Category Archives: Agricultural Exports News

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The Earsplitting Tractor


Well, if you believe the weather forecast models, we’re in for a heck of a heat wave over the next week or two. Being a fairly well-insulated fella, I’m not sure how excited I am about that! I’m sure I’ll manage . . . hopefully your crops will, too. I’ve heard it’s getting pretty dry in parts of the Midwest. Hoping for good growing weather wherever you are!

This week on Interesting Iron, we’ve got three good ones. One tractor that should’ve been sold with a set of earplugs and a half gallon of Excedrin.

Interesting Iron Ford pull tractor

Another tractor that is a real rare Ford, which somehow got over here from England.

Finally, I’m featuring an absolute cream puff of a 4455 that lives near Iowa City! Let’s get to it!

The Earsplitting Deere

John Deere 435
1959 was a hectic year for John Deere. Thee company was six years into its biggest project ever – the New Generation tractors. These tractors were radically different, and nothing (not even the green and yellow paint) was sacred. Nearly every single operating system needed redesigned, and that meant that it was an all-hands-on-deck kind of deal.

Still, Deere needed to keep selling equipment, and farmers were still looking for improvements in the two-cylinder lineup. When Deere needed to buy itself some development time on the New Generation series, it chose to redesign the 430 for the 1959 model year. Deere reworked a few things on the tractor, but when it came to the powerplant, the company couldn’t pull engineers away from the New Gen motor development to tweak the two-cylinder just as a stop gap. A creative solution was needed; and the company wanted a small diesel motor (the 430 didn’t have one). So, Deere called General Motors in Detroit and worked a deal to use a supercharged two-stroke model 2-53 motor. Presto! A “new” (ish) tractor called the 435 AND one with a small diesel motor!

Two birds, one stone!

The 2-53 Detroits are reliable little motors that make somewhere in the neighborhood of 33 hp. on the PTO shaft. They’re also INSANELY loud, especially if they’re straight-piped. Fortunately, this one isn’t, so it might be a little more manageable. Still, if I ever meet the buyer, I’ll give them a fresh set of earplugs and a big bottle of Excedrin!

This 435 lives just north of Philly, and our friends at Alderfer Auction are handling the auction. The owner recently restored it, and it’s in great shape! The spin-out wheels don’t appear to have any wear on them, either. They should work about as slick as advertised. The 435 was among the last two-cylinder Deeres ever built; and with only about 4,600 of ’em out there, they’re not all that common! I’d imagine this one probably gets close to the $10K mark.

A Rare Roadless 95

Ford 5000 Ploughmaster 95
It seems like there are more unique and interesting Ford conversions out there than with any other tractor brand. Most of them never made it over to American soil, though, which makes this one, a Roadless 95, all the more interesting! Goodrich Auction Service in Newark Valley, New York, sends this fairly rare tractor home to a new owner on Friday, July 10, and I’m interested to see what it does. 

The Roadless 95 started as a Ford 5000. However, before selling it, the Roadless Traction Company made some “minor” modifications to it. The British company stretched the frame about 6 feet so they could stuff a 95-hp. six-cylinder Ford diesel motor into it. Roadless also turned it into a four-wheel drive using a transfer case (built in-house) and the axle from a military 6×6. They’re pretty beefy!

I think this is a 1966-68 model. If it is, that makes this one VERY rare. Roadless only made 210 to 215 of these, and I don’t think many of them made it over here. They’re still quite popular with English and Dutch tractor collectors as I understand it.

Admittedly, this one is rough. At some point in its life, an aftermarket turbo kit was added to it (possibly an M&W?), so this tractor definitely makes more power than your average Roadless 95. Evan Goodrich, the auctioneer, says that it runs well and that the 4WD works, too. This would be a fun one to bring to a plow day! 

I have no idea what one of these tractors is worth, but to the right collector, it might be just what they’re looking for! I’d imagine that if a collector does pick it up, that turbo might be the first thing to go in the restoration process. 

If you’re that buyer, I’d love to hear from you! Shoot me an email.

The Corner Carver

John Deere 4455
It’s getting hard to find low-hour original tractors like this one these days. Every now and then, however, one sneaks out of the barn and heads to auction. Like this one! This beautiful 1990 model 4455 front-wheel drive has only 2,743 original hours on it, and it sells at an auction hosted by Wears Auctioneering in Iowa City, Iowa. Sells with duals, full rack of front weights, new interior, and sales and service records. 

The 4455 MFWD was a hot seller, because among other improvements, this tractor could turn sharper than the competition. Deere built a push-button system for the 50 series called Caster Action, which tightened the turning radius. However, on the 55 series, it engaged automatically. By tilting the kingpin on the front axle a few degrees, the front wheels could lean over while turning, thereby tightening your turning radius. In fact, the stat nerds at Deere figured that if you dragged a six-row 30-inch cultivator through a square 100-acre field, you’d turn around 139 times! With Caster Action, the 4455 could cut about 18 feet off of each loop! When you do the math, that saves about a half mile per field! It doesn’t sound like much, but if you did the math all the way through the year, it’d add up to some decent fuel savings! That said, many owners turned their 4455s up a little, so the fuel savings went straight out the stack. Still, it was nice idea, right?

This particular tractor is a three-owner with 2,743 hours (verified – service records and sale history comes with the tractor). The tractor has never left the state of Iowa all of its life, and each owner has maintained it very well. A Deere technician replaced the dash at 2,727.9 hours in 2014; he engraved the original hours on the underside of the new dash to document the change. Since then, the owner has only used it a few hours per year mowing set-aside land. The new meter currently reads 14.9 hours.

Bidding on this one is pretty hot right now; I’ll be surprised if this tractor doesn’t hit close to $50K when the bidding is finished!

Ryan Roossinck
Hi! Hi! I'm Ryan, and I love tractors. It doesn’t matter if it’s a showpiece, an oddball, or seen its share of life ... if it’s unique and it’s listed by one of our auctioneer partners at Tractor Zoom, I’m going to  show it off a little bit! This equipment is all up for auction RIGHT NOW so you can bid on it. I think it’s cool, and I hope you will, too! This is Interesting Iron!

