WEEKLY NEWS HIGHLIGHTS

Johnson & Thune to Lead Drought Tour — South Dakota Senators Tim Johnson and John Thune plan to tour drought-stricken areas of the state Wednesday. Johnson is hoping to attract more attention to the escalating disaster. "We want to generate more national focus on what’s going on in South Dakota and other drought-hit states; we’ve got a serious drought problem," said Johnson. While Johnson believes the White House could do more to help farmers and ranchers, Senator John Thune refuses to place blame on the Bush Administration. "People have said the President isn’t open to consideration of disaster assistance; my view is we need to make sure that Congress is doing its job and until we actually put something on his desk, we have not delivered on our responsibility to get disaster assistance."

Budget Offsets Required — Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns says it’ll be at least another month before crop yields are known. That information is necessary before USDA can make a decision on drought assistance. The position of the Administration has will be offered to producers. He says the position of the administration has not changed; funding for disaster relief must be found within the confines of the farm bill. "That’s where you have seen some changes in spending for conservation programs and that sort of thing, I would anticipate that as we approach, offsets will continue to be a part of the discussion." Johanns says USDA will continue to monitor the situation.

Science-Based Disaster Farm Bill — South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds testified before the House Subcommittee on Farm Commodities and Risk Management last week, saying the drought has had the greatest impact on livestock producers. "Livestock auction markets located in drought impacted regions, which is currently 41 of our 66 counties, have experienced a79 percent average increase in sales, when compared to last year," said Rounds, "We are selling our factories, we are selling the cows that produce the calves; most producers in the impacted area are reducing or liquidating their herds." Rounds offered a proposal called science-based drought assistance. The plan targets relief to farmers and ranchers based on their operation’s normal moisture level and farm productivity. Rounds says this would provide the right amount of help to the right people.

SD Counties Named Disaster Areas — USDA has designated 24 counties as natural disaster areas. Extreme heat, high winds, hail, insect damage, insufficient subsoil moisture and ongoing drought have qualified the counties as disaster areas. All qualified farm operators in the declared counties are eligible for low-interest emergency loans from the Farm Service Agency. Interested farmers need to contact their FSA office with more information.

Hay List — The Minnesota Department of Agriculture has teamed with the University of Minnesota Extension Service to offer a Hay List website that matches farmers needing forage with those who have forage to sell or donate. The Upper Midwest Hay List can be accessed at www.haylist.umn.edu. The site is a cooperative effort of the extension services of Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin and South Dakota.

Barge Traffic Could be Hurt by Drought — Barge traffic on the Mississippi River during this fall’s harvest is expected to be slowed by a potential drop in water levels, if the drought persists. Grain barges were forced to load less for several months, starting last October. The water level in the Mississippi is expected to drop in October unless the region receives some rain this fall. Water levels at St. Louis are already below normal.

Estate Tax Rejected — The so-called Death Tax will likely be an issue in the November elections. Republican Senators could not find enough votes to end debate and vote on a bill that would permanently cut the estate tax. Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman said agriculture will feel the impact. "The impact of the estate tax is on small business and working people and family farmers who have to take their hard earned dollars, and instead of putting it back in the business, they pay the lawyers and accountants." The estate tax issue was tied to an increase in the minimum wage, but that was not enough to garner support in the upper chamber.

Cost of Production Rising — Farm production expenses rose more than five percent last year. According to USDA, fuel costs went up 26.3 percent, taxes increased 14.3 percent and fertilizer was up 14.3 percent. Feed costs went down more than five percent.

Ethanol Up — The Renewable Fuels Association reports that US ethanol production increased in May to 293,000 barrels per day. That represents an increase of more than 56,000 barrels per day from the previous year. Demand also rose, setting a record at 349,000 barrels per day. Currently, 101 ethanol bio-refineries have the capacity to produce 4.8 billion gallons annually. There are 36 ethanol refineries and 7 expansions under construction with a combined annual capacity of more than 2.5 billion gallons.

E-85 Kits — Minnesota State University-Mankato will conduct research on E-85 conversion kits. Governor Tim Pawlenty asked MSU’s Center for Automotive Research to conduct this research. Currently, these kits are not certified for use, but Pawlenty has petitioned EPA to allow Minnesota to be a test state. Pawlenty says these conversion kits are commonly used in Brazil and flex-fuel technology gives drivers a homegrown option at the gas pump.

Bunge Ethanol in Iowa — Bunge North America Incorporated has named Council Bluffs as the location of its third ethanol plant. The $175 million facility will be built with Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy LLC. The 110 million gallon plant is expected to break ground this fall.

Hartley, IA for New Plant — VeraSun plans to build a 110 million gallon per year ethanol plant in Hartley, Iowa. Hartley is in the northwest corner of the state.

YieldGard Extension — The Environmental Protection Agency has extended the registration of two YieldGard insect-protected corn technologies developed by the Monsanto Company. The registration for YieldGard Rootworm insect-protected corn technology has been extended through the 2010 growing season, and the registration for YieldGard Plus has been extended through the 2008 growing season.

Grains Council Advisory Teams Named — US Grains Council Chairman Vic Miller has reappointed Reid Jensen of the South Dakota Corn Utilization Council as an A-Team leader. Gary Duffy of the South Dakota Corn Growers Association is a new representative on the Asia A-Team.

Three New USDA Officials Confirmed — Bruce Knight leaves NRCS to become the USDA Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs. Knight is a Gann Valley, South Dakota native. Nancy Montanez Johner was confirmed as Undersecretary for Food and Nutrition Consumer Services. Margo McKay is the new Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights.

VeraSun Names Vice President of Ethanol Sales — Paul Kreter has more than 20 years in the petrochemical industry. Most recently, he worked at a methanol firm. VeraSun is the second-largest ethanol producer in the United States and is based in Brookings.

Eminent Farmers & Homemakers Named — South Dakota State University is honoring Bart Blum of Reliance and Clark Moeckly of Britton with its Eminent Farmer award. Aletha Prouty of Vienna and Donna Sharp of Bath will receive the Eminent Homewaker award. The four will be recognized September 8th at a banquet in Brookings.

Big Iron Adding Purebred Livestock — Big Iron has 800 booths sold, representing 475 companies."We’ve also added purebred livestock, a breeding cattle display; it looks like there is going to be six to eight of of those guys on display," said John Pitz, general manager. Big Iron will be held September 12th to the 14th at the West Fargo Fairgrounds.

 

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