Equipment sales are a mixed bag at the state fair

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The Iowa State Fair had a record number of people visit but ag retailers weren’t seeing the same numbers in sales. Farm equipment sales were hit and miss this year according to several vendors and they place the blame on low commodity prices that are slowing sales of the new equipment.

“Sales have been considerably slower,” Tony Rockwell of Sully Farm Sales said. “We’ve had less traffic and people are slower to pull the trigger.”

Rockwell sells grain dryers, augers and other farm equipment near the Varied Industries Building on the fairgrounds. He attributes the slower traffic and sales to current grain prices.

“Our big seller during the fair is grain handling augers and portable augers and they still have time to buy the equipment before harvest so I’m optimistic the sales will come,” he said.

Gene Willis, an Ag Sales Territory Manager for Van Wall Equipment in Story City, says that only 15 to 20 percent of the traffic for the dealer is farmers.

“We’re trying to entice more than just the ag market. The farmer doesn’t come here to view equipment, they go to the two big ag shows,” Willis said.

According to Willis, that’s why they brought more compact utilities and lawn equipment to the fair and changed their exhibit to entice large yard and acreage owners.

“There are some people that are gun-shy to pull the trigger right now. But we still see a lot of interest, especially with the cattle people,” Cali Arnold, the office manager of EBY Trailers in Story City said.

Arnold added that they have customers that will trade every two years, regardless of the economy. But she said in most cases the customers they see this year are trading into something newer. She doesn’t see that changing much in the near future.

“There might be some hesitancy, and people might not be as aggressive as a year ago, but there still is a lot of interest and sales have been good,” Tom Olin with Stronghold manufacturing said.

He has noticed that fewer people are “Kicking the tires” and foot traffic through his display was less this year, but the people stopping and talking were serious about buying.

“We get a lot of traffic because we’ve been around, and people know us. We are celebrating our 50th year in Clarion, and we plan on selling great products for 50 more years,” Olin said..

By Joe Murphy, ISA member communications manager

Tradition and family values shine at Warren County Fair

Warren County Fair-3409Tucked away in several stalls in building number one of the Warren County Fair a family moved with determination to get their steers ready for a show. They moved from steer to steer with a precision that has been learned over the years.

The Moffitt family, Iowa Soybean Association members from Indianola, has a five-generation tradition of participating and attending the Warren County Fair. During that time, they and many other families that participate in fairs across Iowa have embodied the tradition, family values, and spirit of competition that can only be found at Iowa’s great county fairs.

Each year a thriving community forms in the barns and the grounds of county fairs across the state made up of 4-H and FFA youth and their families. The fairs offer them a place to compete against others with the livestock they’ve raised, and it also gives them the chance to visit with friends and neighbors.

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Kurt Moffitt is proud that the experiences and competition he experienced showing at the Warren County Fair while growing up is already being passed to his three children.

“It’s a lot of hard work. Maybe even more hard work than when we were kids,” Moffitt said as he watched his sons and daughter work with a calf. “We have a lot of livestock here and I’m trying to let them do their thing and meet new people.”

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He went on to say the routine of getting up every morning to do chores for the 22 animals they brought to the fair has made his kids more responsible.

“At the end of the week hopefully it will be a decent check for them and a good experience,” he said. “At the very least it is a way for them to meet new people and connect with others while staying off their electronics for a week.”

Maurice Moffitt, Kurt’s father, has seen many changes during his five-plus decades at the Warren County Fair. As the board president for 20 years he was a part of improving the buildings and grounds so the fair could offer participants great facilities to show off their projects.

“The fair was the highlight of the summer when it came around,” Maurice Moffitt said while remembering his years of showing at the fair in the early sixties. “It was hard work and you were busy. It was a competition, and I remember the hard work paid off.”

Cynthia Moffitt, Kurt’s wife, feels the fair offers a chance for people not directly involved in agriculture to experience it firsthand.

“Iowa is an agricultural state, but there’s a lot of people that aren’t directly connected to it, so county fairs provide an opportunity for those folks to learn and understand a big part of our economy,” she said. “If we as farming families can help connect those other families with agriculture, then we feel like we’ve done our job.”

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Working at the fair is a year-round passion for Jo Reynolds, the Warren County Fair manager.

“People say ‘I’ll bet you’re glad fair week is over,’ and I always say no I work all year for this week. It’s a love, it’s a passion, it’s a sickness,” he said, smiling. “But it’s the people that make this.”

She went on to say the history and tradition of family farms are about families coming together. That’s why she believes it’s important for fairs to showcase their dedication and hard work.

