Blogging by the Bushel
With numerous challenges over the past several years for producers, we at Mercer Landmark understand the need for a comprehensive risk management solution. We seek to provide our customers with unparalleled service to ensure maximum results.

Archive for February, 2014

7 stories you might have missed last week

1. Lower feed costs offer livestock producers profit potential. Feed prices are lower, but the need to shore up balance sheets keeps livestock producers wary about expanding rapidly. Beef Producer

2. A big bet on gluten-free. Companies are clamoring to use the term “gluten-free,” even as not all buyers suffer from celiac disease. The New York Times

3. New book addresses meat supply. Author of new book The Meat Racket suggests the meat industry represents a monopoly. Wall Street Journal & NPR

4. Tax concerns. Agriculture’s borrowing capacity and access to capital is threatened under legislative committee tax drafts, study finds.

5. Causing a stir. Sarcasm isn’t welcome in Chipotle’s new ag-focused mini-series, says Ted Sheely on the blog Truth About Trade

6. Athletes with rural roots compete in Sochi. American Olympians Katie Uhlaender, skeleton competitor, Emily Scott, speed skater, and Kaitlyn Farrington, snowboarder, each have a common thread: ag.

7. Ag outlook updates. Farm Progress has been following the 2014 Ag Outlook Forum this week, where USDA released preliminary census data and economic outlooks. Follow the links for more:Ag TradeLivestock ExpansionCrop Prices, Ag Census

And your bonus:
FFA’s time to shine. In honor of FFA week, (arguably the best time of the year to laugh at an old photo of yourself wearing the blue & gold), check out some stories:
Life Lessons Abound For FFA Students
FFA: Developing Our Future Leaders In Agriculture
I Blame The FFA For Changes In Rural Youth

Well it looks like Chipotle Mexican Grill is at it again and I don’t mean in a yummy burrito way either.

Chipotle Mexican Grill has created a four episode TV series on Hulu titled “Farmed and Dangerous.” The first episode aired on February 17. Under the veil of satire, Chipotle describes the series on their “Farmed and Dangerous” Facebook page as being “about the outrageously twisted and utterly unsustainable world of industrial agriculture.” The episodes mock modern agriculture and spreads misinformation about industry practices. The official trailer is linked here.

The episodes are intended to be interactive with a Watch, Play, and Win trivia game. For those who want to play, you text in a word that is revealed early in the show then three trivia questions will be texted to you, if the individual answers correctly, they will be entered in a drawing for prizes. To give you a further idea of where this is headed, the first word to be texted in was BADMILK.

The problem is that there will be people who believe that this is what actually occurs in agriculture. Already some of the comments are “potential to entertain and educate” and ‘they are trying to“educate people about the reality of factory farming”.

The first episode was sprinkled with buzzwords and phrases meant to inspire fear towards modern agriculture:  GMOs, subsidized by the government, corporations, antibiotics, and factory farm. Does your farm look like a factory farm to you? On most farms the employees are mom, dad, grandpa, kids, and perhaps a hired person.

Think about the people you know who aren’t from a farm background. Where do they get their information about what a farm looks like? Without you as part of the farm image that they have, satires like this may be where they get their education about what a modern farm is like. Many have already gotten their information from documentaries that portray something that likely doesn’t look like your farm.

To follow along with the Twitter conversation, and see what other farmers are saying about this TV series, follow the hashtags #farmedanddangerous and #OpenDoors2OpenMinds.

To their target audience, millenials, Chipotle’s marketing is very different than traditional marketing. They aim to make their marketing have an entertainment quality and be interactive. The participation helps the consumer to buy in to their products.

Based on past marketing campaigns, Chipotle is certainly no stranger to portraying their image of agriculture. In August 2011, they released Back to the Start on YouTube. It played as a two-minute commercial during the Grammy Awards in February 2012. In the fall of 2014 they released The Scarecrow which was a YouTube video and resulted in an app-based game that could be downloaded.

So to all my blog followers, my point is that in today’s world there’s a lot of fear about modern agriculture. It is up to each of us on the farm to share with our friends, family, and acquaintances what we do. If you are the only farmer that person knows, then you are the image that they have as a farmer.

By: Gary Prill – Mercer Landmark agronomist

Farmers may be thinking this is what ag retailers and university weed experts are yelling when it comes to weed control.  But this is just not the case.  We really are facing new and more challenging times when it comes to controlling the growing list of herbicide resistant weeds.  For me the proof is in the fact that both are on the same page when it comes to controlling this new group of troublesome weeds.

