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CFAP Enrollment Begins

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor
and
Jerry Hagstrom
DTN Political Correspondent

GLENWOOD, Iowa (DTN) — USDA is set to begin accepting applications Tuesday from crop growers and livestock producers for $16 billion in aid under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP).

Cattle producers who typically do not receive direct federal aid have had more questions about enrolling in the program. Leadership from the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association held a question-and-answer session Friday evening on Facebook to discuss the CFAP and some of the shortfalls in the program for cattle producers.

“It definitely falls short and leaves us scratching our heads why things are the way they are,” said Justin Tupper, USCA’s vice president and a South Dakota cattle producer.

County FSA offices are open by phone-call appointment only due to the coronavirus pandemic, but application forms are supposed to be available online “once signup begins,” USDA said in a news release last week.

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Sacketts to Continue Fight

OMAHA (DTN) — Idaho property owners Mike and Chantell Sackett will have a chance to have a court hear the merits of their Clean Water Act legal case, after a federal appeals court rejected an EPA motion to dismiss their appeal.

The EPA filed a motion on April 1 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco to dismiss the case against the Sacketts. The Sacketts countered by filing a motion on April 9 opposing the motion to dismiss.

In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Sacketts in their lawsuit against the EPA, 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.

The EPA said in an April 3 statement to DTN the agency believes the case is closed.

The Sacketts argued in their April 9 court motion the EPA has yet to provide certainty about the future use of the property declared by EPA in 2008 to be a federally protected wetland.

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Ag Sales to China Tick Upward

OMAHA (DTN) — China is increasing its purchases of key U.S. agricultural commodities even as political rhetoric between the two countries ramps up, but China isn’t projected right now to come close to hitting its targets for ag buys under the phase-one trade deal.

Blaming China for the coronavirus pandemic to criticizing China’s new law cracking down on protests in Hong Kong, U.S. lawmakers and officials in the Trump administration are lashing out at the country, while at the same time walking a fine line on the phase-one agreement signed back in January.

Larry Kudlow told reporters Thursday in Washington he and other administration officials had spoken recently with China’s vice premier, who was the lead negotiator on the trade deal. “They reported to the president that the deal is intact, and China has every intent on implementing it,” Kudlow said, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Kudlow acknowledged commodity purchases “are a little far behind” because of poor economic conditions, but the president’s adviser said he is still satisfied overall with China’s compliance with the agreement.

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COVID-19 Tests Slow Internet

OMAHA (DTN) — When Karen Eifert Jones had to complete online training to spray dicamba herbicide this spring, she ended up doing it on her cell phone from the driveway of her mother’s house.

She was trying to maintain social distance from her 87-year-old parent, but still use the broadband internet. “My 17-year-old daughter was doing schoolwork at our house, so I went to Mom’s driveway to make it work,” Eifert Jones said.

As for the distance between where Eifert Jones farms with her family near Waukomis, Oklahoma, and that of her mother? About a mile.

Her mother has access to broadband internet. Eifert Jones and her family do not. They do have an antenna-based internet connection from their house; however, with more people using the service in recent months, the competition for bandwidth slowed it down, she explained.

Eifert Jones doesn’t know why broadband access is available at her mother’s house but not at her own house.

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Dicamba Cutoffs Loom

ROCKILLE, Md. (DTN) — Between a Mother’s Day freeze and recent flooding, many soybean acres in the Midwest may need to be replanted in the weeks to come.

Growers with dicamba-tolerant Xtend soybeans should keep in mind the tight windows for legal applications, cautioned University of Illinois weed scientist Aaron Hager. Many growers face application limits from both the federal label and from state cutoff dates.

“If you completely replant a dicamba soybean field right now, you may get a new 45-day window to spray dicamba from the federal label; but in Illinois, you also have to remember that June 20 is the state-mandated last day of dicamba applications in soybeans,” Hager said.

The Illinois Department of Agriculture also instituted a temperature cutoff for dicamba applications of 85 degrees, which is still in place. See more here: https://www2.illinois.gov/….

Indiana farmers also face a June 20 cutoff. The Office of Indiana State Chemist hopes the new limit this year will cut the state’s dicamba injury complaints — which surged to a record 178 last year — in half in 2020, said David Scott, pesticide program administrator for the agency.

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Autonomous Answers

ANKENY, Iowa (DTN) — Farmer curiosity and debate about autonomous farming spiked recently after DTN’s latest robotic planting article. The subject topped readership charts, garnered more than 120 comments on Facebook and sent Twitter atwitter. So, we went to Craig Rupp, co-owner of Sabanto, a Chicago-based robotic farming company, for answers to concerns and specific operational questions from several farmers about robotic planting.