“I’ve always said we are raising kids, not livestock,” she said. “The livestock have always been a vessel to help children or exhibitors learn responsibility and some of those things in life. I think it’s tradition, heritage and the history that makes these fairs special.”

Even with her hectic schedule during the fair you can see her visit with exhibitors and visitors she bumps into at the fair.

“I would hope people would come to (the fair) be educated. To learn that milk doesn’t come from the grocery store and pork comes from the pig itself,” she said. “I’m trying to provide more education so we can continue being the state that feeds the world, and with that we want to provide the entertainment to fairgoers because the entertainment brings the people. But education is our big goal.”

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To see more photos click here.

 

By Joe Murphy, ISA member communications manager

 

 

11 thoughts from ISA’s Water Quality Open House

Water Quality Open House-02488Last year, Iowa soybean farmers invested more than $1.2 million in checkoff funds to improving water quality through projects, practices and initiatives across the state. At the Water Quality Open House held on July 1, Iowa Soybean Association opened its doors to more than 90 community leaders, elected officials and area residents to learn about the impact those dollars made.

As the atrium flooded with curiosity and conversation, we asked participants to share their thoughts: 

  1. Water quality is exciting.

“I’m excited about water quality. I just want to do what’s right for the soil. I’m going to try to get my students excited about water quality. We’re a farming community and I have a lot of farm boys in my 8th grade class. This is something that would be really interesting to them.” — Margaret Hogan, science teacher, Beckman Catholic High School

 

  1. We need to find the right tone.

 “I find that it’s important that we find the right tone throughout the state in talking about water quality because there are many concerns on all sides of this issue. I think the correct decisions and correct procedure will rise to the top with a balance and good respect for both the environment and keeping agriculture strong throughout the state of Iowa. This was a good opportunity to talk to farmers who actually put these conservation practices into place on their farms. It’s good to know the nuts and bolts and know the actual practices that are being put in place to protect all Iowans.” — State Representative Dan Kelly, House District 29

  1. People are interested.

“I think there is an interest in what farmers are doing. It’s important to remind our urban friends that farmers are doing things to improve water quality. I think the interchange and being able to talk one on one is valuable.” — Tim Smith, farmer

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  1. Perspective is important.

“I have an interest in this issue from at least a couple different perspectives. I’m the Mayor of Johnston and the residents in Johnston receive their water from the Des Moines Waterworks. So I’ve been following that discussion and those issues. On the other side, I grew up near Sac City on a farm and my family still has farmland in Sac County. One of these days I’ll probably take responsibility for managing that farm and I need to make sure that we are doing what we need to do on the farm to address some of these issues. So this was a learning opportunity for me from that perspective as well.” — Paula Dierenfeld, mayor, City of Johnston

  1. The Iowa way.

“It’s important as we look at production agriculture, what is the impact on natural resources and are we being good stewards. Water quality is an important part of that and it’s important to all of us, whether you’re in the urban areas or rural areas, to work together and continue to look at those issues. I think the most important thing is making sure you get all the various players at the table and try to find that common ground and common ground solutions. Really that’s the Iowa way.” — Jay Byers, CEO, Greater Des Moines Partnership

 

  1. Not so easy-peasy.

 “The fact is you have to have nitrogen to grow crops. Solving Iowa’s water quality problems is not as simple as reducing nitrogen or not applying nitrogen, especially with a growing population. It’s really not as simple as most people think and that’s what makes it the most difficult problem to solve.” — Logan Putz, student at Iowa State University

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  1. Farmers need to pick.

“With my work for the City of Johnston, we definitely have an interest in water quality. What stood out to me was the wide variety of options available for people looking to improve the quality of water. Allowing producers to voluntarily pick the options that work best for them is really the right approach.” — Tom Cope, Johnston City Council member

 

  1. There is diversity in water issues across the state.

 “With these water quality issues up my way, I really want to make sure that I understand, when I go out and talk to people, exactly what is going on and I know that the ISA is extremely involved in that. It was really interesting to see the differences in issues across the state. Just looking at that map tells you volumes about what’s going on and why.” — State Representative Helen Miller, House District 9

  1. In agriculture we trust.

“As farmers we like to complain that consumers and our constituents don’t understand us. Having this open house tells people in the neighborhood and really all of Iowa what we’re doing at the ISA and that we do care about the environment. I think the right message to share with consumers is that we are being proactive. It’s important to share what is possible in agriculture but also that there are challenges. Nothing is certain in agriculture.” — Ray Gaesser, farmer

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  1. By golly, I’m going to try it.

