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Listen to the Land – 11

By Elton Robinson
Progressive Farmer Contributing Editor

Robby Bevis didn’t decide to chuck his farm-management plan and get closer to nature on a whim. It took some convincing by friends and finally a commitment to let plants and biology tell him how to manage the crop.

The transformation began back in 2012, when former college friends working with the Natural Resources Conservation Service started telling Bevis about the benefits of cover crops. “They told me about how the biology of the soil worked and how I could make the soil healthy again,” Bevis recalled.

He wasn’t so sure, although he had already adopted no-till for several years — primarily to cut costs. Still, Bevis decided to try cover crops on about 900 acres with the help of a government program that paid all the costs.

He noticed two things. First, farming got even uglier, which didn’t make much of an impression on Bevis.

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More Dicamba to Come?

By Emily Unglesbee
DTN Staff Reporter

ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) — Dicamba-tolerant crop acreage could grow even larger in the next decade, when and if Bayer’s XtendFlex corn reaches the market.

This corn trait, developed by Monsanto and now under Bayer’s ownership, tolerates in-crop applications of dicamba and glufosinate and is expected to be stacked with a glyphosate-tolerant trait, as well. In documents submitted to USDA in 2015, Monsanto predicted the trait could eventually penetrate 89% of U.S. corn acres, roughly 80 million acres of corn.

For now, XtendFlex corn is still several years from joining the landscape. Although USDA deregulated the trait in 2016, EPA has not yet added XtendFlex corn to the label of current dicamba formulations, and no seed companies are selling it yet. “Bayer does not anticipate launching XtendFlex corn until early-to-mid-next decade,” the company told DTN in an emailed statement.

But the corn trait has garnered some media attention recently, after EPA released a notice on March 18 that the agency had received Bayer’s application to add new corn uses to the label of its dicamba herbicide XtendiMax, to prepare for dicamba-tolerant corn hybrids.

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Disaster Declared; Ag Businesses Battle

By Todd Neeley
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) — President Donald Trump approved Nebraska’s expedited request for federal disaster assistance on Thursday, opening the door to help the state recover from flood damages that include nearly $1 billion in preliminary losses to agriculture.

Trump’s action makes federal funding available to repair public infrastructure in 66 Nebraska counties. In addition, Trump approved funds for individual losses in Butler, Cass, Colfax, Dodge, Douglas, Nemaha, Sarpy, Saunders and Washington counties. That can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners.

The declaration comes as many agribusinesses across Nebraska and Iowa continue to face logistical challenges as a result of extensive damage to public infrastructure.

According to the eight-page disaster declaration request filed by Nebraska officials this week, preliminary estimates put agriculture losses from the flooding and blizzard near the $1 billion mark.

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Cattle on Feed Preview

By Rick Kment
DTN Livestock Analyst

OMAHA (DTN) — Little significant change is expected in the Cattle on Feed report Friday with current estimates pegging total animals on feed at 99.7% of year-ago levels. The expected 4% reduction in cattle placements through February will likely be the main focus of the report and pre-report adjustments. These numbers appear to have already been partially factored into the market given the strong market shifts over the last two weeks.

USDA Pre-report Estimates
Actual Avg Low High
On feed March 1 99.7 99.0 100.6
On feed February 1
Placed on feed during February 96.0 92.2 101.5
Fed cattle marketed during February 100.8 99.7 101.3

Rick Kment can be reached at rick.kment@dtn.com

(KM/CZ)

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Disaster Aid, Places to Donate

By DTN Staff

OMAHA (DTN) — With ongoing flood recovery efforts in Nebraska, Iowa, and other affected states, there are a number of places farmers and ranchers can go for help or to donate.

Livestock losses in Nebraska are estimated at about $400 million and many ranchers face challenges to save remaining herds.

The Nebraska Department of Agriculture is ready to help producers affected by the blizzards and flooding who need hay, feedstuffs, fencing materials, volunteer help and equipment.

Callers to the department at 1-800-831-0550 should be prepared to share their name, contact information, type and number of livestock, location (including county), the type of assistance needed and how urgent the need is.

Nebraska Department of Ag staff will gather the information and identify needs to react accordingly, including the use of the National Guard and other state resources.

