New Indiana FSA Director has Vision for Agency

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New Indiana FSA Director has Vision for Agency

Steve Brown

The newly appointed director of the Indiana Farm Service Agency office is no stranger to this arm of USDA. Steve Brown is a former USDA employee with 32 years of experience working in Porter and Carroll counties as well as the Indiana FSA State Office. Along with working for USDA, Brown spent over 30 years working on the family farm. Brown offers a wide range of farm program experience and looks forward to assisting farmers in Indiana.

Brown told HAT he was honored when President Trump asked him to head the state organization. He said his experience in FSA will help him deal with the challenges that lie ahead, “FSA faces some challenges ahead. We will have a new Farm Bill to administer in the near future.”

Brown said the local offices are facing a staff shortage, “I am hoping we can get our employee count up.” He added it will be important the local offices have the staff and resources to help farmers during these difficult economic times, “I think we are going to see a lot of increased activity in the farm loan and commodity loan program areas.” Brown has been traveling the state visiting local offices assessing the needs and problems facing local FSA employees.

Navigating Indiana’s Spotty Rural Broadband

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How is Indiana measuring against other states in total internet availability? Broadband access remains spotty in the state. Indiana is 34th nationally in internet connectivity and 18 percent of Hoosiers can’t get broadband, according to BroadbandNow, a consumer advocacy website. The national number for no access is almost 10 percent. Purdue Extension has a new report available suggesting the economic benefits of expanded broadband service could outweigh the development costs and generate up to $10 million in growth for some counties over the next 15 years.

Roberto Gallardo, Purdue Extension community and regional economics specialist and assistant director of the PCRD, said Hoosiers without high-speed internet are at risk of falling behind in the modern information economy.

Rural broadband is a priority item for Indiana Farm Bureau since half of the state’s rural population doesn’t have fixed access to broadband.

According to Gallardo, “If you do not have full access to the web, you are probably missing out on important educational and employment opportunities, as well as the ability to seek out information on health, finances and more,” Gallardo said. “Today, being without high-speed internet access is as great of a disadvantage as not being to read and write would have been 100 years ago.”

Gallardo said greater broadband access would make counties more attractive to commercial and residential developers and improve the quality of life for residents.

Results of the study are not intended to suggest a specific course of action, Gallardo said. However, they can promote dialogue among policymakers and the public, as well as raise awareness of the state’s “digital divide” – the gap between high-speed internet haves and have-nots, he said.

“In many ways, broadband is the electricity of the 21st century,” said Jason Henderson, director of Purdue Extension and associate dean of agriculture. “In the 1930s, rural electric cooperatives revolutionized the visibility and viability of America’s small towns. If today’s rural communities are to fully participate in a global economy, reliable and readily available broadband access is a necessary component to their success.

“Purdue Extension is committed to identifying gaps of digital delivery and use in Indiana and creating digital-ready communities – with the foresight to help them maintain adaptability as technology continues to advance.”

In 2015, the FCC voted to raise the minimum download speeds to qualify as broadband service from 4 megabits per second (Mbps) to 25 Mbps. The minimum upload speed was also increased, from 1 to 3 Mbps. The so-called “25/3” standard is now accepted nationally as the definition of broadband.

Those numbers are important, Gallardo notes, because increasingly sophisticated internet content – from multimedia presentations to online voice and video communications – require greater download and upload speeds.

“Imagine trying to complete an online degree using a dial-up modem,” he said.

Gallardo and a team of Purdue researchers studied broadband access in all of Indiana’s 92 counties, using the 25/3 standard to define broadband access, and compared the results with other counties across the nation. The team gathered socioeconomic data to rank each Indiana county on a newly devised Digital Divide Index, or DDI.

The index assigns scores from 0 to 100, with 100 indicating the highest digital divide. It is composed of two scores, also ranging from 0 to 100 – the infrastructure/adoption (INFA) score and the socioeconomic (SE) score.

The complete rankings are available on the PCRD/Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affair’s Rural Indiana Stats page at Scroll to the bottom of the left-hand column and click on Digital Divide Index under the heading Broadband Data. Data for the rest of the nation as well as Indiana is also available here.

The team found that on average, rural Indiana residents – including farmers – were more likely than city dwellers to lack broadband access. Building new infrastructure to support increased broadband service in those rural counties could be expensive, Gallardo cautioned.

“This means many farmers could be missing out on important advancements in digital agriculture simply because they do not have adequate internet service,” he said. “Traditionally, farmers are early adopters of new technologies. It’s not that they don’t want to compete, but without broadband they don’t have the tools to do so.”

Gallardo believes Purdue Extension has a key role to play in helping the state address its digital divide.

