Monthly Archives: December 2009

“Transitioning to Organic Course” available January 2010

Contributed by Craig Chase, Extension Farm Management Field Specialist


“Transitioning to Organic Course” to Be Available in January 2010

Despite the economic downturn, there is still a high demand for organic corn and soybean food and feed grains, which presents a viable economic opportunity to U.S. row crop farmers. In addition, demand for local and organic fruits and vegetables is growing in Iowa and throughout the Midwest. Transitioning to successful organic production requires rapid acquisition of production, marketing and financial management skills. A course to help producers transition to organic agriculture will be offered from January 12 to April 29, 2010, from 6 PM to 9PM through the ISU Extension Organic Ag Program.


This course, titled “Risk Management Tools for Transitioning into Organic Production,” will be run as an Adobe Connect™ system from the ISU campus, and downloadable on any computer with sufficient bandwidth. Attendance at all 16 sessions will not be required unless the individual wishes to take it as a three-credit campus course. A nominal fee of $10 per session ($50 for the course) will be charged to attendees to cover costs of technology and managing the program. Check with your local Extension Office to see if they are hosting this training or contact the ISU Organic Ag Program (515) 294-5116; or Kathleen Delate at

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Managing Corn Moisture Discounts

Contributed by Steve Johnson, Extension Farm Management Field Specialist

johnsonsteve_2008_1in_72Managing Corn Moisture Discounts
Moisture levels on corn are much higher this year than in recent years. Farmers found corn during the early 2009 harvest with moisture levels in the high 20% range.  These high moisture levels will result in shrink and drying costs for grain delivered to commercial elevators and processors that could easily be over $100 per acre. These higher drying costs will further increase total cost of production in a year in which per acre costs will be some of the highest in history.

As confirmed by the USDA NASS November Crop Production Report, yields still appear large for both corn and soybeans. The adjustment in lower corn test weights was the likely the cause of Iowa corn yields dropping from the October to the November production report by 5 bu/A to 183 bu/A as a statewide average.

There is not much farmers can do to reduce these costs once the wet grain is harvested and delivered directly to processors and commercial facilities.  However, farmers may wish to consider these higher costs as a part of hybrid selection, planting dates and to determine whether expanding their own on-farm grain handling, drying and storage facilities might be a good investment for the future.

The full newsletter article from Steve Johnson is available on his Crop Marketing Strategies web site. Or, use the Ag Decision Maker, Grain Drying Cost Calculator to estimate drying costs for your crop.

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Initial EQIP sign-up ends soon

Through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provides Iowa agricultural producers financial and technical assistance for structural and/or management practices on eligible agricultural land. NRCS practices are designed to help address resource concerns and offer improvements to producer operations. These improvements include, but are not limited to, ag waste management systems, grazing management systems, stream bank stabilization, and first time no-till/strip-till systems. New practices include Agrichemical Handling Facilities, Denitrifying Bioreactors, Biofilters, among others.

Sign up for EQIP is continuous, but the deadline for the first 2010 funding is January 14, 2010. Contracts are offered periodically when funding is available. Stop by or call your local NRCS office today for more information. The NRCS staff will be glad to answer any questions and take all interested applications. Additional funding may be available in priority watersheds. EQIP sign-up information is also available on-line at

More information on Farm Bill  Programs is available at:

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Looking ahead to the 2010 crop…

Contributed by Ann Johanns, extension program specialist

johannsann_2007_1in_72While the 2009 crop is fresh in our minds, and still in corn fields for some, 2010 will be here before too long. ISU Extension Economist, Mike Duffy, recently released the Estimated Costs of Crop Production for 2010. The short video below guides you through the Ag Decision Maker web site to find the budgets and how to use the Decision Tools (spreadsheets) that are available.

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USDA December Crop Reports

Chad Hart, ISU Extension Grain Marketing Specialist, provides a summary of the USDA December Crop Reports.

