AgWizard Simplifies Farm Financial Decisions

Jamie Johansen Leave a Comment

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 10.28.35 AMAgriFinance Advisors, Inc. announces the launch of AgWizard – an Online Financial Advisor for farmers. The #1 frustration farmers experience in managing their business is the complexity in knowing when to market their grain. With today’s extremely volatile commodity prices and razor thin margins, farming without a marketing plan in place becomes even more challenging.

Now, a farmer who logs in at www.AgWizard.com can gain insight and get answers to important questions that specifically affect the farm’s bottom-line, such as:
– What is my breakeven price?
– What price do I need in order to achieve my profit objective?
– Which farms are the most profitable?
– What is my return on investment for each farm?
– How much cash rent can I afford to pay on each farm?
– How does changing my crop insurance from enterprise to optional units affect my claim?

AgriFinance Advisors, Inc. is a technology-based financial planning firm helping farmers and farmland investors make more informed decisions. Additionally, the company licenses the AgWizard platform to ag lenders, accountants, crop insurance agents; or any agribusiness that wants to differentiate their business and deliver added value. AgWizard will enable farm customers/prospects to manage their finances with greater predictability and accuracy.

Agribusiness, Financing

Soybean Growers Announce Conservation Legacy Awards

John Davis Leave a Comment

Conservation-Legacy-Awards1The American Soybean Association (ASA) has announced the regional winners of its 2015 Conservation Legacy Awards. This news release says Steve Berger, Wellman, Iowa (Midwest Region); Mike Starkey, Brownsburg, Indiana (Northeast Region); and Jimmy Thomas, Timberlake, North Carolina (South Region), are the regional winners and will be recognized at the ASA Awards Banquet, Feb. 27, 2015, at Commodity Classic in Phoenix, Arizona, where one of them will be chosen as the national winner.

One of the first conservation measures Berger remembers experiencing as a child is building terraces. He helped build 15 miles around his fourth generation farm at Dennis Berger & Son Inc., to slow down the impact of the rainfall on soil erosion. Berger farms with his mom, dad and wife on their 2,000 acre soybean and corn operation with 20,000 head swine…

“It is important to have the farmer teaching, learning and working with cover crops in modern-day systems,” he said. “It is challenging in today’s farming environment to blend economics and esthetics, but is very rewarding.”

The sixth generation Starkey family farm lies in an urban area just west of the metropolitan area of Indianapolis. In addition to a dramatic reduction of commercial fertilizer, Starkey has used no-till soybeans since 1989 and introduced cover crops in 2005. He also entered in a NRCS field grant study to monitor tile and stream water.

“My legacy as a conservationist is to improve and protect the borrowed living soil that God has given us and to keep our water clean and pure as the raindrops that fall from the sky,” Starkey said.

Thomas Family Farms Inc. is a traditional, diverse North Carolina operation incorporating corn, soybeans and wheat, tobacco and swine production. There are now three generations working together at Thomas Family Farms: Pete and Levon Thomas; their sons Jimmy and Timmy; Jimmy’s wife Janine and two grandsons.

“There will always be new generations of the family, new employees, and new technologies and new knowledge about the environment, and we have to be prepared to keep up,” Thomas said.

The Conservation Legacy Awards Program recognizes the outstanding environmental and conservation achievement of U.S. soybean farmers.

Videos featuring each of the regional conservation winners can be viewed online here.

Ag Group, Agribusiness, ASA, Soybeans

USDA Offers Conservation Innovation Grants

John Davis Leave a Comment

usda-logoThe federal government is offering up to $20 million in grants to help develop new, innovative markets for carbon credits. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it wants applications for the grant money through the Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) program that will provide new, additional revenue sources for producers, while addressing natural resource conservation challenges.

“USDA has been a leader in supporting market-based solutions to improve water quality and reduce carbon pollution,” [Agriculture Secretary Tom] Vilsack said. “With this opportunity, we are supporting the next generation of projects that will help mature these markets and bring them to scale to benefit both producers and the environment.”

