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Machinery Manufacturer Engines Sputter

By Dan Miller
Progressive Farmer Senior Editor

Major equipment manufacturers announced temporary factory shutdowns last week as the coronavirus pandemic found its way to manufacturing floors.

John Deere’s Dubuque, Iowa, plant closed March 30, days after discovering one case of COVID-19. On April 1, the manufacturer announced that it had resumed production with a limited number of employees at the Dubuque construction and forestry factory. Production startup will be staggered over the coming weeks.

Deere suspended production at its hydraulic-cylinder factory in Moline, Illinois, after management learned of a confirmed COVID-19 case with an employee there on April 2. During the suspension, the facility will undergo a thorough disinfection that meets or exceeds local and state health-department guidance. Those employees able to work remotely during this time will continue to do so.

AGCO Corp. is fighting this same battle. “In Europe, depending on the location, we are seeing some operations closing,” Robert Crain, senior vice president and GM, Americas, for AGCO Corp., told DTN.

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COVID-19 Hits Packing Plants

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

OMAHA (DTN) — Coronavirus cases are increasingly affecting the meatpacking industry as both a beef and pork plant in Iowa were closed this week because of positive cases.

Tyson Foods announced a pork processing plant is suspending operations at an eastern Iowa plant after 24 positive cases were tied to its workforce. National Beef also announced it was moving up a major cleaning process at the Iowa Premium Beef plant in Tama, Iowa, after a worker tested positive.

The meatpacking industry is deemed as essential by the federal government as part of the need to keep food processing going, but that also places staff and workers in constant close quarters that go against the social-distancing standards now in place around the country.

At least 13 workers at the beef packing plant for JBS SA in Grand Island, Nebraska, have tested positive. The plant employs about 3,000 people.

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Land Intelligence

By Victoria G. Myers
Progressive Farmer Senior Editor

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (DTN) — People are about to know a lot more about your land at the click of a mouse. It could be a game changer for the agricultural land market. It could also lead to some major shifts in how the leasing game is played.

CIBO, a company founded by Flagship Pioneering, is releasing what it calls a “land intelligence platform.”

Through a combination of available public data and science-driven intelligence, the company will open a new window of proprietary insights on hundreds of millions of acres of farmland. Those insights will include land and lease values and productivity — but also things like the environmental impact of a management practice and stability of land.

The insights will constantly update based on weather and management shifts. It can be as finely defined as a single parcel, or aggregated out at the county, state or national levels.

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Coronavirus Actions Puts Strain on Ag

By Todd Neeley
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) — Southwest Minnesota cattle producer Peter Bakken has seen prices for his beef collapse under the weight of COVID-19.

The COVID-19 pain is being felt across all segments of the industry. From dairy farmers being forced to dump milk in fields, to ranchers taking big hits from falling beef prices, to corn, cotton and soybean futures tumbling, to ethanol plants being idled — the industry is looking for help.

Reuters reported on Friday that biofuels industry groups have asked the Credit Commodity Corporation for a bailout.

The pain is being felt far and wide.

Bakken said he, like some others in the industry, is questioning the future of his farm.

“Where we’re at right now — four generations of work to keep the operation going — and this is a management nightmare,” he said during an American Farm Bureau Federation press call on Friday.

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Dicamba Know-How

By Emily Unglesbee
DTN Staff Reporter

ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) — As farmers and applicators head into the 2020 spray season, it’s time to brush up on the challenging realities of applying dicamba to Xtend crop fields.

Four dicamba herbicides, XtendiMax (Bayer), Engenia (BASF), FeXapan (Corteva) and Tavium (Syngenta) are available for use over the top of Xtend soybeans and cotton this year.

Here, we’ve rounded up the latest research and information you need to know before you head to the field with these herbicides.

1. THE FEDERAL LABELS HAVE NUMEROUS RESTRICTIONS

The federal labels for the four new dicamba herbicides are infamously complex. Here are some of the most important restrictions to remember:

— The herbicides are all restricted use pesticides and can only be handled and sprayed by certified applicators who have completed dicamba-specific training each year.

— Applications in soybeans are limited to 45 days after planting or up to R1 (V4 for Tavium), whichever comes first.

