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Stephenson receives award from the Society for Range Management

Dr. Mitchell Stephenson of Scottsbluff, Neb., received an Outstanding Young Range Professional Award at the Society for Range Management’s (SRM) 71st Annual Meeting, Technical Training, and Trade Show in Sparks, Nevada which concluded earlier this month.  The Outstanding Young Range Professional ...

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Stephenson receives award from the Society for Range Management

Dr. Mitchell Stephenson of Scottsbluff, Neb., received an Outstanding Young Range Professional Award at the Society for Range Management’s (SRM) 71st Annual Meeting, Technical Training, and Trade Show in Sparks, Nevada which concluded earlier this month.  The Outstanding Young Range Professional ...

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Proposed Steel Tariffs Raise Potential for Retaliation Against U.S. Soybeans

Following reports Friday from Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross that the department will recommend tariffs on imported steel and aluminum as a result of its ongoing investigation under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, soybean farmers have voiced their concern about the potential for reta...

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Nebraska's number of farms and ranches declined during 2017, according to USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service. The number of farms and ranches in the State, at 47,400, was down 1,000 farms from 2016. Numbers of farms and ranches in Nebraska with less than $100,000 in agricultural sales d...

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Gov. Ricketts Announces UNL AD Bill Moos as a 2018 Governor’s Ag Conference Speaker

Today, Governor Pete Ricketts announced that University of Nebraska-Lincoln Athletic Director Bill Moos will address the 2018 Governor’s Ag Conference at the “Celebrate Nebraska Agriculture” reception onWednesday, March 7.  The Governor’s Ag Conference, March 7-8 in Kearney, is a great op...

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Growth Energy: Biofuels Vital to Improving Energy Outlook

Growth Energy says federal data shows a clear and growing need for U.S. biofuels. A federal forecast released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration projects through 2050 based on current trends and regulations, an 18 percent increase in miles traveled by U.S. motorists in traditional light-d...

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Pre-Registration for 2018 Commodity Classic Closes February 21

ST. LOUIS—There are only a few days left to pre-register for the 2018 Commodity Classic held Feb. 27-March 1 in Anaheim, Calif.   The deadline for pre-registration is Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018. Commodity Classic is America’s largest farmer-led, farmer-focused convention and trade show.  The 2018 event will be held at the Anaheim Convention Center. Both full registrations and one-day registrations are available during pre-registration.  Walk-in registrations for one day or all three days will also be available on-site in Anaheim. The trade show featuring more than 360 exhibitors commanding nearly 2,000 booth spaces is open all three days.  A wide range of educational sessions is offered throughout the three-day event covering topics such as soil health, fertility, marketing, farm policy, pollinators, cover crops and high-yield strategies. Whether you spend one day or all three, the environment at Commodity Classic is educational, energizing and welcoming for all types of farmers. “There’s just a whole bunch of us there that are just folks…that are typical producers in farm neighborhoods, but we’re interested to learn how to be better farmers and better participates in the ag industry,” said Paul Taylor, an Illinois farmer and co-chair of the 2018 Commodity Classic. On-line registration, a complete schedule of events and educational sessions, trade show exhibitor information and other details are available at Established in 1996, Commodity Classic produced by the National Corn Growers Association, American Soybean Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Sorghum Producers, and Association of Equipment Manufacturers.

