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Nebraska Grain Sorghum Board Announces New Executive Director

LINCOLN - The Nebraska Grain Sorghum Board, together with the Nebraska Sorghum Producers Association (NeSPA), welcome Nate Blum as Executive Director. Blum is a Nebraska native, an alumnus of the University of Nebraska Lincoln, and a graduate of the Nebraska LEAD Program. Blum previously specialized...

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Nebraska Grain Sorghum Board Announces New Executive Director

LINCOLN - The Nebraska Grain Sorghum Board, together with the Nebraska Sorghum Producers Association (NeSPA), welcome Nate Blum as Executive Director. Blum is a Nebraska native, an alumnus of the University of Nebraska Lincoln, and a graduate of the Nebraska LEAD Program. Blum previously specialized...

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'Ugly Produce' Trend May Have Limits, as Grocers End Tests

URBANDALE, Iowa (AP) — Is the "ugly produce'" trend already reaching the end of its shelf life in supermarkets? Walmart and Whole Foods in recent years tried selling some blemished fruits and vegetables at a discount, produce they said might otherwise be trashed because it's not quite the right...

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Survey: Banks raising farm loan collateral requirements

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A monthly survey of rural bankers in parts of 10 Plains and Western states shows nearly two-thirds of banks in the region have raised farm loan collateral requirements on fears of weakening farm income. The Rural Mainstreet survey for February showed nearly one-third of banks...

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Youth Corn Challenge Winners Announced

Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers are in high demand and will continue to be in future years. To engage youth in crop science-based education, the Innovative Youth Corn Challenge (IYCC) was created as a partnership between the Nebraska Corn Board and Nebraska Extension. Si...

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Farm Groups Defend Crop Insurance Budget

Farmers and legislators celebrated the end of 2018 with the passage of a bipartisan Farm Bill that preserves the farm safety net and provides farmers with the tools they need to manage the unique risks of farming. As Congress begins the annual appropriations and budget process, America’s agricu...

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Crops

Nebraska Grain Sorghum Board Announces New Executive Director

LINCOLN - The Nebraska Grain Sorghum Board, together with the Nebraska Sorghum Producers Association (NeSPA), welcome Nate Blum as Executive Director. Blum is a Nebraska native, an alumnus of the University of Nebraska Lincoln, and a graduate of the Nebraska LEAD Program. Blum previously specialized in agricultural policy and outreach, serving Congressman Jeff Fortenberry in Nebraska’s First Congressional District. “It is a privilege to serve Nebraska sorghum growers.” Blum said, “Agriculture is the backbone of our economy. Grain sorghum is a versatile crop that is both heat and drought-tolerant. This ancient grain is utilized in myriad applications and offers producers the benefits of increased crop diversity, reduced production costs, and contributes to improved soil health. I am excited to work to promote, educate, and advocate on behalf of hard-working farm families across our great state.” The Nebraska Sorghum Producers and the Nebraska Grain Sorghum Board commend retiring Executive Director, Ms. Barbara Kliment, on her 38 years of meritorious service to the Board. As Executive Director, Ms. Kliment oversaw the agency from the outset through today. Her diligence and expertise have contributed greatly to the success of the organization.

