National Headlines

House Ag Advances Disaster Aid

OMAHA (DTN) — The House Agriculture Committee on Tuesday advanced a bill to provide as much as $8.5 billion in supplemental disaster aid for farmers and ranchers who faced disaster both in 2020 and 2021.

The bill, passed unanimously by voice vote, will expand coverage of losses under USDA’s Wildfire Hurricane Indemnity Program-Plus (WHIP-Plus) and cover losses including those from wildfires last year in California as well as the derecho that hit Midwestern producers last summer. The aid will also cover producer losses this year from the polar vortex as well as farmers whose crops are in D-2 “severe” drought conditions for at least eight consecutive weeks.

The WHIP-Plus bill will include payments for qualified losses for unharvested acres, payment to certain dairy processors, as well as dairy and sugar cooperatives, and California grape producers who suffer quality losses due to grapes tainted by smoke in 2020 or 2021. The bill also includes an option for USDA to provide block grants to processors affected by disaster.

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These States Have Best Corn Conditions

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) — Though the national corn crop condition rating was slightly downgraded by USDA in its latest weekly Crop Progress report on Monday, several states turned in very high good-to-excellent ratings.

Overall U.S. corn condition was rated 64% good to excellent, down 1 percentage point from 65% the previous week and down 8 percentage points from this time last year (https://www.dtnpf.com/…).

Farmers in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Michigan, Tennessee, Ohio, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Colorado and North Carolina, reported the best corn crops of any producers in the nation.

Pennsylvania’s nation-leading good-to-excellent rating on corn in Monday’s report came in at 88% with 24% of the crop reported as excellent. Pennsylvania’s excellent rating leads the nation. According to USDA’s acreage report from June 30, 2021, there were 1.38 million acres planted to corn in Pennsylvania.

Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee each recorded the second-highest good-to-excellent ratings in the country on corn at 82%.

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Kip Tom: UN Direction Flawed

OMAHA (DTN) — Although Indiana farmer Kip Tom left his post in January as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture, he is keeping tabs this week as the U.N. holds events while global agricultural leaders gather in Rome.

The United Nations is holding a three-day “presummit” in preparation for a shorter U.N. Food Systems Summit set for this fall in New York.

Under the Trump administration, Tom was effectively in charge of the U.S. policy toward the Food Systems Summit and challenged the direction of the EU Farm to Fork strategy to reduce the environmental footprint of agriculture. The Trump administration had criticized the EU plan, which they argued would abandon new technology and risk gains in agricultural production.

“We saw this as an extreme risk going forward,” Tom said in an interview with DTN last month. “There are no negotiated outcomes from the summit itself, but it will still probably guide food policy.”

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Fraud Verdict Against Akaushi Assoc.

As the value of DNA and cattle lineage continues to increase throughout the beef industry, it’s notable that one of the world’s most widely recognized premium branded programs has just been hit with a $30 million verdict for what a jury saw as failure to deliver on some key promises to buyers.

Last week a trial ended in a court in Fort Bend County, Texas, with some astounding findings. Twinwood Cattle Company had sued the American Akaushi Association (AAA), HeartBrand Holdings, and Ronald Beeman, chairman of the board of both entities, over DNA identifications for cattle bought through HeartBrand. A jury found unanimously that defendants breached a contract with Twinwood, and fraudulently concealed breaches and tortious conduct for several years around the issue. The suit was filed in 2018.

Twinwood, based at Simonton, Texas, was a member of the AAA from 2009 through 2016. Testimony for Twinwood alleged the AAA promised members they would receive DNA-verified pedigrees for registered animals, as well as certificates of registration.

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AFBF President Talks Policy

WASHINGTON (DTN) — In his first in-person meeting with reporters since the beginning of the pandemic, American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall on Thursday praised the Biden administration’s openness but said his Republican-leaning group vigorously opposes any change in the use of stepped-up basis for the valuation of farm estates.

The Biden administration “has been very open to us,” Duvall said, giving Farm Bureau the opportunity to express its views on a variety of topics. “I think the pandemic helped this administration realize how important agriculture is to this country.”

He said he was particularly appreciative of Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan, who spoke to Farm Bureau’s state presidents and said he believes Regan’s promise to seek input into rewriting the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule.

If the Biden administration combines the Obama and Trump era WOTUS rules, Farm Bureau might support it, Duvall said. But “if they attempt to take navigable out of there, it is probably going to be a deal breaker to us.”

