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Publisher — National Sunflower Association Editor — John Sandbakken NSA Communications Director — Sonia Mullally Contributing Writer/Editor — Don Lilleboe Advertising Manager — Lerrene Kroh The Sunflower is published six times per year by the National Sunflower Association, a farmer and industry organization working to improve the profitability of sunflower for all sectors. Farmer checkoff commissions/ councils in N.D., S.D., Minn., Kan., and Colo., make up NSA’s basic funding and governing structure. Assessments on volume in the oilseed and confection processing industries and the hybrid seed sector are key funding components, with other funding from grants, including USDA Foreign Agricultural Service. Offices for The Sunflower are located at NSA headquarters, 2401 46th Ave. S.E., Ste. 206, Mandan, ND 58554. NSA & magazine phone number is (701) 328-5100; toll free (888) 718-7033. U.S. farmers raising 10 or more acres of sunflower, extension agents, and public researchers can receive The Sunflower at no charge. Others may subscribe at these rates: North American residents, US $15.00 for one year or US $40.00 for three years; overseas air mail, US $50.00 per year. Information in The Sunflower does not necessarily represent the views or policies of the National Sunflower Association. Nor does advertising in The Sunflower imply endorsement by the publisher. NSA is an equal opportunity provider and employer without regard to race, color, national origin, sex, age, religion or disability. Current NSA officers and directors are: Chairman Don Schommer, Munich, N.D. President Tom Young, Onida, S.D. First Vice President Kevin Capistran, Crookston, Minn. Second Vice President Art Ridl, Dickinson, N.D. Secretary/Treasurer John Swanson, Mentor, Minn Directors Steve Arnhalt, Breckenridge, Minn. Brad Bonhorst, Fort Pierre, S.D. Guy Christensen, Enderlin, N.D. Clark Coleman, Bismarck, N.D. Karl Esping, Lindsborg, Kan. Todd Lasher, McClusky, N.D. Kent McKay, Carpio, N.D. Jeff Oberholtzer, Mohall, N.D. Tyler Schultz, West Fargo, N.D. Ron Seidel, Meadow, S.D. Dean Sonnenberg, Fleming, Colo. Ben Vig, Sharon, N.D. Arnold Woodbury, Wyndmere, N.D. Leon Zimbelman, Keenesburg, Colo.

Executive Director John Sandbakken, Mandan, N.D.

Vol. 38 No. 5

IN THIS ISSUE

Page 8

Oct/Nov 2012

Page 22

— FEATURES — Markets Likely Extremely Volatile Through Winter . . . . . . . 6 USDA October report contains both bullish and bearish surprises

‘Sunflower Has a Bright Future’ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 An interview with departing NSA President Tom Young

The Elections, The Lame Duck Session & The Farm Bill . . 14 Growers should keep the heat on current members of Congress

NSA Partners With Turkish Media to Promote U.S. Seeds . 17 Campaign focuses on hiking consumption of U.S. confections

Agricultural Research Amongst the Igloos . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 Nebraska High Plains lab operates in very unique setting

Two Promising Bird Repellents Tested . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 USDA-APHIS-WS researcher evaluates products’ efficacy

Blackbird Management: Several Options Do Exist . . . . . . . 25 Impacted sunflower growers need not ‘go it alone’

Go Nots! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28 Entrepreneur combines taste, convenience & allergen sensitivity

Sunflower Briefs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 30 Years Ago in The Sunflower . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30 COVER — Thronson Farms harvests a 2012 sunflower field in southern Otter Tail County, Minn. Photo: Don Lilleboe

THE SUNFLOWER October/November 2012

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Sunflower Briefs The 35th annual National Sunflower Association Research Forum will be held at the Ramada Plaza Suites & Convention Center in Fargo, ND on January 9-10. This meeting brings together public and private researchers, as well as growers and industry representatives interested in updates on the latest research advances and challenges. The combination of grower and industry checkoff dollars, the Sclerotinia Research Initiative, universities and a strong commitment from USDA’s Agricultural Research Service have all placed sunflower research as a high priority. Research reports at the NSA Forum can be either oral or poster presentations. To schedule a presentation and/or register to attend the meeting, go to the NSA website at www.sunflowernsa.com under the Calendar of Events tab.

2013 Sunflower Research Forum Is Jan. 9-10

Dr. Nikolay Balbyshev, NDSU research microbiologist, retired this past spring after working with several crop research groups, including potatoes, wheat and, most recently, sunflower. Balbyshev worked in the USDA Northern Crop Science Laboratory (Fargo) for the last nine years with the USDA’s Sunflower & Plant Biology Research Unit on the Sclerotinia project. He was solely responsible for producing the fungal “inoculum” used to initiate

Balbyshev Retires from Sunflower Research

stalk rot and head rot in the unit’s field research plots. Many years, this amounted to 800-plus pounds of millet infested with Sclerotinia, and several hundred Petri dishes worth of spores for head rot. In addition, Balbyshev assisted in studies on the biology of Sclerotinia, plus projects dealing with Verticillium wilt and Phomopsis stem canker. With his fluency in Russian, he made several trips with Dr. Tom Gulya, USDA research pathologist, to visit Russian sunflower researchers, and thus Nikolay Balbyshev helped the USDA unit establish and maintain contact with these scientists.

Dr. Brent Hulke, USDA-ARS research geneticist and adjunct professor in the North Dakota State University Plant Sciences Department, hosted Dr. Miroslava Hristova-Cherbadzhi of the agronomy faculty at the University of Forestry in Sofia, Bulgaria, for three months this year while she conducted research on sunflower. Her visit was sponsored through the USDA-FAS-sponsored Norman E. Borlaug International Agricultural Science and Technology Fellowship Program Hristova-Cherbadzhi and Hulke conducted analysis of molecular markers from a SNP marker platform to map a resistance gene

Bulgarian Researcher Visits ARS Fargo Unit

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to the parasitic plant Orobanche. In addition to studying yield and nursery trials, she had the opportunity to observe sunflower disease and insect resistance evaluation nurseries. They also visited with other collaborators during her stay. Named after the founder of the Green Revolution, the Borlaug program helps developing countries Miroslava Hristova-Cherbadzhi & Brent Hulke strengthen sustainable agricultural practices by providing scientific training and collaborative research opportunities to visiting researchers, policymakers and university faculty.

tures some of the best (and most nutritious) canned, boxed and bagged foods. The list, selected by Women's Health editors and an expert panel of nutritionists, featured SunButter Natural No-Stir Creamy under the Condiments category. It is described as a way to “supercharge your next PB&J with this creamy sunflower seed spread. It’s loaded with healthy fats, protein, and fiber, not to mention a slightly sweeter-than-PB roasted flavor.”

The National Sunflower Association recently was awarded a grant for $76,100 to develop multiple rust-resistant confection sunflower hybrids. NSA was one of 10 entities to receive funds from the North Dakota Specialty Crop Grant program this year. More than $600,000 was awarded in all. This is the fourth consecutive year that the sunflower rust project, led by Dr. Lili Qi, USDAARS, Fargo, has been granted money from this program.

NSA Receives Specialty Crop Grant

The founder of Spitz, Tom Droog, was recently recognized for his significant professional contributions and inducted into the Agriculture Hall of Fame in Alberta, Canada. Droog of DeWinton, and his late wife, Emmy, started growing sunflower many years ago as an alternative crop and soon turned Spitz, which sells sunflower and pumpkin seeds in re-sealable bags, into a snack product that captured 75% of the Canadian market. Since 1951, the Alberta Agriculture Hall of Fame has recognized outstanding contributions to agriculture and rural development. To date, 126 leaders have been inducted. ■

Spitz Founder Inducted into Alberta Hall of Fame

Help Save A Tree We strive to make our mailing list as efficient as possible. If you are (1) receiving duplicate copies of The Sunflower, (2) need to update your mailing address or (3) no longer wish to receive this magazine . . . PLEASE CONTACT US!

SunButter made the list in Women’s Health magazine’s recently published 125 Best Packaged Foods. The annual list fea-

SunButter Makes Packaged Food Top 125 List

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THE SUNFLOWER October/November 2012

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arkets

The USDA October supply and demand estimates left U.S. and world ending supplies at or near the smallest ever. U.S. and world wheat ending supplies also declined on smaller-than-expected wheat production in Russia, the Ukraine and Australia. Wheat supplies are the second tightest, with the tightest being back in the spring of 2008.

