US Creditors to Abide by Stay

Thu. Apr 28, 2016 2:47 PM

By Todd Neeley
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) -- Creditors in the U.S. will have to recognize Abengoa SA's standstill agreement struck in Spain with creditors and bondholders giving the company until Oct. 28, 2016, to reorganize its debts, according to a ruling handed down Wednesday by a judge in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Delaware.

The judge approved Abengoa's motion to file Chapter 15 bankruptcy, which is a unique section of the U.S. bankruptcy code created in 2005. Chapter 15 allows for the recognition by U.S. courts of bankruptcy filed in foreign countries. In this case the Delaware court ruled the ongoing proceedings in Spain are the main proceedings.

Chapter 15 comes with an automatic protection of the parent company's assets in the U.S. while court proceedings are ongoing elsewhere.

"No person or entity may commence or continue any legal proceeding or action against the foreign debtors, their assets located in the United States, or the proceeds thereof," according to the ruling by the Delaware court, "enforce any judicial, quasi-judicial, administrative or regulatory judgment, assessment or order or arbitration award against the foreign debtors.

"The foreign debtors are entrusted with the right to operate the foreign debtors' business, exercise the rights and power of a trustee, and they are entitled to administer and realize all or part of the foreign debtors' assets within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States."

A number of insurance companies in the U.S. that are Abengoa creditors had objected to Chapter 15. Some creditors have objected because Chapter 15 gives U.S. courts limited power to control Abengoa assets.

Chapter 11 proceedings are underway in the U.S. and a number of grain companies are listed as creditors to ethanol plants in Nebraska. Abengoa also has ethanol plants in Kansas, Illinois and New Mexico. Chapter 15 could make it more difficult for creditors to be paid until legal proceedings in Spain are resolved.

By DTN's count, there are more than 225 agriculture businesses, farmers and ethanol companies listed as creditors by Abengoa in its Chapter 11 filing in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Missouri in St. Louis.

A number of farmer cooperatives and other grain providers to the company's ethanol plants in Nebraska attempted in March to force Abengoa into Chapter 7 liquidation after reporting $10 million in losses for unpaid grain delivered to the company's plants in York and Ravenna.

Creditors who were not paid for grain deliveries made to plants in York and Ravenna include Gavilon Grain LLC; Farmers Cooperative Association in Ravenna; Farmers Cooperative in Dorchester, Nebraska; the Anderson's Inc. and Central Valley Ag Cooperative.

All told, the company reports more than $16 billion of debt.

Abengoa announced in the past several months it intends to sell its ethanol assets in the U.S. and other countries.

For more information on Chapter 15, see…

Todd Neeley can be reached at

Follow him on Twitter @ToddNeeleyDTN


Cutworm Alert

Thu. Apr 28, 2016 2:44 PM

By Emily Unglesbee
DTN Staff Reporter

ROCKVILLE, MD. (DTN) -- A nighttime vandal is sneaking through Midwestern fields.

Black cutworms -- nocturnal corn cutting pests -- are already being spotted in fields this spring. Growers are being urged to scout carefully; particularly those who opted to plant conventional corn this year.

Cutworm moths have been winging their way into the Midwest since late March and worm damage will soon follow, entomologists warn. In Illinois, corn cutting could begin as early as May 13 for growers in central counties, according to Kelly Estes, the agricultural pest survey coordinator for the Illinois Natural History Survey. Farther north, University of Minnesota entomologist Bruce Potter expects damage to surface in the state's southwestern cornfields by the third week of May.

Black cutworm moths may have been flying north earlier than agronomists were setting traps, so damage could come even earlier than expected, Syngenta agronomist Todd Thumma warned in an email to DTN. First instar larvae have already been found on winter annuals in central Illinois, he reported.

Cutworm damage predictions are made possible by the cutworm's predictable seasonal migration, which starts along the Gulf Coast in February and ends in the northern Midwest in April and May. Female moths lay their eggs in crop residue or weedy and grassy fields.

"While Black Cutworm can be found in any field, I would pay special attention to corn fields that have had cover crops, weeds growing, soybeans as a previous crop, no-tilled/strip-tilled and fields with heavy residue," Thumma wrote.

Cutworm damage starts small. Often a "shot-hole" pattern is detected on leaves of seedlings, formed by young larvae munching through in a straight line. As they grow, they become capable of "cutting" young corn plants off above and below ground, resulting in wilted or dead plants.

