A Weekly Update from the Red River Farm Network
Monday, May 18, 2020
Trust– Trust in national media outlets has eroded over time. A Gallup study found American’s trust in the mass media peaked in 1976 at 72 percent. The latest research found only 41 percent of Americans have ‘a great deal’ or ‘a fair amount’ of trust in the national media. Ongoing Millennium Research studies have found the attitude about farm broadcasting is quite different. Roughly 80 percent of the farmers surveyed gave high ratings to farm broadcasters for credibility, accuracy and timeliness. The Red River Farm Network team of journalists deliver that credible, accurate and timely news and market information for farmers, ranchers and agricultural stakeholders.
More COVID-19 Direct Payment Details Expected Soon – The Office of Management and Budget has completed the review of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. Now, agriculture is waiting on the official announcement. In an interview with the Red River Farm Network on Friday, USDA Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation Bill Northey explained the Farm Service Agency is conducting a training on the program this week. There will be farmers new to the FSA signing up for the payments. “Whether they’re specialty crop growers, livestock producers without crops or maybe farmers markets folks, we are trying to tell them a little more about us and the kind of information they need to provide for these payments in addition to COVID-19 losses.” Northey wouldn’t talk much about the new details in the rule, but said there is a desire to have program sign-up at the end of May. Work will be done to get the payments to farmers quickly. Hear the full interview with Northey.
Changes Coming for Payment Limits in COVID-19 Relief – Payment limits of $125,000 per commodity and $250,000 per entity were part of the COVID-19 agricultural assistance package from USDA. That was considered unworkable by numerous commodity groups. In a webinar organized by the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson detailed a recent conference call between his committee and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. Peterson said USDA will eliminate those payment limits going forward. Peterson also said the latest coronavirus relief bill “is getting out of control” and has no bipartisan support.
Latest COVID-19 Relief Bill Gains House Passage – With a 208-to-199 vote, Congress has passed a $3 trillion coronavirus assistance bill. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson supported the bill, but does not expect it to pass in its present form in the Senate. This bill includes emergency assistance for farmers who were forced to depopulate animals due to plant shutdowns, There’s direct support for the biofuels industry and adjustments made in the Dairy Margin Coverage program.
Senate Pushback Expected in Phase Four Stimulus Bill – On Friday, the House passed a phase four economic stimulus bill with a price tag of $3 trillion. Senate Republicans say the bill will be dead on arrival in the Senate. The Russell Group President Randy Russell says the cost of the bill is one hang-up. “This is real money we’re talking about. That’s giving people pause in some quarters about at what point can we as a country continue to afford these large COVID-19 packages, as much as they’re needed,” says Russell. “I think that’s why this will become more controversial. It’s not going to be easy to get done. Negotiations could go on into June before a compromise is reached in the Senate. I don’t think in the end we’ll end up with a $3 trillion package; I think it will cost less than that.” There are a few agriculture provisions included in the bill. “It’s almost a mini farm bill,” says Russell. “The bill includes $16.5 billion in new COVID-19 direct payment and they didn’t increase the Commodity Credit Corporation borrowing limit, as speculated by some.”
Farm Economy Feels Effects of COVID-19 – The initial effects of the coronavirus pandemic have been felt in agriculture. The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City’s quarterly ag survey found a larger decline in farm income and loan repayment rates than in recent quarters. The reduction in farm income also put modest pressure on liquidity. The survey, which was conducted in mid-March, cites a decline for interest rates on agricultural loans and relatively stable farm real estate values. The bankers surveyed were pessimistic about the economic outlook, but said government payments should provide significant relief to farmers again this year.
Plenty of Headwinds in Agriculture – Prices are low in most sectors of agriculture right now. AgCountry Farm Credit Services CEO Mark Knisley says in the last two years, government payments have been helpful to get farmers through tough times. “Along with Market Facilitation Program payments, we’ve been fortunate yields have bailed us out in the past. We haven’t had the ability to have that kind of yield to market at this point.” Knisley says there is some unharvested corn from 2019 in North Dakota. There may be a fair amount of prevent plant acres this year and the crop concerns may line up into 2021. “We’re seeing plenty of headwinds in agriculture right now.” Knisely was part of a webinar on the farm economy hosted by the Fargo-Moorhead Chamber of Commerce.
