Red River Farm Network News

Acreage Projections — USDA is forecasting the U.S. corn planted area for 2018 at 90 million acres. That’s down from 90.2 million acres last year. Soybeans are also projected to be at 90 million acres, down from 90.1 million acres a year ago. The area planted to wheat is estimated at 46.5 million acres, an increase of 500,000 acres. For the 2018-2019 marketing year, USDA is forecasting an average corn price of $3.40 per bushel; soybeans at $9.25 per bushel and wheat at $4.70 per bushel. That soybean price is slightly lower than last year, but corn and wheat are up ten cents per bushel.

County Estimates Released for 2017 — Minnesota had an average corn yield in 2017 of 194 bushels per acre. The statewide average soybean yield was 47 bushels per acre. Watonwan County had Minnesota’s best corn and soybean yields with corn averaging nearly 219 bushels and soybeans over 60 bushels per acre. North Dakota’s state corn yield averaged 139 bushels per acre. At more than 187 bushels per acre, Richland County had the highest corn yield average in the state. In North Dakota, the statewide average soybean yield was 34 bushels per acre. Ransom County topped the state with an average approaching 44 bushels per acre. There was an average corn yield of 145 bushels per acre in South Dakota. with Brookings County at the top of the list with more than 188 bushels per acre. Soybeans averaged 43 bushels per acre across South Dakota. Moody County was ranked number one with an average yield of 54 bushels per acre.

How Long Will the Soybean Rally Last?Dry conditions in Argentina have given the U.S. soybean market a boost. North Dakota State University Extension Crop Economist Frayne Olson says a smaller Argentine crop opens the door for additional export business. How long will the soybean rally last? "I don't know. Nobody knows for sure," says Olson. "My recommendation for farmers is to identify when crop conditions stop getting worse. As long as conditions in Argentina continue to deteriorate, I think soybean prices will continue to lift." If conditions stabilize and hit a low, Olson says that will be the peak of soybean markets. Olson spoke at the International Crop Expo in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

Harvest Delays in South America — Dry conditions in Argentina continue to garner attention in the grain trade. World Weather Incorporated Meteorologist Drew Lerner says crop conditions have significantly deteriorated over the past four weeks. "Crops are under some pretty serious stress. Soybeans are in the grain fill stage, so there's still potential for further losses. About half of the late-season corn crop has pollinated. For the corn left, it doesn't look good." Even though the crop is late in Brazil, Lerner says overall conditions are good. However, harvest delays are a strong possibility within the next few weeks. "The bottom line for soybeans may still be good. The second-season corn will likely shrink, which may have some influence on world trade eventually."

Spotty Rains Provide Little Help to Argentine FarmersA large part of Argentina remains dry. University of Illinois Extension Meteorologist Eric Snodgrass says rains in Argentina have been spotty throughout the growing season. "Rainfall is about 50 percent of normal over the last 90 days. The long-range models keep coming in with dry conditions. When they do get rain, it's accompanied by severe thunderstorms. They had some pretty big hail a week ago." Snodgrass says Argentina’s weather pattern is following a typical La Nina pattern. "The correlations are not that strong, but they do exist. Argentina tends to be  the one spot that responds the greatest in terms of drought stress during La Nina."

Oklahoma Wheat Hangs On — The Oklahoma winter wheat crop is under stress. Oklahoma State University small grains specialist David Marburger says some areas have gone four months without rain. "If we could just catch a shower, there's still potential for a decent crop." Marburger says the wheat crop never germinated in the extremely dry spots.

Wheat Still Needs to Be Managed Right — Spring wheat may be one of the crops that have the potential for profitability. North Dakota State University Extension Agronomist Joel Ransom says the crop still needs to be managed properly for yield and protein. “Obviously, you want to select a high yielding variety that has a reasonable amount of protein to start with. After that, make sure you have enough nitrogen to carry the crop through and adjust. If you have a lower protein variety, you’ll want to add a little extra nitrogen. At the end of the season, if you’re running a little low and you think the premium on the protein will be high, I think that foliar application of nitrogen has a role.” Ransom said some growers like to use the in-season nitrogen application to reduce the total amount put on at planting. That strategy is often done to avoid lodging.