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USDA Cattle on Feed Report/Cattle Inventory

Editor’s Note: This report was originally published at 14:10 p.m. CDT; It was last updated at 14:40 p.m. CDT.

OMAHA (DTN) — Cattle and calves on feed for the slaughter market in the United States for feedlots with capacity of 1,000 or more head totaled 11.3 million head on July 1, 2021. The inventory was 1% below July 1, 2020.

The inventory included 6.98 million steers and steer calves, down 1% from the previous year. This group accounted for 62% of the total inventory. Heifers and heifer calves accounted for 4.32 million head, down 2% from 2020.

Placements in feedlots during June totaled 1.67 million head, 7% below 2020. Net placements were 1.61 million head. During June, placements of cattle and calves weighing less than 600 pounds were 345,000 head, 600-699 pounds were 260,000 head, 700-799 pounds were 375,000 head, 800-899 pounds were 405,000 head, 900-999 pounds were 195,000 head, and 1,000 pounds and greater were 90,000 head.

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High Oleic Premium Opportunities Build

ANKENY, Iowa (DTN) — High-oleic soybean acres are expected to increase in the coming years to provide more farmers the chance to cash in on premium opportunities, which can be more than $2 per bushel.

Demand is on the rise for the healthier cooking oil made from high oleic soybeans, according to representatives from Corteva Agriscience and Benson Hill, whose companies sell that oil.

High oleic soybean oil also has expanding industrial uses, such as being used as a substitute for petroleum in motor oil, tires, asphalt and other products.

Roger Theisen, marketing manager for Corteva’s Plenish high oleic soybeans, believes a high oleic “oil boom” is coming.

“The food industry is faced with consumers that look a lot different than 10 years ago (when Plenish was introduced) … and 18 months ago pre-COVID,” Theisen said during Corteva’s recent summer media day at its Johnston, Iowa, campus. “COVID made us more aware of a lot of things.

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USDA Cattle on Feed Report Preview

OMAHA (DTN) — Friday’s Cattle on Feed report isn’t expected to highlight any wild surprises, nor is it expected to greatly affect the market in any manner. The report’s biggest key findings could potentially be in the specific placement data. With drought continuing to plague cattlemen in the western half of the United States, the report could show that there’s been more lighter weight calves working their way into the feedlots than years past. This not only will affect how the marketing cycle works this year — meaning that the calf run in October could be far less than what it has historically been — it could change when those calves get sent to slaughter and could add more numbers to be marketed in the first quarter of 2022.

USDA will release its July 1 Cattle on Feed report at 2 p.m. CDT on Friday.

USDA ActualAverage EstimateRange
On Feed July 198.8%98.2-99.7%
Placed in June94.1%90.4-96.0%
Marketed in June102.3%99.6-103.4%

ShayLe Stewart can be reached at shayle.stewart@dtn.com

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Washington Ranch Sale Hearing Delayed

Editor’s Note: This story was first published on July 20. It has been updated with new information at noon on July 21.

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) — The final sale of Easterday Ranches Inc. in southeastern Washington to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly known as the Mormon Church) likely will be completed by sometime in August.

Attorneys for the ranch, owned by Mesa, Washington, rancher Cody Easterday, asked the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for Eastern District of Washington to issue a temporary restraining order and injunction against the Rabo AgriFinance LLC.

A motion was filed Monday to delay a hearing on that motion to Aug. 25. The motion was filed to prevent the creditor from collecting on nearly $1.1 million owed it by Easterday on a parcel of land that is not part of the sale.

Also this week, the court issued a sale order to approve Farmland Reserve’s $209 million bid for most of the Easterday properties.

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Herbicide Injury on the Rise

ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) — Both the temperature and tempers are running hot this summer, as herbicide injury surfaces across the Midwest and South once again.

Dicamba remains the primary source of complaints, although cases of 2,4-D injury are also being reported, state regulators told DTN. In October 2020, EPA granted new labels and five-year registrations to three dicamba herbicides — XtendiMax (Bayer), Engenia (BASF) and Tavium (Syngenta) — for use over-the-top of Xtend and XtendFlex soybeans and cottonfields. The agency added some new rules, including national cutoff dates and use of new volatility reduction agents (VRAs) in the tank.

