Congresswoman Visits Bayer Bee Center

bayer-bee-ellmersEven though she had to miss the grand opening ceremony due to a conflict, Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) made it a point to make it out to see the new Bayer CropScience North American Bee Care Center in Research Triangle Park.

“The research and development that they are doing here is going to help us grow more food into the future,” she said in an interview. “It is vital to the North Carolina economy but also to the world.”

Ellmers added that bees are an important part of the discussion about genetically modified crops. “It’s a discussion that’s being had on the national level,” said Ellmers. She is pictured here at the Bee Care Center with Bayer’s Robyn Kneen who was instrumental in the development of the center.

I also asked the Congresswoman about the new farm bill and why she is a strong supporter of immigration reform for farmers in her state. Interview with Rep. Renee Ellmers


Bayer CropScience Bee Care Center Grand Opening Photo Album

End of the USDA Telephone Newsline

r2rThis week will mark the end of an era as the USDA Radio Newsline will no longer be available via the telephone starting tomorrow. I can remember recording that newsline on a reel-to-reel machine just like this one when I first started in the business back in 1980. At that time, the newsline was also sent out on small reel-to-reel tapes. That soon gave way to cassettes, and then the internet came along and changed everything.

According to the USDA announcement out today:

It was in 1968 when the Department of Agriculture made its news stories accessible through phone lines. It was known then as The Spot News Service. Now 46 years later, thanks to technological changes and upgrades the telephone news service will end effective Friday, April 18, 2014.

The USDA Radio Newsline will still be available electronically through the USDA.gov website. For your convenience you will still get the daily email highlighting all of the stories produced for that day.

FYI, you can get the news line stories via iTunes as a podcast and/or an RSS feed in your email, as well as, the same way you get the weekly features.

You really have to give USDA credit for adopting new technology quickly and keeping that newsline as relevant as ever, especially to Gary Crawford who has been there for the whole evolution. I can’t say I miss recording newslines off the phone on reel-to-reel, but I do wonder what will come next!

Importance of New Bayer Bee Care Center

bayer-bee-ncagThe new Bayer CropScience North America Bee Care Center is important for the future of one of the most critical little contributors to keeping the engine of agriculture running.

“They’ve been called the spark plug of agriculture,” said North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler at the grand opening of the center on Tuesday. “If the spark plug’s not functioning, neither is the car, so we’ve got to pay particular attention to our pollinators.”

bayer-bee-ncuTroxler stressed the vital role that research has in protecting pollinators and ultimately feeding the world. Dr. Richard Linton, Dean College of Agriculture and Life Sciences North Carolina State University, is pleased that the center will provide opportunities for students to achieve the goals of a land grant university. “It’s all about producing students for a very important industry of agriculture and it’s also about working with our stakeholders on research and outreach efforts,” he said.

Listen to my interview with the commissioner and the dean here: Interview with NC Ag Commissioner Steve Troxler and NC State Ag College Dean Rich Linton


Bayer CropScience Bee Care Center Grand Opening Photo Album

NASS Census Division Director at NAMA

nama14-nassThe U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) announced it will publish the 2012 Census of Agriculture full report on May 2. The announcement was made this week as NASS Census and Survey Division Director Renee Picanso was attending the National Agri-Marketing Association conference in Jacksonville, Florida.

“Agribusinesses are highly represented here and they are definitely big users of the data,” she said during an interview. The complete data series will be available in multiple formats, including Quick Stats 2.0 – an online database to retrieve customized tables with Census data at the national, state and county levels.

