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FSA County Committee Nominations Launch June 15

WASHINGTON, May 22, 2018 — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) encourages America’s farmers and ranchers to nominate candidates to lead, serve and represent their community on their local county committee. USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) will accept nominations for county committee memb...

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FSA County Committee Nominations Launch June 15

WASHINGTON, May 22, 2018 — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) encourages America’s farmers and ranchers to nominate candidates to lead, serve and represent their community on their local county committee. USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) will accept nominations for county committee memb...

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EWC Veterinary Technology program receives full accreditation

TORRINGTON, Wyo. - The Veterinary Technology program at Eastern Wyoming College has received notification from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) that the program has received full accreditation. The program participated in a full site visit with a team from the AVMA in September,...

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R-CALF USA Urges Administration to Stay at NAFTA Table: To Not Accept Skinny NAFTA

Billings, Mont. - Today, R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard issued the following statement regarding reports that President Trump's trade negotiators may accept a "Skinny NAFTA." "We urge President Trump to stay at the NAFTA negotiating table until all the deficiencies in that agreement are corrected. ...

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Wellman Participates in Trade Mission to China, His First as NDA Director

LINCOLN – Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA) Director Steve Wellman is currently attending his first international trade mission as NDA director. Wellman is part of a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) trade mission to Southern China, May 21-25, 2018. The trade mission trip, led by USDA U...

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CSC to dedicate sculpture at Rangeland Complex

CHADRON – As part of the Nebraska 1% for Art Program, Chadron State College will dedicate “You Feel Like Waving,” a beaded sculpture created by Krista Birnbaum, Friday, June 1, at 9 a.m. at the Rangeland Complex. The event is free and open to the public. According to materials about the ...

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Crops

Farmers Union Urges Immediate Action on E15 Waiver

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) delay in allowing year-round use of E15 gasoline threatens harm to markets for family farmers, according to National Farmers Union (NFU). NFU President Roger Johnson Tuesday wrote to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, urging EPA to immediately institute a waiver for summertime sales of E15.   Johnson noted that year-round use of E15 would have significant benefits for farmers, the economy, energy independence, and the environment. Currently, an arbitrary restriction on use of E15 in summer months is limiting the amount of ethanol that can be blended into the nation’s transportation fuel supply. Yet while EPA has been actively working on allowing year-round use of E15 since October 2017, and President Donald Trump committed to allowing an E15 waiver earlier this year, EPA has yet to take any action or provide any time table as to when a waiver can be expected. This delay in issuing a waiver is threatening to upend any potential benefits of a waiver in the upcoming summer months of 2018.   “It is now May, and the summer restrictions on E15 for this year are looming with no apparent movement from EPA on this issue,” said Johnson in his letter to Administrator Pruitt. “Year-round use of E15 is not a new issue for EPA; this has long been supported by the biofuels industry and agriculture. We urge you to act in an expedited manner to follow President Trump’s direction to allow the use of E15 this summer.”   Johnson noted that farmers are currently facing severe economic difficulties, and that recent actions by EPA, such as granting numerous small refinery exemptions with little information to the public, have exacerbated these difficulties by undermining the Renewable Fuel Standard and demand for higher blends of ethanol. Johnson said a waiver on E15 is an important first step to mitigating these issues and moving the country towards use of higher blends of ethanol, like E30.   “Farmers have worked hard to build value-added markets,” he said. “The RFS and E15 provide significant economic opportunities for farmers facing increasing uncertainty and loss of demand. EPA must provide appropriate signals to the market, and this Administration must follow through on its promises.”

Monsanto and 2Blades Foundation Collaborate to Combat Devastating Soybean Disease

