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Articles from 2017 In December

This Week in Agribusiness - December 30, 2017

Note: Start the video and all parts will play through as the full show

Part 1

Orion Samuelson and Max Armstrong are taking a look back, and a look forward, in this final episode of 2017. Max talks with Farm Broadcaster Ty Higgins, Ohio Ag Net, Columbus, Ohio, about how the year went in that part of the country. Agricultural Meteorologist Greg Soulje offers a look at the year in weather.

Part 2

Max Armstrong continues the year-end roundup talking with Farm Broadcaster Brian Winnekins, WRDN Radio, Durand, Wis., who discusses the pressures facing dairy producers in that state. In the FFA Chapter Tribute, Max profiles Renwick FFA, Andale, Kan., a new chapter that formed in 2017. The program encompasses two high schools. Member Abbie Schwab shares what members are learning about leadership during the 2017 FFA Convention. And Ag Meteorologist Greg Soulje looks ahead to the weather of 2018.

Part 3

Max Armstrong talks with Steve Bridge, WFMB Radio, Springfield, Ill., shares the surprise farmers had in his part of the country when combines rolled. Farm Broadcaster Von Ketelsen, KCIM Radio, Carroll, Iowa, shares what farmers in that part of the country found when combines rolled - higher yields.

Part 4

Max Armstrong turns the show over to Orion Samuelson who engages his annual tradition of his talk with the Secretary of Agriculture. Sonny Perdue took over the position nine months ago, but shares how he learned about the potential of being appointed to this position. And he discusses his work with President Trump and some key challenges of interest to farmers.

Part 5

Orion Samuelson continues his conversation with Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, this time with a look at the Farm Bill. Perdue offers his perspective on the key issues for that measure including crop insurance and its future. And Perdue discusses the Trump administration approach to regulation.

Part 6

Orion Samuelson continues his conversation with Secretary Perdue who shares that he started as a veterinarian but went into agribusiness and eventually into politics. Perdue talks about his travels in his first year in the job. He also talks about the opportunity in agriculture for young people. And he shares his thoughts on ag and trade.

Part 7

And this week's show wraps up with "Sonny Sez" as Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue takes over for Orion Samuelson in a special segment of Samuelson Sez. Perdue shares his vision for the Department of Agriculture and a key phrase is "customer focus."

Phospholipid pathway in plants, parasites may aid hardier crops

Recent findings by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., may aid in the development of therapies to treat parasitic infections, including malaria, and may help plant scientists one day produce hardier crops.

The research team's work was published in the Dec. 29 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Choline is an essential nutrient people get from certain foods like eggs, meat, leafy greens and nuts. The human body converts choline into phosphocholine (pCho), which it then converts into — among other essential building blocks — phosphatidylcholine (PtdCho), a component of cell membranes. Plants can't acquire the nutrient from the environment, however, so they must synthesize pCho from scratch.

The biochemical pathway plants use to synthesize pCho is also found in nematodes and the malaria parasite Plasmodium.

In plants, the enzymatic reaction that produces pCho is essential for both normal function and for responding to stresses, the researchers said. Plant pCho is converted into PtdCho, which builds membranes that can adjust their rigidity in response to temperature changes. Plant pCho also gets converted into molecules that help the plant survive high salt. The enzymes that produce plant pCho are called called phosphoethanolamine methyltransferases (PMTs).

Soon Goo Lee, a postdoctoral research fellow at Washington University in the laboratory of Joseph Jez, has been interested in PMTs in both plants and parasites for many years.

"Understanding the PMT enzyme is key to engineer plants with improved stress tolerance and enhanced nutrients," Lee said. Furthermore, since the PMT-catalyzed pathway is found in parasites but not people, Lee and Jez's team is looking for inhibitors of this enzyme to treat diseases caused by these parasites.

The new research report explains how PMTs of the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana share core features of parasite PMTs, with an almost identical structure at the active site. However, the plant PMTs are roughly twice as large as the parasite ones, with large sections that can rearrange themselves to carry out multiple chemical reactions.

Furthermore, the three PMT types found in the plant — which were thought to carry out the same function — actually appear to play different roles depending on where they are found in the plant. Plant growth experiments showed that one type of PMT was essential for root development and salt tolerance, whereas the other two had no effect on roots and instead seemed to be found primarily in leaves.

In the long run, this big-picture view of PMTs in different organisms offers routes to precisely engineer enzymes with different functions.

"I love these kinds of stories, where I can look from the atomic (structure) to the physiological level to explain why these enzymes have different forms and how they work," Lee said.

Streams can be sensors

Credit: Photo by Ben Abbott streams can be key health indicators
Scientists at Michigan State University have shown that streams can be key health indicators of a region's landscape, but the way they're being monitored can be improved.

Scientists at Michigan State University have shown that streams can be key health indicators of a region's landscape, but the way they're being monitored can be improved.

New research featured in Ecology Letters showcases how streams can be used as sensors to diagnose a watershed's sensitivity or resiliency to changes in land use practices, including the long-term use of fertilizers. Using streams as sensors — specifically near the headwaters — can allow scientists, land use managers and farmers to diagnose which watersheds can be more sustainably developed for food production, said Jay Zarnetske, Michigan State earth and environmental scientist and co-author of the study.

"We were surprised to see that the streams were good sensors of long-term nutrient conditions," he said. "Our methods show that we can learn much from a relatively small number of samples if they are collected more strategically than current watershed management practices dictate. This understanding is critical in protecting aquatic ecosystems and ensuring human water security."

Human activity, especially agriculture, has contributed to polluted freshwater ecosystems across the planet, causing massive ecological and economic damage, the university said. Excess nutrients from fertilizer and fossil fuel can trigger toxic cyanobacteria blooms and expansive hypoxic dead zones, undermining the capacity of ecosystems to provide the food and water that sustain human societies, Zarnetske added.

For the study, Ben Abbott, formerly at Michigan State and now at Brigham Young University, led an international team in a culturally and historically important region of France. The area, which has seen nearly a millennium of agricultural activity, serves as a model of how increasing use of nitrogen and phosphorous fertilizers is having lasting impacts on watersheds.

"The manipulation of phosphorous and nitrogen in the landscape is one of the greatest threats to the fate of humanity and the rest of life on this planet," Zarnetske said. "Most people have no idea that the human manipulation of the phosphorous and nitrogen cycles is occurring, is affecting nearly every place on the planet and is one of, if not the greatest, current threats to the fate of humanity."

