DTN Ag Headlines

OMAHA (DTN) -- Retail fertilizer prices for the first full week of June 2021 are marginally higher. This marks the fourth straight week of slightly higher fertilizer prices.

As has been the case in recent weeks, no fertilizers were significantly higher, which DTN designates as 5% or more.

DAP prices increased 4% to $656/ton compared to the prior month.

Potash prices increased 3% to $450/ton.

MAP, urea and UAN32 had 2% increases on the week. MAP was $717/ton, urea $527/ton and UAN32 $414/ton.

The average retail price of anhydrous and UAN28 fertilizer climbed by 1% to $718/ton and $363/ton, respectively.

10-34-0 had an average price of $620/ton, unchanged from the previous month.

On a price per pound of nitrogen basis, the average urea price was at $0.57/lb.N, anhydrous $0.44/lb.N, UAN28 $0.65/lb.N and UAN32 $0.65/lb.N.

Dow Jones reported last week Australian Potash Limited's stock price appears to be well priced. Shaw and Partners, a brokage firm, is forecasting the company's long-run potash price at $550/ton, but the firm said the company's share prices reflects a price closer to $400/ton.

"We are positive sulfate of potash markets given arable land per capital is shrinking and SOP is a premium type of potassium-carrying fertilizer with no substitutes," Shaw said.

With retail fertilizer prices moving higher over recent months, all fertilizers are now higher in price from a year ago.

Potash is now 24% more expensive, 10-34-0 is 33% higher, urea is 44% more expensive, UAN32 50% higher, anhydrous is 52% more expensive, UAN28 is 55% higher, DAP is 62% more expensive and MAP 67% is higher compared to last year.

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 2010 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.

DRY
Date Range DAP MAP POTASH UREA
Jun 8-12 2020 406 430 363 367
Jul 6-10 2020 405 427 360 360
Aug 3-7 2020 416 430 357 354
Aug 31-Sep 4 2020 431 442 348 361
Sep 28-Oct 2 2020 439 459 338 362
Oct 26-30 2020 448 477 332 358
Nov 23-27 2020 456 495 337 359
Dec 21-25 2020 474 535 365 363
Jan 18-22 2021 493 563 379 387
Feb 15-19 2021 600 648 404 457
Mar 15-19 2021 616 693 424 496
Apr 12-16 2021 624 702 432 509
May 10-14 2021 631 702 437 515
Jun 7-11 2021 656 717 450 527
Liquid
Date Range 10-34-0 ANHYD UAN28 UAN32
Jun 8-12 2020 468 472 235 276
Jul 6-10 2020 467 461 233 272
Aug 3-7 2020 465 455 222 262
Aug 31-Sep 4 2020 459 436 216 254
Sep 28-Oct 2 2020 457 424 212 250
Oct 26-30 2020 456 423 209 249
Nov 23-27 2020 457 424 210 249
Dec 21-25 2020 463 461 210 250
Jan 18-22 2021 481 482 215 251
Feb 15-19 2021 522 530 245 288
Mar 15-19 2021 596 671 331 373
Apr 12-16 2021 609 700 345 387
May 10-14 2021 620 713 361 406
Jun 7-11 2021 620 718 363 414

Russ Quinn can be reached at russ.quinn@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @RussQuinnDTN

WASHINGTON (DTN) -- Questions about the meat industry dominated a Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee hearing Tuesday at which Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack appeared in person to discuss the Biden administration's budget request for fiscal year 2022.

In an opening statement, Vilsack said, "The president's budget for 2022 for USDA programs within this subcommittee is $192 billion, of which approximately $168 billion is mandatory funding and $23.2 billion is net discretionary funding. Its gives USDA a new set of tools and builds on our existing capabilities to address the urgent challenges of our time -- containing the pandemic, responding to the nutrition insecurity crisis, investing in research, rebuilding the rural economy, strengthening and building markets for farmers and producers and addressing the impacts of climate change. This is not a list of things we would like to do -- it is a plan for what we need to do to get USDA back on track and to help the U.S. outcompete the rest of the world."

In response to a question from Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., about the release of pandemic aid to farmers, Vilsack noted that USDA announced Tuesday it will provide aid to biofuels, dairy, poultry, livestock and organic producers and to small, family-owned timber harvesters and haulers. (See "More Ag Pandemic Relief Details" by DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton https://www.dtnpf.com/… )

Leahy noted it was the first time in his memory he had asked a Cabinet secretary to do something and "gotten the answer it is today."

But most questions focused on the livestock industry. After Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., noted the giant Brazilian-based meat company JBS's U.S. and Australian operations had been hacked and that it paid an $11 million ransom, Vilsack said he wants to be sure the meat companies know what they need to do and USDA will convene a meeting of food companies on the issue.

