It appears more young Iowans are interested in pursuing a field in agriculture than ever before. The Iowa chapter of the Future Farmers of America Association has announced its membership has climbed to a record high this year. Iowa FFA executive secretary Scott Johnson says there are 14,207 members in 219 high schools across Iowa. That’s up 57-percent compared to a low reached in 1989, following the Farm Crisis.
“So, this is something that has been 25 years in the making,” Johnson says. “We’re thrilled to be back to where we really think we should be and hope to grow some more.” The previous record was set during the 1977-78 school year with 14,204 Iowa FFA members. Johnson says more girls are joining the organization.
“Our male enrollment has been fairly steady to slowly growing over the last 25 years, but our significant growth has been in our female membership,” Johnson says. The organization was launched in the state in 1929. The 86th Iowa FFA Leadership Conference is scheduled for April 27-29 on the campus of Iowa State University in Ames.
JOHNSTON, Iowa (AP) — U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack says he’s confident the agricultural economy will remain strong despite an expected drop in farm income next year as corn prices lag and a pig virus reduces herds. Vilsack, in an interview Friday for “Iowa Press,” the Iowa Public Television program, says this year’s farm income is expected to be slightly under last year’s record but significantly above the 10-year average.
He says another record year of exports for beef, poultry and pork products will help keep the farm economy strong. Challenges include the pig virus, which can be deadly for new-born pigs. Vilsack says it is worrisome but efforts are underway to come up with a vaccine, and the department is working with farmers to minimize losses through herd management.
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) – Ethanol producers say clogged rail lines and other shipping problems have forced them to reduce production of the fuel and contributed to higher prices. The Renewable Fuels Association criticized railroads Thursday and triggered a strong response from the Association of American Railroads. RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen says railroads should take the blame for ethanol prices jumping more than $1 a gallon between early February and late March.
AAR CEO Ed Hamberger acknowledges rail traffic slowed in certain areas, but he says it’s preposterous to suggest the rail network is in disarray. Hamberger says railroads have done their best to deal with an exceptional winter, sizeable grain harvest and increased coal demand.
Railroads have hauled 6.8 million carloads this year – about 2 percent more than last year.
Officials with the Monsanto Corporation report that officers with the Exira-EHK FFA were presented with a check last week in the amount of $2,500, from the company’s “America’s Farmers Grow Communities” Program. The award was presented by C. Gene Riley, District Sales Manager for Producers Hybrids, and farmers Alan and Maureen Jensen of Exira, who chose the chapter to receive the award.
The Jensens buy their seed through Producers Hybrids, a Monsanto traits vendor. Therefore, the Jensens were eligible to submit an application, and were selected as one of the winning customers who could choose any community organization to receive the award.
Kristin Rutherford Exira/EHK AG Teacher/FFA Advisor, said she is pleased with the level of community support that the award represents. Rutherford said “We are so grateful for this money, which will go directly to funding the test plot that the students will be farming this year, and the funding of green house growing activities that help us with additional fundraising efforts,” she explained.
According to their website, each year the “America’s Farmers Grow Communities” program donates over 1200 $2500 awards to rural communities and organizations. The winning farmers are chosen through an application process that closes each November. There is one winner chosen from each eligible county. This is the first award for a Producers Hybrids customer and Exira-EHK FFA.
Recent and forecast rain has prompted Emergency Management officials in Shelby County to lower the outdoor Fire Danger risk from “High”, to “Moderate.” The “moderate” rating will be in effect through Monday morning, following another assessment of conditions in the County.
Emergency Manager Bob Seivert says if you need help planning your controlled burn, please feel free to contact the Emergency Mgt Agency, 712-755-2124 or your local Fire Chief for assistance.