There are dramatic aerial photos of algal blooms growing at the mouth of streams flowing into bodies of water, such as Lake Erie. However, most carbon and nutrients enter waterways upstream, at the headwaters. So, rather than try to diagnose problems at the mouth, a more efficient way to address the issue would be to sample many areas closer to the headwaters.

"Basically, instead of standing in a large stream far from the headwaters and observing what flows past us through time, we illustrate that it can be much more informative to periodically travel around the region and grab samples from the smallest to the largest streams in the watershed," Zarnetske said.

The team found that each small stream's chemistry fluctuated widely due to changes in temperature, water flow and other factors. There was order to the variability, however, as there was synchrony in the behavior of each small stream and its role in the chemistry of the larger river system.

"That was unexpected," Abbott said. "Somewhat surprisingly, we found that a single sampling of headwaters any time of year provides a lot of information about where nutrients are coming from and where to target restoration efforts."

Future research will apply these methods globally to different agricultural watersheds and forested landscapes experiencing changing precipitation patterns. For example, Zarnetske will study headwaters in the Pacific Northwest and the rapidly warming and thawing landscapes in the Arctic.

The new methods also can help direct efforts in selecting the most appropriate locations for sustainable agricultural land and development or identifying watershed responses to global warming, such as those in the Arctic.

Arctic landscapes, where soils are predominantly frozen, are rapidly thawing due to rapid climatic warming. As Arctic ice and permafrost melt, they release sediment and nutrients into rivers and seas. While the effects of these increasingly turbid waters and nutrients are unknown, the new approach can develop a baseline to begin monitoring their impact.

Additional researchers from Université de Rennes and University François-Rabelais Tours in France made key contributions to this study.

Dairy & specialty livestock markets, 12/29/2017


--------Week ending--------

Dairy products, daily cash trading, CME Group, Chicago, $/lb.

Dec. 8

Dec. 15

Dec. 22

Dec. 29







  Blocks, 40 lb.





Nonfat dry milk, Grade A





Butter, Grade AA






Specialty Livestock & Poultry

Bison, carcass (monthly), hot carcass weight, $/cwt.

  Young bulls





  Young heifers






Veal, carcass, hide-off, 255-315 lb. (hot), $/head

  Non-packer owned





  Packer owned






Slaughter lambs, $/cwt.

  New Holland, Pa.; wooled & shorn, Choice/Prime 2-3, 110-130 lb.





  Sioux Falls, S.D.; wooled & shorn, Choice/Prime 2-3, 130-149 lb.





  Fort Collins, Colo.; wooled, Choice 1-2, 111-125 lb.





  San Angelo, Texas; wooled & shorn, Choice 2-3, 100-145 lb.





Slaughter goats, $/cwt.

  New Holland, Pa.; selection 1, 60-80 lb.





  Sioux Falls, S.D.; selection 1, 66 lb.





  Fort Collins, Colo.; selection 1, 61-68 lb.





  San Angelo, Texas; selection 1, 60-80 lb.






Ducklings, fresh, $/lb.

  Long Island, 4-5 lb.





  Midwest, 4-5 lb.






Rabbits, whole, ready-to-cook

  San Francisco, Cal.






Organic brown shell eggs in cartons, $/carton

  Extra large, doz.





  Large, doz.






Organic young chicken, wholesale, $/lb.

  Whole fryer





  Breast, boneless/skinless





  Breast, bone-in





  Legs, whole






N&H TOPLINE: Take a quick look back to see future direction

Zeljko Bozic_Hemera_Thinkstock Calendar page close up

The end of the year is a time when people commonly look back over the course of the past year. There is value in taking a look back and getting reacquainted with some of the significant research stories to see where future trends are heading.

The following list from approximately the last six months highlights some of the many research topics featured on Feedstuffs.com. The articles are in arbitrary order, and the list is not exhaustive.


Vitamins A, E supplementation strategies may need evaluation

Because of a "perfect storm" of vitamin production problems, supplemental vitamins A and E are becoming scarce, and prices are climbing, Dr. Bill Weiss of The Ohio State University department of animal sciences said in a recent update. Supplies probably will remain very tight well into summer of 2018.


Facial recognition, robotics to aid chick vaccination

Applied Life Sciences & Systems (ALS-S) researchers are developing a vaccination system with the potential to improve bird health and productivity and reduce the need for antibiotics. The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research awarded an $800,000 Seeding Solutions grant to ALS-S, a start-up company that is using imaging and robotics technology to develop a device for vaccinating newly hatched chicks.


Researchers develop practical solar heater for poultry houses

The U.S. Poultry & Egg Assn. and its foundation announced the completion of a funded research project at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, N.C., in which researchers developed a practical solar heater for poultry houses. The project is part of the association’s comprehensive research program encompassing all phases of poultry and egg production and processing.

Dr. Sanjay Shah and colleagues at North Carolina State University developed and tested a low-cost solar heater for use in poultry houses. The solar collector is made from black plastic and heated by the sun. Air coming into the poultry house is heated as it passes through the solar collector, supplementing heat provided by propane heaters and, thus, reducing the potential propane usage, they said. The study shows that use of the solar heater is economically and technically feasible for use in poultry houses.


Abattoir lesions in finishing pigs vary by production system

Organic and conventional free-range finishing pigs have more space, no docked tails and more access to roughage and open space compared to indoor finishers, according to an announcement from Aarhus University in Denmark. Thus, it concluded that free-range and organic pig production offers the pigs good opportunities to perform species-specific behaviors — conditions that aim to improve animal welfare and provide a more natural approach to keeping animals.

The occurrence of illness and injury is also an important parameter in animal welfare. To estimate the pigs’ overall welfare, their level of illness and risk of injury must be assessed in these systems, Aarhus said. One way of assessing these conditions is by looking at meat data from the slaughterhouses for signs of illness and injury of the slaughtered pigs.


Genes responsible for stillborn mummified piglets found

Researchers from animal breeding and genomics at Wageningen University & Research (WUR) and Topigs Norsvin identified several regions on the pig genome associated with early lethality, which is responsible for a significant fraction of stillborn piglets ("mummies"). They published their findings in BMC genomics. Results from this study will help lower the number of stillborn piglets by avoiding matings that produce affected or non-viable progeny, demonstrating its value for current breeding programs and animal welfare, WUR said.


Uncertainty surrounds U.S. livestock methane estimates

Following the American Chemical Society's release of a new study of methane emissions from livestock in the U.S., Pennsylvania State University researchers have provide additional details about the study, which has challenged previous top-down estimates. The research was conducted because serious discrepancies exist between top-down estimates that suggest that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is underestimating agricultural methane emissions by up to 90% and bottom-up estimates accepted by the federal government showing lower emissions, Penn State said.

