Mandatory COOL upheld in appeals court

The U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia upheld mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL) for meat and meat products.  The 9-2 decision supports an earlier appellate court ruling which determined that labeling was needed to prevent deception.  Judge Stephen Williams cited consumer interest and health concerns, saying the government’s interest in country-of-origin labeling for food make the interest substantial.

National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson called the decision a victory in the battle to uphold the enforcement of the COOL regulation.  He says that American consumers want to know where their meat comes from, and livestock producers, proud of what they produce, are happy to let consumers know where it comes from.

The meat industry and some livestock groups have attempted to block COOL, saying compliance with the rule is costly and it provides no health benefits to consumers.

FFA American Star Finalists named

2013 Star Finalists National FFA photo

2013 Star Finalists
National FFA photo

The National FFA Organization has named the finalists for each of the American Stars:

American Star Farmer

  • Alan Barka, Litchfield FFA Chapter (Minnesota) – Barka owns a dairy cattle operation, in which he manages and sells the milk produced.
  • Josh Stutrud, Rugby FFA Chapter (North Dakota) – Stutrud manages his own diversified agricultural livestock and grain operation of beef cattle, alfalfa and corn.
  • Zach Weichel, Cordell FFA Chapter (Oklahoma) – Weichel operates his beef and grain production, where he markets and sells his feeder cattle and wheat crop.
  • Thomas Michael Allen, Reedsburg FFA Chapter (Wisconsin) – Allen breeds, raises, and markets dairy cattle and then sells his livestock at shows and sales.

American Star in Agribusiness

  • Jared A. Eilertson, United South Central FFA Chapter (Minnesota) – Eilertson operates his own custom hay bailing, ditch-hay sales and agricultural commodities trucking enterprises.
  • Dustin Stanton, Centralia FFA Chapter (Missouri) – Stanton owns Stanton Brothers, a poultry operation that supplies fresh eggs to community members, local businesses and farmers markets.
  • Ethan VanderWal, Sioux Valley FFA Chapter (South Dakota) – VanderWal started a custom round hay bailing and rolling business, where he provides services to customers in his community.
  • Thomas Larson, Viroqua FFA Chapter (Wisconsin) – Larson created a business for repairing machinery and re-selling fixed items, including chainsaws, weed eaters, lawnmowers and more.

American Star in Agricultural Placement

  • Travis A. Poppe, Crofton FFA Chapter (Nebraska) – Poppe works for his family’s farm, Poppe Farms, where he manages swine and cattle and operates the diversified crop production of corn and soybeans.
  • Garrett Sharp, Waukomis FFA Chapter (Oklahoma) – Sharp operates and services equipment, moving and preparing land  and implements conservation practices while being employeed at his uncle’s farm.
  • Matt Eichacker, McCook Central FFA Chapter (South Dakota) – Eichacker operates corn and soybean productions, manages beef cattle and applies fertilizers and chemicals for two farms and a cooperative.
  • Jessica Woodworth, Mineral County FFA Chapter (West Virginia) – Woodworth works for her family’s farm and store. While there, she assists in the beef cattle, swine and produce operations and sells retail meat cuts, fruits, vegetables and other products.

American Star in Agriscience

  • Patrik Arkfeld, Syracuse-Dunbar-Avoca FFA Chapter (Nebraska) – Arkfeld conducts swine research in meat quality, genetics, waste management and more.
  • Sarah Cox, Zane Trace FFA Chapter (Ohio) – Cox studies animal and food sciences through research projects including zooenotic diseases, plant diseases and microorganisms.
  • Katie Osborn, Greenwood FFA Chapter (Pennsylvania) – Osborn has performed four studies in dairy cattle mastitis, an infection in the udders.
  • Witney L. Bowman, Stonewall Jackson FFA Chapter (Virginia) – Bowman studies the effects of feeding calves additional milk replacer and injecting rooting hormones in Juniper trees.

Each star finalist receives $2,000 from the National FFA Foundation.

A panel of judges will interview finalists and select one winner for each award.  The winners will be announced on November 1st during the Stars Over America Pageant at the 87th National FFA Convention in Louisville, Kentucky.

The four winners will receive an additional $2,000.


Farm Bill provides risk management options

Joe Shultz, Chief Economist, Senate Agriculture Commitee (1)_webOver 200 farmers attended a Farm Bill Implementation Forum at Bowling Green State University on Friday, July 25.


