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Agriculture Secretary Vilsack announces investments to study renewable energy feasibility in rural communities

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA Rural Development has selected for funding 68 study grants nationwide to determine the feasibility of renewable energy projects. The grants cover five regions: the Northeast, Central/East, Southeast (including Hawaii), West and Pacific Northwest (including Alaska). In all, studies will be funded in 27 states and the Western Pacific. Funding is made available through the Rural Energy for America Program under the 2008 Farm Bill.

“The Obama Administration is committed to helping our nation become more energy independent by helping rural businesses build renewable energy systems,” Vilsack said. “The projects announced today will provide rural small businesses and agricultural producers the opportunity to conduct feasibility studies for renewable energy system installations. These investments will not only help our farmers and small businesses reduce energy costs, but also help find renewable alternatives to generate energy.”

For example, in Lorain County, Ohio, Vermilion Wind, LLC, has been selected to receive a $6,250 feasibility study grant.… Continue reading

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The battle for acres heats up in the cold of winter

Over the next three months, the prices of corn and soybeans have two major objectives. First, prices must allocate remaining old crop supplies to maintain at least pipeline stocks by the end of the current marketing year. Second, prices must direct spring planting decisions, said Darrel Good, a University of Illinois agricultural economist.

“For soybeans, the USDA now projects that the combined total of domestic crush and exports during the current marketing year will reach 3.245 billion bushels. That is only 8 million bushels, or 0.25%, less than the total of last year,” he said.

At the projected level of use, year-ending stocks would total only 140 million bushels, or 4.2% of total use that includes seed, feed, and residual uses. Year-ending stocks cannot be reduced much below 140 million bushels and still maintain pipeline supplies so total use cannot exceed current projections by a substantial amount, he said.

During the first quarter of the current marketing year, soybean crush and exports totaled 1.063 billion bushels, 82 million (8.4%) more than during the first quarter last year.… Continue reading

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NCGA says deregulation for GMO alfalfa the right option

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is considering options for handling glyphosate tolerant alfalfa. One option is to fully deregulate glyphosate tolerant alfalfa events J101 and J163, as published in the Final Environmental Impact Statement this past December.  House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) is pressing USDA to fully deregulate Roundup Ready alfalfa in a committee forum.  Roundup Ready alfalfa was found to pose no risk to health or safety.

The U.S. regulatory system for biotechnology derived agricultural products has been the world leader for 25 years based upon a science-based decision-making process.

“Biotechnology benefits the environment and helps to provide food, feed, fiber and fuel to the world’s growing population,” said Bart Schott, president of the National Corn Growers Association that supports the option of deregulation. “A full deregulation of this important crop would allow farmers to move forward with alfalfa production this spring.”

An order issued in 2007 by the U.S.… Continue reading

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USDA launches new label to boost bioproduct demand

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s BioPreferred program announced that a final rule to initiate a voluntary product certification and labeling program for qualifying biobased products was published in the January 20 Federal Register. This new label will clearly identify biobased products made from renewable resources, and will promote the increased sale and use of these products in the commercial market and for consumers.

“The Ohio Soybean Association is very excited that the final rule for USDA’s BioPreferred Program is being published this week,” said Jeff Wuebker, OSA president and Darke County soybean farmer. “This program will benefit a growing biobased product industry both statewide and nationally. A significant number of biobased products are made in Ohio from soybeans, so expanding this market is a benefit to all Ohio soybean farmers and can also help create economic development and jobs for all Ohioans.”

In 2010, thanks in part to the legislative work of OSA, Ohio became the first state to launch a similar statewide biopreferred purchasing program that requires all state government entities, including universities, to purchase biobased products when they are readily available and comparable in price and performance to traditional products made from petroleum or other chemicals.… Continue reading

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ODNR designates Grand Lake St. Marys Watershed distressed


Due to the unprecedented harmful algal blooms of 2009 and 2010, the Grand Lake St. Marys watershed has been designated a watershed in distress as of January 18, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).

A recent analysis, conducted by ODNR’s Division of Soil and Water Resources, concluded that the Grand Lake St. Marys (GLSM) watershed met the criteria for designation as a watershed in distress, as defined in Ohio Administrative Code 1501:15-5-20.

The study looked at a number of issues, such as:

Is the watershed listed as impaired by nutrients from agricultural sources, according to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency?

