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2010 crop outlook —

By Staff | Feb 26, 2010

Bill Horan, a Rockwell City-area farmer, discussed some of the strategies his family farm is taking to be more competitive in the future.

Although one may look askance at his comment, Elwynn Taylor, ISU climatologist, said 100 percent of field tiles are currently starting to run, because the 4-inch depth of Iowa soils is not as cold as farmers think they may be.

That comment, and the prediction that the 2010 growing season may be a repeat of the 2009 season, were part of the annual crop fair held Feb. 18 at Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge.

Other speakers discussed how Brazil’s improvements may impact U.S. agriculture, how the National Corn Growers Association continues to show Congress that farmers are good stewards of the land, and how the proposed Cap and Trade Bill may affect farmers.

Warm topsoil

ISU’s Taylor noted that although people are considering this winter to be harsh and have been experiencing record snowfalls, many may be also surprised to know that the soil temperatures in many parts of the state are at or above freezing.

The 4-inch soil temperature ranges, Taylor said, throughout the Farm News coverage area, is from the high 20s to the above-freezing level and even warmer. Most likely, in some areas, the snow is melting at ground level, he surmised.

Taylor further explained the top five factors that will affect the 2010 crop.

As for soil moisture, Taylor said that last October was the wettest in 115 years. Soil moisture is measured in October, since the crop is no longer utilizing moisture. Therefore, Taylor added, Iowa soils are sitting “on the wetter side of usual for February.”

Usually this time year, Taylor predicted that only 50 to 60 percent of the tiles are running and essentially right now, all of the tiles are running.

“We should be off to a good start if we can get everything planted,” said Taylor.

The 2009 summer showed it would be hotter than usual west of the Continental Divide and normal here, which, according to history will always end up with the Midwest being colder and 2009 did just as anticipated.

“The (2010) outlook is not greatly different from the outlook given for the past season,” said Taylor, adding that the current El Nino weather pattern will likely go away.

As far as what to expect this spring, Taylor said, one place to study is Arkansas.

“If Arkansas is wet in March, we’ll likely be wet here in April and May,” said Taylor.

Brazil, pharmaceutical crops

Bill Horan, with Horan Bio-Production, and a farmer near Rockwell City in partnership with his brother, is conducting strategic planning to understand the drivers pushing and pulling agriculture. They’re trying to foresee what could be happening in the next five to 10 years.

One of those potential drivers, Horan said, is Brazil. Because Brazil’s infrastructure is improving annually, increasing efficiency in crop access to markets, he wondered what this could mean for U.S. growers during the next decade.

He also touched briefly on globalization and what he called “the 80/20 rule” 20 percent of farmers believe they have a future in agriculture, so they are interested in learning and attending classes; while 80 percent want to phase out of farming.

The old structures of agriculture, Horan pointed out, included values of land, machinery and tools. However the new structures of agriculture, will most likely be geared towards knowledge, information and relationships.

“Relationships are probably the most important because it is our job as a service industry to find out what our client, the land owner, wants and figure out different strategies,” said Horan.

Horan also talked briefly about the pharmaceutical crop production business that is just a small part of his farming operation, which includes soybeans, seed beans, tofu beans, commodity corn, waxy corn and NutriDense corn acres.

The most important rule to growing pharmaceutical crops, he said, is to make sure they do not make it into the food system and his operation “takes great measures to assure this does not happen,” he said.

One particular way they keep track of just where the specialty grain is going is dedicating machinery specifically to the growth and harvesting of the pharmaceuticals.

“You have to be aware to not have any unintended consequences, it’s very difficult; but can be done if done by the rules,” he said.

When it comes to planting, harvesting, storing and anything else associated with raising pharmaceutical crops, Horan said, everything is accounted for and usually each of those specialty crops comes with a two-year permit, which consists of one year for production and two years to manage the plot for re-growth and monitoring possible residuals.

NCGA

Deb Keller, a member of the research and development action team for the National Corn Growers Association, told the audience that “as of now, corn is not classified as a biofuel and (NCGA) is working hard to get classification on that.” In addition, she said the association is constantly aware of livestock issues and will continue to be involved there.

As far as legislative issues, she said the action team is “reassuring the U.S. government we are all good stewards of the land. We do this through membership and not checkoff dollars,” and further stressed that the association needs the memberships when it comes to successful lobbying.

Cap and Trade

Tim Coonan, a lobbyist with the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives, discussed electric co-ops’ take on the Cap and Trade Bill.

According to Coonan, Cap and Trade is mostly written by large companies, as well as environmentalists, and that essentially, the federal government stands to make money off of the bill.

As of right now, if the bill would pass in its current form, which, he added is unlikely, it could result in a 20 percent increase in Iowa’s residential rates of electricity.

The best suggestion he gave the audience was “to stay involved, it does matter. You need to stay engaged on energy issues.”

The crop fair was hosted by Iowa Central Community College, the Iowa Corn Growers Association and the Iowa Corn Promotion Board.

Sponsors included CS Bank, Brokaw Supply, D&K Implement, Labre Crop Consulting, Omnistar, Diehl’s of Dayton, Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Northwest Bank, Anderson Implement and Brown Fertilizer Company.

Contact Kriss Nelson by e-mail at jknelson@frontiernet.net.

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