Arkansas judge dismisses Monsanto lawsuit on dicamba ban

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas' ban on the use of a weed killer blamed by farmers in several states for crop damage will remain in place after a state judge dismissed a legal challenge by a maker of the herbicide. Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza dismissed the lawsuit by St. Louis-based Monsanto seeking to block the state Plant Board's decision to ban dicamba from April 16 through Oct. 31. Arkansas has the toughest restriction in place on dicamba, though several states have imposed other restrictions or requirements. Arkansas enacted the ban after receiving nearly 1,000 complaints last year about the weed killer drifting onto fields and damaging crops not resistant to the herbicide. Arkansas is one of several states where farmers have complained about dicamba drifting. Monsanto was also challenging an earlier rule that specifically targeted its brand of dicamba. BASF and DuPont also make dicamba weed killers. Piazza cited a state Supreme Court ruling last month that said the state Legislature can't waive Arkansas' immunity from lawsuits. That ruling has prompted lawyers and judges around to the state to say it amounts to a blanket protection for the state from a wide range of legal challenges. "It's obvious that Arkansas is going to have to come up with a constitutional amendment to change this to make it where we can operate again as a court should," Piazza said. "I really think the (state Supreme Court case) prevents us from hearing this case at this moment." Dicamba has been around for decades, but problems arose over the past couple of years as farmers began to use it to kill invasive weeds in soybean and cotton fields where specially engineered seeds had been planted to resist the herbicide. Because it can easily evaporate after being applied, the chemical sometimes settles on neighboring fields planted with seeds that are not resistant to dicamba. Piazza issued his ruling after hearing hours of arguments from Monsanto and the state over the company's request for a preliminary injunction blocking the ban, as well as Arkansas' request to dismiss the lawsuit. Monsanto did not say whether it would appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court. "We are disappointed in the court's decision to dismiss our legal challenge of the plant board's restrictions, and we will consider additional legal steps that might be appropriate," Scott Partridge, the company's vice president of global strategy, said in a statement. "We look forward to the day when Arkansas growers can benefit from the latest weed-control technology on the market." Among other arguments, Monsanto claimed that the state did not consider the economic impact of the ban. The company also challenged the makeup of the 18-member board, arguing a state law that gives private groups such as the state Seed Growers Association power to appoint members violates Arkansas' constitution. Piazza said he wouldn't going to rule specifically on the request for a preliminary injunction in case his dismissal ruling is appealed and sent back to his court. During the hearing, Monsanto's attorneys said the state couldn't claim immunity since the company wasn't seeking monetary damages. They argued the state's Claims Commission, which handles economic claims against the state, wasn't the right avenue for the challenge against Arkansas' ban. Attorneys for the Plant Board argued the company hadn't proven the state acted illegally or unconstitutionally, so the state was immune from the lawsuit. "They just don't like the decision the Plant Board made," Assistant Attorney General Gary Sullivan said during the hearing.

Benefits of reducing nitrates

AMES, Iowa — A study conducted by the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development at Iowa State University explores the potential economic benefits to drinking water, recreation and health through meeting the targets of Iowa’s statewide strategy for reducing nutrients. The study highlights that reducing nitrates and improving water quality in rivers and lakes would increase recreation benefits, and may reduce adverse health outcomes for people exposed to high nitrates in drinking water. The study was led by Chuan Tang, a postdoctoral researcher, and Gabriel Lade, assistant professor of economics, along with: David Keiser, assistant professor of economics; Catherine Kling, director of the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development and a Charles F. Curtiss Distinguished Professor of Agriculture and Life Sciences in the Department of Economics; Yongjie Ji, an assistant scientist; and Yau-Huo Shr, a postdoctoral researcher. In 2012, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, and Iowa State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences developed the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy. As part of a broader strategy among the 12 states that border the Mississippi River, the Iowa strategy lays out a science-based framework for reducing nutrient delivery to waterways in Iowa, and ultimately, the Gulf of Mexico. The strategy’s overall goal is to reduce the amount of total nitrogen and phosphorous leaving the state by 45 percent. According to the Iowa State researchers, meeting the Nutrient Reduction Strategies targets will lead to substantial benefits to Iowans. Approximately 90 percent of Iowans rely on public water supplies for drinking water, while the remaining 10 percent rely on private wells. To assess the effectiveness of drinking water nitrate removal and its associated costs, the researchers compiled data from the Iowa groundwater quality monitoring program, the Statewide Rural Well Water Survey, the Environmental Protection Agency and other sources. They also interviewed several public water supply system operators. The researchers found that, since 2007, more than 90 percent of public water supplies were in compliance with all health-based drinking water standards. However, many utilities dedicate substantial financial resources to removing nitrates. The study found that 49 public water suppliers serving more than 10 percent of Iowa’s population treat water for nitrates either by blending waters or using nitrate removal equipment. Also, Iowa’s public water supply systems had invested at least $1.8 million in nitrate treatment equipment since 2000. “Nitrate removal equipment can be cost prohibitive to some small communities, leaving them with few options to meet federal safe drinking water standards,” said Lade. “When we looked at data on private wells, which are not regulated by the EPA as public supplies are, evidence shows that as few as 7 percent and as many as 25 percent may contain unhealthy nitrate levels.” The researchers also studied benefits to recreation in Iowa. They estimated that improving the quality of Iowa’s lakes by meeting the targets would increase recreational benefits to all Iowans by approximately $30 million per year. “We also noted that harmful algal blooms linked to excess nutrients have become more of a problem in recent years, which further diminishes recreation values and potentially threatens the health of recreation lovers,” said Lade. The study compiled much of the available evidence to date on health impacts of nitrates in drinking water. Public health scientists have long documented the health risks to infants drinking water with high nitrates. Other studies suggest that long-term exposure to nitrates in drinking water, even at low levels, may be associated with chronic health effects. “More research is needed to further study nitrate exposure and health outcomes, and especially in understanding the complex interactions between nitrates and other potential contaminants on human health,” said Lade. “But to the extent nitrates in drinking water have adverse health impacts, we believe there are significant benefits in meeting the Nutrient Reduction Strategy targets in likely reducing Iowans’ exposure and reducing healthcare expenditures.” The study was funded by the Walton Family Foundation, the Iowa Environmental Council and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture.

