Red River Farm Network News

Omnibus Spending Bill is Priority — The 2016 omnibus spending bill is priority for Congress as they return to Washington D.C. this week. Informa Economics vice president, Jim Weisemeyer, thinks agriculture will avoid the $3 billion cuts in crop insurance due to a pledge from Republican leadership. The question remains if the Democratic leadership will go along. “It appears that President Obama and the two Democratic leaders have agreed if they all do not on agree on a rider in a spending bill, none of them agree," said Weisemeyer. "I still think reason will prevail in Washington and you usually don’t hear that happening.” Weisemeyer says the Waters of the United States rule could be addressed in the omnibus spending bill in addition to other agricultural issues. “We should very likely have another extension to the expired tax incentive extenders, which is important to agriculture for several issues including Section 179, the business equipment expensing item, and also the lapsed biodiesel tax incentive of around $1." Weisemeyer also thinks Congress probably won’t end the session until the week before Christmas.   

Debate on Renewable Fuels Continues — The debate on renewable fuels continues in anticipation of the release of the 2014, 2015 and 2016 renewable fuel standards. Geoff Cooper, senior vice-president, Renewable Fuels Association, says the American Petroleum Institute claims lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions from biomass or biofuels are no different or even worse than emissions from fossil fuels. Cooper sees things differently. “Whether it’s corn or switchgrass or whatever feedstock you’re thinking of, it’s absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere as it grows. In other words, it’s sequestering atmospheric carbon. When that plant matter is converted into a liquid biofuel and it’s combusted in a vehicle, the same amount of carbon that was pulled from the atmosphere is re-released into the air,” says Cooper. “Contrast that to the carbon cycle of fossil fuels, you see a much different picture. You’re taking fossilized carbon that’s been sequestered deep underground for tens or hundreds of millions of years and you’re burning that carbon and minting it into the atmosphere. That’s clearly an added emission.”

A Revamp for Biodiesel RegulationsA revamp of biodiesel regulations could be in the works in Congress, according to AgResource Company President Dan Basse. Basse says the subsidy system may be changed to favor domestic or North American biodiesel. “There is a proposal getting kicked around on biodiesel that we may move the subsidy system of $1-a-gallon from the blender to the producer. If this would occur, it would mean more U.S. biodiesel would be sourced from soybean oil or Canadian canola." A bill will soon be introduced in the House. Basse would like the language included in the budget bill that will move in mid-December.

American Made — In addition to focusing on the Renewable Fuel Standard, the biodiesel industry is trying to switch from a blender’s credit to a producer’s credit. U.S. Canola Association past president Ryan Pederson says there’s a strong influx of biodiesel coming in from Argentina. “To limit that would take it from a blender’s credit to a production credit, so that only American produced biodiesel would be eligible to receive that credit,” says Pederson.

Ongoing Discussions on Tax Extensions — House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady indicates discussions are underway with the Senate and the Administration on a package of permanent extensions to business tax incentives. The package could include equipment expensing and the biodiesel tax incentive. The deal is seen as a ‘must have’ to gain support for a tax extenders bill that would apply retroactively for this year and through 2016. 

Seeking Certainty Members of the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association want Congress to address expired tax extenders. Julie Ellingson, executive vice president, North Dakota Stockmen’s Association, says it’s difficult to make significant financial decisions with the uncertainty in the tax code. “We’re only allowed to expense $25,000, adjusted for inflation, with the rest of the expenditures depreciated over time. The huge capital investments that agriculturalists need to make, it is difficult for long-term business planning." Ellingson says the current tax package on the table looks like it could be a 2015 retroactive provision through 2016. “That would put us a step ahead from where we were last year, addressing two years at a time. Much of our focus for the upcoming year will be to work with the congressional delegation to make those provisions part of the permanent tax code.”