Liquidity is the Key – Cash flow was a problem a year ago and that has been repeated this spring. AgriFinancial Regional Sales Officer Brian Brandt was part of a farm financial presentation Thursday and said cash flow remains a priority. “Cash is king and if you don’t have cash to pay the bills, you’re at someone else’s mercy,” said Brandt. “In regards to visiting with your lender, do it today, do it yesterday; communication is key.” Diversified Services Dierctor of Producer Services Brooks York says there are options including the Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan. “The process was easy; it is a great way to qualify for $150,000 to help you out of a shortage of cash flow.” York said there is a quick turnaround with this SBA loan program.
Millions of Pigs Displaced With Packer Capacity Problem – Pork packing plants may be operating, but they’re not running at full capacity. Kerns and Associates economist Steve Meyer said that means the bottleneck in the supply chain will continue. To bring plants up to speed, Meyer said the packer capacity problems are intractable. “Unfortunately, we’re going to have to destroy animals before they get too big,” said Meyer. “We know some of that has been done already and I think there’s going to be substantially more; it could be several million pigs.”
Seeking New Markets – Minnesota State Veterinarian Dr. Beth Thompson said efforts are being taken to deal with the displaced hog supply. Some hogs are being diverted to small meat processing plants, but Thompson said those plants are generally booked out into fall and early winter. Hogs are moving through auction markets. “A member of our staff that has oversight on some of those traditional markets in the northern part of the state. He told me he’s seen more hogs moving through those markets in the last week than he saw in the last four-to-five years combined.” Minnesota is depopulating more pigs than any other state. Thompson emphasized these are healthy animals and are being euthanized due to the loss of processing capacity.
NPPC Calls for Federal Response – The National Pork Producers Council is seeking immediate federal assistance to deal with a financial disaster due to COVID-19. Even with plants opening up, the NPPC estimates up to 10 million hogs will have no place to go over the next few months and face euthanasia. The pork group is asking for over $1 billion in emergency USDA funds to compensate hog farmers who are unable to market animals due to plant closures or slowdowns. NRCS and FEMA funds are also being sought to pay expenses associated with depopulation and responsible disposal.
MFBF Update – The logistics seen in the food chain have certainly been highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic. Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation Associate Director of Public Policy Josie Lonetti has more in this MFBF Update.
Ethanol Industry Welcomes Potential COVID-19 Relief – Included in the $3 trillion HEROES Act is support for the biofuels industry. A Renewable Fuel Reimbursement Program would pay biofuel makers based on the number of gallons produced from January through May. The ethanol industry welcomes the support. “We are very appreciative to be included in this bill. Short-term assistance allowing plants to stay afloat is important,” said Emily Skor, CEO, Growth Energy. Skor is focused on making sure the biofuels relief stays in-tact going through the legislative process, but it is unknown if relief will come soon enough for the industry. “Many ethanol plants were able to benefit from the Small Business Administration’s loans and grants. That created a bridge period, but not all ethanol plants qualified,” said Skor. “We will need help in the short-term. Just about half of the industry went offline. Plants will come back little by little, but we are concerned there may be plants who close and don’t open back up.”
Spot Market Bill Introduced by Senators – Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley and Montana Senator Jon Tester have introduced a spot market bill. This would require each U.S. meat processing facility that harvests over 125,000 head of cattle per year to purchase 50 percent of weekly slaughter volume on the open or ‘spot’ market. In a statement, the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association said the lack of cash negotiated sales in recent years has decimated price discovery and undercut the fundamentals of the CME cattle futures contracts. The Livestock Mandatory Reporting program expires September 30, and this spot market bill language is expected to play a role in conversations about program changes. Also showing support for the bill is South Dakota Senator Mike Rounds and Minnesota Senator Tina Smith. Learn more about the legislation in this RRFN interview with USCA Vice President and St. Onge, South Dakota rancher Justin Tupper.
NCBA Opposes Restrictive Cattle Marketing Options – The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association is opposing the spot market bill recently introduced by Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley and Montana Senator Jon Tester. The legislation would require a minimum of 50 percent of meat packers slaughter volume to be purchased on the cash or ‘spot’ market. In a statement, NCBA Policy Division chair and South Dakota rancher Todd Wilkinson said “any solution must not restrict an individual producer’s freedom to pursue marketing avenues.” The organization believes increased price discovery will benefit all segments of the cattle industry. Dive further into the conversation in this exclusive RRFN interview with NCBA CEO Colin Woodall.
Acreage Reporting Deadline Impacted by COVID-19 – The coronavirus pandemic is resulting in challenges for acreage reporting for the 2020 crop year. The Farm Service Agency sent a notice to state and county offices, waiving the late-filing procedures for 30 days after the May 15th acreage reporting deadline. The FSA is currently delivering programs and services over the telephone and through the mail. This policy does not impact the 2019 late-filed reports.