Read the full story here: https://www.dtnpf.com/…

Several Illinois and Iowa farmers hired Sabanto to custom plant soybeans this year. It’s being done with three, GPS-guided, remotely operated 60-horsepower Kubota tractors pulling five-row Harvest International planters.

Will autonomous equipment and technology being developed by Sabanto and others (Raven Applied Technology, John Deere, etc.), be the death blow for the family farm? Is it part of the evolution of farming that helps family farms survive labor shortages? How does driverless equipment work and avoid potential problems?

Here are Rupp’s responses (slightly edited for space):

Q: How will autonomous tractors and planters be filled with fuel, seed and maintained?

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Virtual Wheat Tour 2020 — Day 2

By Mary Kennedy
DTN Cash Grains Analyst
and
Pamela Smith
DTN/Progressive Farmer Crops Technology Editor

OMAHA (DTN) — Romulo Lollato skeptically eyed a dark cloud floating overhead as he electronically delivered assessments from the second day of touring Kansas wheat fields. On Wednesday, crop scouts fanned out across the west-central and southwestern regions of the state where it was clear a combination of drought and freeze have taken a toll.

Yield estimates in both regions ranged from a gut-punch low of 11 bushels per acre (bpa) to a high of 70 bpa. Scouts estimated an average 42.5 bpa in the west-central portion of the state and 32.9 bpa in the southwest region.

Lollato, a Kansas State University agronomist, said the tour did not reach the extreme western parts of the state, where conditions are actually more severe. He also cautioned to keep in mind that scouts are measuring potential.

“It’s a snapshot.

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Virtual Wheat Tour 2020 — Day 1

By Mary Kennedy
DTN Basis Analyst
and
Pamela Smith
DTN/Progressive Farmer Crops Technology Editor

OMAHA (DTN) — Wheat scouts zoomed in on the Kansas wheat crop Tuesday in the first day of a “virtual tour.” Day one found a highly variable crop in the northwest and north-central portions of the state.

Aaron Harries, Kansas Wheat vice president of research and operations, said yield estimates in the north-central region ranged from 25.6 to 59.4 bushels per acre (bpa) with an average yield estimate of 41.1 bpa. The estimated yield range for northwest Kansas was 20 to 117 bpa with an average estimated yield of 51.7 bpa.

This year, Kansas Wheat has teamed with certified crop advisers, Extension agents, elevators, farmers and others to pull wheat samples across the state. The assessment of those physical samples is being virtually presented each evening with a final yield estimate scheduled for Thursday. Estimated yield potential is calculated using the formula provided by USDA-NASS this year.

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Virtual Wheat Tour 2020 — Day One

By Mary Kennedy
DTN Basis Analyst
and
Pamela Smith
DTN/Progressive Farmer Crops Technology Editor

OMAHA (DTN) — Wheat scouts zoomed in on the Kansas wheat crop Tuesday in the first day of a “virtual tour.” Day one found a highly variable crop in the northwest and north-central portions of the state.

Aaron Harries, Kansas Wheat vice president of research and operations, said yield estimates in the north-central region ranged from 25.6 to 59.4 bushels per acre (bpa) with an average yield estimate of 41.1 bpa. The estimated yield range for northwest Kansas was 20 to 117 bpa with an average estimated yield of 51.7 bpa.

This year, Kansas Wheat has teamed with certified crop advisers, Extension agents, elevators, farmers and others to pull wheat samples across the state. The assessment of those physical samples is being virtually presented each evening with a final yield estimate scheduled for Thursday. Estimated yield potential is calculated using the formula provided by USDA-NASS this year.

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CFAP Sign-up Details Released

GLENWOOD, Iowa (DTN) — Farmers and livestock producers can start signing up next week for direct aid from USDA through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), President Donald Trump and the administration announced Tuesday.

The White House and USDA shared details of the $16 billion in direct aid that will flow through USDA’s Farm Service Agency to a broad array of producers for various products, including cattle, pork, dairy, fruits, vegetables and commodity crops.

At a White House event Tuesday that was livestreamed, President Trump and a handful of ag leaders championed the $16 billion in direct aid to farmers, as well as the $3 billion in commodity purchases that will go to food banks. The funds came from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by Congress in late March. Trump touted tax cuts for farmers, support for ethanol and direct aid for trade retaliation as some of the initiatives driven by the president’s ongoing support for farmers.