Because this cutting action is so damaging, most Midwestern scouting guides recommend that growers scout for cutworm immediately after corn emergence and continue through the 4- to 5-leaf stage, when corn is capable of withstanding more damage.

"Fields at greatest risk to cutting and economic damage are in the 1-to-4 leaf stage of plant development," Estes wrote in a University of Illinois pest Bulletin article. "Producers are encouraged to look for early signs of leaf feeding as a potential indicator of cutting, rather than waiting for cutting to take place."

Thumma's Syngenta scouting guide recommends growers check 20 to 25 plants in five locations for every 25-30 acres of corn.

Proper cutworm scouting often involves a backache and a flashlight. Like little vampires, cutworms emerge and do their feeding after sunset throughout the night and bury themselves in the soil and debris during the day.

Estes recommends an overall treatment threshold of 3% damage. If your stand has dropped 15% below its optimum level, the Syngenta guide suggests dropping that threshold to 2%.

Growers who have opted for Bt-free, conventional corn will need to be especially vigilant in scouting. Bt proteins are among the first line of defense against black cutworm.

However, not all Bt proteins in corn hybrids will keep cutworms at bay, Estes warned. You can use this Bt trait table guide from Michigan State to determine if the proteins in your hybrids work against black cutworm:….

Even if your Bt hybrids do target black cutworm, they aren't bulletproof, Potter added. "The Herculex and Viptera above-ground Bt traits provide protection against black cutworm attack," he wrote in a university newsletter. "However, very large populations of large cutworm larvae might still damage small corn."

Finally, insecticide-treated seed can deter feeding cutworms, but only if the plant is actively growing and taking up nitrogen. Cutworms might feed past the seed treatment if early planted corn plants have stalled in cool, wet conditions, according to Purdue entomologist John Obermeyer.

Although rare, cutworms can attack soybeans, too, when populations are high in corn fields. They feed on the seedling plant, below the cotyledon.

You can find the Illinois pest Bulletin here:….

Potter's university newsletter on cutworm can be found here:….

See a standard Black Cutworm management guide from Missouri here:….

Emily Unglesbee can be reached at

Follow her on Twitter @Emily_Unglesbee


Dr. Dan Talks Agronomy

Thu. Apr 28, 2016 2:40 PM

By Daniel Davidson
DTN Contributing Agronomist

Sidedressing nitrogen became a lost art for a few years in our history. Many farmers abandoned the practice as farms grew larger and application windows grew tighter.

This isn't the first practice to make a comeback, but it may be one of the most important. The current input cost crunch, the necessity to manage spring nitrogen loss and new application technology are driving the resurgence. The good news is there are other benefits to spoon-feeding nitrogen and providing a fresh supply of nitrogen that includes ammonia.

When you apply N either as ammonia, urea ammonia nitrate (UAN) or urea most of the N is in the ammonia form. When soils warm above 50 degrees, much of that ammonia naturally converts to nitrate. It's the nitrate that is vulnerable to loss from leaching and denitrification. That is why most N management strategies include tactics to keep it in the ammonium form as long as possible.

Charles Shapiro, University of Nebraska agronomist, said there is evidence that today's corn hybrids respond to having N available as ammonia. "Applications of nitrate containing fertilizers provide a source of ammonium for 2 to 3 weeks after application," Shapiro said. "Some agronomists consider ammonium important along with nitrate and some racehorse varieties respond to having ammonium present in addition to nitrate."

Nitrogen is still applied alone in the fall as ammonia or in spring as ammonia, UAN or urea. In the spring, UAN is often added with herbicides as a weed and feed. Growers can be putting down 150 to 200 pounds of N up front before the crop is planted.

Shapiro pointed out that applying too much N that early can drive organic matter decomposition too quickly in the spring instead of letting organic matter decompose more naturally and mineralize N more slowly, like a slow-release fertilizer.

We are often told that adding N helps break down residue that has a high carbon to nitrogen ratio. Growers sometimes apply 30 to 50 pounds per acre of N on cornstalks or wheat stubble to drive decomposition or compensate for the corn-on-corn N penalty.

However, over-applying too much N early can mineralize N more quickly and put that additional N at risk of loss. "Decomposing organic matter too early can dump too much N in the system and lead to more environmental loss," Shapiro said.

