National Headlines

US Soybean Exports Looking Up

By Matthew Wilde
Progressive Farmer Crops Editor

ORLANDO, Fla. (DTN) — A trade deal with China inching closer to reality has soybean farmers buzzing this week at the nation’s largest commodity event here.

The 2019 Commodity Classic kicked off Wednesday evening. Thousands of farmers nationwide attend the annual four-day event, which features educational seminars and hundreds of companies showcasing the latest crop inputs, equipment and technology.

It is China’s recent announcement to buy 10 million metric tons (367.4 million bushels) of old-crop U.S. soybeans that has farmers excited. Chinese officials said it’s a good-faith gesture as trade talks continue between the nations. President Donald Trump postponed raising tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods from 10% to 25% because progress has been made resolving trade issues. This includes a lopsided trade deficit in favor of China and unfair trade practices, including intellectual property theft.

U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC) leaders will give a presentation Friday assessing worldwide potential for U.S.

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DTN Field Roundup

By Emily Unglesbee
DTN Staff Reporter

ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) — With snow blanketing large swaths of the Midwest, and rains drenching parts of the South, it can be hard to imagine how the country’s frigid, soaked fields will ever be ready for spring planting.

But don’t let the still, damp chill of winter fool you. A flurry of farmer activity is underway, as growers finalize seed selections, hash out fertilizer plans, ready sprayers for spring burndown applications and brace for the springtime chaos to come.

This marks the season’s first DTN Field Roundup, wherein a trusted group of farmers and ranchers spanning 13 states and one Canadian province help us take the pulse of the countryside and weigh in on fieldwork, livestock care and agricultural issues of the day.

WINTER DELUGE

With the exception of Mike Lass, a farmer and rancher from the dry panhandle of Texas, most producers reported far more moisture than they, or their crops, can possibly use.

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Trade Victory No Guarantee of Spoils

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

OMAHA (DTN) — U.S. wheat and rice farmers got a big win over China announced Thursday by the World Trade Organization’s dispute settlement panel. But the victory could be short-lived because the Trump administration has made it harder for the WTO to resolve major trade cases.

The WTO dispute settlement panel found China’s subsidies for wheat and rice from 2012-2015 exceeded its terms under the WTO, as the U.S. alleged when the allegations were first made in late 2016. The panel ruled on rice and wheat subsidies, but did not rule on corn, which was also part of the case. The Obama administration initially filed two cases claiming China was illegally subsidizing its farmers by as much as $100 billion.

U.S. officials and agricultural groups declared victory with the WTO’s findings. They noted China’s domestic supports for grains distorted markets and created incentives for more Chinese production of those crops, reducing imports in the process.

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Lines Drawn on Proposed WOTUS Rule

By Todd Neeley
DTN Staff Reporter

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (DTN) — A clear line was drawn in the sand between those who support and those who oppose the proposed revision of the waters of the United States, or WOTUS, rule, during an EPA public hearing held here on Thursday.

Agriculture and other industry interests came out in support of the rule they say will provide more certainty for farmers and ranchers and make it easier for water-challenged regions to complete important drinking water projects.

On the flip side, many concerns were raised by environmental, health and public interest group representatives that lifting federal protections for isolated wetlands and some streams would have a detrimental effect on drinking water.

“The 2015 WOTUS rule was a complete and total disaster,” Steve Nelson, president of the Nebraska Farm Bureau, said during his testimony.

“It was never about clean water, it was about expanding the role of the federal government.

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Lighthizer Sees Bigger China Ag Trade

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

OMAHA (DTN) — U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told members of the House Ways & Means Committee on Wednesday that trade talks with China had reached a point of agreeing on enforcement mechanisms that would allow a trade deal to go forward.

“What the president wants is an agreement that, No. 1, is enforceable, Lighthizer said. He later added, “Certainly, it is an objective of the Chinese that the tariffs go away.”

Lighthizer also cited farmers and biotechnology issues in his hearing with lawmakers, saying U.S. farmers should be selling significantly more products into China. Talks continue on how to speed up the process in China for approving biotechnology traits and basing those decisions on science, the trade ambassador said. Because farmers don’t want to plant seeds for crops that aren’t approved by trading partners, this basically stagnates the technology and improved crop production.

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Listen to the Land – 3

By Jim Patrico
Progressive Farmer Contributing Editor

When you irrigate a farm over the Ogallala Aquifer, as the Makovicka family does, you are tapping a shrinking resource. The aquifer, which lies under 175,000 square miles across eight states of the Great Plains, has fallen about 16 feet on average in the last several decades, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). In some areas, it has fallen 100 feet or more.

