National Headlines

DOJ Sides With Agriculture on Prop 12

OMAHA (DTN) — The U.S. Department of Justice and the North American Meat Institute asked a federal appeals court for a full hearing on a requested injunction to halt implementation of California’s Proposition 12, alleging the law would disrupt programs at USDA.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco recently rejected NAMI’s request for an injunction against the law that requires hog producers to abide by certain regulations in order to sell pork in California. Voters in the state passed Proposition 12 in 2018.

Ag groups and 20 states are challenging the law, arguing it violates the Commerce Clause.

In an amicus brief filed with the Ninth Circuit on behalf of NAMI, DOJ makes a case for an en banc hearing and raises a number of concerns about the law as it relates to government programs. If granted, an en banc hearing would occur before all of the judges in the Ninth Circuit.

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2020 Corn Yield Contest Winners

ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) — Don Stall, a corn grower from Charlotte, Michigan, pushed beyond 400 bushels per acre (bpa) this year, netting him the top yield of the NCGA’s 2020 National Corn Yield Contest.

Stall submitted a 476.91-bpa yield in the conventional irrigated corn category of the contest, with Pioneer hybrid P0720AM. The next highest yield in the 2020 contest was Daniel Gause, Sr., who landed a 387.09-bpa entry in the no-till, non-irrigated corn category on his Scranton, South Carolina, farm with Pioneer hybrid P1847VYHR. Close behind him, for the third-highest yield, was Kevin Kalb, of Dubois, Indiana, with a 385.44-bpa entry in the conventional, non-irrigated category with DeKalb hybrid DKC67-44RIB.

This year’s contest follows the heady 2019 yield contest, where David Hula set his fourth world record with a 616.2-bpa entry. While no world records were shattered this year, participation was up 5% from last year, with 7,844 entries from 48 states.

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A Foot in the Door

Agriculture is a family. It’s a common saying. Many of today’s farm and ranch operators have generations of agrarians behind them. They learned by just growing up on a farm and watching cattle worked or fields planted. It does something to a person’s DNA.

But what if you are not part of the family of agriculture? What if you don’t have those childhood memories or maybe the advantage of land passed down through the generations to give you a start? First-generation farmers are learning how to build their own kind of family. Many of them are getting a little help from a group that just hit its 10-year mark, the National Young Farmers Coalition, born in 2010.

The coalition goes back to first-generation farmer Lindsey Lusher Shute, who farms with her husband, Benjamin, in New York’s Hudson Valley. They believed young farmers and ranchers needed a coordinated voice in Washington, D.C.

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Best Young Farmers/Ranchers-1

Harvest is rolling, and Aimee Bissell has settled into her autumn routine. First thing in the morning, she climbs into a combine and heads to the hilly fields in southwest Iowa to cut corn. She works in tandem with her husband in the second combine while her father-in-law and employees shuttle grain carts and semis.

Her lunch is on-the-go in the combine cab. Breaks are rare, and she plugs into an audiobook to keep her active mind entertained. Around 4 p.m., Aimee’s 17-year-old son arrives from school to take her place so she can go home to make supper. At 6:30 sharp, she serves a meal in the field from foam clamshell containers she has prepared — assembly-line style — in the kitchen. Then she drives back home, does laundry, cleans the house, begins her bookwork and helps her younger son with homework. Everybody is home around 10 p.m. and, “We go to bed and get ready to do the whole thing all over again,” she says.

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States, Ag Battle for Dakota Access

OMAHA (DTN) — If the Dakota Access pipeline is closed down, agriculture economies in the Midwest could find it difficult and more expensive to ship grain, 14 states allege in a brief filed with a federal court ahead of Jan. 8, 2021, deadline for briefs related to a proposed injunction.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will be considering an injunction to halt operations because the pipeline doesn’t have an easement.

In an amicus brief filed with the court, the states of Indiana, Montana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming side with agriculture interests, the pipeline company and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“All amici states — both states the pipeline passes through and others — stand to suffer potentially disastrous consequences in the event of a DAPL shutdown,” the states argued.

“In its previous vacatur order, this court largely dismissed these public-interest issues.

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Global Fertilizer Outlook – 3

OMAHA (DTN) — The global potash (K) market saw limited supply capacity additions in 2020, but new capacity in 2021 could push the market into an unbalanced situation. How the market faces this and several other challenges in the short term will determine the nutrient’s outlook, according to a fertilizer analyst.

