be made available through the International Market Development Grant program that will provide funding assistance for Kansas businesses as they explore overseas markets.

The grant will also fund state-led international trade missions where Kansans will host booths at trade shows and one-on-one meetings. The Kansas Department Commerce is preparing to exhibit at the Farnborough Air Show in England. Both Department of Commerce and the Department of Agriculture are planning mission activity to China. Additionally, agriculture-specific missions are scheduled for India, Russia, Germany and Costa Rica in 2012. Department of Agriculture staff will coordinate these missions, including Kansas producers, agribusinesses and agriculture organizations to assist in developing the business connections needed to continue a trade relationship with foreign buyers.

Finally, the grant will enable Kansas to develop and enhance training programs and workshops to assist Kansas small businesses in exporting and marketing their products and services globally.

"Kansas has a proud and rich tradition in agriculture and understands that the international market is a key to the growth of the industry," Kansas Agriculture Secretary Dale Rodman said. "Through participating in trade missions, the Kansas Department of Agriculture's goal is to recruit new export clients for Kansas agriculture and food production."

The STEP program will provide $60 million in grants. It is authorized for federal Fiscal Years 2011 and 2012 for states and U.S. territories.

Volunteers Will Clean Up Kaw River Nature Trail

Volunteers Will Clean Up Kaw River Nature Trail

Volunteers from around the state will gather at the First Territorial Capitol State Historic Site on Monday, Oct. 10, to help clean up the Kaw River Nature Trail that runs through the site.

The conservation department at Fort Riley has received a Department of Defense Legacy Award and is using those funds to purchase new benches and a new split rail fence along the trail. Volunteers will help thin out vegetation so trail users can get a better view of the river. Volunteers are encouraged to bring their own work gloves and lawn tools. A limited amount of tools will be available at the site. For more information or to volunteer call Mike Houck at 785-239-2537.

First Territorial Capitol State Historic Site

As part of the cleanup day, Branson Francisco from Junction City Boy Scout Troop 64 will complete his Eagle Scout project. Francisco and his team of volunteers will install new signs along the trail and widen the bridge.

The stone building that was the First Territorial Capitol started its life as a warehouse in the small town of Pawnee, which was located near the frontier military post of Fort Riley.

Territorial Gov. Andrew Reeder and the Commandant of Fort Riley were engaged in promoting the town to further their own fimancial gain and picking the town fit into the promotion scheme. It was also located far from the border with pro-slavery Missouri.

The building wasn't even finished (it had no doors or windows) when the legislature met there for four days in 1855, the only session held in Pawnee. The work of the day was to choose a permanent site for the capital, create a constitution and decide if Kansas would be a slave state or a free state.

Instead the representatives met just long enough to kick out all the anti-slavery members and pass a bill to move the capitol to Shawnee Mission.

The building has been restored and is maintained as a museum where visitors can learn the stories of "Bleeding Kansas" and the battle between pro-slavery and anti-slavery forcws.

First Territorial Capitol is located on Huebner road at Fort Riley and is open 1-5 p.m. Friday-Sunday, March 1 – October 31.

Admission is free with a suggested donation of $3 adults and $1 students. For more information call 785-784-5535 or visit www.kshs.org.

Scientists Find Ways for Bugs to Commit Suicide

Scientists Find Ways for Bugs to Commit Suicide

Scientists have designed agents that interfere with the protective dormancy period of the corn earworm, a species that infests more than 100 types of plants and costs American farmers an estimated $2 billion a year in losses and control costs.

The compounds, composed of synthetic molecules that mimic the structure of a hormone in these insects, have three different effects on diapause, a hibernation-like state of arrested development that allows many types of bugs to survive through the winter. The agents can force the insects out of diapause prematurely, prevent the bugs from ever entering diapause, or block the termination of diapause.

Any of these cases could be described as "ecological suicide," says David Denlinger, professor of entomology at Ohio State University and senior author of the study.

"Diapause is such an important aspect of the life cycle," says Denlinger. If we can do anything to disrupt the timing of that, make them go into diapause at the wrong time or break them out too early when there is no food available, that would be a pretty effective tool and a possible control strategy.

"And we now have tools that can do all three of those things to manipulate diapause."

The period of diapause in insects is controlled in part by the diapause hormone. In the corn earworm, Helicoverpa zea, and other crop pests, the hormone has been shown to break diapause, essentially waking up the bugs from their pupal state after they have been protectively burrowed underground during cold weather. In some other species, the diapause hormone initiates the hibernation instead.

Denlinger and colleagues investigated the structure of the hormone in these insects, and discovered that seven core amino acids do most of the work of terminating diapause. They then created chemical compounds based on the structure of that portion of the hormone and tested their effects on corn earworm larvae and pupae raised in a laboratory.

"By mimicking the structure of the amino acids, these compounds trick the body into responding as if the hormone is activated," says Qirui Zhang, a postdoctoral researcher in entomology and evolution, ecology and organismal biology at Ohio State and first author of the paper.

The researchers have narrowed the current crop of molecules down to three that appear to have the most potent effects at three different stages in the corn earworm's life. In at least one case, the science has improved on nature: The compound that terminates diapause prematurely is about 50 times more potent than an injection of the natural diapause hormone.

One other compound was so strong that it outright killed the larvae before there was any chance to disrupt their diapause state.

"That's not actually as interesting to us because we're looking at how to manipulate diapause," Denlinger says. "These agents wouldn't necessarily kill them right away, but interfering with diapause takes away their protection that gets them through adverse times and makes them vulnerable to environmental conditions."

Controlling these pests while they are larvae -- which is when they do the most damage to plants -- is desirable because once they pupate, they are underground and inaccessible, Denlinger says.

But then again, terminating diapause early means pupae will die of exposure or starvation and won't have the chance to become adult moths that lay eggs and begin the life cycle all over again, he said.

In the experiments for this paper, the compounds were injected into the insects. Zhang is leading current experiments to deliver the agents orally in the bugs' food. Denlinger envisions the use of these compounds in some other form for insect control on a massive scale -- perhaps by incorporating them into transgenic plants.

Current control measures for the corn earworm include insecticides and transgenic plants -- primarily cotton, and not food crops -- that contain a toxin that is deadly to the pest.

The research group will continue to work on refining the molecules and testing their effectiveness. "My guess is that these particular compounds won't be the ones that solve the world's problems, but this points us in the direction that could lead to some next-generation control agents," Denlinger says.

2011 Cotton Photo Contest

2011 Cotton Photo Contest

Cotton. It’s as much a part of Southern farm culture as Spanish moss on live oaks, azaleas in April and sliced watermelon on a hot summer evening. Snow-white fields ready for harvest hold promise of a good return for hard work and perseverance.  And from the time the first seedling pushes through the soil, to first bloom, to boll fill and finally to the massive pickers marching through fields leaving brown swaths in the white landscape, a cotton crop is a work of art. And Farm Press would like to recognize the beauty of cotton and the people who grow it. Send us your best cotton photos: kids in cotton fields, blooms, sunsets, pickers and strippers, anything that captures the uniqueness of cotton to photos@farmpress.com by Nov. 1, 2011. Farm Press readers will pick their favorites between Nov. 2 – 9, 2011, and we’ll award the best photo with a $100 Visa gift card. Second place earns a $50 Visa gift card. And we’ll all enjoy being reminded of what a picturesque crop cotton can be.