National Headlines

Sulfur Fertilizers: One Vital Nutrient

By Russ Quinn
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) — It’s well known that crops need the proper amounts of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) to produce healthy plants and top yields.

Less known, but nearly as important, is sulfur (S). Plants not only need sulfur but also require it in the right form for plant availability. Research has also shown that season-long availability is vital for most crops.

The Sulphur Institute (TSI) (https://www.sulphurinstitute.org/…) refers to S as the fourth major plant nutrient. It has some key functions, including the formation of chlorophyll, which permits photosynthesis, the production of protein and the synthesis of oils.

Any crop can have a positive response to S, but corn, wheat, soybeans, alfalfa and cotton are the most common recipients. Canola is another crop that has higher S requirements, according to TSI.

Atmospheric deposition, the organic matter of the soil and previous applications are the most common sources of S, according to Ross Bender, senior agronomist for The Mosaic Company.

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Crop Insurance Update

By Jerry Hagstrom
DTN Political Correspondent

SAN DIEGO (DTN) — Martin Barbre, the administrator of the Agriculture Department’s Risk Management Agency, told the crop insurance industry on Monday that agents can discuss crop insurance for hemp with farmers who are growing it, but must tell them there is no coverage at the present time.

“If someone is growing industrial hemp, the agent can talk to them, but at present, there is no coverage for hemp. We are working on it. It takes time; there is an entire process we have got to go through,” Barbre said at the meeting of crop insurance companies, reinsurers and agents.

At the urging of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the 2018 farm bill removed hemp from the list of controlled drugs and said the Agriculture Department could help growers in a variety of ways, including developing crop insurance for the product.

Industrial hemp is in the same cannabis family as marijuana, but has a concentration of no more than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and people cannot get high from it.

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Best Young Farmers/Ranchers-4

By Dan Miller
Progressive Farmer Senior Editor

The legend of American agriculture has been one of farmers turning west for new ground — always west. Mark Lange looked east.

His land, near O’Neill, Nebraska, lay at the edge of the state’s Sandhills region. His crops were irrigated by an aquifer in decline. The state already had imposed water restrictions in other counties. Lange was convinced water regulation was coming his way. When that day came, there was no doubt his land value would take a hit. It was time to pick up his stakes and move. He did. Lange found better soils in Iowa.

He was able to sell his 1,500 acres and buy a similar number in west-central Iowa. After the 2012 harvest, the Langes packed up their entire operation and moved to Bagley, Iowa. “For the future of our farm, we thought we should move to a state where we weren’t so reliant on irrigation,” says Joel Lange, Mark’s oldest son.

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Taking in the Scope of Mato Grosso

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

OMAHA (DTN) — Tom Schwieterman, who grows 750 acres of corn and soybeans near Burkettsville, Ohio, said he had heard about the size of Brazilian soybean farms for years, but didn’t understand it.

“You can look in any direction and see wide-open land and planted crops,” Schwieterman said. “At home, every place you look you see a house, a barn, a silo. Out there, you just saw wide-open spaces. It’s just baffling to see something that huge. It’s actually bigger than I thought it would be.”

DTN joined a tour of U.S. farmers through parts of Amazonia, Mato Grosso and Parana states in Brazil during the first two weeks in February. Farmers touring Mato Grosso and Parana repeatedly noted their soybean yields were lower than expected, but they had shifted to their second crop, which was either cotton or corn.

After a week touring around the state of Mato Grosso, Brazil, Schwieterman and other Midwest farmers said their eyes were opened to the scale of production, state of technology and the value of U.S.

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Barn to Roam

By Joel Reichenberger
Progressive Farmer Senior Editor

There’s so much more now than there was — more people, more traffic, more buildings — but Glenn Arnold, 84 years old, stands on a ridge above his family’s old homestead in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, and can only focus on what is gone.

“On the corner, that’s where our house was,” he said on a cool afternoon in autumn, pointing to the edge of a nearly empty parking lot. “There was a small stone building that was a milk house and a couple of cowsheds.”

There was a granary, a corral, two chicken coops, and a barn, a towering wooden structure with a green-painted tin roof. It was his family’s pride when it was completed in 1928, built by his father, Walter Arnold.

Now, there’s a ski resort less than a mile from where the Arnolds’ old front door opened, and the spot is surrounded by condos, vacation homes and skier parking.

