National Headlines

Texas AG Pushes for WOTUS Injunction

By Todd Neeley
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) — The Texas attorney general is pressing a federal court in Galveston, Texas, to issue a national injunction on the 2015 waters of the United States, or WOTUS, rule after a court in Ohio denied a similar motion in recent weeks.

After a long series of court actions in the past couple of years, a split remains between states still under jurisdiction of the 2015 rule and those that are not.

At present, the rule is on hold in 28 states and in effect in 22.

In the meantime, the EPA continues a public comment period on a proposed new rule.

The states of Ohio and Tennessee had asked the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio for a national injunction on the 2015 rule. At the end of March, that court denied the request.

“Accordingly, the court finds that such relief is not warranted as the states have failed to carry their burden in demonstrating that they will suffer irreparable harm absent a preliminary injunction,” the Ohio court ruled.

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FSA Programs in Nebraska

By Russ Quinn
DTN Staff Reporter

SCRIBNER, Neb. (DTN) — Nebraska farmers affected by the devastating effects of recent floods and blizzards can use USDA Farm Service Agency cost-sharing programs to help recover financially. However, there are several rules and regulations producers must follow to receive aid.

At a flood information meeting in Scribner, Nebraska, on April 2, officials from FSA, NRCS and University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension spoke about the different resources available to farmers affected by the severe flooding.

The meeting, along with two other similar meetings held in different locations this week, drew a total of more than 180 producers from several east-central Nebraska counties that were affected by severe flooding.

INS AND OUTS OF ECP

The majority of the meeting was dedicated to discussing the Emergency Conservation Program. County Executive Director for the Dodge-Sarpy/Douglas FSA Bryan Ralston told the crowd the program provides cost-share to producers who have had severe damage to farmland and pastures due to a natural disaster.

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Change Needed Along Big Muddy

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

OMAHA (DTN) — Something has to change about the Corps of Engineers’ management of the Missouri River, three governors said Wednesday, though the governors acknowledged they don’t know exactly what that change will look like.

After meeting with Corps’ officials about levee repairs and the recovery phase from ongoing flooding, the governors of Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska all said their states have to take more ownership over how the dams and levees are managed along the rivers. They relayed that message to the Corps, said Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds.

“This is something that impacts each one of our states collectively and we can’t continue to experience the type of floods we’ve gone through here in the last recent days,” Reynolds said.

All three governors are dealing with another round of historic flooding after a freak storm rapidly melted ice and snow across Nebraska, South Dakota and Iowa, flooding larger tributaries and forcing the Corps of Engineers to quickly raise the volume of water releases from Gavins Point Dam on the Missouri River.

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Farm Labor Fix Still Elusive

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

OMAHA (DTN) — The challenges of farm labor, guest workers and legalizing much of the farm workforce haven’t gotten any better in the past year, as Congress once again will search for a solution that has remained elusive.

Congress has repeatedly attempted over the past two decades to reform the ag guest-worker program, H-2A, and consider legalization options for at least part of the current group of illegal farm laborers. Each Congress, though, a bill advances only to be derailed.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship, held a hearing on agricultural labor Wednesday, highlighting a bill she introduced earlier this year that would provide legal status to farm workers and permanent residence to long-term ag workers in the country. Lofgren noted the volume of similar hearings over the past two decades and the inability to reach a bipartisan solution.

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Disaster Aid Remains Tied Up

By Jerry Hagstrom
DTN Political Correspondent

WASHINGTON (DTN) — Following the defeat of two bills to address 2018 and 2019 disasters on the Senate floor Monday evening, Democrats offered a new plan to address Puerto Rico while Republicans criticized their colleagues for blocking urgently needed aid to other parts of the country.

Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., on Tuesday introduced a substitute to the emergency disaster supplemental while the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee addressed the issue at a hearing on the rural economy.

Democrats want more aid for Puerto Rico than the Republicans have proposed. On Monday evening, neither a Republican proposal that contained $600 million in additional food stamp benefits for Puerto nor the House-passed bill that is more generous to Puerto Rico got the 60 votes needed to proceed.

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans blamed Democrats for stopping both the aid to Puerto Rico that was in the Republican bill and aid to farmers.

