FFA week Focuses on the Importance of Ag Education

Feb 20, 2017 16
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FFA week Focuses on the Importance of Ag Education

Nathem Blume

This is FFA week, and FFA state officers are busy spreading the word about agriculture and FFA. State FFA Treasurer Nathan Blume says FFA Week is a time when he connects with a wide variety of people to explain exactly what FFA is and the benefits it can provide to students and their communities, “I try and hit the tone that FFA is not just about agriculture but about developing leadership that comes with agricultural education.”  Blume says, when he is talking to those who are not that familiar with agriculture or FFA, he stresses the leadership training that FFA provides and how that can impact their community as well as the industry of agriculture. He said FFA Week is a great time to spread this message.

This week FFA students served as pages at the Indiana State Capitol, where there is discussion about making agriculture education more prevalent in schools around the state. Blume feels that including ag classes in a high school curriculum is important to expanding students’ career choices and expanding their horizons when it comes to agriculture, “My ag classes taught me just as much as my math, science, and English classes, so I feel it is important to expand ag classes in other schools around the state.” He added that getting more students involved in agricultural education will also lead to developing more agricultural education teachers, which are in very short supply. State Rep. Melanie Wright, D-Yorktown has co-authored legislation (HB 1283)  that would require school districts, charter schools, or accredited non-public high schools to offer a high-school level agriculture class. The measure would tie compliance to districts’ accountability grades with no district able to achieve the highest grade without offering the class. “I think accessibility to agriculture might open up to students who aren’t exposed to that,” Wright said. “I think it’s such a part of our heritage.”

Blume and his fellow state officers will also be meeting with FFA chapters around the state this week.

Will SE Indiana get Repeat of 2016 Muddy Spring?

Feb 20, 2017 16

SE Indiana soil concerns

Unseasonably warm weather continues much of this week here in Indiana and there will be some early-week minor rains followed by a couple of days of sunshine and then more rain at the end of the week. In a section of Indiana hampered by rain a year ago, soil moisture is elevated again this year. Southeast Indiana seedsman Todd Jeffries of Seed Consultants is located in the Batesville area.

“We’re pretty wet down in the southeast part of the state for the most part,” he told HAT. “It’s a little bit dry on top but you don’t have to go very far down to find flat out mud. Even though planting is coming up quickly we still have plenty of time to get the ground perfect.”

He said there was a lot of rain on that same ground much of last year.

“I think it started raining last February and didn’t quit until November. You don’t have to go very far from where we were for things to be dry throughout the summer, but we had plenty of moisture.”

Jeffries talked about corn and soybean rotation decisions approaching the 2017 planting season. With talk about switching some corn acres to soybeans this year, he explained some farmers in his area will resist that simply because of the conditions a year ago.

“We’re seeing a little of the switching going on,” he said. “It’s not drastic though. I know in southeast Indiana we were really heavy on beans last year just because we couldn’t get the corn planted, so I have a big chunk of guys trying to get back to their normal rotation. In the end agronomics over economic typically works out best.”

For now, all eyes remain on prices and weather forecasts. Track HAT Chief Meteorologist Ryan Martin’s daily updates here.

Fuel Retailers, Marketers and End Users Urge EPA to Maintain Current RFS Compliance Requirements

Feb 20, 2017 18

As the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) public comment period on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) closes today, NATSO is encouraged by the vast support to keep the current compliance structure under the RFS. NATSO, in collaboration with other industry stakeholders, has engaged a diverse group of more than 35 organizations and companies representing downstream blenders, fuel retailers, marketers and end users at the federal and state levels. These groups speak on behalf of a majority of the fuel sector, which opposes the shift.

“NATSO is heartened by the overwhelming number of stakeholders who are urging the EPA to keep the RFS compliance with refiners, importers and manufacturers,” said Lisa Mullings, president and CEO of NATSO. “We urge the EPA not to shift compliance onto thousands of small business fuel retailers, which would inject massive disruption into fuels markets and raise fuel prices, ultimately harming the economy and hard-working Americans.”

The RFS has been an ongoing point of contention between major players in the fuel industry. A handful of refiners and investors have petitioned the EPA to shift compliance requirements down the supply chain. Doing so would undercut the program’s efforts to sustain the use of renewable fuels in gasoline and diesel fuel. The current structure creates a strong incentive for blenders, retailers and marketers to integrate renewable fuels into the supply chain.