It seems like the instances where our agri-business industry and our universities of higher learning are of the same opinion now days are often few and far between.  However, this is not the case when it comes to using residual herbicides for weed control.  Both the ag industry and university weed experts are now stressing that with the emergence of multiple weed resistance issues it is more important than ever to start with clean fields in the spring, to include good residual herbicides as part of our weed control programs, and to make the decision to pull the trigger on post-emerge applications early when weeds are still small and not to wait for larger crops with the hope they will smother out the weeds.

Both ag retailers and universities are also stressing the importance of using multiple modes of action and sites of action when selecting your herbicides.   By doing this you can decrease the likelihood of weeds surviving and building resistance to one certain kind of chemistry (like we have today with glyphosate, ALS, and triazine resistant weeds).  To learn more about these different herbicide classifications visit and click on the “Download Chart” button on the right hand side of the page.  If you would like help making sense of this chart and the concept of using multiple modes and sites of action, don’t hesitate to contact your Mercer Landmark agronomist.  We will help you build a strong comprehensive herbicide program to combat the marestails, giant ragweeds, waterhemps, and the latest threat, Palmer Amaranth, which our counter parts to the south are saying make our other trouble weeds look like sissy’s.

Another good source of weed control information is the 2014 OSU/Purdue Weed Control Guide available at most Extension offices in Indiana and Ohio, or a free PDF version can be downloaded at:  In the back of this guide are special sections for identifying and controlling Marestail and Palmer Amaranth.

The sky is not falling on us yet,  but Palmer Amaranth has been found in fields in Van Wert and Mercer counties in Ohio and in Adams county in Indiana, so it is here.  We have a choice to make.  We can say to ourselves I haven’t seen it become a problem in my fields yet so I am not going to worry about it.  Or we can be proactive and stay ahead of this invasive weed to keep it from robbing yield from our fields.  Let’s not do like

our counterparts to the south and ignore this threat till it is too late.  Otherwise we may be saying “We could have, we should have, we would have” if we had only known, but we do know so let’s stay on top of this one.

Back in July of 2013, Governor Kasich signed the Ohio grain indemnity fund legislation into law through the state budget bill. The new legislation increased the grain indemnity fund to $15 million, with the lower end of the threshold being $10 million.

“The fund serves as a farmer self-insurance program,” said Chris Henney, Ohio AgriBusiness Association President and CEO. “A grain elevator collects the fee from farmers and then turns it over to the Ohio Department of Agriculture. The ultimate reason the fund was created is to protect farmers in the case of grain elevator insolvency.”

The legislation officially went into effect October 10, 90 days after the governor signed the legislation on July 11. All parts of the grain indemnity fund were effective and implemented on October 10, except for the collection of the half-cent per bushel fee.

As a result of the passage of this Senate Bill 66 “Changes to Ag Commodities Warehouse Law,” beginning April 1, 2014, for grain delivered on and after that date, Mercer Landmark will start collecting that ½ cent per bushel for the Ohio Indemnity Fund.

“Ohio farmers deserve to know that when they store grain at a licensed grain elevator that their investment is safe,” said ODA Director David Daniels. “We believe the Ohio Indemnity Fund is a model for other states to follow and these updates only serve to strengthen that model.” This fee will be collected on corn, soybeans and wheat. The collection will be in effect until the ODA issues a notice to stop.

– Don Sockett and Melissa Behr, WVDL; Tom Earlywine, Land O’Lakes

The WVDL is seeing an exceptional number of dairy calves (≤ 6 weeks of age) with no white fat in the coronary groove of the heart, mesentery, and perirenal tissues which is consistent with the calves not receiving enough feed. This problem usually begins in January or February, but emaciated calves began showing up at WVDL in late November 2013. Many of these calves had a prior illness such as calf scours. Demand for nutrients increases during illness; in particular the demand increases for protein, energy and fat-soluble vitamins. These nutrients are needed for maintenance, tissue repair, immune function, and to provide body heat.  Optimizing nutrition of sick calves can make the difference between a dead and a healthy calf.

When the ambient temperature drops to 15 °F, feeding 3 quarts of milk (12.5% total solids) or its equivalent in milk replacer (MR) twice a day will provide an 88 lb. calf with enough nutrition for 0.5-0.75 lbs/hd/day of growth.  However, if the calf is stressed further (draft, wet or dirty hair coat, develops scours, pneumonia etc.) there is insufficient energy and protein in the diet to meet the needs of the calf and it will begin losing weight. Since calves are born with only 3-4% of body weight as fat, they can become emaciated and die if energy balance is negative for > 3-5 days. Since calf scours is a common problem on US dairy operations, winter feeding programs should be formulated to take into account the increased protein and energy demands caused by calf scours. Also, calves should be provided with a jacket and kept in a dry, draft-free environment that is bedded with straw that is deep enough to cover it’s legs when lying down. Calves should be offered a highly palatable calf starter that is high in protein (18-22%) and energy beginning at 2-3 days of age, and have access to free-choice warm water within 30 minutes of being fed milk or MR.

