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  • FFA students from Missouri and Kansas who recently attended the Western Farm Show in Kansas City made a major contribution to the fight against hunger by collecting 5,958 canned goods and other non-perishable items in the show’s annual “Border War” Food Drive.

    Almost 3,400 FFA students – 65 chapters from Missouri and 10 from Kansas – brought their food collections to the 2017 Western Farm Show, which was held Feb. 24-26 at the American Royal. The food items were donated to Harvesters – The Community Food Network, based in Kansas City, and are expected to provide over 3,100 meals in the regional food bank’s service area that includes northwestern Missouri and northeastern Kansas.

    “We continue to be amazed at the generosity and commitment of the FFA chapters through this annual drive to fight hunger in our community,” said Katie Warning, Harvesters Food and Fund Drive Engagement Manager. “As always, we appreciate the Western Farm Show and Western Equipment Dealers Association’s support of Harvesters and the hungry in our community.”

    The Border War Food Drive is a friendly competition between Missouri and Kansas FFA chapters to see which chapter can bring the greatest number of food items to the show, with a $500 prize going to the winner. For the fifth time in the past six years, the Lone Jack, Missouri FFA turned in the top performance, collecting 3,003 items. Other top performing Missouri chapters were from La Monte and St. Joseph. The top three Kansas FFA chapters were from Hiawatha, Louisburg and Fort Scott. 

    The 2017 Western Farm Show featured over 500 exhibitors and more than 400,000 square feet of floor space that showcased one of the largest indoor displays of farm equipment and other agricultural products in the Midwest. Other attractions included the Livestock Low-Stress Handling Demonstration, the Health & Safety Roundup, Family Living Center and cooking demonstrations provided by the Culinary Center of Kansas City.  To learn more, visit WesternFarmShow.com or Facebook at Facebook.com/WesternFarmShow and follow us on Twitter at Twitter.com/WesternFarmShow.

  • In 1988, MFA began Leadership Corps, a program aimed at educating and informing future leaders in rural communities served by the cooperative. Formerly known as the MFA Cooperators Program, Leadership Corps seeks civic-minded couples interested in furthering their leadership expertise. Applications will soon be open for the 2017-18 session, which will begin in July 2017.

    During the most recent Leadership Corps sessions, 20 couples from across MFA’s trade territory honed their leadership skills, learned about MFA and developed an approach to agricultural advocacy. Ultimately, the challenges MFA’s constituents face in their farming operations are the challenges of agriculture as a whole—challenges that lend opportunity for working together to find solutions, said Ernie Verslues, MFA Incorporated’s president and CEO.

    “Through this program, participants gain better awareness of the need for leadership in their local communities,” Verslues said. “We want to help foster that leadership and provide a forum for future leaders to network, exchange ideas and join the conversation about production agriculture. If we form relationships with these leaders and make a positive impact, then we believe they will be both a positive voice for MFA and agriculture.”

    In their evaluations, past Leadership Corps participants described the program as “a wonderful opportunity” and praised the quality of the speakers and topics. They also said they “enjoyed visiting with the other couples” and were “motivated to make changes in our farming practice.”

    “This program is designed to give people the tools and opportunities they need to find a voice and become leaders in their communities and agriculture,” said Erin Teeple, corporate services and human resources supervisor for MFA Incorporated. “Past participants have gone on to serve in the legislature and other governance roles, MFA Board of Directors, organizational councils and school boards.”

    Participants attend two weekend sessions in Columbia, Mo. The upcoming program starts July 21-22, with the second session scheduled in January 2018. Participants hear firsthand from speakers with expertise in leadership and agricultural advocacy, and topics are selected to benefit all types of agricultural enterprises. Industry leaders touch on the current agricultural climate and provide insights into new technology. The agenda also includes cooperative education, leadership development and technical workshops aimed to provide value to participants’ farming operations.

    “The farm couple is MFA’s foundation,” said Teeple, who handles coordination and development of the program. “We recognize the value that each partner brings. One or the other may be the farmer. One or the other may have off-farm jobs, but both play integral roles in the operation.”

    Leadership Corps isn’t all work, though, Teeple added.

    “This program is designed for learning, but we also want it to be fun,” she said. “Dining, entertainment and lodging are provided, and previous participants have formed lasting friendships with their peers in the program.”

