Another Rainy Period About to Confront Hoosier Farmers

May 12, 2015 412

Cool then wet

Ryan MartinRyan Martin

Rain that swept through Indiana Sunday and Monday moved most planters out of the fields. Hoosier Ag Today Chief Meteorologist Ryan Martin says there likely isn’t any planting going on at the moment, and it will be Thursday or Friday morning before most can get going again, even those who had the smallest amounts of rainfall.

With the rain came a cold front and warm temperatures have departed. Martin says that warmth won’t return right away.

“Well the warmer temperatures I don’t think will be back to equal what we got used to there late last week and into the weekend. I don’t think that’s going to happen for probably another week or so,” he told HAT. “The way I see this unfolding is the next couple of days we’re still going to be well below normal. When precipitation starts up again by the time we get to about Friday I think we’ll be close to normal, maybe a tick or two below. Then from the weekend through early next week probably a bit above, but I don’t think we go back to those almost July like temperatures for another week or so.”

Because of additional rain, he says planting prospects over the next week to 10 days are marginal at best.

“If I was a guy who had acres and acres to go, whether it’s corn or beans, if I needed to go back in the field, at this point I’d have equipment ready to go just because our windows are going to be very, very tight here over the next two weeks. The reason I say that is we’ve got rain coming back in Friday, and then I can’t keep rain out of the forecast any day from Friday right on through next early Wednesday. So I think we can put together 5, almost 6 days where we have to at least be ready for moisture. I think the hit and miss aspects of it are going to be similar to what we saw the end of last week and through the weekend, but we’re not going to be dry by any means in there.”

Then he said Hoosier farmers might see one or two days of dryness before another front could move in Memorial Day weekend. Martin does not see a good, long planting window opening until at least after Memorial Day.

White House Facing a Deadline on Ethanol

May 12, 2015 376

White House Facing a Deadline on Ethanol

Bob Dinneen,Bob Dinneen,

The Obama administration is facing a June 1 deadline to make a key decision on energy, one that will allow the ethanol industry to grow or that will stifle it. In November of 2014, the EPA proposed lowering the amount of renewable fuel used in the US. Since then, opposition from the renewable fuel sector has paralyzed the agency and prevented it from setting blend levels for 2014, 2015, and 2016.  A court ruling requires a final decision on this issue by June 1. Bob Dinneen, with the Renewable Fuels Assoc, says there are enough vehicles on the road today to handle an increased amount of ethanol in our fuel supply, “There are currently 17.5 million flex fuel vehicles on the road  capable of using everything from E-10 to E-15 to E-85.” In addition, the EPA itself has approved the use of E-15 for 85% of all cars on the road.

He added the oil industry continues to stifle the expansion of renewable energy in the US. He said the issue here is not a consumer or marketplace issue, “This is clearly the case of an incumbent industry, unwilling to acknowledge a changing landscape and fighting to hold onto its market share.” He said the oil industry has blocked market access, refused to invest in innovation and new technology, and prevented their stations from offering renewable fuel.

Brooke Coleman, Executive Director, of the Advanced Ethanol Council, an association of cellulosic ethanol producers, says that, while the Obama administration has been waffling on this issue, over $13 billion in investment for cellulosic ethanol has been lost. He said many of his members are building plants overseas because of the uncertainty here in the US, “They are building plants in India, China, and even Europe, while their US projects sit idle.” He added, until the White House decides to ahear to the terms of the RFS, there will be little investment in renewable energy in the US.   He said, without more demand for ethanol here in the US, the cellulosic ethanol sector will move off shore and begin investing in plants in other nations.

The group has launched a media advertising campaign designed to pressure the administration to make the right choice and to support the ethanol industry rather than big oil. Both the television ads and the digital ads frame the choice before the EPA: Follow the intent and spirit of the RFS, and choose American innovation and rural economies? Or thwart Congress’s intent, and choose oil industry profits?

USDA Provides First Projection of 2015 Corn Crop

May 12, 2015 414

In its monthly report on world ag supply and demand, the U.S. Department of Agriculture provided its first look at early expectations for the 2015 corn crop now being planted, with production down by just over a half-billion bushels and usage up slightly, compared to last year’s supply.

