The U.S. Drought Monitor indicated this week that drought conditions persist in California and are worsening in parts of Kansas and Oklahoma. Bloomberg news reported today that the drought conditions coupled with freezing temperatures earlier in the year have been a “double-whammy” for wheat producers. The adverse weather conditions have contributed to rising prices for consumers.
Rep. Adrian Smith (R-NE) questions U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman about what the Administration is doing to address non-tariff trade barriers in China, Japan, Canada, and in future trade agreements. This exchange took place today at a House Ways and Means Committee hearing on trade.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) released its monthly Food Price Index today. The index was up for the second month in a row. FAO Economist Michael Griffin explains some of the details of today’s report.
Farm broadcaster Don Wick, of the Red River Farm Network, interviewed Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack yesterday where the discussion focused on the Farm Bill. An unofficial FarmPolicy.comtranscript of yesterday’s interview is available here, while an audio replay can be heard here.
Mr. Wick asked Sec. Vilack about recent Farm Bill stakeholder meetings and what was gleaned from the discussions. Sec. Vilsack noted that, “I think what we learned was, number one, people are anxious to get this implemented, and number two, that we have correctly identified the first thing that needs to get done, which is disaster assistance for our livestock producers, and number three, that producers are very anxious to get information about the other choices that they’re going to have to make in terms of crop insurance coverages and in terms of the safety net programs, which is why our focus, after we get the livestock disaster assistance programs up and going on or before April 15th so people can make application for the resources they need for losses they incurred in 2011, ’12 and ’13, we’re going to focus our attention on getting the informational materials out to folks across the country so that they can begin familiarizing themselves with the programs and begin making informed decisions about what they need to do.”
Teresa Watanabe reported on the front page of today’s Los Angeles Times that, “It’s lunchtime at Washington Preparatory High School in Los Angeles, but 16-year-old Parrish Jackson has barely touched her turkey burger and apricots.
“She’s dumping them into the trash can.”
The article added that, “And so it goes on hundreds of campuses in Los Angeles Unified, the nation’s second-largest school system, which serves 650,000 meals a day. Students throw out at least $100,000 worth of food a day — and probably far more, according to estimates by David Binkle, the district’s food services director. That amounts to $18 million a year — based on a conservative estimate of 10% food waste — which Binkle says would be far better spent on higher-quality items, such as strawberries or watermelon.”
Ed O’Keefe reported in today’s Washington Post that, “House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) introduced a budget proposal Tuesday that would cut more than $5 trillion in federal spending over the next decade, primarily by effectively repealing President Obama’s signature health-care law and greatly reducing funding for social programs.”
The Post article noted that, “Congress approved a bipartisan two-year budget agreement late last year, but Ryan said he drafted a separate proposal because the current plan ‘is nowhere near what we need’ to cut spending.”
Mr. O’Keefe added that, “But any fighting between Democrats and Republicans on spending will not result in the deadline-driven fiscal crises of recent years. Although the GOP-controlled House is expected to debate and pass Ryan’s plan, it will serve only as a political show vote because Democrats, who control the Senate, do not plan to propose or vote on a budget plan.”
A news release yesterday from USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) indicated that, “Producers surveyed across the United States intend to plant an estimated 81.5 million acres of soybeans in 2014, up 6 percent from last year and an all-time record high, according to the Prospective Plantings report released today by [NASS]. If realized, soybeans will surpass the previous record of 77.5 million acres planted in the United States set in 2009.”
The release added that, “Corn growers intend to plant 91.7 million acres in 2014, down 4 percent from last year and if realized the lowest planted acreage since 2010. Expected returns for corn are anticipated to be lower in 2014 compared with recent years [related graph].”
USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service released its Quarterly Hogs and Pigs estimates on Friday. As U.S. pig numbers declined to the lowest levels in seven years, concern about the PED virus is capturing the attention of USDA’s Chief Economist Joe Glauber.
Climate Issues- White House Proposal, and Farm Bill Issues
Justin Gillis reported on the front page of today’s New York Times that, “Climate change is already having sweeping effects on every continent and throughout the world’s oceans, scientists reported Monday, and they warned that the problem is likely to grow substantially worse unless greenhouse emissions are brought under control.
“The report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations group that periodically summarizes climate science, concluded that ice caps are melting, sea ice in the Arctic is collapsing, water supplies are coming under stress, heat waves and heavy rains are intensifying, coral reefs are dying, and fish and many other creatures are migrating toward the poles or in some cases going extinct.”
Chapter Seven of the report, which is available here, is titled, “Food Security & Food Production Systems.”
USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service released its monthly Agricultural Prices report on Friday. Some commodity prices, like corn (graph) and soybeans (graph) have decreased over the past year, while some livestock related prices, like cattle (graph) and milk (graph), have been on the rise.
The livestock sector has benefited from these trends as production input costs for feed have decreased, while prices received for many livestock related products have increased.
From USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS), March 28.
Family farms—whether using the ERS definition based on majority ownership of the farm business or the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) definition based on the predominance of family-supplied labor—account for a large share of U.S. agricultural production. However, their relative production within commodity groups varies. Family farms were particularly important in the production of major field crops (corn, cotton, soybeans, and wheat), where they accounted for 62-96 percent of U.S. production in 2011, and in hogs, poultry, and eggs, where they accounted for 68-96 percent of production. Family farm production shares are lower in every major commodity category when focusing on the share of farms where the principal operator and spouse provide most of the labor used on the farm (the FAO standard). Large farms, often family owned but heavily reliant on hired farm labor and contract service providers, account for a large share of U.S. production, particularly in high-valued crops (fruit, nuts, vegetables, and nursery) and dairy. For example, family-owned and operated farms account for 75 percent of dairy production, but the operator and spouse usually provide less than half the labor on those farms. This chart can be found in “Family Farming in the United States” in the March 2014 Amber Waves.
From The Des Moines Register, March 28- The value of Iowa cropland fell 5.4 percent in the past six months. Kyle Hansen, president of the Iowa Realtors Land Institute, explains why that may not be a bad thing.
The Wall Street Journal provided interesting coverage of recent U.S. Census data relating to Rural population declines— and growth. While some areas of the Midwest are experiencing population declines, areas in the Great Plains, such as North Dakota and Texas have seen populations rise.
Mr. Adams queried on the radio program yesterday: “What is the biggest challenge, when you’re looking at that commodity title and you say it’s going to take the rest of this year, what is the biggest hurdle you have to overcome to get that thing going?”
Dep. Sec. Hardin indicated that, “It is complicated. And because it does lock in producers for the life of the farm bill, we want to make sure that they can make decisions that is right for them. A lot of changes. There are IT changes, you know, getting our systems up-to-date and making the changes, training our personnel, making sure we’re communicating with producers so that they have the information to make informed decisions. There’s a lot of steps in this process. We’re going to make sure we take each step and do it right so producers can make good decisions and not just a quick decision.”