Top-down emission estimates involve monitoring atmospheric methane concentrations by satellites or from air samples collected at high altitude by planes and using models to estimate the sources of emissions. Bottom-up estimates take into account livestock populations and animal emission factors, the university explained.

In their detailed analysis, researchers used a spatially explicit, bottom-up approach — based on animal inventories and feed intake-based emission factors — to estimate enteric methane emissions for cattle and manure methane emissions for cattle, swine and poultry for the contiguous U.S.


PRRS breakthrough may protect piglets before birth

Kansas State University researcher Raymond "Bob" Rowland said his latest work is helping eradicate a devastating swine disease caused by porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) virus, which costs the U.S. pork industry more than $600 million in losses every year. In his study, Rowland, professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology in the Kansas State College of Veterinary Medicine, has created a way to protect offspring from the PRRS virus during the sow's pregnancy. He found that mothers without the CD163 protein are resistant to the PRRS virus and give birth to healthy, normal piglets. The work appears in Nature's Scientific Reports.


Managing antibiotics not enough to reverse resistance

Researchers have discovered that reducing the use of antibiotics will not be enough to reverse the growing prevalence of antibiotic resistance for some types of bacteria, according to an announcement from Duke University. Besides passing along the genes bestowing antibiotic resistance to their offspring, many bacteria can also swap genes among themselves through a process called conjugation. There has long been a debate, however, as to whether this process occurs fast enough to spread through a population that is not under attack by antibiotics.

In a new study, Duke researchers believe they have found a definitive answer to that question. Through a series of experiments with bacteria capable of conjugation, they showed that all of the bacteria tested share genes fast enough to maintain resistance. However, they also showed that there are ways to disrupt the process and reverse antibiotic resistance. The results appeared online Nov. 22 in Nature Communications.


Auburn develops vaccine to fight costly catfish disease

Auburn University researchers in Alabama will use an almost $321,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to field test a novel vaccine that would effectively and economically control one of the most serious bacterial infections in the aquaculture industry today. Columnaris disease can affect nearly all freshwater fish species and causes millions of dollars in annual losses in the catfish industry alone. The sole columnaris vaccine currently available is only moderately effective, but Auburn researchers have been working on an improved immunization using bacteria derived from a highly virulent strain of the disease.


Sheep good model for studying neurodegenerative disorders

Similar to a classic conditioned response study, sheep can be trained to recognize human faces from photographic portraits — and can even identify the picture of their handler without prior training — according to new research from scientists at the University of Cambridge in the U.K. However, the main point of study, reported in the journal Royal Society: Open Science, was to monitor the sheep's cognitive abilities. Because of the relatively large size of their brains and their longevity, sheep are a good animal model for studying neurodegenerative disorders in people, such as Huntington’s disease, which involves difficulty in recognizing facial emotion.


Breeding resistant chickens for improved food safety

A new test developed by researchers with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in College Station, Texas, could make it easier to breed pathogen-resistant chickens. The test identifies roosters whose blood contains naturally high levels of two key chemicals -- cytokines and chemokines -- which mobilize the birds' innate immune response, according to microbiologist Christi Swaggerty in the ARS Food & Feed Safety Research Unit.


Gene therapy can cure lameness in horses

Injecting DNA into injured horse tendons and ligaments can cure lameness, according to new research involving scientists at Kazan Federal University and Moscow State Academy in Russia and The University of Nottingham in the U.K. The gene therapy technology was used in horses that had gone lame due to injury; within two to three weeks, the horses were able to walk and trot. Within just two months, they were back to full health, galloping and competing.


Mars, partners launch 'uncommon collaboration' to solve aflatoxin puzzle

Mars Inc. and collaborators launched an innovative food safety initiative to crowd-source solutions to solve the problem of aflatoxin, a dangerous foodborne toxin that can cause liver cancer and stunting. On Oct. 16, a series of aflatoxin puzzles went online on Foldit, a platform that allows gamers to explore how amino acids are folded together to create proteins. The puzzles provide gamers with a starting enzyme that has the potential to degrade aflatoxin. Gamers from around the world then battle it out to redesign and improve the enzyme so that it can neutralize aflatoxin.

One in 10 people eat unsafe foods — like those containing aflatoxin — which can have severe health, economic and social consequences. Through innovation and collaboration, Mars' goal is to combat the causes of unsafe food and improve global food security as part of its Sustainable in a Generation plan.


Fatty acid nutrition effect on milk fat

Over a portion of the summer in the Midwest, milk components (both milk protein and fat content) declined, and butterfat value rose to a premium level, accounting for nearly 60% of the Class III milk price. This seasonal milk fat decline, coupled with the fact that fat accounts for a majority of producers’ milk payments and marginal milk prices, has put fatty acid nutrition and fat tests in the crosshairs of nearly all dairy producers and their nutritionists.

Dairy cattle nutritionists and researchers "have come to understand that specific long-chain fatty acids can affect diet metabolism and energy partitioning beyond just calories,” said John Goeser, Rock River Laboratory animal nutrition, research and innovation director. “Concentration on this area is growing due to advancing research, nutrition technologies and dairy economics.”

Similar to how nutritionists now formulate for specific amino acids (e.g., lysine and methionine), Goeser said he believes the dairy nutrition industry is transitioning towards being able to better recognize and feed specific fatty acids.


Auburn research aims to determine fertility in heifers

The seeds for Paul Dyce’s animal science research were planted early in his life, while working on the family farm in Ontario, Canada. “I was raised on a beef cattle farm and was directly involved with developing our heifers,” said Dyce, an assistant professor with the Auburn University department of animal sciences. “It was always in the back of my mind that there had to be a better way of distinguishing between fertile and non-fertile heifers. I kept thinking about this, even as I went away to school and completed a degree in molecular biology.”

At Auburn, Dyce is conducting the research he envisioned, working to develop a relatively non-invasive test that can be used early in the production process to distinguish a fertile heifer from an infertile heifer. A key to Dyce’s work has been recognizing the applicability of an emerging new technology — metabolomics — to the field of animal science. Metabolomics is the large-scale study of small molecules, commonly known as metabolites, found within cells, biofluids or tissues. Collectively, these small molecules and their interactions within a biological system are known as the metabolome.


