MPS In Action Blog

Your Blog for Farm News and Information

Welcome to the MPS In Action blog, your AgVenture Seed Company link to the latest in news, information and education from across our independent Regional Seed Company network and the industry as a whole. Check this space often for the latest tips to increasing production and profit on your farm.

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March 5, 2015
By Travis Michl

Even though the Farm Bill deadline has come and gone, it really didn’t have much influence on my planning. I updated my yields, which we haven’t been able to do for a long time, and I took most of the industry professionals and universities’ opinions.  The vast majority of economists believe that the ARC-County level was the best option for most individuals. We don’t raise a lot of wheat, so that helped narrow it down some more. We updated some base acres and moved some things around to get a more accurate representation of what we’re doing.

But in the end, it’s a safety net — it’s for a disaster. Everybody was sure we were going to get a payment for 2014, until the yields came in. Historically, yield for my county was 147 bushels on corn, and our county average came in at 187. As a county, we had the best yields we’ve ever had in 2014. Some people were disappointed that there were no payments (typically the people who hadn’t sold any grain or didn’t have crop insurance toward the end of the season), but that’s not what the program was designed for. It was designed as a safety net.

Personally, I hope we never get a payment from the bill, because if we never get a payment, that means we had good yields and good price. And that’s the best a person can have and all you can ask for.

 

March 5, 2015
By Travis Michl

We’ve been staying busy over the winter — we’re taking care of cows and getting them through winter. We have about another 25 days until we start calving, so at that point we’ll have a spring calf herd of 40 head on its way. But mostly we’re hauling grain and fertilizer. We’ve got pretty well everything hauled except for some parent seed. I think we’ve got 20,000 bushels of corn left to move and a few commercial beans, but most of it is parent seed.

We’ve been taking a lot of grain to the river terminals in St. Louis for export. We get a lot better basis there, so we haul it to the river terminal and it goes directly onto a barge south down to New Orleans or wherever, where it ships for export.

Most people in this area stay local with their grain delivery. Either they don’t have the trucks to get it down to St. Louis or they aren’t willing to pay to have it trucked. But for us, it’s very well worth the trip.

Finalizing the Cropping Plan

We got the cropping plan all together for this spring and we got the seed all ordered and firmed up. We’ve got our budgets put together and break-evens figured. So now we’re just kind of waiting on Mother Nature to start letting winter go away so we can rock and roll.

That’s one of the advantages of starting your cropping plan in the month of August the year before. If you start your cropping plan far enough ahead and stick to it, you’ll be fine. But if you haven’t got a good firm plan on what you’ll do, there’s no good way to figure your break-even.

Of course, there have been some changes made as the price of commodities dropped and when we got back some yield info at the end of harvest. And when we started looking at our data and the testing from 2014 crop — seeing what worked and what didn’t — of course we made changes. But where we set right now, at the end of February, I’m ready to go.

Looking Ahead to the Early Season

February has been pretty rough here. We’ve had snow on the ground for a couple weeks now, and last week when I got up to haul grain to St. Louis, it was 13° below zero. We’re a little bit warmer than that today — I think it was 22 when I came in from lunch. But it’s time to start moving toward spring.

We didn’t get any fall tillage or prep work done, so when things warm up, we have ruts to fill in and fertilizer to put on. It would be nice to get a run of decent weather here in late March to get some preliminary tillage done and get some fertilizer spread — it would certainly make this spring a lot more enjoyable and then when it’s time to start planting, we can focus solely on that.

We haven’t got the equipment ready to go yet, but it’s in progress. I’d like it to start warming up a little bit outside since we don’t have a huge heated shop. We have a cold shop and some of our machinery has. . . how do I put this. . .  our machinery has outgrown our shop space. So I’d like it to at least get up to 30–40° before we start working on that. And that’s the last major hurdle I’ve got before spring. 

February 27, 2015

KENTLAND, IN (February 27, 2015) – AgVenture Regional Seed Companies from across the Western Cornbelt gathered in Des Moines Iowa this week to hone their skills. More than 40 participants representing eight seed companies were part of this Winter Profit Plot workshop, one in a series of AgVenture’s high-impact educational conferences held prior to planting the 2015 crop.

AgVenture Business Development Manager, Frank Peterson said, “This group of seed professionals worked very well together to sharpen their early season and planting seed production skills. With input from great speakers and lively engagement from these leaders in their own companies, we had a very productive set of sessions focusing on the latest data, the science of seed, and the practicality of profitable crop production.”

