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Cargill Exits Feedlots


By Todd Neeley
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) -- Cargill is getting out of the cattle-feeding business by selling feedlots in Kansas and Colorado to Omaha-based Green Plains Inc., according to announcements from both companies Wednesday.

The $36.7 million deal includes a multi-year agreement for Green Plains to continue supplying cattle from the feed yards in Yuma, Colorado, and Leoti, Kansas, to Cargill's beef processing plants in Fort Morgan, Colorado, and Dodge City, Kansas.

GP's subsidiary, Green Plains Cattle Co., will be expanding its capacity by about 155,000 head, making it the fourth-largest cattle feeder in the country with more than 255,000 head. Green Plains currently owns a 70,000-head feedlot in Kismet, Kansas, and a 30,000-head feedlot near Hereford, Texas.

For Cargill, the sale means the company will be getting out of the cattle-feeding business. Cargill said in a news release 90 employees at the feedlots will be offered jobs with Green Plains.

"When the sale of our Kansas and Colorado cattle feed yards to Green Plains is finalized, Cargill's Wichita-based North America protein business will no longer own any feed yards," Mike Martin, communications director of Cargill Protein told DTN.

In a statement, John Keating, president of Cargill's protein business operations and supply chain, said the company is making the sale to re-align its capital investments.

"Selling our two remaining feed yards aligns with our protein growth focus by allowing us to redeploy working capital away from cattle feeding operations to other investments," he said.

During the past two years Cargill announced about $560 million in acquisitions and capital investments to grow its North American beef, cooked-meat and other protein processing businesses.

DTN Livestock Analyst John Harrington said Cargill's move was not surprising. "Cargill has steadily been moving away from red meat production over the last decade," he said.

"I would love to be privy to corporate strategy in that regard. I've read some papers concerning serious concerns within the company about global warming and the risk of shrinking areas of production, especially in the Southern Plains. I have no idea whether such thought played into this particular sale but am curious, and there's definitely a pattern."

Cattle prices have been one of the few bullish ag stories in 2017, a 180-degree turn from the painful selling witnessed last fall, said DTN Analyst Todd Hultman. So far in 2017, U.S. beef production is up 5% from a year ago, which does not sound bullish, but came from lighter cattle and goes to show how insatiable this year's demand has been. Hultman added there is also hope that a steak dinner at Mar-a-Lago helped convince China's president to open the doors to U.S. beef, but negotiations are still ongoing. April cattle are currently near $132, about to expire at the highest spot price in a year.

Both feeder and fed contracts were sharply higher in early trading on Wednesday, according to DTN's Midday Livestock Comments.

Although Cargill is exiting the feeding business, Harrington said the company will remain the third-largest beef packer with a daily kill capacity near 24,000 head.

Cargill sold is pork division to JBS USA Pork in the summer of 2015, and sold two other Texas lots to Friona Industries in July 2016.

For Green Plains, the company said in a news release the move allows it to continue to diversify its business. Green Plains is the second-largest consolidated owner of ethanol plants in the world with 17 dry mill plants with a production capacity of about 1.5 billion gallons.

"The growth of Green Plains Cattle achieves one of our strategic initiatives of further diversifying our income streams and investing in adjacent businesses," Todd Becker, president and chief executive officer of Green Plains said in a statement.

"This purchase also aligns with our overall strategy to meet growing global protein demand in downstream markets that take advantage of our supply chain, production platform and commodity management expertise. A key component of the acquisition is the long-term agreement with Cargill under which Green Plains Cattle will be a strategic supplier of their beef-packing demand."

Becker said the deal also takes advantage of Green Plains' distillers grains business.

"One of the inherent benefits of this transaction is the scale of internal demand for our co-products produced at company-owned ethanol plants," Becker said.

"Our cattle business will now consume more than 300,000 tons of dried distillers grains and 40 million pounds of corn oil annually. The ability to effectively control our feed supply cost provides our cattle business with a strategic operating advantage resulting in more predictable and stable cattle-feeding margins while enhancing Green Plains' knowledge of ration dynamics."

The purchase may be timely for Green Plains, Harrington said.

"You could certainly make the case that the timing is good," he said.

"We have been expanding the herd for the last several years and continue to do so at a slower rate. This gives feedlots greater leverage over ranchers in terms of feeder cattle, cheap corn rolls on and on, keeping a lid on break-evens. Finally, how bullish do you want to get on beef export? Obviously, China is a huge wildcard. GP could be hitting a home run. Cargill seems to be looking at a different glass."

Todd Neeley can be reached at

Follow him on Twitter @toddneeleyDTN


DTN Retail Fertilizer Trends


By Russ Quinn
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) -- Average retail fertilizer prices continued to be fairly steady with no significant moves either higher or lower the third week of April 2017, according to fertilizer retailers surveyed by DTN.

