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Texas Senator Seeks RIN Cap

12/15/2017

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

OMAHA (DTN) -- Leaders in the biofuels industry wrote President Donald Trump on Friday after learning Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, had floated a proposal to the White House that would essentially cap prices for renewable identification number (RIN) credits at 10 cents apiece.

The proposal from the Texas senator, negotiating on behalf of oil refiners, spurred major players in both biofuels and commodity crops industries to send a letter Friday to President Donald Trump detailing why the RIN market exists, how it is operated by EPA, and some of the problems EPA has in providing transparency on RIN trading.

Most importantly, the letter praised President Trump for his support of the biofuels industry and reiterated the need to ensure any policy changes don't undercut billions of dollars in biofuels infrastructure that has been put in place since the Renewable Fuel Standard was created.

"There are ways to address RIN values for refiners without undercutting the RFS and rural America. We have been working on many of them for years, and we would welcome the opportunity to move these ideas forward," stated the letter, which was signed by a collection of 89 ethanol companies and trade groups, as well as farm organizations and agricultural companies.

The letter comes after Cruz floated a proposal to the White House that would cap the RIN price at 10 cents each. In comparison, the D6 RIN was trading at 71 cents Friday afternoon, after falling from an opening price of 74.5 cents. RIN prices have been falling since briefly hitting $1.09 in late October.

RINs are generated when a qualified renewable fuel is either produced or imported. RINs then are bought within the refinery industry by companies that are not producing or buying enough renewable fuels to meet their blend volumes under the Renewable Fuel Standard. There are several nested categories for RINs depending upon the renewable -- such as corn ethanol or biodiesel -- which do have different values. D6 is considered the baseline RIN.

In a proposal for the biofuels industry, Cruz proposes the EPA would sell 10-cent, fixed-price waiver credits that would qualify as RINs and satisfy a petroleum blender's renewable volume obligations. The proceeds from these 10-cent waiver sales then would go specifically to help pay for renewable-fuel blending infrastructure, tied to an existing program such as the Biofuel Infrastructure Partnership or a similar fund.

Long term, Cruz proposes a working group including Trump administration officials, members of Congress and industry stakeholders to come up with a long-term solution to the RINs.

Leaders in the ethanol industry criticized Cruz's proposal. Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy, said Cruz's proposal "sabotages" the talks on the RFS that Cruz requested.

"Undermining the RFS is not an option. It is working to revitalize the rural economy, as promised by the president, and no one is going to accept gimmicks designed to slow the growth of homegrown fuel," Skor said. "The ready solution to Senator Cruz's stated concerns is to blend more ethanol and send clear regulatory signals about the future growth of biofuels under the RFS. RVP relief would immediately add another three months' worth of E15 sales to the market. That's how RFS is meant to work."

Further, Cruz has yet to release his confirmation hold on Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey's nomination as a USDA undersecretary, Skor pointed out.

Brooke Coleman, executive director of the Advanced Biofuels Business Council, said Cruz and his backers don't seem to be taking the White House's position seriously when it comes to support for renewable fuels.

"President Trump vowed to protect rural America," Coleman said. "No one is going to raise costs on consumers, jeopardize our energy security, and threaten jobs across the Heartland based on misinformation about how the RFS works. Instead of refinery handouts, we should cut the red tape and let customers decide whether to buy E15 all year long."

Other biofuel industry leaders, such as Adam Monroe, president of Novozymes Americas region, called for more ethanol blending to stabilize RIN prices. Further, EPA could eliminate restrictions that limit when 15% ethanol blends can be sold. That would put more RINs on the market to lower the prices, Monroe said.

"The RFS is revitalizing the rural economy, and the president is not going to fall for gimmicks designed to slow down growth of homegrown renewable fuel," Monroe said.

Cruz's proposal comes after Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue acknowledged earlier this week at an event in Washington, D.C., that changes are needed to the RFS to help oil refiners deal with speculation in the RIN market.

"The president understands we've got to do something about RIN prices," Perdue said on Tuesday. "The good news is there's a win-win in here. It's very complex, but there's a win-win."

The biofuels industry letter to President Trump can be found here: https://goo.gl/…

Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

(AG/CZ)

Higher Funding Needed for Ag

12/15/2017

By Jerry Hagstrom
DTN Political Correspondent

WASHINGTON (DTN) -- A coalition of more than 70 agriculture groups sent a letter late Thursday to congressional leaders asking for an increase in the Agriculture budget for the fiscal year 2018 Agriculture appropriations bill on which Congress is working.

The letter was sent to House and Senate Republican and Democratic appropriations leaders and to the leaders of the House and Senate.

Congress is still trying to iron out a full-year funding package and is expected to largely maintain operating funding under 2017 levels until at least mid-January.

The letter from food, agriculture, scientific, academic, veterinary and consumer groups asked for Congress "to substantially increase the discretionary budget cap for domestic programs" and provide Agriculture appropriations with a 5% increase.