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Cadrien Livingston Awarded Larry E. Sitzman Youth in Nebraska Agriculture Scholarship

Cadrien Livingston of Orchard, NE, has been awarded the 2018 Larry E. Sitzman Youth in Nebraska Agriculture Scholarship. Cadrien is a sophomore studying Agricultural and Environmental Science Communications with a minor in Political Science at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. Cadrien uses her passion for agriculture and her unique, personal experiences to connect with people around her. Her goal with this degree is to advocate about important agricultural issues like farm safety and work on behalf of farmers to further positive agricultural policies. In 2008, Cadrien’s father was killed in a grain bin accident, leaving behind a wife, two younger sisters, and 10-year old Cadrien. Together, Cadrien and her mother worked to keep the family ranch. Out of necessity, she stepped into many responsibilities at home and on the ranch, which required responsibility and a good work ethic. Today, Cadrien and her mother have expanded their cow herd and continue to sell bulls via private sale. Cadrien says the loss of her father has affected her future goals and dreams. Since the accident, she has worked with many individuals and organizations to try to start a farm safety hotline to provide preventative safety tips and precautions for farmers and ranchers. She also interested in providing farm safety training and education to local rescue units. Additionally, Cadrien has bolstered her confidence in the public policy area by participating in the Nebraska Farm Bureau Leadership Academy. Through this program, she learned and practiced the skills necessary to talk with and influence elected officials on important topics like taxes and the upcoming Farm Bill. Amy Halsey, 4-H Club Leader wrote, “Cadrien leads with authority and a great sense of humor, plus she is kind and compassionate. She is teachable and is always looking for ways to improve herself.” Clearly, Cadrien’s leadership capacity and dedication will serve agriculture well as she continues to grow and develop. The Larry E. Sitzman Youth in Nebraska Agriculture Scholarship is a $1,000 scholarship that was awarded to Cadrien Livingston during the Annual Meeting of the Nebraska Pork Producers Association on February 13, 2018.

Stephenson receives award from the Society for Range Management

Dr. Mitchell Stephenson of Scottsbluff, Neb., received an Outstanding Young Range Professional Award at the Society for Range Management’s (SRM) 71st Annual Meeting, Technical Training, and Trade Show in Sparks, Nevada which concluded earlier this month.  The Outstanding Young Range Professional Award recognizes SRM members who exhibit superior performance and leadership potential in any range-related area. Dr. Mitchell Stephenson has been with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) as an assistant professor in rangeland ecology and management at the Panhandle Research and Extension Center since 2015.  Dr. Stephenson’s research has focused on areas with potential impact on managing grazinglands throughout central and western North America.  His research in grazing livestock distribution, targeted grazing, social association dynamics within cattle herds, and rangeland resilience on private ranches is cutting-edge and has placed him in a leadership position in foraging ecology.  He is developing an excellent record in scientific journal publications and leading workshops at professional meetings. As an extension specialist, Dr. Stephenson is developing a highly visible extension program which already has a major impact on beef cattle production in Nebraska.  He contributes to the UNL Range Short Course, the Nebraska Range Youth Camp, the High School Range Judging Competitions, the Gudmundsen Sandhills Open House, the Field Day at the Barta Brothers Ranch, and workshops and fields days at numerous other locations.  He has co-authored 5 extension publications, numerous webinars, popular press and newsletter articles, and website publications.  With these communications, he has been very effective in distributing research results to the ranch level and to conservation agencies/organizations. Dr. Stephenson’s contributions to the Society for Range Management are significant at both the section and international levels. He is a member of the Nebraska Section SRM, and is in line to be the Section President in 2018.  Mitch is a member of several SRM committees and is on track to become a leader in SRM.

