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State Fair 2016 theme: "Grand Champions. Made in Nebraska"

The theme for the 2016 Nebraska State Fair has been chosen, and it pays tribute to all competitors who bring their “A Game” to the fair each year. Grand Champions. Made in Nebraska. According to marketing and sponsorship director Shaun Schleif, “When the Nebraska State Fair moved to Gran...

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State Fair 2016 theme: "Grand Champions. Made in Nebraska"

The theme for the 2016 Nebraska State Fair has been chosen, and it pays tribute to all competitors who bring their “A Game” to the fair each year. Grand Champions. Made in Nebraska. According to marketing and sponsorship director Shaun Schleif, “When the Nebraska State Fair moved to Gran...

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Abengoa Now Sued in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Kansas

The list of grain companies not paid by Abengoa Bioenergy corn-ethanol plants continues to grow, as another group of sellers filed an involuntary Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition, this time in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Kansas. There's a mad scramble by Abengoa creditors in the United States to reco...

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Ricketts approves Nebraska bill to allow packer-owned hogs

LINCOLN, Neb.  The nation's only ban on hogs owned by meatpackers will end under a new Nebraska law that allows processers to control the animals from birth to slaughter. Gov. Pete Ricketts signed the measure Thursday. Business and farming groups say the measure will help Nebraska's hog indus...

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Syngenta Deal Could Pave Way for Biotech Acceptance in China

ChemChina's purchase of Syngenta could remove some of the suspicion around genetically modified crops and ultimately lead to more rapid user acceptance of biotechnology in food production in China, according to Syngenta's Chief Operating Officer Davor Pisk. The $43 billion all-cash deal unveiled ...

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Officials Say U.S. FMD Outbreak Would Devastate Industry

The U.S. has kept foot-and-mouth disease out of the country since 1929, but the livestock industry, pharmaceutical companies and the federal government would not be ready to handle an outbreak of the disease if it were to hit the national cattle and hog herds. Given the flow of animals in the U.S.,...

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Crops

Abengoa Now Sued in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Kansas

The list of grain companies not paid by Abengoa Bioenergy corn-ethanol plants continues to grow, as another group of sellers filed an involuntary Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition, this time in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Kansas. There's a mad scramble by Abengoa creditors in the United States to recover millions of dollars for unpaid corn deliveries to plants in Nebraska, before Spain-based Abengoa SA sells off its ethanol assets as part of what is expected to be a massive company restructuring in the face of more than $8 billion in debt. Involuntary Chapter 7 -- or liquidation -- petitions now have been filed in both Kansas and Nebraska as concerns mount that now more than $10 million in grain purchases by Abengoa will not be paid to multiple grain companies before the parent company Abengoa SA sells ethanol plants across the world at some point. In the latest petition filed Thursday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Kansas -- the state where Abengoa formed a limited liability corporation in the United States -- a group of creditors including two additional Nebraska grain cooperatives said Abengoa's York, Nebraska, plant secured some $33 million in financing in April 2015. The concern is the money will be funneled to Abengoa's parent company before companies owed grain are paid. The new petition was filed by Omaha-based Gavilon Grain LLC -- which filed a similar petition in Nebraska -- along with Farmers Cooperative in Dorchester, Nebraska, and Central Valley Ag Cooperative in York, Nebraska. Those three companies say they are owed about $3.2 million total for grain delivered to the Abengoa plant in York, having not been paid dating back to early August, according to court documents. "Gavilon suspects that some or all of the proceeds of this loan ($33 million) were also then sent upstream to the debtor's ultimate parent in Spain as part of its central treasury function," according to court documents. "As such, petitioning creditors are concerned that the assets will be sold in an expedited manner with the proceeds of any such sale retained by the parent in Spain rather than used to satisfy the debtor's U.S. creditors...Debtor has previously told those creditors that cash retention by the parent in Spain has been part of the cause of the debtor's prior inability to pay them." Also on Thursday, the creditors filing the petition in Kansas also filed a motion to limit Abengoa's power to sell its assets, obtain new secured loans, or to appoint an interim trustee. In bankruptcy cases, interim trustees are appointed to organize how assets are divided among creditors. The same motion was filed as part of the court proceedings in Nebraska. Farmers Cooperative in Dorchester, Nebraska, filed suit against Abengoa in Nebraska District Court on Dec. 1, 2015, for unpaid corn deliveries, according to documents filed as part of the Kansas petition. NEBRASKA COURT Earlier this week, Gavilon, along with Ravenna, Nebraska-based Farmers Cooperative Association; and Maumee, Ohio-based The Andersons Inc., reached an agreement with Abengoa that the company would not sell ethanol assets or acquire additional debt financing while the involuntary Chapter 7 petition is pending in Nebraska. According to that petition, Abengoa owes about $4.1 million for grain purchased by its ethanol plants. Abengoa Bioenergy can contest the petition for involuntary Chapter 7. Chapter 7 is filed to liquidate assets to pay off creditors. In addition, CHS Inc. sued Abengoa in December, claiming the company had not paid nearly $5 million for some 2 million bushels of corn delivered to three different Abengoa ethanol plants in Nebraska and Kansas. During a court hearing Wednesday in Nebraska, an attorney for Abengoa said the company would not sell its assets or seek more secured debt to finance its operations at an idled ethanol plant in Ravenna, Nebraska. Abengoa hopes to restart production at that plant at some point. The Abengoa ethanol plant in York also has been idled for some time. So far, the parent company has indicated it plans to sell off a large portion of its business to stave off creditors. Abengoa SA has until the end of March to either file bankruptcy in Spain or announce a restructuring plan to the Spanish government.  