"The food and agricultural sector alone contributes nearly $1 trillion to the national economy every year, or approximately 5.5% of the nation's GDP. The sector supports over 22 million American jobs, or nearly 15% of U.S. employment," the letter stated.

The letter added, "This segment of our economy is the best example of how the combination of technology, ingenuity, and hard work have made our country the strongest force for improving the lives of billions of people here and around the world. However, more support is needed if we are to maintain our historic leadership in this area.

If spending is raised, the groups stated, agricultural investment should be a top priority. The groups argued the appropriations subcommittees for Agriculture "are currently hamstrung" by a budget cap that doesn't reflect the importance of the agriculture and food sectors to everyday Americans.

"The USDA and FDA bill is the smallest of all the appropriations bills, save for the legislative appropriation. The success of the American farm and food system has made it possible for the consistent transfer of resources into other sectors," the letter stated.

The farm bill already will be shaped by the outcome of the FY 2018 budget because the Senate funding bill includes improvements for the safety net for dairy producers and would allow cotton producers to enroll in the Price Loss Coverage program for cottonseed. If those programs stay in the final bill, that will establish a funding baseline in the farm bill to support both the dairy and cotton fixes.

Since FY 2010, the inflation-adjusted agricultural appropriations budget also has fallen by 20%, while most other areas of the federal government have grown or not seen the same kinds of cuts.

"These reductions pose immediate and long-term threats to our production, natural resources, and ability to lead on an increasingly competitive global stage, which is why the trend of declining investment must be reversed now," the letter stated.

The letter was released by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. Kanika Gandhi, an NSAC policy specialist, said, "It is encouraging to see such a diverse range of stakeholders coalesce around the need to lift the budget cap for non-defense discretionary spending and to increase the allocation for the agriculture appropriations bill. The agriculture bill has not always received its fair share when the caps are increased, but we believe this is a great opportunity for leaders in both chambers to invest in the future sustainability of the American farm and food system."

The letter was signed by a broad range of groups, but there were some oddities about who signed and who didn't. The National Farmers Union signed the bill, but the American Farm Bureau Federation did not. Crop groups supported the request, but meat groups did not sign the letter. Western Growers, the largest association of fruit and vegetable farmers, signed the letter, but the United Fresh Produce Association did not.

(CC/AG)

World Fertilizer - 5

12/15/2017

By Russ Quinn
DTN Staff Reporter

NEW ORLEANS (DTN) -- The development of specialty fertilizers has seen dramatic growth since 2000 as the fertilizer industry attempts to improve resource management and agricultural profitability while the world's population increases.

This, in turn, has caused a busy decade of investment as fertilizer companies develop their own strategies to get in on the changing fertilizer market.

This was the message of a presentation at the 2017 Fertilizer Outlook and Technology Conference held in New Orleans in mid-November. The conference is put on by The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) and the Fertilizer Industry Round Table (FIRT).

WIDE RANGE OF PRODUCTS

Lauren Williamson, senior vice president of fertilizer for Argus Media, Inc., said specialty fertilizer incorporates a wide grouping of products. The products include blends, secondary and micro-nutrients, technical grades, enhanced efficiencies, water solubles, bio-simulates, surfactants, and adjuvants.

On the nitrogen side, these products can be controlled release, stabilized nitrogen fertilizers and slow release products. These types of products are being pushed by the fact that 30% of nitrogen loss is due to leaching and around 10% is lost to nitrification, she said.

With phosphorous, different coatings can be applied to the nutrient granules to improve efficiency, she noted.

Williamson said there has been huge growth in the specialty sector in the last 15 years.

In 2000, global demand for these products was around 1 million metric tons (mmt) and by 2016 the estimate was closer to 7 mmt. The demand percentage by ag also increased during this time, starting at 15% in 2000 and skyrocketing to 60% in 2016.

While some might think these products are relatively new, many of these products have been around for decades, Williamson pointed out, with patents for the slow-release technology introduced as early as the 1920s in both Europe and the U.S. This continued through the 1960s, she said. Controlled-release and slow-release products gained popularity in the 1980s and into the 1990s.

Williamson said there are several different factors increasing the popularity of specialty fertilizers.

Improving yields will be one way to help feed an ever-increasing global population, she said.

More land coming into production probably will not be enough by itself, so the world's farmers will need higher yields on the existing land, she said. Increasing yields will also lead to higher agricultural profitability for farmers across the world.

There is also a push worldwide to improve resource management, Williamson said. This area can include location regulations on fertilizer application, Best Management Practices (BMPs) and the 4Rs strategy -- the right source, at the right rate, at the right time and on the right place.

"How do you do more with less?" Williamson asked. "This effectively is what specialty fertilizers is all about."

KEY LIMITATIONS

It is not all positive in the specialty fertilizers market, Blake Hurtik, North America fertilizer editor for Argus, said.

One key limitation for specialty fertilizers is U.S. farmer profitability. While profitability is expected to improve in 2017 and beyond, it is still fairly low, he said.