Defending Crop Insurance Crop Insurance continues to be in the cross hairs of Farm Bill critics. Most say the shallow loss programs are going to run $3 billion over budget. South Dakota Senator Mike Rounds disagrees, saying crop insurance actually saves the government money. “Farmers and ranchers are paying 40 percent of the total cost of that disaster. Not 25 percent like it usually is with a normal flood or an earthquake disaster. That’s the part that some people sometimes forget is that farmers and ranchers are participating and they’re paying dollars into a crop insurance program which has been very successful in keeping the cost of food down from what it would otherwise be."

Dealing with Crop Insurance Critics — Kansas State University Extension Ag Economist Art Barnaby is taking exception to crop insurance critics. Barnaby says Ryan Alexander completely misstates facts in his opinion piece in U.S. News and World Report or he conveniently omits facts to make his positions appear correct. “He’s not the only one, but in that particular editorial, if you figure out what he’s talking about, he’s actually complaining about the commodity title, not the crop insurance program and the bill that was introduced in the House would have no impact on the commodity title. It’s strictly crop insurance cuts.” Means testing and eliminating the Harvest Price Option appear to be the methods to attack the insurance program. Barnaby says farmers and farm organizations need to be vigilant.

Lower Farm Income Forecast — USDA lowered its farm income forecast for the second time this year, due to lower crop, dairy and hog markets. The nearly $56 billion forecast is down four percent from USDA’s forecast in August. It’s 38 percent below last year and is 55 percent below the 2013 record. If realized, this year’s net farm income will be the lowest since 2002. USDA forecasts a 12 percent decline from last year in livestock receipts and an 8.7 percent drop in crop receipts. The one bright spot, according to USDA chief economist Rob Johansson, is that costs are down. That’s the first decline in cost of production in six years and farm equity could drop five percent, also the first decline in six years. Back in the 1980s, debt-to-asset ratios were 20 percent or higher. Farm debt is forecast to rise six percent from last year, while the value of farm assets will fall two percent. Government payments are expected to be up about 10 percent this year. 

Loan Growth — Robust loan growth was the driving factor behind another strong quarter for America’s banking industry. The American Bankers Association says loans increased more than $480 billion in the third quarter, compared to the same period last year. The ABA says banks are well prepared to manage what is expected to be a slow and gradual increase in interest rates by the Fed. Banks remain highly capitalized at levels far exceeding the most stringent regulatory standards.

Calculate Expected ARC/PLC PaymentsFarmers and lenders who are trying to get a handle on possible farm program payments for the 2015 marketing year will have a new tool. North Dakota State University Extension Farm Management specialist Andy Swenson says the ARC-PLC Calculator will show farmers their Price Loss Coverage and Agricultural Risk Coverage – County payments under different scenarios. “The setup is for everybody that has an FSA farm number and multiple FSA farms. They can put each one in and even if they have a mix, some crops enrolled in PLC and some enrolled in ARC-County and get the total expected payments for that farm for 2015.” According to Swenson, some of the numbers are fairly well known but this will allow farmers to play “what if” with yield and marketing year average price. The 2015 ARC-PLC Calculator is available online. 

Busy Year for Farmland Appraisals — This was a busy year for farmland appraisals. Farmers National Company in Grand Forks says it has had more lender requests for appraisals than in a dozen years. Most renewed land leases for 2016 remain the same as this year, although aggressive older leases may come down. If rent does decrease, Farmers National Company says a flex lease will likely be implemented. Although land values are down from the highs, less land on the market has kept land values from dropping further. During the run up in land prices, nearly all of Farmers National’s listings were sold by auction. As of Tuesday, nearly all listings are private treaty as there is generally not enough competition for auctions or bid sales.

