KANSAS CITY, Mo. (DTN) -- U.S. farmers right now are in a good economic position. However, macro-economic challenges remain while the war in Ukraine has further wrecked supply chains and put increasing expectations on U.S. farmers to increase production of crops such as wheat.

That's a high-level summary of some of the key points from speakers Monday at an Ag Outlook Forum hosted by the Agricultural Business Council of Kansas City and Agri-Pulse.

AG ECONOMICS

Despite higher-priced inputs, interest rates and inflation, overall conditions for Midwest farmers right now are stronger than they were before the pandemic, said Nate Kauffman, an economist for the Omaha branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.

"At a high level, economic conditions in agriculture are remarkably strong," Kauffman said.

Kauffman later added, "Many producers are in a good financial condition this year" with "very limited signs of financial stress."

Before the pandemic, agriculture was facing prolonged periods of economic stress and challenges with trade. Fast forward -- incomes are "incredibly high" despite more expensive input costs. Land values are 25% to 30% higher than before the pandemic, Kauffman noted.

Before the pandemic, economists worried about an uptick in loan default rates. Now, loan delinquencies "are at all-time lows," Kauffman said.

Still, there are growing macroeconomic headwinds. Broad economic growth is coming down quickly from a strong 2021 driven by demand and investment. Real gross domestic product (GDP), which was 5.7% in 2021, could fall to 1% for 2023 and possibly land in negative growth in 2023.

Banks also reported fewer farmers this year taking on new debt or renewing loans. Some of that loan demand has started to pick back up, Kauffman said, and farmers are now starting to see higher interest rates.

"I do think the higher interest rates will be a headwind, he said.

Along with higher interest rates, the dollar remains strong. These inflationary pressures could start to affect U.S. agricultural exports. "So, there are definitely risks," Kauffman said.

LABOR, SUPPLY CHAIN CALLENGES

Labor right now remains a driver of inflationary pressure and it is affecting several agricultural industries.

Monica Massey, executive vice president and chief innovation officer for Dairy Farmers of America (DFA), said the average number of job openings since the pandemic has gone from 500 to 1,500, so the country's largest dairy cooperative is "losing ground."

"We're trying to run a business that runs 24/7," she said. "We're worried about keeping the business running when we can't keep people in."

Kanlaya Barr, director of corporate economics at John Deere, said there are about 3 million fewer people in the U.S. workforce than before the pandemic. That is impacting every industry.

"Right now, there are about two jobs for every person in the market looking for a job," Barr said.

Touching on supply chains, Barr said the auto industry right now has as many as 45,000 vehicles waiting on specific parts before they can ship. Deere has faced similar challenges, she said.

"This is like whack-a-mole. You got a part here then this part is missing," Barr said.

Further supply chain disruptions could come from China's continued zero-COVID policies that can shut down parts of the country, Barr said. Another supply chain problem could come this winter, especially with a potentially fragile energy situation in Europe, she said.

UKRAINE AND BLACK SEA

Daniel Whitley, administrator for USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service, said the war in Ukraine has exacerbated global hunger, but food and commodities were already facing supply chain problems during the pandemic. Various export bans in countries such as Indonesia, Argentina and India also have added to the challenges.

"It's very easy to point to the war in Ukraine as the primary driver," Whitley said. "There were other factors before the war in Ukraine."

The war also has combined with other supply chain problems to cause a series of complications across the food industry. Ukraine has been the world's largest supplier of sunflower oil, a popular product in foods because it is neutral in taste, low in saturated fats, and it is non-GMO, said Christine Cochran, president and CEO of SNAC International, which represents global snack manufacturers.

Snack food companies and other food processors have tried to shift to different oils, but that also demands changes in packaging where supply chains have been stretched and delayed. It becomes even more complicated when companies have to adjust their labeling because their oil may now come from GMO oilseeds.

"You have a lot of organizations you have to deal with to make those changes in labeling work," Cochran said, adding the supply chain was already fragile before the war. "What the war in Ukraine did was take a fragile supply chain system and further degrade it."

Arlan Suderman, chief commodities economist at StoneX Group Inc., said Russian President Vladimir Putin "was able to leverage food as a weapon to get other countries to support him" as well as using fertilizer as a similar lever.

"Suddenly, trade changed depending on if you are a supporter of Russia," or Ukraine, Suderman said.

All of that has translated into higher freight costs and longer delays moving commodities globally. "It's totally changing the dynamics of global trade," Suderman said.

Suderman said roughly 15% of Ukraine's storage facilities for grain have been damaged in the war and Russia continues to target those facilities. In just the past few days, the port of Odessa, Ukraine, was hit by drones.

"Anything they can do to stop Ukraine from producing grain and exporting it," Suderman said. He added, "If the war were to stop today, it will take years to rebuild the infrastructure."

Given the damage to both grain storage and river shipping, Ukraine right now also has significant logistical problems moving its commodities, said Seth Meyer, chief economist at USDA. "Right now, they can't move everything they are producing," Meyer said.

All of this leads to doubts over whether Russia will allow the safe corridor passage of ships to extend past November. As of Monday, 218 ships had left Ukraine moving grain and products, but they have also been mainly smaller ships.

For Ukrainian farmers, there also continue to be questions about how much they plant and harvest. Besides facing danger being in their tractors in open fields, Ukrainian farmers face other problems such as access to fertilizer and credit. That's going to adjust what Ukrainian farmers can plant, Suderman said.