ST. LOUIS & EVANSTON, Ill.--Monsanto Company and charitable organization 2Blades Foundation (2Blades) have formed a new collaboration to discover novel sources of genetic resistance to Asian soybean rust (ASR). 2Blades will deliver resistance genes in further collaboration with The Sainsbury Laboratory (TSL, Norwich, UK), the leading global institute for research on plant-pathogen interactions, and the Universidade Federal de Viçosa (UFV), a leading university in agricultural sciences in Brazil. Asian soybean rust, a disease caused by the fungus Phakopsora pachyrhizi, results in yellowing and browning of soybean leaves and can lead to premature senesence and significant yield loss. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), P. pachyrhizi has spread rapidly and causes yield losses from 10 to 80% in Argentina, Asia, Brazil, Paraguay, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.1 “Asian soybean rust is an ugly and expensive disease that can devastate farmers’ harvests,” said Jeremy Williams, Monsanto’s biotechnology and ag productivity innovation lead. “Current fungicide treatments can provide some control, but farmers need more tools – and the 2Blades research could help provide a durable solution as part of an integrated pest-management system.” 2Blades’ mission is to contribute to global food security by developing crops with long-lasting resistance to pathogens in order to reduce losses due to disease. By working with world-leading plant scientists, 2Blades seeks to discover new sources of disease resistance in nature and transfer them into important crops to extend the breadth of their immune system and secure yields. “Collaboration with industry is vital to ensure that new discoveries made in the lab can lead to innovations that will prevent crop losses caused by plant disease,” said Dr. Peter van Esse, leader of the 2Blades Research Group at TSL. “It is therefore exciting to see that our scientific expertise and knowledge on plant-microbe interactions will be combined with Monsanto’s capacity to deliver solutions to farmers to tackle a key challenge in soybean cultivation.” “The management of soybean rust requires the integration of different approaches, including disease resistance. This collaboration will allow us to use cutting-edge technologies to speed up the identification of new resistance genes that can be used to deliver more sustainable solutions to soybean farmers, reducing the environmental and economic impact of ASR,” said Prof. Sérgio H. Brommonschenkel at UFV. In January 2017, Monsanto, 2Blades and The Sainsbury Laboratory announced a collaboration focused on tackling corn disease complexes such as stalk and ear rots that have the potential to significantly reduce yield. That research is ongoing and is independent of this new collaboration. The ASR collaboration complements Monsanto’s work to expand the global crop protection toolbox while enabling farmers to produce more with less of an impact on the environment. 2Blades retains rights to deploy new leads arising from the program in crops for smallholder farmers in the least developed countries, with a particular focus on sub-Saharan Africa. Soybean is a crop of significant and increasing importance in Africa, with extraordinary nutritional, soil, and economic benefits. However, the presence of ASR throughout the African continent is a major factor limiting production.

Organic Sector Grows 6.4 Percent in 2017

More of America’s grocery carts were filled with organic products in 2017. The Organic Trade Association’s 2018 Industry Survey shows consumers were buying everything from organic produce and organic ice cream to organic fresh juices and organic dried beans. U.S. organic sales totaled a new record of $49.4 billion in 2017, up 6.4 percent from the previous year. That total also reflects new sales of nearly $3.5 billion. Sales of organic non-food products also rose to $4.2 billion, rising 7.4 percent higher to set a new benchmark. The growth rate of organic food sales was below the nine percent pace in 2016. It was impacted heavily by markedly slower growth in the big organic dairy and egg category. However, the pace was still well above that of the overall food market, which was 1.1 percent. Organic increased its penetration into the total food market, now making up 5.5 percent of all food sold in the retail channel. Laura Batcha, Organic Trade Association President, says, “Organic has arrived and everyone is paying attention. Consumers are loving organic and now we’re able to make organic choices in just about every aisle in the grocery store.”

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Livestock

Adverse Spring Weather Curtailed Cool Season Forage Growth

The delayed spring conditions triggered a shortened growing window for cool season grasses , which could result in overgrazing warm season forages throughout the summer months. Mark Goes, Southeast Community College agriculture instructor, explained the ‘production stage’ managers lost when many parts of the state experienced cooler weather conditions earlier this spring. Listen to the interview. Cool season grasses, including bluegrasses, bromegrasses, and tall fescue, prefer warm, short day lengths and long cool nights for optimum growth. However, when most of Nebraska had adverse weather conditions earlier this spring, cool season grasses lost vital growth days and were unable to reach maximum growth production. As the summer months approach, the cool season grasses are entering dormancy. Warm season grasses, including Bermudagrass and bluestem grasses, prefer longer day lengths and grow rapidly during July and August. Goes explains that overgrazing warm season grasses could become an issue as grazing livestock compensate for the loss in cool season forage production. To determine when pastures are ready to graze, Goes recommends managers evaluate leaf stages. He says cool season grasses are ready to graze when they have three fully formed leaves with a collar around the stem.  Warm season grasses, however, are ready to graze when they have four fully formed leaves.

