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Agriculture News

Current Situation for Iowa’s Major Ag Commodities

Iowa State | Posted on May 16, 2018

A double whammy of rising feed prices and falling hog prices point to tighter hog margins than were expected earlier this year. Projected 2018 profits in ISU’s farrow-to-finish model dipped from the $11 per head forecast in December to losses of $4 per head in April. Carcass weight prices in 2018 are now expected to average near $63 per cwt compared to about $66.50 last year. USDA’s annual Cattle inventory report confirmed that beef herd expansion continued in 2017, albeit at a slower pace than in 2016. Beef herd expansions often last for four to six years. The current expansion began in 2014 and could continue for another year or so. If it does, beef production in this cycle likely would not peak until early in the next decade. The biggest shakeup for the crop markets from the Prospective Plantings report came from soybeans. Throughout March, the soybean market had been preparing for an announcement of a record number of acres planted to soybeans, exceeding corn for the first time since 1983. Well, the second part of that statement happened, but not the first. Farmers indicated they would plant one million fewer acres to soybeans (but the total still exceeds corn). However, like with corn, projected production is still quite large. The 4.27 billion bushels would be the third-largest soybean crop, following the record crop from last year and the bin-buster from 2016 

he Department of Justice (DOJ) is expected to approve the merger between Bayer and Monsanto. If that happens, the world’s newest and largest seed and chemical company will have more in common with Facebook and Cambridge Analytica than meets the eye. In r

Iowa State | Posted on May 16, 2018

The US livestock industry has experienced drastic structural changes over the last two decades. The industry has shifted towards greater specialization across production phases, increased reliance on off-farm inputs such as feed, and increased use of production contracts (McBride and Key 2013). One trend that is particularly relevant to Iowa policymakers, farmers, and rural Iowans is the increased prevalence, size, and regional intensity of large, enclosed hog feeding operations. Where many of the largest hog-producing states have seen modest increases or even declines in total hog inventories over time, Iowa has seen a steady increase in inventories since 1982. Larger operations naturally generate more waste and can contribute to local environmental pollution. In 2003, the EPA estimated that AFOs in the United States produced more than 500 million tons of manure. When applied inappropriately to local lands, manure can increase nitrate pollution in surface waterways and groundwater. Large feeding operations also produce local air pollution, emitting ammonia, methane, and particulate matter that may pose health risks to nearby populations (Hribar 2010). Further, animal feeding operations emit greenhouse gases (including methane, a particularly potent greenhouse gas), and produce odors that may be unpleasant to local and downwind communities. Due to these issues, the expansion of the hog industry in Iowa has some raised concerns from local communities and environmental groups who seek better regulations to limit adverse impacts of the industry.

Merged Bayer-Monsanto will corner the market on farm data and software

Des Moines Register | Posted on May 16, 2018

he Department of Justice (DOJ) is expected to approve the merger between Bayer and Monsanto. If that happens, the world’s newest and largest seed and chemical company will have more in common with Facebook and Cambridge Analytica than meets the eye. In recent years, large agrochemical companies, including Bayer and Monsanto, have been heavily investing in digital agriculture. This new platform involves collecting data from farms, then building mathematical models and algorithms aimed at giving farmers real-time information on how to grow and manage their crops.There are a number of ag tech start-ups producing digital agriculture products. However, it appears that Monsanto and Bayer are trying to become like the Microsoft of the late-1990s and control the future of this emerging industry.  Bayer has reportedly agreed to divest all of its digital agriculture assets to assuage the fears of antitrust regulators. Don’t be fooled by this misdirection. Bayer never even released its digital farming platform, Xarvio Field Manager, in the United States, but the company will be happy to take over Monsanto’s similar products.

Equipment Manufacturers Launch "I Make America Town Hall Tour"

AEM | Posted on May 16, 2018

With six months left before the midterm elections, the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) is hitting the road to educate and engage manufacturing voters about the policies that are critical to the future growth and success of their industry. The initiative, which is part of the AEM’s grassroots advocacy campaign “I Make America,” will feature a series of events at equipment manufacturing facilities across the country. At a time when too many of the policy debates that directly impact the future of the equipment manufacturing industry take place in Washington, D.C., AEM is bringing policy and industry experts to shop floors for engaging and productive discussions with the men and women who help make America. The goal is to engage with supporters and inspire to help move a pro-manufacturing agenda forward. “From much-needed investment in infrastructure and continued regulatory reform to the future of free trade agreements and the long-term prosperity of agricultural communities, there are certainly enough issues at play to make the midterm elections critical to the future of manufacturing in this country,” said AEM President Dennis Slater. Announced events:Thursday, May 17 – Jackson, MN (AGCO Corporation)Thursday, August 16 – Bismarck, ND (Doosan-Bobcat) Thursday, September 20 – Redmond, WA

Farmworkers must be paid for more than just picking the crops, says Washington Supreme Court