The challenge for fertilizer companies is getting farmers with $3 a bushel for corn to open up their wallets and spend even more money on specialty fertilizers, he said.

Hurtik said specialty fertilizers, such as micro-nutrients that are classified as premium products, are not immune to macro pricing trends. Even though these products have been decommoditized, they are still affected by low fertilizer prices in recent years in agriculture, he said.

It is difficult to get a real feel for micronutrient and secondary fertilizer demand in the U.S. Demand appears to be increasing from around 3 million short tons in 2000 to 6 million short tons in 2012, but there is no information about how much of this increase is sulfur versus magnesium or zinc, for instance, Hurtik said.

"There is a lot of uncertainty and the need for more information," Hurtik said. "On top of that, what is a micronutrient or specialty blend look like? It means a lot of different things to a lot of different people."

INVESTING IN SPECIALTIES

Despite these uncertainties, major fertilizer companies have stepped into the specialty fertilizer business over the last 15 years, Hurtik said.

One of the first companies to take the plunge into this area, and probably among the most well-known, is Mosaic with its MicroEssentials, a micronutrient product. The company has expanded its capacity over the years, going from 1.2 million tons a year to now 3.5 million tons a year, 30% of its finished phosphate fertilizer capacity, he said.

Mosaic's top competitor, Morocco's OCP, also offers a range of enhanced phosphates that target the African market. Meanwhile, Netherlands' OCI added Shell Thiogro technology, which adds sulfur to finished phosphates, he said.

In addition, U.S.-based sulfur and potash producer Compass Mineral bought Wolf Trax, a company that manufactures a powdered-coated micronutrient, in 2014. This was Compass Mineral's attempt to grow into the specialty product area, Hurtik said.

Two other global companies, ICL and Sirius Mineral, have begun to focus on the polyhalite fertilizer market. Polyhalite fertilizer is a specialty fertilizer with hydrated sulfate of potash, calcium and magnesium.

Hurtik explained that as more specialty fertilizers successfully enter the mainstream fertilizer market, it will make it easier for the next wave of new products.

Russ Quinn can be reached at russ.quinn@dtn.com

Follow Russ Quinn on Twitter @RussQuinnDTN

(ES/AG)

Tax Compromise Advancing

12/14/2017

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

WASHINGTON (DTN) -- The final tax-reform package vaunted by Republican lawmakers and President Donald Trump is expected to be released Friday with several major compromises on tax rates and deductions that will affect farmers and small businesses for years to come.

Lawmakers and their staffs were cautious not to share text on Thursday on the bill, which is projected to cost $1.5 trillion. Still, most news outlets were reporting major details of the Senate and House compromise. Based upon multiple news reports, those include:

-- A corporate tax rate lowered from 35% to 21%, which will amount to 1% higher than both chambers initially passed in their earlier versions of the bill. President Trump said Wednesday he could support a 21% corporate rate.

-- A top tax rate of 37% for individuals, down from the current 39.6%, for couples filing jointly with a taxable income above $470,000.

-- A 20% deduction for pass-through entities, which is down from the 23% deduction originally in the Senate bill. So far, there are no details on how the deduction will be limited, but the Senate bill originally limited the deduction to 50% of wages paid by the business. The initial Senate bill also had language that would allow farmers to take the deduction if they receive a payout from a cooperative.

Despite the push to eliminate the estate tax, it will remain, but the asset exemption will double to $11 million for an individual and $22 million for a couple.

The effective impact of a 37% tax rate and a 20% deduction for pass-through income would set a top tax rate on business income at 29.6%.

The bill also eliminates the tax penalty for not buying health insurance, dropping the mandate from the Affordable Care Act. In another health-insurance related measure, the final tax bill will keep the ability to deduct medical expenses above 7.5% of adjusted gross income.

Still, without specific legislative language to examine, there are a lot of issues that remain unclear for farmers and other small businesses. Several differences between the House and Senate bill haven't been fleshed out, such as how Section 179 deductions will be treated. The House bill had five years of unlimited expensing, while the Senate bill had a permanent $1 million annual cap.

The House bill also allowed cash accounting for businesses with up to $25 million in revenue, while the Senate bill limited cash accounting to businesses with $15 million in annual income.

Lawmakers will still be debating the possibility of a separate tax-extenders package that would deal with issues such as the biodiesel tax credit. It appears, however, a compromise was reached to stick with a deal passed by Congress in 2015 that begins phasing out the wind-energy Production Tax Credit this year before the credit expires in 2020. House members from major wind-energy states wrote the tax-bill conference committee on Wednesday, noting that eliminating the tax credit immediately would jeopardize more than $30 billion in wind development projects.

"Going back on the deal would be devastating for Iowa's wind energy producers. If the policy is ended prematurely, it will undermine $30 billion in existing project deals. I will continue to fight for Iowans and renewables which have helped Iowa's economy grow," said Rep. David Young, R-Iowa.

