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A Weekly Update From Your Friends at the Red River Farm Network

A Weekly Update From Your Friends at the Red River Farm Network

Weekly News Highlights

Reporting Agriculture’s Business — The Red River Farm Network is in our nation’s capital this week for the National Association of Farm Broadcasting’s Washington Watch. With Sonny Perdue now in place as agriculture secretary, RRFN will spend time at USDA. In addition, RRFN will be interviewing lawmakers on Capitol Hill. This past week, RRFN broadcast from the Minnesota and South Dakota FFA Convention.s For #CropWatch17, RRFN was in the Benson/Murdock/Hancock area of west-central Minnesota. Find out more in this e-publication and on your RRFN radio affiliate. You can also find RRFN on Facebook and Twitter. The RRFN team: Carah, Mike, Randy, Jay and Don are also on Twitter.

Praise for New Agriculture Secretary — Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts says the agriculture industry needs an advocate now more than ever. “Our farmers and ranchers have been long waiting for this important role to be filled,” says Roberts. “I know Secretary Perdue will put the needs of U.S. farmers and ranchers, along with Rural America, first. And lead us in both the House and Senate to implement a productive trade policy and economic recovery in Rural America.” Senate Ag Committee Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow backed Perdue’s confirmation, even while criticizing President Trump’s budget proposal. “For months, Rural America hasn’t had a voice in this administration. Frankly, it shows. President Trump’s budget proposal makes it clear Rural America isn’t a top priority for his administration.” The Red River Farm Network is reporting from Capitol Hill this week. The NDFB is sponsoring, in part, the Washington Watch reports.

Removing Obstacles at USDA — On Sonny Perdue’s first full day as agriculture secretary, the former Georgia governor met with USDA employees. Perdue touted his experience as a farmer and explained what that means. “We as USDA want to be obstacle removers, not obstacle placers enabled to do that within the law and sound environmental policy.”

Speculation Now Moves to Other USDA Positions — With Sonny Perdue in place as agriculture secretary, the speculation now centers on who will fill the other top jobs at USDA. Politico is reporting that Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey is under consideration for the number two job at the Agriculture Department. Indiana farmer Kip Tom, who made an unsuccessful run for Congress, is also being rumored for a position in the administration. Tom was once considered a candidate for agriculture secretary and has a connection to Vice President and former Indiana governor Mike Pence.

Trump Meets with Farmers — President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue met with 14 farmers and ranchers at the White House Tuesday to discuss agriculture issues. This select group of farmers included American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall, Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey, former California Agriculture Secretary A.G Kawamura and a young woman from southeastern Minnesota. Valerie Earley is the National FFA Central Region vice president. “I think they wanted a young farmer perspective on the panel,” Earley told RRFN. “Around the table, we talked about big-picture issues like labor and immigration, trade, regulatory reform and infrastructure.” Earley says the White House meeting also focused agriculture’s next generation and what can be done to encourage young people to go into farming or a related career. It is believed this is the first time a diverse group of farmers met with a U.S. president this early in the administration since 1981 and President Reagan. “It was quite a day. I’m really thankful for the FFA jacket and the tradition behind it that allowed me to be in that room and learn so much.”

Regulatory Reform for Agriculture — In a rare White House event for farmers, President Donald Trump signed an executive order providing regulatory reform for agriculture. “I’m directing Secretary Purdue to work with other members of my Cabinet. To identify and eliminate unnecessary regulations that hurt our nation’s farmers and rural communities.” The executive order also creates an inter-agency task force on agriculture and rural prosperity, which will be led by new Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. During the roundtable discussion with 14 agriculture leaders, Trump also criticized Canada for its trade policies. A special series of Washington Watch reports will air this week on the Red River Farm Network. These reports are sponsored, in part, by the Minnesota Corn Growers Association.

