FarmPolicy

October 21, 2014

Policy Issues; Ag Economy; Regulations; Biotech; and, Biofuels

Policy Issues

DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton reported on Friday that, “Without giving any indication how the next World Trade Organization ruling on Country of Origin Labeling will come down, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Thursday the COOL decision could become public within a few weeks, if not days.

“Vilsack spent Thursday with his Mexican counterpart, Enrique Martinez, secretary of fisheries and agriculture, showing Martinez some climate research facilities at Iowa State University before holding a joint forum at the 2014 World Food Prize Borlaug Dialogue.

“In a press conference late Thursday afternoon, Martinez said through an interpreter that the ruling on COOL would affect producers in both countries. Martinez also noted the U.S. Congress created the law to label the country of origin for meat.”

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ERS: Global stocks of major crops rising

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From USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS)- “Global stocks of major crop commodities are forecast to expand in the 2014/15 marketing year, with total stocks of wheat, rice, corn, and soybeans completing recovery from the relatively low levels that preceded the 2008 spike in world crop prices. Record U.S. crops of corn and soybeans, along with good harvest by some other major producing countries, are forecast to push both U.S. and global stocks of these commodities to record levels. World wheat stocks are forecast to rise based on the outlook for record or near-record harvests by major foreign producers, including China, the EU, India, and the Former Soviet Union. While world rice stocks are forecast below peak levels of the early 2000s, good harvests and ample stocks are expected across the major producing regions in Asia. The supply outlook is expected to lead to lower commodity prices, with the average U.S. farm prices of corn (-24 percent), soybeans (-23 percent), wheat (-14 percent), and rice (-10 percent) all forecast down in their respective 2014/15 marketing years compared with 2013/14. Find additional analysis in the current editions of Feed Grain Outlook, Oil Crops Outlook, Wheat Outlook, and Rice Outlook.”

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Ag Economy; Farm Bill; Regulations; and, Climate

Agricultural Economy

Yesterday, the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI) at the University of Missouri provided an update on crop price projections reflecting information available in mid-October.

A summary of the FAPRI update indicated that, “The projected corn price for the 2014/15 marketing year was reduced slightly this month, to $3.40 per bushel. The record U.S. corn crop got even bigger in USDA’s October estimates, and carry-in stocks were also greater than had been estimated in September.

“Corn acreage could decline in 2015, and more typical growing conditions would result in lower yields next year. Projected prices increase to $3.74 per bushel for 2015/16, and to $4.20 per bushel by 2018/19.”

Yesterday’s update added that, “USDA soybean production estimates also increased slightly this month, but this was offset by a reduction in carry-in stocks, leaving total supplies marginally reduced from September estimates. The projected 2014/15 soybean price is little changed from last month, at $9.95 per bushel.

“Soybean acreage could stay near this year’s record in 2015 and the resulting large soybean supplies cause projected 2015/16 prices to drop to $8.93 per bushel, before recovering to $10.50 per bushel by 2018/19.”

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Ag Economy; Policy Issues; Regulations; Biofuels; and, Climate

Agricultural Economy

Yesterday, the Federal Reserve Board released its Summary of Commentary on Current Economic Conditions. Commonly referred to as the “Beige Book,” the report included several observations with respect to the U.S. agricultural economy. A summary of the ag related comments can be found here, at FarmPolicy.com Online.

In part, yesterday’s report noted that, “Lower corn prices continued to benefit poultry and livestock producers that rely on corn for feed” (Atlanta District); “Livestock and dairy producers continued to benefit from lower feed costs and high output prices” (Minneapolis District); “Cattle prices continued to be at a record high while feed prices fell, boosting profitability for cattle producers” (Dallas District) and “low corn prices and stable fertilizer and machinery prices benefited dairy and feedlot operations” (San Francisco District).

The Chicago District noted that, “Crop income was lower than a year ago as higher yields were insufficient to offset lower prices. Crop insurance will cover some of the lost income, but farmers already are planning to trim costs for next year, particularly spending on farm equipment and other capital purchases.”