TDN | Posted on May 16, 2018

The Washington Supreme Court has ruled that farmworkers who were paid a piece rate as they labored in fields and orchards must get additional wages for their other tasks during the course of a workday.The 5-4 decision released Thursday affects wages in a vital part of the state’s economy: the agricultural industry that produces more than $10 billion of crops and livestock annually while employing nearly 100,000 farmworkers.While the ruling is considered a victory for farmworkers, its practical effect is far from clear. The plaintiffs’ attorney says it will raise the pay of thousands of people who perform hard work in the fields and orchards. Some industry representatives questioned whether the workers would end up seeing any net increase in take-home pay.The ruling puts new scrutiny on a farm-labor practice — piece rates — that ties wages to job productivity and are in widespread use during the fruit harvest season. The state Supreme Court found that the other tasks of piece-rate workers, such as unloading equipment at the day’s end or traveling between fields, should be tracked and then compensated through an hourly wage.“It should not come as a surprise to growers that you have to pay workers for all their work,” said Marc Cote, a Seattle-based attorney who filed the proposed class-action lawsuit in February 2016 on behalf of two Dovex Fruit Co. workers that led to the decision. Cote said employers already are compensating for such time.

China's multi-story hog hotels elevate industrial farms to new levels

Reuters | Posted on May 16, 2018

 On Yaji Mountain in southern China, they are checking in the sows a thousand head per floor in high-rise “hog hotels”. Privately owned agricultural company Guangxi Yangxiang Co Ltd is running two seven-floor sow breeding operations, and is putting up four more, including one with as many as 13 floors that will be the world’s tallest building of its kind.Hog farms of two or three floors have been tried in Europe. Some are still operating, others have been abandoned, but few new ones have been built in recent years, because of management difficulties and public resistance to large, intensive farms.Now, as China pushes ahead with industrialization of the world’s largest hog herd, part of a 30-year effort to modernize its farm sector and create wealth in rural areas, companies are experimenting with high-rise housing for pigs despite the costs. The “hotels” show how far some breeders are willing to go as China overhauls its farming model.

The Effect of Conservation Payments on Farmer Adoption Varies Across Conservation Practices

USDA | Posted on May 16, 2018

Sometimes, farmers adopt conservation practices without assistance from a conservation program. Conservation practices provide benefits to society at large (through improved environmental quality) and to the farmers themselves. Conservation tillage, for example, reduces labor and fuel costs—and may be profitable for some farmers if crop yields can be maintained or improved. Conservation tillage can also help improve water quality by reducing the loss of sediment and nutrients. To the extent that conservation practices are profitable, government support is not needed to encourage their adoption. Because the profitability of conservation practices can vary across farms, however, it is not always clear whether financial assistance for a practice will result in additional conservation on that farm. ERS research shows that payments leverage additional conservation, but the extent of additionality varies widely across conservation practices. Using data from 2009 to 2012, an ERS study estimated that more than 90 percent of producers who received payments for “structural off-field” practices (such as field borders and filter strips) would not have adopted the practices without a payment. Since these practices largely focus on keeping nutrients and sediments from leaving the farm, the farmers themselves receive little direct economic benefit.

Machines take over for people at Napa vineyard

Capital Press | Posted on May 16, 2018

In the heart of the Napa Valley, a vineyard produces fine Cabernet Sauvignon with virtually no help from laborers. The 40-acre “touchless vineyard” was established by Kaan Kurtural, a University of California Cooperative Extension specialist who has devoted much of his career to improving production efficiency in vineyards as labor shortages have worsened. “We set this up to be a no-touch vineyard,” he said. “All the cultural practices are done by machine.”The vineyard is mechanically pruned once with a mechanical pruner manufactured by the Fresno-based V-MECH LLC, which Kurtural says cuts the vines without fraying the shoot tips. The pruner is equipped with telemetry and GPS sensors to enable variable management of the vineyard. An array of sensors scans the vineyard as the shoots push out. The grapes are harvested by a machine that sorts them as it goes, he said.

The Linkages between Entrepreneurship and Sustainable Regional Food Networks

Choices magazine | Posted on May 15, 2018

Entrepreneurship has been the key driving force in developing and designing innovative food strategies at local and regional levels. Food strategies include methods and procedures of production, aggregation, distribution, transportation, marketing, and resource management. The three pillars of creating and establishing a successful venture involve entrepreneurial mindsets/attributes, entrepreneurial knowledge/skills, and entrepreneurial opportunities. The links between entrepreneurship and food strategies become more obvious in the recent “local food” movement as local farmers and producers develop and adopt innovative methods to connect with consumers. The local-to-regional food strategies emerging across the country have stimulated discussions around the social, economic, and ecological impacts of food production and consumption. Proponents of both global and regional/local scales argue about their relative benefits for market development and food security. The fact is that we need to feed a growing population with healthy food. More importantly, the priority of agriculture has evolved beyond the focus of production. Some suggest that local/regional production and marketing can enhance food security and quality of life. Others argue that our dependence on the commodity food system may, in fact, undermine food security and the ability of regions to provide for themselves.

Bee colonies stable despite steep annual losses

Capital Press | Posted on May 15, 2018

While beekeepers have experienced severe annual colony losses for more than a decade, they’ve managed to keep total hive numbers stable, the USDA has found. More than a decade since the appearance of the mysterious “colony collapse disorder,” beekeepers still face abnormally high levels of bee die-offs, according to USDA.Despite the greater annual mortality rate, however, beekeepers have kept the total number of hives stable and generally haven’t sharply hiked up their pollination service fees, the agency found.