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Keeping up with all the recent RFS developments requires some energy

By Ellen Essman, Ohio Law Blog, Agricultural & Resource Law Program at The Ohio State University

If you’ve been keeping up with the ag news lately, chances are you’ve heard a lot about the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). As a refresher, the RFS program “requires a certain volume of renewable fuel to replace the quantity of petroleum-based transportation fuel.” Renewable fuels include biofuels made from crops such as corn and soybeans. Lately, you may have heard discussion about a controversial new rule regarding the volumes of biofuels that are required to be mixed with oil. While all that talk has been going on, there has also been a lawsuit against the EPA for RFS exemptions given to certain oil refineries. Congress has been examining the exemptions as well. Having trouble keeping all of this RFS information straight? We’ll help you sort it out.

 

EPA proposes new RFS rule

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released a notice of proposed rulemaking, asking for more public comment on the proposed volumes of biofuels to be required under the RFS program in 2020 and 2021.

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Dairy margins widen to highest since 2017 in positive economic sign

In welcome news for the dairy economy, the September margin under the Dairy Margin Coverage program rose by $0.56 per cwt. over the August margin to reach $10.41 per cwt, the second consecutive month margins have fallen outside the threshold necessary to trigger a federal payment. The is the highest seen since the beginning of 2017, allowing for the change in the alfalfa hay price in the margin formula’s feed cost calculation. The September all-milk price was $0.40 per cwt. higher than August’s and the DMC calculated feed cost for September was $0.16 per cwt. lower than August’s, mostly due to a drop in the price of corn.

As of Nov. 6, USDA’s DMC Decision Tool currently projects DMC margin to remain above $9.50 per cwt. for the remainder of 2019 and during all of 2020. Milk prices are expected to generate most of the monthly changes in the margin forecast, while feed costs are anticipated to remain relatively stable during that time.

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Humphreys moves on to National Pork Board

The National Pork Board has named Bryan Humphreys the vice president of producer, state and industry relations. He will start in his new role on Dec. 16.

Humphreys grew up working on the family farm in Iowa raising hogs, corn and soybeans. After receiving his bachelor’s degree from Iowa State University, he organized grassroots efforts and managed multiple political campaigns around the country. In 2009, he joined the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) as the director of grassroots, where he encouraged pork producers to tell their stories and interact with influencers and key decision makers. As part of this role, Humphreys also spent time in more urban areas helping educate elected officials and other influential decision makers on modern pork production practices.

In 2014, Humphreys became the executive vice president of the Ohio Pork Council, where he led efforts around some most pressing social and environmental issues of the day.

“Bryan is highly respected by pork producers in Ohio and his colleagues around the country,” said Bill Even, chief executive officer of the National Pork Board. 

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Ohio Cattlemen’s Association to host Annual Meeting and Banquet

The Ohio Cattlemen’s Association (OCA) will celebrate Ohio’s cattlemen, hear from industry leaders and set new policy for 2020 at the OCA Annual Meeting and Awards Banquet on Saturday, Jan. 11, at the Nationwide Hotel and Conference Center in Lewis Center.

The day’s events will kick off at 8:30 a.m. with the opening of the OCA PAC silent auction, and the Cattlemen’s Challenge Written Test for youth at 9:00 a.m. This contest, along with the Youth Quiz Bowl, is part of the new Stockmanship Division of the BEST program, which is open only to OCA BEST participants ages 8 to 21 (as of Jan. 1, 2020). The registration deadline for Youth Quiz Bowl is Dec. 27, 2019 at ohiocattle.org. The Annual Meeting will serve as one of the locations available to take the Cattlemen’s Challenge Written Test, and the scores from the test will count toward the overall Stockmanship Awards that will be awarded at the OCA BEST Banquet on May 2, 2020.

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H2Ohio strategies and farm practices outlined by Gov. DeWine

By Dusty Sonnenberg, CCA, Ohio Field Leader

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine unveiled an overview of his new H2Ohio plan for water quality Thursday afternoon in Toledo. Backdropped by the National Museum of the Great Lakes, Governor DeWine presented basic details of the plan to an invited audience of over 100 farmers and legislators, as well as collaborators from farm associations, conservation groups, universities and research centers, agribusinesses, and public and government entities.

“H2Ohio is a dedicated, holistic water quality plan that has long lasting solutions,” said Governor DeWine. “It addresses the causes of the problems and not just the symptoms.”