Difficult Negotiations for Rented Farmland — Negative returns are already projected for 2016 crops, which is making cash rent negotiations difficult. Speaking at a farm rent meeting in Ada, University of Minnesota Extension Educator, Pauline Van Nurden, told farmers and landowners what they already know. “Negotiations are going to be difficult for 2016. The landowner’s expectations versus what’s feasible for the farmer and renter to pay; there’s a difference in those two prices," said Van Nurden. The University of Minnesota’s Center for Farm Financial Management projects negative returns for corn, soybeans and wheat next year. The Extension Service estimates that cash rents went down five percent in 2015 and projects a ten percent decline next year. Van Nurden says one way to bridge the gap between landlords and renters is with a flexible rental agreement.

Record Prices Paid for Mid-Sized Tractors — Columnist Greg Peterson is seeing an interesting phenomenon taking place in used tractor values. Even with the current farm economy, 'Machinery Pete' says there have been record auction prices for mid-sized tractors. “On November 19, there was a farm auction in west-central Minnesota where a guy had a really nice 1982 John Deere 4440, 6952 hours, power shift, that went for $32,500." For tractors from the late 1980s to early 1990s, there's "almost a ‘Katie, bar the door’ in terms of demand.” A shortage of good, used, mid-sized tractors is driving the price spike. Peterson says these tractors are pre-Tier 4, simple to operate and farmers have a history with them.

Seeking Regulatory Certainty From ChinaAgriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says China has agreed to move quickly to review the agricultural biotechnology events pending approval and will keep talking about market access for U.S. beef. Vilsack was in China for the U.S.- China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade. “It was focused on regulatory systems and the need for China to create a science-based, rules-based, consistent regulatory system that’s better coordinated and synchronized with our system and the system followed by other countries that are trading and raising genetically modified crops.” Both the U.S. and China said they would work together to advance the approval process based on international standards.

Pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership — A bipartisan group of former U.S. agriculture secretaries issued an open letter urging Congress to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership. By opening new markets in Japan, Vietnam and other countries, the letter says American agriculture will have access to new customers providing expanded sales. These sales will generate more farm production  that will grow the U.S. economy. North Dakota’s Ed Schafer is among the seven former ag secretaries who signed the letter. 

Argentina Promise to Reduce Soybean Export Tax — New Argentine president Mauricio Macri has promised to cut reduce the soybean export tax. Agriculture consultant Alberto Mendiondo says the soybean export tax will be reduced by five percent per year. The taxes for corn and wheat will end. As a result, Mendiondo expects wheat acreage to increase. “I expect at least at least double the area. We are talking an extra 10 million metric tons of wheat that would be sent 100 percent to the export market,” Mendiondo told RRFN. “That would make some noise in the market.” Mendiondo says Argentina was planting soybeans-on-soybeans for many years. This move will result in more farmers switching to other crops. Mendiondo says the Argentine export market has often been influenced by corruption, kickbacks and cheating. 

A Good Year for Soybean Quality — It was a nice year for soybean quality, thanks the warm September weather, According to University of Minnesota Extension soybean agronomist Seth Naeve, soybeans have a higher oil concentration this year. “Because of the higher oil concentration, the folks along the chain that are handling the soybeans will have to blend them less and bring in fewer high protein soybeans in from other areas to blend with the soybeans." Naeve says that should make U.S. soybeans more valuable in the world market. "That does trickle down to the farmers in terms of the basis." Naeve encourages farmers select varieties of soybeans with higher protein and oil levels next year.

A Step ChangeFrom an early start to an open fall, it was a good corn year across the Northern Cornbelt. DuPont Pioneer senior market manager Ryan French also gives credit to the performance of the early season hybrids. "We've seen a step-change as you look at 90-day relative maturity and earlier," said French. "We're seeing some of the best hybrids that we've ever brought to market; we've widened the funnel in our pipeline by adding more resources in there and running more genetics through that pipeline faster." Pioneer is testing a new corn rootworm technology called Qrome. Qrome is in the final stages of testing, waiting for regulatory approval before it is brought to market.