Looking at next year, "I think it does reshape what they grow, looking at crops with the highest value and lowest risks," he said.

REPLACING UKRAINE'S WHEAT

It's expected that U.S. farmers will expand winter wheat production. The crop insurance revenue guarantee for winter wheat in Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota is $8.77-$8.79 a bushel. That's going to be an incentive to plant more wheat, Suderman noted.

Australia has an incentive to expand production. Argentina will test global markets with a biotech wheat variety, and everyone will be watching to see how that goes.

"They are pushing the envelope trying to get the world to accept it and some countries are starting to do so," Suderman said.

Whitley added he expects some expansion of wheat acres in Canada as well.

Looking at fertilizer and moving to less reliance on global imports, Whitley also added USDA will soon make some funding announcements on a $500 million on domestic fertilizer production from a request for proposals rolled out earlier this year.

TRADE WITH CANADA

Aaron Annable, acting consul general for the Canadian consulate in Chicago, criticized Russia's war for the food crisis hitting poorer countries in Africa and Asia, as well as displacing the global fertilizer market.

Touching on Canadian crop production, Annable said farmers are having a positive year with wheat production expected to rebound from a poor 2021 and increase production 56% and canola up 30%.

He noted Canada is the world's largest producer and exporter of potash. Canada provided 80% of U.S. imports last year. Canada has made more investments, including a new mine in Saskatchewan, one of the first in 50 years.

Highlighting trade with the U.S., Canada is the top agricultural export market for 26 states, Annable pointed out. The U.S. and Canada each buy roughly $30 billion in agricultural and processed food from each other annually.

"You can count on Canada on being a secured and reliable supplier for U.S. products," Annable said.

Highlighting "cross-border energy," Annable noted Canada had increased 300,000 barrels of "hydrocarbon" production, almost all of it going to U.S. Roughly one in five barrels of oil consumed in the U.S. comes from Canada and more than 70 cross-border oil and gas pipelines, he said.

"Canada's oil and gas industry matters to Canadians, but it also matters to the U.S."

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

Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

Water levels on the Lower Mississippi River (LMR) are dangerously low in some areas and may slow or even stop barge traffic just as corn and soybean harvest starts. Most of the fall export business is for soybeans at the U.S. Gulf and the persisting low water can be problematic for shippers who need to move the new-crop harvest down river.

The USDA noted in their weekly Grain Transportation Report for the week ended Sept. 17, barged grain movements totaled 209,600 tons. This was 16% more than the previous week, and 130 grain barges moved down river, which was 25 fewer barges than the prior week. Some of the slowdown can be attributed to a late start to the southern harvest and slow movement down the LMR.

Demand at the Gulf has been bid triple digits for spot top quality soybeans barges all month, with guaranteed arrival dates at the Gulf. As of Sept. 23, the barge market was still inverted with the balance of Sept. bid at +170X. The first-half October was bid +145X and the last half was bid 134X. And, given the reduced barge drafts and the surging barge freight values as harvest picks up, those basis values are strong for this time of year.

A normal draft -- the distance between the waterline and the deepest point of the boat -- for a barge when river conditions are good is about 12 feet at 1,500 tons. On the Illinois, barges are regularly loaded to about a 9-foot draft at 900 tons. Each foot of draft that is reduced means a barge's cargo is cut by 200 tons and will cost shippers money as they are paying the same amount of freight to ship less. In addition, that will create the need for more barges to pick up the slack.

American Commercial Barge Lines reported Sept. 23 that draft reductions have been implemented from Cairo, Illinois, to Greenville, Mississippi, at 10'6" max and Greenville to the Gulf at 11'0" max. Northbound drafts have been reduced to 9'6". "Hearing docks may see further loading draft restrictions locally, some reportedly at 7' max. Tow size has been cut back resulting in a 12% to 15% reduction in tow size."

According to ACBL, groundings have been driving intermittent closures of 12 to 36 hours over the past two weeks. "U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is engaging additional buoy boats to improve navigational aids as well as two dredges. Expect these issues to continue well into October based on forecasted precipitation. Industry is holding off U.S. Coast Guard request for further draft and tow-size restrictions."

"Overall, the forecast leans dry for the entire area east of the Rockies until we get to December," said DTN Ag Meteorologist John Baranick. "Of course, we'll get some events in that time frame where some heavier rains will occur, but the prospect for widespread heavy rain across the basin that would raise river levels is rather low and probably depends on whether or not a tropical storm or hurricane moves through any of the basins."

So far, the U.S. has ducked those tropical systems, but Baranick said he's keeping a close eye on the tropics. "Tropical systems bring lots of heavy rain in a short period of time and if they penetrate deep enough into the country, can raise rivers quickly. Hurricane Ian is going to stay over the Southeast and MidAtlantic later this week and will have no impact on the major river systems. But we're still in peak hurricane season for another few weeks and a direct hit could change the landscape."

Baranick added, "During the wintertime, if we do end up with better precipitation, it takes quite a while to get it into the main rivers like the Ohio, Missouri, and Mississippi. And by that time, soils in northern areas are freezing up and locking away any moisture they have, storing it on top in the snowpack or ground ice. It may take until next spring's melt to get the rivers back up again in any significant way."

Remember the recent talk about piping water from the Mississippi River to the drought-stricken West? The Bureau of Reclamation did a thorough study of the idea of pumping Mississippi River water to Arizona in 2012, concluding that the project would cost $14 billion (in 2012 dollars) and take 30 years to complete.

