National Headlines

Groups Support Ag Carbon Credit Bill

OMAHA (DTN) — The U.S. Senate is ready to move ahead with an agricultural climate bill that has bipartisan support and backing from major agricultural lobbies.

The Growing Climate Solutions Act was reintroduced Tuesday in the U.S. Senate by a larger bipartisan group of senators, led by members of the Senate Agriculture Committee. Senators signed on to the bill include 17 Democrats and 17 Republicans. The chairwoman and ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee jointly announced they will mark up the bill in a committee meeting on Thursday.

“Addressing the climate crisis is one of the most urgent challenges we face, and our farmers and foresters are an important part of the solution,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. Stabenow called the bill, “a win-win for farmers, our economy and for our environment,” she added, “Our bill is a perfect example of how we can work across the aisle and find common ground to address a critical issue affecting all of us and our future.”

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USDA Raising CRP Rates to Spur Acres

OMAHA (DTN) — In an effort to increase carbon sequestration and conservation land, USDA on Wednesday announced plans to sign up as many as 4 million acres to the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and increase rental rates, looking to counter a trend of declining CRP enrollment.

Ahead of President Joe Biden’s climate summit, USDA announced multiple climate-related programs. Along with the CRP enrollment, USDA also announced new funding for research and rural development that could reach as high as $1 billion for climate adaptation programs.

In an interview Wednesday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told DTN USDA and agriculture in general “know the challenges that are ahead, and we also know the opportunities.” The announcements starting Wednesday and continuing over the next several months will “up our game when it comes to climate.”

The formal announcements on the conservation programs were made at a White House National Climate Task Force meeting Wednesday ahead of the summit.

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Sorghum Plantings Soar This Spring

ANKENY, Iowa (DTN) — It is a year of firsts for grain sorghum and some farmers who grow the crop. As a result, acres and prices are on the rise this year and possibly in the future.

Kody Carson of Olton, Texas, won’t plant corn for the first time this spring in order to seed more sorghum. A field in Kansas farmed by Kent Winter has never been planted to sorghum before, until this year.

Why? Record grain sorghum demand, profit potential and climatic conditions dictate it.

“The sorghum industry is seeing more positive momentum than I can remember during my farming career,” said Carson, National Sorghum Producers (NSP) chairman, during the association’s virtual industry forum on March 1. He started farming in the mid-1980s.

DEMAND FIRSTS

China made its first purchase of U.S. grain sorghum for the 2021-22 marketing year a record 342 days before it starts on Sept. 1, according to USDA data.

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Rural Infrastructure Needs Highlighted

OMAHA (DTN) — Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is taking a lead in making the case for President Joe Biden’s infrastructure package in rural America.

Buttigieg spoke Tuesday to DTN/Progressive Farmer about the American Jobs Plan, pointing to more funding for roads and bridges, electric vehicles and biofuels, and broadband access.

The secretary affirmed that biofuels would play an important role in the rural economy, pointing to his home area of northern Indiana. Buttigieg said the infrastructure plan would drive more support toward “all forms of advanced renewable energy, including biofuels, which has to be part of how we can get to that net-zero goal by the middle of the century.”

The secretary added he expected to see greater investments in research and development around biofuels and an aggressive push to increase biofuels use in aviation.

“There’s a lot of work to be done here that we want to be led by America, recognizing that if America doesn’t lead, then somebody else may, and that would be to our disadvantage.”

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Ethanol, Ag Want E15 Label Changes

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) — Though ethanol groups see no reason for E15 labels on pumps, the industry offered recommendations to EPA at the close of a public comment period on Monday, suggesting such a label should at least be made clearer to consumers.

Back in January EPA proposed a number of possible labeling changes to E15 pumps, including modifying or eliminating labels altogether.

Ethanol industry officials have been concerned the current labels offer warnings to consumers that discourage use of E15. On the other hand, groups also have suggested the expansion of E15 at fuel stations adds to the risk of using the wrong fuel and labels should be more explicit. https://www.dtnpf.com/….

In addition, EPA proposed changes to allow proper underground storage of E15 and for future allowances for higher ethanol blends.

In public comments, Growth Energy said a new label should not discourage motorists from using E15.

“Growth Energy supports modification of the E15 label requirement to increase clarity and ensure it adequately advises consumers of appropriate uses of the fuel, while not unnecessarily dissuading the vast majority of consumers whose vehicles can refuel with E15,” the group said in its comments.