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DTN Fertilizer Outlook

By Karl Stenerson
Market Reporter – Fertecon
Informa Agribusiness Intelligence

Here is a breakdown of wholesale prices and trends of various fertilizers.

AMMONIA

International:

Global ammonia prices moved lower once again in March.

Markets in the west saw the biggest declines with Yara and Mosaic eventually settling the March Tampa, Florida, contract down to $275 per metric ton (mt) cost and freight (CFR) and the April contract by the end of the month at $255, compared to $285 in February. The delayed ammonia application season in the U.S. obviously took its toll, coupled with weak phosphate prices and reduced phosphate production by Mosaic.

Reverberations are now rippling across the west, but it has yet to be seen if this can have any effect on the firm Far East market, where supply is said to be tight and spot product difficult to find. However, the reduction in the Tampa price might make it easier for Trinidad supply to compete in the Far East region.

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Flood Impact on Cattle

By Russ Quinn
DTN Staff Reporter

Editor’s note: This article was originally posted at 4:25 p.m. CDT on Monday, April 1. It was updated with new information at 12:37 p.m. CDT on Tuesday, April 2.

**

OMAHA (DTN) — John Widdowson saw the forecast during the week of March 10 and made a plan to keep his cattle safe in his operation near Gibbon, Nebraska. He moved his cow-calf pairs away from the nearby Wood River and into pastures usually not utilized this time of year, and he also left them plenty of feed.

Despite the planning, he still lost baby calves during the “bomb cyclone” weather system that produced heavy rain and a blizzard with 4 inches of snow and 65-mile-per-hour winds or higher. This all occurred on frozen soils, forcing massive amounts of water into streams and rivers that were not able to handle it.

“It was just a perfect storm with both the rain and snow,” Widdowson told DTN.

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Farm Credit Strong Despite Ag Headwinds

By Todd Neeley
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) — From a federal perspective, the Farm Credit Administration is as prepared as it can be to help farmers weather the current challenging economic times from continually declining farm income and stagnant commodity prices.

But individual farm situations are dire on the ground in Midwestern states such as Nebraska and Iowa, where flooding has devastated agriculture, and in places heavy in dairy production such as Wisconsin, Farm Credit leaders told the House Agriculture Appropriations subcommittee on Tuesday.

“It’s important to remember that, on individual producers, the impact can be very different,” said Rod Hebrink, president and CEO of Wisconsin-based Compeer Financial, which serves farms in Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota. “When individual farm families suffer, it is the death of dreams for those farms.”

Witnesses told the committee that now is the time for lawmakers to pass additional disaster funding. That comes after the U.S.

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USDA Weekly Crop Progress

By Anthony Greder
DTN Managing Editor

OMAHA (DTN) — U.S. winter wheat is starting off the 2019 growing season in the best condition in three years, according to USDA’s first weekly Crop Progress report released Monday.

For the week ended March 31, 2019, winter wheat was rated 56% in good-to-excellent condition, well above 32% at the same time last year and the highest initial good-to-excellent rating in three years. Nine percent of the crop was rated poor to very poor, well below 30% last year.

Top winter-wheat-producing state Kansas reported 55% of its crop in good-to-excellent condition, far better than 10% at the same time last year. More problems with the crop are being seen in Ohio and Michigan so far.

For the other crops USDA included in its report this week, planting was progressing at a near- to above-average pace. Sorghum was 13% planted, compared to 8% last year and a 9% five-year average.

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Corn Stocks Galore

By Alan Brugler
DTN Contributing Analyst

The stars for Friday’s USDA reports were clearly the Planting Intentions for 2019 corn and soybeans, with large corn stocks (as of March 1) getting the award for best supporting actor in a bear costume. USDA showed intentions for 92.792 million acres (ma) of corn in 2019, with soybeans at 84.617 ma. The former was up 3.66 ma from last year, while soybeans were down 4.579 ma. Traders, analysts and even random guys at coffee shops were expecting some shift to soybeans and corn, but the degree of shifting caught some by surprise. I’ll also argue that the data showed a big implied increase in unplanted acres. Let’s deal with that one first.

