Vibhuti Agarwal reported on Saturday at The Wall Street Journal Online that, “Indians are acquiring a strong taste for soybean oil thanks to lower prices, fueling a surge in imports at a helpful time for a global market struggling with a glut of the commodity.
“India’s imports of soybean oil have quadrupled in the last five years to more than 4 million metric tons this year, according to data compiled by the country’s vegetable oils industry body. India’s soybean oil imports are expected to rise over the next 10 years by as much as 40%, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated in May.”
The Journal article stated that, “India dethroned China two years ago as the world’s largest importer of soy oil. Some Indian consumers who have switched to soy oil cited the steep drop in prices—35% since 2012. Prices of palm oil, its main rival used widely in restaurants and by poorer Indians, have mostly been moving sideways.”
Agarwal added that, “The global soybean-oil market has been slumping for two years, as bumper harvests of soybeans everywhere from America to Argentina coincided with a decline in imports by China stemming from rising domestic production. Soybean production around the globe will increase about 5.6% to 330.43 million tons from last year’s 312.97 million tons, the USDA forecast.”
“In addition to a growing middle class that can afford soybean oil, India’s increase in imports reflect a multiyear drop in domestic production. That decline was especially pronounced last year, when production of soybeans fell nearly 20% to its lowest in more than a decade after poor monsoon rains and pest attacks hit yields,” the Journal article said.
Bloomberg writer Anatoly Medetsky reported late last week that, “Long known for its oil and gas, Russia is now moving to retake leadership in the world wheat trade it last held when the Czars ruled. In the process, it’s reshaping the market for one of the world’s most important traded food products.”
The article explained that, “From the Black Sea coast and the Volga River heartland to the sun-scorched steppes of Siberia, Russia’s farm belt is enjoying a renaissance, with grain at the leading edge. Turbocharged by the 45 percent drop in the ruble against the dollar over the last few years and bumper crops, local producers are crowding into export markets long dominated by big western players.
“Last season, Russian topped the U.S. in wheat exports for the first time in decades and is expected to extend those gains to displace the EU from the top spot this year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Investors from local farmers to billionaire tycoons are pumping money into the business.”
Medetsky added that, “Russian wheat has crowded out U.S. supplies in Egypt, the world’s biggest buyer, and is gaining footholds in some other countries, such as Nigeria, Bangladesh and Indonesia. That’s four decades after the Soviet Union turned to U.S. shipments of wheat and corn to offset shortfalls in its own harvests. Over the last decade, Russia has been the biggest single source of growth in wheat exports, vital to meeting surging global demand.”
“Farmers trace the roots of the rebound to the Kremlin’s move a decade ago to allow land to be bought and sold freely. That set off a wave of investment in new equipment, fertilizers and expansion of farms into lands long left fallow. Government subsidies and the ruble devaluation, along with good weather, have added to harvests in recent years,” the article said.
Jacob Bunge reported yesterday at The Wall Street Journal Online that, “U.S. agriculture officials warned Thursday that farmers, ranchers and food companies could lose out in the long-term if lawmakers shy away from pursuing big trade deals.
“While some hold out hope that the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a wide-ranging trade bill championed by the Obama administration, could yet pass this year, concerns are growing that the U.S. elections may spur a more protectionist stance that could shrink U.S. exports of agricultural goods ranging from meat to grains and dairy.”
Darci Vetter, ambassador and chief agricultural negotiator for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, says the Trans-Pacific Partnership would open up growth opportunities for U.S. agriculture in Asian markets. She spoke with WSJ’s Rebecca Blumenstein at the WSJ Global Food Forum.
The Journal article noted that, “‘The issue of trade has become a political football, unfortunately,’ said Julie Maschhoff, co-owner and vice president of the Maschhoffs LLC, an Illinois pork producer.
“Ms. Maschhoff, speaking at the WSJ Global Food Forum in New York, estimated that about one-quarter of U.S. pork is exported, and trade agreements are critical to expanding those sales as U.S. pork production ramps up.”
Julie Maschhoff, co-owner and vice president of the Maschhoffs LLC, an Illinois pork producer, explains why trade agreements are critical for expanding markets for excess U.S. protein supplies. She spoke with WSJ’s Joanna Chung at the WSJ Global Food Forum in New York.