Wildfire, invasive species alter land management in West

A growing number of areas burned by wildfires throughout the western U.S. are expected to increase soil erosion rates within watersheds, causing more sediment to be present in downstream rivers and reservoirs, according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

As a number of previous peer-reviewed studies have shown, the area burned annually by wildfires has increased in recent decades and is expected to continue to increase this century. Many growing cities and towns rely on water from rivers and reservoirs originating in watersheds where wildfire and sedimentation are projected to increase.

USGS scientists analyzed a collection of climate, fire and erosion models for 471 large watersheds throughout the western U.S. They found that by 2050, the amount of sediment in more than one-third of watersheds could at least double. In nearly nine-tenths of the watersheds, sedimentation is projected to increase by more than 10%.


Genetic marker sought for feed efficiency in cattle

Researchers with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture are working to identify genetic markers that can help cattle producers find the best bang for their buck when choosing breeds and budgeting for feed. Kelly Bryant, director of the division’s Southeast Research & Extension Center (SEREC), and several members of his research team and staff from Beefmaster Breeders United are monitoring offspring from the SEREC herd of Beefmaster heritage lines in an effort to determine if feed conversion efficiency is an inheritable trait.


Taking on sheep parasites with spider venom

Besides searching for anti-parasitical compounds, researchers turn to arachnid venom for new compounds to treat antimicrobial-resistant bacteria and cancer.

Internal parasites are getting more difficult to control in grazing livestock as the parasites develop resistance to commonly used medications. These gastrointestinal parasites also cost producers money and resources by way of treatment and lost productivity. For example, internal parasites cost the Australian sheep industry around $400 million each year, with huge implications for animal welfare. The cattle and sheep industries in North America and other parts of the world face similar costs and lost performance.


Meat scientists looking at new ways to preserve bacon

Can a simple antioxidant bring more sizzle to bacon? Kansas State University researchers think so and started a project to figure it out.

Meat scientists have known for a long time that meat develops an off-flavor the longer it sits, even if it is refrigerated. Kansas State University meat scientist Terry Houser said the fat in meat deteriorates over time — a process called oxidation, because it is caused by the interaction of oxygen with the meat product. “We know that bacon has a problem with oxidation over time,” Houser said. “So, what we’re trying to do is look at classes of antioxidants that we can use to stabilize that fat.” Houser said the challenge is to add antioxidants to the frozen products so they last longer yet maintain the flavor customers desire.

Names in the News: January 2018

CIBUS, San Diego, Cal. — Noel Sauer has been appointed to the scientific management team as vice president of research. Sauer will lead research efforts in developing commercially relevant traits, including disease resistance and healthier oils, in a variety of plants such as canola, rice, flax and potato. She was most recently director of technology.


DOUBLE S LIQUID FEED SERVICES, Danville, Ill. Melissa Jolly-Breithaupt has joined the company as director of research and technical services. Jolly-Breithaupt will provide technical expertise, support the sales team, design new trials and help shape the direction of product offerings. She also will provide tech and sales support for the High Brix Agronomy Solutions division, as well as organize, implement and analyze field trials.


NUTRIAD, Dendermonde, Belgium — Dr. Chutaemil Marom has been appointed country manager Indonesia. Marom will provide and implement solutions in the field of non-antibiotic digestive performance enhancers and mycotoxin risk management, among others.


NUTRIQUEST, Mason City, Iowa — Jennifer Brown has joined NutriQuest Business Solutions as a consulting chief financial officer. Brown will assist customers with budgeting and meeting their financial goals. She was previously with Ernst & Young.

Dr. Petra Chang has joined the company as technical sales and service-swine. Chang will provide sales and technical support for swine customers throughout the Midwest region as well as Brazil. She was previously with Kemin Industries.

Dr. Liang "Ted" Chen has joined the company as dairy research coordinator. Chen will be responsible for assisting in the research and development effort at the company's new dairy research center in southwest Minnesota. He was previously with Aurora Organic Dairy.

Kevin Christensen has joined the company as consulting chief financial officer at NutriQuest Business Solutions serving the Midwest region. He will be responsible for assisting customers with managing both short-term and long-term budgets and forecasts, system development and financial analysis. He was previously with C & E Holding Co.

Kenny Seidel has joined the company as senior account manager, swine. Seidel will be responsible for creating and developing ongoing business relationships with new and existing swine customers. He was previously with Phibro Animal Health.


BIOZYME INC. , St. Joseph, Mo. — Lisa Norton has been promoted to president and chief operating officer. Norton was most recently vice president of marketing and sales.


THE PET FOOD INSTITUTE, Washington, D.C. — Dana L. Brooks has been named president and chief executive officer, effective Feb. 26. Brooks will work with members, staff and stakeholders across the supply chain and pet sectors. She was previously with Land O’Lakes Inc.


VITA PLUS, Madison, Wis. — Sarah Adamson has joined the company as a dairy goat specialist. Adamson will develop and grow the dairy goat program, serve as the primary resource for all questions related to dairy goat nutrition and management and work closely with other staff, facilities and dealer partners to service dairy goat customers in the existing marketing area.


ANGUS FOUNDATION, St. Joseph, Mo. — Rod Schoenbine has joined the foundation as development director. Schoenbine will be responsible for fund-raising and relationship building to help achieve the mission of advancing education, youth and research for the Angus breed and American Angus Assn. members. He was previously with Zoetis Animal Health.


AGRIBLE INC., Champaign, Ill. — Dennis E. Beard has been appointed interim chief executive officer. Beard is currently with Serra Ventures.

Chris Harbourt will step down as chief executive officer.

David Stanko has been promoted to president and chief operating officer. Stanko was most recently chief financial officer.


FARMFIRST DAIRY COOPERATIVE, Madison, Wis. — Jeff Lyon has joined the cooperative as general manager, effective Feb. 1. Lyon will manage the cooperative and its member programs and will represent members' interests and concerns through industry initiatives and discussions on a regional and national level. He was previously with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection.


KRONE NORTH AMERICA, Memphis, Tenn. — Rusty Fowler has been named president and chief executive officer.


VIRTUS NUTRITION, Corcoran, Cal. — Julie Judge has joined the company as Great Lakes sales manager. Judge will work with nutritionists and dairy producers in the Michigan, Indiana and Ohio dairy market to improve herd health, milk and reproductive performance by better balancing fatty acids in their dairy cow diets. She was previously with Merck Animal Health.


CMS, Gainesville, Ga. — Richard Rhodes has been named western U.S. sales manager. Rhodes will serve clients west of the Mississippi River.


