Red River Farm Network News

TPA Passes Key CommitteesThe House Ways and Means Committee has approved the Trade Promotion Authority bill on a vote of 25 to 13, with only two Democrats supporting the divisive bill. That divisiveness was evident in opening comments from Chairman Paul Ryan and Ranking Member Sander Levin. "What we have here is a Republican majority Congress working a Democratic President working in a united front to put good trade agreements together," said Ryan, "TPA puts Congress in the driver's seat." Levin disagrees, saying "what it does is put us in the back seat." The House action follows the Senate Finance Committee’s approval on Wednesday and sets up floor votes in each chamber sometime next month. TPA and other trade issues will get attention in the week ahead as the Red River Farm Network reports from Washington, DC. RRFN's Washington Watch coverage is sponsored, in part, by the National Potato Council.

Thune: Senate Process Opened Up and Making ProgressThe 114th Congress has passed the 100 day mark. From the Keystone Pipeline bill to passing a budget, South Dakota Senator John Thune thinks the Senate is getting bills passed because they’ve opened the process up. “We’ve had over 100 roll call votes this year on amendments. Last year, I think there were 15 in the entire year. I think opening the Senate up, allowing people to offer amendments, getting votes on amendments and debate is the way it’s supposed to work around here. I think that’s one of the reasons we’re actually starting to see some progress.” The Red River Farm Network is on Capitol Hill this upcoming week. RRFN's Washington Watch coverage is sponsored, in part, by Growth Energy.

Fuel Choice and Deregulation Act IntroducedThe National Corn Growers Association is applauding the sponsors of the Fuel Choice and Deregulation Act, which include Minnesota Congressman Collin Peterson. The House bill, which mirrors a bill introduced in the Senate last month, would increased the availability of E15 in the marketplace. The Red River Farm Network is reporting from Capitol Hill in the week ahead. This coverage is sponsored, in part, by the Minnesota Corn Growers Association.

Administration Testifies on Cuban Trade — The Senate Agriculture Committee heard plenty of discussion about the opportunities and challenges for agriculture trade with Cuba at a hearing Tuesday. USDA Undersecretary Michael Scuse cited a study that says US ag exports to Cuba could jump from $300 million today, to $1 billion once full diplomatic relations are reestablished. John Smith, with the Office of Foreign Assets Control, said recent rule changes implemented by President Barack Obama, will benefit US exporters. One big change is the modification of the term 'cash in advance.' "Previously, OFEC determined the term to mean the US exporter had to receive payment from the Cuban importer prior to the goods leaving American shores, an interpretation that US exporters said made the products less competitive."

Senators Weigh In on US-Cuba Trade — North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp told administration officials from USDA, and the Departments of Commerce and Treasury, about the need for Cuba to meet the US halfway. In particular, Heitkamp said Administration officials hope to end the restrictions on US sales to Cuba going through a single government agency, Alimport. "Hope is not a strategy," emphasized Heitkamp. Heitkamp said she supports lifting the embargo on Cuba but that it may be too big a step for this Congress. Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar would like to end the embargo in this session of Congress. "I'm carrying the bill to lift the embargo." North Dakota Senator John Hoeven wants to put more pressure on Cuba. "We want to expand ag trade," said Hoeven, "But, at the same time, we want to put more pressure on the Cuban government to change its policies on human rights.” Hoeven also said the US needs to make sure US exporters are paid for their products and that exports actually go to the Cuban people.

MN Farmer Testifies in US-Cuba Trade Hearing St. Charles, Minnesota farmer Ralph Kaehler, who exported the first livestock to Cuba since the enactment of the trade embargo, testified in the Senate hearing on agriculture trade with the island nation. "Cuba can take advantage of our US rail container service sizing option, which brings significant benefit to smaller, privately-owned businesses, like ours, or edible bean producers in the Midwest."

Deadline Approaches to Certify Conservation Compliance — Crop producers have until June 1 to certify conservation compliance and be eligible for crop insurance premium subsidies. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says this deadline will not be extended. "This is a hard and fast deadline because if we extend beyond that we are in a situation where it may impact adversely the issuance of crop insurance." Vilsack says the June 1 deadline is particularly important for specialty crop producers who now must file certification forms to remain eligible for crop insurance premium subsidies.