Of the eight major fertilizers, five are slightly higher in price compared to a month earlier. Those are DAP, MAP, potash, anhydrous and UAN32. DAP had an average price of $438 per ton, MAP $466/ton, potash $339/ton, anhydrous $509/ton and UAN32 $280/ton.

The remaining three fertilizers were slightly lower in price from last month. Urea had an average price of $352/ton, 10-34-0 $437/ton and UAN28 $247/ton.

On a price per pound of nitrogen basis, the average urea price was at $0.38/lb.N, anhydrous $0.31/lb.N, UAN28 $0.44/lb.N and UAN32 $0.44/lb.N.

Last week, I attended the official opening of Iowa Fertilizer Company's (IFCo) new nitrogen fertilizer production facility near Wever, Iowa, along the Mississippi River in southeastern Iowa. The plant is the first greenfield facility built in the U.S. in 25 years.

The sprawling facility will produce 1.7 million to 2.2 million tons of fertilizer products annually in the form of ammonia, urea and UAN. Fertilizer isn't the only nitrogen-related product the facility will manufacture -- diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) will also be produced.

In addition to production facilities, IFCo also built a large distribution center to quickly load trucks with ammonia and get them back out to the country. While at the facility last Wednesday, I saw many trucks and trailers pull into the loading area and then leave with loads of anhydrous.

During the official ribbon-cutting ceremony, officials from IFCo, OCI NV (IFCo's Egypt-based parent company) and politicians spoke. They all said pretty much the same thing: Having a local, dependable supply of nitrogen fertilizer is good news for corn farmers of Iowa and Illinois, the top two corn-producing states.

What does this new supply mean for nitrogen prices in the future? No one knows for sure, but simple logic seems to indicate with lower transportation costs involved, nitrogen fertilizer should be less expensive for farmers, especially for those in the roughly 300-mile radius served by the new plant.

At the same time, it's unlikely fertilizer companies will flood the market with nitrogen, as that would significantly lower prices and reduce the companies' profits.

I think that, in the short term, some of the nitrogen imports into the U.S. may be replaced with this additional domestic product, so prices may not move much. Last November at The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) annual Outlook Conference, the presenter of the nitrogen outlook had several graphics showing U.S. nitrogen imports being cut in half in the coming years.

Longer term, nitrogen prices may decrease for some U.S. farmers, as they will not be so dependent on fertilizer produced in other parts of the world, which can be affected by geopolitical issues. It will be fascinating to see what does happen to retail nitrogen fertilizer prices in the coming years with the addition of the new Iowa plant.

Retail fertilizers are lower compared to a year earlier. Half of the eight major fertilizers are still double digits lower.

10-34-0 is 22% lower from a year ago, both anhydrous and UAN32 are 13% less expensive and UAN28 is 10% lower. Urea is 9% less expensive. Both DAP and potash are 8% lower, and MAP is 7% less expensive compared to a year earlier.

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):

Apr 18-22 2016 477 502 366 388
May 16-20 2016 476 501 365 384
June 13-17 2016 469 496 359 367
July 11-15 2016 467 496 358 360
Aug 8-12 2016 453 482 344 345
Sept 5-9 2016 446 464 325 325
Oct 3-7 2016 438 451 312 315
Oct 31-Nov 4 2016 436 451 314 319
Nov 28-Dec 2 2016 435 445 318 331
Dec 26-30 2016 431 443 321 336
Jan 23-27 2017 429 443 322 347
Feb 20-24 2017 433 452 332 359
Mar 20-24 2017 438 464 338 356
Apr 17-21 2017 438 466 339 352
Date Range 10-34-0 ANHYD UAN28 UAN32
Apr 18-22 2016 561 588 274 322
May 16-20 2016 558 588 274 321
June 13-17 2016 555 566 266 305
July 11-15 2016 538 547 266 306
Aug 8-12 2016 528 522 249 299
Sept 5-9 2016 478 502 228 274
Oct 3-7 2016 454 472 224 263
Oct 31-Nov 4 2016 452 471 244 262
Nov 28-Dec 2 2016 447 465 217 256
Dec 26-30 2016 437 466 217 254
Jan 23-27 2017 436 480 235 268
Feb 20-24 2017 440 490 241 276
Mar 20-24 2017 441 507 248 280
Apr 17-21 2017 437 509 247 280

Russ Quinn can be reached at

Follow Russ Quinn on Twitter @RussQuinnDTN


Kub's Den


By Elaine Kub
DTN Contributing Analyst

In 2017, if farmers see a neat or funny image that they'd like to share with their friends, they save it on their smartphones and forward it along. I swear that half of the Snapchat photos I've received over the past month showed cute little baby calves, one of which was memorably stuck in a huge badger hole. There are pictures floating around the internet captioned, "Money can't buy happiness, but it can buy cows and that's pretty much the same thing." And of course there are the photos of the tractors that fell through a bridge or ran into a transmission pole or got stuck in mud past the axles. Those are farming's sharable moments. They become "memes."

