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2016 HRW Tour Final Report- Kansas Tour Pegs 382.4 MB Crop

MANHATTAN, Kansas (DTN) -- This year's hard red winter wheat tour was a rubbernecker compared to the previous year. The tour estimated total production would come in around 382.4 million bushels. Scouts estimated Kansas yields will come in at 48.6 bushels per acre. That's a big crop when compared t...

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2016 HRW Tour Final Report- Kansas Tour Pegs 382.4 MB Crop

MANHATTAN, Kansas (DTN) -- This year's hard red winter wheat tour was a rubbernecker compared to the previous year. The tour estimated total production would come in around 382.4 million bushels. Scouts estimated Kansas yields will come in at 48.6 bushels per acre. That's a big crop when compared t...

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Hendrix Genetics Breaks Ground on Central Nebraska Hatchery

Hendrix Genetics broke ground in Grand Island today for it's new hatchery operation. This is a first of it's kind in the Central Nebraska area and both the community and company seem pleased with the location of the hatchery. "We've got a lot of, you know, whether it's seed corn, or soybeans,...

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Vilsack wants more CRP acres in next farm bill

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says USDA will enroll more than 800,000 acres in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) this year, while expressing hope that Congress will allow for even higher enrollment in the next farm bill. “Our CRP program, over the last three decades, has been I think a...

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Are Farm Co-ops Feeling the Pressure to Merge?

What could China possibly have to do with a wave of mergers sweeping American farm co-ops? More than you might think, if you ask Todd Ludwig, CEO of the CFS (Central Farm Service) co-op in Minnesota. “Syngenta is basically the Chinese government, buying a major ag company. That is what is ha...

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Monsanto Works to Reassure Growers

Monsanto wrote a letter to growers of it’s Roundup Ready 2 Extend soybeans yesterday reassuring them about growing the new beans this season. The letter says, “Both of the single traits, Roundup Ready 2 Yield® and dicamba-tolerant soybeans, are fully approved by the European Union and Europe...

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Crops

2016 HRW Tour Final Report- Kansas Tour Pegs 382.4 MB Crop

MANHATTAN, Kansas (DTN) -- This year's hard red winter wheat tour was a rubbernecker compared to the previous year. The tour estimated total production would come in around 382.4 million bushels. Scouts estimated Kansas yields will come in at 48.6 bushels per acre. That's a big crop when compared to the 35.6 bpa estimate from the 2015 tour and a 37 bpa actual final yield last year. However, the crop still has six or more weeks to go and, as scouts were continually reminded, a lot of things can happen between here and harvest, and most of them are bad. DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist Bryce Anderson said after very good rain in April (Dodge City record 8.08") this wheat crop is on its way to a great performance. "Heat would be fine. The two weather threats would be if rain shows up to delay harvest -- or if hail hits. Otherwise the prospect is very bright for production," Anderson said. Also, winter wheat seeded area for harvest in 2016 in Kansas is estimated at 8.50 million acres, down from last year's seeded area of 9.20 million acres. That's the lowest number of seeded acres in the nation's leading wheat state since 2007. Scouts did a short route on Thursday that stretched between Wichita and ended in Manhattan. The day 3 average came in at 53.5 bpa over 49 total stops, compared to 48.9 bpa last year. Wheat looked good from the road in areas such as Sedgwick and Marion Counties, but scouts found several problems once they entered fields to pull samples. Stripe rust was the most prevalent issue. Aphids were found and even a few grasshoppers. The routes on the tour concentrate samples in the largest production districts. The south-central, central and southwest areas of the state seeded the most wheat in 2016. DTN Analyst Todd Hultman noted that the impact of this week's pictures from the tour could be even more bearish than the numbers estimated. "The U.S. is starting the new-crop season with roughly 1 billion bushels of old-crop wheat and Europe is expected to have 700 million bushels on hand. Not only is our U.S. winter wheat looking good, but Europe's crops were also reported to be in good shape last week and the European Commission is expecting their wheat yields to be above the five-year average." DTN Senior Analyst Darin Newsom also commented on the bearish nature of the report. "If the pictures posted from the tour are an accurate depiction of the Kansas wheat crop as a whole, then I've not seen anything like it. Incredibly thick stands and what looks to be large heads. Not sure that all the different disease threats are going to be enough to trim yield all that much," he added. "The bearish outlook is that it is possible -- I repeat possible -- that old-crop ending stocks approach 1 billion bushels in the June 30 Quarterly Stocks report (stocks on hand as of June 1). If so, this would be the largest ending stocks (as of May 31) figure since 1988. Those ending stocks become beginning stocks for the next marketing year that includes what now is being called a possible record HRW crop. And, HRW is the largest crop of wheat the U.S. grows each year. "Though USDA upped new-crop demand to 2.059 billion bushels at its Outlook Forum in February (old-crop demand is projected at 1.948 bb), it may not be near enough to offset larger than expected production." As one farmer on the tour mentioned, this estimate is a big deal if it happens. The question is: What does the weather have in store?

