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FD_Toledo_HomePageFeatureThe next U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance Food Dialogues event is coming to Ohio.

Following last summer’s water crisis in Toledo, when 500,000 people were without water due to harmful algae blooms in Lake Erie, Food Dialogues – Toledo will feature a discussion on the challenges of balancing food production and water quality.

“Making sure that we understand and the consumers understand how committed agriculture is to clean water, at the same time we’re committed to producing food and those things have to be joined together, they have to be cohesive, there has to be collaboration in regulations, there has to be a clear view of how to solve some of the issues that can arise when food production and water quality cross paths, said Randy Krotz, CEO, U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA).

Krotz says to include as many people as possible in the discussion, Food Dialogues – Toledo will be streamed online.

“You can go and stream it from the Ohio Farm Bureau, or you can go to FOOD DIALOGUES dot COM, which is the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers website and it’s right there on our home page and you can watch the event right as it occurs,” Krotz said.

Food Dialogues – Toledo will be held Thursday, May 28th, beginning at 10 a.m. Links to the live stream are available here and here.

Audio: Randy Krotz, CEO, U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance

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Farmers can compare custom rates with a new report from Michigan State University Extension. The annual Farm Machine Work Rate summary, created by the Farm Information Resource Management Extension team, is a guide for farmers to use when hiring custom operators.  The summary includes equipment, labor and fuel cost estimates.  Dennis Stein, Farm Business Management Extension Educator, says while the cost of equipment and labor continue to increase, the price of fuel is lower than last year.

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U.S. egg production during April 2015 was modestly higher than in April 2014, according to the USDA.

Production totaled 8.212 million eggs, including 7.114 billion table eggs and 1.098 billion hatching eggs. For the hatching eggs, 1.01 billion were for broilers and 87 million were egg-type.

The number of layers during April averaged 358 million head, down 1% from last year, and production per 100 layers averaged 2,291 eggs, up 1%. All layers on May 1st were reported at 354 million head, 2% under a year ago, and the rate of lay per day averaged nearly 76 eggs per 100 layers, unchanged on the year.

Egg-type chicks hatched were 49.6 million, a 9% increase, but domestic placements of egg-type pullets for future hatchery supplies were 219,000 head, a 10% decrease. Broiler-type chicks hatched were 773 million, 3% above a year ago, and breeders placed 7.09 million broiler-type pullets on feed for future hatchery supply flock, 6% more than in April 2014.

Egg production numbers for May are out June 22nd and could show a larger impact from Avian Influenza.


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Walmart announced May 22 a “new” position on animal welfare.  Perhaps the position is new to Walmart; it reflects business as usual for U.S. animal agriculture. In any case, I commend the company.  In addition, Walmart publicly stated this week its policy on the use of antibiotics in animal agriculture.  Again, nothing game-changing in the policy because it reflects what farmers and ranchers, in cooperation with FDA, are already doing.

The crux of the company’s animal welfare position is the so-called “five freedoms” – practices put on paper in Great Britain back in 1967 – referred to as the company’s “aspiration for animal welfare in our supply chain.”  It’s good to have goals; it’s even better to have already attained them.

The five freedoms include adequate food and water; appropriate shelter/resting area; protection from injury and disease; expression of “normal” behaviors, and no fear and no distress.  The company talks about seeking change in housing systems that “lack sufficient space, enrichment or socialization,” e.g. sow stalls, veal stalls and laying hen cages, as well as elimination of “painful procedures where avoidable,” e.g. tail docking, de-horning and castration.

I’d argue the five freedoms, as interpreted in the objective world, are standard operating procedure for farmers and ranchers because they reflect the basic ethics of those who choose animal husbandry as a lifestyle, a fact animal rightists and those in fear of the movement’s press machines choose to ignore.  U.S. farmers and ranchers long ago mastered the on-farm mixology of solid science, experience and ethics in husbanding their animals, so the concept of blending the three is not unique to the animal rights movement, to Walmart or other retailers which have made similar public relations pronouncements.