Syngenta Deal Could Pave Way for Biotech Acceptance in China

ChemChina's purchase of Syngenta could remove some of the suspicion around genetically modified crops and ultimately lead to more rapid user acceptance of biotechnology in food production in China, according to Syngenta's Chief Operating Officer Davor Pisk. The $43 billion all-cash deal unveiled last week is the largest foreign acquisition ever by a Chinese firm, and marks a massive upgrade to China's crop production potential. The deal would also give Swiss-based Syngenta unrivalled access to China's massive, yet fragmented and underdeveloped, crop market. China is the world's largest grain producer, and is a major grower of vegetables, oilseeds, cotton and sugar. The Basel-based COO of Asia-Pacific and North America, who is on a tour through Asia to address customer concerns about the pending takeover, said Syngenta had been limited in its activities in China as a foreign company but could now leverage ChemChina's local knowledge to build its share of the multi-billion dollar agrochemical and seeds market. Syngenta is already the market leader in the fungicides and insecticides industry within China, with a roughly 6 percent share. "Our crop protection market share in China is significantly below our market share in other parts of the World," Pisk said on Friday, adding that the company's average share in Asia is around 12 percent, and nearly 20 percent globally. CAUTIOUS UPTAKE OF GM The Syngenta executive noted that while cultivation of GM food crops remains illegal in China, there are indications that the government wants to move towards adopting more use of GM technology, but to do so in a very cautious way, as it recognises a lot of consumer uncertainty and anxiety about the question of GM foods. "One of the benefits of ChemChina acquiring Syngenta is to hopefully remove some of the suspicion around modern technologies as they relate to agriculture amongst Chinese consumers," Pisk said, adding that Chinese consumers had been reluctant to accept GM technology as long as it appeared controlled by foreign companies. If the technology is owned by a Chinese entity, consumers will have more confidence in its safety, he added. "This will ultimately lead to more rapid user acceptance and greater confidence that this can really contribute to a safer and more secure food supply chain in China," he said. Pisk also argued that the deal fits with China's national ambitions to boost food security. "This acquisition clearly is consistent with the stated strategic intent of the Chinese government which is looking to modernise its agriculture within China... I think that with ChemChina's move here, this will add capability to China's ability to invest in more sustainable agriculture practices within China."  