For 2015, approximately half of the $20 million is available for environmental markets and conservation finance projects that engage agricultural producers. In past years, CIG has helped fund the development of the basic infrastructure of these markets. This year, USDA, through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is seeking applications for projects that will build on these efforts by maturing and scaling markets and accelerating efforts to leverage private capital and investment in private lands conservation. Improved quantification tools, multi-resource crediting, and projects that substantively engage corporate or financial partners are the types of activities NRCS is pursuing.

The NRCS is accepting pre-proposals for initial review before applications for full proposals are submitted. Pre-proposals are due February 24, 2015. To apply electronically, visit www.grants.gov or contact a local NRCS office.

Agribusiness, Conservation, Government, NRCS, USDA

Nominate a Bee Leader for Bayer Award

Cindy Zimmerman Leave a Comment

bayer CropScienceBayer CropScience is seeking nominations for its third annual Bee Care Community Leadership Award. The award recognizes beekeepers and others who use their commitment and interest in honey bees for the benefit of their communities.

“Honey bees play an important role in supporting our food supply, pollinating as much as a quarter of all plants consumed in the U.S. and $15 billion of American crops,” said Dr. David Fischer, manager of the Bayer North America Bee Care Center. “Beekeepers not only care for these important insects, but also provide a positive influence in their communities by encouraging others to explore innovative ways to incorporate honey bee colonies in their work.”

The award, an initiative of Bayer’s North American Bee Care Program, provides a $5,000 grant to the winner to be used in support of a community beekeeping project and the winner will also receive an all-expense paid trip to a reception in Washington, D.C. during National Pollinator Week.

Any beekeeper or individual with a focus on honey bees may apply. Activities the beekeeper or individual may be engaged in include, but are not limited to, the use of beekeeping in therapy, such as with at-risk youth or veterans, bee care education for children or adults and community events that allow non-beekeepers to understand the inner working of a bee hive and more. Individuals interested in applying for the award can obtain an application at www.pollinatorweek.bayer.com. The deadline for submission is April 3, 2015.

Bayer CropScience, Bees

John Deere App Center Available

Chuck Zimmerman Leave a Comment

ZimmCast 463AgNerd Cloud alert! Appy Monday to you. How about a program could focusing on Apps? As in the new John Deere App Center.

John Deere App CenterTo learn all about it I talked with Nathan Greuel, John Deere Mobile Technician.

The John Deere App Center provides users the ability to search and find apps most useful to their business or operations. They will also be able to share the apps on social media and provide feedback to improve the applications and develop additional apps for the future. The App Center is actually an app itself which allows you to search within it for the right kind of John Deere app you’re looking for. A version for Android is in the works too.

As we learned in last week’s ZimmCast the faster mobile technology on the horizon will only increase the number of apps for farmers allowing them to transfer and utilize more and more data in a mobile fashion. I think that this is just the start of increased app efforts like this. Learn more in this week’s program.

You can listen to this week’s program here: AgNerd Cloud - John Deere App Center

Subscribe to the ZimmCast podcast here.

The ZimmCast

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The ZimmCast podcast is sponsored by GROWMARK
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AgNerd, Agribusiness, Apps, Audio, John Deere

Have Good Conversations With Consumers

John Davis Leave a Comment

afbf15-arnot1Having good conversations with consumers will be key if farmers want to build long-term trust in today’s food system. That was the message attendees of the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 96th Annual Convention and IDEAg Trade Show heard from Charlie Arnot, CEO of the Center for Food Integrity (CFI).

“Farmers are accustomed to fixing things in the next production cycle. Building trust with consumers has a longer horizon,” said Arnot, who presented findings from CFI’s 2014 consumer research into consumer skepticism, trending attitudes and trust-building transparency. The research was sponsored, in part, by AFBF.