Seed quality and germination was an important topic discussed. Representatives from AgVenture, Inc. and Indiana Crop Improvement Association presented data exposing AgVenture’s leadership in warm and cold seed germination percentages. Peterson said, “Beyond having the right genetics and technologies working for you, we go the extra step and scrutinize seed to perform at the highest caliber of germination percentages. We worked through our new seed treatment offerings, including protecting from insects and diseases, as well as providing nutrients/biological support to seedlings.”

The workshop content ranged from the most current, research-based studies on seed germination, seed treatments and seedling vigor, to fine-tuning planting practices to maximize profitability. Experts from within and outside the company engaged in lively discussions and inventive ideation on early season crop production practices, sharing the best of their experiences and results.

Peterson called the workshop a great success. “Our RSC owners and their staffs are dedicated to continued education, learning together and challenging one another for the purpose of supporting their customers’ success.”

AgVenture, Inc. is the nation’s largest network of independently owned regional seed companies. Based in Kentland, Indiana, AgVenture provides this growing network of independently owned and managed seed business owners with seed products meeting exacting standards for quality, together with leading-edge genetics and technology. Since 1983, this unique marketing approach has allowed each individual company to match the hybrids it sells to the specific needs of the geographical area it serves. Combined with professional seed representation at a local level, AgVenture strives to help every grower realize more profit from every field.

February 23, 2015

KENTLAND, IN (February 23, 2015) – Cutting-edge information, the science of seed, and the practicality of profitable crop production were the key topics covered in an intensive one-day workshop held this week at the Indiana Crop Improvement Association facilities near Stockwell, Indiana. This Winter Profit Plot program was the first in a series of the company’s high-impact educational conferences to be held prior to planting the 2015 crop. Nearly 40 participants included AgVenture Regional Seed Company owners, marketing managers, and AgVenture Yield Specialists from across the eastern Cornbelt.

AgVenture Business Development Director, Chuck Schneider welcomed the participants and commended them for their dedication to continued learning. “Technologies change so rapidly that it is crucial we stay informed with the most current information available in the industry. Our customers’ production practices and management decisions likewise are ever-changing and adapting to real-time influencers that impact the business of profitable crop production. Our RSC owners and their staffs are dedicated to continued education, learning together and challenging one another for the purpose of supporting their customers’ success.”

The workshop content ranged from the most current, research-based studies on seed germination, seed treatments and seedling vigor, to fine-tuning planting practices to maximize profitability. Experts from within and outside the company engaged in lively discussions and inventive ideation on early season crop production practices, sharing the best of their experiences and results.

Schneider said, “Each of our RSCs is independently owned and operated. Their expertise in seed in their own communities/regions defines their success. When we work together like this, our discussions surface meaningful, brilliant ideas and solutions. Working together, we have yet another advantage in providing our customers all the tools they need to improve profitability.”

AgVenture, Inc. is the nation’s largest network of independently owned regional seed companies. Based in Kentland, Indiana, AgVenture provides this growing network of independently owned and managed seed business owners with seed products meeting exacting standards for quality, together with leading-edge genetics and technology. Since 1983, this unique marketing approach has allowed each individual company to match the hybrids it sells to the specific needs of the geographical area it serves. Combined with professional seed representation at a local level, AgVenture strives to help every grower realize more profit from every field.

February 20, 2015

KENTLAND, IN (February 23, 2015) – Applications are now being accepted for the Earl H. Passwaters Scholarship. The one thousand dollar scholarship is awarded once a year to a college student with plans to pursue a career in agriculture working on a farm. Full-time students with a 3.0 grade point or higher are eligible.

Applicants must submit an essay of 500-1,000 words explaining why they chose a career in agriculture, and the benefits of having a college degree in that field. Applicants also must show community involvement. Students are encouraged to apply online before the March 27th deadline at the AgVenture Facebook page under the scholarship tab. Additional information is available by emailing farmscholarship@gmail.com.

The Earl H. Passwaters Agricultural Scholarship was established in memory of Earl Passwaters, a co-founder of AgVenture East Coast Seed, who passed away suddenly in 2011. Throughout his career, Passwaters was passionate about working directly with young farmers amidst a world of rapidly advancing agriculture technology. With a strong belief in the value of education, he remained committed to supporting their efforts. Through the scholarship, his legacy endures.

The 2015 scholarship is offered by Earl’s wife, Beth Passwaters, and their children, Brian and Mandy. East Coast Seed was founded 2008. Today the company continues to serve corn, soybean, and alfalfa producers across Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, providing them access to AgVenture® brand seed products and year-round professional seed support.

