Some Viptera Claims Tossed

Tue. Aug 23, 2016 12:24 PM

By Todd Neeley
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) -- A federal judge last week dismissed claims made by a group of farmers in a class action lawsuit against Syngenta that the company should have done something to inspect and keep harvested Viptera and Duracade GMO MIR162 corn from being shipped to China.

The action was at least a partial victory for Syngenta. However, multiple lawsuits challenging the company on its handling of the GMO corn will continue, according to a legal expert who has been following the cases.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas ruled negligence claims involving inspections are pre-empted by the Grain Standards Act. The 1916 act requires all grain sold in foreign commerce to be inspected and graded.

Donald L. Swanson, an attorney with Omaha-based Koley Jessen PC, LLO, who has followed and written about the case for Iowa State's Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation, told DTN the court's ruling removes one of numerous claims still to be adjudicated.

"They're moving this case along rapidly," Swanson said. "The ruling limits the claims. It does not terminate the lawsuit. This kind of legal wrangling is very typical. It is limiting the scope and focus of the case."

At present, the lawyers and judge in the case are taking part in the pleadings and discovery phases simultaneously, he said. The plaintiffs in the case have made numerous allegations of facts claiming multiple legal standards have been breached, Swanson said.

"Let's just say hypothetically there are a dozen claims made," he said. "The defendant is saying we want to limit the number of claims that go to trial. We're going to try to knock out one at a time. In this case, they were successful. This is for Syngenta, a partial victory."

The latest ruling also dismisses the separate claims of a group of farmers called the "Phipps plaintiffs" represented by Phipps Anderson Deacon, LLP based in San Antonio, Texas, who had their claims consolidated in the Kansas federal court. A number of other agribusinesses including Gavilon Grain, Archer Daniels Midland Company, Bunge North America, Cargill, Inc. and Louis Dreyfus Company, also had filed motions to dismiss the claims made by the same plaintiffs.

DTN's attempts to reach attorneys for the Phipps farmers were unsuccessful.

Syngenta faces an ongoing legal battle after developing MIR162 genetic traits marketed under the brand name Viptera and in Viptera/Duracade stacks. USDA deregulated the products in 2013 and Syngenta moved ahead to commercially sell the seeds even though MIR162 had not been approved in China. In November 2013, China began rejecting any U.S. corn exports that tested positive for MIR162. That went on until China eventually approved the trait in December 2014.

The official lawsuits filed on behalf of corn producers include cases in Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin.

Plaintiffs have claimed Syngenta misled the public and made misrepresentations to the public and USDA concerning the status and likelihood of Chinese approval and their effects on export markets. Plaintiffs also claimed Syngenta's actions increased the risks of contamination and commingling of corn.

In a statement to DTN, Syngenta hailed last week's ruling as a victory.

"The Aug. 17 ruling in the Viptera China lawsuits significantly narrows the case against Syngenta," the company said. "For example, the ruling confirms that federal law bars 'any claim against Syngenta based on a duty to make sure that Viptera corn is segregated from other corn.' The court also agreed with Syngenta that 'there is no basis for Syngenta's liability based in false representations or omissions of fact in communications with plaintiffs,' and, therefore, rejected plaintiffs' claim for negligent misrepresentation.

"Although the litigation will continue to proceed, this is an important step forward as we continue to defend the rights of American farmers to have access to safe, effective, U.S.-approved agricultural technologies like Agrisure Viptera."

The goal for Syngenta in the legal proceedings, Swanson said, is to essentially eliminate all of the legal claims in the case, while the plaintiffs are working to put at least one claim before a jury.

Swanson said there remains a class of farmers in Minnesota pursuing a class action suit likely to play out in state court in Minnesota.

According to court documents there are about 2,375 cases involving more than 20,000 plaintiffs pending in the Fourth Judicial District of Hennepin County, Minnesota.

Although the case is "convoluted, complex and difficult," Swanson said, chances are there will be a number of trials before it is resolved.

"My sense is they're working at this hard," he said. "They have to work through pleadings and discovery then through some bellwether trials, actual jury trials- maybe a dozen of them - then there will be a resolution to the case."

Todd Neeley can be reached at

Follow him on Twitter @toddneeleyDTN


Todd's Take

Tue. Aug 23, 2016 12:21 PM

By Todd Hultman
DTN Analyst

As scouts hit the road for this year's Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour, everyone wants to know what they will find and, more specifically, whether or not they will agree with USDA's national corn yield estimate of 175.1 bushels per acre. With as much effort and discussion as we put into estimating the 2016 crops, I had to pause and wonder about the wisdom of the whole approach. Beyond understanding that the U.S. is going to harvest a lot of corn this fall, does it really matter if the yield is 173 bpa or 175? I doubt it.