The Ogallala has not shrunk that far in south-central Nebraska, where Ron Makovicka and his son, Brad, farm; however, they have watched it fluctuate and have taken steps to use every drop of its water wisely. “The more efficient you are, the less you deplete the water supply,” Ron said.

That’s why, along with their corn and soybeans, the Makovickas have planted soil-moisture sensors in their fields. They use the sensors to help decide the best times to irrigate. In combination with other technologies — including low-pressure nozzles and precision-farming techniques — the sensors help minimize waste and maximize efficiency.

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Listen to the Land – 2

By Greg Lamp
Progressive Farmer Contributing Editor

When Sara and Kevin Ross look out over their hilly southwest Iowa farm, they see more than just their conservation efforts at work. They also see land that’s been in their families for more than 100 years, and that drives them to do what they can to preserve it for the future.

Keeping soil in place for their corn, soybean and alfalfa acres is essential for Ross, a sixth-generation farmer from Underwood, Iowa. “We have four young boys — Hudson, Axten, Hollis and Carver — and maybe one or all of them will be interested in taking over. Who knows?” Ross said. “But, if it’s not them, hopefully it will be somebody else caring for the land the same way we do.”

As Ross moves into a leadership role as the first vice president of the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), he’s invested in helping educate himself and other farmers about how to better protect their soil and improve its health.

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Russ’ Vintage Iron

By Russ Quinn
DTN Staff Reporter

Over the years, I have written about my own family’s vintage iron quite often. We have several, but the one I have written about the most (and obviously my favorite) is a 1957 John Deere 620, which was my grandpa’s last tractor.

He bought the tractor slightly used in 1958. He operated a small dairy and crop farm and for about a decade this was his big tractor.

In 1968, my dad and uncle took over the farm for my grandpa who had developed some health issues. They traded several tractors in the years that followed, but never traded this particular tractor because it was their dad’s tractor, according to my dad.

My grandpa died in 1980 and by then the 620 was firmly entrenched on the farm. While certainly not the big tractor anymore, it had found a niche on our farm as the utility tractor.

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Projected Revenue Insurance Prices

OMAHA (DTN) — The month of February is important for growers in the key Corn Belt states who purchase revenue-based crop insurance policies. It’s when the projected prices for those policies are set.

During February, DTN will post a running tally of the December corn, November soybean and September Minneapolis wheat futures averages in Ag News.

The average as of 02/21/19: $4.00 per bushel for corn, $9.55 per bushel for soybeans and $5.78 for HRS wheat.

2019Dec CornNov BeansSep HRS
1-Feb$4.0225$9.5725$5.9175
4-Feb$4.0250$9.5800$5.9075
5-Feb$4.0350$9.6050$5.9000
6-Feb$4.0300$9.6300$5.8775
7-Feb$4.0025$9.5575$5.8100
8-Feb$3.9925$9.5700$5.8025
11-Feb$3.9775$9.4900$5.8000
12-Feb$4.0200$9.6000$5.8100
13-Feb$4.0250$9.5875$5.8400
14-Feb$3.9925$9.4800$5.7700
15-Feb$3.9925$9.5200$5.7575
19-Feb$3.9675$9.4575$5.6825
20-Feb$3.9850$9.4850$5.6075
21-Feb$4.0175$9.5425$5.6825
22-Feb$4.0175$9.5450$5.7400
25-Feb$3.9850$9.5550$5.6400
26-Feb$3.9625$9.4875$5.6650
27-Feb
28-Feb
AVG$4.00$9.55$5.78
2018$3.96$10.16$6.31

You can also check out a running tally of RMA’s harvest prices and prices recently in discovery here: http://prodwebnlb.rma.usda.gov/…

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Seeking Robust Exports to China

By Jerry Hagstrom
DTN Political Correspondent

AVENTURA, Fla. (DTN) — The Trump administration wants China to promise to buy a broad range of agricultural commodities, not just soybeans, in the trade negotiation that is underway, Agriculture Deputy Secretary Steve Censky said Monday.

“We want some robust purchase commitments from China,” Censky said at the International Sweetener Colloquium, a gathering of sweetener users here.

Censky said that means China should fulfill its commitments under the tariff rate quota system to buy other commodities and also U.S. meat and pet food.

The United States also expects China to improve its biotechnology approval system. “In the past, it has taken a presidential summit to get biotech approvals,” he said.

The engagement with China is a “tough, but promising negotiation,” Censky said.

