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!

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

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

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.

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

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

Vilsack at NFU Announces Small Farmer Help

vilsack-nfu14During an appearance at the National Farmers Union (NFU) convention in Santa Fe, New Mexico today, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced new and expanded efforts to connect smaller farmers and ranchers with USDA resources that can “help them build stronger businesses, expand to reach new and larger markets, and grow their operations.”

In a press conference from the NFU convention after his remarks, Vilsack said there were concerns following the publication of the recent recent Census of Agriculture about the “eroding middle in farming” but it shows tremendous potential for small and mid-sized producers in American agriculture. “We’ve adjusted policies, strengthened programs and intensified outreach to meet the needs of small and mid-sized producers,” said Vilsack. “These producers are critical to our country’s agricultural and economic future.”

“The secretary’s speech was very well received at our convention,” said NFU president Roger Johnson on the conference call with Vilsack. “This focus on small and midsized farmers is in many ways a focus on our members.”

Also on the call was National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition Policy Director Ferd Hoefner, who specifically noted the importance of changes to the Farm Storage and Facility Loan (FSFL) Program which he says will greatly help small farmers sell their produce through local and regional marketing channels.

Listen to or download press conference here: USDA Support for Smaller Farmers

Vilsack Thanks Farmers for Security, Farm Bill

classic14-vilsack-stageHe’s been a regular fixture at Commodity Classic, with this year his fifth appearance at the annual gathering of corn, wheat, soybean and sorghum growers. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack’s message to those gathered in San Antonio at this morning’s general session was how thankful he is for many things.

“It is awfully nice to come here today to talk about the PASSAGE of a Farm Bill, as opposed the need for a Farm Bill,” adding that commodity groups, such as those gathered in front of him, made the new law a reality. Vilsack said we don’t thank farmers enough for the work they do, especially considering how vital they are in the food, energy and economic security America enjoys. In return, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is charged with making sure the implementation of the Farm Bill translates into hope for all farmers, old and new alike. “Our Farm Bill, which you helped pass, for me creates a hopeful set of opportunities and rewards, and will invest in innovation.”

Looking forward, Vilsack said they want to continue the new trend of more young farmers coming back to rural America, especially encouraging minorities, women and returning military veterans to take up what has become again a strong industry. He also outlined how USDA would approach some of the new programs in the Farm Bill and how his agency would provide knowledge and flexibility to producers so they can get the most out of it and manage risks responsibly.

During the session and in a separate news conference, Vilsack talked about the importance of biofuels made from American agricultural products and how those products should be marketed to the world. “We think the world is ready for American biofuel,” he said.

The Secretary concluded saying the rest of the country needs to better understand just how important farmers are and how their value system makes America stronger. He said because of the great responsibility our producers, who make up such a small percentage of the country, take in making sure there’s a safe and plentiful food supply allows everyone else to have more free time to pursue other opportunities, such as being a lawyer or a doctor or a plumber or anything else someone wants to become in this country.

“The great flexibility, the great freedom, the great liberty that we enjoy in this country to be whatever we want to be starts with a fact that we have a strong enough agriculture … it’s because of you.”

Transcript of speech

Secretary Vilsack at Commodity Classic

Vilsack Classic Press Conference

2014 Commodity Classic Photos

Vilsack to Address Commodity Classic

vilsackccThe growers of the Nation’s biggest crops will once again host the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture for their biggest meeting of the year. For the fifth time in a row, Tom Vilsack will deliver the keynote address to Commodity Classic, the annual convention and trade show for corn, soybean, wheat and sorghum growers. This news releases says Vilsack speaks to an expected crowd of more than 6,000 during the event’s General Session on Friday, Feb. 28, in San Antonio, Texas.

“We are honored to welcome Secretary Vilsack-someone who has been a strong advocate and voice for agriculture-to a conference that is both focused on and led by farmers,” said American Soybean Association President Ray Gaesser. “As we face many challenges in this industry throughout this next year- trade agreements and access, conservation and water quality, moving the RFS forward and access to innovative technology-we are excited to hear the secretary speak on these issues and other important topics that impact farmers who grow the nation’s food.”