The use of stalls and cages is and will continue to be a legitimate debatable point, with a fundamental question that must be addressed: “At what point does allowing animals to demonstrate ‘natural behaviors,’ e.g. mounting, biting, goring, pecking, bullying, eating of newborns, etc., or that of Mother Nature, e.g. disease vectors, predation, human mischief, trump the ‘enrichment and socialization’ goal?”  The safety of farmers, ranchers and their employees also must be part of the conversations about animal housing.

As to the company’s stated policy on antibiotics, I commend Walmart for recognizing the proactive and collective actions of the animal agriculture industry.  While wading into the murky policy waters of animal agriculture’s use of antibiotics likely wasn’t necessary – and will allow the anti-aggies to throw Walmart’s name with impunity – the stated policy is, in fact, in line with industry actions.

The “new” policy wants producers to use antibiotics “responsibly,” and follow the “Judicious Use Principles of Antimicrobial Use,” adopted by the American Veterinary Medical Assn. (AVMA).  The big box chain wants accurate recordkeeping, veterinary oversight and for producers to limit antimicrobial use to “animals that are ill or at risk.” Done times five, and all in cooperation with the federal government and the animal health industry.

Walmart’s announcement recognizes the evolving and industry-supported professional use of antimicrobials on farm.  National farm and ranch groups already subscribe to AVMA’s judicious use document, having worked with AVMA in the drafting process several years ago.  No antibiotics are to be used for growth promotion or feed efficiency, and all antibiotics used on farm must be used in consultation with the farm/ranch vet, the man or woman who writes a Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD), the vet’s order to use the drugs to only prevent or treat disease.

Walmart, welcome to our world.


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gestation stalls--ttuAnimal rights groups are applauding Walmart’s announcement of stricter farm animal welfare policies.

Leah Garces, USA director for the group Compassion in World Farming, says it marks “a historical tipping-point”.

“This is the largest retailer in the country and much of their merchandising is groceries.  So the impact of such a market leader in taking farmer animal welfare so seriously, it really can’t be overstated,” Garces says. “It will mark a radical change and a tipping point for farm animal welfare.”

Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, calls Walmart’s announcement “game-changing progress” and says it “signals to agribusiness that the era of confining farm animals is ending”.

AUDIO: Leah Garces

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The U.S. red meat supply in cold storage at the end of April 2015 was up sharply from the end of April 2014.

That’s likely because of increased pork production, the relatively high price retail price of beef, and a wet, cool weather pattern in many areas delaying the start of grilling season. The total amount of red meat in cold storage on April 30th was 1.220 billion pounds, 20% larger than a year ago, with beef at 476.702 million pounds, up 18%, and pork at 699.606 million pounds, 20% higher.

Poultry stocks also surged due to increased production and weather. Poultry totaled 1.165 billion pounds, 21% above last year, with chicken at 765.517 million pounds, 31% larger, and turkey at 394.382 million pounds, up 5%.

The next set of cold storage numbers is out June 22nd.


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Cattle country was relatively quiet on Friday morning following light to moderate trade in the North on Thursday. Best early guesses are that around 10,000  to 12,000 head moved in Nebraska with a range of 251.00 to 253.00, mostly 252.00, the 253.00 was to a regional packer. A few head moved in Kansas at 159.50 to 163.00. It looks like the Southern business may be completed for the week, but the North should need to see more sales.

Boxed beef cutout values were significantly lower in the morning report with the choice down 1.42 at 260.80, and select was 1.32 lower at 248.00

Feeder cattle receipts at Missouri auctions this week totaled 27,563 head. Compared to last week, feeders sold steady to 5.00 higher. The supply was moderate with 450 to 650 pound calves making up a large percentage of the offerings. Several barns have annual yearling sales scheduled in the next few weeks which always consist of many load lots of high quality yearlings. The demand for feeder cattle was good. Grass is green and pastures are back to growing with the surplus of moisture available. Feeder steers medium and large 1 averaging 626 pounds at 259.59. Heifers averaging 622 pounds brought 229.39.

Barrows and gilts in the Iowa/Minnesota direct trade are down 1.84 at 77.56 weighted average on a carcass basis, the West is 3.62 lower at 75.52, and nationally the market is 1.73 lower at 76.48. Missouri direct base carcass meat price is steady from 73.00 to 74.00. Midwest hogs on a live basis are lightly tested from 53.00 to 60.00.

