National Headlines

Cold Start to Calving

By Russ Quinn
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) — Last week, Mike Manion was busy trying to keep baby calves alive as winter maintained its icy grip on much of the Midwest. The Hemingford, Nebraska, rancher and cattle feeder was rotating calves into barns and hot boxes and then letting them outside once they were strong enough to survive.

“With it being this cold, we are checking them every two hours,” Manion told DTN last Thursday. “The conditions are just making it a little more difficult.”

Cattlemen across much of the Midwest and Northern Plains have been facing difficult weather conditions so far during this traditional calving month of March. Cattle with poorer body conditions, in particular, are having issues calving in weather that is more like winter than spring.

And while temperatures have begun to rise somewhat in the lower Midwest this week, the winter weather isn’t over yet for some parts of the country, such as South Dakota.

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EPA Releases E15 Rule; Clock Ticks

By Todd Neeley
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) — The EPA on Tuesday released a much-anticipated rule to allow year-round E15 sales and to reform the biofuels credits market, with plans to finalize the rule by the start of the summer driving season on June 1.

The rule also includes proposed reforms to the market for Renewable Identification Numbers, or RINs.

EPA proposed a number of reforms that include prohibiting certain parties from being able to purchase separated RINs, requiring public disclosure when RIN holdings exceed specified thresholds, limiting the length of time a non-obligated party can hold RINs, and increasing the compliance frequency of the program from annually to quarterly.

Obligated parties to the RFS, including refiners and others, are allowed to buy RINs or blend biofuels to comply with the law.

Once the proposal is published in the Federal Register, it will launch a 30-day public comment period that ends on April 29.

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Farmer Help Needed

By Pamela Smith
DTN Progressive Farmer Crops Technology Editor

DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) — DTN is looking for two farmers to document and share their 2019 growing season.

For the past 14 years, DTN’s View From the Cab series has encouraged readers to experience the successes, struggles and dreams of two farm families from spring planting through harvest. Now we’re looking for volunteers to step into the role for 2019.

Genny Haun reported in from Kenton, Ohio, this past year. She said the experience caused the Layman Farms team to adopt a habit of gathering each week to review and plan ahead. “It did wonders to keep us all on the same track and that’s something we want to continue,” said Haun.

Kyle Krier filed his weekly reports from Claflin, Kansas. He said reader responses and hearing what was happening in Ohio each week made him think beyond his own fields and furrows.

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Listen to the Land – 8

By Charles Johnson
Progressive Farmer Contributing Editor

The Chappell brothers use a simple principle to guide their crop-management decisions: Healthy soil helps make a healthy farm. It starts by thinking small.

“The big key is the mycorrhizal network in the soil,” said Adam Chappell, of Cotton Plant, Arkansas. “That means the soil is alive. If we have dead soil, we’re never going to make it on this farm.”

That microscopic network improves the crop’s ability to take up both water and nutrients. Boosting the activity of the billions of microbes present in a square foot of soil takes care and planning. For Adam Chappell and his brother Seth, it required educating themselves about how those microbes work, then changing the production system to let them provide maximum benefit to the crop.

Soils in their area are not naturally highly productive, requiring innovation to improve them. Since the brothers started farming with their father in 2006, they made their biggest strides by finding ways to help soil microbes thrive.

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Budget Plan Tightens Ag Spending

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

OMAHA (DTN) — Despite some lobbying last month by the crop-insurance industry, the Trump administration’s budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2020 again calls for reducing crop-insurance premiums, lowering income eligibility and reducing crop-insurance underwriting gains.

The budget would also tighten income eligibility for USDA commodity programs as part of an array of proposed cuts to USDA that would top $5.4 billion for 2020.

While the White House Office of Management and Budget makes an aggressive show of proposed cuts, as is always the case, Congress is unlikely to act on most of the administration’s budget proposals.

The multiple groups that make up the crop-insurance industry trade associations, ranging from reinsurers to agents, expressed disappointment Monday about the budget proposal, but also noted, “OMB’s budget proposal is not expected to receive serious consideration by Congress.”

The crop insurance industry groups added, “This is a shortsighted proposal that, if adopted, would undermine a critical safety net for farmers when they need it most during this time of increasing economic difficulties and challenges in rural America.”