Once the tax bill is released sometime Friday, Congress is expected to move quickly. The Hill reported Thursday that Senate leaders would push for a procedural vote on Monday and move to a final Senate vote on Tuesday despite Democratic demands to seat Senator-elect Doug Jones from Alabama before a final vote. The bill would then go to the House for a final vote.

The problem with that timetable, however, is it also leaves no margin for Republicans to lose votes. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., had already indicated he opposes the bill. Early Thursday afternoon, the Washington Post reported Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said he opposes the bill because it doesn't include a larger Child Tax Credit that he had called for to benefit more lower-income and middle-class Americans.

Vice President Mike Pence could be needed in the Senate to vote next week if the bill becomes deadlocked in a tie.

The conference bill seems to mark the end of the Section 199 Domestic Production Activities Deduction, despite a push by farmer cooperatives to save the deduction, which was valued at $2 billion for agricultural cooperatives. Kevin Paap, president of the Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation, told DTN that eliminating Section was 199 was a major topic of sugarbeet cooperatives at recent meetings.

"It was the hottest topic at the Minn-Dak (Farmers Cooperative) meeting," Paap said.

Paap said some of the provisions in the final tax bill aren't as exciting in the current economic environment for farmers. "I'm not so concerned about rapid depreciation right now," he said. "I'm worried more about black ink."

Paap added that farmers right now are more focused on the trade situation with the North American Free Trade Agreement because their incomes are low enough that some of the tax provisions won't affect them in the short-term.

"Trade really is our safety net," he said. "If prices were higher, it wouldn't be as much of a big deal."

Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

(AG)

Spraying Gets Specific

12/14/2017

By Pamela Smith
Crops Technology Editor

DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- The drama over dicamba herbicide use continued this week as some states wrestled with requiring spray regulations over and beyond new federal labels.

Evidence of continued turmoil came on Dec. 12, as an Arkansas Legislative Council subcommittee kicked a proposed ban on in-crop use of the herbicide from April 16 through Oct. 31 back to the Arkansas State Plant Board (ASPB). The committee approved a motion by Sen. Bill Sample (R-Hot Springs) to hold the rule for final consideration and recommended the state board revise it, using the following: scientific-based evidence; a dividing line to create north and south zones in the state; and ambient temperature and humidity applicable to temperature inversion during night-time hours.

Earlier Monsanto, the developer of the genetic trait that allows soybeans and cotton to withstand dicamba applications, had asked Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza for preliminary and permanent injunctions against the Plant Board's spray ban. In the lawsuit, Monsanto called the action arbitrary and "not based on science." A group of farmers has also initiated legal action against the ASPB regarding what would be the nation's toughest line on dicamba herbicide.

The ASPB received nearly 1,000 dicamba-related complaints this year of damage to soybeans, cotton and other sensitive crops and landscape trees and plants. The proposal to limit the application period originated from a specially appointed dicamba task force and was approved on Nov. 8 during a public hearing that attracted hundreds of farmers. The ASPB has met more than 50 times on the issue of dicamba over the past five years, board members told DTN.

However, according to news reports, the subcommittee's vote isn't final. It is subject to review Friday by the Legislative Council, a group of lawmakers that conducts the General Assembly's business when it is not in session. ASPB members have indicated to DTN some tweaking of the dates of the ban might be possible without prolonged public comment periods.

While Arkansas has been in the dicamba spotlight, other states also are taking action. Last week, weed scientists gathering in St. Louis for the North Central Weed Science Society meeting stressed the need for farmers and retail applicators to monitor specific state requirements that might go over and above new federal restrictions. New federal rules were put into place in October on Engenia, FeXapan and XtendiMax herbicides.

Most of the state-by-state changes are being made, they stated, because the federal EPA labels do not address herbicide volatility. The herbicide industry has hotly contested volatility as an explanation for at least some of the more than 2,700 official complaints of injury reported in 2017 across the cotton and soybean belts.

MINNESOTA MOVES

On Tuesday, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) announced new restrictions on the use of the herbicide dicamba in Minnesota for the 2018 growing season. The decision follows the MDA's ongoing investigation and an informal survey last summer into reports of crop damage from alleged dicamba off-target movement.

In a news release, Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson said he thoroughly reviewed the new EPA label restrictions, the MDA's survey results, peer reviewed literature, and sought extensive input from the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association Drift Task Force, University of Minnesota Extension weed scientists, and the pesticide manufacturers on the underlying causes of damage.

Based on the review, the Commissioner set forth these additional protocols for dicamba use for the 2018 growing season:

Cutoff date: Do not apply after June 20. Setting an application cutoff date of June 20 is expected to help reduce the potential for volatility (movement). The majority of Minnesota soybeans are still in the vegetative growth stage by June 20 and research has shown that plants in the vegetative stage are less affected than those in the reproductive stage.

Cutoff temperature: Do not apply if the air temperature of the field, at the time of application, is more than 85 degrees Fahrenheit or if the National Weather Service's forecasted high temperature for the nearest available location for the day exceeds 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Research has shown that dicamba volatilization injury increased with an increase in temperatures.