Apply now to host a 2021 Progressive Agriculture Safety Day


During a normal summer, kids across the country have the opportunity to learn about farm safety at Progressive Agriculture Safety Days, but this year all in-person events had to be canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.

The cancellation makes next year’s program even more important, and now is the time to apply to host a 2021 Progressive Agriculture Safety Day. Applications are available online and are due July 15.

The one-day events can be opened to the entire community or held specifically for schools or other groups. Participants rotate between stations where they learn age-appropriate lessons through demonstratinos and fun hands-on activities. Coordinators can choose curriculum from more than 30 topics, so lessons can be customized for the particular audience or area.

All lessons and materials are provided by the Progressive Agriculture Foundation, and coordinators are trained in a self-paced online course and webinar. The Foundation also provides T-shirts and take-home bags for all volunteers and participants as well as insurance coverage.

To learn more about hosting a Progressive Agriculture Safety Day, volunteering at an event, or making a donation to support the program, call 888/257-3529 or visit

FFA convention will be virtual in 2020


The National FFA Organization will host the 93rd National FFA Convention & Expo as a virtual experience this fall on multiple outlets. This decision, recommended by National FFA staff and affirmed by the National FFA Board of Directors, is due to the many challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The national convention will be hosted by the 2019-20 National FFA Officer Team. The event will allow FFA members, advisors, alumni, supporters, sponsors, and exhibitors to connect more than ever before through virtual events, activities, and competitions.

The national convention will occur virtually during the week of Oct. 28, as previously planned. On Aug. 12, specific details regarding the schedule, registration details, special guests, and other pieces will be announced. Delegates from across the country will also join virtually to accomplish the official business of the student-led organization as spelled out in the National FFA Constitution.

FFA plans to return to Indianapolis in 2021 for an energetic in-person event that celebrates achievements and forms valuable connections for FFA members looking to make a strong next step. 

Why was the decision made now? National FFA shared in May that a decision regarding the status of the 2020 National FFA Convention & Expo would be made by July 15. However, based on research and information collected by National FFA staff, the decision to hold the 2020 National FFA Convention & Expo as a virtual event was made on June 26. This decision allows attendees, exhibitors, and stakeholders time to adjust and National FFA staff time to plan an impactful virtual experience.

Delegates will meet virtually to handle the official business of the organization, including electing a new National FFA Officer Team.

Announcements regarding individual award and recognition programs will be made this summer as available. 

National FFA Band, Chorus or Talent will receive refunds on application fees. National FFA is unable to provide financial assistance for travel fees or penalties.

The National FFA Expo team will be in contact with exhibitors over the next several weeks to discuss options regarding the virtual experience and involvement in 2021.

National Institute of Food and Ag Invests $90 Million in Nine Projects


The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is making a $90 million investment in research projects seeking to improve the sustainability of the nation’s food supply.

The awards support nine projects at eight institutions addressing issues that include animal, human, plant, and environmental health. This research investment is the second installment of a new program within NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative’s (AFRI) Sustainable Agricultural Systems program. AFRI is the nation’s leading and largest competitive grants program for agricultural sciences.

“In an effort to help American farmers produce nutritious, high-quality products in a way that conserves natural resources and protects the environment, these projects will provide needed research to overcome critical barriers facing the industry,” NIFA Director Scott Angle says. “Investments in research that promotes sustainable systems will result in long-term improvements in agricultural practices that will benefit consumers, farmers, and the environment.”

Projects selected for funding range from improved practices in poultry production and food safety to efficient water use, nutrient management, and improvements in the value chain of biofuel production.

“Ensuring sustainability across the agricultural landscape requires us to develop innovative practices in every segment of production and every portion of our environment,” Angle says.

This investment in these innovative sustainable agricultural practices supports USDA’s vision outlined in the USDA Science Blueprint and USDA’s Agriculture Innovation Agenda that Secretary Perdue announced earlier this year.

The eight institutions receiving awards are:

Iowa State University; Ames, Iowa - $10 million
University of California; Riverside, California - $10 million
University of Connecticut; Storrs, Connecticut - $10 million
University of Idaho; Moscow, Idaho - $10 million
University of Maryland; College Park, Maryland - $10 million
University of Minnesota; St. Paul, Minnesota - $10 million
West Virginia University; Morgantown, West Virginia - $10 million
Michigan State University; East Lansing, Michigan - $9.8 million

Award grant details can be found on NIFA’s website.


Basmati Survey – Final Report - 6 (Season 2017) This is the final report for Basmati crop across 7 states totalling 81 districts. Detailed microscopic level information on Basmati crop has been compiled in this report. The report gives a holistic overview of the entire scenario of Basmati farm


REPORT - 2 October 9th, 2017 Basmati Acreage & Yield Estimation in Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Western Uttar Pradesh and Parts of Jammu & Kashmir Basmati Export Development Foundation APEDA, New Delhi Basmati Survey - Report-2 (Season 2017) This is the 2nd report for Basmati crop across 7 states totalling 81 districts ...

Online iron sales expand exponentially during the COVID crisis


The trend toward machinery selling at online auctions over 20 years when eBay began to feature farm implements. Since then the online-only iron transactions has grown steadily. For example, it is common for a weekly sale to auction off 1,500-plus pieces of equipment!

Still live auctions enjoyed popularity. . .until COVID hit. A few live auctions scheduled for what remained of March  and all of April awere canceled. But far more were delayed . . .and then successfully held online.

So did the COVID disruption doom live auctions to the scrape yard?

Yes and no, says Scott Steffes of the Steffes Group. “We have enjoyed huge success with our online only sales and will continue to expand those in the future,” Steffes observes. “But, at the same time I certainly see the demand for live auctions as well as they are often significant life events (as is the case with retirement or estate sales).”

Steffes as well as Luke Sullivan of Sullivan Auctioneers estimate that often 50% or more of equipment sold during live sales was bought online. “And that has been growing steadily since farmers came to trust online auction transactions,” Sullivan adds. 