(AUDIO) The 2016 Red Hard Winter Wheat Tour

The 2016 hard red winter wheat tour kicks off in Manhattan, Kan., on Tuesday, May 3. The second night ends in Colby and the third in Wichita. This year's tour will not conclude in Kansas City, but in Manhattan. Six different routs are taken by the scouts. [caption id="attachment_151635" align="alignnone" width="507"] Courtesy of KS Wheat Tour[/caption] Day 2: After day two of the Hard Winter Wheat Quality Tour 2016, scouts had visited 606 stops and calculated an average yield of 48.2 bushels per acre, up from the 34.4 bushel per acre estimate in 2015. The twenty vehicles traveled on six routes between Colby and Wichita, Kansas, on Wednesday. While they ran into increased disease pressure as they moved south and east, the crop looked better than last year. Southwest portions of the state showed some signs of fall drought stress, but with recent rains, the prospects for the crop have increased. Most years on this route of the tour, the groups see little sign of moisture in the fields, but topsoil moisture was adequate this year, and some areas even had some water standing in the field. Many fields have been sprayed for stripe rust, and that has definitely made an impact on the crop. Today, scouts reported seeing more viral disease than fungal diseases, and overall, stands are good. Mark Hodges, from Plains Grains, Inc., reported that estimated yields for Oklahoma are 33.6 bushels per acre, with 3.82 million acres harvested resulting in production of 128.5 million bushels for the state, making it an above average crop. On Thursday, scouts will continue the tour with stops on the way between Wichita and Manhattan. A wrap-up meeting will be held in Manhattan, where overall yield and production estimates of the Kansas crop will be announced. Below is a live Twitter feed for the scouts and others using #wheattour16 to post conditions and photos from the tour. // Day 1: Twenty vehicles with 78 participants headed west from Manhattan, Kansas, today on the Hard Winter Wheat Tour 2016. Scouts stopped in 306 locations on the six routes between Manhattan and Colby. [caption id="attachment_151941" align="alignnone" width="422"] Producers visited scouts out in the field. RRN photo[/caption] On Tuesday, scouts reported seeing some stripe rust, barley yellow dwarf virus, early season drought stress, and freeze damage. Overall, wheat looked as good or better than expected. Almost all wheat was between late boot stage and early flowering stage. While scouts anticipated seeing a lot of stripe rust, reports came in that many of the fields had been sprayed with fungicide to prevent the spread of the disease. Aaron Harries, Kansas Wheat VP of Operation and Research, commended farmers for their management practices. He said, "Farmers need a round of applause for taking care of rust issues before they became a huge issue." [caption id="attachment_151939" align="alignnone" width="430"] Stripe rust on the Kansas Wheat Tour 2016. RRN Photo[/caption] A small group of scouts from Colorado began the tour there and headed east to Colby. They reported an average yield of 39 bushels per acre in Colorado and estimated production at 78 million bushels for the state. Nebraska reported that 95% of the state's crop is currently rated good to excellent, with an average yield of 55 bushels per acre. They are estimating 70.4 million bushels of production this year, up from only 46 million bushels last year. Pre-tour expectations are for high levels of stripe rust throughout the state. Other diseases are expected to be seen with the recent cool, wet weather.

