A bill to improve the nation’s waterways could help grain farmers in the Midwest compete in the global marketplace. The Waterways Resource Reform and Development Act, or WRRDA (pronounced ‘word-uh’), has been over a year in the making. It authorizes spending $12 billion for improvements such as deepening ports. Grain farmers hope it will ultimately allow for larger ships to carry corn, soybeans, and wheat to foreign markets. Corning, Iowa farmer Ray Gaesser is president of the American Soybean Association.
“The demand for soybeans, that protein and oil that we have from the soybeans, has just been growing so terrifically in the last 20 years and meeting that demand is important,” Gaesser say. Exports are an increasingly important part of grain marketing, but according to Gaesser, many locks and dams are 80 years old and new modern ships are too big for the depth of some ports.
“That infrastructure, that ability to effectively and efficiently move our products within the United States and throughout the world…it’s a big deal to agriculture,” Gaesser says. Congress passed WRRDA earlier this month, but President Obama has yet to sign it. Congress must still decide exactly how and whether to appropriate the funding.
Some Iowa cattle producers report they’re having trouble qualifying some of their acreages with the federal government’s livestock forage disaster program. Ed Greiman of Garner, president of the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association, says the Farm Service Agency isn’t to blame, but the problem is with how the program is defined and who is eligible for assistance.
“I’ve certified all of my pasture acres as haying and grazing, which puts it in the category that does not qualify for the disaster program,” Greiman says. “It needs to be classified as grazing only. For instance, I’ve got sorghum that we were going to chop, we ended up grazing, that doesn’t qualify.” Greiman says he’s coordinating with Iowa U-S Senator Chuck Grassley, the head of the F-S-A and the U-S Ag Secretary to try and find the proper and most efficient solution to the difficulties.
Greiman says, “We’re working on, not only with Senator Grassley, but with Whitaker’s office and Vilsack, is can we maybe change those classifications because we ended up grazing them.” He says most Midwest producers hay and graze their acres, so it’s not one-size-fits-all that brings the best program benefits.
WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) – Park officials are asking Iowa campers to burn all their firewood to slow the spread of the emerald ash borer. In Black Hawk County, the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reports park staff began making that request to Memorial Day weekend campers in hopes that wood carrying the insect wouldn’t be moved from place to place. The insect has been found in nine Iowa counties: Allamakee, Des Moines, Jefferson, Cedar, Union, Black Hawk, Wapello, Bremer and Jasper.
Vern Fish, the Black Hawk County Conservation Board’s executive director, notes the insects don’t travel far on their own, but “they’re carried in the back of a pickup truck.” Emerald ash borers destroy ash trees over several years. Some Iowa communities already have begun cutting ash trees in anticipation of the insects’ arrival.
(Corrects earlier A-P story version which said the event is this weekend)
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowans can fish without a license during an annual free fishing weekend being held June 6th through the 8th. Joe Larscheid, chief of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Bureau, says the hope is that people new to fishing will enjoy the activity and want to fish more often.
Early June is a good time to fish because bluegills typically stay close to shore and are aggressive. Larscheid says the best way to catch bluegills is to use small hooks, a bobber and small bait. Those catching their first fish are encouraged to take a photo and send it to the DNR for a first fish award.
Although a license isn’t necessary this weekend, other regulations remain in place.
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa farmers, for the first time this season, are ahead of the five-year average for planting corn and soybean acres. Warm temperatures and below normal precipitation allowed soybean planting and crop progress to rapidly advance during the week that ended May 25. The USDA says statewide there were five days suitable for planting.
The report released Tuesday says 96 percent of the expected corn acres have been planted, 13 points ahead of last year and a percentage point better than the average. Soybean planting progress doubled with 80 percent complete. That’s 5 percentage points above average.
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey says after the extremely late planting last year farmers are excited to get the crop in the ground more timely this year.
AMES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa State University is proposing a new research center designed to improve the productivity and profit of soybean farmers. The plan released Tuesday would create the Iowa Soybean Research Center in the school’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
The center would bring together educators and scientists from the public and private sectors to “advance the science and business of growing soybeans in Iowa.” The goals would include advancing the understanding of soybean plant biology, increasing soybean production and making production more profitable and environmentally sustainable.
Iowa is the nation’s leading producer of soybeans, and the crop is a vital protein source for the world. The proposed center would look at ways to diversify production and manage pests. The Board of Regents will consider the plan next week in Ames.
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A northwest Iowa cattle producer has agreed to pay a court ordered $12,000 fine for improperly applying manure on fields that flowed into a tributary of a local creek in 2012. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources says Vernon Van Beek failed to report the discharges, which were discovered during a June 2012 routine inspection. Van Beek owns Lone Tree Feedlot near Inwood. He raises about 990 cows.
Van Beek agreed to the judgment to settle a lawsuit filed Thursday by Attorney General Tom Miller representing the DNR. State records show the farm discharged in 2009, 2010, and three times in 2011.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ordered the farm to obtain a Clean Water Act permit from the DNR after the 2010 spill. A permit was issued in 2012.
Officials with the Iowa Dept. Of Natural Resources said today (Tuesday) that the City of Mapleton had begun discharging untreated wastewater into the Maple River, after planned repairs on the wastewater treatment plant were delayed. The City began routing wastewater to polishing ponds on May 15th, to enable repairs to a wall in the plant. The ponds filled to capacity Monday after heavy rains. The City began discharging wastewater to prevent damage to the ponds.
Contractors are expected to complete repairs by Wednesday or Thursday. The DNR cautions people to keep children and pets away from the area for 24 hours after repairs are completed. The repairs were scheduled in April after a wall between two sections of the treatment system failed.