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State Ag and Rural Leaders Explore How CommonGround Bridges Gap with Consumers

Earlier this month, CommonGround volunteer Dawn Caldwell, who farms and ranches in Edgar, Neb., spoke about how the program addresses consumers concerns about food, farming and ranching as part of a panel at the annual meeting of the State and Ag Rural Leaders. SARL, which fosters cooperation, leade...

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State Ag and Rural Leaders Explore How CommonGround Bridges Gap with Consumers

Earlier this month, CommonGround volunteer Dawn Caldwell, who farms and ranches in Edgar, Neb., spoke about how the program addresses consumers concerns about food, farming and ranching as part of a panel at the annual meeting of the State and Ag Rural Leaders. SARL, which fosters cooperation, leade...

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Farm Tractors Part of Inauguration Day Parade

As a way of honoring the crucial role that Rural America played in the 2016 presidential election, there was a Rural Tractor Brigade of American-made tractors at President Trump's Inauguration Day Parade Friday. Drivers representing their respective rural associations include: *Zippy Duvall, p...

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Lake and pond management workshops scheduled

LINCOLN, Neb. – Persons interested in pond and lake management are invited to a series of free workshops this spring. The workshops are a joint effort of the Nebraska Extension, Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality and Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. The workshops are intended f...

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Leadership KFB Begins Third Class

The third class of Leadership KFB kicked off their year-long study program this month at Kansas Farm Bureau headquarters in Manhattan, Kan., Jan. 12-14. Participants include Mindy Andres, Morris County; Alfred Crawshaw, Wilson County; Jessica Flory, Douglas County; Jacquelyne Leffler, Lyon County...

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Nebraska Producers Face Stressful Farm Loan Renewal Season

More than 77 percent of Nebraska producers are concerned that they may not be able to obtain operating capital in 2017, according to the 2016 Farm Financial Health Survey conducted by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Department of Agricultural Economics. Nebraska Extension is increasing its e...

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NCGA Recognized for Communications Excellence During Regional NAMA Awards

Last week, NCGA was recognized for excellence at the Region 2 National Agri-Marketing Association Awards Ceremony. The association's 2016 World of Corn publication took first place for the region in the Company Publications - Annual Reports category. Additionally, NCGA's joint program with the United Soybean Board, CommonGround, took both first place and the merit prize in the Social Media Campaign Directed at Consumers category for the "Not a Latte" and "Thriving on Trust" videos respectively. The World of Corn, a publication NCGA put out annually, features a statistical guide that shows in a clear, graphic manner the facts about U.S. corn production and use. This publication, which is generously sponsored by Monsanto, includes unique additional components every year. In 2016, the publication, which is sent to members through The Progressive Farmer, included an activity guide helping elementary school-aged children understand the amazing world of maize. To view the publication, click here. World of Corn is debuted every year at Commodity Classic. To view the website, which includes shareable graphics, click here. CommonGround is a joint program of the National Corn Growers Association, the United Soybean Board and their state affiliates. Through the work of farm women volunteers, CommonGround connects women on and off the farm for conversations about how food is grown and raised so that everyone can enjoy food without the fear. Since it launched in November of 2010, CommonGround has had more nearly one billion conversations with everyday consumers. With more than 200 volunteers, CommonGround state affiliates host an activity somewhere in the country almost every other day. To view the "Not a Latte" video, featuring North Dakota volunteer Sarah Wilson, click here. To see "Thriving on Trust" with Colorado volunteer Kelsey Pope, click here. The program focuses on nine areas of interest to consumers including: farm ownership; GMOs; food safety; antibiotics and animal health; hormones in meat and milk; organic and local foods; food prices; and sustainability.

Weekly Ethanol Production At A New All-Time High

According to EIA data analyzed by the Renewable Fuels Association, ethanol production averaged 1.054 million barrels per day (b/d)—or 44.27 million gallons daily. That is up 5,000 b/d from the week before and a new all-time high. This marks the third straight week of record production. The four-week average for ethanol production stood at 1.044 million b/d for an annualized rate of 16.00 billion gallons. Stocks of ethanol stood at 21.1 million barrels. That is a significant 5.5% increase from last week, and a 26-week high. Imports of ethanol were nonexistent for the 21st week in a row. Gasoline demand for the week averaged 338.9 million gallons (8.069 million barrels) daily, the lowest in nearly three years (2/14/2014). Refiner/blender input of ethanol averaged 840,000 b/d, meaning gasoline contained an average of 10.41% ethanol—an all-time high. Expressed as a percentage of daily gasoline demand, daily ethanol production was 13.06%—the largest percentage ever recorded.