T

Markets Likely Will Be Extremely Volatile Through the Winter

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By Mike Krueger

SDA’s October 11 crop production and supply and demand revisions contained both bullish and bearish surprises. The bullish surprises were that U.S. corn and wheat ending supplies were reduced from the September estimate. The bearish surprise was that USDA increased the soybean yield and production estimate more than expected. Nearly every bushel of the increased crop production was offset by increased demand forecasts, but the larger crop left the market afraid the crop might get bigger again in the November USDA report. Markets were sharply higher the day the October reports were released, but collapsed the next day on broad-based selling led by fund liquidation. USDA’s initial 2012 sunflower production estimate (oil and nonoil combined) came in at 2.46 billion pounds, up 21% from last year. Harvested sunflower acres for

Any hint of weather troubles in South America will result in sharp rallies. 2012 were projected to be up by 24%. North Dakota and the Northern Plains led the nation with much better row-crop yields than expected prior to harvest. This was a significant (and welcome) surprise and left producers wondering how the yields could have been so good on the very limited summer rainfall. The difference between this region and the rest of the Corn Belt was likely because the Northern Plains did not get as hot as the southern half of the country and had greater subsoil moisture available.

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he larger-than-expected increase in soybean production, coupled with a generally good weather outlook across Brazil and Argentina, brought fund selling to the soybean market. Large speculative funds were holding record large long positions in soybeans prior to the USDA report. They evidently decided that the report contained the last of the bullish news and started selling in large volume the day after it was released. Soybean export sales stand at an all-time record high. Purchases by China are at a record pace for this date. The market and USDA are forecasting a record South American soybean crop, based on big acres and record yields. The crop isn’t planted yet, so record yield forecasts might be a bit premature; but that is how the markets operate these days (remember the record U.S. corn yield estimates last winter and spring?). Any hint of weather troubles in South America will result in sharp rallies. The one important weather issue to watch is the shift from a La Nina to an El Nino pattern. La Nina is a poor weather pattern for South America, and that was the pattern last year. The shift to El Nino was starting to happen, but that shift has stalled and might actually be shifting back to La Nina. World vegetable oil markets have also been very weak, mostly because of largerthan-expected palm oil supplies. U.S. vegetable oil supplies are declining, and that should also eventually mean higher oil prices. Canada’s canola crop was also much smaller than expected. World and U.S. soybean supplies will remain very tight until late next spring when the 2013 South American soybean crop becomes available. Markets should remain extremely volatile through the winter, and that will present better selling opportunities than we see today. The sunflower market will continue to track the soybean and other vegetable oil markets. U.S. soybean oil and Canadian canola oil supplies will continue to decline throughout this marketing year into early next summer. ■ Mike Krueger is owner of The Money Farm, a Casselton, N.D.-based grain marketing consulting firm. While the information in this article is believed to be reliable, marketing involves risk, and the author and The Sunflower assume no responsibility for its use.

THE SUNFLOWER October/November 2012


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‘Sunflower Has A Bright Future’

Photo: Don Lilleboe

South Dakotan Tom Young Remains Enthusiastic As He Prepares to Depart NSA Presidency

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om Young’s term as president of the National Sunflower Association (NSA) ends in December. But make no mistake: the Onida, S.D., grower will continue to be a strong advocate for this crop and this industry for years to come. Young, who is closing out his 12th and final year on the NSA Board of Directors, is widely known as an enthusiastic and effective voice on behalf of sunflower. When a north central South Dakota producer was informed earlier this fall of a planned visit to Young’s Sully County farm, his immediate response was, “Oh, you’re on your way to see Mr. Sunflower!” Larry Kleingartner, now-retired NSA executive director who worked with Young for most of those 12 years, puts it this way: “Tom is one of those individuals who can play many roles because of his many talents. He is able to sort through the details in order to identify the issue at hand. Tom contributed greatly as a board member and leader when the NSA shifted strategy to concentrate on research issues. He can

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stand in front of any audience and make a credible and professional presentation. Tom has been a real asset to this Association.” Tom Young’s sunflower roots trace back to the small Corson County community of McLaughlin, S.D., just a stone’s throw from the North Dakota border. That’s Young’s hometown — the place where his father, Guilford, Jr. (“Gil”) farmed and operated a farm implement business. Gil Young was among the first sunflower producers in his area and a hybrid seed dealer by the early 1970s. (“I think he actually grew some [open-pollinated] Peredoviks back in the ’60s,” Tom relates.) No elevators in the

‘The newer tools we’ve gained access to within the past several years have definitely made ’flowers more manageable.’

McLaughlin vicinity were handling ’flowers at the time, so Gil Young and some of his farmer-neighbors built a set of grain bins along a local railroad spur, installed a dryer — and shipped their sunflower crop to distant processing plants. After graduating from South Dakota State University in 1982 with a B.S. degree in Ag Business, Tom returned to McLaughlin, working at his dad’s implement dealership. Two years later, he joined SIGCO Research as a sales agronomist, based at Aberdeen. He sold and serviced sunflower and corn accounts with SIGCO for the next six years, working with such well-known industry names as Jay Schuler, Gary Fick, Steve Kent and Sam Heikes. (As of the latter 1980s, SIGCO Research had become the top supplier of hybrid sunflower seed in the country.) Young’s relocation to central South Dakota and the Onida area occurred in 1989. A large farm there was owned by great-uncle Eugene Young, who, after the Oahe Dam was constructed on the Missouri River in the early 1960s, was among the first to install irrigation. “Ironically, when I moved here in 1989, I had the ‘honor’ of tearing down the original irrigation systems,” Tom recounts. “They had never been updated — and rightly so, because anyone who did went bankrupt. Most of the farms still irrigating around here at the time were on their second or third owner or bankruptcy. It just wasn’t working.” Young assumed management of the 30,000 acres owned by his great-uncle, transitioning many of them back to dryland crop production. Sunflower had by then been adopted by many area farmers, with a typical rotation of the period being sunflower/ wheat/fallow. Eugene Young passed away in 1989 — the same year his grandnephew moved to Onida. His daughter owned the large farm for several more years, but eventually decided “enough was enough” and ended up deeding most of the land to her alma mater, other colleges and additional nonprofit entities. Tom had been renting some of the acreage — “but then, because of the gifting, the portion I was renting was gifted and sold. So I was down to almost no land,” he relates. Then Young received an offer to work as a consultant with Mycogen Seeds (into which SIGCO Research had by then been melded). “That fall, after agreeing to do so, I ended up renting 4,000 acres — more than I’d had before,” he says. “So I farmed and was consulting with Mycogen.” In 2000, Mycogen asked Young to become its sales manager in central South Dakota. He accepted, so for the next 10 years he simultaneously farmed and served in that sales capacity. The year 2000 was also noteworthy in that it was his first as a National Sun-

THE SUNFLOWER October/November 2012


flower Association board member, representing the South Dakota Oilseed Council.

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om Young views sunflower’s path as one characterized by both progress and challenge. As a producer, “progress” has come in several forms — ever-improving hybrids, better herbicide options and new seed treatments among them. “The newer tools we’ve gained access to within the past several years have definitely made ’flowers more manageable,” he states. “In weed control, the Clearfield® and ExpressSun® production systems have been real steps forward. Spartan® herbicide was a big one — and still is. These are weed control tools we can depend on. Sure, there are still people with weed problems; it’s not perfect. But it’s manageable.” Also, higher prices the past few years have taken some of the financial pressure off decisions regarding whether to spray for insects, the NSA president ventures. “We still have to be conscious of proper thresholds; but the thresholds are ‘smaller,’ so it makes those decisions easier,” he says. “New seed treatments are helping with disease management, too,” Young continues. “And now there are companies investing in seed coatings to make those sunflower seeds plant more uniformly.” For central South Dakota, the overwhelming movement to no-till during the past decade has been as big a story as any, in Young’s opinion. Recent years’ NSA

Along with its economic importance to their farm, sunflower is a prominent decorative motif in the Young home at Onida, S.D. It’s also a central ingredient in family photos. Shown here are Tom, wife Joanne and daughter Sierra.

crop surveys have revealed that a very high percentage of South Dakota sunflower fields are no-till; in Young’s area, it’s now virtually 100%. “Other than in drought years, South Dakota has, over the past decade, consistently increased its average sunflower yield,” he observes. “When you take into account the fact that sunflower production

THE SUNFLOWER October/November 2012

in the state has been moving west, you can’t attribute that to rainfall. It’s because we’re doing a better job of growing them.” A trend toward later planting dates has also helped sunflower yields in his area, Young believes. Mid- to late May used to be quite common target dates; now midJune or even a bit later is often preferred.

