Red River Farm Network News

Welcome MoistureFarmers in north central North Dakota are making good planting progress. Rugby farmer Steve Fritel says moisture is welcome. “We have excellent subsoil moisture, but the top is dry. It’s a challenge getting the seed placed at the right depth so it’s in good moisture, but not too deep. Every field we have, we constantly check the depth. The corn is peeking through and soybeans are still under the soil. Emergence looks alright.” RRFN's Crop Watch coverage is sponsored, in part, by Syngenta Sugarbeets and Hilleshog. 

Conditions Really Dry in the West — National Sunflower Association Executive Director John Sandbacken says the western part of North Dakota is really dry. “When you look at the drought monitor map, if you take Highway 83 west, it’s really drying out. Some of those areas are in the D2 drought category. We could use moisture to get this crop going along.” Sandbacken thinks we’ll have about 70 percent of the sunflower crop planted at the end of the month, with an expected completion date the first week in June. 

Rain Delays are Very Real — Rain delays are a very real issue across the Midwest. Gulke Group President Jerry Gulke says yield is still a big discussion for the markets right. “I got a call from someone out west and they asked if is it really that bad. We’re sitting in mud in a lot of Illinois. It looks like we could get into the field to plant again this this week. We need really good weather here on out to get as good of yields as last year.” Gulke isn't saying that can’t happen, but the odds aren’t very good. 

Send the Sun — David Thompson farms north of East Grand Forks, Minnesota. He says sugar beets and wheat looks good coming out of the ground. He wants some sunshine. “We just need some heat right now. Consistent days of sunshine and warm temperatures to get this ground warmed up. We need heat, we need sunshine.” Thompson says he hasn’t seen much weeds popping up in the field. “We were a little later getting going north of town. Soybeans are getting planted soon.”

Be Careful What You Wish ForRolla, North Dakota farmer Tim Mickelson is cautious when saying he could use some rain. “We haven’t had much rain the last month and a half. There’s enough to germinate, but a half-inch of rain at the end of seeding would be welcome.” RRFN's CropWatch coverage is sponosored, in part, by Minnesota soybean farmers and their checkoff.

Slow EmergenceCold temperatures slowed the crop progress in the Langon, North Dakota area. During RRFN's visit to the farm on Tuesday, Kevin Waslaski said emergence has been an issue. “We’re waiting on crops to come out of the ground. The soybeans aren’t out of the ground and the first part of the canola had a little frost on it. We may need to replant.” RRFN's Crop Watch is sponsored, in part, by AgCountry Farm Credit Services.

Brazil's Record Crop Impact on the U.S. Exports — Brazilian ag consultant Pedro Dejneka estimates 50 to 55 percent of Brazil’s soybean crop has been sold, but a lot of it is unpriced. Dejneka expects increased farmer selling soon. “We have a situation where Brazil has to export these beans. We don’t have a place to store them. On top of that, we have a monster corn crop coming our way. We’re about to start harvesting the winter corn crop. That crop alone, could eclipse last year’s total crop.” Dejneka thinks Brazil could be exporting soybeans year-round, which could hurt U.S. soybean export sales. “We believe their monster soybean crop will be more bearish the second part of the year. For the first time ever, we believe Brazil could be a major exporter January through January.” Dejneka says Brazil will have huge competition in the soybean export market, not only from the U.S. but also from Argentina. 

Farm Income to Remain Flat — The Senate Ag Committee hosted a hearing on the state of the farm economy this morning. Witnesses all agreed, the farm economy is tough right now. USDA Chief Economist Dr. Rob Johansson told the committee farm income will remain flat this year. Johansson also said continuing strength in farmland values have kept farmland assets high, but land values and cash rents are declining. He expects this decline to continue into 2017, as a result, there’s an increase in debt-to-asset ratios. Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley asked Johansson why land values and cash rents are declining slower than farm income and are there any specific factors to point to: are outside investors keeping land prices high? “Obviously we see cash rents and land values being a little stickier on the way down, due to the nature of those contracts on the cash rent side are a little bit longer term," says Johansson. "Cash rents are expected to be coming down a little bit more. That will help the bottom line for producers who are renting land. There is also an institutional investment in land. Oftentimes, you don’t see land coming on the market as fluidly as other commodities. Interest rates are low to purchase that land, it’s looked at as a good investment.” Johansson says with flat commodity prices and an expectation of more normal yields this year, financial conditions are expected to tighten.   