In his Journal article, Mr. Bunge noted that, “U.S. farmers and ranchers broadly have been supportive of TPP, seeing the chance to break into Japan’s lucrative rice market for the first time, and potentially securing significant reductions in tariffs for markets in Southeast Asia and Canada.”
“Darci Vetter, ambassador and chief agricultural negotiator for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, said at the WSJ [Global Food Forum] event that she saw ‘a narrow window’ to approve the Pacific trade agreement in the lame-duck session, following the November election. ‘I’m an eternal optimist,’ Ms. Vetter said, and implementing TPP would help keep the U.S. on ‘a level playing field’ with competing countries.”
Jacob Bunge reported yesterday at The Wall Street Journal Online that, “Perdue Farms Inc. eliminated all antibiotics from its chicken supply, the company’s chairman said, in a move he said makes the Maryland company the first major poultry supplier to do so.”
(Note that recent FarmPolicy.com updates have highlighted issues associated with antibiotics and livestock production (Sept. 20; Oct. 6)).
Mr. Bunge explained that, “Perdue’s move completes 14 years of efforts to replace antibiotics with vaccines and re-engineered chicken barns, and could help the company ramp up production of organic chicken, a market that is growing far faster than that for conventional poultry.
“‘It completes the journey,’ Perdue Chairman Jim Perdue said in an interview Thursday at the WSJ Global Food Forum in New York (See video below).”
Perdue Farms Inc. is the first major poultry supplier to remove all antibiotics from its chicken supply, the company’s chairman Jim Perdue said Thursday. He also spoke about the growing demand for organic chicken and how Perdue’s business model is adjusting, in a conversation at the WSJ Global Food Forum.
The Journal article added that, “Growing pressure from consumer groups has prompted big restaurant chains, including McDonald’s Corp. and Subway, to unveil plans in recent years to reduce the use of antibiotics in their chicken supplies, following earlier efforts by companies such as Panera Bread Co. and Chick-fil-A Inc.”
“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in late 2013 called on animal drugmakers to stop permitting the use of antibiotics to speed up animal growth, and companies have agreed to comply by 2017,” the article said.
Mr. Bunge also pointed out that, “By the end of September 2017, Tyson Foods Inc., the biggest U.S. meat company by sales, aims to stop using on its chicken farms antibiotics that also are used to treat humans. The company also is expanding its business in pork and beef raised without antibiotics, said Tom Hayes, Tyson’s president.
“Mr. Hayes said the shift, which was driven by consumer demand, has helped Tyson better understand the flexibility of its production system to respond to changing tastes. ‘We have learned a lot about our supply chain, and it’s good,’ he said.”
Wall Street Journal writer Lucy Craymer reported today that, “China’s effort to overhaul its bloated corn sector has sent local prices to their lowest levels in 10 years—and left animal-feed imports from the U.S. more expensive for Chinese livestock farmers.
“China has been trying to auction down its stockpile—the largest in the world—amid the latest step in reforming its agricultural sector: The government this spring scrapped a minimum-price support program for corn started in 2007-08. That program, in which the government bought corn to keep prices above a certain level, had proved so popular that farmers grew more. The stockpile soared, doubling in size between 2009 and now.
“The combination—holding weekly auctions of corn and removing a floor for prices—has driven down China’s corn prices in recent months.”
The Journal article noted that, “Beyond China, the changes are pressuring what last year was a more-than $10 billion imported animal-feed market, much of which originates from the U.S. and has been popular with Chinese livestock farmers because it was cheaper than local corn.
“One such U.S. product in particular could suffer: a byproduct from the making of ethanol known as distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS), more than half of whose sales last year were in China. Now U.S.-produced DDGS must compete with the cheaper Chinese corn. Adding to the pressure, DDGS on Sep. 26 was hit by a 33.8% duty by the Chinese government after the U.S. was cited for dumping the product. The U.S. was then slapped with a second tax of between 10% to 10.7% a week later.”
Ms. Craymer added that, “But China’s corn prices, propped up for so many years, still have a long way to drop before they would start to compare to international ones: The most widely traded corn futures contract on the Chicago Board of Trade this week was around US$137 a metric ton—about 34% less than prices for the most-traded Chinese corn contract.