What Isn't Measured, Isn't ManagedAny farm that wants to be a leader needs to know their cost of production at the field level. Kernmantle Group founder Matt Roberts advises farmers to understand each field down to the bushel level and understand how the business works. “There’s an old saying in business, what isn’t measured, isn’t managed. Until farmers really can measure and drive down their costs on a field level, they won’t be able to manage it and understand what the profit drivers of the business really are.” The economist spoke at an AgCountry Farm Credit Services event for young farmers. “Young people have flexibility, energy and the ability to learn much faster than the older generation.” Roberts was also the keynote speaker at last week's International Crop Expo.    

Indecision with Flex Acres — Farmers may stay close to their normal crop rotations in 2018. However, CHS Ag Services sales agronomist Chip Olson, who is based at Humbolt, Minnesota, says there is a lot of indecision with flex acres. "There are a few open acres yet, depending on what commoditiy prices do." Weather is also a factor. "Hopefully, we'll have an early spring. It's looking that way now with hardly any snow cover, but that can change in a heartbeat."

Dry Bean Scene — Listen to the Dry Bean Scene  every Friday at 12:37 PM on the Red River Farm Network. This week, North Dakota State University Crop Economist Frayne Olson discusses dry bean markets and contracts.

Reducing White Mold PressureRow spacing and seeding rates can impact soybeans with white mold pressure. North Dakota State University Extension plant pathologist Michael Wunsch says farmers are inclined to plant in wider rows to reduce pressure. Wunsch’s research at NDSU confirms that. "As long as you're below 50 percent incidence, yields were better in soybeans seeded in 14-to-22 inch rows." If less then one in three plants have white mold, Wunsch says the increase in contamination is negligible. "Your risk of losing market grade is virtually zero from using more narrow rows. If above that threshold, it may be more profitable to use wide rows with reoccurring white mold pressure." Wunsch spoke at the International Crop Expo held last week in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

Rotation, Rotation, Rotation — There’s increased tolerance to neonicotinoids for Colorado Potato Beetles in the Red River Valley, but that’s not too surprising to University of Minnesota Professor and Extension Entomologist Ian MacRae. “We refer to the Colorado Potato Beetle as the poster child for insecticide resistance. It’s very adaptable to insecticides. If you’ve been using an insecticide, you could expect some tolerance.” MacRae tells potato growers to plan for the upcoming season with three strategies: rotation, rotation and rotation. “If you find yourself in a position where you’re finding more larvae in the crop late in the summer, you may need to switch to a foliar control. If so, rotate those modes of action.” 

Lessons LearnedWe're back with season two of Lessons Learned. RRFN's weekly podcast provides educational tools to help growers throughout 2018. This week, we visit with Carl Peterson of Peterson Farms Seed.

ND is the First State to Produce Clay Chemistry Maps — New clay chemistry maps are now available in North Dakota. In addition, North Dakota State University Extension Soil Specialist Dave Frazen says fertilizer recommendations have changed. "The state recommendations have been overhauled. That's because there are no longer yield-based formulas. Also, there are now potassium-responsive crops, including spring wheat, corn, beets and more." Frazen says those crops are influenced by clay chemistry. "If you have high smectitic clays in soils, then you go to the higher critical level, and vice-versa. All of that is definied by the maps and available through NDSU Extension."

Senators Ask President Trump to Rejoin TPP — A coalition of 25 Republican Senators are asking President Donald Trump to rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Trump pulled out the trade agreement shortly after taking office, but recently said he may consider rejoining the TPP.

EU Considers Trade Retaliation — The European Union is reportedly considering trade retaliation against the United States. The U.S. Commerce Department has advised President Donald Trump to impose tariffs or quotas on foreign-made aluminum and steel. If those trade restrictions are implemented, a European Commission official said the EU will “react swiftly and appropriately.”

Dayton Supports NAFTA Deal — Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton is urging the Trump Administration to preserve and enhance market access in the North American Free Trade Agreement. In a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Dayton said Canada and Mexico are the two biggest export markets for Minnesota. Twenty-one percent of Minnesota’s total exports went to Canada in 2016. Mexico represented more than 12 percent of that business.

Duty Rates Finalized for Argentine and Indonesian Biodiesel Imports — The Commerce Department has finalized its response to Argentina and Indonesia for subsidized biodiesel imports. Trade duties of 60-to-86 percent are now in place for imports from Argentina and 92-to-276 percent for Indonesian biodiesel imports. Between 2014 and 2016, biodiesel imports from Argentina and Indonesia skyrocketed, hurting the U.S. biodiesel market.