White House Releases Budget Proposal — A presidential budget proposal is just a wish list and Congress rarely pays any attention to it. Regardless, the Trump administration has released its first budget proposal and it offers insight into what’s on the agenda. For crop insurance, the White House wants to limit the crop insurance premium subsidy to $40,000. It would also means testing, limiting the availability of crop insurance to those farmers with income of $500,000 or less and the harvest price option would be eliminated.  The administration plan also recommends limiting the eligibility for ARC and PLC payments to farmers with less than $500,000 in gross income.

Budget Proposal Targets Crop Insurance — Within the 2018 budget proposal, the Trump administration is proposing changes to the crop insurance program. These changes would provide total savings of nearly $29 billion over the next ten years. Acting Deputy Agriculture Secretary Mike Young, who is also USDA’s budget officer, said this is just a proposal. “These limits in the crop insurance program are proposed legislation changes. These would need to be enacted by the Congress. They wouldn’t have an immediate effect on these funding levels for crop insurance. Again, under current law, we’re including funding that would be needed to operate the current crop insurance program.” This plan, which is considered a template for the administration and the next Farm Bill, zeroes out funding for USDA’s Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development programs. The administration’s budget proposal calls for a staff reduction at USDA of more than 5,000 employees. That represents 5.5 percent of the current staff.  

Protecting the Safety NetSenate Ag Committee Chairman Pat Roberts says President Donald Trump’s proposed budget cuts will be thoroughly reviewed, but the needs of farmers and ranchers must be addressed. “As we debate the budget and the next Farm Bill, I’m going to do everything I can to ensure farmers have a strong safety net, including crop insurance, so we can weather hard times.”  

Peterson Says Leave Crop Insurance Alone — House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson does not support any further cuts to crop insurance. “From our standpoint, we don’t think there needs to be anything changed. Crop insurance, leave it alone.” Crop insurance has been a frequent target for budget cuts. Peterson expects similar proposals for the next Farm Bill debate to limit crop insurance subsidies for large farm operations. “I’ve told them if you drive the big guys out of the crop insurance system, it will collapse. It’s nonsense, but there will be people pushing it.”

It's Still Concerning — National Crop Insurance Services president Tom Zacharias says while crop insurance has the support of many lawmakers on Capitol Hill, the proposed cuts to crop insurance is still concerning. Zacharias explains the concern with means testing is a reduction in participation and potentially drive out the better risk in the insurance pool. "Long term, that would limit the number of insured, the ability to spread risk and ultimately, we’d see an increase in premium costs for insurance as a whole.”

Ag Has a Good Support System — South Dakota Senator Mike Rounds says the budget the president has proposed should be viewed as priorities, but not a working document. Rounds agrees with Trump on the increase in defense spending, but says there are things he can’t support, like proposed cuts to crop insurance. Rounds says proposed cuts to the Farm Bill are likely to continue to happen, but agriculture has a good support system. “That’s what this is all about. Do you want a stable farm economy or don’t you? Is a stable farm economy a positive thing for the U.S. economy? The answer is absolutely yes.”

Thune Releases More Suggestions for 2018 Farm BillIn the 2018 Farm Bill, South Dakota Senator John Thune wants all ARC-County payments to be calculated using the payment rate for the county in which a farmer’s land is physically located. Thune says currently USDA doesn’t require ARC-County participants who have farmland in different counties to be paid at the lower rate. if any of that land is located in a county getting a lower payment rate, than the administrative county. “All this does, the way it’s being administered today, it creates some winners, but it’s poor policy and results in an unnecessary cost to tax payers. All we do is make sure payments going out are based on physical location of the farm ground. That helps eliminate confusion we’ve had in the past years.” Thune also wants payments to be generated using a mandatory crop base reallocation, determined by planted and considered planted acres on a farm for the year, 2014-17. That means the commodity title payments will be determined by the most recent planting history.    

