Bill aims to stop dropped calls

A bill has been introduced in the U.S. Senate to stop dropped land-line and mobile phone calls in rural areas. Senator Tim Johnson says the problem of dropped calls is a serious public safety threat – as police dispatchers and doctors have experienced dropped calls in critical situations. Johnson says the Federal Communications Commission, FCC, believes third party “least cost routers” to connect calls is a leading cause of the problem. Johnson says some intermediate providers are not properly completing calls in order to avoid higher access charges with rural telephone networks. He calls that discriminatory.

Johnson’s bill calls for reforms to help end the practice by having voice-providers register with the FCC and “comply with basic service quality standards.”

Walmart to offer low-cost organic foods

Walmart is going to launch a reduced-price line of organic foods. The retailer already offers more than 1,600 organic grocery items but will now offer around 100 “pantry” items under the Wild Oats label at prices more than 25 percent below brand-name organics. Walmart says their research shows more people would buy organics if the prices were more in-line with non-organic products

The introduction is expected later this month in about half of Walmart’s 4,000 grocery stores across the country, a move the company says is to “assure supply.” The products will also be available through Walmart’s website later this summer. They plan to expand to the remaining stores as they secure long-term supply agreements.

Wild Oats started as an organic grocery store chain in Colorado in 1987, it peaked at 110 stores in 24 states and Canada when Whole Foods bought it and discontinued the line in 2007. Grocery investor Ron Burkle now owns the brand name.

Read more here:

Planting underway in Missouri

Farmers in some parts of the Corn Belt are getting in the field to plant corn this week.  Carrollton, Missouri farmer Adam Casner says they’re elated to be able to get an early start this year.  “Last year we were so far behind,” he says.  “I don’t remember the exact date, but it was around the middle of May before we even got into the field to plant.  So we’re about a month ahead now.”

As for the field conditions?  “So far everything has been going pretty good,” Casner says.  “Soil conditions are good, it’s dry on top and putting the seed down into some moisture.  Everything is going pretty good on the planting end.”

He tells Brownfield the biggest concern he has this spring is weather.  “Hopefully everything cooperates and we’re not getting ahead of ourselves planting,” he says.  “Like getting a late frost that nips everything and have to start over again.  That’s just the risk we take every year.”

You can follow Casner’s planting progress this spring during our next series of Cab Conversations.

Our first episode will air April 25th at BrownfieldAgNews.com

AUDIO: Adam Casner, Carrollton, MO (2:30mp3)

Missouri food prices up

Missouri shoppers paid more for food in the first quarter of 2014 than during the same period last year. Sixteen food items surveyed by the Missouri Farm Bureau came to a little more than $49.00, an increase of 35 cents over the first quarter of 2013.

Seven items increased in price while nine cost slightly less. Meat and dairy prices are higher.

Missouri’s groceries are under the national average. The same sixteen items average about $53.25 nationally, more than $4 over what they are in Missouri.

The Missouri Farm Bureau says prices are higher because of weather, high demand and tight protein supplies.

One side of the Renewable Fuels Standard debate

Debate about the Renewable Fuels Standard goes beyond repeal and extension.  During a program put on by TheHill.com, Vermont Democrat Peter Welch, a member of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, called the RFS a “well-intended flop”.

He adds the effects of the law have been beneficial to corn producers.  “It’s helped to prop up the prices,” he says.  “I think that we have to acknowledge that if you’re in the production of corn-based ethanol, that’s really been helpful to you.  I don’t begrudge that.  A lot of those corn farmers have had significant challenges and this has led to positive things for the Corn Belt.”

But, that success has come at a cost.  “It’s been detrimental, price wise, to the dairy, to the hog, to the poultry, and to the livestock,” he says.  “That whole side of the agriculture sector has had to foot the bill.  It has added significant expense to food costs.”

Welch says he’d like to see changes to the RFS, “I want to repeal the corn-based ethanol mandate.  That’s, like called, ending it.”