Picanso says the census data is being released a little later than normal this time around. “Usually we release in early February, but with the government shut down last fall, we got a little bit behind,” she said. Interview with Renee Picanso, USDA-NASS

2014 Agri-Marketing Conference Photo Album

Coverage of the Agri-Marketing Conference is sponsored by
Brownfield Ag News and Rhea + Kaiser
Coverage of the Agri-Marketing Conference is sponsored by Rhea + KaiserCoverage of the Agri-Marketing Conference is sponsored by Brownfield Ag News

GMO Labeling Bill Seen as “Step to Restoring Sanity”

cfsafFarm and commodity groups are throwing their support behind a new bill that is hoped to end some of the craziness over food labeling in this country. The Coalition for Safe Affordable Food, which includes the likes of the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), the American Soybean Association (ASA), and the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), as well as more than 30 other groups, praised the bipartisan bill from Reps. Mike Pompeo and G.K. Butterfield, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, which is designed to establish a federal labeling standard for food and beverage products made with genetically modified ingredients (GMOs).

“The introduction of the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act was an important first step to restoring sanity to America’s food labeling laws,” said Martin Barbre, President, NCGA. “GMOs are perfectly safe and America’s farmers rely on this proven technology to protect our crops from insects, weeds and drought.”

Supporters believe the bill would help eliminate confusion among consumers and give those consumers better confidence in what they buy.

“This bill is a commonsense, science-based approach to an issue we realize is close to the hearts and minds of so many consumers,” said Iowa farmer and ASA President Ray Gaesser. “Americans want to know that their food is safe, and the solutions proposed in this bill will ensure that they have that information.”

Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman says the measure makes clear that the Food and Drug Administration will be the Nation’s foremost authority on the use and labeling of foods containing GMOs and would eliminate a patchwork of state regulations across the country.

“The diversity of innovative options farmers and ranchers have in regard to how they grow our food is one of the reasons U.S. consumers enjoy a wide variety of foods that are also among the most affordable in the world.”

Other highlights of the bill include ensuring the FDA conducts safety reviews and providing better information and consistency for consumers.

Ag Journalists Meet in DC

naajThe North American Agricultural Journalists (NAAJ) annual meeting is wrapping up today in Washington, D.C.

Last night was the NAAJ-Sonja Hillgren Scholarship and Writing Awards Banquet at the National Press Club where the best of the best were honored after a full schedule of hearing from administration officials and lawmakers. Receiving the Agricultural Journalist of the Year award was Shannon VanRaes of the Manitoba Co-operator.

Among the officials the group heard from yesterday was EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy who talked about both the Clean Water Act and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Agri-Pulse has a great story about her comments, as well as those from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Check out the NAAJ photos here.

Deputy Sec. of Ag Stresses Need for Communication

ag-day-14-hardinThe Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Krysta Hardin addresses the crowd during the Ag Day banquet. Her words push us to communicate beyond ourselves and connect the dots for those across the country who have yet to hear the good news about agriculture.

“Most of you who know me, know that I am a farmers daughter. That is my first identity. That’s where I get everything, my motivation, my inspiration. It comes from that farm in Southwest Georgia. We do a good job talking about agriculture I’m afraid to often with each other. We have great dinners and great programs with each other, which is great. But we also need to branch out. This is something I have learned so well from Secretary Vilsack. I think most of you know he does an hour of press everyday and it’s not just agriculture press. He talks to other people. People who don’t know they should be interested in agriculture.”

She shares Secretary Vilsack’s passion for wanting people to understand why it is so important that we all support farmers and ranchers nationwide. Deputy Hardin also issued a challenge to all present for the banquet. That challenge was for everyone to bring someone not involved in agriculture to next year’s Ag Day creating an overflow room for the banquet. A neighbor, an allied industry, a friend, a young person who does not yet have the appreciation for agriculture that has been instilled in so many of us for years.

Listen to the Deputy’s complete speech here: Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Krysta Hardin's Address

Industrial Hemp Making its Case

vote-hempIndustrial hemp could be on the verge of becoming a respectable alternative crop in the United States, as it once was back when the country was founded and our first president grew it on his farm.

Ben Droz with Vote Hemp was one of the attendees at National Agriculture Day last week in Washington, and he’s thrilled to talk about how hemp is part of the latest farm bill.

“It allows states to conduct pilot program research projects at the university level and through the state departments of agriculture,” but just in those 10 states where it’s already legal to grow hemp. “Ultimately, I’m sure that we’ll get positive results, and those results will encourage lawmakers to change these laws so farmers can grow this profitable crop.”

