Red River Farm Network News

Beneda Retiring — After 36 years in Extension, Cavalier County Extension Agent Ron Beneda is retiring.  Beneda says it was a tough decision. “It’s time. Lots of factors are involved in a decision like that. You go back-and-forth. I finally made the decision back in October. December 31, this chapter is closed, I guess.” Beneda is not sure what’s up next, but he’s keeping his options open.

Cutting Costs — With commodity prices well below last year, most farmers are planning for next year with a sharper pencil. Dave Wilcox, a certified crop advisor in Beloit, Kansas, cautions farmers about where to cut costs. “The biggest thing people need to look at is how to do it the right way. Precision technologies are out there and so much information can be gathered. Sometimes that’s the first information they want to cut out because there’s a cost in gathering the information. If anything, those are pretty the first dollars they should spend.” There are approximately 14,000 certified crop advisors internationally, most of them in the US.

ND Buffalo Sale is January 10 — The North Dakota Buffalo Association is preparing for its annual sale. The auction will be held January 10 at Napoleon Livestock Market. President Evie Woodall says the bison market is strong. “That’s mostly due to our supply issue. We don’t have enough in our buffalo herd across the US to meet the demands that our consumers are requiring.” Woodall says bison meat continues to grow in popularity. “The lean quality of our meat is really turning heads. People are becoming more health conscious and turn to eating bison meat as a healthier alternative.”

Value of the Dollar Impacts Crop Marketing — North Dakota State University Extension crops marketing specialist Frayne Olson says farmers need to be aware of the value of the dollar when they are setting up their marketing plan for 2015. “As the US economy strengthens, the value of the US dollar increases. As a result, it gets a little harder for us to sell things overseas.” Olson says wheat is the commodity that is most susceptible to the dollar value.

Concern About an Agricultural Bubble — Agriculture lenders are carefully watching how their farm customers come out at the end of this year and what they have planned for 2015. Ag View Solutions president and manager Chris Barron recently surveyed ag lenders in different regions of the US and compiled the lenders’ Top 10 list of concerns. He says borrowers’ increasing lines of credit is the top concern. Another, involves bank examiners so farmers may have to start providing more information to their banks. “A lot of it stems back to the housing bubble. I think there’s some concern that we could be entering some sort of agricultural bubble. I think they’re being very cautious in trying to make sure all information and data that comes to and through the banks is correct.” Despite the concerns, Barron is optimistic about agriculture. “Usually when the risk is highest is also when the opportunities are the greatest.”

Controlled-Release Nitrogen Product a Success for Agrium — ESN has been a very successful controlled-release fertilizer product for Agrium. Dr. Alan Blaylock, manager of agronomy for Agrium Wholesale, talks about some of ESN’s advantages for growers. “The main advantage is better nitrogen efficiency by preventing all of the various loss mechanisms to which nitrogen might be exposed. One of the other benefits is because the nitrogen is protected, they have a lot of flexibility on when they apply the nitrogen. They’re not limited to the exact window where the weather might be the best.”

Informa Raises Soybean and Winter Wheat Acre Numbers — Informa Economics has updated its 2015 acreage estimates for its clients, reportedly raising its soybean and winter wheat estimates and reducing corn acres. Informa raised soybean acres to a record 88.8 million acres, 460,000 more than last month’s estimate and 4.6 million more than this year. Corn acres are reduced 320,000 acres to 88 million; almost three million less than this year. Informa expects wheat acres to total 56.6 million next year, down about 200,000 from both last month and last year. Winter wheat acres are up 32,000 from last month, but both hard red winter and soft red winter wheat estimates are unchanged.

Lower Numbers at Cattle Auctions — The run of calves at Kist Livestock Auction in Mandan Wednesday was about half of the prior week’s receipts. Matt Lachenmeier says producers anticipated lower bids because of the drastic drop in the futures market recently. “People don’t know how far into the feed yards to back the cattle up. We’ve probably seen a $7 to $12 lower market in 600 pounds or less. Once you get into the 650 and up cattle, that market was $20 to $30 less.” Lachenmeier thinks profit taking and year-end liquidation by the funds is behind the collapse in the futures market. He says the calf market is still very good.

Herrick Back at USDA — A former communications staffer under Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is back at USDA as deputy director of communications. Matt Herrick, press director and spokesman for the US Agency for International Development, will start in mid-January. 

