Grants to help specialty crop growers

U.S. Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan Friday announced $46 million worth of specialty crop grants through USDA’s Specialty Crop Research Initiative.

The Deputy Secretary says the grants – 29 of them in 19 states – will help growers to maintain profitable production of fruits, vegetables and tree nuts.

“These projects will help specialty crop producers with the information and tools they need to successfully grow, process and market safe and high quality products,” Merrigan said during a conference call to reporters Friday morning.

Funded projects address five areas, to improve crops through plant breeding, genetics and genomics; to address threats from pests and diseases; to improve production efficiency, productivity and profitability; to develop new innovations and technologies and to improve food safety.

One of the grants, going to Iowa State University, is for $2 million to develop biorenewable and biodegradable containers as a greener alternative to the petroleum-based pots for specialty crops.

The University of Wisconsin at Madison is getting over $3.75 million to facilitate rapid, efficient development of new potato varieties with reduced acrylamide content.

And the Agricultural Research Service at Madison is getting $1.3 million to address critical cucumber production issues using the genome sequence of cucumber. Specifically they’ll work on making cucumbers resistant to downy mildew and potyviruses.

The Ohio State University is getting $50,000 to host a workshop addressing fruit and vegetable crop injury from herbicide drift.

Group says FTAs push small farms out of business

The National Family Farm Coalition expressing their disappointment with Congress approving those free trade agreements with Panama, Columbia and South Korea. The group says the free trade deals are not fair and are especially hard on small farmers. They say the U.S. has lost 300,000 family farms since NAFTA was approved. NFFC vice president Dena Hoff says “Instead of supporting localized food production and food sovereignty, the plan is to export highly processed foods that simply add to the pockets of transnational corporations.”

DNR taking another look at a 4,200 cow Wisconsin dairy

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources says it is going to take another look at the permit for a proposed 4,200-cow dairy farm in Adams County. The DNR originally ruled Richfield Dairy would not harm groundwater and granted the necessary permit. But a University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point hydro geologist, George Kraft says his analysis shows the farm would draw down the aquifer and reduce levels on nearby streams and a lake.

A spokesman for Milk Source, the company building the dairy says they have given the DNR two other studies which show it will not hurt groundwater.

A week of differing directions for dairy

Cash cheese ended the week at the same price on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange on Friday, barrels lost 4 cents, blocks gained a penny to both close at $1.69. The November Class III contract was down the limit 75-cents for a while but then rebounded half-way to close 36 cents lower.

For the week, cash cheese barrels lost 9.5 cents, blocks fell 7.5 cents while butter gained 6.5 cents per pound. Class III futures the October contract slipped 11 cents, November dropped 85 cents and December fell 17 cents. Most prices are still higher for the month.


The cash cheese market has been going in all-different directions, Dairy Market News says some manufacturers in the Upper Midwest continue to have difficulty getting enough milk to fill orders but at the same time, there just doesn’t seem to be the usual aggressiveness by buyers as we near Thanksgiving and the holidays.

Milk production in the Southwest is steady with some being shipped to the Southeast; Florida imported 98 loads for the week.

The milk production season is off to a strong start in Oceania; reports are production in New Zealand is running 13 percent above year ago levels…although keep in mind production was quite poor a year ago. Australian production is running 1 to 4 percent above last year.

Milk production in western Europe is going strong with reports some countries may be over quota while production in eastern Europe continues to decline.

The July mailbox price for milk in the Federal Orders averaged $21.74 per hundredweight, up 86 cents from June and $5.92 above July of 2010. The highest July price was $24.50 in Florida while the lowest was $19.97 in New Mexico.

Demand supports soybeans

Soybeans were higher on commercial and speculative buying, along with spillover from the outside markets. The dollar was lower while the Dow, gold, and crude oil were higher. Farmer selling is very slow, so the nearby supply remains tight and the trade’s watching South American conditions ahead of widespread planting. Informa Economics now sees 2012 U.S. planting at 77 million acres, up 1.2 million their September estimate. Soybean meal was steady to higher, following beans, and soybean oil was up sharply on the new record palm oil prices. China’s Ministry of Commerce estimates October soybean imports at 4.19 million tons, compared to 4.13 million for September. The National Oilseed Processors Association’s monthly member numbers show the bean crush at 110.313 million bushels, down on the month and year and considerably smaller than expected.