DIAMOND V, Cedar Rapids, Iowa — Dr. Serge Cornellie has joined the company as senior consultant-technical and business development, Asia. Cornellie will be based in Tokyo, Japan, and will oversee business in Japan and South Korea while leading growth initiatives and providing technical support for aquaculture in Asia.

Utumporn Innoi has joined the company as key account manager. Innoi will be based in Bangkok, Thailand, and will provide technical and marketing support to key accounts in the region.

Dr. Kwan Yuk Kwaun has joined the company as senior consultant-technical services, Asia. Kwaun will be based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and will support business development initiatives in Asia and provide technical assistance to animal producers, veterinarians and nutritionists.

Marilyn Sim has joined the company as senior consultant-business development, Asia. Sim will be based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and will help drive growth in Malaysia, Indonesia and Taiwan.

Visiel Tolentino has joined the company as senior consultant-strategic marketing, Asia. Tolentino will be based in Manila, Philippines, and will promote the brand in the region and help create awareness for company technologies supporting non-antibiotic solutions and food safety, including for foodborne pathogen risk control.


VORTEX, Salina, Kan. — Lyndon Flower has been appointed business development manager in the USA & Canada division. Flower will work with manufacturers' representatives, regional and territory sales managers and industry specialists to further expand product sales in the dry bulk material handling industry. He was previously with A&J Mixing International.


COBB-VANTRESS INC., Siloam Springs, Ark. — Nigel Strain has been appointed senior regional manager for technical services for Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA). Strain was most recently EMEA broiler specialist.


IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY, Ames, Iowa — Dr. Mohamed El-Gazzar has joined the College of Veterinary Medicine as an assistant professor of poultry medicine in the department of veterinary diagnostic and production animal medicine. El-Gazzar will be responsible for training veterinary and graduate students in the field of poultry medicine, establishing a collaborative research program related to problems and opportunities facing the Iowa and U.S. poultry industries, conducting applied research focused on treatment and management of poultry diseases and providing outreach to the commercial and non-commercial poultry industry. He was previously with The Ohio State University.


SGS NORTH AMERICA, Brookings, S.D. — Dr. Shulin "Harry" Feng has joined the company as analytical laboratory manager for SGS Agriculture, Food & Life. Feng will oversee the analytical chemistry and residue testing of feed, food and crops as well as regulatory compliance services.


ARYSTA LIFESCIENCE NORTH AMERICA, Cary, N.C. — Brian Ahrens has joined the company as key account manager. Ahrens will work with retail/distribution customers to bring agronomic solutions to them and their farmer customers. He was previously with Marrone Bio Innovations.

Kathleen Seitzinger has joined the company as marketing manager for U.S. herbicides. Seitzinger will focus on the EVEREST and PRE-PARE brands and will have responsibilities for the SUPREMACY, AUDIT and SHADOW formulations. She was previously with DuPont Crop Protection.

Emily Smith has joined the company as BIO territory sales manager. Smith will provide biological solutions to customers in the California market. She was previously with Marrone Bio Innovations.


FAST GENETICS, Ames, Iowa — Adam Campbell has joined the company as account manager to service the U.S. eastern Corn Belt. Campbell will be responsible for expanding sales in the eastern Corn Belt region.


SANDERSON FARMS INC., Laurel, Miss. — David Hill has been named feed mill manager at the Kinston, N.C., production facility. Hill will be responsible for milling and the delivery of feed for all of the company's North Carolina poultry operations. He was most recently feed mill superintendent.

Nicholas “Nick” Smith has been promoted to breeder-hatchery manager at the Hazlehurst, Miss., production division. Smith will provide leadership and direct strategic operational plans for hatching eggs and chick production. He was most recently advanced trainee.


ADM ANIMAL NUTRITION, Decatur, Ill. — Dr. Ferdinando Almeida has joined the company as research scientist with a focus on monogastrics. Almeida will lead research to identify value-added opportunities in current and new processing streams for swine and poultry applications.

Vanessa Beaudoin has joined the companion animal team as national account manager for the Canadian sector. Beaudoin was previously with PetSmart Canada.

Dr. John Bowzer has joined the company as lead research scientist in aquaculture. Bowzer will work to develop ingredients and products that deliver value to the aquaculture industry and will lead efforts to expand research capabilities through the development of an aquaculture wet lab.

Thomas Frangione has joined the company as national account manager focusing on the dairy business. Frangione was previously with Merck Animal Health.

Ross Windham has joined the company as national account manager focusing on the poultry business. Windham was previously with Biomin.


AURORA ORGANIC DAIRY, Boulder, Colo. — Scott McGinty has been named chief executive officer. McGinty was most recently president.


BIOZYME INC., St. Joseph, Mo. — Shelia Grobosky has joined the company as public relations coordinator. Grobosky will promote the company and its brands through editorial placement, media relations and product integration and will work with others on the Marketing Team to ensure that public relations efforts are helping drive traffic to social sites, generating brand awareness and supporting the company's goals. She most recently worked with the company on a contractual basis.


CENTRAL LIFE SCIENCES, Schaumburg, Ill. — Tracy L. Harris III has been promoted to vice president of sales for its professional brands. Harris will oversee sales leadership responsibilities for the professional pest management, vector, livestock, farm and feed, grain storage and processing, turf and ornamental and horticulture segments. He was most recently senior director of sales for the Professional Agricultural Products division.


DARLING INGREDIENTS INC., Irving, Texas — John O. Muse has been named executive vice president — chief administrative officer. Muse will focus on helping integrate and streamline the global administrative organization. He was most recently chief financial officer.

Brad Phillips has been named executive vice president — chief financial officer. Phillips will lead the financial team. He was most recently vice president — treasurer.


NUTRIAD INTERNATIONAL NV, Dendermonde, Belgium — Juan Carlos Bello has been appointed technical sales manager swine and poultry in Mexico. Bello will cover sales in Mexico and Central America.


SANDERSON FARMS INC., Laurel, Miss. — James “Norman” Butts has been promoted to corporate maintenance manager. Butts will be responsible for ensuring that a comprehensive maintenance program is active at each company division, along with monitoring maintenance programs to ensure that facilities and equipment are being maintained to a high quality standard. He also will assist with equipment changes or upgrades for poultry producers. He was most recently advanced trainee III.


SYNGENTA, Basel, Switzerland — Alexandra Brand has been appointed chief sustainability officer. Brand will lead the Business Sustainability Group to evolve existing sustainability initiatives and to drive forward the company's sustainability agenda. She was most recently regional director for Europe, Africa and Middle East.


