Iowa farmers snap up nutrient reduction funds

It took less than a week for Iowa farmers to snap up 1.4 million dollars in cost share funds to help install new nutrient reduction practices on their farms.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship received applications covering near 60-thousand acres from 597 different farmers seeking to participate in the program.  The vast majority of the applications were for cover crops with the rest seeking help with nitrification inhibitors, no-till and strip-till.

Iowa secretary of agriculture Bill Northey calls the response “tremendous”.  He says it shows once again that farmers are committed to using voluntary, science-based conservation practices to continue to improve water quality.

The cost-share program is part of the Iowa Water Quality Initiative.

Ag senators expressed concerns to McCarthy

Republicans on the Senate Agriculture Committee met this week with EPA administrator Gina McCarthy to express their concerns about the agency’s “Waters of the U.S.” proposal and other EPA actions that are many view as “anti-agriculture”.

Nebraska Senator Mike Johanns, who was in the meeting, describes McCarthy’s attitude as “determined”.

“She was polite and she listened to us, but at the end of the day I’m not certain that we moved the ball down the field at all,” Johanns says. “She’s determined to regulate.  I think she believes she has the power to do that and she’s going to do it.”

Johanns suggested to McCarthy that she scrap the rule and start over.  But he doubts that will happen.

“I do think what’s happening here is the Obama Administration recognizes that they only have a couple years left—and I just think you’re going to see a blizzard of regulations over the next two years and five months,” says Johanns. “So I just think this battle will continue.”

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, who was also in that meeting with McCarthy, says it did little to alleviate his concerns that the agency isn’t listening to the people its rules will directly impact.

AUDIO: Mike Johanns (7:17 MP3)

W.H. official hints at higher RFS volumes

Minnesota Senator Al Franken says he is confident that the final biofuels blending mandates in the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) will be higher than what the EPA initially proposed.

Franken and other Senate Democrats met this week with White House adviser John Podesta.  Franken says Podesta indicated that the volume numbers will be larger than they were in the preliminary RFS announcement.  Podesta also told the senators that the release of the final rule is “imminent”, but did not offer any further clarification on the timetable.

China issues new rule on U.S. DDGS imports

ddgs-usgcChina says it wants all imports of distiller’s dried grains (DDGS) from the U.S. to be officially certified free of the MIR 162 GMO trait. The new requirement is effective immediately.

But U.S. Grains Council (USGC) president and CEO Tom Sleight says China is asking for something that cannot be done.

“This certificate they’re asking for does not exist,” Sleight says. “It cannot be produced from a U.S. government authority.  They do not inspect for biotech traits.”

China stopped issuing import permits for U.S. DDGS in June on concerns it might contain the trait, which has not been approved for import by China’s agricultural ministry.

Grains Council chairman Julius Schaaf, a farmer from Randolph, Iowa, says it’s time for China to approve the MIR 162 trait.  But he’s not convinced it’s just about GMOs.

“If this is a supply issue and China has plenty of corn and they really don’t need our grain right now, let’s call it what it is—a supply issue,” Schaaf says. “Let’s don’t blame it on biotechnology, which is pushing back on an industry and a development area that grain farmers desperately need for the future to stay competitive and provide global food security.”

AUDIO: Julius Schaaf (2:25 MP3)

Trade issues with China are expected to be a big part of the discussion at next week’s summer annual meeting of the USGC in Omaha.

NASCAR reaches 6 million miles on E15

This weekend the partnership with NASCAR racing series and American Ethanol will reach 6 million miles on E15 during the running of the 2014 Brickyard 400.

Racing legend Richard Childress, president of Richard Childress Racing, says E15 has been great.  “With us testing it, running over 6 million miles on this fuel and we know we can run all the way up to E-30, it’s going to be positive for NASCAR, it’s going to be positive for the country, and the consumer as well,” he says.

