LIVESTOCK MARKETS: Feedlot placements surprise analysts

The U.S. Department of Agriculture released the latest “Cattle on Feed” report May 20, and the numbers surprised analysts, particularly with regard to placements.

Feedlot inventories on May 1 were 10.78 million head in feedlots with a capacity of more than 1,000 head, up 1.3% from May 2015. Market analysts expected a 0.1% year-over-year increase in cattle inventories, so the reported value came in well above analysts’ expectations and above even the highest expectations.

Placements in April were 7.5% higher than year-ago levels. Market analysts had estimated that placements would be 1.6% lower. The increase was driven largely by the southern Plains states, with Kansas placements up 17.5%, Oklahoma placements up 64.7% and Texas placements up 13% year over year. Most northern Plains states saw year-over-year declines in placements, with Nebraska placements falling 2.6% and South Dakota placements down 14.3%.

Mississippi State University agricultural economist Brian Williams said the numbers continue the trend of increasingly heavy placements, with cattle weighing more than 800 lb. seeing an 11.7% year-over-year increase.

Steve Meyer and Len Steiner wrote in the “Daily Livestock Report” that it appears that improved cattle feeding margins, stemming from improved and more historically “normal” feeder and fed cattle price relationships, has feeders filling up their bunk space more aggressively than previously thought.

April marketings were also higher, up 1.2% from last year. Analysts had expected marketings to be 1.6% higher than the same period last year. Meyer and Steiner said marketings were “especially impressive” given the one less slaughter day in April 2016 compared to April 2015.

“The contrast between last year and this year in the feedlot industry is telling,” Oklahoma State University Extension livestock marketing specialist Derrell Peel said. “In 2016, it is clear that feedlots are building inventories, placing more cattle in the face of larger feeder cattle supplies. Marketings are also higher now, and turnover rates have increased.”

Peel said placements last year were low, but feedlot inventories were steady because marketings were slow and feedlot turnover was sluggish.

Despite larger feedlot inventories, the industry is in better shape — leaner and more agile — to handle the larger cattle supplies for the remainder of 2016, he said.

Peel said cattle slaughter is up 2.7% for the year to date but added that it has also been 4.4% higher year over year in the past six weeks.

“Seasonally, the largest cattle slaughter will occur in the next month, but feedlots have pulled cattle ahead in April and May, which will temper seasonal slaughter peaks in June,” he said. “More importantly, aggressive feedlot marketings have brought carcass weights down dramatically.”

In the latest carcass data, steer carcass weights, at 862 lb., dropped below year-earlier levels for the first time since June 2014. Overall, cattle carcass weights are below year-earlier levels for the first time since the last week of 2013, with steers, cows and bulls all down year over year. Heifer carcass weights remained slightly above year-ago levels but have also fallen sharply in the past few weeks, Peel said.

Beef production is up 3% year to date. He said beef production will increase in the second half of the year with increased cattle slaughter but added that carcass weights will likely show little, if any, year-over-year increase in the second half of the year and will also moderate year-over-year increases in beef production.

Crop futures helped by strong outside markets: Podcast

Corn, soybean and wheat futures were higher on Tuesday, helped by surging equity markets, which got a boost from strong new home sales in April.

Rain this week may slow the remainder of corn and soybean planting in the Midwest and slow the winter wheat harvest that is just getting under way in the southern Plains.

Bob Burgdorfer of Farm Futures reporting. Farm Futures is a sister publication of Feedstuffs.

OIE presents basic principles of AMR strategy

The international community considers the increasing occurrence and spread of bacterial resistance against antimicrobials reported in recent years as a major risk that requires commitment from the whole of society. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is indeed a challenge, endangering human and animal health and also animal welfare, according to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

As it is aware of this major issue facing future generations, OIE has worked for many years on the subject, in particular by developing dedicated international standards that were revised in 2015. OIE has also taken part in development and implementation of the World Health Organization's global action plan against AMR.

However, these international initiatives, although endorsed by the member countries of various organizations, can only fully bear fruit if they are carried out effectively in these countries, OIE said.