Presentations were made on the short-term market outlook at the 2020 T3 Virtual Fertilizer Conference — Trends, Technology and Transportation, put on by The Fertilizer Institute (TFI). This new conference replaced TFI’s Fertilizer Outlook and Technology Conference as well as the North America Fertilizer Transportation Conference.

MORE K SUPPLY

Hasan Tarique, fertilizers senior consultant for Argus Media, presented the K short-term outlook. The outlook for the K market appears to be slightly unbalanced with potentially more supply additions than demand growth in the short term, he said.

Demand for global K fertilizer in 2020 is expected to be at about 66 million metric tons (mmt) for consumption, while this could rise to 68 mmt in 2021.

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Undue Packer Rule Redo

OMAHA (DTN) — While livestock producers might be seeing tight margins and packer profits remain strong, USDA on Thursday issued a final rule in a long-standing political fight over how to define unfair practices under the Packers and Stockyards Act.

The battle over defining “undue or unreasonable preferences” for meatpackers goes back a dozen years to the 2008 farm bill. The act required USDA to write a rule addressing problems with fair practices for meatpackers. A 2010 proposed rule under the Obama administration was frozen until 2016 after a new Congress effectively blocked USDA from moving forward every year in appropriations bills. The Obama administration proposed a second rule just before leaving office, but work on that bill was suspended early in the Trump administration, and work began again on different interpretations of undue preferences for packers.

Since then, USDA’s Grain Inspections, Packers and Stockyards Administration has been split up into separate divisions of the Agricultural Marketing Service.

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Vilsack Tapped for Ag Secretary

OMAHA (DTN) — Despite criticism from Black leaders and progressives, President-elect Joe Biden announced Thursday that his administration will nominate Tom Vilsack to return to USDA as Agriculture secretary.

Biden’s transition team announced multiple cabinet posts on Thursday, including naming Katherine Tai as nominee for U.S. Trade ambassador and Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, as secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Also named were Denis McDonough as secretary of Veteran Affairs and former Ambassador Susan Rice as director of the Domestic Policy Council.

Biden will hold an event Friday with the latest slate of nominees. As recovery begins on the coronavirus pandemic, Biden’s transition team stated the latest round of nominees “Will bring the highest level of expertise and bold vision to help all Americans seize new opportunities and build back better.”

Vilsack, who turns 70 next week, was former President Barack Obama’s longest-serving cabinet member, leading USDA from 2009 to 2107.

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Career Path Swerves to Full-Time Farming

DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) — The farm profitability pie can only be carved into so many slices. Reid and Heather Thompson were very aware of the need to make sure they contributed to the servings when they decided to join the family farming operation near Colfax, Illinois, in 2019.

Leaving the security of a full-time job with benefits, vacation and a steady paycheck was a gut check moment, said Reid, who had worked for Hertz Farm Management and was a licensed real-estate agent and auctioneer for a decade. He gives details of how Thompson Farms has sought to trim expenses, streamline operations and continues to evaluate the farm partnership as part of the DTN Ag Summit, held virtually Dec. 7-9.

Readers may recognize the young farmer from DTN’s 2020 View From the Cab Series where he detailed crop conditions and discussed life on the farm throughout the season. He and Heather, along with two toddler sons, farm with Reid’s parents, Gerald and Jayme Thompson.

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Battle Over Ag, Food Systems

OMAHA (DTN) — Kip Tom, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture (FAO), told farmers Wednesday they need to understand the growing debate between the U.S. and Europe over food systems.

Tom, a farmer from Indiana, was confirmed in 2019 to be the U.S. ambassador to the FAO in Rome, Italy. In that role, Tom oversees U.S. involvement in the FAO agencies and other related international organizations.

He spoke as the keynote for the Marcia Zarley Taylor Memorial Lecture, honoring DTN’s executive editor who was the driving force behind creating the DTN Ag Summit but passed away in 2017.

Economic decline, extreme weather events, pests such as locusts and then a global pandemic have combined to increase poverty and raise the risks of higher food insecurity globally, Tom said. Just in Africa, 350 million people have become unemployed since March. “Imagine the size of the United States, all of sudden, becoming totally unemployed for people often making only $1.90 a day,” he said.

