News & Resources

Top 10 Ag Stories of 2022: Runners-Up

1 Jan 2023

OMAHA (DTN) -- A lot can happen in a year.

During the past two weeks, we've highlighted 10 of the biggest stories that DTN editors, reporters and analysts felt defined 2022. But that certainly wasn't all that happened this past year.

Beyond the big news like farmland values smashing records, Mississippi and Ohio river levels hitting rock bottom, the announcement of plans for new packing plants, and machinery shortages continuing in 2022 were dozens of other stories that, while they might not have made as big a splash, still had an impact on the ag community in some way.

In this final installment of our annual top 10 ag stories of the year series, we revisit some of the stories (in no particular order) that didn't make it into our top 10 list but that we nonetheless felt were worth mentioning.


-- Congress Intervenes to Prevent Railroad Worker Strike

For more than two years, railroads and union workers were unable to ratify a contract, with one of the biggest issues being lack of sick days. After failing to come to terms with help from the National Mediation Board, rail workers entered a 30-day cooling-off period that was set to end July 18, meaning workers could then strike.

But on July 15, the Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) No. 250 was created by President Joe Biden to help with the tumultuous railroad contract negotiations. On Aug. 16, the PEB 250 board released its report, offering nonbinding recommendations for wages, health insurance and other things. But the one thing missing that rail unions insisted needed to be part of an amicable settlement was sick days.

International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, (SMART) Transportation Division President Jeremy R. Ferguson said in a statement on Aug. 18 that, while the recommendations of PEB 250 were a vast improvement over the carriers' previous proposals, the recommendations did not go far enough to provide members with the quality of life that they have earned, and that both they and their families deserve. All 12 rail unions had 30 days to cool off, and as the end date of Sept. 15 came, union workers said they would strike.

Finally, on Sept. 15, Biden and two union presidents agreed to put the PEB 250 to a vote. When all the union votes were tallied, four unions said "no" to the terms unless the sick days were added and that they would go on strike Dec. 9.

On Dec. 2, for the first time in 30 years, Congress intervened, and Biden signed legislation to prevent a strike. Still missing from the deal was the sick time asked for by the unions, and they vowed to continue their fight to get them, with that fight likely to continue into the New Year.

For more, see "Railroad Strike Averted" here:….


-- Thousands of Cattle Killed by Heat Stress in Kansas Feedlots

In mid-June, DTN reported on the sudden death of thousands of fat cattle in multiple feedlots in the Ulysses, Kansas, area due to what eyewitnesses described as a "heat-stress emergency."

Nels Lindberg, a veterinarian who works with multiple feedlots in the Ulysses area, spoke with DTN following the incident to share what he saw and to describe steps feeders took leading up to the deaths. He is a partner in Production Animal Consultation (PAC), an independent group helping to oversee 1.4 million head of cattle on feed in the U.S.

Lindberg and another partner in the PAC group were called on to help at multiple Kansas feed yards during the emergency. DTN reported on the event June 14, alerting the industry to massive losses in what at that time was thought to be a heat-stress event. That story can be found here:….

Lindberg, who verified the cattle deaths were due to a heat-stress emergency, told DTN, "These feed yards prepare for adverse events every day. This particular event happened abruptly. This was not a case where feedlot managers were sitting around doing nothing. We had a forecast that told us this was coming. We had maps that predicted a heat stress event. We followed mitigation strategies, including more bedding, more water tanks and rations adjustments."

The problem wasn't a lack of preparation, the veterinarian emphasized. "The fact is this was a natural disaster," he said. "Things were so extreme that regardless of the plans we put into place, regardless of doing all we could do to mitigate conditions, we couldn't keep up. It's like asking why didn't they do something to keep New Orleans from flooding. Sometimes there's just nothing you can do."

Lindberg went on to say that 99% of the time, the steps they took in the days leading up to the cattle deaths would have helped. This was a case, however, that fell into the 1%, where what normally works didn't.

He added, unequivocally, "There was no conspiracy or foul play at work here. There was no disease, no virus, no poison. This was simply a natural disaster."