The pork carcass cutout value in the morning report was sharply lower, down 2.05 at 85.00 FOB plant.

The pork carcass value on Thursday jumped to its highest level since December 26, at $87.05. From Thursday to Thursday, the cut-out has advanced $2.68, powered largely by better belly demand.

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The USDA’s latest set of cattle on feed numbers reflects at least some expansion of the U.S. herd.

The total number of cattle on feed in the U.S. on May 1st was up 1% on the year at 10.640 million head and marketings during April were down 8% at 1.639 million head, the lowest for the month since the series of reports started. Both the total number of cattle on feed and marketings came close to what analysts were expecting.

However, placements were well below most estimates, 5% below a year ago at 1.548 million head, because of the tighter supply of cattle late last year and early this year. By weight, placements of cattle weighing less than 600 pounds were 320,000 head and 600 to 699 pound placements were 240,000 head, while 700 to 799 pound placements were 348,000 head and placements of cattle weighing more than 800 pounds were 640,000 head.

Other disappearances dropped 20% to 66,000 head.


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The Rembrandt egg facility in Renville has become the largest Minnesota farm infected by avian influenza.

The Minnesota Board of Animal Health confirmed the positive test result last week and under the quarantine order, Rembrandt will be required to depopulate the entire site affecting 2 million chickens.

According to a news release, Rembrandt will temporarily lay off 39 full time employees beginning around June first because of the outbreak.

The company says it has every expectation that it will restart the operation, but is unable to predict the exact date on which this will occur.

Rembrandt had to destroy 5.5 million chickens at a farm in Iowa last month because of avian flu.



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Legislation funding Michigan’s voluntary environmental stewardship program passed in the State House this week.  Representative Dan Lauwers, Chair of the House Agriculture Committee and sponsor of HB-4391, says it now moves to the Michigan Senate.

“The bill was passed by the full House exactly how it was reported out of the House Ag Committee so we had great support.”

The bill passed on a vote of 61-48, with one member not voting. The legislation renews and expands funding for the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program as part of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act.

Lauwers expects the legislation to move through the Senate fairly quickly.

“They’re aware, very aware, of everything we’ve gone through working with the various agricultural commodity groups.”  He tells Brownfield, “We expect that the Senate will report out their bill within the next week.”

Lauwers is concerned about Michigan’s asparagus industry.  He says his committee is looking into what they can do to help the industry find labor.  He estimates asparagus growers that haven’t found enough harvest workers have lost a half a million dollars so far this season.

AUDIO: Interview with Representative Lauwers (2:27 mp3):

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A bipartisan Congressional Propane Caucus has been formed.

Congressman Bob Latta (R-OH) and Tim Waltz (D-MN) formed the caucus to educate members of Congress on the many uses of propane, its importance to constituents and the issues both the propane industry and consumers face.

“Propane is vital to our every day lives; it heats our homes, aids in the production of our farms, and is increasingly being used as an alternative, clean burning fuel for transportation,” said Propane Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Latta. “I am pleased to start this caucus in order to educate fellow Members of Congress on the many uses of propane, its importance to the constituents we serve, and the issues both the industry and its consumers face.”

“I’m proud to lead this caucus with Rep. Latta. Propane is essential for hundreds of thousands of Minnesota families, not only to heat their homes during the long, cold winter, but also for cooking, laundry, and farming,” Rep. Walz, Co-Chair of the Propane Caucus, said. “It is imperative that we do everything in our power to protect families and local businesses from facing the price shocks we witnessed in the winter of 2014 when a lack of supply put people’s lives and livelihoods at risk.”

Propane contributes $38.7 billion to America’s GDP, provides 50,000 domestic jobs and is an energy source for over 50 million Americans.

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Specialty crops play a vital role in Indiana agriculture.

Jeanette Merritt, marketing director for the Purdue Wine Grape Team says when consumers think about Indiana agriculture, corn and soybeans are top of mind.

But the number of vineyards across the state are on the rise as more people are looking to get back into agriculture.  “Some are inheriting ground that maybe grandpa had – but it may not be enough to grow row crops on and they are looking for different things to do with it,” she says.  “Specialty crops are obviously a great director for them to head.  If they have 5 to 10 acres – and they want to experience country life on that acreage, we’re seeing them plant vineyards.”