'Ugly Produce' Trend May Have Limits, as Grocers End Tests

URBANDALE, Iowa (AP) — Is the "ugly produce'" trend already reaching the end of its shelf life in supermarkets? Walmart and Whole Foods in recent years tried selling some blemished fruits and vegetables at a discount, produce they said might otherwise be trashed because it's not quite the right size, shape or color. But the two chains and others quietly ended their tests, suggesting dented apples and undersized potatoes may not be all that appealing in stores where better-looking fruits and vegetables are on display. "Customers didn't accept it as much as we had hoped," said Mona Golub of Price Chopper, a grocery chain in the Northeast that also discontinued its offering of ugly produce. Still, some stores and home delivery startups haven't given up on the idea of selling less-than-perfect produce to reduce food waste and say they're doing well. At a Hy-Vee store in Iowa, a recent display of "Misfits" produce included packs of apples, lemons and oranges that were either too big or small, or otherwise substandard in appearance. A sign explained that "6 million pounds of fresh produce goes unused each year," though the packages didn't specify why the produce might have otherwise been thrown away. "I like the cost savings and it is good to help and not throw so much away," said shopper Brian Tice, who bought a pack of small oranges. Another shopper, Jamie Shae, said she didn't realize there was anything special about the fruit "I happened to see the bags of lemons," said Shae, who was in a rush and grabbed two bags. Shopper Joan Hitzel, who was browsing other produce nearby, said she thought the Misfits were a good idea given the tons of food that gets thrown away, but didn't plan to buy any that day. The supplier of the Misfits produce to supermarkets, Robinson Fresh, said about 300 grocery locations still sell the fruits and vegetables, including the Hy-Vee stores. Kroger also said it still plans to introduce its "Pickuliar Picks" this spring. But among other regional chains that have stopped carrying ugly produce are Meijer in the Midwest, Hannaford based in Maine and Pittsburgh-based Giant Eagle, which cited "inconsistent customer interest" for pulling the plug on its "Produce with Personality." Walmart no longer offers the damaged "I'm Perfect" apples it introduced in Florida in 2016. The efforts channeled growing interest in reducing food waste. Government agencies say the best way to reduce waste is to stop producing too much food. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 31 percent of the 430 billion pounds of the nation's food supply goes uneaten. That does not include the fruits and vegetables that get tossed at the farm level before foods reach stores. For fruits and vegetables that don't meet supermarket standards, some may get processed for products like juices and some go to food banks. Startups delivering ugly produce say there's so much they're not taking from food banks. Shopper preferences may not be the only challenge for ugly produce in supermarkets. "Retailers really prize their produce sections," said Imperfect Produce CEO Ben Simon, whose company had partnered with Whole Foods on a test at the chain. Grocers might worry that cheaper produce will cannibalize sales of regular produce, or give off a bad image, he said. Delivery startups say they're seeing interest in their services. But they are up against shoppers who inspect the fruits and vegetables they buy and those who worry about all the packaging. "I've been food shopping online, and I started thinking about all the boxes, all that cardboard," said Nyasha Wilson, a New York City resident who carefully selects apples for ripeness at a farmer's market. The companies say they might at least change shoppers' views on discarded produce. Evan Lutz, CEO of the startup Hungry Harvest, said most of it is just too small or slightly discolored. "The vast majority that would go to waste isn't really that ugly," he said.

NCGA USMEF Study Highlights the Value to Corn Producers through Red Meat Exports

The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) partnered with the U.S. Meat Export Federation to update a study on the value of red meat exports to domestic U.S. corn growers. The original study was conducted in 2015. In 2018, the study showed beef and pork exports used a combined total of 14.9 million tons of corn and DDGS, which equates to an additional 459.7 million bushels of corn produced – an increase of 29 percent over the 2015 projections. Other highlights from the updated study: Since 2015, one in every four bushels of added feed demand for corn is due to beef and pork exports. About 11 percent of the price of corn this year will be derived from red meat exports. Red meat exports’ impact on corn price is 39 cents per bushel (based on the annual average price of $3.53 per bushel). There would be a loss of $5.7 billion in corn value without red meat exports. “It’s important to continue to foster these types of relationships to continue to grow demand for red meat worldwide,” said Dan Wesely, Chairman of the Feed, Food, and Industrial Action Team. “The animal ag industry is the largest user of U.S. corn and utilizing studies that show what that impact is to the corn producer is extremely beneficial as we continue to help these markets expand.” As a part of the work on the study, USMEF also did an updated infographic and video highlighting key statistics and facts from the study. Click here to watch the video. World Perspectives, Inc. (WPI), conducted the study

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Livestock

Dairy Farms Take $4M Hit From Cows Lost in Blizzard

SUNNYSIDE, Wash. (AP) — Officials say the more than 1,800 dairy cows that died in a blizzard in southern Washington state earlier this month were a nearly $4 million loss, not including the lost milk production. Farm Service Agency program specialist Gerri Richter tells the Capital Press that seven dairy farms have given notices of loss to the agency's office in Yakima, and more are expected to report soon. The agency's Livestock Indemnity Program pays out at 75 percent of market value. Steve George of the state dairy federation says up to 15 farms near Sunnyside lost cows, with one dairy reported to have lost about 600 cows in the Feb. 9 storm. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Wednesday made $100,000 available to help farmers haul the animals to an Oregon landfill.