The Steffes Group had already expanded into online only sales. “I would estimate 38% of our sales are not live,” he adds. "Covid-19 may be hurting many areas of the U.S. economy, but strong demand has continued for tractors, combines and other farm assets. During the first four months of 2020 our company has conducted 170 auctions." 

Other auction houses are likely going online after COVID subsides, feels Kyle McMahon with “I have always believed technology in agriculture has been 5 to 7 years behind Silicon Valley. That’s not always due to a lack of innovation, but is a lack of adoption by producers for various reasons.,” McMahon points out. “That said, COVID has forced adoption of online bidding. We will see a higher number of farmers bidding online after COVID than we did before COVID, but live onsite and simulcast auctions will forever have their time and place.”

Accentuating online sales is mobile bidding. You can sit in a cab planting or harvesting and bid on equipment that may be local or located several states away. And auction outlets have learned to provide shipping (for a cost) as part of the transaction which further encourages purchases.

Demand was strong for tractors, combines and sprayers throughout the period, regardless of the auction method. 

“The market is discriminating. Well-maintained equipment with low hours commanded a strong (price) premium,” said Steffes. “We sold the highest priced tractor in the history of our company this spring, a late model John Deere RX.”

What has made the adoption of online auction by buyers and sellers alike is the trust both groups hold in the system. Online sale transaction are nearly seamless and completely secure.

Pet dog tests positive for virus causing COVID-19


The USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) today announced the first confirmed case of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) infection in a pet dog (a German shepherd) in New York state. This is the first dog in the United States to test positive for SARS-CoV-2.

Samples from the dog were taken after it showed signs of respiratory illness.  The dog is expected to make a full recovery. One of the dog’s owners tested positive for COVID-19, and another showed symptoms consistent with the virus, prior to the dog showing signs. A second dog in the household has shown no signs of illness; however, antibodies were also identified in that dog, suggesting exposure. 

SARS-CoV-2 infections have been reported in a small number of animals worldwide, mostly in animals that had close contact with a person who was sick with COVID-19. At this time, routine testing of animals is not recommended. State and local animal health and public health officials will work with USDA and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to make determinations about whether animals should be tested for SARS-CoV-2, using a One Health approach. 

USDA will announce cases of confirmed SARS-CoV-2 in animals each time it is found in a new species.  All confirmed cases in animals will be posted at

The initial dog tested presumptive positive for SARS-CoV-2 at a private veterinary laboratory, which then reported the results to state and federal officials. The confirmatory testing was conducted at NVSL and included collection of additional samples. NVSL serves as an international reference laboratory and provides expertise and guidance on diagnostic techniques, as well as confirmatory testing for foreign and emerging animal diseases. Such testing is required for certain animal diseases in the U.S. in order to comply with national and international reporting procedures. The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) considers SARS-CoV-2 an emerging disease, and therefore USDA must report confirmed U.S. animal infections to the OIE.

While additional animals may test positive as infections continue in people, it is important to note that performing this animal testing does not reduce the availability of tests for humans. 

We are still learning about SARS-CoV-2 in animals, but there is currently no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading the virus. Based on the limited information available, the risk of animals spreading the virus to people is considered to be low. There is no justification in taking measures against companion animals that may compromise their welfare. 

It appears that people with COVID-19 can spread the virus to animals during close contact. It is important for people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 to avoid contact with pets and other animals to protect them from possible infection. 

For more information about COVID-19 and animals and recommendations for pet owners, visit

For more information about testing in animals, see

Shopping In Surabaya- Best Malls And Street Market For Tourists

Surabaya might not be the best destination for a vacation. However, for the shopping junkies, this city is big shopping heaven. The city itself is jam-packed with tons of mega-malls. Even more, there are also street markets that offer tourists a sophisticating shopping in Surabaya experience. From local to imported goods in accessories, food, fashion, to furniture are stuffed there. Find out the best malls and street markets in Surabaya you should visit.

Best Malls In Surabaya

1. Tunjungan Plaza (TP)

 tunjungan plaza surabaya

Tunjungan Plaza is an enormous shopping destination in Surabaya. Located in Jl. Basuki Rachmad no. 8 – 12, this shopping center stuffed with more than 500+ stores and services. It is a place which offers you everything from restaurants, cafes, retail, arcades, bookstore, cinemas, etc. The so-called biggest mall in Surabaya has an area of 160,000 m2, which integrates multi-facilities venues throughout the six buildings (TP 1 – TP 6).

2. Galaxy Mall

It is recommended to get the service of rent car Surabaya to venture Surabaya. While on it, you can stop at Galaxy mall located at Jl. Dharmahusada Indah Timur 35-37. The eight floors shopping mall has tons of local and international tenants. There are Hero supermarket, Galaxy 21, Timezone, Keris department store, etc. On the second and third floor, there are techno zone, local and international food courts.

3. Surabaya Town Square (Sutos)

Inaugurated in 2008, Sutos or Surabaya Town Square have been one of the must-visit plazas for shopping junkies. The place itself is packed with numerous restaurants and tenants. From the local to international shops, you can get all you need here. Located at Jl. Hayam Wuruk 6, this shopping mall is especially known as best hang out location. The concept of open space offers an outdoor venue to hang out and hold various entertainments.

Best Street Market In Surabaya

1. Pucang Anom Traditional Market

Looking for an extraordinary shopping experience? Maybe you should try to visit the street market. There are tons of traditional markets across Surabaya. If you rent car Surabaya and head to Jalan Pucang Arjo, you will find a big farmer market that offers fresh local products. Even more, they sell it at an affordable price. Take time to wander around the place to find various things such as antiques to souvenirs.

2. Bratang Market

Another place to experience a unique Shopping in Surabaya is the Bratang market. For those who love antiques and quartz, this place is must visit. Originally made for bird and fish market, this traditional market lately has turned into a different market. The two-floor building has different sections. The colorful swimming fishes and chirping birds can be found on the open-air first floor. While on the second floor, there are gemstones and antique sellers.

