Featured Agriculture News

11/17/2017 - The Market's Fine Print

When it comes to the use of grading cameras, the spread between the best of technology and acceptable business by beef processors remains substantial.

11/17/2017 - Hold Your Horses

These therapy animals have tiny hooves and big hearts.

11/17/2017 - Food Sustainability Demands

The role of inquisitive institutional investors was a running theme at the Field to Market Agricultural Sustainability Summit this week in Kansas City, Missouri. The conference focused on the growing soil health movement as well as increased efforts within commodities to measure and establish sustainability practices.

11/16/2017 - DTN Retail Fertilizer Trends

Average retail fertilizer prices were a mixed bag the second week of November 2017 with the majority moving higher and a couple moving lower.

11/16/2017 - State of Fertilizer Industry

Study shows financial impact of fertilizer industry equals billions of dollars to nation's economy, as well as 495,000 jobs.

11/16/2017 - Asking States to Defend NAFTA

Farm groups are increasingly concerned the president may follow through on his desire to invoke Article 2205 of NAFTA, which allows withdrawal from the agreement within six months after providing notice to Canada and Mexico.

11/15/2017 - Critics Pan Bayer-Monsanto

Critics of agricultural consolidation on Tuesday released reports calling on the U.S. Department of Justice to reject the merger between Bayer AG and Monsanto Co.

11/15/2017 - Machinery Chatter

Progressive Farmer's Jim Patrico shares why he enjoys visiting factories, and what are some of the surprises he's already discovered while touring factories in Germany.

11/15/2017 - USDA Weekly Crop Progress

Winter wheat conditions fell slightly from the previous week, but USDA's Crop Progress report was neutral for winter wheat prices, according to DTN Analyst Todd Hultman.
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11/17/2017 The Market's Fine Print

By John Harrington
DTN Livestock Analyst

Several years ago, my elderly mother, never one to go gently into that good night of old school and low tech, informed me she needed to learn to use the computer. When I asked the stubborn octogenarian "why," she boldly (if belatedly) predicted that it probably represented the wave of the future.

Who could argue with that?

So against my better judgment, I ordered a new laptop, delivered it to her kitchen table the following Saturday, and immediately commenced a series of agonizing sessions that eventually became known in family lore as "the tutorial from hell." At the end of the day, Mom deserved a more patient and creative instructor, and I deserved a student with fully soldered memory chips, unbothered by mouse vertigo and missing my phone number on her speed dial.

After many, many hours of hair pulling and tongue biting on my part, this brave woman temporarily mastered the advanced science of email. She could "send," "reply" and even "forward" on a really good day. But here's the funny thing: Mom never quite believed in neither her ability to zip through cyberspace nor the actual technology that pretended to sponsor its happening.

That's why after sending each email, she would insist upon calling the intended recipient just to see if they "got it." In fact, I often thought even this backstop system left her in an anxious tizzy, a hand-wringing state of uncertainty that could only be resolved by getting in the car for physical confirmation.

But you can only police internet effectiveness for so long. Eventually Mom returned to family monitoring and worries closer to her traditional wheelhouse. Yet her short computer career left me with a valuable lesson about how long it sometimes takes for new technology to enter the realm of conventional wisdom.

I realize that the change-addicts of the millennial generation will find such a concept laughable. But history is full of necessary periods of transition, slowly building bridges connecting theoretical innovation with practical confidence. Take for example, the extended amount of time for beef processors to move toward quality grading efficiencies with the use of electronic cameras.

With increasing sophistication, electronic cameras have been developing in major plants for nearly the last decade. The technological dream in this regard has already revolved around the need for greater grading consistence, and speed, eventually eliminating (or at least minimizing) the subjectivity of the human eye.

While optical science has made great strides in recent years, a kerfuffle involving USDA graders and packers late last month reminded everyone that the spread between the best of technology and acceptable business remains substantial.

Last February, the USDA introduced the new generation of electronic cameras, a system referred to as the Gigabyte Ethernet or "Gig E." Over the last eight months, packers have gradually implemented the new camera in nine steer and heifer slaughter plants, representing approximately 50% of the fed slaughter market share.

While major companies within the industry (e.g., Tyson, Cargill, JBS) generally offered favorable reviews for the new system through the summer and early fall, private critics started to roar on Oct. 26 when government inspectors announced plans to revise the programming for the Gig E system.

The cameras are primarily used to determine marbling scores for quality grade and branded program certification. At some point this summer, flesh and blood graders monitoring Gig E decided that cameras were finding too much choice product and needed to be recalibrated accordingly.

The changes made by the USDA will now reportedly assign a lower marbling score to carcasses, potentially reducing the expected number of prime and choice-grading carcasses from earlier expectations. How much difference will the programming of new algorithms make in terms of late-year quality tonnage?

Initially, it depended on who you asked.

In the final days of October, when packers already had a great deal of choice/prime rib orders for the late-year holidays, you could hear a wide range of panicky guesses, all the way from no change to a 10 to 12 point drop in the percent of cattle grading choice. Over the last several weeks, the disruptive potential of the rejiggered camera has been generally minimized by both sides. Still, the uncertainty clearly needs to be kept under surveillance.

Yet here's the rub in this whole story; the irony that first got me thinking about Mom's e-mail suspicions. Not a single carcass in the land has ever been stamped based exclusively on the marbling data generated by a grading camera. Grading cameras are nothing more than tools to be used by the subjective judgment of hard-hatted men and women walking rails in the cooler.

One of these days, the grading process may be the exclusive domain of cameras, robots and drones. But we remain a long ways from such cold automation at this point.

John Harrington can be reached at harringtonsfotm@gmail.com

Follow John Harrington on Twitter @feelofthemarket

(BE/BAS)

11/17/2017 Hold Your Horses

By Mackenzie Patterson
Progressive Farmer Contributing Editor

Old-fashioned horse sense would dictate four-legged animals don't belong inside nursing homes, libraries, medical facilities or schools. However, that's exactly where Andra Ebert leads her miniature horses.

