No Doubt RFS Uncertainty Impacts Local Communities

Jamie Johansen Leave a Comment

New Holland ZimmPollOur latest ZimmPoll asked the question, “Has the uncertainty for the RFS caused by the EPA hurt your community?”

No doubt the uncertainty for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) caused by the EPA has hurt many of our communities. This unpredictability has been around over a year and has left many wondering what the final renewable fuel volumes will be. I am sure the uncertainty has impacted our lives more then many even are aware.

Here are the poll results:

  • Yes, lost local business/jobs – 73%
  • No, no impact – 27%
  • Don’t know – 0%

Our new ZimmPoll is now live and asks the question, What should US do about WTO COOL ruling?

The industry has reacted to the World Trade Organization (WTO) decision against the United States on the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) law since the announcement was made earlier this week. Some feel the issue can be handled by USDA, others feel Congress should take charge. Or are there are other options?

ZimmPoll Jamie JohansenNo Doubt RFS Uncertainty Impacts Local Communities

EPA Findings on Neonicotinoid Seed Treatments

Cindy Zimmerman Leave a Comment

epaThe Environmental Protection Agency has released an analysis of the benefits of neonicotinoid seed treatments for insect control in soybeans. Neonicotinoid pesticides are a class of insecticides widely used on U.S. crops that EPA is reviewing with particular emphasis for their impact on pollinators. The analysis concluded that there is little or no increase in soybean yields using most neonicotinoid seed treatments when compared to using no pest control at all. A Federal Register notice inviting the public to comment on the analysis will publish in the near future.

“We have made the review of neonicotinoid pesticides a high priority,” said Jim Jones, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “In our analysis of the economic benefits of this use we concluded that, on a national scale, U.S. soybean farmers see little or no benefit from neonicotinoid seed treatments.”

During the review of the neonicotinoids, EPA found that many scientific publications claim that treating soybean seeds has little value. Part of our assessment examined the effectiveness of these seed treatments for pest control and estimated the impacts on crop yields and quality, as well as financial losses and gains. The law requires EPA to consider the benefits of using pesticides as well as the risks.

The analysis concluded that:
– There is no increase in soybean yield using most neonicotinoid seed treatments when compared to using no pest control at all.
– Alternative insecticides applied as sprays are available and effective.
– All major alternatives are comparable in cost.
– Neonicotinoid seed treatment could provide an insurance benefit against sporadic and unpredictable insect pests, but this potential benefit is not likely to be large or widespread throughout the United States.

This analysis is an important part of the science EPA will use to move forward with the assessment of the risks and benefits under registration review for the neonicotinoid pesticides. Registration review can result in EPA discontinuing certain uses, placing limits on the pesticide registration, and requiring other label changes.

Sign up for pesticide program updates to be notified by email when the EPA opens the docket and invites comment on its analysis of the benefits of neonicotinoid seed treatments on soybeans.

Government, seed, Soybeans Cindy ZimmermanEPA Findings on Neonicotinoid Seed Treatments

Yield Lab, Arch Grants Team Up for Ag Tech

John Davis Leave a Comment

yield-labA business accelerator that invests in sustainable methods of increasing the world food supply and a St. Louis-based non-profit entrepreneurial organization that builds successful companies team up to further the cause of agriculture technology. The Yield Lab and Arch Grants announced their partnership to help ag tech startups in the St. Louis region.

“LifePack is an international company from Cali, Colombia which manufactures plates and other items made of natural plant fibers and seeds that germinate in a backyard garden or landfill when exposed to light, air, and water,” explained Ginger Imster, Executive Director of Arch Grants. “The Yield Lab is an ideal location for LifePack to headquarter because of its network of major agricultural players in the St. Louis Region.”

thad-simonsLifePack will join the Yield Lab on-site at the Helix Center and participate in the 2015 Yield Lab program which will focus on direct business training, mentoring, and networking opportunities. “We have a long list of resources that will provide high value and growth potential for LifePack,” said Thad Simons, Lead Managing Partner of the Yield Lab, “we look forward to working with LifePack and a continued relationship with Arch Grants to tap into the growing Agriculture Technology sector.”

This is just the beginning of the partnership between the ag and entrepreneurial groups. Yield Lab’s inaugural 2015 class will have four to six companies with the program beginning in January. The Yield Lab is accepting applications through October 31, 2014 and Arch Grants will open its 2015 application January 1, 2015.

