National Headlines

Minimal Winter Wheat Freeze Damage

ANKENY, Iowa (DTN) — The winter wheat crop mostly escaped disaster from a late-April freeze in the Central and Southern Great Plains, though reports of isolated damage have surfaced.

Record- or near-record-low temperatures were recorded in major winter wheat-growing states such as Kansas, Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle from April 20-23, according to DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist Bryce Anderson. At the time, most plants in the region were in various growth stages — joint, boot or heading — and vulnerable to freeze damage and yield loss.

Dave Green, executive vice president of the Wheat Quality Council based in Lenexa, Kansas, said the crop mostly dodged a bullet. However, he said some fields that were heading out in low-lying areas of central and southwest Oklahoma sustained heavy losses.

“There wasn’t widespread damage that affected entire counties,” Green said. “I think farmers in Kansas feel pretty good, and there was no damage in Nebraska or Colorado.

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Bullish Land Price Outlook

There are many good reasons Chad Ratermann says he’ll buy farmland, but the one that’s always in the back of his mind has nothing to do with soil quality or field location. He’s thinking about how to best give the family’s next generation a leg up.

“I started thinking about that before I even had kids,” says the dad of two. “I always wanted to make sure they had an opportunity to farm if they wanted it. Every morning I wake up planning on passing it down.”

Ratermann, in his mid-40s, has a son and a daughter. His dad died when he was just 24, leaving him and his brothers, Darin and Craig, to grow up fast, taking what their dad left them as a start. From there, the brothers put a lot of hard work and determination into building Ratermann Brothers’ Grain and Livestock, based at Bartelso, Illinois.

The diversified operation includes corn, soybean and wheat production, as well as hog finishing and cattle feeding businesses.

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SD Farmer Sues USDA on Wetlands Battle

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) — For more than a decade, Minor County, South Dakota, farmer Arlen Foster has fought a USDA wetland determination that a puddle in the middle of one of his fields is a wetland. The agency refused to reconsider when Foster presented new evidence in 2020 that may have proven to the contrary.

The third-generation farmer is once again suing the agency, asking a federal court on Wednesday to declare the Swampbuster Act violates the Constitution.

Because of the determination that field is a wetland, Foster would not be eligible for farm programs if he farmed the land.

Foster has been battling USDA’s wetland determination on an 0.8-acre tract of land since 2008. USDA declared it a wetland in 2011 based on an agency process and Foster convinced even the Supreme Court to review the determination.

New evidence emerged in 2020 showing a tree belt installed on his farm by his father in 1936 is what has caused massive snow piles in the field.

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30×30 Plan Dubbed America the Beautiful

OMAHA (DTN) — After speculation and concerns over President Joe Biden’s goal to conserve 30% of U.S. land and waters by 2030, the White House on Thursday released a broad outline to encourage but not require greater conservation efforts across the country.

The Biden administration rolled out 30×30 as “America the Beautiful” to expand conservation efforts. The rollout comes after months of critical complaints filling a void of information. Republican governors, farm organizations, local officials and anti-government groups have leveled criticism that 30×30 is a “land grab” that would require new conservation measures for a large swath of the country.

The plan calls for “incentivizing and rewarding” farmers, ranchers and forest owners, as well as the fishing industry, to increase voluntary conservation efforts. Topping some early initiatives already launched by the Biden administration, the White House pointed to USDA announcing the expansion of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) last month. USDA is increasing rental rates and providing new “climate-smart” incentives to boost CRP acreage by 4 million acres.

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30×30 Plan Dubbed America the Beautiful

OMAHA (DTN) — After speculation and concerns over President Joe Biden’s goal to conserve 30% of U.S. land and waters by 2030, the White House on Thursday released a broad outline to encourage but not require greater conservation efforts across the country.

The Biden administration rolled out 30×30 as “America the Beautiful” to expand conservation efforts. The rollout comes after months of critical complaints filling a void of information. Republican governors, farm organizations, local officials and anti-government groups have leveled criticism that 30×30 is a “land grab” that would require new conservation measures for a large swath of the country.

The plan calls for “incentivizing and rewarding” farmers, ranchers and forest owners, as well as the fishing industry, to increase voluntary conservation efforts. Topping some early initiatives already launched by the Biden administration, the White House pointed to USDA announcing the expansion of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) last month. USDA is increasing rental rates and providing new “climate-smart” incentives to boost CRP acreage by 4 million acres.

