National Headlines

Last MFP Payments Sent

By Todd Neeley
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) — Farmers should see the third and final round of Market Facilitation Program payments in the bank by the end of the week, USDA announced in a news release on Monday.

The latest MFP payments come just weeks after the United States and China finalized a phase-one trade deal.

“It’s been a great start to 2020 for American agriculture with the signing of the historic phase-one deal with China and the signing of USMCA,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said in a news release.

“While these agreements are welcome news, we must not forget that 2019 was a tough year for farmers as they were the tip of the spear when it came to unfair trade retaliation. President Trump has shown time and again that he is fighting for America’s farmers and ranchers and this third tranche of 2019 MFP payments is proof.”

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Iowa Caucuses Crash

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

DES MOINES (DTN) — Democratic Party officials plan to release at least half of all Iowa’s presidential caucus results at 4 p.m. CST on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported late Tuesday morning. The final results of the Democratic Party caucus were delayed after problems reporting the numbers out of the roughly 1,725 precincts across the state.

Troy Price, chairman of the state Democratic Party, held a brief conference call after 1 a.m. (CT) to say the results would be released later on Tuesday. Price read a statement and did not answer any questions about the situation, though he maintained it did not have to do with any kind of hack or interference in the process.

In a statement, the party stated there were “inconsistencies” in the data from precincts, which included votes from the first round of candidate support, and numbers from the final rounds.

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CFTC Proposes New Position Limits

By Katie Dehlinger
DTN Farm Business Editor

MOUNT JULIET, Tenn. (DTN) — The Commodity Futures Trading Commission is taking another stab at establishing position limits in commodity markets, its fourth such attempt since Congress passed the requirement as part of 2010’s financial reform legislation.

CFTC Chairman Heath Tarbert, a Republican, said the proposed rule will cap speculative positions, preventing traders from attempting to corner or squeeze certain commodity markets.

“Position limits are not a solution born inside the Washington Beltway and imposed on the market from afar. Instead, they are one of many tools that exchanges have used since the 19th century to mitigate the potentially damaging effects of excessive speculation. They are a pragmatic, Midwestern solution to a real-world problem,” Tarbert said in a written statement released before a public hearing announcing the new proposal. “Nearly a decade ago, Congress directed the commission to address this issue. Today we are acting.”

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Cow-Calf Course

By Russ Quinn
DTN Staff Reporter

ATLANTIC, Iowa (DTN) — A cow having difficulty calving (dystocia) is a stressful time for everyone involved. Proper management, however, at this time can make an often tough situation much less difficult.

This was the message from two presenters at the Southwest Iowa Cow-Calf Short Course held in Atlantic, Iowa, on Jan. 27. An estimated 75 producers attended the one-day course.

TAKE YOUR TIME

Cow-calf producers need to remember they are assisting a cow in the calving process, which takes some time, according to Tyler Dohlman, a veterinarian and Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine assistant professor. Take your time and let the animal take its time as well, he said.

As long as the umbilicus is intact, the calf is okay and there is no need to rush the cow along, he said.

In addition, Dohlman told the producers in attendance that all chains and instruments used to assist in the calving process need to be as clean as possible.

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More Farms Turn to Bankruptcy in 2019

By Todd Neeley
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) — Though the number of farms filing Chapter 12 bankruptcy increased in 2019 from the previous year, an American Farm Bureau Federation analysis found the number of filings in the fourth quarter fell from the previous two quarters.

The agriculture economy is coming off five years of falling commodity prices and weather disasters on top of trade and federal biofuel policy uncertainties.

The AFBF analysis released on Wednesday shows overall Chapter 12 farm bankruptcy filings increased from 2018 to 2019 by about 20%. It is the largest increase in filings since 2010 when Chapter 12 filings increased by 33% coming off the recession of 2009.

There were 595 Chapter 12 filings in 2019, according to AFBF’s review of court data, or about 100 more than in 2018. The highest number of filings in recent years was in 2011, when 637 farms filed for Chapter 12.

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EPA Proposes Neonic Decision

By Emily Unglesbee
DTN Staff Reporter

ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) — EPA released proposed interim registration decisions for several neonicotinoid chemicals on Thursday, Jan. 30.