Seeking High Protein Premiums — At the Northern Ag Expo, North Dakota State University Extension cereals agronomist Joel Ransom will be discussing research on nitrogen management for grain yield and protein in wheat.“We’ve been very interested in this topic in the last few years given the high premiums we have seen in protein and the use of higher yielding varieties that tend to have a little lower protein.” Ransom will emphasize the role of variety selection in maintaining high quality wheat.

Sell When the Market Wants the Grain — The timing of sales is critical when storing grain on the farm. Progressive Ag Marketing broker Randy Martinson says farmers need to sell when the market wants the grain, rather than when farmers need to move it. “The basis levels have tightened up pretty good right now,” says Martinson. “For farmers who have grain in the elevator, certainly now is a good time to start looking at moving some of that product due to the strong basis, but even if you have some grain sitting at home that you need to get grain in condition, it might not be a bad time to be looking at moving some of that on these strong basis levels.” Martinson reminds farmers that it can be costly to store grain on the farm.

Trying to Fix a Basis Level? You Have Two Choices Taking advantage of current basis levels can be complicated. North Dakota State University Extension marketing specialist Frayne Olson says there are usually two choices when trying to fix the basis level. “There are two types of strategies we can look at. One of them is to sign a basis fix contract with either an elevator or one of the processors and then you’ll have to set some of the timelines for delivery of the cash grain, but at least lock the basis in now and leave the futures market open for the next several weeks or a month or two." The other strategy is to sell cash grain and then buy it back using options or the futures markets.  Olson says both strategies work but it really comes down to comfort level. Olson will discuss this topic during the Northern Ag Expo this week in Fargo.

Capture the Carry in the Corn Market — Brock and Associates owner Richard Brock will discuss corn marketing techniques at the Northern Ag Expo in Fargo. Brock sees opportunities to capture the carrying charge in the corn market. “We’ve shifted to an environment where we now have large carryovers. The potential of a significant upward price move is very slim for the next 12 months. The opportunity here, if people will do it, is to sell the carry." If a farmer restricts themselves to the cash market, they’re not going to take advantage of these spreads in the market, "and it would take a miracle to turn this thing around to the upside for any significant price move.” Brock says corn growers can enhance the value of their sales by selling distant futures contracts or out-of-the-money call options and let them expire at zero.

Good ROI for Starter Fertilizers — Starter fertilizer provides early-season nutrition to the crop. Brian Banks, senior agronomist with the Andersons Nutra-Flo, thinks starters are even more critical now. “The main benefits of a starter application, especially when we’re talking in-furrow, are obviously, the placement," says Banks. "We’re placing nutrients where the plant needs them, when they need them so we can influence the early season growth and help the plant get off to a good start, maximizing the yield potential of that crop." Banks likes the return-on-investment with starters.   

In-Furrow SolutionsFMC is introducing liquid fertilizer-ready technology that includes a biofungicide. FMC portfolio manager Rick Ekins says Ethos XB does two things. "Throughout the productive life-cycle of the plant, as long as the roots are growing, we have this bacteria in the soil colonizing the roots and protecting it from disease throughout the season." Ekins expects more in-furrow solutions to be available in the future.

OSHA Regulation Costly for Retailers — Implementing a new OSHA anhydrous ammonia regulation will be costly for retailers. North Dakota Ag Commissioner Doug Goehring says North Dakota could lose nearly half of the fertilizer facilities in the state because of the regulatory burden. “OSHA changed the definition of retail, which then changed how EPA looks at all of our fertilizer facilities that handle anhydrous ammonia. It would be much like taking a gas station and now requiring them to meet the same regulatory requirements than an oil refinery would have.” The Ag Retailers Association is addressing the regulation legislatively. ARA President, Daren Coppock, wants language included in the omnibus appropriations bill. “If we don’t have some kind of certainty or a stay in place to hold enforcement, our members are faced with the choice of having to make the hard decisions, either spend the money to bring whatever facilities that aren’t in compliance up to compliance or exit the anhydrous ammonia business altogether." Coppock says the regulation could cause a shortage of anhydrous ammonian next spring, which would impact the cost.  