“Secretary Vilsack has done a lot to support our growers, and to encourage all farmers to speak out and represent their industry at a time when the general public is more removed than ever from the farms that feed them,” said National Corn Growers Association President Martin Barbre. “We’re looking forward to his visit to Commodity Classic so he can speak with our growers and learn more about our great efforts to rebuild consumer trust in what we do.”

The 19th annual Commodity Classic is Feb. 27-March 1, 2014, along the banks of the famous River Walk at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio, Tex. Your ZimmComm New Media team will be there, including myself, bringing you the latest from this annual meeting of the National Corn Growers Association, American Soybean Association, National Association of Wheat Growers and National Sorghum Producers, America’s largest farmer-led, farmer-focused convention and trade show.

Check out the 2014 Commodity Classic website www.commodityclassic.com for additional information.

Congratulations! It’s a Farm Bill

baby-farm-billAfter a what seemed to be a never-ending labor process, Congress has finally delivered a new farm bill – well past its 2012 due date. Everyone has something to say about the overdue bill, so we’ll take the releases in the order they came.

First to pass out cigars is the American Soybean Association (ASA). “We are relieved and pleased to see the farm bill cross the finish line this afternoon,” said ASA President and Iowa farmer Ray Gaesser.

National Farmers Union was next in the in box. “Passage of the bill on a wide 68-32 margin is a testament to the importance of the legislation to every region of the country,” said NFU President Roger Johnson.

Another admirer is the National Cotton Council. “Congress has demonstrated strong bi-partisanship and we urge President Obama to sign this long-awaited bill into law,” said chairman Jimmy Dodson.

From the National Corn Growers Association – “We’re happy to see the farm bill pass the Senate and are looking forward to seeing it signed and implemented,” said NCGA President Martin Barbre. “While it’s not perfect, we’re pleased to see the bill contains many provisions we’ve been working hard for over the years.”

American Farm Bureau Federation president Bob Stallman added his congratulations. “We are particularly pleased with provisions in the 2014 farm bill to provide risk management to fruit and vegetable farmers and to support livestock farmers during disasters,” he said.

And, from the man who will be charged with raising the little tyke, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack says the bill will achieve “meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for the taxpayer. While no legislation is perfect, this bill is a strong investment in American agriculture and supports the continued global leadership of our farmers and ranchers.”

During a press call today on a separate topic, Vilsack was asked what USDA will do first when the farm bill is finalized. Listen to or download his comments here: Vilsack on Farm Bill Implementation

USDA Offers California Drought Help

USDA-LogoAgriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced USDA is making $20 million available for agricultural water conservation efforts throughout California to combat the effects of drought.

calif-drought“This $20 million will be directed to drought mitigation, focused on improving irrigation efficiency, providing producers resources to stabilize fallow ground and to assist with watering facilities and grazing distribution,” said Vilsack during a press conference today with Congressman Jim Costa (D-CA) and California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross. “We expect this is the first of a number of announcements that will be made this week and in the future to provide assistance.”

“We in California are facing a disaster that has the potential to devastate our economy,” said Costa. “We have not had this dry a time period in all of California’s recorded history, that’s how bad it is.”

“Thank you on behalf of the state of California and our farmers and ranchers,” said Ross. “These dollars coming at this time are very critical … Governor Brown is working with the state legislature to make additional agricultural conservation resources available.”

Interested landowners and managers have until March 3, 2014 to apply for available funds.USDA media call on California drought

USDA Student Diversity Pgm. Winners

USDA LogoThirty students were selected to attend USDA’s 2014 Agricultural Outlook Forum, titled “The Changing Face of Agriculture,” to be held Feb. 20- 21, 2014, at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel in Arlington, Va. Twenty university juniors and seniors were chosen on the basis of their essays on “Agriculture as a Career,” and 10 graduate students were selected for their response to “The Greatest Challenge Facing Agriculture over the Next Five Years.”

“The future of agriculture and rural America depends on the upcoming generation of leaders in farming, ranching and conservation, and the students selected to attend the Agricultural Outlook Forum are among the best young leaders our country has to offer,” said Vilsack. “Participating in the Agricultural Outlook Forum will expose these students to a variety of perspectives on this country’s most pressing agricultural challenges and lay the groundwork for bright futures in food, fiber and forestry.”

