CATHRINA CLAAS is not an immediately recognized name in the United States. However, in Europe Cathrina is somewhat of a celebrity where she is recognized on the street and followed closely by the paparazzi.

Cathrina grew up next to the Claas factory in Harsewinkel, Germany, and three years ago, took the prominent position as deputy chair of the supervisory board. In that role, she spearheads the operations of a multibillion-dollar family-owned company and the world's fourth largest agricultural equipment manufacturer.

At age 31, Cathrina is one of the few high-level female executives in the ag machinery business, joining the likes of Susanne (Kinzenbaw) Veatch, vice president of Kinze Manufacturing and daughter of company president Jon Kinzenbaw. When Cathrina succeeds her father Helmut Claas as chair, she will be only the third chairperson of the Claas company, founded in 1913 by her grandfather August Claas.

Unlike her father, who is an engineer, Cathrina graduated with a degree in finance from a university in Switzerland. “I am not exactly of the opinion that you have to be an engineer to run the company,” she says. “What is much more important than the actual engineering is the use of it. And getting ideas of how to use technology for your purposes is something I understand very well.”

During her studies Cathrina served on the company's shareholder committee for seven years. After graduating, she worked for a technology company in Switzerland. “I quit my job when my father was 78 [to become his deputy] so that I could work with him before he retires,” she says. “And we have been working together for three years quite successfully.”

When asked how their philosophies differ, she answers that they do not differ. “It was definitely always clear that the core competency was harvesting,” she says.

Claas is the market leader in forage harvesters and is a major seller of combines. Two of every five combines purchased worldwide this year will be a Claas machine, including the world's largest combine, the Lexion 590R.

Cathrina describes herself as “psyched” about new technology developing in the industry. “As the population continues to increase, we will see a growing competition between energy and food,” she says. “The solution is simple. More efficient technology must be utilized to allow producers to keep their current acres and reap increased yields with higher-capacity machines.”

MONSANTO BUYS REA HYBRIDS

AMERICAN SEEDS Inc. (ASI), a subsidiary of Monsanto, purchased REA Hybrids of Aberdeen, SD. The company made the announcement in March. REA Hybrids will be under the management of Fontanelle Hybrids, which is an independent operating company within ASI. REA Hybrids targets South Dakota, North Dakota and Montana.

BASF, MONSANTO COLLABORATE

BASF AND Monsanto Company are working on two joint research and development projects to develop new traits in corn, soybeans, cotton and canola. One project will include a joint budget of up to $1.5 billion to develop yield and stress-tolerant traits. The other research project will look at ways to control soybean cyst nematode. The two companies report that their collaboration will generate a greater number of projects than each company could do individually.

LAWSUIT HALTS RR ALFALFA

PLANTING ROUNDUP Ready (RR) alfalfa is illegal following a preliminary injunction in the U.S. District Court for the District of Northern California. Growers who purchased RR alfalfa prior to March 12 can still grow it if they planted it by March 30. Growers who purchased RR alfalfa seed but didn't plant it before March 30 should contact the supplier for replacement seed.

The injunction came in a lawsuit that claimed the USDA acted illegally when it deregulated RR alfalfa in 2005 without preparing an environmental impact statement. The judge in the case could make the injunction permanent or lift it in time for planting in late summer and fall. If the injunction is permanent, it will take the USDA at least two years to conduct the environmental impact study.

CUSTOM FARM RATES

IOWA STATE University released the results of a 2007 survey of custom farm rates. The researchers caution that the rates should be used as a guide only and that actual rates will depend on machinery, operator skill, the field, crop conditions and timeliness.

The average custom farm rate for growing and harvesting an acre of corn is $88.60/acre and ranges from $70 to $125/acre. The average cost for custom farming an acre of soybeans is $79.15/acre and ranges from $65 to $105/acre. The average farm labor wage is $10.60/hr. and ranges from $7.50 to $15.00/hr.

The survey looks at many individual custom jobs. Combining corn averages $26.60/acre and ranges from $20 to $36/acre. Soybean harvest costs a little less at $25.80/acre and ranges from $20 to $35/acre. Planting with fertilizer and insecticide attachment costs $13.05/acre and ranges from $7.50 to $18.00/acre. Spraying with a tractor costs $5.15/acre and ranges from $4 to $7/acre.