Monsanto Works to Reassure Growers

Monsanto wrote a letter to growers of it’s Roundup Ready 2 Extend soybeans yesterday reassuring them about growing the new beans this season. The letter says, “Both of the single traits, Roundup Ready 2 Yield® and dicamba-tolerant soybeans, are fully approved by the European Union and European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). EFSA issued a positive scientific opinion on Roundup Ready 2 Xtend last June. Monsanto says they have communicated the status of EU import approval with growers,  dealers and the industry, including soybean grower groups and grain handlers. The letter says, “Based on our historical experience and our direct communication with EU officials, we expected approval prior to planting.” [caption id="attachment_152285" align="alignnone" width="300"] Courtesy image[/caption] It adds, “while approval has not been received, we remain in the final stage of approval, which should be completed in the near future." "The Commission stated in a letter to the U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC) dated April 12 that approvals were "at the final stage of the procedure" and just a few weeks ago a Commission official was quoted in the European press (AgraFacts No. 29-16 April 20, 2016) as stating the product should be approved "before the summer", the letter states.    

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Livestock

Hendrix Genetics Breaks Ground on Central Nebraska Hatchery

Hendrix Genetics broke ground in Grand Island today for it's new hatchery operation. This is a first of it's kind in the Central Nebraska area and both the community and company seem pleased with the location of the hatchery. [caption id="attachment_152398" align="alignright" width="300"] Members of Hendrix Genetics and Grand Island Leaders break ground on a 20 acre site on the Southern edge of Grand Island.[/caption] "We've got a lot of, you know, whether it's seed corn, or soybeans, we've also got a beef processing plant. So poultry seemed kind of to be the next fit.", said Grand Island Mayor Jeremy Jensen.  Jensen also noted that there was a lot of work that had to happen in order to get the hatchery brought to Central Nebraska. The hatchery aims to produce 24 million egg-laying chicks per year beginning in 2017.  In addition to the hatchery, 8 egg-laying and 3 pullet barns will be constructed within 100 miles of Grand Island. These outlying barns will support the hatchery and it's daily operations. According to Manging Director of Hendrix Genetics Peter Mumm 5 contracts have been put in place already for the outlying barns. Construction is slated to start soon with the goal to have the hatchery up and operational by Fall 2017.

Iowa City Votes Down Proposed Pork Plant

Very early Wednesday morning, the Mason City, Iowa city council voted against Prestage Foods proposal to place $240-million-dollar pork  plant in their town. The vote was a 3-3 tie and a tie vote on a motion represents a loss.  City council member Alex Kuhn, who voted against the plant, said the city was just not getting enough in the development agreement. The vote came after the council heard from many town members during the 7-hour long meeting. Ron Prestage, Prestage Farms president and co-owner, attended the meeting of town members who were largely in opposition of the plant being built.  

Cattle Feeders College set for May 24 in Garden City

Kansas State University will host the 2016 K-State Cattle Feeders College, Tuesday, May 24, at the Finney County Exhibition Building, 409 Lake Ave. in Garden City, Kansas. This year’s event offers in-depth and hands-on educational sessions for individuals directly involved in the milling and maintenance departments of feedyards. Cattle Feeders College starts with registration at 5 p.m., dinner at 5:30 and a program following.  Keith Bolsen, K-State professor emeritus, will present “Silage Safety.” Mark Cooksey, Roto-Mix LLC, will address “Feed Mixer Technology and Maintenance.” Kurt Wenzel, Garden City Community College, will present “Practical Welding Tips.” The event also features the “Top Hand” Cattle Feeding Industry Awards. The awards recognize hard work, honesty, reliability, integrity and animal stewardship. A representative of the nominating feedyard and the award recipient must be present to accept the awards. Nominations, in 100 words or less, are due by May 20 to K-State Research and Extension beef systems specialist Justin Waggoner, 4500 E. Mary St., Garden City, KS 67846. Cattle feeders and others are welcome to attend but must pre-register. The K-State Cattle Feeders College is sponsored by Merck Animal Health, Roto-Mix LLC, Lallemand Animal Nutrition, Animal Health International and the K-State Veterinary Diagnostic Lab. There is no cost to attend the K-State Cattle Feeders College, but registration is required by May 20, by contacting either Justin Waggoner at 620-275-9164 or jwaggon@ksu.edu or Katelyn Barthol, 620-272-3670 or kbarth25@ksu.edu. More information is available at www.southwest.ksu.edu.