On one hand, USDA test plots and private crop tours make sense. We can sit in an office all summer with weather maps and make guesses, but that will never be a good substitute for getting out in the fields and taking a good look.

On the other hand, even USDA's methodical field observations are only so accurate. According to USDA's August 2016 Crop Production Report, the Aug. 1 corn production estimate has a 90% confidence interval of plus or minus 6.5%. This means USDA's 15.153 billion bushel estimate is likely to end up somewhere between 14.2 billion and 16.1 billion bushels.

The whole reason we try to predict the size of the corn crop in the first place is to try to understand prices, but prices appear to have already anticipated most -- if not all -- of this year's big crop. Instead of wondering if a big crop will get bigger, the better question is: Will this year's low corn prices get lower?

Going back to 1999-00, I was able to find seven similar seasons to 2016 when final corn production was larger than USDA's original crop estimate in late February. I then wanted to see how Dec corn prices performed from the end of August to the end of November. Did low corn prices get lower as more harvest information became available?

On average, no. In these years of bigger-than-expected harvests, Dec corn traded slightly higher on average from the end of August to the end of November and also finished higher in four of the seven seasons. The biggest drop was 19% in 2004-05 and the biggest gain was 22% in 2009-10. So yes, Dec corn could go either way from the current level, but the notion that there is a tendency for August's prices to get lower (implied in the saying, "big crops get bigger") is not supported by the data.

Instead of getting carried away with the latest crop estimates, I suggest keeping a focus on the market's own clues and the relation of corn prices to their cost of production -- a method that I re-visit at the start of each year.

In 2016, the likely range for Dec corn based on production cost was $2.95 to $4.42 a bushel. Because corn's demand environment is better in the U.S. this year than it was in 2015 when Brazil's real was cheap, I don't expect Dec corn to reach $2.95, but prices in the low $3s are reasonable, considering the good weather that most of the Corn Belt has enjoyed.

The other clue that corn prices are getting close to support came from Friday's Commitment of Traders report. CFTC data showed that commercials were net long in corn for the third consecutive week, holding 43,478 contracts as of Aug. 16. Commercial buying in response to low prices is a good sign that corn's value is appreciating -- even as a record crop is anticipated.

USDA's crop estimate may or may not increase in the days ahead, but we would be wise not to become overly-influenced by those numbers. As far as corn prices go, it seems likely that the bulk of this year's big crop has already been accounted for.

Todd Hultman can be reached at

Follow him on Twitter @ToddHultman1


Crop Tour Day 2 Midday Update

Tue. Aug 23, 2016 12:18 PM

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

WHITE COUNTY, Ind. (DTN) -- A scout team moving north from Fishers, Indiana, through north-central and western Indiana counties Tuesday morning found better averages for corn and soybeans on the Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour than scouts saw farther east on Monday.

Samples collected in central Indiana averaged 162.5 bushels per acre in Howard and Miami counties, but the estimated yield from a field in Tipton County, Indiana, was 193 bpa.

A field sampled in Cass County had a larger average ear length of 7.7 inches, which calculated out to a potential yield of nearly 223 bpa.

Another eastern-leg scout team reported an average yield of 182 bpa from Indiana stops and pulled a corn sample from Vermillion County, Illinois, that calculated out at 235 bpa.

Still, not every sample looked like a field of dreams. A cornfield in White County, Indiana, had corn borer infestations attacking ears, and the soybean field across the road was facing problems with sudden death syndrome.

Overall, scouts on multiple routes in Indiana were measuring higher soybean plant populations and pod counts than what scouts found in Ohio Monday. Pod counts in a 3-foot-by-3-foot span were topping 1,500 pods, about 300-400 pods higher than samples measured Monday.

Crop tour veteran Bill Bayless, a farmer from West Mansfield, Ohio, said the early samples in central and west-central Indiana looked like solid potential crops.

"The beans are looking really great in this area," Bayless said. "The corn looks good, but not maybe as great as the bean crop is. Overall, both of them together, the farmers will be really happy with their yields this fall."

Yield calculations on the crop tour take a total ear count from 30 feet of adjacent rows. Three ears are pulled from one row from stalks five, eight and 11. Those ears are measured for grain length and the number of kernels are averaged in each ear. Then, the calculations are divided by row space.

For instance, the field with 223 bpa yield had an ear count of 104 ears in two rows. The average ear length from the samples was 7.7 inches and the average kernel rows came to 16.7 (two ears had 16 kernels and one with 18 kernels). The math came to 104 x 0.5 = 52 x 7.7 grain length = 400.4 x 16.7 average kernels = 6,686/30-inch row width = 222.87 estimated bushels per acre.