Proposed Rule on Biotech a Progressive Step for Plant Breeding Innovation

The American Soybean Association (ASA) responded positively today to a notice of proposed rulemaking from USDA on the regulatory framework for plant breeding innovation. ASA welcomed the proposed rule, which continues to require pre-market approval by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of plants derived through transgenic biotechnology while excluding products from new breeding innovations, such as gene editing. ASA President Ron Moore, a farmer from Roseville, Ill., issued the following statement on the proposed rule. “ASA is pleased to see this common-sense rule put forward by USDA. The innovations in plant breeding we’re seeing right now are precision tools that work within a species, and shouldn’t be subject to the same regulatory hurdles as first-generation transgenic biotechnology. USDA’s proposed rule acknowledges this distinction, and we look forward to working with the incoming Administration to ensure that this key aspect of the rule remains throughout the process. “Practical regulation is critical to encouraging continued innovation in the agriculture industry,” Moore continued. Farmers face a range of challenges and require a complementary range of solutions to remain competitive. As the seed technology within our industry evolves, the regulatory framework must evolve with it. Today’s announcement is a great step forward for USDA.”

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Points of Leverage for Cattle Operations

Give me a lever long enough … and single-handed I can move the world. -- Archimedes High points of leverage in a cattle production system are places where strategic inputs of time and resources potentially have impacts that are beneficial and significantly greater than the cost. The challenge in managing systems is that the areas of highest leverage may not be the most obvious. Examples of some common points of leverage in a cattle operation include: • Meeting protein requirements of cattle eating low quality forage through supplementation • Design and execution of a strategic herd health management plan • Construction of water resources and fence for implementation of a grazing system • Evaluating equipment and labor costs per unit of production • Monitoring moisture conditions and the timely execution of a drought plan Obviously, this list of points of leverage is limited and could be expanded to include many additional items. Where are the points of leverage for your operation? Where are places where strategic investments of time and resources have the greatest potential to impact profitability and the resiliency of production systems in your operation? What management strategies or plans could you implement to position yourself to take advantage of those points of leverage? Cattle production is a challenging business where we work with dynamic, complex, biological systems where impacts of choices or management decisions made are often distant in time and space from the initial inputs. In addition, the information needed to assess cause-effect relationships may be limited or difficult to evaluate. There is also times when circumstances beyond our control will often thwart efforts or impact points of leverage in a production system. High points of leverage can be challenging to identify, but the process of thinking through where leverage points are is well worth the time and effort. These are places where a change in management or an input can have significant benefit to the system as a whole. January is a good time to reflect on the past year and plan for the year ahead. Consider taking time this year to identify points of leverage in your operation and write down strategies to position yourself to take advantage of these in the New Year. The value to your operation could be significant!  

US Beef Market Share Grows in South Korea

Despite a regain in consumer interest for imported pork, ostensibly because of bird flu, South Korea's pork imports slightly decreased over the past year, both overall and from the U.S. Contrastingly, beef imports volumes have surged, with the U.S. product the main beneficiary. Korea Customs Service figures provided by Meat Export Federation South Korea director Ji-Hae Yang show South Korea's January-November overall pork imports very slightly dipped from 422,766 to 421,123 metric tons. During the same period, imports from the U.S. went down 4% from 129,224 to 124,093 tons. December 2016 import figures are not available yet. South Korea is highly self-sufficient in pork, and domestic production continues to rise, Yang says, explaining the stagnancy of imported product volumes. However, it appears consumers have gained interest in imported pork, even if that has not been reflected yet in import volume figures. Sales of imported pork rose 8.7% year-on-year from January to November 2016 at South Korea's largest retail discount chain E-mart, The Korea Herald reported. The newspaper explained the rise as being a result of declining consumer interest in chicken because of bird flu. Things were bright on the beef side, though, with an overall import rise of 25% from 276,852 to 346,878 tons. U.S. beef fared even better, rising 47% from 98,712 to 145,376 tons. U.S. beef market share also rose 6.2% from 35.7% to 41.9%. Meanwhile, although beef imports from the U.S.' main competitor, Australia, rose 10% from 158,080 to 173,104 mt, Aussie beef suffered an almost 8% market share loss, from 57.1% to 49.9%. U.S. beef has benefited both from record-high prices and a production decline of South Korea beef, as well as drought in Australia, which has reduced numbers of grazing and feedlot cattle there. "We had drought in the U.S. three to four years ago and we have recovered completely, so that is why we are at an advantage this year," Yang said. Another reason for the import increase of U.S. beef is recovery of consumer confidence in the product's safety, Yang said. MEF South Korea measures South Korea consumer confidence in U.S. beef with Gallup South Korea every six months. The latest survey, done in December, showed a 52% confidence point, she said. In comparison, the March 2012 survey showed confidence at only 15.4%, but still up from a very low 5.3% two years earlier, Yang said.  

