SMART Farmer Galen Lee

Cindy Zimmerman Leave a Comment

Galen Lee has a diversified 4th generation farm operation in southwest Idaho that produces sugarbeets, asparagus, and peppermint, as well as dairy and beef. In this edition of the SMART Farmer podcast, he talks about how sugarbeets are raised and made into sugar and how biotech varieties have made them more sustainable. He also talks about how he raises peppermint for the oil that is used in things like gum, candy and toothpaste! Galen is president of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association and a board member of the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance.

Listen to the podcast here: SMART Farmer Podcast with Galen Lee

Subscribe to the SMART Farmer podcast

Audio, sugar, USFRA

Quantix Drone from AeroVironment

Chuck Zimmerman

ZimmCast 542Keeping it simple when it comes to new technology seems to just make sense. That is just one feature of the Quantix Drone being launched from AeroVironment. I spoke with Matt Strein, Director Of Business Development at AeroVironment, about the new product and what sets it apart from all others in the ag industry.

AeroVironment has been doing research on this new product for a couple of years, working with farmers and universities. Matt says it was more important to make a product that is exactly what producers want than just being first out in the market place. Here is some information on the product which Matt hopes will be commercially available prior to the end of 2017.

The findings from this research strengthen the capabilities of AeroVironment’s Quantix and DSS ecosystem.Quantix boasts a hybrid design that combines the aerodynamic efficiency of a fixed-wing aircraft with the flexibility and safety of a multi-rotor drone. Quantix is the first hybrid drone to be introduced to the agricultural marketplace and is designed to pair seamlessly with AV DSS, allowing growers to review drone-collected data easily for both quick insights and deeper analysis.

Quantix collects RGB and NDVI multispectral images that can be viewed on-site immediately after each flight and then are uploaded, processed and stored securely in the cloud for growers to view either on their mobile device or a desktop computer. The AV DSS will feature a mobile app component allowing producers to collect and record infield observations. The platform is equipped with an alert system that instantly notifies farmers of anomalies in the field so that immediate action can be taken to address stressors.

AeroVironment has several videos on their website that you might enjoy watching, especially if you’re an AgNerd like me.

Listen to the ZimmCast with Matt here:ZimmCast with Matt Strein, AeroVironment

Subscribe to the ZimmCast podcast here. Use this url in iTunes or your favorite news reader program/app.

The ZimmCast

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Audio, UAV, ZimmCast

New USFRA Board Members

Cindy Zimmerman

USFRA CEO Randy Krotz, board members Anne Meis, Jennifer Houston, and Rochelle Krusemark, USFRA Chairman Brad Greenway

The U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance® (USFRA®) welcomed new board members this week representing the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council and Nebraska Soybean Association.

NCBA vice president Jennifer Houston of Tennessee, Rochelle Krusemark from Trimont, Minn., and Anne Meis of Elgin, Nebraska join USFRA’s 17-member Board of Directors and more than 100 affiliates and industry partners to help further the dialogue between consumers and farmers and ranchers.

“Through our many conversations with consumers and influencers, it’s critical that we showcase the diversity of agriculture and highlight how farmers and ranchers are using technology to be more efficient and sustainable,” says Brad Greenway, USFRA Chairman and South Dakota crop and livestock farmer. “Our newest board members are incredible leaders and advocates for agriculture, and we look forward to utilizing their expertise to expand our SMART Farm initiative and other programs that aim to earn trust in U.S. food and agriculture.”

USFRA elected these three board members at its spring board meeting this week in St. Louis, which also included updates on USFRA’s SMART Farm launch.

Ag Group, USFRA

Wisconsin Dairies Hit Hard By Canadian Trade Actions

Lizzy Schultz

Over 70 Wisconsin dairy operations are already feeling the blow from a protectionist Canadian trade policy that has slammed the door on American dairy exports, violated existing trade commitments, and left farmers across the state scrambling to find milk buyers.

Grassland Dairy Products Inc. informed over 70 operations this week that their contracts with the company will end May 1st, leaving affected farmers without buyers and at risk of losing their operations. The company cited a substantial loss of ultra-filtered milk exports following new Canadian dairy pricing regulations as the reason behind the broken contracts.

The controversial policy has re-priced Canadian milk products in ways that negatively impact demand for imported products like ultra-filtered milk. Canada is the largest export market for U.S. agriculture, and nearly one billion dollars in trading revenue comes into Wisconsin each year from products shipped to Canada.