A Productive Potato Discussion — Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue met with his counterpart from Mexico on Tuesday. Potatoes were part of the conversation. National Potato Council CEO John Keeling says it seems like it was a productive discussion. “I think what we want Mexico to know is we’re not going away. The science issue has been worked out for U.S. potatoes into Mexico and we need to take the steps to bring the science to the open market.”

International Competitors Invest More Dollars to Promote Exports — A study by Informa Economics shows U.S. competitors in foreign markets have increased promotional funding of their agricultural exports by 70 percent. U.S. Meat Export Federation assistant vice president for international marketing Greg Hanes says at the same time, U.S. investment in foreign market promotion has remained flat; and actually declined 12 percent since 2011 due to inflation and other factors. "The results were startling. Informa Economics found the European wine industry alone was receiving more than $300 million for their promotions. One industry is already more than the entire ag community in the U.S. has received on ag promotions internationally.” Hanes says the new farm bill will be the best chance to increase funding for the export promotion programs. “It’s imperative we ensure these programs remain funded at least at their existing levels if not higher levels.”

ND Exports Increased in 2017 — North Dakota exported $5.3 billion in 2017, which is a slight increase from 2016. Crude oil exports represent nearly 60 percent of North Dakota’s total exports. Exports of North Dakota-grown soybeans were up 120 percent from a year earlier. Malting barley exports rose six percent. The sale of wheat, corn, dry beans and lentils were down from the levels seen in 2016. Canada and Mexico are the two biggest international customers for North Dakota.

Trucking Shortage Continues — There's a trucking shortage impacting the Red River Valley potato industry. United Potato Growers CEO Mark Klompien says red potato movement was limited this winter due to trucking challenges. “The good news is we’ve seen a little bit of easing for prices of transportation recently. My friends in Colorado, Wisconsin and Idaho shared they’ve seen some easing in the pricing environment, maybe a little bit of availability.” National Potato Council CEO John Keeling says being an independent trucker isn’t as desirable job as it once was and the electronic logging device mandate increases the pressure on truckers. Keeling says it is not an easy problem to fix. Klompien feels the trucking shortage impacts growers. "If the issues continue, it could impact the farmer’s strategy and how they move forward.”

Time is Ticking for ELD Waiver — Less than 30 days remain in the 90-day Electronic Logging Device waiver for livestock haulers and there is still no permanent solution in place. The Department of Transportation has yet to review the livestock hauling petition filed in September of 2017, which would allow exemption up to five years. Being located in the most northern part of the United States, North Dakota Stockmen’s Association President Warren Zenker says an ELD exemption is essential. "I trucked for a number of years. When you leave the Rugby/Minot area, it's virtually impossible to get to Nebraska or Iowa in the allotted hours of service." Since the issue is federally regulated, all 50 states would have to follow to same exemptions. "There is a 150 mile radius from your destination that is exempt. There's talk of an additional 150 miles from the point of arrival."  

Advocacy Groups Seek Sugar Policy Reform — A coalition of taxpayer advocacy groups is asking Congress to make substantial changes to the U.S. sugar policy. In a letter to lawmakers, groups like Americans for Tax Reform and Club for Growth, called the current sugar program “an outdated, Soviet-style” scheme. This coalition wants to eliminate import quotas and marketing allotments, claiming it will benefit consumers, food companies, taxpayers and the economy.

Canola Minute — Here's the latest Canola Minute from the Northern Canola Growers Association. This week, NCGA Executive Director Barry Coleman shares policy priorities for canola growers. 

Seeking a Solution for Section 199A — According to a letter signed by nearly 90 members of Congress, a portion of the new tax law resulted in “a dramatic competitive imbalance” in the agriculture industry. While not intended, the lawmakers said Section 199A went “too far” and creates a tax advantage for farmers who sell to cooperatives instead of private and independent companies. The letter asks Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan to take immediate action. The lawmakers recommend a retroactive fix, returning to tax benefits of Section 199.  

