Finalized WOTUS Rule Announced

Cindy Zimmerman Leave a Comment

epa-army-corpsThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army finalized the Clean Water Rule that has become known as the Waters of the United States or WOTUS.

According to an EPA news release, the rule “ensures that waters protected under the Clean Water Act are more precisely defined and predictably determined” and specifically notes that it “does not create any new permitting requirements for agriculture and maintains all previous exemptions and exclusions.”

Regarding regulation of ditches, the rule “limits protection to ditches that are constructed out of streams or function like streams and can carry pollution downstream. So ditches that are not constructed in streams and that flow only when it rains are not covered.”

Agricultural organizations are analyzing the final Clean Water Act Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule released today to determine whether it answers the concerns they have raised about the impact the regulation would have on farmers and ranchers, but most express reservations.

afbf-logo“We are undertaking a thorough analysis of the final WOTUS rule to determine whether the Environmental Protection Agency listened to the substantive comments farmers and ranchers submitted during the comment period,” said American Farm Bureau president Bob Stallman. “Based on EPA’s aggressive advocacy campaign in support of its original proposed rule—and the agency’s numerous misstatements about the content and impact of that proposal—we find little comfort in the agency’s assurances that our concerns have been addressed in any meaningful way.”

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy released an editorial commentary to farmers and ranchers explaining what they did in the final rule. “Feedback from the agricultural community led us to define tributaries more clearly,” they write. “We also got feedback that our proposed definition of ditches was confusing. We’re only interested in the ones that act like tributaries and could carry pollution downstream—so we changed the definition in the final rule to focus on tributaries.”

Listen to EPA administrator Gina McCarthy and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy announced the final rule here: Final WOTUS rule announcement

AFBF, Audio, Government, water

NRCS Opens Conservation Gateway

Cindy Zimmerman Leave a Comment

nrcs-gatewayFarmers, ranchers and private forest landowners can now do business with U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) through a new Conservation Client Gateway announced today.

NRCS chief Jason Weller says the portal will allow producers will have the ability to work with conservation planners online to access Farm Bill programs, request assistance and track payments for their conservation activities. “Instead of having to drive into a field office, a producer can now log in through their account…and do a lot of different services on line,” said Weller, such as applying for assistance, scheduling appointments and even sign documents electronically.

Weller says the portal has been in development for years and was tested in the real world by early adopters like Iowa farmer Tim Palmer. “I think this is a frugal use of my time and a better use of our local NRCS staff,” said Palmer, citing the ability to get information from NRCS from his smart phone or tablet even in the field. “Time is very important when you’re tending to a farm.”

NRCS chief Jason Weller announces new Conservation Client Gateway
Audio, Conservation, USDA

OASIS Manages Data Through Microsoft Azure

Kelly Marshall Leave a Comment

OASISheaderbgalt

Operation and Agriculture Supply Information System, LLC (OASIS) offers Web-based agriculture data management system on the Microsoft Azure platform. OASIS implements and manages Standard Edition applications for thousands of farms and businesses through Microsoft Azure’s deployment strategy. The program connects cloud-based and on-premise computer servers.  This creates a virtual private network that allows seamless operation and maintains a high level of security.

Testing is complete and OASIS ready to host customer data at a center in the Netherlands.  The location ensures fast and reliable service for growers operating across Europe, Eurasia, and Africa.  Other data centers are also in place at other geographic regions, making the program useable to farmers in their respective regions as well.

Because of Microsoft Azure, OASIS is able to drive down the price even lower without sacrificing security or quality. With a very low price for business enterprise software, the OASIS Standard Edition provides the best value over the competition. The thrifty farm manager will appreciate the large amount of data that can be processed and analyzed from land preparation through on-field farming operations to off-field post-harvest operations in a single computer system. You’ll be able to find cost-savings in your farm.

Visit http://OASIS.AG to read more, try the product demonstration, or buy the software.

Agribusiness, Cloud, Data

Semios Launches Precision Frost Module

Kelly Marshall Leave a Comment

Frost Screen Monitoring (PRNewsFoto/Semios)

Frost Screen Monitoring (PRNewsFoto/Semios)

Semios, a company that offers precision farming tools for tree fruit, nut, and grape growers, is introducing the Frost Module.  Using sensors placed on each acre of a grower’s property, the Frost Module logs temperature inversions every 10 minutes, provides wet bulb calculations and sprinkler thresholds, taking into account the stage of bud development.  When necessary, a frost alert is sent to the farmer by text or email, allowing growers to either take action or get a good night’s sleep.

The Frost Module joins a Semios line-up that gives farmers 24/7 remote access to the conditions of their fields.  Other available modules include Pest Management, Disease Control and Irrigation Management.