“The prices of corn vary, naturally, according to whether the corn is from a new harvest or from earlier ones, which usually end up as animal feed or ethanol. But a look at prices on China’s Dalian Commodity Exchange shows how much prices have fallen from when the price-support mechanism was abandoned: Last Friday, the most recently available price in China, the January corn contract closed at 1,392 yuan—about $208—a metric ton. That was down 12% from March 29 when the price floor was removed.
“Adding to pressure on the Chinese government: new corn from the 2016 harvest is now entering the market.”
More specifically, Reuters writers Karl Plume and Tom Polansek reported last month that, “U.S. wheat farmers, struggling to make money as prices sink and global supplies swell, could be the main beneficiaries if Washington wins a case it brought last week against China over an estimated $100 billion in domestic grain market supports.
“On Tuesday, U.S. trade officials said they would file a case at the World Trade Organization (WTO) against China over allegations that aggressive pricing supports prompted Chinese farmers to overproduce corn, wheat and rice, fuelling a global crop glut and depressing world prices.”
The Reuters article noted that, “While the U.S. allegations cover corn and rice as well as wheat, China has already reformed its corn policy and rice exports were never a major part of U.S. agricultural income.”
UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal editorial board indicated in an item posted on Thursday evening (“China’s Corn Mountain“) that, “Corn prices in China fell more than 20% in the past year, the result of Beijing’s decision to cancel a major subsidy program. That’s good news for farmers as well as consumers, but Beijing still wastes money by the bushel keeping prices of other grains high.”
The Journal added that, “Beijing got smart in March and switched to a policy of ‘market-oriented purchase and subsidy.’ The market will set the price of corn, and farmers will receive cash payments based on acreage. The price of corn could fall another 30% to the global level.
“The problem of what to do with a mountain of rotting corn remains. State trading companies plan to export some of it, but the U.S. government estimates that China will have to write off $10 billion of spoiled grain.
“The disastrous corn policy shows again that China hurt itself by listening to the alarmism of Malthusian prophet Lester Brown, who periodically claims that China faces famine. The best way to make Chinese agriculture efficient is to expose it to international competition. Next on the chopping block should be wheat and rice support prices that the U.S. claims cost nearly $100 billion more than World Trade Organization rules allow.”
Bloomberg writers Shruti Singh and Lydia Mulvany reported on Tuesday that, “Cattle ranchers who quickly expanded their herds after a prolonged Texas drought now have become their own worst enemies.
“The industry-wide buildup was the fastest Shelby Horn, a fourth-generation cattleman with a family ranch in Nebraska, had seen in at least 30 years. The result: An explosion of beef on the market and a 30 percent drop in wholesale prices from a record set in May 2015, when supplies were tight after the drought. And with many of the calves still a year or two from slaughter, the industry finds itself with no easy way to adjust.”
The Bloomberg writers explained that, “Beef production will rise 5.2 percent this year and climb a further 3.4 percent in 2017 to a five-year high, the U.S. Department of Agriculture projects. Output is increasing as the cattle, hog and chicken industries expand simultaneously, leaving the nation set for a year of record meat production and declining prices. Consecutive years of bumper grain harvests have also sparked expansion as feed costs fell.”
And yesterday, Bloomberg’s Simon Casey tweeted that, “Hogs hit 13-year low.”
Purdue University ag economist Chris Hurt pointed out earlier this week that, “Lower corn and soybean meal prices this fall will drop estimated costs of production to about $47 to $48 per live hundredweight. With hog prices in the higher $30s this fall and winter, estimated losses will be $25 to $30 per head.”
Meanwhile, with respect to consumer meat preferences, Wall Street Journal writer Jacob Bunge reported earlier this week that, “U.S. food regulators need to take further steps to curb antibiotics use in livestock to maintain the drugs’ ability to defend human health, according to an advocacy group.
“By early next year, animal drugmakers have agreed to abide by U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines to stop using antibiotics used in human medicine to help livestock and poultry gain weight faster. Some antibiotics had been used for that purpose on farms for decades, alongside treating and preventing disease.