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Dicamba Settlement Deadline

ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) — Growers with soybean injury and yield loss from dicamba in the past six years have only three more weeks to file a claim with the Dicamba Soybean Grower Settlement.

The deadline to file claims is May 28, 2021. The settlement is from Monsanto (a legal entity now owned by Bayer), which agreed to make $400 million available to resolve multi-district litigation in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri over dicamba injury claims.

Of that amount, $300 million has been set aside for payments to commercial soybean growers who suffered yield loss from dicamba between 2015 and 2020.

The settlement filing period began Dec. 30, when a website was established for growers to file their claims. You can find it here: https://www.dicambasoybeansettlement.com/….

Here’s what interested farmers need to know:

WHO IS ELIGIBLE?

This particular settlement is only available to commercial soybean growers who experienced dicamba injury any time between 2015 and 2020.

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Dicamba Settlement Deadline

ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) — Growers with soybean injury and yield loss from dicamba in the past six years have only three more weeks to file a claim with the Dicamba Soybean Grower Settlement.

The deadline to file claims is May 28, 2021. The settlement is from Monsanto (a legal entity now owned by Bayer), which agreed to make $400 million available to resolve multi-district litigation in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri over dicamba injury claims.

Of that amount, $300 million has been set aside for payments to commercial soybean growers who suffered yield loss from dicamba between 2015 and 2020.

The settlement filing period began Dec. 30, when a website was established for growers to file their claims. You can find it here: https://www.dicambasoybeansettlement.com/….

Here’s what interested farmers need to know:

WHO IS ELIGIBLE?

This particular settlement is only available to commercial soybean growers who experienced dicamba injury any time between 2015 and 2020.

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EPA Chief Visits Iowa

OMAHA (DTN) — In one of his first trips as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Administrator Michael Regan met Tuesday with a group of Iowa ethanol producers who stressed the potential for biofuels lowering both emissions and cancer-causing chemicals.

Regan, along with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, toured the Lincolnway Energy ethanol plant near Nevada, Iowa, and hosted a roundtable discussion with ethanol producers. That part of Regan’s visit to Iowa was closed to the press before Regan later visited a Superfund site in downtown Des Moines.

Regan later sent out a few tweets highlighting his biofuels tour. “Our agricultural community must have a seat at the table if we are to successfully tackle the climate crisis,” Regan tweeted.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack also tweeted, “It was an honor to have @EPAMichaelRegan in Iowa today to hear from our agriculture and energy producers. Having an EPA administrator committed to listening and talking with farmers and producers of biofuels is a welcome development.”

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Nitrogen Calculations: Getting it Right

ANKENY, Iowa (DTN) — Ian Plagge will apply 240 pounds of nitrogen (N) per acre this year on corn-on-corn acres and 190 pounds per acre on corn-after-soybeans.

Crunching the numbers on nitrogen applications is becoming increasingly important for the Lattimer, Iowa, farmer and others, as nitrogen costs ratchet skyward.

Determining ideal nitrogen rates can be tricky though, said University of Minnesota Soil Scientist Jeff Vetsch. Using proper N math and taking advantage of N calculation tools discussed in this article can help.

“Nitrogen is often the most limiting yield factor for corn,” said Vetsch. “Finding the right (N rate) can be challenging … but you can calculate the optimum rate for a given region, state and crop rotation.”

Plagge finished spraying half of the N — mostly UAN32 and some UAN28 — planned for this year’s corn crop last weekend as part of a weed-and-feed mixture. The other half will be applied in-season before tasseling using Y-drops.

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Corps: Keep Dakota Access Pipeline Open

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recommends leaving the Dakota Access Pipeline open while it conducts an environmental analysis that could last into March 2022. The Corps stated this position in a court filing in federal court on a case that could eventually lead to the pipeline’s closing.

The Corps of Engineers provided a status report to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Monday, in a case where the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe filed a motion for a permanent injunction against the pipeline. In addition, on April 12, the pipeline owner requested a motion for an en banc hearing before the entire U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. An en banc hearing is a hearing before all judges in a circuit.

“The Corps expects to use that timeframe to fulfill its commitment to undertaking an open, transparent, and public EIS (environmental impact statement) process which rigorously explores and objectively evaluates reasonable alternatives,” the government said in its status report.