Agribusiness, technology John DavisYield Lab, Arch Grants Team Up for Ag Tech

Pacific Ag Converts Biomass to Dollars for Growers

Joanna Schroeder Leave a Comment

Last week Abengoa’s cellulosic ethanol biorefinery went online and is expected to produce 25 million gallons of advanced ethanol per year as well as 21 MW of bioenergy. But how exactly does the corn and wheat residue get from the fields to the biorefinery in a economical and efficient way? Enter Pacific Ag.

Bill Levy Pacific AgThe company was founded by Bill Levy in 1998 and began by baling residue for growers and using the biomass for animal feed both in the U.S. and internationally. It was a natural progression for Pacific Ag to get involved in cellulosic production in the U.S. and to become a major supplier to the industry.

I asked Levy to talk about their residue removal model. He noted that since their inception, they have always focused on having a balanced residue program for growers and they are finding value for those products for them. So taking their successful model from the Northwest and applying it to the Midwest was a good fit. “The fundamentals of having residue removed on a timely basis and in a sustainable way is really the same,” explained Levy. Today they are in California, North Carolina, Iowa, Kansas and he says they have innovated to become “energy balers” because of the new bioenergy market for residue.

It’s very easy for a grower to work with Pacific Ag. Levy explained that if a grower has five circles of corn, for example, he/she can call Pacific Ag after harvest and they will schedule a time for them to come in and bale the biomass. “We have a very predictable payment schedule. You get 50 percent when the stack is created and 50 percent when the stack moves,” explained Levy. He said they also have a great paperwork system to track all the bales, the tons and their movement.

Pacific Ag Hugoton Kansas teamHe added that what’s nice is to have growers contact them early to let them know how many circles they want harvested because they put so much effort into planning for the season but a grower can add circles after he sees the value of Pacific Ag and his neighbor can call after he harvests his field when he sees the significant revenue stream the biomass provides others.

“And I think as the world starts to look at renewable energy, I think agriculture is going to be the benefactor,” added Levy.

Pacific Ag is looking for growers of rice, wheat, corn and other biomass crops who are interested in working with them. As the markets for biomass continue to explode, Pacific Ag is ready to be the partner to help make the growers who plant the bioenergy crops, successful.

Learn more about Pacific Ag and how to become involved in the biomass energy revolution by listening to my interview with Bill Levy: Interview with Bill Levy, Pacific Ag

Abengoa Cellulosic Ethanol Plant Grand Opening photo album.

Agribusiness, Audio, biomass, Ethanol, Harvesting Joanna SchroederPacific Ag Converts Biomass to Dollars for Growers

Learn More About Plant Sap Analysis

Jamie Johansen Leave a Comment

Michelle Gregg is the Executive Director for Crop Health Laboratories (CHL) and Leah spoke with her about the new company’s upcoming event and opportunities they have for growers across the country. Part of CHL’s business model is using an existing technology that is new to North America. This new technology is called plant sap analysis which offers a different management option for growers.

The Power Growers Seminar will take place Nov. 7 & 8 in Santa Clara, CA. The educational event will introduce plant sap analysis to growers. Along with data that have been collected through the first year’s trials across North America is various crops.

“The results are really promising especially for greenhouse producers and those who have year-round production models. The purpose of the seminar is to provide connectivity to university researchers, specialty growers and consultants. Allowing them to come together at the same table, have limited and exclusive access to our pilot data, comment and ask questions on the system and give us feedback so we can make the best program possible.”

The Netherlands-based company, NovaCropControl, has been utilizing this technology for 10 years. Michelle says they deserve the credit for creating the technology. There has been significant response to this technology in Europe and Netherlands, which has a high population of greenhouse production.

Michelle said the seminar will truly introduce growers to the concept of having ultimate control of your crops nutrient management program. CHL really wants to gather the perspectives from producers on the East and West coasts, from Canada and everywhere in between.

“We are humbled by some of the responses we are getting. Granted this is our first year in North America, the main responses we are getting is ‘this program really allows me to critically evaluate my nutrient management and verify that what I am putting on my soil is really reaching the target tissue.’ That is one of the benefits of analyzing the sap verses analyzing the tissue itself. You can collect the nutrient information prior to metabolism by the plant.”