Vilsack also said USDA will come up with "a very creative way to expand processing in this country." But when asked about expanding interstate sales of state-inspected meat, Vilsack said the inspection system has to be "equivalent" to federal inspection or there would be "chaos in the export markets."

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., said cattle producers need "fairness" in the markets.

Focusing on the budget, Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., the subcommittee chairwoman, told Vilsack the administration's request to increase the discretionary budget by $3 billion is "ambitious," but Vilsack said the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) needs the money and that more is needed for staffing, research and climate programs.

Vilsack said the staffing priorities are in "customer-facing" agencies such as the Rural Development mission area and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Vilsack also said the Farm Service Agency is getting its job done, with most of its offices reopened. But he added USDA is now surveying its staff about teleworking in the future.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., subcommittee ranking member, said he wants to be sure carbon sequestration programs are "farmer-friendly and we don't get one size fits all." He noted that corn and soybean farmers may not need to till, but that sugar beet farmers in North Dakota's Red River Valley do need to till and could not sequester carbon in the same way as the corn and soybean farmers.

Vilsack said a carbon market can't be one size fits all, cannot be mandatory and cannot reward latecomers at the expense of early adopters. Vilsack also said current carbon markets do not work for farmers, and a carbon market needs to be developed with reduced paperwork and a price that makes sense so farmers benefit.

Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., noted farmers and grain traders have lost confidence in the production estimates from USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) but he would "advocate for" a $10 million increase in that agency if Vilsack would promise the problems would be resolved. If it doesn't solve the problem, "then I'm not doing my job," Vilsack said.

Baldwin complained the administration wants to open a dairy business innovation program to other agricultural sectors, but Vilsack said she should be pleased the program has been so successful it is a model for aid to other sectors that have waste that could be converted into products.

Baldwin replied the program has been good "because it is so focused."

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, complained that USDA plans to end a potato breeding program, but Vilsack said funds would still be available through competitive research grants and USDA wants to "blend" more research into the competitive grants program.

Vilsack said if Congress wants to increase the percentage of Americans with access to high-speed Internet service beyond the current 64%, it will have to put a lot more money into it.

At the present rate, Vilsack said, "It will take many, many years" and "you are going to be asking this of me for the next four years, of other people for fill-in-the-blank years."

"We, as a country, need to fish or cut bait on this," Vilsack said.

USDA should have some information available on its reevaluation of the Thrifty Food Plan that governs nutrition benefits later this summer so that states have information on estimated costs before the fiscal year begins Oct. 1, Vilsack said.

Watch the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies hearing on the 2022 budget request for USDA here: https://www.appropriations.senate.gov/…

Jerry Hagstrom can be reached at jhagstrom@nationaljournal.com

Follow him on Twitter @hagstromreport

OMAHA (DTN) -- The worsening Northern Plains drought is having a devastating effect on cow-calf producers as very little forage is now available because of the parched conditions. In response, producers in parts of Montana and North Dakota have already begun culling cows.

Longer term, the drought could also have a negative effect on the supply of all feedstuffs for cattle producers in the region. If feedstuffs can be found, high prices could keep some from purchasing the needed feed.

WORSENING NORTHERN PLAINS DROUGHT

The severe drought gripping the Northern Plains has been significant across the region, said DTN Ag Meteorologist John Baranick. The drought has gradually worsened during the last three to four months with D4 or exceptional drought -- the highest category of drought -- developing over a large portion of North Dakota.

Rain last week was significant but only in isolated areas. Some areas did pick up over 6 inches of rain, so the drought is not uniform across the entire Northern Plains, Baranick said.

"The eastern Dakotas are faring worst as rain has been a little more widespread and heavier across western areas last week," Baranick said.

Tim Fine, Montana State University Extension educator for Richland County in eastern Montana, told DTN his area did see some rainfall last week. While the rain was very welcome, the storms also brought damaging hail to the county and even a tornado to a neighboring county.

"We are way behind with moisture, but I don't think we need to have these types of storms either," Fine said.

The forages of Richland County only grew a few inches this spring and began to head out, a sign there will not be any more plant growth, he said. The dry conditions began last fall with little rain, and the region saw very little snowfall during the winter, which only worsened drought conditions.

There is some irrigation in the county, thanks to the local Yellowstone and Missouri rivers, but Fine estimated about 80% of the county does raise dryland crops and forages. Without moisture, crops and forages will be limited this year, he said.

Baranick said the rainfall picture for the rest of June for the Northern Plains is rather bleak. Below-normal moisture is expected for the rest of the month, and long-range forecasts are calling for below-normal precipitation for the rest of the summer.

Add to that the recent heat, which has been ongoing last week and into this week, and the recent rains that have fallen are likely to be quickly consumed by the end of the month, Baranick said.

