National Headlines

This Farm Girl Cooks for Harvest Crews

DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) — Nothing works up an appetite like working outdoors, and nothing is quite like harvest time to celebrate the food the surrounds us.

Deanne Frieders believes in good food and lives by the theory that “cooking is love made visible.” When she married into a Waterman, Illinois, farm family, one of her first jobs was to carry that love of cooking to the field to sustain the work crews.

She quickly learned that the need for hearty meals also often required that the dishes hold for long periods of time before the crew consumed them. Equipment breakdowns and an untold number of unforeseen events make field dining much different than showing up for a restaurant reservation. Often the meal needs to be able to be eaten on the go.

After doing her own “field testing,” Frieders started to concoct some satisfying tips to making the field or the tailgate her table.

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COVID Pandemic Exposes Food Insecurity

OMAHA (DTN) — The COVID-19 economic shutdown that led to disruptions in the food supply chain may have hit hardest those Americans who already have challenges finding their next meals.

In particular, many Americans face poverty, lack of grocery stores and transportation.

On Friday, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, more than 150 countries and food-security champions celebrated World Food Day to focus on actions to reduce chronic hunger and malnutrition.

USDA’s data for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), lags by several months, but in April the number of people on SNAP jumped by about 5.8 million from March to 42.99 million people.

Joni Holifield, founder and president of HeartSmiles in Baltimore, Maryland, said some of the underserved youth she works with are concerned about whether they will eat in any given day, let alone whether they can access healthy foods.

“Yes, COVID has made things even more challenging,” she said during a Bipartisan Policy Center virtual panel this week on food insecurity.

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Fall Nitrogen Limits in Minnesota

ANKENY, Iowa (DTN) — Nitrogen fertilizer application restrictions on crop ground went into effect in certain areas of Minnesota on Sept. 1.

The Groundwater Protection Rule prohibits farmers from applying most forms of commercial nitrogen fertilizer in the fall and on frozen ground in areas groundwater is deemed vulnerable to contamination. The rule aims to minimize potential sources of nitrate pollution in drinking water and protect public health.

For complete rule details and to see a map of affected areas, go to www.mda.state.mn.us/nfr.

Harold Wolle, who grows corn and soybeans in south-central Minnesota near Madelia, said most farmers didn’t embrace the law, but accept it. Producers, farm organizations and the state worked together to come up with a workable rule that doesn’t curtail food production and protects the environment, according to Wolfe, who is the Minnesota Corn Growers Association District 2 director.

“We are certainly cognizant of the effects nitrogen can have on groundwater,” said Wolle.

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Soil Sampling Goes Robotic

On a cold, snowy November day last year, Steve Wallpe watched one of Rogo Ag’s SmartCore autonomous robots scoot around his fields taking and bagging soil samples.

Two things instantly came to mind, recalls the Fowler, Indiana, farmer. He’s glad it wasn’t him pulling cores while shivering, and a robot with plenty of power to bore into hard soil at a consistent depth was doing the job.

“When a person starts out at 8 a.m. pulling samples by hand, they are gung ho,” Wallpe said. “By 5 p.m., they’re tired and not paying as close attention to make sure the probe goes down as deep as it’s supposed to that can give inaccurate test results.

“This takes the human element out of it,” he continued. “Robots take the variability out of sampling and give me a better result at the end to put on the right amount of fertilizer.”

Wallpe’s local Helena dealer hired Rogo Ag, a soil-sampling business headquartered in Wolcott, Indiana, for the first time to take soil samples on his farm.

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Company Advances Ethanol Diesel Engine

OMAHA (DTN) — A start-up company developing a heavy-duty truck engine able to run on straight ethanol has reached a milestone in a series of tests performed to validate its technology.

ClearFlame Engine Technologies reported in a news release on Wednesday it matched the torque and power of a commercial diesel engine using ethanol in place of diesel.

The company said the technology delivered 500 horsepower and more than 2,500 foot-pounds of torque, “while eliminating the need for additional aftertreatment such as selective catalytic reduction or diesel particulate filter systems.”

ClearFlame said it achieved the latest results on a Cummins X15, a 500-horsepower, 15-liter heavy-duty engine using the company’s high-temperature stochiometric combustion process.

The process leverages higher temperatures to achieve diesel-style combustion of any decarbonized fuel.