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Technology

UNL and K-State to Receive USDA Grants to Strengthen Rural Communities

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced $15.6 million in grants to increase prosperity in rural America through research, education, and extension programs focused on promoting rural community development, economic growth, and sustainability. These grants were made through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Foundational program, administered by USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). "Nearly 60 million Americans live in rural areas, and their value and impact through the agriculture industry can be felt both domestically and internationally," said Secretary Tom Vilsack. "To help these communities remain prosperous and viable, we need to support discovery of new ways that promote economic viability among producers, small businesses, and communities in rural America." Farmers, ranchers, and rural communities are the backbone for Americans everywhere, providing food, feed, fiber, fuels, and open spaces. However, rural areas and communities face many hardships. Nearly 85 percent of persistent poverty counties are located in rural areas and over six million rural Americans, including about 1.5 million children, live in poverty today. Funding from NIFA is expected to assist communities and regions in creating self-sustaining, long-term economic development through research and strategic planning. The following projects have been selected for awards in each AFRI program: Innovations for Rural Entrepreneurs and Communities: University of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho, $499,966 University of Illinois, Champaign, Ill., $500,000 Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich., $499,738 Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, Miss., $149,974 North Carolina Central University, Durham, N.C., $417,942 Texas A&M University, Kingsville, Texas, $47,570 University of Vermont, Burlington, Vt., $494,110 University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wis., $498,212 Agricultural Economics and Rural Communities – Environment and Natural Resources: University of Connecticut, Storrs, Conn., $500,000 University of Connecticut, Storrs, Conn., $499,995 University of Delaware, Newark, Del., $498,434 University of Illinois, Champaign, Ill., $499,534 North Carolina State University, Raleigh, N.C., $499,995 University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Neb., $498,641 Rutgers University, New Brunswick, N.J., $49,000 Agricultural Economics and Rural Communities – Economics, Markets and Trade: Arizona State University, Tempe, Ariz., $482,831 University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Ark., $398,186 University of California-Davis, Davis, Calif., $474,132 University of Connecticut, Storrs, Conn., $499,872 Albany State University, Albany, Ga., $499,386 Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kan., $498,396 University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Mass., $499,990 North Carolina State University, Raleigh, N.C., $462,829 Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., $499,990 West Virginia University, Morgantown, W. Va., $402,416 NIFA also provided funds through the Small and Medium-sized Farm program. This program assists farmers and ranchers with management strategies and new technologies to improve the viability and competitiveness of small and medium-sized dairy, poultry, livestock, crop, forestry, and other commodity operations. Small and Medium-Sized Farms: Alabama A&M University, Huntsville, Ala., $480,000 Tuskegee University, Tuskegee, Ala., $480,000 Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, La., $479,880 Tufts University, Medford, Mass., $479,194 University of Missouri, Columbia, Mo., $477,860 North Carolina State University, Raleigh, N.C., $469,771 Syracuse University, Syracuse, N.Y., $478,342 South Dakota State University, Brookings, S.D., $479,751 Washington State University, Pullman, Wash., $479,995 University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wis., $425,000 The AFRI Foundational Program supports projects that sustain and enhance agricultural and related activities in rural areas and to protect the environment, enhance quality of life, and alleviate poverty. Some of the issues covered include demographic changes and impacts in rural areas; consumer behavior; how markets are structured and perform; and agriculture's impact on the environment.  