Canola Minute — Here's the latest Canola Minute from the Northern Canola Growers Association. Important crop insurance information is featured in today's report.

Moisture is WelcomeIn the Portland, North Dakota area, farmer Greg Thykeson has his wheat seeded and even had gotten a good start on the corn ahead of the rain April 12. Thykeson says the moisture was very welcome. "It shows that it can rain again," said Thykeson, "Now, we'll be able to able to put the seed in moisture; we had spots where we were putting the corn into dry dirt." RRFN's Crop Watch is sponsored, in part, by West Central Ag Services.

Timely Rains Will be ImportantThompson Farmers Elevator agronomist Brandon Lage says farmers made good planting progress ahead of the recent rain. "Guys were happy to see it and happy to slow things down a bit, too," said Lage, "For what's in the ground, this will help it get off to a good start." Timely rains will still be needed during the spring season. RRFN's Crop Watch is sponsored, in part, by AgCountry Farm Credit Services.  

Think About ROI — To cut costs, some growers have considered a lower plant population. In reality, there could be more plant loss with cold soils this spring. "Growers need to be thinking about return-on-investment and setting themselves up for the best yield potential possible," said Dekalb Asgrow technical agronomist Jerad Liedberg, "Typically, when we get in early like this we have pretty good results; I don't know if growers would want to be cutting back on those basic necessities."

Excellent Planting Conditions — Warren, Minnesota farmer Scott Field made good planting progress over the past couple of weeks. "Virtually, all of our wheat is in the ground," said Field, "One-hundred percent of the sugarbeets are in and about ten percent of the corn is in; this is by far the best planting conditions we've had in a number of years." 

Different Year, Much Better Planting ConditionsRenyolds, North Dakota farmer Luke Kuster was able to get into the field about a month earlier than last year. “Last spring was one of the hardest springs that I can remember. It stayed so wet for so long. Once we did get it, it wasn’t ideal conditions. The fall made up for it. We had a beautiful fall last year."

The Waiting Game — According to Columbia Grain agronomy manager Jim Morken, it has been a good strategy to wait on the sugarbeet and corn planting. “The ground conditions for planting were not good, it’s powder on top and hard to make a nice seed bed," said Morken, "I think the guys who waited did the right thing by not putting in more than 20 to 30 percent of their beets. I think waiting on the corn was also a good idea." Morken is based at Climax, Minnesota.

Finalizing '15 Seed Decisions — DuPont Pioneer account manager Matt Carlson is still seeing indecision over what will be planted this spring. While the air temperatures have been cold, Carlson said "the soil temps are warmer than you'd think." Carlson is based in Jamestown, North Dakota.

Cold Temps Expected to Have Little Impact on Corn Seeds — University of Minnesota Extension corn specialist Jeff Coulter does not expect much impact from recent temperatures in the low-to-mid 20’s. Coulter does recommend scouting fields for damage, especially in low lying areas and areas where water ponded. “It’s worth digging up some seeds in those areas over the next few weeks. Make sure the seed is firm, not mushy, and appears to be germinating okay. Keep an eye on them and be ready to replant some of the bad spots if needed.”

Starter Fertilizer Recommended for Corn — North Dakota State University Extension cropping systems area specialist Greg Endres recommends applying starter phosphorous fertilizer for corn to promote early season plant growth and increase grain yield potential. Starter fertilizer should be band-applied within two inches of the seed, either in-furrow or side-band. Generally, the starter effect can be achieved with 2.5 to three gallons per acre of 10-34-0. In trials conducted at the Carrington Research Extension Center, when the rate of in-furrow applied 10-34-0 was raised from an average of three to six gallons per acre, yield increased seven bushels per acre.

A Small Shift From Corn to WheatDuring RRFN's Crop Watch broadcast Tuesday, a stop was made at the Jared Hagert farm at Emerado, North Dakota. At the time, Hagert had most of the wheat seeded and was waiting for soils to warm to start on corn. Hagert did see a slight shift from corn to wheat in his seed business. "We actually had a few customers switch from corn to wheat," said Hagert, "It seems like it is a fluid situation this year and there could still be more switches." RRFN's Crop Watch is sponsored, in part, by Minnesota Soybean Farmers and the Soybean Checkoff.

MN Soybean Update — Here's the latest Minnesota Soybean Update from the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council. This week's report highlights soybean acreage estimates.