(AUDIO) See For Yourself in Mexico - A Learning Experience with NE Soybean Board

    Day 4 - February 11 The final day of learning experience activities finished on Thursday. The group comes home on February 12. The attendees spent the day with the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). The USDA Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS) met everyone at the USMEF office. David Wolf and Alicia Hernandez with FAS spoke about grain and livestock markets and trade relations. [caption id="attachment_132617" align="alignnone" width="474"] USDA FAS talking to the group.[/caption] Agriculture exports from the U.S. were slightly lower in 2015 than last. Also in 2015, Mexico exported the highest number of live cattle into the U.S. They are expecting it to be lower this year due to prices. Mexican beef producers are focusing on developing strong genetics. When it comes to Nebraska's products being imported to Mexico, most of the products enter by rail through Laredo, Texas. This area also supply's 30 to 45 percent of all imports into Mexico. In 2015, soybean exports from Nebraska to Mexico was just over $300 thousand and corn was slightly over $200 thousand. Almost all of the yellow corn imports comes from the U.S. Mexico uses less than 10 percent of the domestic consumption of soybeans based off their own production - creating the need for imports. The top five U.S. agriculture exports are corn at $2.3 billion, soybeans at $1.5 billion, dairy at $1.2 billion, pork at $1.2 billion and poultry at $1 billion. The top five U.S. agriculture imports are beer at $2.7 billion, tomatoes at $1.6 billion, avocados at $1.5 billion, peppers at $800 thousand and live cattle at $800 thousand. [caption id="attachment_132620" align="alignnone" width="474"] USMEF speaking to the group.[/caption] Chad Russell with USMEF also discussed their efforts to promote U.S. Meat products in Mexico. They do promotional events in and out of grocery stores. USMEF wants to also start trade missions connecting U.S. sellers to Mexican buyers. In 2015 there were a total of 1.8 million metric tons of U.S. meat products imported from the U.S. into Mexico. Just under 50 percent were poultry, 40 percent pork and just over 10 percent was beef. [caption id="attachment_132621" align="alignnone" width="474"] Attendees looking at U.S. beef at Costco.[/caption] After the meetings, USMEF took us to Costco to see U.S. meat products on display. They employ people to make sure the stores are properly promoting U.S. products. [caption id="attachment_132623" align="alignnone" width="474"] U.S. beef at Costco[/caption] [caption id="attachment_132628" align="alignnone" width="474"] Consumers talking to the butchers about different cuts of meat.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_132629" align="alignnone" width="474"] The group in front of the meat display.[/caption] Day 3 - February 10 A small group started out the third day by going to Walmart to see soy products. Mexico consumes 850 thousand metric tons of soybean oil per year. Walmart also offers soy milk and soy milk powder. [caption id="attachment_132209" align="alignnone" width="474"] Francisco de la Torre with the U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC) showing the different soy oil products at Walmart.[/caption] The Nebraska Soybean Board group toured a talipia and white shrimp farm. BUBUL- HA started their operation in 2013. The operation has 90 tanks with 46 being used for shrimp. There are 140 thousand shrimp per tank, producing 1.3 tons when full grown. The operation is considered intensive because there are 700 shrimp per square meter of water. [caption id="attachment_132210" align="alignnone" width="474"] Tilapia and shrimp tanks at BUBUL-HA.[/caption] BUBUL - HA uses their own hatchery which takes around 90 days to get the shrimp to five milligrams. They are then transferred to the tanks to finish growing to 12-14 grams. The total process will take about 130 days. [caption id="attachment_132211" align="alignnone" width="474"] White shrimp weighing about five grams.[/caption] There are 10,000 tilapia per tank, producing 5.5 tons when full grown. They purchase the fish when they are 50 grams and finish out at 550 grams in about 18 weeks. [caption id="attachment_132212" align="alignnone" width="474"] One of BUBUL-HA's employees feeding tilapia.[/caption] The feed makes up for about 50 percent of their operating cost. They use 1,000 tons of feed a year. 30-35 percent of the talipia feed will consist of soybean meal, 20-35 percent for shrimp. Bioflock is also used to provide nutrients to the water. [caption id="attachment_132213" align="alignnone" width="474"] Underground canals are used to drain water from the tanks.[/caption] The water is air-rated 24 hours-a-day - allowing for higher animal populations. The operation recharges 20 percent of water a week. BUBUL - HA also recycles their own water to reuse it. The finished products are picked up by BUBUL - HA's clients, which are whole salers. The group at BUBUL-HA. After the tour, the group flew to Mexico City. Day 2 - February 9 The group spent the day learning about end users of American soybeans. Nayeli Vilanova and Francisco de la Torre with the U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC), gave presentations on their duties in Mexico. USSEC recently undertook new marketing strategies within the country to promote U.S. soybeans - which is easy, since the U.S. holds the market share. Soybeans are promoted as healthy products. USSEC hosts cooking seminars and brings celebrity chefs and nutritionists to help brand the products. [caption id="attachment_131862" align="alignnone" width="474"] USSEC gave presentations to start off the morning.