And the Kansas City District added that, “Crop insurance and some pre-selling of this year’s crop at higher prices earlier in the year may help mitigate the effect on overall farm incomes of recent spot price declinesThe demand for farm operating loans has risen substantially from last year as more crop producers borrowed to pay for operating costs. Bankers also reported a rise in requests for agricultural loan renewals and extensions and noted that loan repayment rates have edged down from the high levels seen the past few years. Despite the sharp drop in crop prices, farmland values were typically holding at high levels.”

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Federal Reserve Beige Book: Observations on the Ag Economy- October 2014

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- “Corn prices declined further over the past six weeks. Soybean prices also fell, while cotton prices were unchanged. A West Virginia farmer stated that grain prices declined after seven years of above-average prices. Farmers’ input prices were unchanged in South Carolina and Virginia. A grower in South Carolina reported completion of corn harvesting and the start of peanut harvesting since the previous report. In West Virginia a farmer said that crop planting, reseeding, and harvesting were on schedule, and that his compost business had increased in the past six weeks.”

* Sixth District- Atlanta- “Parts of Alabama, Florida, and Georgia experienced abnormally dry to severe drought conditions. Lower corn prices continued to benefit poultry and livestock producers that rely on corn for feed. The USDA announced a new financial assistance program for eligible Florida citrus growers to help with the removal and replacement of stock affected by citrus greening.”

* Seventh District- Chicago- “Overall crop conditions were very good at the start of the harvest. The District should see record corn and soybean harvests. Early results indicated yields for corn and soybeans would range from above-average to record-high levels. The huge anticipated harvests pushed down corn and soybean prices. Crop income was lower than a year ago as higher yields were insufficient to offset lower prices. Crop insurance will cover some of the lost income, but farmers already are planning to trim costs for next year, particularly spending on farm equipment and other capital purchases. Corn farmers helped bid up cattle prices, with the intention of using the abundant harvest as feed for their own cattle production rather than selling it. Hog and milk prices were higher as well, contributing to expansions in output of these commodities.”

* Eighth District – St. Louis- “As of late September, about 75 percent of the District’s corn, rice, and soybean crops was rated in good or excellent condition. Similarly, about 60 percent of the District’s pastureland was rated in good or excellent condition; Kentucky’s pastureland, in particular, has improved significantly since the previous report. Harvest completion rates across the District have lagged behind their five-year averages.”

* Ninth District- Minneapolis- “Agricultural conditions were mixed since the previous report. The most recent USDA forecast calls for substantially increased production of corn and soybeans this year in District states compared with 2013. Livestock and dairy producers continued to benefit from lower feed costs and high output prices. Most of the district’s crops were in good or excellent condition despite late planting; however, an early frost damaged soybeans in some parts of Minnesota and South Dakota. Relative to a year earlier, prices received by farmers in September were lower for corn, soybeans, and wheat; prices increased for hay, cattle, hogs, poultry, and milk.”

* Tenth District- Kansas City- “Despite expectations of above-average yields, further declines in crop prices weighed on farm income prospects in the District. However, crop insurance and some pre-selling of this year’s crop at higher prices earlier in the year may help mitigate the effect on overall farm incomes of recent spot price declines. The corn and soybean crops were mostly rated in good to excellent condition as harvest began. Cattle prices rose since the last survey period while hog prices fell with increased production resulting from higher dressed weights. The demand for farm operating loans has risen substantially from last year as more crop producers borrowed to pay for operating costs. Bankers also reported a rise in requests for agricultural loan renewals and extensions and noted that loan repayment rates have edged down from the high levels seen the past few years. Despite the sharp drop in crop prices, farmland values were typically holding at high levels.”