Chris Clayton can be reached at


Editor's note: You can follow the tour's progress by following @ChrisClaytonDTN for eastern leg updates, @PamSmithDTN for western leg updates or the hashtag #pftour16. Please remember that each tweet represents only what's seen on that particular car's route and doesn't necessarily represent the big picture.

Watch DTN Ag News this evening when the state average yields are updated.

To see photo albums by DTN staff on Facebook from the crop tour, go to:

Day 1 (West):…

Day 1 (East):…


Calving Prep

Mon. Aug 22, 2016 2:35 PM

By Victoria G. Myers
Progressive Farmer Senior Editor

Once a beef calf hits the ground, the clock is ticking. What happens -- or doesn't happen -- as each hour passes will determine to a large extent whether that calf thrives. It all starts with colostrum.

Sometimes called "first milk," colostrum is more similar to nutrient-rich cream than milk. It is high in immunoglobulins (Ig) to help prevent infection, fat, energy, vitamins A and D, and white blood cells.

Studies have shown calves that do not get enough colostrum or a high-enough quality colostrum by the time they reach the 24-hour mark are 3.2 to 9.5 times more likely to become sick and 5.4 times more likely to die before weaning.

Especially concerning are situations where a calf had a difficult birth, it is a first calf for a heifer, the cow has a bad temperament and won't allow its calf to nurse, or the cow has mastitis. Healthy cows with adequate body condition (5.5 to 6) precalving should have no trouble providing enough colostrum to their newborns. Heifers should be in a higher body condition (6.5 to 7) to avoid potential problems.


The first sign of a problem comes early. Calves should be up and nursing within one hour. If there's any reason to doubt that this has taken place, consider tube-feeding the calf at least two quarts of colostrum or colostrum replacer before the six-hour mark. Another two quarts by the 12-hour mark is often recommended.

W. Mark Hilton, DVM, Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine, said producers have to be ready to respond when they believe a calf is not getting colostrum. He recommends always having a bag or two of colostrum replacer on hand.

"It doesn't go bad if stored properly. So at 2 in the morning when you see there is a problem, you don't have to go to the clinic. I look at it as cheap insurance," Hilton said, adding that it's key to buy a well-researched, good product.

Some producers go to dairies in their area to buy colostrum, which they then freeze for future use. While it is fine to save colostrum this way for up to a year, Hilton emphasizes the source should be your own herd. Going to someone else for colostrum is risky.

"Never do that. Never go buy colostrum from some other herd owner. You may be buying a new disease. It's not worth the risk. Only use colostrum you've collected from your own herd or colostrum replacer," he cautioned.


Hilton explained a colostrum replacer is exactly that, a replacement. He specified that producers should use a replacer, not a supplement, and that it should be made specifically for cattle.

He recommended asking your veterinarian for specific product recommendations and stressed this is not a place to save money. The higher-quality products on the market have a minimum of 60 grams of IgG (immunoglobulins, antibody type G) per liter.

Tom Earleywine, director of nutritional services with Land O'Lakes, said the use of colostrum replacers among beef producers is widespread today. He recommended products made from real cow colostrum that are USDA approved.

"We quarantine the colostrum we buy for our replacer. Our product goes to the USDA facility at Ames, Iowa, where they test it to see if there is a good passive transfer in one dose. If there is, we release it," he said of the company's Bovine IgG Land O'Lakes Colostrum Replacement.

Earleywine said the company's colostrum comes from dairy herds across Canada. It is dried and then selected, based on quality, for use as a replacer, a supplement or an additive. Only replacers made from real colostrum can have USDA approval.

For the best absorption, Earleywine said it's a good idea to administer a colostrum replacer in a one-time oral dose. If it is given in two doses, hours apart, the absorption of the second dose is lower and doesn't do the calf as much good. The first six hours of life are when the best colostrum absorption takes place; after that, it drops substantially. Research shows the amount of antibodies in the calf going from about 66% at six hours after birth to less than 10% at 24 hours.


Once past the crucial time for colostrum, the next hurdle calves may face generally hits before they are a month old. Calf diarrhea, often called scours, is a common problem, treatment for which will most often include the use of oral electrolytes.

Geof Smith, DVM and North Carolina State University ruminant health and production medicine professor, said there is a wide range of quality for these products.

"An oral electrolyte should have three things," he explained. "First, there should be sufficient sodium. The reason you're giving the electrolyte is to rehydrate the calf, and the key is to replace the sodium.

"Next, you need to have an alkalinizing agent, either bicarbonate or acetate. This helps correct acidosis, which is a low pH and is common when calves suffer from diarrhea."

