National Headlines

Farms Rebuild From Derecho Destruction

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) — Around 10:30 a.m. on Aug. 10, 2020, Morey Hill and his wife, Rhonda, watched out their kitchen window what they thought would be “typical Midwest weather” from a darkened sky to the west of their home near Madrid, Iowa.

A deck on the west side of their ranch-style house faced the coming storm.

Morey Hill’s sister-in-law in Carroll, Iowa, called them with a warning: She had just experienced a derecho picking up steam in the western part of the state.

It slammed into the Hills’ place northwest of Des Moines shortly after.

“Within the first five minutes, there was enough trees on the deck you couldn’t hardly see out that window,” he told DTN a year later.

“And, like rubberneckers, my wife and I stood in the kitchen and just watched the hell get blown out of everything, trees falling and stuff flying around, and at one time, we couldn’t even see the barn, which is right across the driveway to the east.

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Less Cattle Market Talk at NCBA

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (DTN) — The meeting room was packed Tuesday as the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association held its Live Cattle Marketing Committee meeting, but a meeting that took five hours to slog through in 2020 wrapped up in less than an hour this year.

It was one of the quietest openings for a sequel when much of the summer leading up to the 2021 Cattle Industry Convention and NCBA Trade Show has focused on dysfunction in cattle markets.

Jerry Bohn, a Kansas cattle feeder and president of NCBA, said cattle markets continue to be a major topic with producers, but the high demand for beef and tighter cattle supplies are starting to come into sync with each other.

“The cattle market has been a really hot topic for the past year and a half with all of the black swan events that we’ve had to deal with,” Bohn said. “It appears that the supply of cattle is beginning to get more in line with the packing capacity, and that’s certainly good.”

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Senate Passes Infrastructure Bill

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (DTN) — With Tuesday’s passage of a $1.2-trillion infrastructure package, various agricultural groups had their specific provision or issue they were excited to see finally addressed.

The U.S. Senate on Tuesday passed the bill 69-30 to send to the House, which will likely take up the Senate bill or its own version when Congress returns from its August recess. The Senate then immediately turned attention to passing a budget reconciliation bill that would include $3.5 trillion in spending during the next decade for an array of government programs.

The infrastructure package also is a key piece of President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda. If the bill makes it to final passage, it will mark one of the biggest single investments in roads, bridges, waterways and electric infrastructure in history.

HAULS ACT INCLUSION

For the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association — kicking off its annual meeting in Nashville — the group backs the infrastructure bill because of the inclusion of the Haulers of Agriculture and Livestock Safety (HAULS) Act.

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Chicken Folks Want More Beef

Most consumers likely think of Tyson Foods Inc. as “those chicken folks,” but a third-quarter report from the food giant signaled it plans to continue to prioritize its focus on beef.

Third-quarter beef sales volume for the corporation, based at Springdale, Arkansas, jumped 24% to $4.95 million. A year ago, that number was $3.65 million. No other product in the report came close to beef’s numbers — even while all marked improvements over year-earlier levels. Pork sales for the third quarter were reported at $1.71 million (up from $1.11 million); chicken was at $3.47 million (up from $3.11 million); and prepared foods were at $2.32 million (up from $2.03 million).

Donnie King, CEO of Tyson Foods, said the reopening of food service businesses had helped boost sales volumes across the board, but that the beef business side, especially, had been working to increase production to meet growing U.S. and international demand.

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2021 DTN Digital Yield Tour – Day 2

ROCKVILLE, Md. and ANKENY, Ia. (DTN) — Missouri’s corn and soybean crops are reaping the rewards of a summer of plentiful rainfall and seasonable heat, Day Two of the 2021 DTN Digital Yield Tour found. Across the border in Kansas, however, crops are trying to hold on to their early season promise of high yields amid developing drought.

Powered by Gro Intelligence, the DTN Digital Yield Tour is an in-depth look at how this year’s corn and soybean crops are progressing using Gro’s real-time yield maps, which are generated with satellite imagery, rainfall data, temperature maps and other public data. Unlike static estimates, Gro’s yield projections update daily on a county and state level, so the numbers at publication time may be slightly different than what you find on the Gro website.

On Tuesday, Aug. 10, Gro’s models suggest Missouri could see an average statewide corn yield of 170.6 bushels per acre (bpa), close to last year’s 171-bpa crop.