AUDIO: Richard Childress, Richard Childress Racing (:35mp3)

Tom Buis, president and CEO of Growth Energy says the partnership validates what a great field E-15 is.  “These guys wouldn’t be racing with it if it wasn’t,” he says.  “The same thing is for the consumer.  We now have 6 million miles in NASCAR; EPA and DOE tested 86 vehicles for 6 million miles.  We now have real-world experience of consumers buying E15 in the marketplace over 50 million miles without any problems.”

AUDIO: Tom Buis, Growth Energy (3:00mp3)

Ken Parrent, biofuels director for the Indiana Corn Marketing Council says the partnership between NASCAR and American Ethanol creates a huge demand for Indiana corn.  “We have 12 ethanol plants operating with 2 more about to come online,” he says.  “Combined they produce about 1 billion gallons of ethanol each year.  That contributes about $500 million to the state’s economy and supports 4,100 full-time jobs.”

AUDIO: Ken Parrent, Indiana Corn Marketing Council (1:30mp3)

The 2014 Brickyard 400 is this weekend in Indianapolis.


Farm Bill Implementation Forum

Farmers are asking a lot of questions about the new Farm Bill.

Joe Logan, President of the Ohio Farmers Union says a Farm Bill Implementation Forum being held on Friday, July 25, at Bowling Green State University, is designed to bring some clarity to what’s included in the Farm Bill.

“So this is an opportunity to get all of the directors of the various USDA agencies together, along with some of the primary architects of the Farm Bill and chat about what was the intent of the Farm Bill, how it will play out over the course of years as crop prices go up and down and really equip those farmers for making those tough choices that all will have to make in the next few months,” said Logan.

The Forum will be held on Friday, July 25, beginning at 1 p.m. in the Bowen-Thompson Student Union at Bowling Green State University. More information is available by contacting the Ohio Farmers Union office in Ottawa, 1-800-321-3671.

Audio: Joe Logan, President, Ohio Farmers Union (3:35 mp3)

Pam Johnson named to foundation board

National Corn Growers Association Chairwoman Pam Johnson is on the newly announced Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research (FFAR).  Johnson is the only farmer among the 15 directors on the foundation that will leverage resources for research to boost the country’s agriculture economy.

Johnson tells Brownfield that for too long, funding for research dollars hasn’t been robust and is decreasing.

“This new project is mandatory funding under the farm bill, that’s $200 million,” said Johnson, from her farm in Floyd County, Iowa.  “It’s to be a public/private partnership, so it will be a foundation that will help raise private funds to augment that $200 million.”

The foundation was authorized as part of the 2014 Farm Bill and will operate as a non-profit corporation seeking private donations to fund agriculture research. The $200 million provided by Congress must be matched by non-federal funds as the Foundation identifies and approves projects.

“For me it’s to, as a group, sit down and figure out how we can fund the best research and then take that research and make sure that whatever needs to be can be commercialized, or much like through extension, to get that research out into the hands of the people that really need it,” said Johnson.

Among the academic and private sector science professionals who make up the foundation’s board of directors, Johnson is the only farmer.

“I’m honored to be there and looking forward to the work that will be before us,” said Johnson, “and I’m also humbled.”

The 15 voting members are:

  • Dr. Kathryn Boor – the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cornell University
  • Dr. Douglas Buhler – Director of AgBioResearch and Senior Associate Dean for Research for the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Michigan State University
  • Dr. Nancy Creamer – Distinguished Professor of Sustainable Agriculture and Community Based Food Systems, North Carolina State University
  • Dr. Deborah Delmer – Professor Emeritus of Biology, University of California-Davis
  • The Honorable Dan Glickman – former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, current Executive Director of the Aspen Institute’s Congressional Program
  • Dr. Robert Horsch – Deputy Director, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Pamela Johnson – Chairwoman, National Corn Growers Association
  • Dr. Mark E. Keenum – President, Mississippi State University
  • Dr. Michael Ladisch – Director of the Laboratory of Renewable Resources Engineering and Distinguished Professor of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, Purdue University
  • Dr. Christopher Mallett – Vice President of Research & Development, Cargill, Inc.
  • Dr. Pamela Matson – Chester Naramore Dean of the School of Earth Sciences, the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Professor of Environmental Studies and Senior Fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment, Stanford University
  • Dr. Terry McElwain – Associate Director and Professor, Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health, and Executive Director, Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, Washington State University
  • Dr. Stanley Prusiner – Director of the Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases and Professor of Neurology, University of California-San Francisco and 1997 Nobel laureate in physiology or medicine
  • Dr. Yehia “Mo” Saif – Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University
  • Dr. Barbara Schaal – Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences and Mary-Dell Chilton Distinguished Professor at Washington University in St. Louis.