    Leadership Corps nominations will be accepted through late spring 2017. Applications are available at MFA locations. If you are interested or know a promising couple who may want to participate, visit with your local MFA manager, call 573-876-5344 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

  • In severe cold weather, cows eating toxic fescue can suffer frozen feet with lost hooves. In one case, a Missouri producer lost five cows out of a herd of 30. Other less-severe cases are also being reported, said Craig Roberts, a forage specialist at the University of Missouri.

    While it’s too late to solve the problem this year, improving pastures can help prevent the problem in the future, he said.

    “We’ve known prevention for 15 years,” Roberts said. “There are ways to reduce the problem but only one preventive: replace toxic fescue with a new variety.”

    Fescue foot is caused by ingestion of an alkaloid from a fungus growing inside toxic endophyte varieties of tall fescue. The alkaloid is a vasoconstrictor, causing blood vessels to contract and shutting off flow to body extremities. In the winter, feet, tails and ears can freeze.

    Cows can survive a lost tail switch, but animals crippled from the loss of a hoof cannot walk to graze. They must be put down.

    Low blood flow in summer causes heat stress. While not fatal, it can cause unseen economic losses. Cows in heat stress quit grazing and head to shade or to ponds to cool off, Roberts explained. Animals that stop grazing stop gaining weight. That loss cuts farm income when calves are sold.

    Fescue foot was first reported 75 years ago, but it took until 1977 to discover the cause was an endophyte fungus, a threadlike growth that lives between plant cells in the grass. It’s a symbiotic relationship. The endophyte protects fescue from insects, diseases, drought and overgrazing.

    Other naturally occurring endophytes give protection but don’t have the vasoconstrictor alkaloid, Roberts said. Through breeding programs, these “novel-endophyte” fescue varieties have become more prevalent in the seed market.

    “Replacing toxic fescue with a novel-endophyte variety has huge economic benefit,” he said. “However, it does require a season-long process to kill the old variety and reseed to new fescue.”

    Roberts warns that seeding an endophyte-free fescue doesn’t work.

    “We tried that in Missouri,” he said. “Fescue needs endophyte protection to survive much past one year.”

    While fescue foot can be critical and costly, other losses attributed to the old endophyte fescue are mostly unseen, he added. In fact, fescue foot is third or fourth down the list of losses. Early abortion of unborn calves and lowered daily weight gains pose bigger threats to herd profitability.

    “That can mean a big loss on payday,” Roberts said.

    Fescue foot cases drop as the weather warms up, but other losses continue in all seasons.

    “We know how to prevent losses, estimated at $900 million a year,” Roberts said. “Producers solve problems and increase profits by planting novel-endophyte fescue.”

  • Several years ago, as it became apparent that high commodity prices would give way to much leaner times in agriculture, ag economists predicted an increase in smaller and larger farms. Growth in these segments, they said, would come at the expense of midsized farms. These predictions look to be accurate but complex.

    In USDA terms, a midsized farm has an annual gross cash farm income between $350,000 and $1 million. This range represents the typical “family farm.”

    According to a report from USDA’s Economic Research Service, between 1992 and 2012, the number of U.S. midsize operations declined by some 6,100 farms—about 5 percent. There are several factors for the reduction, including technological advances in crop production, higher costs of production and increasing profitability of larger farms. These factors, in particular, led the theory that farm-level economics drives consolidation.

    However, demographics are at play, too. According to a report by Christopher Burns and Ryan Kuhns, economists with USDA’s Economic Research Service, “Evidence suggests that much of the decline in midsize farms stemmed from farm exits. More midsized farms exited than entered farming during 1992-97 and 2007-12, which kept overall midsize farm numbers down. Many farm exits were linked to the age of the principal operator, as older farmers were more likely to exit farming. A smaller number of farms exited for other reasons, such as business failure.”

    Some of the attrition at the midsized-farm level is because the operation moves into another category, shrinking into “small farm” designation or growing to “large.” Higher prices during most of the past decade encouraged some midsized farms to expand rental acres, increasing the size of the operation. The reverse has been at play recently.

    And while the farm economy of the past year has been disappointing, the longer trend for farm household income is encouraging. “Between 1992 and 2014, midsize farms doubled their household income and tripled their off-farm income, in real (adjusted for inflation) terms. Household net worth of midsized farms also increased dramatically over the period, driven by greater farmland values throughout the mid-2000s,” reported Burns and Kuhns. Net worth is another trend that has headed the other direction, however.