USDA projects farmers planting 89.2 million acres and harvesting 81.7 million acres, with an average yield of 166.8 bushels per acre and production of 13.6 billion bushels, down from 2014 corn production of 14.2 billion bushels. Total corn supply will be at a record 15.5 billion bushels, and corn utilization is projected at a record 13.8 billion bushels.

“These numbers for 2015 reflect the importance we are placing on building profitable demand for corn,” said NCGA President Chip Bowling. “They are still an early look at supply and demand, but with two record crops back-to-back and current stocks high, we’re committed to increasing the corn market here and abroad.”

In terms of corn prices, USDA estimate the average farm price for the current market year at $3.55 to $3.75 per bushel, and a broader range of $3.20 to $3.80 for the next market year, which begins Sept. 1.

Indiana Responds to Confirmed H5N8 Avian Influenza in Whitley County Poultry

May 11, 2015 1706

Avian flu in Indiana

Whitley CountyThe state of Indiana is responding “swiftly and focused” to a confirmed positive test of highly pathogenic H5N8 avian influenza in poultry within a backyard, or hobby flock in Whitley County, located between Fort Wayne and Warsaw. The Indiana State Board of Animal Health (BOAH) was notified of the confirmation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory Monday.

Denise Derrer, Public Information Director at BOAH tells HAT there is absolutely no food safety risk associated with this avian influenza.

“The avian virus is not typically found in the meat of poultry. Furthermore our testing program the industry has here in the United States is superior to what is in the rest of the world because every shipment of birds or eggs for the food chain is tested for the presence of the disease. So if any load is found to be positive they are diverted and not taken to human food.”

She added there is minimal risk of human illness to even those who come in contact with these particular birds.

“The Center for Disease Control has state that there is very low risk for humans either from backyard birds, from wild birds, or from commercial poultry. People really don’t need to worry about getting sick from this, and in this particular case that we found the birds were a backyard hobby flock. They were not a commercial operation selling poultry or egg products into the food chain.”

BOAH has staff at the Whitley County site and has removed all of the birds to prevent spread of the disease. They are also investigating surrounding sites and the possible origin of the flu.

“The particular flock owner had purchased birds recently and so we are tracing back those birds to the folks he purchased from,” Derrer said. “We’re also trying to identify flock owners in that particular portion of Whitley County because we need to notify them that they’re now part of the control area.”(HAT interview with Denise Derrer:Denise Derrer Avian Influenza-1)

Paul BrennanPaul Brennan is Executive Vice President of the Indiana State Poultry Association. He told HAT response by Indiana officials has been exceptional.

“The important aspect when something like this is found is quick action. Anything you can do to mitigate, confine, control and clarify is vital. In this case the Board of Animal Health took extraordinary, swift action.”

While the state does not yet know the origin of this H5N8, it’s very unusual that it would be found in Indiana.

“Up to this point this has only been found in California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho. That makes this very unique, having jumped all the way from at least Idaho all the way to Indiana. So we don’t yet know. Work is being done to clarify that or find out as much as we can.” (HAT interview with Brennan:Paul Brennan-ISPA)

Brennan added, “The Board of Animal Health has really focused a lot of attention and resources on epidemiology and trying to get a handle on this, which to this point throughout the country has not been an area of strength. We hope to change that in this particular incident.”

According to Derrer Friday night BOAH veterinarians collected samples from the flock, after the owner reported several chickens became ill and died. The hobby flock contained 77 birds of various species, including ducks, geese, chickens and turkeys. She credited the diagnostic lab at Purdue for working through the night to get test results by Saturday. Since they tested positive for H5 those samples were driven to the National Veterinary Services Lab in Ames, Iowa for final confirmation. That came in on Monday morning.

For signs of avian influenza, reporting the illness, and updates, visit the BOAH website.

Indiana Corn and  Soybeans off to a Good Start

May 11, 2015 781

Indiana Corn and  Soybeans off to a Good Start

Brian EarlyBrian Early

While planting has been late this year, planting conditions have improved in Indiana and early crop development has been good. More than half (55%) of Indiana corn has been planted, up from the 21% a week ago.  Nationally 55% has been planted with Illinois leading the corn belt with 73%. Brian Early, with Pioneer, says, while some parts of the state are still wet, for the most part fields are dry enough to work, “Many fields still have some wet pockets, but most areas are dry enough and the crops have been planted into very good seedbeds.”