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Listen to the Land – 7

By Charles Johnson
Progressive Farmer Contributing Editor

Step into this field outside Herndon, Kentucky, and touch a bit of agricultural history. One year, it may be planted in soybeans, the next year in corn. One thing, though, is certain: It will always be no-tilled.

It’s been that way since 1962, when it was among the nation’s first commercial farm fields planted in that then-controversial way. Harry Young Jr., an innovative farmer looking for ways to farm more efficiently, cobbled together a no-till planter out of an Allis-Chalmers two-row rig and tried something brand new on about 7/10th of an acre.

A historical marker on the roadside now commemorates his feat. However, this farm is anything but stuck in the past. Today, the operation is comprised of 4,000 acres of rented and owned land operated by John and Alexander Young, Harry’s son and grandson.

Just like Harry, the two understand that moving ahead with new agronomic ideas is critical to staying in business.

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Cover Crop Planning

By Lynn Betts
Progressive Farmer Contributing Editor

Cover croppers face a chicken-egg conundrum of decisions. What seed to plant in the fall often means selecting it in the spring, long before destroying the previous year’s planting, for example.

To figure out what comes first and avoid missing steps, Steve Berger, Wellman, Iowa, suggests a calendar approach to planning. With more than 15 years of cover crops and 40-plus years of no-till under his belt, Berger encourages newcomers to embrace cover crops as a yearlong proposition.

Start by asking what you want to accomplish: Reduce compaction? Build soil organic matter? Get better water infiltration? Get better control of herbicide-resistant weeds? Build soil health quickly? Get more cattle grazing opportunities? The answers to those questions influence the species of cover crop or mix of crops to be planted and how they will be managed.

EARLY SPRING DECISIONS

Seeding may take place in late summer or fall, but the demand for quality seed requires placing orders with reputable cover seed companies in late winter to early spring.

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USDA Reports Review

By Dana Mantini
DTN Senior Analyst

The March USDA World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report was not expected to be a market-mover, as it is typically less volatile than the January report, which was released in combination with the February report due to the government shutdown. Although there were some surprises, the futures price action post-report resulted in little change. Shortly after the report, soybeans renewed their bearish move lower, fueled not only by bearish supply-and-demand news, but also fund and technical selling. Despite the bearish change to both corn and wheat markets, the post-report price move was negligible, as it appears that bearishness was already factored into prices.

Key changes in the report were a higher-than-expected reduction in both U.S. wheat and corn exports. Following some minor tweaks in wheat imports and feed use, and an expected decline in corn for ethanol usage, wheat ending stocks rose 45 million bushels (mb) and corn ending stocks were up 100 mb from February — primarily on expectations of slowing demand due to lower-priced competitors.

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USDA Sees Higher Farm Income

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

OMAHA (DTN) — Net farm income is expected to rise 8.1% in 2019, according to the latest projection from USDA, but the increase won’t make up for the 17.8% drop in 2018.

USDA released its first farm income forecast for 2019 on Wednesday.

In its broadest measure of income, net farm income, USDA projects a $5.2 billion increase to $69.4 billion in inflation-adjusted 2019 dollars. Net farm income is defined as incorporating non-cash items, including changes in inventories, economic depreciation and gross imputed rental income.

Net cash farm income, a look at cash receipts and government payments minus expenses, is projected to rise $2.7 billion, or 2.9%. Despite the rise, net cash farm income is still expected to be the second-lowest level since 2009.

Both of the major income values are still projected to be below their averages from 2000-2017.

Commercial farms, which USDA pegs as having more than $350,000 in sales, will average $131,608 in farm income, a 10.3% bump from 2018.

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Court Brief: EPA Strayed on RFS Waivers

By Todd Neeley
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) — The EPA broke away from Renewable Fuel Standard requirements for granting small-refinery waivers starting in May 2017 and continued to deny a congressional order regarding which refiners qualify, according to a 97-page brief filed in a federal court in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.

The brief was filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit by attorneys on behalf of the Advanced Biofuels Association. The group sued the EPA in response to it granting 48 small-refinery waivers in 2016 and 2017.

In all, agency waivers reduced biofuel blending requirements for refiners by about 2.25 billion gallons in 2016 and 2017. Biodiesel industry officials estimate producers lost about 300 million gallons from waivers.

The partially redacted document shows the agency originally was allowed to grant temporary, two-year exemptions starting in 2005. In recent years, however, the agency granted exemption extensions beyond two years — including a refiner that never received a prior exemption.