MASWCD Honors — Halls Farm at Brooten is the Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts’ 2014 Outstanding Conservationist. The Halls have completed a shelterbelt, an ag waste systems upgrade, wetland restoration, earthen pit upgrade, use irrigation scheduling, no-till and an unmanned aerial vehicle for crop and grazing management. Kent Scheer and Vicki Chepulis of Wadena were one of the eight finalists for the award.

API Building a New Soybean Refinery — Ag Processing Inc. says its board of directors has approved plans for the construction of a soybean oil refinery at its Sergeant Bluff, Iowa facility. Current plans and schedules anticipate completion of the new refinery in the spring of 2017. 

Johnson: Cuba Decision is Long Overdue — The Obama Administration is taking steps to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba. National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson, who made eight trips to Havana when he served as North Dakota’s agriculture commissioner, said this day was “long, long, long overdue." From an agricultural perspective, Johnson said this decision has "been a no-brainer for decades." The White House announcement removes key barriers for trade between the US and Cuba. As an example, the cash-in-advance-of-delivery policy will end. Travel restrictions do not end, but they will be relaxed. Congress still needs to lift the embargo and some lawmakers have already threatened to block those efforts.

Trade With Cuba Creates Demand for US Products — The National Association of Wheat Growers believes the reestablishment of trade with Cuba will create demand for US wheat products. Cuba has not purchased US wheat since 2011, but has the potential to import at least 500,000 metric tons of wheat from the US each year. The American Soybean Association sees potential in Cuba to sell pork, poultry and dairy products. In addition, Cuba would also be a market for cooking oils. Cuba does not grow wheat or soybeans, but has been a producer of sugar. However, that industry has been decimated in recent years. In the short-term, Agrilion Commodity Advisors consultant James Liddiard said Cuba will not be a player in the global sugar market. 

China to Open Its Market to Viptera Corn Trait — According to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, China’s agriculture ministry has lifted the ban on the MIR 162 corn trait. A Syngenta spokesman said the company is still waiting for official documentation from China, but Vilsack indicates he got the word from China’s vice premier during a meeting in Chicago this past week. Two biotech soybean varieties have also been approved for import into China.

USDA Releases Base Acreage Estimates — USDA released their base acreage estimates Thursday. USDA expects 2015 corn acres at 88 million, down 2.9 million from this year. 2015 soybean acreage is pegged at 84 million, down 200,000 from this year. 2015 all wheat acres are pegged at 56 million, down 800,000 from this year. Based on the acreage, USDA economists are projecting 2015/16 ending stocks of corn at 1.7 billion bushels, soybean ending stocks at 519 million bushels and wheat ending stocks of 700 million bushels.

Grain Markets Expected to Remain Choppy — Water Street Advisory market advisor Sam Hudson expects corn and beans to remain choppy until after the January crop report. “My personal concern between now and April is I didn’t expect a rally this high at this point in time anyway. One has to be a little bit fearful about the downside risk going into that January crop report after we’ve seen prices rally. Maybe we’ve already seen corn acres be purchased at this point rather than in the spring.”

Fearing a Downside on Soybeans — Russell Consulting Group associate Preston Zacharias is worried about the bearishness in the soybean market right now. “Looking at what the carryout is, we still can’t find a home for all of the beans we have in the country for this year. Even if next year’s crop is just equal size in acres, it puts big pressure on new-crop beans. As far as an outlook goes, I think wheat is short-term bearish from here, corn is relatively stable and I’m really fearful of the downside on beans.”

Adjusting to a New Price Environment — The lower grain prices have many ag lenders anxious about how farmers and ranchers will adjust. Farmer Mac economist Jackson Takach says lenders want to know how borrowers are managing the money coming in. “On the grain side, will farmers be able to adjust living expenses to come back down to more historical norms? On the livestock side, will profits incent more production?” Takach says regulations may prevent lenders from helping their customers. “If the farm economy comes on difficult times, how long will regulators let bankers stay with their borrowers? Will they require them to do some housecleaning?" In a recent survey of Farmer Mac customers, Takach says lenders see the top three challenges for farmers and ranchers as liquidity, farm income and leverage. Hear more from Takach on the RRFN Indepth page.

