Millions announced for water quality

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A wave of support to help with water quality and flood risk challenges will soon be making its way to Iowa thanks to federal dollars. Governor Branstad announced a $97 million federal grant recently during a press conference at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines to help communities battle ongoing flood issues.

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Farmers see how U.S. soybeans power aquaculture

A rain-drenched southern Mexico couldn’t dampen the spirits of 50 soybean leaders that toured Regal Springs Tilapia farm last week. The group was in Villahermosa for an all-encompassing deep dive into the world of aquaculture with presentations from U.S. Soybean Export Council – USSECexperts and top researchers from around the world.

The pinnacle of the trip was a tour of Regal Springs. Regal Springs produces 30,000 pounds of fish out of two lakes each year. The secret ingredient to the success of their business is the soybean meal used in the formulated diets of the fish. For more about the tour watch this video.

By Joseph L. Murphy, ISA member communications manager

Aquaculture tour shows power of the soybean checkoff

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Tim Bardole, ISA director from Rippey, feeds a pen of tilapia at the Regal Springs Tilapia farm in Mexico.

United States soy meal is finding an ever expanding market south of the border thanks to aquaculture.

This week about 50 growers, state soybean staff and United States Soybean Export Council (USSEC) employees spent the week in Villahermosa, Mexico learning about existing opportunities and future expansion of the industry.

“We’re here to help show the soybean farmers in the U.S. where their checkoff dollars are being invested, how they are being invested and ultimately where much of their soybean meal ends up,” Colby Sutter, marketing director for the global aquaculture program with USSEC, said while leading a tour at Regal Springs Tilapia. “It’s crucial to be able to see first-hand how relationships have been forged in international marketing programs where ultimately we are creating a preference and demand for U.S. soy.”

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It’s calving season!

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This healthy calf was relaxing in a pasture within two hours of being born on a farm near Milo. Many farmers across the state will be keeping watch and working around the clock to make sure that the cows and calves are healthy. The calving season usually stretches for several months through some of the harshest weather Iowa can dish up. That makes it, even more, important for farmers to keep a constant watch on the herd regardless of frigid temps, rain, sleet or snow.

By Joseph L. Murphy, ISA member communications manager

Looking back at 2015

The video below is a collection of some of my favorite photos from 2015. It is always humbling to look back and see all the interesting people I was able to meet through my photography. A majority of these photos are from Iowa, but some were also taken in China and Panama. Here’s to much success in 2016!



By Joseph L. Murphy, ISA member communications manager

Panama – For richer or poorer

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Wealth and poverty. It is all on display in the small Central American country of Panama. During a recent trip to see the Panama Canal and gauge the progress of its expansion, wealth and poverty were the stark contrasts, a situation that is shared by many other Latin American countries.

The flight into Panama City reveals what most wouldn’t expect in Central and South America. Skyscrapers and a bustling modern metropolitan area. A tour guide boasted that Panama City has 109 skyscrapers — more than other major South American cities like Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It even has more skyscrapers than Los Angeles, Seattle, Miami, and Houston. But like many cities, the gleam of the skyscrapers doesn’t always illuminate the struggles that are happening on the streets below.

The main economic driver of the country is the canal — a system of locks that have allowed large ships to navigate a north and south route stretching 51 miles through Panama safely. The route that shaves time and saves money for precious cargo. For instance, ships sailing from New York to San Francisco can save 7,872 miles instead of going around Cape Horn in South America.

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Panama Canal expansion ready for 2016

Panamal Canal war ship-5847Information about the Panama Canal expansion took center stage during the Soy Transportation Coalition (STC) meeting in Panama this week. About 100 farmers, state soybean staff members, and others were able to get a briefing from canal officials about the progress of the vital shipping route for U.S. soybean farmers.

Ilya Espinoza De Marotta, the executive vice president of engineering and program administration with the Panama Canal Authority, told the group that April 2016 is still the expected completion date for the new expanded canal channel. The channel will enhance a system of locks that have been in place since 1914.

Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition, told those attending the STC board meeting and the tour of the canal that it is important for farmers to see the canal first-hand.

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Global labor issues present a big problem

Balwinder Singh Kang a farmer from India discusses labor struggles he has on his farm.

The pace of this year’s harvest in Iowa combined with the record-setting yields can stress the labor of any farming operation. Making sure that help is available to run equipment and haul grain is important in keeping the wheels of harvest moving.

Recently farmers from around the world met in Des Moines to discuss important issues they face with their farming operations. All agreed that labor issues are a major concern.

Fourteen farmers gathered to take part in the Global Farmers Roundtable and World Food Prize Symposium last week. The farmers from countries spanning five of the seven continents said that farm labor supply, farm labor costs, and labor work ethic can be a limiting factor in the future for their operations.

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Record harvest not expected to stress rail transportation

rail forecast-4824Rail service in the face of a record-setting harvest is up to the challenge according to industry experts. Recent upgrades to rail service combined with soft commodity prices should allow the flow of soybeans and corn from the Midwest to export destinations on the coasts.

“We expect rail service to be good for the 2015 harvest,” Mike Steenhoek, the executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition, said. “Railroads have invested vigorously over the past year, so they have responded to demand.”

Congestion and delays in previous years are believed to be relieved this year because of several factors. The top seven rail carriers have made infrastructure improvements over the past year, and a drop in petroleum production means less traffic on the rail lines according to Steenhoek.

“Union Pacific plans to spend $4.2 billion on capital investments this year. Of that, we expect to spend about $1.85 billion for infrastructure replacement,” Kristen South of Union Pacific said. “As part of our business planning process, we continuously evaluate how projected volumes fit within the confines of network capacity and make corresponding adjustments to our capital plan as volume and returns dictate.”

South went on to say that Union Pacific is expecting a muted peak season but are ready for the demand if market forces change.

“We have more than 2,000 covered hoppers in storage available to meet unanticipated surges in equipment needs for grain,” She said.

The stronger U.S. dollar and softening export markets have also removed pressure from rail service according to Steenhoek.

“Farmers are holding on to their grain so we are expecting much of the 2015 crop will be stored,” he said. “That means they will impose less of it on the rail network, and they will have adequate capacity to handle what comes their way.”


By Joe Murphy, ISA member communications manager