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‘Farming for the Future’ program set in four Kansas locations

Historically low crop prices and slipping farmland values continue to weigh on the bottom line for farmers and ranchers. To address those challenges and support producers as they plan for what’s to come, Kansas State University will host a one-day program “Farming for the Future” in four locat...

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‘Farming for the Future’ program set in four Kansas locations

Historically low crop prices and slipping farmland values continue to weigh on the bottom line for farmers and ranchers. To address those challenges and support producers as they plan for what’s to come, Kansas State University will host a one-day program “Farming for the Future” in four locat...

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USDA Invests More Than $1 Billion to Improve Health Care in Rural Areas

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue today announced that USDA provided more than $1 billion in Fiscal Year 2017 to help improve access to health care services for 2.5 million people in rural communities in 41 states. “USDA invests in a wide range of health care facilities – such as hospit...

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Gov. Ricketts Announces Agreement with Bulgarian Soybean Processers

Today, Governor Pete Ricketts announced that the Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA) has signed letters of intent with nine soybean processing companies in Bulgaria to promote the use of Nebraska-grown soybeans and soybean products in their facilities. “This is a great opportunity which is g...

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Biodiesel Board Responds to RFS RIN Concerns

A letter from the National Biodiesel Board to the Trump Administration seeks to clarify issues refineries are wanted addressed. Texas Senator Ted Cruz is holding the nomination of Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey to the Department of Agriculture, asking for a meeting to discuss renewable iden...

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(Video) Farm Bureau Survey Reveals Lowest Thanksgiving Dinner Cost in Five Years

American Farm Bureau Federation’s 32nd annual price survey of classic items found on the Thanksgiving Day dinner table indicates the average cost of this year’s feast for 10 is $49.12, a 75-cent decrease from last year’s average of $49.87. The big ticket item – a 16-pound turkey – came ...

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Crops

‘Farming for the Future’ program set in four Kansas locations

Historically low crop prices and slipping farmland values continue to weigh on the bottom line for farmers and ranchers. To address those challenges and support producers as they plan for what’s to come, Kansas State University will host a one-day program “Farming for the Future” in four locations this winter. The program, offered by K-State Research and Extension and the K-State Department of Agricultural Economics, will be the same at each location: Dec. 14 – Pratt – Pratt Area 4-H Center, 81 Lake Rd. – 620-672-6121 Dec. 19 – Salina – Webster Conference Center, 2601 N. Ohio St. – 785-392-2147 Jan. 10 – Scott City – Wm. Carpenter 4-H Building, 608 N. Fairgrounds Rd. – 620-872-2930 Jan. 11 – Emporia – Anderson Building, 2700 W. U.S. Highway 50 – 620-341-3220 Presentations will include an overview of the current farm financial situation; Kansas land values and rental rates; Farm Service Agency programs; grain market outlook; beef cattle market outlook; macroeconomic and interest rate outlook; and managing farm financials during challenging times. Register by calling the K-State Research and Extension office listed or online at www.agmanager.info/events/farming-future .   At the end of the program, attendees will have an opportunity to sign up to work one-on-one with a K-State farm analyst. Those confidential appointments will be offered locally about three weeks after the Farming for the Future program. Trained agricultural economists will work with individual farmers and ranchers using financial software designed to help producers understand their individual financial situation and make informed decisions. More information and registration are available at www.agmanager.info/events/farm-financial-workshops. Funding for these educational programs was provided by the North Central Extension Risk Management Education Center and the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture and local sponsors.

Proposed bill would be detrimental to sugar beet growers

A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Nov. 7, introduced the “Sugar Policy Modernization Act,” in the House and Senate, which would overhaul the U.S. sugar program. Reps. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) and Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.) and Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) are proposing the measure to limit domestic supply restrictions and reduce market distortions. “What that (bill) would do, would essentially tear the safety net out from underneath sugar growers and sugar beet growers,” said Luther Markwart, executive vice president of the American Sugar Beet Growers. “This bill would essentially put us into bankruptcy.” Unlike foreign sugar industries, U.S. producers do not receive subsidy checks.  Instead, producers get loans to help cash-flow operations while sugar is stored for customers.  Because loans are repaid with interest, sugar policy has operated without taxpayer cost in the 2014 Farm Bill. Sugar producers would lose access to nonrecourse loans under the proposal and the bill would also force the U.S. Department of Agriculture to maintain an oversupplied sugar market and keep prices depressed with imports. “So, we are now trying to educate members of congress that without the current policy we are not going to survive,” Markwart said.

