Farm bill online tools, training funded: The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced May 29 that it will award $6 million in farm bill funds to universities and cooperative state extension services to develop online decision-making tools as well as training tools for experts to educate producers about several provisions of the new farm bill, including deciding on the Agriculture Risk Coverage versus the Price Loss Coverage programs and the Margin Protection Program for Dairy. The University of Illinois, along with the University of Missouri Food & Agricultural Policy Research Institute and the Texas A&M University Agricultural & Food Policy Center, will receive a total of $3 million to develop the online tools and to train state-based extension agents who can, in turn, help educate farmers. USDA will also award $3 million to state cooperative extension services at land-grant universities for outreach and education on the new farm bill programs.
Reducing fertilizer for feed grains: Smithfield Foods, the world's largest pork producer, and Murphy-Brown, its hog production subsidiary, are working with grain farmers to reduce excessive fertilizer use on crops grown to make feed for company hog operations. The Environmental Defense Fund helped Smithfield design the program, which received award recognition at the 2014 Walmart Sustainability Expo. The initiative will start with grain farmers in North Carolina, Virginia and South Carolina and will extend to the Midwest in 2015.
Rail report shows progress: In April, the Surface Transportation Board ordered BNSF and Canadian Pacific railways to submit weekly reports, through May 30, to demonstrate timely delivery of critical fertilizer shipments. BNSF, according to its fifth report, loaded 53 single-cargo trainloads of fertilizer to eight states in five weeks, which is one load above the six-week goal to haul 52 trainloads before May 30.
AGCO to acquire Intersystems: Global agricultural equipment manufacturer and distributor AGCO recently announced that it has agreed to acquire Intersystems Holdings Inc. and its subsidiary. Headquartered in Omaha, Neb., Intersystems is a leading manufacturer of commercial material handling solutions sold to grain operations globally. The acquisition of the feed mills, inland grain terminals and sea port facilities of Intersystems will allow AGCO to expand its grain handling and storage business in the fast-growing off-farm segment. Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed.
Sage grouse bill: Agricultural groups praised a bill to prohibit the federal government from listing the sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act as long as states prepare and carry out plans to protect the species within their borders. The Sage Grouse Protection & Conservation Act, introduced by Rep. Cory Gardner (R., Colo.), would empower states to protect the birds with habitat covering 186 million acres in 11 states. It is expected that Sen. Mike Enzi (R., Wyo.) will soon introduce companion legislation in the Senate. Public Lands Council president Brice Lee said a listing would be devastating and would lead to decreased agricultural production, outdoor recreation and energy development, severely limiting multiple uses of public lands. American Farm Bureau Federation president Bob Stallman added that "conservation plans developed at the state and local levels provide the greatest opportunity for success." As a result of a court settlement with environmental groups, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has a deadline of September 2015 to make a listing decision on the greater sage grouse.
Water rule: In a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Agriculture and Army Corps of Engineers last week, food and agricultural stakeholder groups requested more time to comment on EPA's proposed interpretive rule on "waters of the United States." Citing the complexity of EPA's draft rule, the groups maintain that comprehensive comments that represent the best interests of farmers and other public interests involved will require "deep and substantial review of lengthy and complex documents ... and careful consideration and thought into the potentially significant changes to the historical relationship enjoyed between the agricultural community and the U.S. Department of Agriculture."
Protease calculator: DSM has announced the launch of its RONOZYME ProAct Environmental Sustainability Calculator. The new web-based application allows customers and other stakeholders to quickly assess the environmental impact of using this protease in broiler production, helping them increase their sustainability, productivity and profitability. Converting complex life-cycle analysis modeling calculations into clear and understandable results, the intuitive calculator allows producers, feed manufacturers and other stakeholders in the food chain to assess the environmental benefit of adding the protease RONOZYME ProAct to broiler feeds.
Calf wellness: Zoetis announced the launch of Calf Wellness, a program that emphasizes dairy wellness solutions for all key calf and heifer growth stages, from newborn calves through pre-fresh heifers. The program focuses on five foundations of calf and heifer management: nutrition, disease management, reproduction, genetics and labor. Zoetis said its program offers a complete portfolio of products and services, backed by industry-leading expertise, to help producers and growers keep their calf and heifer programs on the path to success. The purpose of calf wellness is to provide the tools necessary to help young cattle achieve their future potential and improve Dairy Wellness. A key component of the program is a new management-focused website, CalfWellness.com, that provides producers, growers and veterinarians with hands-on tools and resources to maximize their calf and heifer programs. Resources cover a range of topics, including newborn care, disease management, postweaning growth and transition, heifer reproduction and genetics.
BRD combo vaccine: Elanco announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued a veterinary biologics license for its Titanium 5 + PH-M, a new vaccine that protects cattle against the viruses and bacteria most associated with bovine respiratory disease (BRD). Titanium 5 + PH-M provides modified-live virus protection against bovine viral diarrhea types 1 and 2, bovine respiratory syncytial virus, infectious bovine rhinotracheitis and parainfluenza-3. Each dose also protects against Mannheimia haemolytica and Pasteurella multocida bacteria and is safe for cattle at all stages of production, Elanco said. Titanium 5 + PH-M is a combination of two vaccines. Its viral component, Titanium 5, delivers modified-live protection against five important viruses that cause BRD. Its PH-M component provides coverage against two bacteria that are well-known for causing pasteurellosis (part of the BRD complex). The new vaccine is formulated with a low-reactive, water-soluble adjuvant. The result is a low-volume (2 mL), subcutaneous dose that is consistent with Beef Quality Assurance guidelines. Titanium 5 + PH-M is available in 10-dose and 50-dose packages through veterinarians and animal health distributors.