GENE EDITING DEVELOPMENT STALLED; NPPC RENEWS CALL FOR USDA OVERSIGHT

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Development of an emerging technology promising major animal health and environmental benefits is currently stalled at the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, prompting the National Pork Producers Council to renew its call for U.S. Department of Agriculture regulatory oversight of gene editing for livestock. “The pace of FDA’s process to develop a regulatory framework for this important innovation only reinforces our belief that the USDA is best equipped to oversee gene editing for livestock production,” said Jim Heimerl, a pork producer from Johnstown, Ohio and president of the National Pork Producers Council. “U.S. agriculture is one our nation’s most successful export products; we can’t afford to cede leadership of gene editing to other countries.” Gene editing accelerates genetic improvements that could be realized over long periods of time through breeding. It allows for simple changes in a pig’s native genetic structure without introducing genes from another species. Emerging applications include raising pigs resistant to Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome, a highly contagious swine disease that causes significant animal suffering and costs pork producers worldwide billions of dollars. Dr. Dan Kovich, NPPC director of science and technology, will advocate today for USDA oversight of gene editing at an Innovations in Agriculture panel moderated by USDA Under Secretary Greg Ibach during the agency’s 95th Annual Agricultural Outlook Forum. According to Kovich, “In addition to dramatic animal health gains and reduced financial risk for farmers, gene editing’s promise includes less need to use antibiotics to care for livestock and reduced environmental impact from more efficient farm operations.” Despite no statutory requirement, the FDA currently holds regulatory authority over gene editing in food-producing animals. FDA oversight will treat any gene edited animal as a living animal drug – and every farm raising them a drug manufacturing facility – undermining U.S. agricultural competitiveness relative to other countries with more progressive gene editing regulatory policies.

Chancellor elected as state pork president

Tim Chancellor of Broken Bow, Nebraska was elected as President of the Nebraska Pork Producers Association (NPPA) at their Annual Meeting held on February 13, 2019 at the Graduate in Lincoln, Nebraska. Joining Chancellor as NPPA’s new leaders are President-Elect, John Csukker of Columbus with The Maschhoffs and Shana Beattie of Beattie Family Farms near Sumner will serve as Vice President. Newly elected Directors are Matt Marquardt of Tekamah and Ali Prochaska of David City. Chad Johnson of Norfolk and Mark Wright of Fremont will serve as 1st and 2nd Alternate Directors. Chancellor was first elected to the Board of Directors in 2014. Chancellor is a member of the Executive, Finance, and Legislative Committees for the Nebraska Pork Producers Association, has served as a National Pork Board Delegate, and represented NPPA on a foreign trade mission to Japan. President Chancellor is the Wean/Finish Supervisor for Thomas Livestock Company (TLC). He has been with TLC since 1993 and also owns finishing facilities. Tim and his wife Minnie have three children and he is a newly elected member of the Broken Bow School Board. In accepting the NPPA Presidency, Tim said, “he is looking forward to the day to day engagement, challenges and rewards that come with his new position.”

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Technology

GENE EDITING DEVELOPMENT STALLED; NPPC RENEWS CALL FOR USDA OVERSIGHT

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Development of an emerging technology promising major animal health and environmental benefits is currently stalled at the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, prompting the National Pork Producers Council to renew its call for U.S. Department of Agriculture regulatory oversight of gene editing for livestock. “The pace of FDA’s process to develop a regulatory framework for this important innovation only reinforces our belief that the USDA is best equipped to oversee gene editing for livestock production,” said Jim Heimerl, a pork producer from Johnstown, Ohio and president of the National Pork Producers Council. “U.S. agriculture is one our nation’s most successful export products; we can’t afford to cede leadership of gene editing to other countries.” Gene editing accelerates genetic improvements that could be realized over long periods of time through breeding. It allows for simple changes in a pig’s native genetic structure without introducing genes from another species. Emerging applications include raising pigs resistant to Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome, a highly contagious swine disease that causes significant animal suffering and costs pork producers worldwide billions of dollars. Dr. Dan Kovich, NPPC director of science and technology, will advocate today for USDA oversight of gene editing at an Innovations in Agriculture panel moderated by USDA Under Secretary Greg Ibach during the agency’s 95th Annual Agricultural Outlook Forum. According to Kovich, “In addition to dramatic animal health gains and reduced financial risk for farmers, gene editing’s promise includes less need to use antibiotics to care for livestock and reduced environmental impact from more efficient farm operations.” Despite no statutory requirement, the FDA currently holds regulatory authority over gene editing in food-producing animals. FDA oversight will treat any gene edited animal as a living animal drug – and every farm raising them a drug manufacturing facility – undermining U.S. agricultural competitiveness relative to other countries with more progressive gene editing regulatory policies.