The top table shows what USDA calls Principal Crop Acres for 2019 based on the Planting Intentions report. Please note, that hay is only shown by USDA as a harvested number, and there was no number for rye, so I used a plug number.

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Swine Fever Impact on China

By Lin Tan
DTN China Correspondent

BEIJING (DTN) — China’s Ministry of Agriculture said last week that African swine fever (ASF) was tentatively under control. But the ag industry believes that the situation is much worse than what the government reported, and the impact of ASF on China’s hog industry may last for a long time.

In a national video conference, Ministry of Agriculture Vice Secretary Kangzhen Yu declared tentative control of the virus. He also mentioned that the impact of the virus will last a long time and the government will work even harder to control the situation, and in the meantime, will work to support hog production and increase pork supplies.

African swine fever broke out in China almost eight months ago. The first case was found in Liaoning Province, in northeast China, when 47 pigs died. Since then, more than 113 cases have been reported in most hog production areas.

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Don’t Burn the Corn

By Emily Unglesbee
DTN Staff Reporter

ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) — With March limping out like a drenched little lamb, the window for corn planting is opening up in some parts of the country.

In the inevitable rush to get fields prepped, sprayed and fertilized, some growers might be tempted to push corn planting as close to anhydrous ammonia applications as possible, said Brent Tharp, agronomy and product training manager for Wyffels Hybrids.

If you’re looking for a “safe” number of days to avoid giving your corn seeds a bad burn, you won’t find it, Tharp said. “I’ve seen injury from corn planted seven days after anhydrous ammonia went on, even to 14 days,” he said. “You need to focus more on the spacing between the injection point and where you plant the seed.”

Keeping those two far enough apart comes down to a few key factors — the right soil moisture, the location of your anhydrous injection tracks, proper injection depth and knowing when to make the call to switch to other forms of nitrogen.

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Missouri River Needs Bigger Bucket

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

WATSON, Mo. (DTN) — Missouri farmers and officials see greater risks for more flooding as spring continues, but they also want to see some long-term systemic changes in flood control on the Missouri River.

Tom Waters, chairman of the Missouri Levee and Drainage District Association, was among those who met Thursday with Bill Northey, USDA’s undersecretary for farm production and conservation.

Waters highlighted concern about snowpack in the upper Missouri River basin, along with flooding in South Dakota in the James and Big Sioux rivers. He rattled off the fact fields throughout the Midwest are already saturated. Along with that, there are fewer river gauges along tributaries to the Missouri River to monitor spring rises.

“The possibility of all of those coming together at once is very real and it’s very dangerous,” Waters said.

Northey met with farmers in northwest Missouri, then traveled to Hamburg, Iowa, on Thursday to see the destruction there and hear from farmers there as well.

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A Chance to Represent

By Pamela Smith
DTN Progressive Farmer Crops Technology Editor

DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) — The summary of Kyle Krier’s 2018 crop season was one of wacky weather. The frequent rains that found his central Kansas farm kept him scrambling and provided plenty of fodder for weekly reports to DTN.

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.

Each year we select two farmers from different areas to share their views on the season and agriculture. Deadline for the opportunity is April 15.

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.

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Iowa Nutrients Lawsuit Filed, Again

By Todd Neeley
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) — Confined animal feeding operations and other farming operations in the Raccoon River watershed in west-central Iowa would be required to implement numerical nutrient runoff standards, the state would have to implement a plan to restore the watershed, and CAFO construction or expansion would be halted if a lawsuit filed in a district court in Polk County this week is successful.

The lawsuit was filed by environmental groups Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and Food and Water Watch.

Nutrients runoff in Iowa has been the center of heated debate and legal action for the past decade. Most recently, a similar lawsuit filed by Des Moines Water Works was thrown out by a federal court.

The state implemented a voluntary nutrients-reduction strategy in an attempt to begin to cut runoff that finds its way into public drinking water systems and the Gulf of Mexico.

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USDA Hogs and Pigs Report Flash

By DTN Staff

OMAHA (DTN) — United States inventory of all hogs and pigs on March 1, 2019, was 74.3 million head. This was up 2% from March 1, 2018, but down slightly from Dec. 1, 2018, USDA reported on Thursday.