Those are some shopping destinations you should check out. With tons of malls, you will satisfy your thirst for a shopping spree. There are the enormous Tunjungan Plaza, high-class Galaxy mall, and hangout ideal Surabaya town Square. You can also discover and get a unique shopping experience by visiting the Street markets, such as Pucang Anom or Bratang market. So, don’t hesitate and enjoy your shopping time in Surabaya.

Malang To Karimun Jawa Trip – Ways To Get There, Ferry Schedule And Possible Tour

Have you heard about the secret paradise of Karimun Jawa? Located at 83 Km from Jepara Central Java, this heavenly mini archipelago has turned into a marine national park. For those who love marine life, this location is the best place to witness coral reefs crabs, sharks, stingray, and many more. If you are going for Malang to Karimun Jawa trip, consider reading this article for more info.

The Possible Malang Karimun Jawa Tour


If you are the type that enjoys going with the definite and exact plan, you should consider using Malang Karimun Jawa tours. Since the island is not yet become a big tourism destination, there is several tour package available. Especially, if you go from Malang. However, the possible available tours are a 2-day 1-night trip and a 3-days 2-night trip package in Karimun Jawa Island.

Ways To Get To Karimun Jawa From Malang

1. Take Public Transportation Bus And Ferry

the first way to reach Karimun Jawa is by the public transportation ‘bus’. The estimation time needed will take around 10 hours. If you are interested, this way is the cheapest and the easiest one. You don’t need to use the rent car Surabaya service for private car and there is no transit needed. Take an express bus Malang to Kudus, then taxi to Jepara and take a ferry.

2. Take Train, Taxi, And Ferry

If you don’t feel to take the first option, this way might be favorable for you. This idea can be the cheapest option if you are good at selecting services. Approximately, you need to spend a total of 200,000 – 900,000 rupiah for one trip. The estimated time for the trip will take more than 15 hours. You need to transit quite a lot. You will go by train, taxi, bus, and ferry.

3. Go By Your Private Car And Ferry

Go get the service from rent Car Surabaya to rent a private car for your journey. If you are set for this idea, you might be able to cut off more transportation budget. Consider this option if you are going with friends or colleagues to get a better price and experience. Technically, you can take the same route as the bus with the estimated time around more than 10 hours.

Ferry Schedule To Reach The Island

The last thing you should know is the Ferry or boat schedule. There are two options possible. Take a car ferry or passenger ship for your Malang to Karimun Jawa trip. There are also some fast boats or slow boats available. All are scheduled for one trip each day. the fast boat from Jepara mostly available at 9 or 10 am. While the slow boat will go at 7.00 Am or 1 Pm.

Those are a tad bit information about Malang – Karimun Jawa trip you should know. There is a high possibility of tour packages available for better deals and prices. But you can also go by public transportation or private care. Just make sure you know the exact ferry schedules. As it is limited, you should plan thoroughly so you won’t miss it and ruin the holiday plan.

All You Need To Know About Malang To Bromo Tour And Trip

As famous as you know, mount bromo is a big popular vacation . But for sure, this mountain also one of the best holiday destinations in East Java. Spread across four districts, you can access the mountain from a lot of entrance routes. The destination itself offers tons of mesmerizing spots or sites with unforgettable views. Before you plan for Malang to Bromo trip, check out this information below.

The Bromo Tour And Offers

There are tons of options for your Bromo tour. Some are offered based on duration, destination, and facilities. At some point, there are some tour or package that offers extra vacation destination such as Coban Rondo, Pulau Sempu, Jatim Park, etc. It is recommended to check the info regarding the tour. The most common available packages are Open trip, 2-days 1-night, 3-days 2-night, and 4-days 3-night packages.

Worth to know that you can also arrange all the plan by yourself. It means all of the accommodation required will be handled by you. You may need to look for more information regarding where to stay, how much the entrance fee, the jeep rental, and many other things. In this case, you can use rent car Surabaya to reach the entrance route to Bromo. In this matter, there is some route you can take as explained below.

The Route From Malang to Mount Bromo


1. The Main And Secondary Route

The Malang to Mount Bromo routes is quite popular due to the beautiful views along the way. The main route is started from Malang to tumpeng. Then continue to Gubugklakah – Ngadas – move along to Jemplang- and finally head to Mountain Bromo. Taking a different direction, the secondary route started from Malang and straight to Tongas, Probolinggo. After that, continue to Sukapura, Cemorolawang, and Bromo.

2. The Alternative Route

Both main and secondary routes are more preferred than this alternative route. All because of the farther distant and longer journey duration. All routes are accessible by private car. In case you are using rent alphard Surabaya, you can drive till the entrance. In this alternative route, firstly you should go to Pasuruan. After that go to Warungdowo – Tosari – Wonokriti – Dingklik – Penanjakan – Laut Pasir – and Bromo.

The Itinerary And Destination

You may have found a suitable tour with the cheapest price, but you have to check the itinerary and destination. Make sure that all the schedules and stops are suitable for the price. For example, the open trip can be priced for less than 50 USD. However, you should know that the destination might be even more limited. And the duration of your tour will be held for just 1 day and 1 night.

Those are some basic knowledge about the trip which all of you need to know. Especially, if you are going to go for Malang to Bromo tour or trip. You have to know all the possible offers of the Bromo trip and tours available. You can go by yourself, but joining a tour might help you manage the cost and have a definite schedule. The route, itinerary, and destination info are provided to help you understand better about the tour.

Q&A: Country singer and ag business owner Levi Riggs


From singing in church with his grandmother as a child, Levi Riggs has had a love for music since the beginning. Born on a dairy farm in Indiana, Riggs went on to study his passion of agriculture at Perdue University where he simultaneously found the Purdue Glee Club to continue his love of country music.

Today, Riggs tours the country singing his own music while also managing Riggs Ag Solutions, a farmer-focused seed business providing specialty hybrid seed genetics backed by Bayer. I caught up with Riggs in the heat of planting season.

SF: What sparked your passion to study agriculture and seed production?