The survey of 2,005 people looked into the concerns and attitudes of three groups of people: moms, millennials and foodies. Millennials are described as those ages 18-34. Foodies are people who are more likely to seek out information about food and food ingredients and to share information about cooking, food safety and nutrition. CFI’s research showed that keeping healthy food affordable is a high priority for all three segments. Arnot called that finding “very good news” for those involved in food production when it comes to talking with consumers. “Everything you do can be talked about in that context,” he said. “If we address consumer concerns in that context, our messages will be better received.”

Arnot went on to say that demonstrating shared values is more effective than demonstrating competence when it comes to building trust with consumers, and farmers need to realize the “goal is not to win a scientific argument, but to find meaningful and relevant ways to introduce science and technology.”

2015 AFBF Convention photo album

AFBF, Ag Group, Agribusiness, Farm Bureau

EPA’s Neonicotinoid Findings Disputed

John Davis Leave a Comment

asaThe American Soybean Association (ASA) is disputing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) findings critical on the efficacy of neonicotinoid seed treatments in soybean operations. ASA President and Brownfield, Texas, farmer Wade Cowan said “…soybean producers use neonicotinoid seed treatments where they are needed and effective, and don’t use them where not.” Cowan pointed to recent research from Mississippi showing approximately 90 percent adoption of neonicotinoid seed treatments signals that the technology does work for farmers in certain areas.

In the comments, Cowan noted that neonicotinoid seed treatment use is tailored to a very specific set of circumstances, and in those settings, that particular technology is critical, “Farmers balance the efficacy of different treatments based on their individual farms, and experience shows that farmers who purchase seed treatment for soybeans do so because it reduces or eliminates the need for application of additional inputs after the soybean seedling has emerged,” he said. “Seed treatments both protect the soybeans from insects in the soil after planting as well as protecting the seedlings as they emerge. A below-ground insect infestation has no rescue options except replanting, and in the northern growing regions, replanting is not often an option.”

“EPA must not allow political pressure to lead to restrictions on crop protection tools,” concluded Cowan. “We have appreciated EPA’s science-based decision-making in evaluating crop protection products, particularly as they are wrongly singled out as the cause of pollinator decline. We urge EPA to maintain its commitment to science in evaluating crop protection tools.”

You can read all of ASA’s comments here.

Ag Group, ASA, environment, Soybeans

Railroad Updates Progress

John Davis Leave a Comment

afbf15-bnsf1Billions of dollars to improve service on one of the most important railroads for grain producers looks to resolve problems that hurt the grain industry last year. Attendees of the recent American Farm Bureau Federation’s 96th Annual Convention and IDEAg Trade Show heard from Greg Guthrie, director of ag products for BNSF, who updated them them on a $5 billion capital investment plan the company announced at the beginning of 2014, which grew to closer to $5.5 billion by the end of the year.

While the grain shipping industry isn’t one of BNSF’s largest customers, representing only 9 to 10 percent of total business, Guthrie called it one of BNSF’s oldest and most valued.

“From a railroad perspective, grain has been an inherent and significant part of our DNA,” said Guthrie. “Do you really think we don’t want to haul grain? We keep hearing ‘you want to haul oil, not grain.’ We want to haul everything and we’re going do whatever we can to handle that growth because in business if you’re not growing, you’re dying.”

In the last 14 years, BNSF added more than 150 origin locations nationwide. There were 77 BNSF origin destinations in 2000, and in 2014 that number rose to 233. Each station costs $25 million to $30 million to build.

“Our growth [last year] was double the GDP and we woke up one day and realized that we took on 50 percent of all the railroad growth in the United States in one year,” Guthrie said.

That growth ended up dramatically spiking the cost to reserve rail cars, so Guthrie said BNSF is adding more grain hopper cars to the pipeline, which will allow the market to decide a fair price for cars.