There have always been memes -- cultural snippets that get passed from person to person -- but it wasn't always so easy to pass them along. Pity the poor Indus Valley farmer 8,000 years ago who, if he had a funny joke to share about the harvest moon, he had to physically walk over to his neighbor's farmstead to share it. At least farmers in the time of the Roman empire (approximately 2,000 years ago), had a Latin alphabet they could carve into stone tablets to perpetuate their memes.

And that's just what they did. The Sator Square is thought to be the world's first meme -- a Latin phrase that has been found on stone tablets anywhere from Pompeii to Britain. And it's about farming! Agriculture has been "in" on memes from the very get-go.

The phrase, translated, says something like, "The farmer reaps with the plow." That's meaningful enough on its own -- poetically reminding us that a good harvest depends on the good, careful planting of a crop. But the really memorable thing about this saying was that, when written in Latin in a certain order, "Sator arepo tenet opera rotas," the phrase is a palindrome. Its letters are exactly the same forwards and backwards. Not only that, but when written in a square, it's a two-directional palindrome. The letters form the same words up-and-down as forwards-and-backwards. Now that was meme-worthy in Roman times! (And at least as meme-worthy as dogs in cowboy hats are today.)

It's still a memorable and important concept for farmers today -- planting seeds carefully, at precise depths, in properly warm soil, with as little weed and pest pressure as possible, on a date that will give the plants the best chance to avoid excessive heat during pollination -- all of that matters very much to the ultimate yield prospects of an individual field. Individual farmers tend to get antsy about planting their crops as early as possible in the spring. They buy wide pieces of equipment so they can put in as many rows as quickly as possible once the soil warms up. They do this because scientific studies from their local universities show corn yield drags after May 15, for instance, and we never know when an extended period of rain may set in, limiting the local planting window to a very narrow period of time.

But collectively, are all the participants of the corn, soybean and wheat futures markets moved by the poetic wisdom of the Sator Square?

Not so much. It would require extreme circumstances for the futures markets to rally based on planting weather anymore. I took a quick look at the new-crop corn futures charts during the past several April-May timeframes, and planting rallies have become virtually nonexistent, with a sideways or downward trend much more likely during this season, while traders watch ever more acres being planted day by day and the plants are too young to exhibit many agronomic problems yet.

This week's Crop Progress report showed that the 2017 corn planting pace has caught up to normal, and the soybean planting pace is faster than normal, so of course those futures prices have no reason to add on risk premium right now. But last week, corn was behind pace, and for all we know, it might fall behind again before the spring is over.

There are three main theories about why the futures markets may seem unconcerned about adding risk premium during planting weather, even bad planting weather:

1) The "rain makes grain" argument. Pretty much the only thing that slows down planting is excessive moisture, but one excessive rain in one county could be 'just right' for the neighboring county. So whatever potential late-planting yield loss may occur would generally be offset by surrounding areas with yields that are boosted by sufficient moisture.

2) The lack of observable vegetative matter. A larger portion of today's futures trades are directed by computer algorithms than by the excitable human rumors of the past. If those algorithms rely on fundamental crop condition data, either from on-the-ground observations or from satellite imagery, to tell them about crop yield prospects, then they need green vegetative matter to observe. Before the seed is in the ground and germinated, there's not a lot that a brown field can tell a satellite about crop conditions.

3) The confidence in global grain inventories. Maybe if grain stocks weren't so overwhelming in 2017 (and other recent years), the futures markets would be more high-strung about tiny fluctuations in yield and supply prospects. We may get a chance some year in the future to see another planting weather rally, but at this point, it's not looking as if 2017 will be that year.

That still leaves the possibility of a summer weather rally, but a good risk manager won't rely 100% on that expectation. I'd love to see a farming meme to emphasize that!

Elaine Kub is the author of "Mastering the Grain Markets: How Profits Are Really Made" and can be reached at or on Twitter @elainekub.


Farm Bill Hopes


By Todd Neeley
DTN Staff Reporter

WASHINGTON (DTN) -- If for some reason a new farm bill isn't completed in 2017, leaders of the House and Senate agriculture committees said on Tuesday they're hopeful they can at least help farm-bill programs for dairy and cotton through the current budget appropriations process.