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Weather Gives Planting Cold Shoulder

DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) — “Send it” may be a popular phrase when it comes to planting, but this week, many farmers across the Midwest are contemplating whether they should “park it” for a few days.

Cold and snow now threaten a wide swath of the country where corn and soybean planting has already been going full throttle. DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist Bryce Anderson said the U.S. east of the Rockies definitely has a colder pattern on the way.

“This includes a frost or freeze threat from the Southern Plains through the Midwest,” Anderson said.

BRRRR FOR BEANS

That caused Kyle Meece, an agronomist with United Prairie LLC, Tolono, Illinois, to issue an email alert suggesting his customers literally “chill” until this patch of weather passes.

Farmers in his area of central and east-central Illinois have planted a fair amount of corn and soybeans, he noted. “Soybeans planted around Easter are just starting to be up and out of the ground,” Meece reported.

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Pork Producers Face Prop 12 Uncertainty

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) — When California voters approved Proposition 12 in November 2018, hog producers across the country were ready to adjust their operations to suit the law’s pen-size requirements to ship to the state.

The law takes effect in January 2022 and California regulators have yet to issue guidance rules on those requirements.

The future of Proposition 12 is in the hands of a federal appeals court following a hog industry lawsuit in 2019; hog producers still have no idea how to comply.

Even if producers are willing to invest millions in their operations, they’re unable to do so with any certainty.

Agriculture groups have argued the state’s law placing animal-welfare restrictions on hog producers who sell pork in the state violates the Commerce Clause by regulating hog producers in other states.

The law forbids the sale of pork meat in California from hogs born of sows not housed in conformity with the law.

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New Donation Program for Dairy Products

WASHINGTON (DTN) — USDA announced this week that it will soon implement the Dairy Donation Program (DDP) as established in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack noted Wednesday at a House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee hearing that USDA would not continue the Families to Farmers Food Box Program started by the Trump administration but expected to distribute dairy products from the dairy donation program.

“The program will facilitate the timely donation of dairy products to nonprofit organizations who distribute food to persons in need and prevent and minimize food waste,” USDA said in the announcement.

“Because the statute allows retroactive reimbursements of donations made before donation and distribution plans are approved, USDA is providing advance notice of the minimum provisions to be included in the program to encourage the dairy industry to process and donate surplus milk supplies as it moves through the spring surplus milk production season.

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Tips on How to Help Rural 911 Find You

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the April 2021 issue of Progressive Farmer magazine. For more content from the latest issue of the magazine, visit https://www.dtnpf.com/….

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If you’re in an accident in a rural area, pray someone like John Bentley takes the call. “I’ve grown up here. I know where it is,” the Macedonia, Iowa, farmer said. A volunteer fireman for 22 of his 40 years, he not only knows where most of the residents of Macedonia live, all 245 of them, but he knows who works in which fields, saving precious minutes in an emergency.

Even though Bentley is technically a volunteer fireman, he will tell you he was drafted. His late father, Rod, had three farm fires in one year. The locals ribbed him, saying he had so many fires he needed to join the fire department.

He didn’t want to, so he sent his son John instead.

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Vilsack Addresses Food Aid Issues

WASHINGTON (DTN) — In a three-hour, wide-ranging hearing, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee on Wednesday that USDA will end the Farmers to Families Food Box Program established by the Trump administration. However, USDA will continue to distribute the produce and dairy products that became popular with food banks and other beneficiaries.

A year after USDA started the Farmers to Families Food Boxes, USDA now will shut down the program by the end of May.

Vilsack said USDA’s information gathering on the program had shown it had “significant administrative costs and inadequate accounting of where the boxes were delivered” but that he wants to incorporate the best of that program into traditional food distribution programs.

USDA first launched the food boxes April 17 of last year and quickly announced the department would purchase up to $3 billion in commodities in the first round of the program.

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Ag Groups Make Case v. Proposition 12

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) — All sides in a legal challenge to California’s Proposition 12 laid out their cases during oral arguments in a federal court on Wednesday.

Agriculture groups have argued the state’s law placing animal-welfare restrictions on hog producers who sell pork in the state violates the Commerce Clause by regulating hog producers in other states.

