Red River Farm Network News


The Clock is Ticking — There are less than 60 days until Vermont’s mandatory GMO food labeling law takes effect. Supporters of the Coalition for Safe and Accurate Food Labeling say, more importantly, there are only about 35 days that Congress will be in session before July 1 to try and find a compromise, federal labeling law.

A Slow and Steady BattleWinfield Solutions Regional Agronomist Kyle Okke says planting has been a slow and steady battle for farmers in western North Dakota. “We started early-to-mid April. We've been going pretty strong prior to this last week where we received a lot of precipitation: some rain and snow," says Okke. "Prior to that, we have the majority of spring wheat acres are planted along with lentils and peas. We’re starting to see canola being planted and some corn is starting to go into the ground in our area. Those acres are a relatively small percent planted so far.” Okke says the wind has been the biggest challeng e for growers in getting enough pre-plant burndown on their fields, and there are a few growers who could be forced into tough situations if they hurry up and apply burndown instead of trying to control weeds in season with herbicides. Also, Okke wants growers who do a lot of fall fertility to pay attention to nitrogen levels in the soil and be ready to make in-season nutrient applications as needed.

Planting Moves Quickly — Planting is progressing quickly near Hallock, Minnesota thanks to the warm weather this past weekend. Dan Younggren started planting last Friday. “With any luck, the beets should be in the ground by the end of Wednesday, the wheat should be close to wrapped up by Friday and I hope the beans start going in on Thursday.” Younggren says other farmers in the area are doing well with planting. North and east of Hallock got the most rain, but south and west of Hallock farmers are progressing. Younggren says there are no big challenges right now.  

Monitoring Copper, Boron and Zinc — In addition to N, P & K, spring wheat growers should also monitor their soil’s levels of zinc. Kevin Boehm, territory manager for Compass Minerals’ Wolf Trax brand of micronutrients, says 80 to 90 percent of last year’s soil samples in western North Dakota had low levels of zinc. “Even here in the Red River Valley, looking at the percentage of soil samples, anywhere from 47 to 66 percent of the samples came back deficient.” Boehm says growers should also monitor levels of boron and copper. “Last year’s Nutra-Links’ plant tissue program with United Suppliers: 90 percent of the samples they received of spring wheat were low in boron. Boron is very important for pollination and grain fill,” says Boehm. “Also, copper is a micronutrient wheat growers need to monitor. Copper deficiencies in wheat can really reduce seed set and can result in more disease pressure. Copper helps keep cell walls strong and healthy. If you can keep those cell walls strong and healthy, it helps keep disease out.” Wolf Trax dried dispersible powder Nutrients make it easy to apply the right micronutrients with dry fertilizer. DDP Nutrients coat onto every N-P-K granule in a fertilizer blend, so plants can access the micronutrients across a field early. 

Farm PLUS Tool Available — Farmers that have used the Farm Service Agency’s new FARM Plus online tool to access their data have given positive feedback. FSA Administrator Val Dolcini says the agency has had a lot of successes on the technology from in the last couple years. In addition to providing greater efficiency and customer service, Dolcini says another motivation has been the multiple Farm Bill programs that FSA administers and implements. “The 30 major software releases, signing up about two million farmers, pushing out about $5.5 billion in commodity payments, making 40,000 individual loans, doing another $5 billion on the credit side: all of those require a robust technology platform that’s working more often than not.”

Partnering to Help Others Comply — The research and education arms of the American Feed Industry Association and National Grain and Feed Association are partnering to finance a major project that will help animal feed, feed ingredient and pet food facilities cost-effectively comply with a core requirement of the Food Safety Modernization Act. The two groups are co-sponsors of a hazard evaluation of typical ingredients and processes associated with the manufacturing and distribution of animal feed and pet food being conducted by researchers at the University of Minnesota’s College of Veterinary Medicine Center for Animal Health and Food Safety.

Canola Research Underway — The Northern Canola Growers Association awarded $220,000 this year to help fund nine research projects that address disease identification and control, how to decrease production costs and ways to increase the quality of canola. The research is funded by the NCGA and the North Dakota Oilseed Council. More funding is expected this year based on research priorities.

The Week Ahead — The fields are full of activity with area growers making good progress with planting. The warm weather in the forecast will allow that pace to continue. In this edition of FarmNetNews, you'll get a perspective on crop conditions. Tune into CropWatch on Tuesday for more updates across the region. In this week's edition of FarmNetNews, you'll get a healthy dose of agriculture policy news from Washington D.C. You'll also find coverage on planting and other events by following Carah, Mike, Randy and Don on Twitter. Stories and photos are also found online. Check out RRFN's Facebook page.  

Safety Net Not AdequateHouse Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson says the safety net in the 2014 Farm Bill was not adequate. “I was not in favor of the ARC program. I thought we should have had a better PLC program. To be honest, the best thing we could have done was to keep direct payments and not go down this other road. It’s just not adequate,” says Peterson. “When prices are relatively high and go up; crop insurance works great. You can buy revenue coverage, the price is pretty reasonable and the banker is happy, but when the prices go down, all of a sudden, you are paying more money, guaranteeing a loss.” If prices stay down, Peterson thinks there’ll be calls for some kind of government response. “I don’t think there’s any realistic way we can open up the Farm Bill and do this. Frankly, a lot of us aren’t sure we could pass a new Farm Bill. We’ll have to see what happens. I think we’ll finally see rental, land prices and input prices go down next year, because that’s the only way this is going to work. I don’t think the government is going to bail people out. It won’t be as bad as the 1980s, but I think we’re going to go through some tough times.” RRFN's Washington Watch coverage is sponsored, in part, by Minnesota Farmers Union.

The Next Farm BillLooking ahead to the next Farm Bill, National Corn Growers Association executive vice president Jon Doggett thinks there will be more demand on farmers to comply with certain things in order to get crop insurance or farm program payments. “The folks who oppose SNAP funding and the folks that oppose Farm Bill spending are the same folks. That’s why they want to split it. None of the folks who support nutrition programs and ag programs are in favor of splitting it,” says Doggett. “They’re going to try again and we’re going to have to push back. You have to keep the nutrition programs tied to the commodity programs or you’ll have neither.” Doggett thinks the few problems with the ARC-County program in a few states will be fixed in the next Farm Bill.  

More Crop Insurance Attacks ExpectedNational Association of Wheat Growers President Gordon Stoner is pleased that agriculture was able to beat back attacks on the crop insurance program last year. “We don’t know when they will come again, but we do know there will be attacks on crop insurance,” says Stoner. “Wheat is grown in some of the drier areas of the country and because of that, yields are highly variable. Crop insurance is an absolute vital part of many farm plans. Without it, bankers aren’t going to advance farmers operating money. Farmers need crop insurance to also manage risk.” Stoner says NAWG is beginning to ramp up for the next Farm Bill.” Thanks to the North Dakota Wheat Commission and the North Dakota Grain Growers Association for co-sponsoring RRFN's Washington Watch broadcasts.