My family had a Jersey dairy farm and I grew up showing dairy cattle and milking. When my grandfather passed away, my uncle decided to get of the dairy business and my dad decided to take a different career path alongside my other uncle in animal pharmaceutical sales. I decided to take the path to Perdue still interested in agriculture but not sure of my own place in it yet.

My first internship was with Remington Seeds in their seed production unit. That led me to another internship in seed production. That spark and interest just started to grow for me in the seed production and sales side of agriculture.

I’ve come to really enjoy seed sales because of the people and culture. 99% of the farms I pull onto are really welcoming and it becomes fun to help farmers. Once you learn to become valuable, you’re a resource and farmers are always looking for information. I feel that if I can bring something to the table of value and purpose, they’ll see me as that resource. That’s something I really focus on every time I pull onto a farm.

SF: How did Riggs Ag Solutions get established?

Internships are really how my interest grew in seed production and seed sales. After graduating from Perdue, I took a job with Syngenta as a district sales manager selling seed. Simultaneously, I continued singing with the varsity glee club, touring throughout the U.S.

From there, I managed a Golden Harvest brand and their dealers, and the music thing was rising at the same time I was excelling in my career. I took a step back and realized I want to do more of a seed advisor/grow seller and not a company rep anymore. So, I started my own business of Riggs Ag Solutions in 2012 in conjunction with Bayer. We sell to farmers in Indiana and Illinois and also do custom seed treatment for my customers and other companies. That’s what I’ve been working on here lately.

SF: How did your music career get started and how has it grown?

The band started singing with the Glee Club in college. We do the annual Perdue Musical Program (PMO) Christmas every year that airs on PBS.  While at Perdue, I had the opportunity to sing at Carnegie Hall, Times Square, the Crystal Cathedral, and even perform for people like Neil Armstrong.

It was such a memorable experience and I loved it. But at the same time, I had these agriculture rural roots and a dream of playing my own music. Surprisingly, that all came to fruition when I had the opportunity to open for Brett Eldridge and The Band Perry at Elliot Hall of Music, where the PMO Christmas Show was. That’s when my dream truly became a reality.

Its continued to grow from there. We’ve done shows across the country opening for country singers including Justin Moore, Josh Turner, Travis Tritt, and just a lot of talented artists.

It’s fun for me and shocking to some farmers when I pull into a new farm and introduce myself and say “hey I’m Levi Riggs – because they might have heard me on Spotify or Pandora - and they’re like “the singer? No way!”

At the end of the day, I’m just trying to help farmers and be a resource to them. That’s really what’s going on right now with the COVID-19 pandemic. The people in our industry are out doing what they have to do – taking care of the cattle and their hogs and doing their best to go about their normal routine.

I’ve also been doing Facebook lives on my page with my music. We’re supposed to be on tour this summer. I’ve gone live on radio stations across the country as well on Tuesday nights. Under the unfortunate circumstance of this pandemic, it’s become a new opportunity for artists to engage listeners they probably would have never come across. It’s a fun and different way for people wanting to hear new music and wanting to be inspired. Being a part of it is so rewarding.

SF: How do you juggle your double life successfully?

After we get everything planted, I’ll be out playing county fairs in the summer and working on the businesses’ priorities while scheduling concerts. I’m really living a double life, but the cycles work well together.

The touring season starts in late spring and starts to die down beginning of fall so then we’re harvesting and selling seed and throughout the wintertime. I have this system that really works well for me to keep me busy all year long doing totally different things. The busier I am, the more focused and successful I feel I can become.

It’s also about the relationships and people you meet along the way. While I was managing seed dealers before I started Riggs Ag Solutions, I was attending events across the state with their customers and building friendships. Those friendships and relationships developed into concerts, performances and dinners. The two passions have just really married up and grown together.

SF: Are you able to meet with farmers and get on farmers throughout COVID-19?

I’ve got some farms that say please call in advance who have elderly folks that we want to be respectful of. There’s a lot of farmers in the age bracket where COVID is pretty disastrous so I’m cautious. Overall, It’s really a case by case basis. We all just keep a safe distance from each other and eliminate where you contaminate things.

SF: How are you feeling about the 2020 planting season?

I feel pretty optimistic. I think that’s the one saving grace right now. Even though we’re dealing with COVID-19, Mother Nature is still doing what she does. It’s that faith we have as agriculturalists and always trying to be optimistic. 2019 was rough for almost everybody. Prevent plant impacted nearly 20% of my business. As far as the rain patterns, we’ve been getting short heavy rains of 2 to 3 inches at a time instead of light showers. Like a lot of people, that’s changed our tactics as our windows are tighter than they used to be, so we have to be on our game.

SF: Have you released any latest songs or albums?

I released “Can’t Cool Me Off” last summer. We did a really cool music video to that. Rolling into this year I wrote the song “Cash Black.” I’m a big Johnny Cash fan and I just wrote the song weaving in some elements of his songs and life. Its kind of a country heartbreaker. Everyone was going pop country and went the other direction and went back to a traditional country song. I just love country music and I think that’s where we’re at right now. The bands can’t get together and the DJs can’t play so it’s just a lot of guys playing acoustic which brings you back into the roots of country music.

SF: What’s the most rewarding part of your musical career?

I think it’s really impacting people and inspiring people. I spend a lot of time saying hi to fans. I might spend 90 minutes on stage, but I’ll spend a couple hours afterwards signing autographs, taking photos and getting to know the fans that come out and support us. That’s really what I enjoy the most is being one-on-one with our supporters and fans.

Murder hornets not taking over, USDA says


Just when it seemed like 2020 couldn’t get any scarier, headlines about “murder hornets” began showing up in the news. Once those stories hit social media, they took off and were quickly shared, prompting concern about humans being killed by the venom of the world’s largest species of hornet, and of their impact on native species, namely honeybees. 

According to USDA, however, there is no cause for alarm. Today on Twitter, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), retweeted an article from Business Insider that says, “USDA agrees there is no evidence to suggest the Asian giant hornet has invaded the United States.”