Seed Treatments on Soybeans — Recent cold temperatures may have some farmers thinking about the need for seed treatments on their soybean seed. “Use them based on a history of damping off or insect issues in your field," advises Seth Naeve, soybean agronomist, University of Minnesota Extension, "Our data shows that where we’ve had issues, they can be very helpful, but planting them on every acre in every field doesn’t seem to be that good of a strategy in terms of economic return.”

Winterkill Problems — According to the Midwest Forage Association, a significant number of alfalfa stands have been hurt by winterkill in North Dakota, South Dakota, central Minnesota and central Wisconsin. A University of Wisconsin Extension forage specialist estimates a half-million acres may be affected in central Minnesota and the Dakotas.

An Early Start — As of April 22, American Crystal Sugar Company growers have planted just under 45 percent of total acres. There has been two years in recent history with a similar amount of planting done by date, 2010 and 2012. Those two crop years had the highest yields in American Crystal history.

The Sugarbeet ReportThe Sugarbeet Report airs each Thursday on the Red River Farm Network. Thanks to SES VanderHave for your sponsorship. Agribusiness representatives that want more information about sponsoring this update, contact or

Sunflower Acres Expected to be Up — National Sunflower Association executive director John Sandbakken is expecting sunflower acres to be up this year. With the early spring season, growers are urged to put the crop in right. "You want to make sure you get the seed placement right and get the best stand possible." Sunflowers do well in dry conditions "and I think that will make the crop even more attractive to growers this year." 

Weather Problem Could Rally MarketsFarmers have been busy planting, which may be helping them get their minds off marketing their crops. Bret Oelke, with Innovus Agra, LLC, thinks it may take a weather problem to start a rally, but that weather problem could be in our area. “Our region is continually expanding the drought area. If that continues, we’re going to see concerns about yields, particularly in South Dakota and perhaps in parts of North Dakota and Minnesota. It may have some positive impacts on our market, but unfortunately it also has negative impacts on our yields.

Rabobank Thinks Corn Planting Delays Could Cost 20-50 Cents — Rabobank’s latest North American Agribusiness Review says any challenges or corn planting delays could stimulate a 20 to 50 cent rally in corn futures. However, local prices continue to face a bearish outlook through July due to the large amount of corn in the bin. Even with lower planted acres than expected, Rabobank says soybean ending stocks will be at a nearly ten-year high, forcing soybean futures at harvest time to the mid-$8 area. Rabobank says a slowdown in meal demand, caused by the avian influenza outbreak, would slow crush and push crush margins lower. Fed cattle prices appear to have reached a seasonal peak, and given normal seasonal factors, Rabobank expects fat cattle futures to decline to about $1.50 for a summer low. Feeder cattle prices posted a seasonal low last month and have started what looks like a seasonal rally to fall.

CME Changes Trading Limits — The CME Group has reviewed the markets and changed some of its daily price limits. The daily limit on corn futures is increased from 25 cents to 30 cents a bushel. Chicago wheat futures, now at 35 cents, will now have a daily limit of 40 cents. The daily limit for soybean oil is reduced from 2.5 cents, to two cents per pound. These new initial price limits take effect May 1.

IGC Raises World Grain Production Estimate — The International Grains Council has raised its forecast of this year’s world grain production 10 million tons from last month, but it’s still three percent below last year’s record. Global wheat production is cut four million tons from March, and is two percent below last year. IGC raised its corn production estimate 10 million tons from last month, but it’s down more than four percent from a year ago. The global soybean crop is raised three million tons, to a new record, and is 11 percent above last year’s crop. World soybean ending stocks are up 57 percent from the previous year. Stocks of major soybean exporters will more than double. World rapeseed/canola stocks are forecast to decline by around six percent.

Wheat, Oats and Barley Acres Up in CanadaCanadian farmers plan to plant more wheat, oats and barley this year, while canola and soybean acres should decrease slightly. Statistics Canada estimates wheat acres at 24.8 million, up almost four percent from last year. Planting intentions for spring wheat indicate a 3.4 percent increase. That's no surprise, according to Brian Voth, with Agri-Trend Marketing. “The average estimate going into the report was 17.9 million acres and they said 18 million acres. The all-wheat acres were estimated at 24.7 million and the trade was expecting 24.2 million acres.” Canada’s durum acres are expected to rise 16 percent this year. Canola planting intentions are down 4.5 percent, to 19.4 million acres. Canadian farmers intend to plant 30 percent more oats than last year and ten percent more barley. Dry bean planting intentions are down more than ten percent from a year ago.