Suggestions for the Next Farm BillThe number two man at USDA has some suggestions on the ARC and PLC programs in the next Farm Bill. Acting Deputy Secretary Michael Scuse calls them “major suggestions.” First, Scuse would like to see ARC and PLC payments based on individual farm yields, not county or state averages. “That eliminates some of the problems we have had with states on ARC and PLC with one county getting it and another not," says Scuse. "I think it’s a more fair program. It is farm-based.” Scuse also recommends changing the dairy Margin Protection Program to reflect vastly different costs of production from region-to-region. “That would make it more attractive for our farmers in different regions.” This year, more than half of the dairy producers signed up for MPP. Finally, Scuse says he’d like to increase the 24-million acre cap on the CRP program to 30 million acres.

Addressing ARC-County PaymentsIn an interview with the Red River Farm Network, Farm Service Agency Administrator Val Dolcini said he understands farmers and ranchers are going through tough times right now. Just because some farmers didn’t get an ARC-County payment for 2014, Dolcini said that doesn’t mean they won’t get a payment for 2015. “In the case of North Dakota, I think we paid in every county, but two, for example.  We had good, robust data for the rest of the state,” says Dolcini. “I’d also remind folks, like I did when the North Dakota Corn Growers were here a few weeks ago, that this is the first year of a new Farm Bill program. We’re interested in seeing what the 2015 farm payment cycle brings, because it could make payments in Logan and Lamoure counties, where it didn’t in the first year, depending on the data that is available and the data we use.” Dolcini thinks 2017 will be an interesting year, because of the new Administration. RRFN asked Dolcini if he thought ARC-County payments would continue as the farm safety net in the next Farm Bill. “I think we’ve demonstrated in the first year of the program that it’s a good, solid safety net program. Like all federal programs, it can be tweaked, I’m sure, but that will be up to Congress down the road to decide.”

Working on an ARC County Payment Solution — North Dakota Senator John Hoeven is working on a solution on current challenges with the ARC payment system. Hoeven says this tool is needed to help farmers deal with the low-price environment. “Right now, it’s a problem, because I asked the Secretary of Agriculture to give us the flexibility we need when we don’t have sufficient NASS data for a county to get a good result in terms of determining the ARC payment. He’s come back and not provided the flexibility we need,” says Hoeven. “What I’ll need to do is work through the Ag Appropriations Committee to include a provision requiring that USDA give the FSA state offices more flexibility when the NASS data for a county doesn’t make sense so ARC payments are provided when they should be to our farmers.” If this language is included in the appropriations bill, it would not be retroactive for the 2014 and 2015 crop years.

A Fresh Look at Cottonseed — The cotton industry petitioned USDA to designate cottonseed as an oilseed and make it eligible for ARC and PLC payments. USDA's legal counsel determined Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack does not have that authority. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway disputes that, saying the next Administration may take a different approach. “We are obviously disappointed on the disagreement with Secretary Vilsack on the issue,” says Conaway. “He believes he doesn’t have the discretion to re-designate cotton seed as an oilseed. We’ll have a new Secretary next year, maybe we can have that conversation over again, but certainly for this year, the Secretary is where he’s at.” Conaway says his committee continues to assess the success of the 2014 Farm Bill. “During the middle years, when the program is actually fully functioning, that’s when you analyze it for how well it’s working,” says Conaway. “Obviously STAX didn’t work. We’ve got some ARC-County payment issues that are out of sync with common sense. We’re working in that regard. We’re always looking for ways to make programs better. That’s the beauty of doing it every five years. We have a history of shedding things that don’t work, accepting new things and tweaking things we can make better.” 

Weed Management 101The weed resistance issue is big and "becoming huge." That sentiment is shared in this week's edition of Weed Management 101. One of the 'problem weeds' is horseweed or marestail. This annual broadleaf weed is native to North America. The leaves are alternate, linear and simple with entirely or slightly toothed margins. Horseweed flowers in late July and may produce 200,000 seeds per plant. The horseweed seed can be carried several miles by wind. Horseweed thrives in no-till situations. In no-till, the weed control goal should be effective control of four-to-six inch tall horseweed prior to planting using growth regulator herbicides. In conventional or reduced till, farmers are advised to start clean by killing all emerged weeds. According to North Dakota State University Extension specialist Tom Peters, tillage can reduce horseweed prevalence by 50 percent. The Red River Farm Network is airing a special series called Weed Management 101. The program airs Mondays at 6:50 AM and can be found online. A series of interviews is also available online. Weed Management 101 on RRFN is brought to you by Bayer and Peterson Farms Seed. (Photo credit: North Dakota State University)

A United Approach Needed for 2018 Farm Bill Debate — The 2018 farm bill is already being discussed on Capitol Hill. National Milk Producers Federation senior vice president of communications Chris Galen says efforts are underway to enhance the Margin Protection Program. "Any future farm bill is going to face budget challenges and a few years ago, there was an effort to split the farm bill farm programs from the nutrition programs. Those pressures will still be with us during the next farm bill. It is not going to get any easier."

More Difficult to Pass Ag Legislation — With more and more people far removed from the farm, it becomes more difficult to pass agricultural legislation. Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says 98 percent of Americans can go to the grocery store and buy whatever they want. As a result, there is no appreciation for farming. “They’re only going to appreciate the family farmer when that supermarket shelf is bare and they can’t buy it. Then they’ll wake up. I hope that never happens," says Grassley. "The lack of the understanding of agriculture is detrimental to continuing a Farm Bill." Grassley describes crop insurance as the best part of the farm safety net in the current Farm Bill, but it is one of the most vulnerable. The Minnesota Corn Growers Association co-sponsored RRFN's Washington Watch coverage.

Renegotiation is Not an Option — While some lawmakers already want the Trans-Pacific Partnership to be changed, the chief U.S. agricultural negotiator Darci Vetter told farm broadcasters meeting in Washington that renegotiation is not an option. "This is an agreement between 12 countries that all made significant sacrifices and concessions. If one country decided to tweak this area, the others would want to tweak a different area. That can quickly unravel."

MN Soybean Update — Here's the latest Minnesota Soybean Update from the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council. Learn more about the benefit of soy foods.

Reviewing the Trans-Pacific PartnershipNorth Dakota Congressman Kevin Cramer is still reviewing the Trans-Pacific Partnership. It may take a while. “My default on an agreement that large is no. You have to work hard to convince me to vote yes on the 7,000-page piece of legislation,” says Cramer. “I met with Ambassador Froman several weeks ago. He spent lots of time with me reviewing the highlights that relate to North Dakota. Obviously, there’s a lot of good in it for agriculture. I think that’s clear, but no trade agreement is all one-sided or the other eleven countries wouldn’t sign it.” RRFN's Washington Watch coverage is sponsored, in part, by the North Dakota Farm Bureau.

