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    Because Midwest cornfields look more like lakes than farms this month, the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) may support a waiver to the ethanol mandate as outlined in the Energy Policy Act.
    On April 25 Texas Governor Rick Perry requested the Environmental Protection Agency waive a portion of the Energy Policy Act containing the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which mandates production of ethanol derived from grain. Perry called for a 50 percent waiver of the RFS.
    NCGA President Ron Litterer of Greene, Iowa says if severe economic impact results from a short supply of corn this year, then farmers would support a temporary waiver to the RFS. However, he still sees potential in this year’s crop and NCGA does not support the Texas waiver request, which EPA must rule on by July 25.
    Biofuels opponents have not gained much ground with Congress and the EPA. A change to the RFS would be granted in concurrence with the Department of Energy and the Department of Agriculture (USDA), and so far the Department of Energy has expressed unwavering support for the RFS.
    On June 12 Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey said initial estimates from the Farm Service Administration indicate nine percent of Iowa’s corn crop has been lost to either prevented plantings or flooding. Twenty percent of soybeans were lost, although there’s still time to replant that crop.
    Allendale Inc. broker/analyst John Kleist of McHenry, Ill. says producers still have a window of opportunity for soybeans if wet weather subsides and farmers can get back in the fields.
    Iowa experienced a 100-year flood in 1993, and this spring’s flooding compares. “In 1993 record rainfall reached well into the summer months and severely affected the crop that year,” says Litterer, adding that is not the long-term forecast for 2008. “There’s still a lot of the growing season left, so we are hopeful the final results will not be as devastating as 15 years ago.”
    He says the USDA recently projected the third-largest crop ever at more than 11.7 billion bushels. “We know the final number depends on how the weather holds,” he says.
    USDA has lowered its expected yield by five bushels per acre to 148.9, which is a significant reduction from earlier this spring.
    American Farm Bureau Federation Energy Specialist Anne Steckel says the situation would have to be extremely short to grant the waiver under current law. “For them to initiate that waiver, they would have to prove severe economic harm to the economy or the environment. Or, obviously if we don’t have the domestic supply to meet the requirement.”
    University of Illinois ag economist Darrel Good says it’s not clear how much rationing will be required during the 2008-2009 marketing year. “Historically, much of the reduced consumption in years of tight supplies and high prices came in the domestic feed and residual category,” he says, comparing the next marketing years to 1980, 1983, 1993, 1995, 2002 and 2006 – years in which feed and residual use declined by an average of 11 percent from use throughout the previous marketing year.
    Good says the current USDA projections for consumption of U.S. corn next year are consistent with historical patterns. “Feed and residual use are projected to decline by 16.3 percent, while exports are expected to decline by 21.2 percent,” he says.
    According to Good, domestic consumption of corn for ethanol is expected to increase by one billion bushels (33 percent) while corn use for all other food and industrial uses is expected to equal the current marketing year.
    Good says a fair amount of crop loss and demand rationing are already priced into the corn market with Dec. 2008 futures approaching eight dollars. “The worst of the crop stress may have passed and more favorable growing conditions are forecast,” he says. “Corn prices may now moderate somewhat, at least until more is known about crop size.”
    “Thanks to a large surplus of beginning stocks from the record 2007 harvest, we came in with a good supply,” notes Litterer of this year’s corn reserves. “We’re watching the skies at home and tracking the updates from Washington while working hard doing what we do best – growing corn to help feed and fuel the world.”
    EPA continues to accept comments on the Texas waiver request; for more information visit Article compiled by Christy Hemken for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup from press releases and federal agency information.