H2Ohio will invest in targeted solutions to help reduce harmful algal blooms, ensure clean water in disadvantaged communities, and prevent lead contamination in daycare centers and schools. In July, the Ohio General Assembly invested $172 million in the plan.

“This is one of the most comprehensive data-driven planning processes in our state’s history.

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Dean Foods initiates voluntary reorganization

This week, Dean Foods Company announced that it and substantially all of its subsidiaries have initiated voluntary Chapter 11 reorganization proceedings in the Southern District of Texas. The Company intends to use this process to protect and support its ongoing business operations and address debt and unfunded pension obligations while it works toward an orderly and efficient sale of the Company.

Dean Foods also announced that it is engaged in advanced discussions with Dairy Farmers of America, Inc. (DFA) regarding a potential sale of substantially all assets of the Company. If the parties ultimately reach agreement on the terms of a sale, such transaction would be subject to regulatory approval and would be subject to higher or otherwise better offers in the bankruptcy.

Dean Foods is operating in the ordinary course of business and remains focused on providing its customers with wholesome, great-tasting dairy products and the highest levels of quality, service and value.

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Hay supply concerns heading into the winter

Farmers across Ohio are feeling the brunt of last spring’s unprecedented rainfall. Finding hay that is both affordable and sufficiently nutritious has been one roadblock this year for farmers.

In addition, a nutritional deficiency could be sneaking into their herd during this record-breaking year in agriculture.

“Some of the hay’s quality is so low, the animal could actually starve with their hay right in front of them,” said Ted Wiseman, Ohio State University Extension educator.

The enormous amount of rainfall last spring left many farmers unable to get into their fields to harvest hay before it became too mature. The longer the hay matured in the field, the lower its nutritional value got, Wiseman explained.

There are other nutritional alternatives to replace hay in a herd’s diet. A farmer could use corn as a protein source, for example, if protein is what the hay is lacking. Wiseman advises farmers and ranchers to get their hay nutritionally tested as a first step toward making sure their herds are getting the nutrition they need.

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USDA to issue second tranche of trade payments

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will proceed with its second tranche of trade relief payments to American farmers as a result of retaliatory tariffs, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue said.

“We just have gotten authorization on the second tranche. We’ll be getting it ready hopefully at the end of this month or early December,” he said.

In May, the USDA announced it would again provide payments under the Market Facilitation Program (MFP), valued at $16 billion.

The first round of payments was issued in August and Perdue indicated a third tranche may not be necessary.

“We’re very hopeful that the China negotiations can come to a favorable conclusion. The numbers that we’re talking about right now would be very beneficial to our agricultural producers. We’re hopeful that trade would supplant any type of farm aid needed in 2020,” he said.

MFP provides payments to eligible producers of:

  • Non-specialty crops, including alfalfa hay, barley, canola, corn, crambe, dried beans, dry peas, extra-long staple cotton, flaxseed, lentils, long grain and medium grain rice, millet, mustard seed, oats, peanuts, rapeseed, rye, safflower, sesame seed, small and large chickpeas, sorghum, soybeans, sunflower seed, temperate japonica rice, triticale, upland cotton, and wheat.
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Questions, concerns and consumers in the alternative meat debate

By Matt Reese

It is hard to miss the new products in the grocery store and the nearest fast food restaurant — they look like meat, but they are plant-based. Products like the Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat are generating plenty of consumer buzz, questions and misinformation which, admittedly, have some in the livestock world a bit concerned.

“As a meat scientist I have received various calls and questions. It is a very hot topic today in the United States and around the world,” said Lyda Garcia, the Extension meat specialist
with The Ohio State University
College of Food, Agriculture, and Environmental Sciences. “It is 2019 and we are a big melting pot in the United States. An advantage to that is we have a variety of different tastes. There are many options to choose from, which I think is a phenomenal thing, but I don’t think it is fair to state that one product is better than the other.

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A diversified grazing plan works best for when Mother Nature is not cooperating

By Victor Shelton, NRCS State Agronomist/Grazing Specialist

I’ve heard several people mentioning lately that they are glad that this season is about over. This is especially true with corn and soybean producers. It certainly has been a very unusual year.

None of us need a reminder of the spring, but most areas of Indiana started out and remained wet for a very extended period which delayed or prevented row crop planting and created lots of challenges for pasture and hay.

Some areas just kept wet enough to keep you out of the fields while others remained saturated from excessive amounts of rain. I’ve now exceeded my 2018 rainfall of 61 inches and the year is not over yet.