Pressure to Ratify TPP — Colin Woodall, vice president of government affairs, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, says there is pressure to ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership before the end of 2016. “The pressure right now is trying to show members of Congress that every day they don’t act is money out of our pockets as producers,” says Woodall. “Because we don’t have TPP, we’re losing market access to Australia. It’s costing us about $350 million each year. That’s a talking point Congress has to listen to, especially in an election year. If we don’t have congressmen who are willing to step up and help us pass this trade deal, people are going to remember that when they go to the polls.”

160-Plus Organizations Oppose TPP — A coalition of more than 160 farm, faith and rural organizations has sent a letter to Congress, urging lawmakers to reject the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The letter said TPP imports will compete against U.S. farmers, who are already struggling with low prices. The coalition includes R-CALF, Farmers Union, Land Stewardship Project and Dakota Rural Action.

Currency Manipulation and the TPP — The National Farmers Union remains opposed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership due to currency manipulation. NFU senior vice president of programs Chandler Goule says three major currency manipulators are involved in the agreement: Japan, Vietnam and Malaysia. "Vietnam already manipulated their currency since the agreement was put together,” says Goule. “It’s also not doing anything to bring environment and labor standards up. I know a lot of the pro-trade people say this agreement does make changes, but it doesn’t make significant enough changes to level out the playing ground.”  

Heitkamp Doubts that TPP Will See Action This YearNorth Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp told the Red River Farm Network she doubts the Trans-Pacific Partnership will see action anytime this year. “(Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell has said he’s not going to take this up before the election,” says Heitkamp. “Neither presidential candidate supports TPP, so I think the likelihood of getting it passed through Congress in the lame duck, in my opinion, is improbable. If it’s President Trump, he wants an opportunity to renegotiate. If it’s President Clinton, she wants an opportunity to renegotiate. In spite of their criticism of trade, both of them will come in with Trade Promotion Authority, which is kind of a great irony.”

A Look at T-TIP — Another trade agreement being negotiated right now is the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Kent Bacus, associate director of legislative affairs, National Cattlemens Beef Association, says there’s lots of pressure for President Obama and the European Union to conclude negotiations this year. A few weeks ago, 26 Senators sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman asking him to push the EU to eliminate tariffs on all agricultural products. “There are still a lot of major differences that need to be addressed before we can support this agreement,” says Bacus. “Europeans aren’t very supportive of all the technology we use that makes our food safe and efficient and makes our industry productive.”

Dialed into Trade Discussion — Associated Milk Producers Incorporated Government Relations and Communications Director Sarah Schmidt says the dairy industry is staying dialed into the trade agreement discussion, especially the Trans-Atlantic Trade Investment Partnership. “The number one objective of Europeans in that negotiation process is this geographical indications issue," says Schmidt. "Common food names are what we need to deal with. They are very motivated to make it not possible for American dairy manufacturers to market products with GI names such as Asiago, Parmesan or even Feta cheese.” Schmidt says the change for cheese names hits AMPI close to home. One of the production plants in the Upper Midwest makes hard Italian cheeses. Schmidt says T-TIP could impact the cooperative’s ability to market cheese through exports or domestically. Washington Watch coverage is sponsored, in part, by Associated Milk Producers Incorporated.

Taking Time After meetings with congressional leaders this past week, Midwest Dairy Coalition Policy Director Steve Etka said there is a push for President Obama to get something accomplished on T-TIP before the end of the year. Etka says the dairy industry would rather negotiators take their time. “There are lots of hurdles with the Europeans. We have a negative trade balance on dairy issues with the Europeans and there are other issues we’re concerned with in this agreement,” says Etka. “I guess we’re not in the mood to rush this. We want to get it right. There are lots of things on the table. Trade agreements can take a long time. We would rather give it the time it needs to get it right.”

What Will It Take to Get 60 Votes?The GMO labeling discussion is a hot button topic in Washington D.C. right now as Senate Ag Committee Chair Pat Roberts and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow continue negotiations to find a legislative solution. House Ag Committee Chairman Mike Conaway says he hasn’t seen any written proposal from Stabenow on what she wants. Last week, Stabenow told journalists that biotechnology is safe, but consumers still have the right to know. The Red River Farm Network asked Stabenow what it would take to get the 60 votes to pass Robert’s GMO labeling solution. Listen to Stabenow's response.  

Labeling Language — Senate Ag Committee Chairman Pat Roberts has language in-hand from Senator Debbie Stabenow on what she wants in order to reach a GMO labeling solution. Russell Group President Randy Russell tells the Red River Farm Network he is unclear on that language. “I’m confident we will see direct negotiations between the chairman, ranking member and their staff," says Russell. "I am cautiously optimistic we will get an agreement. How soon? That’s a good question. Stay tuned. I can’t really answer that. Timing is difficult on this. I think the bottom line on this is people being committed to find a national, uniform labeling solution.” If an agreement is reached between Roberts and Stabenow, the bill still has to get 60 votes in the Senate. Stabenow told the Red River Farm Network this past week she is hopeful a solution will be reached before July 1. North Dakota Senator John Hoeven says the big hang-up on the GMO labeling discussion is an exemption for animal feed. RRFN's Washington Watch reports are sponsored, in part, by the National Potato Council.

Sourcing Sugar — Due to the GMO labeling debate, Grocery Manufacturers Association Senior Vice-President of Federal Affairs Michael Gruber says there are some manufacturers who are in the process of reformulating products. Sweeteners are seen as an easy thing to re-source. Gruber says the use of cane sugar in food would help manufacturers avoid GMO labeling requirements when Vermont's law goes into effect on July 1. “I think companies will find cane sugar where they can. If that means they have to buy it from foreign sources, it’s quite likely they’ll do that.” Gruber says companies will make the shift, even if sugar cane is more expensive.

Don't Get Too Concerned YetAmerican Sugarbeet Growers Association Executive Vice President Luther Markwart thinks a GMO labeling bill must be in place before the impact on sugarbeet growers is evaluated. “All of this is crazy, because we haven’t educated the consumer about the true facts and benefits of biotechnology," says Markwart. "We’ve let other anti-biotech groups define that for American agriculture.”

One of Biggest Challenges Facing Ag — Minnesota Senator Al Franken says one of the biggest challenges facing agriculture is the GMO labeling issue. “We’re trying to wrap our heads around something that makes sense. Most Americans want to see some kind of labeling,” says Franken. “There are things to balance here, a consumer’s right to know and also making sure we go with real science.” While consumers seem to be demanding to know whether or not food contains GMO ingredients, Franken doubts the labels would have much impact. “Cheerios are non-GMO. I’ve talked to the CEO of General Mills. They put non-GMO on their label. It didn’t do a damn thing in terms of their sales. They did put all whole grain and that did. I don’t think that it will have a real effect on sales."  

