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House Passes Compromise Farm Bill
December 12, 2018
The US House of Representatives passed the farm bill in a lopsided 369-47 vote, according to this Politico article.
The 807 page-long bill will cost $867 billion over ten years, but 70% of that money goes to SNAP, Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program--formerly known as food stamps. Which means that less than a third of the farm bill actually goes to farmers.
The SNAP program was the sticking point in the negotiations, as conservatives wanted to tighten the work requirements for 1.5 million able-bodied recipients, potentially dropping them from the list of the 40 million current recipients. The Democrats opposed this change, and since there weren't the required 60 votes in the Senate to pass the proposed SNAP changes, a compromise bill was voted on in the House.
Because the House will have a lot more Democrats after the first of the year, the Republicans had no choice but drop the SNAP provisions in order to get a bill passed.
It is expected that President Trump will sign the bill next week. In the last few years, net farm income has dropped a staggering fifty percent, mostly due to low commodity prices. Some of the lower commodity prices are blamed on the Trump administration's tariff policies.
The new farm bill mostly mirrors the old bill, according to Politico, and the federal crop insurance program is unchanged. There may be some funding in the bill for rural broadband and slight increases in commodity payments.
AgExpo in Reno
December 4, 2018
We recently attended the National Agriculural Aviation Association Ag-Expo in Reno, Nevada, on December 3-6, 2018.
We attend this meeting every year because it the largest collection of aerial application expertise in the world. If you want to know what is new and emerging in the ag aviation world, you need to attend.
We learned about UAS aerial applications, using social media to promote agriculture, new nozzle flow-rate technology, and much more.
One of the upbeat and interesting presentations was from the Peterson Farm Brothers, a Kansas-based family farm that is trying to promote the benefits of farming via social media, including original YouTube musical videos. They now have more than 50 million views, and also use Facebook and Twitter, along with a website with factual agricultural information on their blog. You can view one of their videos on the right, or click here for more.
So far, UAS (drone) pesticide applications are still mostly imaginary, or use very small aircraft which can only be used for the smallest of areas, possibly for spot spraying noxious weeds or public health control. Despite the fact that FAA certification will be a major hurdle, we saw several prototypes of automated hovercraft which can carry up to 50 gallons at maybe 50 mph, so there are companies trying to make automated pesticide application a reality.
We think automation in ag aviation is the future, but fixed-wing aircraft may be required to achieve scale in the Midwest, not rotorcraft. The argument for the smaller aircraft are that they can work 24 hours per day, if the weather is amenable, and that a single person on the ground could control several of them simultaneously. Those arguments make sense, but if you have an airport, the reasoning is equally valid for larger, more productive fixed-wing aircraft.
Another interesting nascent technology utilizes a pulsing diaphragm valve on individual nozzles, so that flow of each nozzle could be controlled in real time without changing pressure. This means that a spray pattern could be modified span-wise in terms of flow rate without changing the droplet spectrum. Clearly, this method could be useful, but it is unclear if the weight and complexity of the system are acceptable for the potential gains.
Other topics included aerial imaging, turbine engine maintenance, nozzle technolgy, pesticide safety, predictions of food consumption world-wide. There is broad agreement that the world population will increase by several billion people over the next thirty years, and that the emerging countries will want to consume more calories. In other words, the demand for food will continue to increase, and possibly at an impressive rate.
The only real questions are what foods will be consumed and who will produce them? Click here for a report that gives an excellent historical tutorial on food production in a graphic format.
Finally, we saw a new GPS guidance system that uses iPad displays instead of dedicated screens, a trend that we think has much merit: it's cheaper, slicker, and easy to upgrade. We currently use iPads mounted in our ag aircraft for ADS-B output, and they have performed well for two seasons.
Farmer Indicted For Dicamba Misuse
November 29, 2018
In this AP wire story, a southeast Missouri farmer, Bobby David Lowrey, 51, has been charged with a 53-count federal indictment for illegally applying dicamba to his own crops and thereby damaging crops in neighboring fields, and for lying to investigators about the applications.
