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China ASF Driving Pork Trade

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

OMAHA (DTN) — The pork shortage in China caused by African swine fever continues to overcome high import tariffs for U.S. pork heading to the Chinese market.

Dan Halstrom, president and CEO of the U.S Meat Export Federation, said on a call Tuesday he was “feeling pretty upbeat about our export markets right now” as beef, pork and lamb are picking up momentum.

Overall, beef exports are expected to end 2019 largely even in exports compared to 2018, but USMEF projects 5% growth in 2020. Pork exports are up a minimum 10% compared to 2018. Pork exports in 2020 are projected to grow another 13%. Halstrom said those figures could be conservative for pork exports.

USMEF provided an update on Tuesday before kicking off its strategic planning conference in Arizona. Updated data for September meat exports will be released by USDA on Wednesday then will be summarized by USMEF on its website as well.

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More Green From Beans – 2

By Matthew Wilde
Progressive Farmer Crops Editor

Growing specialty soybeans can make a lot of dollars and sense.

Ray Gaesser said it’s almost a must in today’s farm economy. The Corning, Iowa, farmer has grown seed soybeans for about 25 years. He contracted nearly 2,000 acres this year with Stine Seed.

The seed soybeans will generate about $50 more per acre compared to commodity counterparts, Gaesser said.

“That can be the difference between making money and not making money today,” Gaesser claimed. “Earning a premium is a huge deal.”

It may take extra work to grow and store identity-preserved soybeans, but farmers who do say it’s well worth it.

Soybean farmers are finding ways to boost revenues despite market and trade challenges. This story is the second in a six-part series, More Green From Beans. The series will look at ways soybean farmers are finding ways to answer trade challenges by boosting revenues through switching up agronomics and finding new markets.

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WOTUS Repeal Challenged

By Todd Neeley
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) — The agriculture industry celebrated the 2015 waters of the United States, or WOTUS, rule repeal that EPA finalized in recent weeks. But an attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation and an official with a major agriculture group said farmers and ranchers still face regulation under the Clean Water Act.

On Oct. 22, 2019, the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers finalized the repeal of the Obama-era rule that agriculture and other industry groups and states had fought in court for years.

The repeal reverts regulations to the 1986 version of WOTUS while the EPA continues to rewrite the definition. The 2015 rule was opposed by critics as an example of gross federal overreach, yet the 1986 rule also had its share of concerns.

“The 1986 regulations re-imposed by EPA this month are broader than the 2015 regulations the agency just repealed,” said Tony Francois, senior attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation.

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More Green From Beans – 1

By Matthew Wilde
Progressive Farmer Crops Editor

Farmers in the north-central U.S. are looking for lost soybean yield.

Shawn Conley, a soybean specialist at the University of Wisconsin, said the genetic yield potential of America’s most widely planted legume is 110 bushels per acre or more in most states, depending on climate and soil conditions. But most farmers average 50 to 55 bushels per acre.

“Where are the other 50 to 55 bushels?” Conley asked. “We’re working to minimize that yield gap.”

The completion last year of a three-year study Conley co-led with University of Nebraska agronomist Patricio Grassini called “Benchmarking Soybean Production Systems in the North Central U.S.” can help farmers do just that. It identifies factors that preclude soybean farmers from obtaining yields that should be potentially possible on their farms.

Production and management data from more than 8,000 fields covering about 600,000 acres was collected and analyzed. The North Central Soybean Research Program (NCSRP) — a collaboration of 12 Midwest state soybean associations — spent more than $1.3 million in soybean checkoff funds on the multistate project.

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USDA Pulls Electronic Animal ID Mandate

By Todd Neeley
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) — USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has withdrawn a policy to require the use of radio frequency identification, or RFID, of animals in interstate commerce. But a number of ranchers and a national cattle group have yet to withdraw a lawsuit they filed against APHIS last month challenging the policy.

The ranchers, led by the Ranchers Cattlemen Action Legal Fund United Stockgrowers of America, or R-CALF USA, alleged in an Oct. 4 lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming, that a USDA plan on RFID “unlawfully mandates” the technology in ear tags and other technology for livestock.

Though APHIS said in an Oct. 25 statement that a factsheet posted to its website is “no longer representative of current agency policy,” court records show the lawsuit has not been dropped.

Harriet Hageman, a senior litigation counsel at the New Civil Liberties Alliance in Washington, D.C., told DTN, “APHIS has currently withdrawn the April 2019 factsheet.