Soils and your Thanksgiving meal

Did you know soil scientists are making your Thanksgiving dinner more sustainable? The Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) November 15 Soils Matter blog explains research to make cranberries, poultry litter, and sweet potatoes better for the environment. As you sit around your Thanksgiving table this year, we thought we’d give you some ideas about current research topics that help bring you your dinner. In addition to the growers who tended your food, perhaps you’ll also be thankful for the research scientists working behind the scenes to help us have a sustainable food supply for a growing world. Cranberry sauce Cranberries are a common companion to Thanksgiving meals. Research is helping you have your cranberries, and the environment be safe, too. Credit: Morguefile Who doesn’t love a good cranberry sauce? Whether yours comes out of a can, or you tenderly cooked it on your stovetop, cranberries are one of the most popular additions to a Thanksgiving table. You most likely know that they are grown in bogs. And your cranberries have a 50% chance of coming from Wisconsin! Massachusetts produces 25% of the US cranberry crop. Here, research teams are testing methods to reduce the amount of phosphorus that leaks from the bogs. For the most effective harvest, growers flood their fields to collect the cranberries. Unfortunately, some of the phosphorus fertilizers from the flooded fields can get into neighboring water bodies. The team at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is using phosphorus-absorbing salts just before harvest. By adding the salts to the water, they capture the phosphorus, making it inert to the environment. The scientists had great success in their small-scale experiments, and will now study how this process works in larger fields. They are making sure you can have your cranberries, and the environment can be safe, too! Turkey Thinking of poultry litter during your Thanksgiving dinner might not be appetizing, but hopefully this topic might provide some dinner table conversation fodder. This natural waste product is chock-full of nutrients that can help grow crops. Researchers in southern states have found that applying poultry litter to cotton, for example, is an effective practice for good yields. However, one of the biggest challenges of applying poultry litter to fertilize crops is that the nutrients can easily leach out of the litter and pollute waterways. Yams and Sweet Potatoes The orange color of yams is made by beta-carotene, an important nutrient provided by the 5th most important crop in developing countries. Credit: Morguefile These nutritional powerhouses are mostly grown in Africa and South America. Both crops are high in Vitamin A – important for eye health – and are hardy growers. That’s why sweet potato is valued as the 5th most important crop in developing countries. While you might not normally think of the Caribbean during Thanksgiving, Jamaican researchers are investigating how to better predict sweet potato yields. This research will help this region achieve food and nutrition security. Other scientists are closely studying the genetics of yams. The goal is to improve the genetic diversity of and breeding efforts for this important starchy tuber. This Thanksgiving is a good time to be thankful for all these scientists who are changing the world. Their research – and its application – ensures that we can continue to feed the global population with nutritious crops. All this while looking out for our environment, too! Answered by Laura Christianson, University of Illinois-Urbana

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Livestock

Rotational grazing to be highlighted at conference

MANHATTAN, Kan. — Kansas State University and the Kansas Forage and Grassland Council (KSFGC) will hold its Winter Forage Conference and KSFGC Annual Meeting on Tuesday, December 12, 2017, at the Webster Conference Center, 2601 North Ohio, Salina, KS. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. and the conference kicks off at 9:00 a.m. Rotational Grazing will be the focus of one tract with presentations from NRCS Specialists Dusty Tacha and Doug Spencer, along with UNL Range Beef Nutritionist Dr. Travis Mulliniks. The tract will be topped off with Grower Panel of Kansas ranchers. Other breakout sessions from Kansas State University and industry experts will cover topics including: Alfalfa Pests & Predators, Non-GMO Alfalfa and an Alfalfa Industry Update from Beth Nelson, President of the National Alfalfa & Forage Alliance. “Current and Future Kansas Forage Trends” will be the keynote address by Dr. Mike Brouk, Professor, Animal Science & Industry, Kansas State University. Conference Registration is open to the public and is free to 2018 Kansas Forage and Grassland Council members. For non-members and those that have not yet renewed for 2018, the cost is $45, which includes both KSFGC and AFGC membership, along with subscriptions to both Progressive Forage Grower and Hay & Forage Magazines. More information regarding the conference including registration (which is encouraged for planning and meal counts), the agenda and information for businesses, vendors, and forage industry boosters can be found at https://ksfgc.org/wkfc/. Please direct any questions to Mark Nelson at info@ksfgc.org.