The law requires hog producers to abide by certain regulations in order to sell pork in California. Voters in the state passed Proposition 12 in 2018 with nearly 63% of votes supporting it.

The law forbids the sale of whole pork meat in California from hogs born of sows not housed in conformity with the law. Proposition 12 forbids sows from being confined in such a way that they cannot lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs or turn around without touching the sides of their stalls or other animals.

An attorney for two national agriculture groups told a three-judge panel of the U.S.

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Nebraskans Worry About Toxic Seed Piles

MEAD, Neb. (DTN) — The owners of a small ethanol plant in Mead, Nebraska, that has become an environmental disaster are looking to sell off their adjoining 30,000-head cattle feedyard as the ethanol plant faces state litigation and angry residents.

AltEn LLC, a 24-million-gallon ethanol plant, remains idle and is facing a lawsuit from the state of Nebraska over millions of gallons of toxic water that spilled on Feb. 12-13, 2021, and 84,000 tons of distillers grains from treated corn seed piled on its property that is considered too toxic to feed to animals or spread on fields. The ethanol plant also owes more than $518,000 in back property taxes to Saunders County, Nebraska.

The ethanol plant was developed to support the feedyard, Mead Cattle Co., and both operations are owned by the same Kansas family, the Langleys. Following a lawsuit by the state and resident complaints, the Saunders County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday tabled a vote on a conditional use permit that would transfer operations for the feedyard to a Texas company, Champion Feeders.

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Livestock Producers in a Fight

California’s Proposition 12 is under fire from at least 20 states, as the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has been asked to review whether the California law is constitutional.

Proposition 12 would require that meat products from veal calves and breeding pigs raised outside of the state that are not raised in a way that meets California animal-welfare standards could not cross state lines and be sold there. This could force businesses and farmers who wish to be allowed into that market to be forced to restructure facilities and reengineer management protocol to meet one state’s demands.

In past cases, some as recent as 2019, SCOTUS has held such requirements as outside of the requirements of the Dormant Commerce Clause and thus unconstitutional.

In that 2019 case, Tenn. Wine & Spirits Retailers Ass’n v Thomas, SCOTUS held the Commerce Clause restricts state protectionism, is deeply rooted in case law, and removing state trade barriers was a principal reason the Constitution was adopted.

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Derecho Teaches Farm Family Lessons

HAVERHILL, Iowa (DTN) — Some people chase storms. The Stalzer family are starting to wonder if they attract them.

The Haverhill, Iowa, farmers spent $150,000 to rebuild grain bins after a 2011 derecho. If that wasn’t bad enough, in 2020, another derecho ripped through their area — once again damaging bins and buildings on their farm.

The Stalzer family learned three valuable lessons from these natural disasters:

— Adequate insurance for all property and structures is a must.

— Take immediate action to book contractors to make repairs.

— Storm preparation is key.

Each of these lessons helped the central Iowa farmers mitigate current and future financial losses and reconstruction delays after the storms. They hope other farmers heed these lessons as well. Not doing so “can be costly,” said Dick Stalzer.

Dick farms 5,000 acres of corn and soybeans with brothers, Bob and Dale, and their sons, Matt, Brian, Ross and Brett.

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Proper Training Needed With Anhydrous

OMAHA (DTN) — The least expensive form of nitrogen also has the potential to be one of the most dangerous chemicals used in agriculture today. However, anhydrous ammonia can be used safely if the product is handled and applied correctly.

Those who work around the nutrient need to be properly trained to follow exact handling and transportation procedures. Using personal protective equipment (PPE) is another important aspect of working with the fertilizer.

These were some of the important points covered in a March 30 webinar titled “Anhydrous Ammonia Safety for Farmworkers” put on by the Agri-Safe Network. (https://www.agrisafe.org/…)

KEYS FOR WORKING WITH ANHYDROUS

Director of the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety (NECAS) Dan Neenan said the basic keys for anhydrous safety are proper training, respect for the product, wearing PPE and just to slow down when working with the fertilizer. Neenan is also a paramedic, firefighter and vice-chair of the Dubuque County Emergency Management Commission.

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Derecho Rebuild on Track

ANKENY, Iowa (DTN) — Contractors believe they are on pace to repair and replace by fall most Midwest grain storage facilities and buildings that were pummeled by a derecho last year.