“But researchers for the Pew Charitable Trusts said Tuesday in a review of livestock antibiotics that the new guidelines don’t go far enough. The Philadelphia-based group said regulators need to clamp down on how long some antibiotics can be used, and more closely scrutinize some uses that may not directly relate to keeping animals healthy. Pew is a nonpartisan, nonprofit group that researches consumer, environmental and health issues, including a focus on the impacts of large-scale food production.”
Mr. Bunge added that, “Regulators’ efforts to scale back antibiotics use on farms gained momentum as some of the biggest U.S. restaurant chains, including McDonald’s Corp. and Subway, over the past few years announced plans to buy meat produced with less antibiotics.”
Lastly, Kelsey Gee and Heather Haddon reported in today’s Wall Street Journal that, “In grocery store cases stuffed with exotic grass-fed and organic meats, new ‘single-origin‘ cuts are taking the local food craze to new heights.
“Retailers including Whole Foods Market Inc., FreshDirect, and Amazon.com Inc. are building farm-to-store meat operations that sate some consumers’ desires to trace their burger or bacon all the way back to an individual animal.”
Graph from today’s WSJ
The Journal writers explained that, “These efforts take aim at the industrial meat processors like Cargill Inc. and Tyson Foods Inc. that sit at the center of a hub-and-spoke system tying hundreds of thousands of farmers across the country with retailers and food distributors.”
Gee and Haddon added that, “Sales of conventional meat last year grew less than 3% in value, compared with a 12% uptick for meat labeled ‘natural’ and a 23% gain in sales of labeled ‘antibiotic free,’ according to market research firm Nielsen.”
An update last week from University of Missouri Extension indicated that, “The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Sept. 12 crop production report estimates corn production up by 11 percent over last year. USDA predicts 3 percent more soybean this year.
“Crop producers will have more grain to sell at lower prices in 2016. Storage might become tight after this year’s excellent wheat yields, says University of Missouri Extension agricultural engineer Charlie Ellis. Although not as big as 2014, this year’s bumper crop will take longer to haul, dry and store than in past years, Ellis says.”
The update explained that, “Crop cash receipts—the cash income from crop sales—are expected to fall 3.7 percent in 2016 as prices for cash crops continue to decline….[T]hat motivates farmers to hold grain for feeding or a later sale.”
The University of Missouri item added that, “MU Extension offers guides and customized spreadsheets to help farmers make good decisions about storage, says Joe Zulovich, MU Extension agricultural engineering specialist. Charts, spreadsheets and guides are available at extension.missouri.edu/grainstorage.”
“MU economist Ray Massey recommends MU Extension’s ‘Grain Bin & Storage Cost’ decision tool to look at the cost of commercial storage and drying when corn prices are low. Users input information from their operation to help with decision-making in changing agricultural markets. Download the free spreadsheet at bit.ly/2cRbaoK.”
“Yes, we have to get these beans out while the getting is good, but when we get caught up and can get into the corn, prioritize the areas where the stalks are weak. This is one of those seasons when it might not be a question of if you’ll have stalk rot, but rather where and how much. While we like to take advantage of as much field drying as possible, I’ve been in quite a few fields and had calls on many others, where it would be pretty risky leaving the corn out there very long.”
The ISU update added that, “Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Plant Pathologist Alison Robertson recommends the following procedure to assess your fields before harvest:
“- If you are scouting for stalk rot, look for lower stalk discoloration and check stalk firmness by pinching the lower internodes.
“- Simply pinch the stalk between your thumb and fingers. Healthy stalks are firm and won’t compress easily; if a node can be ‘squished’ or if it otherwise feels soft, that means stalk rot has set in and risk of lodging goes up.
“- Instead of this ‘pinch’ test, some agronomists and farmers prefer using the ‘push’ test, but either way works fine.
“- Check at least 100 plants per field; 20 plants in five spots.”
The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas recently released its Quarterly Survey of Agricultural Credit Conditions for the third-quarter of this year, which stated in part that, “Bankers responding to the third-quarter survey continued to report concern for producers’ financial positions due to low commodity prices. Low prices for crops and livestock were the chief concerns among bankers. Farmland conditions varied by region, with most in good shape due to summer rains but some suffered from excessive rain.