According to an OIE study, in more than 110 of the 130 countries questioned, there is a lack of comprehensive and relevant legislation regulating the conditions for import, manufacture, distribution and use of veterinary medicines, including antimicrobials. Consequently, these products are often freely sold, and their use is unsupervised by animal health professionals.

The lack of quality controls for these products is also a cause for concern. Indeed, OIE said a study in 2012 showed that, in more than 22% of countries with legislation on veterinary medicines, quality control of such medicines had not been included in the legislation.

The implementation of international standards and recommendations requires substantial effort at national level, where the actual situation on the ground is sometimes restrictive, often due to the absence of adapted legislation, under-funded veterinary services and the existence of parallel markets that are outside the control of health authorities.

Therefore, at the 84th General Session of the World Assembly of National Delegates meeting this week in Paris, France, OIE presented its member countries with the basic principles of its strategy to assist them at the national level to, step by step, prepare a legal framework and build the necessary capacity to manage the AMR problem more effectively.

Implementing this strategy will enable countries to benefit from the series of measures developed by OIE, in accordance with its mandate, to assist them in carrying out the following actions:

* Regulate the manufacture, circulation and use of antimicrobials in animals, according to international standards;

* Train animal health professionals;

* Communicate to raise awareness among stakeholders;

* Avail high-quality products and their alternatives;

* Ensure veterinary supervision of antimicrobial use in animal health to make sure they are used prudently and responsibly, and

* Monitor antimicrobial use and the development of resistance.

In fact, in addition to its international standards and network of scientific expertise, OIE offers, particularly to its member countries, multiple tools to build national capacity in order to achieve better governance of animal health and, as a result, better management of veterinary medicines.

OIE said creating and managing a database to gather information on the use of antimicrobial agents in animals, as well as development of performance indicators, is also under way to assist countries toward increased information flow and transparency in their use of antimicrobials.

Meanwhile, a network of OIE experts will be working to reinforce scientific knowledge, especially on new technologies and replacement solutions for current antimicrobial agents.

Finally, OIE will continue to support its members as they raise awareness of AMR, including in regard to animal health and disease prevention on the farm, to contribute to a reduction in the quantities of antimicrobials used.

After the detailed presentation this morning of a report on this issue by Dr. Jean-Pierre Orand, director of the OIE Collaborating Centre for Veterinary Medicines, a resolution endorsing the principles of this strategy will be presented at the General Session for adoption by the 180 national delegates.

Dormant range, supplements may improve cow herd efficiency

Maintaining beef cow herd nutritional requirements in an economically feasible way is vital to efficient cattle production, according to Kansas State University associate professor of animal sciences John Jaeger, who has researched how producers can use dormant native range to graze beef cattle in conjunction with providing protein supplements.

One of the biggest ways to improve economic net returns is by limiting reliance on hay, he said. However, before using dormant forages in place of hay, producers should consider a number of items.

“While using dormant forage as a forage base for our cow herd, we have to be aware of how much is available in the pasture before beginning to graze,” Jaeger said. “This is important so we can calculate animal days on the pasture and know the nutrient content of the available forage to know how much protein supplement to provide.”

Jaeger, a beef cattle scientist with Kansas State Research & Extension located in Hays, Kan., noted that a past method for gathering forage availability information was to measure 1 sq. m, clip and dry the forage and then weighing what was left. A more modern method of collection is to use a disc meter on a stick with a hole in the disc.

Using this method, the disc is dropped down the stick; the amount of forage underneath the disc prevents it from hitting the ground. A ruler on the stick measures how far the disc is being held from the ground. Similar to the previous method, the forage under the disc is clipped, dried and weighed. The resulting weight is then multiplied by 44 to get an estimate of pounds of forage per acre.

“To get a representative sample of the whole pasture, you need to clip multiple places within the pasture,” Jaeger said.

The quality of the forage and its protein content also are important, he said, and some factors can alter quality. Droughts can lead to problems, including differences in plant moisture, early plant maturation and early plant senescence. However, a drought can also lead to higher protein content in the dormant forages.

So, while less forage is available during drought conditions, it is usually higher in nutrients, Jaeger noted. Therefore, producers will not need to provide as much protein supplementation in a drought year compared to a year with normal moisture.