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No-till plays a role there, too, providing better at-planting soil moisture compared to conventionally tilled fields. “Generally speaking, the guys planting the 20th of June or so have some of the best yields,” he affirms. “And it’s not just early maturing varieties; it’s the full-season, full-maturity ones as well.” Later planting also lessens the threat from head moth and banded sunflower moth, he adds. Sunflower success comes from a systems approach, Young emphasizes. “It’s the idea of having corn out there, having clean fields going into ’flowers, having good

weed control during the sunflower year, maintaining good insect control. It’s an entire program. “By the time of wheat harvest, we’re already preparing for next year’s crops,” he continues. “I remember years ago in the seed business, we’d be out selling in December — and many farmers still didn’t know what they were going to plant the next spring. Now, I’d say 80% of the farmers in Sully County know [by September] 80% of what they’re going to do next year. It’s planned out, and they’re buying inputs. Again, it’s a system.”

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ne of the long-time “knocks” on sunflower in many production locales has been the depletion factor — i.e., that the crop depletes soil moisture and sucks out deep nutrients, putting more pressure on the succeeding crop. To that, Young response is what? “How about: ‘right on!’ ” he exclaims. “Sure, there are some other crops that can use some of [the deep nutrients]; but sunflower does a far better job than anything else. “Moisture reduction? Yes. But through the years, cash-wise, I don’t know what else we could do — especially the western farmer who has been rotating wheat and sunflower. There’s no other crop that consistently produces that kind of income. “I’m not worried so much about moisture depletion — and we’re obviously in a low-rainfall area,” Young continues. “There are other low-moisture crops that can follow sunflower in our no-till systems, and I’d like to see more research on that. It’s interesting that year after year, at the USDA-ARS Mandan (N.D.) station where they’ve established extended rotation studies, one of the best rotations is with sunflower and those crops following it. “So as much as people may argue that point, I think the moisture depletion issue is manageable. The profit overcomes the problem. Here we are in a drought year (2012), and I’m confident we’ll see a lot of 2,000-lb ’flowers in this area right next to 30- or 40-bu corn.” What is the biggest production challenge for Tom Young and his fellow central South Dakota sunflower producers as of 2012? His answer is revealing. “Prices have been excellent the past year or two, and we know what we need to do. The information is out there to manage this crop properly, to raise ton-plus ’flowers,” he states. “I think one of the biggest things is that we just get in too much of a hurry when it’s time to start planting ’flowers. We do so many crops here: our basic four crops (spring wheat, winter wheat, corn, sunflower); then we’ll throw in some soybeans, grain sorghum, millet, maybe some peas and lentils. By late June, we’re tired and we tend to rush things. We don’t watch the details as closely as we could. “I think slowing down and managing [the sunflower crop] properly — good timing rather than rushing — is very important,” Young stresses. “Maybe taking the time to tear that planter apart after seeding a bunch of corn acres and rebuilding it for planting sunflower . . . Sure, it’s another day or two of work at a time when everyone is tired. But attention to detail is going to pay off.”

A

s he nears the end of his leadership tenure with the National Sunflower Association, Tom Young’s face lights up as he

THE SUNFLOWER October/November 2012


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discusses the organization’s people and its work. Among the group’s biggest accomplishments in recent years, he believes, has been its strong support of public research — specifically the USDA-ARS sunflower research team at Fargo, N.D. In 2009, for instance, the NSA provided funding to help the ARS unit purchase much-needed specialized planting and harvesting equipment. The Association also has been a strong supporter, financially and otherwise, of the major ARS undertaking to identify and efficiently utilize molecular markers in sunflower breeding programs. “It was exciting to sit at one of our board meetings when [ARS] came in and introduced the idea of doing extensive research on the molecular structure of sunflower,” Young recalls. “Our board said ‘Yes’ — and brought forth hundreds of

Maintaining and growing sunflower acreage in the face of strong competition from crops like corn and soybeans is a central challenge. thousands of dollars toward that. In talking with people in government, they’d never seen an industry make a move like that so fast.” The relatively small size of the sunflower industry — and the fact that seed suppliers and processor representatives sit next to growers on the NSA board — is one key reason for such dexterity. “Being able to go to meetings and know just about everybody in the room makes things move

faster,” Young affirms. “We may not always agree, going in, what direction to take. But once the decisions have been made, most people are ready to help.” Challenges? Maintaining and growing sunflower acreage in the face of strong competition from crops like corn and soybeans is among the biggest, Young says. “But that’s not new,” NSA’s president notes. “It’s always been there, always will be. There are new reasons for optimism — such as ‘no-sat fat’ sunflower oil — that we can hang our hat on. But in the end, to grow acres consistently, it comes down to price and yield — the amount of revenue the sunflower grower receives for his crop. “I really think sunflower has a bright future,” Tom Young concludes. “We just have to catch up and keep up with all the changing technology. And that can be done.” — ■ Don Lilleboe

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THE SUNFLOWER October/November 2012


The Elections . . . The Lame Duck Session . . . And The Farm Bill is likely to have the 60 votes needed to invoke cloture and shut down filibusters on controversial legislation. So the gridlock that has characterized the 112th Congress can be expected to continue in the 113th. The outcome of the contest for President could be more consequential. If President Obama wins, the political equation will be similar to what we’ve had for the last two years. All concerned will need to accept the situation, and try to start a new effort to find consensus on key issues, possibly including the farm bill, starting in the lame duck session. If Governor Romney wins, Republicans may decide to defer some of these decisions until his administration takes office in January.

The Looming Fiscal Cliff

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By John Gordley*

ongress left Washington in September after passing a Continuing Resolution to fund the federal government at FY-2012 levels through next March. Despite efforts by more than 90 farm organizations in the “Farm Bill Now” coalition, the House leadership refused to bring the farm bill reported by the House Agriculture Committee in July to the floor for a vote. This Policy Brief & Outlook looks at the possible impacts of the November 6 elections and the ensuing lame duck session of Congress during November and December — * John Gordley heads Gordley & Associates, which provides representation for the National Sunflower Association in Washington, D.C. He established Gordley Associates in 1987, after serving five years on the staff of Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, responsible for agriculture and agricultural trade issues. Gordley is a current member of USDA’s Grains, Feed and Oilseeds Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee (ATAC) on trade, and he has served as chairman of the Agriculture Biotechnology Forum and the Ag Biotech Planning Committee.

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including the so-called “fiscal cliff” — on prospects for either completing a new farm bill or extending the 2008 Act into 2013. In addition to making no progress on a new farm bill, Congress departed without extending authorities under the 2008 farm bill or acting on disaster assistance. Due to differences over funding for SNAP (food stamps) and commodity programs (particularly Direct Payments), an extension would have been nearly as difficult as reconciling differences between the House and Senate bills. Senate Agriculture Committee leaders resisted taking up the disaster measure passed by the House before the August recess, arguing that it isn’t broad enough and that more comprehensive coverage is included and paid for in both farm bills.

Impact of Elections on the Lame Duck Session

With Congress out of session until November 13, what is the outlook for this fall’s elections and their impact on action during the lame duck session? Current expectations are that the Republicans will maintain control of the House, while the Senate is rated a toss-up. Regardless of which party is in charge, however, neither

The “fiscal cliff” includes expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts, including a reset of estate taxes to 2001 levels, the need to increase the national debt ceiling when the current limit is reached in late December, and sequestration of $1.2 trillion in defense and non-defense spending required by the last year’s debt increase agreement, starting in January. Regardless of the post-November 6 political situation, extending the Bush-era tax cuts will continue to be hamstrung over whether the tax cuts also should be extended for the top two percent of earners. Defense and non-defense advocates are sounding alarms about the massive layoffs and program cuts that would be required if sequestration is allowed to go into effect. There is no assurance that agreement on these issues can be reached, in addition to or as part of a debt limit increase.

Lame Duck Action On the Farm Bill?

So what does all this mean for efforts to complete the 2012 farm bill before the 112th Congress adjourns sine die in late December? If they don’t finish, all of the work on the bill will be lost, and the new Congress will need to “start from scratch.” Neither a re-elected President Obama nor a President-elect Romney will want to find this task on their “to do” list for next year. This would argue that there’s still hope to

THE SUNFLOWER October/November 2012


!