Perdue and Lighthizer Meet with House Ag Committee — House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway and Ranking Member Collin Peterson and members of the committee met with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer Wednesday for an executive roundtable discussion on trade. After the closed-door meeting, statements were released by Conaway, Peterson, Perdue and Lighthizer touting the importance of agricultural trade.

Concerns for Spud Growers on Proposed Budget — National Potato Council Executive Vice President John Keeling says the president’s budget is often dead upon arrival, but there is concern about the removal of the block grant program and potential cuts or elimination of the Market Access Program. The MAP program is one we’ve used extensively. It’s been valuable to us in opening foreign markets. We’ve used the program to open markets in Central America and the far east. Keeling says maintaining research funding in the 2018 Farm Bill remains the biggest focus for the Council, along with support for trade and exports. Keeling says they plan to participate in NAFTA renegotiation discussions.

A Positive for Rural America — In his plan to reorganize USDA, Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue wants to create an undersecretary position for rural development. Oregon State University Director of Rural Studies, Bruce Weber, shares his thoughts on the proposal. “The thing USDA has is the capacity to understand these and develop culturally appropriate programs in these areas. Other agencies don’t have that. Not having an undersecretary for rural development would mean the focus that is needed for rural communities would disappear.”

Dayton Signs Milk Trucking Provision — Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton has signed a bill that will help truckers hauling milk in the state. Weight limitations are increased by ten percent for milk trucks hauling from the farm to the processor. This change puts Minnesota on par with some of its neighboring states, eliminating problems when milk trucks move across state lines.

Lawmakers In Limbo — The Minnesota legislature exceeded their self-imposed 7 a.m. Wednesday deadline for the special session. Now, Minnesota DFL Lead for the House Agriculture Finance Committee Jean Poppe says lawmakers are in limbo right now, waiting to review legislation.  “This wasn’t a sensible timeline to begin with,” says Poppe. “Physically, they weren’t going to be able to do the work. It’s because the bills weren’t prepared. We’re waiting for the bills to be processed and delivered so we can have a discussion on it. The other question is, what is the process and how much of a dialogue will there be to discuss these bills? It’s really a challenge right now.” 

Harm to U.S. Sugar Industry Continues — The American Sugar Alliance claims Mexico is still dumping sugar into the U.S. ASA’s evidence is the price sugar fetches in Mexico compared to the U.S. over the past year. And the Mexican price does not include the cost of transporting the sugar north, meaning the actual dumping margin is even higher than the price spread. According to the ASA, Mexico’s trade abuses are wreaking havoc on the U.S. market, costing U.S. producers $4 billion and many sugar workers their jobs. 

Mexico Purchases Brazilian Corn — Mexican livestock operations are buying corn directly from Brazil. Two 30,000 ton shipments make up the first deal, but as much as 300,000 tons could be sold to Mexico in the August-October time period. Mexico was upset with the rhetoric coming out of the U.S. and began negotiations with Brazil. In some cases, Mexico is securing corn in Brazil at prices cheaper than what can be found in the United States. U.S. Grains Council President/CEO Tom Sleight says it puts more pressure on the U.S. “It makes us sharpen our game to engage customers and remind them of the advantages in continuing these strong sales from existing suppliers.”

Promoting Sustainability — Agriculture was represented at the huge Sustainable Brands Conference in Detroit. The U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance was there introducing its report on sustainability in agriculture. USFRA Chairman Brad Greenway, who farms at Mitchell, South Dakota, says a proactive approach is needed. “A lot of these food companies and food service, retail are coming out with statements. Oftentimes, they do come back to the farm. The statements can have real ramifications on the farms. We need to be in the frontline of that to help them understand the ramification of those statements on our farm.” Greenway says the use of antibiotics is one of the issues that is top-of-mind. “We want to use them responsibility-only when we absolutely need them. We need to be able to hold on to the use of antibiotics for healthy animals and safe food.”