ClearFlame Engines CEO B.J. Johnson told ethanol industry representatives at the National Ethanol Conference in Houston in February 2020 the technology has the potential to create a large market for ethanol.

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Feds, JBS Owners Reach Pleas

OMAHA (DTN) — It’s been a busy day in federal courts for JBS SA, its Brazilian owners and its poultry subsidiary, Pilgrim’s Pride, as the meatpacking conglomerate was ordered to pay a combined $393 million in fines in two separate federal court cases.

In the first case, out of the U.S. District Court for Eastern New York, in Brooklyn, J&F Investimentos SA, the major owners of JBS SA and Pilgrim’s Pride, pleaded guilty to violating federal bribery laws — under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act — by bribing officials at Brazilian state-owned banks, and agreed to pay a fine of $256 million. According to the U.S. attorney for the federal court in Brooklyn, J&F Investimentos used certain employees and connections “to pay millions in bribes to Brazilian government officials, through, among other means, bank accounts based in New York.”

J&F Investimentos is 100% owned by Joesley and Wesley Batista, brothers who also admitted in Brazilian courts to bribing as many as 1,800 officials to receive $1.3 billion in loans from Brazilian-government banks and pensions.

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Venue at Issue in Ethanol Market Case

OMAHA (DTN) — The U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska has stayed proceedings in a lawsuit alleging ethanol market manipulation by Archer Daniels Midland, pending a motion to change venue in the case.

Omaha-based Green Plains Inc. filed a class-action lawsuit in the court in July alleging ADM conducted a scheme to illegally depress the ethanol cash spot market.

Green Plains attorneys filed a brief on Tuesday opposing a change of venue from the Nebraska court to a district court in Illinois where ADM is headquartered.

There are two other similar lawsuits filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois, one by Midwest Renewable Energy and another by Swiss company AOT Holdings. Both cases allege ethanol market manipulation by ADM.

In a brief arguing against a change of venue, attorneys said Green Plains is the only plaintiff to experience damage to its physical ethanol sales.

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Soil as a Bank Account

OMAHA (DTN) — Rattan Lal, a soil scientist from Ohio State University and the 2020 Word Food Prize laureate, makes his case that agriculture globally must take better care of its most valuable resource to not only produce more, healthier food in the future, but also help remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

Lal spoke in a livestreamed speech Monday evening to agricultural leaders at Iowa State University as the World Food Prize kicked off its weeklong International Borlaug Dialogue, which is a virtual event this year. The World Food Prize was created to recognize the work of global food and agricultural scientists to honor the legacy of 1970 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Norman Borlaug.

With Lal’s work based on rehabilitating soil health, several discussions this week with the Borlaug Dialogue center on themes of sequestering carbon in the soil and stopping soil degradation globally.

“I sincerely believe world peace is in jeopardy with soil degradation.

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Conquer Your Corn Costs – 3

John Verell III is a corn-yield champion, but pushing seeding rates is not part of his winning strategy on his farm, near Jackson, Tennessee.

In 2019, a yield of 320.8 bushels per acre (bpa) earned him first place in Tennessee for no-till, nonirrigated corn in the National Corn Growers Association National Corn Yield Contest. Pioneer P1197YHR, with a harvest count of 34,000 stalks per acre, gave him his winning entry. His seeding rate was 34,600 per acre.

Verell earned that honor, in part, by following the seed company’s recommended seed rate for optimum economic return. He tends to stick to recommended rates on all his 4,200 acres.

“I always thought you could push yields with higher populations, but I have since realized there are usually other limiting factors,” Verell explained. “The biggest thing is the right hybrid in the right place with limited fertilizer at planting, sidedress and then spoon-feed throughout the season based on weekly tissue sampling.”

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Farmland Loss May Endanger Food Supply

ANKENY, Iowa (DTN) — The world will lose about 250 million crop production acres by 2050, according to estimates from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

The possibility of losing the equivalent of roughly two-thirds of the cultivated land in the United States is alarming, said Jerry Hatfield. But the director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment in Ames, Iowa, believes it can be prevented.

Hatfield said urbanization and soil degradation, from excessive tillage and other farming practices, are largely to blame for lost farm and ranch lands. People worldwide need to protect farm and ranch lands to feed a growing population, he said.

If society doesn’t do a better job making land-use decisions and taking care of the soil, Hatfield is afraid hunger and food insecurity will be much more prevalent in 30 years when the world’s population is expected to top 9 billion.