“It is important to think about how the pasture has been used in the past as that can affect the quality or amount of forage in the dormant grazing season,” Jaeger said. “Typically, here at the research center (Agricultural Research Center — Hays), we prefer to graze our stockpiled pastures early in the spring and allow the pasture to accumulate dry matter the rest of the year.”

Jaeger suggested that if a pasture needs to be grazed over a longer period for summer grazing, the producer should use the pasture early in the summer. This will allow dry matter in the pasture to accumulate for the remainder of the growing season.

Also, while many forbs are not palatable to livestock, some are useful for grazing, he said. Wild petunias and sunflowers, for example, can be grazed and often have a higher protein concentration into the winter compared to native grasses. The nutrient content of these forbs also varies throughout the summer.

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Supplementation options

“Supplementation is typically required to maintain animal performance once the pasture drops below 7% crude protein,” Jaeger said. “During winter months in western Kansas, we have found pastures drop to about 4% crude protein.”

By supplementing protein, producers feed the cattle's rumen microbes to aid in digestion, which allows for improved performance, he said.

The supplement needs to be greater than 30% protein, Jaeger said. If the supplement is lower, it provides other nutrients that may not be necessary for the cow. If the supplement is greater than 30%, it will improve animal performance more so than the supplements that contain less than 30% crude protein. When providing adequate protein, a producer will ultimately improve the animal's forage digestion.

However, he said beef cattle also can be over-supplemented, and they subsequently will try to recycle some of the protein, but most is passed as waste. Past research has found that about 0.3% of bodyweight was the maximum, and feeding beyond that did not improve animal performance.

Traditionally, the cattle industry has used oilseed supplements, such as cottonseed and soybean meals, for protein supplementation, Jaeger said, but producers have begun using distillers grains for protein. Distillers grains are often readily available and can be more cost effective on a pound-of-protein basis.

“We also examined the frequency of supplementation, as it can reduce the labor and delivery costs associated with protein supplementation,” Jaeger said. “Over the years, a lot of research has been done on traditional oilseed supplements. Researchers found that protein can be fed once every six days or once weekly and still maintain adequate cow performance due to the ability of the cow to recycle excess protein.”

Jaeger suggested that if a producer was going to feed 2 lb. of a supplement daily, the producer could instead feed 14 lb. once weekly and maintain adequate performance.

He also wanted to examine distillers grain byproducts, as they have a different crude protein makeup. The oilseed supplements have less than 50% rumen non-degradable protein, while the distillers grains have greater than 50%. He found that there is not a difference in animal performance when feeding distillers grains during the last trimester of gestation when that animal was fed daily, once every three days or once every six days.

Once a feeding schedule — either once every three days or once every six days — is determined, Jaeger said it should not be changed during the last trimester of gestation, as it can result in a decrease in performance.

More information about beef cattle systems research at the Western Kansas Agricultural Research Centers is available online.

Fermented milk products may have anti-hypertensive effects

Over the past decade, interest has been rising in fermented dairy foods that promote health and could potentially prevent diseases such as hypertension (high blood pressure).

Functional dairy products that lower blood pressure and heart rate may offer consumers an effective alternative to anti-hypertensive drugs, if their effectiveness can be demonstrated, according to investigators that prepared a review article in the Journal of Dairy Science on the scientific basis of reported claims and identified opportunities for developing products based on new lactic acid bacteria.

Globally, hypertension affects more than 1 billion people, according to the World Health Organization. It is also an important risk factor for developing other cardiovascular diseases, stroke, renal failure, cerebrovascular accidents and many other medical complications. Although hypertension can be treated with drugs, these often involve significant side effects; therefore, scientists are seeking out food substances that can help reduce or prevent hypertension.

"Fermented milk has been promoted as a non-pharmacological treatment for hypertension, mainly because of the lack of undesirable side effects, but as yet, there is insufficient evidence to support this, according to the European Food Safety Authority," explained lead investigator Dr. Belinda Vallejo-Córdoba of the Center for Food Research & Development in Sonora, Mexico. "The most studied bioactive peptides derived from dairy proteins are anti-hypertensive peptides; however, existing studies need to be evaluated before a health claim may be associated with products. With this in mind, we have carefully reviewed in vitro, in vivo and clinical studies of fermented milk containing anti-hypertensive peptides."