Ben said the Farm Bill defined industrial hemp, not to be confused with marijuana despite its similar appearance, as having just 3/10 of a percent or less of THC – the active ingredient in the drug. Even if you smoked a hemp joint the size of a telephone pole, Ben said you still wouldn’t get high. Historically, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew hemp, and Henry Ford was actually doing research on hemp fuels and hemp biocomposites. In the picture, Ben’s carrying a hemp composite briefcase and wearing a tie made of hemp, and he says hemp food products are available in many grocery stores.

“There’s literally thousands of uses for hemp.”

Listen to all of Cindy’s conversation with Ben here: Interview with Ben Droz, Vote Hemp

2014 Ag Day Photo Album

Coverage of National Ag Day is sponsored by BCS Communications

Soybean Growers Applaud Tax Extenders Package

ASAlogo1Soybean growers are welcoming news of a couple of important measures moved forward in one bill. The American Soybean Association says a two-year extension of the dollar-per-gallon biodiesel tax incentive and a reinstatement of the pre-2014 expensing amounts for farm infrastructure and equipment under Section 179, both in the Senate Finance Committee Chairman’s Tax Extenders Package, are key issues for group’s members.

ASA First Vice President Wade Cowan, a farmer from Brownfield, Texas, issued the following statement on the committee’s proposal:

“The extension of the biodiesel tax credit is huge. Biodiesel blenders create a renewable and safe domestic energy source for our country and a valuable market for the soybean oil American farmers produce. The credit further encourages the development and sustained success of the biodiesel marketplace, and much credit goes to Chairman Wyden and Ranking Member Hatch and specifically Sens. Grassley and Cantwell for recognizing the importance of the biodiesel tax incentive and including it in their proposal…

“The proposal’s Section 179 reinstatement is also important. This enables farmers and other small business owners to expense investments made in new technology, equipment and infrastructure in their operations. Given the land-based and capital-intensive nature of farming, not to mention the ever-advancing technology we need to farm sustainably and competitively, this program helps us to stay on the cutting edge of our industry.”

Cowan also pointed out the biodiesel industry has been operating without the credit since the end of the fiscal year in September and called on the full committee to take up the measures quickly and move them on to the full Senate and House for final approval.

Freshman Lawmaker Learns & Teaches on Farm Bill

rod-davisOne of the problems of being a new lawmaker is you seem to come in on the middle of things.

“I feel like a person who walked into a coffee shop three years after a debate started, sat down at the table, and they say, ‘Hey, help fix this.’ I had a steep learning curve,” said Illinois freshman Congressman Rodney Davis when asked about his part in the new Farm Bill, which he is happy about, adding that he felt his role was to help educate non-Midwesterners about the impacts of some parts of the bill.

Speaking with Cindy during the recent American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) Biofuels Beltway March in Washington, D.C., Davis said part of that education effort was talking about how the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposal to slash the amount of ethanol and biodiesel to be blended into the Nation’s fuel supply could affect the commodity title of the bill. Plus, he said part of the reason pro-ethanol forces, including himself, lost the food-versus-fuel debate was the lack of educating the public.

“We need to make sure we educate those who may not know why they’re against ethanol production, why they’re against renewable fuels, and educate them how ethanol production is making cheaper, better feed for our livestock industry and how we can work together to make sure we put more homegrown fuels in our system and still provide cheap food,” Davis said.

Another big issue for the first-term congressman is the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA), a bill that includes provisions to update locks and dams on the Nation’s transportation waterways critical to agricultural trade and passed the House by a nearly unanimous margin last year but is hung up in the Senate.

“We’re going to work together over the next month to push this bill out, because it’s crucial to our farmers, because 80 percent of the products that go down the Mississippi River, which my district abuts, are coal and grains. If we can’t get our products out into the open ocean, then we can’t continue to feed the world.”