U.S. POULTRY & EGG HAROLD E. FORD FOUNDATION, Tucker, Ga. — Barbara Jenkins has been named executive director. Jenkins will be responsible for day-to-day operations, including managing the collegiate recruiting grants program, interacting with FFA on a special program at the International Production & Processing Expo and bringing students from Latin American universities to the expo. She also will maintain her role as vice president of education and student programs for the U.S. Poultry & Egg Assn.


ELANCO ANIMAL HEALTH, Greenfield, Ind. — Sarena Lin has been named senior vice president, North America operations and global strategy. Lin will manage the entirety of the U.S. and Canadian food and companion animal businesses and will also oversee global strategy. She was previously with Cargill.


SELECT SIRES, Plain City, Ohio — Jordan Siemers has joined the company as dairy sire analyst. Siemers will work with Holstein breeders in western and midwestern regions of the U.S. and the eastern Canadian provinces and will be the lead sire analyst for milking Shorthorn procurement.


MISSOURI CATTLEMEN'S ASSN., Columbia, Mo. — Coby Wilson has joined the association as manager of strategic solutions. Wilson will be responsible for increasing non-dues revenue and building relationships with members and industry partners. He will also coordinate production of the Missouri Beef Cattleman magazine.


ARM & HAMMER, Princeton, N.J. — Laura Osborne Campbell has joined the company as ruminant account manager for the West region of the U.S. Campbell will support dairy and beef customers with a full portfolio of nutrition and microbial solutions and will work with producers and influencers across the region to grow awareness of the portfolio. She was previously with Novus International.

Jon Schmidt has joined the company as ruminant account manager for the North Central region of the U.S. Schmidt will support dairy and beef customers with a full portfolio of nutrition and microbial solutions and will work with producers and influencers across the region to grow awareness of the portfolio. Schmidt was previously with Elanco Animal Health.


NUTRIAD, Dendermonde, Belgium — Siep Raap has been appointed sales manager, Benelux. Raap will be responsible for supporting customers and business partners and bringing products and services to the market.


DAIRY ONE COOPERATIVE INC., Ithaca, N.Y. — Michael Reuter has been named director of analytical services, forage and soils. Reuter will supervise forage and soils operations and will be responsible for the overall leadership and the direction of these laboratories. He was most recently laboratory chemist and safety director.


EDGE DAIRY FARMER COOPERATIVE, Green Bay, Wis. — Paul Stoffel has joined the cooperative as member services representative. Stoffel will help expand services to members, including recruitment and member engagement, and he will also support farmers within the Dairy Strong Sustainability Alliance. He was previously with Heiser Chevrolet Cadillac.


PLUMROSE USA, Downers Grove, Ill. — Thomas Lopez has been named president. Lopez will lead strategy, growth and development, including direct oversight of operations. He was previously with Kraft-Heinz Food Co.


FILAMENT, Madison, Wis. — Jenny Martin has been promoted to director. Martin will work with the leadership and executive teams to assist with client services and business development. She was most recently senior marketing manager.


VITA PLUS CORP., Madison, Wis. — Katie Maier has been named dairy specialist. Maier will provide nutrition consulting and technical expertise to dairy producers primarily throughout southwestern Wisconsin and northern Illinois.


ADISSEO USA, Alpharetta, Ga.— Dr. Shane Fredin has been promoted to commercial manager — East region. Fredin will be responsible for aligning technical and commercial interests while leading the sales and technical group in the eastern U.S. and Canada.

Jeremy Painter has been named U.S. commercial director — dairy and poultry. Painter will be responsible for both the Poultry and Diary business in the U.S. He most recently led the North American Dairy Team.

Nik Sutter has been promoted to commercial manager — West region. Sutter will lead the sales and technical teams supporting the rumen-protected products Smartamine M and MetaSmart.


NUTRA-BLEND, Neosho, Mo. — Kevin Schluender has been appointed general manager. Schluender will be responsible for developing and implementing the strategic plan and for integrating Purina's Ingredient Merchandising business, which became a division as of Jan. 1, 2018. Schluender was most recently vice president-procurement.


AMERICAN GELBVIEH ASSN., Broomfield, Colo. — Kelsi Christian has joined the association as multimedia coordinator. Christian will manage and develop social media strategies, contribute to the association's publications and marketing team, as well as assist members and customers with day-to-day registry questions.


BIO-CAT, Troy, Va. — Elaine Cooling has joined the company as regulatory affairs manager. Cooling will oversee the daily regulatory needs of customers, play a role in defining regulatory requirements for the strategic plan and interface with key regulatory agencies. She was previously with Allergen Pharmaceuticals International.


ADAMA, Tel Aviv, Israel — Joseph M. Krkoska has joined the company as executive vice president of global operations. Krkoska was previously with the Dow Chemical Co.


RENEWABLE FUELS ASSN., Washington, D.C. — Jessica Bennett has joined the association as vice president of external affairs. Bennett will primarily focus on building stakeholder support through policy and messaging and also will provide strategic counsel on internal and external communications, build stronger relationships with industry stakeholders and partners and assist with legislative and regulatory efforts as needed. She was previously with the National Corn Growers Assn.


BROCK GRAIN SYSTEMS, Milford, Ind. — Austin Beer has joined the company as design engineer. Beer will update equipment and develop new components for storage bins and grain handling systems.

Dave Ginn has joined the company as district manager for the eastern region of the U.S. and Canada. Ginn will work with dealers in the Tennessee Valley and mid-South regions to grow their business and increase their familiarity with the line of grain storage, handling, conditioning and structural products.

Little improvement expected in 2018 ag outlook

Feedstuffs Dollar bill on top of business stock chart

After the 2008-13 boom period for livestock producers, Purdue University economists said they expect 2018 to be another year of ongoing adjustments, with little improvements in incomes.

The animal sector is expected to continue to expand 1-3% -- depending on the species -- due to low feed prices. “Even with more supply, prices may not drop much due to the strong economic growth expected in both the domestic and export markets,” said Chris Hurt, Purdue professor of agricultural economics.

Beef cattle and milk prices may drop modestly, Hurt noted, adding that hog prices are expected to be nearly unchanged, and egg and turkey prices are expected to increase modestly. Dairy margins are expected to remain tight, and incomes for the animal sector are expected to be modest.

James Mintert, Purdue professor and director of the Center for Commercial Agriculture, said cattle slaughter numbers are likely to see another year of increase in 2018 as the industry is still in the expansion phase of the cattle cycle.