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Trump DOJ Asks SCOTUS to Deny Refiners

OMAHA (DTN) — The Trump administration has asked the Supreme Court to deny an appeal made by refining companies to review an appeals court decision on the EPA’s small-refinery exemptions program.

In a brief filed with the Supreme Court on Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Justice said the refiners Holly Frontier and CVR Energy have not proven a conflict of law.

On Jan. 24, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver ruled EPA didn’t have the authority to issue Renewable Fuel Standard small-refinery exemption extensions to three companies that were not originally granted waivers.

The ruling applied to about one-third of all small refineries in the country. EPA did not appeal the ruling and has been pushed to apply the court’s decision nationally.

“The decision does not conflict with any decision of this Court or another court of appeals,” the DOJ said in its brief. “Indeed, the question presented was one of first impression in the court of appeals and has never previously been addressed by any other court.

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States Mull 2021 Dicamba Limits

ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) — At least three states plan to implement more restrictive cutoffs for dicamba use in 2021, beyond the federal labels EPA issued for XtendiMax, Engenia and Tavium this fall.

Those states — Indiana, Illinois and Arkansas — have fewer options to accomplish this after EPA announced that it is no longer permitting the use of 24(c) special local needs labels to further restrict federal pesticides. Now, if they want to exceed EPA’s federal dicamba cutoff dates of June 30 for soybeans and July 30 for cotton, states must work through Section 24(a) of FIFRA, which means going through state rulemaking or legislation, or they must work within existing state statutes. See more here: https://www.dtnpf.com/….

Arkansas has opted to use its state rulemaking process to implement the nation’s most restrictive cutoff date — May 25 — for the third consecutive year. The state’s plant board voted to keep that restriction in place for 2021 on Dec.

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All-Electric Tractor Unveiled

Monarch Tractor of Livermore, California, on Tuesday introduced what the technology manufacturer calls the world’s first fully electric, driver-optional, smart tractor integrated onto a single platform.

“What makes Monarch Tractor unique is that you are answering the three big challenges farmers have,” said Praveen Penmetsa, co-founder and CEO, Monarch Tractor. “Farmers have labor shortages around the globe. Farmers are under tremendous pressure from their buyers to reduce emissions and provide more sustainability data (to their buyers). Farmers are also working with razor-thin margins.”

This tractor addresses those issues by combining electrification, automation, machine learning and data analysis to improve the manager’s real-time vision of the farming operation by collecting both visual and digitized data from the field. Monarch began deploying electric tractors in 2017 and 2018 in California and India. As a company, Monarch Tractor was founded two years ago.

Penmetsa explained that Monarch is focusing on compact tractors because it is the most common platform in the world.

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Make Your Farm Voice Heard

DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) — Real life is a complicated but satisfying recipe for Meredith Bernard. Farming, being a farm wife and mother, and homeschooling two children would fill a normal plate, but she adds a big side helping of blogging and telling agriculture’s story to the mix.

It wasn’t a life she imagined for herself, but she relishes it with a healthy dose of realism that resonates with readers and listeners. Bernard is one of four blogger/contributors to Progressive Farmer’s Our Rural Roots column, which has gained a following for its down-to-earth thoughts from writers who put on muddy boots every day and aren’t afraid to talk about the complexities of farm life.

Speaking to the virtual DTN Ag Summit this week from North Carolina, Bernard explored her decision to leave a decade of working full-time in agriculture sales behind to raise beef cattle and children and drive a tractor. Not being tied to the daily grind of corporate life, she was also able to explore passions, such as photography and writing.

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Ag CEO Council and Biden Team

OMAHA (DTN) — Leaders from several major farm organizations that had put together a white paper on agricultural issues before the election are talking about some of those challenges with the incoming Biden administration team.

Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, told DTN in an interview Friday he had talked multiple times in recent weeks to Robert Bonnie — head of the Biden transition team for USDA — and had invited Bonnie to participate on an Ag CEO Council call.

Besides Duvall, Rob Larew, president of the National Farmers Union, was also on Friday’s virtual meeting with agricultural leaders and Bonnie.

Bonnie talked to the group about strengthening agricultural markets and working with groups on developing solutions to climate change. Bonnie also talked about addressing rural needs during the pandemic, Duvall said. Bonnie’s conversation with the Ag CEO Council stressed the importance of building a foundation for farm groups to work with the incoming administration.

