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This Week in Agribusiness, Sept. 26, 2020

Part 1

Max visits with Dustin Hoffman, Iowa Agribusiness Radio Network, about the Iowa harvest after the derecho storm.

Duwayne Bosse, Bolt Marketing, joins Mike virtually to talk about markets, including the impact of a pre-harvest rally, yield reports, exports and more.

Part 2

Duwayne Bosse is back with more marketing insight, including price targets, wheat market, dollar strength and sale triggers.

Mike recaps the hog and pig inventory report from USDA.

Chad Colby offers tips on drone usage, options and more.

Part 3

Max digs into #AgTwitter to find a "tweet of the week" to share: Big Bud made a return to Montana, and a prayer for farm families.

Mike talks about farm safety as National Farm Safety Week comes to a close.

Part 4

In the Plan Smart, Grow Smart segment, Max explores the power of partnerships with Bob Wieland, farmer, Laura, Ill.

Greg Soulje is in with a weather forecast for the upcoming week.

Part 5

Greg Soulje is back with an extended weather outlook, as well as a glimpse at autumn and winter expectations.

Part 6

There's a 1957 Minneapolis Moline 5 Star in Max's Tractor Shed.

Mark Stock shares what's coming across the auction block soon for Big Iron Auctions.

The FFA Chapter Tribute goes to Grayville FFA, Grayville, Ill.

Orion talks about farm safety and a combine fire in North Dakota, and neighbors helping neighbors, in Samuelson Sez.

Part 7

Max honors Orion Samuelson's career, after announcing he'll be stepping down after 60 years on the air.

Iowa State investigating ag supply chain resiliency

USDA meat processing packing plant USDA FDS.jpg

A new grant will allow Iowa State University researchers to study how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the U.S. food supply chain, with the goal of finding short- and long-term solutions to increase resiliency against future disruptions.

Iowa State associate professor of economics Keri Jacobs said the pandemic led to major disruptions in a number of agriculture industries.

“These disruptions were unique because we didn’t experience a shock to the supply of agricultural products; it was largely a shock to our processing capacity through reduced labor,” she explained.

Jacobs noted that the lack of labor was especially problematic in agriculture sectors, because processing capacity and the entire system were built based on the known biological processes for products like eggs, milk, beef and pork.

Furthermore, as the pandemic first spread, restaurants, bars and schools closed, quickly changing consumers’ food consumption habits and needs, which created further disruptions in the supply chain. “Plants couldn’t make the switch quickly enough to meet the change in demand and had inventory prepared for a market that no longer existed,” Jacobs said.

Consumers staying home en masse also drove down the need for gasoline and, therefore, ethanol, which had consequences that worked back into the food industries. “Carbon dioxide and distillers grains are byproducts in ethanol production and are both important inputs in other supply chains,” Jacobs said, explaining that distillers grains are used to feed livestock, and carbon dioxide is a preservative and key input in packaged liquid products.

“When ethanol demand tanked, so did the production of those two byproducts. So, in this case, the disruptions seeped into other food processing sectors,” she noted.

To help understand how and why COVID-19 disrupted the agricultural supply chain the way it did and to help prevent similar things from happening in the future, Jacobs will lead a newly funded U.S. Department of Agriculture study. The project, “Agricultural Supply Chain Disruptions: Costs & Mitigation Strategies to Enhance Resiliency of Ag Supply Chains,” aims to enhance the resiliency of the beef, pork, dairy and egg supply chains in the Midwest in the face of future disruptions and was recently awarded a two-year, $458,000 COVID-19 Rapid Response Program grant from USDA's National Institute of Food & Agriculture. The grant is part of more than $14 million in USDA funding announced to help study the most critical issues facing consumers during the pandemic.

The project's research team also includes five other Iowa State faculty: economics professors John Crespi, Chad Hart and Dermot Hayes; associate professor of supply chain management Bobby Martens, and associate economics professor Lee Schulz.

“Our short-term focus is on developing data visualization tools and forensic price- and volume-based decision tools,” Jacobs said. The visualization tools will be designed to help agricultural producers and firms recognize and adapt to stressors in the supply chain system, such as future COVID-19 outbreaks.

“We don’t know whether there will be another type of disruption similar to COVID-19, but the COVID-19 disruptions have the potential to flare up again this fall and winter or be compounded with flu season,” she said.

The long-term goal of the research is to explore the risk/return trade-off in supply system changes to improve future resiliency during disruptions.