New varieties of corn bred to tolerate drought conditions are available commercially this spring from some of the country’s top seed companies.
Pioneer Hi-Bred has developed a seed known as Optimum AQUAmax that is said to increase yields by five percent on average when water is short. The new product has been developed through conventional breeding, as opposed to genetic engineering, so it wasn’t subject to government approval before release.
Syngenta’s new drought-tolerant corn seed is said to reduce yield loss in dry fields by 15 percent. The Agrisure Artesian seed, available on a limited basis to the western Plains states this season, mainly western Kansas, Nebraska and eastern Colorado, is also touted to maintain parity with other seeds when moisture is ideal.
Syngenta says that, with Agrisure Artesian technology, western corn belt growers can use moisture more efficiently, resulting in higher yields on water-stressed acres, including both dryland and limited-irrigation farms. In addition, hybrids with Agrisure Artesian technology have demonstrated no yield drag under favorable growing conditions.
“Syngenta’s unique multiple modes of action approach allows the plant to yield more under water stress conditions throughout the growing season. Plant performance is enhanced regardless of which stage of development the plant is in when water stress occurs,” continues the company.
This spring the Pioneer seed is available in limited quantities to Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska and Texas – states where field evaluations have already been carried out, and where annual rainfall is barely half to one-third that of Iowa and the eastern corn belt. Since 2008, Optimum AQUAmax hybrids have been tested in 220-plus water-limited efficiency trials. The 2011 releases include five hybrids in a variety of maturity groups and technology packages.
“Pioneer will expand availability of AQUAmax hybrids for water-stressed environments in future years. I can’t pinpoint the exact year Wyoming growers will be able to purchase these products, but it should be soon,” says Pioneer spokesman Jerry Harrington.
Goshen County Pioneer seed dealer Lon Eisenbarth says he expects the AQUAmax hybrids to be available in Wyoming within the next couple years.
“At this point, we’re waiting on some shorter growing season varieties. Some that we’re growing this year just over the state line in Nebraska are just over the threshold of 90 to 100 days,” he says, adding that he thinks the drought-tolerant varieties could add as many as 20 bushels per acre in areas with marginal water supplies.
James C. Hageman Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension Center (SAREC) manager Bob Baumgartner says the Lingle center has one corn variety trial for this season, but the entries are on a coded basis and he’s not sure if it includes any drought-tolerant varieties. He says another potential trial through a seed company could have one or two lines of drought-tolerant varieties.
“Drought-tolerant corn is bred and selected for higher drought tolerance, and I feel like it could definitely benefit producers in Wyoming who have a limited irrigation setting and may not have a full allocation of water or may have a limited application time,” says Baumgartner. “I definitely think producers would adopt it. It’s somewhat of an insurance against the elements.”
In addition to Optimum AQUAmax, Pioneer also is working on a biotech variety, but it won’t be ready until the middle of the decade at the earliest, says the company. According to Pioneer senior research manager Jeff Schussler, new drought tolerant transgenic hybrids promise a 10 to 15 bushel improvement in yield.
Syngenta is also pursuing a genetically modified seed, which is in early development, says Robert Bensen, the company’s Trait Genetics Lead.
Monsanto Co., another dominant U.S. seed producer, is not introducing a competing drought-tolerant product in 2011, but the company has said it will be the first on the market with a genetically modified drought-tolerant seed. It could begin field trials in 2012, a spokeswoman said.
Christy Martinez is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

In a July 3 2018 Crop Outlook report from Purdue University’s Center for Commercial Agriculture, Chris  Hurt, a professor in Purdue’s Department of Agricultural Economics, said recent USDA reports were largely consistent with expectations. 

On the yield front, Hurt said corn has increased while soybean and wheat crops are steady. 

“We’re up by about 43 million bushels, but that’s not really much,” he said. “There is a slight tone of bearishness, but I think most people in the trade would not this is note much of a change.”

Soybeans and wheat were neutral, which means that markets are largely unaffected as reports aligned with expectations.

However, acreage predictions showed some surprises. 

“We saw about 760,000 corn acres. That's what the trade had been expecting. It’s a touch bearish. Soybeans are a neutral, with acreage just a bit below expectations,” Hurt explained. “We also saw more wheat acreage, and spring wheat acreage was up by 790,000 acres. Strong prices encouraged more spring wheat, which is part of the reason why we got more acreage. This is a little bearish for wheat.” 

Overall, soybean acres topped corn acres, with 89.6 million acres planted to soybeans compared to 89.1 million acres in corn.

“Since 2012, the push has been to move towards soybeans, and this has been a strong movement,” he said. “This has implications as we look towards next year and potential tariffs on soybeans.”

Hurt noted tariffs may influence a shift back to corn from soybeans, but the actual impact is yet to be determined as trade talks continue. 

Overall, approximately 3 million more acres have been planted since last year. Of that, 1.1 million is in corn, 0.6 million in beans and 0.5 in wheat. 

“With more corn acres, we’re also seeing better yields, which is not necessarily what we wanted to see for prices,” Hurt said. “We’re seeing more acres and more yield this year.” 

Price decline

A recent decline in corn prices is a two-fold issue – impressive yield and uncertainty surrounding tariffs.

“The yield USDA is using is 174 bushels, which is not an evaluation for this year but a trend yield,” Hurt said, who noted crop ratings suggest yield will be up to 178.6 bushels per acre, which is up from USDA estimates. 

The same is true for soybeans, though the increase is not as substantial in yields. 

“This is a good crop at this point according to USDA weekly crop ratings,” Hurt commented. “As we look at ratings towards the end of September, those are significantly related to yield. The July 4 ratings have been shown to be 80-plus percent correlated with final yields.” 

Weather forecast

Because of the impact weather also plays in crop conditions, Hurt says conditions are in the 85th to 90th percentile for crop conditions. 

“As we might guess, we’ve tended to run higher temperatures in recent years, and National Weather Service continues to suggest we’ll have higher temperatures in the Midwest,” Hurt explained. “In much of the Corn Belt, we have an equal chance of above, below or near normal precipitation. National Weather Service can’t see anything to make the call of an above- or below-normal prediction.” 