#

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"


Farmers should continue to call on current members of Congress to finish the 2012 farm bill when they return to Washington in Nov.

resolve differences over SNAP and commodity programs within the context of the bigger items needing to be addressed during the lame duck session. However, there are concerns among agriculture supporters that Congress may be looking for greater savings from farm programs, potentially including crop insurance, as offsets to pay for reduced cuts in discretionary program spending. This could unbalance the carefully crafted compromises reflected in both the Senate and House farm bills, and cause the effort to complete a new bill to collapse. The alternative would be a three-month or one-year extension of the 2008 farm bill, which some agriculture committee leaders have already stated is a foregone conclusion. Most farm groups have opposed this approach, since it would only extend current uncertainty among farmers and ranchers over the safety net provided by farm programs. It would also subject the level of funding for a new bill to revision of the budget baseline by the Congressional Budget Office in February. Higher crop prices in 2012 will likely result in CBO raising cost estimates for important programs in both the Senate and House bills, including Revenue Loss Coverage. Increased projected participation in the Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO) insurance program would also increase costs. Further complicating this issue is whether the outgoing Congress decides to reverse the Administration’s decision to exempt crop insurance from sequestration cuts. This decision reduced prospective spending cuts in overall farm programs by half, from $16 billion to $8 billion.

Message to Congress

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Farmers should continue to call on current members of Congress to finish the 2012 farm bill when they return to Washington in November. While work on some past farm bills has extended from the 1st Session of a Congress to the 2nd Session of a Congress, no Congress has ever failed to complete farm legislation before final adjournment, thus requiring that work from scratch again within a new Congress. With the far-reaching consequences of this summer’s drought and the outlook for next year’s crops unknown, this would be the worst possible time for Congress to fail to meet its responsibilities. We need a new farm bill now! ■

THE SUNFLOWER October/November 2012


NSA Partners With Turkish Media To Promote U.S. Sunflower Seeds Campaign Geared Toward Boosting Turks’ Consumption of U.S. Confections

Editor’s Note: The National Sunflower Association (NSA) continues to work with the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) as a matching-dollar cooperator for purposes of foreign market development. NSA currently operates in five countries with an annual FAS allocation of about $1.5 million. Activities in Mexico, Spain, Turkey and Germany focus on confection sunflower in-shell seeds and kernel. The program in Canada is directed toward sunflower oil. The following article is the first in a series discussing NSA foreign market development efforts. Turkey presently comprises the second largest export market for U.S. confection sunflower seed. Since 2007, these exports have totaled between 18,000 to 21,000 metric tons annually. As of 2012, the NSA began promoting confection sunflower directly to Turkish consumers. This article was written by Jack Jacob, account director for Promedia Public Relations in Istanbul and the director of the NSA promotions program in Turkey.

20,294 metric tons (MT). However, U.S. sunflower seeds and food exports are hampered by tough competition from China and neighboring Ukraine and a lack of awareness of the varieties of sunflower seed products that the U.S. has to offer, their

characteristics, added-value potential, health advantages, and how they can be used in traditional Turkish cuisine. Yet despite tough competition, Turkey remains a prominent customer for U.S. confection sunflower products. A 2011 market

Below: A copy of one of the advertisements placed in major magazines in Turkey.

T

urkey is a dynamic emerging market. It is expected that by 2020, 14 million households will be classified as middle class, up from just 5.9 million in 2000. This evolution into a modern society is transforming the Turkish food market and boosting import demand. All of the food sectors in Turkey, including packers, snack food manufacturers, retail outlets (modern hypermarkets and supermarkets) and the food service industry (hotels, restaurants, and institutions) are experiencing unprecedented growth, driven by a rapidly changing population. With a population of 77 million and a per capita income of US $11,200, Turkey represents a market that holds vast potential for the United States. Turkey’s positive economic development has lifted consumer confidence and expectations. Many sectors of Turkey’s economy offer high growth potential, due to the unsaturated nature of the market and the youthfulness of the population — two realities that offer significant scope for expanding the domestic market for U.S. confection sunflower seeds. Due to the low level of stocks and increased exports, Turkish in-shell seed imports increased dramatically in 2010/11 to

THE SUNFLOWER October/November 2012

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study conducted in Turkey, aimed at the confection sector and U.S. sunflower seeds, revealed that Turkish importers would still prefer to import from the U.S. for the domestic market, because U.S. suppliers are seen as more open and transparent in their business dealings than Chinese traders. Total in-shell sunflower seed and nut consumption in Turkey amounts to a value of around $2 billion annually. Within that figure, the turnover for pre-packaged inshell seed and nut snacks is approximately

$350-400 million. The annual per capita consumption of packaged in-shell seeds and nuts is approximately 6.6 pounds. For inshell sunflower seeds alone, the annual per capita consumption is nearly 3.3 pounds. Inshell sunflower seeds are the most popular snack in Turkey, with about 110,000 MT consumed annually. The age group of 15 years and over prefers in-shell seeds and nuts, and 70% of the Turkish population consumes in-shell seeds and nuts. Sunflower in-shell seeds are sold after

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being roasted and salted to low/medium income Turkish consumers, a segment that constitutes 90% of the entire population. Inshell seeds are eaten during prime time TV watching, picnics and get-togethers with friends.

I

n 2012, with the intention to help grow and maintain overall market demand for U.S. confection sunflower seeds, the National Sunflower Association implemented a promotional program in Turkey consisting of intensive advertisement and public relation campaigns, retail events, taste demonstrations, and printed materials to maximize awareness of the health benefits of confection sunflower seeds. Thirty-eight attractive advertisements highlighting the benefits of sunflower seeds health were placed in 16 different magazines such as Women’s Health, Men’s Health, Form Sante and Female. Because the message about healthy eating is so important — and because sunflower seeds are such a great fit in a healthy diet, National Sunflower Association already works to feature U.S. confection sunflower seeds on a regular basis in consumer magazines and at various online news websites. The Turkish media frequently highlights the nutritional benefits of in-shell sunflower seeds, emphasizing that they are rich in Vitamin E, phosphorus and zinc, which contribute to healthy bones and teeth. So far, six press releases have been developed and distributed to media, resulting in free space circulation of 33,168,000 and having a comparable ad value of $233,600. Teaming with identified U.S. confection seed brands, 62 in-store promotions were conducted in two major supermarket chains (CarrefourSA and Kiler), where thousands of taste events and POS (point of sale) materials were distributed. Target audiences include both youths and housewives who purchase confection sunflower seeds from supermarkets. Strong messages emphasizing sunflower seeds as being healthy and nutritious are delivered during in-store promotions and through intensive public relations and advertisement campaign in major lifestyle and youth publications. Since Turkey is an important market for confection sunflower seeds from the United States, increasing the consumption of confections is at the forefront of everything the National Sunflower Association does in Turkey. Visiting and involving Turkey’s community leaders and traders in future programs and activities will help build and maintain this market. For the U.S. sunflower seed industry and the U.S. farmer, the positive relationship being cultivated with Turkish consumers hopefully will lead to a preference for U.S. confection seeds for ■ years to come.

THE SUNFLOWER October/November 2012


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University of Nebraska’s High Plains Ag Lab Near Sidney Sits Adjacent To Former Army Ordnance Depot

ocated about six miles northwest of Sidney, in southwestern Nebraska’s Cheyenne County, the University of Nebraska’s High Plains Agricultural Laboratory (HPAL) contains some 2,400 acres. One-third of that is used for dryland crop research; the other twothirds is in pasture. The majority of the research is under the direction of five UN faculty, including a dryland systems specialist, alternative crops breeder, entomologist, soil fertility specialist and cow-calf/range management specialist. Sunflower, proso millet and corn are currently grown as part of the crop rotation on a significant number of dryland acres that previously produced only wheat in a winter wheat/fallow rotation. Aside from the agricultural research being conducted at HPAL, it attracts attention for another reason: the hundreds of “igloos” that sit adjacent to the ag research plots in this isolated corner of Cheyenne County. Those igloos — thick concrete bunkers covered by soil and grass — owe their existence to the Sioux Army Ordnance Depot. Established in 1942, the depot’s mission was to receive, store and issue all types of ammunition — from small arms to 10,000-pound bombs. It also handled general supplies for the Army, ranging from automobile parts to jeeps, as well as various strategic and critical materials, according to the Nebraska State Historical Society. “The depot occupied 19,771 acres and included 801 ammunition storage igloos, 22 general supply warehouses, 392 support buildings, 225 family living quarters, 51 miles of railroad tracks and 203 miles of roads,” the historical society notes. “Depot personnel assigned ranged from 625 to 2,161 civilian employees and from four to 57 military personnel, depending on Army activity.”