* Eleventh District- Dallas- “District drought conditions eased slightly over the past six weeks, although more than half of Texas remained in a drought that has plagued the state since the end of 2010. Harvesting of row crops like cotton and corn continued, and crop conditions were slightly better than last year. Cattle prices continued to be at a record high while feed prices fell, boosting profitability for cattle producers. Domestic and export beef demand remained strong despite retail beef prices reaching a record high in August. Improved moisture conditions overall have increased optimism for winter crops and expanded prospects for cattle herd rebuilding.”

* Twelfth District- San Francisco- “Agricultural conditions in the District were mixed during the reporting period. Continuing droughts in California and parts of Washington and Idaho elevated water costs and depressed harvests of cotton and various grains, vegetables, nuts, and legumes. Farmers increased the number of acres lying fallow and reduced herd sizes. However, low corn prices and stable fertilizer and machinery prices benefited dairy and feedlot operations. Milk prices increased, and export demand for hay from the West Coast reached an historical peak.”

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ERS: Family farms dominate U.S. agriculture

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From USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS)- “The United Nations has designated 2014 as the ‘International Year of Family Farming’ to highlight the potential family farmers have to help feed the world. But what is a family farm? USDA’s [ERS] defines family farms as those whose principal operator, and people related to the principal operator by blood or marriage, own most of the farm business. Under the ERS definition, family farms represent 97.6 percent of all U.S. farms and are responsible for 85 percent of U.S. farm production. Other definitions rely on who supplies the labor. Large farms often rely heavily on hired labor, but farm families who own the farm and provide most of the farm’s labor still account for 87.1 percent of U.S. farms, with 57.6 percent of farm production. Some farms also hire firms to perform some farm tasks. If we account for the labor provided by those firms, family farms that provide most of the labor used on the farm still account for 86.1 percent of farms and nearly half of production. This chart can be found in ‘Family Farming in the United States‘ in the March 2014 Amber Waves.”

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Ag Economy; Farm Bill; Biotech; and, Regulations

Agricultural Economy

Reuters writers Tom Miles and Krista Hughes reported yesterday that, “India broke World Trade Organization rules by blocking imports of U.S. poultry and other farm products because of unsubstantiated bird flu fears, a WTO dispute panel ruled on Tuesday, potentially opening up an estimated $300 million a year export market for the United States.

“India had claimed its import restrictions, imposed in 2007, were justified by international rules on animal health, but the panel agreed with the United States and found that India’s measures were not based on international standards and were discriminatory.

“‘This is a major victory for American farmers,’ said U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, who termed the poultry decision ‘the fourth major WTO victory’ for the United States this year. ‘Our farmers produce the finest, and safest, agricultural products in the world.’”

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Ag Economy; Policy Issues; Biofuels; Biotech; and, Climate

Agricultural Economy

Reuters writer Julie Ingwersen reported yesterday that, “U.S. corn futures rose 3.6 percent on Monday, the second-biggest single-day jump of 2014, as rains in the Midwest interrupted the harvest and slowed the arrival of a record-large crop into marketing channels, traders said.

“Soybeans and wheat followed corn’s lead, with a weaker dollar supporting grains, making them more attractive to those holding other currencies.

“‘Rains should be widespread and heavy across all but far northwestern portions of the Midwest today and tomorrow, which will stall corn and soybean harvesting,’ MDA Weather Services said Monday in a daily note.”

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Ag Economy; Farm Bill; Regulations; and, Immigration

Agricultural Economy

On Friday, USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) released its Crop Production report, which indicated that, “Corn production is forecast at 14.5 billion bushels, up less than 1 percent from the previous forecast and up 4 percent from 2013. Based on conditions as of October 1, yields are expected to average 174.2 bushels per acre, up 2.5 bushels from the September forecast and 15.4 bushels above the 2013 average. If realized, this will be the highest yield and production on record for the United States [related graph].”

The NASS report added that, “Soybean production is forecast at a record 3.93 billion bushels, up slightly from September and up 17 percent from last year [related graph]. Based on October 1 conditions, yields are expected to average a record high 47.1 bushels per acre, up 0.5 bushel from last month and up 3.1 bushels from last year.”