(Video) Farm Bureau Survey Reveals Lowest Thanksgiving Dinner Cost in Five Years

American Farm Bureau Federation’s 32nd annual price survey of classic items found on the Thanksgiving Day dinner table indicates the average cost of this year’s feast for 10 is $49.12, a 75-cent decrease from last year’s average of $49.87. The big ticket item – a 16-pound turkey – came in at a total of $22.38 this year. That’s roughly $1.40 per pound, a decrease of 2 cents per pound, or a total of 36 cents per whole turkey, compared to 2016. Farm Bureau Reveals Lowest Thanksgiving Dinner Cost in Five Years “For the second consecutive year, the overall cost of Thanksgiving dinner has declined,” AFBF Director of Market Intelligence Dr. John Newton said. “The cost of the dinner is the lowest since 2013 and second-lowest since 2011. Even as America’s family farmers and ranchers continue to face economic challenges, they remain committed to providing a safe, abundant and affordable food supply for consumers at Thanksgiving and throughout the year.” The shopping list for Farm Bureau’s informal survey includes turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a veggie tray, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and coffee and milk, all in quantities sufficient to serve a family of 10 with plenty for leftovers. Consumers continue to see lower retail turkey prices due to continued large inventory in cold storage, which is up almost double digits from last year, Newton explained. Foods showing the largest decreases this year in addition to turkey, were a gallon of milk, $2.99; a dozen rolls, $2.26; two nine-inch pie shells, $2.45; a 3-pound bag of sweet potatoes, $3.52; a 1-pound bag of green peas, $1.53; and a group of miscellaneous items including coffee and ingredients necessary to prepare the meal (butter, evaporated milk, onions, eggs, sugar and flour), $2.72. “Milk production has increased, resulting in continued low retail prices,” Newton said. “In addition, grocers often use milk as a loss leader to entice consumers to shop at their stores.” Items that increased modestly in price were: a half-pint of whipping cream, $2.08; a 14-ounce package of cubed bread stuffing, $2.81; a 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix, $3.21; a 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries, $2.43; and a 1-pound veggie tray, $.74. “Whole whipping cream is up about 4 percent in price, due to increased consumer demand for full-fat dairy products,” Newton said. The stable average price reported this year by Farm Bureau for a classic Thanksgiving dinner tracks with the government’s Consumer Price Index for food eaten at home. But while the most recent CPI report for food at home shows a 0.5 percent increase over the past year (available online at http://www.bls.gov/news.release/cpi.nr0.htm), the Farm Bureau survey shows a 1.5 percent decline. After adjusting for inflation, the cost of a Thanksgiving dinner is $20.54, the lowest level since 2013.    Credit: National Turkey Federation    A total of 141 volunteer shoppers checked prices at grocery stores in 39 states for this year’s survey. Farm Bureau volunteer shoppers are asked to look for the best possible prices, without taking advantage of special promotional coupons or purchase deals, such as spending $50 and receiving a free turkey. Shoppers with an eye for bargains in all areas of the country should be able to purchase individual menu items at prices comparable to the Farm Bureau survey averages. Another option for busy families without a lot of time to cook is ready-to-eat Thanksgiving meals for up to 10 people, with all the trimmings, which are available at many supermarkets and take-out restaurants for around $50 to $75. The AFBF Thanksgiving dinner survey was first conducted in 1986. While Farm Bureau does not make any scientific claims about the data, it is an informal gauge of price trends around the nation. Farm Bureau’s survey menu has remained unchanged since 1986 to allow for consistent price comparisons. Follow AFBF on Twitter (@FarmBureau) and Facebook.

