Cuts in Ag Research Funding Will Cost Jobs at Purdue

Mar 20, 2017 40

Cuts in Ag Research Funding Will Cost Jobs at Purdue

President Trump is proposing a 21% cut in USDA funding. While Congress will ultimately determine the size of the budget, it is likely there will be cuts in most program areas.  In testimony before a  House subcommittee last week, Purdue Dean of Agriculture Jay Akridge said cuts in funds for research would mean a cut in staff at the West Lafayette campus, “Capacity funds are funds that come to our campus and we pay salaries with them — the salaries of staff and researchers that respond to local needs, that respond to the emergencies that hit our farmers like weather or pests. That kind of a hit means head count ultimately.”

Akridge said that some of these extension specialists work directly with farmers to help solve real world problems and that their loss would hurt Indiana farmers, “These are people funded by USDA funds that are doing applied research and working directly with farmers, especially the larger farming operations in the state.” Akridge testified before a  House Ag subcommittee hearing that focused on research funding in the new Farm Bill.  Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL), who chaired the subcommittee, noted that USDA programs and Extension agencies at land-grant universities help make U.S. agriculture the envy of the world. But the private sector has taken over more of the workload in recent years as public funding has declined. “Agricultural research increasingly occupies a smaller share of the United States’ public research portfolio,” Davis said. “At the same time, other countries like China are rapidly outpacing U.S. public investment. Given that public research is often the foundation upon which private research is built, public investment is essential to maintaining the competitiveness of U.S. agriculture.”

ASA Chairman Richard Wilkins (center) testifies on the importance of research funding in the farm bill, along with Dr. Jay Akridge (left), dean of agriculture at Purdue University, representing the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU), and Jim Carrington (right), Donald Danforth Plant Science Center president.

Some of the research that might be impacted at Purdue by cuts in funding would also have international implications, “We have a plant breeder working on orange corn, very bright orange corn,” said Akridge. He explained that this corn has increased levels of vitamin A content in the corn. The lack of vitamin A causes blindness in children in developing countries.  “This kind of sophisticated biology could help us develop a food source that would help with childhood blindness in developing countries around the world,” he stated.  Ackridge said funding for ag research has basically been flat for the past decade.

Hoosier Hay Headed West

Mar 20, 2017 58

Several Indiana Farm Bureau members are loading up trailers and making the 1,600-mile trip to Kansas to deliver donated hay to ranchers who have a desperate need for feed for their livestock. Ranchers and farmers in Kansas and other parts of the country have experienced massive devastation as wildfires, fueled by low humidity and high winds, have destroyed more than 650,000 acres of pasture and rangeland recently – killing livestock and the grazing land needed to feed the livestock that remain.

John and Amanda Canary of Franklin have received help from several other Indiana Farm Bureau members to provide much-needed hay to farmers and ranchers in Kansas. On Friday John Canary, and fellow farmers Andy Duckworth, Johnson County Farm Bureau president, and Tyler Sneed and Justin Kaiser, also of Johnson County, drove four trailers of hay to Ashland, Kansas, to support their fellow farmers.

“I was reading on social media about the devastation in Kansas and elsewhere and how the farmers and ranchers were struggling to feed their livestock because their pastures burned in the wildfires,” explained Canary. “I had to do something and this seems like the perfect way to help.”

The hay, more than 20 tons of it, was donated by Phil and Cindy Ramsey of Shelby County. “I saw that John was asking for volunteers to donate hay. Cindy and I had some to spare so we thought someone could get some good out of it,” Ramsey explained.

Ashland Feed and Seed is serving as the main collection point in Kansas for all the hay being donated by farmers in Indiana and throughout the country. Several truckloads from Ohio are also making their way west.

Veterans Encourage President to Include Ethanol, RFS in Energy Plan

Mar 20, 2017 36
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More than 120 military veterans working and investing in the ethanol industry sent a letter to President Trump last week, urging him to include a prominent role for ethanol and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) in his “America First Energy Plan.”