RMA Releases APH Yield Exclusion Information — The Risk Management Agency has announced details on the APH Yield Exclusion that will provide relief to farmers affected by severe weather. The APH Yield Exclusion will be available beginning in the 2015 crop year for corn, soybeans, spring wheat, barley, canola, sunflowers, grain sorghum, and popcorn. It will allow eligible producers who have been hit with severe weather to exclude yields from the farm’s actual production history when the actuarial documents provide that the county average yield for that crop year is at least 50 percent below the 10 previous consecutive crop years’ average yield.

Understanding the New Farm Bill — Farm bill informational meetings continue in every county across our region for landowners and farm operators facing deadlines to make farm program decisions. Kelly Turgeon, who leads the Kittson County, Minnesota Farm Service Agency office, says farmers’ learning curve has improved greatly. “Farmers are starting to understand some of the new terminology. They’re understanding the work they need to do regarding updating yields. They’re understanding the options when it comes to reallocating base acres or keeping the existing base."

Defining "Actively Engaged" — Six members of Congress have written Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack asking USDA to come up with a new definition for the term “actively engaged.” Farmers must be “actively engaged” to receive farm program payments, but the lawmakers claim non-farming members of a corporation are able to skirt the system. The lawmakers behind this letter include South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson, Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, Connecticut Representative Rosa DeLauro, Nebraska Representative Jeff Fortenberry and Oregon Representative Earl Blumenauer. 

Moving Forward with WOTUS Rule — The omnibus spending bill calls for EPA to drop the interpretive rule associated with the Waters of the United States proposal. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said that opposition will not prevent the agency from implementing the rule in 2015. Speaking to reporters, McCarthy said she is looking at a spring release for the final Waters of the US rule. McCarthy also said EPA needs to communicate better with the farm community.

Senate Ag Committee Gets New MembersThe new Senate Agriculture Committee will have four new Republican members—two from the Midwest and two from the South. The new members are Joni Ernst of Iowa, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, David Perdue of Georgia and Thom Tillis of North Carolina. South Dakota Senator-elect Mike Rounds will join the Environment and Public Works Committee, which oversees the Renewable Fuels Standard, the Clean Water Act and other environmental issues.

American Crystal Makes Changes to Joint Ventures PolicyThe American Crystal Sugar Company board is implementing changes in the way joint ventures are handled. First of all, legal staff will review stock transfers to make sure documents comply with cooperative law. In addition, American Crystal President and CEO David Berg says every personal member of a joint venture must sign a personal guarantee. “In the event that for some reason the joint venture doesn’t deliver its sugarbeets, which it must do under the company’s bylaws, then the company the right to go back to the people who are behind that joint venture and make them perform financially to make up for the lack of performance to deliver their beets.” Berg says the American Crystal board spent a full year studying the joint venture issue. The current changes are being described as “a reasonable first step.” 

Adding Gold to the RotationDespite an aggressive effort to attract more acres, canola acres declined again this past year in Minnesota. At the Minnesota Canola Council’s annual meeting in Roseau, growers were asked to take another look at “adding gold to their rotation.” Cavalier County, North Dakota Extension Agent Ron Beneda said there’s lots of room for more canola. “In most of northern Minnesota, the north half of North Dakota and further west in North Dakota, when you look at the climatic conditions, canola should do very well." In Cavalier County, new canola yield records were established in 2013 and again this past year. "Commodity prices are down and canola’s still going to pencil out pretty darn good.”

Canola Fits Well into Rotation — At the Minnesota Canola Conference Tuesday in Roseau, North Star Agri-Industries President and COO Neal Junke told RRFN that canola is a profitable crop. “Canola responds well to management. It’s an ideal crop for northwest Minnesota. It can provide rotational advantages for your wheat and soybeans. It fits in the rotation and deserves a place on the farm. It’s not going to be your number one revenue crop every year, but it will be one out in three years.”

Canola Basis Expected to Stay Strong Through WinterBrian Voth, Senior Market Coach with Agri-Trend, says canola prices have rallied some $30 a ton since Statistics Canada’s crop report two weeks ago. That’s because no one believes Canada’s crop is that big. “We can’t figure out how they came up with 15.5 million tonnes. We’re a million tonnes below that. Because of that, I think canola’s got some upside. I think basis levels are going to stay strong through the winter. Futures are probably going to get dictated somewhat by where the soybean market goes. If the soybeans start to drop off, canola may have to separate itself because the fundamental situation is a little bit different for canola.”

