January 21, 2020

USDA Report- Farms and Land in Farms

On Thursday, USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) released its annual Farms and Land in Farms report for 2014.

The report stated that, “The number of farms in the United States for 2014 is estimated at 2.08 million, down 18 thousand farms from 2013. Total land in farms, at 913 million acres, decreased 1.03 million acres from 2013. The average farm size for 2014 is 438 acres, up 3 acres from the previous year.”

The AP reported on Thursday that, “The U.S. Department of Agriculture says in a new report that the number of farms and ranches in Nebraska continues to slide.

“In an annual report released Thursday the USDA says Nebraska farms fell to 49,100 last year, 500 fewer than the year before. The small farm category, those with annual sales of less than $100,000, fell by 800 farms while larger farms exceeding $100,000 in sales increased by 300.”

A separate AP article indicated that, “Kansas farms averaged 754 acres, up 8 acres from the previous year.”

With respect to North Dakota, the AP noted that, “Land in farms and ranches in North Dakota totaled 39.3 million acres, unchanged from 2013. But the average size of operation was up 21 acres from the year before, at 1,297 acres.”

And in Iowa, a report indicated that, “The number of Iowa farms has fallen 1.2 percent since 2010, while the average farm size is up 1.2 percent in the same period, a reflection of national trends.”


2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report

Categories: Nutrition

Recall that in a February 11th House Ag Committee hearing, Chairman Michael Conaway (R., Tex.) and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack had an exchange on the Dietary Guideline issue.

Sec. Vilsack noted that, “Well, first of all, these are recommendations which the Department of Health & Human Services and the Department of Agriculture are free to accept, reject, or modify based on, ultimately, the decision-making that we are responsible for. Secondly, these folks get together, they do literature review of the latest science. It’s supposed to be driven by science and it needs to be driven by science. There is a lot of issues that have to be resolved yet. This is by no means finalized.”

Chairman Conaway pointed out that, “Well, again, you know, we’ve mentioned the science-based decision-making process, and nutrition science ought to drive the train and not sustainability or environment things, other things like that. It ought to be nutrition-based science, so appreciate that.”

AP writer Mary Clare Jalonick reported today that, “A government advisory committee is recommending the first real limits on added sugars, but it’s backing off stricter ones for salt and cholesterol. It calls for an environmentally friendly diet lower in red and processed meats.

“The Agriculture and Health and Human Services departments will use Thursday’s report to write new dietary guidelines, due by the end of the year. The guidelines influence everything from federally subsidized school lunches to food package labels to doctors’ advice.”

Wall Street Journal Video: Diet Experts Push More Plants, Less Meat in Nod to Environment

Tennille Tracy reported on Thursday at The Wall Street Journal Online that, “The focus on sustainable diets is angering the meat industry, particularly beef producers, accused of taking a particularly heavy toll on the environment.

“‘The committee’s foray into the murky waters of sustainability is well beyond its scope and expertise,’ said Barry Carpenter, president of the North American Meat Institute, which represents beef and poultry producers.

“The meat industry believes the panel, which has been meeting for well over a year, is pursuing a broader antimeat agenda, even though it doesn’t recommend specific daily reductions in meat or poultry consumption.”

Roberto Ferdman and Peter Whoriskey reported on Thursday at The Washington Post Online that, “The advisory panel’s report prompted immediate criticism from Congress — as well as a warning from Rep. Robert B. Aderholt (R-Ala.), chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the budget for the Agriculture Department.

“‘Chairman Aderholt is skeptical of the panel’s departure from utilizing sound science as the criteria for the guidelines,’ according to Brian Rell, a spokesman. ‘Politically motivated issues such as taxes on certain foods and environmental sustainability are outside their purview.’

“He warned that the panel committee would ‘keep this in mind’ as it considers funding the agencies this spring.”

Bloomberg writers Alan Bjerga and Doni Bloomfield reported today that, “Americans should pay taxes on sugary sodas and snacks as a way to cut down on sweets, though they no longer need to worry about cholesterol, according to scientists helping to revamp dietary guidelines as U.S. obesity levels surge.

“The recommendations Thursday from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee also call for Americans to reduce meat consumption and to take sustainability into account when dining.”

The Bloomberg writers pointed out that, “The sustainability initiative endorses plant-based diets and urges more consumption of farm-raised fish as ways to alleviate stress on the environment. The idea sparked action in Congress: An appropriations bill passed last year includes a nonbinding provision telling the USDA and HHS to ‘only include nutrition and dietary information.’