A list of disaster relief resources for Nebraska farmers and ranchers also is available online at: https://buff.ly/… website includes links to USDA Farm Service Agency programs including the Livestock Indemnity Program and information from the Nebraska Extension.

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Missouri Farmer Underwater, Again

By Todd Neeley
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) — Roger Ideker’s farm near St. Joseph, Missouri, was under water in 2011 from June until September.

For years he fought the federal government, specifically the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who he blamed for his flooded bottom land near the Missouri River.

In 2018, a court finally ruled that the Corps was responsible for reoccurring floods that severely damaged Ideker’s farm — for several years post-2004, except 2011 — and on March 11, 2019, the court finally moved to the compensation portion of the case.

Despite his court victory, Ideker said little has changed.

Before he could even get his payout from the federal government, historic flooding took place days later — and his farm is under water yet again.

This week, Ideker’s 2,000-acre corn and soybean farm is affected by the Missouri River as it is on track to crest at both Brownville and Rulo, Nebraska.

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Neb. Livestock Disaster Losses Mounting

By Todd Neeley
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) — As flood waters continue to recede in the east and the dig out continues from a recent blizzard in the west, the agriculture tally from the worst disaster in Nebraska’s history may go on for months to come.

The state’s Agriculture Director Steve Wellman told reporters on Monday evening that early estimates are the hit to the state’s livestock sector may be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

“We’re looking at a $400 million impact to livestock — mostly beef,” he said, “and with spring planting there will be delays. It’s hard to know what it really amounts to. As for a number of acres, we haven’t tried to do.”

At the peak of the flooding, Nebraska Department of Transportation Director Kyle Schneweis said there were 79 highways closed accounting for 1,568 miles.

As of Monday, that number and been whittled down to about 540 miles.

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Farms on the Margins

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

OMAHA (DTN) — Iowa attorney Joe Peiffer spent the latter half of February helping some of his clients try to restructure debt and get operating loans for 2019 after these farmers found out their past lenders weren’t going to continue financing them.

“Right now, we’re having many people find out shortly before they have to pay rent that they aren’t going to have financing,” said Peiffer, who works with farmers in Iowa and Illinois.

Some of these farmers needed millions to pay rent. Peiffer said they didn’t all get financing. Farmers who gave up rented ground run the risk of being sued for any shortfall landlords experience if they must lower rent to secure a new tenant.

At the well-known farmer support organization, Farm Aid, officials say they have added staffers for the group’s hotline, which has seen a doubling in crisis call volumes.

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Listen to the Land – 10

By Charles Johnson
Progressive Farmer Contributing Editor

Conserve soil, conserve water. Both go hand-in-hand on Steve Stevens’ farm, near Tillar, Arkansas. A third-generation farmer on land that’s 10 miles from the Mississippi River and 2 miles from the Arkansas River, Stevens has seen plenty of changes during his time here, and not all for the better. He’s determined to improve the land to make it more productive.

To meet his goals, Stevens is focused on water, specifically rainfall as well as irrigation.

“To be sustainable, we have to capture more rainfall so we’re not as dependent on underground water. That will also be sustainable for our aquifer,” Stevens said.

Fifty years ago, groundwater was only about 20 feet from the surface. Today, it’s 55 feet. That’s a huge concern for Stevens.

“When a well is 100 to 115 feet here, you’re getting close to the bottom. I asked our well driller what to do next.

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Flood Damage High From Lack of Warning

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

GLENWOOD, Iowa (DTN) — Exasperated local officials told Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Monday about lost farms and businesses due to flooding, ongoing river breaches, the need for higher levees and their concern about a lack of information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Flooding over the weekend in the Missouri River Basin quickly became more destructive than flooding the region faced in the spring and summer of 2011. Levees that held back the river eight years ago collapsed and were undermined by heavy water coming from multiple rivers. Levee breaches and topping continue down into northwest Missouri, as well.

Missouri River communities in southern Iowa, Nebraska and northwest Missouri are largely agricultural but contain a significant number of grain elevators, ethanol plants and farm equipment dealers that were flooded. The river topped a sandbag wall in Hamburg, Iowa, early Monday and had flooded every other Iowa river community up to Council Bluffs.

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Waiting on Winter Wheat

By Emily Unglesbee
DTN Staff Reporter

ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) — The winter wheat crop is sleeping in this year — and who can blame it?