The owner of Heartland Mini Hoofs, Taylorville, Illinois, uses these tiny horses to help soothe angst, deliver joy and teach lessons in ways ordinary humans can't. Animal-assisted therapy is a growing practice worldwide, and Ebert has seen it work miracles that defy explanation.

She can tell tales of therapy horses teasing words from silent Alzheimer patients. She has heartwarming stories of horses instinctively dropping to their knees to gently nuzzle the outstretched hand of the bedridden.

"The horses get along with everyone. It amazes me how they work within a variety of ages, from screaming high school students to quiet nursing home patients," Ebert said. "But, they seem to connect most with those who have a genuine need of emotional support."

SIZING THEM UP

How big is little? Imagine a horse the size of a large dog weighing in at around 140 pounds. Mini horses are determined by the height of the animal. Depending on the breed, that's usually less than 34 to 38 inches, as measured at the last hairs of the mane at the withers.

Ebert's string includes five-year-old Jasper, the chestnut she considers the dependable old man of the group; three-year-old Bailey, a black pinto with white spots that is the pack leader; and Winnie, a two-year-old buckskin with striking black features Ebert said is the most spoiled of the three.

These tiny animals were originally bred to work and to be exposed to various types of machinery and contraptions. In the middle 1800s, miniature horses came to America for use in coal mines. They were the perfect size to negotiate small tunnels and strong enough to tow a coal car.

Today, their job is more about empathy than horsepower. Not every horse has the right stuff either. Ebert purchased all three of her minis from a special breeder in South Carolina. She said the best way to pick the perfect therapy horse is to sit in a field among them and wait to see which one comes to seek you out.

"A good therapy animal has to be calm and curious. They have to want to go see people," Ebert said.

GALLOPING MEMORIES

Claudine Nichols could barely hold her horses as she waited for Ebert's minis to make an appearance at Imboden Creek Living Center, Decatur, Illinois. The residents sat in a semicircle, anxiously waiting for Jasper and Bailey to trot through the doors.

"Come here honey," Nichols urged Jasper. Ebert motioned, which gave him permission to step closer. Within seconds, he gently was snickering sweet nothings in Nichols' ear. "I know, I know ... why don't you just come live with me?" Nichols whispered back. Memories flowed all around as residents relate stories of plow horses on the farm or long-gone childhood ponies.

Seeing and hearing these personal interactions keeps Ebert going. Last year, she and the horses logged 12,000 miles making 138 visits to various institutions. She tries not to stray too far from home, but demand for her services is growing.

THERAPY HOMEWORK

Ebert and husband, Bill, work to desensitize the horses to all sorts of objects and noises to prepare them for therapy work.

"We practice going around a wheel chair, a walker, a bed and a ventilator. The minis live in my husband's shop, so he will start the tractor or the combine right next to them so they will get used to loud noises. Every interaction is training for them," Ebert said.

The horses are registered through the American Miniature Horse Association. There are specific standards and tests required to make sure each team is properly qualified to do this type of work.

Before the gang loads up for a visit, the minis are brushed head to toe. Feet are washed with hydrogen peroxide until they are cleaner than most peoples' shoes. ShowSheen, a hair polish and detangler, is used to make manes and tails sleek and shiny.

The minis wear poop bags and personalized vests. Ebert said, "The horses know they are working when the vest goes on. The rule during a visit is, if I move, they move; if I stop, they stop. When the vest comes off, they are a normal horse that runs, kicks and plays."

A personalized cargo trailer is transportation for these therapy horses. The trailer windows are a short 32 inches off the floor so these little horses can look out while going down the road. They get a third of a cup of grain morning and night, along with hay. On days when they are not working, they are turned out to enjoy pasture grazing all day long after they eat their breakfast.

JUST SAY WHOA

Ebert has a special program for schoolchildren called "Just Say Whoa to Bullying." It teaches children to recognize and respect differences in one another.

She explains to children that horses are a united pack, always looking out for each other. This type of bullying prevention program, using animal-assisted activities with miniature therapy animals to foster kindness and encourage positivity, is the first of its kind.

Each therapy visit or presentation lasts about an hour. The horse is critical to a successful visit, but so is the handler. "You have to read people well and gauge reactions, and like this kind of work," Ebert said.

After four years, she insists she gets as much out of the experiences as her audiences.

"When I walk in with the horses, people seem to come alive. There is literally light in their eyes that wasn't there before, and I go home feeling something really good happened."

For More Information:

www.heartlandminihoofs.org

www.amha.org

http://amha.org/…

(CC/ES/AG/CZ)

11/17/2017 Food Sustainability Demands

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (DTN) -- In a new dynamic for the agricultural sustainability movement, major institutional investors are increasingly engaging food and agricultural corporations to find out how they are managing various climate risks.

The role of inquisitive institutional investors was a running theme at the Field to Market Agricultural Sustainability Summit this week in Kansas City, Missouri. The conference focused on the growing soil health movement as well as increased efforts within commodities to measure and establish sustainability practices.

Sustainability goals have increasingly become a driver for consumers deciding what they are going to buy, but now shareholders want to know about such risks as well.

"This year, in particular, has been the year we have felt the most inquiries and serious attention from institutional investors -- not the kind of social-impact investors but core institutional investors who value our stock want to know what we are doing about climate change," said Brittni Furrow, senior director of Sustainability of Global Food Business for Walmart Stores Inc. "For years, our chief sustainability officer has been telling our CFO and head of investor relations that investors are going to care about this, and we need to be taking this seriously. Well, that happened this year. This year, every single one of our institutional investors asked us about our IR team climate program and about how we are evaluating climate risk."

Following the hurricanes in August and September, Walmart held a board meeting just last week discussing how the company values long-term climate risks for the company, Furrow said. A big chunk of that is looking at how company distribution centers are affected by major storms, as well as disruption to the retail business.

This past year, more than 130 shareholder proposal resolutions in the agribusiness sector focused on topics dealing with climate change or related sustainability topics. Investors are looking for more disclosure around not just weather risks, but also long-term sourcing of commodities and water.

