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Articles from 2016 In November

Pork association donates $10K to new meats lab

The Wisconsin Pork Association (WPA) has recently made a donation of $10,000 to the new University of Wisconsin Madison Meat Science Lab. In addition, the WPA board challenged members to make individual contributions, resulting in an additional $5,000 raised.

“The WPA Board is excited about the possibilities that the new meats’ lab will present to the livestock industry in the state of Wisconsin,” said Bill Gnatzig, WPA president. “The lab will further expand teaching and research abilities at UW-Madison, benefitting students, livestock producers and consumers.  Those possibilities include a growing focus on biotechnology, animal and human medicine.  Further research of these areas creates the potential to add more value to pigs raised by our Wisconsin farmers.”

Tom Crenshaw, animal science chair, UW-Madison College of Agriculture and Life Science said the Department of Animal Sciences faculty is excited as it moves into the construction phase of the new Meat Science Building.

“The new building will dramatically improve our teaching, research, and outreach programs in the meat sciences and will provide a positive stimulus to other discipline groups in our department which focus on meat animal food production. The new facility is the largest construction project undertaken by our department since the Animal Sciences Building was built in the early 1970’s,” Crenshaw said.

He said the new Meat Science Building would not have been possible without the generous gifts provided by the Wisconsin Pork Association and numerous meat industry organizations. “We are grateful for the support.”

The mission of the new facility is to:

  • Train the next generation of meat industry leaders with cutting edge technologies;
  • Support innovative research interests through interdisciplinary collaborative efforts;
  • Provide outreach education to foster the production of wholesome meat products for the consuming public; and
  • Support the economic development of the meat industry.

Construction of the 67,540-square-foot Meat Science Laboratory is scheduled to begin in July, with occupancy slated for spring 2018. The total project cost is $45.7 million. 

The State has contributed $22.8 million, which was approved in the 2013-2015 Wisconsin State Budget.  UW-Madison and the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences have raised $22.9 million from private donations, and an additional $4 million is still needed to be raised. 

NIFA awards $6.7m for agroecosystem grants

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced 18 grants totaling more than $6.7 million for research to discover how components of the agroecosystem from soil, water and sun to plants, animals and people, interact with and affect food production. These awards are made through NIFA's Bioenergy and Natural Resources Program, Agroecosystem priority area of the Agricultural and Food Research Initiative (AFRI).

"Population growth, along with environmental factors, including the growing threat of climate change, are putting increasing demand on the land, water and other resources that produce our food," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "These investments will help us understand how we can farm more effectively and sustainably to feed the growing global population."

NIFA's AFRI Foundational: Bioenergy, Natural Resources, and Environment Program supports research on healthy agroecosystems and their underlying natural resources essential to the sustained long-term production of agricultural goods and services. Agroecosystems may include crop production systems, animal production systems, and pasture, range and forest lands that are actively managed to provide economic, societal and environmental benefits. Projects funded through this program area contribute to the knowledge needed for sustainable production of agroecosystems while retaining needed ecosystem services-such as drinking water, pollination and climate regulation.

Awards for 2016 include:

  • Arizona Board of Regents, University of Arizona, Tucson, Ariz., $439,080
  • The Regents of the University of California, Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, Calif., $439,676
  • National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C., $50,000
  • Archbold Expeditions, Venus, Fla., $499,921
  • University of Florida Board of Trustees, Gainesville, Fla., $438,705
  • Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois, Champaign, Ill., $ 440,000
  • Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois, Champaign, Ill., $439,892
  • Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind., $474,632
  • Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind., $49,500
  • University of Kentucky, Lexington, Ky., $ 149,736
  • The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, $499,094
  • The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, $439,966
  • Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Okla., $ 375,000
  • The Pennsylvania State University, State College, Pa., $471,324
  • New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, N.M., $145,205
  • The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tenn., $375,000
  • Utah State University, Logan, Utah, $499,884
  • The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System, Madison, Wisc., $498,995

For more information on these projects, visit the NIFA website.