“Demand for agricultural loans decreased for a fourth consecutive quarter. Loan renewals and extensions continued to increase as loan repayment rates continued to decline. Overall, the volume of non-real-estate farm loans was lower than a year ago. Operating loans continued to increase year over year; all other loan categories fell in volume year over year in the third quarter.”
The report from the Dallas Fed also indicated that, “District land values increased in the third quarter. Real irrigated land values rose the most, up 7.2 percent over the previous quarter. Real ranchland values were up 6.5 percent, and real dryland values were up 5.6 percent (Figure 2). According to bankers who responded both in third quarter 2016 and in third quarter 2015, ranchland and dryland values increased year over year, while irrigated land values were mostly unchanged from a year ago.
“The anticipated trend in the farmland values index remained negative for a fth consecutive quarter, suggesting respondents expect farmland values to trend down in the upcoming months. Comments from bankers point to poor crop production, low commodity prices and concern about the economy as causing slowing land sales and depressing values. The credit standards index indicated continued tightening of standards (Figure 4).”
Additional comments from District Bankers were also included in the Dallas Fed Survey, including the following:
“- 2016 is shaping up to be financially challenging for ag producers. Low grain and cattle prices will place many producers in a position of large equity losses and partial fixed asset liquidation to remain in business.”
“- Due to weather-related issues and low commodity prices, we are expecting some producers to fall short of paying off operating lines for 2016. There is an increased concern for the upcoming crop year with overall low commodity prices and possibly higher debt carry by producers.”
The Dallas Fed Survey also included this graph related to cash rents:
Joseph Morton reported today at the World-Herald Herald Online that, “The efficiency of modern American farming certainly looks like a success story.
“Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Monday that over the course of his lifetime, the country’s agricultural production has risen 170 percent — all while using 26 percent less land. But the production gains since he was born in 1950 also reduced the number of farmers needed.
“‘The challenge was that our country didn’t ask the question as we were becoming more efficient in production agriculture: What are we going to do with the 22 million families that are no longer farming?’ Vilsack said during an appearance at the National Press Club. ‘How can we create opportunities for them if they so desire to stay in their small community, in their rural area? How can we create job opportunities for their children and grandchildren?‘”
Mr. Morton noted that, “Vilsack’s session with reporters focused on expanding economic opportunities in rural America. He talked up the importance of trade exports, renewable energy sources and bio-based products from textiles to cleaning supplies.”
Today’s World-Herald item added that, “In particular, [Sec. Vilsack] talked about the need to continue supporting renewable fuels and the bio-based industry.
“A new report says that industry contributes $393 billion to the economy, he said, adding that it has helped rural areas recover from the Great Recession by supporting 4.2 million jobs.”
And Christopher Doering reported yesterday at The Des Moines Register Online that, “Iowa is the nation’s No. 1 ethanol producer, but 27th when it comes to creating jobs from the manufacture of bio-based products. California leads the nation with 145,000 bio-based jobs.
“Nearly all of Iowa’s bio-based impact on the state’s economy came from forest products, at $1.5 billion. Smaller contributions came from bio-based chemicals and enzymes.”
Also yesterday, Jack Fitzpatrick reported at the Morning Consult Online that, “In addition to supporting biofuels, Vilsack said the federal government can help rural areas by investing in the community college system, improving high-speed broadband connection.”
The update added that, “Vilsack, who was seen as a possible running mate for Hillary Clinton, was cagey when asked about his political future, whether it includes serving as Clinton’s chief of staff or running for office in his home state of Iowa, where he previously served as governor. Vilsack did say he enjoyed executive positions more than when he served in the Iowa state Senate.
“‘Here’s what I know about myself. I’m an executive. I like to make decisions. I like to implement decisions,’ Vilsack said.”
Kelsey Gee reported on the front page of the Money & Investing section of today’s Wall Street Journal that, “Cattle and hog prices hover near the lowest levels in years as U.S. meatpackers produce the largest volume of meat in history.
“Last week’s 9.2% slide in hog futures on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange was a dramatic turnaround for what was the best-performing commodity market in the first half of this year thanks to strong pork exports to China.”