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Cattle Set-Aside Program

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (DTN) — Just as people were asked to “flatten the curve” on COVID-19 infections by staying home and keeping a safe social distance, some in the cattle industry have a proposal they believe will flatten the curve on fed cattle numbers. The idea is to help feeders market cattle, factoring in backlogs, with less of an economic setback than would occur otherwise.

That “flatten the curve” comparison comes from Don Close, senior animal protein analyst with Rabo AgriFinance. The cattle industry veteran spoke to DTN/Progressive Farmer about the set-aside proposal currently being debated. While he said there may be challenges with the program, he is hopeful it will help with the number of backlogged cattle on a week-to-week basis.

“If this program can pull fed cattle off the market, buy some time through this period of reduced slaughter and extend them out to when we assume slaughter will be back to normal, or close, we might be able to balance the fed cattle inventory by the end of the year,” he said.

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Food Inflation

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (DTN) — By Memorial Day, meat supplies at retail grocery store could be 30% lower, with prices for both pork and beef 20% higher than those paid just one year ago.

That projection is part of a just-released analysis by CoBank lead economist Will Sawyer, who says as communities begin to reopen across the country, there remains only about a one-week supply of meat in cold storage.

“Shortages and stock-outs in the meat case couldn’t come at a worse time,” Sawyer noted in an interview with DTN/Progressive Farmer. “But what we are seeing isn’t recreating the wheel when it comes to supply and demand. We aren’t recasting economics as we know it.”

He said the new report, “Closed Meat Plants Today Mean Empty Meat Cases this Summer,” was important to release as a way of ensuring CoBank’s customer base is connected with what the public is hearing in terms of challenges in meat production and processing.

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Assessing Freeze Burn

ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) — Mother Nature has been throwing some mean punches recently, and Stephen Ellis has the bruised fields to prove it.

“Our April-planted soybeans were about 3 inches tall and had four leaves on them,” the Tappahannock, Virginia, farmer said. Then the temperature dropped to 29 degrees Fahrenheit for several hours in the early morning hours of May 10. “The next day, some of them were just almost a dark purple to black, and limp,” Ellis recalled.

Depending on the growth stage of their corn and soybean fields, farmers across the far northern tier of the Plains and Midwest and deep into the Eastern Corn Belt faced potentially damaging temperatures from Friday, May 8, through Monday, May 11, noted DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist Bryce Anderson.

Temperatures fell into the 20s in the early morning hours on most of those days for a wide geography, with a brief plunge into the teens in the Dakotas on Monday, he noted.

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RFA Seeks Sanitizer Clean Slate

OMAHA (DTN) — When it comes to attempting to help with a federal emergency, the old adage of “No good deed shall go unpunished” sometimes comes to mind.

Take the plight of ethanol producers.

An industry that produces billions of gallons of alcohol saw its fuel market crash with the country shutdown from the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, at least some ethanol producers stepped in to start selling alcohol for hand sanitizer or started making sanitizer themselves. Then, the Food and Drug Administration concluded possible questions about purity levels outweighed the national health-care crisis and need for greater sanitary conditions.

FDA first sent out a guidance to alcohol producers in late March, basically greenlighting more alcohol-based sanitizer from ethanol producers. Then, the agency changed the rules in an April 15 guidance. The new guidance stated that fuel-grade ethanol needed to meet specific grade requirements and be screened for impurities. But the FDA language was also ambiguous.

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Steady as She Goes

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (DTN) — A report of farm machinery sales in March hinted at the possible coming impact of COVID-19 on the industry. The pandemic, some speculated, would bring down the hammer on sales in April. But that did not happen.

Overall tractor sales in April were up 12.3% from April 2019, accounting for more than 3,600 units overall, according to the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) April 2020 U.S. Ag Tractor and Combine report. Combine sales were up 4.1% from April 2019 or 20 combine units.

Tractor units sold rose on a 16.2% increase in sales of tractors 40 horsepower (HP) and below. The small-tractor category accounts for most tractor units sold in any given month. About three-quarters of all tractors sold in April were 40 HP and below. The year-over-year increase in April for these smaller units was 3,453 tractors.

The strong result in this category might be the result — and there is some speculation here — of newly working-from-home weekend hobby farmers investing in equipment to complete long-overdue projects.

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Meatpacker Worker Deaths Spark Lawsuits

OMAHA (DTN) — The families of two meatpacking plant workers have sued two companies, alleging the lack of safety precautions at work led to the COVID-19 deaths.