Illinois Representative John Shimkus, a proponent of the Renewable Fuels Standard, was scheduled to participate in the discussion, but due to a scheduling conflict was unable to attend.

South Dakota community says ‘no’ to chickens

No chickens for Volga. In one of South Dakota’s first elections on the matter, KBRK Radio reports that voters in that town spoke resoundingly against allowing layers and broilers in backyards. The vote was 275 to 86 against changing the residential poultry ordinance. Other communities have been watching to see how Volga citizens voted on that issue.

An optimistic start

Like most years, farmers have a general sense of optimism this spring.

But, heading into the start of planting season, Illinois based agronomist Mike Toohill says he’s not normally this optimistic.  “But, soil conditions are excellent for the most part,” he says.  “The fall applied nitrogen should be there.  We’ve had a pretty good winter and it should have killed some root worms, should have killed some corn borers, and should have taken care of some Japanese beetles.  For the most part, I think we’re in excellent shape as of today.”

Especially if we can go into spring a little drier and have a little less soil compaction and catch some timely rains,” he says.  “Again, things can change really quickly.  But right now things look good for both an early start and a good growing season.”

Toohill tells Brownfield soil temperatures are a little on the cool side, but with this week’s forecast, he anticipates some farmers will begin planting.

AUDIO: Mike Toohill, Diversified Services (1:00mp3)

Farm Credit Mid-America invests in Ivy Tech

Farm Credit Mid-America is making a big investment into Ivy Tech Community College agriculture programs.  Lori Tennell, regional vice president with Farm Credit in central Indiana says the company is excited about the opportunity to invest into the program.  “It’s a perfect blend, really, of our interests in agriculture, our commitment to youth, and then the educational piece,” she says.  “It’s an awesome opportunity for us to invest in what we think is important to us as a company.”

Tennell tells Brownfield the $60,000 contribution was made at the Columbus campus’ open house on March 27th.  “There are six campuses throughout Indiana that actually have an ag program,” she says.  “We’ll be giving $10,000 to each one of those programs.  They can use the funds to invest in their ag programs the best way they see fit.”

To learn more about Ivy Tech’s agriculture programs, visit www.ivytech.edu/agriculture.

AUDIO: Lori Tennell, Farm Credit Mid-America (2:00mp3)

Ag Committee approves CFTC legislation

By a voice vote, the House Agriculture Committee approved the Consumer Protection and End-User Relief Act.   The bipartisan legislation reauthorizes and improves the operations of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.  In addition, it adds supplementary protections for customers to prevent another failure like MF Global and Peregrine Financial.

House Agriculture Committee Chair Frank Lucas says the legislation ensures the CFTC can continue to working in the most efficient and effective way.  “This bill would also cement key protections for futures customers into law,” he says.  “And, it mitigates the regulatory load on America’s job creators like our farmers, ranchers, small businesses, government utilities, and manufacturers.”

Ranking member Collin Peterson says the legislation, “Ensures a well-functioning CFTC, regulates financial entities dealing in the swaps market, and allows end-users to continue using derivatives to hedge the risks associated with their underlying business.”

The bill will head to the full House for consideration.

China to allow corn imports from Brazil

China will begin allowing Brazilian corn imports this month.  China mainly imports corn from the United States, but after officials turned away over 1 million tonnes due to the presence of an unapproved GMO trait, shipments have been curbed.  Reuters reports Brazilian corn exports to China could weigh on US futures, which have come under pressure since China started rejecting US cargoes last fall.

The news comes a week after China’s biggest grain trader, COFCO Corp. agreed to acquire a majority stake in Noble Group Ltd’s agribusinesses.  Noble owns a number of agricultural assets in South America, including grain storage facilities, soybean processing plants and shipping terminals.

An industry analyst with a Chinese official think-tank says China is adding more supply origins to meet growing demand in the long-term and that Brazilian supplies can be very competitive with those of the United States.