USDA’s Agricultural Outlook Forum Student Diversity Program is designed to introduce students to contemporary agribusiness, future trends, scientific research, and agricultural policy in today’s real world environment. The students are from land-grant, Hispanic-serving, and non land-grant agricultural and renewable resources universities. Since the program’s start in 2007, annual sponsorship has been provided by CHS, Inc. and Farm Credit. USDA’s Economic Research Service, Agricultural Research Service, and Natural Resources Conservation Service also provide support. The University of Maryland Eastern Shore partners with USDA to make the program possible. Several of the 2014 winning essays are found here: www.usda.gov/oce/forum/diversity/diversity_program.htm.

Click here to see list of winners: Continue reading

Partnership For Farming Entrepreneurs

afbf-14-ladanThe American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and The Georgetown University McDonough School of Business Global Social Enterprise Initiative (GSEI) recently announced a partnership to help strengthen rural America. The multi-year collaboration will address solutions to building greater economic opportunity and security for those who live in rural communities, starting with a program involving the Georgetown Entrepreneurship Initiative to advance rural entrepreneurship.

Chuck spoke with Ladan Manteghi, Executive Director of Global Social Enterprise Initiative at Georgetown University, about the collaboration.

“The purpose of the Rural Entrepreneurship Initiative is really to help provide resources to anyone who has an idea for a new business or who have a entrepreneurial spirit and be able to strengthen the economic security of rural America.”

“Farmers are considered the original entrepreneurs and we believe that is the case. But often times there are two components to this. Farmers have ideas beyond whats in the farm gate. We want to be able to provide the tools and resources necessary to bring those ideas to market. Second, there are a lot of people in rural America who aren’t farmers and want the opportunity to build economic security and financial opportunity and need these resources as well.”

Ladan also shared hopes for a future collaboration with USDA. During the AFBF Convention Sec. of Agriculture Vilsack said, “It creates a sense of entrepreneurship so that you have investors and entrepreneurs looking for opportunities to start businesses in rural areas. The program dovetails with what we are doing at USDA– trying to educate investment banks and investors about the opportunities to invest in rural opportunities.”

AFBF President Bob Stallman said, “Our partnership with Georgetown is dedicated to giving them and other leaders in rural communities nationwide both a forum and the practical means to brainstorm, strategize and bring their inspirations to fruition and, ultimately, strengthen their communities.”

Components of the program will include:

Rural innovation challenge to provide an opportunity for rural entrepreneurs to showcase their ideas and business ventures in a collegial, yet competitive environment, and to receive mentoring and recognition
National summit on rural entrepreneurship that convenes thought leaders in rural economic development, public policy, and entrepreneurship to discuss barriers and solutions to increased business development in rural areas.
An online rural innovation hub that highlights stories of rural entrepreneurs’ experiences, learning, and successes, and serves as a virtual meeting place for individuals to share information.
Training workshops and webinars that give business tools and guidance in areas such as market research, concept and product development, pitch development and fundraising techniques, marketing, and more.

Listen to Chuck’s interview with Ladan here: Interview with Ladan Manteghi

2014 AFBF Convention Photos

Ag Secretary Vilsack Speaks to AFBF

Secretary of Agriculture Tom VilsackThis morning’s general session at the American Farm Bureau Federation Convention featured a speech by our U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

Yes, he spoke about the farm bill and the need for Congress to pass a new one. Interestingly, he also told us a personal story about being an orphan. Through his adopted father’s side of the family he’s three generations removed from the farm. It was an inspiring story which started with him trying to come up with a one word description of agriculture. He says that it was that great grandfather farmer who was successful enough to raise a family that included children who either farmed or became successful in other businesses. In his grandfather’s case it was the brewing business, then in his father’s case it was real estate and then he became an attorney and ultimately U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. The word he came up with is Freedom. He drew applause during the telling of the story which obviously means a lot to him on a personal level.