"We are likely to see some drought reductions on the next Drought Monitor (June 17), but I would be surprised if the favorable trend doesn't reverse by the end of the month," he said.

CATTLE MOVING TO SALEBARNS

The lack of available grass for cow-calf producers is already being seen in the form of more cattle being sold at Northern Plains livestock auctions.

Rugby Livestock Auction located in Rugby, North Dakota, saw 4,203 head sold on June 7 (http://www.rugbylivestockauction.com/…). This came on the heels of only 873 cattle sold on May 31 and 931 head sold the prior week, May 24.

Rugby Livestock held a sale on June 14, as well. While they did not see as many cattle as the previous week, the auction did still see 2,703 head.

Present at many livestock auctions are cow-calf pairs and cows being sold. These cattle head to town because of the lack of available forage.

Miranda Meehan, North Dakota State University Extension livestock environment stewardship specialist, told DTN that based on the impact producers are seeing to hay, pasture and rangeland, it is not that surprising large numbers of cattle are already going through local livestock auctions.

In the hardest-hit counties in north-central North Dakota, many producers will not even get a hay crop, while others might see up to a 25% crop, she said. Much of the rest of the state should expect a 50% reduction in forage production.

"Unfortunately, the majority of the rain we received was too late; these tame grass species had already started to put out a seed head," Meehan said.

The recent rains, however, were timely and could benefit native rangelands. Despite the moisture, producers in the north-central part of the state will likely still see only 25% to 30% of normal production on range, while production in much of the rest of the state will be around 50%.

Megan Von Emon, Montana State University Extension beef cattle specialist, said cattle have been moving through Montana's salebarns since early May. The extreme drought in North Dakota, South Dakota, eastern Montana and Wyoming has pushed cattle producers to limit their numbers to conserve forages.

Many producers were hopeful during late spring that the region could still see moisture and improving conditions, but not enough rain has fallen to drastically improve range. As a result, cattle are now moving to auction as producers now know their situation.

"Most of the moisture needed for summer pasture is needed in April, May and June, and with little rainfall that has occurred, most areas are far behind average," Von Emon said.

One lingering issue on the horizon for those Northern Plains livestock producers could be the lack of feed availability for purchase in some areas, according to Von Emon. Without large amounts of moisture, hay is going to be in limited supply this year along with other feed sources.

Many elevators in Montana are having difficulty getting grains that could be used as alternative feeds, she said.

Meehan said one factor that will influence things moving forward is if these producers were able to get enough rain to support annual forages and the ability to use other crops for feed. All this will depend on the timing of rain, she said.

"Unfortunately, the current climate outlooks are not in our favor," Meehan said.

CANADIAN PRODUCERS ALSO AFFECTED

The drought also extends north of the border and is affecting Canadian livestock producers.

The June 15 Manitoba Crop Report showed Manitoba farmers and livestock producers are seeing similar dry conditions (https://www.gov.mb.ca/…). Several regions had been reporting forage and pasture lands showing the effects of the lack of rainfall. Some rain in the last week will help green up some areas, but overgrazed pastures are expected to be slow to rebound.

Dugout water levels are below normal and close to empty in some areas, and some producers are having to haul water to fill dugouts or are digging new wells.

In addition, both the federal government of Canada and the provincial government of Manitoba are providing funding options for livestock producers suffering because of drought (https://news.gov.mb.ca/…).

Saskatchewan crop reports have also been reporting a large percentage of short to very short moisture affecting hay and pastureland areas.

Russ Quinn can be reached at russ.quinn@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @RussQuinnDTN

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) -- The number of farms and ranches paying more in taxes would be dramatically higher if proposed tax code changes affecting agriculture become reality, a new study from Texas A&M's Agricultural and Food Policy Center found.

Proposed changes to stepped-up basis and other tax provisions from the Biden administration and Democratic members of Congress have raised alarm bells on farms and ranches.

Two bills including the "Sensible Taxation and Equity Promotion Act" would eliminate stepped-up basis upon death of the farm or ranch owner and the "For the 99.5 Percent Act" would decrease the estate tax exemption.

The Texas A&M study conducted by Joe Outlaw, co-director of the Agriculture Food Policy Center, found larger farm operations in particular would face significant tax challenges. The center maintains a database of 94 farms in 30 states.

"Under current tax law, only two of the 94 representative farms would be impacted by an event triggering a generational transfer," the study found.

"By contrast, under the STEP Act, 92 of the 94 representative farms would be impacted, with additional tax liabilities incurred, averaging $726,104 per farm. Under the 99.5% Act, 41 of the 92 representative farms would be impacted, with additional tax liabilities incurred, averaging $2.17 million per farm.