"There has been a huge uptick among institutional investors on sustainability issues, including water, looking at both water quantity and water-quality issues," said Cambria Allen, corporate governance director for the UAW Retiree Medical Benefits Fund, which manages a $59 billion portfolio of stock in more than 8,000 companies.

What this means is the supply chain is looking more closely at farmers for sourcing commodities and what the practices are in the field that can be deemed as sustainable and address climate change. This is forcing public companies to share more details about how they are addressing climate risks on reports they file with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

"The trend is to have more reporting on water and climate issues," said Amy Braun, sustainability director for Kellogg Co. "We're improving, but we haven't cracked the nut on this. It's something we are still working on."

Jennifer James, a rice farmer from Newport, Arkansas, was named Field to Market's first Farmer of the Year award winner at this week's event. James said her family's operation began working decades ago to conserve water on their operation in various ways. The farm has undergone precision leveling, established underground pipes to move water around, and has also established a small reservoir.

"My family was very forward thinking in some of their efforts to conserve water," James said.

James chairs the sustainability committee for USA Rice, and she said her involvement in Field to Market over the past several years has opened her eyes to the entire supply chain. Most sustainability efforts have to start with the farmers that grow their commodities, she said.

"For farmers, why this matters is because it matters to the people who buy their products," James said. "Consumers are two to three generations removed from the farm at best, and they aren't as familiar with the practices on the farms, and why would they be? But they want to know how their food is grown, and they want to know what they eat is safe."

Still, the conversation at Field to Market often comes back to how farmers who are the best stewards can be rewarded in a commodity supply chain.

Justin Knopf, a wheat farmer from Salina, Kansas, who was highlighted in Miriam Horn's book "Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman," noted everyone's grain ends up at the same spot in the elevator.

"How do we un-commoditize the commodity business, not very much, but just a little bit?" Knopf said. "What are the ways the supply chain can allow consumers to make investments back on the farmland?"

The challenge there is retailers and consumers have become used to certification programs that offer a reason for a consumer to pay more for that product. Furrow noted that incentives may require more initiatives within agriculture to credit farmers for regenerative farm practices. Furrow noted she had been on a lot of farms with great practices and stories, but said production agriculture involves hundreds of thousands of farmers. The industry needs a way to verify on-farm practices, she said.

"We can't come to every one of your operations and check them out," Furrow said. "Within our industry, a lot of agricultural commodities around the world who have created third-party verification create a standard of good products and work with NGOs and the industry to certify your products. It's done with other commodity markets that are traded all over the place."

Some groups have established ambitious goals for soil-health practices into the future. The Nature Conservancy, for instance, would like to see no-till farming, cover crops and related practices on as much as 50% of cropland by 2025.

"Most farmers who have adopted those practices are seeing they are good for productivity and good for their bottom line," said Larry Clemons, director of the Nature Conservancy's North America Agriculture Program. He added, "The amount of cover crops I'm seeing on the land is noticeable. There is a movement out there happening on the land."

Still, Clemons notes that more than 60% of cropland is owned by absentee landowners with farmers operating on year-to-year cash-rent agreements. The Nature Conservancy and others are trying to engage these landlords to support renters who farm with less tillage and use cover crops.

"We're really starting to understand that demographic of landowners and what motivates them," Clemons said.

Sustainable agriculture, though, is also high tech. The U.S. Department of Energy even has a team that is working on "moonshot" types of technology to improve energy efficiency and reduce the greenhouse-gas footprint of farmers. Agriculture takes up about 12% of U.S. energy use, and the food-supply chain amounts to about 15% of overall greenhouse emissions. DOE is working on direct-imaging technologies to see root profiles in the field and continuing precision ag tools to better highlight agronomic issues with crops instantaneously.

"We are moving into a phase where we are digitizing ag," said Joe Cornelius, program director for DOE's Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Consumers, though, are often focused more on values than science. Furrow noted Walmart is often asked what the retailer is doing to educate consumers. Consumers are driven by various influencers beyond Walmart, especially in the social-media space. That's an area farmers need to watch because younger consumers, like investors, are keyed into issues around sustainability right now.

"Our millennial consumer will be 35% of our retail sales by 2020, and they are making it very clear that sustainability matters," Furrow said. "Lots of studies tell us climate change is the No. 1 global concern that that millennial generation cares about, and they are looking to purchase with a brand they trust doing the right work on the issues they care about."

Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

(BAS/AG)

11/16/2017 DTN Retail Fertilizer Trends

By Russ Quinn
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) -- Average fertilizer prices were a mixed bag the second week of November 2017 with the majority moving higher and a couple moving lower, according to retailers surveyed by DTN.

Six of the eight major fertilizers were higher compared to last month, with only two up a significant amount. UAN32 was 7% higher compared to the previous month with an average price of $272 per ton. UAN28 was 5% higher from last month and was at $216/ton.

The remaining four fertilizers were just slightly higher in price. DAP had an average price of $434/ton, MAP $459/ton, urea $338/ton and anhydrous $409/ton.

Two fertilizers were lower in price compared to a month earlier -- one by a considerable amount; 10-34-0 was down 13% from last month with an average price of $355/ton. Potash was just slightly lower with an average price of $341/ton.

On a price per pound of nitrogen basis, the average urea price was at $0.37/lb.N, anhydrous $0.25/lb.N, UAN28 $0.39/lb.N and UAN32 $0.42/lb.N.

Fertilizer manufacturer Mosaic Company will stop production at a Florida plant in an effort to jumpstart stalled sales, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article.

The company recently announced it will idle its Plant City, Florida, concentrates plant for at least a year. Mosaic's Saudi Arabian phosphate-production joint venture is expected to help ensure there are not market disruptions from the move, the company said.

"Mosaic is taking proactive steps to accelerate business performance," said Chief Executive Joc O'Rourke in prepared remarks. "While these decisions are difficult and have impacts on our employees, today's actions put Mosaic in a strong position to benefit as market dynamics improve."

Five fertilizers are now higher compared to last year. DAP is 1% higher, MAP is 2% more expensive, urea is 5% higher, UAN32 is 6% more expensive and potash is now 9% more expensive.