Stay tuned for our full coverage of the Power Growers Seminar in just a few weeks. For more information on the event visit

Listen to Leah’s complete interview with Michelle here: Interview with Michelle Gregg, Crop Health Laboratories

Agribusiness, agronomy, Audio, Data, Nutrient Management, technology Jamie JohansenLearn More About Plant Sap Analysis

Global Yield Gap Unveiled at Water for Food Conference

Jamie Johansen Leave a Comment

Water for food logoFinding of the Global Yield Gap and Water Productivity Atlas were unveiled this week at the sixth annual Water for Food Global Conference. The outcome of a six-year international collaborative research effort led by the Daugherty Water for Food Institute at the University of Nebraska and Wageningen University in the Netherlands, the Atlas is the first transparent, interactive and map-based web platform to estimate exploitable gaps in yield and water productivity for major food crops worldwide.

According to the Atlas, sub-Saharan Africa has the world’s largest gap in farm yields at 70-90 percent below their potential. The data show that Sub-Saharan Africa – primarily smallholder farmers practicing subsistence agriculture in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda – can potentially increase yields of existing farms by more than twofold. Other studies show that Ethiopia’s surface water and groundwater supplies could irrigate 10 times as much land than they are right now.

yield-gapThe Atlas can help farmers, policy makers, foundations and private sector organizations identify regions with the greatest potential to sustainably produce more food with strategic use of resources. The Atlas also provides a digital platform for analyzing location-specific crop production and land-use changes, as well as the potential impact of certain crops or new agriculture technologies on specific areas.

“Producing enough food to meet the demands of more than 9 billion people in 2050, while conserving natural resources and ecosystems, depends on improving crop yields on existing farm land around the world,” said Roberto Lenton, founding executive director of the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute at the University of Nebraska. “The foremost use for the Atlas is to leverage data to identify opportunities to strategically increase yield and water productivity of existing cropland, rather than tilling more land that may not be ideal for sustainable crop production.”

Find out more at

Food, International, Research, water Jamie JohansenGlobal Yield Gap Unveiled at Water for Food Conference

Dr. Sanjaya Rajaram Awarded 2014 World Food Prize

Joanna Schroeder Leave a Comment

Dr. Sanjaya Rajaram was awarded the 2014 World Food Prize was awarded on World Food Day, October 16, 2014. A wheat breeder who has developed more than 400 varieties of the crop, he was born in a small village in India and is now citizen of Mexico. Dr. Rajaram conducted the majority of his research in Mexico at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT).

World Food PrizeDr. Rajaram’s scientific research led to a prodigious increase in world wheat production – by more than 200 million tons. His crossing of winter and spring wheat varieties, which were distinct gene pools that had been isolated from one another for hundreds of years, led to his development of plants that have higher yields and dependability under a wide range of environments around the world. He also developed wheat varieties resistant to the rust disease that can wipe out entire fields, thus protecting the world’s food supply.

“This award honors the resilience and innovative spirit of farmers in the developing world and the national agricultural systems,” Dr. Rajaram said as he accepted the award. “Without their contributions my research would not have been possible. The mission was – and the mission remains – to serve them.”

As the World Food Prize culminates the centennial year of its founder and Dr. Rajaram’s mentor, Dr. Norman Borlaug, it is especially fitting to recognize the impact of Dr. Rajaram’s achievements.

“Dr. Rajaram worked closely with Dr. Borlaug, succeeding him as head of the wheat breeding program at CIMMYT in Mexico, and then carried forward and expanded upon his work, breaking new ground with his own invaluable achievements. His breakthrough breeding technologies have had a far-reaching and significant impact in providing more food around the globe and alleviating world hunger,” said Amb. Kenneth M. Quinn, President of The World Food Prize. “Dr. Borlaug himself called Dr. Rajaram ‘the greatest present-day wheat scientist in the world’ and ‘a scientist of great vision.’ It is an honor to recognize Dr. Rajaram today for his development of an astounding 480 varieties of wheat, bred to offer higher yields, resistance to the catastrophic rust disease, and that thrive in a wide array of climates.”

Award, Food, wheat, World Food Joanna SchroederDr. Sanjaya Rajaram Awarded 2014 World Food Prize

Bio S.I.’s AG Select Puts Life Back into Rebuilding Soil

John Davis Leave a Comment

Mother Nature has a pretty good formula for restoring the health to soils: using microbes to help break down organic matter. While chemicals can help replenish lots of the nutrients, they don’t provide the natural, living spark that helps turn that matter into energy and food for plants. That’s where Bio S.I.’s AG Select comes in. It restores all 16 key nutrients to the soil and to give plants the means to optimally uptake these nutrients and ensure protective measures against potential threats to this process.

