Need a few quick reads? Here are some stories you might have missed this week.
1. Kansas Wheat Tour reveals broad spectrum of crop quality. After a rough start in dry soils, Kansas' wheat crop is running the gamut of quality – some fields are waterlogged or freeze-damaged, while others appear to be in fair shape. Farm Progress Field Editor Tyler Harris said after 570 stops in wheat fields across Kansas – and some in the Oklahoma panhandle – the average estimated yield for this year's hard winter wheat crop is 41.1 bushels per acre.
2. Not cool, Mother Nature. Not cool. Those on the Kansas Wheat Tour experienced rain, snow and sleet this week, as did parts of Minnesota and even Iowa. Farm Progress Daily's Jessica Lavicky caught this photo on her way into Des Moines, Iowa, on Thursday. Looks like some folks really are eager to plant! But one good thing comes out of that inclement weather: drought conditions are improving. Just a tad, but improvement nonetheless.
3. Bee health will be ongoing issue. Following closely behind regulatory action on bee health in the EU, the EPA and USDA this week released a joint report on bee populations and what might be causing their overall decline. The report finds that there may be several factors at play, not just pesticide concerns.
4. A correction coming in farmland prices? One Mississippi land specialist says he thinks so. And while he doesn't estimate that today's rising prices will result in the bubble of the 1980s, grain prices and livestock production will surely have an impact on where they'll go.
5. NCBA says EPA is still releasing producer info. The National Cattlemen's Beef Association said Thursday the Environmental Protection Agency continues to release livestock producers' personal information to environmental groups. NCBA plans to file a request with the Office of the Inspector General for an investigation into the issue, which first cropped up in February, 2013.
6. Industry still split on COOL. In 2011, the World Trade Organization required USDA to improve its country-of-origin labeling law after a challenge was brought by Canada and Mexico. The proposed rule, updated in March, 2013, has already received threats of retaliation measures from the two countries, however supporters of COOL continue to stand behind the proposed rule. And the discussion is heating up again, just ahead of USDA's May 23 deadline to issue a final rule.
7. Kicking your herd's hay habit. It can be done, says one Idaho cattle rancher. He has found that rotational grazing and grazing windrowed hay results in big savings on feed, labor and time. And it's improving his pastures. Before, "they were eating the Schwan's ice cream and leaving the broccoli," he notes. Now, the cows graze each area no longer than three days at a time.
And your bonus:
Chicken diapers exist. No, seriously. A New Hampshire chicken owner has created a line of diapers specifically for chickens, NPR reports. Her website also sells chicken "saddles," chicken treats and baby chicks. Reader comments on the story range from excitement to confusion.