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Bean contract prices and acres are expected to be down this year. Unfortunately, commodity prices in general are following that same trend, and a sense of caution and conservation have been the norm at meetings.

A common saying in agriculture is, “Next year will be better.” Based on several efforts in the bean industry, that statement can be made with confidence.

Bean checkoff

After two quarters, the Wyoming Dry Bean Checkoff has generated about $31,000. Those dollars were generated when beans were sold, with a very small portion of the settlement of the beans going to the checkoff. Looking at the last several years' dry bean crop and settlement prices, the checkoff should generate about $150,000 a year – money that can fund research to answer important, current producer questions such as efficient and economical use of fertilizers, weed control and testing new genetics.

In a recent meeting with USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) staff, the reduction of fertilizer leaching below the crop-rooting zone was identified as a focus of their efforts and one of the goals of cover crops.

Alternate methods of applying nitrogen, the timing of the application or more detailed fertilizer recommendations based on soil properties and irrigation methods could mean growers spend less on fertilizer while addressing the concerns for fertilizer “loss.”

Speaking of irrigation, new center pivots go in every year, and growing crops under pivots is not the same as growing them on furrow irrigation. Water timing and amounts are different, as are the diseases that can occur with regular wetting of the plant and increased humidity in the crop canopy. Without belaboring the point, there really is no end to current, practical questions that can be addressed with these funds.

Wyoming Bean Commission

The Wyoming Bean Commission is made up of four producers and two handlers. Beau Fulton, a producer near Powell, is the chairman, and Lynn Preator, owner and operator of Preator Bean in Burlington, is vice chair. Pascual Aguilar, a producer in Big Horn County, Wayne Hort, a producer from Goshen County, Jerrod Lind, a Platte County producer, and Jeffery Chapman, a handler in Goshen County, are also members of the Commission.

The group has met twice, with the first meeting consisting mainly of housekeeping items.

The second meeting was held on Jan. 14, and that was where things started to get interesting. Ted Craig with the Wyoming Department of Agriculture shared specialty crop grant opportunities. Bret Hess, director of the University of Wyoming (UW) Ag Experiment Station, noted that University of Wyoming researchers with qualifying research grants could receive matching funds from the Ag Experiment Station.

While $31,000 really isn’t enough to start any research projects this summer, the fact that future research dollars can be “multiplied” through other sources means that funding research can be a partnership between the Bean Commission and others.

The group also heard about work already being done by UW researchers, such as Dr. Andrew Kniss’s work on direct harvest of dry beans, Dr. Bill Stump’s work on fungicides and Dr. Jim Heitholt’s work on variety testing and water needs.

Hank Uhden reported that the Nebraska Bean Commission has reached out to the Commission and will be invited to attend the next Wyoming Bean Commisison meeting to discuss possible future research and ways the two commissions can work on common goals.

Several Wyoming Bean Commissioners also met informally about three weeks later at the Wyoming Crop Improvement Association meeting to further discuss research options for the coming growing season and in the near future. Wyoming Bean Commission meetings are open to the public, and interested parties are encouraged to attend. The Commission’s Facebook page has more information, and a website is under development. It will include important documents, such as checkoff remittance forms, refund request forms, meeting minutes and upcoming meeting announcements.

Rocky Mountain Regional Dry Bean Consortium

The Rocky Mountain Regional Dry Bean Consortium (RMRDBC) has been working hard for two and a half years, exploring the possibility of the university-based agricultural experiment stations, bean commissions and bean industries of multiple states to cooperatively use financial and staff resources to further the dry bean industry.

Plant breeding is expensive, especially so when the latest technology is used, and having staff and equipment in each state to have a full-blown breeding, testing, fertility, pathology and agronomy research program in several neighboring states was becoming impossible to fund. Over time, Idaho, Colorado and Wyoming have begun developing relationships to the point that formal documents are being developed that will allow the RMRDBC, more commonly known as the Bean Consortium, to develop and own bean varieties and apply for research grants.