BioSIagselectAG Select is a powerful seed treatment from Bio S.I.’s extensive and effective line of microbial solutions to rebuild, renew and restore soil, as nature intended. The formula includes four different kinds of mycorrhizae; which are beneficial fungi that help the plants get nutrients and water from the soil they would not normally be able to get. Microbes, fungi, and many other life forms in the soil are constantly working together to feed the plants so that the plant in turn feeds them. Once nutrients are returned, the plant gains the mycorrhizae benefits of the comparatively larger surface area of mycelium to root ratio, thus improving the plant’s mineral absorption capabilities2. Microbes similarly work to improve water retention and soil ingestion; as humus, created from microbes naturally digesting organic matter, is advantageous to root penetration and development[2].

“Maintaining continuous soil quality is the key to productive agriculture.” Bio S.I.’s Founder Wayne Tucker explains, “The very meaning of sustainability.” Healthy, diverse soil systems have the ability to sustain plants naturally, and without as many chemical inputs. Bio S.I.’s Agriculture and Agriculture Select formulas give farmers the key to unlock the full potential of their soil, in both nutrient release and plant vigor naturally.

Bio S.I. officials say the microbes and mycorrhizae work to take up space pathogens need to grow and provide necessary nutrients to maintain a vigorous plant immune system. Also, a broad and diverse spectrum of soil microbes diminish soil-borne pathogens because of a lack of food sources and space.

Agribusiness, Nitrogen, Nutrient Management, Soil John DavisBio S.I.’s AG Select Puts Life Back into Rebuilding Soil

Water Policy in Florida

Cindy Zimmerman Leave a Comment

Florida is the third largest state in terms of population and the 14th in agricultural production, so competition for water resources is fierce in the Sunshine State.

ctic-14-budell“Population growth is a big factor in driving water use demand and that will continue in Florida,” said Richard Budell, who is director of water policy for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). “The challenge we’ll face is that as those domestic demands grow we don’t lose sight of the fact that agriculture has to continue to have access to adequate quantities of water.”

Budell told the 2014 CTIC Conservation in Action tour last week that Florida’s 47,000 private farms account for 52% of the state’s land use but less than half of the water use. Some of the state’s most populous regions, such as Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and the counties around Tampa and Orlando, are also the most agriculturally productive. “Where that nexus occurs, it makes managing that water balance that much more difficult,” he said.

During his presentation during lunch, Budell provided lots of interesting information about Florida agricultural production and natural resources. Presentation by FDACS water policy director Rich Budell on CTIC tour

I also interviewed Rich about some of his key points and also questioned him about how the state ag department views the proposed Waters of the United States rule: Interview with Rich Budell, Florida Department of Agriculture

2014 CTIC Conservation in Action Tour Photo Album

Audio, Conservation, CTIC, water, Water Management Cindy ZimmermanWater Policy in Florida

Depts. of Ag, Interior to Measure Conservation Impacts

John Davis Leave a Comment

usda-interiorA new partnership between the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and the Interior looks to better measure the impacts of farmers’ conservation practices on the quality of the country’s water. Officials say the information gathered will strengthen the effectiveness of state and federal nutrient reduction strategies while protecting the privacy of individual farmers.

“On a voluntary basis, the agricultural community has put extensive effort into the management of nutrients and reducing runoff into waterways. This collaboration will help evaluate the impact of farmers’ conservation efforts on improving water quality,” said Ann Mills, USDA’s deputy under secretary for Natural Resources and Environment.

The U.S. Geological Survey will now use Natural Resources Conservation Service data on conservation work to factor into its surface water quality models, which track how rivers receive and transport nutrients from natural and human sources to downstream reservoirs and estuaries…

“This agreement will allow NRCS and USGS to combine resource management capabilities with science, and will give us the information we need to prioritize the most effective conservation strategies so that we can improve the quality of streams throughout the Mississippi River Basin,” said Lori Caramanian, DOI deputy assistant secretary for Water and Science.

The two agencies say they will protect the private information about individual farms, ranches or forests.

Conservation, Government, USDA John DavisDepts. of Ag, Interior to Measure Conservation Impacts