“We will, among other things, explore potential risk-mitigating strategies that firms in the beef, pork, egg and dairy supply chains can use to reduce the impact of the current pandemic or future similar disruptions,” Jacobs said. “Fundamentally, this disruption made it very apparent where we can benefit from better information, and that is what our project aims to do: generate more informed and synthesized market information to aid supply chains.”

SHIC adds PCR tests to assay catalog

Patarapong/iStock/Thinkstock pigs

Two new polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests have been added to the Swine Health Information Center (SHIC) Diagnostic Assay Catalog.

SHIC said a highly sensitive and specific real-time PCR (RT-PCR) for detecting porcine sapovirus (SaV) genotype III for neonatal diarrhea investigation, as well as a single-tube triplex RT-PCR assay for differential detection of variant strains of pseudorabies virus (PRV), including the Chinese highly pathogenic strain, gives diagnosticians previously unavailable valuable tools.

Those are now available to all veterinary diagnostic laboratories for use and fit with SHIC's mission to make sure the U.S. swine industry is prepared for emerging diseases, the center said.

The sapovirus PCR project resulted from a farm's refractory case of piglet diarrhea in the lactation phase for more than two years. Pigs in the case study exhibited self-limiting diarrhea starting around 10 days of age but typically lost 1-2 lb. of expected weaning weight, SHIC said. Researchers use of four independent lines of evidence in this case — metagenomics analysis, RT-PCR, histopathology and in situ hybridization — confirmed porcine SaV of genogroup III as the cause of the enteritis and diarrhea.

A subsequent prevalence survey of more than 500 samples comparing pigs with clinical diarrhea and clinically healthy pigs suggests that porcine SaV genotype III may play an important role in causing swine enteritis and diarrhea, SHIC reported.

SHIC also noted that the study findings provide significant insights for a better understanding of the epidemiology and pathogenicity of porcine SaV. To the researchers' knowledge, this is the first evidence that SaV likely serves as the sole etiological agent causing enteritis and diarrhea of piglets in the field in the U.S. Having effective diagnostics for pathogens on the Swine Viral Disease Matrix and the Swine Bacterial Disease Matrix is key to discovery and detection, which are essential for effective management, SHIC said.

The single-tube triplex RT-PCR assay for differential detection of variant strains of PRV is able to differentiate wild-type classical (Bristol) and Chinese variant PRV and the gE-deletion PRV mutant marker vaccines, SHIC explained. It could be used as a rapid diagnostic tool for foreign animal disease detection in North America or for surveillance and in epidemiological studies in countries like China, where both classical and variant strains of PRV are endemic.

The clinical specificity and sensitivity of the assay was evaluated using whole blood, serum, tissue and swab samples collected from known negative and experimentally inoculated pigs with either classical (Bristol) or variant (JS-2012 and HeN1) PRV strains, SHIC reported. The targeted genomic region of this assay is also deleted in commonly used PRV gE-deleted marker vaccines, and therefore, the triplex assay did not detect viral DNA extracted from two commercial vaccine strains Bartha K-61 and Bucharest.

SHIC said this single-tube triplex assay can be used for routine diagnostics and epidemiological studies for detection and differentiation of classical strains from variant strains of PRV and as a differentiation of infected and vaccinated animals (DIVA) assay when PRV gE-deletion mutant marker vaccines are used.

As the world deals with the COVID-19 pandemic, SHIC said it continues to focus efforts on prevention, preparedness and response to novel and emerging swine disease for the benefit of U.S. swine health. As a conduit of information and research, SHIC encourages the sharing of its publications and research, which may be forwarded, reprinted and quoted freely. SHIC is funded by America's pork producers to fulfill the mission to protect and enhance the health of the U.S. swine herd.

FEEDSTUFFS PRECISION PORK Market Report – September 25

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s quarterly hogs and pigs report has been a mainstay for the hog industry for decades. Right now, though, it has never seemed more confusing, according to Dave Bauer, senior market analyst for Provimi.



Per the inventory results this quarter, the number of hogs that are supposed to be showing up at slaughterhouses, 9.8% over last year, don't seem to be matching up with what's actually showing up. And yes, producers have performed what one analyst has called magic and erased as many as 1 million pigs from our memories. This is where the revisions that USDA typically applies to past quarterly reports could help to perform the magic of now syncing up the numbers with the reality of what's actually coming to slaughter. But to quickly summarize the report didn't reflect the kind of shrinking inventory that Bauer feels needs to be seen. He also doesn’t believe we can export our way out of this supply dilemma even though recent price rallies are betting we can.