“The year-to-year increase in cattle slaughter in 2018 is likely to be smaller than in 2017, perhaps falling in a range of 3% to 5%,” Mintert said. “Modest increases in both beef and total meat supplies mean prices for slaughter steers in the southern Plains are likely to average near or perhaps a bit lower than 2017's average of $122/cwt.”

Hurt said the current 2018 outlook for the hog sector is for “positive returns above all costs.” The level of positive returns is expected to be in the range of $5-8 per head for both 2017 and 2018.

Russel Hillberry, Purdue associate professor of agricultural economics, said the value of the U.S. dollar declined during much of 2017 and is expected to be stable to down slightly in 2018.

Hillberry added that agricultural exports are expected to be supported by somewhat faster world economic growth in 2018. The biggest trade issue for the new year will be the ongoing renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

“Most agricultural producers will have something at stake in these talks, but corn growers and poultry producers should be especially interested in seeing a successful conclusion of the negotiations,” Hillberry said. “U.S. exports in corn and poultry products have seen sizeable shifts towards NAFTA markets, especially Mexico. These shifts could be reversed if NAFTA collapses.”

Jayson Lusk, department head and distinguished professor of agricultural economics at Purdue, noted that, for the first time in at least three decades, the annual consumer price index for food consumed at home fell. Driven in part by the drop in agricultural commodity prices, prices for food consumed at home fell 1.3% from 2015 to 2016. However, through the first 10 months of 2016, prices for food consumed at home increased every month except June.

“Despite the recent increases in prices of food at home, meat and fruits and vegetables, the increases remain quite modest,” Lusk said.

For additional insight, read the full report.

FSIS reaches key milestones in protecting public health

USDA photo by Alice Welch Poultry line at a slaughterhouse

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety & Inspection Service (FSIS) announced key 2017 achievements in protecting public health, preventing foodborne illness and promoting confidence in the U.S. food supply.

In 2017, FSIS inspected more than 155 million head of livestock and 9.45 billion poultry carcasses. FSIS inspectors also conducted 6.9 million food safety and food defense procedures across 6,500 regulated establishments to ensure that meat, poultry and processed egg products were safe and wholesome.

“FSIS’s dedicated public servants take their public health mission seriously and work tirelessly to prevent foodborne illness,” acting deputy undersecretary for food safety Carmen Rottenberg said. “The U.S. food safety inspection system is the most reliable and trusted in the world, and we will continue to earn that trust by protecting public health and modernizing systems and processes.”

FSIS currently employs more than 9,000 employees, more than 8,000 of whom work in federally regulated establishments, laboratories, import establishments or in-commerce facilities.

As far as next steps, acting FSIS administrator Paul Kiecker said: “FSIS will continue to increase our use of whole-genome sequencing and develop key informational tools and resources for inspection personnel. We’ll continue to ensure that U.S. meat, poultry and egg products are the safest in the world.”

Targeting foodborne illness

FSIS continued its multipronged approach to combat salmonella in fiscal 2017. FSIS continued sampling poultry carcasses and established new pathogen reduction standards for salmonella and campylobacter in comminuted poultry and chicken parts. FSIS also sampled raw beef and continued the sampling program for salmonella in pork products to determine the presence and levels of salmonella in five types of processed pork products.


FSIS continued to strengthen coordination of federal foodborne outbreak response responsibilities with the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. In collaboration with its partners, FSIS bolstered its approach to preventing illnesses and deaths associated with multi-state foodborne illness outbreaks by stopping outbreaks rapidly when they occur and by preventing future foodborne outbreaks, FSIS said.

This was accomplished by: enhancing coordination among federal foodborne outbreak detection and response agencies, ensuring that the roles and responsibilities of the different federal agencies are clearly defined and well-integrated, enhancing processes to stop foodborne outbreaks rapidly and communicating food safety system gaps identified during investigations to inform efforts to prevent future outbreaks.


In 2017, FSIS continued its initiatives to modernize operations and inspection systems. FSIS continued to modernize poultry inspection under the New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS) through its science-based, preventive approach to poultry inspection. In 2017, FSIS continued to achieve successful conversion of poultry establishments that chose to opt in to NPIS. FSIS regulations, which were revised under NPIS rule-making, mandate that all poultry establishments – even those that do not opt in to NPIS – take steps to prevent contamination rather than addressing contamination after it has occurred.

“With NPIS, food safety inspectors are now better positioned to verify that establishments maintain effective food safety systems by increasing food safety and sanitation verification tasks. These verifications are a more effective and efficient use of resources due to their focus on food safety-related tasks,” FSIS said.

FSIS also enhanced its science-based approach to illness prevention with the introduction of whole-genome sequencing. This technology will allow the agency to accurately identify and respond to outbreaks, enrich collaborations with other federal and state agencies and conduct efficient illness investigations back to the source. The agency is poised to address 21st-century public health challenges with continued modernization of processes, policies and technologies.

Siluriformes inspection

In 2017, FSIS successfully implemented inspection of Siluriformes fish by transitioning regulatory oversight from FDA to FSIS. Following an 18-month transition period, full implementation of Siluriformes inspection began Sept. 1, 2017. In addition, 100% re-inspection of imported shipments of Siluriformes fish began Aug. 2, 2017.

FSIS worked with stakeholders to identify businesses, both domestic and international, that would be affected to provide information and training on FSIS inspection requirements to ensure a smooth transition. FSIS also worked diligently with foreign countries to provide feedback on documentation submitted by countries seeking equivalence to ship Siluriformes products to the U.S.

In fiscal 2017, FSIS protected public health by preventing the entrance of or removing more than 715,000 lb. of adulterated or ineligible imported Siluriformes product from U.S. commerce.

Foreign country equivalence oversight and import re-inspection programs

FSIS strengthened its oversight and re-inspection of products coming into the U.S. FSIS conducted equivalence determinations, audited foreign country systems and reinspected imported products to ensure that all imported products are safe and wholesome for American families.

In 2017, FSIS completed ongoing equivalence verification audits of 17 countries to ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations. Currently, more than 185 establishments and 33 countries are deemed eligible by FSIS.

In 2017, approximately 4 billion lb. of meat and poultry products were presented for FSIS re-inspection from the eligible countries that are actively exporting product to the U.S.


Outreach is an important part of FSIS’s efforts to inform and educate a variety of audiences (including consumers and regulated industry) on FSIS policies, activities and foodborne illness prevention.