“HHS, which will write the guidelines, and the USDA jointly appointed the committee, then will act on its recommendations after considering public comment for 45 days. Final guidelines are to be released by the end of this year” [related USDA news release here].

See also these Bloomberg video with Mr. Bjerga:

Senate Ag Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R., Kan.) indicated on Thursday that, ““I am glad the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee report has finally been released, so we can all stop wondering what it was going to say. This report is disappointing, as it is clear with some of these recommendations, the non-political, science-based process has gone awry. The Dietary Guidelines are an essential part of combating obesity and improving the diets of all Americans, and it is crucial the Guidelines be free from political influence and be completely based in nutrition science. It appears this has not been the case, and that is troubling news. As USDA and HHS take this report into consideration and develop the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, I hope they work to restore integrity to the process and preserve the independent, unbiased and nutrition science-based nature of previous Guidelines.”


West Coast Ports- Los Angeles Times- Thursday; Lawmakers Weigh In

On Thursday, the Los Angeles Times continued its detailed coverage of the West Coast port dispute (See articles from Saturday, Sunday, and Wednesday).

On the front page of the Business section, Andrew Khouri and Tiffany Hsu reported that, “The labor dispute that has stalled dozens of massive ships off the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach isn’t limited to the nation’s busiest cargo complex.

“The high-volume harbors at Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma, Wash., also have battled severe bottlenecks for months as the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and employer group Pacific Maritime Assn. have wrangled over a new contract for 20,000 dockworkers at ports from San Diego to Bellingham, Wash.

“U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez met with both sides Wednesday, the second straight day of direct White House involvement to break the stalemate.”

The article noted that, “For exporters such as Sage Fruit in Yakima, Wash., the delays have caused pain.

Packages of apples, cherries and nectarines have arrived in Asia as much as eight weeks late, said sales manager John Onstad.

“‘They certainly weren’t in the condition the customers were expecting,’ he said.

“As the latest holiday weekend shutdown loomed, ‘we had a lot of customers who simply said, ‘We don’t even want to purchase your product,” Onstad said.

And the Los Angeles Times editorial board opined on Thursday that, “Let’s hope Perez can talk some sense into the two sides, which together are holding American businesses and the Southern California economy hostage…[T]o protect their competitive advantage, L.A. and Long Beach must scale up to accommodate larger ships that carry twice as many containers as the ports are used to handling.

“The important work of preparing for a changing industry is stalled while the shipping companies and dockworkers are locked in a dispute. It’s time to make a deal.”

Meanwhile, a news release on Thursday from Sen. John Thune (R., S.D.) indicated that, “Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Chairman [Thune], Commerce Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security Chairman Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety Chairman Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Penn.), Transportation Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Chairman Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), House Education and Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-Minn.), and Education and Workforce Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Chairman Phil Roe, M.D. (R-Tenn.) have sent a letter to President Barack Obama urging action on the unnecessary gridlock of goods at 29 West Coast shipping ports.”

A separate news release Thursday from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) stated that, “U.S. Senators [Feinstein] and Barbara Boxer (both D-Calif.) today called on both parties in the West Coast ports dispute to act swiftly to reach a final agreement. In a letter to International Longshore and Warehouse President Robert McEllrath and Pacific Maritime Association President and CEO James C. McKenna, the Senators expressed their concern that despite a narrowing of differences, the parties have not been able to resolve the labor dispute because they cannot agree on the selection of an arbitrator.”


USDA Outlook: Crop and Livestock Prices, Production- Land Values

In a presentation today at the USDA Outlook Forum in Arlington, Va., USDA Acting Chief Economist Robert Johansson indicated that, “Row crop prices have declined significantly from record highs in recent years, but remain well above levels seen in the early 2000s. Consecutive record crops have trimmed prices for many crops. Further price reductions are expected for the 2015/16 crop year, falling near Farm Bill reference prices for many crops. Wheat prices for 2015/16 are estimated at $5.10 per bushel, a decline of 15 percent from the current year; the PLC reference price for wheat is $5.50 per bushel. Corn prices are projected to fall to $3.50 per bushel for 2015/16; the reference price for PLC is $3.70 per bushel. Soybeans prices are forecast at $9.00 per bushel in 2015/16; the reference price for PLC is $8.40 per bushel. The all-rice price is forecast at $13.10 per hundredweight for 2014/15 (the reference price for long-grain rice is $14.00 per hundredweight). Cotton prices are projected at 60 cents per pound (cotton it is not covered by the PLC program).”

Note that separate analysis from land grant institutions puts the 2015/16 prices of corn and soybeans at slightly higher levels: $3.87, $9.27 and $3.97, $9.84.