What going on with African swine fever in Germany.

What's the word on forward profitability?

Take a listen as Bauer walks us through all that.


As Bauer points out, these are uncertain times and it will pay dividends to be well-prepared. If you have questions on this week’s recap or want to discuss something not covered, feel free to ASK DAVE at [email protected]. Plan today for tomorrow’s success.

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Follow Feedstuffs Precision Pork on your favorite podcast platform or find it on www.Feedstuffs.com and www.NationalHogFarmer.com

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Dairy & specialty livestock markets, 9/25/2020

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Egg farmers make largest-ever product donation

3dmentat/iStock/Thinkstock White eggs lined up in neat rows

America's egg farmers are donating more than 46 million eggs in 2020 -- the largest amount ever recorded -- as food banks across the nation experience unparalleled demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic. U.S. egg farmers have long supported families in need through egg and egg product donations, but these donations are even more important this year.

Feeding America, one of the nation’s largest networks of food banks, projects that an additional 17.1 million people will experience food insecurity in the U.S. and that there will be an estimated $1.4 billion shortfall in U.S. food bank donations due to the pandemic. Egg farmers are responding by helping meet the growing need at food banks.

Eggs are always in high demand at U.S. food banks because they are a popular source of high-quality protein and other important nutrients, like choline for brain health and development. However, the perishable nature of eggs can make donating them challenging. America's egg farmers are bridging this gap by donating directly from their farms.

“Compassion, generosity and hard work have always been the core values of our American egg farmers,” American Egg Board (AEB) president and chief executive officer Emily Metz said. “Now, when the mission to nourish America's families is more urgent than ever, egg farmers have risen to the occasion and are doing what they always do: feeding people. This milestone egg donation comes at a critical time, and the AEB is proud to help extend this donation even further.”

In support of egg farmers’ significant donation and to provide even more nutritious meals to American families in need, AEB said it will contribute 166,000 eggs to the Maryland Food Bank, along with $15,000 to Full Hearts, Full Bellies -- a newly organized community kitchen in Brooklyn, N.Y., that provides 600 meals to children each day.

“COVID-19-related demand for food has reached unprecedented levels, so this donation of protein-rich eggs could not have come at a better time,” Maryland Food Bank communications director Joanna Warner said. “We’re grateful for partners like the American Egg Board, which made these eggs available for our network of community partners to distribute as part of our ever-expanding hunger relief efforts across Maryland.”

AEB, on behalf of the nation’s egg farmers, is encouraging Americans to contact their local food pantry and determine how they, too, can join the fight against hunger today.”

Biofuel supporters welcome Next Generation Fuels Act

Jim Parkin iStock ethanol plant with corn field in the front

As legislators looking to the future of biofuels, Rep. Cheri Bustos (D., Ill.) introduced the Next Generation Fuels Act -- legislation that leverages greater fuel octane to reduce carbon emissions from transportation, improve air quality by reducing the use of harmful aromatics and increase demand for biofuels.

Fuels with greater octane levels are stabler and have the potential to make engines more fuel efficient, Bustos said in a news release. This legislation establishes a minimum octane standard for gasoline and requires sources of the added octane value to reduce carbon emissions by at least 30% compared to baseline gasoline. Furthermore, the legislation limits the use of harmful aromatics in meeting this new higher octane standard as well as in current-market gasoline.

“For the last three-and-a-half years, we have been forced to fight battle after battle and face this Administration’s broken promise after broken promise to ensure our country is meeting the full potential of biofuels,” Bustos said. “The Next Generation Fuels Act looks toward the future to make sure we bring an environmental lens to biofuels production in order to increase demand while reducing carbon emissions.”

“The Next Generation Fuels Act builds on the success of the Renewable Fuel Standard [RFS] in advancing corn growers’ commitment to providing the lowest-cost, most efficient and environmentally friendly fuel available,” National Corn Growers Assn. president Kevin Ross said.

“There has never been a more urgent need to adopt higher-octane, low-carbon ethanol blends in America’s fuel supply, as they are key to achieving clean, healthy air,” Growth Energy chief executive officer Emily Skor said. “We applaud Congresswoman Bustos for charting a path forward that will unleash clean, affordable ethanol to drive decarbonization in our nation’s transportation fleet and save consumers money at the fuel pump.”