Cruz Continues Anti-Ethanol Crusade — Texas Senator Ted Cruz brought his anti-RFS crusade to Pennsylvania Wednesday. Cruz led a rally at an oil refinery that went bankrupt and made the claim the company’s downfall is related to the Renewable Fuel Standard. The National Corn Growers Association released a statement, saying Cruz wants to destroy the RFS to bail out oil refiners and Wall Street investors.

Public Comment Period Extended — The Environmental Protection Agency has extended the public comment period for the neonicotinoid insecticide risk assessment until April 21. The agency plans to release the final pollinator risk assessment for these products by mid-year.

Wheat Quality Council Meets in KC — The Wheat Quality Council held its annual meeting in Kansas City last week. Executive Vice President Dave Green says it was a very technical meeting. “We’re continuing a tradition of trying to give feedback to the plant breeders and growers about the quality characteristics the millers, bakers and end users require. As the needs of the industry change, we try to communicate that.”  

Cattle Numbers Increase — The number of cattle available for slaughter as of February 1 is up eight percent from a year ago. Friday's USDA Cattle on Feed Report shows cattle placed in feedlots in January was up four percent from a year ago. The report says January marketings were up six percent.

Dry Conditions Impact COF ReportA number of factors played into Friday's USDA Cattle on Feed report. North Dakota State University Livestock Economist Tim Petry says a larger cow herd is one of them. The other is dry conditions in the Southern Plains. "Cattle moved off winter wheat and into lots. That showed up. Placements did come in higher than expected. There were some replacement heifers that moved as well." Petry says dairy feeding states, such as California, Arizona and Idaho, showed higher placements than a year ago, too. "Veal slaughter continues to decline. If those dairy bull calves don't go to veal, they go to feedlots."

Cattle Prices Hold Steady — Cattle prices have held fairly steady over the past couple months. Napoleon Livestock co-owner Jim Bitz says there is still an interest in heavyweight cattle due to current feed supplies. "We're pushing through 4,000-to-5,000 head a week. Prices have been within a couple bucks of each other since January. Our heavy (900 pound) calves have been selling real well. That goes back to having extra grain to feed." Napoleon Livestock has been holding stock cow and bred heifer sales as well. "Younger cows and bred heifers brought about $1,800-to-$1,850. That's a good price for what the cow market is right now."

MN Beef Update — Hear from the Minnesota Beef Council and the Minnesota State Cattlemen's Association in the Minnesota Beef Update. This week, we hear from National Feedyard BQA award winner Jeff Reed of Central Livestock Association 

Land Values Remain Strong — Land values, industry trends and management options were discussed during the Aberdeen Ag Expo. Pifer’s Auction and Real Estate broker associate Kristen Gill says land values remained strong over the last four or five months. "Seventy-to-eighty percent of our land buyers are still farmers." How are farmers making that happen with the soft commodity prices? "The vast majority of farmers have little debt. They have conserved cash during the good years and are able to make purchases."

Succession Planning: Getting it RightFair isn’t always equal when it comes to succession planning in agriculture. AgCountry Farm Credit Services vice president of agribusiness consulting, succession and retirement planning Russ Tweiten said parents often approach estate planning differently between the children on the farm and those who are not. “Sometimes you have to use other tools with non-farming heirs. That could be the use of non-farm related assets. There are some folks who buy life insurance. Sometimes you can set up asset transfers to the will or the estate plan and benefit the non-farming heirs as well. You just have to look in the toolbox and pull out what works.” Tweiten was part of a session on succession planning at the International Crop Expo. Tweiten emphasized the importance of communication and planning ahead.

Transitioning From One Generation to AnotherThe most difficult part of transitioning the farm from one generation to the next is getting started. Hope, North Dakota farmer Josh Ihry says it is important to open the lines of communication. "Devise a succession plan or have someone mediate. If you bring a non-family members in, it might help get open and honest answers. Make it clear that everyone is allowed to state their opinions with no repercussions." Ihry believes it is helpful to treat the process like a business transaction. "That helps eliminate some of the emotional attachment. Make sure to talk about your wants and needs, but also create that separation."

New Water Quality Report Unveiled — Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton rolled out a New Water Quality Report on Wednesday. The report summarized 3,500 suggestions from more than 2,000 peoples who attended water quality meetings held across the state. Recommendations include increased education efforts, local action and collaboration and an increase in investments in local water infrastructure. Dayton has proposed a $167 million investment through his Public Works proposal to "ensure clean, affordable water throughout Minnesota."