“We didn’t just start this last year. We, the ACWA and ISA have been at this for a good number of years. Now, where we need to go from here is a much broader understanding from urban and rural counterparts as well as a broader adoption of these things that we know can and will work. That’s why something like this [Water Quality Open House] is so important: so people have an understanding of what can be done and then hopefully there’s some folks here that go home and say, ‘Yeah, I’m a farmer. I’m a producer. I haven’t done this yet but by golly, I’m going to learn more and I’m going to try it.'” — Harry Ahrenholtz, chairman of Agriculture Clean Water Alliance

 

  1. Practices are scaling up.

“I think it’s very important to inform the general public on the various efforts that are occurring that will help improve the state’s water quality. We have a number of conservation practices we will be scaling up that have made good progress to date but we recognize that’s really an incomplete picture and we have a lot further to go. I’m looking forward to talking about the complexities of water quality challenges we face in Iowa. It’s taken a century and a half of ag impacts in water quality to get here and we’re not going to solve it overnight but we’re taking important steps.” — Sean McMahon, executive director, Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance

By: Easton Kuboushek, ISA communications specialist and Joe Murphy, ISA member communications manager

 

Overcoming “flatlander” syndrome

DSC_9216Wade Cowan, President of the American Soybean Association, and Sonia Tomassone,a trade consultant for the Paraguayan Grains and Oilseed Exporters Association, discuss biotechnology issues last week at an ISGA meeting in Beijing, China.

How do you overcome flatlanders? Those people who shrug-off science and embrace misinformation. The people who thought you would sail off the edge of the world until explorers armed with science proved the earth was round.

That was a question Wade Cowan asked a group of farmers and industry leaders at the end of a three-day International Soy Growers Alliance (ISGA) meeting in China.

It was one of many questions asked during the three day visit in China as leaders from Brazil, Argentina, United States and Paraguay talked with high level Chinese government and business agencies in hopes of them accepting new biotechnology seeds and farming practices.

Finding an answer to that questions and others seemed simple. Use communications from a unified group of countries to promote the understanding of biotech crops and food safety. But as many representatives of ISGA found, China is setting the pace, and in some cases, making the rules on approving biotech events. That pace and the undefined rules for biotech approvals are causing financial and social shockwaves around the globe according to a White Paper that was released in conjunction with the ISGA visit.

“It matters to all of us that we have freedom to operate and that we have the ability to use the tools in the toolbox,” Cowan said. “When they say it could take seven years to get a trait we can use in our fields, they have effectively taken away 25 percent of your productive life as a farmer. You couldn’t tell a wage worker in town that you would take away seven years of their productivity and knock them down. Science is science and once it is approved it needs to be approved everywhere.”

Through meetings with high-ranking industry, education and government leaders in China, members of ISGA presented information in a unified front to try and streamline the approval process. But to do that they found they have to overcome the fears of genetically modified crops when it comes to the Chinese people.

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Wu Kongming, the Vice President of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, meets with ISGA members last week in Beijing, China. The ISGA promoted GM technology as a key component in addressing global food security issues during the meeting.

“I understand the conflict lies in the fast pace of research and development of GM events and the delay in approvals in consumer countries like China,” Chen Xuecong, the vice general manager of Sino Grain, said through an English translator. “From the perspective of the importers they have their own process and their consideration is more focused on food safety and the safety of biology. I believe that communications to the public is very important and it is also important for you to provide massive proof to show biotechnology is safe and that it will provide safe food for consuming country.”

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Chen Xuecong discusses biotechnology issues with members of the ISGA during a recent visit to Sino Grain in Beijing, China.

That answer, in one form or another, was repeated to each group of ISGA international farmers as they met with the Chinese organizations. Organizations like the Department of American and Oceanian Affairs Ministry of Commerce, the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences and the Department of Supervision on Animal and Plant Quarantine.

“It would be a significant improvement if all the ISGA countries together with Chinese industry could work together to create a pilot program for soybeans,” Jim Sutter told Chen Xuecong and others gathered at a meeting.

The ISGA, formed 10 years ago from countries representing 95 percent of the world’s soybean production, has been working together in a united front to prod European and Asian countries to approve biotechnology events in an efficient manner. The ISGA representatives that participated in the mission to China know their message is being received, but the actions of the Chinese government are still undefined.

“This week everyone was talking the same language and for me it was impressive,” Sonia Tomassone, a trade consultant for the Paraguayan Grains and Oilseed Exporters Association, said. “We need to present a single paper to everyone we met with to show we have one voice on this issue.”

