National Headlines

Hurricane Sally Slams Panhandle

DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) — The number 16 may be sweet for some, but farmer Ryan Jenkins will forever associate it with saturated, damaged crops. Hurricane Sally dumped anywhere from 15 to 30 inches of rain across his Florida Panhandle and southwestern Alabama farm on Wednesday, Sept. 16 — exactly 16 years to the day of when Hurricane Ivan, a Category 3 storm, made landfall at nearly the exact spot and nearly the same time of day.

“Ivan has been the hurricane everyone uses as a benchmark here — it did so much damage,” said Jenkins. “Now Sally has torn us up.”

Jenkins, who has been reporting in each week as part of DTN’s View From the Cab project, had what he considered possibly his best cotton and peanut crops ever before Hurricane Sally hit. He often talked about the importance of “not counting his chickens before they’d hatched.”

Hurricane season came early this year and Jenkins had already watched 19 named storms work their way around him or fizzle this summer.

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ADM Wants Green Plains’ Suit Dismissed

OMAHA (DTN) — Archer Daniels Midland asked a federal court to drop a lawsuit alleging one of the nation’s largest ethanol producers manipulated the ethanol market beginning in November 2017.

In July, Omaha-based Green Plains Inc. alleged ADM conducted a scheme to illegally depress the ethanol cash spot market, in a class-action lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska in Lincoln.

ADM filed two separate motions on Monday, one asking the court to dismiss the case and another to transfer the case to the U.S. District Court for the District of Central Illinois, where the company is based.

ADM argued in the dismissal motion the law does not allow Green Plains to sue for losses selling a commodity such as ethanol.

“The only permissible claim is for losses from trading in financial derivatives (such as futures or options) that are based on a commodity,” the motion said.

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Wildfire Aid and Mitigation

OMAHA (DTN) — USDA on Wednesday detailed some federal assistance available for residents, farmers and ranchers affected by wildfires in the Western states.

Addressing the issues with wildfire mitigation, the American Farm Bureau Federation and 13 state affiliates also are asking Congress to provide additional funds and programs to help prevent and recover from catastrophic wildfires. AFBF and the states sent a letter to Senate leaders supporting the Emergency Wildfire and Public Safety Act of 2020.

The legislation was introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., but has three Republican co-sponsors, Sen. Steve Daines of Montana and Sens. James Risch and Mike Crapo of Idaho. AFBF stated the bill would help mitigate future fires, but it would not address the immediate losses and damage facing farmers and ranchers.

“The images of wildfires are heartbreaking when you watch a family’s livelihood disappear, but the damage continues long after the flames are put out,” said Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.

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House Ag Plans Detailed to NFU

WASHINGTON, (DTN) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Tuesday that the House will take up the Renewable Fuel Standard Integrity Act sponsored by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., just as the House Energy and Commerce Committee released the text of energy legislation that includes it.

The House will vote on the energy legislation, Pelosi announced in an online presentation to the National Farmers Union, a Democratic-leaning farm group that is particularly strong in the Midwest.

“I feel very blessed that Collin is leading our effort,” Pelosi said of Peterson, who is in a tight re-election race. The Environmental Protection Agency has been granting waivers from the Renewable Fuel Standard to oil companies “when they shouldn’t,” Pelosi said.

The bill that the House is expected to take up the week of Sept. 21 will contain provisions that Peterson has written that would set an annual deadline for refiners to request exemptions from the Renewable Fuel Standard and require EPA to publicly release the name of refiners requesting an exemption, the number of gallons requested to be waived and the number of gallons of biofuel that will not be blended as a result of the refinery exemption.

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Cover Crop Know-How

ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) — When Chase Brown started selling cover crop seed eight years ago, he saw it as a small side-gig to supplement his farming operation near Decatur, Illinois.

Now, like many farmers, he’s happy to discover it is a growing industry worth investing in.

“I started selling cover crops in 2012 for extra vacation and beer money,” he admitted. “But it has blown into a substantial business. It has gone from guys throwing some cover seed out each year, mostly for government programs, to really thinking about it and planning. They’ve seen the benefits and attitudes are changing.”

