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USDA Announces $502 Million For High-Speed Internet In Rural Communities

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the Department is awarding $502 million in loans and grants (PDF, 221 KB) to provide high-speed internet access for rural residents and businesses in 20 states. The funding is part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to investing in rural infrastructure and providing reliable, affordable, high-speed internet for all. USDA is making the investments through the third funding round of the ReConnect Program. The Department will make additional investments for rural high-speed internet in the coming months, including funding from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which provides a historic $65 billion investment to expand affordable, high-speed internet to all communities across the U.S.

“President Biden’s commitment to high-speed internet in rural communities is foundational to ensuring that the nation’s economy continues to expand from the bottom up and the middle out,” Vilsack said. “High-speed internet will improve the rural economy. It will help rural businesses grow and get access to new markets. It will help rural residents get access to more and better health care and educational opportunities. USDA knows rural America is America’s backbone, and prosperity here means prosperity for all.”

USDA is making 32 awards in Alabama, Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming. Many of the awards will help rural people and businesses on Tribal lands and people in socially vulnerable communities.

As part of today’s announcement:

In Michigan, the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians is receiving a $25 million grant to connect 1,217 people and 26 businesses to high-speed internet in Chippewa and Mackinac counties. The Tribe will make high-speed internet affordable by requiring its service provider to participate in the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Affordable Connectivity Program, which provides a discount of up to $30 per month – or $75 per month for households on Tribal lands – on household’s internet bills, as well as the FCC’s Lifeline Program. This project will serve Sault Ste. Marie Off-Reservation Trust Land, the Sault Ste. Marie Reservation as well as socially vulnerable communities in Chippewa and Mackinac counties.

Net Vision Communications LLC is receiving a $12.4 million loan to connect 4,587 people, 300 businesses, nine farms and 15 public schools to high-speed internet in Barton County, Missouri. This project will serve socially vulnerable communities in the county.

Oklahoma’s Southern Plains Cable LLC is receiving an $8.1 million loan and an $8.1 million grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network that will connect 7,093 people, 230 businesses, six farms and 29 schools to high-speed internet in Caddo, Comanche, Cotton and Grady counties. Southern Plains will make high-speed internet affordable by participating in the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity and Lifeline programs. This project will serve the Kiowa-Comanche-Apache-Fort Sill Apache tribal statistical area as well as socially vulnerable communities in Cotton County.

USDA has announced $858 million in the third round of ReConnect funding so far and plans to make more investment announcements under this program in the coming weeks. Today’s announcement follows the Department’s July 28 announcement that it has invested $356 million through the ReConnect Program to help very rural residents and businesses in 11 states (PDF, 192 KB) gain access to high-speed internet.

Background: ReConnect Program

To be eligible for ReConnect Program funding, an applicant must serve an area where high-speed internet service speeds are lower than 100 megabits per second (Mbps) (download) and 20 Mbps (upload). The applicant must also commit to building facilities capable of providing high-speed internet service at speeds of 100 Mbps (download and upload) to every location in its proposed service area.

To learn more about investment resources for rural areas, visit www.rd.usda.gov or contact the nearest USDA Rural Development state office.

Background: Bipartisan Infrastructure Law

President Biden forged consensus and compromise between Democrats, Republicans and Independents to demonstrate our democracy can deliver big wins for the American people. After decades of talk on rebuilding America’s crumbling infrastructure, President Biden delivered the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law – a historic investment in America that will change people’s lives for the better and get America moving again.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides $65 billion to ensure every American has access to affordable, reliable high-speed internet through a historic investment in broadband infrastructure deployment. The legislation also lowers costs for internet service and helps close the digital divide, so that more Americans can take full advantage of the opportunities provided by internet access.

USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities, create jobs and improve the quality of life for millions of Americans in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural, tribal and high-poverty areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.

USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate-smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov.

If you’d like to subscribe to USDA Rural Development updates, visit our GovDelivery subscriber page

Meristem And Wisconsin’s MaxxYield Ag, Announce Distribution Agreement

Meristem Crop Performance Group, LLC (www.meristemag.com) and Jarred Huber of MaxxYield Ag, LLC today announced a new dealership agreement to serve farmers in Wisconsin. Under the new relationship, MaxxYield Ag will carry the Meristem Crop Performance product line and become Meristem’s ally in helping farmers make the most of every dollar they spend on crop inputs.

“Jarred Huber and his team are bringing quality seed solutions and agronomics to farmers in Southcentral Wisconsin,” said Mitch Eviston, Meristem Founder and CEO, in announcing the agreement. “They are as intent on seeing farm businesses succeed as we are. We’re excited to be able to come alongside him as he serves his customers and also learn from agronomic know-how and field experience as we add new products.”

