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  • It may be a little early to start talking about 2015 planted acreage, but there are plenty of opinions on just how much farmers will increase soybean planting.

  • Crude oil futures have sunk to four-year lows, giving farmers an ample window to consider pricing their fuel needs for 2015.

  • Beginning Oct. 22, all Class I railroads will be required to publicly file weekly data reports regarding service performance.

  • Private analytical firm Informa Economics boosts U.S. soybean production above 4 billion bushels while holding corn production steady at 14.4 bb

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  • “The question of feeding the world in a sustainable way offers many challenges,” Charles Rivkin told participants on the concluding day of the World Food Prize Symposium in Des Moines, Iowa.Rivkin, assistant secretary, bureau of economic and business affairs, U.S. Dept. of State joined a panel moderated by World Food Prize Symposium president Kenneth Quinn. “As Nobel Prize Laureate Norman Borlaug once said, ‘You can’t build a peaceful world on empty stomachs and human misery.’ ” Rivkin said. Rivkin said that making sure our agricultural system functions well is a food security issue. “It’s an economic security issue,” he said. “And it’s an energy security issue. As we saw during the food price riots of 2008, it’s also a national security issue. And as we learned during the famine in Somalia in 2011, which claimed more than 250,000 lives, it’s also a moral issue. “Agriculture is a cornerstone of our economy, and a sector in which we consistently enjoy a trade surplus,” he said. “We continue to leverage technology and ecological know-how of American scientists and farmers to make significant advances in precision farming, breeding and biotechnology to raise productivity, improve food security and nutrition to build resilience and advance development.  On the global stage, we’re committed to open markets that yield affordable and stable supplies of wheat and other staples to the world, and making sure the poorest countries have better access to these markets”.Rivkin said the U.S. is working closely with global partners across sectors to support smallholder farmers in initiatives including Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative focusing on 19 countries, based on these five criteria: Level of need; Opportunity for partnership; Potential for agricultural growth; Opportunity for regional synergy, and Resource availability.The New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition was launched in 2012 by the president with African leaders and the private sector to support investment in African agriculture.Rivkin said that Pierre Ferrari, president of CEO of Heifer International, who spoke at the World Food Prize Symposium in 2012, said, “Smallholder farmers are best change agents we have to help feed this hungry world.”“We’re also committed to ensuring that women farmers, who make up 50% of farmers in Asia and Africa have the same access to land, agricultural inputs and markets as men,” he said. “As we work toward these and other goals, we’re mindful of the agriculture’s environmental footprint.”Rivkin also mentioned the Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture, recently launched at the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit in New York. It’s working to reduce greenhouse gases, provide economic opportunities for farmers, particularly women. “That’s another key step in the right direction,” he said.Rivkin said that Borlaug once said he was working with a team fighting a losing war on the food production front. “Today the team is many times bigger, and everyone has a part to play,” he said. “While it might have seemed like a losing war when he said those words, today’s it a war we’re winning. One hundred years after his birth, we’re bringing that global team together to fight hunger, poverty, and under nutrition, and safeguard our food security. Given the commitment of so many from all sectors around the world, I have to say:  I like our chances.”Panelists Offer PerspectivesPanelist John Hamre, president and CEO, Center for Strategic and International Studies, was less optimistic than Rivkin. “We know how to win wars, but not how to build countries,” he said. “A hard defense is much less effective than soft love.”He cited a study of 189 countries that found intangible resources like quality education, a stable currency, fair judicial system, and a common shared purpose made the difference in a country’s success or failure.  “Every one of these is a product of good government,” he said.He cited two current examples making news headlines: Ebola and ISIS. “They’re different problems, but they’re happening where government is corrupt and illegal, and ineffective in dealing with problems. All complex problems are horizontal. All governments are vertical. We can’t solve all of our problems as sovereign states alone.”He added, “The human condition now becoming seamless. Closing airports won’t solve Ebola. It’s like putting a band aid on someone who has cancer.”Panelist Daniel Speckhard, a former ambassador and now president and CEO of Lutheran World Relief, agreed. “If you turn on the news, the world is facing war, famine, and the modern equivalent of the plague,” he said. He pointed to the need to think strategically about achieving stability at the global, regional and local levels. “Local level efforts are needed to help farmers and communities become more resilient,” he said. “That’ why I’m excited that Lutheran World Relief is working in West Africa during this period of drought to reduce migration and increase food security, as an antidote to unrest in the region.”Speckhard cited three big picture factors that are coinciding:Declining power and influence of the U.S.The weakened economy and internal politics of EuropeThe national rise of Russia and China reasserting their presence He listed on-going conflicts and violence at the regional levels in Syria, Israel, Palestine, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Africa, Central America, Asia, North Korea, Pakistan and Afghanistan.“All this is taking place as we try to stay on track to feed 9 million people by 2050,” he said. “And it’s all complicated by climate change.”He added, “Just as we build resilient crops, it’s equally important to build resilient political systems. We need to keep pushing back at populist and nationalistic tendencies overseas and at home,” he said. “They make us lose sight of our global geopolitical interests.”Hamre raised the need for new tools to build a global framework. “We don’t have a global institution focus,” he said. “We have treaties and consensus coalitions. Institutions atrophy over time, and coalitions don’t give the next generation a framework. Some global frameworks are regarded as illegitimate because white guys set them up after World War 2. He suggested the World Bank as well as the private sector could be helpful. “The Gates Foundation is doing more to shape global health than the U.S. government,” he said. “It’s like the yeast in the dough that enlivens the world efforts. Companies have to build factories close to farmers. I know of one company that hired 3,000 people to train these farmers. A company can’t afford the risk of adulated products.”Speckhard agreed on the need for the private sector and nonprofits to partner. “In this era of dramatic change, governments are distracted by the speed and breadth of the crisis, and missing the long term.”Hamre said he remains concerned about global recession. “Young people have more global consciousness, connectedness and responsibility. Eventually their voices will be heard in Washington. The younger generation will change politics, I just wish they’d hurry up.’Quinn concluded with a plea for urgency. “I’m more pessimistic about whether political stability and health issues will ameliorate enough so agricultural production can take place,” he said. “The potential for catastrophe is greater than people might think. Whether we meet the challenge or not hangs in the balance. Global leaders are not treating it with urgency it deserves.”