But he also said that achieving a good agreement on agriculture is not enough to win the administration’s backing. He said China has to agree to make changes to its system of technology transfer and not force U.S.

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Rural Infrastructure

By Emily Unglesbee
DTN Staff Reporter

ARLINGTON, Va. (DTN) — In with the new, onward with the old — that is the unique challenge facing rural America’s infrastructure needs.

On the one hand, rural citizens and agricultural communities are suffering for lack of reliable, high-speed internet that they need to compete and survive economically. On the other hand, much of rural America is crisscrossed by an aging network of roads, railroads and shipping channels in need of repairs, maintenance and expansion.

USDA explored these widely varying infrastructure needs in its annual Agricultural Outlook Forum, late last week in Arlington, Virginia.

THE HUNT FOR RURAL BROADBAND

“For the past 20 years, and rightly so, the conversation about rural broadband and connectivity is about getting fiber hard lines out to the anchor institutions — schools, hospitals, libraries, and now we’re trying to push that to getting fiber out to the homesteads,” said Nick Tindall, senior director of regulatory affairs and ag policy for the Association of Equipment Manufacturers.

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Higher Corn Demand in 2019-20

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

ARLINGTON, Va. (DTN) — USDA sees higher corn acres, production, exports and prices for the 2019-20 crop as well as lower ending stocks at the end of the year.

It’s a different story for soybeans as production and yield are lowered, but a high carryover, relatively low exports and overall higher supply will translate into continued higher ending stocks.

USDA released its initial Grains and Oilseeds Outlook early Friday at the USDA Agricultural Outlook Conference.

CORN

Production is pegged at 14.89 billion bushels (bb), which would be 3% above the 2018-19 crop. Yield is projected at 176 bushels per acre (bpa), “based on a weather-adjusted trend, assuming normal planting progress and summer growing season weather. And agriculture is projected at 92 million acres (ma), up from 89.1 ma for the 2018-19 crop.

USDA raised feed and residual use for corn by 125 million bushels (mb) to 5.5 bb.

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The US Dollar Advantage in Trading

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

ARLINGTON, Va. (DTN) — American farmers and other businesses that trade in commodities have an “enormous advantage” over global competitors because commodities are pegged to the U.S. dollar. But that advantage could one day be at risk due to other emerging commodity markets, according to the head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

Chris Giancarlo, chairman of the CFTC, was the keynote speaker to agricultural economists and others at the USDA Agricultural Outlook Forum late Thursday. He touted the regulatory work of his agency and the liquidity and breadth of the U.S. derivative markets. But he also cautioned that global competitors would like to shift markets away from the U.S. dollar to other currencies.

Giancarlo said U.S. markets are “unmatched in efficient and undistorted price discovery.” The value of most of the world’s most important agricultural, mineral and energy commodities is established largely in U.S.

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Iowa Appeals Ruling on Ag-Gag Law

By Todd Neeley
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) — The state of Iowa is appealing to a federal court to reverse an Iowa judge’s move in January to throw out a state law that blocks undercover activist investigations into livestock operations.

The 2012 law, coming after at least a couple of widely publicized investigations into hog operations, made it illegal to come on a livestock facility under false pretenses, or lie on a job application to work for a livestock operation. The law was meant to effectively criminalize undercover investigations on livestock farms.

Iowa officials filed an appeal on Wednesday with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in St. Louis, Missouri. In addition, the state has asked the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa to stay any proceedings to enforce the judge’s order pending the appeal.

Animal Legal Defense Fund, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Bailing Out Benji, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Center for Food Safety filed a lawsuit challenging the law in the Southern District of Iowa.

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Corn, Soybeans to Have Higher PLC Yield

By Todd Neeley
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) — Changes to Price Loss Coverage, or PLC, in the 2018 farm bill could result in higher federal payouts on the crop insurance program, according to a new analysis from Farmdoc at the University of Illinois.

In particular, the new farm bill allows for a one-time option to update payment yields.

“Of 21 program commodities, only corn, soybeans, upland cotton, and, especially sorghum have a U.S. national PLC yield that is higher with the 2018 than the 2014 farm bill update formula,” the Farmdoc analysis said. (https://farmdocdaily.illinois.edu/…)

Not only did an update in the PLC formula account for the change, but Farmdoc said there were a number of “yield-affecting” events during the update periods of 2013 to 2017 and 2008 to 2012.

As a result, the analysis said at the U.S. market level, corn, soybeans, upland cotton and sorghum have higher 2018 than 2014 PLC update yields.