May Proclaimed as Renewable Fuels Month in Nebraska

Ethanol and soy biodiesel have become major markets for Nebraska corn and soybeans—and are providing significant economic, environmental and consumer benefits. In recognition of the importance of renewable biofuels to the state, Governor Pete Ricketts has proclaimed May as Renewable Fuels Month in Nebraska. Nebraska is the nation’s second largest ethanol producer, home to 25 ethanol plants with the capacity of more than two billion gallons of production. These plants, which employ more than 1,300 people, process more than 700 million bushels of corn a year into clean-burning ethanol as well as distillers grains, a high protein feed ingredient for livestock. Some Nebraska ethanol plants also produce carbon dioxide for bottling and food processing as well as corn oil for human food consumption. Biodiesel production, which uses soybeans as a primary feedstock, is on the rise in Nebraska. A biodiesel plant in Beatrice is expected to begin commercial operation in 2016 with the capacity to produce 50 million gallons, requiring more than 33 million bushels of soybeans. “Renewable biofuels have absolutely transformed the economic landscape in Nebraska,” said Ron Pavelka, a farmer from Glenvil and chairman of the Nebraska Soybean Board. “The additional demand for Nebraska commodities created by renewable fuels production has created a new market for farmers, generated significant investment and tax revenue in rural communities, and created good paying jobs in areas of the state that really need them.” “The growth of renewable biofuels has helped reduce our nation’s dependence on imported petroleum, reduced prices at the pump and provided greater choice for consumers,” said David Merrell, a farmer from St. Edward and chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board. “But perhaps the most important benefit of these fuels is their dramatically positive impact on the environment and on human health.” For example, biodiesel reduces hydrocarbon emissions by 67 percent and reduces lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions by 86 percent compared to its petroleum based counterpart. The 2.1 billion gallons of biodiesel used in 2015 reduced the amount of carbon in the atmosphere by 18.2 million metric tons, the equivalent of removing 3.8 million cars from the road or planting 466 million trees. Ethanol is a non-toxic, clean-burning fuel that dramatically reduces the level of toxics added to gasoline to increase octane, including proven and suspected carcinogens such as benzene, toluene and xylene. “Since these toxics do not completely combust in the engine, they enter the atmosphere through exhaust emissions and are directly connected to cancer, heart disease and asthma in humans,” Merrell added. “The more ethanol we add to gasoline, the lower the levels of these harmful toxics in the air we breathe.” According to the American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest, some 70 percent of harmful air pollution is attributable to mobile sources such as passenger vehicles, trucks, buses and construction equipment. “When consumers choose renewable biofuels at the pump, they are not only saving money and supporting a homegrown fuel, they are also making the choice for a better environment and cleaner, healthier air for their families,” Pavelka said.  