Randy White, Dinah Johnston Earn 2018 Herdsman of the Year Award

Randy White and Dinah Johnston were selected by their peers as cowinners of the American Angus Association® 2018 Herdsman of the Year. The award recognizes the exhibitor who has done the best job during the past year preparing and displaying their Angus cattle. “At the end of the day, we don’t ever leave the barn and say, ‘Well, I’ll do it tomorrow,’” White said. The couple, who oversee the sale cattle and show cattle prospects for Pollard Farms, Waukomis, Oklahoma, were honored at the National Western Stock Show (NWSS) in Denver before the conclusion of the bull show. White and Johnston humbly say they don’t differ much from other effective herdsmen, but Johnston says White’s “meticulous perfectionism” is a large driver of their success. His incredible work ethic, high standards and unabashed expectations of excellence from others have influenced her own habits. They are always willing to keep learning and are not afraid to ask others’ opinions and thoughts in a constantly changing industry. She notes that you’re not ever going to agree with everyone, but there is a common ground and mutual respect for those who make this their living. That respect proved true because this award is voted on by their peers. They both are humbled and appreciative of the honor and are quick to thank all of those who helped shape their careers. “We just go to work every day and do what we need to do with the tools that we’ve been given,” Johnston said. “We are very thankful for the people who have given us the opportunities to do so. There are no words to describe what this means to us. There is so much talent in this industry.” The couple started working at Pollard Farms full-time in 2011 after helping prepare for production sales and previous NWSS show bulls. Each has varying backgrounds in the cattle industry. White has been in the cattle industry all of his life and has worked for many prominent cattle operations through the years. An Alabama native, his father was a sheep specialist at the University of Georgia. They sold the sheep when he was rather young, though, and his father went to work on a cattle operation. White’s been involved with showing cattle and working sales ever since. Two of White’s three children also kept him involved in National Junior Angus Association (NJAA). Many of the previous winners of the Herdsman Award have either worked with or for White, or for his father. Johnston, a Virginia native, got involved with showing cattle with her sons in 4-H. She quips that she was the ultimate “Freddy” and learned things the hard way. Johnston’s brothers were involved with registered cattle, and a friend suggested her sons join the NJAA. Being in Virginia, several major shows were nearby, including the Mid-Atlantic Junior Angus Classic (MAJAC) and the Eastern Regional Junior Angus Show (ERJAS). They both appreciate that the cattle industry has allowed each of them to work with one or more of their children. However, they admit that cattle can take away from spending time with grandkids and immediate family. They are thankful for their families’ understanding so they can do what they do. For more information, read the full article in the March issue of the Angus Journal.

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MN Students Want GMO Approval Process Streamlined

A group of graduate students at the University of Minnesota is asking Congress to streamline the approval process for GMO crops that produce food and fiber. The seven students are doing graduate work at the Minnesota College of Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resource Sciences. They believe the regulatory hoops that companies need to jump through to commercialize new traits are slowing down innovation. In a letter to U.S. representatives, the students pointed out that it costs companies between $20 million and $30 million to get a new GMO crop from start to finish through the regulatory process. That’s a price tag that limits smaller companies from making inroads into the marketplace. The students say, “Each of us has numerous ideas about genetic modification that could be developed into startup companies and bring more competition in a marketplace that’s dominated by a few mega-companies that can afford the regulatory process.” The letter asks Congress to pass a bipartisan bill that funnels GMO fuel and fiber crops through either the USDA or the EPA, but not both.  