K-State Offers Youth Animal Science Learning Opportunity

Students from across the country with an interest in the livestock industry and related careers can apply now for the Kansas State University Animal Sciences Leadership Academy. The academy is an intensive four-day educational experience designed to enhance the leadership skills and animal science knowledge of students in ninth through 12th grades. Hosted by the K-State Department of Animal Sciences and Industry and sponsored by the Livestock and Meat Industry Council, the academy’s goal is to develop young leaders within the livestock industry and prepare them for a successful future in the field. “The experiences gained through KASLA will help develop your understanding of the industry and ignite your potential as a young leader in agriculture,” said past participant Molly Bertz of Mayview, Missouri. “I would highly recommend participation. Whether you come from a strong agricultural background or are curious to learn more about the industry, KASLA is providing students with an inside view of the food production system.” This year’s program will take place June 14-17 in Manhattan. Applications are due April 1, 2017, and can be found The program’s itinerary will feature interactive workshops, tours and faculty mentor time with animal science professors. Industry leaders will also join the participants frequently to share their knowledge and expertise. Throughout the week, participants will work in teams to evaluate current events within the animal science industry and educate others. This experience will culminate with team presentations and a closing reception on Saturday morning. The program also focuses on developing personal leadership skills through workshops and activities. “One of my favorite parts of KASLA was learning more about our individual strengths through the Strengths Finder Assessment,” Bertz said. “As we learned more about our strengths, we were also able to learn how to capitalize on them and use them effectively in group settings such as the agriculture issues team project. KASLA truly developed us as leaders in the agriculture industry both inside and out.” Only 20 students will be accepted to ensure individualized attention from counselors, professors and industry leaders. Participants will stay on campus in university housing with program staff for the duration of the event. Transportation to and from the event is the responsibility of the participant, along with a $50 deposit to reserve his or her space. The Livestock and Meat Industry Council provides all other sponsorships. Contact Sharon Breiner, academy director at or 785-532-6533 with any questions.

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USDA Announces $8.8 Million Available to Support Agriculture Programs at Hispanic Serving Institutions

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture today announced availability of $8.8 million in funding to support agricultural science education at Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs). The Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI) Education Grants Program promotes and strengthens HSI programs that attract, retain and graduate outstanding students capable of enhancing the nation's food, agricultural, natural resource and human sciences work force. "Hispanic students earn only eight percent of the degrees awarded in science, technology, engineering, and math," said NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy. "These investments help Hispanic-Serving Institutions promote STEM education and agricultural industry careers to all their students, including Hispanic students." While research and extension activities may be included in a funded HSI Education project, the primary focus must be to improve teaching, enrollment and graduation rates within a degree-granting program. One five-year project with Texas State University helped boost its completion rate to 92 percent. A NIFA grant to New Mexico Highlands University designed to increase the number of Hispanic students earning a Bachelor of Science degree has helped more than 1,100 students since 2009. Eligible applicants are certified HSIs, which are public colleges and universities that have an enrollment that includes at least 25 percent Hispanic students. Currently, more than 400 HSIs are located in 21 states and Puerto Rico, serving more than 2 million students. Past projects have included a Texas State University project that encourages female and Hispanic military Veterans to earn bachelor's degrees in agriculture and other science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degree programs. A project at Texas A&M University-Kingsville encourages students from underrepresented groups to pursue STEM degrees and careers as leaders in agriculture through training and internships at USDA agencies. Proposals are due February 7, 9, and 10, 2017, depending on the grant category (conference, regular, collaboration). For more details, see the HSI request for applications on the NIFA website. NIFA invests in and advances innovative and transformative research, education and extension to solve societal challenges and ensure the long-term viability of agriculture. NIFA support for the best and brightest scientists and extension personnel have resulted in user-inspired, groundbreaking discoveries that are combating childhood obesity, improving and sustaining rural economic growth, addressing water availability issues, increasing food production, finding new sources of energy, mitigating climate variability and ensuring food safety. To learn more about NIFA's impact on agricultural science, visit, sign up for email updates or follow us on Twitter @usda_NIFA, #NIFAimpacts.