Smith stressed there is a tremendous variation in quality of electrolytes and strongly recommended producers talk to their veterinarian or nutritionist to be sure they choose a good product. He said it's difficult to read some of the labels and determine how much sodium they contain or other key indicators.

Products Smith said he sometimes recommends to producers include Hydra-Lyte, Diaque, Land O'Lakes Electrolyte System and, recently released, Replenish.


A common question Smith gets is whether producers can feed electrolytes at the same time a calf is drinking milk.

"There is a school of thought that a bicarbonate alkalinizing agent interferes with milk digestion, and so you should separate consumption of the two by a couple of hours. The label will even say not to feed with milk.

"We know, though, that an acetate alkalinizing agent does not interfere with milk digestion. So we can feed those products with milk."

He added this can be a critical consideration in beef-calf care because these calves don't need to be held off their dams for any prolonged period of time.


Along with scours, there are other times an electrolyte may be of benefit to the herd, according to Land O'Lakes' Earleywine. Any time there is concern that cattle may be dehydrated, during shipping or heat stress, for example, offering an electrolyte can be a boost for the health of calves as well as older animals.

Earleywine stressed, however, that an animal receiving electrolytes must stay hydrated. The sodium in an electrolyte solution can make an animal more dehydrated -- not less -- if the animal is otherwise healthy and not scouring.

"Taking an electrolyte without enough water creates a situation where the gut recognizes there is an imbalance, so it tries to flush that out," he said. "This removes more moisture from the animal, making him scour and become more dehydrated."

To avoid this, mix electrolytes with water, and make sure there is plenty of free-choice, high-quality water available all the time. In addition, Earleywine cautioned, it's important to avoid the use of soft water when mixing electrolyte solutions because soft water has a higher sodium content.


Severely dehydrated calves are often easy to spot. They will typically have no suckle response, eyes will be sunken and pinched skin will not go back immediately. Along with water, calves with scours lose electrolytes, essential to bodily functions. This can lead to metabolic acidosis, which can kill a calf quickly.

Once a decision has been made to give electrolytes, improvement should be fairly fast. Continue to feed the calves until there is a strong recovery, and they are thriving. This means no more sunken eyes or signs of malaise. This typically takes one to three days, depending on the quality of the electrolyte and how dehydrated the calf was when electrolytes were first offered.

Earleywine said in cases of severe dehydration, it can take four to five days to see improvement. If calves are to this point, giving injectable electrolytes with veterinarian supervision via intravenous (IV) or subcutaneous (SQ) injections can revive the animal. Oral electrolytes are not the same as those made to be given using IV or SQ methods. These products are sterile, premixed and electrolyte-balanced.


While it's important to be prepared for any scenario come calving season, Purdue's Hilton believes that for most well-managed beef operations, problems are more the exception than the rule.

"I constantly preach that beef cattle should be low maintenance," he said, adding that heterosis in a herd can go a long way toward minimizing problems and increasing productivity.

"Cows should calve unassisted. Calves should jump up and nurse aggressively. All the owner should have to do is tag the calves and cut the bulls. Calving season should really be a joy."


Collecting colostrum from dams in your own herd is the cheapest and, many agree best, way to nourish newborn calves that don't get what they need from mom.

The collection of colostrum each year is a good habit to get into. Choose cows you know to be tame and have a history of producing plentiful, high-quality colostrum. It should be more of a golden color than milk with no blood. Consistency should be thick and smooth.

After the newborn calf has nursed well, veterinarian Mark Hilton said one milliliter of oxytocin will enhance letdown of additional colostrum. Milk this out and freeze it. Frozen colostrum lasts about a year and needs to be thawed carefully, using warm water or a microwave on low power.

"In most well-managed herds, the heifers will calve first, and the chances that a heifer will have excess colostrum are not very high. So plan ahead," Hilton said. "When your cows calve, collect some colostrum and keep that in the freezer. Then next year when the heifers calve, you'll be prepared for any problems."

He added: "It's important to know that colostrum quality can change with every pregnancy. So do some visual checks as to whether the udder looks full, and try to know the history of the cow. Older cows typically produce more and better colostrum than heifers, but it's all quite variable."


Direct Sales

Mon. Aug 22, 2016 2:32 PM

By Deborah R. Huso
Progressive Farmer Contributor

Frederick County, Virginia, is known for its orchard culture, and with the summer and fall fruit harvests, visitors stop by the many roadside stands to buy freshly picked apples, peaches and pears. But few around these environs are quite as diverse or established as Richard's Fruit Market.

Proprietor Eddie Richard and his family raise 15 varieties of apples, as well as peaches, pumpkins and tomatoes, on a 200-acre farm that has been in the family four generations.

