ISA showcases research at FPS

anderson-edThe Iowa Soybean Association showcased the activities of its On-Farm Network and Environmental Programs and Services teams at this year’s Farm Progress Show.  ISA research specialists were on hand to discuss specific replicated strip trials and projects from areas across the state and to work with farmers to determine what opportunities might exist on their farms.

In this interview with Brownfield, ISA senior director of supply and production systems Ed Anderson gives us an update on ISA research and discusses how ISA is working in conjunction with the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy and the recently-announced Iowa Ag Water Alliance.

AUDIO: Ed Anderson (3:35 MP3)

Standability not seen as a problem

When you have the potential for extremely high yields in corn, as is the case this year across most of the Midwest, standability can become an issue.  But University of Illinois Extension agronomist Dr. Emerson Nafziger doesn’t think standability will be a problem this fall.

nafziger-emerson-u of illinois“The conditions in the mid-summer were so good that we think the stalks can put in pretty good lignin—that’s sort of the woodiness that it takes for them to stand even if they’re no longer alive at the end of the season,” Nafziger says. “At this point, I’m fairly confident that this crop will stand until the combines run.”

So unless there’s some sort of extreme weather event in September, Nafziger thinks the Midwest corn crop should have pretty clear sailing into harvest.

“At this point in time, a lot of people are just wondering what that yield monitor is going to look like—and if they haven’t seen a ‘3’ on it before, as the first digit, they’re probably going to see it this year, in some places in their fields at least.”

Nafziger comments came in an interview with Brownfield at the Farm Progress Show in Iowa.

AUDIO: Emerson Nafziger (6:51 MP3)

Another record year for ag exports

The U.S. is on its way to another record year in agricultural exports. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack tells Brownfield that, by the end of this fiscal year on September 30th, exports will have set another new record.

“(A record) 152.5 billion dollars of ag exports, as well as a trade surplus record of 43 billion dollars as far as selling more than we purchase in terms of ag products,” Vilsack says.

There are several reasons for the strong export numbers, says Vilsack.

“I think it’s a quality product at an affordable price—it’s a reliable supply—and I think it’s aggressive promotion that USDA is engaged in with commodity groups and others to basically make sure the world knows about American agriculture.”

Ag exports for fiscal year 2015 are currently projected at 144.5 billion dollars, down eight billion dollars from the revised forecast for fiscal 2014. The declines are due to lower values of soybeans and soybean meal, and lower volumes and prices for other grains.

AUDIO: Tom Vilsack (:51 MP3)

WOTUS debate rages on

The debate continues to rage over the EPA’s proposed Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule.

The latest development involves the release of EPA maps which critics say confirm that the agency is attempting to control land across the country.  Ashley McDonald of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association calls it “the smoking gun for agriculture”.  McDonald says the maps show that EPA knew exactly what it was doing and knew exactly how expansive its proposal was before it was published.

ken with karl brooks epaIn a blog post, EPA spokesman Tom Reynolds disputes that notion, saying the law has nothing to do with land use or private property rights.

In an interview with Brownfield at the Farm Progress Show, EPA Region 7 administrator Karl Brooks reiterated EPA’s basic message—that the proposed rule simply clarifies the EPA’s jurisdiction for the Clean Water Act.

“The rule serves the needs of American agriculture by clarifying the jurisdictional reach of both the EPA and our state environmental partners,” says Brooks.  “So, simple is good. Clear is better.  The interaction you don’t have to have with the EPA or with the Army Corps, that’s the best interaction for a producer.  That’s where the proposed rule would take us.”

Brooks says the EPA is listening to agriculture’s concerns.

“I’d like to think that, if you take just some of the more heated rhetoric out that tends to boil up around the edges of this conversation, you can really see some basic principles there that look like they might provide a way forward for the rule.”

Brooks says the goal for the final rule is “clarity and workability”.

AUDIO: Karl Brooks (5:37 MP3)

Ag Secretary Vilsack on exports, COOL, RFS and more

vilsack-tom-photo 8-14U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack called Brownfield Friday morning to announce that agricultural exports will set another new record when the 2014 fiscal year ends on September 30th.

Overall, the forecast for U.S. ag exports was raised to a record 152.5 billion dollars, up three billion dollars from last quarter’s forecast.

Secretary Vilsack was also asked about two important trade issues—efforts to convince China that it should synchronize its biotech approval process with that of the U.S.; and how USDA will respond if the WTO ruling on country-of-origin-labeling goes against the U.S., as is expected.

We also discussed the USDA’s progress on farm program implementation and whether the “safety net” will be strong enough to support row crop farmers through a period of low commodity prices.  Finally, we asked the Secretary if he was able to provide input on the final Renewable Fuels Standard rule and how the volume requirements in that rule might impact future expansion of the biofuels industry.