Yet regulators are watching complaints tick upwards in some states, many from soybean fields with uniform cupping injury suggesting volatilized dicamba is still at work. On social media and in rural communities, farmers and retailers are picking sides and fiercely defending their technology of choice, as rumors fly about what causes cupping symptoms in soybeans.

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Washington Ranch Sale Delayed

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) — The sale of Easterday Ranches Inc. in southeastern Washington to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly known as the Mormon Church) remains on hold maybe until this fall after a federal bankruptcy case was delayed a second time.

Attorneys for the ranch, owned by Mesa, Washington, rancher Cody Easterday, asked the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for Eastern District of Washington to issue a temporary restraining order and injunction against the Rabo AgriFinance LLC.

A motion was filed on Monday to delay a hearing on that motion to Aug. 25. The motion was filed to prevent the creditor from collecting on nearly $1.1 million owed it by Easterday.

The ranch filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and is selling its assets. The creditor is the final holdout in an agreement reached between Easterday and its largest creditors.

Rabobank is the loan debtor in the ongoing bankruptcy case that has not consented to a court-approved cooperative agreement between Easterday and its creditors.

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Biden Admin to Delay Late RFS Proposals

OMAHA (DTN) — The Biden administration reportedly will delay the release of already late Renewable Fuel Standard volume proposals because of political concerns, according to a Reuters report citing two unnamed sources.

The biofuels puzzle continues to be as vexing for the Biden administration as it was for the Trump administration.

The ethanol industry — which has been hit by a torrent of major court decisions that went against it, battles with the Trump administration over small-refinery exemptions and a loss of year-round E15 — was expecting RFS volumes proposals for 2021 and 2022 in the coming weeks.

Reuters said Biden Chief of Staff Ron Klain was involved in “discussions” that have been ongoing for months from both oil and ethanol interests.

If true, the Biden White House’s involvement in so-called biofuels negotiations is the first such report coming from the new administration.

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Enviros Sue on New Herbicide Approval

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) — Another herbicide is in the crosshairs of environmental groups and this time before it ever finds the field.

EPA’s approval of a newly registered herbicide violates the Endangered Species Act and should be set aside, the Center for Food Safety and the Center for Biological Diversity allege in a petition filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

In May the EPA granted unconditional approval to BASF’s trifludimoxazin, the active ingredient in the herbicide Tirexor. The product is designed for weed control in corn, soybeans and other crops including tree plantations.

“Petitioners allege that EPA violated its duties under FIFRA (Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act) in approving the Registration, and that the Registration lacks support in substantial evidence,” the group said in their petition to the Ninth Circuit.

“Petitioners further allege that the EPA violated its duties under the Endangered Species Act, failing to comply with ESA’s Section 7 mandates as required to protect endangered species and their designated critical habitats.”

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Harnessing the Power of Ag Data

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) — Because many farmers find themselves flush with cash from the recent spikes in commodity prices, now may be the time for producers to make investments in ag-data technologies, the head of the National Corn Growers Association said during a webinar on Thursday.

The idea of sharing data collected from yield monitors and other gizmos was considered a major privacy concern for farmers not that long ago. It still is on many farms. But this data’s potential to improve operations is beginning to outweigh those concerns.

Jon Doggett, CEO of the National Corn Growers Association, said some of those attitudes are changing. Doggett spoke during a webinar hosted by AGree focusing on innovation in ag data.

“We’ve seen an explosion here in the use of data by our growers,” he said.

“Ten or 15 years ago, I heard over and over and over again from growers, ‘I don’t want that yield monitor to be talking to my whoever, you know.

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Harnessing Power of Agriculture Data

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) — Because many farmers find themselves flush with cash from the recent spikes in commodity prices, now may be the time for producers to make investments in ag-data technologies, the head of the National Corn Growers Association said during a webinar on Thursday.

The idea of sharing data collected from yield monitors and other gizmos was considered a major privacy concern for farmers not that long ago. It still is on many farms. But this data’s potential to improve operations is beginning to outweigh those concerns.

Jon Doggett, CEO of the National Corn Growers Association, said some of those attitudes are changing. Doggett spoke during a webinar hosted by AGree focusing on innovation in ag data.

“We’ve seen an explosion here in the use of data by our growers,” he said.

“Ten or 15 years ago, I heard over and over and over again from growers, ‘I don’t want that yield monitor to be talking to my whoever, you know.