The team of investigators established that the most common strategy to select fermented milks with anti-hypertensive potential was to identify angiotensin-converting-enzyme (ACE) inhibitory peptides by in vitro studies. However, they observed that some strains inhibiting ACE activity in vitro did not reduce blood pressure in rats. They evaluated 13 studies with spontaneously hypertensive rats and seven randomized controlled clinical trials in which an anti-hypertensive effect was demonstrated. Most were based on Lactobacillus helveticus.

Scientifically proven health claims and the acquisition of exclusivity rights for using novel food ingredients in functional food products have been observed as a critical factor in the ultimate success of these food products in the market. The investigators noted that several fermented milk products already on the market attribute their anti-hypertensive effect to the bioactive peptides present in the fermented milk and draw attention to the fact that some of these commercial products possess intellectual property rights. However, they pointed out that these products may also contain minerals such as potassium and calcium, which may have a positive effect on blood pressure.

"Although much research related to anti-hypertensive peptides has already been done, there is a great need for exploration of new lactic acid bacteria that possess the ability to generate this bioactivity as well as good technological properties for the production of fermented dairy products. As commercial fermented milks with anti-hypertensive effects are scarce and most of the current products are based on L. helveticus, there is a great opportunity here," Vallejo-Cordoba said.

The investigators recommended that future studies include in vitro lactic acid bacteria screening for ACE-inhibitory effects, in vivo studies with spontaneously hypertensive rats and clinical trials to test the efficacy of the fermented milk product.

"It is also important to develop the regulatory legislation that allows the introduction of health claims for functional dairy foods, especially in countries where this subject is underdeveloped," Vallejo-Cordoba concluded.

NDSU testing role of large UAS in ag

NDSU testing role of large UAS in ag

A large unmanned aircraft to be used for agricultural research at North Dakota State University (NDSU) has taken its inaugural flight.

While small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), most weighing 55 lb. or less, have proved to be useful in crop and livestock production, a group of North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station scientists and NDSU Extension Service specialists think large UAS can play an important role in agriculture as well. As such, they are collaborating with the Hillsboro Airport Authority, some producers in Traill and Steele counties and Ft. Worth, Texas-based Elbit Systems of America on a research project to test that theory.

The Hermes 450 waits to be towed to the runway at the Hillsboro Municipal Airport. Source: NDSU photo

Elbit is a subsidiary of Elbit Systems Ltd., an Israel-based, high-tech company that provided the researchers with a Hermes 450, a UAS with a 35 ft. wingspan similar to a single-engine manned aircraft. The UAS was flown, in sections, to the U.S. from Israel and then was trucked to North Dakota, where it recently was assembled.

“Small UAS are ideal for scouting crops and livestock and can be used effectively to capture imagery for precision management decisions — such as variable-rate, in-season fertilization, weed identification, livestock inventory and identifying sick animals — but small UAS are relatively limited by flight time and cannot easily capture imagery of thousands of acres on the same day,” said NDSU extension agricultural machine systems specialist John Nowatzki, the principal investigator on this project.

He added that large UAS will be needed to collect high-spatial and temporal-resolution imagery over entire regions in a timely manner.

One of the benefits of using UAS for agricultural purposes is saving time, but if a producer has to drive a small UAS from field to field, then it really isn’t much of a time saver, noted Sreekala Bajwa, chair of NDSU’s agricultural and biosystems engineering department and a co-investigator on this project.

“Most small UAS need to capture hundreds of individual images to make a single mosaicked image of one square mile,” Nowatzki said. “A large UAS could capture high-resolution imagery of one square mile in a single image. This would make it possible to capture imagery useable for precision crop management over hundreds of thousands of acres in a single day at very high resolution.”

The NDSU project will use the Hermes 450 and small rotocopter and fixed-wing UAS to collect imagery from a 4 x 40-mile corridor in east-central North Dakota every two weeks during the 2016 crop-growing season. The Hermes 450 will gather images from altitudes of 3,000, 5,000 and 8,000 ft., while the small UAS will fly at 400 ft. or lower.