Farm Loan Demand Remains Strong — Lower farm incomes are keeping loan demand strong throughout the Federal Reserve Districts surveyed, while loan repayment rates are slightly weaker. Despite reduced farm incomes and increased debt outstanding, loan delinquency rates declined and profits increased slightly at most agricultural banks. Lower farm incomes also affected farmland values, but the changes varied widely among states. Farmland values in crop-intensive states decreased slightly, while demand strengthened for good quality farmland and ranchland in states more concentrated in livestock production or with wealth generated from other sources, such as oil and natural gas exploration.

Land Survey Confirms Expectations — The rapid increase in land values has stalled. North Dakota State University Extension farm management specialist Andy Swenson says land values were flat in North Dakota last year. "It confirms that the big run-up in land values is over," said Swenson, "It varies throughout the state with the west having decent increases, up double digits still." Swenson says rental rates will hinge on this year’s crops.

Equipment Sales Down in March — US tractor sales in March were down nine percent from year ago levels. According to the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, the sale of smaller, two-wheel drive tractors declined five percent. Four-wheel drive tractor sales dropped 30 percent. Combine sales were down 57 percent for the month.

Ag Groups Meet with BNSF — The BNSF Railway Ag Rail Summit brought together agricultural stakeholders from throughout the country, including North Dakota Grain Growers Association executive director Dan Wogsland. In an interview from the Dallas/Fort Worth event, Wogsland says the long-term rail outlook is very bright, but there will be short-term hiccups. "Just like driving on the Interstate," said Wogsland, "If you have 20 miles of construction, things are going to slow down." 

MN Declares State of Emergency Due to Avian Influenza — In response to avian influenza, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton has declared a state of emergency. With the executive order, an emergency operations plan is activated to support the efforts of the Minnesota Board of Animal Health and the Department of Agriculture. With the order, the National Guard could be activated, but that has not happened at this time.

An Emotional TollFarmers do not receive any compensation on any bird that dies due to avian influenza. If USDA directs healthy birds to be euthanized, an indemnity payment is available. Minnesota Turkey Growers Association executive director Steve Olson says the loss goes beyond finances. "There is an emotional piece to this," explained Olson, "There are birds dying because of the virus and there's nothing they can do to stop it. Furthermore, there are healthy birds on the farm euthanized and the whole goal of turkey farmers is to keep birds healthy and this cuts against that." Depending on the future development of avian influenza, Olson said poultry exhibitions, like the 4-H and FFA shows at the Minnesota State Fair, may be suspended.  

USDA Researches Have Potential Avian Influenza Vaccine — USDA researchers are seeking solutions for the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus. USDA Southeast Poultry Research lab director Dr. David Swayne says a potential vaccine seed strain for the virus has been found. “It’s a multi-step process," said Swayne, "Once we complete our work, the decision to use that vaccine will be decided by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in consultation with the state labs.”

Turkey Litter Safe to Use as Fertilizer — Avian influenza does not impact farmers who use turkey litter as a fertilizer. “If you’re talking about one of the infected sites, they compost in the barn," said Beth Thompson, assistant director, Minnesota Board of Animal Health, "That process, through heat and time, kills the virus."

Jennie-O Seeing Supply Problems Due to Avian Influenza — Due to avian influenza, the Jennie-O Turkey Store will see a reduction in its turkey production. Hormel Foods, which is the parent company, indicates it is experiencing significant challenges to its turkey supply chain. Once avian flu is confirmed on a farm, all turkeys at that location are depopulated and composted in the barn. That puts the location out of operation for a matter of months. 

Limited Impact on Hog Markets — Avian influenza has been cited as a factor in the hog markets, but Paragon Economics President Steve Meyer says the poultry supply situation may be overstated. "It will leave some more product on the US market because of export blockages and suspensions by export customers on the poultry side, but the amount of turkeys we're talking about so far isn't that significant." It would be a concern if the disease was widespread in the broiler chicken industry, but that’s not the case. Meyer says the West Coast port slowdown had a bigger impact on the hog trade.

