NEW ORLEANS (DTN) -- This week, some 7,000 cattle producers and industry partners and stakeholders rode into The Big Easy for the 125th annual meeting of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA). The event was just getting underway as USDA released a new set of cattle inventory numbers, turning the market loose.

DTN analysts tracked the report, which showed the number of all cattle and calves down 3% from year-earlier 2022 levels, to 89.3 million head as of Jan. 1, 2023. All cows and heifers were at 38.3 million head (3% below 2022 levels), and beef cows were at 28.9 million head (4% below 2022). Beef replacement heifers, always a market signal to watch, were at 5.16 million (6% below 2022).

DTN Livestock Analyst ShayLe Stewart summed up the situation well in a report from the Cattlemen's meeting, noting the numbers revealed were something "the cattle market has never seen before: a beef cow herd of 28.9 million head."

"Cattlemen knew that there were going to be significantly fewer beef cows reported in Tuesday's report than compared to a year ago, as a lack of profitability and severe drought conditions pressured ranchers to cull their cow herds dramatically. But what Tuesday's report solidifies is that not only do we have 'fewer' beef cows in the industry than compared to years past, but also that we have the fewest beef cows ever recorded," Stewart wrote in her report.

COMING TOGETHER

This was the kind of news needed to feed the optimism of cattle producers, who packed meeting rooms for the popular Cattlemen's College, which marked its 30th year.

A big emphasis was on topics to help with herd expansion. Sponsor Zoetis offered producers six educational tracks, covering areas of reproduction, herd health, nutrition management, the beef business, sustainable grazing and genetics.

The general session, which opened Wednesday to a standing-room-only crowd, brought surprise guest Archie Manning, football legacy, to the stage, along with a remote talk by Yellowstone creator Taylor Sheridan, who joined from his home state of Texas after ice storms kept him from traveling down to be with the group in person.

POLICY PRIORITIES OUTLINED

Even as markets dominated the meeting, the NCBA executive committee worked to approve new policy priorities for 2023, with an eye toward Farm Bill legislation.

NCBA President-Elect Todd Wilkinson told producers the focus for this year would be on increasing opportunities for producers and fighting to make sure the federal government doesn't damage the industry.

"Cattle producers have been caretakers of the land and livestock for decades and are committed to conserving this country's natural resources while producing high-quality beef," he said. Policy priority areas announced include the following:

-- Reauthorization of animal health provisions found in the 2018 Farm Bill and advocating for more funding of the National Animal Vaccine and Veterinary Countermeasures Bank to protect against Food and Mouth Disease (FMD). Here Wilkinson stressed, "American cattle producers are not going to be caught flat-footed -- we are laser-focused on reducing risk and having the strongest response with a stockpile of vaccines that we have been building up since the 2018 Farm Bill."

-- Protecting and funding EQIP, CSP, and other voluntary conservation programs that will incentivize science-based active management of natural resources.

-- Protecting the cattle industry from regulatory attacks under Waters of the United States (WOTUS), the Endangered Species Act, emissions reporting, and more.

For more coverage on the USDA report and the NCBA meeting, go here:

"Quality Opportunities in Beef Expansion" https://www.dtnpf.com/…

USDA NASS Jan. 1 Cattle inventory report: https://www.dtnpf.com/…

"Call the Market: The US Cowherd Now Has the Fewest Beef Cows Ever" by DTN Livestock Analyst ShayLe Stewart: https://www.dtnpf.com/…

"Ag Policy Blog: Cattle Contract Library Website Goes Live" by DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton: https://www.dtnpf.com/…

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

Follow her on Twitter @myersPF

OMAHA (DTN) -- Members of the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee on Wednesday pressed USDA's new undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs about Mexico's push to ban biotech corn and why the Biden administration has not moved to a dispute resolution panel under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, noted early in a hearing on trade and horticulture that more than 90% of corn planted in the U.S. is a biotech variety. He then pointed to Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's decree to ban biotech corn, at least for human consumption, starting next year.

"I am concerned this decree is not being met with the urgency it deserves," Grassley said. He added, "Why has the Biden administration not established a dispute settlement process on the USMCA panel with Mexico on GMOs?"

Alexis Taylor, the USDA undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs, pointed out she and Doug McKalip, chief agricultural negotiator for the U.S. Trade Representative's Office, visited Mexico last week to discuss that specific issue.

"I do think we are engaging with urgency on this issue," Taylor said.

CULTURAL ISSUES

Taylor pointed out the issue with Mexico transcends biotech corn, which Mexico seeks to ban not based on science, but cultural issues raised by Obrador.

"Much broader, fundamentally, our trading system globally and in the USMCA is based on science-based policies," Taylor said.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack also said last month there is no room for the U.S. to compromise on the issue because the USMCA supports trade based on science standards.

Taylor didn't address why the U.S. has not moved toward a dispute-resolutions panel with Mexico. A spokesperson for the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) emailed DTN pointing to statements Taylor and McKalip made last week.

"It makes clear that, while we want to work with Mexico to reach a solution, if the issue is not resolved, the United States reserves the right to take formal steps to enforce our rights under the USMCA," the USTR spokesperson stated.