You can listen to Secretary Vilsack’s speech here: Sec. Vilsack Speech

Immediately after his speech Sec. Vilsack spoke with the media and you can listen to it here: Sec. Vilsack Press Conference
2014 AFBF Convention Photos

Sonny Ramaswamy at ASTA CSS 2013

asta-css-ramaswamyThe Director of USDA’s National Institute of Food & Agriculture Sonny Ramaswamy gave a presentation on “Setting the Table for a Hotter, Flatter, More Crowded Earth” during the opening general session at the ASTA CSS 2013 on Thursday with a focus on how public sector research and private sector support need to work together to feed our growing population.

Ramaswamy discussed what he calls the “wicked problems” – the societal challenges facing the world, ranging from population to poverty. “The reason I call them wicked problems is you may have the most fantastic technology available to you but you’re not able to deploy those technologies because mere humans become involved in this and we cannot seem to agree,” he said.

Listen to my interview for a short summary and his 50 minute presentation for more details:
Interview with Sonny Ramaswamy, USDA-NIFA
ASTA CSS presentation by Sonny Ramaswamy, USDA-NIFA

2013 ASTA CSS & Seed Expo Photo Album

NASS Talks Crop Numbers and Census at NAFB

Representatives from USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) were on hand at NAFB Trade Talk last month to discuss the 2013 crop and the 2012 census.

usda-nassThe 2013 harvest is considered completed at this point and Lance Honig with NASS says with a record corn crop and near record soybean crop forecast it’s turned out to be a pretty good year, despite the weather challenges.

“We started one way, we kind of went another way.  It’s just the weather shifting throughout the season, but apparently we had enough moisture at the right times to produce a good crop this year”

The November crop production forecast was the final one of the season so Honig says NASS is beginning the process this week of surveying some 80,000 farmers for the final end-of-season numbers coming out January 10.

Listen to my complete interview with Lance here: Interview with Lance Honig

Meanwhile, NASS is also gearing up to release the first numbers from the 2012 Census of Agriculture soon.  However, that release is running a little behind schedule due to the two week government shutdown in October.  According to Donald Buysse with NASS, the preliminary results are scheduled for release on February 20, 2014 at the Ag Outlook Forum, with the bulk of the data to come later.

Listen to my complete interview with Donald here: Interview with Donald Buysse

2013 NAFB Convention Photo Album


USDA’s Drive in Support of Rural Communities

nafb-13-49-editedUSDA Rural Development was on hand during last week’s NAFB Trade Talk to share their work with rural communities across the United States and promote the use of #MyFarmBill.

I spoke with Colleen Callahan, Illinois State Director for Rural Development, during the event and she was eager to express their commitment to rural communities and their passion for brining value to agricultural businesses who drive the growth of those rural communities through their financial and loan programs.

“When it comes to the breadth of what USDA does, we at Rural Development feel that we are the jewel in the crown of USDA because it’s not just about any one program or any one business. It’s about entire communities and regions.”

During the Secretary of Agriculture’s press conference at NAFB, Vilsack gave credit to Colleen for her committed work with the National Drought Resiliency partnership. USDA, along with numerous other government organizations have teamed up in effort to become better prepared to mitigate the consequences of future droughts. You can find the complete audio from the press conference here.

You can’t talk with anyone from USDA without bringing up the Farm Bill. Colleen talked about the power of strength in numbers and their promotion of #MyFarmBill. The use of the hashtag will allow us all to express our opinions and share our agriculture story to the decision makers. As one it’s hard to make a stand, but together we can share our words, photos and video using #MyFarmBill to be heard. Colleen also reminds us that this is more than simply a farm bill, it is a food bill. It is about producing food for exports and putting wholesome food on the tables in homes across the country.

“In agriculture during this time of year we use a lot of technology. We use that GPS, we know where we are in the field, what the yield is in that very spot. We use the no-steer guidance to get use where we are at that point in the field and so using that technology helps us with social media. The #MyFarmBill really completes that circle. You’re at the end of the field, you’re unloading, it goes from the augur to the grain cart and you are sitting there watching. Take advantage of the time you have to communicate the business you are in.”