Surprisingly, even with all the rain, there was still a droughty period from late August until early October, which varied slightly depending on location. This dry period created issues with fall-planted annuals and stockpiled forages.

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Congressional request for avian predator management flexibility

A letter signed by 15 U.S. Senators and 23 Members of Congress, was sent to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Acting Director Margaret Everson this week. The letter requested that the Service promulgate new rules to increase flexibility in the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) permitting process to empower livestock producers to protect their livelihoods. The bipartisan, bicameral letter was led by Sen. John Boozman (R-AR) and Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-GA-2).

“Whether it is black vultures, ravens, or cormorants, MBTA-protected avian predators pose a significant risk to newborn calves and livestock operations across the country,” said Ethan Lane, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association vice president of government affairs. “Despite populations of each species numbered in the millions, current regulations place arbitrary caps on permitted take and incur heavy restrictions on preventative measures necessary to protect farming and ranching operations. We appreciate the leadership of Sen. Boozman and Rep. Bishop and look forward to engaging with the U.S.

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Livestock issues and legal action

By Ellen Essman and Peggy Hall, Ohio Law Blog, Agricultural & Resource Law Program at The Ohio State University

Livestock issues have been the subject of various legal action around the the nation in recent weeks.

In August, Oregon passed a new law that would require egg-laying chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, or guinea fowl to be kept in a “cage-free housing system.” This law will apply to all commercial farms with more than 3,000 laying hens. A cage-free housing system must have both indoor and outdoor areas, allow the hens to roam unrestricted, and must have enrichments such as scratch areas, perches, nest boxes and dust bathing areas. As of Jan. 1, 2024, all eggs sold in the state of Oregon will have to follow these requirements for hens. The law does allow hens to be confined in certain situations, like for veterinary purposes or when they are part of a state or county fair exhibition.

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American Sheep Industry now accepting award nominations

Once again, it’s time to submit nominations for ASI Awards, which will be presented during the 2020 ASI Annual Convention on Jan. 22-25 in Scottsdale, Ariz.

The deadline for all award nominations is Nov. 15.

There are five awards open for nominations: The McClure Silver Ram Award, the Camptender Award, the Distinguished Producer Award, the Industry Innovation Award and the Shepherd’s Voice Award.

The McClure Silver Ram Award is dedicated to volunteer commitment and service and is presented to a sheep producer who has made substantial contributions to the sheep industry and its organizations in his/her state, region or nation. The award may recognize a lifetime of achievement or may recognize a noteworthy, shorter-term commitment and service to the industry.

The Camptender Award recognizes industry contributions from a professional in a position or field related to sheep production. Nominees should show a strong commitment and a significant contribution to the sheep industry, its organizations and its producers above and beyond what is called for in his/her professional capacity.

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Modern dairy production efficiencies reducing environmental impact

A new Journal of Animal Science study shows U.S dairy farmers have excelled in production efficiency — so much so that the environmental footprint to produce a gallon of milk has shrunk significantly since 1944 — using 90% less land, 65% less water, 63% smaller carbon footprint per gallon of milk.

More importantly, the trend on production efficiencies and reduced environmental impacts has actually accelerated in the last 10 years, based on a recently updated analysis of the original 2007 study, which concluded that Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions to produce a gallon of milk dropped nearly 20% over the 10-year period from 2007 to 2017.

Laura Campbell, manager of Michigan Farm Bureau’s Ag Ecology Department, said the recently updated study confirms what most farmers already know first-hand.

“Ongoing scientific research and improvements in genetics, animal nutrition, herd health management and ongoing advancements in crop production efficiencies have allowed dairy farmers to produce more with less,” Campbell said.

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Livestock Risk Management and Education Act introduced

The Livestock Risk Management and Education Act was introduced by U.S. Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) to provide risk management tools for livestock operations.

“This legislation will provide boots-on-the-ground cattle producers with critical resources and opportunities to increase their understanding and engagement with risk management tools. This bill speaks directly to our core values as an industry – arming producers with the latest farm management resources and tools in order to help them navigate ever-changing and dynamic market conditions,” said Todd Wilkinson, South Dakota cattle producer and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Policy Division vice chair. “In a market environment that continues to challenge even the most experienced multi-generational operations, NCBA believes that it is critical for producers to understand their options for managing risk. The Livestock Risk Management and Education Act policy will provide the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture the authority and flexibility to collaborate with industry to ensure that cattle farmers and ranchers have access to those options and the knowledge base to determine which ones are right for their operations.