The article also says that the "crops planted by Lowrey in 2016, which cover 6,700 acres, were modified to be resistant to dicamba." The indictment alleges Lowrey applied dicamba to cotton after planting and over-the-top on soybeans, and then presented false spray records to investigators.
Lowrey faces 49 counts of misapplication of a pesticide, three counts of obstruction of justice, and one count of making a false statement. He could face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted.
Our only comment is to reiterate what we said in the last paragraph in the November 20 article below...
EPA Issues Dicamba Ruling
November 20, 2018
The EPA has issued a new ruling concerning the use of dicamba in Xtend cotton and soybeans. As we previously reported, there was concern that the EPA might ban certain uses, because of the extremely high number of drift complaints across the Midwest in the past two years.
This article from the K-State eUpdate letter summarizes the new ruling. There are several new restrictions on use, including the requirement that all applications actually be performed by certified applicators, and not persons under their direct supervision. In addition, all applications are prohibited until one hour after sunrise and two hours before sunset.
In addition, the new EPA ruling is limited to two years, with a deadline of December 20, 2020, implying that the next two years are still a probation period, and that further restrictions or outright ban might sill be possible in the future.
If you apply dicamba to cotton or soys, you should read this link, because it is hard to imagine that regulatory agencies won't be watching applications of Xtend dicamba very carefully for the next two years.
"Right To Repair" Scores A Victory
October 28, 2018
This Washington Post article headlines a "major victory" for the right-to-repair cause, based upon a new ruling by the Librarian of Congress and the Copyright Office of the US. However, the ruling is actually somewhat limited, and merely carves out several exemptions to the existing law. That law prohibited owners of equipment which contains Digital Rights Management (DRM) from repairing their own equipment. The law is cited in Section 1201 of the Digitial Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
The Post article quotes Nathan Proctor as saying, the new exemption “establishes that you have a legal right to repair something that you own and that does not infringe upon the copyright protection afforded to the manufacturer.” One catch is that while tractors and automobiles are included in the new exemption, aircraft and boats are excluded.
So farmers can now legally repair their own tractors, if they can hack through the DRM which is designed to prevent them from doing that very thing. Since the Copyright Office doesn't require manufacturers to provide DRM access to the owners of the equipment, the ruling might be a hollow victory in some cases.
We will keep following the story and keep you posted. In the meanwhile, you might consider donating some money to the EFF. It's a good group.
...And Some Bad News
October 12, 2018
Kochia is becoming resistant to fluroxypyr (Starane) according to this article which outlines recent research done by KSU at the Hays Agricultural Research Center.
The article explains, in fairly dense scientific prose, how two different sets of kochia seeds reacted to varying doses of both dicamba (Banvel) and fluroxypry (Starane) in greenhouse plantings. The scientists used harvest dry-weight of the plants as a method of measuring herbicide efficacy. One set of seeds came from a field which has had repeated herbicide treatments for several years, and the other seeds--considered "susceptible"--came from a pasture where herbicides have not been used on the kochia.
The results, if predictable, were quite disappointing: both dicamba and fluroxypry showed significant loss of effectiveness on the kochia plants. The article says, "the selected kochia accessions also showed 3.2- to 9.5-fold level of resistance to Starane Ultra relative" to susceptible plants. Similar numbers were seen with the dicamba resistance tests.
This is bad news, as the herbicide options for controlling kochia are rapidly approaching zero. Best advice is use multiple herbicides and full-labeled rates when treating kochia. Treat when the kochia plants are small: rosette stage, if possible. If you know someone who works for a major chemical company, tell them that the ag industry needs new chemistry.
Kochia is a serious threat to the crops grown here in the tri-state area.
Some Good News...
October 12, 2018
We previously reported on the banning of chlorpyrifos (Lorsban) by a 3-judge 9th Circuit Federal appeals court. In that ruling, it was unclear if all the scientific evidence was available to the court, but rather a summary of data that came from sources which were biased against the pesticide.