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House Ag Approves CFTC Bill

By Jerry Hagstrom
DTN Political Correspondent

WASHINGTON, D.C. (DTN) — After the House Agriculture Committee on Wednesday approved a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said the bill “sends a strong message to the Senate. The people that look to our markets for integrity don’t care about political wins and losses. They expect us to conduct the business of this committee.”

Peterson noted, “The CFTC authorization expired in 2013, so it is overdue, and I’m glad we are on a bipartisan path to get it done.” Although the CFTC has continued to function normally under appropriations bills, Peterson also said that Heath Tarbert, the new CFTC chairman, “is also keen to have his agency formally reauthorized.”

Tarbert in a press release praised the committee’s action and said, “The sound regulation of our derivatives markets, which see more than $4 trillion in notional activity each day, is critical to the health of the U.S.

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Moving Past Prevented Planting

By Emily Unglesbee
DTN Staff Reporter

ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) — With 55% of his acres left unplanted in 2019, one might have expected Matt Foes to put up his feet and take a vacation.

Instead, the Sheffield, Illinois, farmer rolled up his sleeves and spent a large part of this summer working a year ahead.

“I went into the summer expecting that this fall would be no different than the spring — so really challenging,” said Foes. “So I spent the summer preparing those fields for 2020: I sprayed herbicides, tilled to smooth out seed beds and seeded cover crops.” In the weeks and months to come, he will tackle field repairs, cover crop termination, weed control and fertility management on those same acres, all before planting his actual crop — or so he hopes.

“If I learned anything from 2019, it’s that you aren’t guaranteed to get an opportunity to do anything you’ve planned,” he said.

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New Ag Labor Bill Touted

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

OMAHA (DTN) — With the support of both farm organizations and the United Farm Workers union, a bipartisan group of House members introduced a new farm labor bill in Congress on Wednesday.

The Farm Workforce Modernization Act would create a program to legalize current agricultural workers who are in the U.S. illegally, as well as their spouses and minor children. The bill would also make several changes to the H-2A agricultural guest-worker program, which would include allowing year-round agricultural guest workers — a major issue for dairy farmers and other livestock producers.

Along with changes in the workforce, the bill would establish mandatory E-Verify for all agricultural employers through a phased-in process.

Ag labor bills have come up in nearly every session of Congress over the past two decades only to whither somewhere in the process. Agribusiness and farmworker groups this time spent several months at the negotiating table with lawmakers looking to reach a compromise that would generate large bipartisan backing.

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Land’s Linchpin – 2

By Katie Dehlinger
DTN Farm Business Editor

MOUNT JULIET, Tenn. (DTN) — Statistics can put things into perspective.

For instance, USDA forecasts Kansas land values to increase 4% this year, while at the same time, the Kansas City Federal Reserve finds that nearly 30% of all ag loans have experienced some kind of issue with repayment.

Not all statistics are so clear-cut. At meetings with bankers this fall, Kansas State University professor Mykel Taylor asked what proportion of their loan portfolio they considered vulnerable. She didn’t define the term, and the audience answered with clickers.

“I was hoping they were going to say like 5 to 10%, and it was more like 20 to 30%,” Taylor told DTN. “I think that’s their perspective — they’ve got a big chunk of their loan portfolio that they’re really having to work with.”

Many of these bankers reported working with clients to restructure farm debt in an effort to boost cash flow, and in some cases, that’s required farmers to sell some land.

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USDA Details Hemp Rules

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

OMAHA (DTN) — Farmers who choose to grow hemp under USDA rules will have to face the risk that their crop could test “hot” and lead to the destruction of their crop without a crop insurance indemnity even if they have a license to grow hemp.

USDA on Tuesday announced its interim final rule for hemp will go into effect on Thursday when the rule and its various provisions are published in the Federal Register. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the department had “all hands on deck” to get the rules out for the 2020 growing season, which will be used to “test drive” hemp production nationally.

“At USDA, we are always excited when there are new economic opportunities for our farmers, and we hope the ability to grow hemp will pave the way for new products and markets,” Perdue said.

Perdue added, “I encourage all producers to take the time to fully educate themselves on the processes, requirements and risks that come with any new market or product before entering this new frontier.”

Hemp farmers will also become eligible for a number of USDA programs, including loans, some whole-farm crop insurance policies, disaster assistance and conservation programs.