Virtual field trip to learn about turkeys Nov. 16 at 10am

ST. PAUL — Tune in for another Minnesota Agriculture in the Classroom Facebook Live Virtual Field Trip! We will visit the Wittenburg Turkey Farm near Alexandria, MN. This farm is home to the 2017 Presidential Turkey Flock. Find out what goes into raising and preparing the Presidential Turkeys for their trip to the White House. The virtual field trip will be broadcast through the Minnesota Agriculture in the Classroom Facebook page at 10am CST on November 16th. Teachers, tune in with your classrooms and ask the turkey farmer questions live! Visit mn.agclassroom.org for the Presidential Turkey Teacher Resources including lessons and activities that enhance the Virtual Field Trip experience. Check out minnesotaturkey.com/presidentialturkey for all things turkey! Visit the Minnesota Agriculture in the Classroom Facebook page at 10am CST on November 16 to watch.

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Technology

More Than 1 Million Petition Trump Administration to Reject Merger

OMAHA (DTN) -- Critics of agricultural consolidation joined forces Tuesday in Washington to release reports calling on the Department of Justice to reject the merger between Bayer AG and Monsanto Co. Gathering at the National Press Club to air their grievances against the $63.5 billion merger were the Organization of Competitive Markets, the National Family Farm Coalition, the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, Consumer Federation of America, Friends of the Earth, the Open Markets Institute and the group SumOfUs. The groups also stated they delivered more than 1 million signatures on a petition to the Department of Justice calling on the department to block the proposed merger. Bayer and Monsanto announced their merger in September 2016 and it continues to get regulatory scrutiny globally. The European Commission last week announced a March 5, 2018, deadline to complete its regulatory review of the company. Bayer already has agreed to sell some seed and herbicide businesses to BASF as a condition to completing the deal. Originally, the deal was valued at $66 billion, but Bayer revalued the merger deal at $63.5 billion last month, according to Reuters. Combined, Bayer and Monsanto would be the world's largest integrated pesticides and seeds company, the EU noted in August when it began vetting the merger. At the time, the EU listed several preliminary concerns about market impacts. https://goo.gl/… Multiple farm groups have written the Department of Justice over the past year expressing concerns about the merger as well. Makan Delrahim, who heads the Antitrust Division at the Department of Justice, was confirmed in late September. The Trump administration has not made any official comments about the Bayer-Monsanto merger. Because Bayer is based in Germany, the sale must also go through the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. The companies stated last summer they were continuing to move through the CFIUS process, but there has been no announcement whether the merger has been approved by the committee, which does not release information on its proceedings to the public. The main complaints Tuesday came from separate reports. The Consumer Federation of America released a report on the merger arguing it violates a Department of Justice guideline on horizontal mergers "by a wide, historically unprecedented margin." CFA argues the combined Bayer-Monsanto companies would create a "dramatic increase in market power" in a business that is already a "highly concentrated, vertically integrated, tight oligopoly on steroids." The risk, CFA states, is the companies would raise prices, distort innovations in crops and squeeze both farmers and consumers. The report notes Monsanto accounted for $16 billion in ag sales in 2014 while Bayer's share was $12 billion. Combined, they would have more than $28 billion in ag sales while the next closest competitor, the newly combined DowDuPont, has about $18 billion in agricultural sales. The groups Friends of the Earth, Open Markets and SumOfUs released a report questioning the influence of a combined Bayer-Monsanto company on data in agriculture. If the merger goes through, the groups stated, Bayer-Monsanto would be a major player in the field of data services for farmers. The report cites the investments Monsanto and Bayer have made in the past five years to acquire more data companies, such as Monsanto's 2012 purchase of Precision Planting, and the 2013 purchase of Climate Corp. Bayer has also entered into a partnership with an aerospace company, Planetary Resources, that specializes in satellite imagery. Bayer sees the partnership as a way to focus on prescription applications for crops. The merger critics conclude in their report that more understanding is needed about the possible unintended consequences of a single large agribusiness accumulating so much farming data. "Big data provides large agrochemical companies the information they need to become even more powerful and profitable. In the end, we must question if this shift of data ownership really benefits farmers, or if it will simply allow companies to act as gatekeepers to important information that is ultimately used to improve their profit margins and to exclude competitors." In a statement to DTN on Tuesday, Bayer said the merger with Monsanto is "about growth and bringing new innovation solutions to our customers" and will enable the company to offer farmers more and better technologies and products. "As we've said from the beginning, this opportunity is about combining highly complementary businesses and bringing new innovative solutions to our customers," Bayer said in the statement. "We continue to welcome the review of regulatory authorities and have proactively entered into an agreement to divest certain businesses to satisfy potential regulatory concerns. We remain confident in our ability to obtain all necessary regulatory approvals and look forward to continuing to work diligently with regulators to support that process." Monsanto had not yet responded to DTN's request for comment at the time this article was posted. Bayer and Monsanto website for information on the merger: https://www.advancingtogether.com/… Consumer Federation of America study: https://goo.gl/… Big data study: https://goo.gl/…