Ms. Gee noted that, “The buildup has stoked concerns over a glut of meat, poultry and other agricultural products in the U.S. Producers are on track to send a record number of hogs and chickens to slaughter this year, and beef production is rapidly increasing.
“Dairy farmers are spoiling excess milk in their fields as warehouses pile up excess cheese. Also, corn, soybean and wheat growers are preparing for a fourth consecutive year of bumper harvests this fall.
“The U.S. Agriculture Department on Friday pegged the size of the nation’s hog and pig herd on Sept. 1 at 70.851 million head, the largest on record for that time of year. That compared with 69.946 million hogs predicted by a Wall Street Journal survey of analysts.”
USDA-NASS, Quarterly Hogs and Pigs
Today’s Journal article added that, “The figure illustrates how producers responded to lofty prices and profitable margins at the start of the summer by breeding more animals—before a sharp drop in prices to multiyear lows reversed the economics for many farmers.
“The U.S. hog herd is still growing, even as the profit potential for many producers evaporates and export demand begins to cool.”
Also, Boomberg writers Lydia Mulvany and Jen Skerritt reported earlier this week that, “Ham, bacon, ribs, pork loins — if it has to do with pigs, prices are in the doldrums.
“Hog futures were the worst investment in commodities last quarter and in the past year. That’s because there are simply too many pigs. They’re so numerous these days that slaughterhouses will have to add shifts and operate on Saturdays in November and December to process them all into food, according to Will Sawyer, an Atlanta-based vice president for Rabobank International.”
The Bloomberg article added that, “The huge supplies are coming at a time of tepid export demand. China, which more than doubled U.S. pork purchases in the first half of the year, has now put the brakes on buying. Devaluation of the peso also threatens shipments to Mexico, the destination for 40 percent of U.S. hams. Wholesale prices for pork cuts such as ham and ribs are the lowest for this time of year since 2009. Hedge funds are signaling the meat will probably stay cheap, as speculators cut their bets on a hogs rally in four of the past five weeks.”
Meanwhile, Christopher Doering reported recently at The Des Moines Register Online that, “Costs for beef and veal are expected to drop 5 percent, as the industry grapples with too much supply and reduced demand. Pork prices are expected to drop 2.5 percent in 2016.”
Mr. Doering also pointed out that, “But things have changed. Now [Dave Hommel, who raises swine in Grundy County, Iowa, is] receiving 35 cents a pound for his hogs, compared with around $1 per pound two years ago.
“‘There is a fair amount of pain in the livestock industry here in the Midwest,’ [Hommel] said. ‘Our plan is to hunker down. I don’t know how much longer this will last.'”
In part, the FAPRI report stated that, “Net farm income is expected to decline for the third straight year in 2016 and is likely to remain well below recent peaks for the next several years.”
More specifically, the report noted that, “Sharply lower cattle and egg prices contribute to a $23 billion reduction in projected livestock sector receipts in 2016. Crop receipts also decline slightly, as lower prices for corn, wheat and other crops offset the impact of increased production.
“Projected net farm income declines by $10 billion in 2016, as the drop in receipts outweighs reductions in production costs.”
Other highlights of yesterday’s FAPRI update included:
“August USDA reports indicated cropland rental rates and average farm real estate values declined in 2016 after years of sharp increases. Additional declines are projected for 2017‐2019 in response to sharp reductions in crop returns relative to recent peak levels.
“With reduced asset values, the projected ratio of farm debts to assets increases from 12 percent in 2015 to 14 percent in 2019.
“Government farm program outlays peak in fiscal year 2018, when many payments associated with the 2016/17 marketing year are made.”
Table from yesterday’s FAPRI update
Meanwhile, a news release last week from University of Missouri Extension stated that, “The latest USDA cash rental survey shows decreasing rental rates in some areas of Missouri, says University of Missouri Extension agricultural business specialist Joe Koenen.
“USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) released its annual survey Sept. 9. View data on Missouri counties at bit.ly/2dfym0d.
“‘Some of the better crop counties in central and north Missouri showed a decrease in rental rates, reflecting lower crop prices,’ Koenen says. Other counties remain unchanged, and pasture rates held stable or showed slight increases.”