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2021 DTN Digital Yield Tour — Day 1

ROCKVILLE, Md. and MT. JULIET, Tenn. (DTN) — The country’s stark divide between the haves and have-nots of rainfall this year was on full display on Day One of the 2021 DTN Digital Yield Tour. Continued drought is dragging corn and soybean yields in the Dakotas down below average, as the well-watered state of Nebraska instead edges toward record corn and soybean crops.

Powered by Gro Intelligence, the DTN Digital Yield Tour is an in-depth look at how this year’s corn and soybean crops are progressing using Gro’s real-time yield maps, which are generated with satellite imagery, rainfall data, temperature maps and other public data. Unlike static estimates, Gro’s yield projections update daily on a county and state level, so the numbers at publication time may be slightly different than what you find on the Gro website.

On Monday, Aug.

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Joint Venture Buying Sanderson Farms

OMAHA (DTN) — Cargill Inc. and the investment firm Continental Grain Co. on Monday announced they are joining to buy Mississippi-based chicken processor Sanderson Farms for $4.53 billion. Sanderson is already the third-largest chicken processor in the U.S., behind Tyson Foods and Pilgrim’s Pride. The sale will combine Sanderson Farms with Wayne Farms, a subsidiary of Continental Grain, to form a new, private poultry business. The Wall Street Journal reported the newly formed company would produce 15% of the country’s chicken, putting it just behind Pilgrim’s Pride, which has about 16% of the market.

The announcement comes as demand for chicken products continues to rise, especially as fast-food restaurants seek to offer new chicken products that are cheaper than beef products.

Yet, the deal also comes as Congress and federal regulators have become more skeptical about consolidation in agriculture. The new venture would be heavily concentrated in the Southeast. Sanderson Farms has 13 processing plants in Mississippi, Texas, Louisiana, North Carolina and Georgia.

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Deere Focuses Tech Buy on Tractors

John Deere and its new $250 million technology acquisition, Bear Flag Robotics, said Friday that its autonomous driving technologies, already working on machines in California, will initially be offered as a retrofit product for existing tractors.

“A retrofit product allows us to tap into a large install, and that’s one of the big value drivers here is meeting customers where they’re at,” said Dan Liebfried, director of automation and autonomy, Intelligent Solutions Group, John Deere. “We want to meet them where they’re at in order to give them this opportunity to experience autonomy in a meaningful way.”

Deere’s history with Bear Flag goes back to 2019 when the California startup began to work with Deere through its novel Startup Collaborator program. The Startup Collaborator program works with innovative technology providers whose work may add value for Deere customers.

Deere’s need for technology is vast. “The space is rapidly evolving, and while (John Deere) has tons of capability in the precision technology and precision ag space, the reality is we need more, and we need a lot more ultimately,” Liebfried said.

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DTN 2021 Digital Yield Tour

MT. JULIET, Tenn. (DTN) — Drought may be the ag weather story of the season, but its impact on national corn and soybean production is up for debate, especially as regions of the southeastern Corn Belt report plentiful moisture and outstanding crop conditions.

The 2021 DTN Digital Yield Tour, powered by Gro Intelligence, aims to provide a clearer picture of national production possibilities for corn and soybeans by combining Gro’s data-driven yield models with boots-on-the-ground perspective from DTN sources and experts. Beginning on Monday, Aug. 9, the tour will publish in-depth reports on 10 major corn- and soybean-producing states as well as national yield estimates.

The annual event, now in its fourth year, will start with Nebraska and South Dakota. Even though North Dakota isn’t officially part of the tour, we will include information on its growing conditions because of its relevance to this year’s commodity price picture. From there, coverage moves into Missouri and Kansas on Tuesday, Aug.

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Wildfire Smoke Impact on Corn

Haze from wildfires in the western U.S., along with western and south-central Canada, has been an ongoing feature across much of North America during summer 2021. Besides the concern over what the smoke particles will do to human health, there is also the question of how this material obscuring the heavens will affect corn during the important fill stage. (We learned from the late-summer drought in 2020 how filling-stage stress could lower harvest-time yield.)

Some checking, both with online searches and through email contacts, shows a mixed impact, depending on the thickness of the hazy sky screen and how long it lasts. Actually, there is potential for some benefit from the haze. An article published in the Journal of Geophysical Research in January 2020 by environmental scientists Kyle Hemes of Stanford University, Joseph Verfaillie of the University of California-Berkeley and Dennis Baldocchi, also of UC-Berkeley, noted that haze can benefit plant leaves by scattering the incoming sunlight.