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Beware Rootworms Lurking

ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) — After several years of low corn rootworm populations, the “billion-dollar bug” is catching eyes again in the Corn Belt.

Populations of both western and northern corn rootworm are rebounding after a mild winter and favorable egg hatch conditions this year, and they’re bringing some bad habits along: growing Bt resistance.

Corteva Agriscience recently confirmed their second report of western corn rootworm resistance to Cry34/35Ab1, the Herculex RW trait that is the underpinning of most pyramided rootworm hybrids, this summer. The trait is usually offered in pyramids that cross many brand platforms, with names such as SmartStax, QROME, Intrasect Xtreme, AcreMax Xtreme and Agrisure 3122.

With resistance already established against the other three rootworm Bt traits, growers in intensive corn-growing regions may need to be more innovative than ever when it comes to managing this pest, entomologists told DTN.

Here are four big takeaways for the 2021 season.

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Rural Health a Critical Issue

OMAHA (DTN) — California rancher Megan Brown moved home to work on her parents’ cattle ranch. The pay is low, which helps to keep the ranch in her family, and Brown started raising heritage hogs to boost her income.

Health insurance is tricky, but Brown qualifies for Medi-Cal, California’s Medicaid program. She’s frustrated because Medi-Cal hasn’t paid for mental-health therapy, and as a rancher in the middle of multiple years of wildfires, Brown said raising livestock in California’s increasingly volatile weather is stressful.

“Agriculture is such a weird animal in that some years you make money and some years you don’t,” Brown said. “That really makes it hard to deal with insurance unless they offer some kind of blanket insurance where everyone gets the same coverage. If I had to start paying for a plan that was probably what I needed, it would take most of my income, and that would suck because I like to eat.”

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Conquer Your Corn Costs – 1

Being called narrow-minded when it comes to corn production is a compliment to a University of Illinois crop scientist and a pair of Hoosier farmers.

Randy Bales and his son, Brad, of Lewisville, Indiana, used to plant corn in 30-inch rows like most farmers nationwide. They switched to 20-inch rows in 2017 after seeing results from several years of research on the production method from plant physiologist Fred Below and his University of Illinois agronomy students.

From 2013 to 2018, the university’s studies show 20-inch corn in an enhanced management system, as Below refers to it, averaged 264 bushels per acre (bpa). The system includes 44,000 plants per acre, banded MicroEssentials SZ (granular fertilizer consisting of nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur and zinc) from Mosaic, 240 pounds of total nitrogen per acre split applied pre-plant and in-season and a foliar fungicide treatment. Narrow rows and enhanced management yielded 51 bpa better than corn planted in 30-inch rows at 32,000 plants per acre, no fungicide, 180 pounds of nitrogen applied pre-plant and phosphorus and potassium applications based on soil tests.

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Gene Editing Nets Award

ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) — Two scientists — Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna — were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry on Wednesday for their work developing CRISPR-Cas9, a gene-editing tool.

The announcement marks the first time this specific category of the Nobel Prize has been shared by two women, who developed CRISPR-Cas9 independently back in 2012. Charpentier is a French scientist who directs the Max Planck Unit for the Science of Pathogens in Berlin, Germany, and Doudna is an American scientist working at the University of California, Berkeley, as well as the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

The award has special significance to the agricultural industry, which has seen firsthand the unique capabilities of gene editing to speed the complicated process of breeding new crop traits and bringing them to market.

Tools like CRISPR-Cas9, which allow scientists to snip out or add precise bits of DNA into plant and animal genomes, have been embraced by U.S.

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A Blend of Ethanol, Politics

MASON CITY, Iowa (DTN) — U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue promoted biofuels and USDA’s investment in projects such as blender pumps during a series of events in Iowa and Minnesota on Thursday.

The official purpose of the events at an ethanol plant in Mason City and fuel stations in Albert Lea, Minnesota, and Ankeny, Iowa, was to highlight $22 million in grants released by USDA in 14 states under the Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program. The grants are among the first of up to $100 million the program will spend on projects such as helping fuel stations offset the costs of blender pumps and underground fuel tanks.

Among the investment goals is to spur fuel stations to expand the marketing of 15% ethanol blends across the country. USDA stated the $22 million released this week would increase ethanol demand by nearly 150 million gallons annually.