Winter Feeding Program

Since ruminants do not metabolize fat as efficiently as non-ruminants, just providing more fat in the diet is the least satisfactory way of providing additional nutrition to the calf. The diet must have enough energy and protein so the calf can have efficient, lean growth, adequate immune function, and healing of damaged tissue caused by events like scours or pneumonia.

The dairy producer has 3 options available:

  1. Continue to feed the calves 3 quarts of milk or MR twice a day but increase the total solids content from 12.5 to 15%. To avoid problems, producers need to work closely with their dairy calf nutritionist if they choose this option.
  2. Continue feeding the calves twice a day but increase the volume of milk or MR fed per feeding from 3 to 4 quarts.
  3. Feed the calves 3 quarts of milk or MR three times a day instead of twice a day. There should be at least a 13-14 hour interval between the first and third feeding. This is the best option because calves do better when they are fed three times a day instead of twice a day.

By: Brad Miller – Mercer Landmark Agronomist

When you meet with your Mercer Landmark representative to discuss your fertility program you may ask the question ”Am I  under fertilizing or over fertilizing”?   Grid or Soil Zone Sampling is a good way to utilize  fertilizer and not waste money.  It is also a way to help with the watershed issues with all the news about phosphorus run off.  As you will see from the real life example below from our Precision Ag department  this producer was able to save some money on their phosphorus application.

Real life example: 77A Field of corn with a yield goal of 175 Bu./A

Conventional Soil Test Showed Optimum Reading of (45.3 lbs./A)

Recommended Application of 125#/A 11-52-0

Flat Rate Application:

24.4 Acres = Over application $40.63/A wasted

38.0 Acres = Correct Rate

14.6 Acres = Under application 9-15 bu./A lost yield

14.6 Acres                             38.0 Acres                                    24.4 Acres

Soil Test P                          Soil Test P                                    Soil Test P

<30 lbs./A                              30-60 lbs./A                                >60 lbs./A

Below Critical Level             Optimum Level                            Very High

VRT Application:

Averaged 114#/A 11-52-0

  • $975 not wasted fertilizing very high testing acres
  • 14.6A with 9-15 bu. Higher yield potential
  • And this is just on phosphorus!!!

Lawmakers love acronyms – FBI, EPA – so the new farm bill has plenty. Here are the biggies for corn, soybean and wheat farmers.

ARC, or Agriculture Risk Coverage. This is a new revenues program that’s something like a free GRIP insurance at the county level. Except that it is based on a five-year rolling average of national prices and county yields, not one year. This pays on 85% of your base acres. ARC also offers farm-level coverage for all of your crops lumped together and on only 65% of your base.

PLC, or price loss coverage. This is the new target price program that pays when national average prices fall below a reference price. Like ARV, it pays on 85% of your base acres planted to a crop and on your historical yields. But you will have a chance to update yields to 90% of the last five year average.

SCO, or supplemental coverage option. If you sign up for PLC, you will have a chance to buy SCO when you buy your regular crop insurance. It’s similar to ARC, except that it’s based only on one year’s revenues, like a  GRIP insurance policy.(Sorry about another acronym: it stands for Group Risk Income Protection – and that has a new name too, ARPI, or Area Risk Protection Insurance.

Okay, enough with the acronyms. How about some key numbers to remember?

$3.70 a bushel. This is the new reference price for corn up from $2.63 for the old counter-cyclical payment target price. The reference price for soybeans is $8.40 a bushel. For wheat, it’s $6.50. If you pick PLC and prices in the marketing year following harvest fall below the reference price for your crops you will get a payment.

86%-7%. That’s the payment window for ARC. If revenue falls below the benchmark of national average prices and yields (either county or on-farm), it has to fall below 86% of the benchmark to trigger payments. It won’t pay below 76%, so it’s a shallow loss program. Any revenue losses below that would have to come from revenue insurance crop insurance or out of pocket.

Visit your local FSA office: To prepare to get base and yield information on your farms if you don’t remember it. And to prepare for conservation compliance now required for crop insurance. If you’ve been getting direct payments you are probably in compliance. If you are in doubt, ask FSA for your farm records folder to see if any fields on your farm are classified as highly erodible by NRCS.

Check with your land grant university farm management extension staff to see when they will be holding meetings on the new farm bill and ask about online decision making tools. Meeting and tools should help you decide whether or not to re-allocate crop acres in your base, whether or not to update yields, to pick ARC or PLC and if in PLC whether to buy SCO or higher levels of revenue insurance.

