National Headlines

USDA to Begin Minority Loan Debt Payoff

OMAHA (DTN) — USDA on Friday announced it will start paying off up to $4 billion in debt for minority farmers with notices going out to farmers about their payment relief.

USDA officials started the process of debt relief for just under 16,000 borrowers by sending them notices that USDA will be making payments on Farm Service Agency direct loans. Direct loans account for about 85% of all loans USDA will be paying off.

There also are guaranteed loans with private lenders that will be paid off later this summer, as well as loans that have been previously referred to the Department of Treasury for debt collection, USDA stated.

To tout the loan payoff for minority farmers, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will travel to Georgia on Saturday for a roundtable with Black farmers at Fort Valley State University. Joining Vilsack and farmers at the historically Black university will be Georgia Democratic Sens.

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Forest Carbon Sink Lost Due to Wildfire

OMAHA (DTN) — Forests can sequester more carbon to help the country meet emission goals, but the increasing risks and costs from wildfires also demand more proactive forest management to thin out fuel for fires as well as the rapid acceleration of planting millions of acres of new trees.

Those are some of the conclusions from a USDA report released Thursday on the department’s climate strategy, as well as from a pair of U.S. Senate committee hearings also held Thursday that looked at the role of forests in addressing climate change. The hearings and USDA’s comments on wildfire risks also reiterated some points advocated by senators that the country’s forests would be healthier with more aggressive efforts to thin forests of older timber and replant trees across millions of acres of forests.

“I hope one of the takeaways today is forest management for harvest and replanting to maintain healthy forests, especially given the higher rate of carbon capture,” said Sen.

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Wheat Tour Estimates 58.1 BPA Yield

MANHATTAN, Kan. (DTN) — The Wheat Quality Council’s 2021 Hard Winter Wheat Tour concluded Thursday, May 20, with a total weighted average yield estimate of 58.1 bushels per acre (bpa), a likely tour record that far exceeds USDA’s national yield projection of 52.1 bpa.

The tour yield estimate is the highest in 19 years and almost certainly the best in the event’s 40-plus-year history, according to Kansas Wheat CEO Justin Gilpin. He outlined several reasons for the large crop:

— Recent rainfall greatly improved crop conditions after a dry early spring.

— Good prices prompted many farmers to closely watch crops for disease pressure, such as rust and wheat streak mosaic and spray fungicides as needed.

— Improved wheat genetics help plants better endure stress, such as drought.

“Mother Nature has been good (to hard winter wheat) the last two weeks with rain,” Gilpin said. “(The yield estimate) is a testament to the wheat breeders and better genetics.

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Iowa Farmer Sues Over Paraquat Exposure

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) — An Iowa farmer is the latest producer to file a class-action lawsuit arguing that Syngenta and Chevron USA failed to notify users of the alleged dangers of using paraquat-based pesticides, including the potential risk of acquiring Parkinson’s disease.

The companies face many ongoing legal challenges to the chemical’s registration. Syngenta is a major registrant of paraquat herbicides and Chevron has manufactured and sold some paraquat herbicides in the past.

Currently the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation is considering a motion to move at least 14 similar cases filed in six different federal courts to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, according to court documents.

Paraquat is a Group 22 herbicide sold under brand names like Gramaxone, Firestorm and Parazone, used most commonly on soybeans, cotton, orchards and pasture.

In this most recent class-action lawsuit filed this month in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, Greenfield, Iowa, farmer Doug Holliday is seeking medical monitoring and other relief on behalf of himself and other farmers as a result of repeated exposure to paraquat.

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Black Cutworm Alert

ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) — How much corn could a cutworm cut if a cutworm could cut corn?

Growers across the Midwest and Eastern Corn Belt will find out, as temperatures finally start climbing high enough for black cutworms to emerge from the eggs laid in the soil earlier this spring.

Entomologists from Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are advising growers to keep an eye out for the black cutworm in their fields, particularly for young, slowly emerging corn stands.

Cutworm moths are snowbirds — they don’t much care for Midwest winters and spend the coldest months in southern states, all the way down to the Gulf. But each spring, they flutter their way up and lay eggs, with a fondness for fields with weeds and cover crops.

The emerging black cutworm’s larvae often migrate into emerging corn, and as soybean planting inches earlier each year, also soybean fields.