HOLD MEXICO ACCOUNTABLE

Other senators from the Corn Belt repeatedly made comments to Taylor about holding Mexico accountable under the trade agreement. Obrador had originally last year pushed for an all-out ban on biotech corn, but then dialed back his demand to white corn consumed for food. Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., pointed out Nebraska farmers grow about half of the country's food-grade white corn with Mexico being the top export market.

"I understand Mexico has claimed that there are cultural reasons for wanting to ban imports of white corn," Fischer said. "So can you assure us that when you say there is no compromise with Mexico and their attempts to ban biotech corn, that it also includes our food-grade white corn?"

Taylor said her conversation with Mexican officials has been about both yellow and white corn.

"There are concerns on both, and the science is fundamentally the same as it is for many other genetically engineered production that have been studied for decades," Taylor said.

Fischer noted as well that trade agreements don't work if countries do not accept products that are proven to be safe. "That's a message we need to get out not just in our international trade, but in this country," Fischer said.

TOP EXPORT MARKET

Mexico, in the current marketing year, remains the top export market for U.S. corn with more than 5 million metric tons (mmt) shipped and outstanding sales for another 6.6 mmt. Mexico purchased 16.4 mmt for the market year that ended Sept. 1.

Agricultural trade overall hit new heights in the past year. USDA reported a record $196.4 billion in agricultural exports in fiscal year 2022. For FY 2023, USDA is currently forecasting a slight decline in U.S. agricultural exports to $190 billion, while agricultural imports will continue to rise to $199 billion.

MAP AND FMD

The state of the Market Access Program (MAP) and Foreign Market Development (FMD) program at USDA also came up frequently with senators Wednesday.

MAP funding has remained flat at $200 million through multiple farm bills despite a push by various commodity organizations to increase funding. FMD is funded at $34.5 million. MAP provides funding in FY 2023 to 73 different groups to promote U.S. agricultural products.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., pointed to Taylor's testimony, noting that the European Union export program for wine is greater than the entire budget of all USDA market development programs.

"I think that should concern our colleagues when we look at a balance as much as we enjoy pairing up with the EU and drinking their wine," Klobuchar said.

Taylor pointed out in a recent request for MAP proposals, USDA received $300 million in proposed projects.

MAP SUCCESS STORIES

In her testimony, Taylor also pointed to a few success stories with MAP, including promotional efforts with the U.S. Grains Council that boosted ethanol sales to South Korea from 47.3 million gallons in 2016 to 137.4 million gallons in 2020-21, valued at $520 million.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers in both chambers of Congress has introduced the Expanding Agricultural Exports Act, which would double MAP funding to $400 million and FMD funding to $69 million.

Also see "US Ag Trade Officials Reject Mexican Proposals for Biotech Corn" here: https://www.dtnpf.com/….

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

Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

OMAHA (DTN) -- Retail fertilizer prices continue to see significant price declines, according to prices tracked by DTN for the fourth week of January 2023. This trend has been in place since the beginning of the year.

Seven of the eight major fertilizers are lower compared to last month. Of these seven, five fertilizers were substantially lower, which DTN designates as a price change of 5% or more.

Leading the way lower is UAN28. The nitrogen fertilizer was 9% lower in price compared to last month and had an average price of $523/ton.

Potash, anhydrous and UAN32 were 7% less expensive looking back to last month. Potash had an average price of $714/ton, anhydrous $1,237/ton and UAN32 $630/ton.

Urea was 6% lower in price compared to the prior month. It had an average price of $708/ton.

Both DAP and MAP were slightly lower looking back to last month. DAP had an average price of $855/ton while MAP was $865/ton.

One fertilizer was just slightly higher in price compared to a month earlier. 10-34-0 had an average price of $754/ton.

On a price per pound of nitrogen basis, the average urea price was at $0.77/lb.N, anhydrous $0.75/lb.N, UAN28 $0.93/lb.N and UAN32 $0.98/lb.N.

A recent University of Minnesota blog post titled "Nutrient management on owned vs. rented ground" looked at the various factors farmers should consider when applying fertilizer on owned ground versus rented ground.

Dan Kaiser, University of Minnesota Extension nutrient management specialist and Jeff Vetsch, University of Minnesota soil scientist, wrote that a "build and maintain" strategy may not be the best option for farmers renting ground, especially considering short-term land tenure. However, not applying any fertilizer and allowing soil tests to drop to low levels isn't good either.

"Applying only what the crop needs, which is what we call the "sufficiency approach," makes more sense in situations where you are willing to accept more risk or situations where soils cannot economically be built up to near the 100% critical level," they wrote.

While the sufficiency approach doesn't center on building soil test values, suggested fertilizer rates are typically in excess of crop removal for low-testing soils, with the goal of building soils to near medium soil test ranges. Maintaining soil tests near the 95% critical level makes more sense for renters because a fertilizer application is more likely to be profitable.

Regardless of whether the land is owned or rented, the authors remind farmers about the importance soil testing plays in applying nutrients.

To read the entire University of Minnesota report, click on the following link https://blog-crop-news.extension.umn.edu/….

