Sign up for business seminar

Write your own business plan to pull your farm through the next three to five years with guidance provided at the Farm Management and Business Seminar. The seminar is an intensive, two-day program that helps growers organize their operational and philosophical management strategies. Seminar leader Allen Lash will help attendees identify opportunities and challenges in the future and then make detailed management decisions. This business plan should help growers improve communication among family members and employees as well as better manage their operations. Lash, a well-known consultant and educator in agribusiness, has conducted similar seminars for many commodity groups.

The seminar is sponsored by Deere & Company and Farm Industry News. It will be held February 26 to 28 at the Kansas City Airport Marriott in Kansas City, MO. The cost is $295. For more information, contact AgInsight at 515/251-8992 or visit www.aginsight.com/businessplan.

AGCO buys Cat Challenger line

AGCO plans to add another tractor line to its group of ag equipment. The company recently signed an agreement to purchase the MT series of Challenger tractors from Caterpillar. AGCO President John Shumejda reports that the acquisition allows AGCO to enter the broad-acre “corporate” farm market segment. Both AGCO and Cat dealers will market the Challenger line. The deal should close at the end of the first quarter. Caterpillar first entered the ag equipment business 14 years ago.

Reduced interest rate extended

Agriliance and Croplan Genetics are offering reduced interest rates for crop inputs in a Partners in Production program. A 2% discount is now available until May 31. Earlier, cutoff for the rate was mid-January. Growers may sign up for the program at local cooperatives and use it to finance a wide range of inputs and operating expenses, including seed, crop nutrients, crop protection products, fuel, rent and labor.

Pharmacia spins off Monsanto

Pharmacia Corporation's board approved the spinoff of Monsanto to its shareholders in the second half of 2002. Currently, Pharmacia owns about 85% of Monsanto. The remaining 15% was sold to the public in an IPO last year.

Amok in Mexico

A recent discovery of genetically modified corn genes in native Mexican plants has raised new questions about the ability to control bioengineered material. Four of six samples of native criollo corn taken last year from fields in the country's mountainous Oaxaca region were found to contain a genetic “switch” commonly used in genetically engineered plants. Results of the study, published in the journal Nature, also revealed that two of the samples had another DNA segment commonly inserted by genetic engineers.

Mexico has banned genetically altered plants since 1998. The possibility exists that the modified corn came into Mexico before 1998 or came from seed that was brought into the country illegally after that. Supporters of biotech point out that the native Mexican corn population has not been overwhelmed by the transgenic corn, while opponents say there is now no way to be sure that any variety is free from genetically modified material, which could jeopardize plant diversity.

Human tests for pesticides allowed

Reversing an unofficial Clinton Administration policy, the EPA now signals that it will accept human test results as part of the reregistration process for up to 9,000 chemicals. Those reregistrations are required by the 1996 Food Quality Protection Act. Under Clinton, the EPA focused on animal testing of pesticides and then projected its results by a factor of 10 to arrive at acceptable human levels. Because that practice never became formal policy, no announcement of the change is likely to come from the Bush Administration. Environmental and scientific groups oppose human testing on the grounds that it allows more pesticide residue into the food supply.

Seed prices unchanged

A major seed company is holding prices steady for the third year. Syngenta Seeds announced that the prices of its NK Brand products will remain virtually the same as those charged the last two years. In addition, it has updated its financing and payment options to help customers through tough economic situations. For example, customers may lock in seed orders early and schedule payment to fit their needs, even deferring payments until after harvest. For more information about the financing programs, call the Syngenta Seeds Credit Department at 800/445-0956.