Moving Meat — U.S. beef export sales were up 11 percent this past year. Pork sales increased 17 percent. U.S. Meat Export Federation Chairman Bruce Schmoll highlighted those export numbers at the organization’s spring conference in Arlington, Virginia. China is the 800-pound gorilla for international trade. Schmoll says the resumption of U.S. beef sales to China is positive news. “While there’s optimism and hope there, we’re trying to temper that with our producers in this country. Even though it looks like maybe we’ll get that opened up soon, it will probably be a gradual process. The trouble is, some of the demand China is putting on the type of beef product they’ll import to their country, maybe isn’t something we can meet right now. I think it will be a slow process.” The White House budget zeroed out funding for export development programs, including the Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development program. Schmoll, who farms at Claremont, Minnesota, says that budget request has caused some heartburn. “We realize it’s a negotiation area, but I think people are disappointed President Trump doesn’t appear to completely understand the urgency those dollars supporting agriculture really have. There’s a little bit of nervousness at this meeting and questions being asked.”

Weed of the Week: Palmer AmaranthHave you heard of palmer amaranth? The weed is aggressive in growth and competes with other crops. Growth has been measured two to three inches per day under ideal conditions. Palmer amaranth originates from the desert southwest. The weed was an unintentional seed contaminant in cattle feed in Indiana and Michigan, and in seed mixtures seeded in CRP fields in Iowa and Minnesota. Awareness is critical for early detection. Why so much attention to palmer amaranth? It adapts quickly to its new home be it Arkansas, Indiana or Iowa. Its rapid growth and enormous size make post-emergence herbicides ineffective and causes 90% yield loss in corn and 80% loss in soybean from competition. Growers have resorted to hand-pulling for control in cotton fields in the south. Thanks to Tom Peters of North Dakota State University/University of Minnesota and Richard Zollinger of NDSU for assisting with this project.

Weeds are Growing — At the temperatures warm, weeds will also start growing. BASF Technical Services Representative Ken Deibert says there are some do’s and don’ts for farmers who are using the new Dicamba weed control system. “It really comes down to common sense when we make these applications. There’s lots of experience with spraying lots of dicamba brands in this geography over the many years. It’s really no different in how we approach these. We need to target small weeds.” Deibert says using the correct nozzle is also very important. Deibert recommends starting at a minimum of 10 gallons per acre and adjust according to nozzle and label recommendations. Click here for details. 

Be Watching for Root Maggot Fly — American Crystal and North Dakota State University Extension are advising sugarbeet growers in the Valley that peak root maggot fly is expected to occur around June 9 through 15. NDSU entomologist Mark Boetel says applying a first post granular insecticide will give you a wide window for timing the peak root maggot fly. “There is flexibility with that. Our research has shown variable application dates, we don’t see significant differences in performance. The first post-granule with timing probably in the central and northern valley is where we’re likely to be made.”  Boetel says the fly can vary a few days depending on weather and growing degree units.  

Drone Court Ruling — A decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. says drones that are operated by hobbyists are considered model aircraft and do not have to be registered with the Federal Aviation Administration. The National Agricultural Aviation Administration is upset with the ruling, saying it is not safe for pilots to contend with unmanned aircraft. The FAA drone registration program was seen as a way to promote education and protect everyone that is working in the airspace.

Watch for NASS Surveys — The USDA’s National Ag Statistics Service will be sending out two major midyear surveys shortly. North Dakota state statistician Darin Jantzi says these surveys will provide essential information that helps determine production and supply of major commodities. “It gives us a truer picture than the March report did. By June 1, we figure most everything will be in the ground. It will show what changes happened from March to June 1.” Jantzi says a variety of information will be collected. “We’re looking at cash rent values, livestock inventory. It’s not just the seeding. There are other things we’re asking for this report.” Jantzi says packets will be mailed out to roughly 4,000 North Dakota Farmers late this week or early next week.

Alfalfa Alliance Taking RFPs — The National Alfalfa and Forage Alliance has released its first-ever request for proposals to solicit projects for its U.S. Alfalfa Farmer Research Initiative. The RFP asks researchers to focus their proposals on yield improvement, cutting management strategies, fertility, soil management, soil health, macro/micro nutrients, forage quality improvements, weed management strategies, and insect management strategies. The deadline for submitting proposals is June 26.

New Campaign Strives to Engage Ag Community — The South Dakota Agricultural Foundation has announced the launch of “Maybe We Should Do Something,” a campaign to engage the ag community and positively impact the future of South Dakota agriculture with initiatives focusing on education, leadership, entrepreneurship, and economic development. The new campaign uses video, print, direct mail and social media to tell this story, and asks South Dakotans to participate and share ideas for the future of ag. The programs are scheduled to launch this fall.