More Warm Weather Needed for Widespread ND Planting Progress – It’s the middle of May and across portions of North Dakota, the planting delays continue. According to Jason Hanson, owner, Rock n’ Roll Agronomy, Mother Nature needs to cooperate. “Things are just creeping along. We’re getting close to critical crop insurance dates and we can’t string decent weather together. We haven’t had much heat and that’s the biggest thing.” Hanson says there are some changes happening. “I think the realization now is that if you have a field, parts of that field you aren’t going to seed. Some fields you’re not going to plant and that’s just the reality.” Some farmers are shifting away from planting corn. “The corn acres out there are extremely wet to almost impossible to four wheel or even to take a soil testing truck out. The logical thing would be a switch to soybeans, but where things are priced it’s extremely tough.” There is interest in other crops like canola, sunflowers or edible beans, if farmers can get seed. “I also think there will be more wheat. If it stays cool, cool season crops should fare decent.”
Canola Minute – It’s been a slow start to planting and fieldwork because of the cool, wet weather. New England, North Dakota farmer and Northern Canola Growers Association board member Jon Wert has more in the latest Canola Minute.
Pioneer Agronomy Update – The forecast has improved, but cold, wet conditions have had a significant influence on planting progress in the Northern Plains. Pioneer field agronomist Larry Lunder says there continues to be a lot of indecision about acreage. “It is almost a daily thing where they change their mind. They’re into something and then they’re out of it and then they’re back into it.” Lunder expects to see growers move to earlier-maturing corn hybrids or switching to soybeans. Sunflowers are also popular. The Pioneer Agronomy Update airs weekly on RRFN.
ND Farmers Start to Applying Fertilizer – Northern Plains farmers didn’t have much time to apply fertilizer last fall. Now, the work is getting done. “Fertilizer demand has been been hectic, but manageable,” said Chris Kolstoe, agronomy manager, CHS Ag Services. “We’ve been applying for a few weeks in some areas. In North Dakota, Grand Forks and Larimore are on the front side of it.” There have been no issues re-supplying fertilizer. “We’ve unloaded one unit train of urea so far. We have a few more to dump and we’re also unloading a phosphate train,” said Kolstoe. “We’ll be in good shape. If we can get the rain away for a week we can get a lot done.” Listen to the story.
Crop Watch – Fieldwork varies across the Northern Plains. “In the western part of North Dakota, conditions look alright. Moving east and north, there are some wet pockets of ground that is taking awhile to get into,” said Spencer Wagner, ag sales manager, N7 LLC. “There seems to be a lot of people getting in due to how wet things froze up last fall.” Fertilizer demand has been steady, but Wagner said it isn’t moving at the speed it was last year. In northwest Minnesota, the crop is slowly going in the ground. “The last week of April farmers got in on some old sugarbeet ground near near Stephen and Argyle. It’s drier. Lots of farmers have been planting sugarbeets and wheat,” said David McGlynn, field science representative, Bayer CropScience. “Farmers are also dealing with a fair amount of unharvested crops.” In southern Minnesota, farmers have made very good planting progress near Morris. “Corn planting is almost wrapped up and a good number of acres of soybeans are done, too,” said Bob Burner, manager, Donnelly Co-op. “It’s been one of the smoothest springs I’ve been through in 17 years.” Listen to Crop Watch.
The Sugarbeet Report – Last weekend’s below freezing temperatures were a major concern for growers with sugarbeets out of the ground. Hear more this week’s Sugarbeet Report, made possible by Provysol from BASF, Premium Ag Solutions, Corteva Agriscience, SESVanderHave, Vive Crop Protection, H&S Manufacturing and Syngenta.
A Reduction in ND Corn Acres Not Enough to Impact Market – The lack of fresh bullish news has grain traders watching for hiccups in planting progress. Corn acres in question are likely not enough to impact the market. “We have the USDA forecasting 97 million acres of corn planted and of that, only 3.2 million was accounted for in North Dakota,” said Kristi Van Ahn, market analyst, VanAhn and Company. “If the state doesn’t get half of their corn planted, that’s only 1.5 million acres taken off. We need a story somewhere else with it.”