The act establishes a new 98 Research Octane Number (RON) standard for gasoline and requires that sources of additional octane result in at least 30% fewer greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than unblended gasoline. A new 98 RON would support mid-level blends like E25 and E30, which would generate new corn and ethanol demand.

Through advanced engine design features that take advantage of this new high-octane fuel, automakers will be able to increase engine performance and significantly improve vehicle fuel efficiency. The fuel standard allows the automobile industry to design future vehicles that meet national Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards at lower costs to the consumer for both vehicles and fuel.

Due to ethanol’s high octane rating, low-carbon, high-octane ethanol blends result in both additional fuel efficiency and significant GHG reduction benefits. Ethanol is also priced lower than gasoline, making it the most cost-effective octane source.

By requiring the new high-octane fuel to utilize low-carbon sources, the Next Generation Fuels Act will decarbonize liquid fuels as vehicle technologies advance. This requirement, coupled with a new limit on harmful aromatics content, ensures that progress already made to lower emissions will continue.

Using more petroleum-based sources to increase fuel octane would produce more carbon emissions, erase GHG reduction benefits from improved fuel economy and result in more emissions of harmful hydrocarbon aromatics, which degrade air quality and respiratory health.

“The Next Generation Fuels Act of 2020 provides a bold and innovative approach to reducing carbon emissions, improving engine efficiency and performance, protecting human health and removing the arcane regulatory roadblocks that have hindered the expansion of cleaner, greener liquid fuels,” Renewable Fuels Assn. (RFA) president and CEO Geoff Cooper said. “By establishing the roadmap for an orderly transition to high-octane, low-carbon fuels, this landmark legislation begins an exciting  new era in transportation fuels policy. As the world’s top supplier of clean, affordable, low-carbon octane,  the U.S. ethanol industry proudly and enthusiastically supports this legislation.”

RFA first began advocating for the creation of a national high-octane low carbon fuel standard in late 2018. As Cooper outlined the industry’s policy priorities at the February 2019 National Ethanol Conference, he stated, “RFA’s vision for the future includes not only strengthening the RFS but also pursuing a high-octane fuel standard,” including a requirement for 98 RON fuel, limitations on aromatics content, numerous regulatory fixes and other measures that would “assure air quality improvements, carbon emissions reduction and consumer savings for decades to come.”

“Even with increased sales of electric vehicles, it is broadly understood and accepted that our light-duty transportation fleet will continue to rely heavily on liquid fuels and internal combustion engines for decades to come,” Cooper said. “As such, we should be pursuing policy solutions that compel improvements in the environmental performance and efficiency of those liquid fuels and internal combustion engines. That’s exactly what Congresswoman Bustos’s bill does.”

The American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) was one of many organizations that worked on the legislation with Bustos’s office. However, the organization voiced concern about the carbon accounting approach.

Brian Jennings, CEO of ACE, said, “While this legislation contains many of our top priorities, its approach to carbon accounting is flawed and undermines the investment many ACE members have made to reduce their carbon intensity.”

The legislation includes a new clean octane standard that limits aromatic compounds in gasoline and requires octane to be produced from clean sources -- defined as fuel with average life-cycle GHG emissions at least 30% lower than gasoline. The bill’s definition of industry “average” to determine the life-cycle GHG emissions of ethanol, also known as carbon intensity (CI), shortchanges many producers, Jennings said. As an example, he explained:

“Under this legislation, ethanol from a coal-fired ADM facility, whose fuel is similar to the CI of gasoline, would get the same access to the new octane market as the most efficient farmer-owned ethanol facility, whose carbon footprint is at least 50% cleaner than gasoline. In other words, the bill, as currently drafted, would perversely reward ADM for doing nothing to reduce the CI of the fuel produced in its coal-fired facilities and penalize many ACE member companies that have invested millions of dollars to install technology to reduce the CI of their fuel,” Jennings said. “We do not believe there is a good rationale for a carbon policy that treats ethanol with a CI that is hardly indistinguishable from gasoline the same as ethanol from a facility that is 50% cleaner than gasoline.”

Massive wildfires bring bipartisan calls for change

pixabay forest-1161868_1920.jpg

Seventy-four large fires have recently burned 3.7 million acres in 11 western states, with many still burning. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, 44,174 wildfires have burned 7.1 million acres in the U.S. so far this year. The devastation left behind in both urban and rural areas has renewed calls for solutions to prevent similar events in the future.