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Dicamba Deja Vu

By Emily Unglesbee
DTN Staff Reporter

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (DTN) — State pesticide regulators are responsible for overseeing a lot of chemicals, but some expect to police only one this year — dicamba.

“So many resources are dedicated to dicamba that it has made my program a one-issue program,” said Tim Creger, a pesticide regulator with the Nebraska Department of Agriculture. As his agency has spent the past two years investigating roughly 200 complaints of off-target dicamba injury, they have had to delay or abandon routine pesticide inspections, Creger told regulators, scientists and agrichemical companies gathered for the annual meeting of the Association of American Pesticide Control Officers in Virginia this week.

“We have a lot of other [pesticide regulation] problems — I’ve had to push those off for two years,” Creger said. “Other issues that don’t have the priority this product has are not getting the service they deserve. And that’s what it looks to me again coming up in 2019 — it’s deja vu.”

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Data Revolution’s Human Touch

By Todd Neeley
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) — Chalmers, Indiana, farmer Brandon Bell isn’t waiting for that digital ah-ha moment when, with a simple mouse click or two, a computer generates game-changing recommendations that match the complexities of farming.

To get top recommendations now, Bell shares soil and yield data with his local soil-fertility experts through a local agribusiness and energy marketing and supply cooperative. The data form the basis for his variable-rate fertilizer applications. Sharing crop information allows him to benefit from the data he collects now instead of holding out for the development of an all-knowing algorithm to improve decisions on his 3,200-acre farm.

“Everybody overcollects the data,” Bell said. “You tend to sort through what you need and what you don’t need. I’d say every person is different. There are definitely guys out there who will spend as much time on data as anything. We’re 25% planning and using the information.

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NC Hog Nuisance Ruling Appealed

By Todd Neeley
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) — National and state agriculture interest groups asked a federal appeals court to overturn a $50 million nuisance judgement against a hog farm in North Carolina, in a brief filed on Tuesday, saying the punitive damages awarded threaten agriculture.

Ten plaintiffs were awarded a total of $50 million in the case involving Murphy-Brown contract grower Kinlaw Farms in Bladen County, North Carolina. The plaintiffs alleged odor and truck noise generated by the farms should be declared a nuisance, and a jury agreed.

Early in 2018 juries in three separate trials in Raleigh, North Carolina, awarded punitive damages totaling more than $500 million to neighbors near hog farms in the state. The Kinlaw Farms case was part of these trials.

“But we first draw this court’s attention to the enormous harm that would be done by allowing runaway punitive damages awards to rural residents who express surprise that a neighboring farm — which has operated for decades — sometimes causes noise and odors,” said the brief filed in the U.S.

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E15 Rule Sent to White House for Review

By Todd Neeley
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) — The EPA has sent a rule proposing allowance of year-round E15 sales, as well as reforms to the biofuel credits market, to the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Review of the rule that now appears on the OMB website, https://www.reginfo.gov/…, could take up to 30 days to complete.

Originally, the EPA’s 2019 agenda included releasing the rule in February, with the intent to finalize in time for the summer driving season on June 1. Once the proposed rule is made public, the EPA will launch a public hearing period. The rule also includes proposed reforms to the market for Renewable Identification Numbers, or RINs.

There remains considerable doubt about whether the agency can finalize the rule by June 1.

Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Geoff Cooper said in a statement that time is running out.

“RFA is pleased to see that the first official step in the regulatory process to allow year-round E15 is finally being taken, and we agree with President Trump that the RVP (Reid vapor pressure) barrier was always ‘unnecessary’ and ‘ridiculous,’” he said.

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US Trade Policy Flux Hurting Farmers

By Todd Neeley
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) — Backing out of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), an ongoing trade battle with China and resulting retaliatory tariffs against the United States are all trade policies that are costing U.S. farmers dearly, according to an updated Purdue University analysis released on Monday.

An initial analysis was completed by Purdue economists Maksym Chepeliev, Wallace E. Tyner and Dominique van der Mensbrugghe in October 2018. The updated study said a U.S. re-entry into TPP would turn a current agriculture trade loss into a gain. In addition, the study says that backing out of NAFTA and failure to implement the USMCA, would lead to an additional $12 billion in annual losses in agriculture export revenues.