“We have above normal temperatures, rain in the next week and drying in the Corn Belt,” he said. “The whole period doesn’t suggest we’ll get a hot, dry period that gets the crop into trouble. We can’t count on a recovery in price as a result of weather stress.”

While some areas experienced too much rain and others are a little dry, Hurt said, “There’s no reason to believe this won’t be a high-yielding crop.”

Ending stocks

In 2017 and 2018, ending stocks on corn have tightened. 

“The anticipation that we had started to reduce inventories in 2017 had people believing 2018 was going to be the turn-around for farm prices,” Hurt said. “However, we’ll go from 10.8 percent stock-to-use to 13.2 percent. Some of the bullishness that we were going to turn the corner for corn has taken away from the potential.”

Soybeans saw the same trend, with an increase in ending stocks from 8.7 percent to 10.8 percent. 

December corn futures ranged from a high of $4.30 in late May to a low of $3.58 on June 26. 

“We’ll watch the market closely to see if we bounce off this low,” Hurt commented. “The weather in the next few weeks will test whether we found the low, and we also have implications from tariffs. Right now, we don’t think tariffs will take corn prices substantially lower.”

Hurt added, “There are fundamental reasons for price declines in corn and soybean markets, but there’s also uncertainty that arises from tariffs and our exports.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

As feed supplies continue to diminish, cattle producers may want to look at drought-stricken corn to fill some of their supplemental feeding needs. However, corn suffering from the drought may have higher nitrate levels, so University of Nebraska Beef Specialist Rick Rasby recommends taking samples of the final product to make sure its safe to feed.
    During a presentation earlier this week, Rasby discussed options for harvesting droughted-out corn from putting it up as silage, harvesting it for hay, green chopping it or even grazing it. No matter which way corn is harvested, producers should test the corn for nitrates and make sure they understand the results when they come back from the laboratory.
Corn options
    If possible, Rasby said the best way to utilize drought-stricken corn as forage is to have it put up as silage. The corn will need to be 35 percent dry matter and 65 percent moisture to pack well and ferment properly.
    “If it’s too wet, it will seep,” Rasby said. “If it’s too dry, it will be fluffy and not pack well.”
    He recommended the chopper head be set four to eight inches off the ground to avoid the bottom of the stalk, where the highest level of nitrates are located. During the fermentation process, research has shown nitrates to reduce by 30 to 60 percent, so some producers don’t set the chopper head higher because of that reduction.
    “You still want to put it up right,” Rasby said. “When you open up the pile, I would recommend testing it for quality and nitrates before feeding it.”
 “Silage is still the best option for droughted-out cornfields, because it will reduce the nitrates in the corn,” he added.
    Another alternative is to green chop the corn, but Rasby recommends feeding it right away.
    “It may be best to feed it in the morning, so you can watch the cattle,” he said.
    If the corn heats up in a pile during the day, the nitrates can turn into nitrites, which are 10 times more toxic to cattle.
Corn for hay and grazing
    For some producers, harvesting droughted-out corn isn’t an option, but they may be able to put it up as hay. Putting up corn as hay can be a challenge, Rasby said, but it is possible.
    During swathing, he recommends producers crimp the hay to help with the dry-down process. He also encourages producers to set the swather head at least eight inches off the ground to avoid the nitrates in the bottom of the stalk. Then, make sure the corn is dried down properly before it is baled, so the bale doesn’t heat up and mold.
    “You want to do it right, so you have a good final product,” he explained.
    Grazing droughted corn is also an option, but more management will be needed to keep the cattle safe. Rasby said the field should be divided into smaller areas with electric fence so there is only enough grazing for a few days. This will prevent a valuable feed source from being trampled, he explained.
    Ranchers also need to make sure the cattle are full before they are turned into the field for the first time. Limit the amount of time the cattle are allowed to graze until they adjust to grazing the field. Acidosis and foundering can be concerns if the corn has ears and the ears are filling, he said.     
    It is also important to provide the cattle with plenty of water and move them before they start eating the base of the stalks to manage nitrate concerns, he added.
Alternative forages
    Stockmen can also graze droughted-out summer forages like millet, sudangrass, oats and field peas. Rasby said grazing summer annuals is similar to grazing droughted-out corn. Producers will want to make sure the cattle are full before turning them out, and limit how much they eat until they adjust to it.
    He also encourages producers to resist grazing the base of the stalks to avoid nitrate problems, and make sure the plants are 18 to 24 inches tall to avoid problems with prussic acid. Rasby said field wilting can decrease prussic acid 50 to 70 percent, but levels can increase in new growth and after a rain.
    Anhydrous can be added to low quality forages like wheat or oat straw or cornstalks to improve digestibility 10 percent and intake by 15 to 20 percent. The forage must be covered and sealed, and anhydrous can then be piped into the bales at three percent of the total weight of the straw. Rasby said the outdoor temperature will determine how long the pile will need to be covered.