An agricultural economist says Iowa’s corn and soybean producers need to prepare for tougher economic times ahead. Mike Boehlje, at Purdue University, says he does not expect the setback to be as severe as it was during the Farm Crisis of the 1980s, but he assures, a fall is coming from the flush years farmers have been enjoying. “In contrast to the 1980s as well as the 1930s where we had busts after the booms, we think we’re going to have a soft landing off of this one,” Boehlje says. “It doesn’t mean that farmers aren’t going to have to adjust to a different kind of business climate. We’ve had record incomes set and now the USDA’s numbers are showing that we’re going to be down about 30% in terms of income.”
Boehlje says farmers tend to focus too much on the prices they get for their crops. “What I tell farmers is, the first and most important marketing decision you make is what you pay for your inputs, it’s not what you sell your product for,” Boehlje says. “You’ve got control over what you pay for your inputs. You don’t have nearly as much control of what you sell your products for. Farmers ought to spend a lot of time thinking now about negotiating the right prices for their inputs.” He says the toughest of those input prices to negotiate is likely the rental agreement.
Boehlje says farmers should begin the conversation now with landowners to adjust for lower rent for 2015. He describes the relationship between the farmer and his lender as “essential and critical.” “The conversation with the lender the last four or five years has been more, ‘How’s the family, how’s the kids, how ’bout that football game, and oh, yeah, you want money? Here, just sign the papers,'” Boehlje says. “It’s not going to be that way this next four or five years. There’s going to be tougher conversations asking for more documentation.” Boehlje says farmers can add to their bottom line by looking for ways to meet specific needs of some of the processors to whom they sell grain.
KELLERTON, Iowa (AP) – People are invited to Ringgold County on Saturday to watch prairie chickens dance about in a courtship ritual. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources says the Annual Prairie Chicken Festival will start before dawn Saturday at the Grand River Grassland Bird Conservation Area. A wildlife viewing platform is available at the site, just southwest of Kellerton.
The DNR will provide spotting scopes and binoculars as well as coffee for early risers who can watch the birds as they dance and make booming noises. The action will end around 9:30 a.m. Prairie chickens had been absent from the area since the 1950s but in recent years were reintroduced to the region.
The Shelby County Board of Supervisors heard an update on the Shelby County Trails project. In a meeting held Tuesday, Brian Leaders with the National Park Services provided an update on what the Shelby County Trails Committee has been creating over the last several months. Leaders said he has been working with other surrounding counties such as Pottawattamie County to establish a county-wide plan where other counties would link up hiking/biking trails. Since October of 2013, the Shelby County Trail Committee has been working with the public to come up with where they would like to see trails constructed in the county.
Leaders said the highest priority trail the public wanted from the meetings was from Avoca to Harlan and the other was on highway 191. “We have people on railroad highway 191 all the time. They ride from Council Bluffs to Underwood to Neola. They may end turn around and come back or take another route. So that route through Harrison and Shelby County is very popular.” He says the main reason for the trails is to help communities with economic growth.
“By developing trails to some degree some communities to experience positive economic growth. I will be honest not all of them do. It all depends on the area. Depends on the trail and where it connects to. And depends on the proximity to other communities.” A map was presented to the supervisors as a guiding tool but not a finalization where the maps will actually be placed. Leaders said the process is quite lengthy and will take years to establish and develop.
“It’s a long process. I think I told the group the first time I met with them this could be a 25, 30, 40 year plan. As we know nothing moves quickly and funding isn’t necessarily available for trail projects.” He pointed out the previous county’s Supervisors have approved a resolution to support the county trail committees and help with the process without donating money right away. However, Shelby County Supervisor Steve Kenkel cautioned that motion as he didn’t want the supervisors to be tied to the specific map that was handed out.
Instead, Shelby County Auditor Marsha Carter made a separate motion. “To support the development of trails in Shelby County for the healthy and wellness benefit of its residents and to encourage economic growth and to recognize that the committee has developed a county-wide trail plan.” The motion was approved. Leaders said the next step for the Shelby County Trails Committee is to start applying for grant funding.