FarmPolicy

September 3, 2014

Farm Bill; Ag Economy; and, Political Notes

Farm Bill

Neil Shah reported in today’s Wall Street Journal that, “After soaring in the years since the recession, use of food stamps, one of the federal government’s biggest social-welfare programs, is beginning to decline.

“There were 46.2 million Americans on food stamps in May, the latest data available, down 1.6 million from a record 47.8 million in December 2012. Some 14.8% of the U.S. population is on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, down from 15.3% last August, U.S. Department of Agriculture data show.

Food-stamp use remains high, historically speaking. The share of Americans on the benefit—which lets them buy basics like cereal and meat and treats like cookies, but not tobacco, alcohol or pet food—is above the 8% to 11% that prevailed before the financial crisis.”

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Ag Economy; Policy Issues; Immigration; Climate; and, Political Notes

Agricultural Economy

Tom Meersman reported over the weekend at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune Online that, “The prospect of a bin-busting crop has driven corn prices to their lowest levels in four years and raised fears of a prolonged slump for crop farmers in Minnesota and elsewhere.

“After three years of profits, analysts are calling 2014 a break-even year, at best. Some think prices could drop more and stay low into 2015.”

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

Farm Bill- Policy Issues

Chris Clayton reported yesterday at DTN that, “Dairy farmers can sign up for the new federal Dairy Margin Protection Program starting Tuesday, Sept. 2.

“The Market Protection Program is an insurance option for dairy farmers that is being run through the Farm Service Agency. The Margin Protection Program will pay indemnities to farmers when the difference between the price of milk and feed costs falls below a coverage level selected by the farmer.

“Enrollment begins Tuesday and will run until Nov. 28 for the 2014 and 2015 calendar years.”

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Ag Economy; Farm Bill; Political Notes (Farm Bill); Climate; and, Regs

Agricultural Economy

Yesterday, USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) updated its 2014 Farm Sector Income Forecast, which stated that, “Net farm income is forecast to be $113.2 billion in 2014, down 13.8 percent from 2013’s forecast of $131.3 billion. If realized, the 2014 forecast would be the lowest since 2010, but would still remain more than $25 billion above the previous 10-year annual average. After adjusting for inflation, 2013’s net farm income is expected to be the highest since 1973; the 2014 net farm income forecast would be the fifth highest [related graph].

ERS noted that, “The annual value of U.S. crop production is expected to decline 10.6 percent in 2014 from 2013’s predicted all-time high. Expected declines in cash receipts are especially large for feed crops such as corn. Corn receipts are expected to experience the largest dollar decline in 2014 receipts among farm commodity categories…Declines in soybean receipts are anticipated as higher production and quantities sold are more than offset by large price declines (11.3 percent) [related graph].”

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Ag Economy; Rural America; Farm Bill; and, Biotech

Agricultural Economy

An update yesterday from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis stated that, “Farm incomes fell from April through June, according to results of the Minneapolis Fed’s second-quarter (July) agricultural credit conditions survey. Capital spending decreased, while household spending held roughly steady, lenders responding to the survey indicated. Falling incomes pushed the rate of loan repayment down slightly, while renewals and extensions increased, though most lenders reported that both were flat. Respondents noted further signs that cropland values were moderating, with prices falling in some areas, though the volume of land sales appears to have decreased. The third-quarter outlook is for continued contraction, with survey respondents predicting further decreases in income, capital expenditure and household spending.”

Yesterday’s update added that, “Recent quarterly surveys have indicated that land prices have moderated following a multiyear period of strong growth, and the second-quarter results continue this trend; values decreased in some cases, along with cash rents. The average value for nonirrigated cropland in the district fell by almost 2 percent from a year earlier, according to survey respondents. Irrigated land fell slightly more (between 2 percent and 3 percent), while ranchland values increased 4 percent, likely owing to strong livestock and dairy prices. The district average cash rent for nonirrigated land fell 6 percent from a year ago, more than the decrease in value. Rents for irrigated land decreased 4 percent, while ranchland rents, which had continued growing in recent quarters, fell by nearly 2 percent.”