Indiana’s wine and grape industry will be showcased at the upcoming Vintage Indiana Wine and Food Festival.  Merritt, director of the event says the festival is in its 16th year.  “This festival gives people the opportunity to learn about wineries and their role in our agricultural industry,” she says.  “And the opportunity to talk to vineyard growers about the grapes they are raising.”

More than 300 wines from nearly 30 different vineyards will be on display.

Vintage Indiana will be held June 6th at Military Park in downtown Indianapolis.

A link to purchase advanced tickets can be found HERE.

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U.S. CapitolA Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill has taken a step forward in the U.S. Senate.  Senators voted 62 to 38 to limit debate on the bill, ending any chance of a filibuster.

Votes on amendments are still being allowed by Senate leaders. One of those is a bipartisan measure to allow negotiators to work on currency manipulation issues in Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks.

The National Corn Growers Association is one of many ag groups urging passage of “a clean” Trade Promotion Authority bill.  The NCGA opposes “any amendments that could prolong debate or jeopardize the legislation.

There are reports that the Senate could vote today on the TPA bill.



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Adam Casner, Cab Conversations participant

This planting season has had its challenges for farmers across the Corn Belt.

Much of west central Missouri farmer Adam Casner’s corn crop is at least partially underwater. As he tells Brownfield, it never is a good time for the crop to be underwater – but he’s especially worried right now.  “A lot of our corn is V3 to V4 stage and right now the plant is determining its ear girth,” he says.  “But currently it’s focusing on trying to survive standing in water and it’s not living the happy, healthy life we want it to.”

Because Casner farms in flat river bottoms along the Missouri River – the water doesn’t to run off naturally – so they rely on man-made ditches, water pumps, and flood gates to control the amount of water that ends up on the crop.  “If there’s water present, there’s not oxygen present in the roots,” he says.  “And it’s detrimental to our crop and why we work so hard to get the water off as quickly as we can.”

The river crested earlier this week – and has been on the decline.  But he says, that can change quickly with a single rainfall.

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walmat storeWalmart has announced stricter guidelines around animal welfare and the use of antibiotics in farm animals.

The new policy calls for the elimination of gestation stalls in pork production and battery cages in egg production. The guidelines also call for antibiotics to be used only when medically necessary, with oversight of a veterinarian, and eliminating the use of antibiotics to promote growth in animals.

Walmart did not give a specific timeline for the implementation of those policy changes.

It’s the first time the giant retailer has established official positions on those issues.  The announcement was praised by the Humane Society of the United States.  HSUS president Wayne Pacelle calls it “game-changing progress” and says it “signals to agribusiness that the era of confining farm animals is ending”.


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In this week’s episode, Meghan Grebner, Indiana Farm Director, talks to three farmers from Michigan, Minnesota and Nebraska about spring planting and being voices for accuracy in agriculture.

Zach Hunnicutt, Aurora, Nebraska
Theresia Gillie, Hallock, Minnesota
Carla Wardin, St. Johns, Michigan

Show Notes:
The conversation, multi-generation farming, planting, fighting misconceptions 