Huber, who founded MaxxYield in 2016, says Meristem’s service attitude and products make for a good fit with his business. “We work with growers on a field-by-field basis,” he says. “We focus on matching the latest in genetics to individual fields and the farmers producing those crops. It’s clear to me that Meristem’s product portfolio will help us help our customers make the most of every seed they plant and that’s why we’re teaming up.” MaxxYield Ag, a Pioneer Seed dealer, currently focuses on serving farmers in the Wisconsin counties of Vernon, Monroe, LaCrosse, and Crawford.

Huber says he’s already seen results from Meristem products. “I have used AquaDraft Extreme and feel the Meristem adjuvant line will be a great fit into my offerings,” he says. Huber and his team will now offer Meristem’s full product portfolio, including HOPPER THROTTLE planter box treatments, REVLINE plant growth regulators, TRUTRACK drift control, AQUADRAFT water conditioners and surfactants, and HOMESTRETCH nitrogen stabilizers, micronutrients, and foliar nutritionals. Of special interest is a line of biologicals Meristem is bringing to market, including EXCAVATO powered by MICROBILIZE, a new biological designed to break down tough crop residue.

Huber grew up on a dairy farm near Melrose, Wisc. and earned his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He worked more than a decade as a Certified Crop Advisor (CCA) and solutions specialist for cooperatives as well as a John Deere dealership. He and his wife Laci have two sons, Brandt and Rhett, and live near Viroqua, Wisc. on their own small grain farm.

Eviston said Huber’s love for family and ‘farmer-first” mentality is what makes MaxxYield Ag and Meristem a good match for better serving Wisconsin farmers.

“Providing more opportunities for farm businesses like Huber’s is a key part of our mission,” says Eviston. “We’ve set up Meristem to cut waste from the distribution channel while providing high-quality crop input additives to help American farmers reduce costs and increase yield, so they are more competitive in a global market. Now, with the help of Jarred Huber and his team, we’ll be able to connect with more of the farmers who can benefit.”

About Meristem Crop Performance

Meristem Crop Performance Group, LLC (www.meristemag.com) is one of the fastest-growing crop input companies in America. Meristem sources, formulates, licenses, and delivers high- quality crop inputs to farmers at the highest possible value, at substantial savings. Meristem is focused on building a highly efficient channel to bring crop inputs to market so farm businesses can make the most of their infrastructure and intellectual property investments and better compete in the global agricultural market. Meristem’s team of experienced ag professionals also works to create real productivity gains for farm businesses through novel biological delivery systems and accelerated access to farm-ready innovations.

About MaxxYield Ag, LLC

MaxxYield Ag, LLC (www.maxxyieldag.com) serves Wisconsin farmers with Pioneer Seed, agronomic consulting services and advanced precision agriculture field mapping and analysis. Special attention is devoted to understanding underlying agronomic issues on a field-by-field and farm-by-farm basis to best match the latest in plant genetics and production practices to local needs.

The Sharp Edge: Selecting the right hybrid for the farm, with Ken Ferrie

Each year, corn hybrid selection is a balancing of growing conditions, field selection, and in-field management that can bring up some tough questions to navigate when chasing big yields. 

Sentera Launches New Crop Health Insights To Validate Agriscience Development

Sentera, the industry leading ag analytics platform powered by machine learning, today launched seven new crop health and performance analytics as part of its FieldInsights product, which helps agronomic leaders make critical in-season and post-harvest decisions with accurate and reliable data sets.

For research and seed production leaders in agriscience, the labor shortage has expounded the challenge of capturing accurate and precise measurements that can be trusted and delivered in a timely fashion. Recent data shows that there’s been a significant decrease in the number of hired farmworkers in recent years – and for agriscience, this poses challenges and risks for bringing new products to market.

“Our technology gives research and product development leaders the measurements they need to evaluate crop health and performance from first sign of emergence through harvest,” said Andrew Muehlfeld, director of solutions engineering, Sentera. “We know that timeliness matters just as much as accuracy, and given the technology that powers FieldInsights, we can deliver our analytics when our customers need them most.”

FieldInsights is Sentera’s data and analytics solution. After capturing high-resolution aerial imagery with a compatible ag drone system, Sentera’s machine learning platform translates the imagery into detailed data sets and measurements. Users can then analyze the data by using Sentera’s software platform, FieldAgent, or choose to consume the data via an integration or data export.

