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Published June 09, 2014, 10:02 AM

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Study: ND fertilizer plants have advantages, ag groups renew support for biotech wheat, USDA orders farmers to report PED cases, conference will focus on food crops and diseases, new online tools available for farmers, and agency predicts El Nino this summer.

By: Agweek Staff and Wire Reports,

Study: ND fertilizer plants have advantages

• GRAND FORKS, N.D. — A new study says North Dakota would enjoy some major advantages if it were to produce fertilizer, which could happen as early as 2017 at a proposed plant near Grand Forks. The state’s access to low-cost natural gas — a resource that can constitute a majority of manufacturing costs — would be one such advantage for two proposed production plants, according to a North Dakota State University Extension Service report. The study underscores the importance of increasing fertilizer production, according to Don Pottinger, CEO of Northern Plains Nitrogen, which plans to build the plant near Grand Forks. NDSU’s study analyzed the distribution of fertilizer production in the U.S. and the destination of the product. It also considered the impact of a group of new production plants looking to enter the market. In a scenario where 25 plants are built, low costs would make North Dakota a more successful production area than other states, according to the report. Northern Plains Nitrogen is planning to build a plant northwest of Grand Forks, with a cost of about $1.8 billion. A second company, CHS, is looking to build near Spiritwood, but the project has been delayed by higher-than-expected costs. That plant was initially estimated to cost between $1.5 billion and $2 billion to build.

Ag groups renew support for biotech wheat

• Sixteen organizations in Australia, Canada and the U.S. have reconfirmed their commitment to innovation and biotechnology in wheat. The new agreement, which comes five years after the previous document was signed, calls for the “responsible advancement of biotech traits and other breeding advancements in wheat,” according to U.S. Wheat Associates, one of the 16 organizations signing on. The 16 groups encourage the governments of wheat producing and importing countries “to maintain sound, science-based regulatory systems, as well as to adopt reasonable low-level-presence policies to minimize trade disruptions.” The group says it will work toward “synchronized commercialization of biotech traits in wheat in the three countries.” The group adds that customer choice is paramount. The new agreement includes the addition of the broad-based American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Farmers Union. Other U.S. organizations signing the agreement are the National Association of Wheat Growers and the North American Millers’ Association. The Canadian signatories are: Canadian National Millers Association, Cereals Canada, Grain Farmers of Ontario, Grain Growers of Canada, and Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association. Australian signatories are: AgForce Queensland, Grain Growers Ltd., Grain Producers Australia, Grain Producers SA, Pastoral and Graziers Association of Western Australia, and Victorian Farmers Federations Grains Group. The full statement is available online at and tech.

USDA orders farmers to report PED cases

• DES MOINES, Iowa — U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on June 5 ordered farmers to start reporting cases of a deadly pig virus and pledged more than $26 million in funding to combat the disease, pushing back against criticism of his handling of a widespread outbreak. Vilsack, speaking to a roomful of farmers at an industry gathering in Iowa, said they must tell the U.S. Department of Agriculture about outbreaks of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv) effective immediately to help control the spread of the disease. USDA had said in April it would require reporting of cases of PEDv and Swine Delta Coronavirus, but provided few details. Vilsack said requiring farmers to report the disease should help ease concerns among importers. Already, 11 countries have limited imports of live U.S. hogs and one country has banned pork imports because of concerns about the virus.

Conference will focus on food crops, diseases

• A public forum on using value-added traditional and new specialty food crops as a solution to chronic diseases will be held at 3 p.m. June 16 in Fargo, N.D. The forum, in the Crystal Ballroom of the Ramada Plaza Suites, will look at how the crops can be used to counter and manage diet-linked chronic diseases and associated global public health-related issues. The forum will be part of the fifth annual conference of the American Council for Medicinally Active Plants held June 15 to 18 in Fargo. The organization was established in 2009 to promote and foster research, development, production and conservation of medicinal, aromatic and other bioactive plants useful to human health. Members include scientists in the studies of agriculture, chemistry, food, science and safety, health and nutrition. Topics to be discussed at the conference include: the role of an indigenous diet in the prevention of noncommunicable chronic diseases; production and commercialization of medicinal plants and herbs; and development of pharmaceutical products from plants and herbs.

New online tools available for farmers

• Farmers in parts of the Upper Midwest can use two new, free online tools this summer. Corn farmers can tap the “Corn GDD DST,” or growing degree day decision support tool. The tool helps producers estimate when their corn crop reaches critical growth stages. The corn GDD DST provides information for 14 states, including South Dakota, Minnesota and North Dakota. Users can select localized sites and identify the likelihood of early frost and freezes, analyze corn hybrid estimated physiological maturity requirements and make decisions on forward pricing and crop insurance purchases.The tool has many options, including planting date, maturity, potential comparison years and graph display options, according to South Dakota State University Extension. In North Dakota, farmers now have access to the North Dakota Weed Control Guide, Field Crop Fungicide Guide and Insect Management Guide in one app. For now, the app covers corn, soybeans, dry beans, sunflowers, sugar beets, potatoes and small grains. The program will allow updated information to be added to the app, with no extra work required by the user.

Briefly . . .

• El Nino: The Climate Prediction Center, an agency of the National Weather Service, says there is an increased likelihood of an El Nino weather phenomenon striking during the Northern Hemisphere summer. The agency says there is a 70 percent chance of El Nino, which can wreak havoc on global crops, during the summer and 80 percent during the fall and winter.