According to the letter, “many of us have witnessed firsthand the dangers of our reliance on oil imports from hostile and unstable parts of the world. We share your belief that the United States can and must do more to insulate itself from the negative impacts associated with oil import dependence and OPEC manipulation. Your continued commitment to the Renewable Fuel Standard and pledge to ‘end restrictions that keep higher blends of ethanol from being sold’ are among the strategies that will help free our economy from the influence of OPEC oil ministers once and for all.”

The veterans signing the letter work in 18 different states—from California and Oregon to Ohio and Wisconsin—and represent 41 businesses or organizations directly involved in the U.S. ethanol industry. They served in the U.S. Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, and Navy.

Reacting to the letter, RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen offered the following statement:

“The U.S. ethanol industry is honored to employ so many veterans, and we applaud their efforts to encourage President Trump to prominently include ethanol and the RFS in his energy plan. Driven by the RFS, dramatic growth in ethanol production has played a crucial role in boosting domestic fuel supplies and improving our nation’s energy security. Last year alone, the 15.3 billion gallons of ethanol produced by our industry displaced an amount of gasoline refined from 540 million barrels of imported crude oil.”

Source: RFA

Bower Market Strategy Report: No Big Moves Likely Until the End of the Month

Mar 19, 2017 37

Bower Market Strategy Report: No Big Moves Likely Until the End of the Month

Jim Bower

Over the past several weeks, the grain and oilseed market has been in a trading range. While prices have trended higher and lower, the market has not engaged in a breakout either to the upside or the down side.  With the planting intentions report set for release by the USDA at the end of March, Jim Bower sees  the market staying in this trading range for the next several weeks. “The market seems to want to hold,” he stated. “If you try and sell a put option, the market will not give you much of a premium.”

In his weekly Market Strategy Report, aired on Hoosier Ag today radio stations around the state, Bower said the Federal Reserve action this past week has kept the value of the dollar lower which keeps the U.S. competitive from a currency standpoint and may help to stimulate U.S. grain exports.   Bower, however, sees the market becoming more volatile over the next two weeks, “This week will not be as quiet as last week. We are starting to see some field work being done and producers are finalizing production decisions.” He added that the market will begin to pay a lot more attention to weather maps, not only in the Midwest, but in the West where temperatures have been up and moisture short.

Bower sees the biggest negative in the market right now is the large crop and excellent pace of harvest in South America, “They are a major competitor, and we just have to live with that.”

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Perdue Nomination Hearing This Week

Mar 19, 2017 56
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The Senate Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing on the nomination of Sonny Perdue as Agriculture Secretary on Thursday, March 23. This marks the next step in confirming Perdue to the President’s Cabinet. Former Georgia Governor Perdue was announced as the nominee on January 19 and formal nomination was sent to the Senate Agriculture Committee by the White House March 9. Financial documents that show Perdue will step away from his business interests, along with an FBI background check, were forwarded to the Senate panel earlier this month. Senate Democrats have signaled they will not block the nomination of Perdue as they have with other Cabinet nominees by Trump.

The hearing adds to a busy agriculture schedule in Washington, D.C. for the week, which includes a Farm Bill summit at the National Press Club and National Ag Day events.

Source: NAFB News Service

The Missing Part of the Ag Day Message

Mar 19, 2017 47

Well, here we are again, the first day of Spring and the annual Ag Day event — the once a year celebration sponsored by big Agribusiness where ag celebrities gather in Washington to pontificate about the benefits of American agriculture and the contribution of the American farmer. “Food for Life” is the theme this year and is, frankly, very similar to what the theme was last year and the year before that and the year before that.  Let’s be honest, the Ag Day message has not changed much over the years.  Yet, consumers have and their attitudes about food have. In addition, farmers and the way they produce food have also changed. So, how about if we update the Ag Day message and stress a more 21st century image of agriculture?

We in agriculture complain that consumers today don’t understand how their food is produced but do we show them enough? Do a Google image search on the term U.S. farmer, and you will get mostly photos of producers in fields with crops and tractors, many in bib overalls. I did see one of a drone being used, one of a laptop in a field, and a few of producers with mobile phones, but these were in the minority.  Perhaps if we want consumers to accept the technology we are using to produce food, we need to show and tell them more often how we use it.