The veterinarian told DTN that when a heat stress event hits, those animals most greatly affected are the ones toward the end of the finishing period. For three days, temperatures were in the triple digits, with nighttime humidity and little to no wind.

Read more here: "More Perspective on Kan. Feedlot Deaths,"….


-- Pesticides, Pick Lists and Endangered Species

In January, EPA granted new seven-year registrations and labels for Corteva Agriscience's Enlist One and Enlist Duo herbicides. However, in a move that took farmers and the industry by surprise, the agency banned use of the products in hundreds of counties across multiple states -- primarily to protect the American burying beetle, a federally listed endangered species.

Corteva would respond in the weeks that followed, providing EPA with additional data. Before the end of March, the agency lifted the Enlist bans in most counties. While farmers breathed a sigh of relief that a tool had been returned to the weed-control toolbox for 2022, the new registrations signaled something more significant for the future of pesticide use.

The Enlist labels carried several new measures intended to protect non-target species, including those listed as threatened or endangered. These measures included new restrictions on application and a "pick list" of on-field and off-field conservation practices intended to reduce spray drift, surface water runoff and pesticide transport through erosion.

In April, EPA released the first draft of a workplan describing a "new vision" for its pesticide-approval process. In the document, the agency acknowledged it had not met Endangered Species Act (ESA) obligations when making a vast majority of pesticide registration decisions under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). This inaction had resulted in frequent lawsuits, creating uncertainty for pesticide users and an unmanageable workload for the agency. By establishing mitigation measures earlier, EPA contended the workplan provided a path for the agency to meet its ESA obligations while increasing the legal certainty of continued access to pesticides.

This new vision was apparent in June when EPA released proposed revisions to its September 2020 atrazine interim decision. Among the label changes put forward was the addition of a pick list of measures to control runoff.

In November, the agency released an updated version of its ESA workplan document that described 16 "interim ecological mitigation measures" to be considered when registering pesticides. That workplan is available for public comment through Jan. 30, 2023.

While all the particulars may not be set in stone yet, it's clear that in 2023 and beyond, EPA will be handling pesticide registration reviews differently. For farmers, this is somewhat of a double-edged sword. While new restrictions and other requirements may be placed on the pesticides on which they rely, EPA contends that it is likely such actions will increase the legal certainty of continued access to those products. Time will tell.

Read more here: "EPA Proposes New Approach for Pesticides,"….


Fufeng Corn Wet Mill Clears CFIUS Review After Year of Debate

A Chinese company's plans to build a $700 million, 25-million-bushel corn wet mill on the edge of Grand Forks, North Dakota, became a national story over security concerns and the influence of Chinese agricultural investments in the U.S.

Fufeng Group's plans divided Grand Forks residents and became a focal point because of its location about 12 miles from Grand Forks Air Force Base. At least 50 House Republicans wrote Biden administration Cabinet leaders -- the Agriculture secretary, Defense secretary and Treasury secretary -- calling the Fufeng Group's land ownership "an alarming development for our national security." Lawmakers also introduced legislation seeking more accountability on Chinese agricultural investments on U.S. soil.

Fufeng is headquartered in China and is known as a producer of various corn starch products and food additives made out of corn.

In mid-December, Fufeng released a letter from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) stating that the committee of government officials had concluded that "it has no jurisdiction to review" Fufeng's 370-acre land purchase. As of now, Fufeng intends to move forward with its development project. Grand Forks city officials are now looking at restarting work on infrastructure surrounding the project.

Read more here: "Controversial Chinese Corn Mill in ND,"….


-- West Texas 6666 Ranch Featured on "Yellowstone" Sells

In March, DTN reported that the historic Texas 6666, or "Four Sixes," Ranch, which was featured in several episodes of the popular television series "Yellowstone," had been sold.

At the time of the sale, the buyer was not revealed, but Texas media later confirmed that TV producer and "Yellowstone" co-creator Taylor Sheridan and a group of investors had purchased the ranch. The series' creators are reportedly planning a spinoff series that will explore the ranch's history.