The Bean Consortium has already applied for a multistate grant and, if successful, would have funding to address the needs sated above. This may not seem like a big deal, but it really is as universities have not, in the past, worked together at this level.

Consider a breeding program that has the equipment that can identify a DNA segment that contains an important trait, such as slow fertilizer use efficiency. They can test the seeds generated from crosses and only test the varieties known to have the trait, reducing the number of lines that are grown for further testing by over 75 percent. Then, the “winning” varieties can be shared with neighboring states, which would subject those lines for further testing for agronomic, disease, yield and end use quality. The end result will logically be to release varieties that do well in many environments or to release varieties that do well in specific locations that would otherwise be lost for lack of testing in those environments.

Crop Research Foundation of Wyoming

Crop Research Foundation of Wyoming (CRFW) has been in existence for several years. It is the entity behind the release of Cowboy winter wheat, which is quickly becoming one of the main varieties planted in southeast Wyoming.

CRFW is not a breeding program, but they do fund variety testing. In the case of Cowboy, which was developed by Colorado State University wheat breeder Scott Haley, it would not have been released by Colorado State University (CSU) based on testing in Colorado, but it did exceptionally well in the Wyoming environment, and CRFW worked with CSU via a release agreement to give Wyoming growers access to Cowboy. The release agreement would not have happened without the CRFW. The agreement generates funds for the CRFW and the CSU breeding program, allowing the former to continue testing lines from other breeding programs in the Wyoming environment and funds to the breeding program so they can continue their efforts.

A cooperative release with a solid stem winter wheat is currently in the mill for a Montana line, so this is no flash in the pan. CRFW has worked entirely on wheat so far, but they recently met with the Wyoming Bean Commission and the Bean Consortium in recognition that what worked with one crop, can work with beans.

Take-home message

Similar to being in a dust devil with several entities all interacting and working toward similar and common goals, it is hard to keep track of who is doing what and why. To boil it down to the simplest form, there are several entities working together to do what will be cutting edge work in dry beans.

I am grateful to the people who were humble enough to reach out to others and work together, such as the ag experiment stations, bean commissions and industry leaders from the Bean Consortium partners. These are entities that have been competing for many years and are now partnering for the good of the industry.

Specific to Wyoming, I am grateful to the six people who are donating their time and talents to the fledgling Wyoming Bean Commission. I am grateful to CRFW that has reached out to the Bean Commission, showing them that there is a vehicle for releasing varieties in Wyoming not only to the benefit of current growers but also by generating funds for future work.

I appreciate the work UW researchers are currently doing to support the bean industry and look forward to much, much more. Beans are definitely on the front burner, and at a full rolling boil. I expect some awesome things to come from these efforts.

Both “probably” and “possibly” are very ambiguous adverbs in the English dictionary. Neither word is definitive, and they may not trigger much of a reaction from an audience. Yet at other times, both words can erroneously be construed as conclusive and decisive.

A great example of this is when Tom Brady of the New England Patriots was suspended for deflating footballs. The NFL disciplined the New England Patriots based on a report that stated it was “more probable than not” that they were aware of the rules infraction. Obviously it was not an overwhelming preponderance of evidence against the Patriots, and the lack of conclusive evidence was a factor in the court’s decision to vacate Tom Brady’s suspension. Yet, still in the minds of most critics, the Patriots cheated.

Recently, these adverbs have been a topic of discussion in weed management. This past spring, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a branch of the World Health Organization (WHO), categorized glyphosate, commonly referred to as Roundup, as a Group 2A carcinogen. To the IARC this classification means glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans.” This was followed by the IARC re-evaluation and confirmation of their 1987 decision to categorize the herbicide 2,4-dicholorphenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) as a Group 2B carcinogen, meaning the IARC believes 2,4-D is “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”

These classifications can be rather concerning to Wyoming agriculture. Both glyphosate and 2,4-D play a critical role in the management of noxious weeds in crops and rangelands. Of all herbicides, glyphosate currently has the highest global production volume. For Wyoming weed and pest control districts, glyphosate plays a critical role in noxious weed programs, including early spring applications to cheatgrass.