“The RFS is working as intended by creating stable gas prices and encouraging renewable fuels in our gas supply,” said Tim Columbus, general counsel of the National Association of Convenience Stores and SIGMA. “But if the EPA shifts compliance, it would unnecessarily complicate the program, needlessly disrupt the markets for motor fuels, and hurt consumers most.”

In addition to undermining the purpose of the program, this change would increase gas prices for consumers as downstream players’ ability to satisfy their obligations would be dictated by upstream counterparts, who have the leverage and incentive to raise prices. A recent Penn Schoen Berland (PSB) survey released earlier this year revealed that 86 percent of voters agree that a compliance shift would increase gas and diesel prices at the pump.

The change would also add significant compliance costs and burdens to freight shippers, which would ultimately raise the cost of consumer goods through higher shipping costs. For example, if the compliance changes, Class I railroads would need to expend between $112.5 million and $214 million just to acquire Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) to comply with 2016 Renewable Volume Obligations (RVOs) – based on 2016 numbers. California’s enactment of the Low Carbon Fuel Standard is a cautionary tale. In light of the market’s experience in California, it would not be implausible for the railroads to have to pay between $260 and $447 million more for fuel.

“Blue jackets” Back in Indianapolis for FFA Page Day

Feb 20, 2017 16

In celebration of National FFA Week, dozens of enthusiastic Indiana FFA members filled the historic Statehouse for FFA Page Day. Along with experiencing a full day of legislative activity, the students were able to interact with their elected leaders while getting a behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of state government.

“It was such a pleasure to host the Indiana FFA students during their time at the Statehouse today as part of the celebration of National FFA Week,” said Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch, Indiana’s Secretary of Agriculture and Rural Development. “I really enjoyed talking with this exceptional group of students and have every confidence they are going to make a large impact in their chosen future careers, hopefully in the agriculture industry.”

FFA Page Day started with a tour of the state’s Capitol Building, which included the House and Senate chambers, the Indiana Supreme Court and the Lt. Governor’s office, to list a few. After the tour, Director of Public Affairs for the Indiana Soybean Alliance (ISA) and the Indiana Corn Growers Association, Steve Howell, addressed the pages and spoke about the importance of civic engagement over lunch, provided by ISA.

The pages were then able to assist Statehouse staff members with a wide range of activities and learn about the legislative process by actually seeing it firsthand.

“Sometimes the best way to learn something is to experience it up close,” said Loren Matlock, Eastern Hancock FFA member. “It was great being able to meet some of the men and women who pass our laws and talk to them about the importance of agriculture. This was an experience I’ll never forget.”

One of the highlights of the day was a joint resolution ceremony, championed by State Senator Jean Leising (R-Oldenburg) in the Senate and State Representative Don Lehe (R-Brookston) in the House, honoring Indiana FFA and its membership. Indiana State Department of Agriculture Director, Ted McKinney, addressed members of the Indiana House of Representatives and discussed the tremendous impact FFA has in the state and to the future of agriculture.

“We are fortunate to have organizations, like FFA, that are raising up the next generation of agricultural leaders – there is no greater calling,” McKinney said. “Like every industry, we have our own set of challenges ahead of us, but I have no doubt these students, our future leaders, will rise up and meet them head-on.”

In addition to FFA Page Day, many local chapters across the state and nation use National FFA Week as an opportunity to promote agriculture in their schools and communities. All week long, Indiana’s 11,856 FFA members will be raising awareness about agriculture, recruiting students to join the organization and g

Operating Costs Have Not Declined as Much as Commodity Prices

Feb 20, 2017 14
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During a House Agriculture Committee hearing, USDA Chief Economist Rob Johansson told lawmakers farm income is expected to remain flat in 2017. “We’ve seen land values and cash rents decline last year. Evidence suggests those will continue to decline in 2017. The rate of decline remains relatively slow. Recent data from the Federal Reserve Banks indicate year-over-year declines of between one-and-one-eighth percent with ag land values. Many producers face difficulties with low commodity prices, as operating costs have not fallen as far or quickly as prices.” Johansson says some producers can rely on capital reserves; but, to those new to farming, that’s no longer an option. Interest rates are still low, and farmland values declining somewhat slowly. As a result, farm debt presents a lower risk to agriculture than it did in the 1980s.