The news release added that, “Low prices and high corn yields will put pressure on rental rates, [Koenen] says. Soybean prices dropped, but not as much as corn prices. A decrease in soybean prices also will likely affect rent prices. ‘How much is still to be determined.’
“Koenen says it is important for landowners and renters to know yields on cropland. Yields and land quality affect what the renter pays.”
Reuters writer Mark Weinraub reported on Friday that, “U.S. wheat supplies ballooned to the biggest in nearly 30 years during the summer months, topping expectations, as a 12 percent jump in production and weak demand on the export market filled storage bins, the government said on Friday.
“The U.S. Agriculture Department also reported corn and soybean stocks as of Sept. 1 at multi-year highs despite record usage of both commodities during the June, July and August time period.”
The article noted that, “Corn stocks were 1.738 billion bushels, the biggest since 2006, and soybean stocks were at a five-year high of 197 million bushels. Analysts were expecting corn stocks of 1.754 billion bushels and soybean stocks of 201 million bushels.”
Also on Friday, in its Small Grains annual summary, USDA indicated that, “All wheat production totaled 2.31 billion bushels in 2016, up 12 percent from the revised 2015 total of 2.06 billion bushels. Area harvested for grain totaled 43.9 million acres, down 7 percent from the previous year. The United States yield is estimated at 52.6 bushels per acre, up 9 bushels from the previous year and represents a new record high. The levels of production and changes from 2015 by type are winter wheat, 1.67 billion bushels, up 22 percent; other spring wheat, 534 million bushels, down 11 percent; and Durum wheat, 104 million bushels, up 24 percent.”
With respect to prices, USDA noted in its monthly Agricultural Prices report late last week that, “The August price for all wheat, at $3.67 per bushel, is down 8 cents from July and $1.17 below August 2015.”
The Ag Prices report added that, “The corn price, at $3.21 per bushel, is down 39 cents from last month and down 47 cents from August 2015.”
And regarding soybean prices, USDA stated that, “The soybean price, at $9.93 per bushel, decreased 27 cents from July but is 22 cents above August a year earlier.
And from the livestock sector, USDA indicated on Friday in its Quarterly Hogs and Pigs report that, “United States inventory of all hogs and pigs on September 1, 2016 was 70.9 million head. This was up 2 percent from September 1, 2015, and up 4 percent from June 1, 2016.”
DTN Executive Editor Marcia Zarley Taylor reported yesterday that, “Farmers know they must weather the lean years to benefit from the occasional fat ones. But erosion in federal crop revenue insurance guarantees since 2013 is compounding the risks for farm operators during this downturn.
“‘In times like this, we aren’t worried about making money. Our goal is to make darn sure we don’t lose too much,’ said Mark Bryant, who raises wheat, corn and soybeans with brother Mike and other family members in Washington Courthouse, Ohio.
“Bryant’s problem is the crop insurance floor keeps falling with commodity prices, exposing his farm to ever bigger losses. Ohio winter wheat producers, who face a 2017 crop insurance sale closing date of Sept. 30, will be guaranteed only $4.74 per bushel next year, down 45% from the same coverage four years ago.”
Ms. Taylor noted that, “Winter wheat isn’t alone. Back in 2013, a typical non-irrigated Kansas corn grower could guarantee about $678 per acre (thanks to a $5.65 base price and 120 bpa historic yield with 80% coverage.) By 2016, that protection had dipped 32% — to a base price of $3.86 and $463 per acre coverage, observed Kansas State University economist Allen Featherstone.
“Sadly, production costs haven’t retreated nearly as far or as fast as prices, leaving farmers to self-insure those revenue gaps.”
The DTN update added that, “Based on futures prices in late September, Featherstone expects that same 80% corn coverage to shrink to only $448 per acre coverage with a $3.73 guarantee in his Kansas example. That’s an additional $230-per-acre operator risk compared to four years earlier.
“Soybeans also have suffered from a similar safety net shrinkage, although they stand to get a small bump upward come spring. Featherstone projects 2017 spring insurance prices at $9.31 for soybeans, down from $12.87 per bushel in 2013 but up from $8.85 per bushel in 2016.”