By Joe Murphy, ISA member communications manager

 

ISGA pushes for timely approval process in China

China Blog 1Laura Foell meets with U.S. Ambassador Max Baucus before the start of the Forum on Biotechnology and Global Soy Trade Tuesday in Beijing.

While farmers across the United States are in the midst of planting the 2015 crop a group of farmers from Iowa, Texas and Kansas traveled to Beijing, China to take part in the Forum on Biotechnology and Global Soy Trade.

The day long forum, organized by the International Soy Growers Alliance (ISGA), released a peer reviewed white paper detailing the benefits of genetically modified (GM) crops for countries that accept them while also documenting the economic impact of delays in regulatory approval. About 100 Chinese agriculture, state and industry representatives attended the forum.

Laura Foell, a farmer from Schaller and chairman of the United States Soybean Export Council (USSEC), was one of three farmer leaders that traveled to Beijing to discuss the importance of GM crops to their operations. Wade Cowan, president of the American Soybean Association and Bob Haselwood, the Chairman of the United Soybean Board also attended. They joined farmers from Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay as a united front through the ISGA to sponsor the forum.

The ISGA is made up of growers and industry representatives from countries (Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Paraguay, Uruguay and the U.S. supplying over 95% of the world’s soybean production who share a commitment to meet the rapidly increasing world demand for quality and healthy soy products produced in a sustainable and environmentally-friendly manner.

“In 2014 we (ISGA) commissioned this white paper. We wanted something we could use to show people the economic impact of slow approvals. This is scientifically peer reviewed and not just hearsay,” Foell said. ”When we are visiting with industry representatives and government agencies it will bring to light the economic and cultural impact that slow approvals have.”

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A member of the crowd asks a question about biotechnology crops during the forum.

The white paper that was discussed at the forum and released to those in attendance is called “The Potential Economic Impacts of Delayed Biotech Innovation in Soybeans” and was written by Nicholas Kalaitzandonakes, Kenneth Zahringer and John Kruse.

As a unified statement for a streamlined approval process, the foreign ambassadors from each of the IGSA member countries in attendance also addressed the forum.

“I urge everyone here to share notes, share ideas and ask questions,” Max Baucus the U.S. Ambassador to China said. “We need to continue to develop soybean production, soybean consumption and the food needs of the this world.”

In 2014 biotech crops were raised by 18 million farmers in 28 countries. The use of those biotech crops increased crop productivity while reducing land use and fuel use. But slow regulatory approval and zero-tolerance policies have threatened international trade and has the potential to cause price increases according to the white paper.

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Members of the Chinese media ask questions of a speaker at the conclusion of the forum.

The economic benefits from the adoption of new soybean varieties will be large,” Lloyd Day deputy director general of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) told the group while discussing the white paper. “If new traits are delayed in reaching the market they will not only impact farmers and seed developers, but also restrict consumer access to adequate nutrition.”

New technologies provide farmers new tools to manage pests, produce soybeans more efficiently and deliver a higher quality product in a sustainable manner.

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An expert presents on GMO policies in China during the Forum on Biotechnology and Global Soy Trade.

“We can’t allow non scientific opinions to drive the day,” Cowan said. “We’re all in favor of a level playing field and we need to work together to let each market find its level. When you come together in a forum like this you can’t play country against country. The message doesn’t hold water anymore when we’re all in the same room.”

Members of the Chinese media in attendance at the forum were able to ask questions of all the forum speakers and representatives from each of the ISGA countries. Many of the forum participants echoed the fact that the increased regulatory process has stifled innovation and costs nearly $136 million for discovery, development and authorization of a new biotech crop. ISGA members hope that the information from the day combined with the white paper will help spread the truth about biotechnology crops while easing fears from Chinese citizens about the technology.

“Ultimately, you hope that any work done here will speed up the approval process,” Haselwood said. “I think that the cooperation we have with our South American partners will make the Chinese officials stop and think that they are going to have to work with us as group instead of individually and I think that is a good thing.”

By Joe Murphy, ISA member communications manager

Lambing season in Madrid

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Morey Hill looks out of a window in his barn to check his flock.

Morey Hill peered through the window of his rustic barn out of habit. Outside his ewes and lambs were eating from a bale of hay and resting in a large pen attached to the barn. His brief glance was enough to assure him that everything was okay with the flock.

Behind Hill was the task at hand. Three empty bottles ready to be filled with lamb milk replacer for his three lambs that we’re beginning to stir in the pens on the other side of the wall.

“You can tell this was an old dairy barn,” Hill said while looking around the room. “I keep the newborn lambs and their mothers in here because you never know what the Iowa weather is going to bring.”