Besides the cost, counting on the Mississippi River to help out in years like right now would be impossible given we currently don't have enough water in some parts of the river to keep our fall harvest bushels safely moving downriver.

Here are links to some of the lowest spots on the LMR and tributaries that meet up with the Mississippi River.

St. Louis, Missouri: https://water.weather.gov/…

Vicksburg, Mississippi:

https://water.weather.gov/…

Cairo, Illinois:

https://water.weather.gov/…

New Orleans, Louisiana:

https://water.weather.gov/…

Mary Kennedy can be reached at Mary.Kennedy@dtn.com

Follow her on Twitter @MaryCKenn

This article was originally posted at 2:41 p.m. CDT on Friday, Sept. 23. It was last updated with additional information at 10:27 a.m. CDT on Monday, Sept. 26.

**

OMAHA (DTN) -- An attempt by the U.S. Department of Justice to block the sale of a large sugar refiner to a competitor failed Friday when a U.S. district judge in Delaware ruled the merger was not anti-competitive.

U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika in Delaware on Friday ruled that privately held U.S. Sugar Corp. can move ahead with its $315 million acquisition of Imperial Sugar Co. from Louis Dreyfus Co. Noreika ruled the purchase did not violate Section 7 of the Clayton Act, an antitrust law meant to stop mergers that could substantially lessen competition or create a monopoly.

Noreika's ruling was brief, as the rationale for her decision was placed under seal "to protect third-party confidentiality information" from being publicly released.

The decision was a blow for the Department of Justice's Antitrust Division, which sued last November to block the sale. In its initial filing, DOJ stated U.S. Sugar and Imperial were two of the three largest sugar companies supplying a region stretching from Mississippi to Delaware. Allowing the sale would put sugar buyers in Southeastern states, "At the mercy of a cozy duopoly," DOJ stated in its complaint.

In a statement to DTN, U.S. Sugar stated the company is pleased with Friday's ruling. The company also challenged some comments released by the Department of Justice.

"The people of U.S. Sugar are pleased that Friday's court ruling will allow our acquisition of Imperial Sugar to proceed as planned: enabling us to increase our sugar production, enhance the local Georgia economy and benefit our employees and customers."

U.S. Sugar said Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter issued a statement that "contained flawed information which was included in other media stories."

Kanter issued the following statement regarding the District Court's decision, saying DOJ is disappointed that the court did not block the merger. Kanter said the merger "would combine the world's largest sugar cane refiner with one of its primary competitors in the Southeastern United States and increase reliance on foreign imports. Further consolidation in the market for this important kitchen staple will have real-world consequences for millions of Americans. We are reviewing the opinion and will determine next steps shortly."

U.S. Sugar countered that neither it nor Imperial Sugar are the largest cane sugar refiners in the world. U.S. Sugar noted both refineries produce about 3,000 tons of sugar a day. Another separate refiner in New Orleans producers 3,650 tons a day. U.S. Sugar cited another source putting U.S. Sugar as the 50th largest refiner in the world. hardly "the largest." U.S. Sugar added, "Al Khaleej Sugar in Dubai is considered the largest cane sugar refinery in the world with 6,000 tons per day capacity, which is double the size of ours."

Also, Imperial currently relies almost exclusively on foreign imported sugar to feed its refinery, but if acquired by U.S. Sugar, there would be an "in-house" supply of domestic raw sugar for Imperial. This would seem to decrease rather than increase the need for foreign imports, U.S. Sugar noted.

U.S. Sugar added, "Kanter did not have the facts to or the very basics of their case to prevail in court, and it is clear they still do not have their basic facts straight on sugar issues."

U.S. Sugar, based in Clewiston, Florida, is a member and owner of United Sugars Corp., a cooperative that sells and sets the prices for sugars produced by U.S. Sugar and three other sugar refiners. DOJ described U.S. Sugar as the world's largest vertically integrated sugar miller and refiner.

U.S. Sugar offered to buy Imperial's assets from Louis Dreyfus in March 2021. U.S. Sugar then entered into an agreement with United to market all of Imperial's sugar if the sale were completed.

Justice officials argued that if U.S. Sugar were allowed to acquire Imperial and fold its production into the United cooperative, then United and one other company, American Sugar Refining, would account for nearly 75% of sugar sales across the Southeast, a region that buys roughly 5.5 billion pounds of refined sugar each year. That would further strain supply chains and increase the prices for sugar, as well as foods and beverages.

While the merger primarily affects U.S. Sugar and Imperial in the Southeast, the cooperative United Sugars also includes northern sugar beet producers. American Crystal Sugar Co., Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative and Wyoming Sugar Co. co-own United Sugars with U.S. Sugar.

The lost case was the second in the same week for the Department of Justice Antitrust Division. Earlier in the week, a separate U.S. District Judge rejected DOJ's attempts to stop UnitedHealth's roughly $8 billion acquisition of Change Healthcare.

The original DOJ complaint can be viewed at https://www.justice.gov/….

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

Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

A sweeping ban on equipment used in rodeo events, including ropes, spurs and straps, as well as the events themselves, was largely voted down by California's Alameda County Board of Supervisors. The board did agree to prohibit a ranch rodeo event known as "wild cow milking" where a team tries to get milk from a cow turned loose in an arena.