The abundant soil moisture and warmer soil temps have helped the crops get out of the ground quickly. In Indiana,12% of the corn has emerged. Early told HAT most of the corn that has been planted is emerging nicely, “It looks like about every kernel we put in the ground came up. Most also had ideal conditions after they were planted with only a few days of cold weather. The corn is coming up and developing very well.” He said, for the most part, seeding diseases have not been a problem this year primarily because the temperatures have been warm enough to prevent many problems, “The normal diseases we see this time of year have not been a problem.”

Twenty percent of Indiana soybeans are now planted, and nationally 18% are in the ground. Early says conditions are good for getting the soybeans off to a good start. He said more and more growers are trying to plant their soybeans earlier than they used to, to improve yields, “A lot of guys have noticed their earlier planted soybeans do better than soybeans planted in June, so we are seeing a lot more early planting of soybeans.”  He noted that early soybean stands this year are looking good and, like corn, the crop seems to be off to a good start.

While some growers have considered switching corn maturity dates, Early does not think this is needed at this time, “I think we still have enough time,  and I am not recommending any change in plans until the end of May or first week in June.” He added most growers still have a good planting window left.

Monsanto Announces New Insect Management Knowledge Program Grants

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Monsanto Company has announced that six recipients will be awarded research grants as part of the Insect Management Knowledge Program (IMKP). The program, which started in early 2013 as the Corn Rootworm Knowledge Program, provides merit-based awards of up to $250,000 per award per year for up to three years for outstanding research that will not only enhance the collective understanding of insect management, but help address significant challenges and issues in agriculture.

“The valuable research that is being generated through this program will provide industry and academia further opportunity to enhance our collective understanding of insect management, leading to even more effective solutions for farmers in the future,” said Dr. Sherri Brown, vice president of science strategy for Monsanto and co-chair of the program.

The IMKP is guided by a 10-person Advisory Committee that is co-chaired by Dr. Brown, and Dr. Steven Pueppke, associate vice president of research and graduate studies for Michigan State University. The committee consists of academics and growers, and provides guidance on integrated pest management, as well as recommendations for areas of basic research on insect resistance and management that would be of interest to growers, the academic community and Monsanto. Earlier this year, the program expanded its focus to include insects that are economically damaging to any U.S. row crop.

“This IMKP grant will allow us to move our laboratory-based studies of the molecular mechanisms of gene silencing in insects into an actual field testing setting, which I couldn’t do with more traditional biomedical research funding agencies,” said Dr. Philip Zamore, professor of biochemistry and molecular pharmacology, and co-director of the RNA Theraputics Institute at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

The six awards granted focus on a number of items from addressing the management of insect threats such as whitefly, soybean aphid, and corn earworm resistance to creating a new model for determining how key risk factors affect the development of insect resistance in transgenic Bt corn. The award recipients are:

  • Peter Ellsworth, University of Arizona
  • Felicia Wu, Michigan State University
  • Jeff Gore, Mississippi State University
  • Matthew O’Neal, Iowa State University
  • Tom Coudron, USDA-ARS
  • Philip Zamore, University of Massachusetts

“I am very appreciative that the Insect Management Knowledge Program is providing a grant for our team to model how the most devastating pest of U.S. corn, the corn rootworm, develops resistance to insect control products, and how management practices can help combat this problem,” said Felicia Wu, university distinguished professor at Michigan State University.

A listing of the winners and background on their projects is available on the Monsanto Insect Management Knowledge Program webpage.

USDA Announces Funding on 80th Anniversary of Rural Electrification

May 11, 2015 347

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that USDA is providing more than $100 million in loans to build or improve 1,000 miles of electric transmission and distribution lines for rural electric cooperative utilities in four states.

“We commend rural electric cooperative utilities nationwide as we celebrate the 80th anniversary of the creation of the Rural Electrification Administration,” Vilsack said. “Investments we make to provide rural communities with electricity are critical to our nation’s economy. Our commitment to rural electricity has powered our growing agricultural exports, a burgeoning bio-economy and the quality of life for rural Americans.”