Richard also manages 30 head of cattle and sells grain-finished, all-natural, hormone-free freezer beef, locally processed from his market. He adds locally raised and processed white turkeys at Thanksgiving time.

"It's been my goal to grow your entire meal here in one place," Richard said. Richard's Fruit Market was, in fact, the first market in the region to offer individually packaged freezer beef.

It hasn't always been that way. Until 1953, the family practiced conventional agriculture, selling fruit and meat to processors. The market developed by happenstance when locals would pull into Richard's parents' driveway and ask if they had excess apples and peaches to sell. The couple set up a makeshift roadside stand that grew quickly into the full-sized market visitors see today.

"My dad was innovative and looking to the future," Richard said, noting how he constructed a substantial solid structure with cold storage very unlike the ramshackle temporary markets of farmer neighbors at the time.

"We've maintained it for 60 years," Richard added, noting that roadside selling is now the biggest income producer for his agricultural operation. "My dad sold almost everything to processors," he said, "but they don't pay now like they paid back then."

Richard has raised all kinds of things but noted, "After 28 years of sticking my fingers into more things than I could be successful at, I'm coming back to the basics of growing food."

Diversity remains an important component of the operation's retail strategy. Richard raises and sells everything from butternut squash to turkeys for holiday dining. He buys the turkeys as poults and then sells about 20 each November, fresh and unfrozen.

"White turkeys are quirky, emotional creatures," Richard remarked. "They're a little demanding and always hungry. It's like I'm married to them," he quipped, chuckling. "I feed them tomatoes, so if you buy a turkey from us, you're essentially buying a turkey marinated in tomatoes."

His humor masks some uncertainty about the future of agricultural careers for his children and grandchildren, the fifth and sixth generations. When his grown daughter announced she was coming back to the farm to live and work, he was delighted but also recognized the challenges of living from the land as commodity prices plummet.


Survival for the Richard clan depends very much on direct selling -- and anyone who wants to do direct marketing must be prepared to interact with the public.

"I'm a people person, and I love the retail end of the operation," he noted. "We're the oldest existing fruit market around."

He advised other producers to be true to who they are.

"Don't tell customers what you think they want to hear," he said. "It will bite you back. Be true to what you grow."

Richard noted that all the farm's income from peaches and vegetables comes from direct-to-customer sales. About 50% of apple income and all the income from the beef and turkeys come by way of his direct-marketing business.

He attributes the market's success to steady business from a combination of local buyers (some of whom he's served for three generations) and tourists from the metro D.C. area. He said most customers keep coming back because they appreciate knowing where their food comes from.

"Authenticity is very important for me," he said. "This is my product, grown straight from my soil. I only put my name on products I grow myself."


Midwest Crop Tour - Day 1

Mon. Aug 22, 2016 2:28 PM

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor
Pam Smith
DTN Progressive Farmer Crops Technology Editor

GOMER, Ohio (DTN) -- In early going Monday morning, scouts on at least one route of the eastern leg of the Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour found corn yields that were all over the map in Ohio.

After sampling two corn fields early in the day in Delaware County, Ohio, that looked to pull an average of 204 and 206 bushels per acre, the scouts dove into a field in Marion County that looked impressive from the road, but not so much in the corn rows. The ears were less than 6 inches in length with added tip-back. Still, that field came in at 160 bpa.

"That is the whole point of the crop tour is to get the meat out of the field and see what is there," said Mike Berdo, a scout and farmer from Washington, Iowa. "There were a lot of ears that did not make grain."

Once scouts moved into Wyandot and Hardin counties in Ohio, drier conditions throughout the summer showed in the fields and projected yields dropped dramatically. Scouts sampled consecutive corn fields with projected yields of 69 bpa and 65 bpa.

"I think this is probably because we had very dry conditions during pollination," said Greg Matli, a long-time scout on the tour and Indiana's state statistician for USDA NASS. "The plant count was there, and we had a lot of ears that just aren't going to make it. This reminds me of 2012."

Yet, just 15 miles down the road in Hardin County, the scouts pulled a corn sample calculated out to 199 bpa with solid grain length.

For soybeans, the tour scouts don't measure possible yield, but pod counts in a 3-foot-by-3-foot square. One tour route through Delaware, Wyandot, Hardin and Allen counties in Ohio showed an average close to 1,400 pods, while the average overall in Ohio over the past three years is 1,230 pods.

The eastern leg had 14 scout teams that disbursed from Dublin, Ohio, and were heading to Fishers, Indiana, by the end of the day.

The western leg of the crop tour has 10 scout teams, and departed from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Monday morning with its first stop in Lincoln County, South Dakota. Scouts saw crops that looked healthy and had adequate moisture.