"Dicamba is an important tool for soybean growers to manage weeds and I believe these additional restrictions will minimize the off-target movement," Frederickson said. He added that the state will be closely monitoring the herbicide's performance with these restrictions in 2018."

STATE BY STATE

Indiana, North Dakota, Missouri, and Tennessee are some of the other states that have increased or are in the process of fine-tuning dicamba application restrictions.

In Missouri, for example, certified applicators must complete an online Dicamba Notice of Application form daily prior to each application. Cut-off dates for applications in that state also differ by county.

In North Dakota, no applications of the three new-generation dicamba herbicides may be made after June 30 or after the first bloom (R1 growth phase), whichever comes first. No applications may be made if air temperature of the field at the time of application is over 85 degrees Fahrenheit or if the forecasted National Weather Service high temperature for the day exceeds 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

In writing the regulations, it was noted that North Dakota has a unique climate that is different than other soybean-producing states. The application season typically has low humidity. The dry and less humid environment can significantly increase product evaporation and potential off-target movement. Applications of the product may only be made from one hour after sunrise to one hour before sunset.

Applicators must maintain a speed of 12 miles per hour or less when applying products. Applications must be made with a minimum of 15 gallons of spray solution per acre. No applications may be made using nozzles that have an 80-degree or less spray pattern.

APPLICABLE TO ALL

Anyone buying, applying or even working under the supervision of a certified applicator must complete a dicamba-specific training course, said Kevin Johnson, Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association (IFCA) director of government and industry relations. Applicators that cross state lines will need to understand and abide by the specific rules in that state, Johnson added.

While farmers hiring custom applicators are not technically required to attend application class, Johnson strongly encourages the training for anyone planning to plant Xtend varieties and potentially use the herbicides labeled for those varieties. "The labels for these products are complex and there may be cases where a commercial applicator cannot spray. The education will help explain those situations," Johnson said.

For more information on state dicamba regulations go to:

North Dakota: https://www.nd.gov/…

Minnesota: http://www.mda.state.mn.us/…

Missouri: http://agriculture.mo.gov/…

Tennessee: https://www.tn.gov/…

Pamela Smith can be reached at Pamela.smith@dtn.com

Follow her on Twitter @PamSmithDTN

(GH/ES)

Land Values - 7

12/14/2017

By Victoria G. Myers
Progressive Farmer Senior Editor

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (DTN) -- The preferred way to buy, or sell, rural property is as diverse as the market. In some cases, auctions work best. Many sellers prefer to list property, some actively seek investors for lease-back arrangements, others negotiate private one-to-one sales.

How does the seller or the buyer know a price is fair? What sales methods work best? Are there secrets of the trade? Our sales veterans weigh in on what they see as critical to setting and getting a good price.

-- Collect all available information on a farm. Consider things like whether irrigation is available and crop and yield history.

-- Get boots on the ground before buying. Be especially aware of how land drains, access points and easements.

-- Property offered in multiple parcels attracts more bidders, because more adjoining landowners are affected by the sale.

-- Make sure property is mapped and clearly identified. Aerial views are expected these days. Many sales companies have a drone and include aerial video as part of their sales packages.

-- A market analysis should be part of the discussion early for sellers and buyers. Sales comps should be no more than three years old, as the land market was completely different four to five seasons back.

-- Cleaning up land may or may not be worth the effort on the part of a seller. Many sellers market as is. It's important, however, to make sure roads through the property are accessible for potential buyers.

-- Absolute auctions, where the highest bidder buys the property, may seem scary. In a highly competitive environment, however, many in the business feel they actually bring a higher final sales price.

-- Reserves should not be thought of as an asking price in an auction. Rather, consider them a point below asking price that will protect the seller from financial disaster.

-- Auctioneers wish you wouldn't talk price before a sale. The best prices come when the seller quietly puts a property up for auction and never talks price or expectations. That includes talking to the tenant first. Tell the tenant what you want to sell for, and that information will be common knowledge -- along with the tenant's opinion on the price.

-- Market no more than 60 days. Some auctioneers don't want to market for more than 30 days, because the cycle of buyers will change in that time span.

-- Know the neighborhood. Look around and think about who lives and farms nearby. If the land is in an area with lots of multigenerational farm families, that is a big plus. If it's in an area where there's been a lot of turnover, or acreage is going unfarmed, ask why.

-- Quality is about soil, but it's also about water, tiling and even weather patterns. Anything that potentially helps increase yields adds value.

-- Farmland that brings the best price is easy to farm -- that means large, contiguous blocks, easy access and not oddly shaped. Think squares and rectangles.

-- When to sell? Every area is different. But, ask yourself if you'd buy a farm under 2 feet of snow that you couldn't really tour? Also, consider if the land is being rented what type of arrangement you are willing to accept with regards to sharing the rent. Certain points during the growing season make this a more difficult negotiation.

-- If you want a leaseback deal, you may have to sacrifice some on price. Be very clear with regards to length of lease and land-management plans.