Crop Protection Industry Faces Numerous Challenges — CropLife America’s senior director of government relations is making a return appearance at the Northern Ag Expo in the Fargodome this week. Kellie Bray will talk about the challenges facing the pesticide industry. “Some of our concerns surround pollinator health issues and North Dakota is a great leader in that. They’re one of five states that have completed a state management plan." CropLife America has a new, advocacy-focused website with information for consumers and those in the crop protection industry.   

SD Ag Groups Cooperate on AgHorizons Conference — The annual AgHorizons Conference is in Pierre, South Dakota Tuesday and Wednesday. Caren Assman, who is with the South Dakota Wheat Commission, says attendance should be helped by the eight industry organizations coming together to host the event. “The South Dakota Pulse Growers, the oilseeds, wheat, no-till, crop improvement, soil coalition, the conservation districts and the seed trade association are going to show us what they’ve accomplished in the last year,” says Assman.

Registration Recommendation for Drone Users — A Federal Aviation Administration task force has made recommendations for the use of drones. All drones weighing more than half-a-pound should have a number that can be traced back to the owner. At this point, this is still a recommendation, but the FAA may later adopt the registration requirement.

A Checkoff Exemption Possible for Organic Farmers — Within the next week, the Agriculture Department is expected to issue final rules, exempting organic producers from conventional commodity checkoff programs. This issue was included in the last farm bill. The exemption is necessary if a checkoff program for organic farm production is implemented, which is under consideration. 

New TrueHarvest Program Connects Growers with Agronomist — Farmlink is promoting TrueHarvest, a new benchmarking product. Farmlink’s director of operations Kevin Heikes says TrueHarvest connects growers with their agronomist and input advisors. “It’s a web-based system that allows growers to go in and look at the benchmark and also see their yield information. The thing about benchmarking, farmers are going to look at their field and compare it to others that have the same soil and weather conditions. It allows them to validate decisions made during the year and looking forward. Farmlink also has a new farm equipment sharing platform. “Without information telling you where the potential is, it’s really hard to make those decisions. That’s why farmers and agronomists are turning to tools like this to validate those decisions.”

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Wanted: Livestock — The North Dakota Department of Agriculture is launching a marketing campaign to grow the state’s animal agriculture business. Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring is encouraging producers to diversify and include livestock in their operations. Goehring says North Dakota is the perfect place to raise livestock. “Just because we have the wide-open spaces, biosecurity is such a big issue as we’ve seen with avian influenza and other various animal diseases happening across country." Goehring says North Dakota’s climate is also well-suited for livestock production. “Livestock do better in climates where the humidity is lower; where the temperatures aren’t exceeding 90 and100 degrees for days and weeks on end. The cool part of your year might be 86 degrees. Animals fare very well here and they do well and production is up," adds Goehring. "We have all kinds of data we can show them.” The marketing campaign will include social media, videos and traditional advertising. 

What's the Future of Mandatory COOL? — U.S. Cattlemen’s Association director Rod Gray is not optimistic about the future of mandatory Country of Origin Labeling. The WTO arbitration panel has retaliated and will meet December 7 to decide whether to keep the current rules. “Our borders will be open to meat coming out of Canada, Mexico and other countries and we won’t be able to identify U.S. beef product in this country, if we lose COOL altogether." Gray adds that it’s hard to compete economically with beef production in other countries. “They can produce it so much cheaper than us, because they don’t have the regulations and stuff that we have." Gray thinks the only option for COOL to survive is voluntary legislation introduced by North Dakota Senator John Hoeven and Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow.