All fertilizers are now lower compared to one year ago. DAP is 3% lower, both MAP and 10-34-0 are 8% less expensive, UAN32 is 10% lower, potash is 12% less expensive, UAN28 is 13% lower, anhydrous 17% less expensive and urea is 22% lower compared to a year prior.

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

Retail fertilizer prices tracked by DTN show prices are the lowest they have been in 15 months. You can read it here: https://www.dtnpf.com/….

DTN recently published a series titled "Global Fertilizer Outlook" listed here:

To see Global Fertilizer Outlook - 1, go to: https://www.dtnpf.com/…

To see Global Fertilizer Outlook - 2, go to: https://www.dtnpf.com/…

To see Global Fertilizer Outlook - 3, go to: https://www.dtnpf.com/…

DRY
Date Range DAP MAP POTASH UREA

Jan 24-28 2022

877

936

814

910

Feb 21-25 2022

874

934

815

885

Mar 21-25 2022

1014

1018

850

976

Apr 18-22 2022

1050

1079

879

1012

May 16-20 2022

1059

1083

878

993

Jun 13-Jun 17 2022

1046

1074

879

961

Jul 11-15 2022

1030

1052

885

861

Aug 8-12 2022

982

1032

881

812

Sep 5-9 2022

952

1009

878

800

Oct 3-7 2022

934

997

869

826

Oct 31-Nov 4 2022

930

981

857

826

Nov 28-Dec 2 2022

926

960

831

795

Dec 26-Dec 30 2022

885

891

765

751

Jan 23-Jan 27 2023

855

865

714

708

LIQUID
Date Range 10-34-0 ANHYD UAN28 UAN32

Jan 24-28 2022

817

1492

601

699

Feb 21-25 2022

837

1488

602

703

Mar 21-25 2022

881

1523

622

698

Apr 18-22 2022

906

1534

631

730

May 16-20 2022

906

1529

634

731

Jun 13-Jun 17 2022

905

1516

630

730

Jul 11-15 2022

904

1449

606

701

Aug 8-12 2022

881

1365

578

678

Sep 5-9 2022

866

1357

579

658

Oct 3-7 2022

813

1390

565

652

Oct 31-Nov 4 2022

759

1426

583

680

Nov 28-Dec 2 2022

753

1416

583

681

Dec 26-Dec 30 2022

751

1325

573

679

Jan 23-Jan 27 2023

754

1237

523

630

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

Follow him on Twitter @RussQuinnDTN

This article was originally posted at 2:11 p.m. CST on Tuesday, Jan. 31. It was last updated with new information at 2:47 p.m. CST on Tuesday, Jan. 31.

**

OMAHA (DTN) -- All cattle and calves in the United States as of Jan. 1, 2023, totaled 89.3 million head, 3% below the 92.1 million head on Jan. 1, 2022, USDA NASS reported on Tuesday.

All cows and heifers that have calved, at 38.3 million head, were 3% below the 39.4 million head on Jan. 1, 2022. Beef cows, at 28.9 million head, were down 4% from a year ago. Milk cows, at 9.40 million head, were up slightly from the previous year.

All heifers 500 pounds and over as of Jan. 1, 2023, totaled 19.2 million head, 4% below the 19.9 million head on Jan. 1, 2022. Beef replacement heifers, at 5.16 million head, were down 6% from a year ago. Milk replacement heifers, at 4.34 million head, were down 2% from the previous year. Other heifers, at 9.67 million head, were 3% below a year earlier.

Steers weighing 500 pounds and over as of Jan. 1, 2023, totaled 16.1 million head, down 3% from Jan. 1, 2022.

Bulls weighing 500 pounds and over as of Jan. 1, 2023, totaled 2.03 million head, down 4% from Jan. 1, 2022.

Calves under 500 pounds as of Jan. 1, 2023, totaled 13.6 million head, down 3% from Jan. 1, 2022.

Cattle and calves on feed for the slaughter market in the United States for all feedlots totaled 14.2 million head on Jan. 1, 2023. The inventory is down 4% from the Jan. 1, 2022, total of 14.7 million head. Cattle on feed in feedlots with capacity of 1,000 or more head accounted for 82.5% of the total cattle on feed on Jan. 1, 2023, up 1% from the previous year. The combined total of calves under 500 pounds and other heifers and steers over 500 pounds (outside of feedlots) at 25.3 million head, was 3% below Jan. 1, 2022.

CALF CROP DOWN 2%

The 2022 calf crop in the United States was estimated at 34.5 million head, down 2% from the previous year's calf crop. Calves born during the first half of 2022 were estimated at 25.3 million head, down 2% from the first half of 2021. Calves born during the second half of 2022 were estimated at 9.16 million head, 27% of the total 2022 calf crop.

REVISIONS

All inventory and calf crop estimates for July 1, 2021, Jan. 1, 2022, and July 1, 2022, were reviewed using calf crop, official slaughter, import and export data, and the relationship of new survey information to the prior surveys. Based on the findings of this review, Jan. 1, 2022, all cattle and calves increased by 0.2% and 2021 calf crop increased by 0.2%.