In this USDA article, Sonny Perdue, Secretary of Agriculture, praises the Department of Justice for appealing the ban ruling. In the appeal, the DOJ asks for an en banc hearing, which means all of the judges will hear the case as opposed to the original 3-judge ruling. The full panel could overturn the previous ruling, which was a 2-1 vote. The DOJ's request was supported by many major farm groups with amicus curiae briefs.
The USDA article says, "The decision appears to be based on a misunderstanding of both the available scientific information and EPA’s pesticide regulatory system. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other groups have pointed out significant flaws in the draft chlorpyrifos assessments on which the court based its opinion, and USDA supports EPA’s conclusion that the available scientific evidence does not indicate the need for a total ban on the use of chlorpyrifos (emphasis ours)." The article continues, "EPA should be allowed to continue its ongoing science-based and expert-led evaluation of chlorpyrifos, which is part of EPA’s registration review program that covers all pesticides."
We agree with the EPA on this issue. Regulations should be based upon science.
Fall Thistle Postcard
September 12, 2018
Fall is the best time to treat pasture thistles--musk, bull, and Canada. Please contact us now to treat your pasture ground.
We need your order and maps so that we can plan an application schedule. The window of opportunity can be very short in the fall, and small field sizes means multiple customers for a single load.
Our deadline for taking thistle orders is Monday, October 8, 2018.
Musk and bull thistle can be treated until the ground freezes, but Canada thistle needs to sprayed before a killing frost. We think the best chemical choice is GrazonNext HL, which is Milestone in a pre-mix with 2,4-D.
Please contact us for more information.
Trump Promises $12 Billion To Agriculture
September 3, 2018
In this article, Reuters reports that the Trump administration has promised to "provide up to $12 billion in aid for U.S. farmers in early September to shield them from the repercussions of trade disputes between the United States and China, the European Union and others."
The article says that the US government last offered farmers a comparable amount of emergency assistance starting in 1998 to address low hog, corn and soybean prices. It adds that in 2017, the federal government spent nearly $19 billion on agriculture support programs, and that total had been expected to rise to nearly $27 billion in 2018.
The USDA said the $12 billion would be divided into three different programs, including direct payments to farmers of soybeans, sorghum, corn, wheat, cotton, dairy and hogs; purchases of foods for distribution to food banks and nutrition programs; and atrade promotion program to develop new markets. The funding would come from the Commodity Credit Corporation, which has authority to make loans and direct payments to U.S. growers when prices for corn, soybeans, wheat and other agricultural goods are low.
We looked at the USDA production numbers, and in 2017, the US produced 4.59 billion bushels of soybeans. If you assume all of the $12 billion were to go to farmers--an unlikely outcome--then the average price increase from the subsidy would be $2.61 per bushel.
We will keep you updated on this story.
Courts: 2, Ag: 0
August 21, 2018
In a pair of negative courtroom results for production agriculture, Monsanto lost a civil lawsuit concerning Roundup worth $289 million, and a Federal appeals court ruled 2-1 to order the EPA to ban all uses of a widely-used commercial insecticide, chlorpyrifos.
In the Monsanto lawsuit, DeWayne Johnson, who is suffering from terminal cancer which he believes was caused by long- term exposure Roundup during many years of applying the herbicide, was awarded $250 million in punitive damages (along with $39 million in compensatory damages) by a San Francisco jury. In a novel argument, Johnson's attorneys argue that Roundup specifically, as a packaged product, and not the active ingredient--glyphosate--is responsible for the cancer. Monsanto will appeal the verdict, and cites hundreds of studies which show glyphosate is not carcinogenic.
The European Food Safety Authority recently said that glyphosate is not "likely to be carcinogenic". In December, 2017, we reported on this two-decades long Agricultura Health Study, which involved 89,000 farmers and their spouses. It concluded that glyphosate is a not a risk for cancer, even among groups which apply the pesticide.
Six days after the Johnson ruling, General Mills was presented with a class action lawsuit over glyphosate residue, even though the residues in the Cheerios product are well below the EPA thresholds for grains. The lawsuit alleges that General Mills had a duty to disclose the presence of the herbicide in the cereal.