The ordnance depot served its purpose during World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam. It was deactivated on June 30, 1967 — about the same time the government made 2,410 of its acres available to the University of Nebraska for agricultural research and education. This research began in the early 1970s and continues today. For years after the deactivation, many of the depot’s igloos were utilized by area farmers for grain and/or equipment storage. Today, though, the stretching complex sits largely empty. As of early October 2012, a fund-raising effort to build a modern office and laboratory at the University of Nebraska’s High Plains Agricultural Lab had reached about $400,000 of its goal of between $500,000-550,000. The new building will replace a 1940sera structure that was part of the Sioux Army Ordnance Depot. Backers hope construction of the new facility can begin in 2013, depending upon completion of the fund raising. — Don Lilleboe ■

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THE SUNFLOWER October/November 2012

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Photos: Don Lilleboe

Agricultural Research Amongst the Igloos


Photos: Sonia Mullally

Two Promising Bird Repellents Tested

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irds are tricky critters to keep out of a preferred buffet of ripening crops, affirms wildlife biologist Dr. George Linz. And he ought to know. Linz has spent more than 30 years studying their behavior, primarily working on blackbird ecology and developing methods of reducing dam-

age. His research team has developed, for example, the use of glyphosate for controlling cattails used by roosting blackbirds. During his long career with USDAAPHIS-Wildlife Services, Linz has seen many bird repellent products come and go, personally conducting or being otherwise involved in experiments with many of them. Chemical bird repellents have been on the market for several years. Two commonly used registered bird repellent products on sunflower are Bird Shield™ and Flock Buster™. Both consist of natural ingredients, with proven results repelling birds in many different environments. The challenge with any repellent, according to Linz, is applying sufficient product to affect the bird’s feeding behavior without breaking the bank. Rain can reduce the longevity of the product, and getting the product on the face of the sunflower head is a challenge. Linz emphasizes that USDA and North Dakota State University do not promote one product over another. They simply go by their findings. “We don’t advocate a specific product, but instead report our data in the scientific literature for other researchers to evaluate. It’s pretty simple. Did it work or not,” Linz explains. A team of researchers from USDAWildlife Services and NDSU has spent the 2012 growing season working with two repellents – Avian Control™ and Avipel™. The former is already EPA-approved and labeled for sunflower; the latter is not and is still in the research phase.

New to Sunflower

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This spring, Steve Stone of Avian Enterprises (a division of Stone Soap Company) contacted Linz regarding his product,

Avian Control. Linz, in turn, contacted the National Sunflower Association to discuss research potential with the company’s bird repellent for use on sunflower. Stone’s company specializes in soap and deodorizers. One might question how a soap company would have any idea how to get rid of pesky birds. It all began with a Chicago-area landfill management company with bird problems. As a customer purchasing deodorizers from Stone Soap Company, they inquired about a solution to the bird issue. This precipitated the Michigan-based firm to formulate a bird repellent for its customer. It was unchartered waters for the soap company that unexpectedly produced a very effective solution to the landfill’s bird problems. The solution – Avian Control – contains the primary ingredient of methyl anthranilate (MA). MA has been has been known as an effective bird aversion chemical since the 1960s. Using this naturally occurring compound that is found in flowers and grapes, MA works as a repellent by stimulating the nerves in the bird’s beak, eyes and throat. Although most animals have these nerves, only birds react to MA. Other bird repellents on the market (e.g., Bird Shield) contain this ingredient as well. But Stone Soap’s formula has an added ingredient that enhances the chemistry of the product to make MA more effective. Essentially, the “secret” ingredient gives an added boost to MA that no other product on the market provides. One negative of MA is that it is biodegradable over time. To counter this, Avian Control added an inert ingredient called propylene glycol (a preservative also used in the food and cosmetic industry), giving the product more sustainable lasting effects.

THE SUNFLOWER October/November 2012


Right: A view from the cab of the high-boy sprayer applying Avipel on research plots near Turtle Lake, N.D. Darin Okerson and Lance Makeeff of Farmers Union Oil of Turtle Lake ran the unit this season.

Birds are creatures of habit, so any good repellent focuses on behavior modification. Stone emphasizes that early application is key to training the birds to go elsewhere. “If they have learned that a buffet has been set up for them and it was delicious one day, then not the next, it takes them a while to ‘get it’ that it won’t taste good tomorrow either,” he explains. “So it takes a while to modify their behavior.” This EPA-approved, non-lethal repellent discourages birds from congregating in the field and eating the seeds. The product also has been found to possess an ultraviolet component to which birds are sensitive. The combination of the chemical ingredients in Avian Control is creating the ultraviolet footprint that only birds can see and seem to want to avoid. The idea is that the birds are able to detect a color that would signal a response. It’s approved for sunflower, sweet corn and several fruits. Until this year, Avian Control has been used on blueberries and cherries with much success. This prompted Stone to seek out research projects on sunflower.

Testing Avian Control on ’Flowers

Stone says there are various Avian Control studies going on for fruit crops and sweet corn as well as some research in South Dakota with soybeans to deter Canada geese from eating emerging seedlings. Prior to Stone contacting Linz, however, nothing had been done with sunflower. He agreed to supply the chemical at no charge, if Linz and his group would agree to help coordinate the sunflower studies for the 2012 growing season. Sunflower presents some very unique issues not present in fruit crops. One is the stature of the plant; another is the range of coverage required on a multi-acre field for efficacy. In other words, how do you spray a plant that’s over five feet tall (in most cases), and how do you get the chemical on the face of the sunflower when the head faces downward. That’s where Linz and his expertise and experience applying various repellents come into play. “How do we get the chemical on the seed and when do we spray it?” Stone questions. “Longevity is the key to making the product effective when sunflower is vulnerable to birds.” Linz arranged for 10 growers from across North Dakota to spray approximately 50 acres each. The formulation is two quarts of Avian Control per five gallons of water was sprayed with aerial application in late August/early September. Even though it’s an experimental project, because the product is an EPA-approved chemical, the crop did not need to be destroyed and the product is available on the marketplace. It’s not often that research is done with an already-approved and -labeled product. Mike Christenson, sunflower grower from Rugby, N.D., says he’s impressed with Avian Control. He traditionally grows a couple hundred acres of oil sunflower each year, and there’s always blackbird pressure in his area of north central North Dakota. At the time of Christenson’s observations, the chemical had been sprayed nine days prior, in early September. “We sprayed a little over half of this 80-acre field, and it had a lot of blackbirds,” he recounts. “It took maybe until the second day or so, and then I’d watch the flocks of birds come down toward the field — and then, instead of landing, they’d swoop off into my neighbor’s corn field. It seems to have worked in this area.” Christenson has also employed other means of harassing the birds, such as shotguns; but he says the chemical has seemed to make quite a difference in the field. At a week or two prior to harvest, he says he didn’t see a bird anywhere on a visit to the field. Coleharbor, N.D., grower Tim Eslinger says the group of birds

THE SUNFLOWER October/November 2012

that was in his field prior to the Avian Control spray also was gone by early October. The treated 50 acres were in what he would consider a “problem area” prone to blackbird activity. Eslinger hadn’t grown sunflower in over 20 years, but brought it back as another rotational option. “From what I’ve seen, it seems to have worked. The birds have moved out,” he notes. While early observations are positive, Linz says there’s more work to be done. “I haven’t looked at my numbers yet, but we are hearing positive results from our field staff in the areas that they are watching,” he states. “We can’t say anything definitive yet. We need a much larger sample than what we had this year. Five hundred acres spread across 10 different fields is not really enough in the world of birds. It’s so complex in the way they move between fields and from confection to oil sunflower and also early ripening corn.” (Continued)

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Linz is planning to report the findings from the Avian Control study at the annual National Sunflower Association Research Forum in Fargo in January. He will be interviewing each grower involved in the experiment as well as the field staff, getting their opinions and observations along with his numbers on damage assessment.