The UAS will collect data on stand counts in corn, sunflowers and sugar beets, the effectiveness of nitrogen applied to corn and wheat, iron chlorosis deficiency in soybeans and yield predictions for corn, soybeans, wheat, sugar beets and sunflowers. The researchers plan to test whether UAS also can benefit livestock producers, such as by inventorying cattle in pastures.

The intent is to compare the data collected from the air at various altitudes with data collected through satellite imagery, in-field observations, on-the-ground sensors, detailed soil analyses and harvest yield information.

“This research is the first of its kind in the nation,” Bajwa said.

Researchers also plan to assess the costs associated with collecting UAS imagery, including personnel, transportation, the number of flights required to gather sufficient data, the time required to collect the information, the area of coverage per flight and maintenance costs per hour of flight to determine whether using UAS for agricultural purposes is economical.

Trajectory information from the UAS flights will be shared with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which is developing regulatory standards for the use of UAS. FAA recently approved the Hermes 450 flight as part of the Northern Plains UAS Test Site in North Dakota. The state was selected in 2013 as one of six FAA test sites and is conducting research that will assist FAA in developing those standards.

Because FAA requires UAS to be flown within the operator’s line of sight and the Hermes 450 will go beyond that, the North Dakota wing of the Civil Air Patrol will fly a chase plane with a visual observer who will be in constant radio communication with the ground-based UAS operators, Nowatzki said.

Proposed Midwest rail line meets with opposition

Proposed Midwest rail line meets with opposition

The Chicago, Ill., rail terminal is the largest and most complex in the U.S., and not just for carload traffic. In terms of sheer volume, Chicago's terminal would qualify as the third-largest container port in the world. However, congestion is a major problem, and a proposed rail line by Great Lakes Basin Transportation Inc. (GLBT) is seeking to alleviate that issue.

Source: Surface Transportation Board

The severe winters of 2012-13 and 2013-14 underscored how problematic the Chicago rail terminal can be. As weather delays grew, the terminal was quickly stretched beyond its capacity, creating severe delays for commodities moving through the terminal. Also, because Chicago is the most important hub for the six largest Class I railroads, those delays reverberated throughout the entire U.S.

According to GLBT, Chicago is the preferred interchange point for the six Class I railroads, with about 500 freight trains operating in the area on an average weekday. A substantial fraction of that traffic — an estimated 15-25% — does not need to go into the terminal for sorting or delivery, yet it has to fight its way through a crowded terminal area that also hosts about 700 Metra and Amtrak passenger trains every weekday.

As businesses and population in the Chicago region expand, even more rail capacity will be needed, GLBT said, but because the present Chicago rail network is surrounded by urban and suburban development, it would be extremely expensive to add more main track capacity to the current Chicago terminal.

That is where the proposed transportation project comes in. The purpose of the Great Lakes Basin (GLB) project is to construct a 278-mile rail line from La Porte, Ind., through Illinois to Milton, Wis., to bypass Chicago. It would link existing main lines entering the Chicago area, permit trains to bypass the congested terminal area and add capacity to accommodate existing and reasonably anticipated future growth.

“By using the GLB route, many unit commodity trains and mixed carload and intermodal trains could avoid Chicago’s congestion and transfer from railroad to railroad in eight hours or less under normal circumstances,” GLBT said. The capacity relief resulting from the GLB project should allow the railroads to better handle their Chicago proper and suburban traffic and make room for potential future growth within the existing terminal network, it added. 

GLBT plans to file either a petition for exemption or an application seeking authority from the Surface Transportation Board (Board) to construct and operate the rail line. The Board's Office of Environmental Analysis (OEA) is preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to analyze the potential environmental impacts of the proposed rail line and will hold ten public meetings in the project area and one public meeting online, during which interested parties will have opportunities to learn more about the project and to convey oral comments.

Opposition from agriculture

While the rail line would certainly alleviate congestion, local farmers and national agricultural groups are opposed to the project.