One thing is abundantly clear, the next farm bill likely will be written with no expected budget increases. In addition, lawmakers understand the challenges farmers face in this time of low commodity prices. They are weighing the urgent need to draft a new farm bill in 2017, with the political reality that 2018 is an election year.

House and Senate Agriculture Committee leaders met Tuesday with members of the North American Agricultural Journalists.

Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee, said he's concerned if a new farm bill is not passed this year farmers may suffer even more damage. Peterson noted agriculture "dodged a bullet" with good crops last harvest.

"But we're starting to see some pressure in financing and I don't see any real turn-around in prices," Peterson said. "So I'm concerned about getting an average or poor crop. If that happens we'll have trouble. I don't think the farm bill is set up to fix these problems. We should have never written a farm bill when prices were good."

The Dairy Margin Protection Program, for example, has not helped small producers manage price swings and dairy interest groups hope to see additional payments through the appropriations process. Cotton producers have faced similar problems and would like to see the Price Loss Coverage program expanded to make cottonseed eligible for coverage.

"I'm somewhat optimistic there will be a fix in an appropriations bill to fix both," Peterson said.

Through appropriations, the cotton and dairy programs could be given at least baseline budgets to make the programs easier to fund in the next farm bill. If there isn't additional funding provided for the 2018 farm bill, other programs seeking more funds would force cuts elsewhere in the farm bill.

Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, said he hopes lawmakers soon will have a farm bill blueprint to give lawmakers a chance to pass legislation this year.

"The Senate agriculture committee is the least partisan," he said. "We know we have to be bipartisan or we cannot pass a bill in the Senate."

The 2014 farm bill passed the committee in two days, Roberts said, and this time around the stakes are higher for farmers.

"I think we can do it because the need is so great," he said.

Rep. Michael Conaway, R-Texas, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, said his goal is to get the next farm bill out on time. The committee is slated to hold listening sessions in May and June.

"We're looking for spots around the country where we want to hear from rank and file folks," he said. "The 2018 farm bill has a much different backdrop. It will be readily apparent why we need a safety net."


In the next farm bill, however, Peterson said he'd like to see small dairy producers have access to some kind of insurance.

"The problem is dairy farmers are used to getting a check and not used to taking out insurance," he said. "We want to make it (insurance) affordable so they can't refuse to do it."

In addition, there is talk about changing the Conservation Reserve Program, which is currently capped at 24 million acres. Peterson said there either needs to be a larger cap or the CRP should be opened up to allow haying and grazing. Also, Peterson said the program has placed too much emphasis on continuous acres and less on general sign up.

"There's a lot of reform we could do on CRP," Peterson said. "When you have low prices the best thing you can do is get land out of production to raise prices."


Congress's ability to pass a farm bill this year, Peterson said, may depend on whether lawmakers decide to propose changes to the major nutrition aid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

"As long as SNAP is not fooled around with I think we'll be fine," Peterson said. "If there is too much monkeying around with SNAP it could be a problem."

Conaway said the House has held 18 hearings since last year to consider possible reforms related to SNAP. Because Congress likely will have the same amount of funding or even less, he said lawmakers want to be sure not to pit various agriculture interests against each other.

Perhaps equally as important is the need to establish a comprehensive trade policy to expand agriculture markets.

On this front, the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday unanimously approved Robert Lighthizer's nomination to be the next U.S. trade representative. Add to that the Senate approval of Sonny Perdue to head USDA and Washington may soon give agriculture the attention it needs.

Although it could be argued the next farm bill should come with a budget increase to match the need in the countryside, the national debt looms over all federal agencies.

"I don't think we've paid as much attention on the budget side since (President) Reagan," he said.

"We all know we have a $20 trillion problem on our hands. We can't pass that on to the next generation. Money's going to be hard to come by. On the other side, we see programs where we just have to have assistance."


Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., ranking member of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry committee, said Perdue's leadership will be important on the farm bill front.

"We are glad he's there," Stabenow said. "In general, the 2014 farm bill was the right structure, but some programs have not worked. We're ready to write a new farm bill. We need to be able to have resources for the next farm bill. I'm very pleased we work hard to make the agriculture committee be a partisan-free zone. I know members on both sides of the aisle want to get it done."

Even if the next farm bill could address ways to expand the CRP program, Stabenow said budget reality sets limits.

"It costs dollars for us to be able to do it," she said. "We have to look at what we can do. This is where farm bills get hard. We will be operating in the existing budget."

Todd Neeley can be reached at

Follow him on Twitter @toddneeleyDTN


Todd's Take


By Todd Hultman
DTN Analyst

Last week was mostly bearish for grain prices, but I hope you caught DTN's article by Staff Reporter Todd Neeley, "Biodiesel Probe Moves" (…). In it, Neeley explained how the U.S. Commerce Department is looking into allegations that Argentina and Indonesia were dumping subsidized biodiesel in the U.S. to the detriment of U.S. biodiesel producers.

