FarmPolicy

December 14, 2019

Borrowing Costs- Cautious Tone on Interest Rate Hikes From Fed Chairwoman

As commodity prices falter and profit margins remain thin, U.S. agricultural producers will be eager to minimize costs of production in 2016.  News reports have indicated that some producers are already cutting back on spending for seed and fertilizer.

With respect to interest ratesBinyamin Applebaum reported in today’s New York Times that, “Janet L. Yellen, the Federal Reserve chairwoman, said on Tuesday that the United States economy remained on track despite a rough start to the year because the drag from weak growth in other countries was being offset by lower borrowing costs.

“Ms. Yellen told the Economic Club of New York that the economy ‘had proven remarkably resilient,’ and that the Fed expected better days ahead. She said the Fed still intended to pursue a careful, patient course toward higher interest rates as the economy improved.

“The cautious tone of her remarks, however, suggested no rate increase was likely at the Fed’s next meeting, in April, shifting the eyes of Fed watchers to its subsequent meeting in June.”

The Times article explained that, “The Fed’s policy-making committee indicated after its most recent meeting, this month, that it now expected to raise rates by about half a percentage point this year.

“That was half as much as the Fed had predicted at the beginning of the year.

“Ms. Yellen attributed the deceleration on Tuesday to a judgment by Fed officials that somewhat lower rates were necessary to maintain steady growth.”

And David Harrison and Michael S. Derby stated in today’s Wall Street Journal that, “Global economic and financial uncertainty poses risks to the U.S. economy and justifies a slower path of interest-rate increases, Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen said in remarks that suggested little appetite to raise rates when officials meet next month.”

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Ahead of Government Estimates, Surveys Show More Corn and Soybeans Planted in 2016

Jesse Newman reported yesterday at The Wall Street Journal Online that, “U.S. farmers are expected to plant more corn and soybeans this year even as their storage bins remain stuffed with rising inventory, according to analysts surveyed by The Wall Street Journal.

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Thursday will release two closely watched reports on domestic crop stockpiles and farmers’ planting intentions, against a backdrop of historically high global supplies and pressure on U.S. exports caused in part by the strength of the U.S. dollar.”

Ms. Newman noted that, “Analysts expect USDA to estimate that farmers will plant 90.05 million acres of corn, up about 2% from nearly 88 million last year.

“The USDA likely will peg soybean acres at 82.95 million acres, up 0.4% from 82.65 million last year, while all-wheat acreage likely will be estimated at 51.66 million acres, down 5% from 54.64 million in 2015, according to the survey.”

With this background in mind, Bloomberg writer Alan Bjerga indicated yesterday that, “Illinois farmer David Erickson admits that what he and many U.S. farmers are about to do doesn’t seem to make much sense. With bulging stockpiles of corn and soybeans left over from last year’s harvest, they’re planting more in 2016 — even though the crops probably won’t be profitable.”

The Bloomberg article noted that, “After record prices in 2012 sparked a boom in output, corn and soybeans in the Midwest now fetch less than the cost to produce them, and U.S. farm income is headed for a 14-year low. While the market has improved in recent months, researcher AgResource Co. still estimates a $50 loss for every acre sown on average. As they seed more, growers have cut spending and hope better-than-normal yields will help them at least break even.

“Farmers in the U.S., the world’s biggest grower, will expand corn planting to 89.998 million acres, up 2.3 percent from a six-year low in 2015, and soybeans will be sown on 83.07 million acres, the second-most ever, a Bloomberg survey of 33 analysts showed. The U.S. Department of Agriculture will disclose its planting and stockpile estimates on Thursday.”

Mr. Bjerga added that, “With few appealing options, David Seil chose to expand corn planting on his 1,300-acre farm near Gowrie, Iowa. Rather than sacrifice productive land by using it as pasture for his cattle, he’s cutting back on spending for seed and fertilizer and hoping that weather damages crops somewhere else so that prices go up.”

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