Dayton Funding Request Tells a Story — In a new report on water quality, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton put out his bonding request for water infrastructure projects. Minnesota Agricultural Water Resource Center executive director Warren Formo did not see any policy recommendations in this new report. However, the funding request tells a story. “It’s important to recognize throughout the last decade or so, the primary message that many in agriculture have perceived is the cities and wastewater treatment have done all they can and it’s up to agriculture to step up and do more. It’s important to recognize this budget the governor has put forward acknowledges we have very serious needs and the way we do municipal wastewater treatment or sewage treatment is woefully inadequate.”

Corn Matters — In this week's Minnesota Corn Growers Association Corn Matters, MCGA Senior Policy Director Amanda Bilek shares more about the 2018 Minnesota Legislative Session.

Farmers Concerned About Familiar Issues in St. Paul — Farmers are still seeing improvements in healthcare during the 2018 Minnesota legislative session. "Last year we were able to reduce some costs for the individual market," said House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Jeanne Poppe. "Farmers would like to see some relief again this year." The roadside haying/mowing issue will also get attention in St. Paul. "A working group did meet and have come up with recommendations for legislators. We can look at those and determine if we can move forward with the issue."

Stay ConnectedLooking for ways to stay connected with the Red River Farm Network? Listen to our broadcasts by tuning in to your local RRFN affiliate. Our daily news segments - Country Morning, Agriculture Today and Market Analysis - are available on the RRFN website and by subscribing to podcasts on your iPhone and Android devices.

SDSU Precision Agriculture Project Advances in Legislature — The South Dakota Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee has given its unanimous support for the construction of a precision agriculture facility at South Dakota State University. The bill now goes to the full Senate. This measure is also on the way to the House floor. Supporters are still working on funding sources for construction of the facility.

SDFU Watching Non-Meandered Waters Debate — South Dakota Farmers Union lobbyist Mitch Richter is watching the non-meandered waters debate in the state legislature. "It's of interest because of the property rights issue. What they've suggested is legislation from the special session held this past summer be continued until 2021. I think that's probably going to pass. They want to give it more time to work."

Ward County Farm Groups Seek Justice — Ward County Farm Bureau and Ward County Farmers Union have filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the Ward County Board of Commissioners. The lawsuit cites private property takings without due process and just compensation. NDFB President Daryl Lies sees this as a wait-and-see situation. "They've spent the last couple years trying to work with the commissioners to change the land donation policy. So now there are over 4,200 members requesting a judge to determine if it's unconstitutional or not." Through the Takings Clause, the Constitution does allow land utilization for a clear public need. However, Lies says forcing and donating don’t belong in the same sentence. "Especially, when there's no direct need. There is a way for the takings of property, but it has to be a clear and definite public need."

Young Farmers Discuss Issues — NDFB Director of Organizational Development Joey Myers says the Collegiate Discussion Meet during the American Farm Bureau YF & R Leadership Conference addressed current farming and ranching issues. "We had two state representatives, Carlie Bowditch from Dickinson State University and Alex Fellbaum from North Dakota State University. Questions about corporate farming and buying power for young farmers took center stage." Attendees also heard from AFBF President Zippy Duvall during the conference.

Passion for Agriculture — Minnesota was well represented at the American Farm Bureau Young Farmer and Rancher Leadership Conference in Reno, Nevada. Cass County Farm Bureau member Rachel Connell says many of the sessions focused around the passion for agriculture. "There's a lot of challenges and risks that we take. If you're doing what you love, it's worth it."

National FFA Week — To celebrate youth in agriculture and agricultural education, the Red River Farm Network is highlighting success stories of former FFA members from Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. We've got special coverage below. You can also share on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

The FFA WayWhat sets FFA members apart from others? It is their leadership skills. That’s according to Profinimum Place Ag/Business Loan Officer and former Maple River, Minnesota FFA member Veronica Bruckhoff. “FFA taught you how to have a firm handshake, show up 15 minutes early, follow through and don’t be late for meetings. The basic information everyone needs to know going into the real world." Bruckhoff currently serves as secretary on the Minnesota FFA Foundation Board of Trustees. "You don’t have to be a former FFA member to volunteer or give back to the organization." Here's her story. RRFN's FFA Week coverage is sponsored, in part, by the Minnesota Agricultural Education Leadership Council.

