Purdue plans outlook webinar: Purdue's Center for Commercial Agriculture has scheduled an outlook webinar for 2 p.m. (EST) Dec. 19. Purdue economists Chris Hurt, Mike Boehlje, Michael Langemeier and Jim Mintert will lead the webinar and address the following questions: What's the crop and livestock outlook for 2014? What are the expected returns for corn and soybeans in 2014? What are the implications for cash rental rates and farmland values? Are there key strategies farm and agribusiness managers should focus on in the year ahead? More information is online at www.agecon.purdue.edu/commercialag/progevents/managing_your_business_webinar.html.
EU insecticide ban in effect: On Dec. 1, the European Union's temporary ban on three types of neonicotinoid insecticides went into effect. The suspension is an attempt to protect bee populations. Last year, France was the first to suspend neonicotinoid seed treatment, which is widely used in the production of winter wheat, oilseed rape, barley, corn, sunflowers and sugar beets. The Humbolt Forum for Food & Agriculture released a report last January indicating that yields will decline 20% without access to neonicotinoid technology. Syngenta and Bayer CropScience launched a legal challenge against the decision. The decision to suspend the neonicotinoid insecticides will be re-examined in 2015.
CHS, Greenway discuss merger: Greenway Cooperative, a diversified agricultural retailer based in Rochester, Minn., and CHS Inc. have signed a letter of understanding to initiate the preliminary study of a formal business merger. If approved, the outcome would include significant investment in agronomy operations in southeastern Minnesota. The Country Operations unit of CHS currently operates a service center in the Ostrander/Grand Meadow area of Minnesota. "Our number-one priority is to protect our members' equity," said Gary Hoffman, Greenway board chairman. "As we look to continue expanding for our members and being able to take care of the co-op's employees, CHS brings a lot to the table." Any proposed business agreement would be voted on by Greenway's 900 voting members.
Bioenergy research grants awarded: The U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Energy announced $8 million in research grants to develop non-food feedstocks that can be used for bioenergy. The USDA and DOE projects are designed to improve biomass to be grown for biofuels, including selected trees and grasses, by increasing their yield, quality and ability to adapt to extreme environments. Researchers will rely on the advanced techniques of modern genomics to develop breeding and other strategies to improve the crops. The research will be conducted on switchgrass, poplar and pine, among other plants. USDA-funded projects include $1 million each to the University of Florida and Oregon State University. DOE-funded projects include $1.386 million to Colorado State University, $1.314 million to the University of Georgia, $998,564 to the University of Illinois at Urbana, $863,576 to Purdue University and $1.543 million to the University of North Carolina.
Drop-in biofuels: Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced Dec. 11 that the "Farm-to-Fleet" joint venture between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Navy will now make biofuel blends part of regular, operational fuel purchases and use by the military. The announcement incorporates the acquisition of biofuel blends into regular U.S. Department of Defense domestic solicitations for jet engine and marine diesel fuels. The Navy will seek to purchase JP-5 and F-76 advanced drop-in biofuels blended from 10% to 50% with conventional fuels. Funds from USDA's Commodity Credit Corp. will assist the effort. Preliminary indications from the Defense Production Act Title III Advanced Drop-in Biofuels Production Project are that drop-in biofuels will be available for less than $4/gal. by 2016, making them competitive with traditional sources of fuel. The program gets underway with a bulk fuel solicitation in 2014, with deliveries expected in mid-2015. USDA and the Navy also are collaborating on an Industry Day on Jan. 30, 2014, where stakeholders can learn more about Farm-to-Fleet.
Citrus greening: After listening to the citrus industry's request for more urgency and greater coordination on the response to Huanglongbing (HLB), commonly called citrus greening, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the creation of a new unified emergency response framework. "To jump-start this initiative and affirm our commitment to industry, USDA is also providing $1 million to be used in support of research projects that can bring practical and short-term solutions to the growers in their efforts to combat this disease," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. "Through the Specialty Crop Research Initiative of the farm bill, USDA has provided $9 million in research to block the ability of insects to spread HLB to healthy trees." The new framework will bring together USDA's Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service, Agricultural Research Service and National Institute of Food & Agriculture, state departments of agriculture and the citrus industry into a multi-agency coordination (MAC) group for HLB. It will provide the industry with a single contact for all federal and state entities that work on citrus issues and will better enable the collective to collaborate on policy decisions, establish priorities, allocate critical resources and collect, analyze and disseminate information. The HLB MAC Group will also help coordinate federal research with industry efforts to complement and fill research gaps, reduce unnecessary duplication, speed progress and more quickly provide practical tools for citrus growers to use.