On one car on the route, scouts took five corn samples in southeast Nebraska that averaged 157 bpa, which was similar to last year's 161.41 bpa tour average for that district. Scouts were surprised to find soybeans still blooming in some fields and yields were a disappointing average of 624.4 pods in the 3-foot-by-3-foot square.

The South Dakota 1,068.71 tour pod count was higher than normal, but still this year was thought to be light for the district and perhaps a result of late planting.

Waterhemp populations were the biggest agronomic problem found as scouts crossed the Missouri River into Nebraska at Yankton, South Dakota. Population counts were hurting yields, but could change as scouts find more irrigation acres.

This route continues south and west and cuts through much of the center part of Nebraska before ending in Grand Island tonight.


Editor's note: You can follow the tour's progress by following @ChrisClaytonDTN for eastern leg updates, @PamSmithDTN for western leg updates or the hashtag #pftour16. Please remember that each tweet represents only what's seen on that particular car's route and doesn't necessarily represent the big picture.

Watch DTN Ag News at midday for updates and in the evening when the state average yields are updated.


Midwest Crop Tour Preview

Fri. Aug 19, 2016 3:23 PM

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

OMAHA (DTN) -- Following a USDA report that topped all market expectations for the corn crop, the Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour this coming week offers farmers, agronomists, commodity brokers and others a chance to take a look for themselves.

Check with DTN for updates from the tour and posts on social media throughout the week.

Pro Farmer editor Chip Flory, the tour's organizer, said the tour generally draws more attention when the crop estimates are higher. "It's right up there, there is no question about it," Flory said. "There's no question it is going to be a well-attended tour."

USDA's latest crop forecast will give scouts a lot to consider. USDA projects a record corn production at 15.15 billion bushels with a record projected yield of 175.1 bushels per acre. The seven states that make up the various tour routes -- Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio and South Dakota -- account for slightly more than two-thirds of the nation's corn production.

Overall, USDA's Crop Progress report projects more than 70% of the corn in those seven states rates either good or excellent. Ohio might be the one state where crop conditions aren't as good as USDA estimates. Only 52% of Ohio's crop is considered good or in excellent condition.

Todd Hultman, a DTN market analyst, said Ohio and South Dakota have both been dry. "But between there, in the center of the Corn Belt, they should find very good yield and crop conditions," Hultman said.

Hultman noted it may be interesting to see if the tour concurs with USDA's current yield estimate of 163 bushels per acre for Ohio, which is 10 bushels higher than 2015. "So it might be interesting to see if Pro Farmer has any dispute on that," Hultman said.

Hultman added, "Overall, I think the tour is going to say USDA is right and that may calm some of the Twitter pictures about tip-back."

How it Works

The tour has 12 routes in the eastern leg and 10 on the western route. Both legs of the tour are full in terms of scouts with about 110 participating in total this year. Combined, the scouts will sample roughly 1,400 corn fields.

Tour participants will gather Sunday and begin scouting Monday morning. The eastern leg of the tour begins near Columbus, Ohio, while scouts on the western leg of the tour will gather in Sioux Falls, S.D.

On the eastern leg, scouts will fan out from Columbus and move west, ending the day in Fishers, Indiana. They'll continue to push west and north to Bloomington, Illinois, on Tuesday and Iowa City, Iowa, on Wednesday before advancing toward Rochester, Minnesota, on Thursday.

Scouts on the western leg will scout South Dakota and parts of Nebraska on Monday and end the day in Grand Island, Neb. They'll push east to Nebraska City, Neb., on Tuesday and then to Spencer, Iowa, on Wednesday. On Thursday, they'll scout fields in Minnesota before finishing the tour in Rochester.

In its 24th year, Flory said a key to the Pro Farmer tour is the consistency. The goal of the tour is to offer farmers, commodity brokers and analysts an opportunity to see the crop and its conditions in a large swath of the Corn Belt. Scouts run down the same roads ever year, though the number of field measures will vary depending on how much ground a team has to cover that day. "We keep it the same every year. The way we do that is we run the same routes every year," Flory said. "That keeps us in the same area so we've got consistency every year. But it allows us to keep it random by not pre-selecting those fields while we're out there."

Flory said there are often misconceptions about how the tour operates and the methodology used in the field. "It seems like every year when we get started, we have to get in contact with certain groups and say 'No, that's not how we do it,' and try to clarify things and make sure they understand we do it the same way, year after year, so we have that basic comparison that can be revisited," Flory said.

Scouting the Field

On corn, scouts will walk 35 paces into the field past the end rows into a field and hook a 30-foot piece of rope to a stalk, and count all of the ears in two rows. They'll pull the 5th, 8th and 11th ears. Then scouts will measure the grain length of each ear and count the number of kernel rows around. The averages are calculated then divided by the spacing of the rows.