New Kearney High School Arboretum Funding Request Approved by Central Platte NRD

When the new Kearney High School opens its doors this fall, over 350 students in the natural resources, agriculture, science, food and FFA classes will be introduced to a new arboretum.  The Central Platte Natural Resources District’s board of directors approved a funding request in the amount of $2,500 through the Outdoor Classroom Program for creation of the arboretum at their monthly meeting on Thursday. All 285 trees will be planted by volunteers during a community tree-planting event on May 20, 2016.  With access to both native and winter hardy trees on school grounds, students will be able to be involved in hands-on data collection and analysis of leaf structure and identification, investigations of evolutionary adaptions for seed dispersal, collection and observation of insects and pollination studies.  The trees will be analyzed in long-term studies and their data will be mapped using online mapping programs like ArcGIS. Project leader Alison Buescher, Life Science teacher, stated that the arboretum will help students “gain an understanding of Nebraska ecology; and will also be available to the art program to learn open air painting techniques and perspectives.” OTHER ACTION/AGENDA ITEMS: -Vadose Zone Agreement- The board approved an agreement with the University of Nebraska in the amount of $80,000 to revisit 27 vadose zone core sites originally collected in the 1990s and determine where additional cores may provide the best overall information to characterize nitrate storage and estimated transport rates to the water table.  After Central Platte NRD obtains permission from landowners to collect new core samples, the University of Nebraska will arrange and schedule collections using the Nebraska Conservation and Survey drilling equipment and crew. The project will help in the development of standardized protocol to collect vadose zone cores by detailing textural descriptions and additional measurements of ammonia, pH, moisture and organic content, and isotope analysis.  Determination of water retention properties and hydraulic conductivity of undisturbed cores will help estimate the rate of travel of nitrate concentration at new sites; and ultimately the evaluation of land use practices on nitrate movement to the water table. -Violations- Irrigation violation letters were mailed to 36 landowners on April 11, 2016.  A total of 153.6 acres are involved in violations this year which range from 1.03 to 29.11 acres.  The number of violations continues to decrease each year.  There were 72 violations in 2014, 119 in 2013, and 169 in 2012. -Central Valley Phragmites Control- Rich Walters, The Nature Conservancy, presented updates to the phragmites spraying effort started in 2008.  The project includes 700 landowners who participated in herbicide spraying by helicopter and/or manual spraying of property along the Platte River from Kingsley Dam in Keith County east to Columbus, NE.  Walters reported that 32,300 acres have been cleared successfully and that recent funding requests will allow a maintenance program to continue to treat the Eurasian invasive species.  The Central Platte NRD provides $25,000 annually towards the project. -Ultrasonic Meter Reading- The board approved cost share in the amount of $100 per field per landowner to assist with the cost of getting an ultrasonic flow meter reading for gallons per minute on wells located within the District’s Phase 2 or 3 Ground Water Management Areas. -Honey Locust Seedlings- The board voted to discontinue offering Honey Locust seedlings as part of the CPNRD’s Conservation Tree Program due to the negative impact that volunteer seedlings have had on land and soil health within the District.  In an effort to reduce the spread of Eastern Red Cedar, CPNRD staff will work with forestry experts to develop an education plan that will focus on fire risk and land health risks when volunteer cedars are not managed properly. -Nebraska State Climate Office- Stonie Cooper and Martha Shulski, UNL School of Natural Resources, presented information on the new climate office and their role in serving the NRDs and other agencies in real time climate data collection and public outreach. -Nebraska Natural Resources Commission (NNRC) Applications- Mick Reynolds, NNRC representative, reported that NNRC approved nearly $11.5 million for 17 projects for funding assistance from the Water Sustainability Fund, created in 2014 through LB1098.  Thirteen smaller projects, each $250,000 or less, were also approved for funding.  A complete list of projects scored is available at:nrc.nebraska.gov. -Pickup Trade-In- The board approved the winning bid in the amount of $15,886 from Plum Creek Motors of Lexington, NE for trade-in of the District’s 2010 Chevy ¾ ton pickup; and purchase of a 2016 4-wheel drive, ¾ ton full-size Chevy. -Cost Share- 11 cost share applications were approved through the CPNRD and Nebraska Soil and Water Conservation programs. Practices approved include grassland conservation, urban forestry, tree planting, soil moisture sensors, and well decommissioning in the amount of $38,700.41 -NRCS Report- Brach Johnson, USDA-NRCS acting district liaison, reported that landowners within the Central Platte NRD have submitted 23 EQIP applications and five RCP applications that total $1.53 million for water conservation practices.  Johnson also provided a summary of Natural Resources Conservation Service guidelines for control of ephemeral gully (concentrated flow) erosion in the Central Platte NRD. These guidelines are used for the planning and application of cover crops to treat erosion. -Go Big Give- Marcia Lee and Kelly Cole, CPNRD staff, provided information on fundraising efforts towards groundwater education through the Go Big Give campaign for the Nebraska Children’s Groundwater Festival and the Grand Island Groundwater Guardians fromApril 26-May 3. -New Logo- The board voted on a new logo for the CPNRD.