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Livestock & Poultry Outlook

By Emily Unglesbee
DTN Staff Reporter

ARLINGTON, Va. (DTN) — U.S. meat production continued to climb to record levels in 2018 and that trend will continue in 2019.

Total red meat and poultry production grew 2% to a record 102.4 billion pounds last year, and USDA expects these categories to increase by 2% again in 2019, to reach a new record of 104.7 billion pounds. These projections were released early Friday in USDA’s outlook for livestock and poultry, at the agency’s annual Agricultural Outlook Forum in Arlington, Virginia.

This steady rise in production kept cattle, hog and turkey prices lower last year, as well as broiler prices, which rose briefly in the first half of the year before dropping in the second half. USDA expects prices for cattle and turkey to rise in 2019, but hog and broiler prices are forecast to drop lower. Exports for 2019 are expected to increase for all the major commodities, but pork growth may be held back by ongoing trade disputes.

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Tariffs Slow Export Projections

By Jerry Hagstrom
DTN Political Correspondent

SAN DIEGO (DTN) — So many farmers are dependent on off-farm income in today’s economy that lenders say the worst threat to farmers is a general economic recession, the chief economist for the American Farm Bureau Federation said here Tuesday.

“Farm lenders say the reason why we can continue to do what we are doing is off-farm income,” Farm Bureau Chief Economist John Newton said during a panel discussion by agricultural economists at the Crop Insurance Industry Convention here.

“It is off-farm income that allows folks to continue to farm. Lenders are really concerned about a slowdown in the U.S. economy,” added Newton as he presented statistics on the decline in farm income since 2013.

The general U.S. economy is performing well, Newton said, but he is worried because consumer confidence and the CEO confidence index have both fallen.

Newton said USDA statistics show that in 2018, gross farm income was $435 billion and production expenses totaled $369 billion, resulting in net farm income of $66.3 billion, which was down $57 billion, or 47%, since 2013.

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Ag Outlook Comes Into Focus

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

ARLINGTON, Va. (DTN) — As USDA opens its annual Agricultural Outlook Forum, a mix of reports show steady land values holding up against lower farm income and a poor long-term outlook.

In a forecast released last week, USDA sees net cash income for agriculture remaining relatively flat over the next decade as expenses steadily rise and income for crops and livestock fails to keep pace. The Minneapolis Federal Reserve highlighted farmers’ economic stress in an update last week, suggesting more farm operations are at risk of “throwing in the towel.”

USDA Chief Economist Robert Johansson will detail the crop production and livestock outlook for 2019 on Thursday. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, along with the agriculture ministers of Canada and Mexico, will then hold a joint session to likely tout the prospects of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

The export opportunities for some crops look stunted at the moment.

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Best Young Farmers/Ranchers-5

By Dan Miller
Progressive Farmer Senior Editor

Bobby Morris heads out early on hot and humid Louisiana summer mornings to inspect his sugarcane fields. You can hear the cane growing, he says, more than an inch per day as its sword-shaped leaves rise toward 14 feet.

Morris Farms Partnership tends 3,200 acres of sugarcane in soils from heavy clays to sand, much of it within a baseball throw of Port Allen, one of Louisiana’s huge Mississippi River levees. Sugarcane is this state’s No. 1 crop and has been tended for more than 200 years. It grows today on 400,000 acres in 22 parishes and spins off $2 billion a year to cane growers and raw sugar factories.

ONE FARM, ONE CROP

If there is cushion gained from harvesting multiple crops, Morris Farms thrives or dies on decisions made about managing this single crop.

Morris’s farm’s acreage has doubled twice. “Each time we acquired more acreage, drainage, grass pressure and yields were all well below our standards,” he says.

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Stamp Farms Co-Defendants Sentenced

By Todd Neeley
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) — Two of three men indicted on 14 counts of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and making false statements to attain loans and crop insurance for Decatur, Michigan-based Stamp Farms LLC, have been sentenced to prison time. They have been ordered to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in restitution as a result of reaching plea agreements.

According to court documents filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Western Michigan, James Leonard Becraft, Jr. pleaded guilty to conspiracy to make false statements on crop insurance forms. On Feb. 12, he was sentenced to a year in prison, a two-year supervised release and ordered to pay $648,188 in restitution to the Risk Management Agency in Kansas City, Missouri.

Douglas Edward Diekman pleaded guilty to conspiracy to make false statements on crop insurance forms. On Dec. 20, 2018, Diekman was sentenced to 13 months in prison, a two-year supervised release and ordered to pay $488,432 in restitution — $409,403 to RMA and $79,029 to the Farm Service Agency in Kansas City.

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