Among this year's projects, the National Academy of Sciences will host a free, livestreamed workshop that will bring together policy makers, foundations and scientists to discuss how soil affects food security, water quality and ecosystem health and identify policy solutions and research decisions to preserve this critical resource. Archbold Expeditions, a nonprofit dedicated to long-term ecological research, will compare different grassland management systems to see which offer the most effective ecosystem benefits, such as greenhouse gas management and water use efficiency.

Previous agroecosystem projects include a research and education initiative by North Carolina State University that investigated how farming practices such as tillage, pesticide and fertilizer use can affect beneficial soil organisms like arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. Scientists and extension educators from the University of Idaho, Washington State University, Oregon State University and USDA's Agricultural Research Service collaborated on a planning grant to develop sustainable agriculture in the rain-fed cereal production areas of the inland Pacific Northwest.

U.S. farm equipment exports decline 14%

Exports of U.S.-made agricultural equipment were down 14% overall for the first three quarters of 2016 compared to 2015 January – September, for a total $5.1 billion shipped to global markets.

Europe and Central America continued to be the growth leaders with Asia leading the double-digit declines for the other world regions, according to the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), citing U.S. Department of Commerce data it uses in global market reports for members.

“In the third quarter of 2016, U.S. agriculture equipment exports to the world continue to decline, and the year-over-year third-quarter exports were lower than year-to-date, with a 17.6% Y/Y decline, the highest Y/Y quarterly decline this year so far,” said AEM’s Benjamin Duyck, director of market intelligence.

“The ag equipment industry continues to suffer from a global ag downturn in large part due to low commodity prices. While some countries might benefit from their higher commodity production levels, the U.S. manufacturers are watching from the sidelines as a strong dollar is making them less competitive in the global marketplace. Of course, the strong currency is a problem that plagues all U.S. exports,” Duyck added.

“Our expectations for the fourth quarter remain subdued as the U.S. dollar is experiencing its longest rally in 16 years,” Duyck stated. “With the global economic malaise, the slowdown in emerging markets and the negative interest rates seen in several economies’ bond markets, investment is flowing to the U.S. and U.S. stocks, driving up demand for our dollar, inadvertently affecting our competitiveness abroad.”

Exports by world region

January-September 2016 U.S. agricultural equipment exports by major world regions compared to January-September 2015: 

  • Canada dropped 15%, for a total $1.5 billion
  • Europe gained 4%, for a total $1.2 billion
  • Central America gained 16%, for a total $978 million
  • Asia fell 44%, for a total $440 million
  • Australia/Oceania fell 30% for a total $395 million
  • South America dropped 28%, for a total $374 million 
  • Africa decreased 21%, for a total $160 million

Exports by Top 10 countries

The top countries buying the most U.S.-made agricultural machinery during the first three quarters of 2016 (by dollar volume) were:

  • Canada - $1.5 billion, down 15% 
  • Mexico - $873 million, up 19%
  • Australia - $353 million, down 29%
  • Germany - $185 million, up 0.2%
  • China - $156 million, down 66%
  • France - $128 million, down 10%
  • Ukraine - $123 million, up 244%
  • Brazil - $115 million, down 33%
  • South Africa - $91 million, down 30%
  • United Kingdom - $89 million, down 32%

Ag exports forecasted to continue climbing

Fiscal year 2017 agricultural exports are projected at $134.0 billion, up $1.0 billion from the August forecast, largely due to expected increases in dairy and livestock byproduct exports, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service’s latest agricultural trade outlook.

“At a projected $134 billion in 2017, U.S. farm exports continue to rally and remain on the record-setting pace of the past eight years,” said secretary of agriculture Tom Vilsack. “Since 2009, the United States has exported more than $1 trillion in agricultural products, far more than any other period in our history, thanks to the productivity and ingenuity of American farmers and ranchers, aided in part by the work of USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service to arrange and support trade missions and of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to break down trade barriers.”

The $134-billion forecast represents an increase of $4.3 billion from 2016 and would be the sixth-highest total on record. U.S. agriculture is once again expected to post a trade surplus, totaling $21.5 billion, up nearly 30% from the $16.6 billion surplus in 2016.