Does the watershed exhibit conditions that can affect public health?

Is there a threat or presence of contaminants in a public drinking water source or recreational body of water?

Do unacceptable nuisance conditions exist including the depletion of dissolved oxygen resulting in impacts to aquatic life?

The analysis report was submitted to the seven-member Ohio Soil and Water Conservation Commission for review on January 18.… Continue reading

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National No-Till Conference comes to Ohio

By Matt Reese

Every four years or so, soil scientists, agronomists, no-till gurus and farmers from around the nation descend upon Cincinnati for the National No-Till Conference.

This year the event (held last weekend) set a record for attendance and was, as always, packed-full of every caveat of no-till farming one can conjure up with expert speakers and roundtable discussions over four days. Attendees learned from the speakers, the speakers learned from attendees and there were often more new questions than answers after a session with this innovative group of agriculturalists dedicated to not tilling their soil.

“This is the 19th year and it rotates around four cities, including Cincinnati. It is wonderful for folks from Ohio, Kentucky and farther east to attend,” said Randall Reeder, an Ohio State University Extension agricultural engineer who helps with the event. “You can come here and hear from soil scientists, agronomists, engineers, and industry folks from around the country.… Continue reading

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Expert examines increased demand, pricing implications in corn industry

Corn farmers who came to St. Louis for the National Corn Growers Association’s Priority and Policy Conference enjoyed a presentation by Bruce Scherr, CEO of Informa Economics and one of the nation’s leading agricultural economics research firms. In his presentations, Scherr reviewed the historical trends in corn prices and looked at how changing global demographics are shifting the agricultural commodity market paradigm.

“What we see in increased corn prices today is the ripple effect of economic expansion,” Scherr said. “The expansion of commodity values is not over. It’s just beginning.”

Noting that commodity prices remained, on average, stagnant for three decades despite significant inflation in the market as a whole, Scherr explained that it is essential to keep current price increases in perspective because prior values were unsustainably low. He also pointed out that, while demand initially surged, increases have leveled off and are now trending to more gradual growth.

In light of increased demand, Scherr pointed out the importance of remembering that the United States has never actually run out of corn despite major demand increases.… Continue reading

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NCBA encouraged by Administration’s newfound commitment to eliminating regulations

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association welcomed news that President Obama, on Jan. 18, 2011, signed an Executive Order titled “Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review” that seeks to review all federal regulations and eliminate job and growth-killing regulations.

“If there were one word to describe the first two years of President Obama’s Administration, it would be regulation,” NCBA President Steve Foglesong said. “From the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration’s (GIPSA) proposed livestock and poultry marketing rule to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regulatory rampage – this Administration’s regulatory agenda to-date won’t just stymie growth in the U.S. beef cattle industry, it could kill the industry as we know it.”

According to a Jan. 18, 2011, article appearing in The Wall Street Journal, President Obama said the Executive Order calls for “a government-wide review” of federal regulations and “to remove outdated regulations that stifle job creation and make our economy less competitive.”… Continue reading

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9th Annual Youth Pork Leadership Institute and Scholarship Program announced

Pork enthusiasts from around Ohio will have a chance to learn about all aspects of the pork industry at the Youth Pork Leadership Institute, a three-day seminar to be held in Columbus in June.  Again in 2011 all current and past participants, age 21 or under, will have the opportunity to compete for a $500 scholarship.

Young men and women will be selected to participate in the event, which is sponsored by the Ohio Pork Producers Council, the Pork Check-off, and the Ohio Soybean Council. Last year eight individuals participated in the event. As an alumnus of the institute, participants will have the opportunity to be youth ambassadors for Ohio’s pork industry.

One goal of the institute is to make young people realize the pork industry has many facets, including packing, retail, food service, research and communications. In addition, the institute will teach leadership and communication skills that will assist participants in their future careers.… Continue reading

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Can sweet corn be grown using less atrazine?

Atrazine is one of the most widely used herbicides in North American corn production, but heated controversy remains over the 50-plus-year-old product. Several other herbicides are used in corn production, and a host of non-chemical tactics are sometimes used, too.

If the use of atrazine is restricted or banned altogether, how will sweet corn growers cope? A recent University of Illinois study shows sweet corn can be grown successfully without atrazine, but given today’s approach, perhaps not very often.