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WOTUS 60-Day Public Comment Begins

By Todd Neeley
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) — The 60-day public comment period for the newly proposed waters of the United States, or WOTUS, rule launched Thursday with the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers publishing the rule in the Federal Register.

The new rule moves forward while the 2015 rule under the Obama administration remains in legal limbo and essentially in effect in 22 states.

EPA and the Army Corps are on track to finalize the new rule by September, which is likely to trigger a new round of legal challenges.

The publication of the new rule already has drawn praise and outrage from a number of interest groups. The public comment period closes April 15.

In a statement to DTN, American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said the group supports the proposal.

“Today’s release of a new draft Clean Water Rule is a major step toward fair and understandable water regulation on America’s farms and ranches and other working lands,” Duvall said.

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The Market’s Fine Print

By John Harrington
DTN Livestock Analyst

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

This ancient proverb may not exactly be the key to wealth and fame, but who among us has not found it to be the perfect ticket in avoiding unnecessary controversy and tension. To all but the most stubborn defenders of absolutes, it’s an invaluable tool of cooperation and peaceful disagreement.

Nothing like it shrinks the distance between, say, Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” and a paint-by-number portrait of an angry clown on black velvet. Or, for that matter, helps to mitigate conflicting preferences between royal wedding protocol on one hand and a free pasta buffet at the Elvis Chapel on the other.

As strange as it may sound, I owe these thoughts on the relative nature of “beauty” to the harsh winter reality of the polar vortex and a rather foolish drive through Nebraska’s Platte Valley in late January.

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USDA to EPA: What About Plan B on E15?

By Todd Neeley
DTN Staff Reporter

ORLANDO (DTN) — As the EPA races the clock to complete a rule allowing year-round E15 sales ahead of the summer driving season, if the rule isn’t done by June 1, the agency may have to resort to a plan B, USDA’s second in command told reporters on Wednesday.

Following a speech to the ethanol industry at the National Ethanol Conference in Orlando, Florida, USDA Deputy Secretary Stephen Censky said his agency had approached EPA and suggested that, if the rule isn’t completed in time, EPA could use discretion in restricting E15 use come June 1.

“We really do need — and again EPA is still working hard and is very committed to getting a final rule in place and having that announced so that can be in place for the summer driving season to allow year-round sales of E15 — but in the event that they aren’t, I know that’s one of the things of using enforcement discretion or announcing that the EPA is not going to be forcing folks [to stop selling E15 in several states, and] that the retailers are not in danger of having enforcement actions taken against them,” Censky said.

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Kub’s Den

By Elaine Kub
DTN Contributing Analyst

“There are only 8 cents of carry out to the May futures contract; how am I supposed to go to my banker and justify putting up new grain bins just to get another 8 cents per bushel? That math doesn’t work out!”

This question came up at a recent market outlook meeting, and the economic instincts behind the questioner’s details were spot on. He was considering funding a project with borrowed money based on the returns offered to him in the current market environment. He was looking at the actual carry in the futures spreads, which can be locked in as real income, instead of looking at some unreliable expectation that grain prices “might” tend to be higher in the spring than they were at harvest when the grain went in a bin.

However, I would encourage anyone considering the construction of new grain storage facilities in 2019 (and I imagine there are many such people, after the scramble to store both corn and soybeans in late 2018) to base their decisions on longer-term expectations.

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Analyst: Worst is Behind Ethanol

By Todd Neeley
DTN Staff Reporter

ORLANDO (DTN) — Ethanol margins continue to be depressed at the start of 2019, as evidenced by the losses DTN’s hypothetical ethanol plant continues to experience.

The ethanol industry as a whole is looking and waiting for any kind of good market news.

Pavel Molchanov, senior vice president and equity research analyst for Raymond James and Associates, said during the National Ethanol Conference in Orlando on Tuesday that not only is the worst behind the industry, but there is reason for optimism.

“The good news is that, all over the world, there is more and more implementation of renewable fuel standards,” he said. “Let’s not lose sight of the fact that there are well over 30 jurisdictions that have a fuel standard. They’re not going to be able to get there without ethanol from you. There’s not enough ethanol that could possibly be produced in China.”

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Mato Grosso’s Bumpy Ride

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

TANGARA, Brazil (DTN) — A tour bus full of Americans bounces like a carnival ride traveling downhill, coming off a plateau on a narrow clay, unsurfaced and seemingly unmaintained road in the middle of a steady downpour while maneuvering around semi-trucks likely loaded with soybeans going the opposite direction.