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Hearing Looks at Overtime Exclusions

OMAHA (DTN) — As Democrats in Congress look to line up provisions of the infrastructure package and a family relief plan, a House Education & Labor Subcommittee held a hearing Monday concentrated heavily on expanding overtime wages for farmworkers.

The hearing highlighted overtime exclusions in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), going back to 1938, that Democratic witnesses said were policies meant to affect people of color. Monday’s hearing focused on farmworkers, domestic workers and restaurant workers who rely on tips.

The hearing broke down along political lines as Democrats challenged how farmworkers have remained excluded from overtime wages for 83 years. Republicans defended the exclusion for farm labor, saying farmwork remains seasonal and driving farmers to pay higher wages could force certain types of farmers out of business.

Rep. Alma Adams, D-N.C., chair of the House Workforce Protections Subcommittee, said she came from a family where her mother and grandmother were domestic workers who had been excluded from overtime pay.

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EPA Asks Court to Vacate RFS Exemptions

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) — EPA asked a federal court Friday to vacate three small-refinery exemptions (SRE) the outgoing Trump administration granted on Jan. 19, just days before the Biden administration was to take office.

In a motion filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver, the agency said it did not follow proper procedure when on Jan. 19 it granted the exemptions to Sinclair Wyoming Refining Company and Sinclair Casper Refining Company from their 2018 and 2019 obligations in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

In particular, the agency said its action, https://www.dtnpf.com/…, did not take into account case law established by the 10th Circuit in January 2020. The court ruled the EPA illegally granted exemptions to three refiners in 2017 and 2018 although they did not qualify.

The latest EPA motion to vacate the January 2021 exemptions, came in the same week the Supreme Court considered oral arguments in a case challenging the January 2020 10th Circuit decision, https://www.dtnpf.com/…

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Survey Shows Grazing Land Stewardship

OMAHA (DTN) — A vast majority of cattle producers have much interest in caring for the environment and pasture preservation practices, a recent survey sponsored by Elanco revealed. In addition, most producers understand the benefits of such organisms as dung beetles and earthworms in grassland ecology.

The findings showed 90% of cattle producers protect natural resources, including water, and 89% always follow pesticide labels as standard practice. Over half (56%) of those responding said sustainability means ensuring the longevity of their operation from year to year.

SUSTAINABILITY MATTERS

Sara Place, chief sustainability officer for Elanco, said sustainability means different things to producers. While 56% said ensuring longevity is what this term meant to them, 37% said it was about the economics of their operations and 29% said they thought about conserving natural resources.

“While it is certainly not surprising that cattle producers employ a variety of sustainability practices on their operations, we were interested to see the level of appreciation producers have for these insects that help them maintain viable pastures for their herds and the future,” Place said.

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Biden Plan Would Raise Farm Taxes

WASHINGTON (DTN) — President Joe Biden’s plans to raise capital gains and estate taxes would raise taxes on farmers and ranchers despite the Biden administration’s statements that farms and family businesses would be exempt from some of the provisions, an American Farm Bureau Federation tax specialist said this week.

Pat Wolff, Farm Bureau’s senior director for congressional relations, told DTN Political Correspondent Jerry Hagstrom that Farm Bureau did not have any more information than what had been released early Wednesday, but that it had included statements from Biden during his presidential campaign and what had been included in congressional legislative text in its analysis.

“We understand the basics and know that if they were implemented, there would be a significant tax increase on farmers and ranchers,” Wolff said.

The capital gains tax proposal to eliminate stepped-up basis on the inheritance of assets, including farmland, would require the payment of capital gains taxes upon death unless the property is given to charity, Wolff said.

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Nebraska and EPA Look for Solution

OMAHA (DTN) — Agricultural corn seed giants started working on a containment strategy as Nebraska environmental regulators began taking stock of the pesticide and fungicide contamination at an ethanol plant that processed treated seeds almost exclusively.

Seed companies stepped in and hired a company to take over environmental cleanup at the AltEn LLC ethanol plant, capable of producing 24 million gallons per year, outside Mead, Nebraska, about 20 minutes from the suburbs of Omaha.

AltEn shut down its plant in early February after the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy (NDEE) issued an emergency order to cease operations at the plant on Feb. 4 following numerous environmental violations. AltEn completed shutdown on Feb. 8.