Spoon-feeding N in doses -- in the fall, spring, at planting and sidedressing in-season -- may be an important element in soil health. Soil microbes need four things: 1) Good soil structure; 2) Good aeration; 3) Labile (active) soil carbon; and 4) A pool of nitrogen. If the soil is moist and well-aerated, the microbes will feed and break down residue and mineralize a supply of nutrients as long as there is some nitrogen and labile carbon (the preferred source of carbon for energy) present.

The benefit of healthy soil with a high level of microbial activity is its ability to recycle and mineralize nutrients. So having a fresh supply of nitrogen available longer through the summer may maintain higher levels of microbial activity. Unfortunately, as we move into July and then August these supplies naturally diminish and so does microbial activity.

In addition to the economic benefits of higher yields with spoon-feeding, this practice has positive environmental implications. The less nitrogen fertilizer applied and the closer to time of usage by plants, the less chance there is of unused nutrients finding their way into water supplies. Along the way microbes are being fed, enhancing microbial activity and nutrient recycling.

Yes, sidedressing puts additional trips across the field on our already crowded list of summer chores. However, spoon feeding goes down easier when you consider that more N is being kept for the crop, it protects the environment and feeds the microbes critical to soil health.

Dan Davidson can be reached at

Follow Dan Davidson on Twitter @dandavidsondtn


Plant 2016 Progresses

Wed. Apr 27, 2016 3:24 PM

By Pam Smith
DTN Progressive Farmer Crops Technology Editor

DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- Cory Ritter finished planting corn this week with one eye on the row and the other on the rain clouds approaching in the distance. The corn portion of the planting season lasted only 10 days start to finish for the Blue Mound, Illinois, farmer -- that includes the three days he sat out idled by rain. A week to plant 900 acres isn't bad, especially when it was put in during the golden window of opportunity to obtain the best possible yields.

The magic planting date to drive corn yield is April 17 in Illinois, said University of Illinois agronomist Emerson Nafziger in a news release this week. He bases that on 35 planting-date trials in central and northern Illinois over the past nine years. Yields in Nafziger's studies didn't differ substantially as long as corn is planted sometime in April. Corn yields were within 1% (about 2 bushel per acre) of the maximum when planted between April 5 and April 30.

"Beyond April, we predict yield losses of about 4% (8 bushels per acre) by May 10, 8% (17 bushels) by May 20, and 14% (29 bushels) if planting is delayed until May 30," Nafziger stated. "We don't have a lot of data for June planting, but the yield loss going into June is at about 2 bushels per day of delay, and it's accelerating."

Ritter said his corn planted one week ago has already emerged. "I haven't had time to take stand counts, but it appears to have all come up at once and looks great," he told DTN. "It's been a good year for emergence." He expects corn planted this week to pop through the ground in five days given soil temperatures and moisture conditions.

Rain showers moved in late Tuesday afternoon and more rain is forecast for his area off and on this week. Ritter still has all his soybeans to plant.

As of April 24, 30% of the corn was planted nationwide, compared to 16% on average. Missouri farmers may have struggled to get a crop in last year, but they lead Midwest farmers this year with 81% planted. According to the most recent Crop Progress report, corn planting for Illinois was 42% completed; Indiana 11%; Iowa 40%; Nebraska 16%, Minnesota 45%, Kentucky 50% and Tennessee 65%.

Soybeans were 3% planted compared to 2% average nationwide with Illinois at 2%; Indiana 2%; Iowa 3%; Missouri 5%, Minnesota 34%, Kentucky 22% and Tennessee 22%.


Nafziger's research team also gathered 23 site-years of planting-date data for soybeans in the same sites as their corn studies. The earliest planting date for soybeans was in the second week in April, with the latest dates in mid-June.

The data for soybeans showed that the maximum yield was obtained in mid-April, and that yield loss by the end of April was about 4 percentage points, or about 2.5 bushels. After April, losses totaled 7% (4 bushels per acre) by May 10; 10% (7 bushels) by May 20; 16% (11 bushels) by May 30; 21% (14 bushels) by June 10; and 29% (19 bushels) if planting was delayed to June 20.

"On a percentage basis, these loss numbers are slightly greater than those from planting delays in corn, but some of this is due to planting soybeans a little later in April than we started planting corn. Both crops lost yield at about the same rate if planting was delayed into late May," Nafziger noted in his release. "That runs counter to the earlier findings that corn loses yield faster when planting is delayed, and therefore needs to be planted earlier."