If the allegations have merit, Argentina would be the larger culprit, shipping 425 million gallons into the U.S. in 2016, or 63% of all biodiesel imported into the U.S. According to the National Biodiesel Board, the U.S. Commerce Department is expected to have preliminary determinations in August or October.*

While it is difficult to guess if or when some form of counter-vailing duty may be coming to protect U.S. soybean oil prices from the competition of Argentina's biodiesel, it certainly sounds like the kind of "America first" policy the new White House would favor.

You may recall a brief soybean oil rally in late February when rumors circulated that the Trump Administration was looking at the possibility of a new biodiesel tax credit which would apply only to U.S. sources. The rumor hasn't been confirmed, but last week's news kept alive the notion that some form of protection may be in the works.

As a market analyst, I would gladly ignore all this talk as speculative hearsay, if it weren't for numerous market clues in soybean oil showing early signs of bullish change. A look at July soybean oil's weekly chart shows that after four months trending lower, April's prices got within a half-cent of their one-year lows and commercial firms switched from being net short to net long.

Noncommercial speculators were net long 144,976 contracts in early December at 38 cents a pound, but have lost interest now that prices are around 32 cents. Soybean oil's weekly stochastic indicator has been in oversold territory since February, but is now close to turning higher, helped by last week's higher close.

So far, July soybean oil's trend remains down and, after this week, the five-week high will drop to 32.92. With price momentum showing bullish divergence in April, a change in trend is possible, especially if we continue to hear news of possible protection for U.S. biodiesel producers.

Of course, I cannot guarantee soybean oil prices will trade higher -- there are plenty of risks and the anticipation of increased soybean supplies in 2017 tops the list of bearish concerns. However, given the convergence of bullish clues, don't be surprised if we see July soybean oil prices turn higher soon.

* "U.S. biodiesel industry testifies to ITC on illegal trading at hearing" a National Biodiesel Board press release, Apr. 13, 2017 at…

Todd Hultman can be reached at

Follow him on Twitter @ToddHultman1


View From the Cab


By Richard Oswald
DTN Special Correspondent

LANGDON, Mo. (DTN) -- Last week was a quiet week -- if you don't count the sound of rain on the roof -- DTN View From the Cab farmer Zack Rendel of Miami, Oklahoma, told DTN late Sunday evening.

"Last Saturday night we got an inch of rain. Monday we just worked on combines. Now they're ready for wheat and canola. I put in 16 rows of sweet corn on Tuesday. It rained again Wednesday night until Friday morning. We got 4.7 inches total," Zack said.

The rains resulted in a significant amount of runoff in fields, Zack said. "Water's standing in low spots and terrace channels. Rows are flooded in low areas. We got some new (leased) river-bottom ground this year. We haven't farmed any of it yet. Brent (Zack's uncle) was going to take the drone down there and see what it looks like. We joked that if we can't get soybeans planted on it, we can plant rice," he said.

After the rain ended Friday, the Rendels put up field signs for a canola field day on the farm that was scheduled for this Monday. "It's a collaboration with Oklahoma State University and Rubisco, our canola seed company. Our seed dealer is Medoc Valley out of Oronogo, Missouri," Zack explained. Canola experts from Rubisco, Brian and Claire Caldbeck, were to be on hand at the field day, along with representatives from the ADM oilseed crushing facility. Representatives from Tyson Foods also planned to attend to explain their interest in whole canola used in feed rations.

Elsewhere on the Rendels' farm, all of the corn is planted and fully emerged. First-planted sorghum is also spiking through. Wheat and canola appear to be maturing ahead of average.

"Wheat is all pollinated and looking really good," Zack said. "I told you last week wheat was going to be short, but I bet it's 6 to 8 inches taller now. That'll help the straw crop."

The Rendels market straw locally to a mushroom farm. "We sell them just the windrow. They bring their balers in and haul it all in for me. That helps offset their cost," Zack said.

Meanwhile, the completion of milo planting and commencement of soybean planting are postponed for drier weather.

"It's kind of a waiting game," Zack said. "I'll be waiting most of the week with more rain forecast for the end of the week."

That's a familiar feeling to DTN's other View From the Cab farmer, Brent Judisch, who is located in one of Iowa's richest cornfield sweet spots outside Cedar Falls. The Judisches are no strangers to waiting. "We had rain on Tuesday. Could have gotten in Wednesday but for rain on Thursday," Brent told DTN late Sunday evening.

"We didn't get as much rain as some places," Brent said. "We have neighbors who won't start until tomorrow. Up by Waverly (Iowa), they haven't done anything."