However, cold weather several days later led a pipe to burst at the plant, causing 4 million gallons of pesticide-filled water to flow downstream.

Records provided to DTN also show state regulators began to query seed companies such as Bayer and Syngenta about the regulations for disposing treated seed, including questions about how to clean up millions of gallons of water in lagoons contaminated with pesticides, and whether millions of pounds of discarded treated seeds should be composted.

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Court Rules on Chlorpyrifos

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) — The EPA has 60 days to either write a new rule to allow for the safe use of chlorpyrifos or halt all food residue tolerances of the insecticide, which would effectively ban most uses of it, according to a ruling handed down by a federal court on Thursday.

In an opinion from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco, the court said EPA has had long enough to respond to a 2007 petition by environmental groups to ban the chemical.

“EPA has had nearly 14 years to publish a legally sufficient response to the 2007 Petition (to ban chlorpyrifos),” the court said.

“During that time, the EPA’s egregious delay exposed a generation of American children to unsafe levels of chlorpyrifos. By remanding back to the EPA one last time, rather than compelling the immediate revocation of all chlorpyrifos tolerances, the court is itself being more than tolerant.

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Biden Makes Case for Big Spending Plans

OMAHA (DTN) — In a speech full of big-spending proposals, President Joe Biden made his case in a joint address to Congress Wednesday evening that the federal government can do more to rebuild infrastructure and pay more for education, social services and health care. But paying for trillions in new spending will require more taxes on corporations and wealthier Americans in the process.

Biden’s first address to Congress allowed him to tout early vaccination success in his first 100 days with the economy also continuing to grow in the first few months of his presidency. Biden used his early success to make the case to Congress for “once-in-a-generation” infrastructure and social spending plans. History has shown public investments can transform the country, he said.

“These are the investments we make together, as one country, and that only government can make,” he said. “Time and again, they propel us into the future.

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Panel: Ag Should Seize Climate Moment

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) — Agriculture interests on the front lines of charting a climate course for farmers and ranchers say there may never be another time like the present to expand conservation and other carbon-sequestration programs.

With numerous pieces of federal legislation introduced that could provide economic opportunities for agriculture to expand conservation efforts, panelists speaking to reporters during the North American Agricultural Journalists conference on Wednesday said that there may not be another funding opportunity quite like this.

The Growing Climate Solutions Act was reintroduced in the U.S. Senate last week and is drawing bipartisan support. (See “Groups Support Carbon Credit Bill” at https://www.dtnpf.com/….) The bill would create a certification program at USDA to provide technical assistance for farmers and forest owners to enroll in a carbon-credit market.

House Ag Committee Chairman Rep. David Scott, D-Ga., said on Tuesday he would like to move the Growing Climate Solutions Act through the committee but lacks support from House Ag Committee ranking member Rep.

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Tax Plan Targets Stepped-Up Basis

OMAHA (DTN) — While fears of farm groups were realized Wednesday as the White House rolled out its tax proposals under the American Families Plan, the White House maintains elimination of stepped-up basis would not apply to family-owned businesses and farms when heirs continue to run those farms and businesses.

President Joe Biden will talk in more detail about his administration’s plans Wednesday night during the State of the Union speech.

Leading up to that speech, the White House formally released details on its American Families Plan, a $1.8 trillion mix of spending for education, childcare and expansion of the Affordable Care Act, as well as new anti-poverty measures.

Coupled with the plan are $1.5 trillion in tax increases targeting wealthier Americans, including increasing the top-line tax rate, doubling the tax on capital gains and eliminating the ability to avoid taxes on gains by passing assets on to heirs — known as stepped-up basis.

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SCOTUS Hears Arguments in Major RFS Case

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) — The future of the small-refinery exemptions program likely will come down to the meaning of the word “extension” in the Renewable Fuel Standard. During oral arguments Tuesday, justices on the U.S. Supreme Court quizzed attorneys for the federal government, biofuels groups and refiners on how they interpret the word.

Refining company HollyFrontier brought the question before the court this spring in an appeal of a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver in January 2020.

That court found EPA acted improperly when it granted exemptions to three small refiners, including HollyFrontier, because they had not received exemptions in previous years.

An eventual ruling by the Supreme Court is likely to determine how EPA grants similar exemptions going forward.

During oral arguments, HollyFrontier attorney Peter D. Keisler was questioned by Justice Elena Kagan about the limits of the word extension in the RFS.

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