The Minneapolis Fed update also noted that, “Not surprisingly, expectations are slightly pessimistic, on balance. Across the district, 52 percent of lenders predicted that farm income will decrease in the third quarter of 2014, compared with 12 percent forecasting increases.”

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

Agricultural Economy

AP writer David Pitt reported on Saturday that, “In an interview Friday with The Associated Press, U.S Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack gave his views on topics ranging from low commodity prices this year to dysfunction in Washington and his future.

“Vilsack spoke after touring Iowa Choice Harvest, a Marshalltown company that processes Iowa-grown food.”

Excerpts from the AP “Q and A” article included: “With corn and soybean prices largely below the cost of production are you concerned about farm profitability?

“Many farmers throughout the United States have forward contracts where they’re going to get paid maybe $4 or $5 for a bushel of corn, maybe $13 or $14 for a bushel of soybeans so I think you have to be careful not to conclude that because prices have come down that there isn’t going to be profitability in agriculture.

You also have to recognize as these prices have come down it has created opportunities for other producers, livestock producers in particular, who have been challenged over the course of the last many years with high feed costs now see their cost of doing business coming down. They’re looking at record prices for beef and for pork and we’re also seeing an expanded export market.

Also, that’s precisely the reason we have a farm bill. It creates the safety net that if the prices come down below the price of doing business we have mechanisms in place to ensure that folks can still stay in business.”

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Policy Issues; Ag Economy; Biotech, and, Political Notes

Policy Issues

Nirmala Menon reported yesterday at The Wall Street Journal Online that, “The U.S. has lost a key round at the World Trade Organization in a trade dispute with Canada and Mexico over meat labeling, according to people familiar with the WTO’s findings.

Canada and Mexico opposed a new U.S. rule that requires more information on labels about the origins of beef, pork and other meats, which went into effect in November. They took their case to the WTO, saying the rule hurts their competitiveness. The WTO panel that heard oral arguments in the dispute over the so-called country-of-origin labeling rule earlier this year has decided in favor of Canada and Mexico, according to sources familiar with the panel’s confidential report.

“The report, which the three governments have received, is expected to be made public in late September or early October, these sources said.”

The Journal article noted that, “The U.S. Department of Agriculture issued the new rule after a WTO finding in 2012 that an earlier version was discriminatory. But Canada and Mexico said the amended rule was even more onerous, and limited exports of cattle and hogs into the U.S from their countries. The animals end up being sold at a discount to those from the U.S., they said.”

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

Agricultural Economy

Jesse Newman reported in today’s Wall Street Journal that, “Two visitors on an annual Midwest crop tour here [McLean County, Il] this week quickly found themselves enveloped by 10-foot-high stalks of corn, an up-close view of what some think could be an even-larger U.S. crop than the record harvest projected by federal forecasters.”

The article noted that, “So far, estimates of corn yields from states on the closely watched Pro Farmer tour mostly have exceeded U.S. Agriculture Department estimates [graph], adding further pressure to corn prices that have dropped 15% this year and are trading near four-year lows [graph]. Tour findings also indicate that much of the nation’s soybean crop, also expected to reach a record this year, is in good health as it undergoes its main growth stage.

Corn futures for September delivery, the front-month contract, fell three cents, or 0.8%, to $3.595 a bushel Wednesday on the Chicago Board of Trade. Prices are off 1.7% so far this week.”

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Ag Economy; Policy Issues; Regs; and, Political Notes

Agricultural Economy

Jesse Newman reported yesterday at The Wall Street Journal Online that, “Indiana’s soybean crop will outpace last year’s production, according to an average of survey results collected in the state by scouts on a closely watched crop tour.