Also on Friday, the World Agricultural Outlook Board (WAOB) released its monthly World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report, which incorporated the NASS production report.

The WASDE report included this overview table of corn supply and demand variables, and stated that, “Corn ending stocks are raised 79 million bushels to 2,081 million. The projected range for the season-average farm price is lowered 10 cents on each end to $3.10 to $3.70 per bushel.”

Likewise, Friday’s WAOB report included this overview table of soybean variables, and explained that, “U.S. soybean exports and crush for 2014/15 are unchanged this month. Soybean ending stocks are projected at 450 million bushels, down 25 million on reduced supplies. Prices for soybeans, soybean oil, and soybean meal are unchanged.”

With respect to wheat, Friday’s WASDE update added that, “The projected range for the 2014/15 season-average farm price is narrowed 5 cents on both the high and low end to $5.55 to $6.25 per bushel.”

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Ag Economy; Farm Bill; Biotech; Biofuels; Regulations; and, Immigration

Agricultural Economy

Reuters News reported yesterday that, “World food prices fell to their lowest since August 2010 in September as prices of all major food groups except meat dropped, led by a sharp decline in dairy prices, the UN’s food agency said on Thursday.

“The Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) price index, which measures monthly price changes for a basket of cereals, oilseeds, dairy, meat and sugar, averaged 191.5 points in September, down 5.2 points or 2.6 percent from August.

“The figure was 12.2 points or 6.0 percent below September 2013 [related graph].”

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Ag Economy; Biotech; Farm Bill; Regulations; and, Political Notes

Agricultural Economy

Reuters writer Karl Plume reported yesterday that, “The top U.S. rail regulator ruled on Wednesday that all Class 1 railroads operating in the United States must provide detailed weekly freight service reports, a decision that cited months of congestion that has hit the grain and power industries particularly hard.

Carriers must submit detailed data on average train speeds, dwell times and other service metrics on a temporary basis beginning on Oct. 22, the Surface Transportation Board said. They must also jointly submit a narrative summary of operating conditions at the Chicago gateway, a busy rail hub that is a choke point in the national network.

“The ruling was a victory for the agriculture and power industries, which have argued for more transparency from rail carriers about the products they carry on their networks. Some have accused railroads of prioritizing crude shipments from shale oil fields in North Dakota over grain and coal, a charge the carriers deny.”

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Policy Issues; Ag Economy; and, Regulations

Policy Issues- Farm Bill

New York Times political correspondent Nicholas Confessore penned an article that was posted yesterday at the paper’s webpage titled, “How School Lunch Became the Latest Political Battleground” (the article is from the October 12 edition of the Sunday Magazine).

A twitter generated summary of the lengthy and detailed article provided this general overview: “Inside the Obama administration’s standoff with Republicans, the food industry and the nation’s lunch ladies over the future of the cafeteria.”

Meanwhile, Gary Schnitkey, Jonathan Coppess, Nick Paulson (University of Illinois) and Carl Zulauf (Ohio State University) indicated yesterday at the farmdoc daily blog (“Information for 2014 Farm Bill Decisions”) that, “Deadlines for making commodity program decisions for each Farm Service Agency farm are well into the future. February 27, 2015 is the deadline for yield updating and acre reallocation decisions. March 31, 2015 is the deadline for program choice decisions. Market outlook and projected program payments will be clearer as deadlines approach. As a result, there is no need to rush these decisions. However, obtaining the necessary information to make decisions for each farm is a good task for now. FSA sent a letter in August containing current base acres, program yields, and acres planted from 2009 through 2012. In addition, yields from 2009 through 2013 will be needed when making commodity program decisions.

“In August, the FSA sent a letter to each landowner and farm operator having an interest in an FSA farm (click here for a video describing the letter). Following the letter, there was a series of data sheets giving current base acres, program yields, and planted acres for each FSA farm.”