In addition to Stand Count (including Male/Female Stand Count), Crop Health, and Tassel Count (including Male/Female Tassel Count) analytics available today, new FieldInsights analytics include:

Canopy Cover, identifying green vegetation to characterize growth stage and development
Crop Area, digitally tracking field borders for seed production to minimize the risk of genetic drift  Elevation & Hydrology, modeling how water will flow within the field to inform water management strategies  Flowering, measuring timing of plant flowering and development to characterize phenotype and track pollination  Height and Lodging, detecting areas of damaged crop canopy to help track plant growth stage
Residue Cover, quantifying the amount of residue cover to help improve soil management efforts  Weed Detection, identifying the location, extent, and type of weed pressure

FieldInsights analytics provide essential insight into key crops, including corn, soybean, cotton, canola/OSR, and small grain.

For more information about using detailed analytics like FieldInsights for crop health analysis, join Sentera’s upcoming webinar on Tuesday, September 27 at 11 a.m. CT.

For more information about FieldInsights, visit https://www.sentera.com.

About Sentera

Sentera powers in-season decision makers with the fastest and most reliable agronomic insights to maximize performance outcomes, from research, breeding and seed production to in-field product validation and sales support via its FieldAgent® platform to analyze comprehensive digital insights form numerous data providers, including aerial imagery that can be captured by Sentera’s drone technology solutions or services. Operating in more than 45 countries, Sentera works with hundreds of customers to monitor more than 42 million acres in real time. For more information, visit https://www.sentera.com.

A Look at the Principles for Transparency in Ag Climate Markets, By Todd Janzen

Grower acceptance of soil carbon sequestration programs seems to be lagging, based upon my unscientific observations. There are many speculations about why this is true, including the minimal payments most programs are offering in exchange for somewhat lengthy agreements growers must sign to participate. A group of companies called the Agricultural Climate Market Collaborative believes that lack of “transparency” is one of major road blocks to acceptance. To address transparency, the Collaborative developed eleven principles to guide carbon ecosystem marketers when forming these new contracts with growers.

Here is my summary of the eleven principles for companies developing carbon programs for farmers, followed by some concluding thoughts on what happens next.

  1. Eligibility. Program developers should clearly outline what farmland and farm entities are eligible for enrollment (geographies, production systems, climate-smart practice adoption, land use, and ownership status).

  2. Contract Obligations. Contract obligations for the grower should be clearly explained in summary. The summary should spell out the duration of a contract, the transferability of a contract between subsequent landowners, the consequences of partial or non-fulfillment of the contract, including practice reversals, and conditions that may lead to the cancellation of the contract.

  3. Asset Types. The program should clearly explain what assets are being transferred.

  4. Standards. The program should explain standards are used for accounting, reporting, and verification used to generate the carbon credit and the credit’s value.

  5. Data Requirements. Program developers should clearly state the data inputs required from the grower. Potential impacts to on-farm operations should be clear, including the frequency of any onsite visits.

  6. Models. Program developers should share with the grower what models are being used and how those models lead to the generation of carbon credits.

  7. Ownership of Credits. Who owns the credits and what is a credit’s value should be clear.

  8. Grower Financial Obligations and Payments. Developers should make clear the financial obligations required by a grower to participate. Similarly, it should be clear to the grower what the price of the credit is and how that may differ from the price paid to the grower. Ideally, information is conveyed in payment/acre basis.

  9. Data Ownership and Privacy. Program developers follow the Ag Data Transparent principles with respect to ownership and privacy related to data.

  10. Contractual Noncompliance and Acts of God. Program developers should be clear about what happens if growers do not comply with the obligations or cannot comply due to outside forces, such as extreme weather.

  11. Program Developer Disclosure: Program developers should disclose any customer, membership, or other relationship requirements that growers must meet to participate in the market program. Additionally, program developers should disclose if the grower is required to purchase any specific product or service to participate.

These are principles are a good set of aspirational goals for carbon program developers. They are sorely needed, based upon the lack of transparency in many of the current carbon platforms that exist today. Simple, easy to understand contracts are essential for widespread adoption.

The following companies have pledged to support these principles: American Farmland Trust; Bayer; Corteva; Ecosystem Services Market Consortium; Indigo Ag; Nori; Nutrien; Regrow Ag; Soil and Water Outcomes Fund; The Nature Conservancy; and Truterra. Now comes the big question: what happens next? These principles are just words on a page unless they are incorporated into the contract terms that these companies ask farmers to sign. I can tell you from experience that getting the marketing department to approve a pledge of support is much easier than getting the legal department to build the promises into contracts.