Given that neither crop suffers dramatically from planting through early May, farmers might assume that planting priorities for both crops are similar. However, corn seedlings tend to emerge better than soybeans under soil conditions typical of early spring, so Nafziger still suggests starting with corn, at least until soils warm up to allow faster soybean emergence.

"While getting both crops planted on time is beneficial, we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that yield losses for delays into and even past mid-May are not so large that we need to give up hopes for a good crop if we aren't done planting by the end of April," Nafziger said.

Ritter remains optimistic, but he'll feel better when the soybeans are tucked into the ground. Then he'll welcome nice gentle showers.

More details and data from Nafziger's field studies are available at:…

Pam Smith can be reached at


DTN Retail Fertilizer Trends

Wed. Apr 27, 2016 3:12 PM

By Russ Quinn
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) -- Fertilizer prices continued to hold fairly steady for the second week in a row, according to retailers contacted by DTN during the third week of April.

As was the case last week, four fertilizers were higher priced while the other four fertilizers were lower priced compared to last month.

None of the fertilizer prices changed by any consequence. DAP averaged $477/ton, MAP $502/ton, anhydrous $588/ton and UAN32 $322/ton.

The remaining four fertilizers were down a small amount compared to the month earlier. Potash averaged $366/ton, urea $388/ton, 10-34-0 $561/ton and UAN28 $274/ton.

On a price per pound of nitrogen basis, urea averaged $0.42/lb.N, anhydrous $0.36/lb.N, UAN28 $0.49/lb.N and UAN32 $0.50/lb.N.

In the northern Corn Belt, spring planting has not fully begun. Andy Barta, assistant general manager for Rio Creek Feed Mill located in Algoma, Wisconsin, said some wheat had been top dressed and oats seeded in his northeast Wisconsin area but no corn has been planted yet.

Barta said it has been a relatively quiet season in terms of farmers pre-ordering fertilizer. Normally about three-quarters of his customers lock in some fertilizer during the end of the year and into winter months.

"This year we only had maybe 40% to 50% of our customers lock in fertilizer," Barta told DTN. "It was a combination of low grain and milk prices as well as farmers thinking fertilizer prices were going to fall."

As far as which direction retail prices could be heading, Barta said he believes there could be some in-season jumps with fertilizer this spring. These increases could be in the range of $10 to $30/ton and if there were some supply concerns these increases could be even more, he said.

Longer term, Barta said retail prices could drop some after the spring application season and after side dressing is completed.

"My gut says prices could sag some, especially if more soybeans are planted around here," he said. "Less corn acres would certain lower nitrogen prices."

Fertilizer prices tracked by DTN appear to have bottomed in late February. For example, average anhydrous prices have climbed more than $50/ton since then. But at the moment, all fertilizers remain double-digits lower in price compared to a year earlier.

UAN32 is 13% lower while both urea and 10-34-0 are 14% less expensive from a year ago. In addition, DAP and MAP are both 16% lower, anhydrous and UAN28 are 17% less expensive and potash is 26% lower.

DTN collects roughly 1,700 retail fertilizer bids from 310 retailer locations weekly. Not all fertilizer prices change each week. Prices are subject to change at any time.

DTN Pro Grains subscribers can find current retail fertilizer price in the DTN Fertilizer Index on the Fertilizer page under Farm Business.

Retail fertilizer charts dating back to November 2008 are available in the DTN fertilizer segment. The charts included cost of N/lb., DAP, MAP, potash, urea, 10-34-0, anhydrous, UAN28 and UAN32.

DTN's average of retail fertilizer prices from a month earlier ($ per ton):

Apr 20-24 2015 570 598 491 453
May 18-22 2015 570 597 492 459
June 15-19 2015 571 597 490 467
July 13-17 2015 569 593 488 470
Aug 10-14 2015 568 591 479 457
Sep 7-11 2015 563 580 467 433
Oct 5-9 2015 548 564 446 418
Nov 2-6 2015 546 560 430 405
Nov 30-Dec 4 2015 541 559 421 400
Dec 28-Jan 1 2016 494 531 398 383
Jan 25-29 2016 495 515 391 380
Feb 22-26 2016 477 492 373 371
Mar 21-25 2016 475 501 371 390
Apr 18-22 2016 477 502 366 388
Date Range 10-34-0 ANHYD UAN28 UAN32
Apr 20-24 2015 650 711 329 371
May 18-22 2015 650 710 332 372
June 15-19 2015 642 706 330 369
July 13-17 2015 639 691 323 359
Aug 10-14 2015 631 677 315 356
Sep 7-11 2015 594 656 301 346
Oct 5-9 2015 584 639 294 338
Nov 2-6 2015 583 633 291 332
Nov 30-Dec 4 2015 578 627 286 332
Dec 28-Jan 1 2016 570 590 273 317
Jan 25-29 2016 571 569 271 317
Feb 22-26 2016 566 536 260 309
Mar 21-25 2016 561 569 276 312
Apr 18-22 2016 561 588 274 322

