NCR-SARE grants available

The 2015 North Central Region – Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (NCR-SARE) Farmer Rancher Grant Call for Proposals is now available.

Farmers and ranchers in the North Central region are invited to submit grant proposals to explore sustainable agriculture solutions to problems on the farm or ranch. Proposals should show how farmers and ranchers plan to use their own innovative ideas to explore sustainable agriculture options and how they will share project results. Projects should emphasize research or education/demonstration.

There are three types of competitive grants: individual grants ($7,500 maximum), partner grants for two farmers/ranchers from separate operations who are working together ($15,000 maximum), and group grants for three or more farmers/ranchers from separate operations who are working together ($22,500 maximum). A total of approximately $400,000 is available for this program.

NCR-SARE will be accepting online submissions for the Farmer Rancher Grant Program. More information about the online submission system can be found in the call for proposals.

Interested applicants can find the call for proposals online as well as useful information for completing a proposal at  Proposals are due on November 20, 2014 at 4p.m. CST.


The program announcing two grants to University of Wisconsin-Madison students: Julie Dawson has been recommended for funding for a $199,866 grant for the project “Tomato variety trials for flavor, quality and agronomic performance, to increase high-value direct marketing opportunities for farmers and on-farm trialing capacity”.

Ruth Genger has been recommended for funding for a $199,106 grant for the project “Building Resilience and Flexibility into Midwest Organic Potato Production:  Participatory Breeding and Seed Potato Production”.

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)

An evening to “Dine and Discuss” agriculture

Attendees of the Dine and Discuss event learn how UAVs are utilized in today's farming operations.There is a growing disconnect between consumers and their food.  With the hope of starting a dialogue about agriculture, Jasper County farmers Kendall and Tammy Culp opened their home and farm to residents and local officials for the first “Dine and Discuss” event.  “Because I think its important that they understand modern agriculture and what takes place on the farm,” he says.  “You know those local decision makers are in a position to really help agriculture or could do some harm to agriculture.  Especially if they’re not knowledgeable about what we do and the modern practices that we have.”

AUDIO: Kendall Culp, Jasper County (3:30mp3)

Jasper County sheriff Terry Risner was in attendance.  He tells Brownfield he’s two generations removed from the farm and he was surprised by how much has changed over the years.  “Today we’re using computers to direct combines and tractors through the fields and we’re also using the mapping and GPS,” he says.  “That’s a huge technological advancement from in the early 1930’s to now.  That’s pretty mind-blowing, really.”

AUDIO: Terry Risner, Jasper County Sheriff (2:30mp3)

Andy Tauer, director of livestock for Indiana Corn and Indiana Soybean says the Dine and Discuss event was an opportunity to give local stakeholders a behind the scenes look at a modern-day grain and livestock operation.  “We feel that there are a lot of misconceptions about agriculture and things that folks really don’t understand what goes on, on the farm,” he says.  “So we wanted to invite folks out and have an evening on the farm and enjoy some fresh food that’s raised here and discuss agriculture.”

AUDIO: Andy Tauer, Indiana Corn and Indiana Soybean (2:30mp3)

Roughly 150 local officials and guests attended the Dine and Discuss event Thursday evening.

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)

Plymouth Pioneer facility celebrates 25 years

The Pioneer seed corn production facility in Plymouth, Ind. broke ground in 1988.  Production location manager Mark Letzinger says when the plant opened in 1989 it was considered a small operation.

But things have changed a lot since then.  “We had about 35 employees, about 40 growers producing seed on about 14,000 acres,” he says.  “We’ve tripled in size since then.  We have about 90 full-time employees, we have over 115 growers, and 2013 was our largest crop.  We produce over 3 million bushels of seed out of this plant that year.”

AUDIO: Mark Letzinger, Pioneer (2:22mp3)

Governor Mike Pence says Pioneer’s 25 years is a milestone and represents a great partnership between a global company and Indiana’s farmers.  “It’s important to point out that while we’re celebrating 25 years at this facility, DuPont Pioneer employs over 600 Hoosiers in 9 locations around the state,” he says.  “And they are a critical part of an agricultural infrastructure to our state.”

AUDIO: Governor Mike Pence (2:47mp3)

Indiana State Director of Ag Ted McKinney tells Brownfield the event was not only an opportunity to celebrate 25 years in Plymouth, but celebrate the advancements in technology.  “Why?  Because it’s really, really cool,” he says.  “They’ve helped people’s lives with higher yields, better standability, and better crops.  And, I think we’ve just begin to scratch the surface.”

AUDIO: Ted McKinney, ISDA Director (3:00mp3)

World Dairy Expo entries due

The initial deadline for World Dairy Expo cattle entries is midnight, August 31st.  Paper entries must be postmarked by that date to avoid late fees.

Exhibitors are encouraged to submit entries online.  Stalling requests, tent and/or booth space purchases, youth fitting, youth showmanship and 2017 International Futurity entries can all be submitted online at

Entries may be made between September 1 and September 7 online or by paper at $50 per animal. After September 7, all entries are $100 per animal. Online entries will be accepted until September 14. After September 14, all entries must be submitted via the paper entry form. You may utilize the online entry system and pay by credit card (online only) until 11:59 p.m. (CDT) on September 14, 2014.

Staff is available to answer entry and show-related questions as Expo approaches. Please contact either Ann Marie Magnochi or Laurie Breuch for assistance at 608-224-6455.

Wisconsin “Biggest Weed” winner

University of Wisconsin-Extension announcing the winners of the Biggest Weed contest at the recent Wisconsin Farm Technology Days.  The “grand champion” was a giant ragweed brought in by Wayne Greeler of Neillsville.  The plant stood over 10 feet tall and 7 feet wide.

Ken McGwin of Montello had a 12-foot ragweed but it only measured 4-feet wide.

The overall size of the plant is determined by multiplying the weed’s height by the maximum width when held in its normal growth form.

All daily winners will receive a weed identification book.

S. Illinois farmland auction

Even with lower commodity prices, a farmland auction in Southern Illinois on Monday, August 25 attracted 45 bidders.

The 765 acres in Franklin County sold for $4,195,000.

“We had a classic competition between investors and local farmers, and a large investor was in the competition right up to the end, but it was the farmers who ended up as the high bidders,” said Joe Bubon, executive vice president of the auction company, Murray Wise Associates LLC.

Four farmers purchased the 13 tracts for $5,483 per acre, outbidding a large investor.

Bubon said the turnout in Benton is cause for optimism in upcoming farmland auctions.