The crop tour doesn't estimate soybean yields because rainfall in August plays such a large role in determining yield. Instead, the tour estimates the number of pods in a 3-foot-by-3-foot square to estimate each field's potential. Scouts count all of the plants in a 3-foot section of a row. They count the number of pods on three random plants and average them to come up with an estimate of the number of pods per plant. Then they put the data into a formula that calculates the number of pods in a 3-foot-by-3-foot square.

Corn yields from the day's scouting are released on a nightly basis. Then the tour numbers are used to help develop the estimate that Pro Farmer releases at the end of the week for the group's projection for the national production and yield.

"Obviously we are using a lot of the data that comes from the tour, but we don't want to represent the opinions of any of the scouts that are on the tour with us," Flory said. "They can all use the data any way they want to come up with their own crop estimates. That's fine. That's what it is for, but we are doing the same thing. It's a Pro Farmer crop estimate, not a crop-tour estimate that comes out on Friday."

Tour History vs. USDA

Based on history from the tour, Flory said the tour typically measures Ohio about three bushels less per acre than USDA. History also shows Indiana might come in 2 bushels under USDA while Illinois is usually measured about 1.5 bushels heavy. Iowa also comes in about 4 bushels light. The big difference, on average, is Minnesota is usually measured on the tour as 11 bushels too heavy. That mainly comes from the fact the tour looks at fields in southern Minnesota where yields are highest, but doesn't go up into northern Minnesota where yields are generally lower, Flory said.

Nebraska also is usually measured 15 bushels too light because samples are pulled from the eastern half of the state. On average, Nebraska corn production is about 60% irrigated and 40% dryland, but the samples in eastern Nebraska often are reversed with about 40% irrigated and 60% dryland.

"That's just because of the part of the state that we travel," Flory said. "That's why we typically measure Nebraska light, but we know that."

Last year, the final Pro Farmer tour estimate for corn came in at 13.32 billion bushels, about 2% below USDA's production figure for the 2015-16 crop. Pro Farmer projected the soybean crop at 3.887 billion bushels last year, or 42 million bushels below USDA's reported 2015-16 soybean production.

Editor's note: Scouting for the tour begins on Monday morning. You can follow the tour's progress by following @ChrisClaytonDTN for eastern leg updates, @PamSmithDTN for western leg updates or the hashtag #pftour16. Please remember that each tweet represents only what's seen on that particular car's route and doesn't necessarily represent the big picture.

Watch DTN Ag News at midday for updates and in the evening when the state average yields are updated.

Chris Clayton can be reached at

Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

Copyright 2016 DTN/The Progressive Farmer. All rights reserved.
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By the Numbers

Fri. Aug 19, 2016 11:49 AM

By Danny Klinefelter
DTN Farm Business Adviser

Commercial bankers and Congress were all over the news a few months ago criticizing the Farm Credit System for making a $725 million loan to Verizon. In their view, FCS has strayed from its mission of serving farmers and ranchers. The Verizon loan symbolized that "mission creep."

At a particularly harsh House Agriculture Committee hearing last December, Rep. Austin Scott of Georgia said at the time, "While technically legal, it is certainly in my opinion and in the opinion of the majority of members of this committee who are your greatest advocates, that it [the Verizon loan] is outside the scope and intent of the Farm Credit System. I'll be honest with you, I don't think CoBank will stop until someone stops them."

This article is not intended to criticize anyone but rather to look at what occurred.

The joint lead originators on the loan were J.P. Morgan Securities, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America and Barclays. CoBank was the Farm Credit System lead and was only in the group because they were invited to participate by the commercial bank originators.

There were two loans, each for $6 billion. One was a three-year maturity and one was a five-year maturity for a total of $12 billion. In total, there were 48 lenders involved. The Farm Credit System held $725 million between the two loans ($362.5 million each), or about 6% of the total outstanding. By regulation, no Farm Credit entity can have more than 15% of their portfolio in similar entity loans, and most of those they do hold an interest in were either originated by or involve commercial bank participants.

Farm Credit made the loan under their similar entity authorities as a rural infrastructure loan. Unfortunately, Verizon's loan request did not spell out the percent of their business/service that is for rural infrastructure. As a result of the negative image resulting from the comments, the Farm Credit System has decided and is in the process of selling their remaining portion of the five-year loan. The three-year loan was paid in full on June 12, 2014.

In its defense, CoBank points out that commercial banks invited them to syndicate the loan and banks partner with them to share their risk, too. As DTN reported at the time, better broadband and wireless service is critical to rural communities. Giants like Verizon and Frontier Communications have the wherewithal to bring remote farm communities up to speed. Without better telecom connections, it will be hard to attract youngsters to rural areas or even master the data revolution already spewing from yield monitors, smartphones and in-field weather stations.