Brent prefers not to plant just ahead of cold early spring rains because of the danger to newly planted seeds of cold-water imbibition, or chilling injury to germination. "They always say the most critical time for corn is the first 24 hours," Brent said.

That and clods created by working wet soil too early keeps Brent moving at a measured pace. "The ground was 55 degrees yesterday (Saturday). It got down to 52 a couple of days. My average goal is to be done by May first, but that may not be possible this year. Ideal would be to plant everything on April 25," he explained.

First-planted corn, in the ground about a week, has sprouted, but none has emerged.

Working together with his wife, Lisa, Team Judisch was able to reach the 54% planted mark Sunday evening. "We shoot for 15% to 18% per day," Brent said on Sunday.

Brent updated DTN early Tuesday morning: "We worked until 10:00 (p.m.) last night (Monday). We are 75% done." Are they continuing to plant Tuesday? "We parked everything. The forecast does not look well at all. Forecast lows (later this week) are in the 30s and 40s," Brent said.

With the calendar getting close to May, Brent's not overly concerned about the effects of later planting -- corn maturity countdown begins with emergence. "The ground gets warmer in May, so the corn comes up quicker."

Weedy grasses haven't made much progress in the cool weather, but broadleaf weeds are growing. A local grain elevator/farm supply takes care of spraying post-emerge herbicides behind the Judisches' two, 24-row planters. "The elevator has been doing a good job keeping right with us."

Planting hasn't been completely uneventful. A broken closing wheel, a tractor stuck in a waterway, are problems conventional tillage farmers face even in cool, wet years.

"(Yesterday) we had trouble with (planter monitor) sensors getting dirty," Brent said. Located below seed meters in seed tubes, the sensors use electric eyes to detect and count seeds on their way to the furrow. Dust obscures their vision.

"There was only a 5-mile-per-hour breeze. When it's like that, the dust just hangs with you," Brent said.

Richard Oswald can be reached at

Follow Richard Oswald on Twitter @RRoswald


Editor's Note: Consider entering our DTN/The Progressive Farmer #MyPlanting17 Photo Contest from now until May 21 for a chance to win some great prizes.

Entering is easy, but please limit yourself to one entry per month. For all the details, visit:…


Trump to Tout Perdue, Farmers


By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

OMAHA (DTN) -- The White House is using Sonny Perdue's swearing in on Tuesday as agriculture secretary as a backdrop to help show President Donald Trump is focused on the interests of farmers and agriculture.

To mark Perdue's confirmation vote and first official day on the job, the president will sign an executive order on agriculture and host a roundtable Tuesday afternoon with Perdue and 14 other farmers from around the country.

Perdue, a former governor of Georgia, was confirmed in an 87-11 vote on Monday evening. Perdue is expected to be sworn in Tuesday, then give a speech to employees at the U.S. Department of Agriculture headquarters.

Ray Starling, a special assistant to the president on agriculture, highlighted the executive order and the roundtable discussion. Starling said the meeting will mark the earliest that a president has held such a meeting with farmers, going back to President Ronald Reagan's term.

"We cannot find any reference to a presidential meeting with a group (of farmers) this size, this early in a presidential administration, back to Reagan's time," Starling said.

President Reagan met with a large group of farmers in the early days of his administration because of the President Carter-era embargo on wheat exports to the Soviet Union, Starling said.

The White House noted fewer than 1% of the American population farms, but agriculture is a dominant industry in most states.

The executive order will sunset the White House Rural Council started under President Barack Obama in 2011. Trump's White House will then restart a similar inter-agency rural task force to look at legislative, regulatory, or policy issues that hinder economic growth in agriculture. Further, the new task force will work to promote agriculture, economic development, job growth, infrastructure improvements, technological innovation, energy security, and quality of life in rural America. The task force will be expected to produce a report within 180 days.

Starling said issues such as rural development and rural infrastructure are part of the new task force's mission, but much of that work would still center on production agriculture. "We do believe that in these rural communities, the best thing we can do to make them grow quickly and economically is to focus on agriculture, because it is the No. 1 driver in these rural communities," Starling said. "We certainly understand that is not the only silver bullet."

A key to the executive order is that it will encourage agencies to roll back regulations on agriculture. The executive order will have some specific areas highlighted for agencies to consider changing, though Starling declined to detail those specifics. He did point to issues regarding biotechnology adoption, though Starling noted that biotech trade approvals are largely a trade issue as countries delay approving new traits after going through the U.S. regulatory process.

Starling also suggested changes in the Food and Drug Administration of the implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act. Starling indicated some concerns among farm groups over the extent of FDA-required on-farm inspections.