Russ Quinn can be reached at

Follow him on Twitter @RussQuinnDTN


Kub's Den

Wed. Apr 27, 2016 3:08 PM

By Elaine Kub
DTN Contributing Analyst

Let's say you've been asked to teach 500 farmers, in groups of 50, how to be better grain marketers and get higher prices for their corn. What would your presentations include? Futures and options strategies? The importance of pre-harvest hedging during the new-crop market's spring highs?

Now let's say your audience of farmers has no access to hedging, via options, futures, or even forward grain contracts with their local buyers. Their only local buyers are rather underhanded small-scale traders who've never heard of a forward contract, nor would they trust a farmer to deliver on such a contract, nor could they be trusted to pay the agreed-upon price. There's no local price history to even analyze seasonal highs throughout the year. So, what are you left teaching?

I'll tell you. The only marketing strategies available to many of the world's farmers are: 1) Attempting good storage that keeps weevils and rats out of their 100-kg bags of grain; and 2) Planning to stagger sales in multiple increments throughout the year, averaging prices higher than the harvest lows. Also, without available lending or crop insurance, it's extremely important to budget one's costs of production and consider the profitability of the market prices.

While I was in Uganda this month on a USAID-funded Farmer-to-Farmer project administered by Catholic Relief Services, I pared my usual grain market presentation down to those three topics, but I had even more constraints -- no PowerPoint slides, no electricity, and frequent rain showers sending me and my flipchart and my audience scurrying for the nearest empty mosque or church or school.

Shake your head, sure, but also take this as an invitation to do an intellectual exercise for your own farming operation. Think of some hypothetical constraints that could happen to you. What if you had to farm without certain key personnel? What if your main road washed out or was otherwise impassable? What if your best grain buyer goes out of business? What if a certain chemical becomes unavailable? What's Plan B? Determining that answer can build resiliency on your farm.

The following is a conversation I had with a woman during the Q&A portion of a recent presentation.

Me: "And that's why I encourage you to store the grain and sell it maybe three or four months after harvest."

Farmer: "Last season I had a great yield -- 12 bags from my 1 acre -- and I would have been profitable except that weevils ate the grain."

Me: "Your local farmers' cooperative can sell you better bags, with triple layers to keep out the weevils."

Farmer: "Okay, but the rats eat the bags."

Me: "Keep your warehouse clean all year and fumigate to keep out the rats."

Farmer: "Okay, but the grain still went bad in the bags."

Me: "Was it dry?"

Farmer: "No I didn't have a tarp to dry the grain in the sun."

Me: "Well, buy a tarp. It's really important to store the grain dry."

Farmer: "I know, but I can't afford to buy a tarp."

Me: "Um, okay, can you borrow some money to buy a tarp, maybe from your Village Savings Loan Association?"

Farmer: "No, we don't have a VSLA in my village."

Me: "Um, okay, maybe this Rural Producers Organization here today could start a village savings club?"

Farmer: "Yeah, but still, what if I borrow the money but then the crop fails because of drought and I can't pay back the money?"

Me: "Um, I don't suppose you can buy crop insurance around here?"

Farmer: "Nope."

Throughout many millennia of human existence, farming has been a terrible, perilous, unpleasant occupation done only by peasants. The weather risk alone, to say nothing of the dirt and heat and hard work, made it unattractive. Anyone with a shred of education or ambition or opportunity left their family farm and never looked back. (Except for the crazy ones, cursed with some kind of romantic attachment to the land or the profession.)

In 2016, people with a sense of justice may wish that good, hard-working farmers everywhere shouldn't have to face lives of poverty and anxiety due to market price risk.

Even for today's very small-scale farmers using relatively ancient technologies, grain market price risk should be the one easy problem to solve. Putting a known price on unharvested grain isn't a radical concept. Ancient Egyptian farmers fed a great civilization *only because* they could pre-arrange a profitable price from urban grain buyers, then confidently buy inputs and expend labor. Formal forward grain contracts have been around since 15th century feudal Japan. But both of those civilizations succeeded in hedging their farmers' price risk only because those farmers could put their trust in a critical degree of societal order.