While they may disagree on the cause of the wildfires or the methods that should be used for preventing them, members of the House Agriculture Committee's conservation and forestry subcommittee agreed during a Sept. 24 hearing on one thing: Forest management must be a greater priority.

John Phipps, deputy chief for state and private forestry at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, testified during the hearing, emphasizing that the raging wildfires are the result of not allowing the wildfires to naturally burn in order to maintain more resilient forests.

He pointed out that the recommended density of trees per acre is 64, but many of the forests currently burning have 320 trees per acre -- about five times the recommended amount. This has occurred, he said, “because for over 110 years, we've been trying to put out every fire we can.”

During the meeting, calls for prescribed burns, grazing and timber management surfaced from committee members who have heard reports and seen the catastrophic results of the mismanagement.

When prompted to provide lessons learned, Phipps said, “We need to think big. If we are going to try to have a managed landscape that is resilient to fire, we need to do much more than we're doing. That has to be with participation of communities, state lands, federal lands and private lands.”

Still, the change won't happen overnight, he said, estimating that it will take 10 years to get to a more desirable place. The price tag for the change will require roughly two to three times more funding in the area of land management and fuels management, he added. Last year, about $1 billion were appropriated.

Phipps said the events this year “broke the system,” as agencies struggled to address the number of fires that have occurred all at the same time.

“It's likely the case that we need to maintain the fire suppression capability while we're working to manage the landscape better at least over a 10-year period,” Phipps said.

During the hearing, subcommittee ranking member Doug LaMalfa (R., Cal.)  pressed Phipps for more action.

“Constituents are very tired of what's been happening,” he said. “We're all feeling it, and when we see our urban friends even feeling it -- not only in the bay area but all of California and even here on the East Coast -- then I hope it really sounds the alarm that we have got to do something that has to be a lot more dramatic.”

Some of the solutions, such as prescribed burns, may be unpopular, LaMalfa said, “but we need to be able to educate people and say, 'This is necessary.' Because when we don't do it, we have a scale of fire that is much worse.”

He added, “We'll have to be bold and step over lines and say, 'No, we must do this.'”

LaMalfa also noted that some have been reluctance to use grazing more widely, even though it has proved to be an effective fire prevention tool.

“It's not anything new under the sun, and they act like it is," he said. "They go, 'Let's have a pilot program on grazing.' What's there to prove? We know it works. It reduces the fine fuels down there. We don't talk about grazing everything off, but there are certainly strategic zones where this is useful for keeping the fuel loads down as well as the type of fire break zones that would be helpful for firefighters.”

Further, he noted that the Forest Service has continued to reduce animal unit months, which are used to describe the animal carrying capacity of a given forage or pasture.

LaMalfa asked Phipps: “Why are we seeing a downward trend in this when this is a very effective tool? Can we get a greater commitment to this as an effective tool? There are those that don't want to cut trees; there are those that don't want to have prescribed burns. This seems like a win-win to me.”

In a statement following the meeting, LaMalfa said, “Year after year, I have called for better forest management practices to prevent this damage, but year after year, Congress and the Forest Service fail to address it. Today's hearing put pressure on the Forest Service to improve their forest management efforts and spotlighted Congress's inability to enact real forestry reform.

"Given the current fire situation, the federal government has a concrete reason to act. There's no reason why we can't streamline forest management projects for timely completion, make commonsense reforms to the way we manage our forests and ensure that our wildland firefighters have the equipment and personnel they need to address a fire right when it starts. Congress and the Forest Service need to step up,” the statement added.

Losses widespread in agriculture

Dave Kranz, director of publications and media relations for the California Farm Bureau Federation, told Feedstuffs that as more ranchers have gotten back into the high country, livestock losses from the fires have been reported. However, no specific information on the number of animals lost is known at this time.

“The bulk of agricultural damage from the flames continues to be to pasture and rangeland, though some farms have suffered direct fire losses,” he noted.

Smoke also remains a concern, particularly for winegrape growers, especially those nearest the center of fires.

In Oregon, nearly 30 wildfires are currently burning, and nearly 1 million acres have already burned.

Heartbreaking stories have begun to emerge on social media about entire ranches being wiped out, including livestock that have been lost or burned.

One rancher in Oregon shared, “You start thinking about what, for us, the future is; you don't want to go on.”

