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Published August 25, 2014, 10:07 AM

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Deere to lay off more than 600 at 4 US plants, deadly US pig virus can be carried in animal feed, NFU committee recommends withdrawal from beef check-off working group, STB to hold ND meeting for shippers affected by rail delays, BNSF and CP catch up on old-crop past-dues

By: Agweek Staff and Wire Reports,

Deere to lay off more than 600 at 4 US plants

• Deere & Co., the world’s largest maker of farm equipment, says it will indefinitely lay off more than 600 employees at plants in Illinois, Iowa and Kansas as falling grain prices hurt demand for tractors, harvesters and other agricultural machinery. The company reported a 5 percent drop in third-quarter sales on Aug. 13 and cut its full-year profit forecast. Deere had about 67,000 full-time employees as of Oct. 31, of which about 33,900 were in the U.S. and Canada. The layoffs are at plants in Moline and East Moline, Ill., Ankeny, Iowa, and Coffeyville, Kan. Deere says it will also implement seasonal and inventory-adjustment shutdowns at the affected plants that would result in temporary layoffs.

Study: Deadly US pig virus can be carried in animal feed

• CHICAGO — A research study has shown for the first time that livestock feed can carry a virus that has killed about 13 percent of the U.S. hog herd, the study’s lead author says, confirming suspicions among farmers and veterinarians battling outbreaks. The findings, published this month in the peer-reviewed BMC Veterinary Research journal, bring increased scrutiny on the feed industry in the fight against porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, or PEDv. The fast-moving virus has killed an estimated 8 million piglets since it was first identified in the U.S. last year, pushing U.S. pork prices to record highs. In the study, researchers collected feed residue from three farms in Iowa and Minnesota that had outbreaks of PEDv and had received feed from the same source. They fed it to five piglets in an experiment at South Dakota State University, and all became infected with the virus. Piglets that were not fed the infected feed did not get sick. The study did not determine how the feed became infected with PEDv. It is possible that ingredients in the feed, such as corn or soybeans, were contaminated with the virus. The feed did not contain pig blood products used in feed that are suspected by some of transmitting the disease.

NFU committee recommends withdrawal from beef check-off working group

• WASHINGTON — The National Farmers Union Legislative Committee has recommended the organization withdraw from the working group trying to reach consensus on changes to the beef check-off. The board of directors will vote Sept. 6 on whether to finalize that action. The legislative committee recommended NFU drop out of the group because its efforts are “unlikely to result in necessary reform,” according to the resolution. The legislative committee’s recommendation was sent to the check-off group made up of other farm groups as a “courtesy,” a spokesman says. “NFU has been working for the past three years to reform the beef check-off system with other beef industry stakeholders. In accordance with NFU’s 2014 national convention special order of business on the beef check-off, NFU is hereby withdrawing from this working group, as the process is unlikely to result in necessary reform. It is time for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to react to beef producers’ demand to reform this system.” NFU adds that the following reforms are necessary: The Cattlemen’s Beef Board must have the authority to carry out check-off projects on its own, similar to other check-off oversight boards; the CBB must be allowed to enter into check-off contracts with nonpolicy organizations and private companies, such as ad agencies and public relations firms, in order to prevent policy-driven organizations from using check-off dollars to fund overhead for political activity; the beef check-off must be completely refundable; a referendum on the continuation of the beef check-off must occur every five years.

STB to hold ND meeting for shippers affected by rail delays

• FARGO, N.D. — The U.S. Surface Transportation Board will hold a public hearing on Sept. 4 to provide shippers an opportunity to report on service problems in the rail network. The meeting will be 8 a.m. at the Hilton Garden Inn in Fargo, N.D. The STB says it will order officials of Canadian Pacific Railway Co. and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway to appear at the hearing and invites shippers, other Class I railroads and other affected carriers to appear. The STB is requiring weekly reporting of status and plans for delivering grain. Dan Wogsland, executive director of the North Dakota Grain Growers Association, says he’ll be at the Sept. 4 meeting. “It’s always good to have decision-makers come to North Dakota and talk to folks who deal with these things on a regular basis,” Wogsland says.

BNSF, CP catch up on old-crop past-dues

• Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway reports it is getting caught up on old-crop past-due train car orders, but there are significant new-crop orders still past-due. In an Aug. 18 report to the U.S. Surface Transportation Board, BNSF reported 2,671 cars past due, with an average wait of 17 days per car. About 989 cars were more than 21 days past the want date. Of the remaining past dues, North Dakota accounted for 47 percent — 1,262 cars late at 42 stations, waiting an average of 19.6 days per car. The state topped the nation with 596 new past dues, but also had 323 new orders. Montana had 599 cars late on BNSF, averaging 19.1 days late. Minnesota past-dues were 221, with an average wait of 22.3 days — the longest among the states. South Dakota was down to 132 cars late, an average of only 7.2 days per late car. In a separate weekly podcast on Aug. 18, John Miller, BNSF agricultural group vice president, reported turns of shuttle trains were up to 2.4 per month overall, while Pacific Northwest shuttles had improved to 2.5 per month. That’s about the level elevators say is economical. Meanwhile, Canadian Pacific Railway’s Robert Johnson, senior vice president for operations, reported his railroad had delivered 441 cars to the Rapid City Pierre & Eastern Railroad, a shortline railroad it sold in June, compared with the 500 the RCP&E had been expecting. CP fulfillment was down slightly in North Dakota, because of an increase in cars offline. The railroad reports 57 net locomotives on the RCP&E. The railroad had fewer than 50 locomotives on the RCP&E in the first week of August, when the state’s winter wheat crop was getting started.