"If both the STEP Act and the 99.5% Act were simultaneously implemented, 92 of the 94 representative farms would be impacted, with additional tax liabilities incurred, averaging $1.43 million per farm across the 92 representative farms."

Under current law, when the owner of a farm or ranch dies, the estate is subjected to federal estate taxes.

The study said as of 2021, $11.7 million per individual and $23.4 million per couple in assets are exempted from the estate tax, "effectively protecting most farms from the estate tax."

Outlaw said based on the email responses he received from farmers and ranchers surveyed, many of them are concerned. Usually when A&M reaches out to those producers on various issues about 10% to 15% of them reply.

"We sent this email, within one week we had 40% responses or 247 producers sat down and filled out and told us, 'this is how this was an impact and that it would be devastating," Outlaw said during a news conference Tuesday.

When a decedent passes farm assets to an heir, the heir is allowed to take fair-market values as their basis in the property (or stepped-up basis). That allows heirs to effectively avoid capital gains taxes.

Given that cropland values have roughly tripled during the past 25 years, most producers are sensitive to any changes to the estate tax exemptions or stepped-up basis.

According to USDA, the average farm size in the United States in 2019 was 444 acres. The representative farms and ranches in the study are all "assumed to be full-time, commercial-scale family operations," the study said.

"The results of this analysis will vary greatly by farm, depending upon each farm's asset base and the share of their farmland they own versus rent."

Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., ranking member on the House Committee on Agriculture, said during a news conference on Tuesday the proposed tax changes would make it more difficult for future generations to farm.

"For farmers and ranchers these new tax levies are not just an annoyance," he said. "They don't mean that a farmer will have to forego a new truck for a year, they mean an heir might have to sell off a significant chunk of the family farm or quite frankly, lose it all together."

The Biden administration has proposed creating tax carve outs that it says will protect farmers and ranchers.

"But the details of this report illustrate just how complex farming operations can be, how they can vary across regions and commodities," Thompson said.

"The idea that there's one-size-fits-all exemptions will hold all family farms completely harmless is naive at best and disingenuous at worse."

Read more here:

"Scott Raises Concerns Over Stepped-up Basis, Winning Praise From Corn Growers" https://www.dtnpf.com/…

Read the study here: https://republicans-agriculture.house.gov/…

Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @DTNeeley

ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) -- Fashions come and go, but really, stripes have never suited corn plants well.

Those unattractive yellow-white streaks on a corn leaf are seldom good news. At their worst, they signal herbicide injury or more commonly, a nutrient deficiency. At their best, they are a sign of a benign genetic response.

Since Scott Wallis's favorite color for his cornfields is "so dark green it's darn near black," the Princeton, Indiana, farmer has taken special care to avoid early summer stripes. For his fields, the source is almost always sulfur deficiency, and a careful fertilizing protocol has sidelined the streaking and bumped his yields, he told DTN.

It's a good investment to get to the bottom of your striped corn leaves, agreed Dan Quinn, Extension corn specialist with Purdue University. "Take tissue samples from the good areas and the bad areas, and soil samples, as well, and compare those results," he recommended. "It's worthwhile -- especially if it's sulfur deficiency."

Here's a quick review of the possible causes of striping.

SULFUR DEFICIENCY

Sulfur deficiency is the most common source of corn striping in Indiana and is becoming a more prominent nutrient deficiency in corn in general, Quinn noted.

The problem? Our clean air. In the past, coal-fired plants reliably belched sulfates into the air each year. It wasn't great for humans, but crops slurped some of it up and utilized the nutrient to help with photosynthesis and nitrogen uptake.

But EPA estimates that ongoing programs originating from the Clean Air Act of 1970 have reduced sulfate pollution by 55% in the eastern U.S. over the past three decades, which means crops aren't getting such a heavy dose anymore. "We expect [less than] 5 pounds of sulfur per acre from the air," Quinn estimated. Depending on your depletion rate and soil type, that might not cut it.

Wallis, who lives less than a dozen miles from a huge coal-fired power plant, started noticing this drop in the early 2000s. "The crop has a lighter cast to it, and when you go look, you see the striping coming out of the center of the plant," he said. Caused by interveinal chlorosis, this streaky effect will be most prominent on the new, upper growth of the plant, Quinn added.

It will be most severe on fields where sulfur mineralization is struggling to occur, most commonly fields with low organic matter, such as coarse-textured, sandy soils and hill slopes, Quinn said.

Taking a tissue sample to confirm the deficiency is well worth your time, he said. Past Purdue research has shown that severe sulfur deficiencies can cause up to 20- to 30-bushels per acre (bpa) yield losses.