The remaining three fertilizers are lower compared to a year prior. UAN28 is 1% less expensive while anhydrous is 13% lower and 10-34-0 is 21% less expensive.

DTN collects roughly 1,700 retail fertilizer bids from 310 retailer locations weekly. Not all fertilizer prices change each week. Prices are subject to change at any time.

DTN Pro Grains subscribers can find current retail fertilizer price in the DTN Fertilizer Index on the Fertilizer page under Farm Business.

Retail fertilizer charts dating back to 2010 are available in the DTN fertilizer segment. The charts included cost of N/lb., DAP, MAP, potash, urea, 10-34-0, anhydrous, UAN28 and UAN32.

DTN's average of retail fertilizer prices from a month earlier ($ per ton):

DRY
Date Range DAP MAP POTASH UREA
Nov 7-11 2016 429 449 314 323
Dec 5-9 2016 434 443 318 333
Jan 2-6 2017 431 442 322 339
Jan 30-Feb 3 2017 430 448 329 353
Feb 27-Mar 03 2017 436 458 335 361
Mar 27-31 2017 438 465 338 356
Apr 24-28 2017 437 466 338 352
May 22-26 2017 436 471 340 343
Jun 19-23 2017 436 470 340 333
Jul 17-21 2017 435 464 339 309
Aug 14-18 2017 434 460 338 305
Sep 11-15 2017 431 456 336 310
Oct 9-13 2017 432 453 347 325
Nov 6-10 2017 434 459 341 338
LIQUID
Date Range 10-34-0 ANHYD UAN28 UAN32
Nov 7-11 2016 447 468 217 256
Dec 5-9 2016 445 463 219 257
Jan 2-6 2017 436 465 218 255
Jan 30-Feb 3 2017 439 482 236 270
Feb 27-Mar 03 2017 440 502 246 279
Mar 27-31 2017 441 508 248 279
Apr 24-28 2017 437 509 247 280
May 22-26 2017 436 503 249 280
Jun 19-23 2017 435 497 243 273
Jul 17-21 2017 425 425 229 265
Aug 14-18 2017 419 419 216 251
Sep 11-15 2017 416 412 210 248
Oct 9-13 2017 413 397 206 253
Nov 6-10 2017 355 409 216 272

Russ Quinn can be reached at russ.quinn@dtn.com

Follow Russ Quinn on Twitter @RussQuinnDTN

(AG/CZ)

11/16/2017 State of Fertilizer Industry

By Russ Quinn
DTN Staff Reporter

NEW ORLEANS, La. (DTN) -- The state of the fertilizer industry was among the presentations at the 2017 Fertilizer Outlook and Technology Conference that began Tuesday in New Orleans, Louisiana. Despite some major challenges, the industry contributes much to the nation's economy in terms of money and jobs while trying to protect the environment, speakers said.

$155 BILLION ECONOMIC IMPACT

The fertilizer industry contributes $155 billion to the nation's economy, as well as 495,000 jobs (both direct and indirect jobs) and $36 billion in annual wages, said Melinda Sposari, senior manager for economic service for The Fertilizer Institute (TFI), in a presentation Tuesday. These findings were some of the data TFI unearthed from a study of the financial impact of the fertilizer industry.

For the study, the business was broken into four distinct groups: raw materials/manufacturing, terminals/wholesale, transportation/logistics and the retail sector. This includes direct and indirect contributions, as well as supplier contributions.

Sposari reported raw materials/manufacturing contributed 23,000 direct jobs with 700 manufacturing sites in the U.S. Terminals/wholesale kicked in 15,000 jobs and 3,000 facilities in the country. In addition, this grouping also contributed $3 billion to the economy.

Transportation/logistics had 55,000 jobs and a $5 billion impact on the country's economy. The retail segment had 51,000 jobs and $23 billion were added to the economy. Retailers also had 8,000 locations across the country.

Sposari reported major shifts in how retailers operate is occurring in this branch of the industry.

"They are moving from a strictly sales-based industry in the past to today more share-based decisions with their customers," Sposari said.

CHANGING BUSINESS CLIMATE

Kathy Mathers, vice president of public affairs for TFI, said the business climate has changed for all businesses in recent years. Consumers equally punish businesses just about as often as rewarding them for their business practices, she said.

She cited Chipotle as a prime example as a business that has been punished for their actions.

The fertilizer industry needs to focus on different aspects, such as the economic and the environment impact, as well as social benefits, she said. This is important to millennials, as 94% of this age group believe it is important to work for socially aware companies, Mathers said.

People today also have more information than ever before and thus they also have less trust in institutions, Mathers said. Trust is key and will be in the future, she added.

The fertilizer has worked hard in recent years to increase trust and lessen the effects of the industry on the environment. Mathers cited the percent of greenhouse gases captured and not emitted by the industry has increased from 8.9% in 2013, to 9.9% in 2014, and up to 13.2% in 2015.

Capital investment in the industry has also increased in recent years, spurred by limiting the environmental impact of the industry. In 2013, fertilizer had investments of $1.99 billion and this number jumped to $3.48 billion in 2014 and $5.12 billion in 2015.

Other positive achievements by the industry was using smart technologies at fertilizer facilities to limit losses from waste heat, as well as reclaiming or restoring land from surface mines and returning these acres to various uses for both people and wildlife.

Mathers said while TFI is the aggregator of this data concerning the positive things the fertilizer industry does, people in the industry also need to shape the stories told about fertilizer today.

The data doesn't just sit in a book somewhere. "We use it in social media, presentations and for education purposes," she said. "We need to tell every bit of good in the stories we tell about the issues."

TFI's economic study can be found at https://www.tfi.org/….

Russ Quinn can be reached at russ.quinn@dtn.com

Follow Russ Quinn on Twitter @RussQuinnDTN

(ES/SK)

11/16/2017 Asking States to Defend NAFTA

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (DTN) -- A group of 168 farm organizations and companies wrote all 50 governors on Tuesday seeking to defend the North American Free Trade Agreement, reflecting that agricultural groups are more than just a little worried about the prospect of President Donald Trump moving to withdraw from NAFTA.