This year, cover crop seed demand for Brown Seed Sales was off the charts. “This year, a switch just flipped,” he said. A lot of factors might be at play: The stagnant spring and early summer commodity prices pushed growers to trim chemical costs, an August derecho flattened some Corn Belt fields, and in the midst of a growing herbicide-resistant weed epidemic, dicamba herbicides were abruptly pulled off the market in June.

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USDA on Derecho

One of the biggest wild cards in Friday’s USDA reports was their handling of the derecho damage incurred in August. Wind speeds were above 100 mph in some areas and 80 mph-plus over a broad section of Iowa. The winds slowed a little going into Illinois and Indiana.

The storm swept through the Corn Belt after the August crop report data collection had ended, so it was well known that the corrections would have to be made this month. NASS indicated in August they would re-survey producers in the affected areas for their harvested acreage ideas. To complicate things, much of the Corn Belt saw unusually hot and dry conditions in August, with some states posting average temps or low precipitation numbers worse than the 2012 drought for that month (but not for the entire growing season). That was also a drag on yield. Western Iowa and a sliver of eastern Nebraska were in D3 or extreme drought, but all states north of the Ohio River had at least some D0 and D1 dryness.

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EPA Denies All Gap-Year RFS Waivers

OMAHA (DTN) — The Trump administration made it official on Monday, announcing in an EPA news release that the agency will deny all pending gap-year small-refinery exemptions to the Renewable Fuel Standard for 2011-2018.

“This decision follows President (Donald) Trump’s promise to promote domestic biofuel production, support our nation’s farmers, and in turn strengthen our energy independence,” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a statement.

“At the EPA, we are delivering on that promise by following the rule-of-law and ensuring 15 billion gallons are blended into the nation’s fuel supply.”

The EPA has yet to decide the fate of 31 pending waiver requests for 2019 and 2020, but the announcement ends what has been an agonizing period for the ethanol and agriculture industries. The ethanol industry stood to lose billions of gallons of fuel demand had the waivers been granted.

“Time and time again, EPA has demonstrated through action its commitment to our nation’s farmers,” EPA said in a news release.

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Nitrogen From Above

OMAHA (DTN) — Free nitrogen fertilizer would be a cost-saving dream for most corn growers. Turns out, more may spill from the sky in the form of rainfall than farmers might expect.

New research from the University of Minnesota Extension shows more nutrients are falling in Minnesota’s farm fields in the form of rain or snowfall than previously thought.

In addition to more nutrients, the pH of the rain and snow was higher than researchers expected. This could have an effect on nutrient availability.

While the findings may not change fertilizer recommendations just yet, it is worth keeping your eye on the skies.

VARIATION ACROSS STATE

Paulo Pagliari, University of Minnesota Extension soil fertility specialist and lead researcher on the project, told DTN the study came to be from other research he was already doing. In the past, he did some work with biological activity in soil and looked at nitrogen (N) sources in the soil.

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Dakota Access Still Could Face Closure

OMAHA (DTN) — A federal court is moving closer to temporarily shutting down Dakota Access pipeline operations until future court action plays out.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit gave the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers until Aug. 31 to detail steps taken by the Corps to resolve concerns with the pipeline. The Corps has indicated in court documents it expects to have a complete plan by mid-October.

In a court order issued on Sept. 11, however, the appeals court indicated the Corps is unlikely to call for the removal or closure of the pipeline. The court said it will consider an injunction to halt operations since the pipeline does not currently have an easement.

“Although the Corps has now submitted two reports in response to this court’s direction, it does not expect to have an initial answer for another month,” the court said in its latest order.

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Retained Cattle Ownership

Even with all its ups and downs, the 2020 cattle market likely has some opportunity left in it for many cow-calf producers across the country.

Derrell Peel, Oklahoma State University Livestock Marketing Specialist, reported the futures markets are looking positive, and with that there are some added options for producers to turn a challenging year into a profitable one.

Asked to forecast the market, Peel noted he’s been “pretty impressed over the last few weeks with the way these markets have improved. We have a consistent signal across the industry right now, which is very good.”

Two areas he said cow-calf operators should pay close attention to right now are their cow culling decisions and retained ownership of calves.

Early weaning decisions can create more options in drought-hit areas, allowing producers to make culling decisions earlier rather than later when it comes to cow herds. “If you pull calves off now because forage resources are low, it makes sense to do some early culling” he said.