Lego League gets youth involved in science, technology, fun, and teamwork

More than 100 boys and girls from communities throughout the western half of Nebraska spent the better part of a recent Saturday together, in a competition that rewarded their imagination, creativity, cooperation and good sportsmanship. On the line was a trip to compete at the state level. It was a day of competition and games, but it wasn’t athletic. It was a regional qualifying meet for FIRST Lego League, a global program sponsored by FIRST, a non-profit designed to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology and pursue education and careers in STEM fields, and Lego, the maker of toy blocks and kits. Seventeen teams took part in the regional qualifier, and seven of the teams qualified for the Nebraska State competition Feb. 17, at the Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum near Ashland. At the same time, seven teams participated in a FIRST Lego League Junior Showcase, for youth in grades one through three. Worldwide, FIRST Lego League is made up of 35,200 teams of up to 10 members each, more than 280,000 participants altogether, from nearly 90 countries, according to the organization’s website. FIRST Lego League Jr., for grades K-4, had 14,000 teams with 86,000 participants. 4-H is a nationwide partner in FIRST Lego League. There are a number or regional qualifying meets in Nebraska where teams can compete for a trip to the state competition. The Sidney tournament has grown from nine teams in 2013 to 17 teams this year. The teams come from Scotts Bluff, Sioux, Sheridan, Kimball, and Hooker counties. Most work with their local extension educators and are part of their local 4-H programs, but some are school teams or after-school clubs. The qualifiers start at the end of December at different locations around Nebraska. This was the fourth year for the qualifying tournament in Sidney, and it has grown every year, according to Tournament Director Cynthia Gill, Cheyenne County Extension Educator who works with 4-H and youth development. Local teams were formed last August and met for several months to prepare. While working on their projects, the teams try to incorporate FIRST Lego League’s core values, which emphasize discovery, teamwork and good sportsmanship. The other part of FIRST Lego League is robot games. Each team designs, builds and programs a robot using Lego Mindstorms ®, and then they compete on a table-top playing field. The playing fields, constructed on tabletop surfaces with Lego pieces, are all identical and set up to provide both tasks for the robots to complete and obstacles to overcome. During the robot games each team gets three rounds to see who can reach the highest score. For three rounds, the teams put their robots through their table-top paces, completing several tasks related to picking up, moving, and putting down various LEGO cargoes at different points on the table. Several teams from Scotts Bluff County (including a team from Mitchell Elementary School) were among the competitors at Sidney. In addition to Schwartz, several volunteers help coach and prepare teams in Scotts Bluff County. Locally, more kids are getting involved in FIRST Lego League. Schwartz said this is the third year that Scotts Bluff County has had a 4-H club focused on FLL. The first year, the team ordered a kit and started to build it, but ran out of time, so the kids watched the qualifier, but didn’t compete. A year ago, one team competed. This year, Scotts Bluff County took two regular teams and one junior team (Clover Kid age). One of the teams qualified for state. As with other 4-H programs, adult volunteers are welcome and needed, according to Schwartz. The only qualities required of volunteers are an interest in working with youth, and they must pass a background check. Schwartz said the volunteers work side-by-side with the youth and learn at the same time, adding, “adults don’t have all the answers.” Results from the Sidney qualifier: Volunteer Award: Gowrav Ghatamaneni of Sidney. Coach/mentor award: Craig Markum of Kimbots (Kimball). Judges’ Choice Award (team that lived the core values by connecting with others): Hydro Hackers from Sidney. Project award: Stormclouds of Sidney. Global Innovation Award: Central Sandhills MechTechs of Mullen. Robot Design Award: Hyannis Sandbots. Robot Performance Award: Kimbots, with a high score of 80. Two teams scored 80 points but the Kimbots had a follow up score of 70 in another match. Core Values Award: Blazing Tiger Bot Builders, Mitchell. Champion’s Award: Central Sandhills MechTechs from Mullen. These seven teams will advance to the Nebraska Championship at the Nebraska Robotics Expo: Blazing Tiger Bots, Mitchell; Central Sandhills MechTechs; Spartabots 1 from Perkins County; Spartabots 2 from Perkins County; Rogue Robbie’s Dream Team from Sidney; Mandroids from Scotts Bluff County; Techno Huskers from Hay Springs.

