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Business apps

Smartphones are being used more and more for crop production on farms. They're helpful for mapping, weed identification, and, of course, checking the weather.

The apps listed here can also extend your office into the field. Not all are strictly agricultural. Here are some of my own favorites, as well as several chosen by the Agriculture.com staff.

1. Market Journal 

This app tops my list. I'm a fan of the Market to Market TV show from Iowa Public Television. Market Journal, produced by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and UNL Extension, is just as good. Its MJ app is an informative compilation from its weekly TV shows, carried in your pocket. Crisp video clips feature national and regional authorities, Nebraska Extension experts, and smart farmers.

Recent videos had Ron Plain of the University of Missouri on hog prices, Frayne Olson of North Dakota State on grain markets, Dave Kohl of Virginia Tech on the land market asset bubble, and Brad Lubben, UNL policy specialist, on fiscal issues facing the 2013 farm bill. Tina Barrett, Nebraska Farm Business Inc. director, covered fiscal cliff 2013 tax changes in a three-part series.

Host Jeff Wilkerson visited Mike Briggs at his Seward, Nebraska, feedlot for reaction to Japan opening up to 30-month beef. He was on the farm of Nebraska's wise man of marketing, Roy Smith (who also writes for Successful Farming magazine and Agriculture.com). MJ offers end-of-day futures, Nebraska daily elevator prices, local weather in and out of state, and lots of Extension information. The Nebraska Soybean Board also supports Market Journal.

2. America's Economy 

This Census Bureau app reports key economic indicators: GDP, unemployment, trade balance, housing starts, and more. Why use a nonag app? Many economists and bankers believe that when the economy fully recovers, inflation and your interest rates will tick upward. Most reports also have graphs, as well as press releases and release dates. A separate calendar has all release dates. The reports also come from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Bureau of Economic Analysis. An important disadvantage: the data sometimes loads slowly, at least on my iPhone.

If you really want to bury yourself in government economic data, you could also download the St. Louis Fed's app (available for Android OS phones and iPhones). It's called “FRED economic data” (not in the chart on page 68). None of the FRED data is ag related. I found a multiyear propane price chart. It has international monetary and economic data, including GDP charts from most countries. (Comparing GDP of Brazil and China to U.S. isn't pretty.) You can find the U.S. Consumer Price Index, as well.

3. CNN Money

For the market's reaction to those government economic indicators and many other business-related stories, try this app. It's fast, user-friendly, and free. It reports U.S. and global stocks, with a customizable stocks list (which requires free registration.) You can check major currencies and some commodities (with corn and cotton the only crops).

It doesn't meet the gold standard of business reporting, The Wall Street Journal, which also has an app. To access many WSJ stories, however, you need to pay a $12.99 monthly subscription.

Smartphones are being used more and more for crop production on farms. They're helpful for mapping, weed identification, and, of course, checking the weather.

The apps listed here can also extend your office into the field. Not all are strictly agricultural. Here are some of my own favorites, as well as several chosen by the Agriculture.com staff.

4. IRS2GO 

This isn't light reading, but it's worth keeping handy in tax season. Its Latest News section announced on January 18 that farmers can file taxes on April 15 instead of March 1 this year, due to IRS delays in getting forms reader after the late fiscal cliff tax bill in January.
You can order old returns going back four years, but IRS mails them. Hopefully you won't need it, but there are links for reporting identity theft.

5. Black Gold 

For several reasons, you should track oil and energy prices: their general effect on the economy, a loose relationship to ethanol and corn prices, and the apparent lack of any relationship between natural gas and fertilizer. From the Dallas-based company, Breitling Oil and Gas, this free app offers daily West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude prices and monthly, quarterly, one-year, and five-year charts. It also tracks gasoline, gold, natural gas, and heating oil. A 99¢ upgrade gives better charts and state-level gasoline prices (including E-85).

6. Dynamic Pricing Platform 

This is more than an app. It's a free service financed by participating elevators and ethanol plants that buy grain from farmers day and night through the Farms Technology Trade Desk. You must register for this service, run by Farms Technology, LLC, of Overland Park, Kansas. It has offered this electronic grain buying since 2002 and also ran the MarketPoint program for DuPont Pioneer, described in previous issues of this magazine. Most buyers participating in the DPP grains desk program are located in the Great Plains from Kansas north and in the western Corn Belt. For details, visit www.farmstech.com.

7. AgDirect Mobile 

Compare financing and leasing rates on machinery from AgDirect, the equipment financing program of Farm Credit Services of America and the partners of AgDirect, LLP. It computes payments on an annual, semiannual, quarterly and monthly basis. Individual payment quotes can be emailed or texted. Finance options can be compared side by side, saved and deleted. AgDirect financing is offered through more than 2,300 machinery dealers in 18 states.

8. Farm Fuel Budget 

This app from North Dakota State University Computer Science Department allows you to budget your farm fuel needs for multiple years. Select the number of acres you will plant each year, the crops you will plant, and crop production operations for each crop.

This app will estimate your fuel cost by year and your total fuel cost. The app allows you to change production operations to match tillage systems.

9. Feed Cost Calculator 

From South Dakota State University, this app allows you to compare two available feedstuffs based on their relative cost per pound of protein and energy delivered.

The app provides book values for several feedstuffs, including hay crops like alfalfa as well as distillers' grains and CRP hay. It includes some types of feed in demand after a drought year: cornstalks, stressed corn silage, and wheat straw.

Edit these or add new feedstuffs as needed, providing as many values as are available. The calculator returns the delivered cost per pound of each feed and the break-even cost for the second feed as compared to the first, showing the better buy. The app isn't made for providing feed rations.

10. SugarOnline.com 

This app is from a British reporting service on global sugar prices and news, with outlook for ethanol. Free service consists of headlines, settlement sugar prices, and editorials. Even for that, you must provide an email address to register. You'll then get slightly more detailed daily updates for free. All of this is designed to tempt you to shell out a subscription fee – between $40 and $333 a month.

If I owned a lot of stock in an ethanol plant, I admit that I'd be tempted to try the $40 Silver Level subscription. My free-level emails also pitched an intriguing report, “The World Fuel Ethanol Outlook to 2020.” (The report isn't free, either, but the abstract is. It forecasts slowing growth in the U.S., Brazil, and Europe with sixfold growth in Asia.)

Available on the Web

Find these apps and more for your smartphone on the Agriculture.com mobile website. The Ag Apps section of m.Agriculture.com features various apps for weed scouting, yield calculating, record keeping, commodity marketing, and more. Read descriptions and find out if the apps are available in your phone's app store. If they are, you'll be able to download them directly to your device. 

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