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House Committee Tackles Refinery Waiver

By Todd Neeley
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) — Siouxland Energy Cooperative in Iowa has experienced firsthand the recent ups and downs of the Renewable Fuel Standard.

When the EPA granted 31 new small-refinery exemptions on August 9, it was the final straw for the corn-ethanol plant. Company officials were left with no choice but to shut down production.

The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce on Tuesday examined the effects 85 small-refinery exemptions have had on biofuels and agriculture since 2016, during a hearing on the proposed Renewable Fuel Standard Integrity Act of 2019.

The legislation would, among other things, require the EPA to make available more information on refinery exemptions.

In recent weeks Siouxland Energy has returned to 50% production thanks to a change in the plant’s carbon emissions score from the California Air Resources Board. The change opened the California market to the Midwest producer.

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Hot Mess Pests

By Emily Unglesbee
DTN Staff Reporter

ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) — Weather extremes are a major threat to U.S. row crops, as 2019 demonstrated vividly. But some insects and diseases actually thrive in the chaos of flooding, drought, hail and heavy rainfalls, and they are poised to prosper in the years ahead.

Diseases that prefer overly wet seasons, such as sudden death syndrome (SDS) and Physoderma brown spot, or overly dry seasons, such as charcoal rot, are posing greater challenges to Midwest farmers, said Iowa State University Extension plant pathologist Daren Mueller.

Mueller hosted a webinar for the North Central Climate Collaborative (NC3) this week, where he highlighted how climate change — and the extreme weather it brings with it — may affect field crop pests.

Other winners? Heat-loving insects, like thrips, and the diseases they vector, are on the rise, Mueller noted. Traditionally “Southern” diseases like Southern corn rust and frogeye leaf spot, are also becoming yield-challenging staples in the Midwest in recent years.

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2020 Flood Risks on Big Muddy

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

NEBRASKA CITY, Neb. (DTN) — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is warning residents throughout the Missouri River watershed that the risks for spring flooding in 2020 remain high.

This week, the Corps has been holding fall meetings throughout the Missouri River Basin as a normal course of business to detail projected water storage, anticipated precipitation and flood expectations for next spring.

For roughly 100 residents who showed up Thursday night in Nebraska City, the event was an emotional release and a chance to demand change in the Corps’ management and vent over the more than eight months of floodwaters with some farms and homes still under water.

Alice Hodde, who farms with her husband in Fremont County, Iowa, has seen her home lost and farm income wiped away twice in eight years. Hodde said she and her husband, Lyle, both in their late 60s and early 70s, are too old to start over.

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Land’s Linchpin – 1

By Elizabeth Williams
DTN Special Correspondent

INDIANOLA, Iowa (DTN) — A 67-acre tract of farmland in Sioux County, Iowa, brought $18,300 per acre at auction earlier this month.

In September, Hertz Farm Management had 10 sales at $10,000 or more per acre and eight sales above $11,000 per acre for corn and soybean ground, CEO Randy Hertz told DTN.

These sales may be isolated cases in today’s market, but the trend of steady-to-slightly higher land values is not. Farmland brokers report sales around the Midwest continue to attract strong buying interest, primarily from farmers.

Farm profits have been hard to come by in recent years and are no longer the driving force of the land market. Instead, farmland values’ stability has helped farmers weather the storm of low commodity prices. But with little change seen to agriculture’s economic outlook, DTN takes a look at what’s holding land values up — inventory, interest rates, income and investment — and what it would take for them to tumble in this two-part series, Land’s Linchpin.

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Don’t Rush the Nitrogen Season

By Matthew Wilde
DTN Progressive Farmer Crops Technology Editor

ANKENY, Iowa (DTN) — More than a few farmers are getting antsy to put the 2019 season in the books. When it comes to applying fall anhydrous ammonia, though, patience is more than a virtue. Agronomists and fertilizer industry experts say it helps the environment and public perception.

Reports that some anhydrous ammonia application has begun in fields where soil temperatures are still above 50 degrees Fahrenheit makes agronomists nervous. Doing so makes the popular corn nitrogen (N) fertilizer more vulnerable to leaching.

Lowell Gentry, a University of Illinois agronomist conducting nitrogen and drainage tile research, has worried that some producers may jump the gun given widespread harvest delays.

The temptation to use any available window to work comes on the heels of a wet, late 2018 harvest that left farmers and retailers scrambling to get fertilizer on this spring. Anhydrous ammonia typically costs more in the spring than the fall, which further adds to the frustration.