After stumbling in the 1980s, Farm Credit institutions now hold about 40% of the nation's credit to farmers and ranchers, including almost half of all the farmland mortgage debt. Banks are losing market share but also hold about 40% of total farm debt. Because of stricter Dodd-Frank regulations, small country lenders complain it is increasingly difficult to provide mortgage credit in rural areas. They want the Farm Credit System on equal footing tax-wise for real estate lending, or held to a much narrower customer base than what current regulations allow.

But rural America and particularly rebuilding the rural infrastructure are going to need both commercial bankers and the Farm Credit System. Hopefully, the political wrangling for competitive advantages doesn't prevent rural America from getting funds to the extent needed.


Editor's note: Danny Klinefelter is an agricultural finance professor and economist with Texas AgriLIFE Extension and Texas A&M University. He also is the founder of the mid-career Texas A&M management course for executive farmers called TEPAP. Access information TEPAP as well as DTN scholarships….

To read all of Klinefelter's recent DTN columns go to….

For a recap how the gap in broadband service handicaps rural communities, see…

For DTN's original coverage on the Farm Credit Feud see…


EPA Must Act on Chlorpyrifos

Fri. Aug 19, 2016 7:27 AM

By Todd Neeley
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) -- The EPA must take action on its proposed ban on pesticides containing chlorpyrifos by March 31, 2017, a federal court has ruled.

In a final order issued Aug. 12, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco ruled against a request by EPA for an extension of time before the agency takes action on its proposed ban on the pesticide ingredient chlorpyrifos.

A series of court decisions in recent years and EPA actions threaten to remove the popular Dow AgroSciences insecticide from the market. EPA recently proposed a ban of chlorpyrifos -- the active ingredient in Dow AgroScience's Lorsban, an organophosphate insecticide used to combat pests such as soybean aphids, spider mites and corn rootworm.

There is some concern that doing away with chlorpyrifos could at some point complicate the battle against insects, especially when growers are being encouraged to rotate chemistry to guard against possible resistance.

"Citing 'extraordinary circumstances,' the United States Environmental Protection Agency requests an additional six-month extension to take final action on its proposed revocation rule and its final response to Pesticide Action Network North America and Natural Resources Defense Council's 2007 administrative petition," the Ninth Circuit panel said in an order. "CropLife and the other amici would double that extension. PANNA asks us to deny the EPA's request in light of the nearly decade-long delay in issuance of the rule and the documented health risks.

"The 'extraordinary circumstances' claimed this time -- that EPA issued its proposed rule before completing two studies that may bear on the agency's final rule -- is another variation on a theme 'of partial reports, missed deadlines, and vague promises of future action' that has been repeated for the past nine years. EPA's continued delay is all the more significant since there are considerable human health interests prejudiced by it."

Corn accounts for chlorpyrifos' largest agriculture market as far as total pounds used because, overall, there are more corn acres than soybean acres, according to EPA. However, in recent years, use of chlorpyrifos has expanded in soybeans and has been on the decline in corn.

According to Dow AgroScience's website, chlorpyrifos use in soybeans expanded from about 200,000 acres in 2004 to some 8 million acres in 2008. Dow estimated chlorpyrifos was applied to about 11% of soybean acres planted in 2008.

Dow estimates that since 2000, soybean aphid infestations have caused economic yield losses of up to 45% in untreated fields. Soybean aphids are now present in 20 states, including the Great Plains and into the Northeast and South, according to Dow.

USDA estimates corn rootworm leads to more than $1 billion in lost revenue each year. That includes $800 million in yield loss and about $200 million in treatment costs.

In June 2015, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco issued a ruling pressuring EPA to make a decision by Oct. 31, 2015, on whether or not it would establish food tolerances for the insecticide. EPA stated it did not have the data needed to do so and instead would pursue a ban.

The court issued its ruling as a result of a lawsuit filed by Earthjustice on behalf of the Pesticide Action Network and Natural Resources Defense Council.

In April 2016, a contingent of 42 agriculture groups wanted EPA to put the brakes on a scientific advisory panel meeting held in Washington, D.C., that is part of the EPA's proposed plan to do away with chlorpyrifos-based pesticides.

The groups represent a wide range of agriculture producers, from the National Corn Growers Association to the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Sorghum Producers Association and the Western Growers Association.

Those groups expressed concern EPA is relying on a "single epidemiological study for which the agency does not even possess the underlying data, and lack of a solid basis for the most fundamental assumptions," they wrote in a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.

Todd Neeley can be reached at

Follow him on Twitter @toddneeleyDTN


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