July 1, 2022, all cattle and calves decreased by 0.2% and 2022 calf crop decreased by 0.4%.

State-level estimates were reviewed and changes were made to reallocate inventory estimates to the United States total.

DTN ANALYSIS

"Tuesday's Jan. 1 Cattle inventory report revealed a reality the cattle market has never seen before -- a beef cow herd of 28.9 million head," said DTN Livestock Analyst ShayLe Stewart. "Cattlemen knew that there were going to be significantly fewer beef cows reported in Tuesday's report than compared to a year ago, as a lack of profitability and severe drought conditions pressured ranchers to cull their cow herds dramatically. But what Tuesday's report solidifies is that not only do we have 'fewer' beef cows in the industry than compared to years past, but also that we have the fewest beef cows ever recorded. That's a stark reality to stomach and a factor that should send the cattle market soaring.

"The top 10 states with the most beef cows are Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota, Kansas, Montana, Kentucky, North Dakota and Florida. Only one of those states (Missouri) had the same number of beef cows as compared to a year ago, and the other states saw decreases in their beef cow herds anywhere from 1% to 7%.

"The Cattle Inventory Report also disclosed a smaller calf crop than compared to a year ago, which is logical when there are simply fewer cows in the market.

"In conclusion, Tuesday's report comes as an extremely bullish factor to the cattle market and the beef industry. Tight supplies amid strong demand beckon for prices to become stronger, and stronger prices will likely be the theme of the market over the next two to potentially three years until the market sees substantial build back."

**

DTN subscribers can view the full USDA Cattle inventory report in the Livestock Archives folder under the Markets menu. The report is also available at https://www.nass.usda.gov/….

Class 2022 2023 % of previous year
(1,000 head) (1,000 head) (percent)
All cattle and calves 92,076.6 89,274.1 97
All cows and heifers
that have calved 39,360.1 38,320.4 97
-- Beef cows 29,983.1 28,917.9 96
-- Milk cows 9,377.0 9,402.5 100
All heifers 500 lbs. and over 19,916.0 19,172.5 96
-- For beef cow replacement 5,481.5 5,163.7 94
Expected to calve* 3,339.5 3,168.7 95
-- For milk cow replacement 4,440.6 4,337.2 98
Expected to calve* 2,826.2 2,769.4 98
-- Other heifers 9,993.9 9,671.6 97
Steers 500 pounds and over 16,704.7 16,131.6 97
Bulls 500 pounds and over 2,109.6 2,029.0 96
Calves under 500 pounds 13,986.2 13,620.6 97
All cattle on feed 14,694.6 14,157.3 96
2021 2022 % of previous year
Calf crop 35,165.9 34,464.5 98

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) -- Calling the Biden administration's new waters of the U.S. rule confusing and costly to communities, the governors of 25 states asked the administration to delay the implementation of the rule until after a key Clean Water Act ruling in the Sackett case is issued sometime this spring.

The EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released the final rule on Dec. 30, which sparked a couple of lawsuits pending in the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Texas.

The final rule, https://www.dtnpf.com/…, by and large exempts most farming practices from CWA jurisdiction but implements the so-called "significant-nexus" and "relatively permanent" standards when deciding which waters are jurisdictional. Ag and many other industry groups have historically opposed the significant-nexus standard for fear of it being used to claim jurisdiction over dry land features.

The 25 governors said in a letter to President Joe Biden on Monday that the timing of the final rule couldn't have been worse.

"The rule is problematic in and of itself, but its timing is particularly troubling given record inflation and gas prices that threaten the livelihoods of so many communities," the letter said.

"Those who rely on farming and small business as a backbone of their local economies are particularly vulnerable. Another burdensome and overbroad regulation from the federal government could not come at a worse time for America. Having already squandered much of America's energy independence, you should not increase costs for consumers by tying up energy production with even more red tape."

The Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling in Sackett v EPA sometime before June. The new WOTUS rule is expected to take effect sometime around March 1.

The ruling could determine how the EPA and Corps of Engineers make CWA determinations on wetlands in particular. Prior to the final rule's release, numerous federal lawmakers and others had asked the agencies to delay the rule pending the Supreme Court ruling.

The letter to Biden was signed by the governors of Idaho, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming.

"The WOTUS definition has been under scrutiny for nearly 20 years, and your administration's rule only further complicates the efforts to create certainty under the CWA for rural communities," the governors wrote.

"The problem is exacerbated by the pending Supreme Court ruling. The final WOTUS rule released during the holidays is concerning in terms of timing, substance and process. We call into question the timing and necessity of the rule with the court's upcoming Sackett decision, which is expected by June of this year. That opinion could significantly impact the final rule and its implementation. To change the rule multiple times in six months is an inefficient and wasteful use of state and federal resources and will impose an unnecessary strain on farmers, builders and every other impacted sector of the American economy."

The governors said the final rule "hinders state governments" that are trying to "give clarity and consistency to businesses, farms and individuals regarding the regulatory framework for water."

The governors said they are concerned about "broad definitions" used in the rule that "only add to the confusing and complicated history of WOTUS."