Automakers Fuel the U.S. Market With More Biodiesel Capable Diesel Vehicle Models

U.S. auto manufacturers have introduced a record number of new biodiesel capable diesel vehicle options for consumers as the push for increased fuel efficiency, performance, and sustainability in America’s transportation sector grows. Despite a challenging marketplace, automakers and fleets remain bullish on new diesel engines that lower carbon emissions by increasing fuel economy over their gasoline counterparts—and that can provide even further benefits when powered by clean, low carbon biodiesel blends. “Biodiesel is a renewable, domestically produced fueling option that amplifies the already substantial benefits of new technology diesel vehicles,” said Steve Howell, Senior Technical Advisor for the National Biodiesel Board. “NBB and the U.S. biodiesel industry remain committed to working closely with our partners in the auto and engine manufacturing community to ensure that the high quality biodiesel fuel of today and tomorrow will continue to provide OEMs, fleets, and consumers with a reliable, fit-for-purpose fuel that keeps pace with the nation’s increasing demands for cleaner, more efficient, and sustainable modes of transportation.” Several automakers’ new 2017 diesel models are being featured this week at the San Diego Convention Center as part of the National Biodiesel Conference & Expo. The Biodiesel Vehicle Showcase event is presented by NBB and General Motors Fleet.  General Motors is bringing an industry-leading lineup of 20 different diesel vehicle options to market in the 2017-2018 model year, setting records by approving all 20 models for use with B20, a blend of 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent ultra-low sulfur diesel.  One of GM’s flagship models, the 2017 Chevrolet Silverado HD pickup with a 6.6L Duramax® turbo diesel engine, is on proud display in the vehicle showcase, and will be joined on the roadways this year by additional GM diesel model offerings in the car, truck, van and compact SUV categories. Ford Motor Company is also showcasing one of its new 2017 B20 capable pickups this week with the Ford F-250 Super Duty powered by its 6.7L Power Stroke® turbo diesel V8 engine. And Ford just announced it is adding a new 3.0L Power Stroke® turbo diesel engine option to its popular Ford F-150 for 2018, joining the Ford F-Series Super Duty and Ford Transit in the company’s diesel lineup. Rounding out the pickup options featured in the Biodiesel Vehicle Showcase event is Nissan’s answer to the “Every Duty® Truck”, the 2017 Nissan Titan XD powered by a Cummins® 5.0L V8 turbo diesel engine. The important off-road equipment market is also represented in the Biodiesel Vehicle Showcase this week by long-time biodiesel supporter John Deere, featuring its best-selling utility tractor in the San Diego area, the John Deere 5045E with a PowerTech® turbocharged diesel engine approved for use with B20 biodiesel blends.  John Deere was one of the first original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to get involved with biodiesel, approving B5 biodiesel blends for use in its engines in 2001. It was also one of the first off-highway equipment manufacturers to factory fill biodiesel blends in North America. Since then, John Deere has continued to conduct biodiesel research and perform lab and field tests using biodiesel fuel, and now supports up to B20 or higher biodiesel blends in its equipment. Customers from coast to coast have used B20 successfully in virtually every make and model diesel engine, and the vast majority of new diesel engines now have full OEM support for B20 with no vehicle modifications required. Yet in the ever-increasing drive to cut carbon and lower CO2 emissions, forward looking fleets and users are investigating higher biodiesel blends to maximize the reduction in their carbon footprint.  To address the interest, another vehicle showcase participant, Optimus Technologies, has begun to manufacture biodiesel conversion systems that enable vehicles to run up to B100—even in the coldest climates.  With its simple heated fuel system approach, Optimus could potentially provide fleets an easy and cost effective way to use pure B100 biodiesel in their existing vehicles and reduce carbon by 80 percent at a fraction of the cost of conversion to other fuel alternatives being considered, like compressed natural gas. Made from an increasingly diverse mix of resources such as soybean oil, recycled cooking oil, and animal fats, biodiesel is a renewable, clean-burning diesel replacement that can be used in existing diesel engines. It is the first and only commercial-scale fuel produced across the U.S. to meet the EPA’s definition as an Advanced Biofuel - meaning the EPA has determined that biodiesel reduces greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50 percent when compared with petroleum diesel. Americans used more than 2.1 billion gallons of biodiesel in 2015. The National Biodiesel Board is the U.S. trade association representing the biodiesel and renewable hydrocarbon diesel industries, including producers, feedstock suppliers, and fuel distributors.