The four loans include $9 million for smart grid improvements. In Indiana, Johnson County Rural Electric Membership Corporation will use a $14 million loan to build or improve 345 miles of line and make other system improvements, including $4.8 million for smart grid projects.

Thumb Electric Cooperative of Michigan will use a $25 million loan to build or improve 93 miles of line and make other system improvements, including a $2.7 million smart grid investment.

In North Dakota, Slope Electric Cooperative, Inc. has been selected to receive a $12.5 million loan to build or improve 66 miles of line and make other system improvements, including $432,000 for smart grid technologies.

South Carolina’s Santee Electric Cooperative, Inc. is receiving $54.8 million to build or improve 605 miles of line for residential and business customers. The loan also includes $3 million for storm damage restoration.

USDA’s Rural Utilities Service, which funds utility infrastructure in rural areas, is the successor to the Rural Electrification Administration (REA), which was created by then-President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on May 11, 1935. Congress approved statutory authority for the REA on May 20, 1936. The agency became part of USDA in 1939.

USDA is providing $106.3 million in electric system infrastructure loans in today’s announcement. The Rural Utilities Service awarded $2.4 billion in electric loans in 2014 to help 4.6 million rural residents receive improved electric service. Since 2009, USDA has invested almost $31 billion in rural electric systems, including more than $1 billion in renewable energy projects.

“While the country suffered in the Great Depression, President Roosevelt led a national commitment to bringing power to rural America,” Vilsack added. “That commitment helped make America the breadbasket of the world and most productive country in history. USDA’s Rural Utilities Service is honoring that commitment by taking on today’s challenges, including smart grid technology and advanced telecommunications and broadband access.”

Source: USDA

Still Time Left for County Fairs to Get Involved in the Fight Against Hunger

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Farmers Care Food Drive

The Indiana State Fair and Dow AgroSciences have partnered to once again implement a Farmers Care County Food Drive in collaboration with the Indiana Association of Fairs and Feeding Indiana’s Hungry. Communications Manager for the Indiana State Fair Commission, Libby Fritz, says a food drive like this really hits home in local communities.

“These food drives are at their county fairs so they need to partner with a local bank. That is why our main partner is Feeding Indiana’s Hungry. That helps them connect with local food banks around the state.”

Fritz says they’re kicking the food drive up a notch with a gate promotion at this year’s state fair.

“On Dow AgroSciences Farmers Day which is Wednesday, August 19th. Every guest that day will be asked if they want to include a dollar donation to their entrance. That will go to two organizations that we’ve worked with Dow AgroSciences to identify: those will be Gleaners Food Bank and AMPATH. Those donations will be split between the two.”

Look for fighting hunger to be a big theme at this year’s Indiana State Fair.

“Absolutely. We will have a display on Farmers Care at the Harvest Pavilion this year. Right now on our online discount ticket sales, you can donate any amount you like.”

Fritz says participation is really good for this year’s food drive; but, as a state, we can always do better.

“We have 26 county fairs signed up right now. That is a record. Due to that, we extended our deadline to May 15th because we were so excited about participation.”

Want to get your county fair involved in the Farmers Care County Food Drive? Sign up here.

App Already Helping Indiana Farmers’ Decision Making

May 10, 2015 1127

Climate App helping on Indiana farms

Jeff HinenAlready this spring a tool to help farmers monitor nitrogen levels is being put to good use in Indiana. Jeff Hinen is a Field Research Agronomist covering Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and eastward for Climate Corporation. But Hinen is also a farmer near Ft. Wayne, and this year the product he researches, Climate Pro’s Nitrogen Advisor, has given him valuable field insights.

“After the rains we saw here in April I was able to track through that Climate Pro app and see what was happening to that nitrogen in the field,” he said. “It showed me that I was losing a fair amount of nitrogen based on simply the rainfall that I was receiving.”

Now Nitrogen Advisor will help him determine what level of nitrogen he needs for his planned sidedress application. In a year when rainfall has not been typical, Nitrogen Advisor has provided the evidence of N loss right on the screen.