Listen to all of Cindy’s conversation with Davis here: Interview with Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL)

2014 ACE Biofuels Beltway March photo album

Corn Growers: Plantings Down, But Plenty of Stocks

ncga-logo-newThis year’s corn plantings are expected to be down this year, but growers say there will be plenty of stockpiles for all needs. While soybean plantings are expected to be a record, the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture figures show that American farmers expect to plant 3.7 million fewer acres of corn this year, down four percent from 2013. But the National Corn Growers Association says, don’t worry, there are plenty of stocks going into the year, and it would still be the fifth-largest U.S. corn acreage planted.

“In 2013, U.S. farmers produced a record crop abundant enough to meet all needs and provide an ample carry over into 2014,” National Corn Growers Association President Martin Barbre said. “While it is still early in the season and many factors may change the reality on the ground as planting progresses, the public can rest assured that bountiful stockpiles and adequate plantings will ensure our corn security for the year to come.”

NCGA says the plantings will yield 13.37 billion bushels, and corn stocks stand at more than 7 billion bushels, up 30 percent from the same time last year.

Sen. Thune Talks Rail Delays and Livestock Aid

Rail delays are impacting shipments of ethanol and grains, among other commodities, thanks in part to the long, cold winter – but also due to increased transport of crude oil from North Dakota.

thune“The railroads are going to have to do a better job,” said Sen. John Thune during an interview in Washington DC last week after meeting with biofuels supporters from the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE). “It’s important that the railroads recognize that agricultural commodities need to be shipped too.”

Thune, who is a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, is looking forward to seeing the farm bill finally passed by Congress getting implemented quickly, especially for livestock producers in his part of the country still waiting for disaster aid after the deadly blizzard last fall. “Normally once they get the rules out and the sign up period starts…it’s a couple of weeks to get the money out there, so we hope that if the ag department is correct and they can get it done by the middle of April, that by the end of April-first part of May we’ll be getting some assistance in the hands of livestock producers,” he said. “It can’t come soon enough.”

The senator from South Dakota also discusses the EPA proposal lowering the Renewable Fuel Standard and getting expired tax credits for renewable energy extended. Interview with Senator John Thune (R-SD)

2014 ACE Biofuels Beltway March photo album

Coverage is sponsored in part by Patriot Renewable Fuels

USDA Forecasts Record Soybean Plantings

According to the USDA 2014 Prospective Plantings report released today, farmers are intending to plant an estimated 81.5 million acres of soybeans in 2014, up six percent from last year and an all-time record high if realized, surpassing the previous record of 77.5 million acres planted in 2009.

USDA-LogoPlanted acreage intentions for soybeans are up or unchanged in all states except Missouri and Oklahoma. The largest increase is expected in North Dakota with a record high 5.65 million acres, an increase of one million acres from 2013. If realized, the planted area of soybeans in Nebraska, New York, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Wisconsin will also be the largest on record.

Corn growers intend to plant 91.7 million acres in 2014, down 4 percent from last year and if realized the lowest planted acreage since 2010. Expected returns for corn are anticipated to be lower in 2014 compared with recent years. Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts and Utah are expected to increase planted acreage from last year. If realized, planted acres in Idaho will be a record high.

Wheat planted acres are expected to be down one percent from last year at 55.8 million acres while cotton acreage is anticipated to be up seven percent to total 11.1 million acres.

Also released today was the Grain Stocks report, which showed corn stocks up 30 Percent from March 2013. Soybean stocks are one percent lower and all wheat stocks are down 15 percent.

The Minneapolis Grain Exchange crop call on the reports today featured commentary from Mike Krueger of The Money Farm. Listen to or download here: MGEX Prospective Plantings Report call

Conversation with Sen. Mike Johanns

ace14-dc-johannsDuring the American Coalition for Ethanol Biofuels Beltway March last week, I was fortunate to be able to tag along on a few Congressional office visits – and pushy enough to get a few interviews with some lawmakers!

One of those was Senator Mike Johanns (R-NE) who will be retiring this year after serving for more than 30 years in public office – starting at mayor of Lincoln, Nebraska, then governor of the state, Secretary of Agriculture, and finally the U.S. Senate since 2009.