The language of the proposed ordinance read in part: "Prohibition of specified devices for equine, bovine, and ovine animals. No person shall conduct roping of any equine (including but not limited to any horse, mare, pony, ass, donkey, burro, mule, or hinny), bovine (including but not limited to any steer, calf, bull, ox, heifer or cow), or ovine (sheep) animal in any entertainment or sporting event, including a rodeo or practice for a rodeo, with the exception of breakaway roping, where the animal is released immediately after it is roped without the animal being subjected to a sudden stop or fall. No person shall use spurs or bucking straps upon any animal during any entertainment or sporting event, including during a rodeo or practice for a rodeo."

Because rodeo events often mimic skills used on a farm or ranch, many in the agricultural community were concerned that the broad language of the ordinance would encompass more than the sport of rodeo. They also found the word "practice" to be vague and potentially broadly encompassing.

Emotions became high ahead of the vote, with the Alameda County Agricultural Coalition, as well as groups like Protect the Harvest, working to educate county supervisors about the issues and to explain the practices and equipment mentioned in the ordinance in view of overall animal welfare and animal husbandry practices.

GROUP SUPPORTS THE AG COMMUNITY

Protect the Harvest is a national group that opposes activities by what it considers to be animal extremist groups, anti-agriculture groups and other non-governmental organizations it says threaten agriculture, animal welfare and traditions. The group was created to help support farmers, ranchers, outdoor enthusiasts and animal owners.

Theresa McMahan, board secretary at Protect the Harvest, told DTN her organization's website defines animal extremist groups as those with an ideology in which there is no distinction between animals and humans. These groups, she said, have an ultimate goal of no longer allowing animals to be owned or utilized by people.

The recent ordinance before the Alameda County Board was one that McMahan said had been supported by (DxE). According to McMahan, among the public comments made regarding the proposed ordinance prior to the vote, many were from DxE members.

Protect the Harvest issued a news release that said DxE members were "known for their criminal antics of farm invasions, criminal trespassing, and theft. They call these actions 'open rescues.' These activities violate biosecurity rules on ranches and farms and put animals and humans at risk of illness."

DxE's website clearly states its goals include shutting down every last slaughterhouse in one human generation and to work until "every animal is free." The group describes itself as a "global network of activists working to achieve revolutionary social and political change for animals in one generation."

DTN reached out to DxE for comments on the vote in Alameda County. Almira Tanner, lead organizer for DxE, sent the following statement to DTN: "We thank the Board of Supervisors for banning the violent practice of wild cow milking and urge them to continue passing animal-friendly legislation, including the proposed bans on flank straps, spurs and tie-down roping. Using animals for entertainment without their consent is abuse. A growing majority of the public does not support animal cruelty, and we hope to see the rodeo go the way of the circus, where animals are no longer part of the show."

SUPERVISORS SAY RODEO BAN NOT THEIR INTENT

Agriculture supporters were present in Alameda County, working to inform board supervisors about animal welfare practices used within the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA), as well as on-farm livestock production practices. The PRCA, based in Colorado, sanctions about 650 multiple-event rodeos annually across 38 states and a handful of Canadian provinces.

The two board supervisors who had penned the ordinance were reported as saying banning rodeo in the county was not their intent. A motion was made to strike all language from the ordinance that referred to the use of straps, ropes and spurs.

Supervisor David Haubert, whose district covers most of the county's agricultural area, noted at the meeting there were state and federal laws already in place prohibiting animal cruelty. He added that straps, ropes and dulled spurs were widely accepted across the country.

McMahan, from Protect the Harvest, reported that during debates over the ordinance, some comparisons had been made between certain rodeo events, including wild cow milking, and rape. Supervisor Haubert addressed these comments, stressing that he found that comparison to be especially detestable.

"To actually suggest that rodeo events are rape is, I think, repugnant in itself," he said. "To those people who have been raped, I apologize that you have to even listen to that. It seems that some people will say anything, or do anything, to get what they want."

Victoria Myers can be reached at vicki.myers@dtn.com

Follow her on Twitter @myersPF

BLACKBURN, Mo. (DTN) -- Robert Bonnie, USDA's undersecretary for farm production and conservation, jumped in a tractor and helped plant cereal rye as a cover crop on a Missouri farm on Wednesday.

He -- along with other USDA staff, representatives from commodity organizations for corn, soybean and pork producers, and a handful of area farmers --- descended on Bredehoeft Farms in Lafayette County to highlight one of 70 projects that recently received funding under the department's new Partnership for Climate-Smart Commodities pilot program.

USDA initially announced $1 billion for the program in February. The funding opportunity generated considerable interest from the industry, generating 450 applications for projects ranging from $5 million to $95 million. In response, USDA increased its funding to $2.8 billion when the first round of grant recipients was released last week.

"Sometimes, you throw a party, and you don't know if folks are going to show up," Bonnie said. "Good news here: A lot of people showed up. We got $20 billion in proposals. We're really excited about this opportunity going forward."

Bonnie described the program as a voluntary, incentive-based, farmer-led initiative that will take a market-oriented approach to addressing climate concerns and creating "climate-smart" commodities. Through the adoption of conservation practices, growers will work toward reducing their greenhouse gas emissions while sequestering more carbon in the soil.

The 70 projects included in the first round of funding are expected to reach farmers in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. USDA estimates that roughly 50 million metric tons of additional carbon dioxide will be captured on 25 million acres through the collective effort.