Three Asian giant hornets were identified on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, in August of 2019, but wildlife officials were able to find and destroy the large colony and its nest. That same month, a beekeeper found the hornets near Bellingham, Washington, near the Canadian border. They were located in British Columbia again in September and October, and in Bellingham in October. In December, the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) verified an additional report in nearby Blaine, Washington.

In order to prevent the Asian giant hornet from becoming established in Washington and other parts of the U.S., WSDA and USDA are conducting surveys and attempting to trap hornets and locate nests.

About Asian giant hornets

According to Penn State University Extension, a group of 20 to 30 of these hornets can kill up to 25,000 honeybees in a few hours. They attack the bees in their nest then revisit the nest for days until they have eaten the entire colony. The hornets, which have a distinctive yellow head, nest in the ground in wooded areas. The east Asian native is typically dormant in the winter.

The nickname “murder hornets” has the general public worried they will instantly die if stung by the insect, but that’s not the case. The insects aren’t inherently aggresive toward humans but can be defensive if their nest or food source is threatened. 

Penn State Extension reports that while 30 to 50 people are killed each year from sting-induced allergic reactions or rare organ failure due to multiple stings of the Asian giant hornet, for perspective, an average of 62 Americans are killed each year by bees and wasps for the same reasons.

Photo: Washington State Department of Agriculture

What farmers are reading this week, April 24- May 1


With favorable weather conditions across most of the Midwest, planting progress jumped from last week across the region.

Outside of the field, COVID-19 continues to affect the agriculture industry and meat plants.

If you missed anything from the previous week, follow the link below.

Read more: What farmers are reading this week, April 17-24

As meat plants slow, U.S. will help growers kill livestock

The government offered to help livestock producers locate contractors skilled in killing herds or flocks of animals and to provide cost-share funding for their disposal because the coronavirus pandemic has shut down packing plants and reduced consumer demand. The National Pork Board held a webinar on Sunday that discussed step by step “emergency depopulation and disposal” of hogs.

Producers have warned since mid-March of a potentially ruinous backup on the farm of cattle and hogs because of a slowdown at slaughter plants. Hog farmers may be in the worse situation because hogs typically reach slaughter weight of around 250 pounds in five or six months from birth and cannot easily be held from market. Two weeks ago, the president of the National Pork Producers Council, farmer Howard Roth of Wisconsin, said, “Sadly, it is true that euthanization is a question that is coming up on farms.”

Read more here.

USDA sets up National Incident Coordination Center to help livestock producers

Tonight the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced the establishment of a National Incident Coordination Center to provide direct support to producers whose animals cannot move to market as a result of processing plant closures.

APHIS is also mobilizing the National Veterinary Stockpile and will deploy assets as needed and secure the services of contractors that can supply additional equipment, personnel, and services. 

Read more here.

USDA announces $15 million for conservation innovation grants

The USDA announced today a $15 million investment to help support the adoption of innovative conservation approaches on agricultural lands.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is accepting proposals through June 29, 2020, for national Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG). CIG projects inspire creative problem-solving solutions that boost production on farms, ranches, and private forests, and improve natural resources.

Read more here.

Beef prices hit record-high levels, processing numbers drop

While June Cattle futures prices continue to trade at a steep discount to the cash market, slaughterhouse closures have kept the slaughter pace very slow, and cattle could quickly back up in the country.

The USDA estimated cattle slaughter came in at 85,000 head yesterday. This brings the total for the week so far to 255,000 head, down from 284,000 last week at this time and down from 356,000 a year ago. Beef prices are up 19.6% in just one week to a record high, and this will give plants the incentive to try to catch up.

Read more here.

Iowa leaders ask federal indemnities for hog culling

Farmers across the nation may be forced to kill 700,000 hogs a week because of coronavirus closures and slowdowns at slaughter plants, said four Iowa political leaders in a letter to Vice President Mike Pence on Monday. Led by Governor Kim Reynolds, the officials asked for federal indemnities to help the farmers stay in business.

Analysts Kerns and Associates estimated that 36% of U.S. hog slaughter capacity was idled on Monday, reported Successful Farming magazine. The USDA announced the creation of a National Incident Coordination Center over the weekend to help producers look for alternative markets for their hogs or to provide assistance in euthanizing them. A USDA official was not immediately available on Monday to report on activity at the incident center.

Read more here.

Best buys of the week

There were far fewer machinery sales this past week as the auction industry winds down for planting. Typically, that would have happened a couple of weeks ago. But then COVID-19 hit and all the live auctions scheduled for March got pushed back to online sales in April.

Read more here.

SF Special: Dealing with grief after tragedy

Grief is all around us this spring as the coronavirus pandemic continues. My father died April 7 and I was not able to be with him or my mother during his illness because of travel restrictions. Talking to others who understand grief is important during these sad times.

Two people who have life experience with grief are Minnesota swine veterinarians Tom Wetzell and Gordon Spronk.

Read more here.

Avoid desire to plant too wet

Yet again a large share of farmers in the Midwest face a wetter-than-usual spring. And after at least two wet springs, there is fear that this season could present another muddy mess to plant through.

Even if instincts are inspiring you to push the throttle ahead, remember that the faster you drive while planting, the more down pressure you need to keep the row unit on the ground, observes Dennis Bollig. And higher down pressure settings can increase soil compaction.

Read more here.

Iowa corn planting races ahead, USDA Progress Report says

INDIANOLA, Iowa — The U.S. corn planting pace is slightly ahead of the five-year pace.

On Monday, the USDA released its Cop Progress Report that includes planting and emergence ratings.

Read more here.

China may miss Phase One target for U.S. farm purchases

The Phase One agreement that de-escalated the China-U.S. trade war calls for China to greatly expand its purchases of U.S. food, agricultural and seafood products this year and in 2021. Former USDA Chief Rconomist Joe Glauber said on Tuesday that China will have to accelerate sharply its purchases to meet that goal.

“I think we will be lucky to get the 2017 level of sales,” said Glauber during a farmdoc Daily webinar. In February, the USDA forecast agricultural exports of $14 billion to China this fiscal year. The Phase One agreement considers the 2017 “baseline” for sales to be $24 billion.