Meghan Grebner: She begins by asking Carla to talk about her operation and asks her how the season is going.
Carla Wardin: She farms on a dairy with 400 cows, 850 acres of pasture with alfalfa and corn. She’s a 6th generation farmer.  She’s excited to have started with a great season so far. All of their corn was planted by the end of April.
Theresia Gillie: She farms on her husband’s century family farm.  They farm 2,600 acres of crop, including spring wheat and soybeans.
Zach Hunnicutt: He is a 5th generation farmer. He farms with his dad and brother. They raise corn, popcorn and soybeans, among other crops. He says it’s been a stop and go planting season because of rain.
Meghan Grebner: Asks the group what keeps them farming.
Theresia Gillie:  Says she didn’t grow up on a farm.  She learned how to farm as an adult.
Carla Wardin: She and her husband worked in the corporate world for years before they decided to take over the family farming business. She says they both loved being raised on the farm and hope to pass that love on to the next generation.
Zach Hunnicut: He says two of three of his young kids says they want to farm when they grow up. He says he wants to make sure his farm is prepared in case the next generation wants to continue.
Meghan Grebner: She asks the group about sharing the farming story and why they’re willing to do so.
Zach Hunnicutt: He says there’s been a disconnect with less people with first hand knowledge of the farm. He says he likes to be a source for true information.
Theresia Gillie: Says she is always willing to answer questions and share everything she knows.
Carla Wardin: Says she feels that there really are connections made with consumers and that she enjoys being their reliable source.
Theresia Gillie: She shares that what she’s doing is very natural and very safe and that she wants to get that message to the classroom.
Zach Hunnicutt: His farm participates in Ag in the Classroom, which is a good way to share what they’re doing.
Meghan Grebner: She asks Theresia how the cold weather they’ve been experiencing in Minnesota is impacting things.
Theresia Gillie: She says the cool weather is good for the spring wheat but it is concerning for the soybeans and to sugar beat farmers.

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multi-hybrid planter iowa 5-15-edit

If variability in your fields is costing you bushels and dollars at harvest time, then multi-hybrid planting—placing specific hybrids at optimum zones in the field—may be part of the solution.

Keaton Krueger is an ag technology specialist with Winfield.  He’s been working with Iowa-based SciMax Solutions this spring on a multi-hybrid planting project.  They’ve used variable rate mapping from Winfield’s R7 Tool and a specially designed multi-hybrid planter purchased through the partnership to plant more than 1,000 acres of corn in north-central Iowa.

Krueger says multi-hybrid planting takes precision farming to a whole new level.

AUDIO: Keaton Krueger

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U.S. Capitol


Trade Promotion Authority cleared what looks like the final hurdle before a full vote in the Senate.  The legislation was advanced on a 62-38 cloture vote with 13 Democrats joining 49 Republicans in support.

The measure was held-up until Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed to bring legislation to renew the charter for the Import-Export bank to the floor before the charter expires on June 30th.

TPA is now expected to pass the Senate but its fate in the House is less certain.

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A seed company and a weather prediction company are coming together to give farmers access to vitally important weather information.

Noah Freeman, precision ag technologies manager for AgReliant Genetics says weather directly impacts every element of a farmer’s business and the collaboration between AgReliant Genetics and Weather Trends International will give farmers access to the information they need.  “By going through the Weather Trends 360 website farmers can log into a portal and get their premium 11 month-out forecast that has 84 percent accuracy,” he says.

He tells Brownfield enhanced weather information will also be available through Advantage Acre, AgReliant Genetics’ precision agriculture platform, which is set to launch yet this year.

Freeman says when it comes to crop production – weather is one of the most important factors.  “We always say if I could know the weather I could really make better plans,” he says.  “I could plan my seed planting better.  I could pick my varieties and hybrids better.  I could plant my fertility better.  Now, with this tool, we can have a better idea of what’s going to be happening in the next 11 months and even the next 3 months in our cropping season.

Freeman says this is available to AgReliant customers now.  A link to more information can be found HERE.


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Cheese Travel Wisconsin


The use of names like parmesan and champagne could be more restricted under a deal signed Thursday.  Delegates to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) diplomatic conference on the Lisbon Agreement signed a pact expanding the protection of appellations of origin to include geographical indications and expanding the protections granted under the international registry.

Geographical Indications limit the use of certain product terms or names to those in a particular geographic area.  The European Union has been pressing to severely limit the use of a number of cheese, wine and other product names they contend should only come from specific areas.

The U.S. led a 12-nation coalition in opposition to the Lisbon Agreement especially given the fact a number of WIPO member-nations, including the U.S., were not allowed to vote on the measure.

Chris Galen with the National Milk Producers Federation tells Brownfield: “The agreement expands the range of food names that can be put on the list and allows the EU itself (instead of only individual countries) to join. This outcome underscores the importance of continuing to battle – as we have been – directly in each target market and in TTIP to work to safeguard common names.”

U.S. Dairy Export Council president Tom Suber says it is clear there are “serious WTO consistency problems with the approach Lisbon members have decided to pursue.”

Read the Lisbon Agreement here:

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