Retaliation Expected Soon After WTO Announcement U.S. Meat Export Federation spokesman Joe Schuele says it won’t take long after the WTO’s arbitration ruling on Country of Origin Labeling for Canada and Mexico to impose retaliatory duties. “I don’t think that’s what either country wants to do. I do believe they want a solution, but I don’t think they are bluffing in terms of retaliatory duties. I would expect those to go into effect once they have clearance from WTO.” Schuele emphasizes the importance of Mexico and Canada markets for U.S. beef and pork. “Mexico is our largest volume destination for pork and very important for profitability for our pork producers.

Cage-Free by 2015 — General Mills set a deadline for its companies to convert to cage free eggs. General Mills updated its animal welfare policy to require its eggs to be entirely cage free by the year 2025. General Mills initially announced plans to go all cage free in July, but did not set a deadline for the change to take place.

USDA Payment Designed to Help Contract Poultry Growers — USDA is preparing to issue an interim rule that will impact the indemnity payments for flocks with avian influenza. The rule will allow USDA to split the payment between the owners and the operators of the poultry farms. The change is designed to help contract growers. 

Compromise H2A Rules Proposed for Sheep Industry — While the proposed H2A rules from the Obama Administration has given ranchers some heartburn. American Sheep Industry Association president Burt Pfliger says the final rule is a compromise of sorts. “We’re happy that 500 ranchers along with many agribusiness people, city councils and county commissioners all commented on the rule and expressed the value of the sheep industry to the Department of Labor. We spoke with a unified voice and got a compromise bill.” Pfliger says the rule will not please everyone, but it’s a start.

New Regulations for Traders — The Commodity Futures Trading Commission will issue new regulations for high-speed traders and more closely monitor high-speed trading to prevent wild market swings. High-speed trading has caused several glitches including one that shut down the New York Stock Exchange for nearly a half a day. The CFTC voted unanimously in favor of new registration standards for high-speed traders.

Best Farming Practices — Experts from six European countries met in Germany to advance the best farming practices on Tuesday, according to BASF. The conference is part of the Farm Network, a partnership created by BASF to help growers enhance the amount of birds and bugs in their fields and managing soil. BASF says the topics discussed during the event include adjusting agronomic activities inside fields, improving the off-field habitat quality and finding new ways to promote best practices. 

EPA Decision Impacts Enlist Duo — The Environmental Protection Agency is withdrawing its registration for the Enlist Duo herbicide. The Dow AgroSciences product won approval in 2014. Since that time, activist groups have been in the courts asking the courts to rescind the approval of Enlist Duo. Earthjustice and the Center for Food Safety claimed the EPA failed to consider the impact of the product on threatened or endangered species. Dow AgroSciences President and CEO Tim Hassinger says the questions raised about potential synergy between 2, 4-D choline and glyphosate can be promptly resolved in the next few months, in time for the 2016 crop season. Dow Chemical Company says they are working with the EPA to provide assurances that the product’s conditions of registered use will continue to protect the environment.  

Clarification — Clarifying a story that was published last week, Optify/Stretch and Toggle are two new biostimulants added to United Suppliers’ product portfolio, under the Winfield U.S. joint venture.

A Decline in Net Earnings for CHS — CHS Inc., has a 28 percent decline in net earnings in fiscal year 2015, reflecting singular events as well as lower margins across its energy and agriculture businesses. Revenues fell 19 percent, primarily due to lower values for the energy and grain products handled by CHS. CHS ag segment earnings declined 30 percent, driven primarily by a $116.5 million impairment associated with the decision to cease development of a nitrogen fertilizer plant at Spiritwood, North Dakota. 

Legumex Walker Finalizes the Sale of its Special Crops Division — Legumex Walker Inc. completed the sale of the assets of its Special Crops Division to The Scoular Company for gross proceeds of $94 million Canadian. Shareholders have overwhelmingly approved the transaction. The final purchase price will be determined within 90 days upon determination of the final closing working capital. 

