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  • The western region of the Midwest and the state of Iowa, in particular, saw a lot of rain the last few days. Des Moines, Iowa, received 1 inch of rainfall three days in a row, breaking a record from 1878, reports Kyle Tapley, MDA Weather Services senior agriculture meteorologist.The precipitation was much needed in northeast and western Iowa as fields were undergoing dry conditions. Moving into August, temperatures are expected to sweep through the central U.S., with highs in the upper 80s. Tapley believes heat threats will remain low.Earlier this week, U.S. Crop Progress Tracker reported that 78% of the national corn crop is silking, ahead of the five-year average of 77%. The soybean crop is slightly behind the five-year average at 71% compared to 72%.“Blooming remains well behind the normal pace across Missouri and Kansas, but it's well ahead of schedule across North Dakota and Minnesota,” says Tapley. “Crop development should progress slightly faster than normal, but cooler weather during the first 10 days of August should slow crop progress again.”The U.S. Drought Monitor rates much of northwestern and central Kansas as abnormally dry. The Great Lakes region did not receive the rain that other parts of the Midwest did this week. Northern parts of Michigan and northeastern Wisconsin have also been flagged abnormally dry. See the U.S. Drought Monitor for the latest updates.  

  • With tight to negative margins continuing to pressure farmland prices, this year could be pivotal for farmland prices, according to an official at Farmers National Company based in Omaha, Nebraska.“Harvest results of 2015 will make it a pivotal year, which could impact the land market for several years,” said Randy Dickhut, AFM, vice president of real estate operations at Farmers National Company. “Farm and ranch income will drive the direction. A great deal could happen between now and November.”Farmers National Company statistics show the volume of properties for sale is down 40% over the past six months, as compared with the past two years. “The current level of available land is having a real impact on farm and ranch operations looking to expand,” said Dickhut. “Demand is still good for quality land. The market just isn’t as aggressive as in the past few years, so values are drifting sideways to lower.”The market slowdown can, in some ways, be blamed on the absence of tax policy changes, which helped prompt sales this past year to some degree. While land values are down nearly 10% in most areas, price softening is happening at different rates in each region. For example, sales in the Northwest have been brisk, as the California drought is driving activity north. The Southern Delta region hasn’t seen much decline, while parts of the Midwest are experiencing significant drops in value.In Iowa, for example, high-quality nonirrigated land averaged $12,250 in June of 2014 while in June of this year, it sold for $11,000 an acre, on average. Top land in Illinois saw a similar change, from $12,500 an acre in June of 2014 to $11,600 an acre in June of 2015. See more recent land prices in the articles below.While current buyers are predominantly active farmers and ranchers adding land to their operations, interest from investment funds and individuals is on the rise. In addition, generational land transfers continue to play a large role in market movements, as many inheriting land choose to sell.“With the softening of land values, some investors are looking at this as an opportune time to buy,” said Dickhut. “Land is considered a low-risk long-term investment, so we will see these types of buyers jumping into the land market more and more over the next several years.”Demand for cropland and grazing land from owner-operators remains good, but buyers are being more realistic in what they will pay given lower grain prices. Land professionals are recommending that sellers be more realistic in evaluating the quality of their land and the expected selling price in order to have a successful sale.Farmers National Company, an employee-owned company, is the nation’s leading agricultural landowner services company. Farmers National Company currently manages more than 4,850 farms in 24 states comprising over 2 million acres. The company has sold over 3,700 farms and more than $2.65 billion in real estate during the last five years. Additional services provided by the company include auctions, appraisals, insurance, consultation, oil and gas management, lake management, a national hunting lease program, forest resource management, and FNC Ag Stock. For more information on land listings in your region, visit the Farmers National Company website at

  • DES MOINES, Iowa (—The U.S. corn crop's condition is improving, while the soybean ratings hold steady compared to last week, according to the USDA Monday.In its Weekly Crop Progress Report, the USDA rated the U.S. corn as 70% good/excellent, vs. 69% a week ago. The crop remains behind the five-year good/excellent average of 75%. Also, 78% of the corn crop is silking vs. 55% a week ago. The USDA sees 14% of the U.S. crop in the dough stage, compared with the 17% five-year average.USDA rated the U.S. soybean crop as 62% good/excellent, equal to a week ago and behind a 71% rating a year ago. The U.S. Winter Wheat Harvest is 85% complete, compared with 75% a week ago.Al Kluis, Kluis  Commodities, says the report will be neutral to negative for corn’s market overnight tonight. The report data could be neutral-to-slightly positive for soybeans, he says.“For corn, the best crops are in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. The problems are in the central and eastern Corn Belt. The 70% good to excellent rating compares to 75% last year.    For soybeans, the excellent ratings dropped by 1% and the good ratings went up by 1%. “This compares to 71% rated good to excellent last year. The crop is not as large as last year,” Kluis says.

  • Welcome to the Procrastinators for Ethanol Web Page!You’ve had much of the summer to comment for or against the EPA’s proposed rule for blending obligations for ethanol and biodiesel for 2014, 2015, 2016 and (for biodiesel only) 2017. You have only hours left to do so.Today, at 11:59 p.m. EDT, the federal government will stop taking comments at this Web page. Just hit the “Comment Now!” button, and you’ll be given considerably more space than allowed by Twitter; you'll have 5,000 characters to weigh in on one of the EPA’s hottest topics. Most farm groups and biofuels supporters see the proposed rule, announced on May 29, as a significant delay in blending obligations (called renewable volume obligations, or RVOs) compared to the original renewable fuel standard (RFS) authorized by Congress in a 2007 energy law. Groups representing the petroleum industry, motorcyclists, and small-engine users say the rule goes too far.The ethanol lobbying group, Growth Energy, also has a page with suggested letters that can be emailed to EPA.If you want to stay silent, or on the fence, the already counts some 47,000 comments. You can also view them, with a sampling that includes support from the Kansas Farm Bureau and opposition from a New Jersey boat owner who fears a flood of E15 if EPA ramps up its requirements, which, according to EPA, would barely cross the 10% threshold next year.In Washington, D.C., today, representatives from Fuels America and other advocates of biofuels delivered over 200,000 comments to the EPA in support of a strong final rule under the Renewable Fuel Standard. “The Renewable Fuel Standard represents a promise to rural America — a promise that, when kept, helped rural economies across America make a strong comeback," said Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union and one of the Fuels America members who dropped comments off at the EPA this morning. “Today’s tremendous show of support for a strong RFS shows that it is time for the EPA to stop choosing foreign oil over rural America, and start getting the RFS back on track.”Another member of the Fuels America group, Erick Lutt of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, said that EPA’s long-delayed rule has already cost biofuel makers.  “The EPA is already responsible for $13.7 billion in frozen investment in advanced and cellulosic biofuels, and we’re risking sending jobs, innovation, and investment overseas,” Lutt said. “We can’t afford any more setbacks. The EPA must set RVOs consistent with Congress’ original intent in order to bring investment back to America and allow our country’s innovators to continue developing clean, secure American energy.”