The panel discussion that will go with the executive order is expected to include conversations on immigration reform that may be counter to some of the president's initiatives in that area. Ag groups largely want to see guest-worker programs expanded and streamlined, not tightened. The executive order will address issues about "access to a reliable workforce," Starling said.

Further, the farmers are expected to stress the importance of trade to the industry. Starling said agriculture generates a net trade surplus, and it is well understood that agriculture relies heavily on trade already. Starling indicated that will be stressed to the president by the farmers.

"These farmers will make sure they leave the impression on the president about how important agricultural trade is, and in particular how important that agricultural trade is just north and just south of our border here in the United States, namely Canada and Mexico," Starling said.

The 14 farmers included in the meeting with Trump and Perdue are:

- Lisa Johnson-Billy, farmer and former statehouse member, Lindsay, Okla.
- Luke Brubaker, Brubaker Farms, Mount Joy, Pa.,
- Hank Choate, Choate's Belly Acres, Cement City, Mich.,
- Tom Demaline, Willoway Nurseries, Avon, Ohio,
- Zippy Duval, President of American Farm Bureau Federation and farmer from Greensboro, Ga.,
- Valerie Early, National FFA Central Region Vice President and former 4-H member, Wykoff, Minn.
- Lynetta Usher Griner, Usher Land and Timber, Inc., Fanning Springs, Fla., with farms also in Kansas.
- A.G. Kawamura, Orange County Produce and former California state Agriculture secretary, Newport Beach, Calif.,
- James Lamb, Lamb Farms and Prestage Farms, Clinton, N.D.
- Bill Northey, Iowa secretary of Agriculture and farmer from Spirit Lake, Iowa.
- Jose Rojas, vice-president of farm operations for Hormel, Colorado Springs, Colo.
- Terry Swanson, Swanson Farms, Walsh, Colo.
- Maureen Torrey, Torrey Farms, Elba, N.Y.
- Steve Troxler, North Carolina commissioner of Agriculture and farmer, Browns Summit, N.C.

Chris Clayton can be reached at

Follow Chris Clayton on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN


March for Science


By Emily Unglesbee
DTN Staff Reporter

WASHINGTON (DTN) -- The rain didn't deter the thousands of protesters who streamed into the nation's capital on Saturday, April 22, to join the March for Science.

They wrapped their signs in plastic, donned ponchos and marched on as the clouds alternated between drizzle and downpour. Among the many attendees were agricultural scientists from industry, government and academics.

One such scientist, an employee in the pesticide re-evaluation division of the EPA, protected her "Show Me the Data" sign with an umbrella.

"Overall, it seems the tenor of politics now is that facts and data are less important and science is less important, as is investment in basic research and science," she told DTN. She declined to be identified for fear of reprisal.

She said everyone in the agency is worried about the dramatic budget cuts proposed for the EPA.

Ohio State entomologist Kelley Tilmon said these very fears helped spur her trip from Wooster, Ohio, to D.C. "One of the reasons I'm here is for the scientists who can't be," she said.

She joined Michigan State University Extension entomologist Chris DiFonzo, who traveled from East Lansing, Michigan, to represent ag scientists in the March.

They huddled under a tree near the Washington Monument, as steady showers dampened their "Make America Cogitate Again" signs.

"Many people forget that agriculture is 100% based on science," DiFonzo told DTN. "Farmers are on the front lines of science, every day."

Similar marches occurred around the world on Saturday in 600 cities from Los Angeles to Berlin.

Before they marched up the Mall to Congress in D.C., the crowd massed around a rally stage next to the Washington Monument. Speakers ranging from science educator and television presenter Bill Nye to Roger Johnson of the National Farmers Union spoke in defense of science-based policy and investment in public research.

The role of scientists as educators was on prominent display. A group of white "teach-in" tents were set up near the stage. Inside, scientists gave mini-lectures on topics such as archeology, climate change, bee health and ocean conservation.

The signs of many marchers called attention to the dramatic budget cuts proposed for scientific institutions like the USDA and EPA. One man with a bushy white beard and a lab coat held up a black sign with red lettering declaring "No Science Funding = No Future." Another marcher's sign read, "Fund EPA: Prevent Silent Spring."

Both Tilmon and DiFonzo expressed concerns over the budget cuts proposed for EPA and USDA, particularly rural outreach programs. "I think a lot of people underestimate what government programs do for them," DiFonzo said of the agricultural community.

The EPA has a bad reputation among many farmers, but staff cuts could endanger farmers' access to safe and effective pesticides, Tilmon added.

Many marchers focused on climate change science, which has been called into question by members of the current administration, including the head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt.

Tilmon and DiFonzo worry that ignoring climate change at a policy level could hurt farmers first. "Of all the industries affected by climate change, agriculture is a huge one," DiFonzo said.