Invigor Canola Variety Performs Well in 2014Bayer CropScience had limited release for its L140P, pod shatter resistant canola variety this year. Invigor Canola sales lead Kyle Rollness says they have full production for 2015. “We wanted to get it out in front of some growers and have them take a look at it," said Rollness, "We actually are running short on supply already because we have a lot of interest on the product; the yield performance was very strong." Rollness is very pleased with the pod shatter tolerance with this variety. Bayer CropScience Invigor Canola sponsored RRFN's coverage of the Minnesota Canola Council event in Roseau this past week.

Being Comfortable With Your Tillage System — For the first time this year, North Dakota State University Extension partnered with the University of Minnesota Extension in hosting the 10th annual Conservation Tillage Conference. NDSU soil health specialist Abbey Wick begins with tillage when talking about soil health. “The best way to build soil health is to back off on tillage. That, and diversified crop rotation.” University of Minnesota extension educator Jodi DeJong-Hughes said farmers need to be comfortable with any tillage system they choose. “To learn a different tillage system isn’t just putting a different piece of equipment out there. It’s also learning the weeds are going to be changing if you really back off on the tillage. With the equipment you have now, how do we back it off a little bit and get you used to what’s going to be happening.” DeJong-Hughes says residue management is critical to a reduced till operation.

Seeding Challenges in No-till WheatSeeding wheat into a no-till system has a unique set of challenges. University of Minnesota regional extension educator Doug Holen says residue management is key. “Residue management comes back to the previous crop and rotation is a big thing. We don’t like to be following corn with wheat because of scab and all the residue. It comes back to having a good combine spreading that out then coming back in and putting the seed down targeting an inch-and-a-half. A lot of times in a no-till situation the error will be on the shallow side. What I get most concerned about is seed to soil contact and closing that furrow behind the seed.” Holen says you will need to pay closer attention to disease pressure in no-till wheat.

Quantifying Production CostsOhio farmer and founder of Cropzilla Brian Watkins was Tuesday’s keynote speaker at the 10th annual conservation tillage conference in Fargo. Watkins developed his Cropzilla model to quantify the production costs or advantages of moving to a reduced tillage system. “The point is to measure that and to try to analyze it. With our software, we can allow any farm to compare those two things on their farm and how it affects their operation, their labor, the money it would require and all those things. Then, they can decide whether the cost difference is justified with yield or not. Each individual has to make that decision.”

Use Data to Get the Most From Your Acres — Speaking at the Conservation Tillage Conference in Fargo, Simplot Grower Solutions precision ag manager Shawn Kasprick urged farmers to utilize the information and data to get the most out of every acre of their farm. “With commodity prices where they are, you have to be able to make sure that every acre is able to pay you back. Make sure your ROI on every acre is doing what it’s supposed to. If it doesn’t, you have to find something different you need to do to that ground to make sure everything pays.”

A Decent Fall for Fertilizer SalesWith corn acres a question market, many ag retailers have indicated fall nitrogen sales were down. For CHS Ag Services, which serves northwest Minnesota and northeast North Dakota, that was not the case. In fact, CHS Ag Services general manager Ryan Anderson says the company had its second best fall for fertilizer sales. "I think corn acres are still a question mark," reports Anderson, "It might be March-April decision before we get that figured out. I think our spring wheat acres are going to be strong. Our sugarbeet acres are what they are. Both crops need nitrogen and I think we saw that this fall.” The co-op has added additional fertilizer storage capacity and is well prepared for the spring fertilizer season.

Barge Diesel Tax Increased — The National Grain and Feed Association and American Soybean Association are among the farm groups commending Congress for enacting legislation that will increase the user fee assessed on barge diesel fuel to help finance much-needed improvements to the nation’s inland waterways system. The nine cent per gallon increase was included in the tax extender bill approved by the Senate Tuesday. The increase is expected to generate about $40 million in additional revenues annually.

How Lower Oil Price Affects Ethanol Depends on How You Look at ItDr. David Ripplinger, who is an assistant professor in the North Dakota State University Department of Agribusiness and Applied Economics, says it looks like oil prices are going to stay low or continue to fall for the next few months. “There are some who are saying that the price of crude oil may fall into the $30s which would continue to put downward pressure on gasoline prices," said Ripplinger, "As that price either stays low or declines, it’s not good news for ethanol if you’re thinking of ethanol as a replacement for gasoline and if you’re thinking about ethanol as something that would be in the fuel blend, it’s not bad news.”