Ongoing Work With Anthraquinone

Another repellent project — one that has involved multiple USDA and NDSU researchers — is studying a chemical known as Anthraquinone (AQ). Available since the 1950s, AQ is gaining momentum as a blackbird repellent. “It’s the only product we’ve tested in the laboratory and enclosures that consistently repels birds,” Linz says. He knows that is a bold statement, but he’s speaking from results. Linz communicates regularly with company reps to see what it’s going to take to get the product on the market. The company that holds the patent for Avipel (with AQ as the active ingredient) is small, and the marketing process is costly and lengthy. Even though the chemical has been around for a long time, it is not approved for use on sunflower. But because of its strong and consistent efficacy in trials, Linz says he wants to follow the research to its end, wherever and whenever that might lead. A multi-year USDA study has been evaluating Avipel and its efficacy as a bird repellent on seed crops such as sunflower, corn and rice since 2009. That year, the product received a Section 18 label from EPA. It is an approved corn seed treatment in eight states, including four major sun-

USDA wildlife biologist George Linz demonstrates how researchers calculate bird damage on sunflower heads as part of a multi-year project looking at bird repellent efficacy. Their work in 2012 focused on plots in the Turtle Lake area of central North Dakota.

flower-producing states (Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Texas). It is primarily used for defense against pheasants that eat the emerging corn. It’s also a rice seed treatment. In 2009, after preliminary lab work was conducted, NSA funded research on ripening confection sunflower. This work included field research with bird enclosures. More field work with bird enclosures was conducted in 2010 — but this time on oilseed sunflower. Each year took into ac-

count different rates and modes of application. These crop-destruct studies are limited to 10 acres or less. Findings were as follows: In 2009 — 18% damage @ 2 gal Avipel/ac and 64% damage among untreated enclosures. In 2010 — 34% damage @ 0.5 gal Avipel/ac; 33% damage @ 1 gal Avipel/ac; and 44% damage among untreated enclosures. No work was conducted in 2011. This season, Linz and crew conducted field trials in small plots in an open environment. In cooperation with a grower near Turtle Lake, N.D. (central part of the state), Avipel was applied with a ground sprayer on roughly seven acres of oilseed sunflower in three different locations. A preliminary spray was done on August 17 (2 qts/acre) and another on August 31 (0.5 gal/ac) at the R-6 stage of development. Both applications were done by a high boy ground rig. Linz and staff then clipped heads in order to conduct residue levels on the bracts and seeds. They also took bird damage measurements throughout the process. Lab work will continue with the 2012 samples. The goal is to acquire a special experimental use permit from the EPA in 2014 and to work toward field study on a large commercial scale on multiple acres. “It’s a long process,” admits Linz. “But we talk to so many growers who simply tell us they just need a little help with the birds. That’s what we’re trying to accomplish.” The point is that management options do exist, and more are emerging all the time. The key is to find a repellent the grower can count on with consistent results. Linz adds, “We’re looking at all the options out there to help the farmer. The grower works too hard to get his profit taken from him this close to harvest.” — Sonia Mullally ■

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THE SUNFLOWER October/November 2012


Blackbird Management: Several Options Do Exist B

Bird Damage Remains Frustrating for Numerous Growers, But They Need Not Face This Production Challenge Alone

lackbirds continue to be a black mark on the sunflower industry. They are the reason why some farmers in certain regions of the Dakotas choose not to grow sunflower. There’s no question that sunflower can make a profit; but nothing is more frustrating than watching your crop being eaten by pesky birds right before your eyes. Sunflower is not the only crop affected by blackbird damage. There is a strong push nationally, not just within the sunflower realm, to find a solution to blackbird damage for a host of crops. Blackbirds annually do an estimated $200 million damage to crops including grains, oilseeds, fruits and vegetables. That’s the bad news. The good news is that there’s help available for growers who experience blackbird problems. There’s assistance in the way of bird harassment techniques as well as chemical repellents that have proven to be very effective in many situations. There is also research on the horizon for additional chemical repellents (previous article) and mechanical repellents.

Reducing Bird Habitat

But even before a grower calls in reinforcements, the first line of defense is focusing on bird habitat. Controlling cattails, either on dry ground or in wetlands, is a good way to get birds at the source. Cattails are the number one roosting site of choice for blackbirds, and getting rid of those areas near sunflower fields can greatly diminish blackbird activity. Dr. George Linz of the USDA-APHISWS National Wildlife Research Center has found that eliminating cattails can pay dividends for five years or more. Excessive wet conditions for many years in much of

Controlling cattails, either on dry ground or in wetlands, is a good way to get birds at the source.

THE SUNFLOWER October/November 2012

the Northern Plains states have been ideal for cattail development. A dry spell in 2012 caused much of those areas to dry up, giving growers an opportunity to go in and remove blackbird roosting locations such as marshes, sloughs and cattails. Cattails should be sprayed anytime from mid-July to the first frost. Research has found that glyphosate at 4.5 pints mixed with 3-5 gal water/acre provides excellent control. (The annual North Dakota State University weed control guide provides information on control of cattail [Page 67] and other non-crop/troublesome weeds at http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/weeds/ weed-control-guides/nd-weed-controlguide-1/wcg-files/10-Shelt.pdf.) Prior to this year, USDA had a specially funded program to assist farmers with spraying wetlands to control cattails. However, due to lack of funding the program is no longer available. Linz says that some growers have expressed concern that the governmentfunded assistance is no longer available; but the program did establish a template for growers to follow as they take care of these issues themselves. “We realize many of them are busy, but it’s well worth the time and effort to get rid of the blackbird roosting sites. They, in turn, get the best potential out of their sunflower crop in the fall,” Linz observes. More-positive news for eliminating habitat is that less CRP acreage also equals less blackbird nesting habitat. In North Dakota alone, almost 650,000 acres were taken out of CRP and put into production after the 2012 contracts expired in October. Approximately 350,000 acres came out of the CRP program in Minnesota and South Dakota combined in this same time period. Fewer idle acres, means less habitat for blackbirds to nest.

USDA Crews Available

The second line of defense for growers is the USDA-WS crews on hand to assist with blackbird issues. Part-time, seasonal employees will deliver and station loaner propane cannons when fields in the Dakotas are being hit by blackbirds. The cannons are equipped with automatic timers that turn off the noise mechanism at night to conserve propane. The sequence of explosions can be easily changed to minimize the risk of blackbirds becoming accustomed to the noise. The key is to get the cannons out early before the birds take up residence and get used to associating a field with a major food source. USDA part-time employee for blackbird assistance Sherwood Haakenson services the northeast portion of North Dakota along the Canadian border. This area has a large number of sunflower acres

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annually and is prone to blackbird activity. He says after being on staff for four seasons and a retired farmer himself, he sees the number one mistake is that growers start the fight too late after the birds have found a field. “We’ve been very busy this season, temporarily running out of supplies of cannons and shotgun shells trying to keep all the growers covered,” he says. “It’s important to be out there early before the birds settle in. We’re not the total answer, but we’re here to help.” Haakenson is one of eight workers who are direct contacts for growers in need of assistance. However, more staff is sometimes needed when fall migrations come through the flyway. USDA will also provide additional people, as needed, to harass these huge flocks. The key message from USDA is that growers are not alone in their battle. There’s help out there and local workers across the Dakotas who can offer direct and swift assistance when needed. Sunflower growers seeking blackbird management assistance can contact the USDAAPHIS-WS office in Bismarck, N.D., at 701-250-4405.

Chemical Options

Chemical bird repellents have been on the market for several years. Two, Bird ShieldTM and Flock BusterTM, have been available for quite some time. Both consist of natural ingredients. Flock Buster, designed to repel blackbirds with seven aversions (three for scent and four for taste), is commonly used in areas prone to blackbird damage. The company that produces Flock Buster is based in eastern North Dakota. Many growers throughout the region attest to the success of the product in saving yield. Another option on the market is Bird Shield. Extensive field testing has been done on sunflower by the Washington-based company illustrating the success of the product. Both products can be easily mixed with other chemical applications for cost savings. As reported in the article beginning on page 22, new to the marketplace is a repellent registered for sunflower called Avian ControlTM. The chemical is labeled and EPA-approved for sunflower, but no testing had been done on the crop until this growing season. Early observations are positive for efficacy, but official field results on Avian Control are still pending. Some growers, who use the available products on a larger scale, may find different results depending on the situation. Many factors can influence efficacy, e.g., bird population numbers, migratory habits, timing of application, etc. “Number one, you have an airplane flying over the field rousing the birds; and,

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another you’re putting out a chemical that contains an irritant for the birds. I have no doubt that some birds flee from the fields due to the aerial application of approved chemicals available in the marketplace,” Linz says. “It’s tricky to assess results, however, because there are so many factors at play. Did the birds migrate? Did they find another food source? How [big a] role did the plane have on scaring the birds? Those are important questions we can’t always answer to point toward efficacy.” Unfortunately, in some cases the effects are not long-lived or consistent. Unpredictable and ever-changing environments and timing of application can bring about a wide range of results. If a grower finds something that works, by all means keep using it, Linz notes.