Dave Sovereign, a farmer from Cresco, Iowa, and chairman of the Golden Grain Energy Board, said he and others involved with the ethanol plant got to spend some time with Perdue talking about some ethanol industry challenges.

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Short-Bean Questions

ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) — As summer 2020 advanced, a common question surfaced in parts of the Corn Belt this summer: Why are my beans so short?

The effect was clearly on display when Pioneer field agronomist Ryan Van Roekel laid out some soybeans in south-central Iowa at Corteva Agriscience’s Virtual Media Event on Oct. 6. The plant’s nodes were clustered tightly together at the bottom of the plant, before spreading out to a more normal distribution higher up the stem.

That’s the tale of two months, Van Roekel explained.

For many parts of the Corn Belt, May was a chilly slog, marked by occasional dramatic cold snaps. For soybeans just emerging, that was a signal to slow way down.

“Soybean vegetative growth is largely related to heat,” Van Roekel explained. Later on, when soybean plants hit reproductive stages (flowering and podding), the length of the day has a bigger effect on the plant’s progress.

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Rabobank: Farm Input Chain Changing

OMAHA (DTN) — The farm input supply chain is in transition as the industry sees great competition from e-commerce. The traditional agricultural supply landscape in North America is facing threats from smaller startups with less fixed costs.

New business models put the farmer more in the middle of the chain where products are bought and sold but also data can be shared. This is considerably different than the traditional ag retail model, which has farmers at one end as buyers only. Europe also is seeing this trend but has a more regulated environment compared to North America.

These was some of the conclusions of farm input analysts in a Rabobank AgriFinance webinar titled “Age of Transition: Farm Input Supply Chain” held recently.

NEW SUPPLY CHAIN

Samuel Taylor, Rabobank farm input analyst for North America based in New York, believes the farm input chain is moving from a linear, fragmented position to a process with constant feedback loops.

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Keeping African Swine Fever at Bay

OMAHA (DTN) — The pork industry in the United States is getting ready to release a volunteer “contract tracing” program for hogs that the industry hopes would stave off an export and supply crisis should a viral disease for swine show up in the U.S.

As the global pork industry watches Germany from afar, the U.S. Pork Checkoff has focused attention on ways to enable regional pork sales and provide the tools necessary for state and federal veterinarians to keep hogs and pork moving should a disease such as African swine fever (ASF) hit the U.S. as well.

The National Pork Board in early November will roll out a new software program called AgView, created through checkoff dollars, that will work with pork producers, USDA and state veterinarians to track hog movement from farms to processing plants. AgView would essentially operate like contact tracing for pigs.

SECURE DATABASE FOR PRIVACY

Privacy has often been a concern among producers entering records into a shared database.

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Ethanol Margins Take Hit on Rising Corn

OMAHA (DTN) — A sharply rising corn price paid by Neeley Biofuels’ hypothetical ethanol plant on Monday took a bite out of the plant’s profit margin since DTN’s last update on Aug. 14.

The 50-million-gallon plant in South Dakota paid $3.79 per bushel for corn on Monday, a spike from $3.25 paid in the middle of August based on the October futures price on the Chicago Board of Trade.

As a result, the plant’s net-profit margin fell from a 9.4-cent-per-gallon profit to a 22.2-cent loss. During the height of the COVID-19 economic shutdown, Neeley Biofuels reported a 16.1-cent loss.

Most ethanol plants are not paying debt. If the hypothetical plant was not paying debt, it would see a 9-cent-per-gallon profit. That’s a decrease of 32 cents since the August update.

For this update, Neeley Biofuels received $1.48 per gallon for its ethanol, based on the rack price — a 15-cent drop since our Aug.

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Proposal Draws Cattle Industry Interest

OMAHA (DTN) — USDA asked for input and received a mixed response to a proposal to require radio frequency identification, or RFID tags, to be the official tag for interstate movement of cattle, following the end of a 90-day public comment period on Monday by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

The now-closed comment period asked for input on a proposal to conduct a rulemaking to require RFID tags on cattle and bison that are: (1) sexually intact at least 18 months of age; (2) used for rodeo or other recreational events, regardless of age; (3) used for shows and exhibitions. On the dairy side, those animals affected include all female dairy cattle and all male dairy cattle born after March 11, 2013.

The proposal is designed to help APHIS efforts to expand animal disease traceability. Final implementation of the traceability program begins Jan. 1, 2023, when RFID ear tags would be required.

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