Reuters writer Chris Prentice reported on Friday that, “U.S. trade regulators ruled on Friday in favor of investigating allegations that Mexico is dumping cheap sugar in the United States, taking Washington closer to imposing penalties on sweetener imports.
“In a preliminary vote, U.S. International Trade Commission officials found that imports of sugar from Mexico could injure local sugar growers.”
From Bloomberg News, May 8- “Vermont’s new law requiring labeling of genetically modified food products has been decried by agribusinesses as a gateway toward a confusing, commerce-slowing hodgepodge of state laws guaranteed to gum up supply chains and unnecessarily scare consumers. The financial impact of the Vermont law on seed-makers, which the governor plans to sign today ‘would be limited to none in the near-term,’ said Paul Schickler, president of DuPont Pioneer, the biggest maker of seeds after Monsanto Co., in an interview at Bloomberg’s offices Wednesday.”
The Senate Finance Committee considered five executive branch nominees yesterday, including Darci Vetter, who has been nominated to be Chief Agricultural Negotiator at the Office of the United States Trade Representative.
Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) indicated at yesterday’s hearing that, “If confirmed, Ms. Vetter will have the important task of being the lead trade negotiator to take on the tariff and non-tariff barriers that are imposed all over the world on American agriculture exports. The U.S. has an ambitious trade agenda with important agriculture negotiations taking place among the world’s biggest and most dynamic markets. It will be important for the United States to have a skilled hand in these negotiations, and Darci is the right person at the right time.
“Right now, for example, the U.S. is in the middle of important, yet difficult, negotiations with Japan and other Trans Pacific Partnership [TPP] participants regarding America’s most important agricultural crops: wheat, dairy, poultry. We will be relying on Darci to push for the comprehensive and ambitious outcome that our farmers and producers expect and our economy needs.”
In light of this week’s executive branch report on climate change, and the noted emphasis on Farm Bill programs that will be key policy variables in protecting the soil from erosion, DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton reported yesterday that “emphasis on various conservation programs” was “one theme” at yesterday’s Ag Committee hearing.
More specifically, Mr. Clayton indicated that, “[Chairwoman Stabenow] asked Vilsack about the Regional Conservation Partnership Program. ‘This is probably one of the most understated policies in the 2014 farm bill. It has the potential really to transform the face and the future of agricultural stewardship,’ Stabenow said.
“The partnerships are expected to leverage local and private money to broaden conservation efforts. Vilsack said USDA has started a series of listening sessions about the regional partnerships program. The department plans to identify the critical areas that would be eligible for the regional partnerships. Vilsack also said USDA wants to get the program launched in time to highlight the issues of bringing investment capital to rural America as part of the White House Rural Council.”
Justin Gillis reported in today’s New York Times that, “The effects of human-induced climate change are being felt in every corner of the United States, scientists reported Tuesday, with water growing scarcer in dry regions, torrential rains increasing in wet regions, heat waves becoming more common and more severe, wildfires growing worse, and forests dying under assault from heat-loving insects.
“Such sweeping changes have been caused by an average warming of less than 2 degrees Fahrenheit over most land areas of the country in the past century, the scientists found. If greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane continue to escalate at a rapid pace, they said, the warming could conceivably exceed 10 degrees by the end of this century.”
From USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS), May 6- “Positive grower returns have supported the expansion of U.S. corn area since the late 2000s. Returns to corn production—the value above total economic costs that include opportunity costs of land, labor, and other owned resources—have been positive since 2007. Returns reached a high of $224 per planted acre in 2011 before declining to $48 in 2013. With economic profit available from corn production, planted corn acres increased nearly 25 percent nationally from about 78 million in 2006 to a record of more than 97 million in 2012. In 2013, however, lower corn price expectations pushed down planted area, and lower corn prices, along with higher land costs, reduced returns to corn production. From 1997 to 2006, economic returns to corn production had been negative, averaging -$74 per planted acre. During this time, planted corn acreage was relatively stable between about 75 and 80 million acres. This chart is based on data found in Commodity Costs and Returns and the Feed Grains Database.”
An Amber Wavesupdate yesterday (USDA- Economic Research Service (ERS)) stated that, “The Agricultural Act of 2014, also known as the 2014 Farm Act or Farm Bill, continues a strong overall commitment to conservation. However, unlike the previous two Farm Acts passed by Congress in 2002 and 2008, the 2014 Farm Act does not include an increase in overall funding for conservation programs. Between 2014 and 2018, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates mandatory conservation spending of $28 billion, about $200 million less than CBO’s projection of 2014-18 spending if the programs and provisions of the 2008 Farm Act had been extended. Although most conservation programs receive ‘mandatory’ funding (funding that is required by law and does not require an annual appropriation), the funding levels are not guaranteed and could be revised in future years [related graph].”
The Amber Waves update noted that, “The trend toward greater funding for working land programs recognizes that agri-environmental problems cannot be addressed entirely through land retirement. Land retirement programs, even at peak acreage, included roughly 10 percent of U.S. cropland. Soil erosion, nutrient and pesticide runoff, and other resource concerns require a broader approach involving a larger share of agricultural land. USDA data shows that by the end of 2013, more than 280 million acres of agricultural land (including grazing land and other non-cropland) had been enrolled in a USDA working land program at some time. Policy-makers also recognized that conservation practices on working land could often address these issues at a lower cost when compared to land retirement [related graph].”