The fierce storm, which resembles an inland hurricane, cut a destructive path from Nebraska to Ohio on Aug. 10, 2020. Iowa was the hardest hit. Winds topping 140 mph caused an estimated $11 billion in damage to grain bins, buildings, crops and more, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The primary focus of contactors last summer and fall was to get as many derecho-damaged commercial and farm grain storage facilities and buildings operational as possible for the 2020 harvest. Builders are feverishly working this spring to finish construction and repair projects by the time combines roll in 2021.

If farmers and elevators were proactive ordering bins, grain-handling equipment, building materials and scheduling work crews after the storm, bin manufacturers and builders say the goal of a complete rebuild, or very close to it, is attainable.

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Corteva Sheds Dicamba Herbicides

ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) — Corteva Agriscience has pulled the plug on a new developmental dicamba product, the last in a series of moves over the past year to divest itself of controversial pesticides.

The company opted to end the EPA registration process underway for a novel dicamba herbicide containing a dicamba choline salt — a different form of dicamba salt from any past or currently marketed dicamba herbicides.

“Corteva Agriscience has made a business decision to withdraw its developmental dicamba product from EPA consideration for registration,” company Media Relations Manager Kacey Birchmier told DTN in an email. “The EPA registration process has not yet been completed for this submission.”

The dicamba-choline product was an attempt to create a less-volatile formulation of dicamba, which continues to be implicated in widespread reports of off-target injury that have resulted in three EPA label revisions and many lawsuits against dicamba manufacturers Bayer and BASF. Corteva was moving ahead with the product’s development last year, which included submitting it to EPA for registration — a process the company has now voluntarily ended, Birchmier said.

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Ag Infrastructure, Taxes and EVs

OMAHA (DTN) — President Joe Biden more aggressively defended his $2.3 trillion infrastructure package on Wednesday, saying the plan and its funding are open to negotiation. But he also stressed the investments are needed to compete with China and other countries going forward.

The president’s proposals fell in line with issues raised Wednesday by the CEO of the country’s largest bank — JPMorgan Chase — even as Biden’s plan largely has gotten lukewarm support among major agricultural groups. Organizations such as the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) have raised concerns over tax increases while biofuel backers are at odds over hundreds of billions in proposed investment to spur more electric vehicles.

To pay for the “American Jobs Plan,” Biden proposes increasing the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%. The 2017 tax cuts led by former President Donald Trump lowered the corporate rate from 35% to the current 21%.

Biden said Wednesday there is room to compromise on a lower tax rate and the time frame to pay off Biden’s infrastructure package.

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Tyson Opens Tennessee Poultry Plant

OMAHA (DTN) — Despite all the hubbub around plant-based proteins, traditional protein companies continue to expand. The latest is Tyson Foods, which on Thursday officially opened a new $425 million poultry complex in Tennessee that includes a processing facility, feed mill and hatchery.

Highlighting how retail demand for chicken has grown, the plant is Tyson’s first new poultry processing facility in 25 years, Tyson officials noted.

The new Tyson facility in Humboldt, Tennessee, has 370,000 square feet for processing. The plant is expected to employ 1,500 people by 2023, but several hundred employees are all ready for production to begin, Tyson stated in a news release. The facility will produce pre-packaged trays of fresh chicken for retail grocery stores starting later this month.

“We appreciate the support of all those who played a role in making this facility possible — the local community, county, state and our Humboldt team members, who safely and responsibly produce high-quality protein daily to help feed our nation and the world,” said Dean Banks, president and CEO of Tyson Foods.

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DTN Pest Roundup

ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) — Insects and diseases are waking up and getting to work, and here at DTN, we have a growing inbox of pest alerts from across the Plains, Midwest, South and mid-Atlantic region.

Here’s what we’re hearing this week:

LEAF RUST AND STRIPE RUST

In Texas and Oklahoma, it’s shaping up to be a good spring for rust diseases, which love moderate temperatures and plenty of moisture, said Bob Hunger, Extension wheat pathologist for Oklahoma State University.

Texas scientists have spotted leaf rust and stripe rust spreading across southern Texas, and in Oklahoma, Hunger has spied both diseases cropping up in wheat fields near Stillwater and Perkins — the north-central region of the state. Hunger also discovered powdery mildew and Septoria/Stagonospora lurking at these locations.

“(W)ith the relatively cool and windy weather in the forecast, I expect the incidence and severity of all these diseases to increase,” he told growers in his wheat disease update.

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