    According to the most recent data compiled by USDA, midsize farms account for about 21 percent of total U.S. farm production and 6 percent of U.S. farms.

  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s forecast through April predicts warmer-than-average temperatures in the MFA trade territory. Chances for above-average temperatures will recede southward as spring progresses.

    Depending on weather between now and then, some areas of the state will face drier soils at planting due to reduced winter precipitation. As of early February, data from the National Drought Mitigation Center showed moisture deficits in parts of north-central Arkansas and central Missouri. Winter precipitation totals were at least 4 inches below normal in these areas. In some places, the deficit reached as much as 6 inches below normal.

    Forecasters at NOAA reported that in early 2017, La Niña conditions played a role in temperatures for the region. However, they expect La Niña conditions to fade as spring arrives. Not knowing exactly when or how quickly La Niña will fade reduces forecaster confidence in longer-term summer weather predictions. For now, NOAA predicts slightly warmer-than-average temperatures for the entire 2017 growing season.

  • With the rapid adoption of precision agriculture in recent years, it’s no surprise that new technologies that help farmers be more efficient and productive will be prominently on display at the 2017 Western Farm Show.

    This year’s event will be held Feb. 24-26 at the American Royal Complex in Kansas City, Missouri, once again offering one of the largest indoor displays of farming and ranching equipment and other agricultural products in the Midwest.  

    “Farmers and ranchers who come to the Western Farm Show want to learn as much as possible about the latest products and innovations that can help them enhance their operations,” said show manager Ken Dean. “Advanced new technologies, including precision ag tools, continue to generate strong interest among our attendees.”

    Following are examples of the many exhibitors displaying ag precision products at the 2017 Western Farm Show:

    • MFA Incorporated, based in Columbia, Missouri, will display a multi-hybrid planting system that enables farmers to plant two hybrids in the same row, switching back and forth as environments change, to plant the products that will produce the most in each environment. “Yield potential can often vary in the same field, calling for different hybrids in different areas,” said Jason Worthington, MFA Incorporated senior staff agronomist. “This advanced system enables farmers to maximize their yield by planting the hybrid that will perform the best across their whole field.” MFA Incorporated, which is a primary sponsor of the Western Farm Show, will also highlight hydraulic downforce systems designed to provide more consistent crop emergence and stand, with less soil compaction.
    • Record Harvest, of Nevada, Missouri, will showcase the latest drone software which enables farmers using a cell phone or tablet to program a flight plan and create a mosaic of high-quality images across the field. Farmers can use these photos to identify issues like pest infestations or nitrogen loss in corn. With this system, up to 400 images can be captured for a 100-acre field and woven into a single high-definition, geo-referenced image. “We’re very excited to offer farmers this advanced tool,” said Steve Cubbage, president of Record Harvest. “The software is compatible with most off-the-shelf drone equipment and photos can be uploaded and processed within 30 to 45 minutes.”
    • Outback Guidance, based in Hiawatha, Kansas, will display autosteer and variable application rate technologies that enable farmers to eliminate overlaps, reduce hot spots and ensure even application across the entire field, regardless of shape or size. Flexible programming technology controls machine functions for spraying, spreading and anhydrous applications. “GPS technology is no longer just a novelty, it’s become a mainstay in agriculture,” said Bill Hargis, Outback Guidance territory manager. “It not only ensures greater precision and accuracy, but also reduces costs and operator fatigue.”

    In addition to precision ag tools, Western Farm Show attendees can browse aisles and aisles of other farming and ranching equipment, ranging from tractors, sprayers and combines to head gates, feeding systems and loading chutes. Construction equipment, seed products, farm buildings and thousands of other ag products and services will also be showcased.

    Other show attractions include the Low-Stress Livestock Handling Demonstration, Health and Safety Roundup, FFA Day, Family Living Center and a cooking demonstration. 

    The Western Farm Show is produced and managed by Western Equipment Dealers Association, a trade group representing approximately 2,400 farm, industrial and outdoor power equipment dealers in the U.S. and Canada. Show hours are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday, and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Adult admission is $8 and free for children 12 and under.

    For more information, including the full list of show exhibitors, visit www.WesternFarmShow.com. Like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/WesternFarmShow and follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/WesternFarmShow.

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