"Nitrogen-to-sulfur ratio is something to pay attention to," Quinn explained. "If it's greater than 15:1 to 20:1, that can indicate you have some level of sulfur deficiency." He recommends adding about 15 pounds of sulfur per acre at sidedress, if possible.

Wallis aims for a 7:1 ratio of nitrogen to sulfur and to get there, he has added sulfur to both his 2 x 2 application at planting and his sidedress application. "When we get done with the whole program, we add about 33 to 36 units of sulfur per acre each year," he estimated.

OTHER DEFICIENCIES: ZINC, MAGNESIUM AND MANGANESE

Parsing out the possible nutrient deficiencies is tricky visually, so Quinn recommends tissue sampling to be sure.

Zinc deficiency is more common in sandy or high pH soils, often where a lot of phosphorus is applied, he said. Magnesium and manganese deficiencies are more rare. An Iowa State University guide to striped corn notes they are also more common in acidic, coarse-textured soils, with manganese deficiency cropping up more often in high organic matter soils, such as muck and peat. One helpful distinction is that striping from magnesium deficiency is more likely to affect older leaves, since magnesium is very mobile in the plant, whereas striping from a lack of manganese will primarily affect new growth.

See more from Iowa State here: https://crops.extension.iastate.edu/….

HERBICIDE INJURY

The Iowa State guide notes that striping from herbicide carryover is also not uncommon in dry, hot years.

"Late applications of fomesafen can cause veinal chlorosis (actually whitening of the veins) not interveinal chlorosis," the article explains. " ... [P]lus the midrib will exhibit a pinkish-red color. The leaves may become floppy due to loss of integrity of the midrib. Plants can recover from this injury, but at times there can be stand loss depending on the severity of the carryover."

See more from ISU field agronomist Meaghan Anderson here: https://crops.extension.iastate.edu/….

GENETIC STRIPING

Last, and also least in terms of importance, is striping that occurs from a genetic response within a hybrid.

The effect isn't well understood, is unlikely to affect yield and nothing can be done to change it, Quinn and the ISU scientists noted. "This condition usually shows up on scattered plants in a field and tends to disappear over time," the ISU article noted. "There is no cause for alarm, nor is there anything that can be done to mitigate this condition."

See more here: https://crops.extension.iastate.edu/….

Emily Unglesbee can be reached at Emily.unglesbee@dtn.com

Follow her on Twitter @Emily_Unglesbee.

OMAHA (DTN) -- Biofuel producers will split $700 million in aid funds for pandemic production losses, and livestock producers who have been left out of earlier aid also will see some assistance, as USDA announced more relief funds on Tuesday.

Also included in the aid will be funds for livestock producers who were forced to euthanize animals during the height of the pandemic's shutdown and slowdown of packing plant capacity in spring of 2020.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced additional aid to agricultural producers and businesses as part of the USDA Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative. The aid should start to roll out to producers and businesses over the next 60 days and will include support for biofuel producers, the timber industry, dairy farmers, livestock producers and contract poultry growers, as well as cost-share for organic conversion.

"USDA is honoring its commitment to get financial assistance to producers and critical agricultural businesses, especially those left out or underserved by previous COVID aid," said Secretary Vilsack. "These investments through USDA Pandemic Assistance will help our food, agriculture and forestry sectors get back on track and plan for the future. Since January, USDA has provided more than $11 billion of assistance directly to producers and food and agriculture business."

The funds for the newest relief package will come from $6 billion USDA announced in March would be set aside for multiple initiatives. The funding comes from aid relief bills passed last March as well as last December.

Among the major funding details released Tuesday, $700 million will go to biofuel producers. The ethanol industry clamored for aid last year as demand for liquid fuel crashed during government shutdowns. Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, said the group is pleased with Tuesday's announcement and that the relief will come over the next two months.

"This assistance comes at a critical time, as ethanol producers are still struggling to recover from COVID-related market losses and are now facing historically high feedstock costs. Many plants remain offline or are operating at reduced output rates. We look forward to receiving additional details on the program from USDA and we are eager to work with the department to ensure smooth and successful implementation," Cooper said.

Another $700 million will go to agricultural and food-processing businesses to help offset the costs of personal protection equipment (PPE) going to "specialty crop growers, meat packers and processors, seafood industry workers, among others."

The Supplemental Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) also has $580 million for small- and medium-sized dairy farms. A new Dairy Donation Program dealing with food insecurity and food waste will also receive $400 million. Small, family owned timber operations also would be eligible for aid with $200 million set aside.

USDA did not specify how much in funds would be set aside for livestock producers left out of previous rounds of pandemic assistance, or aid for contract poultry growers. Another area with unknown assistance will be aid to livestock and poultry producers forced to euthanize animals during the pandemic -- running from March 1, 2020, through Dec. 26, 2020.

