Farmland reaction surprises filmmaker

Director James Moll says he’s pleasantly surprised by the public reaction so far to the film Farmland. Moll talked about the Atlanta premier of the feature-length documentary that follows the lives of young farmers and ranchers.

“We had a Q&A afterward; everybody stayed for it and they asked a lot of questions and they wanted to know more about each one of the farmers,” said Moll, during a conference call with reporters Thursday morning. “And for me, that’s a good sign; that means that I did my job and I was able to introduce people to farmers in a way that they haven’t been introduced to in the past.”

Just before Farmland was screened at New York’s TriBeCa Film Festival, Georgia poultry producer Leighton Cooley told reporters he welcomed the opportunity to be part of the movie because, he says, the movie tells the famers’ story “in a way that had never been done before.”

“We can tell our story, but the opportunity to show our story, to actually allow people to see firsthand each of our farms to people, basically that wouldn’t ordinarily have the opportunity to do that was just a neat project,” he said.

Farmland was made with support from the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance using extensive footage and interviews with a half dozen farmers from all over the U.S. It was released this spring and the film’s website lists 105 venues nationally in which it’s scheduled to be shown.

The documentary grew into much more than Cooley said he envisioned in the beginning. “After seeing the film and the way that James just captured the farms, and the farmers, and the personalities, and our lives, and the way that we interact, and do, and think, and work,” said Cooley. “I love the way that Farmland tells the story of American agriculture through our eyes and through our hearts.”

AUDIO: Farmland film conference call (35 min. MP3)

Senators question methane reduction plan

A group of U.S. Senators is questioning the Obama Administration’s plan to reduce methane emissions from cattle.

They say the methane reduction strategy released in March could cost medium-sized dairy farms upwards of 22-thousand dollars a year.

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley is among those expressing concern.

“Iowans I talk to remain very skeptical about the concept of regulating greenhouse gases, until it is done through global treaty,” Grassley says, “and it’s especially difficult to do this on farms.”

The administration maintains that agriculture’s role in methane reduction will be voluntary, but Grassley isn’t convinced.

“It’s hard to forget, only a couple years ago, this administration was trying to push cap-and-trade through Congress.  It seems only right to be suspicious about the administration’s intentions.”

The administration’s goal is to reduce methane emissions from agriculture by 25 percent by 2020.

AUDIO: Chuck Grassley (1:37 MP3)

Officials promote disaster assistance

Top USDA officials have been crisscrossing the country this week promoting the start of sign-up for USDA’s livestock disaster assistance programs.

During a stop at a cow-calf operation near Waverly, Nebraska, deputy secretary of agriculture Krysta Harden said the programs will help livestock producers who have suffered losses due to natural disasters.

“It’s not going to make anybody whole, obviously,” Harden said, “but this will help producers stay on their ranch—stay on their farm—by helping them cover some of the costs that they incurred due to these terrific losses.”

AUDIO: Krysta Harden-questions from media (6:02 MP3)

Nebraska FSA state director Dan Steinkruger says the programs will reimburse eligible producers for a percentage of their losses.

“The livestock forage program is designed to provide 60 percent of the cost of feeding during the grazing period,” Steinkruger says. “The livestock indemnity program is designed to provide 75 percent of the value for that animal that was lost due to a natural disaster.”

AUDIO: Dan Steinkruger (2:52 MP3)

Cattle producer Tom Peterson of Waverly tells Brownfield he intends to sign up for the livestock forage program for losses related to the drought of 2012.

“We’ll make an application and see what comes,” Peterson says. “If I understand it correctly, there will be some determination on acres of grass you had.  Quantifying things is a little tough as far as to quantify what your loss was of grass.  But you know we ran short—everybody did.”

AUDIO: Tom Peterson (2:02 MP3)

To be eligible for assistance, losses must have occurred on or after October 1, 2011.

Nitrogen gene commercialization still a ways off

Commercialization of a nitrogen efficiency gene for corn, developed by the Iowa Corn Promotion Board, is still several years away.

That according to Iowa Corn technology commercialization manager David Ertl.  Ertl says they’re in the process of out-licensing the technology to seed companies.

“Even if it is something they want to commercialize they still have to go through the regulatory approval process,” Ertl says. “So between the hybrid development time, testing and regulatory approval, you’re probably talking at least six or seven years minimum.”

Ertl says there are two objectives to their research with the gene—either to increase yield without increasing the amount of nitrogen fertilizer used to grow corn or to obtain the same yield with less fertilizer.

“The trait doesn’t necessarily do anything to pull more nitrogen from the soil in to the plant,” he says, “but what it does is it changes the nitrogen metabolism within the plant to hopefully be more efficient in using the nitrogen once it’s in the plant.”

Iowa Corn recently received a U.S. patent on the nitrogen gene. The technology was developed in collaboration with private technology firms.

AUDIO: David Ertl (5:35 MP3)

Wisconsin’s newest Master Cheesemakers

Master's MarkWisconsin is adding to the list of Master Cheesemakers. The three-year program provides advanced training for licensed cheesemakers with at least 10 years of experience. . Cheesemakers can earn certification in up to two cheese varieties at a time and must have been making those varieties as a licensed cheesemaker for a minimum of five years prior to entering the program.

Once certified, they’re entitled to use the distinctive Master’s Mark® on their product labels and in other marketing materials.