Three of them, clothianidin (such as Poncho from Bayer), imidacloprid (such as Gaucho from Bayer), and thiamethoxam (such as Cruiser from Syngenta), are commonly used as seed treatment insecticides to control a variety of soil and foliar insect pests in field crops such as corn, cotton, sorghum, sugar beets and soybeans.

This class of insecticides has faced global scrutiny for several years for the role they may play in declining pollinator health, which has put pressure on EPA’s routine re-registration review of these three active ingredients.

These three insecticides have been under registration review and undergoing various ecological risk assessments since 2008 (imidacloprid) and 2012 (clothianidin and thiamethoxam). Now the agency has proposed re-registering all three, albeit with some new label language and limitations on use. The decisions are labeled “interim,” because the agency is still working on some studies for neonicotinoid’s overall registration reviews, namely endangered species risk assessments done in coordination with U.S.

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The Future of Cotton

By Emily Unglesbee
DTN Staff Reporter

ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) — The next decade will bring some novel cotton technology to U.S. farmers.

We rounded up four new cotton traits in the pipeline — three winding their way toward commercialization and one ready to hit fields in 2020. They include a new Bt cotton trait targeting tarnished plant bug and thrips, HPPD-tolerant cotton, low-gossypol cotton and reniform-resistant varieties.

BT COTTON FOR PLANT BUGS AND THRIPS

For more than 20 years, the Bt traits on the cotton market have only targeted caterpillar pests of cotton, such as the cotton bollworm. Now, Bayer is working to bring a new Bt cotton variety that targets a completely different class of insects — biting and sucking pests, namely tarnished plant bugs and thrips.

Also known as lygus, the tarnished plant bug has long been one of cotton growers’ most damaging pests. In 2018, it cost growers an estimated $175 million across the U.S.,

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Markets React to Chinese Virus

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

OMAHA (DTN) — Optimism has fallen out of the commodity and stock markets as the number of infections rise from the coronavirus in China, which has spread to the U.S., Canada and now at least 13 other countries.

As of Monday, Chinese officials had confirmed at least 2,800 cases of the virus with at least 82 deaths. Chinese officials stated there were nearly 5,800 suspected cases of the disease as well, according to China’s National Health Commission. Chinese officials also announced they were spending nearly $9 billion to contain the outbreak.

Coronavirus is a respiratory illness with symptoms of coughing, fever and shortness of breath. The Centers for Disease Control states the outbreak that began in the city of Wuhan in the Hubei province likely came from contact with animals with a possible link to seafood and live animal markets in the city. Since then, the virus has begun to spread person to person.

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Put 2019 Lessons to Work

By Matthew Wilde
DTN Progressive Farmer Crops Technology Editor

AMES, IOWA (DTN) — Jason Webster isn’t about to forget the rough-and-tumble 2019 crop season, but not for the reasons you think. Instead, the agronomist and head of Precision Planting’s Technology Institute prefers to apply the experiences to improve production practices.

“It was a challenging year, but it gave us an opportunity to learn a few things,” said Webster during Precision Planting’s Winter Conference this week. Farmers, agronomists and Precision Planting premier dealers attended the event at the company’s headquarters near Tremont, Illinois. The event was also televised to 10 locations in the U.S. and Canada, including Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa.

During the meeting, Webster highlighted several 2019 agronomic trials from the company’s 320-acre research farm near Pontiac, Illinois. “Profitability is on everyone’s mind going into 2020. We’re focusing on trials that made the most money and cost us money,” he said.

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Ag Policy Blog

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

My first experience reporting on a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) expansion in a rural community was more than 25 years ago in Illinois as a business reporter for a small daily paper. I reported on the same type of meetings as a county government reporter in Missouri and later as a regional reporter in Iowa and Nebraska.

These meetings all pretty much go the same way. Local residents, some of whose families have lived in a home or farm for generations, learn someone — a neighbor, an outsider or a corporation — is building several confinement buildings near them, and there is little that can be done locally to prevent it. The person putting in the facility always maintains it will be good for the area economically and won’t really be a problem environmentally. Early on, local zoning rules could block CAFOs, but over time that authority was taken away by state legislatures, and the CAFO often ends up being built in the end.

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Trump Signs USMCA Deal

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

OMAHA (DTN) — President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement at a White House ceremony, allowing the president to highlight his trade successes and the overall strength of the U.S. economy even as the impeachment trial against him continues.