[/caption] They also work within the industry to promote our products. Mexico is also experiencing similar family transitional issues that the U.S. is currently facing. USSEC works with smaller feed business on transition planning and promotion of continuing or raising the amount of soybeans used, for greatest profitiblity. The.The president of the Yucatan Swine Producers, Dr. Carlos Ramayo, a veterinarian by trade, spoke about their industry in the region. For livestock production, swine is second under poultry in the area. [caption id="attachment_131860" align="alignnone" width="474"] Dr. Carlos Ramayo speaking to the group about the swine industry.[/caption] In the Yucatan Peninsula, there are 183 farms. This is the fourth highest pork producing area with 123,078 metric tons of meat being produced in 2015. Exports of their products are on the rise. In 2014, 29 thousand metric tons were exported, mainly to Korea and Japan. In 2015, it jumped 10,000 to 39 thousand metric tons because China accepted imports. Today there are 1.6 million head of hogs in the Yucatan Peninsula. In this region, there is only 48 federally inspected slaughter facilities. Their projected production growth for 2016 is 9.1 percent higher for the Yucatan Peninsula. Eighty percent of their input costs come from feed. The Yucatan Peninsula imports five million metric tons of feed every year, with around two million coming from soybeans. With current policies, Dr. Ramayo said, "The Mexican government is for the Trans Pacific Partnership, but us, the producers, are not." He says the agreement will harm their industry when it comes to trade with Japan and would be beneficial to the United States. [caption id="attachment_131861" align="alignnone" width="474"] The group earned a better understanding for the culture by visiting Chichén Itzá.[/caption] To better understand the history and culture, the group toured Chichén Itzá. Day 1 - February 8 The first day of the Nebraska Soybean Board's 'See For Yourself' learning experience was spend discussing the demand and import process of American soybeans. The first stop on the trip was to the Poerto Progresso. Where participants were able to see U.S. Dried Distiller Grains (DDGs) and corn meal being unloaded. Soybeans were also present on the ship. This port services the whole Yucatan Peninsula. [caption id="attachment_131572" align="alignnone" width="474"] The group at the Puerto Progreso.[/caption] About 95 percent of the bulk grain that enters this port does come from the United States. More on the import process at Poerto Progresso can be heard by listening to the following interview with Jorge Gutierrez, General Manager with Multisur Port Terminal: The second stop was to Crio poultry feed facility. In total, they have 22 different farm locations for their operations. They raise both broilers and laying hens. They produce over 28 million eggs per week and 400,000 broilers are processed and 156,000 live broilers are sold weekly. [caption id="attachment_131573" align="alignnone" width="474"] At the Crio poultry feed facility learning about feed rations.[/caption] Crio creates their own feed. A mixture of corn, sorghum, soybeans and meal (which is mostly all imported) and minerals are used. They import about five thousand metric tons of soybean products monthly - 6,500 tons of full fat soybeans along with three to four thousand tons of soybeans are used monthly. This makes up for about 20-22 percent of the total feed rations. They plan to expand operations next year; creating the need to add another feed plant - doubling production from about 100 metric tons of feed to 200 metric tons of feed. [caption id="attachment_131574" align="alignnone" width="474"] Courtesy of Andrew Guiney. The group standing outside of the Crio soybean processing area.[/caption] The last stop of the day was to a soybean crushing facility. Proteinas y Oleicos, in their Merida facility, crushes 50 thousand metric tons per month. They have the storage capacity for 92 thousand tons of beans and 15 thousand tons of meal. Their Celaya facility crushes 45 thousand metric tons a month with storage for 54 thousand tons of beans and 9 thousand tons of meal. They are looking to expand their facilities in Merida to crush 88 thousand tons per month – a 22.5 million dollar investment. [caption id="attachment_131575" align="alignnone" width="474"] Ricardo Moreno, purchasing manager with Proteinas Y Oleico, speaking to the group.[/caption] Most of their soybeans comes from the United States, but Ricardo Moreno, purchasing manager, would like to see higher protein levels. South American beans, he says, tends to have higher levels and would be why they purchase more of their products. Moreno also said that they import into their Celaya facility soybeans from Hastings and Aurora, Neb. Listen to the interview with Moreno here:

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Livestock

Ricketts approves Nebraska bill to allow packer-owned hogs

LINCOLN, Neb.  The nation's only ban on hogs owned by meatpackers will end under a new Nebraska law that allows processers to control the animals from birth to slaughter. Gov. Pete Ricketts signed the measure Thursday. Business and farming groups say the measure will help Nebraska's hog industry, which has grown slower than in other states. Opponents have said the bill would give meatpackers too much leverage over farmers and shrink the cash market, making it harder for non-contract farmers to sell their hogs. They also criticized Smithfield Foods, a Chinese-owned pork processor that has quietly for the bill and contributed to at least 20 current state lawmakers, Ricketts and Attorney General Doug Peterson.

Officials Say U.S. FMD Outbreak Would Devastate Industry

The U.S. has kept foot-and-mouth disease out of the country since 1929, but the livestock industry, pharmaceutical companies and the federal government would not be ready to handle an outbreak of the disease if it were to hit the national cattle and hog herds. Given the flow of animals in the U.S., foot-and-mouth disease could spread quickly across the country before the industry and government could respond. The House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture held a hearing in Washington on Thursday highlighting the risks facing the livestock industry because the U.S. does not have adequate FMD vaccine supplies and could not cull animals quickly enough should foot-and-mouth disease return to the U.S. Rep. David Rouzer, R-N.C., chairman of the subcommittee that held the hearing, and other lawmakers said they were concerned that an FMD outbreak could cripple the livestock industry across the country. "FMD would be extremely detrimental to our livestock industry if it were to be introduced into the U.S., and those economic effects would be felt far beyond animal agriculture," Rouzer said. An FMD outbreak would immediately shut off about $20 billion in exports for almost all livestock and dairy products. Iowa State University estimated in 2011 that an uncontrolled outbreak of FMD would cost agriculture nationally roughly $200 billion in losses over 10 years. It would not just affect the livestock industry, but would also train wreck crop markets for feed grains such as corn. Foot-and-mouth disease is not a human public health or food-safety risk. The disease leads to painful blisters and fever for livestock, as well as swelling glands. Mature animals can recover, but still spread the disease. Smaller calves and pigs are more likely to die from it. At least 96 countries either have chronic or sporadic flare-ups of FMD in cattle, hogs, sheep, goats, deer, elk or other wildlife. Under traditional USDA protocol, any area affected by an outbreak would face an immediate "stop movement and stamping out" policy that essentially means culling of all cattle and hogs. "It has become apparent we can't count on stop movement and stamping out if we get into a large outbreak because agriculture has changed so extensively," said Jim Roth, a veterinary professor at Iowa State University. "We have very large herd sizes that are too populated to be stamped out in 24 to 48 hours." Roth noted the sheer size of some animal operations, with dozens of feedlots holding more than 50,000 head of cattle and swine operations with more than 20,000. The scale of these single operations may make them too large to rapidly euthanize animals to attempt to stop an outbreak. Then there is the extensive movement of livestock in the country. Approximately 400,000 cattle and 1 million hogs can be on the roads in trucks in a given day to different farms or packing operations, Roth noted. Animals such as wild deer and feral swine also can spread the disease, making it even harder to control. "So unless an FMD infection is detected quickly and stamped out, it could spread very quickly," Roth said. Groups such as the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and National Pork Producers Council urged Congress to invest more in stockpiling the vaccine for FMD. Howard Hill, a veterinarian and former president of the National Pork Producers Council, reiterated Roth's concerns and noted that a vaccine strategy would be both less costly and more humane to implement. "The United State simply cannot kill its way out of a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak," Hill said. After last year's avian influenza outbreak and the struggles of trying to cull and dispose of millions of dead poultry, USDA and livestock industry leaders began more heavily examining what it would take to deploy rapid vaccinations rather than destroying a high population of livestock. USDA alone spent more than $1 billion trying to contain avian influenza last year. Strategies beyond stamping out animal herds in the case of FMD would require large quantities of vaccine that simply aren't available. North America has a vaccine bank shared between the U.S., Canada and Mexico, but it does not have an adequate stockpile of FMD vaccine to manage an outbreak. A 2004 Homeland Security directive cited the need for a national veterinary stockpile, but the stockpile has never been adequately funded. At the moment, there are no FMD vaccines in the USDA stockpile. Adding complications to it, Roth noted the vaccine bank would need 23 different kinds of vaccine to properly deal with FMD because of the different strains of the disease. The budget right now for the vaccine bank is roughly $1.9 million. In an industry white paper written by Roth, a robust FMD vaccine stockpile would cost roughly $150 million a year over five years to develop. In roughly five years, the U.S. would have the capability to quickly respond to any strain of the virus. Currently, U.S. law restricts production of a vaccine to foreign companies. Yet, the available antigen held by USDA and the abilities of manufacturers overseas to produce FMD vaccine means it would take at least three weeks to produce just 2.5 million doses of FMD vaccine should an outbreak occur. Right now there also is no "surge capacity" to produce more vaccine, Hill said. At least 10 million doses are estimated as needed for the first few weeks of an outbreak, then capabilities are needed to ramp up to at least 40 million doses. FMD vaccine is not just a question of the money, but a time element. Right now, conventional pharmaceutical manufacturers around the world do not have the capacity to deal with the demand that would be needed by the U.S. if an outbreak occurred, said Steve Parker, director of veterinary public health for the pharmaceutical company Merial. "As of today, there is no excess industrial capacity for FMD vaccine manufacturing," Parker said. "If we have an outbreak today, it may be two to three years to get the vaccine to you that you need to address this." Hill and other livestock industry people testifying also said they were highly concerned about the risks of agro-terrorism bringing the FMD virus into the U.S.  

(AUDIO) USDA Offers Help for Blizzard Stricken Ranchers

Farmers and ranchers with livestock losses from last week's blizzard are eligible for assistance from USDA's Livestock Indemnity Program. We visited with Deputy Director of the Farm Service Agency in Nebraska, Erin Clason this week about who is eligible and what producers need to do if they did, in fact, suffer losses.