2015 AFBF Convention photo album

AFBF, Ag Group, Agribusiness, Farm Bureau

Conservis Announces Version 8.0

Jamie Johansen Leave a Comment

CSVS_logoConservis Corporation announced significant expansion of their industry-leading farm management software, now with new management and analytical tools.

“In Chicago the talk is all about data and profitability,” said Pat Christie, Conservis Founder & CEO. “With lower prices, top producers need timely and accurate data to run a competitive business. Conservis 8.0 makes this data actionable. For the first time, farmers can compare performance to spending at the field level, understand break-even points and better plan an optimal crop mix based on the cost per unit of production.

Reporting tools enhance visibility of the complex details and numerous activities on the farm. Easy-to-view reports make it simple for a farmer to conduct daily analysis and make immediate, informed adjustments – at all levels of the farm, from seed and other inputs, to harvest, marketing and all critical points in between.“Having the data immediately, rather than three months later, helps us make real-time decisions” said Andy Jenks, Jenks Farms. “This is so important in today’s production agriculture.”

Planning and budgeting is crucial for business success. With Conservis 8.0, a farmer collaborates with agronomists and others to create sequenced activity-based crop plans. It is easy to evaluate scenarios for profitability, resource usage and timing bottlenecks. Final plans are used to create budgets down to the field level and are converted to purchase and work orders, which are easily tracked against the original plan. Storing all this information in a single cloud-based platform is a distinct advantage over planning spreadsheets and paper work orders with verbal updates to manage the pipeline of field-level work.

Agribusiness, Data, Software

The Yield Lab Announces First Cohort

Jamie Johansen Leave a Comment

yield-labThe Yield Lab, the nation’s largest agriculture technology business accelerator, announced its first five participating companies, which will begin the program this week in St. Louis. The companies were selected from a pool of more than a hundred applicants from around the world and reflect the Yield Lab’s mission to promote solutions for a healthier, more sustainable future globally.

The Yield Lab runs a nine-month program that supports emerging AgTech companies with up to $100,000 in funding, an Agriculture (Ag) specific curriculum, one-on-one mentorship, free workspace, and networking opportunities. The Yield Lab is supported by a solid framework of agriculturally focused individuals, organizations, and businesses in the St. Louis area. Agriculture is a leading industry in the greater St. Louis area, providing over 20% of the area’s employment and generating $75 billion in global economic value.

“We believe that finding a solution to sustainably feed the world is one of the biggest problems facing the world today. We have to get creative to solve this problem—and we believe innovation and entrepreneurship are the ways to do it,” said Managing Director Thad Simons. “There is no better place than St. Louis to stimulate entrepreneurship in agricultural technology and development. The Yield Lab, our investors, mentors, advisers, and entrepreneurs are a start on this journey.”

The Yield Lab’s first cohort includes:
– Arvegenix – Arvegenix is developing Pennycress, an annual energy crop grown over winter when land is idle, giving farmers another revenue crop. Pennycress, an oilseed crop, produces oil for biofuels and press-cake that is used as livestock feed. Pennycress is a non-food crop.
– AGERpoint – AGERpoint provides comprehensive GIS-based asset inventory, data and precision agriculture solutions to growers of tree, vine, and bush-based crops. AGERpoint distills data from laser and other optical scanning equipment into actionable information for permanent crop farmers from planting to harvest.
– Holganix – Holganix is a 100% natural bio-nutritional product that promotes strong plant health and sustainable soils while reducing the need for traditional fertilizers and pesticides.
– TerViva – TerViva is commercializing a perennial tree grown on underproductive agricultural land called Pongamia. Pongamia produces an annual harvest of pods, which can be crushed to produce animal feed and oil used for biofuels.
– Solapa4 – Solapa4 is a data gathering and analytics company that can predict the agricultural performance of land. Their products show the productivity of a farm for risk management, agribusiness, and farming decisions.

Agribusiness, technology