Report Tells How to Improve the RFS — The Bipartisan Policy Center, which was founded by former Senate Majority Leaders Tom Daschle, Bob Dole, George Mitchell and Howard Baker, has released a report outlining ways to improve the Renewable Fuels Standard. The report includes 40 options to change the ethanol mandate. Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis downplayed the report, saying it repeats the “same, tired talking points that the oil industry” has pushed for years.  

RFA Disputes U of M Research — The Renewable Fuels Association has released a report that counters conclusions made by researchers at the University of Minnesota claiming that ethanol is more harmful to humans and the environment than gasoline. RFA found that the U of M paper ran counter to real-world data, contradicted current lifecycle modeling and research, and omitted key variables when determining the environmental impact of electric vehicles and gasoline, ultimately undermining the credibility of the study.

Rabobank Sees Dairy Markets Continuing to Fall — Rabo AgriFinance expects dairy markets to drop further in the months ahead. According to Rabobank’s Food and Agribusiness Research and Advisory Group, increased production, a strong US dollar and declining export demand will influence the milk market. While there are signs of price stabilization in 2015, the Rabobank dairy report says it may take additional time for the market to recover. 

Group Forms to Help Avoid Trade Distruptions — A group representing seed companies, grain traders and farmers has formed the US Biotech Crops Alliance in an attempt to avoid the types of trade disruptions caused by Agrisure Viptera corn. The Alliance hopes to agree next year on a set of practices that could help US farmers plant new biotech crop varieties while keeping them away from countries that have yet to approve them for import. The industry discussions aim to produce voluntary guidelines about how seed companies could communicate plans to sell new products, determine which export markets to avoid, and how to manage grain as it moves through elevators, trains and ports.

Machinery Prices Rebound — After being down 15 to 25 percent in late summer and early fall, the value of used machinery saw a little rebound in November. Columnist Greg “Machinery Pete” Peterson says prices for large, late-model equipment firmed as winter set in. “Auction prices got a little strong through the first ten days of December." Peterson expects the volume of used machinery to pressure prices going into spring and summer. Peterson says the value of older equipment and livestock equipment has remained strong.

Moms, Millennials and Foodies — The Center for Food Integrity has completed a comprehensive consumer study. This research targeted Moms, Millennials and Foodies, who all share similar concerns about the food system. CFI chief executive officer Charlie Arnot said believability is the key driver in reaching consumers. To do that, the research says agriculture must engage with consumers on their turf. “One of the things we can do is help people understand how today’s systems keep healthy food affordable," said Arnot, "Efficiency isn’t just about producing more with less and maximizing productivity, efficiency also helps us make healthy food affordable." The study said farmers and the food system should be open and transparent. The research study can be found on the CFI website

USDA Seeking Comments on Organic Proposal — The USDA is taking public comment on a proposal impacting organic producers. With this proposal, farmers who grow or market organic products could be exempted from the commodity checkoff programs. As an example, an organic dairy farmer would no longer have to pay into the dairy checkoff program. This rule would pave the way for the organic industry to develop its own checkoff program. 

Dowdy Breaks 500+ Bushel Mark for CornThis year’s National Corn Growers Association yield contest winner broke the 500 bushel per acre mark and a record six entries surpassed the 400-plus bushel per acre mark. The all-time high yield record of 503 bushels per acre was set by Randy Dowdy of Valdosta, Georgia. Dowdy had four other entries that were over 400 bushels per acre.  Other 400-plus entries came from David Hula of Charles City, Virginia, Craig Hula of Charles City, Virginia and Steven Albracht of Hart, Texas. The 18 winners in six production categories had verified yields averaging more than 383.6 bushels per acre, compared to the projected national average of 173.4 bushels per acre in 2014. FarmNetNews readers may remember Dowdy speaking at the Red River Farm Network tent during the 2013 Big Iron Farm Show. A complete list of national and state winners is available on the National Corn Growers Association website.

MN Legislator Welcomes Ag Committee Change — With the new majority in the Minnesota House, the agriculture committee becomes a stand-alone committee again. Previously, agriculture was combined with the environment and natural resources committee. State Representative Dan Fabian, who is based in Roseau, said rural voters were upset by its treatment in the most recent session. “Just the symbolism of bringing agriculture into the natural resources committee where you have a legislator who’s an avowed environmentalist chairing the agriculture finance committee set a bad tone.” For the upcoming session, Fabian said roads and bridges must be a priority. 