Livestock Reporting Rules End in September — USDA’s mandatory livestock reporting rules expire at the end of September. A key House Agriculture subcommittee took testimony Wednesday to begin the reauthorization process. North Carolina Representative David Rouzer, who chairs the Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee, said efforts are being made to “promote fairness, transparency and stability in the market.” 

MN Beef Update — Hear from the Minnesota Beef Council, the Minnesota Cattlemen's Association and the Minnesota Corn Growers Association in their weekly MN Beef Update. This week, hear about consumer food trends.

Milk Production Increases — Milk production in the 23 major dairy states totaled just shy of 17 billion pounds in March. That’s up 1.1 percent from March 2014. In Minnesota, milk production increased 4.4 percent. That represents the highest March milk production total for Minnesota in 15 years. South Dakota has the biggest increase in production, up 9.6 percent. Wisconsin milk production rose 3.6 percent and California declined nearly three percent.  

HSUS Annual Report Released — Over the past year, the Humane Society of the United States revenues grew by $10 million. In its annual report, HSUS highlighted its efforts to shut down the use of sow gestation stalls. The activist group also touted its success in the courts reinstating federal protection for gray wolves.

Horse Slaughter Bill Introduced — The horse slaughter issue is resurfacing. A bipartisan bill has been introduced in the House to prevent the establishment of horse slaughter operations in the US, which is not allowed today. The bill would also not allow US horses to be shipped to Canada or Mexico for slaughter.

Avian Influenza Outbreak Slows MN Ag Funding BillMinnesota House Ag Finance Committee ranking member Jeanne Poppe expects a rocky road ahead for the ag finance bill. Poppe says the avian influenza outbreak has slowed down the progress. “The ag budget is usually one of the first ones out because people see it as bipartisan," said Poppe, "It has not yet come to the Ways and Means Committee, for a couple of reasons. One is avian influenza and what we should be including in the bill for that." Another hurdle that faces lawmakers is funding for research and the development of a new Agricultural Research, Extension and Technology Transfer Board. With this board, agricultural stakeholders would help determine where research dollars go for production agriculture.

MN Farm Bureau Minute — Here's the latest from the Minnesota Farm Bureau. Hear from public policy director Doug Busselman on legislative issues in St. Paul.

Other Buffer Alternatives Under Consideration — Throughout this session, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton has advocated a buffer initiative. Agriculture lobbyist Bruce Kleven sees life for the issue, but not the bill. "The bill did two things," said Kleven, "It required 50-foot buffers on all defined beds and banks in streams, rivers and ditches in the state and transfer the authority to enforce that from the local Soil and Water Conservation Districts to the DNR; so the bill that does those two things will probably not make it." Kleven says other alternatives are being discussed. At this point, support seems to be coming together to enforce the existing law and fund the county Soil and Water Conservation Districts at a higher level.

Buffers Now — A coalition called ‘Buffers Now’ was at the Minnesota capitol this past week, promoting Governor Mark Dayton’s buffer initiative. Northfield farmer Dave Legvold is part of this effort, saying buffers will reduce sediment load and protect water quality. "We cannot afford to bring about change by stalling and waiting one-at-a-time for change to happen." Minnesota commodity groups have said the one-size-fits-all approach is not workable. Legvold says that is a false argument "intended to help stall this process."

A Quiet Session for Agriculture — The North Dakota legislative session is in its final days, with adjournment coming sometime this week. North Dakota Farm Bureau public policy director Pete Hanebutt says it has been a relatively quiet session for agriculture. "There are a lot of things for us to be happy with during this session," said Hanebutt, "There were a few disappointments with some spending we feel is unnecesary, but, for the most part it has been a good session for agriculture across the board." 

ND Legislative Report — RRFN's ND Legislative Report airs each Friday at 12:35pm. The report is sponsored by the North Dakota Corn Growers Association, North Dakota Soybean Growers Association, North Dakota Farm Bureau and North Dakota Farmers Union. This is your weekly update on the latest news coming from the North Dakota Legislature. State Representative Michael Brandenburg is featured in this week's report.

Cap Proposed for Outdoor Heritage Fund — The North Dakota House has added $10 million to the cap on the Outdoor Heritage Fund over the next biennium, but Ducks Unlimited and Pheasants Forever will no longer have seats on the board. The $40 million cap on oil tax revenue the fund can collect is less than the $50 million Governor Jack Dalrymple proposed as an alternative to Measure 5 that voters defeated last fall. The Senate approved the House bill after previously voting to leave the cap at $30 million.