US Ag Equipment Manufacturers Eye Cuba

PLATTSBURG, Mo. (DTN) -- U.S. manufacturers appear to be racing the clock before the Trump administration tightens economic relations between the U.S. and Cuba. Over the last week, both John Deere and Caterpillar announced agreements with the Cuban government that might let the two Illinois-based companies sell farm tractors and other heavy equipment on the island. The occasion for this rush of activity was the annual Havana International Fair, Cuba's largest commercial fair. Focus of the event is the Mariel Special Development Zone, a container ship facility near Havana and center of Cuba's import/export businesses. In June, President Donald Trump announced that he was "cancelling the last administration's completely one-sided deal with Cuba." He did not give specifics, but administration officials said details would follow within 90 days. Those details have not been made public yet. The president cannot issue an executive order that would loosen or tighten all of the regulations Congress imposed through legislation. Nonetheless, American companies who want to do business with Cuba seem to think it is in their interest to establish deals now and worry about potential consequences when and if the administration and Congress revisit the issue of trade with Cuba. With that in mind, Deere announced it would send 5000 Series tractors (between 75-115 horsepower) to Cuba this month. "This equipment is for testing and appraisal to ensure it will work with specific Cuban agricultural conditions and farming practices," said Deere spokesman Ken Golden. A report in Manufacturer News quotes Golden as saying Deere would send "several hundred tractors and associated implements" over a four-year period. "Deere believes that improvements in the Cuban agricultural sector would improve the availability and affordability of food for the general population," Golden said in a news release. "The dairy, row-crop and fruit and vegetable are sectors of specific emphasis." The Cuba Standard, a Miami-based business publication, quoted Golden as saying that Deere's planned sales of several hundred tractors (as well as implements and spare parts) are "completely covered by three separate export licenses already issued by the U.S. Department of Commerce." John Deere Finance is arranging "an appropriate credit facility" that will be guaranteed by its Cuban bank, according to Golden. In 2016, Cleber LLC -- a partnership of entrepreneurs Horace Clemmons and Saul Berenthal -- was the first American company to obtain a license from the U.S. government to sell tractors to Cuba. It later ran into trouble with Cuban bureaucracy and never established its planned factory on the island. Cleber still hopes to sell small tractors in Cuba built in a factory in Alabama. Caterpillar was the first out of the chute at the Havana International Fair with an announcement late last week that its Puerto Rico-based distributor -- RIMCO -- will set up shop in Cuba. The Miami Herald reported that RIMCO would establish a warehouse and distribution center at Mariel for unspecified product lines. The distributor has "a license from the Commerce Department and other agencies," according to Caroline McConnie, RIMCO vice president. Deere and Caterpillar hope their announcements will give them protection from any tightening of restrictions by the Trump administration. But it is too early to tell. The Miami Herald quotes James Williams, president of Engage Cuba, a group that lobbies for normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba: "Despite President Trump's harsh rhetoric, Cuba is open for business. The question is, will President Trump and Congress allow U.S. companies to compete for these growing opportunities, or keep them on the sidelines as Cuba's markets continue to grow?"