Don't Be Afraid to Take Chances — Former Maddock, North Dakota FFA member Preston Gilderhus graduated from North Dakota State University last year and is working full time in the agriculture industry. Gilderhus tells FFA members they shouldn't be afraid to take chances. “My sophomore year in high school, I ran for chapter president. I didn’t get it. It’s one of those experiences you have to learn to fail successfully," says Gilderhus. "A lot of people think when you try, you have to succeed. That’s not always the case, learn from it. Try again down the road and just do the best you can.” Here's his story:  

Supporting Others and RebuildingFormer Garrison, North Dakota FFA member and current NDFB President Daryl Lies believes in the leadership development mission seen in the FFA. Lies continues to offer support to the organization. “I had the privilege to be associated with the Minot FFA alumni as they rebuilt,” says Lies. “It’s an overwhelming experience to see the support for FFA. An ag community came together and shined in that moment of need to preserve and enhance the program. They're now fierce competitors and will be successful for decades to come.” Hear his story. The RRFN coverage of National FFA Week is sponsored, in part, by Dow AgroSciences.

MFBF Update — Here's the latest from the Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation. This week, MFBF President Kevin Paap brings us up to speed on the 2018 Minnesota Legislative Session.

Pride Behind the Blue and Gold JacketFormer Randolph, Minnesota FFA member Scott Dohmen is passionate about the Minnesota FFA Foundation Blue Jacket Program. The program allows students to earn a blue jacket through an application progress. Dohmen remembers the sense of pride when wearing the blue and gold jacket. “When we had an FFA event, we proudly wore those jackets to school. I felt like everyone looked up to us. That's pretty neat.' We felt really felt proud wearing them." Listen to Dohmen's story.    

AURI Update — In this weekly update from the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute, learn more about the upcoming New Uses Ag Innovation Forum.

The Sky is the LimitFFA advisors are often remembered by their students. Dakotaland Seed staff nutritionist and former Tulare, South Dakota FFA member Roxanne Knock says her advisors helped shaped her path forward after high school. “They gave you that 'sky is the limit' mentality. Even though I graduated high school with a class of seven. Even from a small town, you can be competitive on a national level. If you work really hard you can be successful. That’s completely true.” Her story:

Stepping Outside Your Comfort ZoneFormer Winner FFA member and Clearfield, South Dakota rancher Ty Littau learned to be flexible and step outside his comfort zone. Littau's experiences range from living in Argentina to working for Senator John Thune in Washington D.C. and now, back in South Dakota. “I think about interpersonal communication, sales skills, having the courage to walk up, shake someone’s hand and start a conversation and try to learn from everyone you can. It’s a great place to start in high school and move forward.” Littau reflects on his experience with his FFA advisor. “He never really tried to push us in one direction. It was up to us to decide what we wanted to do and to make it happen. I think that was the best thing in helping develop community connections." Listen to Ty's story. 

Remembering Former FFA AdvisorsFormer Hoven South Dakota FFA member Fred Derouchey remembers lots of things about his time in the FFA, but especially his FFA advisor, Mr. Ernie Wingen. "In the 50s and 60s in rural communities, you were pretty well programmed to become farmers for the most part. Mr. Wingen opened up my eyes to new, different avenues in agriculture." In fact, there’s a new scholarship given in Ernie Wingen’s honor. The first recipient will be announced at the South Dakota FFA Convention in Brookings, South Dakota this spring. Listen to Fred's Story: RRFN's FFA Week coverage is sponsored, in part, by Thunder Seed.

Blue and Gold Connections — Odney co-owner and former Stanley North Dakota FFA member Shane Goettle says his time serving as a state FFA officer prepared him for a career in public service. “There’s no doubt FFA prepared me in so many ways, from public speaking skills to how to run a meeting. I also learned how to make a decision and defend it. It’s an important part of my professional career.” Goettle also met his wife, Brenda (pictured right), in FFA. Shane asked her to dance at the 1988 North Dakota FFA Convention. She was up for state sweetheart. “She ran for state secretary after my time in office and she succeeded me as secretary,” he says. “My wife and my children owe this family to the FFA.” Hear Goettle's Story. Thanks to Bayer CropScience for sponsoring RRFN's FFA Week coverage.