Building Agricultural Literacy — A series of children’s books is now available highlighting modern farming practices. Holly Dufek is the author and says this series also emphasizes sciences, technology, engineering and math. “We’re trying to incorporate lots of STEM within the series, because it blends so well with agriculture. At this age, there aren’t lots of books that include non-fiction information that’s educational for kids in science and technology and focusing on farm work with women.”  The ‘Busy on the Farm’ books are available through Amazon or your local Case IH dealer.

Syngenta Introduces New Seed Treatment — Syngenta has launched Plenaris, a new seed treatment fungicide to control downy mildew in sunflower. Plenaris contains novel chemistry, licensed from DuPont, with a new mode of action for control of fungal diseases. It will be first commercialized in the United States this year followed by Argentina.

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Another Merger — Another significant merger is planned once the ChemChina-Syngenta deal is complete. ChemChina is in discussion with Sinochem. Sinochem is state-owned and is one of China’s largest oil companies. It is also involved in the seed, fertilizer and farm chemical business. A merger between ChemChina and Sinochem would create the largest chemical company in the world with revenues of $100 billion.

Glencore Considers Bunge Takeover — Another major takeover bid is making news in agriculture. Glencore’s agriculture business unit has approached Bunge about a possible combination. After Glencore made its intentions known, Bunge officials released a statement, saying it is not engaged in any discussions about a possible buy-out. Glencore is based in Switzerland and is a mining and commodity trading firm worth $55 billion. Bunge is based in New York State and is one of the world’s largest processors of corn and soybeans. Four years ago, Glencore purchased Viterra for $6 billion. Earlier this month, Viterra announced the acquisition of the grain handling assets of the Gavilon Grain facility in Grand Forks.

Titan Machinery Reports Loss for Q1 — Titan Machinery is reporting a fiscal year 2018 first quarter earnings net loss of 5.9 million dollars, compared to a loss of $3.9 million during the first quarter last year. Titan Machinery Chairman and CEO David Meyer says the loss, due to the ongoing sluggish farm economy, is in line with expectations. “We realize it’s a negotiation area, but I think people are disappointed President Trump doesn’t appear to completely understand the urgency those dollars supporting agriculture really have. There’s a little bit of nervousness at this meeting and questions being asked.” Titan Machinery reports first quarter total revenue of $264 million, down 7.3 percent from a year ago. Equipment sales are down 9.2 percent to $167.9 million. Titan Machinery Chief Financial Officer Mark Kalvoda says slower equipment sales drives the lower revenues in Titan’s parts and service segments.  

New Turkey Processing Plant Coming to Central MN — Construction has started on a new turkey processing plant at Melrose, Minnesota. The Jennie-O Turkey Store plant is expected to be up and running in early 2019. In the meantime, the existing facility will continue to operate. The new plant is valued at nearly $140 million.

ADM Modernizes Santos Port — Archer Daniels Midland has completed its expansion and upgrade at its export terminal in Santos, Sao Paulo, Brazil. This facility now has more loading and unloading capabilities and more storage. ADM has an agreement to continue operations at the port until 2037.

Cease and Desist Sought for Arla Foods Ad Campaign — Eli Lilly Elanco has filed a lawsuit against Arla Foods, seeking the immediate termination of its current advertising campaign. In these ads, Arla Foods paints bovine somatotropin as something that is evil, comparing the dairy technology to a monster. Elanco sells and markets the supplement bST product called Posilac. The technology was approved by the Food and Drug Administration nearly 25 years ago. Elanco says the Arla Foods campaign is false advertising and represents an unfair business practice.

Wensman's Transition Plan — Wensman Seed is part of a transition happening with its parent company, AgReliant Genetics. Starting in 2018, Wensman, Producers Hybrids, Eureka Seeds, Golden Acre Genetics and Great Lakes Hybrids will be sold under the LG Seeds brand. Wensman Seeds general manager Jeff Wensman says this is part of the company’s growth strategy. “What’s exciting to all of us in the AgReliant organization is that we’re doing it from a position of strength. All of the brands are very well managed. They’re having gross sales years, so it’s nice to see we’re doing this from a position of strength not weakness.” Wensman said the current staff will remain in place, although, additional resources will likely be made available. That would include agronomists, technical support and technology. The Wensman facility in Wadena will continue to be in operation under the LG Seeds brand. 