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Droughty Crops Make Toxic Forage

OMAHA (DTN) — Many producers harvest drought-stressed crops as an additional forage for livestock when Mother Nature scorches other sources and forces the price of alternatives higher.

However, with the severe drought currently in the Northern Plains, the option of using small grains for forage is being threatened by toxins released within the drought-damaged crops. At the top of the list is nitrate poisoning.

The drought has had a devastating effect on all crops in the Northern Plains. Alfalfa and pastures stopped growing due to lack of moisture, leaving livestock producers with little forage, according to Marisol Berti, a professor of forage and biomass crop production at North Dakota State University (NDSU).

Livestock producers are desperate for forage and many are considering using such crops as wheat, barely, corn or oats, she said. These crops have lost their yield potential but could still be used as a forage. For more on how North Dakota crops and farmers are faring, please read “North Dakota Farmers Struggle With Historic Hot, Dry Conditions” here: https://www.dtnpf.com/…

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Trying to Hang on to Cattle

DICKINSON, N.D. (DTN) — After some of the busiest months in recent memory, at least a few North Dakota sale barns this week saw fewer sales of cull cows and bulls.

As North Dakota comes out of one of the hottest, driest Junes on record, livestock producers are looking for any type of feed to hold on to their cows and calves — at least until the calves are weaned. Their challenge with the drought is pastures have dried up, and they have already eaten away at their hay and feed reserves. And they are about to face another stretch of temperatures in the upper 90s over the next week or longer.

Hay was already short going into last winter. As spring arrived, producers continued hanging on, waiting for rains and grass, depleting any hay reserves they may have had in the process. When pastures didn’t recharge, they started to consider options such as selling.

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Getting Through Exceptional Drought

MINOT, N.D. (DTN) — Adam Lee, who farms with his father near Plaza, North Dakota, looks around at area grass and pasture and notes how a few shots of rain in the past few weeks have started to green up the fields again.

“It just raises everybody’s spirits up a little because everything has greened up,” Lee said.

Farmers in Ward County, North Dakota, where Lee farms, are split between their fields being in D-3 “extreme drought” and D-4 “exceptional drought” conditions. Parts or all of eight counties in north-central North Dakota fall now into that more severe exceptional drought. A much larger chunk of the state is in extreme drought.

Lee was in an area that caught about three-quarters of an inch of rain about two weeks ago. For the farmers who got it, that single shot of rain could help fill out the spring wheat crop.

“Everyone around here has been so amazed by how tough the wheat crop really is,” Lee said.

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Keep the Good Times Rolling — 6

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. (DTN) — The key, David Hula said, is consistent emergence. Or at least it’s a key to the world-record corn yields he’s logged on his Virginia farm, topping out at the eye-popping 616-bushel-per-acre crop he harvested in 2019.

“Several years ago, everyone was talking about that picket fence — even spacing — and how important that seems, but even more important to me is even emergence,” he said.

So, if Hula could choose any technology to add to a planter, any one feature he considers to have the most bang for its buck, that’s the goal he has in mind.

“No. 1 for me would be down force. If farmers are going to retrofit their planters, that’s what I’d recommend. We had pneumatic. Now it’s hydraulic, and that would be the No. 1 thing I’d want.”

This spring and summer’s spike in commodity prices means that for the first time in years, some farmers may find themselves feeling a bit flush with some cash to invest.

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Dicamba Diagnosis Refresher

ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) — Cupped soybean fields are surfacing across the South and Midwest again this summer, and with them, a new crop of rumored causes.

Once again, however, the simplest explanation for those puckered up soybeans remains off-target dicamba applications, agronomists and weed scientists told DTN. Tens of millions of acres of dicamba-tolerant soybeans are currently growing alongside non-dicamba-tolerant beans, and dicamba use in corn is on the rise in the fight against herbicide-tolerant weeds.

“I’ve heard about every possible alternative answer for cupped soybeans besides dicamba,” said Iowa State University field agronomist Meaghan Anderson, with a touch of weariness. Theories thrown around Twitter and across fence lines this year point the finger at older products, such as AMS and Liberty, as well as newer alleged culprits, such as a genetic response of Enlist soybeans to stress or Enlist (2,4-D) herbicides.

“But a true cupping symptomology in soybeans is characteristic of a plant growth regulator and nothing else,” Anderson said.

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