His family lost every aspect of their working ranch except the house, including miles and miles of fence, outbuildings, feed, etc. The hardest part, he said, was dealing with the burned cattle.

In Lincoln County, Wash., the Whitney Fire has affected an estimated 30 ranchers, 10,000 head of cattle, 130,000 acres of range and pasture and countless stacks of winter hay.

Farm bureaus urge support for federal wildfire bill

The American Farm Bureau Federation and 13 state farm bureaus are asking Congress to give federal land management agencies additional tools and resources to prevent and recover from catastrophic wildfires.

The bureaus sent a letter to Senate leadership in support of the Emergency Wildfire & Public Safety Act of 2020, bipartisan legislation that is being considered to expedite forest management, accelerate post-fire restoration and reforestation and remove dead and dangerous wood from national forests.

“Backlogs in adequate management, coupled with drier, hotter conditions, have resulted in unhealthy, overly dense forests,” the letter stated. “When fires inevitably occur, these conditions result in larger, more catastrophic fires that are difficult to control, destructive to both urban and rural communities and pose great threats to both private property and human life.”

While the legislation will help mitigate future fires, it will not address the immediate needs of farmers and ranchers suffering devastating losses from fires burning right now.

American Farm Bureau Federation president Zippy Duvall said, “The images of wildfires are heartbreaking when you watch a family's livelihood disappear, but the damage continues long after the flames are put out. Smoke can damage soil and spoil crops, causing losses for several months after a disaster. In addition to better management of our forests, we need to be prepared to help farmers who have lost everything. We encourage Congress to consider additional disaster funding to meet the needs of communities affected by the wildfires.”

Seventy-four large fires have recently burned 3.7 million acres in 11 western states, with many still burning. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, 44,174 wildfires have burned 7.1 million acres in the U.S. so far this year. The devastation left behind in both urban and rural areas has renewed calls for solutions to prevent similar events in the future.

While they may disagree on the cause of the wildfires or the methods that should be used for preventing them, members of the House Agriculture Committee's conservation and forestry subcommittee agreed during a Sept. 24 hearing on one thing: Forest management must be a greater priority.

John Phipps, deputy chief for state and private forestry at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, testified during the hearing, emphasizing that the raging wildfires are the result of not allowing the wildfires to naturally burn in order to maintain more resilient forests.

He pointed out that the recommended density of trees per acre is 64, but many of the forests currently burning have 320 trees per acre -- about five times the recommended amount. This has occurred, he said, “because for over 110 years, we've been trying to put out every fire we can.”

During the meeting, calls for prescribed burns, grazing and timber management surfaced from committee members who have heard reports and seen the catastrophic results of the mismanagement.

When prompted to provide lessons learned, Phipps said, “We need to think big. If we are going to try to have a managed landscape that is resilient to fire, we need to do much more than we're doing. That has to be with participation of communities, state lands, federal lands and private lands.”

Still, the change won't happen overnight, he said, estimating that it will take 10 years to get to a more desirable place. The price tag for the change will require roughly two to three times more funding in the area of land management and fuels management, he added. Last year, about $1 billion were appropriated.

Phipps said the events this year “broke the system,” as agencies struggled to address the number of fires that have occurred all at the same time.

“It's likely the case that we need to maintain the fire suppression capability while we're working to manage the landscape better at least over a 10-year period,” Phipps said.

During the hearing, subcommittee ranking member Doug LaMalfa (R., Cal.)  pressed Phipps for more action.

“Constituents are very tired of what's been happening,” he said. “We're all feeling it, and when we see our urban friends even feeling it -- not only in the bay area but all of California and even here on the East Coast -- then I hope it really sounds the alarm that we have got to do something that has to be a lot more dramatic.”

Some of the solutions, such as prescribed burns, may be unpopular, LaMalfa said, “but we need to be able to educate people and say, 'This is necessary.' Because when we don't do it, we have a scale of fire that is much worse.”

He added, “We'll have to be bold and step over lines and say, 'No, we must do this.'”

LaMalfa also noted that some have been reluctance to use grazing more widely, even though it has proved to be an effective fire prevention tool.

“It's not anything new under the sun, and they act like it is," he said. "They go, 'Let's have a pilot program on grazing.' What's there to prove? We know it works. It reduces the fine fuels down there. We don't talk about grazing everything off, but there are certainly strategic zones where this is useful for keeping the fuel loads down as well as the type of fire break zones that would be helpful for firefighters.”