"The expected volume of 2017 exports is noteworthy, with bulk commodity exports expected to surpass last year's record levels - led by soybeans at a record 55.8 million metric tons, and corn, up 11% from last year, to 56.5 million metric tons. The volume of cotton exports is expected to begin recovering and most livestock and poultry products should see moderate increases in export volume as well,” Vilsack said.

While beef and pork forecasts remain unchanged, dairy is forecast $500 million higher at $5.3 billion. Grain and feed exports are forecast up $300 million to $29.6 billion, driven primarily by stronger wheat volumes and unit values as well as by corn volumes, helping to offset expected declines in rice exports. Cotton exports are forecast at $4.4 billion, a $200 million increase, due to a poor harvest in Brazil and production uncertainty in India. Soybean export volumes continue to set records, raising the soybean forecast $500 million, which is countered by expected declines in soybean meal, soybean oil and other oilseed products. Overall, the oilseed and product forecast remains unchanged at $31.0 billion.

Forecasts to China and Mexico received the largest upward adjustments, each increasing $300 million. China continues to be forecast as the top market for fiscal year 2017 at $21.8 billion, followed by Canada ($21.3 billion) and Mexico ($18.3 billion).

The report noted that the election of Donald Trump as U.S. President “has introduced an element of uncertainty as the emphasis of the next administration’s economic policy agenda is unknown.” ERS noted “a change in the U.S. trade relationship with China and Mexico is of particular concern for agricultural competitiveness.” Together these two countries were the destination for an average of almost one-third of total U.S. agricultural exports from 2013-2015. China alone was the destination for roughly 60%of U.S. soybean exports, on average, during this period.

U.S. agricultural imports in fiscal year 2017 are forecast at $112.5 billion, down $1.0 billion from the August forecast. Reduced imports of horticultural, sugar, and tropical products are leading the forecast decline. As a result, the U.S. agricultural trade surplus is expected to increase to $21.5 billion in fiscal 2017.

Exports are responsible for 20% of U.S. farm income, also driving rural economic activity and supporting more than one million American jobs both on and off the farm, Vilsack noted.

Read the full forecast.

Farm income continues on downward slope

Farm income continues on downward slope

Farm income was already projected lower in 2016, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture ratcheted their estimates even further lower in its latest forecast released Nov. 29.

Net cash farm income for 2016 is forecast at $90.1 billion, down 14.6% from the 2015 estimate.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, said although the forecast is down, it shows the health of the overall farm economy is “strong in the face of challenging markets.” He added, “After reaching record highs in 2012-2014, net farm income declined in 2015 and is forecast to decline in 2016, but the bigger picture shows that farm income over the last five-year period reflects the highest average five-year period on record.”

Cash receipts across all commodities are expected to fall $23.4 billion (6.2 percent) in 2016. This net impact can be decomposed into a separate 'price effect' that lowers receipts by $41.3 billion and a 'quantity effect' that raises receipts by $17.5 billion (plus a $0.5-billion increase in receipts for minor commodities whose prices could not be differentiated from overall receipts).

Net farm income, a more comprehensive measure of profitability, is forecast to be $66.9 billion in 2016, down 17.2% from the 2015 estimate, and $4.6 billion lower than what was previously forecast in August. Jim Williamson, who leads the farm income and wealth statistics team at USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) shared that the primary driver of those changes comes from the updated November WASDE (World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates) which called for increased supplies and lower prices. Although crop receipts were up $4.2 billion, it was not able to counter the decline in animal and animal product receipts.

Overall, cash receipts are forecast to fall $23.4 billion (6.2%) in 2016 due to a $23.4-billion (12.3%) drop in animal/animal product receipts; crop receipts are forecast essentially unchanged from 2015. Nearly all major animal specialties—including dairy, meat animals, and poultry/eggs—are forecast to have lower receipts, including a 14.8-percent drop ($11.6 billion) in cattle/calf receipts.