Grain Trade Upset with USDA Biotech Proposal — Organizations representing the grain and oilseed trade have issued joint comments on USDA’s plan to adjust the definition of biotechnology. The USDA proposal is designed to accelerate the development of new traits by reducing redundant reviews. New gene editing tools are also part of this discussion. The National Grain and Feed Association, National Oilseed Processors Association and North American Millers Association are among the groups concerned about these changes, saying trade could be impacted.

On the Front Lines of GMO Labeling — As one of the founding members of the Coalition for Safe and Affordable Food, the American Soybean Association has been on the front lines and in the trenches on the GMO labeling negotiations. ASA’s president, Richard Wilkins, says ASA will not support any compromise that allows individual states to have their own labeling laws. “The No.1 thing for us is that it must first preempt the ability for states or jurisdictions to be able to impose their own. No. 2, if this is going to be mandatory, that label needs to be a Smart label, QR Code or an 800 number,” says Wilkins. “We are not going to support anything that would stigmatize the modern farming practices we use on the farm today.”

ND Soybean Minute — Hear the latest North Dakota Soybean Minute from the North Dakota Soybean Council and the soybean checkoff. Learn more about the soybean checkoff program.

Pressure on Congress South Dakota Senator John Thune says the GMO labeling issue will become a bigger topic as July 1 approaches when Vermont’s mandatory labeling law takes effect. Thune hopes that builds pressure on Congress to act. “The Democrats don’t seem to want to take yes for an answer on this issue. Senator Roberts agreed to a mandatory bill, which is what Democrats wanted and they still didn’t pass it. I’m not sure what they want, but I know that if we don’t get this issue fixed, there will be a lot of people across the country who are going to see their grocery bills go up dramatically.” Thune chairs the Senate Commerce Committee, which marked up several appropriations bills this past week. When appropriations bills are brought to the floor, there’s always a chance that agriculture spending will be targeted. “In the past, agriculture is often times the ATM card to try to find savings in the budget,” says Thune.

A Historic Budget — NRCS Chief Jason Weller thinks President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget is historic. “Since 2002, this is the first President’s budget that does not propose cutting conservation. That equates to hundreds of millions of dollars that would now be available for producers.” The House ag spending bill does propose cuts in conservation programs. “We still have very significant resources in conservation,” says Weller. “We’re hopeful we continue to get strong support from agriculture. With the farm economy, I think there’s expanded interest in additional assistance we can provide like through our Conservation Stewardship Program where they are looking for some financial assistance to help put in place those sustainable farming systems.”

WRDA Bill Advances — The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has passed the Water Resources Development Act. The WRDA bill addresses river shipping priorities, including infrastructure projects. The committee did reject proposed lockage fees to finance public-private partnerships on the river system. A provision that provided regulatory relief for on-farm fuel storage was also dropped from the bill. Two years ago, the WRDA bill temporarily exempted farms with between 2,500 and 6,000 gallons of above-ground oil storage capacity from EPA spill regulations.

Corn Matters — Hear the Minnesota Corn Growers Association's Corn Matters program. That kernel of corn is used for a lot of different products. Learn more in this update.

The Hurdle For WOTUS — The American Farm Bureau Federation believes there is a solution to the Waters of the U.S. Rule. AFBF executive director for public policy Dale Moore says the solution is legislation to make EPA re-do WOTUS. The majority of the House and Senate support this concept. "The challenge is to get enough Senators to get over the 60-vote hurdle that we need and if the House and Senate agree to that, we have to get the President to sign that resolution." So far, President Obama has vetoed any legislation or resolutions seeking a new approach to the WOTUS rule.

No Quick Solution — According to South Dakota Senator Mike Rounds, the Waters of the U.S. rule is one of the biggest challenges for agriculture. Rounds said Congress has no control over the rule-making process. “The rules are being made by bureaucrats. They put them in place and it takes an act of Congress to stop a single rule,” says Rounds. “We’ve tried to stop WOTUS. Unfortunately, after we passed the Congressional Resolution of Disapproval, the President vetoed it. The rule goes into effect. Thankfully, the courts have agreed with the position of Congress, and so far, they’ve put a stay on those rules, but we are still going to have the Supreme Court make the final determination. That could take a while.” 

Heated Hearing — A House ag subcommittee hearing on the factors impacting the cost of production focused mostly on the cost of government regulations. Topics ranged from EPA’s oversight of pesticides to new food safety regulations and GMO labeling. CropLife America president Jay Vroom linked EPA to the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s study that said glyphosate may be a carcinogen. “We believe there’s an agenda in the Office of Research and Development at EPA to try and take this important tool away from farmers.” National Council of Farmer Cooperatives President and CEO Chuck Conner said some costs are driven by markets and Mother Nature, but some are driven by public policy. “These regulations deal with the environment, immigration, labor and food safety. They create an uncertainty that holds back investment and growth across agriculture,” says Conner. “Farmers, ranchers and cooperatives face regulation imposed upon them by others beyond government. We commonly refer to this as regulation beyond retail. Many food companies and retailers are asking much more of our farmers and coops in terms of sustainability, animal welfare and other issues.”

EPA Responds to Anti-Ag Campaign — The EPA has taken considerable criticism for an anti-agriculture campaign in the state of Washington. Ron Carleton, who is the agricultural counselor to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, told farm broadcasters that a portion of an EPA grant to the Indian Fisheries Commission was sub-awarded to another group. That group led a campaign claiming agriculture impaired Washington’s waterways. Carleton said McCarthy was "distressed by the content of that media campaign because that is absolutely not something that we support."

FOIA Exemption Possible for Research and Promotion Boards — The agriculture appropriations measure that is awaiting action in the U.S. House includes language that would exempt checkoff boards from the Freedom of Information Act. Fourteen commodity organizations sent a letter to agriculture subcommittee leadership seeking the change. The list of groups include the American Soybean Association, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Milk Producers Federation and the National Potato Council.

Bridging the GapIn farm country, people understand the importance of trade, biotechnology and food security. Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar says agriculture needs to tell that story. “It really bothers me sometimes the kind of rhetoric I hear from people who don’t have as much farming in their state. I think they think food just magically ends up on the plate. It is a lot of hard work,” says Klobuchar. “Minnesota is fifth in the country for agriculture and second per capita for Fortune 500 companies, so we have a mix of economy. That puts me in a good position to explain why agriculture is so important.” Klobuchar says she likes to bridge the gap between rural and urban constituencies, particularly with lawmakers who don’t have a connection to agriculture.

Presidential Election Will Impact Congress — This presidential campaign is one for the history books. It is hard to predict what will happen in November, but World Perspectives senior analyst Dave Juday believes if anybody can unite Republicans, it is Hillary Clinton. The presidential election will influence House and Senate races. Over the past six years, the Democrats have lost 77 House seats. Juday says those were mostly rural House districts, which impacts farm policy. "We don't have enough bonafide farm district Democratic members in the House to fill out the seats on the ag committee." As an example, Juday cited the new Democratic committee members since the 2010 election. "Here's those committee members, Chellie Pingree of Maine, who is the former CEO of Common Cause and a locavore advocate; Marcia Fudge of Ohio who represents downtown Cleveland; Jim McGovern (of Massachusetts) who doesn't have a farm in his district." 