They said understanding the final rule will require states to "wade through an extensive and unclearly written web" of interpretations.

"Given the many outstanding issues the recent WOTUS rule generates, particularly in rural America, we ask that you delay implementation of the rule until the court decides Sackett. Small businesses, farmers and communities across America simply cannot afford another costly revision."

Read more on DTN:

"Q&A With EPA's Rod Snyder on WOTUS," https://www.dtnpf.com/…

"Texas, Ag Groups Sue EPA on WOTUS Rule," https://www.dtnpf.com/…

"Ag Groups: WOTUS Complicates Farming," https://www.dtnpf.com/…

"CWA Battle Heats Up at Supreme Court," https://www.dtnpf.com/…

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

Follow him on Twitter @DTNeeley

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) -- For many years, ethanol opponents in the refining industry have called for the EPA to cut back on ethanol blending.

There just isn't enough gasoline consumed to be able to blend 15 billion gallons of ethanol annually, critics say, making their voices heard each time the agency holds public hearings on the Renewable Fuel Standard.

The latest U.S. Energy Information Administration data on transportation fuel consumption in the U.S. in 2021, however, paints a much different picture than refiners claim when they consistently call for ethanol blending below 10%.

Based on that analysis, DTN has ranked the 50 states and the District of Columbia by percentage of blend rates and uses total ethanol barrels consumed in each state as a tiebreaker to paint an interesting portrait geographically.

DTN's analysis of EIA data found an overall blending rate of 10.3% nationally, based on 332.01 million barrels of ethanol blended and consumed and about 3.2 billion barrels of gasoline.

In terms of gallons, the U.S. consumed 13.94 billion gallons of ethanol and 134.4 billion gallons of gasoline.

The EIA calculates ethanol and gasoline consumption in the commercial, industrial and transportation sectors, and not just from motor vehicles.

When you look inside the ethanol-blending rankings by state compiled by DTN, just nine states failed to blend ethanol at least at a 10% rate. That means more than 80% of the 50 states either hit or exceeded 10% ethanol blending in 2021.

According to DTN's analysis, Minnesota and Iowa were the top two ethanol-blending states by percentage, although the total ethanol blended in those states was on the lower end of the scale.

Minnesota recorded a 12.6% blend rate followed by Iowa at 11.6%. Despite leading the country, Minnesota consumed just 7.15 million barrels of ethanol in 2021.

Texas is ranked third in the DTN analysis at a 10.7% blending rate, leading a logjam of 13 states and the District of Columbia at that rate because of a nation-leading 35.46 million barrels of ethanol consumed in Texas. California is right behind Texas in the rankings, consuming 34.1 million barrels of ethanol.

When you cross-reference the 50-state rankings with the leading states by ethanol-production capacity, some interesting things emerge, https://www.statista.com/….

Assuming ethanol producers in Iowa and Minnesota produced at full capacity in 2021, both states were large net exporters of ethanol, as is the case with most top-producing states.

Iowa would have blended just 177.2 million gallons of its 4.68 billion gallons produced. Minnesota would have blended and consumed about 300.3 million gallons of its 1.37 billion gallons produced in 2021.

On the flip side, although Nebraska is the second-largest ethanol-producing state, it comes in at No. 45 in the DTN rankings for ethanol consumption with a 9.7% blend rate in 2021.

The Cornhusker State consumed about 86.5 million gallons of ethanol in 2021, although the state's production capacity was about 2.35 billion gallons.

Though the states of Illinois, Indiana, South Dakota, Ohio, Kansas, Wisconsin and North Dakota were among the top 10 ethanol-producing states in 2021, in addition to Iowa and Minnesota, only Illinois and Wisconsin were in the top 20 ethanol-blending states in 2021.

Top 50 States for Ethanol Blend Rates, 2021: (tiebreaks with total ethanol blended in barrels)