"This is not a conservation program; this is a commodity program," Bonnie said. "This is about commodity markets and helping producers market a climate-smart soybean or climate-smart corn. It's about creating value for producers doing the right thing."

COVER CROP ENCOURAGEMENT

The Missouri gathering gave Bonnie and other USDA staff a chance to meet and interact with representatives from Farmers for Soil Health, a new collaborative partnership among the United Soybean Board (USB), National Pork Board, National Corn Growers Association and the American Soybean Association. The group joined with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and seven other major partners, including DTN, on a $95 million project to accelerate long-term cover crop adoption.

"We expect 8,000 to 10,000 farmers from the top 20 corn- and soybean-producing states to participate," said John Jansen, USB vice president of strategic partnerships. "We're looking to deliver 1.4 to 1.5 million new cover crop acres."

According to USDA, Farmers for Soil Health will incentivize farmers to plant cover crops and develop a platform to quantify, verify and facilitate the sale of ecosystem benefits, creating a marketplace to generate demand for climate-smart commodities.

Neal Bredehoeft, president of Bredehoeft Farms Inc. and host for the event, began planting cover crops roughly a decade ago. He said the practice has made an immediate difference on their farm -- reducing erosion, providing control of winter annual weeds and improving soil health.

"We've gone 100% with putting in cover crops after corn," he said. "It's also eliminated one extra trip across the field."

Bredehoeft, who serves as a USB director for Missouri, said he was pleased that the Farmers for Soil Health project had been selected for funding.

"We're seeing more and more of our customers wanting a sustainable crop, a sustainable soybean, a sustainable pork chop," he said. "If we can develop this program, I think it's going to be good for agriculture."

He said he believes that farmers will like this program because early adopters of conservation practices such as cover cropping will be able to participate fully.

"I always felt like some of the carbon programs out there weren't totally fair," said Bredehoeft, adding that he anticipated that they would apply to participate in the Farmers for Soil Health project. "We'd applied for a couple them, but you'd go down the list of practices to add something, and you'd find out you were doing all those things already. Since we were already doing them, we didn't qualify."

Bonnie said that USDA would be working in the coming weeks to negotiate contracts for the grants with a goal of deploying funding quickly enough to affect the 2023 season.

"We think we are going to do a lot of really good work for the climate, and we're going to do it in a way that pencils for agriculture," he said of the pilot program overall. "U.S. agriculture is really good at efficiency and technology and adopting new, more efficient ways to grow crops and livestock. U.S. agriculture should be really good at this."

GOP CRITICS

Not everyone is backing USDA's climate-smart programs. Republicans on the House Agriculture Committee earlier this week criticized USDA's pilot projects and the $19.5 billion for USDA conservation programs in the Inflation Reduction Act tied to lowering greenhouse emissions and sequestering carbon. Rep. Glenn "GT" Thompson, R-Pa., ranking member of the committee, indicated the spending in the IRA bill could affect conservation spending in the next farm bill.

"I don't feel bound by the amount of funding or the specific program allocation passed in the partisan IRA bill," Thompson said, adding "I am especially worried about earmarking of all the new money just for climate, rather than letting the locally led process work."

Also see, "Funding Flows for Climate-Smart Grants" https://www.dtnpf.com/…

The full list of the 70 projects can be found here: https://www.usda.gov/…

More information about Farmers for Soil Health can be found here: https://farmersforsoilhealth.com/…

Jason Jenkins can be reached at jason.jenkins@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @JasonJenkinsDTN

OMAHA (DTN) -- Fertilizer prices are varied, according to retail fertilizer prices tracked by DTN for the second week of September 2022. Five of the eight major fertilizers are lower in price compared to a month ago while the remaining three are higher.

No fertilizers were appreciably lower or higher. DTN designates a significant move as anything 5% or more.

Five of the eight major fertilizers were just slightly lower. DAP had an average price of $952/ton, MAP $1,009/ton, potash $877/ton, 10-34-0 $861/ton, and UAN32 $665/ton.

Three fertilizers were slightly more expensive compared to last month. Urea had an average price of $808/ton, anhydrous $1,369/ton and UAN28 $578/ton.

On a price per pound of nitrogen basis, the average urea price was at $0.88/lb.N, anhydrous $0.83/lb.N, UAN28 $1.03/lb.N and UAN32 $1.04/lb.N.

U.S. farmers aren't the only ones feeling the impact of Russia's war on Ukraine in their fertilizer prices. Fertilizer prices have doubled or even tripled in Africa with some fertilizer products hard to find, according to Dow Jones. Farmers are turning to maggots, whose digestive system effectively turns food waste into organic fertilizer.

Most food produced in sub-Saharan Africa comes from smallholder farmers who utilize family labor. Some have warned for years about depending too much on synthetic fertilizer and see larvae farming as an exemplary effort toward sustainable organic farming.

Hundreds of farmers in Uganda near the capital of Kampala have embraced the farming of the short-lived but fertile insect. From just two participants in January 2021, the number now stands at more than 1,300 larvae farmers.

"I used to be afraid of maggots," said farmer Joseph Wagudoma. "When I would hear that someone is farming maggots, I would say, "How can someone rear maggots?"

The larvae farming program is a real solution to hunger, heavy dependence on imported fertilizer and climate change, according to Ruchi Tripathi of the London-based group VSO, which supports farming communities around the world.