“Don’t Give Up” on Crop Marketing – Weather and low commodity prices are just a couple, of the many, factors impacting farmers’ decisions right now. While some have started planting the 2020 crop, others have yet to turn a wheel. Based at Stephen, Minnesota, Northland Community and Technical College Farm Business Management instructor Betsy Jensen says the market isn’t helping growers make planting decisions. “This year the marketing is really discouraging farmers from planting corn, so you really need to look at cash flow purposes. Most of the farmers I work with have made pretty substantial cropping plans from when we met this past winter.” Jensen says many farmers are still going ahead with seeding wheat. “Seed for shorter season crops like sunflowers and dry beans is hard to find right now.” Generally, crop marketing isn’t top of mind for farmers this time of year. However, Jensen’s biggest piece of advice for farmers is don’t give up. Even though it’s May, there is still plenty of time to make sales. Hear the full RRFN story.
Trade Skirmish Cranks Up Between China and Australia – China has suspending beef imports from four major Australian beef packers. This is the latest volley in a trade spat between the two countries. In early May, China proposed an 80 percent tariff on Australian barley shipments. The dispute began when the Australian government called for an investigation into the source of COVID-19. A Chinese trade official said the decision on beef imports was not related to the disagreement about coronavirus, but due to labeling and health certificates. Australia is China’s third largest beef supplier, behind Brazil and Argentina.
China Now Allowing Imports of U.S. Barley – The Chinese customs agency filed that notice Thursday. This action is happening as China ramps up imports of U.S. ag products through the phase one trade deal. China is also in a trade dispute with Australia, creating a new opportunity for U.S. barley.
Instability in Brazil Could Bring More Business to U.S. – Bower Trading President Jim Bower is keeping an eye on the Brazilian government and economy. Bower says Brazil is experiencing some major instability that could have major market impacts. “Brazil is having problems with their president and leadership. They assassinated the board superintendent at the Port of Santos. That’s their biggest port,” explains Bower. “Things can’t be going too smooth down there between the government and employees.” That kind of uncertainty could shift business to the United States. “Brazil has been having trouble with the COVID-19 pandemic. They may get themselves in trouble in the next month or so.”
What’s Hot, What’s Not in the Markets – In this week’s edition of What’s Hot, What’s Not in the Markets, Advance Trading risk management advisor Tommy Grisafi looks at planting progress, crude oil values and the impact of prevented plant.
Higher Levels of 2019 Farm Program Payments Possible – The drop in commodity prices could trigger higher levels of 2019 farm program payments for producers. MinnStar Bank Farm Management Analyst and Senior Vice President Kent Thiesse is estimating a 10 to 20 cent per bushel payment for corn enrolled in the Price Loss Coverage program. Maximum Agricultural Risk Coverage corn payments could be triggered with a 22 percent or more yield decline. “I think the big surprise here is when farmers signed up, we were looking at a $3.80 to $3.85 market year average price for corn. To earn PLC payments, you had to drop below $3.70. All of a sudden, there was a combination of problems with the ethanol industry and then, piggybacking was the breakout of COVID-19. Suddenly, that market year average price projection dropped down into the $3.50 to $3.60 range.” According to Thiesse, no PLC payments are expected for soybeans, but ARC-CO payments are likely with a final RMA yield decline of two to three bushels an acre below benchmark yield. For wheat, Thiesse is forecasting a PLC payment of 85 to 90 cents per bushel, with near maximum ARC-CO payments in many areas.
USDA Forecasts Record Corn Production – USDA’s World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimate projects U.S. new crop corn production at a record 16 billion bushels on a yield of 178.5 bushels per acre. Corn usage is expected to rise 245 million bushels to 6.6 billion bushels. That brings 2020/21 domestic ending stocks to 3.3 billion bushels. The soybean production outlook for 2020/21 is projected to be 4.12 billion bushels, an increase of 568 million bushels from the 2019/20 crop. U.S. ending stocks are forecast to decline modestly with rising use. U.S. wheat production is expected to be 1.86 billion bushels, down three percent from last year with lower yields offsetting higher acreage.
Rural Perspectives – What does the latest USDA Crop Production Report mean for Northern Plains farmers? Find out more from AgCountry Farm Credit Services market education specialist Katie Tangen in the latest Rural Perspectives podcast. Listen now.
Ethanol Demand Surprises Trade – An increase in ethanol demand in the USDA May Supply and Demand report surprised traders. “The markets didn’t see the bear get fed in the U.S. figures,” said Mike Zuzolo, president, Global Commodity Analytics and Consulting. “What really surprised me is the 150 million bushel increase in ethanol consumption compared to last month. That’s a real eye-popper. USDA says we haven’t lost more ethanol demand at this stage. In fact, we recouped some. I think that really helped us with the 2020 ending stocks figure.”
