honey bee on flower photo provided by USDA-ARS

As a honey bee, Apis mellifera, feeds on a zinnia flower, the nectar is stored in a honey sac, which is separate from its digestive stomach, until she returns to the hive. When it is full, the honey sac weighs about one third the weight of the entire bee. After she delivers the nectar to an in-hive worker bee, the long process of converting it into honey, the bees’ food, begins.

North Dakota was the No. 1 honey producer in the nation in 2020, according to statistics from the North Dakota Department of Agriculture. Honey bees in North Dakota put out 38.6 million pounds of honey valued at over $61 million. That’s up 28 percent from 2019 figures.

That makes 17 years in a row now that North Dakota has topped honey production stats. The state had about half a million honey producing colonies in 2020 and the average yield was 78 pounds of honey per colony.

Every person who manages or owns honey bees in North Dakota is required by state law to obtain a license, register the location of their hives, and have signs with contact information posted. This applies to beekeepers of all sizes, from a single colony on up.

Licenses expire Dec. 31 and must be renewed prior to Jan. 1 Licenses for bees that leave the state must renewed prior to returning to the state.

More information is available online at the North Dakota Department of Agriculture’s Apiary page, https://www.nd.gov/ndda/plant-industries/apiary-honey-bees.

Managed bees can be bred for different diets

Researchers with the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service are finding strong evidence that managed bees can be intentionally bred to do better on different diets, whether that is an artificial one or one based on plants growing in a specific region.

The research, out of Baton Rouge, has broad implications for beekeepers everywhere.

“Now that we know there is room for genetic adaptation to diet, we could also look at breeding honey bees with improved nutrient efficiency or identifying genotype biomarkers that respond to various supplements to promote honey bee health,” lead researcher Vincent A. Ricigliano said.

Honey bees don’t usually get the chance to naturally breed and adapt to local conditions in commercial settings. Beekeepers will usually replace a colony’s queen each year with one that has already been inseminated from the handful of queen breeders in the United States.

Ricigliano is seeking ways to improve nutrient use by these managed honey bees, similarly to what’s already been done with poultry and cattle breeding programs. He will look next at what genes control nutrient and metabolic pathways, and where the greatest genetic variation exists, so breeding plans can be specific and scientifically guided.

“Urban development, modern agricultural systems and environmental alterations due to climate change, invasive plants, and even local landscaping preferences have all had a hand in regionalizing plants that dominate available pollen. It could potentially be more beneficial to tailor honey bees to do better on what is already available instead of working hard to fit the environment to the bees,” Ricigliano said.

Montana Grain Growers sets trade show dates

An exciting lineup of speakers has been tapped for the Montana Grain Growers 66th Annual Convention and Trade show, set for Nov. 30 through Dec. 2 at the Heritage Inn in Great Falls.

The theme of the event is Modernizing Old Technologies into New Innovation.

“We are truly looking forward to being back together, in person this year! Last year we had a virtual conference and with the year we’ve all had with drought and grasshoppers, it will be good to gather and catch up with friends.” said Koch. “As input costs continue to rise we thought it would be the perfect time to hear from experts on just how to use new technologies.” Vice President of MGGA and Convention Chairman Tryg Koch said.

The annual event generally fields more than 800 attendees along with a full trade show that has more than 80 exhibitors. It’s one of Montana’s largest agricultural gatherings.

The event will begin with workshops on understanding and applying soil sample technologies. Topics throughout the event include understanding carbon credits, a weather perspective from Eric Snodgrass, the new and upcoming crop insurance programs, a market update by Lance Wilson, and a tax update from Dana Springer with Wipfli. Register online at https://www.mgga.org/events/convention/attendee-registration/.

Remember to move hay bales by Nov. 1

Area producers are reminded to remove any remaining hay bales from North Dakota rights of way by Nov. 1, or they will be removed by the state, as directed by the District Engineer.

Hay bales have to be removed for snow management and safety reasons. North Dakota Century Code prohibits hay from being placed in the right of way except on the outer edge. Large round bales must not be placed on in-slopes, or within 60 feet from the outside edge of the driving lane.