EWC Veterinary Technology program receives full accreditation

TORRINGTON, Wyo. - The Veterinary Technology program at Eastern Wyoming College has received notification from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) that the program has received full accreditation. The program participated in a full site visit with a team from the AVMA in September, 2017. At its April 26-29, 2018 meeting, the AVMA Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities (CVTEA) continued the EWC program on full accreditation following deliberation of the report of evaluation from the site visit. The program will complete a biennial report due in September 2019 and will have a full site visit scheduled for 2023. In the letter received from the AVMA, the program was commended and thanked for "the courtesy and hospitality shown during the site visit." Dr. Susan Walker, program director, shared the following, "We are pleased to receive ongoing accreditation from the CVTEA. We constantly strive for excellence in order to meet the needs of the veterinary field in this region. As a result, our graduates continue to be in high demand." "We are the only veterinary technician program in Wyoming and one of the most exceptional programs in the United States," stated Dr. Lesley Travers, president. "The instructors in this program work hard to ensure this level of excellence and to maintain accreditation. Our students benefit greatly from this level of commitment."

R-CALF USA Urges Administration to Stay at NAFTA Table: To Not Accept Skinny NAFTA

Billings, Mont. - Today, R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard issued the following statement regarding reports that President Trump's trade negotiators may accept a "Skinny NAFTA." "We urge President Trump to stay at the NAFTA negotiating table until all the deficiencies in that agreement are corrected. If those deficiencies that allow Canada and Mexico to maintain persistent and substantial price depressing trade surpluses cannot be corrected, the United States should withdraw from NAFTA. No deal is better than a partial deal that continues to drain the economic strength of the United States' largest agricultural sector - our U.S. cattle industry. "Under NAFTA, the U.S. imports three times the volume and twice the value that it exports in cattle and beef, which forced the U.S. to absorb a price depressing $33 billion deficit during NAFTA's pendency. The value of imports from Canada and Mexico increased 41 percent from 2012-13 to 2014-15, contributing to the unprecedented 2015 collapse in U.S. cattle prices. "It is the swamp, the entrenched agricultural lobby representing transnational agribusinesses, that is resisting the President's effort to properly renegotiate NAFTA. The President must not continue kowtowing to those transnational agribusinesses that have no loyalty whatsoever to America's farmers and ranchers nor to America's rural communities. "Before President Trump leaves the NAFTA table, even temporarily, he should reinstate country-of-origin labeling (COOL) for beef so consumers can choose to buy American beef. He should revise NAFTA's rules of origin to end the theft of the American ranchers' trademark - their "Product of the USA" label, which transnational agribusinesses are now putting on beef born and raised exclusively in Canada and Mexico. He should include safeguards to protect American ranchers from price-destroying import surges such as the one that broke our cattle market in 2015-16. In addition, he should impose tariffs on cattle and beef from Canada and Mexico so that our American cattle industry can once again begin attracting young ranchers who are presently shut out of the ranching business because all the economic opportunities they would have had over the past 25 years have been fulfilled with undifferentiated imports."