Further, he noted that the Forest Service has continued to reduce animal unit months, which are used to describe the animal carrying capacity of a given forage or pasture.

LaMalfa asked Phipps: “Why are we seeing a downward trend in this when this is a very effective tool? Can we get a greater commitment to this as an effective tool? There are those that don't want to cut trees; there are those that don't want to have prescribed burns. This seems like a win-win to me.”

In a statement following the meeting, LaMalfa said, “Year after year, I have called for better forest management practices to prevent this damage, but year after year, Congress and the Forest Service fail to address it. Today's hearing put pressure on the Forest Service to improve their forest management efforts and spotlighted Congress's inability to enact real forestry reform.

"Given the current fire situation, the federal government has a concrete reason to act. There's no reason why we can't streamline forest management projects for timely completion, make commonsense reforms to the way we manage our forests and ensure that our wildland firefighters have the equipment and personnel they need to address a fire right when it starts. Congress and the Forest Service need to step up,” the statement added.

Losses widespread in agriculture

Dave Kranz, director of publications and media relations for the California Farm Bureau Federation, told Feedstuffs that as more ranchers have gotten back into the high country, livestock losses from the fires have been reported. However, no specific information on the number of animals lost is known at this time.

“The bulk of agricultural damage from the flames continues to be to pasture and rangeland, though some farms have suffered direct fire losses,” he noted.

Smoke also remains a concern, particularly for winegrape growers, especially those nearest the center of fires.

In Oregon, nearly 30 wildfires are currently burning, and nearly 1 million acres have already burned.

Heartbreaking stories have begun to emerge on social media about entire ranches being wiped out, including livestock that have been lost or burned.

One rancher in Oregon shared, “You start thinking about what, for us, the future is; you don't want to go on.”

His family lost every aspect of their working ranch except the house, including miles and miles of fence, outbuildings, feed, etc. The hardest part, he said, was dealing with the burned cattle.

In Lincoln County, Wash., the Whitney Fire has affected an estimated 30 ranchers, 10,000 head of cattle, 130,000 acres of range and pasture and countless stacks of winter hay.

Farm bureaus urge support for federal wildfire bill

The American Farm Bureau Federation and 13 state farm bureaus are asking Congress to give federal land management agencies additional tools and resources to prevent and recover from catastrophic wildfires.

The bureaus sent a letter to Senate leadership in support of the Emergency Wildfire & Public Safety Act of 2020, bipartisan legislation that is being considered to expedite forest management, accelerate post-fire restoration and reforestation and remove dead and dangerous wood from national forests.

“Backlogs in adequate management, coupled with drier, hotter conditions, have resulted in unhealthy, overly dense forests,” the letter stated. “When fires inevitably occur, these conditions result in larger, more catastrophic fires that are difficult to control, destructive to both urban and rural communities and pose great threats to both private property and human life.”

While the legislation will help mitigate future fires, it will not address the immediate needs of farmers and ranchers suffering devastating losses from fires burning right now.

American Farm Bureau Federation president Zippy Duvall said, “The images of wildfires are heartbreaking when you watch a family's livelihood disappear, but the damage continues long after the flames are put out. Smoke can damage soil and spoil crops, causing losses for several months after a disaster. In addition to better management of our forests, we need to be prepared to help farmers who have lost everything. We encourage Congress to consider additional disaster funding to meet the needs of communities affected by the wildfires.”

Acceligen to develop dairy genetics for Africa

Photo credit: Fazendas do BASA Acceligen 1 cropped.jpg

Acceligen, a Recombinetics Inc. company, announced that it received a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop bovine genetics optimized with traits desirable to smallholder dairy farmers.

The breeding program will contribute to more sustainable production by using traits that will increase farmer income and improve animal health for sub-Saharan Africa dairy systems.

Acceligen received the $3.68 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to deploy a suite of traits from their discovery pipeline into commercially important dairy animals with high genetic merit for production and durability.

Acceligen said this will be accomplished by gene editing multiple traits in a series of donor animals in the U.S. and Brazil. Primary traits include adaptation to tropical heat and milk yield, while traits for adaptations to local diseases and management preferences will also be added using input derived from smallholders. Complementary efforts are also in place to support regulatory review and other commercialization activities for these animals in target countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

"A critical part of this effort is to introduce multiple adaptation traits into the founder animals so that their hybrid progeny are fully functional in tropical environments," Acceligen chief executive officer and project lead Tad Sonstegard said, noting that native dairy animals, although typically well adapted to local environmental conditions, have undergone little or no selection for milk production.