When we think of North American farming compared to subsistence farming in Africa, maybe we feel grateful for our air-conditioned tractor cabs and effective chemical herbicides. But I have learned our real blessing is our confidence in a society that functions properly, our confidence that our business counterparts will provide what we need and do what they say.

The elevator says it will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.? Then we can rely on it to receive its first truck at roughly 8 a.m., give or take, and to shut down its leg at 5 p.m. or thereabouts. A salesperson says this chemical will kill that category of weed? Then indeed those weeds will die, generally speaking. Need to drive a grain truck from Point A to Point B? Probably, the roads between A and B will be open and driveable-ish. A piece of equipment breaks? Buy the thingamajig to fix it. Don't have money to buy the thingamajig? Borrow the money. Crop fails and you can't pay back your loan with grain proceeds? Collect on crop insurance. In the very worst case, if a counterparty reneges on a contract, there are lawyers and judges who can sort it out.

So, yes, we are lucky, and not just in the usual ways that come to mind. They say Americans should thank a farmer three times a day for the meals they eat. I say American farmers should thank their bankers, their crop insurance folks, the ag economists and senators and lobbyists and farm organizations that designed legislation supportive to food security, plus the centuries' worth of businesspeople who built corporations and credit systems that operate efficiently, plus all the people who keep the U.S. judicial system ticking along, plus anyone who designs or builds or maintains passable roads and other infrastructure, plus ... anyone who's involved in any pursuit that perpetuates our modern, trustworthy, societal order. They are the reason we have come to confidently hope, that if in April we lock in a $3.50 price for our October corn, we will truly get that price at the appointed time.

Happy planting/hedging season!

Elaine Kub is the author of "Mastering the Grain Markets: How Profits Are Really Made" and can be reached at or on Twitter @elainekub.


View From the Cab

Tue. Apr 26, 2016 1:21 PM

By Richard Oswald
DTN Special Correspondent

LANGDON, Mo. (DTN) -- "I would say most of the corn is going to be put in the ground this week." That's the assessment of DTN View From the Cab farmer Chase Brown as he summed up intentions of corn farmers around his place near Decatur, Illinois.

Chase told DTN he has about half his seed corn in the ground, only slightly less than the local average of 60% complete. "We had a pretty good week with no breakdowns. I have lots of seed customers calling, some with (a few) bags to return, others needing a few bags more," he said.

Chase is satisfied with his planting progress. His fields are in a sweet spot for moisture. "Five miles south of us they were planting corn yesterday. North of us they were wetter," he told DTN late Sunday. It's all part of the plan: Working fields earlier in the season, applying pesticides over the top preplant, and planting through the crust later after a rain gives fast, uniform emergence of Chase's corn crop with varying variety maturities ranging from 107 to 116 days.

Even if Chase could plant the entire crop in a day, he wouldn't. "We're pretty happy with where we're at. We can't harvest it all in a day ... We lost a lot of money and gave up a lot of yield in (too) dry corn last year," he explained.

With cover crops gaining wider acceptance, it isn't unusual to see fields of cereal rye greening in places where corn or soybeans might soon be. But weather and growth stage when cover crop burn-down herbicide applications are made can be tricky. "Cover crops are dying slowly. I would say we aren't getting the kill like we'd like to have," Chase noted.

Even in the heart of Illinois corn country, livestock are still important. That's why Chase keeps a herd of purebred Hereford brood cows. And he's been experimenting with another form of livestock on the farm -- honeybees.

"We're trying to do our part," Chase said. "I don't think there's any doubt something is going on. Production ag is taking a lot of blame (for declining bee populations)." No one knows the cause of colony collapse, for sure. But it is known that seed treatments formulated with neonicotinoids can be deadly to bees. "I'm not a bee expert. I had three hives last year going into winter. I lost two of them. I know people who lost all their hives and some who didn't lose any."

Chase has discovered a sizable local following of beekeepers willing to share knowledge and help each other. His interest, and negative publicity for some types of farmers, has even engaged his partners, his dad, David, and uncle, Joe. "This is my second year. It's Dad and Joe's first year. Dad and I have this discussion all the time. I'm afraid (agriculture) has lost the food war. We've lost this battle, we're in so deep we can never change their minds," he said. But if America wants a different system, they need to make it worthwhile. "If they want me to grow organic, they're gonna have to pony up and pay me," he said.