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Technology

Auction Website Plays Matchmaker to Help Rent Farmland

Farmland owners with land to rent, meet potential tenants in your area and seal a deal. That is the matchmaking concept behind FarmRenter.com, a new electronic land rental auction system. "Renting land can be a painful process," said Heather Slifka, FarmRenter's U.S. director. "Landowners need to search for quality tenants. Then, there is often an in-person process to negotiate a rental price. FarmRenter.com helps take that away by making the process more transparent and fair for both parties. The renter gets a truer idea of the quality of the land they are bidding on, and the landlord gains access to a large network of potential tenants while gaining a clear picture of a bidder's capacity as a farmer." FarmRenter.com is a joint venture between farmers, landowners and agriculture specialists, and is a sister site to Renterra.ca, a similar platform in Canada. Lyndon Lisitza, founder and managing director, created the site in 2012. Today, Renterra.ca has 5,000 active users: 500 are landowners using online auctions to rent 40 to 100,000 acres to the highest bidder. "It was clear this type of service would be beneficial in the U.S., where landowners and farmers also face lack of price transparency and spend a lot of time and effort in negotiations. Quite often, you find farmers don't know what land is available for rent," Lisitza said. "U.S. farmers rent about 350 million acres. Of those, 80% are owned by nonfarming landlords. We can help connect them to potential tenants." AUCTION OPTIONS Lisitza said farmers create a free online profile where they set preferences for location and crop type. They can be notified about any auctions in their area with the option to bid. Bidders are assigned random numbers for auctions to protect the privacy of the users and prevent any bias that could affect outcomes. Farm owners with land to rent register for free with their legal land description and a dollar-per-acre price. The information goes into a mapping database. Owners only pay an auction fee equal to 4% of the total transaction if an agreement is reached with a renter. Owners have two auction options. One is similar to eBay, with an ascending auction that may offer a "rent now" price predetermined by the owner. The other choice is a sealed bid auction that has criteria beyond just price. Bidders can provide additional details about their operation, such as farm structure and land stewardship, that the landowner may want to take into consideration. Auctions are conducted in real time. As soon as a listing is posted, notifications are sent out via email or SMS (short message service) to farmers within the specified area. In minutes, an owner can immediately begin to receive bids via mobile phone or computer. Once an auction is complete, a winning bidder is subject to completion, review and acceptance of a renter profile. This provides landowners an opportunity to ensure the person is a good fit for their land. FarmRenter.com steps aside once an agreement is under way. Each owner sets his or her own terms and conditions, and is encouraged to use legal counsel to complete agreements. RAPID EXPANSION While only in existence since December 2017, FarmRenter.com's intent is to roll out the site in every agricultural state by this summer. Organizers first focused on marketing in states with the highest population of farmland and renters: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska. They have since expanded to the Dakotas, Kansas, Kentucky and Ohio. "Membership sign-up is steady, with 100 to 150 new users per day, predominantly potential renters. Our focus is to increase the size of our network to 10,000 or more renters by September," Slifka said. "We want to hit the fall rental season running with adequate auctions and bidders." In addition to farm owners, the site is available for land-management companies, realtors, funds or others interested in simplifying and reducing time spent on the land rental process. "Our goal is to provide price discovery and adequate competition," Lisitza explained. "Based on sign-ups so far, we believe that is proof the U.S. is ready for this type of system. As more farmers want to expand their operations, FarmRenter.com provides a new way to do that."

Controlled Environment Ag Growing

Controlled environment agriculture is growing rapidly, according to a new report from CoBank. Controlled environment agriculture, a technology-based approach toward food production to use optimal growing conditions, often indoors, occurs in all 50 states, but the vast majority of the large facilities growing tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers are in the Northeast, West and Southwest. CoBank says technological advancements and consumer demand for fresh, local and year-round supplies of high-quality produce are growing the controlled environment agriculture industry. A researcher for CoBank says that although there is a steep learning curve, and the practice is costly, demand means the segment “is likely to continue growing for the next five years." Those barriers are not stopping growers from entering the market at high rates according to the report, partially due to the price premiums and significantly higher yields that technology, such as hydroponics, provides.

Feed a Bee Program Commits Additional $250,000 in Forage Grant Initiatives Across the Country

Bayer Commits Funding to Reach 2018 Goal of Planting in All 50 States Research Triangle Park, N.C. (May 15, 2018) – The Bayer Bee Care Program today announced $250,000 in additional funding to support its Feed a Bee 50-state pollinator health initiative through the end of the year. With only three grant cycles remaining in 2018, and the initial $500,000 funding already pledged to projects in 45 of the 50-state goal, the funding boost aims to encourage additional entries nationally and to reach organizations in the five states that have yet to be funded: Alaska, Hawaii, Mississippi, Nevada and Wyoming. The latest round of funding awarded grants to 14 new projects committed to providing diverse forage and habitat for honey bees and other important pollinators. Established in early 2017, the Feed a Bee 50-state forage initiative was created to fund projects nationally that either establish or restore diverse forage options for pollinators, which in turn help produce many of the fruits, nuts and vegetables essential to a healthy human diet. Nearly 300 organizations have applied for an award, which are selected by the Feed a Bee steering committee and range from $1,000 to $5,000 each. “Our goal from the very beginning of the 50-state forage initiative has been to provide additional sources of abundant nutrition and habitat for pollinators,” said Dr. Becky Langer, project manager, Bayer North American Bee Care Program. “We’re now working with more than 100 organizations across the country. It’s exciting to see our goal come to fruition, and even more rewarding to see the passion and dedication our Feed a Bee grantees have for the future of honey bee and pollinator health.” Recently funded projects range from restoring habitats to developing pollinator plots for local residents, students and government employees to maintain. Each project also incorporates education, such as field days and on-site classes for the local community. The City of Greeley, Colorado, for example, will work to restore habitat across three sites encompassing 96 acres of local natural areas. The National Wild Turkey Federation, in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, will use their funds to enhance eight acres of habitat in Vermont’s Green Mountain National Forest and will incorporate a demonstration plot into an existing woodcock management area for landowners and land conservation managers to use for education. In Kansas, McConnell Air Force Base personnel will remove existing non-native plants and replace them with native species. “Support from the Feed a Bee initiative will allow us to expand our ongoing pollinator monitoring surveys, increase the geographic area for educational events, collect native seeds and add sites to our annual Monarch tagging efforts in the fall,” said Laura Mendenhall, a fish and wildlife biologist at McConnell Air Force Base. “Most importantly, we’ll have the ability to demonstrate the use of native plants in non-conventional areas, rather than in designated pollinator plots, which will help us respect the Air Force aesthetic and, at the same time, help us cement this pollinator-friendly planting strategy not only in Air Force culture, but in the Wichita Metro Area landscaping culture.” Grantees awarded funding in round five of the Feed A Bee initiative include: West Side Elementary School, California City of Greeley, Colorado Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, Connecticut Sheila Weldon, Iowa McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas Feds Creek & Kimper Elementary Pollinator Trail & Community Garden, Kentucky Greenup County FFA, Kentucky Detroit Hives, Michigan U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Nebraska Timberdoodle Farm, New Hampshire Greensboro Beautiful, Inc., North Carolina Mountrail Pioneers 4-H Club, North Dakota U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, North Dakota National Wild Turkey Federation, Vermont “We continue to see amazing work from our grantees and applaud their unique ability to serve as ambassadors for honey bees, butterflies, birds and other pollinators,” Langer said. “These organizations raise awareness for the need for forage on a grassroots level that is otherwise difficult to undertake. We are proud to work side-by-side with them and can’t wait to welcome our newest grantees.”