Why Your Farm Should Have a Web Presence

Having a website and social media pages isn't just for larger organizations -- farms of all sizes can benefit. Whether you're looking to hire additional labor, securing more land to rent or wanting to obtain new credit or financing, having a healthy presence on the internet helps you build relationships and showcases your operation. The lack of a web presence can have an impact on a farm's ability to hire workers. (DTN/The Progressive Farmer file photo) We've noticed time and again the impact a lack of web presence has when it comes to hiring. We had two operations who both utilized AgHires' job adverting services who were located only a few miles from each other. The results were vastly different even though they were both hiring for a mechanic. One operation had a simple, but professional website, and the other operation could not be found on the internet. The operation with a website received four times the number of applicants! With easy-to-build-from templates, just about any tech-savvy individual (think millennials) could create a website with little investment by the farm. If you have someone in the family who has time to focus on creating your web page, there are sites such as,, and that can simplify the process with their templates and give you a professional look and feel. Besides the minimal fee for the domain name, around $20 a year, the cost is the investment of time. You could also hire an individual marketing consultant/freelancer to build a basic website, which would cost anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000. What matters most is the content on the website. It needs to be up to date, a true reflection of the farm, and be impactful. It doesn't need to be lengthy or full of multiple pages. The purpose of a website is two-fold: to provide information about your farm and to leave visitors with an impression about your organization. When developing your content, think about what message you would you like to leave visitors. As you are building your website or looking to update a current site, consider including these elements: -- About Us -- Farm History -- Products and Services -- Careers/Jobs -- Testimonials -- Photo Gallery including farm photos, harvest, family -- Farm Videos -- Landlords or Partnerships -- Contact -- Links to social media sites such as Facebook Facebook presence is also important and even easier to create and maintain. Similar to the content on the website, you should at least include a short "about us" paragraph, profile and cover photos, as well as other photos and videos. Include any contact information and your website if you have one. Consider adding other tabs to your page, such as careers/jobs and products/services, if you don't have a website. We know statistically, when a job seeker sees an opening online they are interested in, before they even apply, over 65% of them first go to the internet to search the company. If there's no information to be found, they often won't apply for the role. Candidates want to get to know you a little before they say they're interested. A lack of a website may leave them with the wrong impression and tell them that you're not progressive. We've also seen social media as another tool to connect with talent for farms. Those that follow your farm on social media are often great referrals when you have news to share about your farm's openings, especially in attracting seasonal labor. Think semi-retirees that might want to work a season but are not looking to be hired on full time. Creating a Facebook page or a Twitter account doesn't mean that you need to post something every day or even every week. This is just an easy way for future employees, and even customers, to learn a little bit about your farm. Here are a few farms that have great sites that tell their story: http://www.peterson-farms.com…http://www.ktmfarm.com The web presence gives you an opportunity to connect with others. We are seeing farms sharing everything from equipment to CFOs. If you want to attract the best candidates to your organization when you're hiring or even attract the best potential partners for your farm, the best thing you can do is have a great presence online. Take a little time, take some pictures, write a little bit of content and put that information online.