A marginal expected gain in crop cash receipts is driven largely by a $5.3-billion increase in oil crop receipts, primarily soybeans, while feed crops (mainly corn) and vegetables/melons are down $2.2 billion (3.8%) and $1.4 billion (6.9%), respectively. While overall cash receipts are expected to decline, receipts for several crop commodities are expected to increase by at least 10% above 2015 estimates, including cotton, up $0.9 billion (17.5%).

Likewise, while animal and animal product receipts are forecast overwhelmingly down in 2016, turkey (up $0.6 billion or 10.6%) and miscellaneous livestock (up $0.2 billion or 2.9%) receipts both grew. Direct government farm program payments are projected to rise $2.1 billion (19.1%) to $12.9 billion in 2016.

Williamson said the regional distribution of farming patterns has created a variable impact on net farm income depending on the regions. Because livestock net cash income is down across the board, those areas more heavily dependent on livestock and dairy production experienced greater pressure. The northern crescent region of the upper northeast saw 9.5% declines due to dairy prices, whereas the Heartland and Mississippi Portal saw benefits of higher soybean prices pull their net cash income up 4.1% and 11.8% respectively.

For the second year in a row, production expenses are down. Total production expenses are forecast down $9.2 billion (2.6%) compared to 2015, led by declines in farm-origin inputs (feed, livestock/poultry, and seed) as well as fuel/oils.

Williamson said although the debt-to-asset ratio, which helps determine the solvency of the sector and the ability to meet payments in the face of crisis, has picked up for the fourth straight year. ERS reported farm asset values are forecast to decline by 2.1% in 2016, and farm debt is forecast to increase by 5.2%.

“Farm sector equity, the net measure of assets and debt, is forecast down by $79.9 billion (3.1%) in 2016,” the report noted. “The decline in assets reflects a 0.5-percent drop in the value of farm real estate, as well as declines in animal/animal product inventories, financial assets, and machinery/vehicles. The rise in farm debt is driven by higher real estate debt (up 8.6%).”

Vilsack said as seen in the August forecast, “the estimates again show that debt to asset and debt to equity ratios -- two key indicators of the farm economy's health -- continue to be near all-time lows, and more than 90% of farm businesses are not highly leveraged.”

The median income of farm households increased steadily over 2010-14, reaching an estimated $81,637 in 2014. After dipping in 2015, median farm household income is forecast to remain essentially unchanged in 2016 at an expected $76,839.

In recent years, slightly more than half of farm households have lost money on their farming operations each year; most of these households earn positive off-farm income, ERS reported.

Read more here.

General Mills, USDA team together on pollinator habitat

General Mills, the Xerces Society, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture announce a major milestone in their partnership to restore and protect pollinator habitat across hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland in North America. The five-year, $4 million financial commitment between General Mills and USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will support farmers across the U.S. by providing technical assistance to plant and protect pollinator habitat, such as native wildflower field edges and flowering hedgerows.

Through 2021, this partnership will help to plant over 100,000 acres of pollinator habitat. Providing habitat in agriculture landscapes has been shown to help a variety of pollinators, including bumble bees, squash bees, honey bees and butterflies, and provides benefits to crops that need insect pollinators. Such habitat can also improve water quality, reduce soil erosion and provide habitat for game and songbirds.

"Two-thirds of the continental United States is privately owned, making the land management decisions of America's farmers, ranchers and forest landowners essential to pollinator health," NRCS Chief Jason Weller said. "Agricultural producers can make relatively simple tweaks on working lands that benefit bees, butterflies and other pollinators while improving the operation as a whole. NRCS offers more than three dozen conservation practices that can benefit pollinators, and this partnership will enable us to better plan and implement these practices."

In North America alone, bees are responsible for over $25 billion in agricultural production each year. In addition to improving the yield of many crop species, research demonstrates that pollinators such as bees may also improve the nutritional value and commercial quality of some crops.

"Pollinators supply one-third of the food and beverages that Americans consume," said Jerry Lynch, chief sustainability officer at General Mills. "As part of General Mills' global commitment to treat the world with care, our investment will help pollinators to continue to play a key role in sustainable food production in the U.S."