“In a year where I would say we had typical early spring rainfall I don’t think I would have seen what I was seeing on the screen with the Nitrogen Advisor, so I made applications very early and you know what the weather in Indiana has been this April. We’ve had a fair amount of rain here in northeast Indiana and I can see the impact of that water on the screen for these fields where I made those early nitrogen applications. And I believe I’ve lost more nitrogen through leeching than I would in a normal year.”

climate_pro_insetBased on the advice Hinen is getting from the app, his decision making will probably include a bump up in nitrogen levels in the next application.

The app’s Field Health Advisor will also assist with scouting fields for pests this year.

“If I could fly over my fields every couple of weeks and take a look from an airplane and see what they look like and have an indication of which fields may need my attention and which ones may not, that’s what you’re going to get from the Field Health Advisor.”

Reacting quickly to the text alerts about field conditions could mean the difference between yield loss from a pest attack and making the proper decisions and saving that yield.

“Correct,” he told HAT. “That is the absolute goal, right?”

Nitrogen Advisor and Field Health Advisor are two features in the Climate Pro package. Climate Corporation also offers a free app called Climate Basic for those who want to get a feel for the basic weather data the company can deliver.

Learn more in the full HAT interview:Jeff Hinen-Climate

In the End It Really is All About the Taste

May 10, 2015 479

Go out to a restaurant or just turn on the Food Network, and you might get the impression the whole world has turned into “foodies.” Next to food items on a menu,  you will find next terms like Vegan, cage-free, crate-free, gluten-free, organic, artisan, Heirloom, locally grown, sustainable, humane, hormone free, GMO free, antibiotic free, peanut free, and more. There is no such thing as just food any more; it is all part of the current food fad or politically correct diet. Yet, the most popular food item today is not part of the foodie fad, is not politically correct, is certainly not part of a vegan or vegetarian diet, and is not welcome on Michelle Obama’s school lunch menu. However, it has overcome bad press, nutritional ridicule, food safety scares, and public scorn to become the most requested food item in the US today: bacon.

As Protect the Harvest pointed out in a recent on-line post, “Bacon. A tasty side, popular condiment, or standalone comfort food. Although it has been around since the Roman Empire, it was not until the last few decades that bacon has become the force it is today.” And a force it is! At many establishments, it is the only meat on the menu and the one meat product that chefs will not be taking out of their kitchens.  What is even more remarkable is that not that long ago bacon was public enemy #1 and was on the culinary endangered list.

In 1984, bacon was on the cover of Time Magazine as the face of America’s cholesterol problem. There was a huge decline in pork belly sales and what seemed to be the death of bacon. The 1980s was the era of eating lean. Fat was demonized, and Americans did all they could to not consume fatty foods. At first pork belly sales suffered immensely. Bacon is almost two-thirds fat; and, in a society where everyone is pushing to eat lean and healthy, that isn’t a favorable statistic. Pork bellies got so cheap that the government urged producers to sell them to the Soviet Union and impoverished African countries. But this obsession with lean would ultimately set the stage for bacon’s return.

Trying to cash in on the lean fad, McDonalds came up with a plan. They were going to sell the McLean – a burger claiming to be 91% fat-free. Other chains soon followed and, before you knew it, most hamburgers tasked like chewing on old shoes. People began to complain that their meat had no taste.  Responding to packer demands, livestock producers started producing pork and beef with less fat and marbling. Butchers complained they had to spend too much time trimming off fat from meat cuts before they could put them in the meat case.

Then the bacon backlash began. POH gives credit to Hardees for starting the revolution by offering the Frisco Burger.  Consumers wanted a burger that is so thick with meat that they felt as though they were truly getting their money’s worth. And people discovered what they had been missing: taste. Bacon was the key, and soon bacon strips were showing up on burgers all over the place.  By 2000, bacon was considered to be the third largest condiment behind salt and pepper.

Today, bacon has taken on a life of its own, moving into products far removed from the dinner plate. You can find bacon ice cream, bacon toothpaste, bacon mints, bacon floss, and even a bacon-scented pillow. But bacon’s real accomplishment is to prove that taste is what really matters. While heath, diet, and nutrition fads may come and go, it is taste that people want in the end.  Research shows that taste outranks social, environmental, and even cost concerns when it comes to why consumers will pick one food product over another.

So, the next time you hear about some really scary food trend, just remember that the only food trends that last are ones that taste good. And that most likely means they have bacon in them.

By Gary Truitt