Collecting Signatures — With the North Dakota legislative session in its final days, the North Dakota Farmers Union is busy collecting signatures to bring a major issue to the voters. A bill was signed into law that would exemptions to the anti-corporate farming law for dairy and hog operations. That has been put on hold with a possible ballot initiative. NDFU member advocacy director Kayla Pulvermacher is pleased with the response. "We're feeling really good about the petition drive," said Pulvermacher, "Volunteers that really believe in the issue are doing a great job getting signatures." NDFU needs 13,452 signatures by June 18th to bring this issue to a citizen vote.  

A Challenge to B10 Law — The American Petroleum Institute, American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, Minnesota Trucking Association, Minnesota Automobile Dealers Association and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers have filed a lawsuit hoping to eliminate Minnesota’s B10 biodiesel mandate. The coalition is suing the Commissioners of Minnesota’s Departments of Agriculture, Commerce and Pollution Control Agency claiming the state’s ten percent biodiesel mandate violates several federal and state laws. Minnesota Soybean Growers Association CEO Tom Slunecka says they stand by the B10 mandate. "Minnesota Soybean has fought long and hard to help clean the air in all of the state and we believe the B10 mandate is an important part of making that happen." Minnesota is the first state to make B10 available in every gallon of diesel fuel sold in the state from April through September. A five percent biodiesel blend is available during the colder months.    

Corn Theft Case Turns Into Anti-Spying Debate — The criminal trial of a Chinese executive accused of stealing US corn seeds is turning into a battle over the federal government’s use of an anti-spying law to fight industrial espionage. US prosecutors say Mo Hailong participated in a multi-year scheme to pilfer seeds from Monsanto and DuPont test plots. The prosecutors claim that Mo and several alleged accomplices transported seeds back to China, sometimes hidden in boxes of Orville Redenbacher microwave popcorn.

EU Countries May be Allowed to Restrict Biotech Imports — The European Commission has proposed a new law allowing individual European Union countries to restrict or prohibit imported biotech crops, even if they have been approved by the EU as a whole. US Trade Representative Michael Froman said the Obama administration is disappointed with the decision. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway said the EU proposal ignores scientific consensus regarding the safety of biotech products and flies in the face of existing trade agreements. The American Soybean Association says the decision is bad for the EU’s own livestock producers and feed industries, will make them less competitive, and is bad for EU consumers who will pay more for meat.

Corn Matters — Hear the Minnesota Corn Growers Association's Corn Matters program. Learn more about the University of Minnesota Ag Awareness Day.

CP 1Q Earnings Up from 2014 — Canadian Pacific Railway reports a record first quarter net income of $320 million, a 26 percent increase over last year. Canadian grain revenue was up 16 percent, although the number of carloads decreased two percent. CP also booked higher revenue per carload in the US. Gains were also seen in potash, fertilizers and sulphur. Canadian National Railway’s first quarter net income was up 13 percent from a year ago, to $704 million.

Union Pacific Profits Up in 1Q — Union Pacific’s first quarter profit rose six percent from last year, but fell short of expectations. Shipping volume was down two percent due to weak coal demand and a labor dispute at West Coast ports. Net income for the Omaha-based railroad totaled more than $1.1 billion.

Britton Rail Line Being Updated — The state-owned Britton rail line in northeastern South Dakota is being upgraded to serve the needs of the new grain terminal at Britton. The project includes an upgrade at Jarrett Junction and improvements to the track between Geneseo Junction in North Dakota and Aberdeen, South Dakota. The South Dakota Department of Transportation and Dakota, Missouri Valley and Western Railroad are partnering on this $9 million project.

DuPont Pioneer Buys Taxon Biosciences — DuPont Pioneer is acquiring a leading biological solutions company. Taxon Biosciences is based in California and holds a significant level of intellectual property in microbial genetics. With this deal, DuPont Pioneer says it will accelerate commercialization of integrated biological solutions in agriculture.