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Ag Policy

Vilsack wants more CRP acres in next farm bill

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says USDA will enroll more than 800,000 acres in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) this year, while expressing hope that Congress will allow for even higher enrollment in the next farm bill. “Our CRP program, over the last three decades, has been I think an incredible success,” Vilsack told Agri-Pulse in a telephone interview on Wednesday. “In addition to providing an additional income option for producers on their less productive lands, it's also had an incredible environmental and conservation result.” Participating farmers and ranchers in CRP enter into long-term contracts with USDA to use conservation practices on their land, improving environmental outcomes for wildlife, soil and water quality and/or the climate, in exchange for rental payments or federal cost-share funding to employ those practices. According to USDA, CRP lands over the last five years have sequestered the equivalent of 47 million metric tons of carbon dioxide - the same as taking 9 million cars off the road annually. The department says that since the program's inception, it has helped to prevent the erosion of 9 billion tons of soil, protected more than 170,000 stream miles with riparian and grass buffers, more than 100,000 acres of bottomland hardwood trees, nearly 300,000 acres of flood-plain wetlands, and 250,000 acres each for duck nesting habitat and upland bird habitat. This year's enrollment will be close to the 867,000 acres enrolled in CRP in 2015. “As of right now we have 23.8 million acres enrolled in the program, and about 1.7 million of those acres will be expiring this year,” Vilsack continued. “The challenge we've had is that there is greater demand for the program than Congress has allowed us to provide.” Congress capped the number of acres enrolled in CRP at 24 million in the 2014 farm bill “to primarily save money,” Vilsack said, “at a time when commodity prices were high” and “CRP wasn't as popular.” The cap was previously set at 32 million acres. Since then, “commodity prices have come down” and USDA “raised rental rates,” bolstering demand for CRP, which can provide big benefits to farmers and ranchers, he said. “The Conservation Reserve Program provides nearly $2 billion annually to land owners - dollars that make their way into local economies, supporting small businesses and creating jobs,” Vilsack said in a release. “When these direct benefits are taken together with the resulting economic activity, the benefits related to CRP are estimated at $3.1 billion annually,” he said. For CRP general sign-up, USDA received applications on 1.8 million acres, but given the cap, were only able to enroll 410,000 of those acres. Vilsack said another 330,000 acres were enrolled through continuous sign-up - “three times the rate of where it was last year when we set a record for acres in our continuous programs” - and enrolled more than 100,000 acres through its grasslands CRP program. “When Congress begins to deliberate the 2018 farm bill, they're going to be faced I think with a demand to rethink the cap on CRP,” Vilsack said. “The deliberation should not begin with ‘You have to save an artificial dollar amount,' but it should really look at what the demand and need is.”

Colorado Frack Ban Axed

OMAHA (DTN) -- Local bans on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in Colorado are now unconstitutional following a pair of rulings handed down by the Colorado Supreme Court Monday. The rulings are considered good for farmers and ranchers, particularly in the northeast part of the state. Mineral rights have become a key income source for farmers in that part of Colorado. Two communities in northeastern Colorado, Longmont and Fort Collins, approved local bans on fracking in recent years. The region is seeing an increase in the use of fracking -- the cracking of underground geological formations with water pressure and chemicals to tap trapped natural gas and oil. The court declared unconstitutional a 2012 voter-approved fracking ban in Longmont as well as a five-year fracking moratorium approved by voters in Fort Collins in 2013. Both were declared unconstitutional because they conflict with state law that allows fracking. Chad Vorthmann, Colorado Farm Bureau's executive vice president and a board member for the group Vital for Colorado, told DTN the rulings were important. "The ruling highlights how important property rights are to all of us from Front-Range homeowners to farmers in the four corners of our state," he said. "That was why many Vital for Colorado members filed as a friend of the court to underscore that local bureaucrats can't tell homeowners and private property owners what they can and can't do with their own property." Longmont Mayor Dennis Coombs said in a news release Monday, "The case did not end as the city hoped, but we respect the Supreme Court's decision. "Longmont has secured important protections for the community including no drilling in neighborhoods, mandatory groundwater monitoring, setbacks from riparian areas, and other important regulations that will protect the health and safety of our residents." Shawn Martini, senior director of communications for the Consumer Energy Alliance in Denver, told DTN the court rulings are good for farmers and ranchers who benefit from mineral rights. Had the court ruled differently it could have allowed local communities to put more restrictions on agricultural activities and other industries as well. "This is a good thing for agriculture and rural parts of the state because the ruling protects the private property rights of mineral and surface owners and maintains the balance between the surface and mineral estates, and energy development and land-use planning that the current case law and statutes have created over the past few decades," he said. Despite the ruling, Martini said he believes anti-fracking groups and anti-agriculture groups will continue to push the issue. He anticipates a statewide ballot measure on fracking. "With the decision final, look for renewed effort by anti-energy groups to gather enough signatures to make sure they certify their four measures for the ballot in November," Martini said. Kent Holsinger, an agriculture lawyer and founder of Holsinger Law, LLC, in Denver, said the ruling means agriculture and oil interests will continue to work together in Colorado. "I see this decision as a win for both oil and gas and agriculture," he said. "Rather than competing for water resources, we largely see cooperation between ag and industry. Namely, agriculture is making money by leasing water rights to oil and gas. They're then investing the proceeds in improvements to their irrigation systems and/or keeping assessments lower for their shareholders." Farmers account for about 84% of water use, followed by cities at 8% and industrial interests at 8%, according to information from Northern Water, a group that manages the Colorado-Big Thompson Water Project. Northern Water manages an allocation pool coming from a 13-mile pipeline to the Front Range. A Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission report said less than one-tenth of 1% of water in Colorado is used for fracking. The two Colorado Supreme Court rulings on hydraulic fracking can be viewed here:http://www.dtn.com/… and http://www.dtn.com/…