I asked Sen. Johanns about ethanol and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), the problem farmer face with over regulation, and what his vision is for the future of agriculture. Interview with Senator Mike Johanns (R-NE)

2014 ACE Biofuels Beltway March photo album

Coverage is sponsored in part by Patriot Renewable Fuels

Little Ethanol Lobbyist

ace14-dc-ethan1Wearing a tie and sporting a “Don’t Mess with the RFS” button, 10-year-old Ethan Fagen was the youngest of the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) Biofuels Beltway marchers last week on Capitol Hill.

Ethan came along with his grandfather, Ron Fagen of Fagen, Inc., and he was right in the trenches with him handing out materials and talking about the benefits of ethanol, like how good it is for the environment compared to fossil fuels. “Think in 200 years if you run ethanol there will be cleaner air for the next generation,” said Ethan, who is part of that next generation.

ace14-dc-fagensSitting in the front as the ACE Fly-in participants heard from government officials, Ethan caught the attention of Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who thought it was “pretty cool” he was there for the event.

In my interview with Ethan, he told me that he would like to be a farmer someday and grow corn and have cattle. It’s interesting that if you add two letters to Ethan’s name, it becomes ethanol. Interview with Ethan Fagen, ACE Fly-in Participant


2014 ACE Biofuels Beltway March photo album

Coverage is sponsored in part by Patriot Renewable Fuels

Norman Borlaug Statue Installed Today

Norman Borlaug StatueDr. Norman E. Borlaug’s statue was installed today at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on what would have been the great agricultural scientist’s 100th birthday. The leadership of the United States Congress, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Governor Terry E. Branstad of Borlaug’s home state of Iowa, and Amb. Kenneth M. Quinn, who chaired the Borlaug Statue Committee, were all part of the ceremony.

Borlaug dedicated his life to breeding better varieties of wheat, and worked with farmers, scientists, politicians and others to improve agricultural methods and policies to alleviate hunger and malnutrition worldwide. His achievements earned him recognition as “Father of the Green Revolution” and the distinction of being the only American to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal and the National Medal of Science.

The Borlaug statue was created by Benjamin Victor.

Chuck was there and will have lots of photos from today’s event which he’ll upload as soon as he can and add the link here.

Post Update: You can find all of Chuck’s photos here: Borlaug Statue Unveiling Photo Album

Listen to the statue unveiling ceremony here:Unveiling Ceremony of Dr. Norman Borlaug Statue

Coverage of National Ag Day is sponsored by BCS Communications

Agri-Pulse Kicks Off National Agriculture Week

The National Agriculture Day celebration in Washington DC has events spread across three days – and really it should be more because it is officially National Agriculture Week.

agri-pulse-2We started it all off with a bang, thanks to the Farm to Fork politics session sponsored by our friends with Agri-Pulse, who are celebrating their 10th anniversary of business this year – just like us! Sara Wyant and Allen Johnson are pictured here with Senator Debbie Stebenow (D-MI), chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, who stopped by to say a few words to everyone and congratulate Agri-Pulse for a decade of service to the industry.

“It’s great to see all of you and not be asked for an update on the progress of the farm bill,” the smiling senator joked to the crowd of nearly 400 gathered in the Hart Senate Office Building overlooking the capitol city. “I’m just glad to be part of the team as we take the next steps of bringing the farm bill to fruition with all of the steps toward implementation.” Ag Day Comments by Sen. Debbie Stabenow

ag-day-14-sara-harden1Those steps toward implementation were the main topic of discussion as USDA Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Krysta Harden sat down with Sara for the main event. “Congress did give us a long time to plan, I’ll have to say that,” said Harden, who said the process really started when she took over the office last August, and continued as they waited and waited for Congress to finally get the bill passed.