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Court Vacates Refinery RFS Exemptions

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) — A federal court on Wednesday vacated three small-refinery exemptions to the Renewable Fuel Standard granted by the outgoing Trump administration on Jan. 19, according to a court ruling.

The EPA on May 3 asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver to nullify the SREs. The court sent the exemptions back to the agency for reconsideration.

“The motion concedes that the agency did not analyze determinative legal questions regarding whether petitioners’ (Sinclair Wyoming Refining Company and Sinclair Casper Refining Company) refineries qualified to receive extensions of the small-refinery exemption under this court’s controlling decision,” the court said in a ruling on Wednesday (https://files.constantcontact.com/…).

The Trump administration granted the three exemptions just days before the Biden administration was to take office.

In a motion filed in the 10th Circuit, the agency said it did not follow proper procedure when, on Jan.

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Appeals Filed in Mo. River Floods Case

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) — The federal government and farmers and other landowners along the Missouri River basin filed notices of appeal of a ruling handed down from a federal claims court related to repeated flooding in the basin, according to court documents.

In early February, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims awarded St. Joseph, Missouri, farmer Roger Ideker about $6 million for a flowage easement and repairs to a levee. Two other plaintiffs were awarded a total of about $4.2 million. The court found the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers responsible for much of the flooding that has occurred during the past decade.

Both sides in the case, however, have asked for a review of the case.

In its notice of appeal, the federal government asked for a review of the judgment entered on Feb. 9, 2021, “As well as all earlier orders in this matter.”

The landowners also filed a notice of appeal.

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RFID Ear Tag Federal Lawsuit Dismissed

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) — A federal court in Wyoming dismissed a ranchers’ 2019 lawsuit challenging a Trump administration proposal to mandate the use of radio frequency identification of animals in interstate commerce nearly two months after USDA dropped the proposal.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming dismissed the case last week, according to a court order.

The ranchers, led by the Ranchers Cattlemen Action Legal Fund United Stockgrowers of America, or R-CALF USA, alleged a 2019 RFID plan “unlawfully mandates” the technology in ear tags and other technology for livestock.

The court determined documents provided by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service were insufficient to prove the agency unlawfully established and utilized two committees to implement its goal of a mandatory RFID system.

In March 2021, legislation was signed into law in Wyoming to give ranchers flexibility to choose how to identify their cattle when shipped interstate, including but not limited to RFID ear tags.

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NCGA ending Soil Health Partnership

OMAHA (DTN) — Despite helping advance farmers’ understanding of soil health, conservation, water quality and carbon sequestration over the past seven years, the National Corn Growers Association is shutting down its flagship sustainability program, the Soil Health Partnership, at the end of the month.

The partnership was one of the first moves by a major commodity group to directly promote soil health practices by providing direct testimonials and research from fellow farmers. SHP helped drive other organizations and agribusinesses to directly invest in on-the-farm conservation practices that sequester carbon in the soil.

Staff at the Soil Health Partnership and the National Corn Growers Association told DTN the 7-year-old program had been unable to sustain its funding as the partnership expanded. NCGA’s board voted earlier this spring to terminate the program.

“Our board had to make that decision based on whether or not we could keep it running, and it was driven by the financial situation and the financial costs of the program,” said Nathan Fields, vice president of production and sustainability for NCGA.

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Dairy Groups Question Canada Over USMCA

WASHINGTON (DTN) — The U.S. dairy industry continues pushing for trade officials to start addressing actions by Canada on tariffs and quotas as U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai meets online with trade officials from Mexico and Canada through Tuesday.

Trade officials from the three countries are holding the inaugural gathering of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement Free Trade Commission (USMCA FTC).

Tatiana Clouthier, Mexican secretary of economy, and Mary Ng, the Canadian minister of small business, export promotion and international trade, will attend the online meeting with Tai.

“The USMCA modernized the trading relationship between the three countries for the 21st century,” USTR said in a statement.

“The FTC is the first step toward realizing the full potential of the agreement and building an inclusive trade policy for North America that fosters broad-based and equitable growth, spurs innovation, protects our shared environment, and helps people from all walks of life.”

USTR said the ministers will receive updates about work to advance the agreement and discuss USMCA’s labor and environmental obligations, but they also face a list of trade conflicts, both agricultural and nonagricultural.

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Renewable Diesel to Launch in Hugoton

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) — A former cellulosic-ethanol plant in Hugoton, Kansas, will soon be home to a new renewable diesel plant after the facility once lauded as cutting edge in biofuels production changed ownership hands several times.