1. Minnesota - 12.6%: 7.15 million

2. Iowa - 11.6%: 4.22 million

3. Texas - 10.7%: 35.46 million

4. California - 10.7%: 34.1 million

5. New Jersey - 10.7%: 8.76 million

6. Arizona - 10.7%: 7.45 million

7. Washington - 10.7%: 6.45 million

8. Massachusetts - 10.7%: 6.23 million

9. Oregon - 10.7%: 3.8 million

10. Connecticut - 10.7%: 3.45 million

11. Nevada - 10.7%: 3 million

12. New Mexico - 10.7%: 2.58 million

13. Delaware - 10.7%: 1.24 million

14. Hawaii - 10.7%: 1.04 million

15. Rhode Island - 10.7%: 883,000

16. District of Columbia - 10.7%: 261,000

17. Maryland - 10.6%: 6.15 million

18. Illinois - 10.5%: 10.33 million

19. Wisconsin - 10.5%: 6.39 million

20. New Hampshire - 10.5%: 1.68 million

21. South Dakota - 10.5%: 1.23 million

22. North Dakota - 10.5%: 1.03 million

23. New York - 10.4%: 12.9 million

24. Maine - 10.4%: 1.62 million

25. Virginia - 10.3%: 9.72 million

26. Pennsylvania - 10.2%: 10.93 million

27. Michigan - 10.1%: 10.43 million

28. Tennessee - 10.1%: 8.02 million

29. Indiana - 10.1%: 7.35 million

30. Colorado - 10.1%: 5.44 million

31. Kentucky - 10.1%: 5.17 million

32. Utah - 10.1%: 2.92 million

33. Idaho - 10.1%: 1.96 million

34. Montana - 10.1%: 1.32 million

35. Wyoming - 10.1%: 785,000

36. Florida - 10%: 21.32 million

37. North Carolina - 10%: 11.28 million

38. Georgia - 10%: 11.17 million

39. Missouri - 10%: 7.43 million

40. South Carolina - 10%: 6.56 million

41. West Virginia - 10%: 1.9 million

42. Vermont - 10%: 660,000

43. Oklahoma - 9.7%: 4.36 million

44. Kansas - 9.7%: 2.91 million

45. Nebraska - 9.7%: 2.06 million

46. Alabama - 9.6%: 7.32 million

47. Louisiana - 9.6%: 4.99 million

48. Mississippi - 9.6%: 3.9 million

49. Arkansas - 9.6%: 3.46 million

50. Ohio - 9.5%: 11.24 million

51. Alaska - 0%

U.S. - 10.3%: 332.01 million

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

Follow him on Twitter @DTNeeley

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) -- Syngenta Crop Protection and Corteva Inc. asked a federal court to dismiss a lawsuit brought by 10 state attorneys general and the Federal Trade Commission that alleged the companies paid distributors to block competitors from selling less-expensive generic products to farmers.

In two separate motions filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Middle North Carolina, the companies defended the legality of so-called loyalty programs at the center of the complaint.

The FTC and the states have alleged distributors only get paid if they limit business with competing manufacturers. Such arrangements, the complaint said, are "cutting off" competition and allowing the companies to "inflate their prices and force American farmers to spend millions of dollars more for their products."

In particular, the lawsuit alleged Syngenta has monopoly and market power on the fungicide azoxystrobin, and the herbicides mesotrione and metolachlor. The suit cites Corteva's herbicides rimsulfuron and acetochlor and the insecticide and nematicide oxamyl.

COMPANIES: LOYALTY DISCOUNTS "COMMON, LAWFUL"

"Plaintiffs ignore the fact that loyalty discounts, which come in many forms are not only 'extremely common' but also 'presumptively lawful in all but a few carefully defined circumstances,'" Corteva said in a motion to dismiss.

"Exclusive dealing arrangements offer numerous procompetitive benefits, such as maintaining customers' incentives to invest in a manufacturer's products, ensuring consistent purchases by customers over time and reducing free riding by customers and competitors.

"Plaintiffs also elide the fact that Corteva's loyalty programs, which have been in place for many years, relate to a small number of its products, have significantly decreased prices to its customers over many years, and have successfully encouraged its customers to invest in services, stewardship and support for Corteva's products."

Syngenta said in its motion to dismiss that the lawsuit advances an "unprecedented and unfounded theory" that an industry-standard rebate program offering a "modest, optional discount" to customers to incentivize increased purchases violates antitrust laws.

"Rebate programs that reduce prices to above-cost levels are permissible as a matter of law, except in narrow circumstances where customers are forced to participate by coercive non-price features," Syngenta said. "Nothing of the sort is pleaded or present here."

The company said the lawsuit describes a "standard, above-cost rebate program" that offers lower prices to incentivize customers to purchase more of a particular Syngenta product line.

"This program is entirely lawful," Syngenta said in its motion. "As courts have repeatedly recognized, the only 'harm' that such a program could cause is pressuring rivals to compete more vigorously."

Syngenta said if the complaint is upheld by the court, there's concern that "virtually any loyalty rebate program" could "plausibly be alleged" to be anticompetitive.

"That is not the law, and the court should not create new law that would punish the very conduct -- price cutting -- the antitrust laws are designed to promote," Syngenta said.

"The amended complaint's deficiencies are particularly glaring given that: (i) the FTC investigated Syngenta -- obtaining nearly unlimited discovery from Syngenta and third parties -- for three years before filing this lawsuit; and (ii) plaintiffs have now taken the opportunity to amend in response to Syngenta's original motion to dismiss. If any facts could have been pleaded to bolster plaintiffs' claims, they would have been pleaded."

Corteva said in its motion the loyalty programs are "purely voluntary" and offer discounts to distributors that choose to participate, and "no one is forced" to take part in the programs.

"The programs are one year in duration and do not obligate distributors to purchase any Corteva products at all," the motion said.

"Distributors are free to cease purchasing Corteva's products at any time with the sole consequence being the loss of a discount. And they do not result in below cost or predatory pricing. Plaintiffs have not alleged -- and could not allege -- otherwise.

"Rather, they merely recast the rebates awarded under the programs as 'payments' and declare them to be exclusionary. More is required. Tellingly, the loyalty programs for each of the three Corteva AIs at issue were implemented many years ago, in two cases at least a decade after the statutory exclusivity protections on the products expired."