After the U.S. pulled out of the TPP, the remaining 11 countries including Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam, negotiated the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

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Taxlink

By Rod Mauszycki
DTN Tax Columnist

I’m writing this column at 10 p.m. at night after a long week reviewing tax returns. Although tax reform has produced some mixed results, I’m still finding benefits for my clients.

This year, people have been discussing solar energy — both purchasing solar panels and selling or leasing property to solar energy businesses. This got me thinking about the variety of credits available to taxpayers. There is a long list of credits, but here are a few that have sparked conversations.

— Fuel credits are probably the most commonly used tax credits in farming. A farmer (or farm entity) can claim a fuel credit for certain nontaxable uses of fuel. If you purchase undyed diesel, kerosene or gas (which you paid tax on), you may be eligible for a fuel credit. If the fuel was used for farm purposes (including aviation), off-highway use (forklifts, skid steers) or boats for commercial fishing, the farmer may be eligible for the credit.

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Listen to the Land – 5

By Des Keller
Progressive Farmer Associate Editor

On a sunny fall day with just a bit of a nip in the air, Andrew Reuschel was piloting the combine, swallowing 200-bushel-per-acre-plus corn on the family farm, near Golden, in western Illinois. In parts of the field, there were remnants of green foliage low to the ground between the browned corn rows.

“There were eight species of cover crop in there that have mostly winter-killed now,” Andrew said. Those species were a mix of oats, cowpeas, hemp, rapeseed, radish, buckwheat, flax and guar (cluster bean). He pointed out a still-vibrant green radish plant that’s a volunteer from the previous year.

“I may plant cover crops three times a year on a field,” 29-year-old Andrew said. “I put down only a third of the fertilizer that (most other farmers) would use, and I might not apply chemicals at all. That’s my goal for most of the farm.”

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Pompeo Champions Trade Agenda

DES MOINES, Iowa (DTN) — Iowa farmers noted Secretary of State Mike Pompeo largely kept his cards close to his vest regarding trade talks with China, but they nonetheless appreciated Pompeo coming to the state on Monday to make the case about the importance of demanding structural market changes in China.

The secretary of state didn’t share many specifics on trade talks with China, but reiterated the Trump Administration’s case why the trade talks were needed even if the resulting tariffs led to lower market prices and export sales for U.S. farmers in the short term. While the secretary largely avoided domestic politics in his talk, the trip to Iowa could be viewed as trying to shore up support with farmers, a favorite constituency of President Donald Trump.

Roughly 200 people attended the event at the World Food Prize headquarters in downtown Des Moines. Pompeo also toured a Corteva facility earlier in the day and spoke with a local Future Farmers of America group.

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Perdue Talks Trade at Classic

By Jerry Hagstrom
DTN Political Correspondent

ORLANDO, Fla. (DTN) — Comparing President Donald Trump’s expected meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping to conclude a new trade agreement to Trump’s recent meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said here Friday that a Trump-XI meeting could end “successfully or very detrimentally” for American agriculture.

Trump walked away from his meeting with Kim in Vietnam because he decided the terms were not good enough, and the president “won’t sign an agreement that can’t be enforced,” Perdue told reporters after a speech at Commodity Classic, the gathering of more than 4,000 corn, soybean, wheat and sorghum growers and their families here.

Perdue said he believes the agreement with China could double or triple exports for a wide range of U.S. products, including soybeans, rice, beef, ethanol and tree nuts. But he added that Trump wants China to agree to non-tariff items that will make big purchases possible.

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More Dicamba Lines Drawn

By Pamela Smith
DTN Crops Technology Editor
and
Emily Unglesbee
DTN Staff Reporter

DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) — Illinois farmers and applicators will join the ranks of those facing additional regulations aimed at limiting off-target movement of dicamba herbicide this summer.

The Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) announced Friday it will require Special Local Needs (SLN) labels, including new restrictions that include a firm calendar cutoff date and additional definitions for sensitive areas, for the use of the herbicide dicamba on soybeans in Illinois for the 2019 growing season.

On Feb. 15, IDOA notified the manufacturers of the three dicamba-containing products approved for over-the-top application to dicamba-tolerant (DT) soybeans that additional application restrictions will be required for the 2019 growing season. The affected formulations of dicamba are Engenia by BASF, XtendiMax with Vapor Grip Technology by Bayer, and FeXapan plus Vapor Grip Technology by DuPont/Corteva.

The EPA reregistered the three dicamba herbicides in October — adding to the already lengthy and complex product labels.

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