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Technology

Putting the Data Together

A vision is out there for all this data that farmers are collecting: You spend a day doing a lot of work, and when you have a moment, you open a screen — on your computer, smartphone or tablet — to see all the information collected from your work available. In many ways, that day has arrived for farmers who have partnered with a single-player system, as companies including John Deere, Case IH, FarmLogs, Ag Leader and others in the information-gathering business have upped their big data games. But what about sharing with others? And what happens if you have more than one brand of equipment on the farm? “It’s getting better. We have some of the pieces of the puzzle, and we can start to see the picture, but it’s not clear yet,” says Adam Gittins, general manager of HTS Ag in Harlan, Iowa, a provider and supporter of data collection products from Ag Leader and Trimble. Gittins shares the example of using Ag Leader and its SMS software, which lets him send information wirelessly from a machine to the AgFiniti cloud, and files can be transferred to and from the field. However, the AgFiniti system can’t send data to a John Deere monitor, yet. And moving information from a competitive system into the Ag Leader software is still a manual process, not automatic from the Internet. He sees the market aligning, and in 2016 farmers will see some major opportunities. Already, John Deere and Climate Corporation have an arrangement that allows information to flow from a John Deere platform to the FieldView system in near real-time. And John Deere has connections and agreements with a growing number of analytics companies, including DuPont Pioneer’s Encirca. One common theme when talking to major players in the data game is that every system can read your files, even as the ease of transfer gets worked out. Leo Bose, who works with the Case IH Advanced Farming System, also makes clear that farmers should know the terms of the user agreement surrounding all of these systems. For example for Case IH, “the farmer owns the agronomic information generated from the system,” he says. “The producer chooses who sees it.” Bose says as the AFS system has evolved, producers have gotten more access to information. However, he adds that this is from Case IH equipment to the Case IH software. “We can still use AFS Mapping and our Record Suite to review and analyze data and create prescriptions for variable-rate planting or fertilizer,” he says. “For competitive systems, that information must be entered manually.” Creating new connections Other systems out there can bypass your tractor’s in-cab monitor system and send field data directly to the cloud for your use on different systems. FarmMobile LLC has such a device, and farmers can pull from the machine’s CANBUS network through an ISOBUS connection. Another product is FarmLogs Flow, introduced late in 2015. “We spent more than a year developing this system that allows you to connect our FarmLogs Flow to your ISOBUS connection and send data, in real time, to the FarmLogs system,” says Jesse Vollmar, founder and CEO. He says this direct connect eliminates the hassle of moving files. “We had to do a lot of work to be able to read data off the John Deere data-bus. This is not an open, published thing, and they made it a challenge to get access,” Vollmar says. “This is not the only way a farmer can get information from their machine, but it is an alternative way.” Climate Corp., a division of Monsanto, is rolling out the FieldView Drive in 2016 in limited quantities. The system connects to a machine’s ISOBUS and shares information through Bluetooth to a tablet and to the FieldView cloud. These ISOBUS connections provide a more common infrastructure for data collection, but they’re also proprietary to the analytic software provider’s platform. John Deere has a novel approach, too. In 2015, the company developed the Mobile Data Transfer device, which connects to the USB port in a display to transfer data. The information goes from the device to an application on a smartphone, where it is then boosted to the company data cloud where the farmer can put it to work. “Every producer has a unique situation, and I think we are definitely trying to help make it easier whether Deere or partially Deere or non-Deere technology is involved,” says Deanna Kovar, director of sales channel and customer support for John Deere Precision Ag. “We want to make it easier for farmers to use all of their data, machine-collected or human-collected.” For John Deere users, the Operations Center becomes the focal point, and that Mobile Data Transfer tool, which currently works with John Deere’s 2630 display, also works with many competitive displays, including Ag Leader, where data can be transferred back and forth with the Operations Center, Kovar says. “This allows older displays that don’t have a JDLink system to send information to the cloud the ability to send information to Operations Center more easily.” We’re in a new generation of data gathering and management, but as Gittins notes, there’s work to be done if you’re trying to pull in information from different types of systems. Mike Martinez, marketing director for Trimble Agriculture, sees data transfer in two ways. First is your need to get information from your farm to a trusted adviser, and the second is the data sharing from a compatibility standpoint. “Sending information between the grower and the agronomist — in either direction — can pose a bit of a challenge if you’re not on the same platform,” Martinez notes. He notes that the company’s Connected Farm platform, has expanded its ability to read and share files with more analytics software recently. He says when a farmer sends a file to an agronomist, for example, using email or some file-sharing link, the process is “not as easy as we’d like it to be.” He adds that users who benefit the most are on the same basic platform — for example, from a Connected Farm system to another Connected Farm user. Yet the key innovation here is the growth in application program interface development.  

AGCO Introduces New White Planters at Louisville

AGCO Corporation (NYSE:AGCO), a worldwide manufacturer and distributor of agricultural equipment, unveiled the new White Planters™ 9800VE Series planter during the 2016 National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville, Ky. The 9800VE Series planters are the result of AGCO’s latest investment in planting technology available from Precision Planting®. The planters feature a new seed meter, electronic drive, automated downforce plus monitoring and data management technologies which take industry-leading White Planters to an unprecedented level of seed placement performance. “Researchers continue to learn and quantify the yield benefits of accurate seed placement. With that understanding, our customers are demanding technology that will allow them to capture the full yield potential of every seed planted,” says Conor Bergin, tactical marketing manager, Application, Seeding and Tillage. “The 9800VE Series planters are equipped to do just that, in addition to providing the long-lasting durability and simple maintenance and operation White Planters has provided for more than 40 years.” The 9800VE Series row-crop planters are available with a full range of options and attachments and may be configured to fit any production system. The Series offers three models with 30-inch row spacing in 12-row, 16-row and 24-row configurations: the 9812VE-30, the 9816VE-30 and 9824VE-30. The planters are built upon three-section frames that flex 21 degrees up or down at each wing for consistent planting depth across irregular terrain and that fold for convenient movement from field to field. vSet® meter The new planters are equipped with the proven and reliable vSet® meter, which offers the industry’s most consistent seed singulation plus outstanding reliability for minimal downtime. This meter features a flat disk with a single vac setting and a floating, 5-lobed singulator that makes sure no two seeds of any kind can occupy the same hole. It handles virtually any seed size or shape with a minimal amount of tweaks to vac pressure, disk or singulator settings and delivers nearly 100 percent accuracy. DeltaForce® hydraulic downforce DeltaForce hydraulic downforce control matches field conditions on-the-go to provide consistent seed depth placement for each individual row. The downforce of each row unit is adjusted automatically to minimize soil compaction or prevent shallow placement, for a seed environment that delivers uniform emergence leading to maximum yield. It compensates for soil variation caused by wheel tracks, changes in soil type, soil moisture and varying amounts of crop residue across the field. vDrive® electronic drive The vDrive® electronic drive system on 9800VE Series planters allows row-by-row control of the vSet seed meters so they adjust independently around headland curves. This precise control ensures the desired population is planted, saving seed and ensuring equidistant plant spacing for optimum yields. In addition, the vDrive allows prescription planting that matches plant population to the soil’s yield potential as well as row shut off to prevent over planting of point rows and end rows. The vDrive is self-contained and virtually maintenance free compared to traditional mechanical systems with sprockets, drive chains and bearings. 20/20 SeedSense® monitor White Planter’s 9800 are equipped with the fully integrated SeedSense® monitor which tracks population, speed, skips, doubles, row unit ride, down force and ground contact on the go. The information is immediately displayed on a color screen, allowing the operator to make adjustments needed to seed precisely, maintain depth, avoid compaction and troubleshoot mechanical problems. Optional FieldView® data collection and mapping FieldView® data collection and mapping is an iPad®-based solution to real-time, high definition mapping and data collection. It integrates seamlessly with SeedSense and is available as a factory-installed option. With data captured through SeedSense, producers can see exactly what the planter is doing in real time and save the data to use for future decision making.