"We can no longer continue producing by destroying our soils," Tripathi said. "How much can you exploit the soils and how long do you think it's going to continue?"

Despite lower prices in recent months, all fertilizers continue to be considerably higher in price than one year earlier.

MAP is 30% more expensive, both DAP and 10-34-0 are 36% higher, urea is 41% more expensive, potash is 47% higher, UAN28 is 52% more expensive, UAN32 is 55% higher and anhydrous is 80% more expensive compared to last year.

DTN gathers fertilizer price bids from agriculture retailers each week to compile the DTN Fertilizer Index. DTN first began reporting data in November 2008.

US farmers might see some benefit in natural gas availability with prices in Europe surging in response to halted flows through the Nord Stream pipe, according to Dow Jones. You can read it here: https://www.dtnpf.com/….

Dry
Date Range DAP MAP POTASH UREA
Sep 13-17 2021 702 776 598 572
Oct 11-15 2021 798 860 710 719
Nov 8-12 2021 821 906 762 832
Dec 6-10 2021 840 919 778 887
Jan 3-7 2022 863 931 807 913
Jan 31-Feb 4 2022 877 933 813 905
Feb 28-Mar 4 2022 879 937 815 887
Mar 28-Apr 1 2022 1033 1045 868 1022
Apr 25-29 2022 1049 1082 881 1004
May 23-27 2022 1056 1082 879 989
Jun 20-Jun 24 2022 1040 1058 885 902
Jul 18-22 2022 1007 1043 887 836
Aug 15-19 2022 978 1026 881 807
Sep 12-16 2022 952 1009 877 808
Liquid
Date Range 10-34-0 ANHYD UAN28 UAN32
Sep 13-17 2021 632 762 381 428
Oct 11-15 2021 654 873 442 488
Nov 8-12 2021 719 1162 566 614
Dec 6-10 2021 756 1372 577 661
Jan 3-7 2022 795 1430 584 679
Jan 31-Feb 4 2022 826 1487 600 699
Feb 28-Mar 4 2022 837 1487 603 703
Mar 28-Apr 1 2022 896 1526 637 711
Apr 25-29 2022 906 1534 631 730
May 23-27 2022 906 1531 634 731
Jun 20-Jun 24 2022 905 1497 616 716
Jul 18-22 2022 894 1431 598 696
Aug 15-19 2022 878 1336 576 676
Sep 12-16 2022 861 1369 578 665

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

Follow him on Twitter @RussQuinnDTN

ANKENY, Iowa (DTN) -- Winter wheat and cover crop seed supplies are tight in some regions due to weather-related production issues, seed industry representatives report. Farmers can also expect higher prices for cover crops and winter wheat seed compared to last year, and in some cases, significantly more.

Cover crop and winter wheat planting have started in some areas or will begin soon. DTN recently surveyed several seed companies and dealers to determine seed availability and pricing.

Seed representatives urge farmers who haven't secured winter wheat -- hard red, soft red and soft white -- and cover crop seed to do so now. Seed is available, but some varieties are short and tough to get, or quantities are limited. A combination of factors contributed to increased seed costs, ranging from higher commodity prices to increased fuel, equipment and processing expenses.

Here are comments from several seed industry representatives. (Editor's note: Some responses were edited for clarity and brevity.)

JEFFREY KOSCELNY, BAYER CROP SCIENCE CEREALS ACCOUNT MANAGEMENT LEAD, ST. LOUIS

Bayer Crop Science's WestBred brand has roughly 70 winter wheat varieties for the western U.S. Supplies are extremely tight in many areas, though availability does vary. In the Central and Southern Plains and even Montana, the drought affected harvest. Yields were down.

The good news is a lot of farmers booked early. For those that are waiting to see how much (winter wheat) they will plant, I would say they have to take action now. A lot of farmers are waiting to see if moisture is coming to get plants up. I would suggest talking to your suppliers; there's a lot of seed being moved around. There are semis moving from areas that had a better harvest to areas that didn't.

Seed prices do vary among suppliers. Prices are up year-over-year, primarily driven by the cost of goods. I would expect growers will be paying more for certified wheat seed at the farmgate this year ... in the neighborhood of 15% to 30% more. But I believe that certified single-use-only seed is a good investment for growers because of superior seed quality and performance potential.

CHRIS HANSEN, KAUFFMAN SEEDS TECHNICAL AGRONOMY AND SALES, HUTCHINSON, KANSAS

We cover central and western Kansas, along with northern Oklahoma. For winter wheat seed, we are associates for Limagrain Cereal Seeds, Westbred, AgriPro Wheat, Oklahoma Genetics, Inc., and Kansas Wheat Alliance.

Winter wheat seed supplies are really tight in our region. Many of the more popular varieties have been booked up since early August. We have experienced orders for certified seed starting to come in before harvest in recent seasons. Seed wheat production was down this year due to drought and hotter temperatures at grain fill. Our production under irrigation was off by as much as 10% to 20% from a year ago. It has led to the situation we're at with tighter supplies for this fall.

Cover crop seed supply is fairly tight as well but is more species specific. Some brassicas and legumes are not quite as tight as we are seeing in fall-planted cereals such as rye and triticale. Demand is up for cover crop seed for fall-planted forages this year with the drought conditions we're experiencing in our area. Producers are trying to find other options for extra feed for cattle as grazing or haying options.