Chase purchased his bees through the Decatur Bee Club. They came as what's called a "nuc," or nucleus colony, made up of five frames and 30,000 bees including one queen. When it arrives in its own cardboard box, the nuc is placed into a hive, taking care not to harm the queen, because without her the colony would fail. That can be harder than it sounds. "The whole hive revolves around the queen. She is running around loose in there, so she's pretty hard to find. What's fascinating is I can take that queen out and I will have 30,000 bees following me," Chase said.

The Browns' efforts at beekeeping probably won't have much effect on colony collapse. But it will give them a better working knowledge of honeybees, which might help them better understand the nature of the problem. It's also made Chase think more about pollinator crops on the farm as well as insecticides he uses. "I think there's enough farms out here who aren't going to change that I could have 500 hives and it wouldn't offset what they will do." But Chase does feel a certain responsibility. "Einstein said, 'If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years of life left.' We have cut back on soil-applied insecticide by 70%. But we are still using some." That's because all the eggs shouldn't be in one basket, at least where continuous corn is concerned. "We will not use single mode of action on corn on corn," he added.

What if colony collapse is laid at the doorstep of row-crop corn and production agriculture?

"If proof came out, I think the industry would change," Chase said.

Meanwhile, at his farm outside Newport, Pennsylvania, View From the Cab farmer Jim Hoover of Hoover Turkey Farm had what every farmer wants: "a pretty good week."

"We got a little bit of rain, but not very much, (0.3 to 0.5 inches). It was certainly a help, but it's dry," Jim told DTN late Sunday. "Other people are worse off than we are. I know a half-dozen in central Pennsylvania who don't have any rain. I was planting in wheat and soybean stubble today, and it was as nice a planting as you'd want to have."

Jim farms along with his wife, Jane; son, Craig; and grandsons, Mason and Dylan. And his daughter, Stacey, and her husband, Mark Butcher, use parts of the farm for produce they sell through their own farmers market. The entire farming operation has evolved to two locations. The home farm is near Newport with a second location near Tower City, Pennsylvania. "If I have a good week, I'll have everything done at home. That'll be the first time I've ever been done here in April," he said. "Craig has the corn spraying all done. Mason has the vertical tillage done over at Tower City, so we're ready to go over there."

An aging neighbor with health problems asked Jim and his family to take over his farm. "We planted all his corn in a day. He told me what a pleasure it was to watch us work, and he no longer feels the pressure to try to keep up (with the neighbors)," Jim said.

Spring comes slowly to southeastern Pennsylvania. Sunday's high temperature was only about 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Overnight lows have dipped into the 30s and 40s. "Nobody's corn is up, at least I haven't seen any," Jim said.

Jim prefers soybeans drilled in 7.5-inch rows over 30-inch rows and a planter. He wants plant populations of at least 200,000. Any less than that and he may miss targeted yields of 60 to 70 bushels per acre. The drill allows more even spacing for plants at numbers that high. Weather permitting, Mason will be drilling soybeans at the home farm this week.

Craig has added a large machinery storage building at his home place. The 60-by-120-foot building was completed last week. "We had two weeks to watch the Amish work on that building. When you go over and look at the saw cuts in this building, everything is square, everything fits." In addition to the new building, an existing barn was remodeled. "They had to redo this old barn in green and white to match," Jim explained.

After frost damage to parts of his crop a week or two ago, Mark has begun using Reemay cheese cloth to cover rows and protect them from cold. It can make up to 6 degrees difference. "It really prevents frost from coming on the crop. This week he's planting cucumbers, green beans, lettuce, broccoli, zucchini, and cauliflower. In order to have the business they have, they really need to have all that stuff," Jim said.

Richard Oswald can be reached at


Syngenta Deal Progresses

Tue. Apr 26, 2016 12:01 PM

By Pamela Smith
DTN/The Progressive Farmer Crops Technology Editor

DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- Syngenta shareholders have officially been made an offer to sell their shares to China National Chemical Corporation (ChemChina).

Tuesday at the Annual General Meeting of Syngenta AG in Basel, the 1,337 shareholders representing 50.68% of the total shares approved motions for an ordinary dividend of CHF 11.00 per share ($465 U.S. per share) and a special dividend of CHF 5.00 per share. The special dividend is contingent upon the public tender offer related to the ChemChina proposal. While shareholders voted on the proposed special dividend Tuesday, they did not vote on the transaction itself.