Hesston’s 100,000th Windrower to Roll Off Production Line

Hesston by Massey Ferguson, the industry’s leading hay equipment brand of AGCO Corporation (NYSE:AGCO) — who introduced the self-propelled windrower to the agricultural harvesting world more than 60 years ago — will complete the production of its 100,000th windrower in March 2016 in Hesston, Kan. The 70-year-old Hesston by Massey Ferguson®  brand is a leading manufacturer of agricultural machinery, most famous for its high quality haymaking equipment since 1947. The landmark achievement will be celebrated in Hesston on Tuesday, March 29, 2016. “When Hesston’s founder, Lyle Yost, introduced the first self-propelled windrower back in 1955, he not only shared this unique invention but he would ultimately be a leader in the revolution of the hay business,” explained Kyle Kitt, marketing manager for hay cutting, preparation and forage at AGCO. “Over the course of the last 60 years, our skilled engineers have worked to innovate and improve upon this harvesting machine, such as with the recent addition of rear-wheel steering, known as RearSteer. This is our effort to listen and respond to the needs of farmers not just here in North America, but across the world.” The 100,000th windrower is a vast improvement from the first model of 1955. Today’s WR9800 Series of self-propelled windrowers are fuel-efficient and offer superior operator convenience. The WR9800 Series are powered by reliable AGCO Power™ engines, led by the AP66-4F, a 6.6-liter engine in the WR9870. This model is ideal for Hesston’s disc header, and offers 225 horsepower and the muscle to operate in heavy crop conditions such as winter forage, wet silage hay and hilly or rough terrain. The WR9860 is designed to perform toe-to-toe with any six-cylinder windrower with its AP49-4F — a 4.9L four-cylinder QuadBoost™ engine — which boasts 195 HP and is an increase over the previous model. This additional power provides a higher field speed of 17.5 mph, plus a maximum road speed of 24.5 mph for quicker moves between fields, when equipped with RearSteer. If time and change shaped Hesston over the course of its 70-year history, innovation has defined it. “Hesston is committed to creating machinery that brings added value to the agriculture industry by delivering higher Relative Feed Value and better quality small grains," Kitt said.  As a result of this innovation, its team of engineers has been enhancing the windrower since it was introduced. Whether it be the addition of hydrostatic power in 1967 (renamed Hydro-Static 600), or the addition of RearSteer in 2016, the Hesston Windrower continues to be a leader. In 1955, the first commercially-available Hesston Windrower was sold and in 1956, it came off the production line — a self-propelled windrower known as the Model 100. A groundbreaking advancement in the agricultural harvesting business, the Model 100 provided much greater versatility when harvesting both hay and grain crops and brought a new level of maneuverability. “Today’s Hesston WR9800 Series windrowers have seen such success in allowing hay and grain producers to develop quality end-product faster and more efficiently with an enhanced level of precision,” continued Kitt. “After 70 years of making innovative farm equipment, Hesston is proud to still lead the industry.”  

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USDA Sees Strong Demand for Conservation Reserve Program