Another $20 million will go toward organic cost-share assistance, including for producers who are transitioning to organic.

Rob Larew, president of the National Farmers Union, noted the new round of aid will help fill in the gaps for farmers and livestock producers who missed out on previous rounds of assistance, especially beginning, socially disadvantaged and small- and medium-sized producers that need support most, he said.

"As more and more Americans get vaccinated, things are slowly returning to normal -- but many businesses, including farms and ranches, are still feeling the lingering financial impacts of the pandemic," Larew said. "Throughout this crisis, we've appreciated USDA's efforts to offer family farmers the help they've needed to stay solvent despite market and supply chain disruptions; the additional support announced today, along with last week's news about the Build Back Better plan, will help offset any remaining losses and begin to lay down the foundation for a more secure, competitive, and resilient food system."

USDA has already announced $5 billion in a mix of loans, grants and innovative financing to make investments to build a food system that is more resilient against shocks, delivers greater value to growers and workers, and offers consumers an affordable selection of healthy food produced and sourced locally and regionally by farmers and processors from diverse backgrounds, USDA stated.

"We have more work to do to build back a better food system, strengthen our supply chains, and make sure American agriculture gives our farming and ranching families every opportunity to earn a good living," said Secretary Vilsack. "As the economy continues to bounce back, USDA will ensure American agriculture is ready to seize the moment."

Since USDA rolled out the Pandemic Assistance initiative in March, the Department has announced approximately $6.8 billion in assistance (Part II and III) to producers and agriculture entities, the bulk of which, about $6.3 billion, is going to farmers and livestock producers through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program.

Separately late last week, USDA also announced more than $1 billion in aid is being released to farmers and livestock producers who have been waiting for payments for Quality Loss Adjustment (QLA) and the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus (WHIP-Plus) should see payments over the next several weeks with payments beginning today, June 15. (https://www.dtnpf.com/…)

Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

This article was originally posted at 3:06 p.m. CDT on Monday, June 14. It was last updated at 4:06 p.m. CDT on Monday, June 14.

**

OMAHA (DTN) -- Corn and soybean conditions reflected the stress caused by hot and dry weather across central, northern and western parts of the country last week, as USDA NASS reported a drop in good-to-excellent ratings for both crops in its weekly Crop Progress report on Monday.

NASS estimated corn condition at 68% good to excellent as of Sunday, June 13, down 4 percentage points from 72% the previous week and now the eighth-lowest rating for the crop at this time of year in the past 12 years.

"Corn ratings in Iowa and Minnesota dropped 14 points and 11 points, respectively," noted DTN Lead Analyst Todd Hultman.

Soybean conditions also fell, sliding 5 percentage points from 67% good to excellent the previous week to 62% as of Sunday, the second-lowest rating for the crop in 12 years.

"Double-digit declines were seen in both Iowa and Illinois soybeans," Hultman said.

Planting and development of both corn and soybeans remained ahead of the five-year average last week. NASS estimated that 94% of the intended soybean crop was planted as of Sunday, 6 percentage points ahead of the five-year average of 88%. Eighty-six percent of soybeans had emerged, 12 percentage points ahead of the five-year average of 74%. Corn emerged was pegged at 96%, 5 percentage points ahead of the average of 91%.

Meanwhile, the winter wheat harvest logged a sluggish second week, moving ahead just 2 percentage points last week to reach 4% complete as of Sunday. That is 10 percentage points behind last year's 14% and 11 percentage points behind the five-year average of 15%.

"Texas and Arkansas are 30% and 29% harvested, respectively -- both slower than their usual paces," Hultman said.

Winter wheat condition was rated 48% good to excellent, down 2 percentage points from 50% the previous week.

"The Kansas winter wheat crop is rated 64% in good-to-excellent condition, but harvest has not started yet," Hultman said.

Spring wheat emergence was estimated at 96% as of Sunday, just 1 percentage point ahead of average. Eight percent of spring wheat was headed, ahead of 4% at the same time last year and 2 percentage points ahead of the average of 8%.

Spring wheat condition fell again last week, but not as much as the previous week. NASS pegged the crop's condition at 37% good to excellent, down just 1 percentage point from 38% the previous week. Still, the crop's current rating is the lowest for this time of year since 1988 even after last week's rain in the Northern Plains, Hultman noted.

"Modest drops in spring wheat condition were reported in Minnesota, North Dakota and Washington," he said.

Sorghum was 72% planted, 3 percentage points behind the average. Sorghum headed was 13%, also 3 percentage points behind average.

Cotton planting was 90% complete, 1 percentage point ahead of the five-year average. Cotton squaring was 13%, 3 percentage points behind average. Cotton condition was rated 45% good to excellent, down 1 percentage point from 46% the previous week.