“Since the first of March, at 2-inch soil depths, we’re running 10 degrees below normal,” said Kansas State University Extension agronomist Jeanne Falk Jones. “Instead of soil temps being 40 to 42 degrees, they’re still sitting below freezing in many cases, around 30 to 32 degrees.”

As a result, a lot of winter wheat in western and northern Kansas is still lying dormant. Farther south, Oklahoma wheat is just starting to green up, and some producers are only now pulling cattle out of their grazed wheat fields, said Jeff Edwards, a crop scientist with Oklahoma State University.

The cool, wet, delayed spring comes at a time when many producers are already facing a time crunch to make up for missed fieldwork during the soggy fall of 2018.

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Iowa Latest to Declare Storms Disaster

By Todd Neeley
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) — Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds issued a disaster proclamation on Friday for 15 counties hit by the latest catastrophic flooding in the Midwest, Reynolds announced in a news release.

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts issued an emergency declaration on Tuesday ahead of the storm that raced through the Midwest this week. As of Thursday, South Dakota Gov. Krisi Noem was preparing an emergency declaration for damage from the blizzard, according to the governor’s website, http://news.sd.gov/….

Reynolds’ proclamation allows state resources to be used to respond to and recover from the effects of flooding and flash flooding in the counties of Adair, Bremer, Buena Vista, Cherokee, Clay, Dallas, Dickinson, Emmet, Fayette, Franklin, Fremont, Guthrie, Hardin, Plymouth and Shelby.

On Thursday, Reynolds activated the state emergency operations center and issued a proclamation to allow state resources to be utilized to respond to and recover from the effects of this severe weather across the state.

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Listen to the Land — 9

By Jim Patrico
DTN Contributing Editor

Brian Martin slid a spade into a patch of cereal rye planted in corn stubble. He pried out a chunk of dark soil topped by green leaves then crumbled a bit of the dirt between his fingers. New roots, old roots, mellow silt loam. He crumbled some more dirt and gave a satisfied chuckle. “Earthworm,” he said and pointed to a shiny, wiggling creature.

From the grin on Brian’s face, you’d think he’d just discovered gold.

Brian is a soils geek. Finding earthworms at the entrance to a field — where heavy-equipment traffic over many years has compacted the soil — has made his day. It means his work to improve his family farm’s soils is paying off.

This is important because the Martin family farm, near Centralia, Missouri, was not blessed with the best soils. As a result, yield potential sometimes is limited, especially for corn.

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EPA Adds to Rural Woes

By Todd Neeley
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) — The EPA granted five additional 2017 small-refinery exemptions (SREs) to the Renewable Fuel Standard on Thursday, raising the agency total for that year to 34, according to an update posted to EPA’s online dashboard. The dashboard also indicates it has two more waiver requests pending for that year.

Ethanol industry interests, farmers and federal lawmakers were hopeful the agency would change the way it considered waivers under new Administrator Andrew Wheeler. The 2017 waiver requests were made during former Administrator Scott Pruitt’s tenure.

Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, said during a news conference that the agency’s latest actions would serve as a “bellwether” for how the EPA would handle waiver requests going forward and Thursday’s decision would be an “important indication” of where Wheeler stands.

“It’s extremely disappointing and outrageous to see EPA once again allow oil refiners to undermine the RFS and hurt family farms, ethanol producers and our environment by exploiting and abusing a statutory provision that exempts them from their obligations to blend renewable fuels,” Cooper said in a statement following the press conference.

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Prepare to See Spots

By Emily Unglesbee
DTN Staff Reporter

ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) — If you dealt with any tar spot infection in your cornfields last year, Jim Donnelly has some advice for you: Get used to it — but don’t panic. Researchers are slowly getting a grasp on how the disease works and most fungicides are effective against it.

“My experience, after looking for it for the last four years, is that we will see it this year — it’s just a matter of how heavy the disease pressure will be,” said Donnelly, a technical agronomist for DeKalb and Asgrow. Donnelly works in northern Illinois, which was one of the epicenters of a major outbreak last year of the new corn disease.