Another reason to update our image and message is to attract more young people into careers in agriculture. Research by AgriNovus revealed that students in the K-12 grades are not interested in a career in agriculture because it is not seen as interesting, exciting, or modern. Today’s students use sophisticated technology every day. Yet, when their image of farming is baling hay, milking cows by hand, and detassling corn, it is no wonder they do not see a future in farming.  Perhaps if we showed them how computer, robotic, and satellite technology are used on today’s farms, they might be more interested. If we told them that the way to prevent worldwide starvation involved bioengineering, nanotechnology, and life sciences, they might see a place for themselves in that future.

The Kid Who Changed the World is a book that is being used by many Farm Bureaus to update the image of agriculture. It tells the story of Norman Borlaug, who would one day grow up and use his knowledge of agriculture to save the lives of two billion people. More and more, ag leaders are becoming aware of the need to update the image of agriculture for the next generation. The soon to be released strategic plan for the Indiana State Department of Agriculture has an entire section dedicated to this area.  The AgrinNovus study indicated the kind of employees that ag companies will need in the future will have to have a much different skill set than the ag students of the past.

Too many of our Ag Day materials and messages remain rooted in the past.  A more modern and, might I suggest, a more edgy message is needed.  For example, last week the Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee scrapped the traditional theme for their safety campaign which urged motorists to watch out for farm equipment on the road during planting.   Their new slogan is “Get out of my Space.” While it is great and important to honor the past and to acknowledge the contributions of the present, we also must engage consumers and young people in the dynamic and exciting future of agriculture.

By Gary Truitt

Agriculture Groups Meet with White House on Trade

Mar 19, 2017 36
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Leadership from 11 major agriculture groups met with the White House last week to discuss trade issues. The meeting followed a series of written communications to the Trump administration from the groups under the banner of the U.S. Food and Agriculture Dialogue for Trade, organized by the Corn Refiners Association. The meeting focused on the importance of continued growth of food and agriculture exports. In a joint statement following the meeting, the groups said: “It is clear from this meeting and other interactions that the Trump administration understands and intends to pursue expansion of U.S. food and agriculture exports.”

During the meeting, the agricultural organizations noted that 95 percent of their potential customers live beyond the U.S. border, and that the diverse food and agriculture sector supports more than 15 million U.S. jobs, creates more than $423 billion in annual U.S. economic activity, and is the single largest U.S. manufacturing sector, representing 12 percent of all U.S. manufacturing jobs.

Source: NAFB News Service

Big Pine Watershed Gets Cool, Clean Collaboration

Mar 16, 2017 55

Big Pine Watershed Gets Cool, Clean Collaboration

The Big Pine Watershed in Western Indiana has a three year plan to improve water quality.  The Big Pine Creek Headwaters are located in White County and Benton County, Indiana.  Tributaries of the Big Pine Creek in the watershed that folks may be familiar with are Big Pine Gamebird Habitat, Mud Pine Creek, Spring Branch, Honey Branch, Gorgeous Gorges, and the Scenic Fall Creek.  Big Pine Creek Watershed includes waters in White, Tippecanoe, Benton, and Warren Counties and feeds into the Wabash River at Attica in Fountain County.

Big Pine Creek Watershed is part of Middle Wabash-Little Vermillion Watershed and is also part of the Lower Wabash Watershed.  These Watersheds are part of the Wabash River Watershed which is part of the Ohio Indiana Watershed which is a part of the Mississippi Watershed.  Essentially what this means is that Big Pine Creek Watershed is a part of the Mississippi Watershed which feeds into the Gulf.  Runoff from the lands and our smallest ditches and tributaries are the beginning of what flows downstream.

Betsy Bower

Land O’Lakes, Inc., Winfield United, Ceres Solutions, the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC), and The Nature Conservancy, among others, have teamed up to develop a Big Pine Water­shed management plan which lays out water quality goals and how to reach them over the next three years. One of the primary goals is to reduce the amount of phosphorus and sediment that flow into the watershed by more than 50 percent.  “It has been identified as one of the impaired watersheds in Indiana, which can mean a lot of different things,” says Betsy Bower, an agronomist with Ceres Solutions. “Certainly it’s what’s in the water, but how it gets there if it’s all farming applications or all farming operations or if it’s in impaired cites.” Bower said the groups received approval of grant funding last September, “At the time that we put the proposal in though, we were only looking at two different practices and what we’re trying to do is leverage our expertise against some of the EQIP funding, so we work with farmers one-on-one to encourage them to use some of the NRCS funding for nutrient management and cover crops.”