Yesterday’s farmdoc update added that, “More detail on information needs is provided in Step 1 of the ARC-PLC Decision Steps. Currently, efforts focused on two areas will have value. First, make sure that FSA documents are available and have the correct information. Second, determine and document 2009 through 2013 yields for each FSA farm.”

Note also that the farmdoc team will be hosting a free webinar Friday on Farm Bill Decision Aids and Programs.

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Policy Issues; Ag Economy; Biotech; Biofuels; Regs; and, Immigration

Policy Issues

Marcia Zarley Taylor reported yesterday at DTN that, “The ghost of the Southwest’s mega-drought continues to haunt growers even after a few rain showers this last growing season. Producers there have been used to paying dearly for each dollar of crop insurance coverage, but the cost-benefit ratio could reach a breaking point in 2015.

“‘Under old farm policies, lenders would look at your portfolio and see how much crop insurance guaranteed in gross revenue, than add in direct payments and that was the basis for your crop loans,’ said Matt Huie, a 38-year-old crop producer from Beesville near the Gulf Coast rim of Texas. ‘Now we’ve seen our basis for loans erode because of drought and erosion in commodity prices.’

“Texas state climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon describes prolonged drought in the Corpus Christi area as one of the two most severe in the region’s recorded history. Only the epic drought of the 1950s to the early 1960s matches it.”

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Policy Issues, Ag Economy; and, Regulations

Policy Issues

Matthew Patane and Donnelle Eller reported on the front page of Saturday’s Des Moines Register that, “A California law that bars eggs from states that fail to provide roomier cages for hens could lead to beef, pork and other Iowa products being banned from the West Coast state, Iowa agricultural leaders say.

A federal judge threw out a six-state case late Thursday that asked the court to strike down a California statute barring the sale of eggs there that were produced by hens in cramped cages. Iowa, the nation’s largest egg producer, was part of the suit.”

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ERS: Top U.S. agricultural export markets located in Asia and North America

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From USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS)- Most of the largest individual country markets for U.S. agricultural exports are in Asia and North America. China, with its strong demand for soybeans, cotton, cattle hides, tree nuts, and other horticulture products, has become the largest single U.S agricultural market, with annual U.S. exports averaging $23.5 billion during 2011-13. Canada (with 2011-13 average U.S. exports of $20.3 billion) and Mexico ($18.5 billion) are the second and third largest markets, with trade in a broad range of agricultural commodities aided by reforms introduced by the 20-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Japan ($13.2 billion) is the fourth largest U.S. market, and the next five top ranked markets are also in Asia: South Korea ($6.0 billion), Hong Kong ($3.5 billion), Taiwan ($3.3 billion), Indonesia ($2.7 billion), and the Philippines ($2.3 billion). Total U.S. agricultural exports were a record $144.1 billion in 2013, and averaged $140.6 billion during 2011-13. Find this chart and more in Selected Charts 2014, Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials.

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Policy Issues; Ag Economy; Biotech; and, Biofuels

Policy Issues- Farm Bill

Sabrina Tavernise reported in today’s New York Times that, “The amount of antibiotics sold for use in livestock rose substantially in recent years, according to the Food and Drug Administration, a pattern that experts said was troubling given the efforts to battle antibiotic resistance in humans.

“In an annual report posted online on Thursday, the agency said the amount of medically important antibiotics sold to farmers and ranchers for use in animals raised for meat grew by 16 percent from 2009 to 2012.

“Most troubling, health advocates say, was a rise in the sale of cephalosporins, a class of drug that is important in human health, despite new restrictions the F.D.A. put into place in early 2012. The report showed an 8 percent increase in the sale of those drugs in 2012, confirming advocates’ fears that the agency’s efforts may not be having the desired effect. Sales of those drugs rose by 37 percent from 2009 to 2012.”

The article noted that, “The National Chicken Council, an industry group, said in a statement that the sale of antibiotics did not necessarily correlate with antibiotic resistance trends. It said that most antibiotics used in chicken production were not used in human medicine.

“The report did not differentiate by species; it included all animals raised for meat.”

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