Trump Won’t Terminate NAFTA “At This Time” — The debate over the North American Free Trade Agreement took a new turn Wednesday night. President Donald Trump called his Canadian and Mexican counterparts, saying the U.S. would not terminate the trade agreement at this time. Trump still wants to renegotiate NAFTA. Trump’s threat to withdraw from NAFTA was met by criticism by the business community and agriculture. Former American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman was part of a Farm Foundation Forum Wednesday. Stallman supports NAFTA, but said it may need another look. “Agriculture has concerns about the existing agreement that needs addressed. It’s time to take a look at it and maybe freshen up the agreement.” National Association of Manufacturers vice president of international economics Linday Dempsey reminded the audience that NAFTA was the first modern free trade agreement ever negotiated and that was 23 years ago. “It was completed before we could hold the Internet in our hands, before farmers could look at the dashboard of their tractors to determine their crop yield and before major technology and energy innovations helped change what and how we manufacture here and around the world.” Dempsey said one-third of all products manufactured in the United States are exported to Canada and Mexico. For more on trade policy, join the Red River Farm Network this week for special reports from Washington, D.C. The National Potato Council is a sponsor of the Washington Watch reports.

Mexican and Canadian Leaders Discuss NAFTA with Trump — More details are emerging about President Trump’s decision not to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement. Within a half an hour, Trump received calls Wednesday from his Mexican and Canadian counterparts urging him not to terminate the trade agreement. Trump told the Wall Street Journal he is convinced Mexico and Canada are now more serious about renegotiating NAFTA.

Back-and-Forth Over U.S.-Canada Trade — President Donald Trump has imposed a preliminary tariff of about 20 percent on softwood lumber coming out of Canada. This action comes just days after Trump challenged Canada’s new dairy pricing strategy. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the dairy and lumber disputes are connected during the negotiations process. Canadian President Justin Trudeau’s office released a statement reinforcing “the importance of stability and job growth in trade

Regulatory Reform Sought — North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp and Ohio Senator Rob Portman have introduced the Regulatory Accountability Act. “You know environmental or work place safety regulations have their place, but we have to have regulations that are smart,” said Heitkamp. “Not just make work or incur a lot of cost without any real benefit.” The Waters of the United States was cited as rule that was not handled properly by the regulators. Heitkamp says this bill would modernize the federal regulatory process, which hasn’t seen significant reform in 70 years. Regulatory reform will be part of the discussion during RRFN’s Washington Watch coverage this week. Thanks to North Dakota Grain Growers Association for its sponsorship of this coverage.

Trump Releases Tax Proposal — The White House tax plan includes provisions that will impact agriculture. That includes the elimination of the estate tax and alternative minimum tax. President Trump is also proposing a maximum tax rate of 35 percent for individuals, which compares to the current top of 39.6 percent. The lower brackets for individuals would be set at ten percent and 25 percent. The Trump tax plan has received both praise and criticism from lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Tax policy will be part of the conversation as RRFN reports from Washington, D.C. this week. Thanks to the North Dakota Wheat Commission for its sponsorship.

Biodiesel Tax Credit Bill Introduced — Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley has re-introduced a biodiesel tax credit bill. The legislation would extend the expired incentive program until 2020. The proposal transfers the tax credit from the blenders to the producers.

The Future of Renewable Fuels — As Trump Administration political appointments are named, there are many other key agency positions that need to be filled. “There are a number of appointments that are easy to overlook,” said Renewable Fuels Association Senior Vice President Geoff Cooper. “There’s still lots of empty positions at key agencies, the EPA being one of those.” Cooper says there is also quite a bit of discussion and concern about the budget. “We aren’t terribly concerned the RFS will be impacted by potential budget or personnel cuts. The RFS doesn’t really cost the American taxpayer anything.” In the week ahead, RRFN will report from Capitol Hill with reports sponsored, in part, by the Minnesota Farmers Union.

Lawmakers Urge Administration to Purchase Surplus Beans — North Dakota Senators Hoeven and Heitkamp and Minnesota Senators Klobuchar and Franken are asking USDA to purchase surplus pinto and kidney beans and remove the oversupply from the market. In addition to supporting dry bean farmers, North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp said the food purchases will be useful in school lunch programs and international food assistance.