“We wanted to know the implications of using less atrazine in current weed management systems of sweet corn,” said Marty Williams, USDA Agricultural Research Service ecologist at the University of Illinois. “We conducted field studies at locations throughout North America and found that weed control falls apart pretty quickly as atrazine is removed.”

Williams said that further restrictions or a complete ban of atrazine would increase occurrences of weed control failure and subsequent yield losses in sweet corn, so finding an alternative is important.… Continue reading

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Farm Credit Services to reduce interest rates on Feb. 1

This new year, customers of Farm Credit Services of Mid-America will be receiving a pleasant surprise — their interest rates will be going down. Effective Feb. 1, 2011, Farm Credit’s Board of Directors and management have approved rolling back interest rates on all existing loans by .35% creating an annual savings to customers of $43 million. Also beginning Feb. 1, interest rates on all new loans will be adjusted down by .35%.

“This is a special and unique action that we are able to take because of the fundamental strength of our cooperative,” said Paul Bruce, Senior Vice President of Finance and Chief Financial Officer. “We are able to pass along this savings because of some extraordinary earnings events and because our cooperative has performed well financially over the last several years. These rate adjustments will provide additional flexibility for our customers to withstand market volatility. This is something we’re pleased to do, and this is the right time to do it.”… Continue reading

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Wheat acres up, but many are in poor condition

In Ohio, 930,000 acres were planted with wheat compared to last year’s total of 780,000 acres, according to the USDA. Seeding of winter wheat acres are up 10 percent to total 41 million acres nationwide, the National Agricultural Statistics Service reported.

Helping fuel last fall’s renewed interest in wheat were better economics and favorable planting conditions, said Purdue University agricultural economist Chris Hurt.

“The price of wheat escalated in the fall of 2010 with the poor wheat production in Russia and Canada,” he said. “Secondly, conditions for planting wheat improved dramatically with the early harvest of corn and soybeans, and by fall helped producers get the crop planted in a timely manner.”

Cash prices for wheat are hovering at $7 per bushel. Corn is trading at a cash price of about $6 a bushel, with soybeans about $13.50 a bushel.

While $7 would seem an attractive price, wheat might not be able to compete with $6 corn, Hurt said.… Continue reading

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Reduce costs of feeding hogs with finer grinding

It is well known that corn needs to be ground to be effectively utilized by pigs. New research shows that particle size reductions beyond current common practice may help lower feed costs.

“For many years producers have been grinding to an average particle size between 650 and 700 microns,” said Hans H. Stein, University of Illinois Extension swine specialist and professor in the Department of Animal Sciences. “This particle size was based on research showing that if grain is ground to a smaller particle size, then problems with ulcers in pigs may increase.”

However, Stein said research also shows that energy and nutrient digestibility will increase if particle size is reduced to smaller than 650 microns. Because of this increase in nutrient and energy digestibility, less feed is needed to produce one pound of gain if grain particle size is reduced.

Newer research indicates that feed conversion may be improved by 3 to 5% if corn particle size is reduced from 650 to 450 microns.… Continue reading

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Yield or disease resistance package, which should come first?

By Anne Dorrance, Ohio State University Extension plant pathologist

There are many of things to choose from as we prepare for the 2011 planting season. Lots of different packages, choices, and we all remember the challenges of the past few field seasons. In parts of the eastern soybean belt, we have more challenges than most other areas of the Midwest soybean production region. This is a review of the key pathogens in the state that are very well managed with resistance –- if the soybean variety has it.

Phytophthora

Phytophthora sojae is our number one soil borne pathogen for major portions of the state. We see it every time the wrong variety is planted and we have heavy rains. We get stem rot. When stem rot occurs we lose substantial amounts of yield. For a variety with low levels of partial resistance, we can still lose 50% in yield, and if there is no partial resistance, the whole field can be lost.… Continue reading

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USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service extends sign-up period for Conservation Stewardship Program

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced the ranking period cut-off date for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) has been extended to January 21, 2011. Producers interested in CSP should submit applications to their local NRCS Office by the deadline so that their applications can be considered during the first ranking period of 2011.

“CSP benefits rural communities across the nation by protecting and preserving critical natural resources,” said NRCS Chief Dave White.  “We encourage those producers who have already made conservation a priority to apply and work with us to expand the scale of conservation on their land.”

