ASFMRA Weekly AgNews – February 28, 2017

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USDA Sees Declining Production in Major US Crops

U.S. farmers will harvest 14.065 billion bushels of corn this year, down 7 percent from a record 15.148 bushels estimated for the 2016 crop, USDA projected today at its annual Outlook Forum. Soybean and wheat output is also expected to fall. About 90 million acres will be planted with corn, the nation’s biggest crop, 4 billion fewer acres than last year, USDA said, as farmers seek higher returns from other crops such as soybeans. Corn prices at the farm gate are expected to average $3.50 a bushel for the new crop, up a dime from the 2016-2017 crop year.  Learn more.

Farm Bureau Chief Sees ‘Best’ and ‘Worst’ of Times for US Ag

The leader of the biggest U.S. farmer group says American agriculture is experiencing something of a Charles Dickens moment, benefiting from what he called the “the best times” while simultaneously dealing with the “worst” of times. American Farm Bureau Federation Zippy Duvall told a dinner audience at USDA’s annual Agricultural Outlook Forum Thursday evening that the new Trump administration and the 115th Congress were contributing to the best of times with their appetite for regulatory and tax reform.

Duvall said that many farmers had reached the “breaking point” in terms of generating income to cover the cost of production, and every new regulation that is imposed increases the cost of production. Farmers and ranchers, he said, simply cannot bear that burden in today’s ag economy, he said.Topping the list of burdensome regulations that President Trump has vowed to get rid of is EPA’s Waters of the U.S. Rule, which defines which of the country’s waters can be regulated under the Clean Water Act.  Read more.

Bayer Plans to Complete Monsanto Takeover by End of Year

Bayer AG signaled that its $66 billion takeover of Monsanto Co. may face delays, with regulators pressing for more information, even as it reiterated plans to complete the transaction by the end of the year.The German drugmaker will only seek approval for the transaction in the European Union next quarter after regulators there requested more information, Chief Executive Officer Werner Baumann said at a meeting in Leverkusen, Germany, on Wednesday. The target timing was previously the first quarter. The company is also responding to a second request from the U.S. Department of Justice, he said.  Learn more.  

Pioneering Project Combines Wind and Solar

America’s first ever solar-wind hybrid power generation project is set to harness innovative technology supplied by GE Renewables.Expected to enter commercial operation in August, the 4.6MW community based project in Red Lake Falls, Minnesota, is being developed by Juhl Energy. It will use two 2.3-116 wind turbines from GE Renewable Energy’s Onshore Wind business supported by 1MW of solar power conversion equipment provided by GE’s Current business.

Using GE’s Wind Integrated Solar Energy (WiSE) technology platform, the hybrid design gives the project the ability to produce power when it is most needed. In short, the solar provides summer peak energy, and the wind provides winter peak energy.Pete McCabe, President & CEO, Onshore Wind, GE Renewable Energy, said: “By leveraging the complementary nature of wind and solar, this unique project shows how GE is driving technology innovation that will help customers deliver more renewable energy in an even more efficient manner.”   Find out more.

ChemChina Extends $43 Billion Syngenta Bid

China National Chemical Corp., or ChemChina, further extended its $43 billion takeover offer for Swiss seed major Syngenta AG (SYNN.EB) to April 28, as it continues to seek regulatory approval for the deal. “All of the other terms and conditions of the tender offers remain unchanged,” said the Chinese state-owned company in a statement Thursday, without providing a reason for the extension.The decision marks the latest delay in the completion of the deal as China has moved to step up scrutiny of overseas deals in a bid to curb capital outflows. European regulators have also requested additional information on the proposed deal in “the context of industry consolidation,” the company said in October.The takeover offer, which was announced in February 2016, was previously extended to March 2, 2017, from January 5, 2017. ChemChina said Thursday it expects extensions to occur until all conditions to the tender offers are satisfied, including obtaining all applicable regulatory approvals.  See the story.

Number of Farms in U.S. Drops as Acreage Size Grows

The number of farms in the U.S. for 2016 is estimated at 2.06 million, down 8,000 farms from 2015, according to USDA data released today. Total land in farms, at 911 million acres, decreased 1 million acres from 2015. The average farm size for 2016 is 442 acres, up 1 acre from the previous year.  Read more on farm values.

Improved Technology Saves Maple Syrup Producers Time, Energy

Maple syrup doesn’t get that rich flavor and color in an instant. It’s a long process from tree to bottle. But an improved technology could keep maple sugarers from working late into the night boiling sap into syrup.The new machine removes more water from sap, leaving it with higher sugar content. The concentrated sap takes half the time to boil into syrup.

“For commercial maple producers, time is money and energy is money. It all comes down to how efficient you can be to make syrup, and this is just the next big step to save time,” said Timothy Perkins, director of the University of Vermont’s Proctor Maple Research Center. The center produced its first batch of syrup with a new machine last week. “It definitely processed syrup very, very fast,” Perkins said. Most large maple operations already use the traditional reverse osmosis systems that have a membrane that separate water from sugar. The new reverse osmosis technology removes even more water.  Read more.

Farmers: Protect Conservation, Crop Insurance But Tweak Commodity Programs

The Senate Agriculture Committee launched its hearings on the new farm bill, hearing from farmers in Kansas who appealed for changes to some commodity programs, new support for cotton growers and continued funding for conservation. The farmers also expressed opposition to means testing or other restrictions on crop insurance and said that EPA restrictions on pesticides threatened to increase production costs.Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said that a new farm bill will have to address “all regions and all crops.” “All of agriculture is struggling, not just one or two commodities,” he said.

Roberts and ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., held the hearing at Kansas State University in Manhattan. A second field hearing will be held in Stabenow’s home state. The committee is going to take online comments on the farm bill through March 2 through a link on its web site. Stabenow used the hearing to note that 37 smaller but “key” farm bill programs have no funding after the current farm bill expires in 2018. They include programs that support bioenergy, rural development and smaller-scale and organic agriculture.  Learn more.

Trump Voices Support for Ethanol, But No Specifics

The Trump Administration is voicing its support for the ethanol industry, but without specifics it is hard to say what that means exactly for Midwest farmers. In a letter to industry leaders gathered at the National Ethanol Conference, President Donald Trump said renewable fuels “are essential to America’s energy strategy.” The president wrote that he aims to reduce the regulatory burden on the renewable fuels industry, but did not detail specific plans. Ethanol plants are the top destination for corn raised in the Midwest and Great Plains, so those words of support are welcome ones to farmers. But ethanol policy is carried out by the Environmental Protection Agency and the new head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt, challenged the ethanol mandate when he was Oklahoma’s attorney general.  Read more.

2017 Summary of Actions Related to USPAP Changes

On February 3, 2017, the Appraisal Standards Board (ASB) adopted modifications to the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP). This action began in earnest with the issuance of a Discussion Draft in January 2016, followed by three exposure drafts of proposed revisions to USPAP. Written comments were received in response to each document, and oral comments were provided at each of four public meetings. Each member of the ASB read and carefully considered every comment. The Board then developed a work plan to address the issues brought forward, and adopted revisions for the 2018-19 edition of USPAP.  Learn more.