For additional crop price analysis, see this presentation from University of Illinois agricultural economist Darrel Good from December, which included the following slide with a low $4 projection:

Dr. Johansson also noted that, “In 2015, U. S planted area for the 8 major crops is expected to decline modestly, falling by 3.3 million acres to 254.6 million as falling crop prices and narrowing production margins push some acres out of production even as Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) area continues to decline.” He added that, “Overall corn and soybean acreage is expected to total 172.5 million acres, down 1.8 million acres from last year. Corn area shows the single largest reduction with area expected to fall 1.6 million acres in 2015 to 89.0 million acres, down 8.2 million acres from its recent peak in 2012. Soybean area is expected to fall modestly from its record area in 2014 to 83.5 million acres, with movement out of soybeans tempered by its lower operating costs and forward marketing opportunities in the past few months.”

Note this related Bloomberg article, as well as this tweet from University of Illinois agricultural economist Scott Irwin.

Gregory Meyer reported on Thursday at The Financial Times Online that, “The USDA’s forecasts issued on Thursday deviated slightly from long-term projections published this month, with the latest corn acreage figure 1m acres higher than before and soyabean acreage 0.5m acres lower. Final crop production is a function of acres harvested and yields per acre.”

With respect to livestock, Dr. Johansson indicated that, “Turning to the livestock, dairy and poultry sectors, we project that total meat and poultry production will be at a record high of 95 million pounds in 2015, mostly due to record pork and broiler production. Milk production is also projected to be at record levels in 2015, at 211.5 billion pounds.”

More specifically, Dr. Johansson pointed out that, “Cattle numbers have been trending down since the 1970s, and drought and other adverse impacts on forage in the South over the past 5 years have driven even larger declines in the cattle herd than might otherwise have been expected. Drought continues in the Southwest, but there have been some signs of recovery in the Southern Plains and elsewhere. Returns to cow-calf operators have been at levels that encourage herd retention which would point to a turnaround in the cattle cycle. Producers are now responding by increasing herds; the number of beef cows on January 1, 2015 was up 2 percent from 2014 and the number of heifers retained for addition to the cow herd was 4 percent higher. The latest NASS cattle inventory last month recorded the first increase in herd size since 2007.”

While addressing livestock related prices, Dr. Johansson stated that, “As a result of increased production and falling export demand in 2015, prices for pork, broilers, and dairy products are projected to fall from last year’s levels. Hog prices are expected to fall to $56 per hundredweight, down 26 percent from last year’s record prices. Broiler prices are expected to remain high, although down 4 percent from last year’s record prices. In contrast, steer prices are expected to increase and are forecast at record levels in 2015 due to continued tight supplies and the time required to expand production. Milk prices are expected to fall 26 percent from last year’s records.”

And Dr. Johansson added that, “Land values are expected to decline by less than one percent overall in 2015.”

For more details on land values see recent reports from the Federal Reserve Banks of Chicago and St. Louis, as well as the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.

Keith Good

Thursday Morning Highlights: Policy; Ag Economy; Trade; and, Regulations

Policy Issues

Next week, the House Agriculture Committee will hold two hearings on nutrition related issues.

On the 25th, the Full Committee will Review the SNAP Program, and on the 26th, the Nutrition Subcommittee will hold a hearing to better understand the SNAP population through published research.

The Nutrition Subcommittee is chaired by Jackie Walorski (R., Ind.) and the ranking member is Jim McGovern (D., Mass.).

Rep. Walorski issued a news release yesterday, which stated that, “[Rep. Walorski] visited Martin’s Super Market in South Bend today in an effort to tout legislation that encourages businesses to donate food inventory to local food shelters. During the visit, Walorski was joined by Rob Bartels, CEO and president of Martin’s Super Market and Milt Lee, executive director of the Food Bank of Northern Indiana.

“Last week, the House passed legislation that would allow tax deductions for charitable contributions of food inventory. H.R. 644, The Fighting Hunger Incentive Act, permanently extends the deduction for businesses to donate food inventory to local food shelters and pantries.”

In other nutrition related news, Roberto A. Ferdman reported yesterday at the Wonkblog (Washington Post) that, “One of the simplest ways to put poor kids in a position to succeed is to make sure they eat breakfast…[F]ortunately, there’s a program that tries to make sure low-income children are able to eat breakfast each day: the decades old School Breakfast Program, which helps provide free or near-free morning meals to poor students….[U]nfortunately, the program is failing to live up to its potential.

“The School Breakfast Program still isn’t feeding nearly as many poor students as it should be. In fact, the program is falling short by at least ten million students, if not more, according to a new study by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC).”