Customer Controls the DataBig data has become a source of debate for several farm organizations. One of the main questions is who owns the data being gathered with the modern technology on today’s farm equipment. Beverly Flores, the integrated communications manager for John Deere’s Intelligent Solutions Group, says the customer controls the data. “It’s a really complex conversation. Not always is the person on the land operating the equipment the one that owns the land. We want to make sure that customers are educated, are asking the right questions for their operation and making sure they have all the right answers when it comes to data as they move through that crop production cycle.” Flores says it’s important that the producer makes the decision about who has access to the data.

Deere Sells Crop Insurance Business — Deere & Company has agreed to sell its crop insurance business to Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Company of Iowa. This plan has been under review since September. The sale is expected to be finalized in the first quarter of next year. 

ConAgra Profits Plunge — ConAgra Foods quarterly profits plunged as the company took a large write-down on its store brand food segment. The company says sales fell 5 percent to $1.1 billion as volume fell 6 percent. For the quarter ending November 23rd, ConAgra’s consumer foods division fell 2 percent to 2 billion dollars as volume fell 1 percent. Overall, ConAgra posted earnings of $10 million or 2 cents per share, down from $248.7 million or 59 cents per share a year ago.

CWB Lawsuit — Lawyers representing farmers who are upset with the changes made to the Canadian Wheat Board have hoping to take the case to the Supreme Court of Canada. The class action group claims there has been a misallocation of CWB Pool account funds. The legal action also seeks to protect the brand established by the farmer-owned Canadian Wheat Board.

Syngenta Calls Off Lawsuit With Bunge — Syngenta has ended one of the many lawsuits tied to the Viptera corn trait. In this case, Syngenta ended it. Syngenta had filed a lawsuit against Bunge for its refusal to purchase corn from farmers growing the biotech crop. A Syngenta spokesman did not comment, but Bunge North America CEO Todd Bastean said he is “pleased” with the decision.

MF Global Reaches Deal With CFTC — MF Global has come to terms with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to settle allegations of wrongdoing during the implosion of its brokerage firm. Former CEO Jon Corzine and former assistant treasurer Edith O’Brien could still contest the agreement. In October of 2011, MF Global went bankrupt. Client losses are estimated at $1.6 billion. 

Viptera Lawsuits Combined — Politico reports that the more than 175 lawsuits against Syngenta seeking damages related to China’s blockage of imports of its Viptera corn have been consolidated in a Kansas federal court. The cases have been assigned to Senior Judge John Lungstrum of the US District Court for the District of Kansas, in Kansas City.

FCS of America Approves Dividend — Farm Credit Services of America has approved a cash-back dividend of $160 million to its eligible owner/customers. This is the largest annual dividend approved by the cooperative board. Farm Credit Services of America serves farmers and ranchers in South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, and Wyoming. 

Dow AgroSciences Names New Insect-Resistant Soybean Trait — Dow AgroSciences has announced the name for its new novel insect-resistant soybean trait. When given regulatory approval, Conkesta will be offered as a stack with the company’s Enlist soybean traits. Conkesta expresses two Bt proteins to provide in-plant protection against insects, like fall armyworms. 

Mosaic Buys South American Fertilizer Business — Archer Daniels Midland has completed the sale of its South American fertilizer business to the Mosaic Company. The deal includes five ADM blending facilities in Brazil and Paraguay. Mosaic paid the US equivalent of $350 million. 

ADM Selling Cocoa Business — Archer Daniels Midland is selling its global cocoa business to Olam International for $1.3 billion. The deal must gain regulatory approval, which is expected to happen in the second quarter of 2015. 

Yield Monitoring Collaboration — Ag Leader Technology has announced a collaboration with AGCO. With this agreement, the Ag Leader Technology yield monitoring systems will be available for the Massey Ferguson 9505 Series and the Challenger 500E Series combines. The option means the Ag Leader systems can be installed at the factory for 2015 models. 

ND Mill Profits Up in 2014 — The North Dakota Mill had a profit of $13.3 million in fiscal year 2014. That’s up 12 percent from the previous year and second only to the 2011 record of $16.1 million. The Mill is undergoing a $28 million expansion, which will make it the largest flour mill in the country. The expansion will increase milling capacity by 11,500 hundredweight per day, to approximately 49,500 hundredweight. Construction is expected to be completed next fall.