USDA Soybean Carryout Suggests China Demand Recovery – Advance Trading Commodity Research Analyst Brian Basting says USDA’s May Supply and Demand report for soybean carryout is suggesting a significant recovery of demand from China in 2021. “From a standpoint of recovery in their sow herd due to the African swine fever and also, the economy is settling down,” says Basting. “The USDA initially forecast China soybean imports by 96 million tons and that would be a record.” USDA increased China’s old crop soybean demand by three million tons. “It looks like the imports are coming from South America instead of the U.S. That’s why the USDA lowered old crop U.S. exports.”
IEG Vantage Adjusts Acreage Forecast – IEG Vantage is estimating 2020 corn acreage at 94.2 million acres. That compares to the latest USDA estimate of 97 million acres. The private analytics firm, formerly known as Informa Economics, calls for U.S. soybean acreage at 85.9 million. That’s up from the USDA estimate of 83.5 million acres. IEG put spring wheat acreage at 12.5 million head, up from 11.9 million in the USDA prospective plantings report.
MN FFA Convention Begins Tuesday – The 91st Minnesota FFA Convention begins on Tuesday. The three-day event is packed with workshops, awards and speakers. This convention will be a little different than usual, because the event is virtual. “We have an incredible number of people coming together to make this a great convention,” says Juleah Tolosky, executive director, Minnesota FFA Association. The state officer team is rolling with the punches leading in this COVID-19 pandemic. “This is what leadership looks like,” says Tolosky. “It looks like making decisions to accomplish your goals, even if that’s not how it’s been done the last 90 years. I’m very proud of these young people and their hearts of service. There’s a lot of good that can come out of adversity.” General sessions start between 3 to 4 p.m. each day and can be viewed here.
New SD FFA Officer Team Announced – A new state FFA officer team was named during the final session of the virtual South Dakota FFA Convention. The 2020-2021 President is Samantha Olson from the Northwestern FFA Chapter, Vice President is Jackson McFaden from the Milbank FFA Chapter and Hunter Eide from the Gettysburg FFA Chapter was named Secretary. The 2020-21 State FFA Treasurer is Elizabeth DeBoer from the Deuel FFA Chapter, Reporter is Dirby Bawek of the Doland FFA Chapter and the Sentinel is Ryder Mortenson from the Winner FFA Chapter. The Red River Farm Network’s coverage of the 2020 SD FFA State Convention is made possible by the South Dakota Corn Utilization Council and South Dakota Farmers Union.
Mellette, SD FFA Member Named State FFA President – The new president for the South Dakota FFA Association is Samantha Olson from the Northwestern Area FFA Chapter in Mellette. Olson got involved in the FFA with encouragement from her grandpa and FFA advisor. “My grandpa was in the FFA when he was younger and he helped set up the Aberdeen Roncalli Chapter,” said Olson. “My ag teacher sparked a love for FFA in my life and encouraged me to run for a state office.” Olson is eager to get to work. “I’m really looking forward to get to know South Dakota FFA members better and our team will do a great job in the year ahead.” Olson is a sophomore at South Dakota State University, pursuing a degree in math education.
A Little Bit of Try – National FFA Western Region Vice President Lyle Logemann was a guest speaker during the first general session of the South Dakota FFA Convention. Logemenn said it’s amazing what can be done with a little motivation. “My cousin and I learned a lot of hard work ethic from our grandpa. He’d say, it’s amazing what can be done with a little bit of try.” The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting a lot right now. Logemann said we aren’t the first generation to go through difficult times. “It’s important to take stock in what we’re doing. Everyone should record their thoughts about what’s happening. This will be a part of history.”
Leading FFA Members in the COVID-19 Pandemic – The South Dakota FFA Convention was packed with opportunities to celebrate FFA members and share leadership lessons learned. Former South Dakota FFA State Secretary Tori Rasmussen gave her retiring address on Wednesday night during the second general session. “FFA members are important to those around them and in the agriculture industry.” She said it’s been eye opening to lead during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We are all in this together. We have an opportunity in leadership positions to show others the positive side. That’s exactly what we did during this year’s virtual FFA convention.”
SD FFA Announces 2020 Star Award Winners – Star award winners were announced during the second general session of the South Dakota FFA Convention. Star awards go to four FFA members that go above and beyond in attitude, community service and their Supervised Agricultural Experience project. The South Dakota Star in Agriscience is Hadley Stiefvater from the McCook Central FFA Chapter. Aidan Friesen from the Menno FFA Chapter is the Star in Ag Business. The South Dakota FFA Star in Ag Placement is Logan Schlim from the Howard FFA Chapter. The Star Farmer is Landon Wolter from the Wessington Springs FFA Chapter.