Notably absent from the list of supporters are our farmer-led organizations—such as American Farm Bureau, National Farmers Union, American Soybean Association, National Corn Growers, National Association of Wheat Growers, etc. Getting the support from these farmer-led organizations would add a lot of additional credibility to these principles.

Overall, these principles are great first step. In order to take the next step, they will need the support of farm industry groups that are controlled by farmers.

First-Of-Its-Kind Specialty Ag Conference Set For Hawaii

Identity preserved soybeans and grains cross the Pacific Ocean throughout the year, as the finest ingredients from the United States are delivered to food manufacturers throughout Asia. That is why there is no better location to hold a conference about identity preserved and specialty field crops from the United States than in Hawaii – literally the “Crossroads of the Pacific.”

The Specialty Soya and Grains Alliance presents the inaugural Identity Preserved International Summit to be held Jan. 11-13, 2023, at the Hilton Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, Hawaii.

This is an opportunity for food manufacturers and their buyers from around the world to gather with processors, exporters and farmers of identity preserved and other grains and oilseeds from the United States for three days of education, conversation, networking, business opportunities and more.

Strategically scheduled for the peak of the shipping season, as well as the beginning of the buying season for the 2023 specialty crop, the Identity Preserved International Summit is an opportunity for in-depth discussions about trends in the identity preserved and specialty markets and the needs of the international customer and the availability of high-quality U.S. IP products.

“These are the best companies in the world who do this – on both sides of the ocean,” said Eric Wenberg, SSGA executive director. “We are giving them a chance to have real dialogue about one of the fastest-growing sectors of agriculture – the IP and specialty space.”

Besides being centrally located as a convenient meeting spot for guests from the U.S., Japan, Korea, Taiwan and countries throughout Southeast Asia, Hawaii has other great amenities (And we’re not just talking about the weather!): Hawaii’s top agricultural commodities are seed crops, including corn and soybean seeds. Holding the Summit in the 50th U.S. state will give guests opportunities to see firsthand the development of new varieties.

The Summit will also include a workshop on the U.S. Identity Preserved assurance plan, which was launched by SSGA in December 2021, and panels on ocean shipping, ag manufacturing equipment and trade.

SSGA is working with Hawaii’s Department of Agriculture, as well as with the support of Qualified State Soybean Boards from Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota and Michigan.

The U.S. Identity Preserved quality assurance plan and its accompanying designation offers assurance to customers looking for grains with specific traits or qualities such as variety, protein and sugar levels, color, bean size or flavor. Customers can be assured the grains are traceable from their fields of origin throughout the process of production, processing, packaging and distribution, which provides the knowledge and assurance customers need.

“We think our Summit will bring new experiences and opportunities to all participants, and we’re happy to offer a special rate to Hawaii residents,” Wenberg said. “We look forward to uniting the identity preserved industry and saying ‘aloha’ to our guests in January.”

Registration for the event is now open at https://soyagrainsalliance.org/international-ip-summit/.

About the Specialty Soya and Grains Alliance

The Specialty Soya and Grains Alliance is a national association of companies focused on production, processing and shipping of U.S. Identity Preserved field crops and their related products worldwide. Its mission is to provide resources that communicate the quality, diversity and availability of their products and support allied companies throughout the value chain, including, but not limited to, agronomy, data, finance, insurance, logistics and transportation.

Innovation Contest & Seminar Applications For World Ag Expo Open For 2023

Innovation and education are hallmarks of World Ag Expo. Exhibitors and ag experts can now apply to put their mark on the 2023 show via the Top-10 New Products Contest and the Seminar series.

The Top-10 New Products Competition at World Ag Expo has introduced the world to autonomous sprayers, handheld feed analyzers, electric tractors, and more. The show is now on the lookout for the next 10 standout products and services from their 2023 exhibitors. Past winners have pointed to the Top-10 New Products Contest as a catalyst for success.

“Winning the Top-10 Award in 2010 at World Ag Expo launched our company and our innovation on the international agri-tech stage,” shared Lisa Fast of Livestock Water Recycling. “It boosted our company’s profile and solidified our reputation as the leading and most trustworthy brand in manure treatment. Winning again in 2021 has massively expanded our market reach and provided a very helpful platform to share our technology advancements.”

The Top-10 New Products Contest application is available now, Click Here to View Entrants must be exhibitors at the 2023 World Ag Expo and only products released anywhere in the world between February 11, 2022 and February 16, 2023 are eligible. The application deadline is October 31, 2022 and winners will be announced in December 2022.