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USDA Reporting Cattle Sold on Formulas

OMAHA (DTN) — USDA on Thursday announced that its USDA Market News on Monday, Aug. 9, will begin releasing price reports based on cattle sold on formulas, grids and contracts.

The changes in reports come as USDA has been focusing on concentration in livestock markets and looking for ways to provide more price discovery beyond daily reported negotiated cash trade. Cattle markets have been the subject of congressional hearings in recent weeks, and lawmakers have been calling for the Department of Justice to release the results of an investigation into cattle markets and beef prices during spring of 2020 as the pandemic affected the supply chain.

USDA will release a new National Daily Direct Formula Base Cattle report looking at the correlation between negotiated cash trade and reported formula-based prices, as well as the aggregated values being paid as premiums and discounts. Daily formula base price reports will be national in scope and released in morning, summary and afternoon versions, USDA stated.

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Input Costs Pressure Profit Outlook

INDIANOLA, Iowa (DTN) — A central Illinois corn farmer will make a $24 per acre profit in 2022 after paying for inputs and land costs, according to the latest crop budgets from the University of Illinois. The return on soybeans fares better at $150 per acre because fertilizer, seed and drying costs for soybeans are projected to be $226 per acre cheaper than for corn.

As farmers look to negotiate cash rents with their landowners this fall, they are at a distinct disadvantage. Landowners see how high commodity prices have risen this year without noticing how record-high input costs will squeeze profit margins for farm operators.

The last time direct costs (fertilizer, seed, pesticides, drying, storing and crop insurance premiums) were this high was in 2013. Records from the Illinois Farm Business Farm Management group show a direct cost of $432 per acre for highly productive farmland in central Illinois in 2013.

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Biden Seeks to Electrify Auto Industry

OMAHA (DTN) — President Joe Biden on Thursday is moving ahead aggressively with his administration’s push to ratchet down greenhouse-gas emissions through electric vehicles.

The president will sign an executive order to make half of all new vehicles sold in 2030 “zero-emission” vehicles, including battery, fuel-cell and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. The executive order also will set new long-term fuel-efficiency and emission standards “to save consumers money, cut pollution, boost public health, advance environmental justice and tackle the climate crisis.”

The move by the administration will keep a spotlight on how EPA, USDA and other federal agencies treat biofuels going forward. The administration has continued to delay releasing annual rules for obligated refinery blend volumes under the Renewable Fuels Standard. EPA has not yet responded as to how the administration will deal with a federal appeals court rejecting the Trump-era year-round E15 rule either.

Ethanol is a key component in U.S.

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Autonomous Ag Drones Work Together

A heavy downpour would be a disaster for most field days. But, the muddy mess was the perfect opportunity for Michael Ott, CEO of Rantizo, to show off how a new system of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) works together to spray pesticides and seed crops.

“If you needed to spray today, you couldn’t with a ground rig,” Ott says during a media day at the company proving grounds near Iowa City, Iowa. “But, our drone systems can do it. People are realizing a drone can treat areas that tractors or self-propelled sprayers are not suitable for.”

Rantizo, which means “to sprinkle” in Greek, has spread its wings recently by developing technology and equipment so multiple UAVs can work together to spray or seed fields efficiently. In this case, up to three drones called “a swarm” can apply herbicides, fungicides, insecticides, nutrients and cover-crop seeds.

Visit https://www.dtnpf.com/… to read a 2019 DTN/Progressive Farmer story on the tech startup company.

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Hemp’s Hard Lesson

Inside a portion of a large industrial warehouse in Gas City, Indiana, farmer-owned Heartland Harvest Processing is at the forefront of the effort to move beyond the initial boom — and near bust — of the hemp-growing CBD (cannabidiol) oil market.

The company is the creation of Kline Family Farms — Jim Kline and his son, Adam, an attorney by trade — in an attempt to diversify their row-crop business. The 2018 Farm Bill essentially legalized the growing of hemp, the cousin to marijuana that doesn’t create a “high.” The CBD oil derived from hemp has been touted for its multiple health benefits, and national interest in the product and acres devoted to hemp has exploded (see “Demand Now and in the Future,” below).