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Ag Policy

House GOP leaders struggle to push immigration bill

WASHINGTON (AP) — As badly as things have gone for immigration legislation in the Senate, it's not looking any easier in the more conservative House. Republican leaders there are scrambling to find enough GOP votes to pass a measure that's even more restrictive than a proposal by President Donald Trump that flopped spectacularly in the Senate on Thursday. Compounding those divisions are pressures from some of the House's most conservative members, who are casting the effort as a pivotal test for Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. "It is a, the, defining moment for this speaker," said Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C. who leads the hard-right House Freedom Caucus, which helped force former Speaker John Boehner from his job in 2015. "If he gets it wrong, it will have consequences for him but it will also have consequences for the rest of the Republican Party." Ryan aides did not respond to a request for comment on Meadows' remark. But underscoring party rifts, some Republicans defended the speaker and his work on the issue. "Any time you allow one member or a small group of members to dictate overall policy for the country, it is an unfair scenario," Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., who's opposing the conservative legislation, said Friday. "I just don't think our speaker's going to give into any type of threats." Even if House leaders manage to push the measure through their chamber, it would be dead on arrival in the closely divided Senate. Democrats there could ensure its demise because any immigration measure would need 60 votes to survive, meaning bipartisan agreement is mandatory. All of that underscores how unlikely it is that Congress will approve sweeping election-year legislation on the subject, including something to help young "Dreamer" immigrants stay in the U.S. The divisions bode poorly for a bill by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, that conservatives back and leaders have said they'd try bringing to a House vote. The measure would provide only temporary protections for Dreamers, young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children who still lack permanent authority to live in this country. Trump offered a chance for citizenship for 1.8 million of them. The bill would provide money for the border wall with Mexico that Trump wants. And like Trump's plan, it would limit the relatives that legal immigrants could sponsor for citizenship and end a lottery that distributes visas to people from diverse countries. But it goes further. It reduces legal immigration by about 25 percent annually and requires employers to use the online E-Verify program to validate that their workers are legal. It withholds federal grants from "sanctuary cities" that don't help federal agents catch immigrants in the U.S. illegally and would make it easier to deport immigrants in the country illegally who are gang members or have been arrested repeatedly for drunk driving. House Democrats uniformly oppose the proposal. So to succeed Republicans must supply 216 votes — a simple majority in a chamber with four vacant seats. The bill has been embraced by the White House, but GOP leaders are encountering opposition from suburban moderates who consider the bill too harsh and whose voters could punish them in this fall's elections. In addition, Republicans from districts that rely on seasonal foreign agriculture or tourism workers say its visa standards are too restrictive, while some conservatives say it's too lenient and shouldn't help Dreamers. "That bill is a dead man walking," said Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., who predicted its defeat should a vote occur. "It's designed to appease fringe elements in our society," he said, citing its failure to establish a citizenship process for Dreamers and other restrictions. GOP leaders have said they'll hold a roll call once the measure has enough votes to pass, and haven't ruled out making changes to win support. The earliest possible vote would be after Congress returns from next week's recess. Meadows said Friday that despite the Senate's stalemate over immigration, "It is critically important that we demonstrate a conservative solution" that protects Dreamers from deportation. He said he believed that Trump's support for immigration legislation would eventually result in "more concessions" from senators. There are other House immigration bills, including a compromise measure by Reps. Will Hurd, R-Texas, and Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., that resembles one measure the Senate rejected Thursday. Ryan is considered unlikely to bring immigration legislation to the floor not backed by most Republicans. One possible fallback is temporarily extending Dreamers' protections for a year in exchange for some money for border security. "I think we'll address the issue at some point in some way," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told a reporter Friday when asked about the possibility of such a temporary extension. Dreamers, brought to the U.S. illegally as children, have temporary protection under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. Trump said in September he's ending the program but gave Congress until March 5 to revive it, though federal courts have temporarily required him to continue its protections.