  • Now likely more so than at any point in the last 5 or 6 years, getting every last penny you can when marketing your grain is of utmost importance. Doing so can be tough sometimes when the most optimal terminal isn't on your radar.Consider FarmLead your new radar screen. The ag startup, founded in November 2012 by Saskatchewan farmer Brennan Turner, has a new "e-commerce solution for the grain trade," a web- and mobile-based platform that connects grain sellers with buyers, both near and far. The site, which started with farmers working with around 950,000 acres and has grown to more than 11 million acres, affords farmers the ability to essentially barter with buyers on both grain volume and prices for sales, Turner says."The problem farmers are facing is, simply put, they do not get paid until they sell their grain. Whatever happens in the futures market isn't about cutting a check for what they deliver. Farmers rely on a way to get the best cash price," says Turner, also a former hockey player with the Chicago Blackhawks NHL organization. "So, while there are so many options for selling grain, things can get confusing pretty quickly. FarmLead brings all buyers and sellers to one transparent location."The platform allows the farmer to -- initially anonymously -- negotiate price, quantity, freight and payment terms, among other variables in a grain deal. In return, sellers can ask for documentation on grain quality, production methods, and more. Though it's a more wide-open marketplace than the farmer may face when working with a broker or grain end-user, there is obvious risk involved. That's where FarmLead steps in."We make sure these companies are financially secure," Turner says. "They are the only ones who can deal directly with farmers on FarmLead.com. The farmer is expanding his or her grain marketing strategy by allowing them to access more grain buyers at any time."Turner likens the FarmLead grain bidding process to a farmer "making hundreds of phone calls at once" instead of manually calling local elevators and other terminals to market grain. The pool of potential buyers "range from individuals to large grain export companies," Turner says, adding the system is not unlike autotrader.com for buying vehicles, but for grain buyers and brokers."Our technology disrupts the brokerage process," he says, adding farmers producing crops like lentils, peas, and barley -- ones not commonly traded on an exchange -- can independently seek sales of those crops on the FarmLead.com platform. "There's a disproportionate amount of the grain trade that's going into the grain broker's pocket rather than being invested in the value chain."There is a fee for executing grain sales on the FarmLead.com system; typically, it's about $75 per trade, and Turner says trades are insured. He says the company may begin offering more "value-added services" to the site, including grain inspection and transportation options. "There are more major components of risk that we're helping take on," he says.Down the road, Turner says his company will likely look to other components of the grain value chain for new direct-marketing-type offerings for farmers, including seed, fertilizer, and chemical. "Between all of these, all aspects of the farm marketplace are covered," he adds. "We can save the farmer time and money. Overall, we hope to provide an entire farm e-commerce solution allowing agribusiness to flow more efficiently in North America and all over the world."