Seaboard Energy announced at the end of April plans to complete construction of a plant by Dec. 31, 2021, on the former Abengoa Bioenergy SA site in Hugoton.

Once complete, the plant will have the capacity to produce 85 million gallons of renewable diesel annually and 8.5 million gallons of renewable naphtha. Naphtha is a precursor to gasoline and other liquid fuels, solvents for paints, dry-cleaning, asphalts, rubber, and is used for industrial extraction processes. The plant also is expected to produce hydrogen.

The renewable fuels will be primarily derived from local animal fats and vegetable oils, according to a news release from Seaboard, a company based in Shawnee Mission, Kansas.

Seaboard expects to blend and ship biodiesel from the company’s other biodiesel plants in Guymon, Oklahoma, and St.

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KCS Switches Tracks to CN From CP

OMAHA (DTN) — The board of directors for Kansas City Southern railroad on Thursday switched tracks and chose to accept the purchase offer from Canadian National Railway, concluding that company’s bid is superior to that of Canadian Pacific Railway.

Canadian National’s (CN) bid for Kansas City Southern (KCS) tops $33.6 billion compared to the Canadian Pacific (CP) merger plan of $29 billion offered in March. The board for KCS determined CN’s revised proposal amounts to a “company superior proposal” as defined in the KCS merger agreement with CP.

The announcement also comes after Canadian National executives spent two days in Kansas City, Missouri, meeting with KCS executives and local business and political leaders, according to the Kansas City Star.

“We’ve said from the beginning that Kansas City’s going to be an important part of this combination, and not just from a rail perspective but from a community perspective,” Rob Reilly, CN’s chief operating officer, told the Star.

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Hard Winter Wheat Tour Preview

ANKENY, Iowa (DTN) — The Wheat Quality Council’s annual Hard Winter Wheat Tour returns next week with a few new twists.

Typically, the four-day tour of mostly Kansas wheat fields is held during the first week of May. But it was delayed two weeks this year to allow more time for participants to get COVID-19 vaccinations, with hopes of boosting participation. Sampling begins Tuesday, May 18, with scouts leaving Manhattan, Kansas.

As of May 12, 46 people have signed up for the 2021 tour, according to organizer Dave Green. That’s about half of the number of farmers, wheat buyers, end users, agronomy specialists and others who normally participate by collecting samples during the tour.

For the first time in the tour’s 40-plus year history, it will be held after the first winter wheat yield and production estimates were released by the USDA. The agency’s Crop Production Report issued Wednesday projects U.S.

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Repaying FSA Loan Debt for SDA Farmers

OMAHA (DTN) — USDA has not announced exactly when the Farm Service Agency will pay off loans for socially disadvantaged (SDA) farmers, but farmers who are eligible for loan repayment should be receiving a letter in the coming days notifying them their loans are eligible for repayment under the program.

Dewayne Goldmon, a senior adviser on racial equity to the agriculture secretary, and Zach Ducheneaux, administrator for the Farm Service Agency, filled in some details about the loan repayment program on Tuesday evening during a White House call with various stakeholder groups.

The loan repayment program for socially disadvantaged farmers was part of the American Rescue Plan passed by Congress in March. The bill provided $4 billion for USDA to pay up to 120% of loan debt for minority farmers under the 1990 definition of socially disadvantaged, which includes African American producers, Latino or Hispanic, American Indian or Alaskan Native producers, Asian American, or Hawaiian or Pacific Islanders.

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Farmers Have Crush on New Soybean Plant

ANKENY, Iowa (DTN) — Construction is underway on a $270 million soybean processing facility near Shell Rock, Iowa, slated to open in late 2022. For Rick Juchems and other area farmers, the plant can’t open fast enough.

Mid-Iowa Cooperative based in Beaman, Iowa, in partnership with local and national investors, is building Shell Rock Soy Processing (SRSP). It will crush 40 million bushels (mb) of soybean annually, or 110,000 bushels per day.

Juchems dreads driving more than an hour from his Plainfield, Iowa, farm to the nearest soybean processing plant where he often has to wait in line for several hours to unload. That’s why he looks forward to a 15-minute jaunt to SRSP that will feature state-of-the-art unloading facilities, with a capacity of receiving 30,000 bushels per hour.

When Juchems delivers soybeans to SRSP, he not only expects to get in and out of the plant fast but with more money in his pocket due to another competitive bid in the region.