USDA has released its annual forecast, projecting the next ten years in agriculture. USDA economist David Stallings coordinates this report and said the farm industry is re-adjusting after record income in 2014. He stated, “We do have net cash income and net farm income continuing to fall from our recent record highs. Net cash income declines through 2019 before remaining steady. Net farm income declines in 2017 and then increases back to 2016 levels in the later years of the projection period.” Stallings says the total acreage devoted to crop production will decline over the next ten years

Senate Agriculture Committee Holding Farm Bill Field Hearing

Feb 20, 2017 14
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The Senate Agriculture Committee will hold its first Farm Bill field hearing this week in Kansas. The hearing, planned for Thursday at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas, will feature testimony from a variety of agricultural producers, according to committee sources. Titled “Hearing from the Heartland: Perspectives on the 2018 Farm Bill from Kansas,” committee members will get an update on “what is working and what is not working in farm country,” according to Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS). The field hearing will follow the House Agriculture Committee’s pre-farm bill hearing last week.

The Senate Agriculture Committee will live stream the hearing online at www.ag.senate.gov. A time for the hearing has not been confirmed.

Source: NAFB News Service

2016 Indiana Land Values Decline in Farm Credit Analysis

Feb 19, 2017 31

Indiana farmland value down for 2016

Indiana farmland value decreased by an average of 7.1 percent in 2016 according to the newest report from Farm Credit Mid-America. The report also shows a slight drop in Kentucky but increases in average value for Ohio and Tennessee. Dennis Badger, Vice President Collateral Risk Management explains the fall in values comes just a few years after hitting all-time highs.

“Actually in 2010 is when we’ve seen one of our largest spikes where Indiana showed a 27 percent increase,” he said. “This past year, in 2016 the overall average for Indiana was 7.1 percent decline. The prior year, 2015 it was a 2.7 percent decline, so the rate of decline has increased for Indiana.”

Farm Credit Mid-America breaks Indiana into three regions with the largest drop in values coming in the north.

“The northern region suffered about a 12 percent decline, the middle region suffered about a 7 percent decline, and the lower region was about a 2 percent decline.”

As to the variation by region, Badger said “I think part of it just goes back to the types of farming operations that would be present, whether it’s large operations as well as the commodity that they’re looking at and even soil types factor into that as well, along with weighted average productivity indexes and things of that nature.”

Does the drop suggest a coming crisis? Badger says no.

“Real estate like everything is cyclical, so when you had the highs of 2010 and the 27 percent increases, you’re also going to see a retraction where it comes back again, almost like a pendulum. So, the pendulum is heading back the other direction. It’s certainly not like a balloon that is popping I’ve heard as an analogy from the housing crisis, the housing bubble. We don’t think it’s anything near that magnitude. Certainly, some of the other factors such as commodity prices right now, the net farm income is certainly another concern. So, there are some variables that people want to be mindful of.”

Badger doesn’t see this retraction going anywhere near the last housing or farm crises.

FCMA researched and analyzed over 8,996 sales in 2016 in Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee to arrive at their final report, which showed an overall 4-state average decline of .9 percent.

Looking forward, Badger expects downward pressure on cash rents in 2017, along with increased marketing time for listed properties, a decreased number of properties on the market and stable to declining farmland property values for their four state area.

Bower Market Strategy Report: Get Ready for A Wild Ride

Feb 19, 2017 32

Bower Market Strategy Report: Get Ready for A Wild Ride

Last week was a good example of what we can expect in the market for the next several months, says Jim Bower. Big moves up and big moves down, “Volatility from here on in is going to be the norm. I don’t think the market is going to be quiet. I don’t think it will be relaxed. I think there is going to be a lot of uncertainty and a lot of up and down.” He added that farmers and investors are going to have to be ready with their strategy.

Bower says the wheat market will be especially volatile given the weather in the west and the very low winter wheat acres, “Since last fall, we have not had optimal weather condition in about the western 45% of the winter wheat belt and with acreage at a 109 year low. Any threat to yield will really impact this market.” He said the wheat market is very oversold and anything that threatens yield as the crop comes out of dormancy will spark a big market reaction.