To create and accelerate habitat restoration for pollinators, this partnership will support six Xerces/NRCS Pollinator Conservation Biologists jointly managed by the NRCS and the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, the largest and oldest pollinator conservation organization in the world. This biologist team will support U.S. farmers by providing individual consulting on habitat restoration and pollinator-friendly farm management practices, evaluate habitat, and serve as advisors to other conservation agency staff in the regions they serve. The biologists will be based in California, Nebraska, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Maine.

"To date, our work with NRCS has resulted in hundreds of thousands of acres of new or improved habitat," said Scott Hoffman Black, executive director of the Xerces Society. "This partnership will allow us to expand conservation support in the Midwest, Northeast and California, reaching many more farmers and bringing greater benefits to the pollinators on which we all rely." 

For more information about pollinator conservation and to get involved, visit www.xerces.org or www.nrcs.usda.gov/pollinators .

Record rib-eye to strip loin ratio reported

Record rib-eye to strip loin ratio reported

The gap between rib-eyes and strip loins continues to widen, according to Urner Barry analyst Gary Morrison. Rib-eyes have continued to climb amid solid interest for the holiday season, while strip loins have traded sideways, he said.

The rib-eye is now trading nearly 2.0 times that of the strip loin, up from 1.7 times only three weeks ago. The 17.3% increase in the ratio now puts it in record territory, surpassing the 2008 record last seen, Morrison noted.

“The spring holiday season could jolt the market," he said. "Buyers may perceive a real value for strip loins at current prices, so look for upward pressure when interest commences in 2017.” 

New research highlights benefits of improved fiber digestibility

Recent results from a trial carried out by Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada have shown that application of a fiber pretreatment to dairy total mixed rations (TMRs) before feeding can significantly increase overall milk production efficiency by 11.3%.

The trial was carried out at the Lethbridge Research & Development Center in Alberta and used 60 early-lactation Holsteins fed a silage-based TMR. The cows were split into three groups and fed either the control TMR with no pretreatment or the TMR following application of 0.5 mL or 1.0 mL/kg dry matter of a Trichoderma reesei-derived fungal extract applied before feeding.

“The pretreatment acts to roughen and create pits in the surface of the fiber in the ration and so increase both the rate and extent of bacterial colonization of the fiber once in the rumen,” AB Vista nutritionist Dr. Nicola Walker explained. “This reduces the lag time before fiber digestion in the rumen begins by around one hour and leads to improved overall digestibility of the ration.”

The Table outlines the main results of the trial, with the cows fed the treated TMR maintaining fat-corrected milk (FCM) yield with 2 kg per day less in dry matter intake (DMI). The overall effect was a significant improvement in milk production efficiency from 1.50 to 1.67 kg FCM/kg DMI, plus a trend towards improved milk protein content.

Effect of fiber pre-treatment on early lactation milk production efficiency


-----------Dose of fiber pre-treatment-----------



0.5 mL/kg DM

1.0 mL/kg DM

DMI, kg/day




Milk yield, kg/day




3.5% FCM, kg/day




Milk fat, %




Milk protein, %




Milk efficiency, kg FCM/kg DMI




“These changes are what you’d expect if energy supply increased as a result of an improvement in ration digestibility — more production from the same feed, or as in this case, the same production from less feed,” Walker said. “The possible increase in milk protein is also indicative of increased energy supply to the cow. These results back up the findings of other similar trials that have taken place in Europe.”

In a commercial-scale trial carried out on a U.K. dairy farm last year using 50 first-lactation heifers, pretreatment increased the TMR digestibility value (from 63% to 67%), milk yield (1.3 liters more per cow) and milk protein (from 3.58% to 3.70%). Improvements in fertility were also observed, with a higher rate of confirmed pregnancies (84% versus 64%), while a larger-scale trial in Bulgaria using 310 cows fed a corn silage-based TMR saw feed efficiency improvements lift yields by one liter per cow.

“One of the main priorities for U.K. milk producers at the moment is to maximize milk from all feeds, not just forage,” Walker said. “Because fiber typically makes up 45-50% of the dry matter consumed and is the slowest-digesting fraction of the diet in the rumen, any improvement in fiber digestion efficiency has a substantial impact on overall feed efficiency.