This year’s class includes four new Wisconsin Master Cheesemakers and three veteran Masters who repeated the program to earn certification in additional cheese varieties.

The four new Wisconsin Master Cheesemakers are:

  • Mike Brennenstuhl, Great Lakes Cheese Seymour, Inc., Seymour, Wis., certified for Blue and Gorgonzola
  • Pat Doell, Agropur, Inc., Luxemburg, certified for Mozzarella and Provolone
  • Brian Renard, Renard’s Rosewood Dairy/Renard’s Cheese, Algoma, Wis., certified for Cheddar and Colby
  • Chris Renard, Renard’s Rosewood Dairy/Renard’s Cheese, Algoma, Wis., certified for Cheddar and Mozzarella

Returning graduates in the 2014 class are:

  • Mark Gustafson, Sartori Company, Plymouth, Wis., now certified for Fontina and Romano, as well as Parmesan and Asiago
  • Paul Reigle, Maple Leaf Cheese, Monroe, now certified for Cheddar in addition to Yogurt Cheese and Monterey Jack
  • Bruce Workman, Edelweiss Creamery, Monticello, now certified for Cheddar and Gouda in addition to Baby Swiss, Brick, Butterkäse, Emmental, Gruyère, Havarti, Muenster, Raclette and Specialty Swiss (low-sodium, low-fat lacy Swiss).

The graduates will be honored and presented with Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker medallions at a ceremony during the International Cheese Technology Exposition in Milwaukee on April 24.


Coalition to prop up bridge testing

The Soy Transportation Coalition is offering money to a dozen state departments of transportation to help offset the cost of upgrading to better, more accurate bridge testing equipment.

Coalition Executive Director Mike Steenhoek says bridges that farmers depend on to get crops to market are sometimes unnecessarily posted with weight limits. He tells Brownfield that the bridges need more than visual assessment to determine structural integrity.

“We’re suggesting that departments of transportation and local country governments actually utilize and avail themselves of technology that’s on the marketplace but not being widely utilized to help them better decipher the true condition of their bridges,” said Steenhoek, during an interview with Brownfield Ag News on Tuesday.

Steenhoek says improved bridge testing technology would result in departments of transportation putting maintenance resources where they’re needed most. He says it will also help avoid situations where trips to the market are lengthened because of the need to avoid bridges that have unnecessary weight limits.

The 12 states in line for the financial help are those whose soybean checkoff organizations are members of the Soy Transportation Coalition: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Tennessee.

AUDIO: Mike Steenhoek (8 min. MP3)

Pork donations benefit foodbanks

Just ahead of Easter, Ohio pork producers, with support from the Ohio Association of Meat Processors and the Ohio Corn Marketing Program have donated over 16,000 pounds of pork to two area foodbanks.

6,500 pounds of pork has been donated to the Greater Cleveland Food Bank and another 10,000 pounds donated to The Foodbank, Inc. in Dayton.

The donations will provide meals to more than 82,000 families.

Since 2009 Ohio pig farmers have donated more than 1 million pork meals to Ohio’s foodbanks.

Another blow to the Plains’ wheat crop

Freezing temperatures as far south as central Texas this week may have caused further damage to the Great Plains’ winter wheat crop.

However, agronomists say damage to the crop may not be apparent for another week to 10 days.

There are a number of factors that determine the extent of freeze damage in wheat, including the duration of low temperatures, soil moisture and stage of development.  Wheat in the jointing stage is most at risk and, as of Sunday, the Kansas wheat crop was 31 percent jointed with Oklahoma at 80 percent jointed.

The Plains’ wheat crop was already suffering from drought and the winter’s extreme cold.  A Bloomberg report prior to this week’s freeze indicated many wheat fields were showing the worst amount of damage in five years.

New Nebraska FFA officers announced

nebraska ffa officers for 14-15-editedNebraska FFA has announced its officer team for 2014-15.

Pictured, left to right, are Blair Hartman, State Vice President, Imperial FFA Chapter; Colton Flower, State Secretary, Scottsbluff FFA Chapter; Andrea Wach, State Vice President, Hayes Center FFA Chapter; Paige Dexter, State President, Chambers FFA Chapter; Amanda Lambrecht, State Vice President, Blair FFA Chapter; Brandon Nichols, State Vice President, Bridgeport FFA Chapter; and Ben Rice, State Vice President, Norris FFA Chapter.

(Photo courtesy of the Nebraska FFA Association)

Nutrient management bill takes another step

When the Ohio House passed Senate Bill 150, it was just another step in the process for the so-called nutrient management bill.

The bill now goes to the Senate where it is expected to pass and then to the Governor for his signature, 90 days later the bill becomes effective. But beyond that, Adam Ward, Executive Director of the Ohio Soybean Association says getting the legislation implemented could take some time.

“So even if the rules were written now and everything was in the can ready to go, we’re still looking at 180 days before the effective changes that are in this bill,” Ward said. “So when you look at that piece of the pie I think what we’re going to see is something effective somewhere in 2015.”

Audio: Adam Ward, Executive Director, Ohio Soybean Assn. (4:45 mp3)

Responding to the Ohio House passing the bill, Jack Fisher, Executive Vice President of the Ohio Farm Bureau said that while a lot still needs to be done, the new law will help.