“This is a huge deal to us,” said Wisconsin Secretary of Agriculture Ben Brancel in an interview this week. “For every seven days that we’re producing dairy products, one of those days is used in the export market, and this shows what happens when you lose part of that market.”

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) has expressed concern over this looming policy for over a year. Secretary Brancel and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker first began making conversation with U.S. and Canadian government officials about the policy and its potential impact on Wisconsin farmers early last year.

“I think we’re a little bit shocked that it came to this,” said Secretary Brancel. “I think our hope was that if we had to find a new home for milk we could do that, but because of spring flush and increases in production in other states, it has put pressure on the total capacity our processing industry has to handle the volumes of milk that they’re currently faced with.”

Wisconsin is currently calling on processors and marketing organizations to help find a place for the milk displaced by this policy, and Secretary Brancel plans to meet face-to-face with the processing industry to attempt to work out a solution for affected farmers.

Learn more in my full interview with Secretary Brancel here:
Interview with WI Secretary of Ag Ben Brancel

The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) and the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) have also condemned the policies, calling on the federal government, and on governors in northern states, to take immediate action in response to Canada’s violation of its trade commitments to the United States.

“Canada’s protectionist dairy policies are having precisely the effect Canada intended: cutting off U.S. dairy exports of ultra-filtered milk to Canada despite long-standing contracts with American companies,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF. “American companies have invested in new equipment and asked dairy farmers to supply the milk to meet demand in the Canadian dairy market. This export access has suddenly disappeared, not because the market is gone, but because the Canadian government has reneged on its commitments.”

Ag Group, Animal Agriculture, Audio, Dairy, Exports, Government, Trade

Raising Protein for a Sustainable Future

Jamie Johansen

Future Food-Tech took place in San Francisco last week and brought together over 300 food business technology leaders, investors and food-tech innovators. Brad Greenway, Chairman, U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance (USFRA) sat on a panel titled, “Creating Consumer Demand for Healthier and More Sustainable Ingredients.” As the sole panelist who represented the animal agriculture community, Brad was able to share his story and paint a picture of how protein is raised across the country.

Other panelists included:
– Moderator: Arif Fazal, Founder and Managing Director, Blueberry Ventures
– Minh Tsai, Founder, Hodo Soy Beanery
– Josh Balk, Vice President, Farm Animal Protection, The Humane Society of the U.S. and Founder, Hampton Creek
– Jonathan Wolfson, Co-Founder,TerraVia

“The panel was interesting. Discussion was formed around alternative proteins and what they consider to be sustainable. It was a very diverse conversation,” Brad said. “Sustainability and how it’s defined was a lot of what I talked about. I talked about our farm, how we have changed over the years and the SMART Farm concept from USFRA. I related the technology we use everyday to why we are sustainable because of it.”

USFRA also served as a sponsor and showcased their 360° pig farm videos. They took time to meet with food companies like Blue Diamond, Cargill, Chipotle, Dannon, General Mills and PepsiCo to discuss sustainable farming and ranching practices today and their commitment to growing a nutritious food supply.

Listen to my complete chat with Brad to learn more about panel conversations around the future of protein: Interview with Brad Greenway, Chairman, USFRA

Ag Group, Animal Agriculture, Audio, Sustainability, Technology, USFRA

IFAJ Honors 2017 Contest Winners

Chuck Zimmerman

I absolutely love this photo. So did the judges of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists Star Prize for photography contest. Here’s what it’s all about:

Australian photographer Jacqui Bateman has won the 2017 International Federation of Agricultural Journalists (IFAJ) Star Prize for Photography for her “Naked Truth” photo, which ran in Stock Journal magazine. She was honored at IFAJ’s World Congress in Pretoria, South Africa on April 3.

The image, of a nude man shearing a sheep, gained worldwide recognition when Bateman tweeted it as a response to a PETA ad featuring a nude fashion model holding an injured lamb and claiming it represented the results of the shearing process. Bateman’s shearer was as nude as PETA’s model, and his sheep was experiencing the shearing without injury.

You can find all the winners listed on this page of the IFAJ website.

IFAJ, International, Photography

NAFB Foundation To Offer $20,000 in Scholarships

Lizzy Schultz

The NAFB Foundation will be offering four $5,000 scholarships this year as part of an ongoing investment in the future of farm broadcasting and commitment to offering support for college students pursuing careers in agriculture communications.

Scholarships are available to students who meet the following criteria:
College juniors, seniors or graduate students for Fall Semester 2017
Enrolled in a college or university agriculture communications program pursuing a career in agriculture communications
Strong consideration to candidates with concentration and/or application in broadcast media (may include internet/online media distribution)
Scholarship recipients will also receive an expense-paid trip to the NAFB Convention in Kansas City, MO, November 8-10, 2017. Online applications accepted through June 12, 2017. Using or creating an user account will allow you to save the application and revisit the site during the process.