Confirmation Hearing Scheduled for Branstad — Iowa Governor Terry Branstad will face the U.S. Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday. Branstad has been nominated to be the U.S. ambassador to China. President Donald Trump nominated Branstad in early December, but, it has taken this long to get the confirmation hearing on the schedule.

Unsettled Weather Pattern to Continue — University of Illinois Meteorologist Eric Snodgrass says a branch of the upper level jet stream is responsible for the ugly weather we’ve been seeing in the Northern Plains. This unsettled weather pattern could hang around for a while. “I expect this to continue. The latest long-range model projections says there’s a system reinvigorating soon. Following that, there’s another system coming middle of the week.” Snodgrass is the co-founder of Agrible and will be featured in a RRFN seminar at the 2017 Big Iron Farm Show.

Another Normal Year — Peterson Farms Seed agronomist Adam Spelhaug recommends planting corn when soil temps are in the high 40 degree range with sunshine. “We don’t need to be starting to change hybrid maturities yet. We probably start planting in May more often than we start planting in April so this is just another normal year.”

Patience — In southeastern North Dakota, many fields are in good condition, but, the cold temperature is holding up the planters. Matt Danuser, who runs Northern Plains Crop Consulting in Richland County, expects corn planting to kick in early this week if the rains holds off. There is some crop already in the ground. “The wheat and sugarbeets, I’m not too worried about. The corn that was planted just before that last rain, I get a little worried about that. It pulls in a lot of moisture in the first few days after planting and the moisture it pulled in was really cold. It can cold-shock it and cut the germ and early-season vigor on the corn so we’ll have to keep an eye on that.” Danuser is urging patience.

No GDDs Yet — North Star Ag Services crop consultant Scott Edgar says the only ground planted in his region is some of the tiled ground near Warren, Minnesota. Edgar is anxious for the temps to warm up. Edgar says farmers patiently waiting for conditions to improve. “When you don’t have any Growing Degree Days, you’re really not missing anything by having you’re seed in the bin or in the shed, but once it warms up, it will be nice to get these crops in the ground.”

Crop Watch: Murdock, MN — In the April 22-to-24 time period, farmers ventured into the field in the Murdock, Minnesota area. “Field conditions were almost perfect,” said Jesse Olson. “Some of the fields that they were going on were the ones with lighter soils and it seemed like they worked up very nicely.” As the weather changed last Tuesday, most of the planters were sidelined. Olson, who also has a seed business, does custom seed treatment for his customers. During RRFN’s Crop Watch broadcast, Olson said there is plenty of demand for his seed treatment offerings. “Especially, with a season like this with the cool and damp soils and pushing limits to get the seed in the ground.” RRFN’s Crop Watch is sponsored, in part, by AgCountry Farm Credit Services.

Waiting for Soils to Warm — At Sunburg, Minnesota, a good share of the small grains are seeded, but, most farmers are waiting for soil temps to warm up before planting corn. The ground has been somewhat tacky, keeping the planters parked. “It has not been warming up,” explains Kris Hagen, “You want to do it once, not twice. I’m thinking once it goes, it will go really fast.” DuPont Pioneer sponsors RRFN’s weekly Crop Watch broadcast.

We Need Some Sun — In the Hancock, Minnesota area, 90-plus percent of the sugarbeets are planted. Corn planting has just started. Trico Ag Services agronomy manager Eric Rice is urging his customers to be as patient as possible. Rice does not anticipate much change in management practices, including the plant population. “There may be a few down a little bit and closer to the university recommendations than they have in the past four-or-five years. For the most part, in this area, there haven’t been many changes. They’ve stuck to their guns on inputs and crops.” Rice has one wish. “We need some sun.” The weekly Crop Watch broadcast on the Red River Farm Network is sponsored, in part, by Syngenta Sugarbeets and Hilleshog.