Sponsored by Ohio Farmers Union the Forum was designed to provide insight into what the new Farm Bill provides and while complex, Joe Shultz, Chief Economist for the Senate Agriculture Committee says it also provides farmers with options.


“It does look a lot different than the previous Farm Bills, but I think that reflects the diversity of agriculture and really the strength of American agriculture,” said Shultz. “It will be a good bill and it offer some real options to producers.”


Shultz also says farmers will have plenty of time to study the options before signing up, sometime next year.


“We’ve also provided more tools for farmers to get educated, the Farm Bill provides some money for outreach and education meetings, we’re also providing some online decision making tools so producers can enter their data, their farm history online and get some good information about which decision makes the most sense for their operation,” Shultz said.

Audio: Joe Shultz, Chief Economist, Senate Agriculture Committee (4:25 mp3)


Brownfield’s Dave Russell also talked with Ohio Farmers Union President Joe Logan following the Forum at BGSU.

Audio: Joe Logan, President, Ohio Farmers Union (2:40 mp3)

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.

Strong week for new crop soybean, corn sales

USDA reports combined old and new crop corn, soybean, and soybean meal export sales for the week ending July 17 were larger than expected, while soybean oil and wheat were within pre-report estimates. Shipments of soybeans and wheat were more than what’s needed weekly to meet USDA projections for their respective marketing years, but corn fell short of its mark.

Wheat came out at 443,200 tons (16.3 million bushels). Japan picked up 92,800 tons and Nigeria bought 71,300 tons, while unknown destinations canceled on 45,000 tons. Around a month and a half into the 2014/15 marketing year, wheat sales are 328.2 million bushels, compared to 451.8 million early in 2013/14.

Corn was reported at 291,500 tons (11.5 million bushels), down 49% from the week ending July 10 and 21% lower than the four week average. Japan purchased 216,200 tons and Spain picked up 70,000 tons, but unknown destinations canceled on 220,100 tons. For the 2013/14 marketing year to date, corn sales are 1.907 billion bushels, compared to 735.6 million in 2012/13. Sales of 1,143,400 tons (45.0 million bushels) for 2014/15 delivery were mainly to unknown destinations (644,000 tons) and Japan (268,400 tons).

Soybeans were pegged at 226,700 tons (8.3 million bushels), up from both the previous week and the four week average. China bought 158,800 tons and Indonesia purchased 103,600 tons, while unknown destinations canceled on 87,400 tons. At this point in the marketing year, corn sales are 1.907 billion bushels, compared to 735.6 million this time last year. Sales of 2,451,100 tons (90.1 million bushels) for 2014/15 delivery were primarily to China (1,238,500 tons) and unknown destinations (949,600 tons).

Soybean meal came out at 93,900 tons, 12% higher than the week before and 33% larger than the four week average. Mexico picked up 26,200 tons and Honduras bought 12,400 tons. So far this marketing year, soybean meal sales are 10,039,900 tons, compared to 9,708,800 a year ago. Sales of 348,900 tons for 2014/15 delivery were mostly to unknown destinations (232,600 tons) and Honduras (20,000 tons).

Soybean oil was reported at 2,900 tons, a decline of 65% on the week and 72% from the four week average. Mexico purchased 2,100 tons and Nicaragua picked up 600 tons. Cumulative soybean oil sales are 782,500 tons, compared to 900,300 last year.

Net beef sales totaled 10,800 tons, up 20% from the previous week, but down 13% from the four week average. The reported buyers were Japan (3,100 tons), Mexico (2,600 tons), Canada (1,800 tons), South Korea (1,500 tons), and Hong Kong (600 tons).

Net pork sales totaled 4,300 tons, 26% more than the prior week, but 59% less than the four week average. The listed purchasers were Japan (1,400 tons), Mexico (600 tons), South Korea (600 tons), Hong Kong (500 tons), and China (200 tons), with a cancellation by Canada (100 tons).

Animal welfare issues are driving change

The vice president of animal well-being for Tyson Foods, Dean Danilson, says farm animal welfare issues will continue to be “a driver for change” in the industry.

“More consumers are becoming aware of animal welfare issues, which are increasingly becoming factors in their purchasing decisions,” Danilson says, “and consumers want to know more about how food is produced—but they aren’t sure where to go for accurate information.”

But Danilson says, at the same time, studies have shown that consumers aren’t interested in hearing science-based arguments.

“Consumers are overwhelmed with studies and facts—they don’t know what to believe,” he says. “In our industry, we use scientific- and experience-based language, (but) it doesn’t resonate with consumers—with the moms in New York City.