Starship Nematode

WASHINGTON, DC—An exciting collaboration between the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Pheronym (Alachua, FL), will send nematodes (small round worms) into space to the International Space Station (ISS). The mission represents a look into the future where food crops will be grown in space. The goal is to develop environmentally friendly methods for space travel that are not harmful to humans. This will be the first biological control experiment in space. The nematode’s send-off, funded by the ISS U.S. National Laboratory, hopes to launch to the orbiting platform as early as 2019. ARS research entomologist, David Shapiro-Ilan at the Fruit and Tree Nut Research Station in Byron, Georgia, is co-project director of an experiment that will be conducted on the ISS. The experiment will test the movement and infection behavior of beneficial nematodes (also called entomopathogenic nematodes or EPNs) that control a wide array of insect pests in agriculture. Nematodes are environmentally friendly alternatives to broad spectrum chemical insecticides and are also safe to humans and other nontarget organisms. One fascinating aspect of the EPN biology is that the nematodes kill their insect pest hosts with the aid of symbiotic bacteria that are carried in the nematode gut. For more than 20 years, Shapiro-Ilan has studied EPNs from a practical standpoint such as improving their application as biological control agents for sustainable pest management. Shapiro-Ilan also conducts related research on basic aspects of EPN behavior, particularly movement and foraging behavior. Shapiro -Ilan said, “The mission to space will offer a novel perspective and provide new insights into nematode behavior; the unique microgravity environment will allow us to explore fundamental mechanisms in parasitism and pathogenesis”. The questions to be addressed regarding the effects of microgravity include: the ability of EPNs to navigate through soil, infect insects and reproduce, and will the nematodes’ symbiotic bacteria function normally. They will also ascertain if the impact on insect host physiology is the same compared with what is observed on earth. To address these questions, sealed soil columns containing nematodes and a model target pest (waxworms, Galleria mellonella) will be sent into space for 30 days. Shapiro-Ilan was a partner in designing the experiments that will be conducted on the International Space Station and he will play a key role in assessing results. Results will then be assessed once the nematodes return to earth. Control experiments with the same design will be conducted concurrently on earth for the same duration. The nematode space mission project director, Fatma Kaplan, is the CEO of the company, Pheronym, an established cooperative research partner with USDA-ARS. Pheronym develops and produces nematode pheromones that can be used to direct EPN behavior (such as dispersal); the goal is to use the pheromones to enhance biocontrol efficacy. Shapiro-Ilan and Kaplan (and other partners) are funded by UDSA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to explore production and application of nematode pheromones, and from NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative to investigate basic mechanisms in nematode movement and infection behavior. The ability of nematodes to produce and respond to pheromones under microgravity will also be explored in the space station experiments. “This project of sending worms into space, which is being funded by the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory, is a natural off-shoot of the cooperative research between USDA-ARS and Pheronym,” said Shapiro-Ilan.

Valmont and Prospera Technologies Announce Roadmap to Autonomous Crop Management Technology Through Global Partnership

OMAHA, Neb. and TEL-AVIV, Israel and SAN JOSE, Cailf., Feb. 20, 2019/PRNewswire/ -- Valmont Industries, Inc. (NYSE: VMI), a leading global provider of engineered products and services for infrastructure and irrigation equipment for agriculture and the parent company of Valley® Irrigation, and Prospera Technologies Inc., a leading Israeli machine vision and artificial intelligence (AI) company specializing in ag data, are pleased to announce their global partnership. The collaboration sets the course to provide growers with autonomous crop management solutions generating greater returns, while requiring fewer production inputs and resources. "Valley Irrigation is transforming the center pivot from solely an irrigation machine to an autonomous crop management tool," Valmont President and Chief Executive Officer Stephen G. Kaniewski commented. "Water remains our focus, as it is the number one determinant of crop yield. Growers who use pivots have a natural advantage to use them as often as needed, given their constant placement on the field. We can equip the structure to see what a grower may not be able to detect, arming them with critical information that delivers more crop precision, saving time, lowering costs and increasing yield." This exclusive global partnership is significant because it integrates artificial intelligence technologies with center pivot irrigation. Valley Irrigation leads the industry with more than 60,000 connected devices globally and carries distribution strength through the industry's largest network of more than 500 dealers worldwide. The intelligence shared between these connected devices and the pivot, along with the integration of data science, machine-learning and AI, enables the two companies to develop real-time crop diagnoses and irrigation recommendations, resulting in greater returns for the grower. Prospera, founded in 2014, is a leading force in ag tech, committed to bringing advanced machine learning (ML) technology to the agriculture sector. Backed by strategic investors including Cisco, Qualcomm and Bessemer, Prospera has developed proven analytics, algorithms and data layering to provide growers with irrigation and crop growth recommendations. Prospera currently monitors over $5 billion of greenhouse production. The partnership between the two companies will build on Prospera's unique technology, expanding application to large-scale fields. Autonomous crop management will result in a self-learning machine, using inputs from the field and the grower to deliver proper water, fertigation and chemigation. Launching in the spring of 2019, Anomaly Detection is a fundamental building block for growers entering into AI functionality. Providing visual detection of anomalies or issues, this technology provides essential features to mitigate risks in the field, assisting the grower with their irrigation and crop management practices. It will be available from Valley for all brands of pivots through a subscription-based model. Kaniewski said launching specific technology products to the market and product adoption are two critical steps on the journey toward autonomous crop management. The joint machine-learning technology is targeted to reach one million acres by 2020. To develop the technology, the two companies collectively plan to invest more than $40 million over the next three years. "Like Valley, Prospera is committed to giving growers more data-based, actionable insights from the machines that span every inch of their fields, while reducing potential risks that can harm crop production," said Prospera Chief Executive Officer Daniel Koppel. "We are excited to partner with Valley Irrigation, the industry leader trusted by growers, and their global network of dealers, working together to feed an expanding population." Agricultural professionals can find out more about the Valmont/Prospera partnership and resulting technology at World AgriTech in San Francisco, March 19-20, 2019.