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EPA Challenged on Chesapeake Bay TMDL

OMAHA (DTN) — The EPA has failed in its legal responsibility to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, two new federal lawsuits filed on Thursday argue.

In particular, the lawsuits filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the states of Maryland, Virginia and Delaware, along with the District of Columbia, argue EPA has failed to hold accountable the states of New York and Pennsylvania for not cutting nutrient runoff as part of the total maximum daily load, or TMDL, program for the bay.

In 2010, EPA issued a TMDL for the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries with jurisdictions in the District of Columbia, Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.

Those states adopted caps on discharges of nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment in the bay region. Each state was directed to issue watershed implementation plans in three phases, in 2010, 2012 and 2019.

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Hanging on to Heritage

WESTON, Mo. (DTN) — People stick with traditions for a lot of reasons, but usually they like what they are doing, and they remember their parents or grandparents did the same thing.

After an unexpected 3/4-inch of rain early on Saturday morning during Labor Day weekend, a couple of farmers just north of Kansas City, Missouri, could have been catching a last weekend at the lake or walking the nearby river trail with their dogs.

Instead, they waded through the mud and humidity with their tobacco knives, sticks and harvest spikes and fewer than a dozen local hired hands. They finished cutting, then spiked and loaded about 1 1/2 acres of Burley tobacco, took it to the barn and hung it to dry while trying to get done before the worst of the afternoon heat hit.

BEAT THE HEAT

The tobacco had to be cut and hung, because that rain could have scalded the leaves once the sun started to beat down.

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OSHA Cites Smithfield on COVID Response

OMAHA (DTN) — Smithfield Packaged Meats Corp. may be fined about $13,500 for an alleged safety violation at its meatpacking plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where nearly 1,300 employees contracted COVID-19 and four workers died from the virus this spring.

The plant was temporarily closed in April for cleaning at the onset of the outbreak, reopening after putting measures in place to protect employees.

“On or about and at times prior to March 23, 2020, the employer did not develop or implement timely and effective measures to mitigate exposures to the hazard of SARS-CoV-2,” the citation from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, said.

“Between March 22, 2020, and June 16, 2020, approximately 1,294 employees had tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. Of those employees, approximately 43 were hospitalized and four employees died of complications related to the virus.”

OSHA issued COVID-19 guidelines for the packing industry on April 26, 2020.

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Ag and Rural Issues Raised

OMAHA (DTN) — Responding to questions from the American Farm Bureau Federation, President Donald Trump’s campaign points to the administration’s support for farmers and agriculture in regulations, trade and labor, while former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign counters a Biden presidency would repair some of the trade relations that have affected agriculture the past 3-plus years.

For 40 years, AFBF has asked presidential candidates for responses to questions on major issues affecting farmers, ranchers and rural communities. The group on Wednesday released the unedited responses from the Biden and Trump campaigns. AFBF’s presidential candidate questionnaire comes with 55 days until Election Day and growing focus on rural issues, especially in a handful of battleground states.

President Trump has talked extensively about agriculture throughout his administration, especially in relation to trade and regulatory relief. He also has spoken the past three years at AFBF’s annual meeting. Trump was the first president to address the group’s annual meeting since George H.W

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Trump EPA May Reject Refiner Waivers

OMAHA (DTN) — President Donald Trump reportedly has ordered the EPA to reject 67 so-called gap-year small-refinery exemption requests weeks after Trump said he would speak directly to the agency.

In addition to a report by Reuters on Wednesday morning, one industry source told DTN on background Trump gave the agency marching orders. EPA did not respond to DTN’s request for comment.

“Our folks are confident the White House is rowing in the right direction, but we’re still waiting to learn if the EPA will fight its marching orders,” an ethanol industry source told DTN on background.

Though support for Trump remains strong in rural America, the retroactive waivers issue has been hanging over the president’s re-election campaign in some key ethanol-producing states.

Trump said Aug. 18 visiting storm damage in Iowa that he would talk to EPA officials about the small-refinery exemptions.

EPA received 67 requests from small refiners for retroactive waivers for 2011 to 2018.

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Perdue: China Trade Still Falls Short

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) — With Brazil’s tariff-free quota expiring on Tuesday leading to an increase to a 20% tariff on all ethanol imports from the United States, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue told DTN on Friday a deal between the two countries would be announced soon.