The 266,000-acre ranch, based near Guthrie, Texas, was sold through United Country Real Estate. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that the ranch was sold for $192.2 million. It had initially been listed at $341 million.

The Four Sixes Ranch was started in 1870 by Samuel Burnett. It goes across four Texas counties: King, Carson, Hutchison and Sherman.

Legend has it the ranch's name came from the winning poker hand Burnett had that got him the ranch. The ranch stayed in the family until the death of Burnett's granddaughter Anne Burnett Marion in 2020. At that time, based on her will, the process of selling the ranching operations began.

Read more here: "Historic 6666 Ranch Sold,"….


-- Biden Administration Changes Course on RFS Small-Refinery Exemptions, RFS Wars

The Biden administration took several important steps for the biofuels industry in 2022.

The EPA announced a change of policy when it comes to small-refinery exemptions to the Renewable Fuel Standard, rejecting more than 60 pending requests in 2022. This was in stark contrast to the Trump administration's issuance of 88 such exemptions.

Near the end of the year, the EPA released its first multi-year RFS volume proposal for 2023, 2024 and 2025. That proposal calls for growth in corn-based ethanol.

For more, see "EPA Creates Path for Canola-Based Fuels" here:….


-- John Deere Faces Numerous Class-Action Lawsuits on Right to Repair

The so-called right-to-repair movement gained some steam in 2022, as farmers across the country filed more than 15 class-action lawsuits against John Deere.

The lawsuits contend John Deere does not provide adequate diagnostic equipment to allow farmers and independent repair shops to make repairs to emissions systems on farm equipment.

For more, see "Court Consolidates Deere Repair Cases" here:….


EPA Releases Final Waters of US Rule

The EPA finalized a new waters of the U.S., or WOTUS, rule at the very end of 2022, putting into law a number of agriculture exemptions to the Clean Water Act, including prior-converted cropland.

As a result of the rule, the EPA now will use the controversial so-called "significant-nexus" test to make jurisdictional determinations. The new rule essentially returns to pre-2105 WOTUS definitions.

Read more here:…


Former eastern Washington rancher Cody Allen Easterday was sentenced to 11 years in prison, after pleading guilty to a scam that included billing Tyson Fresh Meats for cattle that didn't exist.

The scheme resulted in the loss of about $240 million for Tyson. Easterday was forced to auction off his farm and ranch assets in an attempt to pay restitution for the crime.

For more, see "Easterday Sentenced to 11 Years in Prison" here:….


Editor's Note: DTN/Progressive Farmer Content Manager Anthony Greder, DTN Basis Analyst Mary Kennedy, DTN Staff Reporter Todd Neeley, Progressive Farmer Senior Editor Victoria Myers, DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton and DTN Crops Editor Jason Jenkins contributed to this article.

To see the other top stories of the year:

No. 10: "Farmland Values Smash Records in 2022, Undeterred by Interest Rate Hikes,"…

No. 9: "Machinery Shortages Continued in 2022,"…

No. 8: "Big Year for Ag in Supreme Court Cases on Prop 12, Clean Water Act, Roundup,"…

No. 7: "Mississippi and Ohio Rivers Hit Rock Bottom in Fall 2022,"…

No. 6: "Climate Takes Center Stage With Inflation Reduction Act, USDA Grant Programs in 2022,"…

No. 5: "Soy Crush Plants Give Long-Term Support to Bean Markets,"…

No. 4: "New Packing Plants Point to Long-Term Shifts for Cattle Business,"…

No. 3: "Fertilizer, Ag Chemicals, Fuel All Saw Price Hikes on Supply Concerns in 2022,"…

No. 2: "Russian Plan for Easy Conquest Riled 2022 Grain Markets,"…

No. 1: "La Nina Remained in Control for Crop Year, Became Most Influential 2022 Ag Story,"…

"Third La Nina Year Influenced Lower Production, Forage Shortages and Higher Grain Prices,"…

"Revisiting the Year's Big Stories,"…