Harden says USDA is focused on getting the livestock disaster piece implemented first. “We will be ready by April 15th,” she promised. “We will make sure that we provide this benefit to these livestock producers who definitely are in need.” Deputy Agriculture Secretary Krysta Harden and Sara Wyant of Agri-Pulse

Agri-Pulse Ag Day Photo Album

More National Agriculture Day/Week coverage to come.

Coverage of National Ag Day is sponsored by BCS Communications

Vote now – Youth in Agriculture Blog Competition

Youth in Agriculture Blog CompetitionHere’s a chance to support young agricultural bloggers. It’s the Youth in Agriculture Blog Competition or YoBloCo Awards. The entries are all in and it’s time for the public to vote. It’s a very simple process too. You can vote here.

The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation ACP-EU (CTA), in collaboration with FARA, Yam-Pukri, CAFAN, AYF, ANAFE, SPC, PAFPNET and e-Agriculture is pleased to launch the 2nd Edition of the Youth in Agriculture Blog Competition (YoBloCo Awards).

This contest is organised in the framework of the ARDYIS project, which aims to raise youth awareness and improve their capacity on agricultural and rural development issues in ACP countries using Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs).

The aims of this blog competition are to:

  • Put into limelight issues, successes and challenges faced by youth engaged in agriculture, in urban and rural areas
  • Encourage the production of information and the use of new information and communication technologies by young farmers groups and organisations interested in the youth in agriculture question
  • Promote the sharing of information on the issues of agriculture and rural development in African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries

Dr. Borlaug to be Enshrined at U.S. Capitol

borlaug-statueNational Agriculture Day celebrations in Washington DC this year just happen to fall on March 25, the centennial anniversary date of the Father of the Green Revolution. As a fitting tribute, the State of Iowa will install a bronze statue of Dr. Norman E. Borlaug in the U.S. Capitol on that very day.

“The unveiling with be a historic event and celebration of Dr. Borlaug’s legacy,” Iowa Governor Terry Branstad said. “His agricultural innovations saved an estimated billion people around the world from hunger and starvation.”

Each state is represented by two statues of notable citizens in the National Statuary Hall Collection at the U.S. Capitol Building. The statue of Borlaug will replace the statue of U.S. Senator James Harlan installed in 1910, which will be relocated to Mount Pleasant, Iowa. The second statue representing Iowa is of Governor Samuel Kirkwood, which was installed in 1913.

More information about the statue project is available at www.iowaborlaugstatue.org, including information about related events and activities. People are also encouraged to watch a webcast of the statue unveiling ceremony, which will take place on March 25 at 11 a.m. Eastern Time, at www.speaker.gov/live and since Chuck and Cindy will be there at the Capitol for National Ag Day, we should have coverage of the event featured here on AgWired as well.

The statue was unveiled at the World Food Prize in October, where we had the chance to see it up close and personal, and Cindy interviewed World Food Prize president Ambassador Kenneth Quinn about it. Listen to or download his comments about the statue here: WFP President Kenneth Quinn talks about Borlaug statue

Grassley and Ag Reject Japan’s TPP Offer

grassley-headSenator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) took time between votes today to join with several agricultural organizations and voice strong opposition to Japan’s negotiating position in the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership to exclude a number of agricultural products as part of a final agreement.

“Japan seems to believe that they’re entitled to keep five sacred agriculture products off the table,” said Grassley, who said he just spoke with US Trade Representative Michael Froman this morning about the issue, stressing that when Japan agreed to join the negotiations they knew everything had to be on the table. “We’ve got to hold their feet to the fire.”

“The third largest country in the world can’t make protectionist moves like that without it having a ripple effect,” he added.

The five broad agricultural product categories that Japan wants to exempt from the TPP agreement are pork and beef, wheat and barley, rice and starch, dairy, and sugar. Participating in a conference call with Grassley today were representatives from the National Pork Producers Council,
American Farm Bureau Federation, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Oilseed Processors Association, and the National Association of Wheat Growers Association. All of them and more are strongly urging the administration to reject Japan’s offer.

Listen to the press conference here: Ag Groups Reject Japan's TPP Offer