DTN Graph Courtesy of KSU
Ms. Taylor also pointed out that, “Bryant is exploring private insurance products that will help him boost the floor on coverage. University economists also continue to recommend options like Yield Exclusion (YE), Yield Adjustment (YA) and Trend Adjustment (TA), which may significantly boost a grower’s Actual Production History (APH) and ultimately, their revenue per acre.”
A news release on Tuesday from House Ag Committee member Rick Crawford (R., Ark.) stated that, “Today [Rep. Crawford] introduced H.R. 6167, the Farm Risk Abatement and Mitigation Election (FRAME) Act, to give farmers the option of taking disaster preparedness into their own hands. The FRAME Act would establish tax-deferred farm savings accounts that farmers could then withdraw from during difficult times without waiting on disaster declarations and government assistance.
“In a conversation with the chairman of the Arkansas Bankers Association, Sean Williams, Congressman Crawford discussed the details of the legislation and how it would work in practice, including its impact on rural communities and banks. The video [is available below], and the audio here.”
The news release added that, “Like IRA’s and Health Savings Accounts, Crawford’s proposed FRAME Accounts would allow contributions, capital gains and dividends to be tax-deferred. Farmers would then be able to draw from the FRAME account whenever they needed it to cope with a disaster, independent of government or state designation, which can often be slow in coming.
“To encourage initial investment, farmers will be eligible to write-off FRAME Account contributions on their tax bill. Contributions will be tax deductible up to $50,000 per year, and farmers will retain 10% of their contributions in the form of a tax credit during the first few years after opening the account.”
And Brownfield’s Tom Steever reported yesterday that, “The accounts, said Crawford, are intended for emergency money in lieu of ad hoc disaster payments which he says are harder to come by.
“‘We’re looking at this as a way essentially for farmers to get a little bit of the tax benefit for implementing a risk management strategy that they can utilize at their own discretion, obviously with those safeguards that we talked about before,’ he said, ‘but it puts the taxpayer at no exposure.’
“The Farm Risk Abatement & Mitigation Election – FRAME – Act provides for penalties when the account is used for non-farm related expenditures such as vacations, according to Crawford. Contributions to the accounts, capital gains and dividends, he said, are to be tax-deferred.”
Mr. Steever and Rep. Crawford also discussed the legislation in more detail, an audio replay of their conversation is available here.
Nathan Kauffman indicated in a column posted yesterday at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City Online (“U.S. Farm Economy Slumps into the Fourth Quarter“) that, “In August, expectations for 2016 farm income were revised up modestly from the February forecast, but income was still expected to decline notably from a year ago. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s August revision can be interpreted as both positive and negative for the farm sector. On the positive side, farm income expectations for 2015 and 2016 were revised up by 43 percent and 31 percent, respectively (Chart 1). On the negative side, however, the expected decline in farm income from 2015 to 2016 widened from 3 percent earlier in the year to 11 percent in the most recent report. Essentially, farm income was higher than initially forecasted, but the deterioration from a year ago is now believed to be sharper than expected.”
Dr. Kauffman stated that, “The improvement in farm income expectations was largely due to downward revisionsin production costs for the farm sector as revenue expectations continued to weaken.”
The Fed report added that, “Although U.S. farm income expectations were revised up in August, profit margins for many producers of major U.S. agricultural commodities weakened significantly in the third quarter. In the crop sector, the range of average monthly prices throughout 2016 has left very few opportunities for producers to sell at a profit (Charts 4a, 4b, 4c, 4d). Since 2013, profit margins have dropped precipitously for corn, soybeans, wheat, and cotton, and both wheat and corn prices were hovering at or near 10-year lows in September.”
Yesterday’s report also pointed out that, “The downturn in the agricultural economy has continued to affect credit conditions in the sector. From 2010 to 2014, borrowers had few problems repaying loans. Since 2014, though, bankers in the Tenth Federal Reserve District have consistently reported an increase in the severity of loan repayment problems (Chart 6). As of the second quarter of this year, Tenth District bankers indicated that more than 7 percent of their agricultural loans were experiencing either ‘major’ or ‘severe’ repayment problems, an increase from just 4 percent in 2015.”
And yesterday’s report also noted that, “Bankers in the Kansas City Fed District also continued to point to spillover effects from the softening farm economy to Main Street business activity.”