Technology Options

Another approach being pursued by research and private business is technology Below: For years, Bird Gard has used bioacoustic science to keep birds out of a variety of crops. The company now seeks to do the same in sunflower.

devices that would disrupt birds’ behavior. How do birds react to a fabricated predatory hawk flying in the vicinity, for example? How about a remotely controlled unmanned aerial vehicle (commonly referred to as a drone)? It might sound farfetched at first, but the more researchers learn about bird behavior, the more they are intrigued by how they react to predators (or perceived predators). “We take the approach that we first try to improve on what’s already available and not try to come up with something new. There’s a lot we don’t know about mechanical repellents that try to mimic a predator,” Linz explains. “What’s the reaction of the birds to a real predator? How is that different from a bird’s reaction to something electronic, for example? We’re investing in how we can improve upon existing technologies.” USDA is in the process of collaborating with biological sciences groups at NDSU and Michigan State University to research this area further. This technology, in some form, already exists. It just hasn’t been tested on sunflower. A company from Oregon, for example, has developed a product called Bird GardTM. For 25 years, the company has been eliminating bird damage in vineyards, fruits and nut orchards worldwide. The product isn’t new, by any means, but it’s just now venturing into sunflower. According to company spokesperson Rick Willis, Bird Gard uses digital recordings of bird distress and alarm calls, along with the sounds of their natural predators, broadcast through high-fidelity, weatherproof speakers to convince birds they are under attack. The direction, duration and timing of sounds are controlled by a microprocessor to give the impression there is danger all around. The sounds trigger a primal “fear and flee” response in the birds, causing them to relocate to where they can feed without feeling threatened. The noises are randomized to ensure the birds don’t get used to the sounds. Bird Gard products are not harassment devices like propane cannons or shot guns that attempt to annoy the birds into leaving. Rather, the devices use bioacoustic science that capitalizes on the survival instincts built into the DNA of the birds. So if this technology is available, why hasn’t it yet been utilized in sunflower? “We’re a small company that protects millions of crop acres worldwide. Until recently, we didn’t realize birds were such a problem for sunflower growers,” explains Willis. “It really doesn’t matter what the crop is: our products are only limited by the species of birds causing the damage. Vineyards, cherries and other soft fruits have severe problems with redwing blackbirds, grackles and starlings. We’ve been extremely effective in keeping them out of

THE SUNFLOWER October/November 2012


those crops for decades. It’s only natural to expect we can do the same for sunflower.� Willis realizes some growers remain skeptical that the devices are suited for all crops; but he explains: “Most birds don’t fly real high, maybe 50-70 feet high. By staking out our Bird Gard around the block of sunflowers on 10-foot poles, we create a sonic barrier nearly 200 feet high that the birds won’t cross. If we simply do the perimeter of a field, in most cases that is sufficient to keep them out at a relatively low cost.� Willis assures that even though there are unique issues with sunflower, Bird Gard units are well suited. “The pecan and pistachio growers we work with have trees upwards of 70 feet tall, and we see at or near 100% effectiveness. Protecting sunflower should be easy, given the relatively short crop height and flat terrain,� he says. “We’d like to concentrate on keeping the birds out of marshes and wetland areas where the birds roost. We know from past experience that if we can disturb their sleeping habitats, they will soon leave the entire area.� Another advantage is the units’ mobility. “They are fully self-contained and easily transported. At the end of the season, it only takes a few minutes to take each unit down, put them in the back of a pickup and store them for the winter,� Willis explains. “They are watertight and can survive out in the elements.� The company’s largest unit covers 30 acres at a retail cost of $3,500 — which figures out to about $117/acre. When used to circle large blocks, the cost per acre drops to less than $50 an acre. “Our unit really is a lifetime product. I’m working with some vineyards that are still using units that go back 25 years,� Willis notes. “When you average the cost over several years, growers find them to be extremely economical. You put them out in the field before the birds start showing up, and you pick them up at harvest.� Willis is working with NSA and USDA’s Linz on a more formal study with multiple locations next growing season. “We know we can get rid of redwing blackbirds, grackles crows, ravens and European starlings. We just need to demonstrate we can do it for sunflower,� he says. Bird Gard is looking for growers with the worst cases of bird damage for a demonstration with their units during the 2013 growing season. “Let us put our units out there where the blackbirds are worst,� Willis says. “It’s very dramatic when it works — and it always works. That’s the easiest way to demonstrate how effective our products are.� Field demonstrations in 2013 will be a true test of Bird Gard on sunflower.

2013 Sunflower

Research Forum January 9 & 10

Ramada Plaza Suites Fargo, N.D.

W

Program & Registration Details At: www.sunflowernsa.com

Hosted by the National Sunflower Association

hether it is habitat elimination, USDA “blackbird crewâ€? assistance, chemical repellent application or mechanical repellents, the war on blackbirds continues. Anyone knows it’s difficult to fight nature, but in this case there’s help and there’s hope. For interested persons, here’s contact information for the companies mentioned: • Flock Buster: www.FlockBuster.com or 877-662-7697 • Bird Shield: www.birdshield.com or 509-339-5740 • Avian Control: www.SolveYourBirdProblems.com or 888-707-4355 • Bird Gard: www.birdgard.com or 888-332-2328 — Sonia Mullally â– 

Sh Sheriff’s eriff’s Foreclosure Foreclosure

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THE SUNFLOWER October/November 2012

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gens and is produced in a facility that does not process peanuts or tree nuts. Early on in the process, Fuglie teamed up with the Fergus Falls economic development people, which had a big impact on the birth of the product. “I was working on a different start-up and was introduced to Harold Stanislawski, director of the Fergus Falls Economic Improvement Commission,” Fuglie explains. “He and I got along well, and through our conversation he presented an available asset he was considering using as a food entrepreneur incubator or contract manufacturing space.” At that point, Nots! did not exist. Fuglie was thinking of ways that facility could differentiate in order to maximize its value — and focused on allergen sensitive co-manufacturing. A few days later, he had the idea for Nots! “The most valuable question in this process was from Harold the first day we met when he asked, ‘What would you do with a commercial kitchen?’ ” Fuglie says. “Not certain how many companies start with the facility, then create the product, but it might be the only reason Nots! exists today.” Fuglie recently shared some insights about the unique product.— Sonia Mullally How did the idea for Nots! begin? Photos: Go Nots!

I had been working on business strategies for a contract food manufacturing model involving food allergies. My son has food allergies, including peanuts, so I was very familiar with the issues and existing product alternatives. One day in my kitchen, I was snacking on sunflower kernels and wanted to eat them more like M & M’s: grab a handful, walk through the house, and pop a few in my mouth.

Go Nots! Western Minnesota Entrepreneur’s Sunflower-Based Snack Product Combines Taste With Convenience — And Sensitivity to Food Allergens

T

he creator of Nots!, Rob Fuglie, had a desire for something to eat on the go. And it had to be safe for his son who has food allergies. With those two main “ingredients” in mind, he went to his kitchen cupboards to create a marketable product. Production began in late 2011 with a flurry of word-of-mouth and media coverage. Nots! are nearly a nut, but it’s not, as the packaging claims. They are bite-size snacks that mix sunflower seeds with a variety of sugars to form a mildly sweet concoction with the “snackability” of a larger-sized morsel. Nots!, produced in Fergus Falls, Minn., was designed for snackers who like to pop something into their mouth and get a crunch. Fuglie liked to eat sunflower seeds, but it was a lot of work and not enough substance. Nots! removed the work and left the enjoyment. An added benefit to consumers is the production dedicated to allergen sensitivity. The ingredients list is free of the “Big 8” aller-

28

How did it evolve from idea to product in package?

I made the first prototypes with five things from my kitchen cupboards. I received formulation assistance from the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute in Crookston, Minn. Once we had a consistent formula and process, I began working on production capability, packaging samples, logo design, etc. The process of going from “recipe” to mass market product is an amazing learning experience. Did you do a lot of “trial and error” coming up with a good taste blend? Who did you use as a test audience for taste sampling as you formulated the product?

There have been a lot of starts and restarts along the way. I used anyone and everyone willing to give Nots! a try. I also consulted with a couple of families we know who deal with nut allergies. I experimented with flavors very early. I set goals for product launch. I knew the product would improve over time, but it was good. My guess was people would provide better feedback if they were being asked to pay for it. A lot of people liked it, and the product has continued to improve. Can you describe the flavor? Are there other flavors in the works?

Nots! tastes mostly like sunflower. They have a slightly roasted nut flavor and are a little sweet, but not sugary. Flavors have been well received. We just launched a new flavor — spiced pepper blend — which became available on store shelves and for online orders on October 15.