  • It's been cool and wet in much of the Corn Belt the last couple of weeks, but looking ahead, that's likely to change, forecasters say, and that could send corn and soybean harvest progress surging in the next week and beyond. See the latest reports from the field here and find out more from Agriculture.com Community leaders!     Soybean harvest was in full force in southwestern Minnesota when one Agriculture.com editor visited some farms in early October. Soybean yields in Minnesota have been variable, with some fields yielding well while others are yielding so-so. Some lower-yielding areas were struck by adverse weather. See more from up north   Rain has been the big talk in Nebraska this harvest season. Farmers have had to be cautious about the topsoil looking dry but still being soft underneath. Take to the field too soon, and there's a pretty solid chance of creating ruts or even getting stuck. Check out things in the western Corn Belt   So far this year, harvest has been a slow one for farmers in Iowa, delayed by slow maturing corn and frequent rains. And this week started out no different with more wet weather. Thankfully last week there was a break from the rains that allowed farmers to push combine throttles forward and bring in more crops. What's up in the central Corn Belt? What are things like in your area? Join the discussion here and see what other farmers are saying!See the latest on your crops & more in Crops NewsWhat's the weather like? Find out here What's going on in the markets? Check it out here

  • The class of soybean pesticide seed treatments about which speculation has swirled on its impact on the decline of critical pollinator populations in the U.S. has now been deemed "of little or no benefit" to the crop, federal officials said Thursday. Leaders of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Thursday a long-term study of neonicotinoid seed treatments they say have been "linked to a wide range of impacts on pollinators and are a driving factor in bee population declines" has shown the class of chemicals have basically no influence on soybean yield and, in turn, profitability."These seed treatments provide little or no overall benefits to soybean production in most situations," says EPA Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention leader Jim Jones in a government report, citing from the report summarizing the study. "In comparison to the next best alternative pest control measures, neonicotinoid seed treatments likely provide $0 in benefits to growers."Government leaders are quick to say the findings are limited to soybean production, of which 30% of the nation's acres are treated are typically treated with a neonicotinoid insecticide, many of them "prophylactic," or preventative in nature, an EPA report shows. This amounts to just over 22 million acres.Neonicotinoid seed treatments are typically less expensive than foliar treatments. But, EPA's Thursday report shows their prophylactic application may amount to a waste of money, making a foliar application carrying a slightly higher cost a more worthwhile expense."EPA proprietary data show that on average from 2004 to 2012, approximately 65% of soybean growers in the U.S. indicated that they had no pest they were targeting when using neonicotinoid-treated seed. With 30% ofthe 75 million acres of soybeans in the U.S. being treated with neonicotinoid seed treatments, this implies that approximately 8.6 million of the 23 million soybean acres using neonicotinoid seed treatments derive potential benefits from the application. Multiplying through, if 8.6 million acres of soybeans derive benefits from neonicotinoid-treated seeds, the total benefit to soybean growers in the U.S. from neonicotinoid-treated seed is at most $52 million, or 0.14% of the total value of soybean production in the U.S., with the total value of soybeans being $38.7 billion/year, on average, from 2009-2013," according to Thursday's EPA report. "Again, these benefits are unlikely given the very low historical usage of the most costly foliar alternative and the equivalent cost of comparable alternatives for the pests targeted by neonicotinoid treated soybean seeds."EPA officials admit in Thursday's report that the same data showing neonicotinoids' relative ineffectiveness could also throw a wrench in the study's overall conclusions. "With regard to three-cornered alfalfa hoppers and soil insects such as wireworms and seed maggots, which are commonly found in high numbers in the Southern U.S., our analysis indicated that these pests have not historically driven pesticide usage. However, it is possible that soybean growers have achieved some yield protection or 'insurance' benefit by usage of neonicotinoid seed treatments," according to EPA. "Given the sporadic nature of these pests, it is difficult to project how much actual yield protection is gained on a year to year basis from the use of seed treatments, especially without knowing the potential for injury prior to planting."See the full EPA reportChat the EPA report in Crop Talk

 

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