Research focuses on the next generation of agricultural technologies

Lincoln, Neb. — The next generation of agricultural technologies and systems to meet the growing demand for food, fuel and fiber is the focus of three USDA-funded research projects within the Biological Systems Engineering Department at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. The projects were announced Oct. 17 by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s (NIFA) Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). “Technology is front and center in agricultural production,” said NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy. “NIFA is investing in research on precision and smart technologies to maximize production efficiencies, including water and fertilizer use, and to produce nutritious food, new biofuels and bioproducts.” The projects focus on high-resolution depth sensing of soils, next-generation spray drift mitigation and variable rate irrigation technology. Work in these areas has already been established and with support from AFRI, Nebraska researchers can continue to develop these technologies. “Three of the 17 agricultural technology projects recently funded by the USDA are led by Nebraska’s Biological Systems Engineering Department, which is a testament to the innovative approach by our researchers,” said David Jones, interim department head of biological systems engineering. “Through these research projects, we will be able to bring the latest engineering technology to Nebraska’s biological systems.”  High-resolution depth sensing of soils Assistant Professor and Advanced Sensing Systems Engineer Yufeng Ge was awarded a three-year $499,896 grant to develop an instrumented soil penetrometer for gathering real-time and simultaneous prediction of a number of soil properties. This will be achieved through novel modeling algorithms that will relate in situ sensor data to lab-based VisNIR (visible and near infrared reflectance spectroscopy) spectral libraries. While several technologies are currently available to characterize the variability of soil in the lateral dimension, the technology to obtain high-resolution soil data along the profile is not readily available. This goal of this project is to fill in that technological gap and deliver high-resolution, low-cost depth-wise soil data. As part of the research, the sensing system will be field tested rigorously in Nebraska, Texas, and Alabama, with soils covering a wide range of climate, parent material and management practice. Clay content, organic matter, water content, bulk density and cation exchange capacity will all be studied in the project. The fusion of data from different sensor modules will also be investigated to ensure quality control and fault-detection when no prior information is available for new soils. Ge is working with graduate students Nuwang Wijewardane and Ujjwol Bhandari, research technologist Tyler Smith, and soil scientists Christine Morgan (Texas A&M University) and Jason Ackerson (Purdue University) on the project.  Innovation in drift reduction technologies Research led by Joe Luck, associate professor of biological systems engineering and precision agriculture engineer, is focused on reducing negative impacts to society and the environment resulting from spray drift of pesticides. The four-year, $499,916 project will introduce next-generation technologies for controlling spray droplets during field applications. Current technologies to reduce off-target spray, including fixed orifice air induction nozzles, spray shields and adjuvants have seen little development over the past decade. This project builds off of previous research conducted by Luck and will combine field deployable, real-time weather monitoring with novel nozzle control technology to affect spray droplet sizes during field applications. Reducing off-target spray drift from agricultural settings is a primary goal of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Successful completion of this project would result in stimulation of research and development in nozzle technology where significant advancements in the field of drift reduction technologies would occur. “As we continue to see more interaction between rural and urban landscapes, we’re going to have to do a better job of keeping ‘ag applications’ within respective field boundaries,” said Luck. Spray drift issues were a hot topic with crop producers in Nebraska this year because of dicamba. An estimated 500,000 acres of dicamba-tolerant soybean were planted across the state, but some broadleaf crops sensitive to the herbicide were damaged due to drift. In addition to Luck, Nebraska’s Santosh Pitla and Greg Kruger are also working on this project, along with Michael Sama from the University of Kentucky.   Advancing variable rate irrigation technology using unmanned aircraft systems Advancing variable rate irrigation technology across the Great Plains and the Midwest through improved water efficiency of irrigated, row crop agriculture is the focus of a three-year, $499,978 grant awarded to Christopher Neale, professor in the Biological Systems Engineering Department and director of research at the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute at the University of Nebraska. The innovative project will allow a team of engineers to fly drones over crops at the Eastern Nebraska Research and Extension Center near Mead, Nebraska, and collect large volumes of data using advanced remote sensing systems and in-field sensors. The research will study the integration of technical systems and information technology to assist complex, variable rate irrigation decisions in typical large crop production areas and growing seasons. “This funding recognizes the ability of the University of Nebraska and the Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute, to lead this potentially game changing research,” said Neale. “We have a looming challenge of feeding a growing world population expected to reach nearly 10 billion by the year 2050, effectively doubling the demand for food, and we will need to use every tool and opportunity available to rise to this challenge,” he said. The results of the research are expected to advance and accelerate the adoption of UAS technologies, simulation models to information irrigation management and definition of a prescription for variable rate irrigation technologies. This will allow producers to respond quickly and more accurately to soil conditions, increasing crop production while maximizing their water use efficiency. Others from Nebraska working on the project are Wayne Woldt, Derek Heeren, George Meyer, Joe Luck, Yufeng Ge and Daran Rudnick, along with postdoctoral researchers Burdette Barker and Geng “Frank” Bai, and graduate students Mitch Maguire and Sandeep Bhatti. To watch a video about this research project, visit https://youtu.be/_S1hTfel_5Y.