USMCA is a significant political victory for President Trump, who noted in his comments that his critics had dismissed the possibility of renegotiating the former North American Free Trade Agreement. Trump also pointed again to the phase-one China deal signed earlier this month.

“There has never been an administration that has done what we have done in the past three years,” Trump said.

Trump is scheduled to hold a campaign rally Thursday evening in Des Moines, making a point to come to Iowa just days before the Democratic caucuses in Iowa on Monday evening.

USMCA is still waiting for ratification in Canada.

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GM Insects on the Horizon

By Emily Unglesbee
DTN Staff Reporter

ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) — Diamondback moths would do well to be wary of potential mates in the years to come.

Scientists recently completed the first successful field testing of a genetically modified (GM) “self-limiting” insect in the U.S., using this species. When the GM male diamondback moths are released and mate with wild female moths, they pass on a gene that causes all female offspring from the match to die in the early larval stages.

“As you release our male moths over a period of time, eventually the number of female offspring goes down in the next generation and the pest population declines,” explained Neil Morrison, head of agriculture programs for Oxitec, the biotech company that developed the GM moth.

Don’t feel too bad for the moths, which are a major global pest of brassica crops, earning them the moniker “cabbage moths.”

“Diamondback moths cause a tremendous amount of damage globally, between $4 to $5 billion a year,” noted Anthony Shelton, a Cornell insect ecologist who led the field testing in upstate New York.

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Ag Weather Forum

By Bryce Anderson
DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist

Weather, climate and public safety agencies are going all out to keep flood concerns front and center across the north-central United States ahead of spring 2020. The latest round of publicity was issued over the Jan. 24-25 weekend from the NOAA Central Region Operations Center. The bulletin has a dual focus: saturated soils and snow pack.

The following are the text details.

**

PRECIPITATION AND SOIL MOISTURE

Well-above-normal rain and snowfall throughout 2019 has led to record flooding, record-high river levels, and abnormally wet ground for the winter season across the Missouri River Basin. Through the end of December 2019, the Missouri River Basin has had its third-wettest year in 124 years of modern record keeping. Across the Missouri River Basin, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas recorded their top five wettest years (January 2019-December 2019). The Upper Mississippi and Red River basins had their wettest years in 125 years of modern record keeping.

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Can Corn Overwinter?

By Emily Unglesbee
DTN Staff Reporter

ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) — The ugly trifecta of 2019 — late planting, high-moisture corn and plentiful rain and snow — has left many farmers facing unharvested cornfields into December and possibly beyond.

Of all the agronomic sins this year has forced onto the landscape, cornfields left standing deep into the winter is perhaps the one farmers dread the most.

“Nobody in my part of Ontario, and, I presume, the rest of the province, wants to leave corn out for the winter, especially this year,” said Dan Petker, who farms in southern Ontario, Canada. “Surrounded by the Great Lakes means lots of moisture-laden air, lots of snowfall and lots of wind.”

Even farther south, the idea strikes fear in the heart of north-central Missouri farmer Kyle Samp, who was forced to harvest some fields in January last year due to overly wet conditions. “Even that long makes me so nervous,” he said.

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Court Puts Iowa Ag Trespass Law on Hold

By Todd Neeley
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) — The state of Iowa cannot enforce a new ag trespass law signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds last March, after a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction this week in a lawsuit brought against the law by animal rights groups.

The order issued Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa in Des Moines is the latest in a series of legal defeats for the state in its attempts to stop undercover investigations at agriculture facilities.

Animal rights groups filed the lawsuit on April 22, 2019, to stop Iowa’s new law. Reynolds signed the law just months after a federal court ruled the state’s previous ag fraud law was unconstitutional.

“The public interest also weighs in favor of granting a preliminary injunction,” the court said in its order on Monday.

“Although this court seriously considers the public’s interest in seeing the enforcement of criminal laws, defendants have done little to show that (the law) responds to ongoing issues of public concern unrelated to the suppression of free speech,” the court said in its ruling.

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Ag Calls for USMCA Certainty

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

OMAHA (DTN) — With a little more than two weeks left before Congress adjourns for the holidays, supporters of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement know time is slipping away fast, and the trade deal could land right in the middle of presidential politics.