Listen to my complete interview with Colleen here: Interview with Colleen Callahan

Checkout photos from NAFB Convention: 2013 NAFB Convention Photo Album

Ag Secretary Visits NAFB

vilsackAg Secretary Tom Vilsack made a trip to Kansas City to visit with farm broadcasters during the 70th National Association of Farm Broadcasting Annual Convention. The Secretary centered his comments around the RFS announcement, record levels of exports, drought issues and of course, the farm bill.

Vilsack started off by thanking all the farm broadcaster for the work that they do and shared how nice it was to talk to a crowd that understood what truly happens on the farm and appreciates the rural lifestyle.

The first topic Vilsack discussed was his excitement with agricultural exports. He stated, “We have now reached a record level of agricultural exports. Once again, $140.9 billon exports. It’s the best five years of ag exports in the history of the country. If you compare it to the pervious five year period we’ve done $230 billon more of agriculture exports and our volume is up as well.”

Next, the Secretary commented on this mornings announcement about the establishment of the National Drought Resiliency partnership. It is a collaborative effort between the Department of Commerce, Department of Interior, Department of Energy, Army Corp of Engineers, EPA, FEMA and the USDA. The goal with this team effort is to become better prepared and to mitigate the consequences of future droughts.

The final announcement came from the EPA today about RFS. Vilsack said, “At USDA we are going to focus on those aspects of this industry that we can control.” They plan to work with the industry and specifically the larger operators to create a distribution system to increase the availability of ethanol products and not depend on the petroleum industry.

You can listen to the entire press conference here Secretary Vilsack Press Conference

Checkout photos from NAFB Convention: 2013 NAFB Convention Photo Album

14 Billion Bushels of Corn!

harvestDespite all the challenges that faced farmers this season, the nation’s corn crop is on track to be a record high 14.0 billion bushels, according to the new crop production report released today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).

NASS revised the planted corn acreage downward in the new report, but increased the yield estimate to average 160.4 bushels per acre, with corn growers in 18 states forecast to reach record yields this year. Soybean production is forecast at 3.26 billion bushels, up 3 percent from the previous forecast and up 7 percent from last year.

Mike Krueger of The Money Farm gave a good overview of the new production estimates, as well as the new supply-demand report out from USDA, during today’s Minneapolis Grain Exchange (MGEX) Crop Report Conference Call. Listen to or download that here: MGEX November Crop Call

After a slow start, the 2013 harvest is pretty much back on schedule in most of the country, but it seems late compared to last year’s record pace. As of Sunday, USDA reports 73 percent of the corn crop was harvested, two points ahead of average, but more than 20% less than last year at this time. The soybean harvest is 86% complete, which is a bit ahead of normal, and only about six percent behind last year.

Found this YouTube video from Cross Implement in central Illinois using Luke Bryan’s Harvest Time to help celebrate this special time of year!

USDA Farm to School Census

USDA Farm SchoolSo more schools are buying local farm products to serve in their cafeterias according to a USDA survey. That’s a good thing I guess. As a parent I’m more concerned that my kids eat good healthy food. I know this USDA program is part of their efforts to help fight child obesity and hunger. I just don’t see that being an achievable goal when kids are not being raised to eat healthy by their parents. Schools have always done a good job providing a healthy meal for students regardless where it comes from. But the so-called obesity epidemic has grown in spite of that.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today highlighted important strides made in offering healthy, local food to millions of school children through USDA’s Farm to School program, and emphasized the program’s role in creating economic opportunity for America’s farmers and ranchers. According to USDA’s first-ever Farm to School Census, in school year 2011-2012, schools participating in farm to school activities purchased and served over $350 million in local food, with more than half of participating schools planning to purchase even more local foods in future school years.

“An investment in the health of America’s students through farm to school activities is also an investment in the health of local economies,” said Vilsack. “We know that when students have experiences such as tending a school garden or visiting a farm they’ll be more likely to make healthy choices in the cafeteria. We also know that when schools invest their food dollars in their local communities, all of agriculture benefits, including local farmers, ranchers, fishermen, food processors and manufacturers.”

Forty-three percent of public school districts across the country reported having an existing farm to school program in place, with another 13 percent of school districts surveyed committed to launching a farm to school program in the near future.