Secure winter feed supplies now
    Producers should be taking inventory of feeds they have available and purchasing any additional supplies they may need sooner rather than later, Rasby recommended. Supplies are diminishing daily, and prices are increasing on any available supplies, he added.
    He also suggested producers find ways to feed as efficiently as possible.
    “With feed this expensive, eliminate waste any way you can,” he recommended.
    Waste can vary from five to 35 percent, depending upon the method of delivery to the cattle, he continued. “Make sure to account for feed losses when you are developing your feeding programs.”
    In a worst-case scenario, Rasby shared a chart (seen below) with hay that costs $110 a ton. At a 25 percent feed loss, he determined that the producer would lose $1,572 per 20 cows fed.
    “This year, it is very important to prevent waste,” he explained. “Find a way to get those feeds into the cattle with as little waste as possible.”
    Gayle Smith is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
Casper – With aspirations of starting a corn maze and increasing opportunities for agriculture and ag education in Casper, Kim Syverts and her husband Steven decided that this year, they would pursue a long dream.
    “It’s a dream and a vision that my husband and I have had for the last four years,” says Syvert of the maze. “This year, we had the place, all of the resources and the timing to build a maze. All of the pieces started falling together.”
For a good cause
    Green Acres Corn Maze is a non-profit endeavor, and Syverts says that the profits from the maze will go to two Casper organizations: the ARC of Natrona County and the Casper FFA Alumni.
    When their daughter became involved in FFA, she says budget cuts have made things harder for chapter members.
    “There is a lot of responsibility put on parents to fund their kids, and some parents just can’t. It’s a shame if kids who are interested can’t participate,” Syverts notes, “because agriculture is our future.”
    With her family’s involvement in agriculture, she says her plans involve helping to fund FFA events and activities through the Casper FFA Alumni.
    “We have also become involved with the ARC through a neighbor who has a special needs daughter,” Syverts adds.
    The ARC of Natrona County is a non-profit organization in Casper that works with developmentally disabled people throughout the area.
    While the ARC will staff the maze during weekdays, FFA members and alumni will volunteer at Green Acres Corn Maze on weekends.  
Activities at Green Acres
    “We have the corn maze itself and a smaller maze for children,” says Syverts, noting the big maze is more than eight acres. “We also have a bale maze for the little ones.”
    Additionally, there are tractor tire swings and pumpkin tetherball.
    “We also have a giant corn pit, as opposed to a sandbox, which is super exciting,” she continues. “We have hayride wagons to transport people from the corn maze and pumpkin patch to the farm petting zoo.”
    The petting zoo is slated to feature a wide array of animals, from miniature horses, donkeys and alpacas to chickens, cows and sheep.
Building a corn maze
    “When we first started, we joined a group called ‘The Maize’ and went to a corn convention,” she says, laughing. “It was four days of corn maze. People who have done this for 20 years or more came and shared what worked best and their ideas.”
    They started by plowing up their field, which had been planted with alfalfa hay. After roller harrowing and leveling the area, there were several more steps before planting.
    “Then we had to come in and do the lines,” she continues, explaining that computer mapping enabled the maze to be accurately plotted on the land while the corn was still young.
    After the lines were blocked out and corn was killed in those areas, they continued to water and watch the corn grow. As it nears completion, she adds that all the paths must be rototilled before FFA members, ARC members and their families will take the debut run prior to opening.
Community buzz
    Syverts hopes the maze will start a community buzz, and her efforts to promote the maze were far reaching. Thus far, a number of youth groups and school trips are scheduled, and Syverts says they are excited.
    “We would like to keep doing this, because we have learned so much this year,” she says. “I think we can implement new ideas and upgrade the techniques we used to make is run better.”
    “This is agri-tourism,” she says, “and it’s educational.”
    For school field trips, Syverts notes they have a complete curriculum that aligns with every grade levels, including activities for before and after visiting the farm.
    “It is our aspiration to keep building in more education and more fun things every year,” comments Syverts.
    For more information, call 307-577-6030 or visit Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Green Acres Corn Maze
Casper – The Green Acres Corn Maze runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 31 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends. Weekday visits can be made by appointment.
    Admission is seven dollars for visitors ages 12 and older, five dollars for children ages four to 11 and free for those younger than four. The hayride and petting zoo cost three dollars. Pumpkins are also available for sale. Green Acres Corn Maze also offers special group and field trip rates.
    To find the maze, take Highway 20-26 out of Casper three miles west of Natrona County International Airport and turn west on 33 Mile Road. Proceed three miles north to County Road 121. Turn right and continue 2.5 miles to the maze.
    “It’s a-MAZE-ing fun for the whole family,” says Green Acres.