Winter wheat seed prices have increased 20% to 30% this year compared to last year. Overall, costs for goods are up and grain prices are up, which really moves the needle on seed wheat prices. That's most of the cost of seed.

Some cover crop seed prices have gone up. Some have only seen a nominal price increase. Products like triticale and cereal rye have seen the greatest rise in cost year-over-year in cover crops.

PAT HOLLOWAY, BECK'S SUPERIOR HYBRIDS FIELD SALES AGRONOMIST, ATLANTA, INDIANA

For winter wheat and some of our cover crop seed, availability is pretty good. The winter wheat harvest happened a couple months ago and yields were pretty good, at least where we grow a lot of our seed crop. We sell eight varieties of soft red winter wheat.

We're going into the fall relatively dry, which can make for good winter wheat and cover crop seeding conditions. And, it looks like we're going to have an earlier-than-normal harvest, which will provide a little more time to get those fall-seeded crops established.

Cereal rye is far and away the most common cover crop seed we sell, but there's all sorts of different cover crops used that we sell. There's mixes of clovers and oats. If you want something that will terminate during the winter, try radishes.

If farmers are looking at buying seed for this fall, or next year, I think they're going to see at least a few percent price increase with all the input prices, rent prices and everything going up.

JON KOSTER, OWNER of JON KOSTER SEEDS, ST. ANSGAR, IOWA

Just like everything else in agriculture, cover crop seed prices have gone up compared to last year. A year ago, there was a pretty widespread drought in Canada, and that put some pressure on small grains.

We had a good crop of locally sourced cover crop seed this year. We have a lot of seed available, such as oats and cereal rye, but supplies could get tight. You will want to get seed bought before we get going too far into harvest.

Matthew Wilde can be reached at matt.wilde@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @progressivwilde

"Rejection from the person whose opinion and love you care the most about ... makes the certainties of life feel precarious and unraveled." -- Joshua Coleman, Ph.D.

Family estrangement is a topic I've written about several times during the years, and for good reason: It's a common experience in rural families and family businesses. Being cut off from a family member, especially one of your adult children, is both painful and embarrassing, and there are few people with whom you can discuss the issue.

Two books published in 2020 offer advice on how to heal estrangement. Karl Pillemer's "Fault Lines: Fractured Families and How to Mend Them," which I wrote about in March 2021 (contact me for a copy), is a good primer on the sources of estrangement and pathways to reconciliation. Here, I add the perspective of Joshua Coleman through his book, "Rules of Estrangement: Why Adult Children Cut Ties & How to Heal the Conflict."

SOCIETAL CHANGES

Coleman begins by helping us understand some of the historical and cultural shifts that give rise to the increase in estrangement. For example, he cites the trend toward individualism, noting that "emphasis on loyalty to the family unit has been replaced with the pursuit of individual fulfillment." In that pursuit, individual pain is often seen as having its roots in the family system, particularly in the parental relationship. "Parents are more important than ever in the narrative of how young adults understand themselves," Coleman writes.

A related trend is the understanding of what comprises a "good" childhood and, thus, good parenting. Coleman argues that what today are considered harmful acts by parents would not have been seen as harmful in prior generations. Problems or issues in the adult child's life today are at times traced back to their parents. It doesn't matter whether that causal link is real to the parents; it's real to the child, and parental cutoff may be the result.

EMPATHY IS KEY

The ability to identify with the feelings of someone else is of the utmost importance.

"Empathizing with the child's complaint or perceptions, however at odds these are with your own ... often determines whether they ever see their children or grandchildren again," Coleman says. The ability to acknowledge your child's belief that you, as a parent, caused pain in his or her life is central to moving forward. Understanding and communicating that you caused pain, even if pain was never your intention, is difficult but necessary to move forward.

MAKING AMENDS

Coleman promotes parents "making amends" with their adult children by writing a letter to them. He argues that doing so shows you care and you are courageous, and it clarifies how you see your responsibilities in the relationship. It also shows that two people can see the same events differently, while helping the child see him -- or herself more clearly as an adult -- that he or she is in a relationship of equals.

But, many parents find this hard. They feel they may not have done anything wrong, or if they do feel bad, the letter may make them feel even worse about themselves. Some parents feel a letter might be used against them or will give credence to the child's immaturity. Mistakes that parents make when writing a letter include not going far enough in their admission of causing pain, sounding defensive or resorting to explaining, or even blaming, instead of empathizing.

If you have experienced cutoff from your child, you know the agony of rejection by a person into whom you've poured your life. Recovering from that experience means giving your child a chance to express why he or she has chosen estrangement. It means acknowledging your contribution and looking for opportunities, however slight, to reestablish a pattern of interaction. The two books mentioned here offer good ideas on how to begin the journey of reconciliation.

**

Write Lance Woodbury at Family Business Matters, 2204 Lakeshore Dr., Suite 415, Birmingham, AL 35209, or email lance.woodbury@pinionglobal.com.

WASHINGTON (DTN) -- After pitching a climate-smart pilot program last spring that was expected to cost $1 billion, USDA on Wednesday rolled out up to $2.8 billion in grants under the Partnership for Climate-Smart Commodities with expectations that more funding will be released before the end of the year.

Fully implemented, the 70 projects are expected to reach more than 50,000 farmers in all 50 states and Puerto Rico and encompass as many as 25 million acres with practices such as cover crops, no-till and nutrient management. The projects will offer technical help and payments to farmers who adopt practices that lower greenhouse gas emissions in their operations and sequester carbon in the soil.