“There are three critical elements to maximizing broadband – access, affordability and know-how,” he said. “If you’re missing one, you’re at risk of being left behind. We can help develop the know-how – it’s what we’ve been doing for more than 100 years.”

Source: Purdue News

Some have gone the route of satellite internet service. Speeds in that universe are increasing, and in June of this year a new satellite was launched by ViaSat that will bring faster service to the market early next year.

“Very shortly our new ViaSat 2 satellite will be turned on in the February time frame, and we’ll be talking about 100 Mbps service, up to 100 Mbps, virtually anywhere in the country, and that product will put the rural lifestyle community, the agribusiness community on par with virtually any cable service, anywhere in the country,” says Harry Thibedeau with ViaSat. The company was formerly Wild Blue and is now known as Exede. The name changes to ViaSat soon. He says the new offerings will enable farmers to operate their businesses anywhere they want just as those in urban settings can. Learn more about the service in the HAT interview:Harry-Thibedeau-on-ViaSat

Farm Groups Divided on House Passage of Tax Reform

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Farm groups offered a mixed reaction to House passage of a tax reform package. The American Farm Bureau Federation called the action a “step closer to a tax code that works for all farmers and ranchers.” The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association called the passage a “step in the right direction,” noting specifically the language within the package that would immediately double the death-tax exemption and put the tax on the path to extinction in five years. However, NCBA also expressed concern that the reform package would significantly limit the ability of some businesses from deducting their interest expenses.

The National Council of Farmer Cooperates called passage of the bill “unfortunate,” as the organization says the reform package will raise taxes on farmers and co-ops across the country by eliminating the Section 199 deduction. And, The National Farmers Union said it was “alarmed” by the passage because the legislation would jeopardize farm bill funding, while increasing the federal debt and harming farmers and ranchers.

Source: NAFB News Service

ACE runs ad on Capitol Hill as RFS deadline approaches

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Thursday’s edition of the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call features a new, full-page advertisement placed by the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) encouraging President Trump to tell the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to stand with rural America and keep the promise to protect the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The end of this month marks the deadline for the release of the final Renewable Volume Obligations (RVOs) under the 2018 RFS, and now is as important as ever to remind the White House and EPA of the promises they’ve made to rural Americans to protect the RFS.

The ad features South Dakota farmer Marietta Lakness, who, like millions of rural Americans, trusted President Trump when he promised to protect the RFS. Excerpts from the ad are below.

“The RFS helped Marietta invest in a locally owned ethanol company, which created new markets for her crops and high-skill jobs in her community. The biofuel Marietta produces has lowered consumer gas prices, reduced our dependence on foreign oil, and provided Americans new fuel choices at the pump like E15.”

“As a major deadline looms, oil refiners want the EPA to cut the RFS.  This would devastate farmers like Marietta who are facing a fourth consecutive year of depressed crop prices and income. Rural America is poised to help lead America’s next manufacturing wave, but that will require the EPA keeping President Trump’s promise to protect and grow ethanol use under the RFS. Mr. President, tell EPA to stand with rural America and keep the promise to protect the RFS.”

Source: ACE

Purdue Top Farmer Conference Focused on Strategies for 2018

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Purdue University’s Center for Commercial Agriculture will present the 50th Top Farmer Conference on Jan. 9 at the Beck Agricultural Center. A pre-conference workshop will be held on Jan. 8 at the same location.

The Top Farmer Conference, one of the longest-running and most successful management programs designed specifically for farmers, encourages farmers to think about the future of agriculture and how they can position their farms for success in the years ahead. Experts from Purdue and Kansas State universities will lead sessions at the daylong conference.

“The Top Farmer conference is a program tailored to meet the needs of today’s farmers and to help them prepare for the future,” said James Mintert, center director and Purdue professor of agricultural economics. “This year’s program starts with a focus on changes in consumer demand for food and the opportunities and challenges that creates for producers. From there, participants will examine strategies they can use on their farm operations to manage their way through today’s challenging economic environment. The afternoon will start with Art Barnaby from Kansas State University, a principal developer of crop revenue insurance, challenging producers to rethink their risk management strategies before making their 2018 crop insurance decisions. The conference concludes with Purdue’s top crop production scientists discussing ways to reduce production costs without reducing yield potential.”

In addition to Mintert and Barnaby, the conference features the following Purdue speakers:

* Jayson Lusk, head of the Department of Agricultural Economics and a distinguished professor whose research is focused on the evolution in food demand.

* Jason Henderson, director of Purdue Extension and a former economist with the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank.

* Michael Langemeier, cropping systems economist and professor of agricultural economics.