Grain stocks were reported lower in February due to a strong rise in exports for corn, soybeans, and wheat, according to the USDA. U.S. corn ending stocks for 2013 were lowered by 150 million bushels, more than analysts expected, due to the strong foreign demand. Soybean ending stocks were unchanged and the USDA continues to set the floor for stocks at 150 million bushels.


U.S. corn ending stocks were projected 150 million bushels lower due to increased exports. Lower corn prices have made U.S. corn more attractive to foreign buyers. The season-average farm price for corn was raised 10 cents on both ends of the projected range to $4.20 to $4.80 per bushel.

Global corn production was not changed due to lower reports in Argentina and Russia that were offset by increases reported in Ukraine. Coarse grain supplies were projected 2.1 million tons higher for 2013/14 due to higher beginning stocks and production. Global consumption was also raised 5 million tons with higher corn feeding for the European Union, Canada, South Korea, and Egypt.

U.S. Ending Stocks (Million Bushels) 2013/14

Grain February 2014 Average Estimates January 2014
Corn 1,481 1,606 1,631
Soybeans 150 143 150


U.S. soybean supplies for 2013/14 were increased by 5 million bushels to 3.46 billion bushels due to higher projected imports. Soybean exports for 2013/14 were projected at 1.51 billion bushels, up 15 million from last month reflecting the record pace of shipments and sales through January.

Projected ending stocks for 2013/14 soybeans were unchanged at 150 million bushels as increased exports were offset by a reduction in residual use and an increase in imports. The 2013/14 season-average price range was projected at $11.95 to $13.45, up 20 cents on both ends.

Global soybean production was raised 0.9 million tons to a record 287.7 million.  Soybean production for Brazil was increased 1 million from last month to a record 90 million tons due to higher yields reflecting higher early harvest results in the center-west.


U.S. wheat ending stocks for 2013/14 were projected 50 million bushels lower due to higher expected food use and exports. Imports were raised 10 million bushels as railroad congestion and inclement weather slow Canadian wheat shipments to Pacific Coast terminals, encouraging additional shipments to the U.S. market.

Exports were projected 50 million bushels higher due to strong sales and shipments and reduced competition from Argentina. The season-average farm price for all wheat was narrowed 5 cents on both ends of the projected range to $6.65 to $6.95 per bushel.

Global wheat supplies for 2013/14 were lowered 1.1 million tons with lower beginning stocks for Argentina and Russia and a 0.8-million-ton reduction in world production.


Exports were the headline in today’s WASDE report and will be the main focus throughout the 2014 season. Record setting production out of areas like the U.S. and South America have put pressure on prices, but it has been met with continued demand worldwide.

By: Amy Battles – Mercer Landmark Agronomist

Unfortunately this is a common sight in Northwest Ohio during May and June. Pythium, and Phytophthora root rot are common concerns for growers planting into poorly drained soils, no-till, continuous soybean, or corn/soybean rotations. One key step we have taken to prevent these diseases from wiping out our soybean fields is through seed treatments, which have allowed growers to plant earlier with confidence, and have statistically shown to improve yield.

However, all seed treatments are created equal, and we still encounter multiple cases of Pythium and Phytophthora even in fields where seed treatments have been used. The key when choosing a seed treatment is to get the highest rate of metalaxyl or mefenoxam possible. Metalaxyl and mefenoxam are fungicides used in controlling these two diseases.

Metalaxyl is produced by numerous companies and is applied at rates ranging from 0.2(low) – 1.5(high) fluid ounces per hundredweight, while mefenoxam is applied at rates ranging from 0.16(low) – 0.64(high) fluid ounces per hundredweight. Mefenoxam is produced solely by Syngenta and is a concentrated form of methalaxyl, allowing for a lower rate, as well as offering higher disease control and a longer residual. This being said, a seed treatment containing mefenoxam at 0.64 fl oz per hundredweight would provide Ohio farmers with the best Pythium and Phytophthora control on the market.
The chart below is a breakdown of popular seed treatments available on the market, comparing the rates of mefenoxam and metalaxyl used.

As you can see some seed treatments offer an extremely low rate of metalaxyl, offering no protection against early season diseases, and others are only providing “Good” control. Make sure you ask your seed dealer what rates are standard in their treatments.

Mercer Landmark is now offering growers a premium seed treatment called Warden CX, providing growers with the absolute best Phytophthora and Pythium protection available on the market, which can be applied to any brand of soybeans purchased from your local Mercer Landmark Agronomy Sales Rep. Don’t risk having to replant your soybeans this coming year, protect your seeds from the start. Talk with your local Mercer Landmark representative about treating your soybeans with Warden CX.