DuPont Reports Earnings — DuPont reports first quarter operating earnings of $1.2 billion, down 17 percent from the same period last year. Sales fell nine percent, with agriculture sales down 10 percent. Earnings from agriculture were down 21 percent from a year ago. DuPont has also announced that its board of directors approved a second quarter dividend of 49 cents per share, a four percent increase over the 47 cents paid last quarter.

Dow Earnings Are Down — Dow reports first quarter net income of almost $1.4 billion, a 44 percent increase over last year. Sales were down 14 percent, to $12.4 billion due to changes in crude oil values and currency devaluations versus the dollar. Dow AgroSciences’ sales fell 12 percent in the first quarter. Pre-tax earnings declined 19 percent. Crop protection sales fell 11 percent, and seed sales were down 14 percent as acreage switched from corn to soybeans in North America and Latin America.

Dow Chemical Not Ready to Sell AgroSciences Division — Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris says the company does not yet see the full value of selling its AgroSciences division. During a first quarter conference call, Liveris said Dow AgroSciences is in the midst of rolling out a very robust pipeline of new biotech corn and soybean seeds and related herbicides.

Profits Decline for Yara International — The Norwegian fertilizer company, Yara International, reports first quarter net income of $93.2 million. Profits are down nearly 60 percent on the year. Currency valuations had a major influence on that downturn. Yara was also forced to write down the investment with a Libya fertilizer plant, due to a security problems.

Novozymes 1Q Financial Report Released — Novozymes reports operating profits of $140 million for the first quarter. Company officials report success in its agriculture and food markets, but uncertainty in the bioenergy sector. The Danish company credits a strong US dollar for an improved forecast for the balance of the year.

FMC Completes Acquisition of Cheminova — FMC Corporation has completed the closing of its acquisition of Cheminova, a multinational crop protection company based in Denmark. The companies announced the signing of a definitive acquisition agreement last September and have now satisfied all necessary conditions and regulatory approvals. FMC paid approximately $1.8 billion for Cheminova, including assumption of debt.

Tate & Lyle Restructuring — Tate & Lyle says it will exit its European corn syrup business and restructure its ailing specialty ingredients division. The company has issued three profit warnings since February 2014 as a glut of low-cost sweeteners produced in China eroded the profitability of its Splenda product. Archer Daniels Midland will pay Tate & Lyle $258 million for its 50 percent stake in the company’s European corn milling joint venture.

Alltech and Ridley Merge — There’s a new merger in the livestock feed business with Alltech acquiring Ridley Incorporated. The deal is subject to approval by Ridley shareholders and regulatory review. The sale is expected to be finalized by the end of the second quarter. Alltech is based in Kentucky. Ridley is headquartered in Mankato, Minnesota and markets complete feeds, block supplements  and feed ingredients. Hubbard Feeds is a Ridley brand. 

Dakota Spirit Ag Energy to Start Testing Production Systems Friday — The Dakota Spirit Ag Energy ethanol plant by Spiritwood, North Dakota has been taking corn since the first of the month. Midwest Ag Energy Group owns the plant and Chief Risk Officer Dave Spickler says it’s a 65 million gallon per year facility. “Around May 1, we’ll start testing some of the systems in the plant. We expect to work through startup through the month. By around June 1, we expect to be beginning production.” Spickler expects the plant to have a big impact on the area corn market. “Once we start churning through 24 million bushels of corn, it’s a positive thing for growers in the area and it’s going to have a huge impact on the local corn market.” The plant will be selling distillers grains.

Pilgrim's Pride Changing Antibiotics Policy — Pilgrim’s Pride plans to eliminate all antibiotics from a quarter of its chicken production by 2019, up from about five percent currently. Pilgrim’s chief executive also says the company is working to end its chicken operations’ use of antibiotics needed to fight human illnesses.

NBP Wants Bankruptcy Filing Change — Northern Beef Packers is seeking a change in its bankruptcy filings. The Aberdeen firm had filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy in July of 2013. Now, Northern Beef Packers has petitioned the court for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Chapter 7 bankruptcy is also called a liquidation bankruptcy, while Chapter 11 bankruptcy is considered a rehabilitation bankruptcy.

New Label Approval for Eazi-Breed CIDR — Zoetis has announced a new label approval for Eazi-Breed CIDR Cattle Insert. This is seen as an option for managing anestrous dairy cows, which is the cow's failure to show signs of heat or estrus. The new label includes a management option for lactating dairy cows.