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Ag Policy

Tentative Next Steps for House Farm Bill

The House Farm Bill will get another vote on June 22 after a separate vote on a conservative immigration bill. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise announced the schedule on Monday. The conservative immigration bill is sponsored by House Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlatte of Virginia and Homeland Security Chair Michael McCaul of Texas. Roll Call reports the bill contains border wall funding, security and enforcement provisions, cuts to legal immigration, and a process for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program recipients to obtain three-year renewals of their work permits. Scalise says, “We’re looking at moving the farm bill on June 22 and having the Goodlatte/McCaul bill come up during the third week of June.” The Freedom Caucus was part of the group helping to sink the farm bill last Friday over a desire to vote on immigration first. Caucus Chair Mark Meadows says the timeline announced by Scalise is fine with him as long as the Goodlatte/McCaul bill is brought to the floor under its own rule. As of right now, the McCaul/Goodlatte bill is expected to be short of the votes needed to pass, but Scalise says there’s an effort underway to come up with something that would pass.

Administration Focusing on Good, Not Quick, NAFTA 2.0

Bloomberg says the U.S., Canada, and Mexico are all on separate pages when it comes to a new North American Free Trade Agreement. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says the administration is more focused on reaching a good deal rather than an immediate one. Mnuchin says it doesn’t matter if it’s passed in this session of Congress or the next one. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last week that there was a good NAFTA deal already on the table. However, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said just hours later that the “governments were nowhere close to a deal.” Mnuchin’s comments are the latest to suggest that the door may be open to finishing the NAFTA negotiations sometime after the Mexican presidential election on July first. However, he did raise the prospect of the president having multiple options on the table. “I’m not saying he’s willing to let it spill over,” Mnuchin says, “but he has all his alternatives. I’m just saying that, right now, we’re focused on negotiating a good deal and not focused on deadlines.” Mexico’s chief negotiator says the three countries have agreed on nine of about 30 chapters in the agreement.

House Farm Bill Dormant Amid Immigration Dispute

House Republican leadership is currently struggling with immigration issues and it’s put the House farm bill that didn’t pass on Friday right on the back burner. The Hagstrom Report describes the bill as “dormant.” Speaker Paul Ryan called for reconsideration of the bill immediately after the vote on Friday. He declared that the “ayes” had won the voice vote but didn’t call for a roll call vote. The schedule of bills considered on Monday evening didn’t contain the farm bill. Under House rules, it has two legislative days to take a vote on reconsideration of a bill. The House is scheduled to leave on Thursday afternoon for a week-long Memorial Day break. Every House Democrat and 30 Republicans voted against the House farm bill. The Republicans were a mix of the Freedom Caucus members, as well as moderate Republicans, who consider the bill’s changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to be too restrictive. Members of the House Freedom Caucus want leadership to bring up a restrictive immigration bill. Moderate Republicans are attempting to force a vote on a proposal to protect the immigrant students without legal status, known as Dreamers.

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Markets

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