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New 2,4-D and Dicamba Data

ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) — University of Missouri Extension weed scientist Mandy Bish unveiled the results of the group’s latest research on new auxin herbicide technologies at the annual MU Crop Management Conference, held virtually Dec. 1-2.

MU weed scientists, who led the charge on early investigations of dicamba volatility and temperature inversions, have now turned some of their attention to 2,4-D-choline as its use on 2,4-tolerant Enlist crops ramps up.

Here are four big takeaways for farmers to keep in mind for the 2021 spray season:

1. DICAMBA AND 2,4-D HAVE BEEN FOUND IN RAINWATER

One study presented by the MU team involved collecting rainwater weekly from 12 sites around the state in 2019 and testing it for dicamba and 2,4-D. The preliminary results show that dicamba was detectable in rainwater throughout the season at some sites. In the sites located in the southern corner of Missouri, known as the Bootheel, the dicamba amounts in the rain were high enough to injure sensitive crops, especially with multiple exposures.

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EPA Proposes Chlorpyrifos Safety Steps

OMAHA (DTN) — EPA announced a proposal on Friday to improve the safety of using the insecticide chlorpyrifos. The proposal follows a draft risk assessment the agency released in September.

The EPA is proposing labeling amendments to limit applications associated with drinking water risks as well as requiring additional personal protection equipment and application restrictions to address handler risks.

The agency is also proposing spray drift mitigation in addition to use limitations and application restrictions to reduce exposure for off-target organisms.

Once the proposal is published in the Federal Register, the EPA will accept public comments for 60 days on the draft risk assessment and the additional proposal, according to a news release from the agency.

That assessment identified dietary risks in adults and children, as well as risks to professional handlers of the chemical. The EPA’s draft assessment also identified potential adverse effects to mammals, birds, fish, and terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates.

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Developing Technologies to Help Farmers

Microsoft Azure Global Chief Scientist Ranveer Chandra admits he didn’t like his early experiences with agriculture.

“I grew up in a city in India, but for the first 18 years, I spent a lot of time at my grandparent’s farm. They had a mango orchard and grew wheat, rice and sugarcane,” said Chandra. “Back then, I didn’t like agriculture much. The farms didn’t have electricity or indoor toilets. You had to go to the bathroom in the field,” he said.

“I look back at the extreme poverty and the primitive forms of agriculture. These images are stitched in my mind. When I started at Microsoft Research, I wanted to develop technologies to help farmers. They do so much for us growing our food and making sure we are all well-fed. We have a responsibility to them to make sure they lead better lives. That is one of the motivations for starting Microsoft Azure FarmBeats,” said Chandra, now a partner researcher at Microsoft Research.

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Ag and the Next Congress

OMAHA (DTN) — Arkansas Sen. John Boozman is looking forward to the opportunity to take the lead for Republicans on the Senate Agriculture Committee in the next Congress.

With Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., retiring from Congress, Boozman is in line to become either the chairman or ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, depending on the outcome of the Georgia Senate runoff elections on Jan. 5.

At the moment, Boozman and other senators are waiting to see how congressional leaders and the White House negotiate a possible coronavirus aid package. At least some lawmakers have coalesced around a $908 billion package that is viewed as a starting point for final negotiations. That package includes $26 billion for nutrition and agriculture.

“I hope that, you know, in the next day or two, we can come up with a good compromise that helps,” Boozman told DTN in a phone interview.

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A Future Built on Resilience

Two words that best describe 2020 may be “disruption” and “uncertainty.”

Both have been at the forefront thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, low commodity prices, trade disputes and multiple weather disasters.

These are tough challenges to overcome no matter how long you have been farming. That’s why you don’t want to miss the 2020 DTN Ag Summit, Dec. 7-9. This year’s event will be held virtually, but it will still feature a stellar speaker lineup who will share their strategic insights on ways growers can farm strong to build more resilience in their farming business. Go to www.dtn.com/agsummit for registration details.

One of the main speakers at Summit is Ambassador Kip Tom, current United States permanent representative to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture in Rome. Tom will present this year’s Marcia Zarley Taylor Memorial Lecture.

Tom transformed Tom Farms, a seventh-generation Leesburg, Indiana, farm into one of the largest commodity businesses in the Midwest.

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