Rice was pegged at 96% emerged and 1% headed. Rice condition was rated 72% good to excellent, down 3 percentage points from 75% the previous week.

Oats heading was at 50%. Oats were rated 42% in good-to-excellent condition, down 4 percentage points from 46% the previous week.

**

To view weekly crop progress reports issued by National Ag Statistics Service offices in individual states, visit http://www.nass.usda.gov/…. Look for the U.S. map in the "Find Data and Reports by" section and choose the state you wish to view in the drop-down menu. Then look for that state's "Crop Progress & Condition" report.

National Crop Progress Summary
This Last Last 5-Year
Week Week Year Avg.
Corn Emerged 96 90 94 91
Soybeans Planted 94 90 92 88
Soybeans Emerged 86 76 79 74
Cotton Planted 90 71 87 89
Cotton Squaring 13 9 16 16
Winter Wheat Headed 92 85 90 92
Winter Wheat Harvested 4 2 14 15
Spring Wheat Emerged 96 90 93 95
Spring Wheat Headed 8 NA 4 6
Sorghum Planted 72 52 77 75
Sorghum Headed 13 NA 16 16
Oats Headed 50 37 41 44
Barley Emerged 96 87 93 93
Barley Headed 6 NA 10 5
Rice Emerged 96 91 92 96
Rice Headed 1 NA 4 3

**

National Crop Condition Summary
(VP=Very Poor; P=Poor; F=Fair; G=Good; E=Excellent)
This Week Last Week Last Year
VP P F G E VP P F G E VP P F G E
Corn 1 4 27 56 12 1 4 23 58 14 1 4 24 56 15
Soybeans 2 6 30 53 9 1 5 27 57 10 1 3 24 60 12
Winter Wheat 6 14 32 40 8 5 13 32 42 8 7 12 31 41 9
Spring Wheat 9 18 36 34 3 9 16 37 35 3 - 2 17 73 8
Cotton 1 8 46 37 8 1 14 39 41 5 3 14 40 36 7
Sorghum - 2 24 64 10 1 2 23 66 8 2 8 42 43 5
Oats 5 15 38 36 6 5 13 36 39 7 1 7 26 56 10
Barley 5 14 36 38 7 6 12 39 40 3 - 2 21 67 10
Rice 1 3 24 59 13 - 1 24 62 13 - 3 26 57 14

Anthony Greder can be reached at Anthony.greder@dtn.com

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) -- The IRS executed a federal search warrant at Zeeland, Michigan-based Boersen Farms on June 9 in connection with an investigation of the troubled farm, Detroit-based IRS Special Agent Henry Pletscher confirmed to DTN on Monday.

Charges have not been filed against Boersen Farms as of Monday morning. The IRS typically executes search warrants in connection to alleged financial crimes that can include tax evasion. Pletscher did not disclose the reason for the raid.

Boersen attorney Ronald J. VanderVeen told DTN, "Nicholas Boersen and Stacy Boersen believe that they have complied with all legal requirements and have committed no financial fraud on anyone."

Stacy Boersen is the wife of Boersen Farms' owner Dennis Boersen. Nicholas Boersen is the couple's son who is listed as the agent for one of two other limited liability corporation farms owned by the Boersen family, New Heights Farm one and two. Stacy Boersen is listed as the agent for one of those farms.

Boersen Farms has for years faced a number of lawsuits from companies that provided products and services to the farm that once operated about 83,000 acres. Those lawsuits were filed in an attempt to force Boersen Farms to pay money owed to the companies.

One creditor of Boersen Farms, Helena Agri-Enterprises, obtained a nearly $15 million judgment against the Boersen's New Heights Farm entities and Nicholas and Stacy Boersen.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati, Ohio, ruled in February 2021 that Helena Agri-Enterprises could not pursue other family business entities to collect the judgement, https://www.opn.ca6.uscourts.gov/….

"When they could not pay that debt, Helena sued other Boersen family members and their newly formed companies, claiming that these new corporate forms should not be respected and were fraudulently designed to sidestep the debt," the Sixth Circuit said in its opinion.

"Because Helena has failed to offer a legitimate explanation for slighting the corporate form, we affirm the district court's grant of summary judgment to the defendants."

In March 2021, the U.S. District Court for the Michigan Western District, temporarily lifted a restraining order against Boersen Farms that forbids the sale of farm assets. Boersen Farms recently was forced to sell three tracts of land in an attempt to pay off creditors.

Boersen Farms was sued in 2017 by CHS Capital Inc. for defaulting on a $145.3 million loan.

Boersen Farms bought the bulk of assets from now-defunct Stamp Farms LLC. Stamp Farms' owner Michael Stamp has been sentenced to time in prison in connection with charges related to his farm's bankruptcy. Stamp Farms, based in Decatur, Michigan, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in November 2012.