* Nathan Thompson, risk management economist and assistant professor of agricultural economics.

* Chris Hurt, grain marketing economist and professor of agricultural economics.

* Robert Nielson, corn specialist and professor of agronomy.

* Shaun Casteel, soybean specialist and associate professor of agronomy.

* Bill Johnson, professor of botany and plant pathology specializing in weed science.

In addition to the main conference, two optional pre-conference workshops are available, which will allow participants to choose whether they want to deep dive into financial management or succession planning. The pre-conference workshops will offer chances for participants to evaluate their farms’ debt payment capacity, gauge the impact of changes in income and expenses, explore various options in buy-sell agreements, and identify and manage conflict styles within the family farm.

The one-day conference is $150 per person. Participants can register for both a pre-conference workshop and the Top Farmer Conference for $175 total. The cost to register for just a pre-conference workshop is $50 per person. Learn more and register

Soil Fertility a Key Factor After Harvest

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Soil Fertility a Key Factor After Harvest

For many corn growers, yields were better than expected. As a result, soil fertility is an issue that needs to be addressed this fall, says T.C. Hoffman, with DuPont Pioneer. “If you had big yields then you took a lot of fertility out of your soil,” he stated. “This needs to be replaced if you want to grow a good crop next year.” Soil samples are strongly recommended, even on fields not scheduled to have one done, because of the kind of weather and good yields we saw this year.

Another consideration is your tillage plan for 2018. According to Hoffman, “If you are planning ridge till, strip till, or no till next year, a fall burndown of fall weeds will keep fields clean so you can accomplish these tasks.” He added that this will help make weeds less of a problem next spring.

With data analysis becoming a lot more sophisticated, collecting data on what worked and what did not work this year is vital. There are a variety services available that will help collect and analyze important data from 2017, in order to have a better 2018.

Listen to the complete report with T.C. Hoffman at the Agronomy tab on the HAT website.

Farm Bureau Seeks End to Organic Livestock Rule

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The American Farm Bureau Federation is seeking full withdrawal of the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices Rule, now delayed until January. AFBF President Zippy Duvall, in a statement this week, said the rule “has been about pushing an agenda rather than advancing food safety or animal welfare.” Duvall said the rule would force organic farmers and ranchers out of the organic sector because it forces them to arbitrarily change their production practices.

Last week, the Department of Agriculture announced the rule would be delayed until January 19, 2018. The USDA announcement says, during review the rule, officials discovered a material error in the record and a question about the scope of statutory authority. The agency also says it is delaying the rule so that it can answer important questions, including the likely costs and benefits analysis.

Source: NAFB News Service

U.S. Ethanol Production Remains Strong

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According to EIA data analyzed by the Renewable Fuels Association, ethanol production averaged 1.054 million barrels per day (b/d)—or 44.27 million gallons daily. That is down 3,000 b/d from the week before and tied for the seventh-highest rate of output ever recorded. The four-week average for ethanol production increased 0.9% to 1.052 million b/d for an annualized rate of 16.13 billion gallons. Stocks of ethanol were 21.5 million barrels. That is a 0.9% increase from last week. There were zero imports recorded for the week, after 35,000 b/d of imports were recorded the previous week.

Average weekly gasoline demand decreased 3.4% to a 4-week low of 385.2 million gallons (9.172 million barrels) daily. This is equivalent to 140.6 billion gallons annualized. Refiner/blender input of ethanol was static at 918,000 b/d, equivalent to 14.07 billion gallons annualized. Thus, gasoline supplied to the market contained an average of 10.01% ethanol, the third time in the last seven weeks that the blend rate has been above 10.0%.

Expressed as a percentage of daily gasoline demand, daily ethanol production increased to a 10-week high of 11.49%.

Source: RFA

Ceres Solutions Official Receives Top Honors

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Dennis Daggett of ProAg (left) presents the top leadership award to Randy Fry of Ceres Solutions Cooperative.

At its annual conference last week, AgGateway honored individuals and companies that are advancing electronic connectivity efforts in agriculture and related industries, thereby expanding the use of information to maximize efficiency and productivity.  Randy Fry, Data Process and Information Systems Manager with Ceres Solutions Cooperative, received AgGateway’s Ron Storms Leadership Award, the organization’s top honor. The award recognizes repeated, outstanding efforts by an AgGateway volunteer member in promoting collaboration among AgGateway teams and advancing initiatives to enable eConnectivity. In presenting the award, former Ron Storms recipient Dennis Daggett of ProAg described Fry as a driving force and champion of the AgGateway mission, both inside and outside the organization.