In addition, outreach is critical to the agency's continued efforts to modernize and ensure that small and very small plants have access to resources and FSIS guidance. To ensure that regulated establishments have clear information from FSIS, the agency issued guidance to the industry on several critical topics, including how to label product correctly and how to support those labeling claims. Additionally, the agency posted guidance to further assist establishments in distinguishing whether or not a label needs to be submitted for FSIS approval.

FSIS provided consumer information through new and enhanced channels such as Pinterest and extended hours of operation for the USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline. In addition, FSIS conducted significant outreach to consumers leading up to major holidays and during weather emergencies to achieve 53 million consumer impressions.

Extension specialists share tips for managing cattle in winter

Kansas State University Research & Extension cattle huddled in pasture in winter
During severe cold periods, producers need to feed cattle a little more hay or other forage so their natural heat source - the rumen - can do its work.

Livestock producers are entering a time of year that can often be challenging for maintaining herd health because of winter weather, but a host of management steps and best practices can help get the animals through the tough time.

“Talking to a regional climatologist, we foresee a lot of fluctuation in weather,” said A.J. Tarpoff, a beef veterinarian with Kansas State University Research & Extension. “The fluctuations from warm to cold are stressful on any animal, so you have to be ready for that fluctuation.

“If it gets cold and it stays cold, we can manage that very easily; the animals get used to the cold, dry environment. But when we start mixing warm to cold and a little bit of moisture — in other words, we combine wind, cold and a wet animal — that leads to a little bit of trouble,” Tarpoff added.

Livestock that can be housed indoors — such as chickens, swine and dairy cattle — may be protected from severe elements, but keeping them properly ventilated can be challenging.

“It's hard to keep the fans and the ventilation adjusted appropriately, because the incoming air is still somewhat warmer during the day, but then it cools off during the night as we get the different weather fronts coming through,”, K-State Research & Extension livestock specialist Joel DeRouchey said.

DeRouchey noted that fluctuations in indoor temperatures can cause mortalities in herds because the animals get stressed from the rollercoaster shifts.

He said just like if people are going through stress, changes in the outside temperature will lead to development of respiratory challenges. “It's the same for livestock, whether they're inside or outside,” he said.

“The most important thing is maintaining a constant temperature," he explained. "The goal is to bring animals inside to protect them from the elements, so we need to make sure our ventilation systems are managed correctly to provide that ideal environment.”

DeRouchey said indoor ventilation also is important to keep air moisture, odor and nitrogen levels low.

For animals kept outside in feedlots, Tarpoff said one key is to provide dry bedding.

“Cattle have the right winter coat for cold weather, but whenever it starts to get windy, wet and cold, especially on frozen ground, the cattle want to find a nice, dry area to lie down and rest,” he said. “Bedding those pens -- giving them the opportunity to lie down and rest -- decreases the stress on those cattle and allows them to increase their comfort level so they can perform at a high rate, even in stressful conditions.”

Tarpoff added that a box scraper is an important part of the equation in feedlots. Pens should be scraped routinely to level frozen areas, which will help reduce foot injuries and the animals' reluctance to move to feed and water.

In outdoor pastures, the two specialists suggested portable windbreaks, which provide shelter and can help with basic biosecurity.

“When cattle congregate in one area of the pasture for a long period of time, you build up environmental contaminates from manure,” Tarpoff said. “So, move the portable windbreaks to different locations in the pasture so that you decrease the environmental contamination, which is especially important for newborn calves and control of scours.”

DeRouchey noted that portable windbreaks can force cattle to walk out of low areas to water and feed.

“It doesn't hurt those cows to walk out of those low areas,” he said. “From an environmental standpoint, once we start providing a lot of feed or stationary feeders in those low areas, the manure buildup and the sanitation degrades really fast.”

During severe cold periods, producers need to feed a little more hay or other forage so the animals' natural heat source — the rumen — can do its work. Cattle may be fed near windbreaks during times of extreme cold and snow, but DeRouchey said shouldn't happen very often during the season.

Tarpoff added that water for livestock is equally important in the winter months as it is in the summer months.

“They are eating a lot more, so they need to be able to drink a lot more to balance the body's homeostasis,” he explained. “Check waterers regularly (to make sure) that they are not frozen over, there's plenty of flow and there's plenty of volume for animals to drink from. A frozen tank can be detrimental to any livestock operation.”

DeRouchey and Tarpoff also shared some ideas to help producers get themselves through the colder months. Specific to the upcoming calving season, one tip is to feed cattle in the evenings.

“Changing our feeding strategies to the evening hours, right at dusk, will increase the number of calves born during the daylight hours, which is when producers are out checking those cattle more regularly,” Tarpoff said.

DeRouchey also reminded producers to make sure flashlights are in working order and to store extra batteries and clothing in case they get stranded or need to be out in cold and snowy weather for extended periods.

For more severe weather tips, producers may contact their local extension agent, the university suggested.

Improvements to crop insurance continue in 2018

iStock Thinkstock qingwa front of USDA building

Changes to the federal crop insurance program initiated in 2017 will continue into 2018. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) continues to improve the program, increasing its availability and effectiveness as a risk management tool while safeguarding the integrity of the program, the agency said.

In 2017, RMA noted a number of accomplishments in the areas of program integrity, program efficiency, expanded options and customer service. These accomplishments included the way RMA executes program maintenance, develops new pilot programs and makes policy changes based on feedback from stakeholders.

RMA has worked diligently since 2014 to reduce its improper payment rate. For fiscal 2017, the improper payment rate for the federal crop insurance program was 1.96%, surpassing the target error rate of 2.01%. As a result, RMA received the White House Office of Management & Budget’s approval to be removed from the improper payment “high-priority” program list.

Along the lines of program efficiency, RMA revised the conservation compliance provisions of crop insurance policies to remove the certification deadline of June 1. This revision gives producers, agents and insurance companies more time to comply with the conservation requirements established in the previous farm bill.

RMA will provide producers with the flexibility to select an enterprise unit for a single practice (e.g., irrigated or non-irrigated) and choose the most appropriate unit structure on the other practice. Previously, producers had to select enterprise units on both practices or neither. This revision allows producers to insure irrigated and non-irrigated land differently, which more accurately reflects the risks associated with these different growing practices.

RMA also enhanced its customer service offerings as it worked with approved insurance providers, agents and stakeholder groups to respond to hurricanes Harvey and Maria as well as other disasters throughout the year. Specifically, emergency procedures were issued to help streamline the claims process and respond to specific issues.

In 2002, 358 crops and types were insured, and by 2017, that number had risen to 551, RMA reported.