Wheat and Corn Crop Forecast Raised — The International Grains Council raised its forecast for this year’s global wheat and corn crops, with total supply reaching a record-high. World wheat production is up four million tons from last month, but two percent below last year. Global corn production is five million tons above last month and two percent above last year. With soybean output projected to be broadly unchanged this year, and consumption increases, world ending stocks could decline by 16 percent to the smallest in three years. Last year’s soybean crop estimate is cut five million tons, reflecting poor weather in South America, notably Argentina. The IGC sees a much tighter scenario for rapeseed and canola in the coming marketing year. Supplies are projected to drop 20 percent.

China Stocks — The International Grains Council says grain ending stocks among the world’s major exporters are expected to increase to a seven-year high next year, while China’s stocks could exceed 200 million tons for the first time in 17 years. AgResource Company chief economist Bill Tierney says there’s some question about China’s corn stocks. "Right now, all we've seen is the (USDA) attache report, which is not official numbers. The attache report is actually projecting corn stocks to decline next year, but most people in the trade think they could increase by 40-to-50 million tons." Some private estimates put China’s corn stocks at 250 to 300 million tons. Last year, China was the world’s largest grain importer. Tierney says whether or not they become an exporter depends on the purchase price for the corn in reserve.

The Sugarbeet Report — The weekly Sugarbeet Report made its annual debut this past week with an update on planting progress. Thanks to SESVANDERHAVE and Dow AgroSciences for their sponsorship.

Planting Wheat and Sugarbeets — Merrfield, North Dakota farmer Bob Drees and his family took advantage of the warm temperatures to plant spring wheat and sugarbeets this weekend. Drees says he wasn’t in a rush to get out to plant, because it’s still earlier than normal. The biggest challenge has been working fields to make sure all the seed gets in contact with moisture, but the rains helped. “I was even surprised last week that we had more moisture than I anticipated we were going to have in most of the fields. We do have drier areas, too,” says Drees. “We farm from southwest of Grand Forks to southeast of Reynolds. In 25 miles, it varies how dry the various pieces of ground are based on the amount of snow we got this winter and rain we got last year, too.”  There are fields west of Merrifield that have emerged spring wheat. Those fields were planted before the first rain.  

Welcome MoistureAt Hillsboro, North Dakota, Mike Kozojed says the recent rain was welcome. "It was a nice slow rain so it soaked in really well," said Kozojed, who is with Ihry Insurance, "The crops in the ground will benefit from the moisture. There is some small grains in that are coming a long pretty well. Sugarbeets are started and a small amount of corn is in the ground." RRFN's Crop Watch is sponsored, in part, by Ihry Insurance Agency.

Seed Switch — NorthStar Genetics sales rep Scott Younggren says the recent rain has been a factor for farmers considering a change in planting plans. "People that had not locked in their seed needs, whether it was due to market prices or getting in tune with their banker, the rain delay changed things." Younggren said soybeans, canola and wheat are all part of the discussion in northern North Dakota, and northwestern Minnesota.

A Busy Week Expected for Spring FieldworkHalstad Farmers Elevator general manager Robin Stene says growers seem to be sticking to their original planting plan. "They wanted to get back to a more normal rotation." The late-April weather was cool, which slowed the planting pace. Stene says that changes with the calendar turning to the month of May. "We're not late by any stretch of the imagination, we just needed it to warm up." Thanks to the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council for co-sponsoring RRFN's weekly Crop Watch broadcast.

Canola Minute — Here's the latest Canola Minute from the Northern Canola Growers Association. Listen to this report for more information on the spring planting season.

Good Soil ConditionsCrop consultant Sarah Lovas is happy to see the warmer soil temps. "Before the rain, we actually had some pretty nice seed beds in the Hillsboro area. We were maybe drier-than-average before the rain, but we had better soil moisture in our soils this year than what we had in the spring of 2015." Lovas leads Lovas Consulting at Hillsboro says the early-planted crop is germinating and doing well. RRFN's Crop Watch broadcast airs each Tuesday and is sponsored, in part, by AgCountry Farm Credit Services.

Back in the FieldAfter the recent rains, many growers have been able to get into the fields sooner-than-expected. Helena sales representative Tim Stanislawski says conditions vary from area-to-area, but field activity is underway across much of eastern North Dakota. Retailers are also busy applying fertilizer. "I see a lot of floaters going in the field. There are a lot of guys putting on fertilizer because the conditions are right." In a year like this, Stanislawski says farmers will need every bushel. That means doing things right from the very beginning of the season. Pre-emergence weed control is advised. "If we can start off and take care of the weeds right away, it is a great option."

Good ProgressThis past week, West Central Ag Services in Mahnomen, Minnesota was the final Crop Watch stop. WCAS grain merchandiser Randy Zimmerman says the majority of the spring wheat is planted in the region. "We probably have the best soil conditions we've had in a while around here. A lot of fertilizer has been put on and a few guys have been battling in corn. A lot of beets are pretty much in the ground. The progress is good." West Central Ag Services sponsors, in part, RRFN's Crop Watch program.

Dry Bean Scene — The Dry Bean Scene is on the air, with information about dry bean demand. This broadcast airs each Friday at 12:37 PM. 

Optimism Seen at FFA ConventionJuleah Tolosky is the new Minnesota FFA executive secretary, succeeding Jim Ertl earlier this year. The farm economy is facing some challenges, but Tolosky says that has not impacted the interest in agricultural careers. "Students want to believe in something positve and adults want to believe there is a future and FFA is really the intersection of both of those things."

New FFA Officer Team in Place — The 87th Minnesota State FFA Convention wrapped up with the election of a new officer team. Spencer Wolter from the Windom FFA chapter is the new president. The vice president is Katie Rogers from Worthington. Wendy Bauman from Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg is the secretary. The treasurer is Clay Newton from the Lakeview FFA chapter. Rebekka Paskewitz from the Staples-Motley FFA chapter will serve as state reporter, and the sentinel is Joe Ramstad from Forest Lake.

Together WeThat was the theme of the Minnesota FFA Convention. State FFA Secretary Mariah Daninger said FFA goes far beyond the blue jacket and this theme tells that story. "As it was stated at the end of every session, alone we can accomplish great things, but united, we can accomplish the extraordinory. We realize the impact that working together can have." RRFN's coverage of the Minnesota FFA Convention is sponsored, in part, by West Central Ag Services. 