AUDIO: Tom Vilsack (9:21 MP3)

New switchgrass developed specifically for bioenergy use

At a recent field day in southeastern Nebraska, researchers unveiled what they label as “the first switchgrass variety developed specifically for bioenergy use in the Great Plains and the Midwest.”

According to the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the new high-yielding switchgrass variety could potentially be used to produce 75 to 160 more gallons of ethanol per acre than previously possible.  Combined with advances in conversion technology at ethanol plants, researchers believe the new variety, called Liberty, will make switchgrass a much more feasible option for bioenergy use.

We visited with USDA-ARS research agronomist Rob Mitchell, who is based at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, about Liberty and how he sees it fitting into a farming operation.

AUDIO: Rob Mitchell (3:00 MP3)

Link to USDA-ARS news release

New switchgrass developed specifically for bioenergy use

At a recent field day in southeastern Nebraska, researchers unveiled what they label as “the first switchgrass variety developed specifically for bioenergy use in the Great Plains and the Midwest.”

According to the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the new high-yielding switchgrass variety could potentially be used to produce 75 to 160 more gallons of ethanol per acre than previously possible.  Combined with advances in conversion technology at ethanol plants, researchers believe the new variety, called Liberty, will make switchgrass a much more feasible option for bioenergy use.

We visited with USDA-ARS research agronomist Rob Mitchell, who is based at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, about Liberty and how he sees it fitting into a farming operation.

AUDIO: Rob Mitchell (3:00 MP3)

Link to USDA-ARS news release

Valent releases new soybean herbicide

valent_logoAt this year’s Farm Progress Show, Valent announced the release of a new soybean herbicide, Fierce XLT.

Gary Schaefer, senior manager for row crops with Valent, says Fierce XLT is the premium herbicide that controls broadleaves, including ragweed as well as annual grasses. He says it has the broadest spectrum and the long-lasting residual, giving growers more time before their postemergence application.

AUDIO: Gary Schaefer (2:27 MP3)

Two Midwestern governors chastise EPA

The governors of Nebraska and Iowa are not mincing words when it comes to their feelings about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

In a conference call with reporters, Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman called EPA “the enemy of agriculture”.  Heineman says the agency is the biggest regulatory issue that farmers and ranchers face.

“The federal government, particularly under the Obama Administration, has been overly aggressive with regulation,” Heineman said. “We all support clean air, clean water and appropriate regulations.  But it’s the EPA that’s the enemy of agriculture, I’ll put it that way.”

Iowa governor Terry Branstad took the criticism of EPA a step further.  In an interview with Le Mars, Iowa radio station KLEM, Branstad put some of the blame on EPA for recently-announced layoffs at Deere and Company’s Waterloo, Iowa tractor plant.

“A few years ago, we had the best corn prices we’d ever seen. Now the EPA has cut the Renewable Fuels Standard, we have a large crop of corn out there and the price of corn is below the cost of production,” Branstad said. “When farmers see they’re not going to be making money, they quit buying equipment—and that’s just exactly what’s happened.

“We were promised by Gina McCarthy, the director of the EPA, we’d have a decision (on RFS) before the end of June.  They still haven’t—so I really lay that in the hands of the EPA,” Branstad said.  “They’ve really done real damage to the farm economy—and now the jobs at John Deere and farm machinery manufacturing as well.”

By statute, the final RFS rule for 2014 was due at the end of November last year. EPA finally submitted the final rule to the Office of Management and Budget on August 22nd.

NCGA hopes EPA has reversed RFS decision

The final rule on the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) for 2014 is now in the hands of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

The original EPA proposal cut the corn-based ethanol mandate from 14.4 billion gallons to 13 billion gallons. Chip Bowling, a Maryland farmer and president of the National Corn Growers Association, is hopeful that the EPA has reversed that decision.

bowling-chip-ncga“We’re hoping that they raise it back up to the 14 billion gallons as it should be,” Bowling says. “We’re thinking that they’re going to meet us halfway—that they’ll come up from the 13.1, to 13.6 or 13.7—but our hope is they’ll put it back to where it should be and stick with it.”

With a big corn crop on the way, Bowling says reducing the RFS doesn’t make sense.

“We’re growing another big crop—we’re going to double our carryover from last year to this year—and there’s no reason to back it down now,” he says. “The ethanol market, at this point, is doing well on its own—and it needs to keep moving forward.”

OMB has 90 days to complete its review of the rule.  Many analysts expect it to be published in late September or October, but there is also speculation it may not happen until after the November elections to avoid any political fallout.

AUDIO: Chip Bowling at Farm Progress Show (6:32 MP3)