Read more here.

Top Listen of the Week

Livestock water recycling

A Canadian start-up company is working to replace lagoons and other liquid manure-holding facilities with technology that reduces the overall volume of manure on the farm.

Lisa Fast is the marketing coordinator for the company called Livestock Water Recycling. She says its goal is to make manure management smarter and food production more sustainable and productive. It only takes one hour for the patented nutrient recovery system to transform the liquid manure into fertilizers for crops and the rest into clean water.

Read more and listen here.

Top Watch of the Week

The ripple effect of COVID-19 for soybean farmers, demand, and transportation


Row-crop farmers are intertwined with many different industries and companies. Whether farmers have green equipment or red equipment, they will be tied to a company through machinery. Farmers’ inputs are connected with companies. Those farmers might have crop insurance with a local company and a loan with the bank on Main Street. After harvest, their crops can be used for human consumption, animal feed, ethanol, and a multitude of other needs.

Those are just a couple of simple examples of where we see farmers’ fingerprints in local and national economies, but when one of those areas faces a shakeup, farmers can see a bullwhip effect from further down in the chain that affects them, too. 

Since the emergence of COVID-19 across the U.S., news has picked up about meat plants shutting down, the euthanizing of farm animals, a sharp decline in oil and gasoline usage and prices, and other economic hits to the country.

While livestock farmers are at the forefront of the COVID-19 pandemic’s economic impact, the ripple effect extends to row-crop farmers, too, says Mike Steenhoek, the executive director of Soy Transportation Coalition.

Read more: What do plant closures mean to the U.S. food supply?

Livestock Connection

Some of the first soybean demand issues popped up when China’s pork industry took a hit from COVID-19 before it majorly affected the U.S., creating demand destruction.

Domestically, retail meat sales saw a boom as consumers stocked up, but since then the demand has leveled off some in the U.S. Aside from grocery stores, restaurant sales have fallen, helping cause the decline in the meat industry.

“Meat production is our No. 1 customer domestically for the soybean industry, and then having these meatpacking plants close, that’s clearly a concern for our industry right now,” Steenhoek says. 

In terms of moving the product through the U.S., Steenhoek says this has been less of a problem as some of the restrictions have been lifted and traffic has plummeted.

Read more: Coronavirus renews focus on meatpacker concentration


COVID-19 is one factor in the changes of soybean supply chains, prices, and demand, but Steenhoek also emphasizes that the seasonality for exports, currency rates, and many other factors contribute to the fluctuations, too. He specifically highlights the U.S. dollar’s strength compared with other currencies as a factor in fewer exports because Brazil’s currency is weaker and more economically beneficial to other countries.

The currency issue also links to COVID-19 as investors flock to more stable areas to keep their money, like the U.S. dollar, widening the gap between the dollar and weaker currencies. 

This time of year, soybean exports pick up out of Brazil and South America as a whole, while the U.S. plays a smaller role. 

“It typically occurs this time of year, where we don’t export a lot,” Steenhoek says. “What really is more revealing is what happens in the later part of the year when our harvest comes online when South American production has really been exhausted, so then the world starts turning to the U.S. for their soybean supplies.”

Read more: As meat plants slow, U.S. will help growers kill livestock

Second Wave?

No one knows what the future holds for coronavirus and its severity, but some experts have speculated that it could come in another wave – potentially striking in the fall when U.S. soybean exports are more prominent. 

Whether that occurs or not, the soybean logistics are positioned relatively well to handle that, especially when compared with the meat industry, says Steenhoek.

“Social distancing, it’s commonly practiced, so if you’re a truck driver or rail crew, they only have two people usually in a train,” Steenhoek says. “Some of these facilities – these elevators, there’s not a lot of people in them … It’s not so much like these meat processing plants where you have 100-plus people working there. 

“You’ve got a lot of people inside, so if you’ve got an infection, it can result in the whole plant getting shut down. Grain elevators don’t have that same volume of workforce.”

While the grain supply chain is less vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19, Steenhoek does point out water transportation as something to keep an eye out for – whether it’s barges or ocean vessels. 

Steenhoek says a trip on a barge from the northern Mississippi River to the Louisiana area can last two or three weeks in a close space. For an ocean vessel, the trip can take a month from New Orleans to China, Steenhoek says.

“Those are the kinds of things we’re really going to be observing and monitoring,” Steenhoek says. “Obviously, everyone is making sure to get precautions in place, but that’s where we could see if someone got infected, it would impact more on the barge and ocean vessel links vs. trucking or rail.”

USDA Announces $15 Million for Conservation Innovation Grants


The USDA announced today a $15 million investment to help support the adoption of innovative conservation approaches on agricultural lands.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is accepting proposals through June 29, 2020, for national Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG). CIG projects inspire creative problem-solving solutions that boost production on farms, ranches, and private forests, and improve natural resources.

This year’s priorities are water reuse, water quality, air quality, energy, and wildlife habitat.

“Through Conservation Innovation Grants, we’re able to co-invest with partners on the next generation of agricultural conservation solutions,” NRCS Chief Matthew Lohr says. “Conservation Innovation Grants have helped spur new tools and technologies to conserve natural resources, build resilience in producers’ operations, and improve their bottom lines. This year will be the first time we are offering water reuse as a priority, and we’re excited to see how these projects play a role in USDA’s broader strategy for water reuse on agricultural land.”

CIG is a competitive grants program that supports development, testing, and research of conservation technologies, practices, systems, and approaches on private lands. Grantees must match the CIG investment at least one to one.

The National CIG program supports early pilot projects or demonstrations of promising conservation approaches and is distinct from the $25 million announced on March 12 for On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials. On-Farm Trials is a separate CIG component created by the 2018 Farm Bill. It includes a Soil Health Demonstration Trial.

State NRCS offices are also able to fund and hold their own CIG competitions in addition to the National CIG sign-up.

NRCS’s CIG program is identified in the federal government’s National Water Reuse Action Plan as an opportunity to support the development of innovative projects that focus on water reuse on private lands. The USDA is working with the U.S. EPA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Interior, Department of Energy, and others to promote water reuse across sectors.