Boersen Farms ran into financial difficulty when the price of corn dropped from $6 and $7 when it purchased the Stamp assets to less than $4 per bushel.

According to the CHS lawsuit, Boersen Farms received a notice of default and termination of the $145.3 million loan on Aug. 14, 2017.

The CHS lawsuit leveled a number of allegations against Boersen Farms, including that it "fraudulently and intentionally misrepresented to CHS Capital the quantity of harvested 20l6 grain available for sale, which quantity and resulting expected sale proceeds were included in the budget."

In October 2017, LT Capital LLC agreed to take on the CHS debt and asked for a dismissal of the CHS court action against the farm.

The farm also was sued by equipment companies and others.

In November 2017, the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah issued a $16.2 million judgment in favor of equipment company TFG-Michigan. TFG filed a lawsuit claiming it has not been paid for more than 120 center pivots leased by Boersen Farms.

In U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas, Boersen Farms was sued for breach of contract related to its pursuit of finding someone to acquire the CHS debt.

Read more DTN coverage here:

"Michigan Farm to Get New Lease on Life," https://www.dtnpf.com/…

"Corn Slump Hurts Farm Giant," https://www.dtnpf.com/…

"Michigan Farm Considers Options," https://www.dtnpf.com/…

"MI Farm Defaults on Seed Contract," https://www.dtnpf.com/…

Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @DTNeeley

Good fuel management begins in the fuel storage tank. Given tight tolerances for fuel in today's diesel machinery, it's important to consider the condition of fuel in your storage tanks. Keep the tanks clean and free of water. The tanks should be inspected two times, annually.

Water contamination is a common problem. Condensation contaminates diesel fuel and allows microbial growth. Microbial growth feeds on the diesel fuel but lives in the water. High sulfur diesel fuel once killed this growth. Today's low sulfur fuels don't. Biocides will kill the microbes. But then, deceased microbes settle to the bottom of the tank, along with rust and dirt -- each contaminate potentially the cause of plugged filters and injectors. Eliminate the water, and you eliminate fuel problems.

Here are three ideas that will help keep your fuel clean:

-- Check for water. As temperatures rise and fall, water droplets form both inside and outside of the tank. If you have damaged vents or hoods, water can also get into your tank during rainfall.

-- Fuel tanks should be inspected seasonally, especially spring and fall. Monitoring equipment is available, including an automatic gauging system and a gauge stick covered with alcohol-compatible water paste that changes color when water is present.

-- Develop a plan to manage water contamination. Above-ground tanks should be located away from areas where rainwater and contaminants could flow in. Inspect gaskets, hatches, vents and fill caps for damage. Check product spill containment buckets. If water is present, don't drain it into the tank. Remove and properly dispose of it instead.

Change filters. Filters should be replaced quarterly.

**

Additional thoughts ...

The machinery fuel system is a rough-and-tumble place. Diesel flows from the fuel pump into the common rail at 35,000 pounds per square inch. It moves down into the injectors, where the fuel is sprayed through the seven holes of each injector into the combustion chamber. Each of the seven holes is only twice the diameter of a human hair. Without a detergent in the fuel, the injectors can become plugged.

So, good fuel management begins with the purchase of high-quality fuel with a high-end additive package. Does the quality of the fuel you buy meet the advanced needs of my equipment?

Premium diesel delivers more power and better fuel economy than regular No. 2 diesel. Fuel tests have shown a 4.5% increase in power compared to a typical diesel fuel.

Not all the fuel goes through the injector. If you find black fuel in your tank, that means an amount of recirculated diesel has been "coked," or cooked. That's not a desirable outcome. The heat has changed the fuel molecule. An injector stabilizer added to the diesel prevents coking.

**

Here are qualities found in premium diesel fuel.

-- High cetane number. Cetane measures a fuel's ignition delay -- how quickly the air and fuel mixture combusts. Higher cetane means a cleaner burn and faster start. That reduces battery wear, emissions and improves fuel economy. A cleaner burn means fewer regeneration (regen) events of the diesel particulate filter (DPF) and the heat each regen creates. The DPF canister burns particulate matter, turning it into ash.

-- Lubricity. Diesel lubricants reduce the friction and wear of the fuel pump and injection components. These engine parts are under intense pressure. More lubrication reduces downtime.

-- Detergents. Detergents keep fuel and engine components clean. Detergents keep the fuel injectors clean.

-- Others. Additives packages also include demulsifiers to keep water out of the fuel; corrosion inhibitors that extend the life of injection pumps, and stabilizers that prevent the formation of gum or sludge during storage.

Dan Miller can be reached at dan.miller@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @DMillerPF

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