ADM gets UAV Approval — ADM Crop Risk Services has received regulatory approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to operate unmanned aerial vehicles to expedite and improve claims processing. ADM’s UAV’s will be able to identify and measure damaged acres, corn stand counts, wind-blown or green snap acres, hail damage and prevented plant acreage.

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Meltzer Joins Rabobank — Rabobank has named Donald Meltzer as its vice chairman and head of mergers and acquisitions. Meltzer has a 30-year career in investment banking, including time at Credit Suisse First Boston.

Kappes Takes Thunder Seed Job — Thunder Seed has hired Krista Kappes as its new customer service representative. Kappes will focus on developing grower and dealer relationships as part of the company's sales, marketing and service department. Kappes is a native of Ada, Minnesota and will graduate from North Dakota State University next month.

Stratton Named Interim AURI Exec — The board of directors for Minnesota’s Agricultural Utilization Research Institute has appointed Adam Stratton as its interim executive director. Teresa Spaeth, who has been the executive director since 2006, has stepped down. Stratton previously served as AURI’s senior director of finance and administration. A search for a permanent leader is underway.

MACA Hires Ambassador CoordinatorThe Mid-America CropLife Association has named Michelle Kilper as its new ambassador coordinator. Kilper has previously worked for the University of Missouri at St. Louis and at Fontbonne University.

Midwest Dairy Board Set — A Richardton, North Dakota dairy farmer, Jerry Messer, will continue to lead the Midwest Dairy Association as its corporate chairman. Allen Merrill of Parker, South Dakota was reelected vice chairman. Ken Herbranson of Clitherall, Minnesota was elected secretary and Dan Grunhovd of Gary, Minnesota is treasurer. New members of the corporate board include Tom Walsh of DeGraff, Minnesota; Rita Young of Plainview, Minnesota; Kenton Holle of Mandan, North Dakota and Marv Post of Volga, South Dakota. Herbranson chairs the Minnesota division with North Branch farmer Kathleen Skiba leading the Minnesota Dairy Promotion Council. Messer is chairing the North Dakota division of the Midwest Dairy Association and Jim Neugebauer of Dimock chairing the South Dakota division.

Stemme Promoted — The National Corn Growers Association has announced changes to strengthen its efforts to build new corn market demand. NCGA will begin an immediate search for a vice president of market development, and as part of a restructure that brings greater focus on building corn demand, Fred Stemme has been promoted to vice president of marketing and operations.

Zurn Named as Rep for Farmers Feeding the World — Farm Journal Foundation has selected Karolyn Zurn of Calloway, Minnesota as the state representative for Farmers Feeding the World. This campaign rallies agriculture to fight world hunger. Zurn chairs the Northern Crops Institute and is president of Minnesota Agri-Women. 

Nord Graduates from Leadership Program — The American Agri-Women Association is recognizing its members who have graduated from the Syngenta Leadership At Its Best training. The 16-member graduating class includes Alisha Nord of Fargo, North Dakota.

MN Bison Industry Leader Passes — Dennis Tuel, Sr., 79, passed away Wednesday. Tuel, who was from Fergus Falls, was a founding member and past president of the Minnesota Buffalo Association.

Last Week's Trivia — During the recent American Country Music awards broadcast, Miranda Lambert won the awards for Song of the Year, Album of the Year, and Female Vocalist of the Year. Mark Dahlen of Benson County FSA topped our charts and is our weekly winner. Bob Lebacken of RML Trading, Quinn Friesen of CIBC, Brian Brandt of Rabo AgriFinance, and David Voller of BASF earn runner-up honors. The 'first 20' list rounds out with Douglas Brown of AGP Grain Marketing, Chris Homan of Columbia Grain, Keith Rekow of Dairyland Seed, Fred Parnow of Nuseed Americas, Harvey farmer Bill Ongstad, Jeff Triebold of Prairieland Ag, Don Miller of Ag Solutions, Nobles County feedlot officer Alan Langseth, Duane Maatz of Red River Valley Sugarbeet Growers Association, Sheri Rostock of AgCountry Farm Credit Services, Daryl Simon of Crystal Collection Reindeer, Mcintosh farmer Joan Lee, retired seedsman Robert Hobbs, Mandy Kvale of Farm Credit Services of Mandan and Pam Vilchis of Hutchinson High School.