Like glyphosate, 2,4-D has also been a reliable tool in most weed management toolboxes. Since its introduction as a herbicide in 1945, it quickly became the primary herbicide for agricultural and residential weed control. Along with glyphosate, weed and pest control districts still utilize 2,4-D on broadleaf and annual weeds.

Therefore, maybe we should simply be happy the IARC did not label either herbicide in Group 1 – Carcinogenic to Humans. Group 1 agents include the likes of asbestos, arsenic and plutonium, in addition to processed meats, boot and shoe repair and the manufacturing of wooden furniture. Alternatively, it’s unfortunate that neither herbicide was categorized in Group 3 – Not Classifiable as to its Carcinogenicity to Humans, or better yet under Group 4 – Probably Not Carcinogenic to Humans, where the compound caprolactam has the dubious honor of being the only agent the IARC can definitively say “probably not” a carcinogen.

Group 2A – Probably Carcinogenic to Humans and Group 2B – Possibly Carcinogenic to Humans seem rather redundant, given both seem to be inconclusive. To clarify the difference between the two categories, when IARC labeled glyphosate as 2A – Probably Carginogenic they based the decision on “limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans and sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals.” Compare this to 2,4-D, which they labeled as a 2B – Possibly Carcinogenic due to “inadequate evidence in humans and limited evidence in experimental animals.”

Maybe to get an even better understanding of the differences between Group 2A – Probably Carginogenic and Group 2B – Possibly Carginogenic, we should look at examples of other agents categorized in each group.

Group 2A – Probably Carginogenic includes the insecticides diazinon and malathion, but it also includes red meat, the occupational exposures of a hairdresser and shift work that involves circadian disruption. Therefore, non-vegetarian barbers who work a nightshift are probably exposing themselves to multiple carcinogens. As for Group 2B – Possibly Carginogenic, the pesticides DDT and chlordane are listed, in addition to coffee, pickled vegetables, electromagnetic fields associated with cell phones and carpentry.

Maybe we should narrow our focus on the IARC findings concerning glyphosate and 2,4-D. However, it should be noted the IARC doesn’t do the research in their analysis. Instead they rely on previously published literature. According to the IARC press release for glyphosate, their primary defense of the 2B – Probable categorization was “limited” evidence of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in humans and convincing evidence it causes cancer in laboratory animals. For 2,4-D, their review determined “inadequate” evidence of a carcinogen in humans and “limited” evidence in laboratory animals.

As it relates to glyphosate, the scientific community has found the data used by IARC to make these assertions concerning. The Academics Review, a group of experts from around the world who separate falsehoods from peer-reviewed science, gave the IARC report on glyphosate an “F.” Of particular note to them was the IARC’s utilization of the discredited and controversial Gilles-Eric Seralini study that ties genetically modified corn to a high incidence of cancer. The Seranlini study was initially published in Food and Chemical Toxicology, only to have the publication’s editor expunge it from their database due to overwhelming scrutiny from the scientific community. A published review of the Seranlini study in the Transgenic Review went as far as to say, “The study appeared to sweep aside all known benchmarks of scientific good practice and, more importantly, to ignore the minimal standards of scientific and ethical conduct…”

Additionally, the Academics Review graded the IARC poorly for not considering glyphosate at doses consumers would normally be exposed. As explained by Henry Miller, contributor to Forbes magazine, in his assessment of the IARC analysis, “As with common chemicals like sugar, salt and water, and foods like nutmeg and licorice, glyphosate at very high doses is capable of causing harm to humans. That’s what the IARC ‘2A’ essentially means.”

In other words, as Miller explained, “IARC bases its conclusion on potential hazard rather than the actual risk of harm.” This method of analysis is completely opposite of what regulatory agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), use when completing their risk assessments of pesticides.