Syngenta and Corteva are two of the largest pesticide manufacturers operating in the United States. Syngenta, based in Switzerland, is a subsidiary of a Chinese state-owned company. Corteva, headquartered in Indianapolis, is the company formed as part of a merger between DuPont and Dow Chemical Company.

COMPLAINT PART OF BROADER PUSH TO UNLOCK COMPETITION

The FTC was joined in the complaint by attorneys general in California, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oregon, Texas and Wisconsin.

The complaint alleges Syngenta and Corteva take "illegal" steps to stop generic pesticides from eating into their profits. The loyalty programs include making payments to distributors -- as long as the distributors keep their purchases of competing generic pesticides beneath a certain threshold.

The FTC said the complaint was part of a "broader push to unlock competition and innovation in the American economy" as well as to "protect consumers and small businesses and crack down on unfair tactics by dominant companies."

The complaint also alleges the companies violated state-competition and consumer protection laws in California, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oregon, Texas and Wisconsin.

Read more on DTN:

"Syngenta, Corteva Sued by FTC, States," https://www.dtnpf.com/….

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

Follow him on Twitter @DTNeeley

OMAHA (DTN) -- A planned beef packing plant in western Iowa that would process as many as 2,000 head a day is moving closer to reality after a $150 million investment announced from a Florida firm.

The Iowa project is one of four separate cattle packing plant projects under construction or development stretching from Nebraska to Texas that add up to nearly $2.4 billion in investment. If all are built, they will add as much as 8,900 head per day of additional packing capacity to the cattle industry.

Cattlemen's Heritage Beef Co. has been working on the proposed packing plant since it was first announced in summer 2021. The packing plant will be built on the northern edge of Mills County, just south of Council Bluffs, Iowa. Cattlemen's Heritage had also announced earlier this month that the project had finalized purchasing the 132-acre site where the packing plant will be built.

On Monday, Chad Tentinger, principal developer for Cattlemen's Heritage, announced that Karis Capital out of Naples, Florida, is investing $150 million in the project. The investment will allow Cattlemen's Heritage to move forward with groundbreaking for the packing plant later this year.

"This $150 million strategic investment by Karis represents a critical milestone in the Cattlemen's Heritage plant," Tentinger said. "With this investment secure, we can break ground later this year. We will also be able to finalize bank financing and government incentives for a project that will provide high-quality, sustainable beef for consumers and significant economic benefits for the state of Iowa and for cattle producers."

Cattlemen's Heritage originally pegged its plant as costing $520 million and would employ as many as 800 people. The plant will have a strong strategic location just off north-south Interstate 29 in western Iowa and less than 10 miles from east-west Interstate 80.

Karis develops, builds and owns cold-storage facilities around the country, such as refrigerated warehouses, but Cattlemen's Heritage appears to be the company's first foray into the meatpacking industry.

Jake Finley, CEO of Karis, said in a news release the packing plant "represents a unique investment opportunity" for Karis to bring its expertise "to an industry in need of modernization."

"We see extraordinary consumer demand for low-carbon, high-quality beef that's produced in a sustainable way, and the Cattlemen's Heritage project does just that," Finley said. "It will have the latest in technology with a focus on sustainability along with the highest standards for plant employees and animal welfare. That's exactly what investors and consumers are looking for."

Cattlemen's Heritage also has brought in an algae-based wastewater treatment company, Gross-Wen Technologies, that will be used at the facility. The technology will capture and offset thousands of tons of carbon dioxide each year, the company stated. The nitrogen and phosphorus will then be converted into fertilizer "for re-use by area farmers as part of our goal to create a carbon-neutral footprint," Tentinger said.

SLEW OF PLANT PROJECTS

SUSTAINABLE BEEF: While Cattlemen's Heritage expects to break ground this year, nearly 300 miles west in North Platte, Nebraska, the 1,500-head-a-day Sustainable Beef LLC packing plant broke ground last October. Sustainable Beef drew significant attention last fall when it was announced that Walmart had signed an agreement for a minority stake in the project to help secure beef supplies for its stores.

AMERICAN FOODS GROUP: Near Foristell, Missouri, just on the western edge of the St. Louis metro area, Wisconsin-based American Foods Group (AFG) broke ground last fall on an $800 million packing plant that AFG expects will process 2,400 cattle a day. AFG expects its packing plant will be fully operational by the end of 2024.

PRODUCER OWNED BEEF: Also on the drawing table in Amarillo, Texas, is Producer Owned Beef, which was announced last August and had received incentive funds from the state of Texas and local economic development organizations around Amarillo. Producer Owned Beef seeks to process 3,000-plus head a day and employ 1,600 people.

USDA-FUNDED PROJECTS

In early November, USDA also announced $223 million in grants and loans to expand meat and poultry processing around the country. The funds were expected to increase beef and pork processing capacity by more than 500,000 head a year.

Among the biggest recipients of those funds was a $19.9 million grant to Greater Omaha Packing Co. as part of a $100 million expansion and technology upgrades at the facility

USDA is expected to announce another round of grants and loans for at least $225 million sometime in 2023 as well. A year ago, the Biden administration committed $1 billion to increase competition in the meatpacking industry.