Emergency Grazing Sought to Deal With Cattle Backlog – To deal with the bottleneck at the packing plants, cattle feeders are holding back lightweight cattle. R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard says that means more grazing land is needed for these animals. As a solution, Bullard is asking USDA to open CRP ground for emergency grazing.
Meat Labeling a Priority for SD Farmers Union – South Dakota Farmers Union Communications and Policy Specialist Luke Reindl says meat labeling continues to be a top priority for the organization, especially Country of Origin Labeling. “We are strong advocates for correct labeling in the beef industry. It’s only fair for consumers to know where their beef comes from,” says Reindl. “SDFU is trying to do everything we can to support livestock producers in these trying times.”
Foodservice and Retailers Compete for Beef Trimmings – As states begin to allow restaurants to reopen, the foodservice sector is finding a dramatic increase in wholesale beef prices. Burgers are a popular menu item and Urner Barry beef market reporter Gary Morrison says grinders are having a hard time sourcing beef trimmings. “They’re competing with retailers for wholes muscle cuts. Those inside rounds were strong before, they strengthened even further with this demand. Briskets that were down roughly 25 percent when foodservice establishments shut down are up almost 140 percent since this started at the end of March because grinders are going out and buying briskets to grind into hamburger.” Morrison was part of the Urner Barry Protein Industry Insights Webinar Thursday.
UM Awarded USDA Grant to Address Biosecurity – The University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine Secure Food Systems team has received $1 million in USDA grant funds to consider strategies for biosecurity. Associate Professor Dr. Marie Culhane said biosecurity begins at the farm level. “Another level of biosecurity is for the system of farms that you’re involved with. Let’s say you are a pig farmer and you are the finisher and your brother is three miles away with the nursery. You’d want to have biosecurity within the entire system.” The funding for this research was designated last year and does not impact current COVID-19 research.
Finding Homes for SD Hogs – South Dakota Interim Agriculture Secretary Larry Rhoden says he’s been working with State Veterinarian Dustin Oedekoven to find homes for the excess supply of pork in the state. “South Dakota State University has a processing facility they use on campus and they were just one of many contacts we made to find alternative markets for hogs. Some people felt like it was an exercise in futility, because these local processing facilities like SDSU only do a handful of hogs each day. I think every hog that we process means one less hog in a landfill.” Rhoden speaks to the reopening of the Sioux Falls pork processing plant. “They opened more than one week ago to get up and running. I know they were taking hogs for processing last Monday. This week, they plan on ramping up the process. I don’t know when they’ll be at full capacity. The point is they’re taking hogs, which is a huge step forward for us.”
A Bump in the Planting Road – The wet conditions are hampering fieldwork for farmers in more ways than just one this year. The frost has come out of the ground and that, combined with the already wet conditions from this past fall, is taking a toll on roads; many of those which farmers and ranchers use daily. While disaster declarations provide access to federal emergency funds, this process requires careful procedures to ensure costs remain eligible. Ramsey County Highway Superintendent Kevin Fieldsend, who also serves as president of the North Dakota Association of Counties, says this concern is on everyone’s mind. “If we get more moisture, it’s going to keep making things worse. It’s also hard for us to get any (maintenance) equipment down those roads to get them fixed.” With the economic downturn due to COVID-19, North Dakota counties are seeing funds normally devoted to roads disappearing. There has been a reduction in traffic on roads, therefore motor fuel tax collections are well below normal. Typically, 22 percent of this tax revenue is dedicated to counties. Fieldsend says a decrease in road revenues could not come at a worse time. “People have to travel the roads to get their farming done.” Listen to the full RRFN story here.
Lawmakers, FEMA Assess Wrecked Roads in Stutsman County, ND – Extremely wet conditions have caused soils to remain saturated and excessive water run-off, causing damage to county, township, and city roads in Stutsman County. Senators John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer, along with state Senator Terry Wanzek and Representative Craig Headland, discussed the damages with farmers, ranchers, and other citizens in the county on Friday. The total cost of damages is estimated at around $3 in Stutsman County, and the 15 percent cost share for FEMA funding may be hard for some townships to cover. Specifically, Senator Hoeven said residents in Peterson Township, located near Medina, North Dakota, are seeking a permanent fix for a main road that is severely damaged. “FEMA has agreed they will work with us to get that done. We’d like a higher cost share than the 75 percent, pushing it up to 90 percent. An appeal can be filed to do so.” After the delegation viewed the damage, the Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corporation hosted a townhall-style meeting on the inundated county roads. FEMA officials participating in the event indicated they are reviewing a request by North Dakota lawmakers to allow local governments to receive the assistance. Listen to the full RRFN story.