Red Ink for Big Green — Deere and Company reports net income of $351 million in the fourth quarter, 46 percent less than the previous year. However, the decline was less than expected by investors. For fiscal 2015, Deere’s net income fell 39 percent. Worldwide net sales and revenues declined 25 percent in the fourth quarter and were down 20 percent for the full year. Equipment sales fell 26 percent in the fourth quarter and 22 percent in fiscal 2015. Operating profit for the agriculture and turf division dropped 60 percent in the fourth quarter, and 55 percent for the full year.

Kinze Turns 50 — This is a special year for Kinze Manufacturing. The company is celebrating 50 years in business. Kinze's founder was recently inducted into the Association of Equipment Manufacturers Hall of Fame. Kinze manufactures planters and grain carts. Last year, they released a multi-hybrid planter, which allows farming by the square foot. “It’s common to see a farmer to plant a hybrid in one field and go to another field and put a different hybrid in, because the conditions are different in that field," said Mike Gryp, Kinze district manager, "Instead of going field-to-field, why wouldn’t we go foot-to-foot? What we’re able to do with the multiple-hybrid planter is change hybrids and rate on the fly in a field. The results have been very good."     

Record Year for Hormel Foods — Hormel Foods is reporting record net earnings for the fourth quarter and the just-completed fiscal year. The annual net income of $714 million is up 19 percent from last year. The increase came despite lower revenues from a weak hog market. In addition, the avian influenza outbreak had a negative impact on the Jennie-O Turkey Store business. Profits for the grocery products division increased nearly 60 percent in the fourth quarter.

Better-Than-Expected Fourth Quarter Sales for Tyson — Tyson Foods reports better than expected fourth quarter earnings on greater demand for chicken. CEO Donnie Smith said the acquisition of Hillshire brands helped leverage fourth quarter results. Smith also says the record earnings happened in spite of significant challenges. “The West Coast port slowdown was a significant disruption for beef and pork exports, resulting in a $90 million negative effect. There was an avian influenza outbreak that closed several export markets for our chicken business and affected turkey operations for an impact of $139 million. In the last few weeks of the fiscal year, there was an unprecedented decline in the live cattle futures market, resulting in $70 million in losses.  Tyson reported fourth quarter adjusted operating income of $568 million and fourth quarter sales of $10.15 billion.

Lamb Co-op to Acquire JBS Plant — Mountain States Rosen Lamb Cooperative has an agreement to purchase the JBS lamb plant in Greeley, Colorado. The deal is dependent upon a successful equity drive by the cooperative.

Seeking Investors — Northern Plains Nitrogen continues to seek investors for its $2-billion-plus nitrogen fertilizer plant near Grand Forks. NPN President Darin Anderson has had many positive conversations with potential investors who have the ability to be major financial partners, but there are no agreements in place at this time. While NPN remains optimistic, Anderson says it is a difficult and highly competitive financial market for raising development capital and its ability to secure the necessary financing remains a work in progress.

Nufarm Transitions Manufacturing to Chicago Site — Nufarm is closing its manufacturing plant in Calgary. The company’s herbicide production will move to its new state-of-the-art facility in Chicago. It will take nine months to transition the manufacturing business from Calgary to Chicago.

Devils Lake Refinery Project Put on Hold — Crude priced at $40 delayed plans to build a diesel oil refinery in the Devils Lake, North Dakota area. Eagles Ledge Energy, which is based in Vancouver, has been working on plans to convert crude oil from the Bakken into off-road diesel fuel. Due to the low oil prices, the project is now on hold.

Ag Innovator of the Year Named — The Minnesota Agricultural Utilization Research Institute has honored EarthClean Corporation as its Ag Innovator of the Year. EarthClean produces TetraKO, a cornstarch-based biodegradable fire suppressant.

Stenehjem Launches CampaignNorth Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem has kicked off his campaign for governor. While the drop in oil and commodity prices is one of the state’s current challenges, Stenehjem thinks the state will be in good shape for the next two years. “In the meantime, everybody is hoping the price of farm commodities and oil will go back up and most people are predicting that will happen." Stenehjem said oil prices are in a “lull", not a “bust.” During a campaign kickoff event in Grand Forks, Stenehjem said the state must continue working to diversify its economy, but that agriculture will always be number one. Stenehjem has been at the State Capitol for almost 40 years, serving four years in the House, 20 years in the Senate and the last 15 years as Attorney General.   