A Few Acres Planted — When RRFN visited with Murdock farmer Randy Pothen for Tuesday’s Crop Watch broadcast, a small amount of his corn was in the ground. “This week is when you really want to be going, especially on corn.” Pothen says most growers in the area are sticking to their normal corn/soybean rotation. “I think there’s a few more beans in the area. Last year, there were a few more and this year, more yet. For sure, there’s still more acres in corn.” Thanks to the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council and the Soybean Checkoff for sponsoring RRFN’s Crop Watch.

Field Activity Begins in Minot Area — There were reports of four-to-five inches of snow in the Minot area Tuesday. Despite that, Asgrow Dekalb technical agronomist Courtney Meduna is seeing some field activity. “I saw some peas go in Thursday. Other than that, it is pretty much small grains right now.” The soil moisture profile is at capacity in many areas. Meduna says most farmers are sticking with their crop plans. “We are seeing a lot of soybean growth in this year. Every year we see a few more acres put in.”

Weather and Markets — Bower Trading President Jim Bower says this is an unusual market. “It seems like the weather forecasts are changing every six hours from good-to-bad, bad-to-good; it moves all over the place.” Last year, Bower says the weather pattern was much more predictable. With constantly changing weather forecasts, Bower says it is make it hard to predict price direction.

Checking for Frost Damage — More than 70 people are registered for the hard red winter wheat tour this week in Kansas. After this past week’s cold weather, the grain trade will be watching for any news of frost damage, but Wheat Quality Council Executive Vice President Dave Green says prior to this week, it’s been warm and wet in Kansas. “We’re probably have 75 percent of the state has adequate or surplus moisture which is unusually wet for Kansas. It has been warmer than a year ago so the crop is quite advanced.” The tour will leave Manhattan, Kansas Tuesday morning and wind up back in Manhattan at noon Thursday.

Sine Die — The North Dakota Legislature has adjourned with a $13.6 billion state budget. That’s down from $14.4 billion in the current budget cycle. When compared to the current biennium, North Dakota State University Extension will have $4.1 million less in state general funds. Legislation was passed to create a new stand-along Department of Environmental Quality. Property tax relief was also approved by transferring the responsibility for social services from counties to the state in a two-year pilot program. That is expected to provide $161 million in property tax relief. The 12 percent property tax buydown program will not continue. Governor Doug Burgum said the state is positioned for the future with “a leaner, more efficient state government.”

The Session That Forgot Agriculture — With the North Dakota Legislature wrappied up its session Thursday. North Dakota Farmers Union member advocacy director Kayla Pulvermacher calls it the session that forgot agriculture. “Obviously, we know everyone had to take a cut because of the budget situation, but, we feel agriculture took a bigger hit than it needed to.” In particular, NDFU is worried about the lower investment in agricultural research and Extension.

Listening to MN Farmers — The cost, access and availability of healthcare is a top concern for Minnesota farmers. That’s according to a new report from the Minnesota Farmers Union. “The high healthcare costs on top of the struggling ag economy makes it hard for farmers to be able to pay for it,” said Gary Wertish, president, MFU. “It’s an additional expense or burden many won’t be able to manage.” This feedback came from a series of 14 meetings hosted by MFU. Buffers were also seen as a major concern. Wertish thinks agriculture is making progress on the buffer discussions. “About a week and a half ago, Farmers Union and other ag groups met with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. We did hear it is back with the local Soil and Water Conservation Districts. If they can come up with a plan they can defend, BWSR would sign off on it. That would good to hear, putting local people in control.”

Fabian: Waiting for Governor Dayton to Negotiate — The Minnesota House and Senate have agreed to budget targets, but are waiting for the Dayton Administration to weigh in. House Environment and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Dan Fabian says the conference committee has a final bill ready to go and it will be posted early this week. Dayton has threatened to veto any bill that delays the buffer initiative. Fabian says farmers just want time to get the buffer issue handled properly. “The first round of this is due November 1 and the Alternative Practices haven’t even been approved by the BWSR Board. We’re into May and the planting season and farmers have made thier cropping plans, I don’t know how someone would pull this off.” In an interview with the Red River Farm Network, Fabian said he is troubled by the anti-agriculture sentiment expressed by sportsmen groups. “The notion and perception among some people that farmers are out there willy-nilly throwing bad stuff on their crops is so far from reality, but, a lot of people are living 30 years ago with what they believe is happening on farms.” Fabian said the Legislature finished its finance bills three weeks before the session concludes and it is time for the governor to quit wasting time and get to the negotiating table.