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LL GT27 Beans Get a Herbicide

By Emily Unglesbee
DTN Staff Reporter

ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) — A limited group of soybean growers using LL GT27 soybeans will soon have access to a corresponding HPPD herbicide, BASF’s Alite 27 herbicide, which contains isoxaflutole.

The GT27 soybean trait was developed by MS Technologies to tolerate applications of glyphosate and isoxaflutole. The trait is usually stacked with the LibertyLink trait and sold as LL GT27 soybeans, which are available through several different seed companies.

On Monday, BASF received the green light from EPA to market and sell Alite 27, the only HPPD herbicide now registered for use on LL GT27 soybeans. Some small quantities of the herbicide are available for 2020, with a full commercial launch planned for 2021, BASF spokesperson Odessa Hines told DTN in an email.

“Alite 27 herbicide will be commercially available for sale to growers in registered counties during the 2021 season,” Hines wrote. “However, there will be some limited demonstration product available this year… Growers interested in receiving demonstration Alite 27 should speak to their local BASF representative.”

Alite 27 is a restricted use pesticide and EPA has approved its use for a very limited geography, due to concerns of exposure to certain endangered species and the potential for groundwater contamination.

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EPA Drops Compliance Order on Sacketts

By Todd Neeley
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) — More than a decade after EPA cited an Idaho property owner for a Clean Water Act violation that led to a long court battle, the agency has backed off a compliance order on the land.

What remains in question is whether Priest Lake, Idaho, residents Chantell and Michael Sackett will ever be able to build on their property determined by EPA in 2008 to be a federally protected wetland. The EPA alleged the Sacketts filled in the wetland.

In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Sacketts, providing farmers and other landowners a legal leg to stand on when it comes to challenging Clean Water Act determinations. Prior to that ruling, landowners were unable to legally challenge determinations.

Until this month, the Sacketts continued to be subject to an administrative compliance order (ACO) requiring them to come into compliance or face fines of up to $75,000 per day.

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Dueling USDA Corn Estimates

By Alan Brugler
DTN Contributing Analyst

The end of March and end of June USDA reports have reputations for big price moves and volatility. We got some big price volatility right after the Planting Intentions and Grain Stocks reports came out on Tuesday, March 31, but the corn market didn’t deliver the big change by the end of the day. That’s because we’re dealing with two totally different data sets and fading them in opposite directions.

Allow me to elucidate.

The March 31 Planting Intentions report is Exhibit A. It was bearish on the surface, with USDA finding producer intent to plant 96.99 million corn acres (ma) in 2020. This was based on a survey of 79,983 producers between Feb. 28 and March 18. With the average trade estimate for the report at 94.3 ma, this would have to be considered a bearish number, particularly if the U.S. sees trend-line corn yield in 2020.

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Coronavirus Alters Live Sales

By Russ Quinn
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) — Bob Birdsell sold his 2019 calves last week. The farmer and cattle producer from Stanberry, Missouri, said a wet spring last year delayed his planting. This then slowed his harvest last fall, which pushed back his calf weaning. These delays forced him to sell his calves in March instead of February.

The delays also forced him to sell in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and the new world of social distancing, which also affects how sale barns and auctioneers operate. With livestock auctions deemed essential business because they’re part of the food supply, these businesses are staying open.

However, there are major changes in how they operate.

NO SELLERS

The cattle market, much like the rest of the commodity market, did not react well to the first days of the national coronavirus shutdown. The cattle futures markets saw large losses, which kept many cattle producers away from sale barns.

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Virus Concerns Change Farmer Habits

By DTN/Progressive Farmer Staff

OMAHA (DTN) — Farmers are showing general concern about how the coronavirus pandemic will influence the coming crop year, their businesses in general and even their family’s health, according to a current online poll conducted by DTN and data analytics company Farm Market iD. More than 69% of farmers polled don’t have a prepared backup plan should they become sick with the virus themselves.

“We know that COVID-19 is taking a toll on populations around the world,” said John Teeple, DTN senior vice president-agriculture. “Our farmers are entering a stressful planting season and now have to contend with the challenges associated with this global pandemic. They are on the front lines of ensuring that our world has food to eat.”