Mr. Scott Hassle of Berrybrook Enterprises, said, “Having Semios Frost Alert text me with the data I needed to know, made my decision to start the wind machines a lot easier. I was able to return indoors and watch the graphs map the evolving field conditions, giving me peace of mind.”

Mr. Hassle reports that his farm went online with the Frost Module the day before the first frost for his farm and found the program easy to use.

In 2015, this service was launched to existing Semios customers on 5,000 acres of apple, pear, grapes, walnuts, almonds, pistachios and citrus orchards. Each sensor station has the ability to run any module, so a simple activation by Semios is all that is required. Modules have video tutorials and Semios customer support is available 24/7. The cost for the Semios Frost Module is $10 US per acre per year. Subscription platform packages start at $60 US per acre per year.

Agribusiness, Remote sensing, technology, weather

CNH Awarded Silver Status

Kelly Marshall Leave a Comment

CNH-logoThe plant in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan is CNH‘s first North American Industrial facility to be awarded silver status for implementing World Class Manufacturing (WCM).  The designation is one of the highest standards for management of manufacturing plants in the world.  The Saskatoon plant produces CNH’s ag equipment brands, Case IH and New Holland, and manufactures planters, headers, air carts, and other equipment.

The award follows an independent audit in May, and earns a silver designation for achieving production process excellence and for employee knowledge base throughout the plant.  The WCM program focuses on both technical and management standards, such as safety, cost, environment, quality and process.  This status was achieved after just seven years of implementation.

“This is a great honor as our company is committed to achieving the highest standards in production in North America and around the world,” said Bret Lieberman, Vice President of Manufacturing, CNH Industrial North America. “Employee involvement is a vital aspect of any successful World Class Manufacturing program. All of our employees in Saskatoon should be commended for their strong commitment and achievement in making CNH Industrial’s plants among the best in the world.”

Through precise methods and standards, WCM seeks to eliminate waste and loss by identifying objectives such as zero injuries, zero defects, zero breakdowns, zero waste, reduced inventories, and suppliers’ punctual delivery of parts to plants, and subsequently to dealers and end users.

CNH Industrial has 59 plants around the world involved in WCM, now totaling nine silver level and 18 bronze level plants. Currently, 83% of CNH Industrial plants (i.e., 53 plants in all) participate in WCM, with 90% of the employees at those plants taking part in the program.

Agribusiness, Award, Case IH, New Holland

Space Research Sponsored by BASF

Kelly Marshall Leave a Comment

basf-150

The research project of three twelfth-grade students will have the scientific and financial sponsorship of BASF as they send their experiment to astronauts at the International Space Station (ISS).  The students from the ag program at Edith Stein School in Ravensburg, Germany have created an experiment to test plant growth in microgravity conditions, specifically plant cuttings.

Prior research done in the field of space-farming has focused on seedling roots and how they respond to the lack of gravity.  The students’ experiment questions if roots and leaves can develop from cuttings in space to produce food.  If it turns out that cuttings can be used, it would be a huge step in supplying long-term space flights, like missions to Mars, with food.

“We are excited about this project and about working with forward-thinking young people who strive for groundbreaking ideas and innovation. With our 100 years of experience in agriculture, it has been a thrilling challenge to investigate what could come next and how to achieve the ultimate goal of growing and reproducing plants on a space station,” said Dr. Harald Rang, Senior Vice President Research & Development, BASF Crop Protection.

To ensure the success of the experiment, the student research team is currently developing an appropriate experimental design for the ISS. BASF is providing knowledge on how to keep the plants healthy and free from fungal disease during the foreseen 30 days in the ISS environment. The students will do an internship with experts at the BASF Agricultural Center in Limburgerhof, Germany, before conducting trials at Kennedy Space Center laboratories in Florida.

Agribusiness, BASF, Research

USFRA to Talk Water During Toledo Food Dialogues

John Davis Leave a Comment

usfra-toledoLast year’s toxic algae bloom in Lake Erie at Toledo, Ohio, that left half a million people without clean water, underscored the delicate balance that exists between farming and drinking supplies. So it’s no wonder the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance (USFRA) chose Toldeo as the site for the next Food Dialogues on Thursday, May 28, starting at 9 a.m. ET.

“Issues for water are so regional, whether you are talking about California drought, issues with ground water or surface water,” explains USFRA CEO Randy Krotz, adding Toledo’s plight brought worldwide attention and shined a light on the need for abundant food and clean water. “Both of those issues farmers and ranchers couldn’t be more committed to.”