Walz Signs Ag Bill – Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signed 11 bills into law Saturday including the omnibus ag policy bill. This legislation includes funding for the University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory to prepare for foreign animal diseases like avian flu and African Swine Fever. The new law also offers grants for loan origination fees to help eligible farmers when refinancing their operations. Grants for a new grain bin safety program and a commitment to the farm advocate program were also included.
Final HOS Rule Released – The Department of Transportation has released a final Hours-of-Service rule. The revised rule includes increased safety and flexibility for break rules, along with sleeper-berth and adverse driving conditions exceptions. Additionally, the maximum on-duty period for commercial drivers was lengthened from 12 to 14 hours and the distance limit was expanded from 100 air miles to 150 air miles. The full rule can be found here.
Biotechnology Policies Updated – USDA is making the first significant update to its biotechnology regs in more than 30 years. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said this will streamline and modernize the USDA regulatory system and facilitate science-based technologies.
Schafer Dives Into the Issue of Trade and Biotechnology – Former Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer, who served two terms as North Dakota’s governor, is featured in the latest podcast from ClimateAi. Regarding the issue of food security, Schafer emphasized the importance of biotech crops. “The European Union oppresses African countries by saying if you want to grow crops and move them into the European Union they must be GMO-free,” said Schafer. “That’s great for the Europeans if that what they want to do, but the African countries need GMO crops to operate.” Schafer said emotion should be removed from the GMO discussion and replaced with a focus on science.
Mycogen Brand Retired, New Seed Brand Launched – Corteva Agriscience has launched a new U.S. seed brand called Brevant. Marketing Leader Mike Lozier says the Brevant brand will be sold exclusively through ag retailers. Brevant will offer corn, soybean, silage corn, canola and sunflower seed starting with the 2021 sales season. Lozier describes this as a brand launch, not a rebranding. “While we’re retiring Mycogen, we’re launching Brevant; we’re not going to just be new, we’re going to bring new,” said Lozier. “We’re ready. If were to do it any sooner, we would have just put a fresh coat of paint on a new building.” Lozier says the Brevant brand represents the largest germplasm opportunity in retail seed history.
Tyson Foods Adjusts Beef Prices – With companies facing scrutiny over the disparity between the cash cattle price and what is happening in the meat case, Tyson Foods plans to discount prices for some cuts by 20-to-30 percent. Tyson CEO Noel White said the reduction in price will safeguard consumer demand as processing plants resume normal operations. This action also comes at a time when the federal government is investigating the packing industry for anti-competitive practices.
JBS Suffers 1Q Losses – The Brazilian meatpacker, JBS, is reporting first quarter losses of more than $1 billion. That compares to the U.S. equivalent of $130 million in profits one year ago. Currency valuations are shouldering the blame for most of that downturn. In the first quarter, JBS’ pork division saw a sales volume increase of 56 percent. The U.S. beef business enjoyed a four percent increase in volume sales. The company warned the COVID-19 will likely influence financial results going forward.
TransFARMation: Farmer Shares His Depression Story, Similarities Seen Between Now and 1980s – Lake Benton, Minnesota farmer Bob Worth was a ‘young gun’ when he began farming 50 years ago. That changed during the 1980s when the farm crisis took its toll. As a result, Worth went in to a severe case of depression. “It was so bad I didn’t even care if I got out of bed. Even if harvest was there, I didn’t care; it (the crop) could stay there.” Bob’s wife convinced him to go see a doctor. “I’m glad she did. The doctor put me on some medicine and diagnosed me with severe depression.” As a past president of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association, Bob has been vocal about his experience with depression. There are some similarities between the 1980s and the tough farm economy of today. “Six or seven year ago, we were flying as high as agriculture has ever flew. We were making good money and never though it could end. Well, guess what, it does end and that’s a lot of the shock.” Worth leaves farmers with this piece of advice. “Communication is so important, especially during times of stress.” Hear more in the latest TransFARMation podcast episode.
Swenson Moves Into New Post at Cargill – Matt Swenson has been named the director of CEO communications for Cargill. For the past year and a half, Swenson was a senior specialist for Cargill’s executive communications team. Previously, Swenson managed communications for Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton.
Houston Rounds Out ASA Policy Team – As of June 1, Virginia Houston will join the American Soybean Association staff as director of government affairs. Houston will focus on trade issues. Previously, Houston has worked for the American Seed Trade Association, National Pork Producers Council and Animal Agriculture Alliance.