Bower said this is a unique project in Indiana, “There are a lot of conservation entities in Indiana that are excited about this. It’s unique that ag retail is involved, as well as the distribution chain of ag retail products in the form of Winfield United and Land O’Lakes.  The Nature Conservancy and the CTIC are likely involved in other projects, but it’s the first time that an ag retailer has been involved.”

This past summer, Ceres Solutions agronomists and others on the proj­ect helped farmers implement nutrient management plans as well as demonstrated and educated them on practices that reduce soil erosion. For instance, farmers can use reduced or no-till systems, which allows them to grow crops without disturbing the soil. They can also plant cover crops on their land to protect the soil between growing seasons. Together, these approaches can help prevent nutrients and sediment from leaving the field where they can contaminate streams and rivers.

Not surprisingly, when improvement at Big Pine was first discussed, Ceres Solutions quickly saw the value they could bring to the project. “We took action on this issue because we saw this as an opportunity to help our customers—farmers—implement conservation practices to improve water quality outcomes for Big Pine Creek,” says Tom Stein, location manager for Ceres Solutions in Templeton, Indi­ana. Ceres Solutions, a Land O’Lakes member ag cooperative, has a strong area presence and experience serving customers in the watershed area. The cooperative’s connection to Winfield United offers some of the best crop production expertise in the industry.

Nitrogen Stabilizers Needed This Spring

Mar 16, 2017 105
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Rain in the forecast for much of the state today and according to HAT meteorologist Ryan Martin the next two weeks will see plenty of rain.   This will pose issues for spring applied nitrogen. Kenny Johnson with Dow AgroSciences says a nitrogen stabilizer will be critical this spring, ”N-Serve has been around for over 40 yers and is usually thought of as a fall applied product,  but we have already had a lot of rain and we know we are going to get more, so this is a great way to protect your anhydrous application.”

Many Indiana farmers had below trendline corn yields last year so maximizing yields will be top priority this year. Johnson says that means having the right amount of nitrogen when the plant needs it, “We know that corn plant will need nitrogen later in the season and by stabilizing early spring fertilizer it is a best management practice.”  He added with one inch of rain nitrates can move 6-8 inches in the soil profile. Thus stabilizing nitrogen is a good way to keep it out of rivers and streams. While budgets are tight, Johnson says a nitrogen stabilizer is like an insurance policy on your fertilizer investment

Trump Budget Would Cut USDA and EPA Funding

Mar 16, 2017 64
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President Donald Trump’s budget plan includes a $4.7 billion, or 21 percent budget cut to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The cuts would leave USDA with a $17.9 billion budget after cutting statistical and rural business services. But, the budget detail did not give any information on which specific services would be cut. The White House also said it would eliminate the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education program, which donates U.S. agricultural commodities to food-deficit countries. The cuts to USDA are drawing bipartisan opposition. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway (R-TX) says he is concerned the cuts could “hamper some vital work of the department.” He says farmers and ranchers are struggling, and that Congress should “do all we can” to help them. His message to agriculture was “This is the start of a larger process. It is a proposal, not the budget.” House Agriculture ranking Democrat Collin Peterson (MN) says the President’s budget request “demonstrates a lack of understanding of farm programs and their importance to rural America.” Peterson says, “The good news is this budget will be ignored, as it should be.”

The President is proposing to cut the Environmental Protection Agency budget 31 percent by eliminating one-fifth of its workforce and eliminating more than 50 programs. The proposal would drop the EPA budget from $8.1 billion to $5.7 billion. If enacted, the proposal would cease funding the Clean Power Plan, a signature Obama administration effort to combat climate change. It would cut 3,200 positions, or more than 20 percent of the agency’s current workforce of about 15,000. Funding for the massive Chesapeake Bay cleanup project, which receives $73 million each year, would be cut to zero. Funding for drinking water infrastructure would remain intact, but the agency’s scientific research would suffer massive cuts.

Source: NAFB News Service