Mikkel Pates reported on Friday at Agweek Online that, “The U.S. Department of Agriculture isn’t likely to announce the fine points of the farm bill commodity title any time soon, two key congressional staffers said.
“Because the payment options are decoupled from planting decisions, the programs farmers choose won’t have bearing for 2014 planting. Bart Fischer, chief economist for the Republican-led U.S. House Agriculture Committee, and Matt Schertz, senior professional staff member, spoke to about 150 people in a two-hour ‘farm bill implementation seminar’ in Fargo, N.D., on May 2. The seminar was organized by U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D.
“The two largely discussed the evolution of the farm bill and spent the last 20 minutes of the meeting discussing implementation. Cramer said farmers and their advisers need to know how to make decisions with multi-year consequences under the farm bill, which took four years to create and was signed into law on Feb. 7.”
From USDA’s Economic Research Service, May 2- “Piglet losses from Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea (PEDv) have reduced USDA’s forecast for 2014 pork production and sparked a recent increase in U.S. hog prices. The 2014 winter pig crop—which will be slaughtered in the summer of 2014—was almost 3 percent lower than a year ago due to pre-weaned piglet deaths associated with PEDv. The impact of the piglet losses on total 2014 pork production and prices is expected to be reduced as producers adjust to the changing market conditions. While fewer hogs will be available for slaughter this year, producers are expected to increase slaughter weights in response to the year-over-year rise in hog prices, lower feed costs, and the excess barn space resulting from fewer hogs moving through the production chain. Average dressed hog weights for 2014 are expected to rise by almost 5 pounds above those in 2013, partially offsetting lower slaughter numbers, limiting the annual production decline to about 2 percent compared with 2013, and leading to some easing of hog prices later in 2014. This chart is based on data in Livestock and Meat Domestic Data, with additional analysis in Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook: April 2014.”
David Rogers reported yesterday at Politico that, “After years of trying, the potato lobby may have found the votes to break into the government’s premier nutrition program for pregnant mothers and their infants.
“Prominent members of both parties have signed onto an industry-backed letter circulating this week in the Senate, and nutrition groups are clearly alarmed after successfully blocking the powerful lobby in final talks on the farm bill last winter.
“If successful, the industry will gain what it sees as an important marketing tool. But critics charge that the end result will open the door to more special interests and violate a long-standing commitment by Congress to let independent scientists decide what foods are most needed.”
Agricultural Economy: House Ag Livestock Subcommittee Hearing- PEDv, Drought
DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton reported yesterday that, “Animal-health experts at USDAdon’t know how they are going to implement a plan to require pork producers to report cases of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus or track movements of animals in herds with the infection.
“Two weeks ago, the department announced new plans to tighten biosecurity and reduce the spread of PED that was first reported in the country nearly a year ago. Since that time, the pork industry has raised a lot of questions about just how USDA intends to implement such a plan. USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service doesn’t yet have a strategy to track the movement of hogs from infected herds without putting an undue burden on pork producers nationally.”
A news release yesterday from the House Ag Committee stated that, “Rep. Austin Scott, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Horticulture, Research, Biotechnology and Foreign Agriculture, today held a public hearing to review current research and application of management strategies to control pests and diseases of pollinators.
“Approximately a third of global food production is dependent on animal pollination for reproduction, and managed honey bees are the most important pollinators of those crops. Some regions of the world have increasingly lost their managed honey bee colonies in recent years. Reports of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) surfaced in the United States in 2006. Colony losses are not unusual, but the increase in losses reported in the U.S., some European countries, the Middle East, and Japan are particularly alarming because of the honey bees’ role in pollination and the absence of an easily identifiable cause.”
From The Wall Street Journal, April 29, “Were the recent trade talks between President Obama and Shinzo Abe a wasted opportunity? Japanese economist Heizo Takenaka shares his thoughts with WSJ’s John Bussey.”
A recent news article in The Great Falls Tribune (Mont.) reported that U.S. cattle producers are poised for a record year of profitability. Small cattle numbers and increasing export demand have contributed to robust economic variables in the U.S. cattle market. Nonetheless, drought in the corn belt and other unknowns, could potentially stymie the cattle outlook. And Reuters news recently reported that, “In the midst of the worst California drought in decades, the grass is stunted and some creeks are dry. Ranchers in the Golden State are loading tens of thousands of heifers and steers onto trucks and hauling them eastward to Nevada, Texas, Nebraska and beyond.”
DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton reported yesterday (link requires subscription) that, “Virginia apple grower Phil Glaize joined U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Monday in demanding Congress finish its work on immigration reform.
“Glaize and his family have been in the apple-growing business for 70 years near Winchester, Va., and he has testified on Capitol Hill about the problems trying to find seasonal workers. Like a high percentage of fruit and vegetable growers, Glaize’s main working season is harvest time, when he needs 115 workers for about two-and-a-half months. Another 50 employees work nine months of the year in the packinghouse and another 15 people are employed year-round. About 75% of all people who apply for jobs are Latino, Glaize said. He noted his farm does I-9 verification on all applicants, ‘However, my suspicion is that some of the workers are here illegally.’
“Glaize and Vilsack held a press call Monday as the Obama administration keeps pushing the House of Representatives to take up an immigration reform measure.”