NGFA Calls on Congress to Act

OMAHA (DTN) -- Leaders of the National Grain and Feed Association see some rays of hope for resolving the Section 199A boondoggle in the tax law, following some comments made by lawmakers on the topic over the past few days. NGFA issued a news release early Friday citing statements from leadership of the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee, vowing that a fix would be coming as soon as possible to deal with the unintended consequences of the Section 199A language in the tax law. Section 199A was the creation of a pair of senators -- Sens. John Thune of South Dakota and John Hoeven of North Dakota -- who thought they were providing some equilibrium to farmer cooperatives that were losing the Domestic Production Activities Deduction under the old tax law. The new language on "qualified cooperative dividends" from cooperatives was written to benefit not just any patronage dividend, but also any "per unit retain allocation." That translates into any amount paid to farmers by cooperatives for products sold for them. The language also broadens out further into any revenue from a farmer cooperative "that is includible in gross income." The tax break amounts to 20% of all income that comes from those dividends or sales from a farmer cooperative. NGFA has been pleading with Congress to fix the law essentially since the first week of the year when agricultural accountants and others began pointing out the major advantages for farmers selling to a cooperative. NGFA notes the new tax law is having an influence on how farmers market their commodities. The tax disparity between selling to a farmer cooperative versus a private company has caused several major grain companies to consider forming cooperatives. The Wall Street Journal reported Scoular Co. and Green Plains Inc. are among the companies looking to register at least part of their business as cooperatives. A spokesman for Green Plains told DTN the company formed Green Plains Grain Cooperative Corp. in mid-January in Kansas. The new co-op has been granted licenses so far in Minnesota, Indiana and Colorado and Green Plains is working to get licensed in other states. "We are busy finishing up the details of the fee structure and membership details and will be ready to go if for some reason Congress does not get the law fixed," said Jim Stark, a spokesman for Green Plains, in an email to DTN. Green Plains has not signed up any farmers so far, but those who do join would get the same benefits of selling to a traditional co-op, though there would be a nominal fee to join, Stark said. The tax goal, NGFA stated, is to draft legislative language that would give cooperatives a tax break similar to what they received under the Domestic Production Activities Deduction, which equated to 9% of income for a cooperative, up to half of the amount a cooperative paid its workers in wages. Cooperatives then passed the benefits of that deduction back down to farmer patrons. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said in a hearing on Wednesday that the Section 199A situation "does not maintain the previous competitive balance between cooperatives, other agricultural businesses, and the farmers who sell their crops to them, which existed prior to enactment of the tax reform bill." According to NGFA, Hatch said he is committed to "developing a solution to this issue that does not choose winners and losers and is fair to everyone involved. Once a suitable solution is identified, my goal is to work with my colleagues to advance legislation that can be sent to the president for his signature as soon as possible," Hatch said. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, also indicated a need to correct the Section 199A provision. "It is pretty simple that Congress would not pass a law that would put some segments of our economy out of business, and that's why it needs to be changed," Grassley said. On Thursday, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, also noted the problems being created in the countryside. "We know that certain parts of this provision have unintended consequences," Brady said. The congressman added that he's committed to finding a solution that would effectively restore balance in the marketplace. Randy Gordon, president of NGFA, said he remains disappointed Congress hasn't already acted on a solution. Lawmakers added dozens of tax provisions to last week's two-year budget bill but failed to get a Section 199A fix added. Gordon still notes "considerable progress has been made during the last several weeks of intensive effort toward reaching an equitable solution." He added that NGFA is "gratified that the many members of Congress with whom we and other stakeholders are engaged on this issue are equally committed to enacting an equitable solution as part of the next available legislative vehicle."

Leaders of congressional tax-writing committees commit to fixing Section 199A of new tax law

The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) commended the leaders of the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means Committees for their statements committing to addressing as soon as possible the unintended consequences of Section 199A of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act during hearings on Capitol Hill this week. During a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Feb. 14, Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, noted that the provision's current language "does not maintain the previous competitive balance between cooperatives, other agricultural businesses, and the farmers who sell their crops to them, which existed prior to enactment of the tax reform bill." The new Section 199A - included during the waning hours of congressional consideration of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 - is influencing producer marketing decisions. As currently written, Section 199A language could significantly skew producers' decisions on which type of business entity with which to market their commodities. The provision unintentionally created a tax advantage for producers who sell to cooperatives instead of private and independent firms. Hatch said he is committed to working with fellow leaders on the committee, Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa; Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and John Thune, R-S.D., and House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, "to develop a solution to this issue that does not choose winners and losers and is fair to everyone involved. "Once a suitable solution is identified, my goal is to work with my colleagues to advance legislation that can be sent to the president for his signature as soon as possible," Hatch noted. During the same hearing, Grassley also commented on the "necessity for correcting" Section 199A. "It is pretty simple that Congress would not pass a law that would put some segments of our economy out of business and that's why it needs to be changed," he said. In the House Ways and Means Committee hearing on Feb. 15, Chairman Brady echoed those sentiments. "We know that certain parts of this provision have unintended consequences," he said, noting that he's committed to developing "the right solution now - one that's thoughtful, carefully crafted, and effective in restoring balanced competition in the marketplace." Brady said he is "committed to taking action on a solution as soon as possible." NGFA President Randy Gordon noted in a media statement that the Association is disappointed that a solution to correct Section 199A has not already been passed by Congress. However, "considerable progress has been made during the last several weeks of intensive effort toward reaching an equitable solution," Gordon said, adding that NGFA is "gratified that the many members of Congress with whom we and other stakeholders are engaged on this issue are equally committed to enacting an equitable solution as part of the next available legislative vehicle." The NGFA notes that the two fundamental goals of these efforts remain to replicate the tax treatment accorded to cooperatives and their farmer-patrons under previous Section 199 of the tax code, and to do so in a way that restores the competitive landscape of the marketplace that existed prior to the enactment of Section 199A on Dec. 22, 2017.  

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