MN Soybean Truck to be Unveiled at Commodity Classic — The Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council commissioned the Diesel Brothers from the Discovery television channel to build a customized truck. The Ford F550 6x6 will be unveiled at Commodity Classic in Anaheim, California. The DieselSellerz promotion coincides with the launch of B20 in Minnesota. As of May 1, Minnesota will be the first state in the U.S. to require a 20 percent biodiesel blend.

Ethanol Project Proposed — A joint venture between investors from the United States and Brazil is planning to build a corn ethanol plant in Mato Grosso. Most of Brazil’s ethanol production now comes from sugar cane, but FS Bioenergia sees opportunities for corn-based ethanol.

Syngenta Invests in Golden Harvest — Syngenta is investing $400 million over the next five years in its Golden Harvest brand. That’s in addition to the $1.3 billion spent on research and development each year. Golden Harvest plans to double its seed breeding staff and increase trial testing by one-third.

Conner Promoted — Ben Conner is now the vice president of policy for U.S. Wheat Associates. Most recently, Conner was the director of policy for USW. Previously, Conner was a legislative assistant to former Nebraska Senator Mike Johanns.

Zenk Joins Agriculture Committee Professional Staff — Minnesota native Katie Zenk has joined the minority staff for the House Agriculture Committee. Zenk has been managing government relations for Land O'Lakes.

Gunnerson is RetiringNorthern Plains Potato Growers Association President Chuck Gunnerson is retiring. His final day is June 30, 2018. He's served as president 9 years. He says the NPPGA will start the search process immediately. “I’ll be working with the board to find a candidate to replace my position. I’ll miss this potato organization, because I’ve worked closely with them for so many years. I’ve enjoyed it immensely.” Gunnerson tells growers there are many things that change in the potato industry on a daily basis. “They need to keep track of that, keep up on it and make sure they move forward with the industry as it moves forward.”

Next Steps — Campbell Farms co-owner and former Northern Plains Potato Growers Association board chairman, Greg Campbell, says Gunnerson will be missed by the NPPGA. “I think he’s prolonged this for one year or two already. We’d like to honor his wishes and get someone hired to replace him.” NPPGA’s new board chairman and Black Gold CEO Eric Halverson says one of the big items in the year ahead is figuring out how to move forward. “I think maybe there will be some reflection on what it is we want. We certainly want to start looking for candidates. We don’t like to see Chuck go, but we can look at it as an opportunity, too, to change things up if that’s what we want to do. I think those are some of the questions we’ll ask ourselves as the board.”

Schrage Honored — The Northern Plains Potato Growers Association awarded Willem Schrage the Meritorious Service award on Tuesday evening. Schrage is the former director of the potato program for the North Dakota State Seed Department. He retired in 2016.

SDSU Celebrates Excellence — During its annual Celebration of Faculty Excellence, South Dakota State University honored 30 individuals. The interim director of the South Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station, William Gibbons, was named a distinguished professor. Excellence in teaching and research awards went to assistant agronomy professor Melanie Caffe, animal disease researcher Joy Scaria and Extension veterinarian Russ Daley. Extension beef specialist George Perry was named as one of SDSU’s outstanding researchers and scholars.

Last Week's TriviaI believe in the future of agriculture! E.M. Tiffany is responsible for writing the FFA creed and it was adopted at the third National FFA Convention. Ramsey County farmer Paul Becker was the first to respond with the correct answer and is our National FFA Week winner! Twyla Wulf of Clear Springs Cattle Company, Mandy Kvale of Farm Credit Services of Mandan, Dennis Sabel of Minnesota Farm Bureau, and Tricia Sheehan of Dairy Management Inc. earn runner-up honors. The 'first 20' honors also go to Royalton farmer Darrell Larsen, Thomas Chute of CHS-Drayton Group, Harvey farmer Bill Ongstad, Minnesota's 'Mr. FFA' Jim Ertl, Dennis Duvall of Dakota Environmental, Mark Bernard of Agro-Economics, Ron Dvergsten of Northland FBM, Duane Maatz of Red River Valley Sugarbeet Growers Association, Yvonne Seidler of Farm Credit Services of Mandan/Carson, livestock consultant Bruce Trautman, Kevin Schulz of National Hog Farmer, Jim Altringer of Midwest Ag Energy and Bob Roesler of Minnesota West College Farm Business Management.