**

Editor's Note:

Average land prices referred to in this series are from the USDA's Land Values 2017 Summary. Land experts and sources contributing to this seven-part series included:

USDA Land Values 2017 Summary: bit.ly/2fQKlBs

Purdue University: ag.purdue.edu/commercialag

Dream Dirt Farm and Ranch Real Estate: www.dreamdirt.com

Murray Wise Associates: www.murraywiseassociates.com

Glaub Farm Management: www.glaubfm.com

Pickens Auctions: www.pickensauctions.com

Kurtz Auction and Realty Co.: www.kurtzauction.com

Mossy Oak Properties: www.mossyoakproperties.com

Victoria Myers can be reached at vicki.myers@dtn.com

(ES/CZ)

Land Values - 6

12/13/2017

By Victoria G. Myers
Progressive Farmer Senior Editor

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (DTN) -- In Kentucky, most agricultural properties are diverse by nature of land and soil types. The 326 acres Jason Blue sold at auction last year were no different.

Located in Webster County, the property included tillable crop acres, pasture, woods and CRP ground. It sold in eight tracts, and though it wasn't the highest-end cropland in the county, it brought a strong price of $4,121 per acre, or a total of just over $1.3 million. That is above the $3,850 average for the area.

"We got the top end of the range on this. There was a lot of good stewardship, and there was a lot of buyer interest. We had people as far away as Nashville and Indiana come look at that farm," recalled Blue, with Kurtz Auction and Realty Co., in Owensboro, Kentucky.

He added that the land was sold in an absolute auction, which he believes generates more interest than a reserve auction. The other factor that helped build interest was putting land into the correct tracts, Blue noted.

"There is an art to dividing a property to maximize value," he explained. "Say you have a nice homestead with a lake, woods and 10 acres. Take that off the farmland so you make another completely tillable tract. Consider a hunting or timber tract. A farmer will pay more for purely tillable farmland, and a hunter will pay more for woods. The key is presenting the property in a way that maximizes the whole."

Even in an area with such diverse land use, Blue said people ask him every day how much low corn prices have affected the land market. He believes marginal ground has been hurt the most.

"The very upper-end farm ground is not bringing the crazy high prices it was, either. But, good farmland is still within 5% and 10% of the top of the market, which, for us, was between 2012 and 2014."

There is a softening in land prices, Blue believed, because of a decline in farming net income. But, farmers are still buying.

"One of the farmers I work with told me after he bought land at an auction that the way he sees it, corn prices go up and down all the time. And, he's not locking in a grain price for 20 years. But, when he buys a piece of land, he is locking in an interest rate. I believe interest rates are your No. 1 influencer on the price of farm ground over and above where grain prices are."

Blue concluded he doesn't know if this is the new normal but says farmers are still actively looking for land.

"Yes, they are choosier, and they are staying closer to home. But, there are enough of them in the market that they are keeping prices strong."

PAY TO PLAY

Recreational land has traditionally been one of the first things to take a hit when times get tough for the land market. Mossy Oak Properties' Dillon Jones admitted sales have been challenging, but he's sensing an upturn.

Duck-hunting ground and duck impoundments are big draws for land buyers in Hyde County, North Carolina. Jones, based out of Nags Head, said he's seeing more interest for that type of land.

A recent sale of 287 acres proves a good anecdote for improvement. The land was a nice mix, including 165 acres of farmland. The rest was in woodlands and pines. It listed for $1.2 million and sold at $1.1 million. That equals about $3,832 per acre, close to the $3,970 average for cropland in the state.

"The main focus of that farm was waterfowl and hunting. There were several duck impoundments on the property, which is what the buyer was looking for. They also wanted rental farmland. The property was coming out of CRP in 2018, which I think was another positive."

Jones said this same property had been listed two years ago, when the market was not as strong. It didn't sell, didn't even bring one buyer to the table. This time, three buyers all came to the table at once.

"This year, we have absolutely had a larger number of buyers interested in recreational purchases, but inventory has been low. I think right now, we have a good balance, but it's cyclical."

He added that land financing can be challenging, with most bankers wanting 30% to 35% down for this type property.

"People don't have to have recreational or investment land. It's not like a home; they don't have to have it. That makes for a more challenging market. As long as there is money freed up through a stable economy, though, I feel good about 2018," Jones said. "A 3% to 5% increase would not surprise me for this land market."

Victoria Myers can be reached at vicki.myers@dtn.com

(BAS)

DTN Retail Fertilizer Trends

12/13/2017

By Russ Quinn
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) -- Average retail prices for most fertilizers continued to move higher, while the price for two fertilizers moved lower during the first week of December 2017, according to retailers surveyed by DTN.

As has been the case for two weeks in a row, six of the eight major fertilizer prices were higher compared to the previous month. Also, like last week, none of the six were up a noteworthy amount.

DAP had an average price of $438/ton, MAP $471/ton, potash $343, urea $344/ton, 10-34-0 $404/ton and anhydrous $424/ton.