97hartsmThe USDA updates for December showed just a few changes from the November estimates. The supply numbers will not be updated until January, so corn and soybean yields and production remain at last month’s levels. For corn, national average yields are projected at 162.9 bushels per acre and production is projected at 12.92 billion bushels. For soybeans, national average yields are projected at 43.3 bushels per acre and production is projected at a record 3.32 billion bushels.

On the demand side, the adjustments were limited to exports. Soybean exports were raised 15 million bushels to 1.34 billion, while corn exports were lowered 50 million bushels to 2.05 billion. Soybean crush holds at 1.695 billion bushels, so soybean ending stocks for the 2009/10 marketing year are projected at 255 million bushels, down 15 million. With the boost in soybean exports and reduction in ending stocks, USDA raised the midpoint of their season-average price range to $9.50 per bushel, up 30 cents from last month. For corn, feed and residual demand held at 5.4 billion bushels and ethanol demand held at 4.2 billion bushels. Food and seed demand was also steady at 1.28 billion bushels. Projected 2009/10 corn ending stocks were raised to 1.675 billion bushels, basically even with 2008/09 ending stocks. The midpoint of USDA’s corn season-average price range was held steady at $3.55 per bushel.

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Ag Link

Contributed by Dave Bakerfarm transition specialist

bakerdavid_2006_1in_72Ag Link is a four day program to help families make the transition to a multiple generation farm business.

The 2010 conference includes the weekends of January 15-16, 2010 and February 12-13, 2010 in Ames, IA.

This program will –

  • Provide general information necessary to plan entry into existing farm operations
  • Furnish a resource packet with worksheets, exercises, and pertinent information
  • Offer an opportunity for students and their families to discuss issues related to farm transfer

Discover how to address major issues that can lead to failure in a multiple generation farm business.

Find out whether an existing operation is large enough to support an additional partner.

Uncover alternatives for transfer of farm assets.

More information and registration is available at:

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Client Corner: Where can I find average prices for corn and soybeans?

Contributed by Ann Johanns, extension program specialist

johannsann_2007_1in_72Where would I find average (monthly or yearly) prices for corn and soybean for 2000 to 2009 for my county? I have seen state data, but wondered if county data is available.

An annual publication is available on Ag Decision Maker that lists monthly corn and soybean prices for the state of Iowa. The monthly averages are as reported by the USDA National Ag Statistics Service Iowa Field Office. Marketing year and calendar year averages are also provided.

For more frequent information, see the Iowa Department of Ag and Land Stewardship page at: ttp:// This web site provides low, high, and average daily prices along with monthly averages for each area of the state. The daily price is the closing cash grain bids offered to producers as of 2:30 p.m.  (Dollars per bushel, delivered to Interior Iowa Country Elevators). County price information is not available. The prices available through this web site are from USDA Market News. The daily report for Iowa is available at:

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Client Corner: How do I calculate the cost for storing grain?

Contributed by Don Hofstrand, co-director Ag Marketing Resource Center

hofstrandHow do I calculate the cost for storing grain?

The cost components of storing grain versus selling at harvest are:

  • Storage facility cost
  • Interest on grain inventory
  • Extra drying of corn
  • Extra corn shrinkage
  • Extra handling cost
  • Quality deterioration
  • Storage facility cost

If grain can be stored in existing farm storage facilities, the ownership costs (depreciation, return on investment, maintenance, insurance, etc.) of the farm storage facility are not included in the analysis of whether to store grain in a particular year.

These costs are incurred whether grain is stored or sold from the field at harvest. Therefore, they do not affect the annual decision of whether or not to store grain.

However, if grain is stored commercially, the commercial storage charge should be included in the analysis because the charge is incurred only if grain is stored. Storage charges vary among elevators, but usually are a fixed charge for the first few months with an additional charge for each additional month thereafter. Some elevators charge a daily rate.

Read more on the Cost of Storage at: Or use this decision tool to project the cost of storing grain past harvest in existing storage facilities or commercial storage:

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