In the second adverse ruling, chlorpyrifos, commonly known as Lorsban, may be completely banned by the EPA within 60 days, if the Agency follows the ruling of the Federal appeals court. The insecticide is commonly used in commercial agricultural, even though its use in households has been previously banned due to damaging effects on children. The Appeals court consisted of three judges, and they ruled in a 2-1 vote to force the EPA to act, thereby denying the appeal. There are allegations of political interference on the issue by the recently resigned EPA head, Scott Pruitt.
It is unclear what the EPA will do in light of the ruling. The New York Times, in the above article, said that, "The agency could ask the full Ninth Circuit to reconsider the ruling or appeal it to the Supreme Court, while perhaps asking for a delay in the order that it ban the pesticide. Alternatively, the agency could move ahead with the ban." (Emphasis is ours.)
We will monitor the issues and provide future updates.
Moths and Weevils
August 9, 2018
Sunflowers are blooming, and that means insect control is a possibility. The primary insects that are controlled are head moth and red seed weevil. As we reported previously, with confectionery flowers, most growers simply plan on two insecticide treatments about ten days apart, because the dockage from damage is so expensive, and the economic thresholds are so low.
With oilseed flowers, it makes sense to scout, because there because insect thresholds are sometimes not met. With red seed weevil, the easiest method is spray the head with insect repellent to make the insects active and easy to count. The economic threshold is 10-20 per head.
For head moth, 2-5 moths per head is considered economic. The adult moths can be difficult to find because they are elusive and because they fold up their wings upon landing. Best techniques include scouting at dawn and dusk in light winds, while walking quietly. Some scouts use a flashlight.
Much more information is available from KSU by clicking here.
Updates: Dicamba Debacle and Wheat Test Plots
July 24, 2018
We have previously reported several times on the damage done by dicamba on soybeans after Monsanto began selling the dicamba resistant seed, and BASF sold the Engenia branded dicamba to treat that special seed. In this post, we reported that Monsanto had sued the Arkansas Board of Agriculture, and we later reported on the new extensive training requirements to use the "RUP dicamba" products. The industry has been worried that the EPA might ban dicamba outright if the damage to conventional soybeans was not minimized. We also opined that some of the problem might be volatilization, not physical drift, and that new herbicides need to be developed.
In this update on the 2018 season so far, Dr. Kevin Bradley, University of Missouri, asks some of the same questions that we asked.
Bradley reports that while the early reports of soybean damage are down from 2017, the numbers are still significant. He says that in 2017, there were "1,411 dicamba-related injury investigations being conducted by the various state Departments of Agriculture while university weed scientists estimated approximately 2.5 million acres of soybean had been injured with dicamba. To date, at about the same time in 2018, we have somewhere around 600 cases being investigated by the state departments of agriculture and approximately 1.1 million acres of soybean estimated with dicamba injury by university weed scientists."
In this unrelated article, we reported on the excellent and informative K-State Wheat Variety Demonstration Plots sponsored by Sunny Crest Farms and K-State University. Jeanne Falk-Jones has now published the 2018 results, and you can read them by clicking here.
Spider Mites in Corn
July 14, 2018
Many corn growers will soon be treating for spider mites. Last year, we noted that a new product--Portal XLO--was available, but priced substantially higher than either Comite 2 or Oberon.
The good news is that Portal XLO (fenpyroximate) is now priced competitively, and offers the best of all options.
Portal XLO controls all stages of mites, including eggs, and has a much shorter REI: 12 hours. (Comite 2 has a 13 day REI).
Portal XLO is advertised as being "soft on beneficial insects", and has a 14 day PHI (pre-harvest interval).
Timing is best when mite populations begin to build, and are 2 leaves below the ear leaf.
When applying a miticide, many farmers like to tank-mix in a fungicide--such as tebuconazole--since the application is already paid for. CoRoN can also be added for a foliar feed.
Talk with your consultant or contact us for more information.
Thunderstorms Wreak Havoc
June 20, 2018
On the evening of June 19th, 2018, a major thunderstorm complex moved through eastern Colorado and western Kansas.
