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Soy Briefs

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Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced that Farm Service Agency offices nationwide opened Thursday January 24 to offer additional services during the government shutdown. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced that all Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices nationwide will reopen Jan. 24 to provide additional administrative services to farmers and ranchers during the lapse in federal funding.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has temporarily recalled all of the more than 9,700 FSA employees to perform services that, if not offered, would harm funded programs. 

For the first two full weeks under this operating plan (January 28 through February 1 and February 4 through February 8), FSA offices will be open from 8 am to 4:30 pm Mondays through Fridays. In subsequent weeks, offices will be open three days a week, on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, if needed to provide the additional administrative services.

While President Trump has already signed legislation that guarantees employees will receive all backpay missed during the lapse in funding, FSA employees will be working without pay during this time.

“There are likely some employees in tough financial situations, just like some farmers are,” says Michael Dolch, ISA public affairs director. “Be sure to show your appreciation to your county FSA employees.”

Agricultural producers can view available services on the FSA shutdown webpage and those who have business with the agency can contact their FSA service center to make an appointment.

Additionally, Secretary Perdue announced that the deadline to apply for the Market Facilitation Program, which aids farmers harmed by unjustified retaliatory tariffs, has been extended to February 14. Other program deadlines may be modified and will be announced as they are addressed.

San Diego, CA — Casey’s General Stores, based in Ankeny, Iowa, received an award at the National Biodiesel Board’s annual conference for becoming a leading provider of biodiesel at stores across the nation. NBB annually acknowledges biodiesel champions with the organization’s “Eye on Biodiesel” awards. Nathaniel Doddridge, Casey’s Director of Fuels, accepted the “Impact Award” on behalf of the company.

Iowa Biodiesel Board Executive Director Grant Kimberley and other Iowans attending the conference this week praised Casey’s General Stores for its growing commitment to biodiesel. Casey’s has 1500 stores nationwide that offer biodiesel—with 256 of those in Iowa.

“The state of Iowa leads the way in clean energy production, and we’re thrilled that Casey’s has made biodiesel available to such a broad consumer base,” said Kimberley. “Their signature red signs may be associated with the chain’s ‘famous for pizza’ slogan, but we’re happy they may be famous for biodiesel, too!”

Kimberley pointed to Iowa’s comprehensive state policies, including a fuel retailer’s tax incentive, which encourages retailers like Casey’s to add biodiesel blends to their product line. Kimberley spoke at the NBB conference about Iowa’s successful implementation of these policies.

Doddridge says Casey’s sells a blend of 11 percent biodiesel (B11) at most Iowa locations, due to a partial sales tax exemption on blends higher than B10.

“Casey’s General Stores are located in rural communities across the heartland,” said Doddridge. “Biodiesel is a natural fit for us, especially since most of our stores are located in the areas where the original feedstock for biodiesel is grown on local farms.”

More than 86 Iowans, including farmers, representatives of the biofuels industry and others are attending the conference. That's more than ten percent of the event's nearly 800 registrants. 

Biodiesel – made from a variety of resources including soybean oil, recycled cooking oil and animal fats – is the first EPA-designated Advanced Biofuel to reach commercial-scale production nationwide.

West Des Moines — The Coalition to Support Iowa’s Famers (CSIF) has a wealth of information and connections to help livestock farmers be good neighbors.

One of the ways they help is through the Green Farmstead Partner program, a partnership between CSIF, Trees Forever and the Iowa Nursery and Landscape Association provides guidance to farmers who want to plant trees and shrubs at new or existing livestock sites.

Join CSIF for their Green Farmstead Partner Program Nursery Workshop on Feb. 5 to learn more about the program and planting windbreaks. They will discuss species selection and windbreak design, cost-share opportunities, and hear from a farmer/nursery relations panel.

The workshop will be held from 10:00 AM to 2:30 PM at Quality Inn & Suites Starlite Village Conference Center in Ames and is free to attend (includes lunch).


Omaha, NE — The January 2019 Rural Mainstreet Index (RMI) reveals the rural economy is seeing continued neutral growth. The monthly survey of bank CEOs in a 10-state Midwest region dropped to 51.5 for this month. In December 2018, the index was 54.2. January marks the 11th time in the past 12 months the index has been above the growth-neutral rating of 50.

Bank CEOs were asked what they expected to be the biggest economic challenge for agriculturally dependent community banks in 2019. The results were:

  • Rising loan defaults: 42.9%
  • Competition from Farm Credit: 14.3%
  • Falling farmland values: 11.6%
  • Low loan demand: 11.4%
  • Rising regulatory costs: 5.7%

Read more

St. Charles, IL — Farm Futures surveyed growers in December and early January, after trade tensions between the U.S. and China eased a little as negotiations resumed to end the dispute. Hopes for an end to tariffs likely convinced some farmers to plant more soybeans than many in the trade expected.

The survey reported soybean planting intentions of 84.6 million acres, down 5.5% from 2018, but more than the 82.5 million projected in estimates USDA released in November as a part of its budgeting process. Farm Futures first survey of intentions last summer found acreage of 87.5 million, but that was as the bite of China’s 25% tariff on U.S. imports was just beginning to be felt.

Farm Futures initial report had farmers boosting corn acres to 90.8 million, but the latest estimate came in at 90.3 million. While that would be up 1.3% from 2018 it was below the 92 million USDA projected in in November. The agency doesn’t release its first survey of prospective plantings until March 29, though it will update the statistical guess at its annual outlook conference Feb. 21-22.

Read more

London, England — Animal agriculture groups are alarmed by a new report that calls for radical changes in global diets could intensify the debate about animal agriculture and climate change. The report from the EAT-Lancet Commission, and published by the British medical journal The Lancet, analyzes the impact that diets low in red meat and high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts could have on health and the environment. 

According to the report, those kinds of diets prevent 11 million pre-mature deaths a year and also bring carbon emissions in line with global targets (when diet changes are combined with reductions in food waste).

Backers of high-protein diets joined the beef and pork industry in criticizing the report as flawed. The report also calls for increasing the use of technology in farming to reduce its carbon footprint. 

Reports like this will have more impact on some consumers than on policymakers, at least for now. But one of the report’s authors suggested policymakers consider ways to boost fruit and vegetable consumption and reduce consumption of red meat.

Read Spencer Chase’s report on the study here. Read a summary of The Lancet report here

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