Colfax Elevator to Rebuild — Colfax Farmers Elevator manager Carrol Duerr says the co-op will rebuild following the December 6 fire. The cause of the fire has still not been determined, nor has the total damage estimate. Debris is still being cleared from the site. Duerr says the rebuilding process will likely start next spring.

Rounds Names Senior Staffers — South Dakota Senator-Elect Mike Rounds has named two members of his senior staff. Rob Skjonsberg will serve as chief of staff and Jonathan Kobes will be the deputy chief of staff and counsel. Skjonsberg is a Sisseton, South Dakota native and managed Rounds’ Senate campaign and is a partner in GSG Strategies. Kobes is Rounds’ deputy director of transition. Previously, Kobes was the director of corporate compliance for Raven Industries and served as an Honors attorney with the Central Intelligence Agency.

Fedorchak to Chair ND PSC — North Dakota Public Service Commissioner Julie Fedorchak has received a unanimous vote to chair the three-member group. Fedorchak was elected to a two-year term as chairman, effective January 1. She’ll take over for current chairman Brian Kalk. Fedorchak was appointed to the PSC to fill the vacancy left by Congressman Kevin Cramer, and was elected for a two-year term last month. She previously served on the staff of Senator John Hoeven and former Governor Ed Schafer.

Auwarter Earns Distinguished Achievement Award — North Dakota State University research specialist Collin Auwarter was given the Distinguished Achievement Award for Professional Staff during the annual meeting of the North Central Weed Science Society. Auwarter is a research specialist in the NDSU Plant Sciences Department. The award recognizes outstanding contributions in weed science in the North Central region.

Bugg to Oversee Branding for Verdesian Life Sciences — Verdesian Life Sciences has named Amy Bugg its vice president of communications. Previously, Bugg worked for the Swanson Russell and McCormick Company advertising agencies.

New GM for Ryan Potato Co. in East Grand Forks — Ryan Potato Company has named Al Giesbrecht as its general manager in East Grand Forks. Giesbrecht previously worked for Bemidji Chrysler Center/Honda of Bemidji. Long-time general manager Ron Norman is retiring.

Wagner and Groth Named to AFBF Committee — American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman has selected the members of the new national promotion and education committee. The seven-member committee includes Val Wagner of Monango, North Dakota and Melinda Groth of Houston, Minnesota. Wagner will serve as the vice-chair of the committee. 

Grafstrom Wins Outstanding Service AwardThe Minnesota Canola Council presented its outstanding service award to Dave Grafstrom. Grafstrom is the site agronomist at the Canola Production Centre near Roseau.

Ruud Wins SnowmobileDavid Ruud of Palisade, Minnesota took home a brand new Polaris snowmobile, courtesy of Northstar Agri Industries, after the Minnesota Canola Council's annual meeting Tuesday in Roseau.

SD State Fair Has New Manager — The South Dakota State Fair has a new manager. Peggy Woolridge Besch of Huron previously worked for the Huron Chamber and Visitors’ Bureau.

Wardner Takes Extension Agent Job — Nicole (Potter) Wardner is the new county extension agent for North Dakota's Sheridan County. Most recently, Wardner worked for the Farm Service Agency. From 2005 to 2007, Wardner was a farm broadcaster for the Red River Farm Network.

Last Week's Trivia — The novelty song 'Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer' has been a Christmas Classic since 1979. Lyle Orwig of Charleston Orwig is our weekly trivia winner. Greg Guse of Paulsen, Josh Tjosaas of Northland Farm Business Management, David Stewart of United Valley Bank, and Ron Claussen of Ag Media Research earn runner-up honors. The 'first 20' list includes Laurie Hoffman of Vistacomm, Stephen auctioneer Jason Rominski, Pioneer rep Ken Hove, Stutsman County farmer Richard Carlson, Mark Dahlen of Benson County FSA, Kathy Noll of Noll's Dairy Farm, retired Professional Insurance Agents of North Dakota executive director Kent Olson, McIntosh organic farmer Joan Lee, Amy Heaney of Bader Rutter, Marla Thissen of McLeod County Extension, NDSU Extension dairy specialist JW Schroeder, Forbes farmer Mike Martin, UM student Chelsea Vilchis, Brad Hertel of Meridan Seeds and Craig Edwards of West Central Ag Services.