Farm groups have made it clear over the past few weeks that they are increasingly concerned the president may follow through on his desire to invoke Article 2205 of NAFTA, which allows withdrawal from the agreement within six months after providing notice to Canada and Mexico.

Tensions in the NAFTA talks are definitely heightening. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told reporters in Washington last week his department was making plans in case President Trump follows through. Mexico is also preparing an economic response if withdrawal begins. Reuters quoted Mexico's Foreign Minister on Tuesday, stating that the Mexican government and central bank are preparing for a possible future without NAFTA.

See Reuters story here https://goo.gl/…

The next round of talks on the $1.2 trillion trade agreement begins Wednesday in Mexico, but top negotiators are scheduled to start meeting again on Friday.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas, and other committee members met with representatives from commodity groups last week. Conaway told reporters last week during a call that farm groups are anxious that nothing is done in the trade talks that is disruptive to current trade.

"It was clear from every single one of them that they are anxious, or beyond anxious, about the idea of withdrawing from NAFTA," Conaway said on a press call. "That came through loud and clear."

In writing to all 50 governors, the 168 businesses and farm groups asked the governors to let President Trump know they support modernizing NAFTA but that withdrawal would have adverse impacts. "We encourage NAFTA negotiations to continue without the threat of withdrawal," the groups stated.

The letter to governors noted the agriculture and food industry "supports more than 22 million jobs -- including more manufacturing jobs than any other U.S. manufacturing sector -- and accounts for 20% of the U.S. economy."

Under NAFTA, U.S. agricultural and food exports have grown by 450%, the letter pointed out, and the U.S. holds a 65% share of agricultural products in the NAFTA region. Nearly $43 billion in food and agricultural products were sent to Canada and Mexico last year alone.

So a radical change in the tariff and quota structure for those markets would have a major impact on the agricultural economy nationally. The farm groups and businesses said a study by ImpactECON stated withdrawal from NAFTA would cost a $13 billion economic loss to the agricultural economy alone.

"NAFTA withdrawal would also disrupt critical industry supply chains, close markets, eliminate jobs and increase prices for the basic needs of American consumers," the letter stated.

More details on the impacts of a NAFTA withdrawal on individual commodities was spelled out in the letter.

The full letter and everyone who signed it can be found at https://goo.gl/…

Conaway, again talking to reporters last week about NAFTA, said he and others in Congress would continue pointing out the harm that would be done to agriculture by walking away from the agreement. Conaway also praised President Trump as having a "long and successful history of negotiating" business deals. Yet, Conaway added there is a different mindset in business deals than trade talks.

"They (the Trump administration) want to get a deal, but if you read Mr. Trump's 'Art of the Deal,' he's not afraid to walk away," Conaway said.

Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

(SK/BAS)

11/15/2017 Critics Pan Bayer-Monsanto

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

OMAHA (DTN) -- Critics of agricultural consolidation joined forces Tuesday in Washington to release reports calling on the Department of Justice to reject the merger between Bayer AG and Monsanto Co.

Gathering at the National Press Club to air their grievances against the $63.5 billion merger were the Organization of Competitive Markets, the National Family Farm Coalition, the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, Consumer Federation of America, Friends of the Earth, the Open Markets Institute and the group SumOfUs.

The groups also stated they delivered more than 1 million signatures on a petition to the Department of Justice calling on the department to block the proposed merger.

Bayer and Monsanto announced their merger in September 2016 and it continues to get regulatory scrutiny globally. The European Commission last week announced a March 5, 2018, deadline to complete its regulatory review of the company. Bayer already has agreed to sell some seed and herbicide businesses to BASF as a condition to completing the deal. Originally, the deal was valued at $66 billion, but Bayer revalued the merger deal at $63.5 billion last month, according to Reuters.

Combined, Bayer and Monsanto would be the world's largest integrated pesticides and seeds company, the EU noted in August when it began vetting the merger. At the time, the EU listed several preliminary concerns about market impacts. https://goo.gl/…

Multiple farm groups have written the Department of Justice over the past year expressing concerns about the merger as well.

Makan Delrahim, who heads the Antitrust Division at the Department of Justice, was confirmed in late September. The Trump administration has not made any official comments about the Bayer-Monsanto merger.

Because Bayer is based in Germany, the sale must also go through the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. The companies stated last summer they were continuing to move through the CFIUS process, but there has been no announcement whether the merger has been approved by the committee, which does not release information on its proceedings to the public.

The main complaints Tuesday came from separate reports. The Consumer Federation of America released a report on the merger arguing it violates a Department of Justice guideline on horizontal mergers "by a wide, historically unprecedented margin." CFA argues the combined Bayer-Monsanto companies would create a "dramatic increase in market power" in a business that is already a "highly concentrated, vertically integrated, tight oligopoly on steroids."

The risk, CFA states, is the companies would raise prices, distort innovations in crops and squeeze both farmers and consumers. The report notes Monsanto accounted for $16 billion in ag sales in 2014 while Bayer's share was $12 billion. Combined, they would have more than $28 billion in ag sales while the next closest competitor, the newly combined DowDuPont, has about $18 billion in agricultural sales.

The groups Friends of the Earth, Open Markets and SumOfUs released a report questioning the influence of a combined Bayer-Monsanto company on data in agriculture. If the merger goes through, the groups stated, Bayer-Monsanto would be a major player in the field of data services for farmers.

The report cites the investments Monsanto and Bayer have made in the past five years to acquire more data companies, such as Monsanto's 2012 purchase of Precision Planting, and the 2013 purchase of Climate Corp. Bayer has also entered into a partnership with an aerospace company, Planetary Resources, that specializes in satellite imagery. Bayer sees the partnership as a way to focus on prescription applications for crops.

The merger critics conclude in their report that more understanding is needed about the possible unintended consequences of a single large agribusiness accumulating so much farming data.

"Big data provides large agrochemical companies the information they need to become even more powerful and profitable. In the end, we must question if this shift of data ownership really benefits farmers, or if it will simply allow companies to act as gatekeepers to important information that is ultimately used to improve their profit margins and to exclude competitors."