Click here for 2017 scholarship information and application materials.

Agriculture Education, Award, NAFB, University

Peanut and Cotton Growers Provide Farm Bill Input

Cindy Zimmerman

Peanut and cotton growers provided their input into commodity programs in the next farm bill during a hearing this week before the House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management.

Georgia farmer Tim McMillan testified on behalf of the Southern Peanut Farmers Federation in support of maintaining the peanut provisions of the 2014 Farm Bill and the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program in the next farm bill. “If the PLC program had not been in place, I am afraid many farms in the Southeast would no longer exist because of the downturn in the farm economy which has plagued us the past three years,” said McMillan in his opening statement.

The Southern Peanut Farmers Federation includes member organizations in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi and represents produce approximately 80 percent of the U.S. peanut crop.

Listen to McMillan’s testimony here: Tim McMillan, Southern Peanut Farmers Federation

National Cotton Council (NCC) Chairman Ronnie Lee told the panel that “market volatility and mounting economic pressures underscore the critical importance of an improved safety net for cotton farmers.” He said cotton must be brought back into the farm law’s Title I commodity policy as it “is the only program crop that does not have any long-term price or revenue protection policy in the farm bill.”

Lee, who is also from Georgia, told the panel that the U.S. cotton industry still is seeking to get cottonseed designated as a covered commodity and eligible for the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs which could help until a new farm bill is passed.

Listen to Lee’s testimony here: Ronnie Lee, National Cotton Council

Audio, Cotton, Farm Bill, Peanuts

Farm Bureau Urges Senate Confirmation of Perdue

Jamie Johansen

Yesterday we received news from the White House stating President Trump authorized emergency grazing on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas after those states were impacted by widespread wildfires. This was followed by news from USDA’s Acting Deputy Secretary Michael L. Young, who issued the memorandum. This news reminds us we are still without leadership at the USDA. Will we see Sonny Perdue confirmed this week?

vanderwahlI sat down with American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) Vice President Scott VanderWal to hear the latest talks on when Senate will complete President Trump’s cabinet.

“We are pushing really hard. We feel we need Mr. Perdue in place before Easter recess, which begins on Friday. If we don’t get it done this week we will have to wait another two weeks and that would be a shame.”

When it comes to policy issues related to agriculture, talks are happening and decisions need to be made. “We have so many things going on right now. Immigration, issues with the farm bill and of course international trade. We are trying to help the Trump Administration understand what some of the rhetoric with Mexico and Canada means to U.S. agriculture. The last thing we want to have is a disruption in trade.”

Listen to Scott’s complete comments on the confirmation of Perdue and what top priotiies will need to be discussed once he finally is able to lead the USDA here: Interview with Scott VanderWal, AFBF

AFBF, Ag Group, Audio, Farm Bureau

Senate Urged to Vote as USDA Remains in Limbo

Cindy Zimmerman

With the Senate in the midst of contentious debate over Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, agricultural interests are begging the Senate leadership to take a few minutes this week to confirm Sonny Perdue as Secretary of Agriculture before recessing for spring break. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway (R-TX) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) sent a letter to Senate leaders this week encouraging swift confirmation of Perdue. “Beyond the challenges that await the Secretary upon confirmation, we have been presented a budget blueprint for discretionary spending that had no input from the nation’s Secretary of Agriculture,” they wrote.

Meanwhile, initial House ag hearings on the next farm bill are continuing without the next agriculture secretary. The Subcommittee on Commodity Exchanges, Energy, and Credit held a hearing on credit programs Tuesday where chairman Austin Scott (R-GA) asked witness to encourage their senators to hold the vote on Perdue this week. “I think the votes are there, it’s just a matter of delays that are quite honestly from other things,” said Rep. Scott, who says the former governor of his state is a “good honest man and a hard worker that understands the issues.”

Listen to Rep. Scott’s comments here: Rep. Austin Scott urges confirmation vote for Perdue

Since the U.S. Department of Agriculture is without a secretary, it took a directive from President Trump this week to get the agency to authorize emergency grazing on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands located in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas that have been impacted by ongoing wildfires which began almost a month ago.

President Trump sent a memo to USDA Acting Deputy Secretary Michael Young authorizing the action. “I commend and thank President Trump for acting decisively in response to this dire situation,” said Young.

Audio, Government, USDA