Seminars at World Ag Expo are included with the price of admission and feature some of the most knowledgeable professionals working in agriculture. Each year, tracks include Dairy & Livestock, Technology, Irrigation & Water, Demonstrations, and more.

Each day of the show educational seminars are given in three separate rooms in the Seminar Center on the southeast side of the grounds. Sessions are either 25 or 55 minutes and include a Q&A session. Exhibitors, universities, government agencies, and invited speakers share their expertise at no cost to help improve producer information and practices.

The Seminar application is available now: View World Ag Expo provides seminar space and AV equipment for each session, as well as making the schedule and speaker information available online, in the show app, and in the printed show guide. The application deadline is October 31, 2022 and speakers will start to be confirmed in November 2022.

Entering its 56th year, World Ag Expo is the largest annual outdoor ag tradeshow in the world. In 2022, the show saw 98,387 attendees from 49 states and 34 countries. With more than 1,200 exhibitors on 2.6 million square feet of exhibit space, World Ag Expo provides a platform for networking, education, and business in one of the most productive ag counties in the United States.

Limited exhibit spaces are still available for agriculture companies. To learn more about World Ag Expo and request space, please visit https://www.worldagexpo.com/exhibitors/.

International attendee ticket packages are on sale now. General admission and ag tour tickets go on sale October 3, 2022. Attendees can purchase tickets and plan their visit at www.WorldAgExpo.com. The 56th edition will run Tuesday, February 14 through Thursday, February 16, 2023 at the International Agri-Center in Tulare, CA.

For more information, visit www.WorldAgExpo.com.

Taiwan To Purchase $600 Million Worth Of Corn Products From Iowa

Larry Buss, President of the Iowa Corn Promotion Board (ICPB) met with representatives of the Taiwan Feed Industry Association, Governor Kim Reynolds and Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig to sign a letter of intent to purchase $600 million worth of corn products between 2023 and 2024. This agreement includes 1.5 million metric tons (MT) (59 million bushels) of corn and 250 thousand MT (9.8 million bushels) of corn products (DDGS or distillers dried grains and solubles).

Taiwan and Iowa have a longstanding relationship and this letter of intent is a testament to their friendship and mutually beneficial trade commitments. Because of our high-quality produce, the U.S. remains one of Taiwan’s largest sources of agricultural products, supplying more than one-fifth of the country’s major agricultural imports including $72.1 million worth of corn in 2021. We expect Taiwan to remain a consistent partner of Iowa corn farmers.

“As a part of the Iowa Corn Promotion Board’s mission we strive to develop opportunities to help open markets for Iowa corn farmers,” stated ICPB President Larry Buss, a farmer from Logan, Iowa. “Letters of intent allow us to share our bounty with great corn customers, like Taiwan, and mean a great deal for Iowa corn farmers in terms of market opportunity and development.”

The terms, quantities, prices and conditions for the purchase and sale of corn and corn coproducts will be negotiated privately between the individual importers and suppliers. Future purchases of corn may differ from those set out in the letter of intent.

AgFunder Releases Its Inaugural Africa AgriFoodTech Investment Report, Raised $1 Billon


Today we’re launching our first Africa AgriFoodTech Investment report. It details more than $1 billion in investment in African startups innovating for the food and agriculture industry over the past five years.

Achieving a record-breaking $482 million in 2021 alone – a 250% jump year-over-year – it still represented less than 1% of global agrifoodtech investment.

Given the African continent is home to 16.7% of the global population, and the food and agriculture industries represent a significant part of most African economies, there clearly remains a shortfall of funding on the continent.

The good news is that there’s a growing number of startups closing investment deals, some 272 investors backing them, and the more mature companies are raising bigger and bigger deals.

Thank you to our partners, FMO Entrepreneurial Development Bank and British International Investment for your support in producing our first Africa Investment report.

To obtain a copy of the report click here.

USDA Reports Labor Required By Crop And Livestock Operations

A farm’s reliance on farm labor varies by commodity specialization. On average, labor costs (including contract labor, hired labor, and worker benefits such as insurance) accounted for about 14 percent of the total farm cash expenses in 2020.

Farms specializing in the production of specialty crops, which include fruits, tree nuts, vegetables, beans (pulses) and horticultural nursery crops, had the highest labor costs across farm types, with labor accounting for almost 40 percent of total cash expenses. In contrast, operations specializing in corn and soybeans spent the least on labor costs as a percentage of total cash farm expenses (4 percent and 3 percent, respectively) in 2020.

Corn and soybean farms have lower farm labor expenses resulting from higher adoption rates of labor-saving innovations, such as technology, chemical herbicides, etc.

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