“Soybeans will come in at 1220.79 pods per 3-foot square, above the state’s three-year average of 1118.65 pods and 3% higher than the crop tour’s 2013 average of 1185.14 pods.”

Ms. Newman indicated that, “The U.S. Department of Agriculture earlier this month pegged the nation’s soybean crop at a record 3.82 billion bushels, by far the largest farmers in the U.S. have ever seen.”

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Farm Bill; Ag Economy; and, Regulations

Farm Bill

DTN Executive Editor Marcia Zarley Taylor reported yesterday at the Minding Ag’s Business blog that, “Great Plains wheat growers were howling over USDA’s decision to postpone a big promise in the 2014 farm bill, as DTN’s Chris Clayton and Jerry Hagstrom reported last week (see ‘Vilsack Resists APH Update’).

“Growers victimized by years of severe Great Plains drought had fought for a provision to update their crop insurance Actual Production History, or APH, to exclude years in which county yields fell more than 50% below the 10-year average. Under such dire countywide conditions, growers were supposed to be able to delete their own low performance year from their APH history and divide their averages by nine. This was a way for grain producers with near zero yields to retain some semblance of insurance coverage, but prevent fraud since the county would need to suffer a disaster before an individual could erase low yields. Growers in adjacent counties would also be eligible for yield forgiveness.”

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Ag Economy; Policy Issues; and, Regulations

Agricultural Economy- USDA Reports

Yesterday’s Crop Production report from the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) noted that, “Corn production is forecast at 14.0 billion bushels, up 1 percent from 2013. Based on conditions as of August 1, yields are expected to average 167.4 bushels per acre, up 8.6 bushels from 2013. If realized, this will be the highest yield and production on record for the United States [related graph].”

The report added that, “Soybean production is forecast at a record 3.82 billion bushels, up 16 percent from last year. Based on August 1 conditions, yields are expected to average a record high 45.4 bushels per acre, up 2.1 bushels from last year. Area for harvest in the United States is forecast at a record 84.1 million acres, unchanged from June but up 11 percent from last year [related graph].”

Incorporating the NASS production estimates, the World Agricultural Outlook Board yesterday also released its monthly World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report.

A summary of key variables for corn from yesterday’s WASDE report is available here, while a soybean summary can be found here.

The WASDE update noted that, “The projected season-average farm price for corn is lowered 10 cents at both ends of the range to $3.55 to $4.25 per bushel…[and]… The U.S. season-average soybean price for 2014/15 is forecast at $9.35 to $11.35 per bushel, down 15 cents on both ends.”

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Ag Economy; Regulations; Biotech; and, Policy Issues

Agricultural Economy

Tony C. Dreibus reported in today’s Wall Street Journal that, “Corn futures rallied on Monday as investors who had bet on lower prices bought back contracts and closed positions ahead of a government report on Tuesday.

Analysts surveyed by The Wall Street Journal said the U.S. Department of Agriculture will peg corn production at 14.2 billion bushels on yields of 170 bushels an acre, both records, in a monthly supply-and-demand report set for release at noon on Tuesday.

About three-fourths of the U.S. corn crop was in good or excellent shape as of Sunday, according to the USDA, due to rainy, cool weather through most of the growing season.”

Today’s article noted that, “Corn futures for September delivery, the front-month contract, gained five cents, or 1.4%, to $3.56 ¾ a bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade, the first increase in three sessions. December futures, the most-active by volume, rose 4¾ cents, or 1.3%, to $3.68¼ a bushel on the CBOT.”

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Trade Issues; Ag Economy; Farm Bill; Biotech; Rural America; and, Regs

Trade Issues

Paul Sonne and Anton Troianovski reported in today’s Wall Street Journal that, “Russia banned imports of a wide range of U.S. and European foods on Thursday in response to Western sanctions, confronting Russians with a type of economic isolation largely unseen since the Soviet era.

“Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev outlined the products subject to the one-year ban—beef, pork, poultry, fish, fruit, vegetables, cheese, milk and other dairy products from the U.S., Canada, the European Union, Norway and Australia—in a radical response to penalties imposed on Russia over the crisis in Ukraine.”

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Trade Issues; Farm Bill; Ag Economy; Biotech; Regs; and, Biofuels

Trade Issues

Gregory L. White and Laurence Norman reported in today’s Wall Street Journal that, “Russian President Vladimir Putin fired back at Western sanctions on Wednesday, ordering bans on imports of food and other products from the nations that imposed the restrictions, in the latest sign of Kremlin defiance of efforts to force an end to its support for separatists fighting in Ukraine.”

Today’s article explained that, “Several waves of Western sanctions, including last week’s that affected entire sectors such as finance, oil and defense, have helped tip Russia’s slowing economy toward recession and fueled capital flight. But the Kremlin has shown no sign of changing direction. Russian officials said Wednesday they planned to step up food imports from Brazil and other countries that hadn’t joined the sanctions.

“Mr. Putin spelled out his retaliatory measures on Wednesday in a presidential decree ordering partial or complete bans lasting one year on a range of food and farm products, as well as raw materials, from countries that imposed sanctions, including the U.S., the European Union, Japan and Australia. RIA Novosti, the state news agency, quoted a Russian official saying all U.S. agricultural imports and that all EU fruits and vegetables would be banned.

“A final list of banned products is expected to be released in coming days. A Russian official familiar with the plans said they would cover some fruits, vegetables, dairy products and cheese, as well as liquor, meat and poultry.”

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Farm Bill; Ag Economy; Regulations; and, Africa Issues

Farm Bill- Policy Issues

The “Washington Insider” section of DTN reported yesterday (link requires subscription) that, “House Agriculture Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., continues to complain that USDA is not implementing a provision in the 2014 farm bill that would give drought-stricken Southern Plains farmers a break on their crop insurance. This is important for winter wheat producers in Oklahoma who will begin planting the 2015 crop in earnest in September.

“The farm bill, signed into law in February, would allow farmers to boost their actual production history, or APH, by excluding years in which their yields are more than 50 percent below the 10-year average for their county. While USDA officials earlier notified Lucas they will delay implementation due to other pressing matters, Lucas said he has urged them to allow the APH adjustments on a regional basis or for a single crop.”

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Ag Economy; Farm Bill; Regulations; Immigration; and, Africa Issues

Agricultural Economy

Purdue University agricultural economist Chris Hurt indicated yesterday at the farmdoc daily blog (“Where Will Beef Cows Expand?”) that, “It is getting to be a well repeated story. Beef cow numbers are at their lowest level since 1962. Cattle and feeder cattle prices are at record highs and feed prices have dropped. Beef consumers continue to eat beef and are rewarding the beef industry with very profitable returns. So when are beef producers going to expand the breeding herd and in what regions of the country will that occur?

“To answer those questions we first look at the areas of the country that had the biggest reductions in beef cow numbers due to drought, high feed prices, and financial losses. Since 2007, beef cow numbers dropped by 12 percent totaling 3.8 million head. The biggest declines were in the region with the most cows-the Southern Plains- which accounted for 1.6 million of the decline. Texas, the big beef cow state, had a reduction of 1.4 million head, an astonishing 36 percent of the nation’s total decline. That region’s expansion opportunities are very mixed due to lingering drought. About one-third of Texas remains in the three highest drought categories, D2-D4. Importantly, parts of cow-dense eastern Texas are now out of drought and the National Weather Service is forecasting some continued drought abatement by this fall for the region. In conclusion, lingering drought in the Southern Plains will tend to mean a slow expansion there.

“The second most important region for beef cows is the Southeast, which had an 822,000 head beef cow reduction since 2007, or 21 percent of the nation’s total. The biggest reductions were in Tennessee and Kentucky and accounted for 59 percent of the region’s decline. The Southeast is generally in good shape for pastures as the impacts of the 2012 drought have passed.”

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