Talks continue in Washington over what it will take for House Democratic leaders to sign off on a deal, but appeasing Democrats is now causing pushback from Mexico.

As Politico reported Tuesday, Mexican officials are now resisting U.S. proposals for supervisors who would ensure Mexico upholds its labor reforms under the trade deal. The Mexican Business Coordinating Council, a major business lobby, is criticizing new labor demands as “extreme in nature and completely unacceptable.” The Business Coordinating Council includes banking, agricultural and other business groups.

SUPPORTERS OF AGREEMENT

Supporters in agriculture, such as the group Farmers for Free Trade, keep putting rural Democrats front and center to call for passage of the trade agreement.

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Grassley Hopeful Trump Changes RFS Rule

By Todd Neeley
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) — With a proposed rule to account for small-refinery exemptions in the Renewable Fuel Standard now in the EPA’s hands, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, told agriculture journalists on Tuesday he’s hopeful the agency will improve the proposal.

A public comment period for the supplemental rule closed on Nov. 29, and the agency is on track to finalize the rule by the end of the year.

The Trump administration has approved 85 exemptions since 2016, and agriculture and biofuel interests are unsatisfied with an EPA proposal to account for waivers. The industries contend the proposal does not include what was agreed to in a Sept. 12 White House meeting involving Midwestern lawmakers.

“Two weeks ago this afternoon, I and another senator were in the Oval Office, talking to the president about this very thing,” Grassley said.

Grassley said that, during the recent meeting in the Oval Office, the president invited in economic adviser Larry Kudlow and contacted by phone EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, telling them the RFS proposal to guarantee 15 billion gallons of corn ethanol is maintained.

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Questions About Brazil Packer

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

OMAHA (DTN) — The U.S. Cattlemen’s Association is asking the U.S. treasury secretary to conduct a review of Brazil’s Marfrig Global Foods increasing its stake in Kansas City, Missouri-based National Beef Packing.

Marfrig announced in mid-November the company would buy the remaining 31% of National Beef, the fourth-largest meatpacker in the U.S. The shares in National Beef had been owned by the investment firm Jefferies Financial Group. Marfrig had already purchased 51% of National Beef from Jefferies and other shareholders in June 2018.

National Beef operates two beef packing plants about 80 miles apart in Kansas. One is in Dodge City and the other is in Liberal. National Beef also owns a packing plant in Tama, Iowa, and operates other case-ready and further-processing plants in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Kansas, Ohio and Missouri.

Marfrig announced the purchase of that 31% of shares from Jefferies is already final.

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How Lenders See You

By Des Keller
Progressive Farmer Contributing Editor

Securing operating loans for the upcoming crop season will bring new challenges for some borrowers, but there are ways to make farm operations more cash-worthy in the eyes of today’s lenders.

Start with a thorough overview of the farm’s financial statements to make a great first impression, said John Blanchfield, consultant with Agricultural Banking Advisory Services. He noted often financial statements are an area that needs help, with bankers spending too much time reconstructing customers’ financials as a first step in the loan process.

“If a banker has to use up so much of their time working on getting the financial statements right, they have less time to evaluate the credit request itself,” Blanchfield said. “A banker will naturally gravitate to those applications that don’t require a huge amount of detective work.”

There are four steps to borrowing success, he notes: the plan and request by the grower; financial statements and numbers; a site visit by the lender to the business; and evaluation of the total package by the banker.

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The Big Question

By Dan Miller
Progressive Farmer Senior Editor

Farm-equipment manufacturers are certainly aware of the challenges facing customers today, but Robert Crain doesn’t believe U.S. farmers are ready to throw in the towel.

“The larger guys are cautiously optimistic,” said AGCO’s senior vice president and general manager, Americas. He believes, however, there is positive news on the horizon for equipment manufacturers. The U.S. farming fleet is generally as old as it’s been in 10 years. “We think that presents opportunities,” he added.

FLEET REPLACEMENT AHEAD

The September 2019 equipment sales report from the Association of Equipment Manufacturers paints a mixed picture. Tractor sales were actually up through September for both 4WD and 2WD models (100-plus horsepower), 9.4% and 3.4% respectively, compared to the same period in 2018. Sales of 2WD tractors (100-plus hp) were up sharply in September by more than 19%. Sales of 4WD tractors for September were down 5%.

Combine sales through September were reported up 1.8%.

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