Enjoying the Impact of the FFAP.J. Aarsvold, who wrapped up his tenure as president of the Minnesota FFA, is pleased with see record attendance at the state FFA convention. "I think people are realizing the benefit of FFA and agriculture education; whether it be in classrooms with increased graduation rates and developing leadership and career success skills, plus, it is a lot of fun."

FFA Honors — FFA members from around the state of Minnesota were honored at state FFA convention. The Star Farmer is Madison Whitcomb of the Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City FFA Chapter. The Star in Agribusiness is Madeline Weninger from Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted FFA. The Star in Agri-Science is Payton Vold from Red Rock Central, and the Star in Production Placement is Juliana Pederson from the Westbrook-Walnut Grove FFA Chapter. Among the 2016 recipients of the Honorary Minnesota FFA Degree were University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler, University of Minnesota-Crookston President Fred Wood, Nick Milbrandt from Morris, and Harmon Wilts from Kerkhoven. Charles Erickson from Battle Lake was among the six inductees into the Minnesota FFA Hall of Fame. The FFA Service Award was presented to William Nelson, President of the CHS Foundation.

An Expanded Ag Career ShowThere was an expanded Ag Career Show during the Minnesota FFA Convention. This career show was full of activity with young people looking at the numerous opportunities in agriculture. "In the long run, we need to feed 9 billion people by 2050 and we need all of the people here and more," said Keith Olander. Olander leads AgCentric, which is the MNSCU Agriculture Center for Excellence. RRFN's coverage of the Minnesota FFA Convention is sponsored, in part, by AgCountry Farm Credit Services.

Demand Exceeds Supply — Morgan Krause has wrapped up her tenure as the Minnesota FFA vice president. Krause is proud to see record membership in the Minnesota FFA this past year.  Krause is a student at the University of Minnesota studying agricultural education. For ag teachers, the demand exceeds supply. "In my high school experience, I had three different agricultural teachers in four years. I had first hand experience. I see the demand and I hope to be one of those meeting that demand."  

Interest Rates Remain Unchanged — The Federal Reserve has left short-term interest rates unchanged and signaled plans to move cautiously. Fed officials cite a mixed economic backdrop and lingering concerns about low inflation and global economic developments.

Farm Loan Demand — The Federal Reserve’s Agricultural Finance Databook shows farm income remain suppressed in the first quarter of this year, keeping farm lending activity high. Although non-real estate farm loan volumes declined modestly from a year ago, the number of loans originated increased slightly and the volume of loans remained near record highs. Large loans used to finance operating expenses remained the priority driver of demand for non-real estate loans. Returns at agricultural banks generally remained strong, but delinquency rates on farm loans edged higher.

Input Costs Trend Downward — According to Creighton University’s Rural Mainstreet Index for April, and the monthly survey of bank CEOs in a 10-state Midwest region, several things are trending downward, including cash rents, equipment sales and farmland prices. The average cash rent is estimated at $211 per acre in the Midwest.

The Farm Economy Outlook — Weather and the outlook for next year’s farm economy go hand-in-hand, according to American Farm Bureau Federation Chief Economist Bob Young. “We had really good farm economy in 2012, in large part, because we ended up with a drought. We had $8.50 corn there for a while. Had we not had that drought and great prices, the farm economy would have had a downturn one year sooner,” says Young. “At this stage of the game, we’re chewing through 13 to 14 billion bushels of corn and about 3.5 billion bushels of beans. We’re using a lot. If we had any kind of a yield hit, then you could talk about these prices moving and move pretty quickly. Without that yield hit, I’m not sure what makes prices move at this stage in the game.” Young says if the Trans-Pacific Partnership is passed in 2016, the increase in meat exports could help market conditions. Even though commodity prices are low, Young thinks there will be good price pops in the markets as we go throughout the growing season.  

MN Farm Bureau Minute — Here's the latest from the Minnesota Farm Bureau. In this report, MFBF reviews the appropriations process in St. Paul.

Omnibus Ag Bill Passes the House — The Minnesota House has passed the omnibus agriculture bill. The legislation takes $9.8 million in existing avian influenza funding to respond to other agricultural emergencies. "It gives a little more flexibility to the Board of Animal Health to use those dollars to focus on avian influenza, but also use those monies to address other emerging diseases," said Representative Rod Hamilton, who chairs the House ag finance committee. There was debate over wolf control. State Representative Phyllis Kahn offered an amendment to promote non-lethal measures to control wolves. "Guard animals have been shown to be highly effective, most often, donkeys and guard dogs." Kahn said other non-lethal preventative measures include fencing, strobe lights and radio-activiated guard boxes. After an active debate, this amendment was eventually defeated. Several omnibus bills were rolled into one piece of legislation including agriculture, environment, natural resources and job growth. The House bill now goes to the Senate for further review.

Buffer Clarification Bill Signed — Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton has signed the buffer clarification bill. The language includes buffer requirements on public waters and drainage ditches clarification and modification.

Update: Des Moines Water Works Case — The nutrient runoff lawsuit filed by Des Moines Water Works may not go to trial this summer as scheduled, according to an order handed down by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa in Sioux City. The federal lawsuit filed against drainage districts in three counties was scheduled to go to trial starting August 8. The lawsuit also names county supervisors. The judge has given the plaintiffs until May 5 to file a response to a motion for summary judgement.

Beef Dispute — R-CALF USA has filed a lawsuit in Montana federal court, challenging USDA’s oversight of the beef checkoff program. R-CALF only wants U.S. beef promoted through the checkoff program. The lawsuit claims R-CALF members are forced to subsidize policies that they do not support.

GAO Investigation Sought — In response to R-CALF USA’s January request, the Senate Judiciary Committee has requested the Comptroller General of the U.S. to use his agency, the Government Accountability Office, to begin an investigation into the 2015 cattle price collapse. In a letter signed by Committee leaders, the GAO has been asked to investigate the cause of the sudden 15 percent drop in fed cattle prices that occurred during the latter half of last year.

Weak Cattle Prices — US Commodities President Don Roose blames the large beef supply for the three-week decline in the cattle markets. "The last three weeks we've had production nine percent over a year ago and the week before that it was four percent over a year ago; it is literally just too big of a supply. Roose is seeing a structural change in the cattle markets. "Hedgers are moving cattle forward so I would argue the weights are coming down to take advantage of the basis."

MN Beef Update — Hear from the Minnesota Beef Council and the Minnesota State Cattlemen's Association in their weekly MN Beef Update. Learn more about the Minnesota Beef Backer award program.

PETA Lawsuit Dismissed — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit that pitted Whole Foods Market against the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The animal rights activist group claimed the supermarket chain misled consumers by saying the meat it sells is raised more humanely. Judge Nathanael Cousins said PETA failed to prove any misrepresentation by Whole Foods.

Organic Nuggets — Pilgrim’s Pride plans to go into organic chicken production. Pilgrim’s Pride is the second-largest U.S. chicken processor. The third-largest, Perdue Foods, has already established its presence in the organic chicken market through its 2011 purchase of Coleman Natural Foods. Organic chicken currently represents two percent of all U.S. chicken production, but it’s growing around 31 percent annually.