Purdue, CME Group to Partner on 'Ag Economy Barometer'

Purdue University's Center for Commercial Agriculture and the derivatives marketplace CME Group are partnering to produce the Purdue/CME Group Ag Economy Barometer, a monthly nationwide measure of the health of the U.S. agricultural economy. The introduction of this new economic indicator underscores the importance of the agricultural economy and its participants – food producers and agribusinesses – to the overall U.S. and global economies, Purdue and CME Group said Tuesday (May 3) in announcing the partnership. "Agriculture is a critical component of the global economy and has been the cornerstone of CME Group's business for nearly 170 years," said CME Group Executive Chairman and President Terry Duffy. "By providing financial tools to help producers and agribusiness participants manage the risks they face, they are better able to focus on what they do best – feeding the world. We believe this collaboration with Purdue University to create the Purdue/CME Group Ag Economy Barometer will provide an essential resource for monitoring the health of the food industry and vital insight into the global economy." "Purdue's College of Agriculture has a long tradition of pushing us toward better food security, safety and sustainability with their cutting-edge research," said Purdue President Mitch Daniels. "We can imagine no better partner than CME Group to help us analyze and report the real-time economic health of U.S. agriculture, on which literally every citizen and the rest of the economy depends." Each month, the Ag Economy Barometer will provide a sense of the agricultural economy's health with an index value. Results to calculate the index are obtained through a survey of 400 large agricultural producers on economic sentiment. In addition, Purdue will bring its research and agricultural economics expertise to measure producers' expectations of key farm economy drivers such as farm profitability; farmland prices; capital expenditures; row crop, livestock and dairy prices; and seasonal drivers such as seed, fertilizer and feed ingredient prices. The barometer provides a value for each month that is relative to the base period, which is the winter and spring months of 2015 and 2016, explained Jim Mintert, director of Purdue's Center for Commercial Agriculture, professor of agricultural economics and principal investigator for the barometer. A score of 100 would mean that the sentiment is unchanged from the base period values. Higher than 100 means sentiment improved from that period, whereas lower values would indicate sentiment declined. Quarterly, the index will be accompanied by a webinar and in-depth thought-leader survey. The 100 agricultural thought leaders surveyed include agricultural lenders, business professionals, academics, consultants and commodity association representatives. This survey is separate from the results of the producer survey but serves as a supplement to the barometer. "The barometer is the only ongoing monthly measure of the health of the agricultural economy," Mintert said. "Also unique is that the index is calculated based on producer sentiments about both current conditions and future expectations." April survey results The agricultural sentiment of U.S. producers increased to 106 in April 2016, which was an improvement in producer sentiment compared to the base period of October 2015 through March 2016. The increase was driven in part by strengthening corn, soybean and wheat prices. After months of trending lower, and a sharp drop in corn prices following the USDA's March Prospective Plantings report, crop prices moved up during April. In addition, general weather conditions across the Plains and Midwest were favorable for crop development and planting and likely contributed to the improved sentiment. "While the most recent data show an uptick in producers' sentiment, it is important to keep the situation in perspective," said David Widmar, senior research associate for the Center for Commercial Agriculture and lead researcher on the Ag Economy Barometer. "Overall, the general agricultural outlook is still difficult. A strong majority of respondents, from both the producer and quarterly Agricultural Thought Leaders survey, reported expectations of the next twelve months being 'bad times' financially across the agricultural sector."  

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