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Ag Policy

Survey: Banks raising farm loan collateral requirements

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A monthly survey of rural bankers in parts of 10 Plains and Western states shows nearly two-thirds of banks in the region have raised farm loan collateral requirements on fears of weakening farm income. The Rural Mainstreet survey for February showed nearly one-third of banks report an increase in the farm loan rejection rate for the same reason. The survey's overall index dropped to 50.2 from January's 51.5. Any score above 50 suggests a growing economy in the months ahead, while a score below 50 indicates a shrinking economy. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss, who oversees the survey, says the rural economy appears to be expanding outside of agriculture, but that tariffs and low agriculture commodity prices continue to weaken the farm sector. Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.

New Report Says Hold the Line on Chinese Tariffs, For Now

A new report out from the National Bureau of Asian Research warns the Trump Administration to temper its expectations on China significantly changing its economic policies. The bureau says China can’t make deep structural reforms to its economy in the 10 days before the March 1 deadline to produce a trade deal. The report says the better strategy may be to keep tariffs on Chinese goods in place, potentially for years. The bureau also wants the U.S. to work with allies like the European Union and Japan to crank up international reform pressure on Beijing. “We don’t think inflicting collateral damage on the U.S. economy is a good thing,” says former Louisiana Representative Charles Boustany, one of the co-authors of the report. “All we’re saying is hold the line for now on tariffs, short of any kind of major breakthrough.” The report’s authors say a good idea in the interim is to work on what they call “interim agreements.” An example would be the Chinese lifting tariffs on U.S. farm goods in exchange for Trump removing tariffs on Chinese electronic goods.

Farm Groups Defend Crop Insurance Budget

Farmers and legislators celebrated the end of 2018 with the passage of a bipartisan Farm Bill that preserves the farm safety net and provides farmers with the tools they need to manage the unique risks of farming. As Congress begins the annual appropriations and budget process, America’s agricultural community joined forces to ensure that the crop insurance program receives the full funding that it requires to be successful. Sixty organizations, ranging from farm groups to conservation organizations and lenders, sent a letter yesterday to the House and Senate Budget Committees, as well as Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, urging them to protect crop insurance during the budget process in recognition of its central importance to farmers and the rural economy. Trying to balance the federal budget on the backs of farmers and ranchers would be a mistake, they wrote, with disastrous consequences for America’s heartland. USDA has projected that 2018 farm profitability will be lower than it has been in over a decade, and farm income dropped more than 45% in five years. An overreliance on budget savings from the agriculture community and from crop insurance will unquestionably undermine rural economies.  It’s also important to note that in a time of uncertainty in the farming and ranching community – from natural disasters to trade disputes to government shutdowns – the public-private partnership that is crop insurance has been a consistent and reliable risk management tool.  The certainty of federal crop insurance also offers lenders the assurances they need to continue to provide capital to America’s hard-working farmers and ranchers…. Cuts to crop insurance during this difficult time for rural America should be avoided.  Farmers and lawmakers agree that crop insurance is a linchpin of the farm safety net and is crucial to the economic and food security of rural America. The importance of crop insurance was just reaffirmed less than two months ago with the passage and signing of the 2018 Farm Bill, and we urge you to oppose cuts to crop insurance during this year’s budget process.  Crop insurers and their allies in agriculture have been successful in fending off past attempts to weaken the farm safety net by harming this vital risk management tool. The overwhelming support crop insurance received during the 2018 Farm Bill debate is a testament to how popular the program has become – covering a record 334 million acres.

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Markets

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