“Not only does this potentially increase productive performance, but as the U.K. trial shows, it may also have an impact on fertility, and the impact can be particularly beneficial during early lactation, when energy requirements exceed intake and cows spend the first few weeks post-calving in negative energy balance,” she concluded.

Multi-drug-resistant salmonella outbreak linked to dairy bull calves

Multi-drug-resistant salmonella outbreak linked to dairy bull calves

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) is working with Wisconsin health, agriculture and laboratory agencies, several other states and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to investigate a multistate outbreak of multi-drug-resistant Salmonella Heidelberg infections.

Twenty-one people infected with an outbreak strain of S. Heidelberg have been reported from eight states: Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Idaho, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota and California. Among 19 people with available information, illnesses started on dates ranging from Jan. 11, 2016, to Oct. 24, 2016.

Source: CDC

Public health investigators used the PulseNet system to identify illnesses that may have been part of this outbreak. PulseNet, coordinated by CDC, is the national subtyping network of public health and food regulatory agency laboratories. PulseNet performs DNA fingerprinting on salmonella bacteria isolated from ill people by using techniques called pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and whole-genome sequencing (WGS). PulseNet manages a national database of these DNA fingerprints to identify possible outbreaks.

WGS showed that isolates from ill people are closely related to one another genetically. This close genetic relationship means that people affected by this outbreak are more likely to share a common source of infection.

Investigation of the outbreak

Epidemiologic, traceback and laboratory findings have identified dairy bull calves from livestock markets in Wisconsin as the likely source of infections. The claves have also been purchased for use with 4-H projects.

In interviews, ill people answered questions about any contact with animals and foods eaten in the week before becoming ill. Of the 19 people interviewed, 15 (79%) reported contact with dairy bull calves or other cattle. Some of the ill people interviewed reported that they became sick after their dairy bull calves became ill or died.

One ill person's dairy calves were tested for the presence of salmonella bacteria. This laboratory testing identified S. Heidelberg in the calves. Further testing using WGS showed that isolates from ill people are closely related genetically to isolates from these calves. This close genetic relationship means that the human infections in this outbreak are likely linked to ill calves.

As part of routine surveillance, the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene -- one of seven regional labs affiliated with CDC's Antibiotic Resistance Laboratory Network -- conducted antibiotic resistance testing on clinical isolates from the ill people associated with this outbreak. These isolates were found to be resistant to antibiotics and shared the same DNA fingerprints, showing that the isolates were likely related to one another.

WGS identified multiple antimicrobial resistance genes in outbreak-associated isolates from 15 ill people and eight cattle. This correlated with results from standard antibiotic resistance testing methods used by CDC's National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System laboratory on clinical isolates from two ill people in this outbreak. The two isolates tested were susceptible to gentamicin, azithromycin and meropenem. Both were resistant to amoxicillin-clavulanic acid, ampicillin, cefoxitin, ceftriaxone, chloramphenicol, nalidixic acid, streptomycin, sulfisoxazole, tetracycline and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole and had reduced susceptibility to ciprofloxacin.

Antibiotic resistance limits treatment options and has been associated with increased risk of hospitalization, bloodstream infections and treatment failures in patients.

Traceback information available at this time indicates that most calves in this outbreak originated in Wisconsin, CDC said. Wisconsin health and agriculture officials continue to work with other states to identify herds that may be affected.

Soybeans can't hold rally: Podcast

Crude oil shot $3.50 a barrel higher Wednesday, with apparent agreement among OPEC countries to cut production. While the prospect was supported by U.S. stock indexes and the dollar, the impact was muted in the grain markets.

Soybeans started weakening soon after the morning open, with another day of profit-taking starting to take hold at mid-morning. USDA released its latest forecast of net farm income, showing even lower profits in agriculture for 2016 than previous estimates.

Bryce Knorr of Farm Futures reporting. Farm Futures is a sister publication of Feedstuffs.