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Ethanol Margins Show Major Improvement

By Todd Neeley
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) — Ethanol margins have seen significant improvement since Aug. 1, as plants have been cutting production costs, and ethanol prices have been on the rise.

A number of ethanol plants have scaled back production during the past year in response to tough market conditions.

DTN’s hypothetical Neeley Biofuels 50-million-gallon plant in South Dakota continues to reflect an easing of market pressures that have been hammering producers in 2019. Margins for plants still paying debt, however, continue to be in the red.

The plant this week reported a 19-cent loss per gallon of ethanol produced, with debt service included. It is a major improvement from our update in September when the plant recorded a 34-cent loss. The plant was even deeper in the red as of Aug. 1, 2019, recording a loss of 43.9 cents per gallon.

Most ethanol plants are not paying debt, however.

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Groups Sue EPA on Small-Refinery Waiver

By Todd Neeley
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) — Biofuels and agriculture groups have filed a legal challenge against EPA’s approval of 31 additional small-refinery exemptions in August.

Groups filed a court petition on Wednesday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

The Renewable Fuels Association, American Coalition for Ethanol, Growth Energy, National Biodiesel Board, National Corn Growers Association and National Farmers Union, argue in their petition the EPA’s action detailed in a two-page memorandum not published in the Federal Register constituted a final action subject to legal challenge.

“The 2018 SRE (small refinery exemption) decision was signed Aug. 9, 2019, but it was not published in the Federal Register; in fact, its existence remained a secret until Sept. 19, 2019, when EPA attached it as an exhibit to a filing in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit,” the groups state in the petition for review.

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Soybean Decisions

By Emily Unglesbee
DTN Staff Reporter

ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) — Farmers have a range of choices when it comes to herbicide-tolerant soybean technology in 2020 — up to seven different traits.

When selecting seed, remember that disease, insect tolerance and other genetic characteristics should still top your soybean shopping list. But with the growth in herbicide-resistant weeds, weed control is a crucial part of soybean profitability, and herbicide-tolerant traits can be an important tool.

Moreover, the growing web of different herbicide-tolerant crops planted across the country has made it more important than ever to know what is in the variety you are growing — and what’s in your neighbor’s. So here is the latest information on the status and availability of each different trait option, organized by herbicide-tolerant genetic platform:

1. ROUNDUP READY TECHNOLOGY

ROUNDUP READY 1

The original glyphosate-tolerant Roundup Ready trait have been off patent since 2015. Although Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, phased the trait out of its seed stock years ago, the trait is still available from university breeding programs and some smaller, localized seed suppliers.

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Collaborate to Feed Future

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

DES MOINES (DTN) — Polly Ruhland, chief executive officer for the United Soybean Board, came to the World Food Prize symposium this week to make a pitch.

“At World Food Prize, what they think about is feeding the world — using technology to feed the world,” Ruhland said. “We think at USB, we should think not only about making more food, but we should make sure those people who don’t get enough food should get high-quality food.”

Protein is an absolute necessity for people who are undernourished, Ruhland noted. Soybeans are a protein source for emerging markets.

At the World Food Prize this week, Ruhland raised the idea of U.S. protein groups to work together on marketing plans and strategies factoring in all meat and plant protein options rather than pitting groups against each other. The focus is “Protein First.”

“USB believes there is an opportunity for the whole U.S.

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New Storms to Threaten Northern Harvest

By Bryce Anderson
DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist

OMAHA (DTN) — Following several days of mostly dry conditions across most U.S. crop areas, a new round of stormy weather is indicated in the forecast for the next-to-last week of October. Rain and wind are featured; the heaviest rain amounts are pointed toward the Northern Plains and northern Midwest, where heavy snow and rain occurred during the Oct. 10-12 period.

This new round of storms adds to crop calamities that have been noted and are still being analyzed. “Soybean harvest is more than 40 to 50 percentage points behind average in the northern belt (North and South Dakota, Minnesota),” said USDA Meteorologist Brad Rippey. “And the big story is excess moisture.” During a NOAA central U.S. forecast webinar, Rippey noted that North Dakota topsoil moisture is a nation-high 62% surplus as of mid-October.

Oncoming precipitation keeps the pressure on unharvested crops, especially in fields that incurred hard freeze damage (28 degrees Fahrenheit or below).

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