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Ag Policy

USDA Invests More Than $1 Billion to Improve Health Care in Rural Areas

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue today announced that USDA provided more than $1 billion in Fiscal Year 2017 to help improve access to health care services for 2.5 million people in rural communities in 41 states. “USDA invests in a wide range of health care facilities – such as hospitals, clinics and treatment centers – to help ensure that rural residents have access to the same state-of-the art care available in urban and metropolitan areas,” Perdue said. “I understand that building a prosperous rural America begins with healthy people. Ensuring that rural communities have access to quality medical care is a top priority for USDA.” USDA invested in 97 rural health care projects that served 2.5 million people in Fiscal Year 2017 through the Community Facilities Direct Loan Program. The loans can be used to fund essential community services. For health care, this includes constructing, expanding or improving health care facilities such as hospitals, medical clinics, dental clinics and assisted-living facilities, as well as to purchase equipment. Public bodies, non-profit organizations and federally recognized tribes in rural areas and towns with up to 20,000 people are eligible for these loans. USDA financed Community Facilities direct loan projects in the following states: Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, West Virginia, and Wyoming. The following are a few examples of rural health care projects that USDA funded during FY 2017: LifeQuest Nursing Center received a $40 million loan to build a 123-unit assisted-living facility in Quakertown, Pa. The company will also renovate and expand the kitchen and dining area, build a 10- to 15-bed memory care unit, and build an activity room for memory care residents. The Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas Inc. received a $2.8 million loan to construct a 14,000-square-foot health clinic that will house medical, dental and behavioral health services, a pharmacy, and support services. The new facility, in Iola, will enable the center to expand services, hire more staff and care for more patients. More than 13,000 residents will benefit. Rural Development provided a $6.7 million loan to Valley Wide Health Systems Inc. in Cañon City Colo., (Fremont County) to convert a building to an integrated care center for primary, dental and behavioral health services. Consolidating these services into one building will provide better patient care and eliminate the need for patients to travel to different locations. The clinic anticipates an increase of more than 4,000 patients during its first year of operation. Funding from USDA’s Community Facilities Direct Loan program is playing a major role in Ontario, Ohio. Avita Health System received $91.4 million to transform a vacant section of a shopping mall into a state-of-the-art hospital that provides vital health care, including substance use disorder treatment and mental health services. These services are essential for Ohio communities that have been affected by the opioid epidemic in recent years. The hospital, which opened in March 2017, serves more than 124,000 rural residents in Richland and Crawford counties. In addition to health care, the new hospital is providing an economic boost in the form of good-paying, rural-based jobs. It has also been a lifeline to struggling stores and businesses by increasing foot traffic (and therefore business) in what had been a dying shopping mall that struggled after the closure of one of its major anchor stores. USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; homeownership; community services such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.