NDBC offering mini grants for beef education

Demand for beef is at a 33-year high in the nation at 64 percent, and consumer research reveals that nearly 80 percent of North Dakota consumers have a very positive attitude about beef and eat it at least once a week.

North Dakota’s Beef Commission is not resting on those laurels, however. They are focusing beef checkoff dollars on continued education for the next generation of beef customers with exciting new programs that focus on youths across the state.

Among these programs is one that focuses on the diets of student athletes at both the high school and college level. Research has shown athletic performance improves when protein is at the center of the plate. Beef’s 10 key nutrients provide high-quality nutrition for athletes.

NDBC mini grants ranging from $250 to $1,000 are also available to agriculture teachers and family and consumer science classrooms. Students learn to cut beef and create beef products, as well as about beef nutrition and cookery.

These new programs are in addition to longstanding programs supported through career and technical education , FFA, 4H and Ag in the Classroom.

New vaccine available for rabbit disease

North Dakota Veterinarians have bene authorized to offer the Medgene Labs vaccine for rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus 2, RHDV2.

So far, there are no cases of this in North Dakota, but cases have been reported in neighboring states.

“We feel it is important to give veterinarians and rabbit owners a preventative option, rather than wait for the virus to arrive in our state,” Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring said. “RHDV2 is a highly contagious and fatal disease in both domestic and wild rabbits.”

The new vaccine has been released under emergency use authorization by the USDA Center for Veterinary Biologies. I till be available for purchase by licensed North Dakota veterinarians, according to State Veterinarian Dr. Ethan Andress.

“Many times, the only signs of the disease are sudden death and blood-stained noses caused by internal bleeding,” Dr. Andress said. “Infected rabbits may also develop a fever, be hesitant to eat, or show respiratory or nervous system signs.”

Andress said rabbit owners are urged to practice good biosecurity for their animals, including preventing contact with other rabbits, ensuring visitors wear protective clothing near their rabbits, and washing hands with warm soapy water before entering the rabbit’s area. More recommendations are online at https://www.aphis.usda.gov/publications/animal_health/fs-rhdv2.pdf.

Veterinarians may order the vaccine by contacting Medgene directly at 605-697-2600.

IRS offering one-year extension for livestock replacement

Producers forced to sell of livestock due to drought are getting an additional year to replace their livestock and defer tax on any gains due to the forced sales by the Internal Revenue Service.

To qualify, the livestock must have been sold because of drought conditions in a county or other jurisdiction eligible for federal assistance, or in a county contiguous to such a county.

The relief generally applies to capital gains realized by eligible farmers and ranchers on sales of livestock held for draft, dairy or breeding purposes. Sales of other livestock, such as those raised for slaughter or held for sporting purposes, or poultry, are not eligible.

Livestock must be replaced within a four-year period, generally, rather than the usual two-year period. The IRS is authorized to further extend the replacement period if the drought continues.

Details on this can be found online at https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-drop/n-06-82.pdf.

USDA raises loan limits

Loan limits for guaranteed farm loans are going from $1.776 million to $1.825 million, according to an announcement from the USDA.

“Farm loans are critical for our customers’ annual operating and family living expenses, emergency needs, and cash flow,” FSA Administrator Zach Ducheneaux said. “Raising the guaranteed loan limit will allow FSA to better meet the financial needs of producers as natural disasters and the pandemic continue to impact their operations.”

Farm loans are guaranteed up to 95 percent by FSA against financial loss of principal and interest. They are used for a variety of needs ranging from securing land to financing equipment purchases.

Disaster set-aside extended

USDA is extending the availability of the COVID-19 Disaster Set Aside through Jan. 31, 2022. In addition, FSA will also permit a second DSA for COVID-19 and a second DSA for natural disasters for those who had an initial COVID-19 DSA. Requests must be received no later than May 1, 2022.

The Disaster Set Aside allows eligible producers to have their next payment set aside, moving that payment to the final maturity date of the loan, or, in the case of an annual operating loan, extending the loan up to 12 months. Any principal set aside continues to accrue interest until repaid, but the measure can help improve a borrower’s cashflow during a given production cycle.

For more information, visit fsa.usda.gov or contact your local FSA office.

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