Proposals Sought for Honey Bee Industry — The North Dakota Department of Agriculture is seeking grant proposals to support the honey bee industry. Research priorities include colony collapse disorder, varroa mite control and bee health. Promotion and outreach projects are also being sought. Grant applications will be accepted until June 1.

ND Wheat Link — Hear the North Dakota Wheat Commission's Wheat Link. Learn more about marke development.

Mercy Wheat — Seventy-years ago, Climax, Minnesota became the “wheat capital of the world.”  U.S. Agriculture Secretary Clinton Anderson and United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration director-general Fiorello LaGuardia originated a nationwide broadcast in Climax asking farmers not to hold their wheat so that millions of starving people in Europe and Asia could live. Historian and past president of the National Association of Wheat Growers, Don Loeslie,  explains why this campaign began in this area. "First of all, there was an awful lot of sympathy for those in the war and, we, in the Red River Valley, were the only part of the country that stored grain on the farm." The event attracted 5,000 people, and a truck caravan that rolled through Climax with “mercy wheat” bound for overseas shipment. Two hundred trucks dumped 25,000 bushels of wheat at the Farmers Union GTA elevator in one day, in the midst of planting season. The mercy wheat campaign saved an estimated 15-million people from starvation.

Identifying Nitrogen Deficiency — Nitrogen deficiencies can readily be identified as the symptoms are worst on the oldest leaves and start at the tip of the leaves and progress from the base as the deficiency gets worse. University of Minnesota Extension small grains specialist Jochum Wiersma says there are several causes of nitrogen deficiency, and all have the same common denominator: excess precipitation. Excessive rainfall causes denitrification, and an inability of the plants to take up available nitrogen. Wiersma says leaching is a potential problem in coarser textured soils. Early season tan spot infection can also cause the young wheat and barley crop to turn a bright yellow. Wiersma says the first aphids in small grains have already been reported. 

Aphids on South Dakota Winter Wheat — The South Dakota State University Plant Diagnostic Clinic has received a sample of winter wheat with Barley yellow dwarf virus and infested with aphids. In addition, reports of large populations of aphids in winter wheat fields came in last week. Extension field crop entomologist Adam Varenhorst says there are three species of aphids capable of vectoring Barley yellow dwarf virus to wheat in South Dakota. Although there were no reports of aphids in winter wheat last fall, it appears that the populations are arriving this spring. When scouting a field, Varenhorst recommends starting at one side of the field and walking in a W or zig-zag pattern and randomly choose 20 plants throughout the field to examine. The aphids are commonly found on the stems and undersides of leaves. 

Founding Farmers Expands A short walk from Capitol Hill is Founding Farmers, a North Dakota farmer-owned restaurant known for using local, family farm products.
As you might have guessed, some of those products are from North Dakota. “The top one is the spring wheat flour coming out of the state mill. We make our bread, pizza dough and some other products from that. We’ve had beef, honey, potatoes and other things like that.” That’s according to president of the North Dakota Farmers Union, Mark Watne. North Dakota Farmers Union members own Founding Farmers. Watne says Founding Farmers sees about 12,000 to 13,000 people each week. Managing partner Mary Carter, says the original location continues to grow in sales. "We were doing probably $7.8 million when we first opened. Now we do close to $17 million. The volume has grown. We have four restaurants right now and three new restaurants on the horizon.” Watne says the farmer owners are pleased with the growth and the fact that they can connect with consumers. Customers like Erick Siebert don’t necessarily know farmers own the restaurant. They just really like the food. “The food is delicious. I ordered the exact same thing on my second trip: chicken and waffles with a white gravy sauce, orange juice and a coffee.”

RRFN On-air, Online and On Your Smartphone — The Red River Farm Network serves its audience on-air, online and on your smartphone. If you want farm news headlines, agronomic information, weather, market analysis and RRFN's daily broadcasts, there are several ways to get it throughout the day. Listen to any of our 19 radio partners. "Like" the RRFN Facebook page. Check out the news headlines, our daily programs, the calendar of events and more at www.rrfn.com. Or download the free RRFN smartphone app. The app is available for both iPhone and Android. Your way. When you want it. The Red River Farm Network is Reporting Agriculture's Business.

Alerus Spotlight on Agriculture — For a positive update on agriculture, listen to the Alerus Spotlight on Agriculture.

Comment Period Extended — The EPA has extended the comment period for dicamba-tolerant soybeans until May 31. That means growers can plant Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans, but are not allowed to use a dicamba herbicide on the crop during the 2016 growing season. After the public comment period ends, the EPA is expected to make a decision on the trait by late summer or early fall.

Dow Income Drops — Dow Chemical Company’s profit fell 83 percent in the first quarter as the company works to complete its merger with DuPont Company. Dow AgroSciences sales fell 16 percent in the first quarter.

DuPont Income Moves Higher — DuPont reports first quarter net income of $1.2 billion, up from $1 billion last year. DuPont Chair and CEO Ed Breen credits the higher corn area for the strong start to the year for DuPont’s ag business. Pioneeer’s first quarter sales fell four percent from the same period last year. Earnings were down three percent. Breen tells market analysts that the merger with Dow Chemical is progressing through a host of regulatory reviews, including the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which should clear the merger plan by the end of June.

Dow-DuPont Merger Making Progress — During Dow Chemical Company’s first quarter conference call, Dow President and Chief Operating Officer Jim Fitterling told investors Dow continues to make strides toward the close of Dow-DuPont and the pursuit of the intended separation into three independent, publicly-traded companies. Fitterling said the S-4 registration statement is expected to be made effective in the second quarter, after which both Dow and DuPont will set the date for their respective special meetings for shareholders to vote on the merger.

1Q Income Declines for Bunge — Bunge Limited is reporting lower first quarter net income. Total segment earnings declined 14 percent. Oilseed segment earnings fell 43 percent, and sugar and bioenergy lost $14 million in the first quarter. Bunge CEO Soren Schroder says smaller harvests in South America will be a challenge in the second quarter. 

CNH Reports Net Loss — CNH Industrial reports a net loss of $513 million in the first quarter, compared to a net profit of $22 million a year ago. Revenues were down almost ten percent. Sales in CNH’s agricultural equipment segment were down 14 percent in the first quarter as a result of unfavorable industry volume and product mix in the row crop sector in North America and in Brazil. Ag equipment had a $90 million profit in the first quarter, down 56 percent from the same period last year.

Potash Corp Earnings Take a Hit — Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan reports a nearly 80 percent decline in first quarter earnings from last year and lowered its profit outlook for this year. Weaker prices, particularly for potash and nitrogen, hurt Potash Corp’s performance, while a lack of new contracts in China dampened potash demand. The company said its average potash price in the first quarter was $178 a ton, down from $284 last year. Potash sales volume fell 22 percent.