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is reminding farmers and ranchers that the competitive sign-up deadline for its most popular voluntary conservation program, the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), is Feb. 26, 2016. This will be one of the most competitive general sign-up periods in history, in part due a statutory limit on the number of acres that can be enrolled in the program. The most competitive applications will be those that combine multiple conservation benefits, such as water quality and wildlife habitat. For the past thirty years, CRP has provided financial incentives to farmers and ranchers to remove environmentally sensitive agricultural land from production to be planted with certain grasses, shrubs and trees that improve water quality, prevent soil erosion and increase wildlife habitat. Since 1985, CRP has sequestered an annual average of 49 million tons of greenhouse gases, equal to taking 9 million cars off the road; prevented 9 billion tons of soil from erosion, enough to fill 600 million dump trucks; and reduced nitrogen and phosphorous runoff by 95 and 85 percent, respectively. CRP also protects more than 170,000 stream miles with forests and grasses, enough to go around the world seven times. The program has allowed for the restoration of 2.7 million acres of wetland and protects more than 170,000 stream miles with forests and grasses, enough to go around the world seven times. “Since the start of this Administration, USDA has invested more than $29 billion to help producers make conservation improvements, working with as many as 500,000 farmers, ranchers and landowners to protect land and water on over 400 million acres nationwide,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “The Conservation Reserve Program has been and continues to be a key piece of USDA’s conservation strategy, and with this competitive sign-up we are encouraging applications that offer the greatest environmental protection.” As of January 2016, 23.6 million acres were enrolled in CRP, with contracts for more than 1.6 million acres set to expire this fall. The statutory cap on acres that can be enrolled is 24 million acres. Submissions will be ranked according to environmental benefits in comparison to all other offers nationwide. USDA will announce accepted offers after the enrollment period ends and offers are reviewed. For an interactive tour of CRP success stories from across the U.S., visit www.fsa.usda.gov/CRPis30, or follow on Twitter at #CRPis30. In 2015, a record number of continuous CRP acres were enrolled, totaling over 830,000 acres. These high-value acres provide multiple benefits on the same land including water quality, wildlife, carbon sequestration and others. For example, the acres dedicated to pollinators have almost tripled to over 190,000 acres and support the National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators. This record sign-up came after a May 2015 announcement that an additional 800,000 acres would be accepted for key natural resource enhancements. Since the May 2015 announcement, wetland restorations have increased by 77,000 acres, duck nesting habitats have increased 35,000 acres and other wildlife habitat has increased 255,000 acres within the CRP State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE). Surveys have demonstrated significant increases in populations of upland grassland birds; the 227,000 acres dedicated to upland bird habitat buffers are estimated to increase bobwhite quail numbers by 350,000 each fall.

Vilsack, lawmakers urge end to Cuban trade embargo

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and a bipartisan group of lawmakers on Wednesday marked the first anniversary of the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba by urging the group's members - including some of the country's leading ag groups and companies - to keep the pressure on Congress to ease trade restrictions with the island nation. Vilsack said the Cuban market - with 11 million people just 90 miles off the Florida coast - offers tremendous opportunities for U.S. farmers and ranchers as well as producers of farm machinery and other goods but those opportunities are being hampered by a half-century old trade embargo that has long outlived its purpose. “We need Congress to act to lift the embargo and to do it now,” Vilsack said during an event at the National Press Club in Washington. “Right now we are at a disadvantage.” Devry Boughner Vorwerk, the Cargill executive who chairs USACC, kicked the event off by reviewing the progress the group had made in the last year. She noted that when USACC was founded there were about 25 member organizations. Now there are more than 100, she said, including ADM, Bunge, Cargill and Smithfield Foods as well as the American Farm Bureau Federation and a host of state bureaus and commodity groups. She also pointed to the reestablishment of a U.S. Embassy in Havana in July. “Now, only a year on, we have seen a series of moves of significant action by the administration to achieve that objective (ending the embargo),” she said. “But there is more to be done, and all roads lead to Congress.” A number of lawmakers attended the event to pledge their support. They included Democratic Senators Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota; Republican Congressmen Rick Crawford of Arkansas, Ted Poe of Texas and Ralph Abraham of Louisiana; and Democrats Cheri Bustos of Illinois and Jim McGovern of Massachusetts. Most of the lawmakers seemed to agree that ending the embargo would probably not happen during 2016, with a short legislative calendar and a presidential election coming in November. But they said coalition members and the public should be pushing for incremental changes, including changes to financial regulations that require Cubans to pay cash for U.S. products. McGovern, however, called for a more aggressive approach to the lobbying effort in Congress, arguing that there is now a consensus of Americans - including a majority of Cuban Americans - who want the embargo to end, but are being frustrated by lawmakers “embracing an old, misguided Cold War philosophy.” He said the USACC members needs to be “a little tough” and let these lawmakers know that if they aren't backing the coalition, “then we need to rethink how much we need to be with you.” “You're on the side of the angels on this issue,” he told the audience. “You're on the right side of history.” In his address, Vilsack also called on Congress to support President Obama's budget request to fund a USDA presence in Havana. “We need people down there to promote American products,” Vilsack said. “We don't have that presence as we do in other countries” and it's “important to have people there.” In the interim, he said he was looking at ways to possibly use checkoff dollars from different commodity groups to further that promotional effort.  

Kansas Senate Bill Would Restrict Habitat Protections

Conservationists say protected habitats for endangered and threatened species in Kansas would be sharply reduced under a Senate bill in its second week of hearings. The measure before the Senate Natural Resources Committee would change the definition of critical habitats and restrict habitat protection to areas where a vulnerable species lives. Critics say the bill doesn't take into consideration potential territories where the species could migrate. The Sierra Club testified Wednesday that the bill would cut habitat protections by 60 percent. Farmers and ranchers spoke in favor of the bill last week. The Kansas Farm Bureau says the measure would clarify the Kansas Nongame and Endangers Species Conservation Act. The committee has not scheduled a debate on the bill.

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