The Toledo Food Dialogues will have two panels – one talking about what happened on Lake Erie and the other discussing how to balance the food and water equation. Krotz says they invited scientists, activists, ag producers and other stakeholders to give voice to the many sides of the issue. “We try to have all sides of a topic covered.”

This session is sponsored by USFRA, the Ohio Farm Bureau, and several ag groups in the state. If you can’t make it to Toledo in person, you can catch a livestream of the event at the Food Dialogues website or through the Ohio Farm Bureau website.

Interview with USFRA CEO Randy Krotz on Toledo Food Dialogues
Ag Group, Audio, USFRA, water, Water Management

AgNerd Cloud – New Holland PLM

Chuck Zimmerman Leave a Comment

New Holland PLMIn this AgNerd Cloud we’re going to take a more in-depth look at New Holland’s Precision Land Management (PLM) platform with Chris Carrier, Marketing Manager, Precision Land Management & T7 Series. I visited with Chris in his office recently to talk about PLM.

New Holland’s PLM has a growing number of resources and functionalities that you can find on the PLM Portal. This can also be found within MyNewHolland.com. As you can see from the iPad image, PLM is also being heavily integrated into mobile technology.

New Holland PLM iPadIn my conversation with Chris we first talk about the evolution of PLM over a period of years into the platform it is today. He says that they’re moving into the new field of data and connectivity taking another step beyond things like auto guidance and swath control. The new PLM Connect is helping farmers better manage and optimize their fleets with easier data transfer using the cloud.

In our interview Chris talks about the options for different products in the PLM lineup. One of those is the PLM Calculator App that let’s you figure out the return on investment of using precision technology. You enter a number of parameters like field sizes to get instant feedback on the payback.

When it comes to training Chris points to their PLM Academy. This includes an app, web-based and instructor led training.

You can listen to my full interview with Chris here: Interview with Chris Carrier

AgNerd, Agribusiness, Audio, New Holland

Kubota Striving to Meet Consumer Demand

Kelly Marshall Leave a Comment

kubota-logoKubota Tractor Corp. and Kubota Manufacturing of America Corp., have plans for a new manufacturing plant in Gainsville, GA.  The facility will be located on 180 acres with an estimated 502,000 square feet.  The existing plant, which has been operating since 1988, will also be expanded.  The upgrade is estimated to cost $80 million.

RTV Lineup_webAll of this comes on the heels of a recent announcement to move KTC’s headquarters to Grapevine, TX to be closer to its major market.

“The demand for Kubota products continues to grow in the U.S.,” said Mr. Hironobu Kubota, President of KMA. “We estimate that this expansion of our operations will allow us to increase production capacity by 60 percent over the next five years.”

The announcement further demonstrates the company’s commitment to support its growing product offerings with operational excellence as a priority. “Growing our manufacturing operations in Georgia will enable us to achieve even greater operational efficiencies to make Kubota’s business stronger and more competitive,” said Mr. Masato Yoshikawa, President & CEO of KTC. “We will be better equipped to respond to market needs more quickly, satisfying both dealer and customer demand for Kubota’s popular sub-compact tractors, turf products and utility vehicles.”

The expansion is expected to begin in September 2015 with a target production date of spring 2017.  The facility will produce Kubota’s RTV series utility vehicles, with a capacity to manufacture 50,000 units each year.

Agribusiness, Machinery, Retailers

St. Louis Fed: Farm Income, Land Values Down

John Davis Leave a Comment

stlfedresA new report says farm incomes and land values continue their downward slide in the Midwest and Mid-South, and those trends are expected to continue. In its first quarter of 2015 survey, the Federal Reserve Bank in St. Louis blames the slump on declining grain prices worldwide.

Bankers noted a continued decline in farm income compared with the same period a year earlier. Based on a diffusion index methodology with a base of 100 (results above 100 indicate proportionately higher income compared with the same quarter a year earlier; results lower than 100 indicate lower income), the farm income index value was 49 for the first quarter.

This was the third consecutive quarter that this value fell below 100, and represented the lowest level since the survey began in the summer of 2012. Looking ahead, a large percentage of bankers expect further declines in the second quarter.

Corresponding with the decline in farm income, household expenditures and capital spending also fell during the first quarter.

“Lower grain prices are finally changing the psychological mindset for producers,” a Missouri banker noted. “Most producers are not able to lower operating expenses significantly and are looking at troublesome cash-flow projections. Grain prices will likely remain in this price range for several years and will have a huge impact on lenders.”

Farmland values dropped an average of 2.5 percent during the same period compared to a year earlier. This was the largest quarterly percentage decline since the survey began in the summer of 2012. The value of ranch or pastureland declined 1.6 percent, but unlike farmland prices, ranch or pastureland values are expected to rise.

Agribusiness, farm land, Land