In a statement to DTN on Tuesday, Bayer said the merger with Monsanto is "about growth and bringing new innovation solutions to our customers" and will enable the company to offer farmers more and better technologies and products.

"As we've said from the beginning, this opportunity is about combining highly complementary businesses and bringing new innovative solutions to our customers," Bayer said in the statement. "We continue to welcome the review of regulatory authorities and have proactively entered into an agreement to divest certain businesses to satisfy potential regulatory concerns. We remain confident in our ability to obtain all necessary regulatory approvals and look forward to continuing to work diligently with regulators to support that process."

Monsanto had not yet responded to DTN's request for comment at the time this article was posted.

Bayer and Monsanto website for information on the merger: https://www.advancingtogether.com/…

Consumer Federation of America study: https://goo.gl/…

Big data study: https://goo.gl/…

(AG/SK)

11/15/2017 Machinery Chatter

By Jim Patrico
Progressive Farmer Senior Editor

MANNHEIM, Germany (DTN) -- I met Saskatchewan farmers Fred Butuk and Eduard Bomers last Friday at the entry to the John Deere tractor factory in Mannheim, Germany. We were there for a factory tour: I with a group of North American journalists, they on their way to Agritechnica, the largest farm show in the world, which starts Nov. 13 in Hannover, Germany. (I will be there myself for three days.)

Fred described himself as a "factory tour junkie." He and Eduard had already been to a Volkswagen factory in Wolfsburg, Germany and next would travel south to Bavaria for a tour of the Fendt factory in Marktoberdorf. In 2009, Fred drove from Saskatchewan to Fargo, North Dakota; Jackson, Minnesota; Waterloo, Iowa; and Moline, Illinois, to take factory tours.

"I just like factories," he told me.

Fred and I are kindred spirits. Factories fascinate me with the endless variety of ingenious ways and tools that humans invent to make new things. While most modern factories have some common technologies -- assembly lines with various stations, robots and computer monitors -- each has its own surprising strategies for creating new useful things from a chaos of parts. Efficiency, speed and attention to detail are key. This is one reason I'm always confused when people attack modern agriculture as "factory farming," as if efficiency, speed and attention to detail are somehow negatives.

But that's a discussion for another day.

Fred, Eduard, the media group and I hit the factory tour jackpot on this day. Besides the Mannheim plant, we also would travel a few kilometers to Bruchsal where Deere has a tractor and combine cab factory. Adjacent to that is Deere's European Parts Distribution Center, a state-of-the-art storage and shipping facility with 10.5 hectares (almost 26 acres) under roof.

By the end of the day, we had a German-style cafeteria lunch, numerous cups of coffee and multiple restroom stops. According to someone's Fitbit, we walked 12,000 steps, which I think is about 7 miles. All in all, it was a factory tour junkie's dream day.

I'll tell you more about it throughout the week, interspersed with reports from Agritechnica. But to whet your appetite, I'll tell you that near the end of the Mannheim tour, Fred cried out, "There's a black tractor!" Sure enough, mixed among the finished 6 Series tractors were a few shiny black ones.

Turns out buyers who order multiple tractors can ask John Deere for a switch from its patented green and yellow color scheme. The factory won't necessarily grant the requests, according to tour guide Michael Schlieper. For instance, Deere won't go for outlandish colors or "freaky green." Nor, the guide said with a grin, would it likely paint a John Deere tractor red.

But the factory did hand-paint those black tractors for a customer with an order of 20. It also has produced a fleet of pink tractors for Euro Disney and some white tractors for the Queen of England.

See, factories are full of surprises.

Jim Patrico can be reached at jim.patrico@dtn.com

(ES)

11/15/2017 USDA Weekly Crop Progress

By DTN Staff

OMAHA (DTN) -- Winter wheat conditions fell slightly from the previous week, according to USDA's latest Crop Progress report released on Monday.

USDA estimated that 54% of the winter wheat crop was rated good to excellent, down 1 percentage point from 55% the previous week. That resulted in a DTN Winter Wheat Condition Index of 137, down 3 points from the previous week. DTN's index is down from 148 a year ago and is a little below the five-year average of 140, but is close enough to be considered neutral for winter wheat prices, said DTN Analyst Todd Hultman.

Winter wheat progress was running at a near-average pace with USDA estimating 95% of the crop planted as of Sunday, up from 94% a year ago and even with the five-year average of 95% planted. Eighty-four percent of winter wheat was emerged, up from 83% a year ago and up from the five-year average of 83%.

Corn harvest, on the other hand, continued to lag behind the average pace. USDA estimated that 83% of corn was harvested, down from 92% a year ago and also below the five-year average of 91% harvested. Indiana and Ohio, at 80% and 71% harvested respectively, were examples of wet conditions delaying harvest.

"Monday's harvest progress was neutral for corn prices," Hultman said.

Soybean harvest was also slightly behind the average pace at 93% complete, down from 96% a year ago and down from a five-year average of 95% harvested.

"Monday's report was neutral for soybeans," Hultman said.

Sorghum was 83% harvested, behind the five-year average of 87%.

Cotton was 64% harvested nationwide, equal to the average pace.

The following are highlights from weekly crop progress reports issued by National Ag Statistics Service offices in individual states. To view the full reports from each state, visit http://www.nass.usda.gov/…

Colorado

Harvest activities progressed last week despite wetter conditions. Isolated snow showers and rain were observed early in the week. Days suitable for fieldwork is 6.2 days, down slightly from the 6.3 days seen the previous week. Topsoil moisture is 2% very short, 17% short, 80% adequate and 1% surplus. Subsoil moisture is 6% very short, 20% short, 73% and 1% surplus. Corn harvested is 72% with 86% the five-year average. Sorghum harvested is 77% with 79% the five-year average. Winter wheat emerged is 94% with 96% the five-year average. Winter wheat crop condition is 9% very poor to poor, 21% fair and 70% good to excellent.