In early 2019, a liter of CBD oil (slightly more than a quart) was worth about $7,000, and a grower who could produce 25 liters on 1 acre could gross $175,000.

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Rural Projects in Infrastructure Bill

OMAHA (DTN) — USDA’s rural watershed and flood prevention program is just one area that will see an injection of funds under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (H.R. 3684) as the Senate continues to debate the bill.

Senators continue votes to amend the 2,700-page bill, which is projected to increase spending on an array of infrastructure projects by $550 billion over the next decade, topping more than $1 trillion in total spending.

The bill sets aside $110 billion for roads and bridges, including $40 billion for bridge projects. Another $55 billion will go toward various water projects and $66 billion will go toward rail.

The bill has dozens of provisions that set aside specific funds for rural projects such as roads, bridges, waterways and broadband.

Among the road provisions, the bill includes the Rural Surface Transportation grant program, which authorizes $2 billion over five years. A separate bridge restoration fund would spend $3.26 billion over five years.

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Disaster Aid Added to USDA Funding Bill

WASHINGTON (DTN) — The Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee on Monday approved a $25.85 billion fiscal year 2022 bill for the Agriculture Department and related agencies, including $7 billion in disaster aid.

The subcommittee passed the bill by voice in a 15-minute markup session late Monday. The full Senate Appropriations Committee will take up the bill on Wednesday.

Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., said in a news release, “This bipartisan legislation is the product of Democrats and Republicans working together to support a stronger and more resilient agriculture economy that works for our farmers, ranchers and families in rural communities.”

“Developed with input from my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, this bipartisan legislation will drive economic opportunities to farmers and invest in the long-term health of our working lands. It will also invest in broadband and ensure that people facing challenging times have tools to move toward nutrition, health and housing security.

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Roberts on Cattle and Carbon

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (DTN) — Former Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts on Monday urged caution for Congress and USDA in making any change to rules for cattle markets and the packing industry.

The former chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee also cited the need for USDA involvement in setting ground rules for carbon sequestration programs.

Before retiring from the U.S. Senate after last year’s election, Roberts was known for his skill in blending humor and sarcasm into his commentary on almost any subject, a skill that remains part of the retired senator’s charm. On Monday, Roberts was the keynote speaker to kick off the Ag Media Summit in Kansas City, Missouri.

MEAT AND CATTLE MARKETS

On meatpacking, Roberts defended the packing industry focus on “value-based” contracts with producers, rather than relying on the cash trade. The senator cited testimony from a Kansas producer about the quality of beef. Roberts said “value-based contracts” have led to increased consumer demand for beef, which has benefited the entire industry.

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Soil Pits: Can You Dig It?

DELHI, Iowa (DTN) — One of the best ways to measure soil health and the effectiveness of crop production practices is several feet underground.

Mike Petersen gave his 1,755th soil pit talk at Grant and Tana Guetzko’s farm near Delhi, Iowa. Standing in a hole about 3 feet deep and 2 feet wide near one of the Guetzkos’ cornfields, the agronomist and soil scientist found layers of soil compaction several inches deep, limited earthworm activity and few soil pores. All three hinder root development and water infiltration and holding capacity.

The findings surprised Grant Guetzko. He switched from conventional tillage to 100% no-till three years ago, but the ill effects of past tillage practices in the sandy loam and glacial-till soil are still present. The longtime farmer said that, prior to the switch, it was common to chisel plow, field cultivate and run a soil finisher before planting.

“I thought by now we may have gotten rid of compaction and the soil would have more pores,” Grant Guetzko said.

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EPA to Schedule WOTUS Rewrite Hearings

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) — The EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced plans to schedule virtual public hearings throughout August and into September as part of planned revisions to waters of the United States definitions.

The new round of hearings and rulemaking will be closely watched by agricultural groups that were among the biggest supporters of the Trump-era Navigable Waters Protection Rule. In June, the Biden administration announced it was working on a proposed change to the navigable waters definition in the Clean Water Act. The definition and language in the rule is controversial because it is meant to spell out the boundaries of federal water authority.

The agencies announced on Friday plans to host five public virtual meetings — Aug. 18, 23, 25, 26 and 31. In addition, the EPA said in a news release it may host an additional public hearing on Sept. 2. The EPA said it plans to host webinars with tribes on Aug.

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