"When we combine gene editing with top merit animals using advanced reproductive technologies from our partners Kheiron (Pilar, Argentina) and TransOva Genetics (Sioux Center, Iowa), we can make significant genetic improvement for well-adapted, high-yielding dairy cows. Our goal is to get these animals into the hands of smallholder farmers," Sonstegard added.

Currently, dairy animals in sub-Saharan Africa generally have a much higher ratio of greenhouse gas to animal protein output compared to breeds developed in the European Union and the U.S.

Sabreena Larson, Acceligen director of commercial operations, said, "By gene editing animals to be more sustainable and enable smallholder farmers to better provide for their families, this project exemplifies what Acceligen is really about. Acceligen is driven to implement the use of gene editing in livestock to increase animal welfare and sustainability while helping to improve the globe by reducing hunger and fighting climate change."

Founded in 2014, Acceligen is a leader in the global development, deployment and commercialization of precision animal breeding technologies.

Kheiron, a wholly owned subsidiary of Proinvesa Group, is a leading animal biotech company. Founded in 2012, Kheiron was initially focused on cloning of equine athletes but has now evolved into a broader platform that includes advanced reproductive technologies and precision breeding through gene editing of animal cells for welfare, production and regenerative human medicine.

Trans Ova Genetics, founded in 1980, offers advanced reproductive technologies to help breeders multiply the success of their elite cattle. These technologies include embryo transfer, in vitro fertilization, sex-sorted semen, as well as genetic preservation and cloning services. In addition to its headquarters in Sioux Center, Trans Ova Genetics has regional centers in Missouri, Maryland, Texas, Oklahoma, South Dakota, California, Washington and Wisconsin as well as multiple satellite stations throughout the U.S.

House advances RFS Integrity Act

Capitol building

In a vote Thursday, the House passed sweeping energy legislation in the Expanding Access to Sustainable Energy Act of 2019 (H.R. 4447), which includes the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) Integrity Act introduced by House Agriculture Committee chairman Collin Peterson (D., Minn.).

Since 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency has approved 85 small refinery exemptions (SREs), which effectively reduced demand for renewable fuels like corn-based ethanol and biodiesel by roughly 4 billion gal.

Currently, refiners have no clear deadline from EPA for submitting a request for SREs. The bipartisan RFS Integrity Act explicitly sets the deadline for refineries to submit an application for an SRE by June 1 in the year prior to the year in which the biofuel targets go into effect. Additionally, the legislation increases transparency into the SRE application process, providing the public with greater insight into who is receiving these waivers and why.

Peterson introduced the bill with Reps. Dusty Johnson (R., S.D.), Dave Loebsack (D., Iowa), Rodney Davis (R., Ill.) and Roger Marshall (R., Kan.). It is designed to bring transparency to EPA’s SRE process and ensure that refiners meet biofuel blending requirements.

“The House passage of H.R. 4447 moves us closer to holding EPA accountable for its reckless use of small refinery waivers," Peterson said. "EPA has granted dozens of waivers in recent years and has refused to share details of their justification with Congress and the public. The waivers undermine the blending requirements required by law and harm rural communities that produce biofuels. The provisions of my bill will force EPA to publicly release details of these waiver petitions.”

“After years of EPA mismanagement, this legislation would finally give farmers and biofuel producers a long-overdue peek at EPA’s secretive and destructive process,” Growth Energy chief executive officer Emily Skor said. “EPA’s lack of transparency on refinery exemptions sends mixed signals to the market and leaves billions of gallons of demand at the mercy of regulatory whim. This long-overdue fix would begin to close the book on abuse and put rural America on a stable footing while we rebuild the agricultural supply chain. We’re grateful to chairman Peterson and his co-sponsors for their efforts to get this critical legislation through the House of Representatives and on to the Senate.” 

The bill would also require public disclosure of the volumes of biofuels potentially affected by the petition, along with the name of the petitioner.

Kurt Kovarik, National Biodiesel Board vice president of federal affairs, stated, "This is a commonsense step to ensure that RFS biomass-based diesel volumes are fully met and to prevent a recurrence of the demand destruction for biodiesel that we've seen over the past several years. Biodiesel and renewable diesel producers have a right to know how many gallons of their product may be lost from RFS volumes when major refiners like Exxon ask for special treatment."