The storm path was roughly parallel to Highway 36, so a drive from the port of entry north of Idalia, through Saint Francis, and toward Bird City revealed an alarming amount of crop damage.
The storm provided the full gamut of adverse effects, including damaged roofs and windows on houses, as well as extensive crop damage--not only to corn and wheat, but also some pasture ground. In addition, there was localized flooding, many damaged vehicles, and trees with stripped leaves and downed branches.
At least one mature cottonwood tree was completely uprooted (see photo).
The radar image as the storm approached was especially ominous, including a hook echo, which portends tornadic activity. Several tornadoes were reported, but not confirmed as this is written.
The plains are infamous for severe thunderstorms, but this one was worse than most.
Pre-Harvest Weed Control in Wheat
June 18, 2018
Wheat harvest in the tri-state area is rapidly approaching, and there are some area fields which will need pre-harvest weed control.
Timing and weed spectrum dictate the herbicide selection process. Timing is controlled by label limitations, and these include the wheat stage required prior to application and the pre-harvest interval (PHI).
Weed spectrum is mostly dictated by the amount of kochia, and whether you have susceptible or resistant kochia. Since most grasses and broadleaves are still controlled with a glyphosate and dicamba tank-mix, that is the most common choice. With this tank-mix, you must wait for the hard dough stage to apply, and you have a 7 day PHI. Application should be made as soon as the wheat is in the hard dough stage, both for efficacy and harvest timing.
However, if you have kochia that is resistant to both chemistries, you will have kochia failures with glyphosate/dicamba option. Then, you will need to aggressively control the resistant kochia after harvest, either with mechanical tillage or with a Starane-type (fluroxypyr) herbicide. Otherwise, the resulting seed will be predominantly resistant, and the kochia problem will likely be much worse in the future.
For the best control of resistant kochia, you can use a fluroxypyr product now. Colt-Salvo is a popular broadleaf control choice. Its label, interestingly, has no wheat stage limitations for pre-harvest application, but the PHI is forty days. This extremely long PHI is a significant barrier to usage: if you applied Colt-Salvo as this is written, the legal harvest date would be July 28th.
Given these choices, we think that most farmers will choose a dicamba/glyphosate tank-mix and simply accept some kochia failures. We wish there were better options, and we hope for better products and choices in the future. Here is an article from K-State Extension.
If you have wheat that needs pre-harvest treatment, contact us early so that we can apply as soon as the proper wheat stage and weather conditions permit. Delaying application will reduce control efficacy and needlessly delay your harvest dates.
Wheat Variety Test Plots
June 14, 2018
We attended the K-State Wheat Variety Demonstration Plots yesterday, June 13, 2018. The plots are five miles south of Wheeler, Kansas, and sponsored by Sunny Crest Farm and K-State University.
We counted about 45 people in attendance on the warm, windy evening.
There were 15-20 different wheat plots, and detailed comments about each wheat variety by two K-State specialists in plant pathology and agronomics, with comments by the local KSU contact, Jeanne Falk-Jones. The variety analysis included details on disease resistance, relative maturity speed, standability, leaf drop, yields, and drought resistance.
In addition, a pamphlet of previous results was distributed. The amount of information available was impressive. The 2017 results are published here.
It's a great event, and we appreciate the efforts of Sunny Crest Farms, Jeanne, and KSU. Nice work!
Honor Students: 14 Years
May 18, 2018
In 2005--so this is the 14th year--we launched our Honor Student Recognition Program. Our Honor Student Program is one that we love: it allows us to support scholastic excellence in the local high schools, a concept which we think is vitally important.
The Honor Student program is simple: the top five students in each High School class get special recognition via a letter and a momento. In 2018, the award was a wireless bluetooth headset displaying a "Honor Student" logo. The schools provide with the students' name, and we list them on our website, as well as provide the gifts to the school in time for the awards assembly at year's end.
As an extra bonus, we often get "thank you" notes from recipients of the award.
We are happy to announce that we have added Cheylin to the other two schools in the area: Idalia and Saint Francis. We wanted to include Cheylin for years, and it finally became possible this year.
Here is more about the Honor Student program and some of our other community programs.