Illinois

Cooler temperatures and some rainfall were common across the state last week. There were 4.6 days suitable for fieldwork during the week ending November 12. Statewide, the average temperature was 37.3 degrees, 5.7 degrees below normal. Precipitation averaged 0.47 inch, 0.24 inch below normal. Topsoil moisture supply was rated at 9% short, 84% adequate, and 7% surplus. Subsoil moisture supply was rated at 6% very short, 18% short, 74% adequate, and 2% surplus. Corn harvested for grain was 90% complete, compared to 96% for the five-year average. Soybean harvest was 95% complete, compared to 99% last year. Winter wheat planted was at 95%, compared to 95% last year. Winter wheat emerged was at 85%, compared to 78% for the five-year average. Winter wheat condition was rated 7% very poor, 8% poor, 31% fair, 41% good, and 13% excellent.

Indiana

Rain this week has continued to slow down harvest, tillage, and manure spreading. There were 3.2 days available for field work last week. More wet conditions throughout the week kept farmers out of the fields, but subfreezing temperatures in the mornings reportedly helped operators gain traction and keep harvesting once the rain stopped falling. Days suitable for fieldwork was at 3.2 days, up from the 2.9 days seen in the previous week. Topsoil moisture is 0% very short, 2% short, 53% adequate and 45% surplus. Subsoil moisture is 0% very short, 5% short, 65% adequate and 30% surplus. Corn harvested for grains is 71% with the five-year average of 85%. Soybeans harvested 93% with the five-year average 95%. Winter wheat planted is 97% with 99% the five-year average. Winter wheat emerged is 90% with 86% being the five-year average. Winter wheat crop condition is 1% very poor to poor, 11% fair and 88% good to excellent.

Iowa

Limited precipitation last week allowed an average of 6.0 days suitable for fieldwork statewide. Harvest has begun to wind down as many Iowa farmers were able to work in their fields throughout the week. Additional fieldwork activities this past week included baling corn stalks, tillage, applying fertilizers and manure, tiling, seeding CRP and hauling grain. Topsoil moisture levels rated 3% very short, 10% short, 83% adequate and 4% surplus. Subsoil moisture levels rated 6% very short, 17% short, 74% adequate and 3% surplus. Eighty-five percent of the corn for grain crop has been harvested, one week behind last year and the five-year average. Moisture content of corn being harvested for grain averaged 17%. Only northwest and north central Iowa have 90% or more of their corn for grain crop harvested. Ninety-seven percent of the soybean crop has been harvested, equal to last year but five days behind average.

Kansas

Temperatures averaged 8 to 10 degrees below normal last week. Fog and drizzle hampered harvest progress in some areas, but rainfall totals remained at or near zero throughout the entire state. There were 6.0 days suitable for fieldwork. Topsoil moisture rated 4% very short, 23% short, 72% adequate, and 1% surplus. Subsoil moisture rated 3% very short, 23% short, 73% adequate, and 1% surplus. Winter wheat condition rated 3% very poor, 9% poor, 32% fair, 50% good, and 6% excellent. Winter wheat planted was 97%, equal to last year, and near 99% for the five-year average. Emerged was 84%, behind 90% last year and 91% average. Corn harvested was 93%, behind 99% last year, and near 96% average. Soybeans harvested was 91%, near 93% last year, and equal to average. Sorghum harvested was 77%, behind 90% last year and 84% average. Cotton condition rated 0% very poor, 3% poor, 26% fair, 61% good, and 10% excellent. Cotton harvested was 25%, behind 33% last year and 41% average.

Michigan

There were 3.8 days suitable for fieldwork in Michigan last week. Snow accumulation in some northern Michigan locations restricted harvest activities. Farther south, slightly drier conditions allowed some producers to recommence harvesting on certain fields. Days suitable for fieldwork was 3.8 days, up from the previous week's 2.9 days. Topsoil moisture is 0% very short, 0% short, 66% adequate and 34% surplus. Subsoil moisture is 2% very short, 5% short, 72% adequate and 21% surplus. Corn harvested for grain is 69% with five-year average at 70. Soybeans harvested is 88% with 92% the five-year average. Winter wheat planted is 99% with the five-year average of 98%. Winter wheat emerged is 93% with 88% the five-year average. Winter wheat crop condition is 6% very poor to poor, 15% fair and 79% good to excellent.

Minnesota

Minnesota farmers took full advantage of the 4.7 days suitable for fieldwork and harvested 19% of the statewide corn acreage last week. Other field activities included baling corn stalks, moving cattle off pasture, spreading fertilizer, and working on fall tillage. Topsoil moisture supplies rated 0% very short, 2% short, 84% adequate and 14% surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies rated 1% very short, 6% short, 82% adequate and 11% surplus. Corn for grain harvest advanced 19 percentage points, but remained 12 days behind the five-year average, bringing the total harvest to 79% complete. Corn moisture content of grain at harvest averaged 18%. The sunflower harvest was 93% complete, four days ahead of last year's pace.

Missouri

Cool temperatures and dry weather were prevalent again across the state last week. Statewide, the temperature averaged 42.6 degrees, 3.0 degrees below normal. Precipitation averaged 0.26 inch statewide, 0.49 inch below normal. There were 5.4 days suitable for fieldwork last week. Topsoil moisture supply was rated 5% very short, 19% short, 72% adequate, and 4% surplus. Subsoil moisture supply was rated 5% very short, 23% short, 70% adequate, and 2% surplus. Corn harvested for grain was 92% complete, compared to 96% for the five-year average. Soybean harvest was 86% complete, up 9 percentage points from last week. Cotton harvest was 92% complete, compared to 83% for the five-year average. Sorghum harvest was 90% complete. Winter wheat planted reached 83%, up 14 percentage points from last week. Winter wheat emerged reached 63%. Winter wheat condition was rated 57% good to excellent.