The five ex-officio board members, all of whom were designated by Congress, are Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture; Dr. Catherine Woteki, USDA’s Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics and Chief Scientist; Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young, Administrator of the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service; Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy, Director of the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture; and Dr. France A. Córdova, Director of the National Science Foundation.

AUDIO: Pam Johnson (5 min. MP3)

EPA’s PR campaign met with skepticism

The EPA’s public relations campaign on its proposed Clean Water Act rule is being met with skepticism from many politicians and agricultural groups.

EPA has been trumpeting its list of 56 farming activities that would be exempt from Clean Water Act permitting requirements under the rule.  But Kristen Hassebrook, director of legal and regulatory affairs for Nebraska Cattlemen, isn’t buying it.

“This ‘claimed’ exemption list that EPA says that they’ve created for agriculture is entirely false,” Hassebrook says. “That list is a list of practices that are just traditional farming practices that we do year round, day in and day out, all the time.”

Hassebrook says there’s already an exemption from those types of permits for normal farming and ranching practices.

“So by creating that list they’ve actually limited our options and taken things off the table versus creating anything new,” she says. “That’s a big piece that we want folks to know—don’t be fooled by this ‘it’s good for ag’ list—because that ‘good for ag’ list is literally a PR tool that they’re using to not tell the truth.”

Another consequence of the rule, Hassebrook says, is that it would put USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in the unprecedented position of enforcing farmers’ compliance with the Clean Water Act.

AUDIO: Kristen Hassebrook (2:47 MP3)

Northey: Plan ahead for propane needs

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey is encouraging farmers, rural residents and other Iowans to plan ahead for their propane needs for this fall and winter.

Last winter the price of propane jumped sharply, to more than five dollars per gallon in some locations, as a number of events severely tested the capacity of the current propane delivery system and infrastructure.  Northey says that while such a dramatic price increase seems unlikely this year, it is important for propane users to be prepared.

Northey says with the potential for large corn and soybean crops in Iowa, the demand for propane use for grain drying could be significant again this year. Fortunately, he says, crop maturity is significantly ahead of last year and slightly ahead of the five year average, which could limit some of the need for propane.

Northey recommends that farmers fill propane tanks for grain drying, livestock facilities, homes and machine sheds ahead of the busy fall season. He also suggests early and regular communication with propane suppliers.

U.W. Madison’s Shaver recognized for dairy research

U.W. photo

U.W. photo

Dr. Randy Shaver of the University of Wisconsin-Madison has been awarded the American Dairy Science Association Nutrition Research Award for his professional achievements. The award was established in 1948 to promote and stimulate research in dairy cattle nutrition and is jointly sponsored by the American Feed Industry Association and ADSA.

A native of Pennsylvania, Shaver received a master’s degree from the University of Maryland then completed his doctorate degree in dairy science at UW-Madison in 1986 after conducting research at UW-Madison and the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center.

As a professor in the Animal Science Department, Shaver has advised or co-advised 29 master’s or doctoral students at UW-Madison. He has authored or co-authored 88 peer-review journal publications, 170 scientific abstracts, 101 popular-press articles in industry trade magazines and 249 newsletter articles, extension handouts or bulletins, and internet publications. He has presented 590 invited papers at industry conferences in 46 states and numerous foreign countries.