Breeding inventory, at 6.35 million head, was up 2% from last year, and up slightly from the previous quarter.

Market hog inventory, at 67.9 million head, was up 2% from last year, but down slightly from last quarter.

The December-February 2019 pig crop, at 33.0 million head, was up 3% from 2018. Sows farrowing during this period totaled 3.08 million head, up 2% from 2018. The sows farrowed during this quarter represented 49% of the breeding herd. The average pigs saved per litter was a record high of 10.70 for the December-February period, compared to 10.58 last year.

“Even though March 1 hog inventory was up from a year ago, total hog numbers slipped slightly from December levels,” said DTN Analyst Rick Kment.

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China Keeps Rein on Soy Sales

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

OMAHA (DTN) — Among the frustrations right now in selling commodities such as soybeans to China is that officials in the country are only allowing government-owned businesses to buy commodities, which is one of the main ways Chinese officials keep close restrictions on the market.

Lindsay Greiner, president of the Iowa Soybean Association, spoke to DTN on Thursday from Guangzhou, China, about some of the details about soybean buys that he and a team from the group have learned this week touring the country.

Chinese officials have agreed to buy close to 20 million metric tons (mmt) of U.S. soybeans this year, but Greiner said there’s a catch, because private buyers in China are still not allowed to buy U.S. soybeans. Only government-owned entities in China are allowed to make buys.

“It’s frustrating to some of the privately held companies, because they are being left out of the market,” Greiner said.

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EIA: US Propane Stocks

By Brian L. Milne
DTN Refined Fuels Editor

ORANGE BEACH, Ala. (DTN) — The Energy Information Administration (EIA) Wednesday reported inventories of propane/propylene held in U.S. storage rose 4.3 million barrel (bbl) in the week-ended June 22 to 58.4 million bbl, with domestic exports down significantly from the week prior and stocks in Gulf Coast PADD 3 sharply higher.

U.S. propane/propylene exports were at 566,000 bbl in the week, down from 1.013 million barrels per day (bpd) in the prior week, according to EIA. Four-week average exports were at 796,000 bpd, up from 656,000 bpd in the same period last year.

Compared to the same time in 2017, domestic propane/propylene stocks are down 100,000 bbl or 0.1%.

Propane/propylene inventories in Gulf Coast PADD 3 increased about 2.7 million bbl in the week-ended June 22 to 32.3 million bbl, which was down 700,000 bbl or 2.1% versus the same time last year.

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Floods Hit Ag Businesses Hard

By Todd Neeley
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) — While historic floodwaters that ravaged northeast and north-central Nebraska and parts of Iowa are receding, agricultural operations continue to struggle to return to normal.

Ethanol plants and feedlots, in particular, continue to have trouble shipping ethanol and sourcing feedstocks, as many rail lines across the region continue to be down and highways in shambles.

Tom Feller, president and CEO of Feller and Company Cattle Feeder that operates along the Elkhorn River in Wisner, Nebraska, said his feedlots are battling higher transportation costs as they work to repair a key roadway into their property.

“Our bridge road south of Wisner is out,” he said. “South of Wisner is home to about 70,000 cattle. We have cattle on both sides of the Elkhorn River, which causes us added expense of $500 per day to go 22 miles around through Pilger with feed.

“All our employees’ drive time is greater also.

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Iowa Farmers Count Their Losses

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

SIDNEY, Iowa (DTN) — A small group of farmers on Tuesday looked out at what is normally their farm ground and the now-destroyed bins that normally protect their income. What they see instead is a shallow lake formed by snowmelt and rain that has pushed the Missouri River far beyond its banks and temporarily reclaimed their river-bottom land and put their farms at risk.

The same scene is playing out for farmers in Nebraska, South Dakota and northwest Missouri right now. While the losses are devastating locally, they aren’t necessarily driving up crop prices. Fremont County, Iowa, has some 50,000 acres underwater, and local farmers estimated roughly 390,000 bushels of soybeans and 1.3 million bushels of corn are in bins, many of which are destroyed or damaged. The grain is valued at roughly $7.3 million.

“The biggest situation we have with those farmers is grain in bins that is compromised,” said Jeff Jorgenson, who farms about 750 acres along the river bottoms.

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