JBS and Quality Sausage Company each face civil lawsuits, connected with the deaths of workers at a JBS meatpacking plant in Pennsylvania and at a QSC sausage plant in Texas.

Meatpacking plants across the country continue to slowly resume operations, following an executive order from President Donald Trump that cites the Defense Production Act.

According to the Food and Environment Reporting Network, as of Wednesday 206 meatpacking and food-processing plants have confirmed COVID-19 cases. More than 15,000 workers at meatpacking and food-processing plants have tested positive, according to FERN and at least 60 workers have died.

On May 7 in Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, the family of former JBS Souderton, Pennsylvania, employee Enock Benjamin filed a wrongful death lawsuit.

JBS has experienced COVID-19 outbreaks in at least seven plants in the United States including in Souderton; Greeley, Colorado; Plainwell, Michigan; Green Bay, Wisconsin; Cactus, Texas; Worthington, Minnesota and Grand Island, Nebraska.

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MFP Made Farmers Whole

MOUNT JULIET, Tenn. (DTN) — Market Facilitation Program payments were generally larger than the short-term price effects of the trade war, according to a new economic analysis by a pair of Kansas State University economists in a paper titled “Are Farmers Made Whole by Trade Aid?”

While corn was a notable exception, ag economists Joseph Janzen and Nathan Hendricks found that for cotton and sorghum, the payments were substantially higher than the price damage inflicted by the trade war with China.

“In some ways, farmers were made whole by trade aid because the payments were larger than the price impact of the trade war,” Janzen told DTN. “The only caveat to that is it’s only true in the short run. We don’t know how much damage was caused in the long run, or will be incurred in the long run, as a result of the trade war.”

To complete their analysis, the pair had to accommodate the differences between 2018’s $10 billion program (MFP1), which paid based on that year’s production, and 2019’s $14.5 billion program (MFP2), which made county-level payments based on a calculation of estimated trade damage.

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Corps Sued Over Miss. River Management

OMAHA (DTN) — A recent rash of flooding in the Mississippi River basin could have been avoided had the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers better managed a 195-mile stretch of the river from Cairo, Illinois, to St. Louis, Missouri, a handful of conservation groups allege in a new federal lawsuit filed on Wednesday.

The Mississippi River has experienced a series of historic floods in recent years, clogging up barge traffic, flooding towns and cities, and damaging farm ground along the river.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois in East St. Louis, Illinois, points to the continued construction of river-training structures as a reason for narrowing river channels in the Middle Mississippi River. River-training structures include dikes, weirs and chevrons, and placement of bank-hardening works known as “revetments.”

The lawsuit was filed by the National Wildlife Federation, American Rivers, Prairie Rivers Network, Missouri Coalition for the Environment and Great Rivers Habitat Alliance.

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Farmland Sales Report

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (DTN) — As many land auctions have moved online over concerns of the spread of COVID-19, prices for quality farmland have appeared to remain strong.

Last week, R.D. Schrader, president of Schrader Real Estate and Auction Company based in Indiana, shared real-time sales results, to help indicate how the pandemic is affecting farmland prices.

Licensed in 29 states, Schrader conducted the first online, multi-tract auction on the internet simultaneously with a live auction back in March 2000. Today, due to COVID-19, more sellers have been taking advantage of Schrader’s ability to provide simulcast bidding as well as timed online sales.

Schrader said there are several factors contributing to recent land prices like tight supplies, favorable interest rates and 1031 exchange money. Also known as like-kind exchanges, the 1031 exchange money has been playing an especially important role in motivating buyers as there is a financial impetus (avoiding a premium on capital gains for those funds) to reinvest within the limited timeframe (180 days to close).

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Biofuel Groups Ask Congress for Relief

OMAHA (DTN) — With the United States biofuels industry on the ropes, agriculture and ethanol industry groups are asking Congressional leaders to include biofuels in any future COVID-19 relief package.

Since the economic shutdown, about 130 ethanol plants have either fully or partially idled operations in response to falling demand for gasoline.

The Renewable Fuels Association, Growth Energy, National Biodiesel Board, American Farm Bureau Federation, National Corn Growers Association, American Soybean Association, National Farmers Union, National Oilseed Processors Association, National Renderers Association, National Sorghum Producers and Fuels America, sent a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday to detail industry concerns.

“The situation we face is dire,” the groups said in the letter. “More than 130 biofuel plants have already partially or fully shut down as motor fuel demand plunged to 50-year lows. America’s biofuel plants purchase annually more than one-third of U.S.

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