It’s just another afternoon during harvest in Mato Grosso in Brazil.

Mato Grosso has some farming advantages, such as its vast acreage — the state is the size of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and Ohio combined (with room to squeeze in Delaware and Rhode Island). Also, Mato Grosso farmers can grow soybeans in the rainy season, then plant a summer crop like corn, cotton or sunflowers.

Agriculture, after all, makes up 75% of the economy of Mato Grosso.

Nevertheless, the Achilles heel in Mato Grosso is infrastructure for all those crops and livestock. And, for all its size, Mato Grosso lacks people and overall tax base with a population of just 3.4 million, of which more than 600,000 live in and around the city of Cuiaba.

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Todd’s Take

By Todd Hultman
DTN Lead Analyst

Much of last week in DTN’s newsroom was spent preparing for USDA’s reports on Friday. Ever since USDA closed the lockup room in Washington, D.C., last year, World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report day has taken on an extra layer of anxiety as a whole village of staff plans and works behind the scenes to make sure we all hum in unison to get USDA’s new estimates out as quickly and accurately as possible.

We’ve all seen hectic portrayals of newsrooms in the movies with people yelling and reporters running through the office to make deadlines. WASDE report day at DTN is actually much different. There is an eerie quiet when the clock strikes 11:00 a.m. Every second waiting for data to show up feels like a minute, and when the numbers do appear, a nervous chatter of cross-checking begins.

Coming off of a five-week government shutdown, Friday had plenty of new estimates to examine, ranging from U.S.

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Mato Grosso Cotton Planting Up

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

CUIABA, Brazil (DTN) — While corn remains the major safrinha crop for Brazilian farmers, more cotton acreage is being planted in Mato Grosso this spring, as well.

Over the past two years, cotton planting has increased by nearly one-third for the safrinha (second crop) in Mato Grosso. The Institute for Mato Grosso Economics of Agriculture (IMEA) forecasts Mato Grosso farmers will plant 1.1 million hectares (2.71 million acres) of cotton this spring. The Brazilian Association of Cotton Producers (Abrapa) forecast cotton acreage to grow to 1.4 million hectares (3.46 million acres). Mato Grosso accounts for about 88% of Brazil’s cotton production.

China is the top market for Brazilian cotton, and a 25% tariff on U.S. cotton creates expectation that continued trade disruption between the U.S. and China will be to Brazil’s advantage.

Still, corn acreage in Mato Grosso is projected to remain steady at 4.7 million hectares (11.6 million acres).

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Worrying About Weeds

By Emily Unglesbee
DTN Staff Reporter

NEW ORLEANS (DTN) — “We have to do better.”

That was the challenge issued from Scott Senseman, a weed scientist and the 2018 president of the Weed Science Society of America (WSSA), to the hundreds of weed scientists and members of the ag industry gathered in New Orleans this week for the group’s annual meeting.

For the past two days, rain and wind has occasionally battered the windows of the hotel where the scientists are meeting, a fitting backdrop for the stormy issues they are tackling, from an epidemic of herbicide-resistant weeds to the public’s growing concerns about chemical use.

But Senseman is optimistic. Out of the 500 people at the meeting, more than 100 are graduate students.

“We need you to come up with new technologies,” Senseman told these rising young scientists. “We need your youth and your creativity and your energy to get these things done.”

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Best Young Farmers/Ranchers-3

By Dan Miller
Progressive Farmer Senior Editor

Sims Cattle Co. sits in the Rock Creek Valley at the foot of the Snowy Mountain Range, west of Laramie, Wyoming, and 200 miles north of Denver. Elk Mountain rises 11,000 feet in the distance.

Sims cattle graze at 7,200 feet, and no month has gone without snow. Annual rainfall is 16 inches, most falling in April, May and June. The growing season is advertised at 60 days but is often as few as 45. Winters won’t disappoint even the foulest of predictions.

Yet, the Sims operation is tuned to function as an ecologically sustainable unit in this turbulent climate. “That means high-intensity, short-duration grazing, full-season grazing deferment on one-third of our upland range and the elimination of chemical inputs to the soil,” says Shanon Sims, who manages the operation with his wife, Melinda, and his father and mother, Scott and April.

SUSTAINABLE STRATEGY

Sims Cattle Co.

