The Iowa Concern Hotline is seeing a boost in calls from farmers and those who depend on agriculture-related businesses. Hotline director Margaret Van Ginkel says that sector of the economy was thriving just a couple of years ago, but three straight years of low commodity prices are pushing things in a different direction now. “We’re hearing some concerns from those smaller machinery businesses that are looking down the road to see how much that farmer might have to spend on machinery this year,” Van Ginkel says. “They could be having a tough year, too.”
Large equipment manufacturers are also feeling the pinch. Quad Cities-based Deere and Company has idled more than three-thousand workers since 2014. Van Ginkel says the Iowa Concern Hotline is not just for farmers, as counselors have been offering advice to anyone who asks for more than 30 years. Phone calls are free and confidential. “Call and just talk with someone,” she says. “Sometimes, you just need get a few things off your chest and just get rid of some of that stress. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You can just call. You can be anonymous. You don’t have to give us your name.”
Van Ginkel says the economy is usually one of the main topics of discussion. She says they often hear from families who wonder how they’ll make their budget stretch if food prices and other costs continue to rise. The hotline was set up by the Iowa State University Extension to offer advice to farmers back in the mid-1980s. The hotline is open round-the-clock at 800-447-1985.
(Radio Iowa w/thanks to Pat Blank of Iowa Public Radio)
President-elect Trump has named almost all of his cabinet members but hasn’t yet announced his pick for U-S Secretary of Agriculture. Iowa Ag Secretary Bill Northey says he’s not sure why the process is taking so long or even what the president-elect is looking for in the position. “It’s important to get to it,” Northey says. “It’s one of the last handful of positions out there. I’m hopeful we’ll see something soon but I don’t have any particular insight into who that may be or when that may be.”
A few names on the alleged “short list” include former Iowa State Representative Annette Sweeney of Alden, Texas Ag Commissioner Susan Combs and former Texas A&M President Elsa Murano. Northey is a member of the Trump Ag Advisory Committee and says rural America helped elect Trump, so there is pressure for him to get the nomination right. “It’s kind of a puzzle,” Northey says. “You don’t necessarily want people from the same state and you have a certain demographic that’s already filled and you want a different demographic. So, besides getting somebody good for agriculture, there’s a lot of other considerations.”
Because of those factors, Northey says it may make this decision even more difficult. Northey says time will be short because the new ag secretary will have to quickly assemble a team to run the U-S-D-A. Northey says, “All of us are looking forward to that name because, besides the secretary, there’s a lot of other positions under that to fill and make sure that department is running come January 20th like it needs to.”
The U-S Ag Secretary post has been held the past eight years by former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack. The website Politico.com speculates the ag secretary pick may not be announced until the new year.
State fishing licenses for the new year are now available. Iowa Department of Natural Resources fisheries chief, Joe Larschied, says you do still have some time on your old license. “Your 2016 is good all the way through January 10th, but if you want to get a jump on the 2017 season, we encourage you to go out and get your license,” Larschied says.
He says they now have a three-year license available. “What that does is it locks your price in for three solid years. So if you want to lock it in and not worry about thinking about buying license for three years, that’s a good option,” Larscheid says. “We also have the outdoor combo license where you buy the fishing and hunting license at the same time.”
Lascheid says there are many places to buy your license. He says you can go online or buy them on your cellphone, or go to bait shops, Walmarts, Kum & Go stores. Larscheid says they have a map on their website at IowaDNR.gov to see a list of the vendors and a map.
Once you have your license, Larscheid says they have a way to help you catch fish. Larscheid suggest you check the website and go to the fish report, which has detailed maps that shows where the fish are. A three-year fishing license costs 53 dollars and the D-N-R says that saves you four dollars compared to buying a new license every year. The outdoor combo license that includes hunting, fishing and a habitat fee is 47 dollars.
There’s a lot of soil moisture in the north central Corn Belt and DTN meteorologist Bryce Anderson says it could impact the 2017 planting and growing season. “Parts of northeastern Iowa, southern Minnesota, parts of Wisconsin…that’s a very high producing sector of the Corn Belt,” Anderson says.
Soil moisture has been an issue for much of the past 10 years, except for the drought in 2012. “There’s been some planting problems during the spring time and I think this is likely to happen again,” Anderson says.
He says there are adequate to surplus soil moisture supplies in northern and eastern Iowa, much of Minnesota, Wisconsin, northern Illinois, and parts of Indiana. Anderson says it won’t take much rain to bring those levels “over the top.”
(Reporting by Julie Harker, Brownfield Ag News)
The new president of the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association has guarded optimism for 2017 as the new year approaches. Mike Cline, who raises cattle near the northeast Iowa town of Elgin, says he’s hoping to build on the success of the just-passed 50-cent-per-head state beef checkoff. Cline says the funds will help producers weather the tough economic times.
“We can really target things that will help our high-quality beef, demand for that product and marketing outlets and research that could help us here, whether it’s using byproducts or new technology to track animals or whatever,” Cline says. “It should give us a leg up and a little bit more control of where we’re going.”