Vogel Could Run for Governor — Former North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Sarah Vogel announced an exploratory committee was formed for a possible run for governor. If the decision is made to become a candidate, Vogel said it would be “a hard-hitting and issue-driven race.” 

Juhnke to Lead Nebraska Pork Group — A former chairman of the Minnesota House agriculture committee is taking a new job as the executive director of the Nebraska Pork Producers Association. Al Juhnke represented Willmar in the state legislature for 14 years. Since 2011, Juhnke has been the agriculture, energy and environment advisor to Minnesota Senator Al Franken. Juhnke will begin his new responsibilities in January.

New Members of American Lamb Board — Four new members were appointed by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to the American Lamb Board. Gwendolyn Kitzan from Nisland, South Dakota will represent producers with 500 or more head of lambs. Kitzan is a member of several industry organizations including the South Dakota Sheep Growers Association. Other appointees are from Massachusetts, California and Colorado. All will serve a three-year term.

Doane Takes Role at Nature Conservancy — Michael Doane has joined the Nature Conservancy as its director of working lands. Doane has been with Monsanto for 16 years. Most recently, Doane was Monsanto's director of sustainable business solutions.

Scientific Society Honors UM Professionals — Two faculty members from the University of Minnesota’s College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences and a former administrator have been named Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Philip Pardey is being recognized for his work in agricultural economics. The honor for Jerry Cohen is for his work in the biological sciences for plant growth issues. Carla Carlson, who is a special consultant in the Office of the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost, is being honored for her efforts to connect researchers, policy makers, students and the public.

Osorno Recognized for Service to the Dry Bean Industry — North Dakota State University dry bean breeder and Plant Sciences department associate professor Dr. Juan Osorno received the Distinguished Achievement Award from the Bean Improvement Cooperative. The award, which was presented at the Cooperative’s biennial meeting in Niagara Falls, recognizes outstanding scientific accomplishments relating to bean improvement and/or education. Osorno has been the dry bean breeder at NDSU since 2007. 

South Dakota Farm Bureau Adds New Faces to the Board — During the South Dakota Farm Bureau annual meeting, members worked on policy issues. President Scott VanderWal says a few new people were elected to the SDFB board. “As far as leadership, I was re-elected as state president for another two years. We also have a new person on our board of directors, Stacy Hadrick from up in the Redfield area and our Young Farmers and Ranchers representative is Chad and Kathy Handerhan.”  

SDSA Past President Passes — Former South Dakota Stockgrowers Association president DuWayne Slaathaug passed away on Friday.Slaathaug also served served on the boards of the Stanley County Conservation District, the FHA board and Fort Pierre National Grasslands.

Last Week's Trivia — New York City is home to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Diana Beitelspacher of the North Dakota Soybean Council wins the holiday trivia. Greg Guse of Paulsen, Tim Book of Verdesian Life Sciences, Mark Maris of Cargill, and Angie Skochdopole of AdFarm earn runner-up honors. The 'first 20' includes Bob Brunker of JL Farmakis, Ron Lanctot of ADM Crop Risk Services, Todd Good of AgCountry Farm Credit Services, Kevin Schulz of National Hog Farmer, Jim Altringer of Columbia Grain, Morris Area High School ag instructor Chelsea Vilchis, Brian Rund of Nufarm Americas, Robert Byrnes of UM Extension, Gary Sloan of BMO Harris Bank, Mark Mettler of PreferredOne, Montgomery farmer Bill Rynda, Keith Rekow of Dairyland Seed, Bruce Miller of Minnesota Farmers Union, and Bob Lebacken of RML Trading.