Gronberg Kolell Promoted – Sarah Gronberg Kolell is now the senior vice president of marketing, communications and sustainability at Rabo AgriFinance. Most recently, Gronberg Kolell was the vice president of marketing and communications. Gronberg Kolell is a native of Climax, Minnesota and is now based in the Kansas City area.
Herring Named SD Executive Secretary – The South Dakota FFA Association named Dani Herring as their new executive secretary. Herring currently teaches agricultural education in Wall, South Dakota. She says agricultural education needs to be prioritized in South Dakota schools. “The FFA experience can’t be overshadowed, because students learn real world skills. There are students we are losing in some places. We have to continually grow the kinds of students in agricultural education in the state.” Herring is looking forward to working with the new state FFA officer team in the year ahead. “It’s going to be great to see them grow and develop as leaders and promoters of the organization.” Herring doesn’t have an official start date at this time, but hopes to begin in June. She will re-locate to the Brookings area.
SD Corn Comments – Every week, Feeding South Dakota provides temporary food assistance to approximately 21,000 individuals and families in the state. Learn more in the latest Corn Comments, a production of the South Dakota Corn Utilization Council.
BWSR Appointments Announced – Minnesota Tim Walz has appointed four individuals to the Board of Water and Soil Resources. Nathan Redalen of Rochester and Joseph Collins of St. Paul were reappointed. The new members of the BWSR board are Jayne Hager Dee of Northfield and Ted Winter of Fulda.
Goodman Returns to North Dakota as Pioneer District Sales Lead – Brett Goodman is the new District Sales Lead for Pioneer in North Dakota and northwest Minnesota. Most recently, Goodman was in a similar role in the Nashville area. The Milton, North Dakota native previously worked as a strategic account manager for Pioneer in Grand Forks. Goodman succeeds Nate Johansen. Johansen is now Pioneer’s customer experience manager and is based in Johnston, Iowa.
Ahrens to Lead Ag Sales for UPL – Brian Ahrens has been named the head of U.S. ag sales for UPL. Ahrens has worked in various roles within the company, most recently as the lead for the professional products team. Ahrens succeeds Brian Cardin, who requested to step aside from his position after ten years on the job. Cardin will now lead the key account manager team and report to Ahrens.
NAMA Officers Elected – Sara Steever, who is with Paulsen, is the new president of the National Agri-Marketing Association. Deron Johnson of FLM Harvest is first vice president and president-elect. AEM’s John Rozum is secretary/treasurer.
First-Ever Virtual Competition for Minnesota’s Princess Kay – Ten finalists have been named for the Princess Kay of the Milky Way competition. The list includes Emily Benrud of Goodhue, Brenna Connelly of Byron, Mackenzie Craig of Alexandria, Emma Friauf of Glencoe, Taylor Jerde of Northfield, Katherine Maus of Freeport, Maggie Meyer of Grove City, Maggie Molitor of Rockville, Valerie Sauder of Pine Island and Rebeckah Schroeder of Caledonia. The judging was done virtually through online interviews and speeches.
Last Week’s Trivia – Sacagawea was a guide on a historic Lewis and Clark expedition from St. Louis to the Pacific Northwest. Neal Fisher of the North Dakota Wheat Commission wins our trivia challenge. Erin Nash of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting, Grant Lien of Versatile Ag, Dianne Bettin of LB Pork and Mark Mettler of PreferredOne earn runner-up honors. The ‘first 20’ rounds out with Ley Bouchard of The Valley Equestrian, long-time Grand Forks County Extension Agent Morrie Davidson, Cokato farmer Harlan Anderson, Gary Sloan of BMO Harris Bank, Carver County feedlot officer Alan Langseth, Kristal Rick of SES VanderHave, Kent Braathen of Braathen Harvesting, retired Minnesota Ag in the Classroom leader Al Withers, livestock management consultant Bruce Trautman, Ron Dvergsten of Northland Farm Business Management, Brian Brandt of AgriFinancial, Jim Altringer of CHS Dakota Plains Ag, Al Wimpfheimer of Simplot Grower Solutions and Mandy Kvale of Farm Credit Services of Mandan.
This Week’s Trivia- In the 1970s and 80s, this 7-foot-4inch tall, 500 pound professional wrestler was known as the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World.’ His 15-year winning streak came to an end in 1987 in a match against Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania III. What was his name? Send your answer to email@example.com.
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FarmNetNews is a production of the Red River Farm Network. RRFN is based in Grand Forks, North Dakota and provides news to farmers and ranchers across Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.