In fact, the EPA and other regulating bodies, such as the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), have done thorough reviews of the carcinogenic hazard associated with glyphosate. The EPA concluded that current research “does not provide evidence to show that glyphosate causes cancer.” EFSA, which has more stringent standards than the EPA, concluded glyphosate was unlikely to pose a carcinogenic threat to humans.

The same can be said concerning 2,4-D. In 2008 Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency conducted what is considered the most thorough evaluation of 2,4-D data and concluded, “…2,4-D does not increase the risk of cancer and can be used safely by homeowners, provided label directions are followed.” An EPA review of 2,4-D concluded there was no epidemiological evidence to link 2,4-D as a cause of cancer. That is fairly conclusive, especially since 2,4-D has been the most extensively researched pesticide since its introduction.

With as much ambiguity and conjecture involved in the IARC classifications, its unfortunate the amount of credence given to it by agenda-driven individuals and groups. In fact, much like Tom Brady cynics, some of the groups are determined to take ambiguity out of “probably” and “possibly” and make these adverbs more definitive, like “absolute” or “irrefutable.” Internet petitions to ban the use of glyphosate have popped up citing the IARC classification as justification. California has moved to label glyphosate as a carcinogen under the state’s Proposition 65, which requires the state to identify known carcinogenic chemicals including all agents identified by IARC. Within six months of the IARC press release, at least two lawsuits were filed against Monsanto blaming the manufacturer for cancer related to glyphosate exposure.

Not long ago, while visiting family in Montana, my wife and I took a walk through my sister-in-law’s pasture. The pasture follows the Bitterroot River and abuts a small housing development. Being the good neighbors they are, my wife’s sister and her husband allow the neighborhood to access the river for fishing by walking through their pasture.

On this particular day, my wife and I met one of those neighbors. She had just picked a weed in the field and asked us if we knew anything about it. I quickly replied that it was wild licorice and, without hesitation, started naming off potential herbicide treatments, including 2,4-D. She responded with a disgusted look and informed me she was on a regional board for a coalition opposed to the use of pesticides. She then proceeded to lecture me on how the World Health Organization has branded 2,4-D as a carcinogen and that their findings conclusively proved what her coalition has known all along. Based on this new evidence she believed a ban of 2,4-D in the United States was a matter of time. For my sister-in-law’s sake, in addition to recognizing the stern look from my wife, I chose not to question her understanding of the IARC report. As she walked away I couldn’t help but wonder if she possibly had an opinion on deflated footballs, cell phones and pickles – and whatever it is, it would probably be very fascinating.

By Brook Brockman, Wyoming Department of Agriculture Program and Promotions Coordinator

Three years ago, Wheatland Middle School (WMS) Principal Steve Loyd began a journey toward hands-on education about agriculture by forming a partnership with the Wyoming Department of Agriculture (WDA) through the Specialty Crops Grant Programs.

The project started when Principal Loyd wanted more ways to utilize some of the large, grassy, unused areas that were continually watered and mowed at the school. Mr. Loyd submitted a proposal to WDA and received a WDA grant to erect a hoop house or high tunnel at WMS. The hoop house would not only reduce unused lawn space, it would also provide a structure for teachers to provide hands-on lessons about the agriculture production process for students.

With the plans in order, construction began with aid from University of Wyoming Extension, WDA, members of the Wheatland Master Gardeners and WMS students and teachers. Within three days, the initial 20-foot by 48-foot structure was complete. Since then, additional venting aids were added, including a solar operated fan and two temperature-controlled vents, which expanded learning opportunities.

Over the summer months, the Wheatland Master Gardeners and WMS teachers utilized the space as a community garden, and when students returned in the fall, the fun began. WMS science, math, consumer science and shop teachers began incorporating the hoop house into their curriculum. With a strong emphasis for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) curriculum, the hoop house provided a great opportunity for hands-on learning. For example, shop students aided in the completion of the raised beds, and the consumer science classes utilized tomatoes from the hoop house to make salsa.