Chapter 15 Granted to Abengoa — A U.S. bankruptcy court has approved Abengoa’s motion to file Chapter 15 bankruptcy. Chapter 15 allows U.S. courts to recognize bankruptcy filings in foreign countries. In this case, U.S. creditors must abide by an agreement that was made in Spain. Abengoa, which has ethanol plants in Nebraska, Kansas, Illinois and New Mexico, is dealing with more than $16 billion in debt.

An Investment in Research — Sumitomo Chemical has announced it will strengthen research and development capabilities in North America for its health and crop sciences business through expanding related facilities. Two of Sumitomo’s companies, Valent U.S.A. Corporation and Valent BioSciences Corporation, will be expanding their respective research and development facilities.

New Agronomic Breakthrough — Monsanto Company and Harvard University scientists have claimed a breakthrough in a years-long battle against pests that can resist biotech crops designed to kill them. A new technology allowing for rapid changes to bug-killing proteins could provide a new way to tweak biotech crops to boost resistance to pests.

AURI — In the weekly update from the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute. Learn more about a unique bio-based opportunity.

PowerBlend Partnership — Nachurs-Alpine Solutions and Pathway Biologic, LLC have announced an extension to their exclusive marketing agreement specific to PowerBlend. The two companies will continue to join forces through 2020 providing retailers’ advancement in fertility efficiency and nutrient stewardship with NACHURS Rhyzo-Link fertilizer.

Vote for America's Farm Mom of the Year — You have until Wednesday to vote for America’s Favorite Farm Mom of the Year. Katie Heger of Underwood, North Dakota and Karen Kasper of Owatonna are two of the five regional winners. Voting can take place daily at americasfarmers.com. The winner receives a $5,000 award.

Verdesian Adds to Management Team — Marc Treurniet has been named the vice president of business development for Verdesian Life Sciences. Treurniet has previous experience with Syngenta and DuPont.

Service to Agriculture — Two USDA officials are finalists for the Service to America Medal, which recognizes federal employees for extraordinary work. Burke Healey, who is the head of USDA’s disease surveillance and response team, is be recognized for his work during last year’s avian influenza outbreak. The other finalist is Lilia McFarland, who coordinates USDA’s new and beginning farmer and rancher program. McFarland is being honored for her efforts to develop the next generation of farmers.

Dayton Announcements — Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton has announced a variety of appointments. Dr. Graham Brayshaw, Dr. Ronald Swiggum and Jody Grote have been appointed to the Board of Animal Health. Brayshaw is the director of animal services for the Animal Humane Society. Swiggum is a large animal veterinarian at St. Charles and Grote works for a non-profit organization in Richfield. Dayton has also appointed Tom Voibi of Cottage Grove to the Environmental Quality Board. Moibi is the director of health, safety and the environment at Honeywell.

Dunn to Lead SDSU — Barry Dunn, dean of the College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences and director of Extension, has been named as the new president of South Dakota State University. Dunn's first official day will be on May 23. Dunn succeeds David Chicoine, who has served as SDSU’s president since 2007.

Gulya to Recieve International Award — Every four years, the International Sunflower Association hands out the Pustvoit Award at the International Sunflower Conference. This is the highest honor given to people who dedicate their lives to working with sunflower. Dr. Thomas Gulya will receive the award. Gulya retired in 2014 from the USDA-Agricultural Research Service following more than 35 years as plant pathologist with the Fargo-based ARS Sunflower Research Unit.

NMPF Announces Staff Reorganization — The National Milk Producers Federation has appointed Emily Meredith as the organization’s chief of staff. Meredith has been working as the vice president of animal care. In addition, NMPF has hired Emily Yeiser Stepp to manage the Farmers Assuring Responsible Management animal care program and Beverly Hampton as the FARM coordinator. Yeiser Stepp has been serving as a dairy initiatives manager for the Center for Dairy Excellence in Pennsylvania. Hampton has been providing technical assistance to the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association.

Carlson to Lead FLAG — The Board of Directors of the Farmers’ Legal Action Group, Inc. has announced the appointment of Scott Carlson as its new executive director. Carlson has extensive experience in state and federal farm policy, having worked for Sarah Vogel when she served as the North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner, and for U.S. Senator Kent Conrad.

SD Corn Hires Sustainability Director — Jim Ristau is the new director of sustainability for the South Dakota Corn Growers Association. In this newly-created position, Ristau will work with farmers on conservation programs, perform public outreach and conduct research trials. Since 2004, Ristau has been a farm bill biologist for Pheasant's Forever. Through a unique partnership, Ristau will be stationed at the NRCS offices in Chamberlain and Huron.

Gilbert Reelected to Sunflower Board — Syngenta representative Bill Gilbert has been reelected to a second three-year term on the National Sunflower Association Board of Directors. Gilbert has more than 30 years of experience in the sunflower industry.

Wheat Commission Welcomes Two New Board Members — Two wheat producers have been elected to serve four-year terms on the North Dakota Wheat Commission board. Jim Bahm, from New Salem, was elected to his second term and Philip Vork, from York, was elected to his first term on the board. Vork replaces Francis Leiphon, who has served on the board for three 4-year terms, the allowable limit. The terms officially begin on July 1.

Three-Term U.S. Senator Passes — Former U.S. Senator Conrad Burns has passed away at the age of 81. Burns founded the Northern Ag Network in Billings, Montana in 1975. Burns was inducted into the National Association of Farm Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 2011.

Last Week's Trivia — Prince's song 'Purple Rain' hit Number 2 on the music charts in 1984. 'Purple Rain' was also the name of a movie starring the late singer. Jeanine Halvorson of Agweek tops RRFN's trivia challenge for this week. Mike Brinda of Columbia Grain, Scott Roemhildt of Minnesota DNR, Harvey farmer Bill Ongstad and Dan Filipi of American Federal Bank earn runner-up honors. The 'first 20' also includes Bruce Miller of Minnesota Farmers Union, Dean Nelson of Kelley Bean Company, Teresa Determan Schwartz of Highwater Ethanol, Mandy Kvale of Farm Credit Services of Mandan, Chad Priewe of Bremer Wealth Management, Rene Scheurer of Betaseed, Angie Skochdopole of Adfarm, Mark Mettler of PreferredOne, Larry Johnson of LLJ Consulting & Business Development, Brad Hertel of Meridan Seeds, Ron Claussen of Ag Media Research, Jodi Johnson of AgCountry Farm Credit Services, Minnesota Soybean Growers Association vice president Theresia Gillie, Dianne Bettin of LB Pork and Twyla Wulf of Clear Springs Cattle Company.

This Week's Trivia — Many Americans celebrate everything Irish on St. Patrick's Day. This Thursday, the Mexican culture is celebrated. What holiday is being celebrated May 5? E-mail your answer to don@rrfn.com. Please include your name and business.