Paul Minehart, Syngenta North America head of communications, told DTN the offer will remain open until all regulatory approvals are completed globally. "Sixty-seven percent of shares must agree to be purchased for the deal to be completed. We believe we are on track in this process and expect to complete the deal by the end of the year," said Minehart.

On Feb. 3, 2016, Syngenta announced that ChemChina had offered to acquire 100% of the outstanding share capital of Syngenta at a price of $465 U.S. per ordinary share plus a special dividend of 5 Swiss francs to be paid conditional upon, and prior to, closing. The intended offer values Syngenta's total outstanding share capital at around $43 billion.

Syngenta, based in Switzerland, generates about one-quarter of its sales in North America, where it is a top pesticide seller and supplies an estimated 10% of U.S. soybean seeds and 6% for corn.

A Syngenta news release Tuesday morning included a comment from Syngenta Chairman Michel Demare. "I firmly believe that this is a transaction truly in the interests of all stakeholders," he said. "First of all, Syngenta will remain Syngenta. We will continue to be headquartered in Basel and be a science-based company focused on innovation."

Demare indicated that ChemChina offers the company the financial stability required for a company with a long-term vision. "The price of $465 per share plus a special dividend of 5 Swiss francs reflects not just past performance, but also some of the future potential of the company and is thus full and fair," Demare said in his speech. "The Board recommends that you tender your shares in the offer, which opened on March 23, 2016."

There has been U.S. opposition to the acquisition. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, has publically worried about food security and safety implications from the sale and has said a bipartisan group of senators would seek a formal role for the U.S. Department of Agriculture as the Committee on Foreign Investment (CFIUS) carries out a national security review of the proposed deal.

ChemChina and Syngenta voluntarily initiated the CFIUS review upon announcement of their deal. The formal review process typically takes 75 days. The companies have said they expect to close the deal by the end of 2016.

More speculation has put Syngenta with possible unfair advantage in the biotech arena should the sale be sanctioned. China and Syngenta have tangled in the past over traits. Syngenta moved both Agrisure Viptera and Agrisure Duracade into the market without import approvals from China. The upheaval in trade that resulted because of Viptera (MIR 162) is still being played out in courtrooms.

Pamela Smith can be reached at

Follow her on Twitter @PamSmithDTN


Brazil Soy Market Perks Up

Tue. Apr 26, 2016 8:35 AM

By Alastair Stewart
DTN South America Correspondent

SAO PAULO, Brazil (DTN) -- Brazil's soybean market picked up last week on the major rally in Chicago futures, but players remain cautious amid continued political volatility.

Farmers across southern Brazil sold soybeans last week after local prices jumped.

Soybean hit 83 Brazilian reals per 60-kilogram bag ($15.27 per bushel) at Paranagua port on Wednesday, up from 77 reals the week before and 75 reals a month ago. However, prices subsided on Friday and Monday and business slowed along with it.

While the key southern states of Parana and Rio Grande do Sul witnessed business, Mato Grosso and the rest of the center-west remained fairly slow despite the bump in prices offered by the rain damage to the Argentine crop.

With a good portion of the 2015-16 crop already sold, Brazilian growers are not in a huge hurry to sell their soybeans.

Brazilian farmers had already committed 60% of their 2015-16 soybean harvest for sale at the end of March, ahead of the 53% registered at the same time last year, according to AgRural, a local farm consultancy, and sales will have moved on from there.

Political and economic uncertainty continues to undermine business, though, with everybody reticent about doing deals with prices to be fixed at a future date.

With it looking increasingly likely that President Dilma Rousseff will face impeachment proceedings and be forced to step aside, at least temporarily, investors are looking to the future.

Vice President Michel Temer will take over if the impeachment process starts.

He has promised more market-friendly policies, but it remains unclear whether he will have sufficient support to bring in the changes needed to kick-start the economy.

This uncertainty directly feeds into the grain markets via the exchange rate.

If headway looks like it's being made in bringing Brazil out of its current slump, which will likely see the economy retract a combined 8% in 2015 and 2016, the real will strengthen and trim Brazil's advantage.

However, if the political deadlock continues, then Brazil's economic funk worsens and the real weakens.

The real strengthened from 4.01 reals to the dollar on March 1 to the current level of 3.56 reals to the dollar on the prospect that impeachment would go through.

Alastair Stewart can be reached at

Follow Alastair Stewart on Twitter @astewartbrazil


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