With progression of time, the hoop house provided an unexpected benefit to WMS. Teachers found the hoop house provided a soothing and secure environment allowing students to focus and learn. For some students with different learning styles, the hoop house provided a new classroom environment that met their learning needs. While the hoop house provided multiple learning experiences, students and teachers also enjoyed working with their hands and seeing a project from start to finish and being able to repeat the cycle. Along with this, there has been more use by incorporating a hydroponics section for growing.

Following up with Mr. Loyd, WDA found that less than 10 percent of WMS students had ever been directly involved with growing, gardening or utilizing plants and soils for education. At the end of the first school year, Mr. Loyd reported that 100 percent of the students had direct exposure to learning through the hoop house with plans to continue building and offering more opportunities!

The hoop house was a hit with the students, and one mother reported, “My son was excited to return to school in the fall. Usually he does not want summer vacation to end, but this year, he couldn’t wait to return to school and see how the potatoes the students had planted in the spring before school let out had progressed. Thank you for giving them this opportunity.”

Along with the hoop house program, WDA and the Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) secured a small grant opportunity to provide schools with vertical growing hydroponics classroom units. The units expanded the hoop house concept to the classroom and allowed for more opportunities for education. WMS received two of the units and have been able to compare the vertical growing hydroponics system with the traditional methods used in the hoop house.

For more information on these opportunities, contact the Wyoming Department of Agriculture to learn more about our Specialty Crops Grants Program and Farm to Plate (School) program. More information on these programs can also be found online at agriculture.wy.gov or wyfarm2plate.org.

By Doug Miyamoto, Wyoming Department of Agriculture Director

Welcome to the 103rd Wyoming State Fair!

The Wyoming State Fair is upon us once again, and I want to start by welcoming everyone to Douglas for the 103rd Wyoming State Fair. I am especially excited for this year’s event because this is my first fair as Director of the Wyoming Department of Agriculture.

The Wyoming State Fair started as a showcase for the agricultural products of the state, and I’m proud to say that we have maintained that focus throughout the history of the fair. Along with this agriculture focus, we have added some other great activities for the citizens of Wyoming along the way. We work hard on providing citizens of our great state with affordable, fun and educational experiences and entertainment while maintaining the culture, heritage and youth competition that makes the Wyoming State Fair great.

The Wyoming State Fair staff and numerous others are dedicated to making the 103rd celebration a great event for those who attend. Countless hours have been spent planning the event and preparing the grounds for the best possible experience at the Wyoming State Fair. This year’s theme is “Let the Good Times Roll,” and we are confident you will have a good time at this year’s event. In the grandstands, you can see the Demolition Derby, the State Ranch Rodeo Finals, three incredible concerts and our two PRCA events that always provide great rodeo action at an affordable cost.

While the Grandstand activities offer a wide variety of entertainment, they aren’t the only thing to enjoy at the Wyoming State Fair. Take some time to walk down the Midway to sample the great food, browse the trade show booths and enjoy a wide variety of free entertainment.

Above all, take this chance to visit the barns and exhibits to learn about Wyoming agriculture. The Wyoming State Fair gives youth and residents from around the state an opportunity to educate, learn and showcase their quality animals and exhibits. It also gives everyone who attends a chance to spend time with others from around the state to reconnect, share ideas and create new friendships. From young to old, there is something here for everyone in the family.

Finally, I hope you have the chance to enjoy the grounds in general. We have worked hard to continually improve the State Fair facilities and grounds since the first Wyoming State Fair in 1905. Multiple upgrades and renovations have been made over the last several years to the Wyoming State Fairgrounds to provide the backdrop you all see today. These renovations have provided more functionality and events during the Fair, and throughout the year. We are proud of the grounds and their continued improvement, and I hope you will be, too.

A lot of hard work and effort has been put into this event and these grounds and I am confident you will all have a great time. I look forward to seeing you all at the 103rd Wyoming State Fair this year!