The barn he is referring to was the center of life on the farm when it was built most likely in the first two decades of the last century. Horses were on one side, and the dairy cows were on the other. A full haymow continues to hold feed for his sheep.

Today the barn is filled with two ewes, a lamb that was born less than 12 hours before and three other bummer or orphan lambs.

Hill began pouring the milk into the bottles while capping them off with faded red nipples. A process he has done many times over the last month and a half.

“I’m nearing the end of the lambing season,” he said as he walked into the main room of the barn with bottles in hand.

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The lambing season has proven to be successful for Hill as he nears the finish line.

“You always hope for twins or at least for a 1.5 lamb to ewe ratio,” Hill said. “I was off that number but for the most part it has been a good season.”

Hill plans on weaning the 20 new lambs from their mothers within the month and will look to the market to decide his future steps. He can choose to sell the lambs when they reach 50 to 60 pounds, or he could feed them until they reach market weight.

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Morey Hill feeds a lamb from a bottle at his rural Madrid farm.

“I’ve been raising sheep for 15 years here,” he said while giving the lambs the bottles. “I’ve been around sheep since I was young. They’re nice to have around and we have the space.”

Hill finished the feeding, rinsed the bottles and placed them on a counter to dry. He will repeat the bottle feedings for the next couple of weeks before weaning the lambs and introducing them to the rest of the flock. He made one more welfare check on the sheep before stepping out into the cool spring air while closing the barn door behind him.

Another lambing season is in the books for Hill, but the care for the animals and the tradition of his flock will continue for years beyond this season.

By Joe Murphy, ISA member communications manager

Iowa Agriculture Summit features national contenders

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New Jersey Governor Chris Christie answers a question during the 2015 Iowa Ag Summit.

Nine potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates met at the first-ever Iowa Agriculture Summit last week in Des Moines to discuss agriculture issues important to the Iowa and national economies.

The candidates were interviewed one-by-one for 20 minutes to answer questions by Bruce Rastetter, the CEO of The Summit Group, and organizer of the event.

Topics ranging from Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and Country of Origin Labeling were all discussed by the candidates during the day-long event.

“Every four years, Iowa becomes an epicenter of American politics, often shaping and almost always reflecting national policy movements. Unfortunately, until now, there has not been a forum solely dedicated to matters that directly affect Iowa farmers who feed and fuel not just the country, but the world,” said Rastetter. “The 2015 Iowa Ag Summit highlighted and promoted agriculture. It allowed elected officials and public policy leaders to have a public discussion on issues that are vital to the Iowa and American economy.”

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Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush talks with Bruce Rastetter during the 2015 Iowa Ag Summit.

The candidate forum also featured speeches by Iowa representatives including Governor Terry Branstad, U.S. Senator Charles Grassley, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst and former Lt. Governor and ag secretary Patty Judge. Judge was the only Democrat to speak during the event.

Ron Heck, an Iowa Soybean Association director, attended the summit to listen to the candidates and gauge their positions on issues impacting his farm and agriculture in the state.

“Energy policies that incentivize all renewable energy sources and implement flexible, market-based mechanisms will allow farmers nationwide to be part of the solution in a manner that is good for our bottom line as well as the natural resources we depend on,” Heck said. “I urge the participants of the Iowa Ag Summit to recognize the importance of renewable energy to a strong and vibrant farming future — both at the summit and on the campaign trail. Finding solutions that support clean energy development should be a priority for policymakers and presidential hopefuls on both sides of the aisle.”

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham said that they support the RFS. Florida Governor Jeb Bush said that the market would decide the RFS and Texas Senator Ted Cruz, former Texas Governor Rick Perry and former New York Governor George Pataki all opposed energy mandates.

Christie gave the shortest answer to a question during the summit when asked if GMOs should be included on food labels simply saying “No”. All of the candidates in attendance echoed Christie’s thoughts about GMOs saying in their own words that there is no scientific evidence that GMOs negatively impact health so they shouldn’t be included on nutrition labels.

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Senator Ted Cruz answers questions from a group of national journalists after his appearance at the Iowa Ag Summit.

About 1,000 people attended the summit and 250 media credentials were issued to cover the event according to event organizers.

“I was impressed by the preparation of all 20 speakers,” Heck said. “Of course Grassley, Branstad, and many others are always prepared for ag issues, but I believe the most important success of the summit was that the national figures had all obviously taken the time and effort to educate themselves on ag issues. The Summit was a success before it even started, because the national speakers had taken note of issues that are important to agriculture.”

By Joe Murphy, Member Communications Manager Iowa Soybean Association