Farmers were sent email invitations to take part in the poll, “Coronavirus Impact on the Farmer and the Business of Farming,” starting March 27. Percentages quoted are as of late evening March 29, when more than 420 farmers had responded to a 23-question poll.

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Volatile 2020 Cotton Outlook

By Matthew Wilde
DTN Progressive Farmer Crops Technology Editor

AUSTIN, Texas (DTN) — The worldwide COVID-19 health and economic crisis will make it difficult, but not impossible, for cotton farmers to make a profit this year.

John R.C. Robinson, a Texas A&M professor and Extension economist, was optimistic that cotton prices could hit 75 cents per pound this year. Most farmers can make money selling cotton at that price, he said.

Recent trade agreements with two of the top importers of U.S. cotton and an anticipated drop in plantings and supply gave Robinson confidence to make that projection at the Beltwide Cotton Conference in Austin, Texas, in January.

Then, the coronavirus pandemic hit and cotton values plummeted. On Thursday, March 26, May cotton closed at 52.78 per pound, its lowest spot price since 2009 and down from 69.05 cents at the start of the year.

“Most of the trading now is based on fear and uncertainty,” Robinson said.

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Court Changes Course on Checkoff Speech

By Todd Neeley
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) — A federal judge in Montana on Friday threw out a court case against 15 state beef councils filed by R-CALF USA after the beef councils signed agreements with USDA declaring that the Department of Agriculture has authority over their activities.

Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF USA) had asked the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana to declare unconstitutional the beef councils in Montana, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont and Wisconsin.

Brian Morris, chief district judge for the U.S. District Court in Montana, on Friday accepted Magistrate John Johnston’s findings and recommendations to toss out the cases against the state beef councils because each of the councils have now signed “memorandums of understanding” giving USDA authority over their promotional, advertising and marketing activities. USDA’s control over the state beef councils then fell under the umbrella of a landmark 2005 U.S.

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House Passes Stimulus Bill

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

OMAHA (DTN) — The House of Representatives on Friday passed the $2.2 trillion stimulus package dubbed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, sending the legislation to President Donald Trump to sign into law.

Agriculture is among the industries with aid set aside, which includes providing USDA $14 billion more in funding authority under the Commodity Credit Corp., allowing USDA to craft an aid package to farmers who have seen commodity prices crash since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

The bill passed the House by a voice vote despite concerns raised by Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., who drew the ire of both colleagues and President Trump for stalling the legislation. Massie’s procedural moves led to four hours of floor debate, then he called for a roll-call vote though that request was denied. On Twitter, Trump called Massie “a grandstander” and suggested Massie be thrown out of the Republican Party.

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H-2A Visa Waiver Expanded

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

OMAHA (DTN) — Farmers who rely on H-2A workers received a little more relief from the State Department late Thursday with an announcement that U.S. consulates will expand the group of H-2 applicants who can get visas without an in-person interview.

Agricultural groups and farmers who employ guest workers have been concerned since the State Department announced March 20 that it was suspending all non-emergency visa applications. Thursday’s announcement opens the door for more H-2A and H-2B workers to continue entering the country for work. Embassies and consulate offices shut down such visa processing to eliminate direct contact with applicants because of the coronavirus.

The State Department noted, “The H-2 program is essential to the economy and food security of the United States and is a national security priority. Therefore, we intend to continue processing H-2 cases as much as possible, as permitted by post resources and local government restrictions.”

The decision allows consulates to waive the visa interview requirements for both returning workers and first-time applicants, the State Department said.

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Machinery Survey in Full Swing

By Dan Miller
Progressive Farmer Senior Editor

The line-up of equipment that farmers and ranchers use is a big investment and drives productivity and efficiency on their operations. Objective research on user satisfaction of farm equipment, however, is limited.

To fill the information void, Progressive Farmer has launched a national machinery survey series. The Progressive Farmer Reader Insights survey has been professionally designed to measure growers’ overall experience with their equipment lines. The first category to be surveyed is tractors. Other machinery categories will be announced in coming weeks.

This study is conducted in partnership with SOCAL Approach Marketing and Consulting Group, a respected expert in the marketing research industry. Printed surveys have been mailed to a diverse sample of farmers and ranchers. There is also an option for them to complete the questionnaire online.