Explain the production process in detail. Please start with the seed selection (where does the seed come from, how much is used in pro-

THE SUNFLOWER October/November 2012


duction, etc.) all the way to sealing the package.

I currently source bakery kernel seeds from dealers in the Red River Valley (eastern North Dakota, northwestern Minnesota). The dealers in this area are terrific in understanding the allergen issues and provide consistently high-quality products. The kernels are ground to aid extrusion, so size and shape are not as critical for the finished product. Sunflower is greater than two-thirds of the product weight. The process is fairly straight forward: grind, mix, extrude, kill step, cool, cut, package. We use a rice paper zip seal poly pouch with a banded heat seal. This gives us a quality product in a package that assists with brand and market development. Describe some of the challenges of breaking into a crowded marketplace of snack foods.

The challenge, generally, is people know what they know. They don’t know Nots! Everything about the product is different: shape, color, flavor. It’s a different way of eating sunflower than what they know. Not surprisingly, sampling is a necessary requirement. The folks with food allergies/intolerances/sensitivities lower the barrier of entry. They are looking for alternative products that can be used in multiple ways. For some with gluten challenges, Nots! becomes a salad topping to replace croutons. For peanut allergic, Nots! is put into trail mix, etc. Can you clarify the allergen free component of Nots!?

Amazon.com and at Akin’s Natural Foods in Oklahoma, Missouri, Nebraska and Kansas; and Chamberlain’s Natural Foods in Florida. Product can also be ordered through our website at www.notssnacks.com. How is the product sold (size of the package and price)?

The product is sold in 4 oz bags. Suggested retail is $3.98. Do a web search for Nots! Roasted Sunflower Snacks for all the ways to ■ connect with us.

From an ingredients basis, the product is “Top 8” allergen free: no peanut, tree nut, soy, gluten, dairy, egg, fish or shell fish ingredients. I was surprised to learn how many people have digestive issues with corn, so I replaced corn syrup with cane syrup. That being said, we are very careful to not claim peanut, tree nut or allergen free. The facility we currently manufacture in does not use peanuts or tree nuts in food preparation, but we do not claim peanut, tree nut or any allergen free. Additionally, as Nots! has grown and the facility is in greater demand by others, the allergen statements on the package and website are updated regularly. My goal is to be in a dedicated facility, at some point, so we can give food allergy sufferers the greatest confidence available by becoming certified with appropriate food allergy certifying agencies and be deemed “Top 8” allergen free. How would you characterize product demand so far? Have there been some challenges in stocking the product and distribution?

Product demand seems to spike and plateau. Different elements affect this. When the change was made from corn syrup to cane syrup, there was an increase in sales. When the UPC was added, we got our first distributor. Each step forward seems to pull the whole business forward a little bit. For the most part, it’s a bit like walking down a hill: sometimes you hit a steeper spot and go faster for a little bit; sometimes a flat spot and go slower for a little bit — but you’re moving forward the whole time. The big jumps present the largest challenges. For example, it might take a couple months after negotiating a vendor agreement to get on the shelf.

Where is your product available?

The product is available in specialty grocery stores and food Co-ops in Minnesota. Nots! is also available by ordering from

THE SUNFLOWER October/November 2012

The Proof Is In The Package.® !"#$%"&'()*'+'(!,'-!./)&0 !" #$%& $'()"*$+ "$%&,( -$& .// *#+(" $- .0&!,%/*%&./1 ,$22(&,!./ .'3 !'3%"*&!./ +.,4.0!'05 !"#$%!"&'(!)*+",(!.#$/01&$$!2&345!"&'( !"622!"&'( !7894:!28$;!"&'( !2&345<28$;!"&'( !28$;!"&'( !.890:'!"8=4(!>!?#33$04( !2&@%&'0:'!AB#03C4:/ !,855#'&/4D !2&$$4/!?E44/(!>!FDE4(094( !?/54/@E!75&3!>!GE54&D

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30 Years Ago Excerpts from the Oct/Nov 1982 Issue of The Sunflower

Forward Contracting: Worth a Hard Look — “A lot of 1982 sunflower production could have been forward contracted at $11 a hundredweight or more at the farm level this past spring. Were you one of the (now) smart ones who took advantage of that price level; or did you wait for it to go higher and then end up catching it on the down side instead? “As an agricultural economist at South Dakota State University, Art Sogn advised growers early this year to lock in a majority of their anticipated production at that $11 figure. If they didn’t, however, he can certainly empathize. ‘I grow sunflower, and I didn’t sell mine for $11 either,’ he admits. ‘I got a stubborn streak, missed out on $11 and didn’t even sell at $10.80.’ “Sogn has traditionally encouraged South Dakota sunflower growers to strongly consider forward contracting part of their expected production — perhaps one-half to two-thirds. And although he doesn’t believe a majority of producers are doing so yet, he does see ‘more and more people paying a lot of attention to it.’ ”

They’re Burning Veg Oil Now — “Economists tell them it won’t pay off — yet. Agricultural engineers warn that they could eventually damage their engines. And engine manufacturers caution that if they do, warranties would be jeopardized. “But there are farmers who are not content to wait until others give them a green light in order to independently experiment with burning vegetable oils in their diesel-powered tractors. Norm Brittingham and Eugene Swoboda are two cases in point.

30

“Brittingham, who farms near the community of Pittsville on Maryland’s Delmarva Peninsula, has put about 100 hours on his John Deere 4230 with a 50/50 sunflower oil/diesel fuel blend. While that’s not a lot of hours, he hasn’t experienced any problems thus far. He has noticed a minimal difference in horsepower under certain loads, and while experimenting a bit with 100 percent sun oil, he did observe a four to five percent loss in fuel consumption. “Swoboda, a Redwood Falls, Minn., farmer, uses varying blends of sunflower oil and diesel fuel in his IH 806 and IH 1206 tractors. ‘If it’s 80 degrees out and we’re working the tractors hard, we run 90/10 (sun oil to diesel),’ he says. ‘If it’s cool and we’re running a light load, we cut the sun oil percentage down.’ “Swoboda estimates he’s put on about 500 hours on each of his tractors during the past two years while running on the sun oil/diesel blends. ‘We haven’t had any problems at all,’ he states, citing horsepower and fuel consumption ratios as being very similar to straight diesel. . . . “Brittingham and Swoboda produce their own sunflower oil, each having purchased a small English expeller unit. They filter the oil after pressing, but that’s the only conditioning it receives prior to going into the tractor.” The Duluth/Superior Highway / By Davis Helberg, Executive Director, Seaway Port Authority of Duluth — “In 1971 a rather tentative movement of 17,354 metric tons of sunflower seed was exported via the Port of Duluth/Superior. The numbers crept up gradually, to 287,598 metric tons by 1976. From that point on, the scorecard (in metric tons) reads like this: 1977 – 533,717 1978 – 1,132,058 1979 – 1,246,454 1980 – 1,249,018 1981 – 1,327,300 Based on a generally accepted formula for measuring this type of thing, the economic impact generated by shipments of sun seeds through the Twin Ports in 1981 was $33,195,773. (That works out to more than 14 percent of the impact of all waterborne commerce in Duluth/Superior last year, some $225.4 million.) . . . . “We will not hit one million tons of sun seed exports this year. As of mid-October, the port had handled slightly more than 500,000 metric tons. With no carryover from the 1981 crop and harvesting said to be extremely difficult because of soggy fields, it appears that we’ll be hard-pressed to hit the 800,000-ton mark in 1982. . . . Further, it’s our understanding that the Northern Europeans have done well this year with their own varieties of oilseeds as well as importing various other seeds from other origins. “But pendulums have a tendency to swing both ways. We view this season as an anomaly and expect to be back in full swing (with a good crop this year and a little luck) in 1983.”

Survey: Midge Range Hasn’t Grown — “John Busacca and Dennis Kopp report both good news and bad news concerning the sunflower midge. The good news is that the pest’s outer boundaries of infestation do not appear to be increasing. The bad news is that we’re still groping for ways to control the midge, and solid solutions do not appear imminent. “Busacca and Kopp are entomologists at North Dakota State University, and together with other entomologists from the University of Minnesota, South Dakota State University and Manitoba Agriculture, they surveyed sunflower fields in the Red River Valley region this summer for evidence of midge infestation. This is the second year such a survey has been conducted. . . . “Region-wide, Busacca and Kopp estimate that no more than one or two percent of yield potential was lost due to midge damage. However, this percentage was substantially higher in certain locales . . . And there were a few instances where fields were essentially wiped out.” ■

THE SUNFLOWER October/November 2012


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The Sunflower Magazine-October/November 2012