The Brazilians let the Aug. 31 deadline pass this week without announcing an extension of the tariff-free quota, essentially allowing a tariff increase. Some media outlets this week reported a tentative agreement has been reached to keep the zero-rate in place until a larger agreement can be reached.

“I’d love to tell you everything I know about that, but I think I want to calm the waters over some of the discussions,” Perdue said during a stop in Lincoln, Nebraska, on Friday.

Perdue spent Thursday touring storm damage in Iowa. On Friday, Perdue toured the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Nebraska Innovation Campus, as well as joining Nebraska Gov.

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Some Ag Aid Relief in Iowa

RADCLIFFE, Iowa (DTN) — Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue used the trip to Iowa to declare 18 counties in the state as disaster areas for agriculture, allowing farmers hit by the derecho on Aug. 10 in those counties to access some special USDA programs for conservation and clean-up.

Perdue said there are still some considerations for adding counties depending on assessed losses.

“The rules say there have to be at least a 30% loss in the county and that’s what the difference is,” Perdue said.

Perdue toured Iowa storm damage by helicopter on Thursday with Iowa officials including Gov. Kim Reynolds, Sen. Joni Ernst and Iowa Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig. Perdue said the tour left him “sad, somber and sober” seeing the destruction crops so far into the growing season. “It’s very, very sobering.”

The disaster designation, however, does not include allowing farmers in those areas to use the USDA Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus (WHIP-Plus) to cover financial losses.

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Floods Hurt Basin Croplands

OMAHA (DTN) — Potential compensation for a handful of Missouri River Basin farmers who experienced repeated flooding over the years lies in the hands of a federal judge.

Based on post-trial briefs filed on behalf of the government and St. Joseph, Missouri, farmer Roger Ideker and two other farmers in recent days, those producers who claim property, crop and beneficial use losses on their land from repeated floods could receive tens of millions of dollars in compensation.

In early August, the second phase of a trial concluded in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C. Both sides submitted post-trial briefs just days ago.

Based on expert estimates filed in the plaintiffs’ brief, Ideker could receive anywhere from about $23.9 million to $26.2 million in compensation for damage on his 1,493-acre tract of land.

But in a court brief also filed in recent days, the U.S. government questions the calculations used to determine compensation.

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Net Farm Income Rising

OMAHA (DTN) — Despite the pandemic, or because of government response to it, the U.S. farm sector is projected to have stronger income for 2020 than a year ago.

The latest projections for U.S. net farm income for 2020 show a nearly 23% increase from 2019 levels due to higher government payments to farmers and lower interest expenses, USDA’s Economic Research Service reported Wednesday.

Net farm income, considered a broad measure of profits, is forecast to increase $19 billion in 2020 to reach $102.7 billion. If numbers hold, 2020’s net farm income will mark the first time since 2014 that the sector broke the $100-billion mark, climbing out from 2016’s low of $66.7 billion.

Looking just at cash receipts for farmers, government payments and subtracting cash expenses, USDA’s “net cash farm income” is projected to increase $4.9 billion in 2020 to $115.2 billion for 2020, a 4.5% increase from 2019.

Taking in a broader scope of income and expenses, USDA’s “net farm income” factors in cash receipts and government payments minus cash expenses, along with changes in value for farm inventory, depreciation and rental income.

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Dairy Exports Beyond 2020

OMAHA (DTN) — The next presidential administration needs to put more emphasis on competing with Europe for bilateral trade deals that will boost dairy sales as one way to bring back profitability for dairy farmers.

Competing with Europe, and selling more into Europe, were major themes for dairy and Wisconsin farm leaders Tuesday in a virtual event for the group Farmers for Free Trade.

Farmers for Free Trade is holding virtual town-hall meetings with leaders from different sectors and states voicing what they want to see for a trade agenda in the next administration, whether that’s under President Donald Trump or Democratic nominee Joe Biden. Farmers for Free Trade will provide an analysis and recommendations after the election.

EXPORTS REMAIN GROWTH MARKET

In Tuesday’s talk, dairy leaders stressed that exports now make up 15% to 17% of annual production, or roughly one day’s national production out of every week. Exports remain the growth market for U.S.

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