The two remaining fertilizers were lower in price compared to a month earlier, but once again, neither was down a sizeable amount. UAN28 had an average price of $215/ton while 10-34-0 was at $251/ton.

On a price-per-pound of nitrogen basis, the average urea price was at $0.37/lb.N, anhydrous $0.25/lb.N, UAN28 $0.39/lb.N and UAN32 $0.42/lb.N.

With harvest completed in most of the Corn Belt and favorable weather hanging on, farmers may consider applying anhydrous before winter weather comes. A recent news article from the University of Missouri Extension titled "Fall Anhydrous Applications Carry Risks and Rewards" looks at the pros and cons of applying the fertilizer in the fall.

Andy Luke, University of Missouri Extension regional agronomy specialist, said mild weather into December has allowed fieldwork to continue. Some Missouri farmers chose the fall to apply anhydrous to spread the workload from the busy period and also to take advantage of generally lower fertilizer prices compared to the spring, he said.

"What makes fall applications of anhydrous ammonia risky are unknown weather conditions that may lead to N loss before spring," Luke said.

Luke said there are a few steps to lower the risk of leaching or denitrification.

First, only apply anhydrous after soil temperatures have reached 50 degrees Fahrenheit and are falling. Secondly, be sure to use a nitrification inhibitor. While they cannot eliminate nitrification completely, inhibitors help to keep it in the immobile ammonium form until it is ready to be used by the crop, he said.

Luke also recommended always make sure soil conditions are right and that N is not being lost to volatilization at application. Lastly, do not apply all the N in the fall that you are planning to use for next year's crops.

"Think of a fall application as insurance that N will be available early for the 2018's corn, but plan to supplement additional N to meet your growing needs," he advised.

To read the entire University of Missouri Extension news article, visit https://extension2.missouri.edu/….

Four fertilizer prices are now higher compared to last year. DAP is 1% higher, urea is 3% more expensive, MAP is 6% higher and potash is now 8% more expensive.

The remaining four fertilizers are lower compared to a year prior. Both UAN28 and UAN32 are 2% lower while both anhydrous and 10-34-0 are 9% less expensive.

DTN collects roughly 1,700 retail fertilizer bids from 310 retailer locations weekly. Not all fertilizer prices change each week. Prices are subject to change at any time.

DTN Pro Grains subscribers can find current retail fertilizer price in the DTN Fertilizer Index on the Fertilizer page under Farm Business.

Retail fertilizer charts dating back to 2010 are available in the DTN fertilizer segment. The charts included cost of N/lb., DAP, MAP, potash, urea, 10-34-0, anhydrous, UAN28 and UAN32.

DTN's average of retail fertilizer prices from a month earlier ($ per ton):

DRY
Date Range DAP MAP POTASH UREA
Dec 5-9 2016 434 443 318 333
Jan 2-6 2017 431 442 322 339
Jan 30-Feb 3 2017 430 448 329 353
Feb 27-Mar 03 2017 436 458 335 361
Mar 27-31 2017 438 465 338 356
Apr 24-28 2017 437 466 338 352
May 22-26 2017 436 471 340 343
Jun 19-23 2017 436 470 340 333
Jul 17-21 2017 435 464 339 309
Aug 14-18 2017 434 460 338 305
Sep 11-15 2017 431 456 336 310
Oct 9-13 2017 432 453 347 325
Nov 6-10 2017 434 459 341 338
Dec 4-8 2017 438 471 343 344
LIQUID
Date Range 10-34-0 ANHYD UAN28 UAN32
Dec 5-9 2016 445 463 219 257
Jan 2-6 2017 436 465 218 255
Jan 30-Feb 3 2017 439 482 236 270
Feb 27-Mar 03 2017 440 502 246 279
Mar 27-31 2017 441 508 248 279
Apr 24-28 2017 437 509 247 280
May 22-26 2017 436 503 249 280
Jun 19-23 2017 435 497 243 273
Jul 17-21 2017 425 425 229 265
Aug 14-18 2017 419 419 216 251
Sep 11-15 2017 416 412 210 248
Oct 9-13 2017 413 397 206 253
Nov 6-10 2017 403 409 216 272
Dec 4-8 2017 404 424 215 251

Russ Quinn can be reached at russ.quinn@dtn.com

Follow Russ Quinn on Twitter @RussQuinnDTN

(ES/CZ)

Ag Not Ready for Biodefense

12/13/2017

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

WASHINGTON (DTN) -- The U.S. is woefully unprepared to cope with outbreaks of emerging livestock or crop pathogens and pests, whether those outbreaks are caused intentionally or otherwise, experts told the Senate Agriculture Committee on Wednesday.

Agricultural security risks have become a major concern for Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., but the chairman acknowledged that talking about a possible attack on agriculture or food production is a hard conversation.

"This is a difficult issue because if you come out and say what's on your mind, you scare the dickens out of people," Roberts said.

Roberts said when he first became interested in the issue nearly two decades ago through his work on a Senate subcommittee on emerging threats, he kept telling farm organizations, veterinarians and others about the need to step up and examine the risk. The response, he said, was people asked him to quit talking about agro-security risks because it could affect commodity prices.