So far, Cattlemen's Heritage, American Foods Group, Sustainable Beef and Producer Owned Beef have not been part of the funding announcements from USDA.

Also see "New Packing Plants Point to Long-Term Shifts for Cattle Business," https://www.dtnpf.com/….

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

Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

OMAHA (DTN) -- Ukrainian farmers continue to face a range of pressures trying to grow a crop in the midst of the war with Russia.

The damage to equipment and storage and lack of access to fuel and fertilizer will drop production forecasts for 2023, said Antonina Broyaka, an Extension associate in Agricultural Economics at Kansas State University.

Broyaka was a professor and researcher at a university in Ukraine before the invasion last year. She left Ukraine in March and accepted a position at K-State.

The following are some of the challenges the farmers face:

1. MACHINERY, STORAGE CAPACITY LOSSES

Broyaka cited statistics that Ukraine agriculture has suffered about $6.6 billion in losses. A big chunk of those losses includes roughly 84,200 pieces of destroyed farm machinery.

"We are working every day to replace what has been damaged but every day we have new bombings unfortunately," she said.

On top of that, Ukrainian farmers and agribusinesses have seen storage capacity for 9.4 million metric tons (mmt) of grain destroyed. More grain storage capacity is not accessible because it is in land controlled by Russia.

The losses also include 2.8 mmt of grain and 1.8 mmt of oilseed, along with 212,000 cattle, 507,000 hogs and 11.7 million in poultry flocks.

Overall, Ukrainian officials estimate the country has suffered as much as $136 billion in damage. Broyaka pointed out Russian bombs continue to target key infrastructure.

"We are losing a lot of infrastructure, but we are also losing a lot of people," she said.

2. ESTIMATED HARVEST LOSSES

Corn production fell from 42.1 mmt, or 1.66 billion bushels) in 2021 down to 21.4 mmt (842 million bushels) for 2022. A lot of the crop also was left in the fields to dry because of the lack of fuel to dry it down, Broyaka said.

Wheat production fell from 33 mmt (1.2 bb) to 20.2 mmt (742.2 mb).

Sunflower seeds also declined from 17.5 mmt to 10.5 mmt.

Production overall saw a 14.9% reduction in total grains.

Fuel and transportation costs also have skyrocketed. Broyaka highlighted the cost to move grain to port is now triple what it was before the war.

"It makes no economic sense sometimes for farmers to harvest," she said.

DTN Lead Analyst Todd Hultman also pointed to the high transportation cost just to move the grain.

"I don't see how farmers are getting paid for all of this work," he said. "When you figure out everything that is going on, they are in a tough situation."

3. PLANTED WHEAT ACRES DOWN

Looking at winter crops, overall planted acres are down nearly 37% to a forecast of 14.12 million acres.

For the winter wheat crop, the largest chunk of acreage, planting is down 39% to 9.28 million acres.

These totals do not include some of the eastern provinces of Ukraine now under Russian control. Those areas were also some of the dominant regions for winter wheat production.

4. LESS FERTILIZER ACCESS EXPECTED

Looking at spring crops, Broyaka said Ukraine could expect a sharp decline in access to fertilizer. The forecast is farmers could see as much as 47% less nitrogen fertilizer for crops. She said that will translate into yield drops of 20% to 50%, depending on the crop and region.

Production of spring cereal grains could decline 44%, due partly to lack of fertilizer and partly because of lack of land. Broyaka said as much as 22% of arable land is not in use because of military action. That translates into nearly 9.4 million acres that won't be planted.

5. BLACK SEA EXPORT AGREEMENT

The agreement with the United Nations between Ukraine and Russia, as tenuous as it is, has gotten more grain and oilseeds out for exports. Ukraine exported 38.9 mmt total in 2022, which includes roughly 19.45 mmt through the ports from September through December. The Black Sea initiative accounts for about 17.7 mmt.

Hultman pointed out that Broyaka also showed the challenges of trying to get grain and oilseed out of the western parts of the country through rail or vehicles.

"They are really stuck with the Black Sea initiative to move anything," he said.

6. PRICES, CREDIT, INPUT CHALLENGES

The gap between global prices and Ukraine prices has widened dramatically. There's a $213 price spread per metric ton between U.S. wheat prices and Ukraine wheat prices. For corn, the spread is $174 per metric ton.

Credit is also a challenge. Ukrainian farmers look for a chance to expand access to credit. They also face problems with higher costs because of exchange rates.

AID TO FARMERS

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has offered some aid to farmers and households and some agricultural corporations are also offering support. On Thursday, USAID and Bayer announced they will donate vegetable seeds to help Ukraine. USAID and Bayer will first ship carrot seeds to supply as many as 25,000 family gardens or small farmers, "with priority given to farmers in newly liberated areas."

Bayer had already donated 40,000 bags of corn seed to the country and invested $35 million to boost seed-processing capacity in Ukraine.

USAID has provided farmers with more than 8,000 sleeve bags to help farmers store grain. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization also has provided sleeve bags to help store grain.

For more on Ukraine's winter wheat crop and the impact on the U.S. crop, watch for this week's Todd's Take column.

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

Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

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