Nebraska

Temperatures averaged 4 to 10 degrees below normal. Precipitation was limited across the State. Dry weather continued to allow good progress on corn harvest. There were 6.6 days suitable for fieldwork. Topsoil moisture supplies rated 3% very short, 21% short, 74% adequate, and 2% surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies rated 5% very short, 19% short, 75% adequate, and 1% surplus. Corn harvested was 86%, behind 92% last year, and near 90% for the five-year average. Winter wheat condition rated 63% good to excellent. Winter wheat emerged was 95%, near 98% both last year and average. Sorghum harvested was 85%, behind 96% last year and 93% average.

North Dakota

Snow and very cold temperatures delayed corn and sunflower harvest last week. Livestock producers were busy moving cattle back to the farmstead for the winter and weaning calves. Temperatures across the state averaged 8 to 20 degrees below normal. There were 5.4 days suitable for fieldwork. Topsoil moisture supplies rated 11% very short, 30% short, 57% adequate, and 2% surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies rated 14% very short, 28 short, 56 adequate, and 2 surplus. Corn harvested was 76%, behind 83 last year and 85 for the five-year average. Winter wheat condition rated 29% good to excellent. Winter wheat emerged was 94%, near 96% last year. Sunflowers harvested was 81%, near 84% last year and 78% average.

Ohio

Rain this week has continued to slow down harvest, tillage, and manure spreading. There were 3.2 days available for field work last week. More wet conditions throughout the week kept farmers out of the fields, but subfreezing temperatures in the mornings reportedly helped operators gain traction and keep harvesting once the rain stopped falling. Average grain moisture for corn harvested was 19% and soybean moisture was 13%. Heavy amounts of rain fall impacted much of the state and hit especially hard in southern parts of the state. The heavy rains submerged low-lying areas of fields and left farmers with little time to get into the fields in those areas. Winter wheat that was recently planted into hillsides was reportedly washed away in affected areas due to extraordinary rain events. Hay was being fed to livestock as pasture growth has stopped for the season. Topsoil moisture was rated 0% very short, 2% short, 53% adequate and 45% surplus. Subsoil moisture was rated 0% very short, 5% short, 65% adequate and 30% surplus. Corn harvested for grain was rated 71%, up from 60% last week. Soybeans harvested was rated 93%, up from 90% last week. Winter wheat planted reached 97%, compared to 94% last week. Winter wheat emerged reached 90%. Winter Wheat was rated 88% good to excellent.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma experienced another relatively dry week with the highest precipitation totals recorded in the southeast district at 0.21 inch. As of Nov. 7, drought conditions were rated 8% moderate to exceptional, up 5 points from the previous week but down 29 points from the previous year. Statewide, temperatures averaged in the mid-50s. Topsoil moisture was rated 3% very short, 40% short and 57% adequate. Subsoil moisture was rated 2% very short, 32% short and 66% adequate. Winter wheat planted reached 93%, down 4 points from normal. Winter wheat emerged reached 86%, down 3 points from normal. Corn harvested reached 95%, down 3 points from normal. Sorghum harvested reached 80%, down 5 points from normal. Soybeans harvested reached 75%, up 3 points from normal. Cotton harvested reached 48%, down 5 points from the previous year and down 7 points from normal.

South Dakota

Many producers across the state completed fall harvest following a mostly dry week. Temperatures were below average for most locations. However, minimal precipitation allowed continued progress in corn, sunflower and sorghum harvests, in addition to completing fall fertilizer applications. There were 6.2 days suitable for fieldwork. Topsoil moisture supplies were rated 17% very short, 23% short, 58% adequate and 2% surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies were rated 23% very short, 27% short, 49% adequate and 1% surplus. Corn harvested was 82%, behind 90% for both last year and the five-year average. Winter wheat condition was rated 14% good to excellent. Sorghum harvested was 83%, behind 98% last year and 92% average.

Texas

Most of the state experienced cooler temperatures last week. Rainfall ranged from 0.5 inch to 1.5 inches in east Texas, the Blacklands, the Cross Timbers, and the Southern Plains. Most of the rest of the state recorded trace amounts of precipitation up to half an inch. Statewide, topsoil moisture was rated 6% very short, 35% short, 53% adequate and 6% surplus. Subsoil moisture was rated 9% very short, 29% short, 57% adequate and 5% surplus. Corn was 95% harvested, near the average of 96%. Cotton was 55% harvested, slightly ahead of the average of 53%. Sorghum was 91% harvested, ahead of the average of 87%. Soybeans were 83% harvested, even with the average. Winter wheat was 89% planted, ahead of the average of 87%, and emerged was 78%, also ahead of the average of 73% emerged. Winter wheat condition was rated 46% good to excellent.

Wisconsin

Temperatures were well below normal last week, with overnight lows falling into the low teens and single digits. Precipitation was light and fell mostly as snow in northern Wisconsin. In spite of the dry weather, overcast skies, cold temperatures and local snow cover kept grain moisture high. The ground was reportedly beginning to freeze in some areas, allowing access to soft fields but hampering tillage and manure incorporation. Reporters commented that corn yields were better than expected. Statewide, topsoil moisture supplies were rated 7% short, 85% adequate and 8% surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies were rated 1% very short, 7% short, 86% adequate and 6% surplus. Corn harvested for grain was 56% complete, 11 days behind the average. The moisture content of corn harvested for grain averaged 21%. Soybean harvest was reported at 92% complete, seven days behind last year and five days behind the average. Winter wheat emerged was reported at 92% complete, four days ahead of last year. Winter wheat condition was reported 85% good to excellent, 2 percentage points below last week.

National Crop Progress Summary
This Last Last 5-Year
Week Week Year Avg.
Corn Harvested 83 70 92 91
Soybeans Harvested 93 90 96 95
Winter Wheat Planted 95 91 94 95
Winter Wheat Emerged 84 75 83 83
Cotton Harvested 64 54 60 64
Sorghum Harvested 83 72 89 87

National Crop Condition Summary
(VP=Very Poor; P=Poor; F=Fair; G=Good; E=Excellent)
This Week Last Week Last Year
VP P F G E VP P F G E VP P F G E
Winter Wheat 3 8 35 46 8 3 8 34 45 10 2 7 32 49 10

Please send comments to talk@dtn.com

(AG)