Farm tractor and combine dealers will be downcast by the 2001 forecast for U.S. retail sales of those machines, according to the Equipment Manufacturers Institute.

Total farm wheel tractor sales are predicted to be down 2.8% in 2001 compared to 2000 numbers; combine sales are forecast to be down 7.2% compared to a 4.1% increase in 2000.

The one bright spot? A 3% increase in four-wheel-drive tractor sales.

Farm field machinery and farmstead-type equipment sales also are expected to be up. Sales increases of 5.5% are predicted for air seeders/air drills, 4.5% for planters and 2.1% for farm loaders.

Prices Force Potash Plant Closings. In response to weak prices, the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan, Inc. (PotashCorp) has suspended all DAP (diammonium phosphate) production at its White Springs, FL, operations.

It also permanently closed its Davenport, IA, phosphate feed plant.

Deteriorating market conditions over the past 18 months had already prompted the company to suspend part of White Springs' DAP output.

With the suspension, PotashCorp's total annual Florida cutback in DAP production is 710,000 tons. When combined with continuing DAP cutbacks at its Aurora, NC, facility, the company's total DAP curtailment represents 40% of capacity.

NCGA Calls For StarLink Bt Testing. Seed companies should verify that hybrids being sold have been tested for the presence of Cry9C, the StarLink Bt gene - and farmers should insist on it, according to the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA).

"It isn't a typical question growers ask when buying seed, but it's an extremely important one this season. USDA has said that no Cry9C corn would be sold or grown in 2001," notes Fred Yoder, a Plain City, OH, farmer and chairman of NCGA's Biotechnology Working Group.

"The message is simple: Verify before you buy," Yoder adds.

In late December, USDA recommended that seed companies sample and test all hybrid seed lots and parent lines for the presence of Cry9C.

Surveyed Growers Planted Bt Refuges. At least 87% of corn growers who grew Bt corn last year planted non-Bt refuges of 20% or more. That's according to a recent survey commissioned by NCGA and the Agricultural Biotechnology Stewardship Technical Committee (ABSTC).

ABSTC is a group of companies involved in the research, development and stewardship of ag bio-technology products.

In the survey, more than 90% of growers said insect resistance management (IRM) plans are important and believed they planted appropriate refuges.

"The survey confirms that farmers are good stewards of technology and, when given appropriate information, will do the right thing," says Fred Yoder, chairman of the NCGA Biotech Working Group.

Another 5% of growers planted smaller refuges in compliance with previous standards.

The survey covered more than 500 growers in the Corn Belt and Cotton Belt.

Brazilian Beef Imports Suspended. USDA has temporarily suspended the import of processed beef and associated products from Brazil. The suspension is pending a risk assessment concerning bovine spongiform encephalopathy or BSE, also known as mad cow disease.

Once USDA is assured that Brazil has taken sound measures to prevent BSE, the suspension will be lifted, according to officials.

Humor In Public. Former Ag Secretary Dan Glickman, in one of his last speeches as ag secretary, talked about the importance of humor in public life. He proceeded to tell how it helped him deal with a messy situation:

"A few years ago, I was in Rome for the World Food Summit, and as I was about to hold a press conference, a group of anti-biotechnology protesters threw genetically modified soybeans at me.

"They then proceeded to strip naked and display messages painted on their bodies that said things like `No Gene Bean' and `The Naked Truth.' At least, I'm told they were naked. I, of course, didn't look."