"Farmers live and die by when the next rains come," Tilmon added. "So they're living this -- they're seeing the changes."

Not everyone at the March for Science was a scientist. Software developer Mark Pemburn and his wife, Leanne, who works in insurance, made the trip from Baltimore, Maryland, simply to show their support for scientists.

"Without science, I would not have my work," Mark pointed out.

Leanne said she was discouraged by what she called "the cluelessness" and "indifference" to facts in the current administration.

"We're forgetting how much we have gained from science," she said.

Emily Unglesbee can be reached at

Follow Emily Unglesbee on Twitter @Emily_Unglesbee


Pruitt Pressed on Ethanol


By Todd Neeley
DTN Staff Reporter

WASHINGTON (DTN) -- Citing federal data that shows ethanol cracked through the blend wall in 2016, the Renewable Fuels Association on Monday asked U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt to keep the Renewable Fuel Standard on track for corn-based ethanol in 2018.

RFA Chief Executive Officer and President Bob Dinneen said in a letter to Pruitt that obligated parties in the RFS including importers and refiners respond when there is certainty in federal policy.

"Over the past 18 months, obligated parties have shown that they can readily achieve compliance with RFS requirements if EPA's annual RVO (renewable volume obligations) rulemakings remain faithful to congressional intent, are published on schedule, and provide certainty to the marketplace," Dinneen wrote in the letter.

"Accordingly, we respectfully ask that EPA ensures the 2018 RVO rulemaking process remains on schedule, and that the 2018 conventional renewable fuel volume requirement remains at the statutory level of 15 billion gallons."

The blend wall is when total ethanol production exceeds the E10 market.

Some legislative proposals have suggested there is a need to cap ethanol in gasoline at 9.7% to account for the blend wall. The ethanol industry has expressed concern about such a cap, saying it could lead to corn-ethanol plant closures.

Recent data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows gasoline consumed in 2016 contained 10.04% by volume, suggesting there is not a need for a 9.7% cap.

"In fact, the data show that national average ethanol content was 10% or higher in six of the last seven months of 2016, culminating with a record-high monthly rate of 10.3% in December 2016," Dinneen wrote in the letter to Pruitt.

"Compelled by the RFS and favorable blending economics, growing consumption of E15, mid-level ethanol blends (containing 20% to 50% ethanol) and flex fuels (containing 51% to 83% ethanol) was responsible for the increase in the average ethanol content of U.S. gasoline last year. Your commitment to timeliness and certainty in the RVO rulemaking process will allow this evolution of the marketplace to continue in 2018."

In the letter, Dinneen pointed to Pruitt's own words during recent Congressional hearings on his nomination to lead EPA.

"We agree with your statement during the recent Senate Environment and Public Works Committee's confirmation hearing that EPA's past failures to meet the statutory deadlines for issuing RVO rules 'create(d) great uncertainty in the marketplace,'" the letter said.

"When affected parties under the RFS are provided with regulatory certainty and sufficient lead time for planning, they have consistently demonstrated an ability to adapt their operations and comply with the standards."

Dinneen pointed to the ethanol industry's reaction to the EPA's delay in releasing RVOs for 2014 to 2016 as an example of the industry's flexibility to react to the market.

"While 2014 had passed and 2015 was nearly over when EPA finally published the final rule for 2014-2016 RVOs in November 2015, obligated parties, renewable fuel producers, and other stakeholders had sufficient time to react and implement compliance strategies for 2016," Dinneen said.

"The result, as documented in a recent analysis by the University of Illinois, was slight over-compliance with the 2016 RFS volume requirement and growth in surplus stocks of certain Renewable Identification Number (RIN) credits."

In addition, the final rule for 2017 RVOs that set the conventional renewable fuel requirement at the statutory level of 15 billion gallons was published on schedule in November 2016.

"This provided obligated parties and renewable fuel producers with ample time to plan and implement strategies that will facilitate compliance with this year's standards," Dinneen said.

"Ethanol producers have ramped up production and are on pace to produce a record supply of 16 billion gallons of conventional renewable fuel in 2017, well above the 15-billion-gallon conventional renewable fuel RVO. Meanwhile, refiners and blenders have upped their inclusion of ethanol in U.S. gasoline, with average blend rates hitting a record weekly level of 10.4% in mid-January."

Dinneen said ethanol producers have proven petroleum industry concerns about not having the proper infrastructure in place to account for expanded ethanol production were unfounded.

"Because the final 2016 and 2017 RVOs were published on schedule, the marketplace has responded and obligated parties have shown that the so-called 'blend wall' is not a real barrier to RFS compliance," he writes.

Read the letter to Pruitt here:…

Todd Neeley can be reached at

Follow him on Twitter @toddneeleyDTN


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