CSP is offered in all 50 states, and the Pacific and Caribbean areas through continuous sign-ups. The program provides many conservation benefits including improvement of water and soil quality, wildlife habit enhancements and adoption of conservation activities that address the effects of climate change.

Producers are encouraged to apply for CSP throughout the year to be considered for current and future application ranking periods.… Continue reading

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“No on Snow” a good rule to live by

By Karen Chapman, Great Lakes Regional Director at Environmental Defense Fund

Farmers have to watch every penny in order to remain profitable – now more than ever. Even with rosy crop prices, producers cannot afford to waste fertilizer or fuel. The January 3rd on-line bulletin “Crop Input and Land Outlook 2011” from OSU Extension, points out that, “Fertilizer continues to be the most volatile of the crop input costs and cost management of this important input may be the difference in being a low cost or high cost producer in 2011.”

With nitrogen and phosphorus prices both up at least 50% from a year ago, it’s hard to imagine why any farmer would apply fertilizer only to see it flow off the field. However, many farmers — some probably unknowingly — do just that.

It’s time to stop this practice, to protect both the pocketbook and soil and water health.… Continue reading

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ODA Director Appoints Top Administrators

Ohio Department of Agriculture Director James   Zehringer today announced several new appointments to  the department’s senior management team: Frederick M. Shimp, assistant director; Rocky Black, deputy director; Andy Ware, communications director; Thomas A. Johnston, chief financial officer; and Erica M. Pitchford, public information officer.

Shimp will oversee the department’s day-to-day regulatory operations and laboratories, in addition to the department’s policies and procedures. Prior to his new appointment, Shimp served as district director for Congressman Jim Jordan. He was also a former deputy director and legislative liaison for the Department of Agriculture under the Voinovich and Taft administrations. He earned his bachelor’s degree in political science at The Ohio State University.

Black’s responsibilities include overseeing the department’s legislative efforts, and shaping department policy. He will have a special focus on promoting agribusiness opportunities. Black brings 23 years of public and private sector government affairs experience to the department. He is a former senior advisor on governmental issues for the Ohio Soybean Association, senior director for government affairs for the Ohio Farm Bureau and was a co-owner of Public Policy Solutions, LLC.… Continue reading

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Ohio 2010 corn and soybean yields down from 2009

Ohio’s 2010 average corn yield is estimated at 163 bushels per acre, down 2 bushels from the November forecast, and down 11 bushels from the previous year. Producers harvested 3.27 million acres for grain this past year, compared to 3.14 million acres in 2009. Total State production of 533.0 million bushels is 2% below the 2009 total.

Acreage harvested for silage is estimated at 140,000 acres, down 30,000 acres from the previous year. The average silage yield is estimated at 17.0 tons per acre.

Ohio’s average soybean yield for 2010 is estimated at 48 bushels per acre, unchanged from the November forecast. Growers harvested 4.59 million acres of soybeans in 2010 from the estimated 4.60 million acres planted. Total soybean production is estimated at 220.3 million bushels, down 1% from the 222.0 million bushels produced in 2009.

Alfalfa yields averaged 3.30 tons of dry hay per acre in 2010, while all Other hay averaged 2.20 tons per acre.… Continue reading

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Advanced Biological Marketing Announces iGET™ Technology

Advanced Biological Marketing (ABM) announces the next generation in seed treatments: iGET™ (Induced Gene Expression Triggers). The technology, now formulated into several new products for ABM, alters plant gene expression to change plant physiology and enhance biochemical pathways that will increase crop performance.

The technology, based on three decades of research at Cornell University and other international biological research programs, provides multifunctional and crop specific blends of beneficial strains of Trichoderma microbials.

“These changes are systemic,” Marty Robinson, Ag Division President, says, “so that root colonization by the seed treatment can affect the physiology of the whole plant, even the foliar or leaf biology. It will enhance the uptake of water, nutrients, especially nitrogen, and subsequent nutrient metabolism.”

ABM offers iGET products for corn, soybeans and wheat that can create bigger root systems and plant growth and increase yields. SabrEx™ Root Inoculant for Corn (TreatYourCorn.com) has the benefits of iGET Technology, with a typical yield response of 10 bushels per acre.… Continue reading

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