“Randy leads by example – with true conviction and heart,” Daggett said. “He has a ‘get it done’ attitude to move things forward. He is a true believer in AgGateway standards, and why the industry benefits as companies implement connections using those standards.”

Fry has served on AgGateway’s Operational Board and in leadership positions for the Seed Council and Automatic Identification Data Capture (AIDC) Task Force. Most recently, he led the effort to create an informational video on barcoding in seed and ag retail operations, and has a column on overcoming objections to electronic implementation and barcoding in AgGateway’s November newsletter.

AgGateway also presented its annual AgGateway in Action Awards. Recipients are chosen by the leadership within various council segments, recognizing individuals who have moved connectivity efforts forward in the current year. The 2017 winners include Jeff Griffeth of Co-Alliance, presented by the Ag Retail Council; Steve Daigle of Elemica, the Allied Providers Council; Robert Kovalsky of The Mosaic Co., the Crop Nutrition Council; Mike Glidden of JR Simplot, the Crop Protection Council; Scott Nieman of Land O’ Lakes, the Grain & Feed Council; Dick Moore of Red Wing Software, the Precision Ag Council; Randy Fry of Ceres Solutions, the Seed Council; and Donald Green of Crop Production Services, the Specialty Chemical Council.

Barcoding Inc. was recognized by the Operational Board with an AgGateway in Action Company Award for its contributions this year. The company was praised for its leadership on the AIDC Task Force, for its role in helping companies articulate and promote the value of eConnectivity, and for its work in AgGateway’s communications and social media initiatives.

In addition, President & CEO Wendy Smith gave the 2017 President’s Award to Jeremy W. Wilson, Technology Specialist at Crop IMS. Smith described Wilson as a tireless AgGateway advocate who “presents our message and the results of our work to many audiences, stressing with them the importance of standards and implementing eConnectivity.” Wilson is active on AgGateway’s precision agriculture teams, and recently helped conduct a successful grain traceability proof-of-concept on his farm in Olney, Ill.

AgGateway’s Annual Conference drew international business and IT professionals from across the industry. AgGateway extends its thanks to the many generous conference sponsors, including Titanium Sponsors: AGDATA, Monsanto, F4F (Part of Proagrica); Gold Sponsors: BASF, The Mosaic Co., WinField United; Silver Sponsors: AGCO, Brandt, Crop Production Services, Dow AgroSciences, EFC Systems, John Deere, Rosen’s Diversified, Syngenta; and Conference Sponsors: ACS, AgCIO Roundtable, AgVantage Software, ARMtech Insurance Services, Barcoding Inc., Bayer CropScience, CF Industries, DTN/The Progressive Farmer,, GROWMARK, Key Cooperative, Software Solutions Integrated (SSI), SST Software (agX), Wilbur-Ellis, and XS Inc.

Source: Ag Gateway

French Lick is Destination for Upcoming Indiana Farm Bureau Convention

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The Indiana Farm Bureau State Convention heads to southern Indiana this year, December 7-9. The convention returns to French Lick Resort and West Baden Springs Hotel. INFB President Randy Kron says they’re happy to be going back.

“We’ve been there a couple times now and our members just love the place,” he told HAT “Around Christmas time and the way they decorate it, they enjoy it. A lot of people, even the ones from up north say they enjoy making the trip and seeing West Baden and French Lick. It’s a great location.”

Members should enjoy a true fireside chat with the president on Friday the 8th. Kron will respond to INFB member questions on a variety of ag issues.

“It’s something we’re doing a little bit differently instead of the president’s address. I’ve said that it kind of reflects agriculture has changed and Farm Bureau has to change along with it and the different generations. So, we’re going to try a different format and have a question and answer session on what’s important and what’s happened throughout the year. Actually, as they’re registering members are able to send in some questions. I know we’re going to take a few of those questions and try to answer what’s on their mind.”

The convention offers various breakout sessions, providing a member update on subjects like taxes: fair taxes, property taxes and tax reform.

“That’s a big topic in our nation’s capital right now,” Kron said. “Hopefully we’ll know a little more then what the proposals are so we can have some discussions about it and how it’s going to impact agriculture. You know in any kind of plan like that there’s going to be winners and losers. We’ll also talk about some nutrient management and big issues around water quality and things that we can do. As always there will be an outlook for agriculture and what’s happening in the agriculture economy. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that that one is a little more positive and we’re turning the corner now.”

Also during the state convention watch the Young Farmer Discussion Meet competition Friday and Saturday, walk through the Expo, enjoy a ride on the Polar Express, and there is a contested election for INFB second vice president. Registration deadline is Sunday, November 26, 2017.

Click here for the full convention agenda.

Visit the HAT YouTube channel for a closer look at the historic venue for the INFB state convention.