The National Cattlemen's Beef Assn. (NCBA) and the Illinois Beef Assn. recently submitted comments to the Surface Transportation Board on the proposed rail line construction. The project would cut a 200 ft.-wide right-of-way across thousands of acres of prime farm ground in Illinois.

NCBA said the line would charge tolls for use, and a portion of the right-of-way would be leased or sold for pipelines and utilities. “To date, no Class I railroad has shown interest in using the proposed cut-across,” the group noted.

“The asserted use of eminent domain to condemn valuable agricultural land raises the largest concern for members of NCBA. The proposed right-of-way would divide farms and render countless rural roads inaccessible,” NCBA added.

For many farms, the path would take up enough acres or divide up lands in a way that would make them no longer viable, forcing farmers to sell or increasing the costs of continued operation.

“As our country continues to grow, the loss of production threatens our food security. Moreover, using public authority to condemn lands under eminent domain for private economic gain through tolls and income from easement sublets sets a dangerous precedent,” NCBA noted.

The group said no scenario exists for this proposal that would have just a minimal impact on agriculture, and farmers and ranchers will pay the highest price if it goes forward.  “Food security and rural lands are too important to jeopardize for the benefit of a small number of investors,” NCBA concluded.

Chinese firm to jointly manage Russia's largest dairy complex

The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), the Thailand-based conglomerate Charoen Pokphand Group (C.P. Group), Banner Infant Dairy Products from China (Banner Dairy) and leading Middle Eastern investors and banks, together with the Ryazan Region Government, recently announced the signing of memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the establishment of Russia's largest integrated dairy complex. The $1 billion project will be completed in the Ryazan region.

RDIF said the new complex will have the competitive advantage of incorporating the full production cycle for dairy products — from the cultivation of feed crops for livestock through to the production of finished products, packaging and logistics.

The total production capacity of the complex will be 400,000 tons of finished products annually, with the broad product range including pasteurized and UHT milk, cheese and sour milk products. The project will be managed by C.P. Group, one of Thailand’s largest private businesses and one of Asia’s leading conglomerates, in collaboration with Banner Dairy, the single largest vertically integrated dairy production system both in China and the world.

"Russia is one of the world's largest milk producers in absolute terms. However, its production processes are not very efficient. Through the use of modern dairy technologies, cows in some countries produce almost two-and-a-half times more milk than in Russia,” said Kirill Dmitriev, chief executive officer of RDIF.

He said C.P. Group and Banner Dairy have achieved strong results in the production of dairy products, and their experience in implementing such projects is unique. “Their participation in the construction and the operational control of the complex will significantly enhance its effectiveness, which will mark an important step towards increasing the share of domestic dairy production and reducing milk imports."

RDIF said the complex will utilize Banner Dairy’s unique production model, which reduces the processing time of raw milk from the cow to the bottle to just two hours. The model will also produce safe, quality dairy products while retaining all the beneficial properties of natural milk, including its immunologically active factor, which cannot be preserved using other modern milk processing technologies, RDIF added.

"Together with C.P. Group, we have developed, innovated and refined a unique dairy production model in China, which is currently one of the largest and most advanced dairy integration systems in the world,” said Deng Jiuqiang, chairman of Banner Dairy. “We are very proud of being part of this new and ambitious dairy project and having the opportunity to use our expertise to produce high-quality dairy products for the Russian people and make greater contribution to the modernization of the Russian dairy industry through the establishment of the largest dairy complex in Russia."

CROP PROGRESS: Corn 86%, soybeans 56% planted

Farmers made good progress on spring planting this past week, particularly during the weekend, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Monday showing 86% of the corn planted, up 11 points in a week, and soybeans at 56%, up 20 points.

USDA’s weekly progress report showed that the corn pace was down from last year’s 90% but up from the 85% average, while soybeans matched last year and were up four points from the five-year average. Corn emergence was 60%, down from last year’s 69% but up from the 55% average.

In Iowa, where 96% of the corn was planted and 75% emerged, the first rating of the season put the crop at 1% very poor, 3% poor, 23% fair, 62% good and 11% excellent.

“There were scattered reports of corn being replanted in the northern third of Iowa,” the Iowa report said.