AgVenture, Inc. is the nation’s largest network of independently owned regional seed companies. Based in Kentland, Indiana, AgVenture provides this growing network of independently owned and managed seed business owners with seed products meeting exacting standards for quality, together with leading-edge genetics and technology. Since 1983, this unique marketing approach has allowed each individual company to match the hybrids it sells to the specific needs of the geographical area it serves. Combined with professional seed representation at a local level, AgVenture strives to help every grower realize more profit from every field.

February 17, 2015
By Aaron Paus

The Farm Bill deadline is coming up at the end of February, and I think most people are up and counting on the ARC option. But the bigger question is whether or not to change any of the base acres. Everybody has to update yields, but it’s probably split down the middle as far as whether they’ll change base acres or not.

By updating base acres, you’re able to get your program payments more aligned to what it is you’re actually doing now—in terms of prices, it reflects better. However, there’s still better payments for some of the crops that are no longer planted — the oats, the wheats, the sorghum. Those still actually pay out pretty decent because most people are just looking in regards to corn and soybeans. So one option pays a little better, but one is more reflective on what you’re doing now. So it all depends on what happens over the next five years. Personally, I’m going with ARC. And at this point I don’t think I’m going to change any of the base acres.

The county extension offices are really the ones doing the most of the educating — they’re having the most number of meetings. There are other small, private companies that are doing their own meetings, but for the most part, it’s county extensions.

 

February 17, 2015
By Aaron Paus

Current Conditions

Right now we’re overcast and foggy — it’s kind of a miserable day. I’m doing a couple of maintenance things and paperwork, just trying to get ready for the season.

We had a couple big snowstorms roll through a few weeks, but it was pretty typical of our winters — the first one was probably 6 inches, the second one was maybe another 3–4. It was a wet snow, and we’ve had nice weather since so a lot of it’s gone now.

Unfortunately, the snow will have very little effect on the water restrictions here. The restrictions for 2015 have already been set — last year they were set for the next three years: 10½ inches.

Next Up

We haven’t had a chance to do field prep yet, but we’re hoping to do our field prep in mid-March. And then let the madness begin again.

‘Til then, we’re getting moved along on repairs on machinery. I need to spend some time in the office getting my maps organized and deciding what has to get done and in what order. It’s always a struggle for me to have all the prescription maps ready for when the time comes.

In terms of priorities of fieldwork, I actually like to focus on getting my hillier dryland stuff done first. It gives a greater potential window for rain to happen between prep work and planting in a no-till environment. And the flatter-area stuff can get pushed back that area doesn’t need rainfall so much — we can rely on irrigation.

Discovery Group and Strategies for 2015

Starting tomorrow, we’ll be in Louisville to meet with the Discovery Group for AgVenture. And that will really help focus our efforts. It’s a brainstorming session and I hope there are some good ideas for what we can try on my farm. For me it’s easy to get bogged down with the day-to-day stuff. I need to really sit down and talk with others to get an idea of what we’re going to do going forward.

But my greatest goal at this point is to stay in the black for ’15 — and it ties my hand a little bit on what we can do from a research perspective because of the economics.

What I’m most interested in trying is a heavy emphasis on variable rate irrigation and remote soil sensors. We did some last year but really didn’t use the technology to the best of its ability.

The remote sensors simply send soil moisture conditions to the cloud. You’re able to pull that data from anywhere and make irrigation decisions from it. Right now we’re trying to figure out the best route to go, which might be putting multiple low-tech sensors in the field — one for each zone, so about three per field. It gives you more readings, which will help us figure out the best timing of water applications and nitrogen applications dependent on variety to variety.

It’s something that, with the water restrictions, we’re really going to put more emphasis on. Just to be more efficient with what we’re doing.

February 17, 2015
By Jackson Webb

As you know, we picked up another 4,000 acres to add to our operation this year. I’m going in on it with a neighbor, and that’s going great so far. The place had been pretty 

neglected for the last four years, and we actually got it broken and disced and whipped into shape. We ended up getting about 800 acres of wheat planted on it and got the remainder rowed up and ready to plant. So we’re in good shape up there. It’s almost identical to our other fields in terms of soil types. It’s sandy dirt. So we’re going to do the same things on those fields as on our others — but we’ll just have more acres to use this season.

But now that we have so much extra land, our biggest problem is finding good labor. I guess you could blame it on education — though we blame it on other things — but lack of labor down here is horrific. If you’re a good, experienced operator and you’re young, you’re in very high demand. I was looking to hire two guys — I called them the day I found out they were available, but they had already been offered jobs.