“The food industry says ‘here’s the reality of pig farming’—the consumer hears ‘you’re speaking down to me and ignoring my very real concerns’.”

So, Danilson says, the industry must continually ask itself, “Is there a better way to do things?”

“Is what we do today the best and the right thing for sustained animal agriculture—and for the welfare of the animal?  Is what was good yesterday mean that it is good for today or good for tomorrow? And we must always ask ourselves, individually and professionally–is there a better way?”

Danilson spoke at the Iowa Farm Bureau Economic Summit in Ames.

AUDIO: Dean Danilson-excerpt from his presentation at the Iowa Farm Bureau Economic Summit (12:58 MP3)

Heat “emergency” forecast in cattle country

The high heat and humidity in the middle of the U.S. and part of the southwest today directly impacts cattle country.  The USDA/NOAA forecast map shows Kansas, Oklahoma and most of Texas and neighboring states at the “emergency” level for heat stress in cattle.  Parts of southern California and Arizona are also at the emergency level. The next level down, the “danger” level, covers most of the Eastern U.S.  The heat wave is expected to remain in Texas, Arizona and Southern California after it reaches its peak in most other areas today and will then diminish.

Cattle feeders are reminded to work cattle early or in the evening during these conditions.

U.S. soybean rating improves

The USDA’s condition ratings for this year’s corn and soybean crops continue to hold at extremely high levels for this point in the season.

As of Sunday, 76% of corn is in good to excellent shape, unchanged on the week and 13% more than this time last year. 56% of the crop is silking, compared to 39% a year ago and the five year average of 55%.

73% of soybeans are rated good to excellent, 1% more than last week and 9% above last year. 60% of beans are blooming, compared to 43% a year ago and 56% on average, and 19% are at the pod setting stage, compared to 7% last year and 17% on average.

75% of the winter wheat crop is harvested, compared to 74% a year ago and 75% on average. 84% of spring wheat has headed, compared to 85% on average, with 70% in good to excellent condition, unchanged on the week.

53% of U.S. pastures and rangelands are called good to excellent, down 2% from last week.

NFU asks for water map from EPA

National Farmers Union leaders have asked the EPA for a map with estimates of which bodies of water will be considered jurisdictional under the agency’s Waters of the U.S. rule in the Clean Water Act.

NFU President Roger Johnson and members of NFU’s board of directors held a conference call last week with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.  They then sent a letter to McCarthy asking for clarity in some of the definitions in the proposed rule.  Johnson says the EPA proposal has created “LESS clarity, not more as intended.”

The group is also asking for answers to their questions about “wetlands in the Prairie Pothole region, coordination with state agencies and the treatment of unconnected bodies of water that are seasonal.”

Johnson says, at this point, the EPA’s “interpretive rule” has caused “confusion and resentment” in rural America.

Meanwhile, the nation’s largest farmer organization, American Farm Bureau Federation, supports efforts in Congress to stop the EPA proposed rule and has asked the EPA to rescind the rule.

National Farmers Union

American Farm Bureau Federation

AFBF sends EPA “counter point” to Congress

The American Farm Bureau Federation is countering statements by an EPA official on the proposed water rule of the Clean Water Act.  Farm Bureau Congressional Relations Director Mary Kay Thatcher tells Brownfield Ag News the AFBF has given that document to members of Congress, “We put out a lengthy paper, sort of doing a point-counter-point on ‘they say this’ but here’s the exact language out of the 350 page rule that we think proves exactly the opposite. So, we have great concern about this.”

Thatcher says EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy’s public relations campaign raises even more concerns because the AFBF believes McCarthy did more talking than listening to farmers, “We just think there’s a HUGE disconnect between what EPA thinks they’re doing and the real effect of what it’ll have in the country and we think that was very well highlighted with her trip to Kansas and Missouri and also in the webinar that EPA did earlier this week where they tried to explain their position.”

Thatcher says this is the biggest issue in agriculture and farmers need to weigh in during the public comment period on the rule, “It’s a hard issue to get your arms around for a farmer but it’s not one we can ignore. We absolutely have to have your input to members of Congress and to EPA if we’re going to win on this issue.”

Thatcher says the House transportation committee voted this week not to let the rule move forward and the House environment committee voted not to fund the rule.  Thatcher says that should send a message to the EPA.

Thatcher spoke with Brownfield at the Kansas City AgriBusiness Council meeting on “big data” on Thursday.

Interview with Mary Kay Thatcher (5:00 mp3)