Indiana and Ohio corn planting continued to lag behind the western Midwest, with Indiana 62% planted and Ohio at 51%, but those numbers are up from last week’s 45% and 34%, respectively.

In soybeans, Iowa was 74% planted, Illinois 51%, Indiana 31% and Ohio 22%.

“While the top two-thirds of the state enjoyed drier weather, the south continued to have rain showers and cool temperatures, delaying planting progress," the Indiana report said. “Statewide average temperatures were below normal, at 56.5°F.”

Indiana’s rainfall last week was 0.39 in. below normal, allowing 3.5 days for fieldwork.

Wet fields continued to slow planting in much of Ohio, and the corn crop is struggling.

“There were frosts early in the week, which raised concern about damage to wheat, fruit and vegetables, as well as the emerged early planted corn and soybeans,” Ohio said. “Emerged corn is looking yellow and stressed, and some will need to be replanted if the weather cooperates.”

Winter wheat was unchanged at 62% good to excellent. The crop was75% headed, which was just ahead of 74% last year and the 66% average. The Kansas crop improved two points to 59% good/excellent, Oklahoma was up one point to 66% while Texas wheat slipped a point to 47%.

Spring wheat planting went to 95% to match the year-ago level but topped the 77% average. The crop was 78% emerged versus 76% last year and the 51% average.

Spring wheat was rated 76% good to excellent in the crop’s first condition rating of the season. Last year, it was at 69%. The North Dakota crop, the top spring wheat state, was 80% good/excellent.

Nationally, sorghum was 37% planted versus 33% a week ago and 40% a year ago. The average was 43%. Cotton was 46% planted versus 44% a year ago and the 54% average.  

Scuse leads ethanol team on Mexico trade mission

Acting deputy secretary of agriculture Michael Scuse will lead a team of U.S. ethanol industry leaders on a mission to Mexico May 24-25 to explore opportunities to expand the renewable energy sectors of both the U.S. and Mexico.

The mission participants include representatives from the Renewable Fuels Assn., Growth Energy and the U.S. Grains Council who will attend meetings with government officials, legislators and the Mexican private industry.

"Our goal is to partner with Mexico to support the establishment of an economically viable ethanol industry there, where Mexican domestic production can be supplemented with imported product from the United States," Scuse said. "The increased use of ethanol in the North American fuel market will provide citizens from both countries with an inexpensive source of renewable energy that improves air quality, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and stimulates the rural economy."

The U.S. is the world's leading manufacturer of ethanol, producing more than half of the global supply. American ethanol has been an important driver of rural economic growth since 2007. The U.S. currently blends more than 14 billion gal. of ethanol into the transportation fuel supply each year, utilizing 5 billion bu. of corn and returning nearly $20 billion annually to the U.S. farm economy.

State-owned oil company PEMEX has plans to begin selling E6 (5.8%) ethanol-blended gasoline in selected cities in the Mexican states of Tamaulipas, San Luis Potosi and Veracruz. Implementation of a nationwide E6 fuel option in Mexico would create a potential market for 790 million gal. (3 billion liters) of ethanol.

"Mexico, with the right policies in place, has the potential to achieve similar benefits producing ethanol from sugarcane," Scuse said. "We view this as a partnership that can provide benefits for both Mexico and the United States."

Mission participants will share their experiences with both ethanol production and the development of renewable fuel policies, with the goal of demonstrating how Mexico can implement its own renewable fuel program.

“This trade mission is an excellent example of the importance of ethanol to the success of nations looking to reduce their imports of harmful fossil fuels in favor of a cleaner-burning and a more economical fuel,” Growth Energy chief executive officer Emily Skor said. “It is also equally important to our goal of expanding the marketplace for U.S. ethanol, which is why we’re proud to be participating in this mission.”

Ryan LeGrand, director in Mexico for the U.S. Grains Council, said, “With the current reform to energy regulations in Mexico, the council believes that now’s the time to introduce ethanol into the Mexican fuel market in hopes of it one day becoming the principle oxygenate used in the country. We see significant potential for exports of U.S. ethanol to Mexico – and therefore, U.S. grain demand — if the right policies are in place.”