I’ve got a friend that teaches at a little two-year college down the road, and he tells me that everyone who comes to him to learn has been sent by their bosses — everyone’s already working. So there’s really nowhere else to find skilled labor.

I did find one good hire — he was actually in construction before this. He’s a young guy and he shows a lot of promise.  So we’re eager, and we’re putting tanks on tractors and going through planters. Just getting everything ready to get the season kicked off.

 

February 17, 2015
By Jackson Webb

We are warming up and drying out quickly here in the Delta. We’ve been in the 60s this week — just warm enough for the mosquitos to come out. I just had to run up to Dulaney’s and pick up some planter attachments and there were planters in the field doing prep work.

Everybody’s already gearing up for planting. We usually shoot for the first couple weeks of March to get out there, depending on the temperature and forecast and all that.

Over the winter, we’ve all come to realize how quickly you forgot how low corn prices hurt. Everybody down here is really just — I wouldn’t say they’re in shock, but, normally this time of year, the cropping plan we’ve been working on for the last three months is set. But I think we finally finalized (or at least have a really good idea) as of just two weeks ago. Every day it’s market-dictated of whether you’re switching this or switching that. So everyone’s just really not sure what to do in what they’re planting — hell, peanuts have even come back a little.

Understanding the Farm Bill

But the big thing that’s up in the air is the Farm Bill and deciding between ARC and PLC. The deadline is February 28. All of a sudden, everyone has said, “Oh crap, we have to make a decision in the next two weeks,” and nobody —understands it.

For example, you got your insurance guy advising you to do one thing that works best for him (and nobody seems to grasp that your private insurance doesn’t have anything to do with this). And you’ve got a few good agents out there that are trying to guide you based on your yields and your history.

People are looking a lot to outside sources to help them make the decision. Michigan State is a real good tool to get advice on this stuff. Some people are using their accountants just to crunch numbers. Texas A&M has a really good program that lets you pull in numbers and see what works. But what worked this year, is it going to work next year?

I don’t know what I’m going to do. Looking at prices, it looks to me like the ARC option looks better. But then with my yields on some farms, the other option looks better. I don’t know how in the world we’re going to figure it out. I just wish someone would tell me so I can go play in the dirt. 

February 6, 2015

KENTLAND, INDIANA (January 30, 2015) — AgVenture, Inc. has announced they have expanded their AgVenture® brand seed product offerings to include hybrid sunflower and sorghum seed. The addition of the two new product offerings will complement a broad product portfolio including AgVenture brand corn, soybeans, and alfalfa. The company’s nationwide network of independently owned and operated Regional Seed Companies (RSCs) will make the new seed products available in regions where products are specifically selected and adapted to perform at their peak.

AgVenture Director of Product and Technical Marketing, Scott Hart said the sorghum and sunflower product offerings work very well into their customers’ production systems and cropping plans. “AgVenture’s ability to access products, this time, from a deep DuPont research pipeline, has allowed us to identify and select sorghum and sunflower hybrids that are highly adapted to perform in the specific geographies they are offered.”

Hart noted that both high oleic and mid oleic sunflower hybrids are offered in the 65-70 day RM. “These hybrids have shown very strong performance among some of the most challenging diseases facing sunflower growers. Our sunflower hybrids offer excellent quality, productivity and a great Downy mildew resistance package. They have validated their robust performance in university trials and in the field in 2014.”

The sorghum product lineup includes a broad set of adapted products. AgVenture Sorghum Product Lead, Louis Sutton said, “They are uniquely suited to their growing areas from Texas to eastern Kansas, Mid-South, to the Carolinas and up the eastern seaboard.”

Sutton added, “We tapped a very large sorghum breeding pipeline to take advantage of some great synergies our customers needed with high-performance sorghum. Our hybrids, in the 63-73 day RM range, come with solid disease resistance, strong agronomics and top-yielding potential. It allows our Regional Seed Companies to complement their offerings – rounding out our customers’ seed needs. These hybrids come with the same high caliber specs and performance that our customers are used to with our corn and soybean products. We’re proud to offer them.”

AgVenture, Inc. is the nation’s largest network of independently owned regional seed companies. Based in Kentland, Indiana, AgVenture provides this growing network of independently owned and managed seed business owners with seed products meeting exacting standards for quality, together with leading-edge genetics and technology. Since 1983, this unique marketing approach has allowed each individual company to match the hybrids it sells to the specific needs of the geographical area it serves. Combined with professional seed representation at a local level, AgVenture strives to help every grower realize more profit from every field.

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