EPA Wants to Extend Effective Date of WOTUS by Two Years

OMAHA (DTN) -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants to prevent the controversial 2015 waters of the United States, or WOTUS, rule from taking effect while the agency undertakes a complete rewrite, proposing to extend the effective date of the rule by two years. The rule, developed by former President Barack Obama's administration, remains held up in 13 courts nationwide and faces a date in the U.S. Supreme Court. The EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are preparing a notice for the Federal Register, which would then trigger a 21-day public comment period. The move would give the agencies time to continue stakeholder meetings across the country ahead of a complete rewrite. "Today's proposal shows our commitment to our state and tribal partners and to providing regulatory certainty to our nation's farmers, ranchers and businesses," EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in a statement. "This step will allow us to minimize confusion as we continue to receive input from across the country on how we should revise the definition of the waters of the United States." In the meantime, the agencies have embarked on a temporary proposed rule to revert back to the WOTUS rule prior to 2015. The 2015 rule redefined the scope of the Clean Water Act. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati originally placed a national hold on the Clean Water Act rule in 2015. That stay, however, could be affected by a pending case before the Supreme Court on questions of jurisdiction on a number of legal challenges. Agriculture, other industry groups and state governments across the country alleged the WOTUS rule expanded federal jurisdiction to waters not traditionally protected by the Clean Water Act. Even prior to the completion of the 2015 WOTUS rule, farmers and ranchers faced uncertainty as to which waters were considered jurisdictional. So far, neither Congress nor the EPA has been able to make the law more understandable. The EPA announced it would attempt to better define "navigable waters" in what is expected to be a two-part effort. The current proposal would revert the rule to pre-2015, before the EPA finalized the WOTUS rule. The second part of the agency's plan includes then re-writing the rule. As part of that effort, the agency already has reached out to governors in all 50 states to seek input. Pruitt has been holding a series of closed-door meetings with agriculture interest groups, state and federal government representatives and others across the country. The EPA and the Corps of Engineers have launched a process that includes "deliberations and outreach" as part of revisiting the rule. The EPA, for example, has asked for input from governors across the country. In a statement, Ryan Fisher, acting assistant secretary of the Army, said the agencies are committed to transparency on drafting a new rule. "The Army, together with the Army Corps of Engineers, propose this rule with EPA to help continue to provide clarity and predictability to the regulated public during the rule making process," he said. "We are committed to implementing the Clean Water Act Section 404 regulatory program as transparently as possible for the regulated public."

Gov. Ricketts Announces Agreement with Bulgarian Soybean Processers

Today, Governor Pete Ricketts announced that the Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA) has signed letters of intent with nine soybean processing companies in Bulgaria to promote the use of Nebraska-grown soybeans and soybean products in their facilities. “This is a great opportunity which is growing demand for Nebraska soybeans,” said Governor Ricketts. “Bulgaria is a country with a high demand for quality protein and is a relatively untapped market.  Positioning Nebraska around the world as a top state for quality agricultural commodities will support our farmers and ranchers, increase our global market share, and continue to grow Nebraska’s number one industry.” The nine companies who signed the letters of intent with NDA wish to maximize their output and are looking to source Nebraska and U.S. soybeans. The companies currently use about 2 million metric tons of soybeans per year and have a total production capacity of 2.7 million metric tons. In 2017, executives and owners of the Bulgarian companies visited Nebraska to learn more about the cycle of soybean production in the state – planting, harvesting, processing and exporting to international markets. NDA used federal Emerging Markets Program grant funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to facilitate the visit and conduct a comprehensive market research study to promote the sale and use of soybeans and soybean products in the growing markets of Eastern Europe. The Bulgarian company owners and executives visited a soybean farm in Geneva, the Aurora Cooperative, the grain storage and trading operations of Gavilon and Scoular in Omaha, a shipping container/loading facility in Council Bluffs and the ADM soybean processing facility and power plant in Lincoln. Nebraska Soybean Board members were on hand to introduce their organization and how they help support soybean producers and promote their vital product nationally and globally. “Good personal relationships with the owners and executives of several soybean processing facilities in Bulgaria are a tremendous asset for the future,” said NDA Interim Director Mat Habrock. “We share similar appreciation for people, culture and agriculture.” Bulgaria has been a member of the European Union since 2007. At $138 million out of a total export value of $1.9 billion, the EU was Nebraska’s third largest export market of soybeans and soybean products in 2015. (Source: USDA Foreign Ag Service)

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