"This is a really, really important day for American agriculture," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters Tuesday. "I just hope people understand the significance of what we're doing here."

Companies, organizations and universities tied to these 70 projects are required to provide both technical and financial assistance to producers who enroll in these projects on a voluntary basis. They must also develop and promote markets for the commodities derived from these climate-smart practices.

As he has repeatedly mentioned in the past, Vilsack said he believes the pilot projects will show that agriculture can play a role in combatting climate change. U.S. agriculture, he said, will have a leg up on other countries focusing on sustainability in the supply chains.

"We all recognize that agriculture needs to be part of the solution, not part of the problem," Vilsack said. He added, "This will allow the United States agriculture and forestry industry to take a leadership role internationally."

If fully realized, the agricultural and forestry projects will sequester the equivalent of more than 50 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. USDA stated that's roughly akin to removing more than 10 million gasoline-powered passenger vehicles from the road for one year.

Along with the $2.8 billion in funding from USDA, Vilsack said the projects will also include roughly $1.4 billion from the private-sector partners involved.

Applying those dollar figures, the 70 projects collectively would spend $4.2 billion. If they reach 50 million metric tons sequestered, that will put the costs at $84 per metric ton. That's more than double what some of the top carbon credit companies are offering farmers in the voluntary carbon offset market.

MORE FUNDS FROM CCC

When USDA put out the notice for the pilot projects last spring, the department received 450 applications for the large tranche of funds -- projects ranging from $5 million to $100 million in funding proposals. USDA received another 650 applications for a smaller grant program that will fund projects from $250,000 to just under $5 million.

"Well, suffice to say, the $1 billion that was set aside -- given the demands and given the interest that has been expressed by agriculture and forestry -- I asked the staff at USDA to take a look at ways in which we can increase our commitment to those departments," Vilsack said.

USDA was approved for another $2.5 billion, bumping up the full program to as much as $3.5 billion that will be used from the Commodity Credit Corp. (CCC) fund over the next five years. The project funding will likely receive a barrage of criticism from congressional Republicans who have repeatedly questioned and condemned USDA using CCC funds for climate programs.

Despite tapping the fund for up to five years of commitments, Vilsack told reporters on Tuesday that CCC will fully fund its commodity payments under the farm bill and close out the 2022 fiscal year in a couple of weeks with "several billion dollars left over after all of that." He added, "There is plenty of latitude left in the CCC."

Once the Biden administration took office, Vilsack noted discussion on how USDA should focus on reducing greenhouse gases in agriculture and sequestering carbon leaned heavily on advice from farm groups. He pointed to recommendations from the 80 organizations that make up the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance (FACA), which specifically proposed USDA develop pilot projects.

"We basically followed the prescription or the outline they provided to a T," he said.

FACA "commended" USDA for its selection of projects and using the coalition's recommendations "as a guidepost" in developing the projects. FACA noted USDA's "meaningful inclusion of early adopters and small and underserved producers in the program. The coalition added, "The Alliance is pleased that the projects selected recognize differences between regions, farm size and forest type, and diversity of production in the United States."

VERIFYING PROGRESS

Regarding quantifying the results, Vilsack said each project will be responsible for periodic reporting of information to USDA as well as holding frequent meetings over the progress. That information should then be made public, the secretary said.

"Everyone who participates agrees to be part of a network that will report data and information that will be provided to USDA," he said. "We will be reporting on a regular basis" to the public and Congress.

SOME MAJOR PROJECTS

DTN is part of one of the projects being funded, "Farmers for Soil Health Climate-Smart Commodities Partnership," which will receive up to $95 million to "accelerate long-term cover crop adoption" by creating a platform to "quantify, verify, and facilitate the sale of ecosystem benefits, creating a marketplace to generate demand for climate-smart commodities." The partnership will involve farmers in at least 19 states who grow corn and soybeans. The National Corn Growers, United Soybean Board, National Pork Board, National Center for Appropriate Technology, National Association of Conservation Districts, Soil Health Institute, University of Missouri, Sustainability Consortium, DTN and The Walton Family Foundation are involved. The project is led by the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation.

Among the projects and producers who could be involved, there are 13 projects that involve beef or other livestock; 13 tied to fruit and vegetable production; 12 that involve corn and soybeans; nine involving dairy production; six involving cotton, peanuts or other nuts; four projects for rice; three involving wheat production; and three involving hay or energy grasses.

Companies involved run the gamut from agricultural and food supply chains, including ADM to Corteva, John Deere, General Mills, Tyson, Cargill, JBS, Bayer, Land O'Lakes, Dairy Farmers of America, Unilever, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Campbell's Soup, Farmers Business Network and Indigo Ag, just to name a few.

Among a few highlights in other projects:

-- Dairy Farmers of America will look to create a "low-carbon dairy opportunity" through its projects to lower dairy emissions.

-- The Meridian Institute will look to streamline field data collection to help quantify emission reductions on farms that produce value-added specialty crops, as well as row crops, or sell directly to consumers.

-- South Dakota State University will lead a project for beef and bison producers to develop grazing strategies and land management practices with a goal to expand market demand for climate-smart beef or bison products.

Later this year, USDA should spend roughly another $700 million to fund smaller-scale climate-smart commodity projects as well.

The full list of the 70 projects can be found here: https://www.usda.gov/….

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

Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

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