"Well, we should look out. I can promise you every member of this committee is aware of this threat," Roberts said.

Experts on Wednesday pointed to a recent report in the Washington Post that North Korean dictator Kim Jung Un is building up his country's biological infrastructure, based on an intelligence report. North Korea's new efforts in biological warfare have alarmed U.S. analysts, the Post reported.

Agrodefense is a broad and complex mission space. Collectively, experts testified Wednesday that the country faces a shortage of livestock vaccines, lack of coordination among federal agencies, lack of intelligence capability, lack of funding and overall lack of awareness.

"Other than that, we're in pretty good shape," Roberts commented.

Former Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman co-chairs a blue-ribbon panel on biodefense that released a report in October specifically looking at animal agriculture. Lieberman noted that, early in the Afghanistan war, a Navy Seal team found chemical formulas of 16 deadly pathogens in a cave. Six of those pathogens could target livestock, and four could attack crops.

"Agro-defense is a real national security problem," Lieberman said.

Speaking specifically of Kim Jung Un's desires, Lieberman said an attack on agriculture could do damage to the country and inject fear in people, and such an attack would be relatively easy. The problem, he said, is that such a concept largely flies under the radar.

"How do you get attention for it? Unfortunately, it's very hard," Lieberman said.

Lieberman and others noted the U.S. has already seen some devastating livestock diseases in recent years that came into the country accidentally or through the wild. In 2015, for instance, avian influenza led to the deaths of nearly 50 million poultry and raised the price of eggs.

"The most visible, tangible example we've had was the avian flu outbreak, which not only cost the birds, but cost the economy an estimated over $3 billion," Lieberman said.

While avian influenza is largely spread by wild birds, Lieberman cited the risk and fear that avian influenza would spread from wild birds to people.

Pork producers also have been hit with a foreign animal disease. In 2013, porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv) hit the U.S. pork industry, killing more than 8 million pigs and causing major financial losses for some pork producers. Myers, in written testimony, said it's suspected PEDv came into the U.S. in feed products from China, but that has not been confirmed.

Retired Gen. Richard Myers, now president of Kansas State University, said the intelligence community has a strong recognition about the importance of food security to global stability. Myers noted 15 crops account for 90% of global food intake, with corn, wheat and rice accounting for fully two-thirds of food intake. If wheat, rice or corn were targeted by bioterrorists, or if a natural outbreak occurs, "We're going to be in big trouble," Myers said.

Kansas State University is now home to the National Bio-Agrodefense Facility, which is being constructed. But Myers said there is a funding gap for research and a real weakness in the vaccine stockpile on hand to deal with a major animal-disease outbreak.

Myers also said the U.S. doesn't have the right number of experts with appropriate clearances to deal with such possible outbreaks -- whether they are intentional or not.

The National Veterinary Stockpile receives less than $5 million in funding. Lieberman said that's a risk that would quickly become apparent if a quick-spreading disease hit livestock.

"When there is an outbreak, people are going to be screaming for vaccines or other countermeasures, and there is nothing there right now," Lieberman said.

R.D. Meckes, state veterinarian of North Carolina and a former Department of Homeland Security expert on agrodefense issues, reiterated the need for a more robust national veterinary stockpile of vaccines. A Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) outbreak could cost the U.S. economy as much as $200 billion over 10 years, he said.

"An FMD outbreak in a livestock-dense area of the U.S. cannot be controlled without immediate access to millions of doses of FMD vaccine," he said.

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association and National Pork Producers Council have been requesting the House and Senate Agriculture Committees fund a more robust vaccine bank in the next farm bill that would set aside large amounts of vaccines for diseases such as FMD. Such a vaccine bank could be costly, but would be preventive medicine against an outbreak that could cost billions to agriculture if FMD were to show up in the U.S.

USDA is close to issuing a rule on reportable animal diseases, which Lieberman said would hopefully clarify the responsibility of the private sector to report those outbreaks.

Myers had several recommendations to boost biodefense readiness, including more research and funding related to diseases. Further, more outreach is needed to industry to help with research. Land-grant universities also should play a larger role in helping deal with agrodefense, he said.

Livestock and plant experts are telling the Senate Ag Committee the country is not prepared for some of the diseases -- introduced intentionally or not -- that could spread rapidly and devastate U.S. agriculture.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., ranking member of the Agriculture Committee, pointed to scares in Michigan, such as the cherry growers getting hit by a small pest called the spotted wing drosophila, which Stabenow said "has become a cherry grower's worst nightmare."

Another pressure leading to the spread of pathogens is climate change. "We're seeing pathogens in Michigan that used to not handle the winter, but now can survive over winter months," said Raymond Hammerschmidt a professor of plant, soil and microbial sciences at Michigan State University.

The Hudson Institute report "Defense of Animal Agriculture" can be found at https://www.hudson.org/….

Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

(AG/CZ)

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