The disease’s telltale black, tar-like spots infested fields most severely in regions encircling Lake Michigan — northwest Indiana, northern Illinois, southern Wisconsin and southwestern Michigan. But it also surfaced in parts of Iowa, Ohio and Florida.

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NASS Changing August Crop Data

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

OMAHA (DTN) — USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service is making some changes in how it projects corn, soybean and cotton production and yields in the August Crop Production reports.

On Tuesday, NASS announced 2019 program changes for its surveys and reports. NASS officials noted the agency conducts a program review every five years following the completion of the Census of Agriculture.

Among the changes announced, NASS eliminated its “Objective Yield” survey — a field survey — for corn and soybeans, as well as for cotton outside of the state of Texas. NASS will continue to conduct field surveys for the September, October and November Crop Production reports for corn, soybeans and cotton.

Now, in August, NASS will continue a farmer survey and satellite information will be used to forecast production and yield for corn, cotton and soybeans. This year’s report is Aug. 12.

“I think people really don’t understand the facts on this one,” said Scott Irwin, a professor of agricultural marketing at the University of Illinois.

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Cold Start to Calving

By Russ Quinn
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) — Last week, Mike Manion was busy trying to keep baby calves alive as winter maintained its icy grip on much of the Midwest. The Hemingford, Nebraska, rancher and cattle feeder was rotating calves into barns and hot boxes and then letting them outside once they were strong enough to survive.

“With it being this cold, we are checking them every two hours,” Manion told DTN last Thursday. “The conditions are just making it a little more difficult.”

Cattlemen across much of the Midwest and Northern Plains have been facing difficult weather conditions so far during this traditional calving month of March. Cattle with poorer body conditions, in particular, are having issues calving in weather that is more like winter than spring.

And while temperatures have begun to rise somewhat in the lower Midwest this week, the winter weather isn’t over yet for some parts of the country, such as South Dakota.

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EPA Releases E15 Rule; Clock Ticks

By Todd Neeley
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) — The EPA on Tuesday released a much-anticipated rule to allow year-round E15 sales and to reform the biofuels credits market, with plans to finalize the rule by the start of the summer driving season on June 1.

The rule also includes proposed reforms to the market for Renewable Identification Numbers, or RINs.

EPA proposed a number of reforms that include prohibiting certain parties from being able to purchase separated RINs, requiring public disclosure when RIN holdings exceed specified thresholds, limiting the length of time a non-obligated party can hold RINs, and increasing the compliance frequency of the program from annually to quarterly.

Obligated parties to the RFS, including refiners and others, are allowed to buy RINs or blend biofuels to comply with the law.

Once the proposal is published in the Federal Register, it will launch a 30-day public comment period that ends on April 29.

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Farmer Help Needed

By Pamela Smith
DTN Progressive Farmer Crops Technology Editor

DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) — DTN is looking for two farmers to document and share their 2019 growing season.

For the past 14 years, DTN’s View From the Cab series has encouraged readers to experience the successes, struggles and dreams of two farm families from spring planting through harvest. Now we’re looking for volunteers to step into the role for 2019.

Genny Haun reported in from Kenton, Ohio, this past year. She said the experience caused the Layman Farms team to adopt a habit of gathering each week to review and plan ahead. “It did wonders to keep us all on the same track and that’s something we want to continue,” said Haun.

Kyle Krier filed his weekly reports from Claflin, Kansas. He said reader responses and hearing what was happening in Ohio each week made him think beyond his own fields and furrows.

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Listen to the Land – 8

By Charles Johnson
Progressive Farmer Contributing Editor

The Chappell brothers use a simple principle to guide their crop-management decisions: Healthy soil helps make a healthy farm. It starts by thinking small.

“The big key is the mycorrhizal network in the soil,” said Adam Chappell, of Cotton Plant, Arkansas. “That means the soil is alive. If we have dead soil, we’re never going to make it on this farm.”

That microscopic network improves the crop’s ability to take up both water and nutrients. Boosting the activity of the billions of microbes present in a square foot of soil takes care and planning. For Adam Chappell and his brother Seth, it required educating themselves about how those microbes work, then changing the production system to let them provide maximum benefit to the crop.

Soils in their area are not naturally highly productive, requiring innovation to improve them. Since the brothers started farming with their father in 2006, they made their biggest strides by finding ways to help soil microbes thrive.

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