Cline says the association’s leaders are also trying to help their members deal with the recent market volatility. “This past year was tough on producers, the market jumping around as it was, so they’re trying to get more answers on that,” Cline says. “That’s why we’re looking at price discovery and encouraging people to do more cash sales versus negotiated sales in advance so we can keep our market real current.”
One priority is to work with lawmakers and the new president to increase trade opportunities for the cattle industry. Cline says the recent appointment of Governor Terry Branstad as the U-S Ambassador to China should help. “That’s a great win, not only for Iowa but for all of us here that are moving product over to China,” Cline says. “Whenever you look at China you have to look at the potential there and it’s enormous. We always know, too, that it’s a tough sell to work with China and getting things worked out while we have trade moving back and forth quite frequently.”
Cline says the members also want to see regulatory relief at the national level and are encouraged by what they’re hearing from President-elect Trump so far.
(Radio Iowa/Reporting by Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton)
Steam will start rising from the Iowa Fertilizer Plant in southeast Iowa this week. Company officials say it’s part of the “standard process” of preparing the plant for full production. The nitrogen fertilizer plant near Wever has been billed as the largest construction project in state history. The company announced Monday that construction is “nearly 98 percent complete” and there will be ‘start-up activities” at the site.
Equipment in the plant will be cleaned, starting later this week, and people in the area will see steam rising from the facility. Plus, there will be “increased lighting on the site” as “components” of the plant get connected to power. There will also be plumes of natural gas that will be seen as flares rising from the plant during the start-up phase. Company officials say once the plant in is full production mode, the flares “will not normally be burning.”
According to the company, the plant will produce up to two MILLION metric tons of fertilizer each year. The Iowa Fertilizer Company won’t be in full production mode, though, until “later this year.”
Information from the latest survey by the Iowa State University Extension department shows most farmland remains in the hands of “locals” when it’s sold. Economist Wendong Zhang conducts the annual survey. “We find that 72 percent of the buyers are existing local farmers and another two percent are existing or relocating farmers. Investors account for roughly 20 percent, new farmers are only three percent,” Zhang says.
He says the land generally stays with families until someone decides that no longer want to farm. “Estate sales account for over half of the land sold,” Zhang says, “and retired farmers account for another 23 percent,” Zhang says. He says there are few young people who own farmland. “Land owners 65 or above own half of Iowa’s land. Landowners 75 and above own one third,” Zhang says.
While the latest survey showed the third straight drop in land prices, Zhang says it is still hard for new farmers to find the resources to get into farming. “This is a still a very capital intensive industry that is a barrier for new farmers to enter,” Zhang says.
He says there are some farm programs now available to try and help young people get into farming. Zhang isn’t expecting a lot of big changes though in the next several years in the ownership of Iowa farmland.
Securing long-term funding for water quality programs remains a high priority for Iowa farm groups, but in light of the state’s nearly 100 million dollar budget shortfall, that task may be a bit more challenging. Iowa Farm Bureau president Craig Hill says – for now – his organization is not promoting any specific solutions to water funding. “We’re leaving it open to our legislative leaders to find a way, a pathway, to add this long-term, dedicated funding stream that will provide us the confidence we can invest and have a commitment from the state,” Hill says.
The Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) is also taking a more general approach, according to I-S-A president Roland Schnell of Newton. “We came out last year in support of the governor’s plan, and we’ve been supportive of the ‘I WILL’ three-eighth of a cent plan,” Schnell says. “But we’re really not nailing down anything specific, because we want to make sure the people understand that we’re supportive of anything that will provide us with long-term funding.”
Schnell says everything that happens in the 2017 Iowa legislature will take place with state budget constraints as the backdrop.
(Reporting by Ken Anderson, Brownfield Ag News)
DAVENPORT, Iowa (AP) – Iowa officials say this year’s deer harvest is slightly down this year with a little more than two weeks left in the season. Iowa’s second shotgun season ended last Sunday. Hunters have until midnight Monday to report their harvests. Antlerless deer only may be harvested from now until Jan. 2nd.
Between both shotgun seasons, hunters reported 5 percent fewer deer than last year’s seasons. Andrew Norton of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources says hunters purchased 2,118 fewer licenses, or tags, for the shotgun seasons this year compared to last year.
In total, hunters in Iowa have harvested 87,722 deer this year, which is about 4 percent lower than last year’s count at this time. Hunters harvested 105,401 deer through all of last year’s seasons.
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The U.S. Department of Agriculture says the number of hogs and pigs on Iowa farms has reached a new record high. As of Dec. 1 Iowa had 22.4 million hogs and pigs, the largest inventory ever reported. That is up 1 percent from the previous quarter and 7 percent higher than the same date a year ago.
Iowa is the nation’s leading hog producer by far. North Carolina had 9.3 million head, Minnesota was at 8.3 million and Illinois had 5.1 million as of Dec. 1. The national inventory was 71.5 million, 4 percent higher than a year ago.