MN Farm Bureau Legislative Minute — Here’s the latest from the Minnesota Farm Bureau. In this report, we get an update on the Minnesota legislative session.

Prepping for New Diagnostic Lab — While the funding process for the South Dakota State University Animal Disease Research and Diagnostic Lab is now underway, SDSU is preparing for the new building on campus. Construction is scheduled to start this summer or fall. That’s according to Extension veterinarian Russ Daly. “There are things that need to be squared away before they start moving some earth. If action doesn’t happen this fall, we hope it will happen next spring.” The new lab will improve efficiencies so producers can get timely results on testing. Daly says a good example of that is the avian influenza outbreak.

Rail Velocity Picks Up — This is expected to be the 11th consecutive month of record volume for BNSF Railway to the Pacific Northwest. Soybean demand is the big driver, but corn sales were also strong over the past eight-or-nine months. After a tough winter in the PNW, BNSF Group Vice President for Agricultural Products John Miller says velocity is picking up. “May is going to be a strong month across the PNW and we’re going to be able to do that in a very fluid, very consistent way.” Miller does not expect Chinese soybean demand to abate. BNSF expects corn sales to be down year-over-year. NAFTA is in the headlines. Miller says BNSF supports free and open trade and that includes Mexico. “It is a big market and it is a big deal. I do think we have an advantage that we don’t want to squander. That is being right on Mexico’s doorstep so we can efficiently serve the Mexican market.” Miller advocates a balanced network, ranging from export business to the PNW to domestic markets, like feed, ethanol and flour.

Busy Season for Farmland Sales — Red River Land Company has just finished a very busy season of farmland sales. President John Botsford explains. “It’s been an exceptionally busy year, probably second only to 2012.” Botsford says there are a lot of different reasons for the increased land sales, but no red flags. Botsford also says nearly all the land buyers are active, local farmers. Land values seem to have stabilized. “Values have pulled back since they peaked in 2012 and 2013. In general, values are off 25 or 30 percent in most areas, but they seemed to have flat-lined now.”

Significant Challenges — Margins are tight as the 2017 growing season begins. Keith Olander, who leads the Minnesota farm business management program through AgCentric, says there are some significant challenges. “We still have farms that don’t have operating loans at this point, which is a dire situation. While it’s not all gloom and doom, we know there are things that need to be dealt with.” Olander says dairy farmers are also struggling. “We had one good year in 2014 and we’ve had a number of years in negative.”

Wanted: Boots on the Ground — University of Minnesota College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Science Dean Brian Buhr, who is also an economist, says agriculture is a cyclical business. Buhr says agricultural companies need boots on the ground coming from land grant universities. As an example, agronomists are in high demand. “We re-introduced an agronomy track. Our students initiated that. Employers said having agronomy was an important part for students. We have that coming back online.” Buhr sees strong demand for young people in livestock production systems. At this Minnesota FFA Convention, we’re also hearing about the need for ag teachers. “We haven’t had enough teachers. I hope students can see that opportunity as they attend convention.” RRFN’s coverage of the Minnesota FFA Convention is sponsored, in part, by Associated Milk Producers Incorporated.

Something for Everyone — Minnesota has nearly 11,000 FFA members. Nearly 4,000 of those students were in attendance at the state convention. State Sentinel Joe Ramstad said FFA has something to offer everyone. “I didn’t come from a farming background. I’ve grown so much through the FFA. It has the potential to shape anyone, no matter their background. I think that speaks to the power of agricultural education. Agriculture is in everything. We have to make sure we advocate for that. There’s no better way to do that than teaching agriculture.” The Red River Farm Network’s coverage of the Minnesota FFA Convention is sponsored, in part, by AgCountry Farm Credit Services……


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