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Surface application of manure to newly planted wheat fields

By Glen Arnold, CCA, Ohio State University Extension

Several livestock producers have inquired about applying liquid dairy or swine manure to newly planted wheat fields using a drag hose. The thought process is that the fields are firm (dry), there is very little rain in the nearby forecast, and the moisture in the manure could help with wheat germination and emergence.

The manure nutrients could easily replace the commercial fertilizer normally applied in advance of planting wheat. The application of fall-applied livestock manure to newly planted or growing crop can reduce nutrient losses compared to fall-applied manure without a growing crop.

Both swine and dairy manure can be used to add moisture to newly planted wheat. It’s important that the wheat seeds were properly covered with soil when planted to keep a barrier between the salt and nitrogen in the manure and the germinating wheat seed. It’s also important that livestock producers know their soil phosphorus levels, and the phosphorus in the manure being applied, so we don’t grow soil phosphorus levels beyond what is acceptable.

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Applications open for National Pork Checkoff Board of Directors

The Pork Checkoff’s board of directors is accepting applications through Nov. 1 to fill five three-year terms. State pork producer associations, farm organizations or individuals who pay the Pork Checkoff, including pig farmers and pork importers, may submit an application.

“Serving on the National Pork Board is a great opportunity for producers to support the pork industry while helping to plan for a successful future,” said Alcester, South Dakota, producer Steve Rommereim, who is the past National Pork Board president and chair of the Nominating Committee. “Not only have I been able to serve producers, I also have learned from so many in our pork industry.”

During the National Pork Industry Forum, Pork Act Delegates must rank a minimum of 10 candidates to send to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue for approval. The board consists of 15 members, each serving a maximum of two three-year terms. The Pork Act requires that no fewer than 12 states be represented.

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Low-cost treatment of meat processing wastewater protects the environment

By Karen Mancl

In 2000, a small, family owned meat processor was facing closure. They were under orders from Ohio EPA to change the way they handled their wastewater. Abandoning the smelly lagoon system they were permitted to use for years to connect to the city treatment plant was too expensive.

Through industry, university and government cooperation, a new way to treat their wastewater was developed and it saved the company. The Ohio EPA agreed to allow the company to work with Ohio State University to study using sand bioreactors to treat the high-strength, high-fat content wastewater. After a 2-year lab study in the Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering at OSU using the meat processing wastewater, the simple technology was tested in a small pilot plant built by the meat processor.

The pilot plant success led to obtaining a permit to construct a full-scale sand bioreactor treatment plant in 2010.

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Are robotic milkers failing to live up to promises?

robotic-milker-on-cow

By Leisa Boley Hellwarth, a dairy farmer and attorney near Celina

In a likely attempt to reach every dairy farmer in the U.S. who purchased robotic milkers, plaintiffs lawyers have been mailing information to every dairy farmer in the nation. The first post card arrived at my house several months ago from usfarmlaw.com, the website for Cullenberg & Tensen, a New Hampshire law firm. Attorney Arend Tensen looks more like the beef farmer he also is in his website pictures. There is more farm equipment pictured on his website than legal resources. Obviously, Tensen’s perceived strength is his agricultural background and current investments.

The card that arrived last week came from Steuve. Siegel. Hanson, LLP, trial lawyers and no one in their website wears anything but power clothes, and I do not mean winter weight Carharts or hunting gear camo. This was one of the firms front and center in the Syngenta class action, so they are used to slaying Goliath, even if they look a little Goliathy to me.

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Balancing the risks and benefits of animals in agritourism

By Matt Reese

With crisp fall weather, ripening apples, plump orange pumpkins, and autumn breezes rustling through dried corn leaves, it is the peak of Ohio’s agritourism season. There are numerous unique farm attractions around the state that entertain, educate and help connect consumers with agriculture in creative ways. Many include livestock, which can be a valuable component of the operation, but also a significant source of legal liability.

“Farm animals can be a valuable attraction for an agritourism operation, but having people and animals on the farm creates liability risks,” said Peggy Hall, associate professor for Ohio State University’s Agricultural & Resource Law Program. “Whether feeding, riding, petting, observing, or just being near farm animals, visitors could be harmed and agritourism operators could be liable for that harm.”

Hall is most concerned with the potential for transmission of zoonotic diseases from the animals to humans visiting the farm who may have little to no other exposure to farm livestock.

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