CIG also contributes to the Agriculture Innovation Agenda, a USDA initiative to align resources, programs, and research to position American agriculture to better meet future global demands. Specifically, USDA is working to stimulate innovation so that American agriculture can achieve the goal of increasing production by 40% while cutting the environmental footprint of U.S. agriculture in half by 2050.

What farmers are reading this week, April 17-24


While some Midwest farmers have started to plant, COVID-19 remains a hot topic for all industries, including agriculture.

This week’s news brought information about aid for farmers affected from a drop in income from the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, auctions have moved online, and Successful Farming provided an update from one of those virtual auctions.

If you missed anything from last week, follow the link below.

Read more: What farmers are reading this week, April 10-17

Farmers to get up to $250,000 each in coronavirus cash, with more possible

Farmers will get cash payments of up to $250,000 apiece — possibly more, depending on the rules — to survive an estimated 20% drop in farm income this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. President Trump announced $16 billion in direct agricultural aid and said additional money might be be spent this summer to bolster the sector.

In addition, the government will spend $3 billion to buy fruit, vegetables, dairy, and meat, which will then be donated to food banks and other charities. The food donations will include a form of the harvest box that the administration has repeatedly proposed.

Read more here.

Bunge to sell 35 U.S. grain elevators to Zen-Noh Grain

CHICAGO, April 21 (Reuters) - Agricultural commodities trader Bunge Ltd said on Tuesday it will sell 35 of its interior U.S. grain elevators to Zen-Noh Grain Corporation, dramatically reducing its grain origination network in the United States.

Financial details of the sale with the subsidiary of Japan’s Zen-Noh Group were not disclosed, and the deal is subject to customary closing conditions and regulatory approvals, Bunge said.

Read more here.

Best buy of the week

This week marks the end of two weeks of whirlwind online auctions, many of which were originally to be held live in March. But because of the COVID-19 outbreak, those auctions were delayed and then switched to online sales.

The week-in-review report focuses on’s sale that moved just short of 1,500 pieces of equipment on Wednesday.

Read more here.

What is in USDA’s $19 billion coronavirus relief program?

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced $19 billion in aid for farmers and ranchers hit hard by the COVID-19 national emergency on Friday. The program was designed especially for farmers who normally sell their products into the restaurant and food service supply chain, which has been dramatically disrupted by shuttered schools and restaurants.

“When you think about the fact that about half of our calories are consumed outside the home, that’s been a dramatic shift in the consumption patterns, and the misalignment of production and supply has caused some real challenges here,” Perdue told the media Friday night. “As a result, farmers are seeing prices and their market supply chain affected by the virus like they never could have expected.”

Read more here.

Q&A: Zach Johnson, The Millennial Farmer

Like many other farmers, Zach Johnson farms the land on which he was raised near Lowry in central Minnesota.

“I grew up loving it,” he says. Still, Johnson has another love: dirt-track racing. After graduating from high school, he attended school in Bemidji, Minnesota, to study performance engines that power race cars. 

“I wanted to start my own shop,” he says.

Read more here.

One year of coronavirus relief could match two years of trade war aid

The government could spend $25 billion, or more, to help the farm sector survive the coronavirus pandemic and the accompanying economic slowdown, said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on Thursday. If that happens, the administration will have spent more than $50 billion in three years to mitigate the impact of catastrophic disease and trade war on U.S. agriculture.

Those are enormous amounts when traditional federal supports — farm subsidies and crop insurance — cost about $15 billion a year. To accommodate ad hoc payments, the administration doubled the usual limit per farmer, and Congress almost entirely removed a ban on payments to the wealthiest operators.

Read more here.

Farmers’ shift to soybeans won’t avert grain glut

Low market prices will deter farmers from planting as much corn as they planned to a month ago, but a record corn crop is still on the horizon, said two Purdue University economists on Monday. The mammoth crop would create the largest corn stockpile since the late 1980s, while the already-large soybean stockpile grows bigger still.

“We think planted corn acreage could easily fall 1 million acres below” the estimated 97 million acres in USDA’s Prospective Plantings Report,” said economist James Mintert. “It might even be more that that…In our balance sheets, we simply move that million acres over to soybeans.”

Read more here.

Rendering plants lack capacity to handle mass disposal of euthanized animals

INDIANOLA, Iowa -- From pork plants in South Dakota and Iowa to a poultry processing plant in Georgia to a meat processing plant in Colorado and beyond, the coronavirus is shutting plants nationwide.

Some workers at these plants are being infected with the coronavirus, and tragically, some have died.

Read more here.

Coronavirus Food Assistance Program announced

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). This new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) program will take several actions to assist farmers, ranchers, and consumers in response to the COVID-19 national emergency.

President Trump directed USDA to craft this $19 billion immediate relief program to provide critical support to our farmers and ranchers, maintain the integrity of our food supply chain, and ensure every American continues to receive and have access to the food they need. 

Read more here.

Community members rally to celebrate a beloved farmer’s life

Melcher-Dallas, Iowa, community members, family, and friends lined tractors and vehicles nearly 7 miles to lay one of their own farmers to rest. From their family farm to the cemetery, it was a sight his family says they will forever cherish.

Dennis Murr dedicated his life to farming. He lived by the motto, “Be nice to people and they’ll be nice to you,” making him an adored member of the 1,200-person community. The 76-year-old farmer passed away from a heart attack on Saturday, April 4, surrounded by his family.

Read more here.

Top Listen of the Week

Animal disease traceability

If African swine fever or other foreign animal disease makes it into the United States, officials need to respond quickly to contain it, know where it came from, and prevent it from spreading. Protocols in place by livestock producers will make tracing an outbreak much faster.

Amanda Chipman is an Extension swine specialist at Iowa State University. She says if you haven’t already, request a premises identification number, or PIN, from your state agriculture department. It’s a unique code that allows animal health officials to precisely identify where animals are located in the event of an animal health or food safety emergency.

Read more and listen here.

Top Watch of the Week