FarmPolicy

September 30, 2014

Federal Reserve Beige Book: Observations on the Ag Economy- July 2013

Today the Federal Reserve Board released its Summary of Commentary on Current Economic Conditions. Commonly referred to as the “Beige Book,” the report included the following observations with respect to the U.S. agricultural economy:

* Fifth District- Richmond- “Recent reports on agricultural conditions were mixed. While a South Carolina farm loan banker reported that the wet weather earlier in the year ‘started the crop season off in a positive light,’ other reports from South Carolina and Virginia indicated that the rains delayed planting and even resulted in one farmer planting soybeans and cotton instead of corn. In addition, a South Carolina contact noted that heavy rains had damaged the regional wheat crop to the extent that sprouts were unacceptable for export. A North Carolina source also noted a recent shift to cotton over corn, due to declining corn prices. Nevertheless, another source remarked that agricultural lending was ‘booming’ and demand for wood products continued to rise.

* Sixth District- Atlanta- “Since our last report, soil throughout much of the District improved to more favorable, drier conditions. Pasture conditions improved as well. Monthly prices paid to farmers were up for cotton, soybeans, corn for grain, rice, citrus, hogs, and broilers. During this same period, beef prices were down slightly, but still moderately higher than this time last year.”

* Seventh District- Chicago- “Crop conditions improved over the course of the reporting period, with the crop ending the period in better shape than a year ago. District farmers managed to get their crops in the ground despite additional planting delays caused by the unseasonably wet weather. Only a small percentage of acres will not grow a crop, where water pooled in low-lying areas and replanting was not possible. Fruit crops could produce record yields this year, in sharp contrast with the large losses seen a year ago. With stocks of corn and soybeans expected to remain at very low levels until the fall harvest, corn and soybean prices moved higher. The increase in feed costs negatively affected livestock operations, and contacts noted that it would lead to careful management of feed purchases until anticipated declines in crop prices are likely to materialize following a potentially record fall harvest. The first cutting of hay was mostly complete and was much better than last year. Supported by rejuvenated pastures, milk output also increased. Milk prices were roughly unchanged during the reporting period, while hog prices surged, and cattle prices were lower.”

* Eighth District – St. Louis- “At the end of June, the condition of over 90 percent of the cotton, corn, soybeans, sorghum, and rice crops was rated as fair or better in all the District states. Furthermore, at least 70 percent of total pastureland across the District states was rated in good or excellent condition. The winter wheat harvest was behind its 5-year average and behind the progress made by the same time last year.”

* Ninth District- Minneapolis- “The agricultural sector weakened since the last report. District farmers made progress after a late spring, but remain behind the five-year average for corn and soybean plantings due to recent heavy rains. In some areas, farmers are expected to switch from corn to soybeans due to the weather. Prices increased from a year earlier for wheat, corn, soybeans, chickens, milk, hogs, cattle and eggs; prices fell for turkeys and dry beans. The late plantings, along with concerns about warmer and drier weather later this summer, caused the USDA to increase its corn price forecast slightly, though prices are still expected to decrease from current levels.”

* Tenth District- Kansas City- “Agricultural production expectations improved somewhat with recent rains, but varied regionally. Summer storms eased dry conditions in eastern parts of the District, though drought persisted in western regions. The winter wheat harvest was underway or complete in Oklahoma and Kansas with highly variable yields depending on the extent of drought and freeze damage. Despite expectations of a poor wheat harvest in some areas, wheat prices fell since the last survey period. The corn and soybean crops, however, were rated in mostly good or better condition with the improved soil moisture. Although corn and soybean prices remained historically high, improved growing conditions led to a drop in expected harvest prices for both crops. Feedlot operators struggled with high input costs and falling cattle prices, but losses narrowed for hog producers after a rebound in hog prices. Cropland values moved higher but were expected to hold steady during the growing season.”

* Eleventh District- Dallas- “Much of the Eleventh District remained in severe drought, with conditions little changed from the last reporting period. Row crop farmers completed planting, and crop conditions were mostly fair to good, according to respondents. The wheat harvest continued, but production was sharply reduced as a very large share of the acres planted was abandoned because of drought and freeze damage. Livestock feedlots and meat processors continued to suffer greatly from high feed costs and a shrinking cattle herd.”

* Twelfth District- San Francisco- “Agricultural sales and production activity expanded. Demand was strong for most crop and livestock products. However, some contacts expressed concern about the lack of availability of manual laborers. Insufficient water also was a concern in parts of the District, with this year’s rain and snow pack levels running well below seasonal norms.”

-kg

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