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Farms Eye Colonial Supply Disruptions

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) — Northwest Indiana farmer Ann Parks is betting on a combination of delayed planting from cooler weather and a new supply of fuel that arrived Monday to get through planting season despite growing supply concerns tied to the closure of the Colonial Pipeline last Friday.

“We make attempts to secure tanker deliveries in any significant event that might impact planting or fieldwork,” Parks said.

“Locally, we’re seeing deliveries made yesterday but no commitments forward. Which begs the question if fuel will be rerouted from the Midwest to the East Coast at planting time. This is a very live situation and should be closely watched by farmers and consumers alike.”

The pipeline closed last Friday following a cyberattack with ransomware.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation determined the attack was from a criminal network known as DarkSide. The Colonial Pipeline supplies about 45% of the fuel consumed along the East Coast and carries 2.5 million barrels per day originating in Houston and ending in Linden, New Jersey.

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2021 World Food Prize Laureate

OMAHA (DTN) — The World Food Prize Foundation on Tuesday named a 2021 laureate, recognizing the work of Shakuntala Haraksingh Thilsted, an Asian scientist who has focused her career on improving the nutrient value of fish-based foods in Asia and Africa.

The World Food Prize Foundation, based in Des Moines, Iowa, annually names a laureate, which comes with a $250,000 prize. The foundation was created in honor of wheat breeder Norman Borlaug, an Iowa native who was awarded the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize.

Thilsted is the 51st World Food Prize laureate and the first Asian woman to be awarded the prize. In her work, Thilsted concentrated on small-fish species and the micronutrients they provide. She helped establish more sustainable aquaculture practices for small Asian farmers, including the expansion of women involved in fisheries. She also worked to increase fish consumption for mothers and young children and helped create more fish-based foods such as chutney and fish powder, the World Food Prize Foundation stated.

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Liberty Refresher

ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) — Glufosinate herbicides, often sold under the Liberty brand, are in higher demand than ever before.

This year, nearly every herbicide-tolerant soybean trait on the market — XtendFlex, Enlist E3, Liberty Link and LL GT27 — contains tolerance to glufosinate. As a result, the number of growers spraying the herbicide for the first time each year is also on the rise.

“I see more and more growers using it every year it seems,” said Brad Farrell, a crop consultant with Minnesota-based Centrol Crop Consulting. “It’s another option to control tough weeds like waterhemp.”

But the herbicide comes with its quirks, and first-time growers should brush up on them before spraying, cautioned Larry Steckel, University of Tennessee weed scientist. “Liberty is one of the most temperamental herbicides I’ve ever been around,” he said. “Managing it correctly is the difference between success and failure.”

Farrell agreed, noting that glyphosate’s relative ease of use has not prepared growers well for moving to glufosinate.

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ADM to Build First Crush Plant in ND

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) — Archer Daniels Midland announced on Monday plans to build the first soybean-crushing plant in North Dakota after previous attempts by another company to launch a similar project fell through.

ADM announced in a news release plans to build a $350 million crush and refining complex in Spiritwood, North Dakota, expected to be online by the first quarter of 2022. In addition, ADM announced plans to launch a $25 million expansion of refining and storage capacity at its crush and refining plant in Quincy, Illinois, also expected to come online in the first quarter of next year.

North Dakota soybean farmers faced a tough situation during the recent trade war with China, with nowhere to send their crop.

North Dakota soybeans are shipped to the Pacific Northwest, where they are typically exported to China, Taiwan, the Philippines and Bangladesh. According to the North Dakota Soybean Council, farmers produced 4.14 billion bushels of soybeans last year, with just 4% of production remaining in state.

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Cull Cows

She looks like a walking refrigerator. She probably weighs well over 1,500 pounds. Is she on the cull list come fall? Slow the roll. Weight isn’t all there is to efficiency in a cow herd today.

Ryon Walker, livestock consultant at Noble Research Institute, says there’s a lot to consider when looking at how efficient a cow herd is overall. Weight is a starting point, but there are a few other things commercial producers should consider.

“Cow size is a start, but we can’t just go in and get rid of all our big cows,” he says. “Most producers don’t know what their cows actually weigh. They are pretty terrible at guessing those weights, and we’ve found they almost always underestimate. So, when we’re talking about cow size, I encourage people to get specific first.”

That said, it is a fact that all cattle sizes have been trending up for the last five decades.

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