“We believe farmers will find this first survey about tractors interesting for sure, but also highly engaging — and as the results are made known, exceptionally informative,” said Gregg Hillyer, editor in chief of Progressive Farmer.

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Farming Through COVID-19

By Katie Dehlinger
DTN Farm Business Adviser

MOUNT JULIET, Tenn. (DTN) — Seventy percent of farms and agribusinesses have already made changes in response to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a non-scientific poll conducted by AgHires, a leading agricultural recruiting firm.

Lori Culler, AGHires founder and DTN’s HR Coach, said she’s hearing vast differences of opinion about the threat COVID-19 poses not only from farm to farm, but also within farms.

“What we can’t have on the farm is some employees who are being extremely cautious and others are being extremely careless. And without ground rules set and in place, you’re going to have frustration and discontent among your team members. Not having policies in place can actually be more detrimental to your work culture,” she said on a recent DTN webinar called “Farming Through COVID-19: Managing Labor and Employee Issues During the Pandemic.”

Culler said every farm will have different policies based on what works for them.

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Crop Invaders – 5

By Matthew Wilde
DTN Progressive Farmer Crops Technology Editor

Ron Heck isn’t known to wear an ascot, but maybe he should after helping solve one of the Midwest’s great agricultural mysteries.

The Perry, Iowa, farmer has a lot in common with Freddy of “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?” fame.

Both have the drive to decipher whodunits — but in different ways.

The teenage sleuth would devise a kooky trap to catch the fake ghost to solve a crime. Heck simply used an inquisitive nature, a little persuasion and, most importantly, yield maps in 1994 to eventually “unmask” once-mysterious villains, soybean cyst nematodes (SCNs). It was and continues to be the No. 1 soybean yield robber responsible for an estimated $1 billion in losses annually, experts say.

But, it used to be much worse. Industry officials and farmers agree Heck played a pivotal role in increasing awareness of SCN and its devastating effects in the Midwest.

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Ag Groups Praise Aid Bill

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

OMAHA (DTN) — Late Wednesday, the U.S. Senate demonstrated bipartisan backing for the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which will provide $2 trillion in various programs to address the pandemic.

After some concerns earlier in the day over a few provisions, the Senate eventually voted 96-0 to pass the bill late in the evening. The vote came after lawmakers deadlocked on a Republican effort to change some of the unemployment sections of the bill. That vote was 48-48. Attention will now turn to how the House will handle the stimulus bill.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said in an announcement late in the night that the House will be called into session at 9 a.m. on Friday to consider the legislation.

Under the bill, USDA would have $48.9 billion to respond to the coronavirus, along with added funding for the Food and Drug Administration as well, according to a fact sheet summary released by the Senate Committee on Appropriations.

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Celebrate Ag Day

By Greg D. Horstmeier
DTN Editor-in-Chief

Happy Ag Day!

Sounds a little strange typing those words, when just a short time ago I was planning to be saying them aloud to an audience in Washington, D.C.

Every year I look forward to National Ag Day celebrations, but none more so than this year as I’m honored to serve as chairman of the Agriculture Council of America, which is the shepherding group for Ag Day activities. We had a wonderful day of events planned on the National Mall, at the USDA Whitten Patio, and all around the Capitol area, all aimed to truly celebrate agriculture’s importance to the nation.

Alas, the new coronavirus got in the way of that, as it has done to so many things society planned to do for the past week and for the foreseeable future.

But agriculture is stronger than any virus, and there is a need to celebrate what all of you, and all of us in the industry, do for the world.

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Ag Research in Limbo

By Emily Unglesbee
DTN Staff Reporter

ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) — This is usually the busy season for agricultural scientists.

They are hammering out experiment plans, firing up tractors and heading to fields to plant research plots on crops, weed control, diseases, insects and more.

But Michigan State University Extension entomologist Chris DiFonzo’s recent trips into the office this past week have had a very different mission.

“The local hospitals are already low on supplies, so there was a call to labs on campus for protective equipment that will just sit unused when the university is closed,” DiFonzo explained. “I’m emptying the lab of gloves, spray suits and anything else that can be used.”

Like so many, university ag researchers are being forced to set aside research and re-evaluate what is “essential” as the nation enters its third week of state-by-state lockdowns aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19, including universities restricting campus access and sending students home.

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