Top Honor for NDTO — U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has presented the North Dakota Trade Office with the presidential award for export service. This is the highest recognition any U.S. entity can receive for making contributions to the expansion of U.S. exports.

Meet CHS' New President/CEO — CHS Inc. has named a new president and CEO. Jay Debertin succeeds Carl Casale, who led the cooperative for the past seven years. “I grew up in East Grand Forks, Minnesota, in the Red River Valley. I’ve been with CHS for 33 years now, with time in the energy area. I’ve also worked in the ag processing business for CHS and joint ventures, including one with Mitsui." Coming out of the gates, Debertin wants CHS to grow and strengthen. “We look at the businesses we operate in and the markets we operate in and we think there’s good growth potential. At the same time, we need to strengthen some of those things we do at CHS. We’re going to work hard at building up that muscle and executing at a high level.”

A Mutual DecisionAccording to a spokesperson for former CHS President and CEO Carl Casale, there was communicaitons between Casale and the CHS board one month ago. Casale indicated he successfully met met the objectives that were put in place when he was hired. During his seven-year tenure, CHS nearly doubled the size of its balance sheet to more than $17 billion at the end of 2016. With a successor in the wings, Casale and the CHS board agreed to make the transition. A decision has not been made on Casale’s next move. Casale is 55 years old. 

Halstrom to Succeed Seng at USMEF — The U.S. Meat Export Federation has announced its succession plan for longtime USMEF president and CEO Philip Seng. Dan Halstrom, who is now USMEF’s senior vice president of marketing will become president on September 1 and add the CEO title on December 1. Seng will remain with USMEF CEO emeritus through July 2018.

CRI CEO Announces Retirement — Doug Wilson will retire from Cooperative Resources International in August. Wilson has been CRI's chief executive officer since 2002. Wilson has been in the A.I. industry for 49 years, including 39 years with CRI. CRI is based in Shawano, Wisconsin and is the parent company of AgSource, GENEX and MOFA Global. The CRI board will begin the search for a new CEO immediately.

North Dakota Soybean Recognized — The North Dakota Soybean Council received the 2016 Service to Exporters Award for their dedication to assisting North Dakota soybean companies. Lt. Governor Brent Sanford presenting the awards on Wednesday, during the Global Business Awards ceremony. The Service to Exporters award is given to a business resource which has demonstrated exceptional commitment supporting North Dakota exporters and increasing the state’s overall international business strategy. 

The Sugarbeet ReportSugarbeet growers made some planting progress before the cooler, damp weather set in last week. Listen to a weed management update. The Sugarbeet report is sponsored, in part, by SES VANDERHAVE and Dow Agrosciences. 

ND Wheat LinkHear the North Dakota Wheat Commission's Wheat Link. Learn more about selecting quality wheat.

MFU Legislative MinuteCheck out this update from the Minnesota Farmers Union on legislative session progress.

AURI Update — In the weekly update from the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute. Visit for updates. 

Last Week's TriviaCharolais is the white beef breed that originated in France. Angie Skochdopole of AdFarm is our weekly trivia winner. Mandy Kvale of Farm Credit Services of Mandan, Bob Lebacken of RML Trading, Kevin Schulz of National Hog Farmer and former Farm Service Agency Administrator Val Dolcini earn runner-up honors. The 'first 20' recognition also goes to M. Vincent Restucci of R.D. Offutt Company Farm Division, Ron Claussen of Ag Media Research, Jim Altringer of Columbia Grain, Bruce Miller of Minnesota Farmers Union, Keith Rekow of Dairyland Seed, Cokato farmer Harlan Anderson, Brian Rund of Nufarm Americas, Mark Maris of Cargill, Harvey farmer Bill Ongstad, Ron Dvergsten of Northland Farm Business Management, Mary Buschette of the University of Minnesota, Bob Nielsen of United Farmers Cooperative, David Scholand of Columbia Grain, Andrew Greenwell of Nuseed, and Lawton farmer Dennis Miller.