For more information, contact Bower Trading at 1-800-533-8045.

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Food Police Find it Hard to Adjust to the New Reality

Feb 19, 2017 34

“Gall” is sometimes defined as the young man who killed his parents asking the judge for mercy because he is an orphan.  The latest example of gall is the CEO of a snack food maker donating millions of dollars to fight the influence of the food industry on public policy. Daniel Lubetzky says he’s pledging $25 million his own money to create a group called “Feed the Truth” dedicated to revealing corporate influence in the nutrition field, with activities like education campaigns and investigative journalism. Lubetzky heads Kind, a company known for its fruit and nut bars, touts its use of “real” ingredients, and has proven deft at mixing marketing with nutrition. In other words, another Chipotle and Panera, with just a different wrapper.

For the past 8 years, the food police has had a strong ally in the White House in Michelle Obama and a sympathetic ear at USDA in the form of Tom Vilsack. But things have changed in Washington, and those who like to tell us what we should and should not eat find themselves on the outside. This means it is going to be harder for them to regulate school lunch programs, food service menus, and fast food advertising. So they are going to have to revert to trying to influence public and political opinion, the very thing Lubetzky decries.

These dietary do-gooders like to market their products as simple and non-corporate, while, in reality, they are just as much corporate food giants as those at whom they like to throw stones. Since Kind was launched in 2004, the company’s annual revenue has grown to $673.4 million.  Lubetzky says he is willing to fund investigative journalism about big food influence, but it would not take too much investigation to find that his company was recently in the spotlight when the Food and Drug Administration warned that it was inappropriately using the term “healthy” on packaging.

There is no doubt that the food industry has an influence on public health and nutrition policy, but don’t get fooled into thinking that influence is one-sided.  Those who claim they are healthiest, safest, and most nutritious may, in reality, be no better than those they claim to be better than.

  By Gary Truitt

Senate Confirms Pruitt to Head EPA, Farm Groups React

Feb 17, 2017 39
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The Senate confirmed Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency, an agency Republicans desperately want to rein in after what they charge was eight years of dangerous activism under the Obama administration that hurt farmers, businesses, and the economy. Pruitt maybe just the person to do it. As Oklahoma attorney general, he sued the agency many times in that pursuit and has vowed to curb the EPA’s regulatory reach once in office. Agricultural and ethanol groups generally supported Pruitt to head the agency.

Brian Jennings, the Executive Vice President of the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE), issued the following statement after the confirmation vote:  “We congratulate Mr. Pruitt on his confirmation and are eager to work with him to help EPA keep the promises that President Trump made about ethanol during the campaign.  EPA and oil company restrictions on the use of higher ethanol blends the last few years have created surplus stocks of corn and put pressure on prices and rural economies. According to USDA, net farm income has dropped from $123.7 billion in 2013 to $66.9 billion in 2016 — a decrease of 46 percent.  From 2015 to 2016 alone, net farm income dropped 17.2 percent.  It is imperative that Administrator Pruitt work to help ensure the successful implementation of the Renewable Fuel Standard to drive the use of higher ethanol blends, to maintain the RFS point-of-obligation with refiners and importers, and to lift unnecessary restrictions on ethanol use such as the Reid vapor pressure limit.  Taking these steps will prevent further harm to rural economies in key states that supported President Trump because of his promises to create jobs and strengthen the U.S. economy.”

Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen said in a statement: “The Renewable Fuels Association congratulates Scott Pruitt on Senate confirmation to become the next EPA administrator. As Mr. Pruitt said during his confirmation hearing last month, ‘To honor the intent and the expression of the Renewable Fuel Standard statute is very, very important.’ We could not agree more. We look forward to working with Mr. Pruitt to ensure the RFS remains on track with strong, annual obligations that follow congressional intent. While the RFS remains our priority, we will also continue advocating for the removal of unnecessary volatility restrictions that have discouraged market acceptance of higher level ethanol blends like E15. Ethanol is the lowest cost, cleanest and highest octane source in the world. We encourage Mr. Pruitt to work with us to ensure consumers have more choices at the pump.”