Trump Team: Bayer to Boost Investment with Monsanto

The Trump transition team says Bayer will boost US investment and keep all of the company's existing jobs in the US after completing its planned $57B takeover of Monsanto. Trump spokesman Sean Spicer says Bayer committed to spending $8-Billion on new R&D plans, which came after executives of the two chemical and seed makers met with Trump from the deal. Bayer, which has projected $1.5B in synergies from the deal doesn't have an immediate comment, spokesmen say.

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Ag Policy

Uncertainty Ahead for Organic Animal Welfare Rule

While the outgoing administration dumped a last-minute organic animal welfare rule on agriculture,  Congress seems poised to block the new regulation, according to Politico. Bipartisan leadership from both the House and Senate agriculture committees condemned the rule following its announcement by the Department of Agriculture. USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service administrator said the new standards “allow producers to compete on a level playing field.” However, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts said the costs of complying with requirements that livestock and poultry have outdoor access could put some producers out of business.” The Kansas Republican promised to work with USDA under the new administration to “ease this overregulation.” Ranking Democrat from the Senate Agriculture Committee, Debbie Stabenow expressed disappointment in the rule, saying USDA “missed an opportunity” to set standards that did not risk unintended consequences. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway blasted the outdoor access requirements under the rule. The Texas Republican linked the requirement to susceptibility to highly pathogenic avian influenza, saying the rule was “particularly concerning” given the detection of the virus in a wild duck in Montana earlier this month.

Agriculture Offers Strong Support for Perdue

Agriculture groups in droves announced support for Agriculture Secretary Nominee Sonny Perdue. The Trump administration transition team confirmed the selection of Perdue Thursday. The announcement this week drew immediate praise from general farm groups to livestock and grain organizations. Perdue first met with then President-elect Donald Trump in November after the election. Following that meeting, several candidates were considered for the job before Trump came back to Perdue. He must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, a Republican from Kansas, said he looks forward to the process. In a statement, Roberts said: “Everyone in farm country is having a hard time. We need a Secretary who can recall the 1980’s and will do everything within their power to make sure we do not return to those conditions.” In regards to Perdue, Roberts added: “together, we must get to work addressing these immediate and future challenges.” After switching parties, the now 70-year old was first elected as Georgia’s governor in 2003 and was the state’s first Republican Governor in nearly a century. In his two terms as governor, Perdue presided over the state’s top-ranked agricultural economy. Perdue is a trained veterinarian but is more familiar with crop production. He is a founding partner for AGrow Star, a grain business with 11 elevator locations across Georgia and South Carolina, according to DTN. At the time of the announcement, he was serving on several boards, including the National Grain and Feed Association and the Georgia Agribusiness Council. Perdue also served as president of the Southeastern Grain and Feed Association in 1988. With strong ties and being very much involved in agriculture, Perdue saw somewhat of a transformation in the sector while serving as governor of Georgia. A Wall Street Journal reporter found that since first being elected as Governor of Georgia in 2003, the state saw an increase in agricultural sales under Perdue’s watch. In 2002, USDA Data shows 49,000 farms made $4.9 billion in sales. By 2012, the number of farms decreased to 42,000, but sales jumped to $9.3 billion. That's a 17 percent drop in farm operations, compared to a nationwide downturn of just one percent, but nearly twice the sales. As the Wall Street Journal notes, Cattle and hog farms evaporated, and tobacco acreage was halved during that time. Meanwhile, the broiler flock swelled and corn, soybeans and peanut production doubled in the state. During his time as governor, he focused on agriculture issues including water management and making tax code changes that were beneficial to farmers.

Rep. Bacon Statement on Secretary of Agriculture Nominee Sonny Perdue

U.S. Representative Don Bacon (NE-02) released the following statement regarding President-elect Donald Trump’s nomination of former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue to lead the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA): “The Secretary of Agriculture serves as an important voice for rural Americans.  As a new member of the Agriculture Committee, I look forward to working constructively with Governor Perdue to help convey to the President the vital role the Farm Bill plays in maintaining and improving a meaningful safety net for American agriculture that reflects the needs of producers in our state.  As a practicing veterinarian and advocate for Georgia farmers and ranchers, his many years of leadership in the agribusiness sector give him a strong grasp of the challenges and opportunities faced by rural Americans.  Nebraska’s agriculture community is one of the most vibrant in the nation and a leader in global exports.  I look forward to working with Governor Perdue to advance the priorities for family farming and value-added agriculture in Nebraska.”

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