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Deep Dive on USDA Grain Stocks

By Alan Brugler
DTN Contributing Analyst

USDA graced us with a number of reports on Friday, Feb. 8, including final Crop Production, Grain Stocks and updated World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE). The WASDE report put the stocks-to-use ratio at only 11.7%. If realized, that would be the tightest since 2013-14, when it was 9.16%. The cash average price for corn that year was $4.46.

Before you get too bulled up, remember that five months of that 12-month weighted average are already in the books. It will be tough, statistically, to get corn to rally high enough and fast enough to reach that kind of average price for the entire year. That said, stocks are tightening and supply-to-demand economics says that should be friendly to either cash or futures prices.

The Grain Stocks report says U.S. corn stocks on December 1 were 615 million bushels (mb) smaller than they were a year ago.

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Cash Market Moves

By Mary Kennedy
DTN Cash Grains Analyst

During the signing of the tax overhaul bill on Dec. 22, 2017, President Donald Trump said, “Infrastructure is by far the easiest,” according to a Washington Post article from Jan. 3, 2018. “People want it — Republicans and Democrats. We’re going to have tremendous Democrat support on infrastructure as you know. I could’ve started with infrastructure — I actually wanted to save the easy one for the one down the road. So we’ll be having that done pretty quickly,” the Washington Post quoted the president as saying.

Over one year later, there is still no firm plan for how to fund and fix the nation’s aging infrastructure. In March 2018, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) released their 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, an assessment of the condition of the nation’s infrastructure across 16 categories (roads, bridges, railroads, inland waterways, etc.). This report card is issued every four years.

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Trump Calls for More Changes on Trade

By Todd Neeley
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) — President Donald Trump called for the continued rebuilding of American trade policy in his State of the Union address Tuesday evening, pointing to the ongoing trade negotiations with China as something that’s overdue.

Trump touted the elimination of the “death tax” but made no mention of biofuels at a time when farmers and ethanol producers continue to struggle economically.

The president congratulated Congress for passing “unprecedented legislation” to confront the opioid crisis, as well as a “sweeping” farm bill. In addition, Trump called on Congress to work with him on securing the southern border.

However, Trump focused heavily on trade to secure economic prosperity, calling it a priority to reverse “decades of calamitous” trade policies.

“We are now making it clear to China that after years of targeting our industries and stealing our intellectual property, the theft of American jobs and wealth has come to an end,” he said.

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Nov. Ethanol, DDG Exports Up From ’17

OMAHA (DTN) — The U.S. Census Bureau said Wednesday that U.S. exports of goods and services totaled $209.9 billion in November, down $1.3 billion from October. Imports totaled $259.2 billion, down $7.7 billion on the month. The resulting trade deficit of $49.4 billion for November was down from $55.7 billion in October. USDA later provided more details for exports of ethanol, biodiesel, and distillers grains.

USDA said U.S. exports of ethanol totaled 147.9 million gallons in November, down from 175.4 million in October, but up 43% from a year ago. Brazil was the top destination again in November, accounting for 35% of total exports and followed by Canada and India. In the first 11 months of 2018, U.S. ethanol exports were up 30% from a year ago.

U.S. exports of biodiesel totaled 22,036 metric tons (mt) in November, slightly less than October, but up 217% from a year ago. Once again, Canada was the top destination in November, taking 64% of all U.S.

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Corn Exports Bullish

By Todd Hultman
DTN Lead Analyst

OMAHA (DTN) — This week’s export sales report should be viewed as bullish for corn and bearish for soybeans, wheat and milo, according to DTN Lead Analyst Todd Hultman.

For the week ended on Dec. 27, USDA reported 19.8 million bushels (mb) (503,100 metric tons) of corn export sales for 2018-19 and none for 2019-20. Total commitments of 1.253 billion bushels (bb) in 2018-19 are up 19% from a year ago. Weekly export shipments of 39.6 mb put total corn shipments up 75% from a year ago. In spite of lower weekly sales, Thursday’s report remained bullish for corn in 2018-19, Hultman said.

For the same week, USDA reported 38.6 mb (1,051,500 mt) of weekly soybean export sales for 2018-19 and 0.2 mb (5,300 mt) for 2019-20. Total commitments of 1.138 bb in 2018-19 are down 24% from a year ago. Weekly export shipments of 33.8 mb put total shipments down 40% from a year ago.

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