Corn was higher on technical buying and spillover from soybeans and the outsides. Farmer selling is slow and there’s talk of more new demand from China but gains were limited by Wednesday’s USDA supply and demand update. Weekly export sales were larger than expected and shipments were more than what’s needed weekly to meet projections. Informa Economics’ early 2012 planted area estimate has decreased 1.2 million acres from their last guess to 93.1 million. Ethanol futures were mostly higher. According to Dow Jones Newswires, feed mills in East Asia have recently purchased 500,000 tons of new crop corn from India. Ukraine’s Ag Ministry states the domestic corn supply as of October 1 is 3 million tons, with 1.3 million held on the farm.

The wheat complex was higher on short covering, technical buying, and the lower dollar. Weekly export sales were good and the trade’s looking at the possibility for more sales in the coming weeks. Still, the fundamentals remain bearish, especially on the global demand side of the balance sheet. Informa Economics projects 2012 U.S. wheat planting at 57 million acres, up 400,000 from the September estimate. The European Union, via Dow Jones Newswires, sees 2011/12 grain production at 277.4 million tons, which would be down .2% from 2010/11, adding wheat exports should be around 15 million tons, compared to 20.1 million in 2010/11. Also via Dow Jones, Canada’s government is expected to present a law ending the Canadian Wheat Board’s trade monopoly next week, possibly Monday. According to Ukraine’s Ag Ministry, grain stocks at the start of the month were 21.9 million tons, up 23% on the year, with wheat at 13.9 million tons, including 7.5 million in on farm stocks.

The implications of climate change

What are the implications of climate change for farmers in the western Corn Belt?

University of Nebraska professor of climate modeling Dr. Robert Oglesby says models show the Great Plains will be warming by several degrees over the rest of this century—with precipitation staying about the same. 

But Oglesby says a bigger concern for the Great Plains region is predictions for warmer and drier conditions in the West—especially the Rocky Mountains—which could result in much reduced stream flows in the summer months.

“Just the warming alone, if that means more rain and less snow (in the Rockies) in the winter—or another way to look at it, if the mean rain-snow line increases in altitude—you don’t want rain there in the winter, because that just flushes out the rivers out to the Gulf of Mexico, well before it can be used,” says Oglesby.

“If I’m living here in eastern Nebraska, I’m probably more worried about what’s going to happen in the Rockies than I am about the actual climate change that’s going to occur right where I am.”

AUDIO: Robert Oglesby (6:30 MP3)

For Iowa farmers, the challenge could be too much rain at the wrong time. 

“If we look at the changes that have been occurring, and if we project those into the future, we’re likely to see more precipitation in the spring and early summer—we’ve seen a shift in seasonality toward more precipitation the first half of the year,” says Gene Takle, director of the climate science program at Iowa State University. “So that’s going to continue to be a challenge—and getting the crop in is going to be a continued challenge.”

The other big concern, Takle says, will be increases in nighttime temperatures, “which some suggest is going to be a limiting factor in terms of the grain filling, particularly during August.”

AUDIO: Gene Takle (5:17 MP3)

Oglesby and Takle were presenters at a recent climate and water symposium in Lincoln.

Cattle and hog futures end the week in positive territory

Cattle country was dead quiet on Friday afternoon with business done for the week. Show lists are expected to remain quite manageable at least through the end of the month that is good news for producers, but potentially bad news for packers, especially if they continue to have difficulty selling beef higher. Note how they moved to slow chain speed this week in order to improve leverage with retailers. Unfortunately, beef buyers have not yet been convinced to increase their shopping. The weekly cattle kill at 650,000 head is 16,000 less than last week, and down 12,000 from last year.

Boxed beef cutout values were lower on light to moderate demand and moderate to heavy offerings. Choice boxed beef was down 1.00 at 185.00; select was 1.31 lower at 166.98.

Chicago Mercantile Exchange live cattle contracts settled 20 to 85 points higher on technical buying. The market was supported by reports of sharply higher beef exports in August and for the year so far. The lower dollar, the approval of the trade agreement by congress and higher commodity and equity markets also were supportive. October settled .60 higher at 121.65, and December was up .35 at 123.20.

Feeder cattle ended the session 75 to 120 points higher supported by the higher live futures and stronger outside markets. October was up 1.20 at 139.90, and November was .97 higher at 144.42.

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Corn drying decisions

Decisions, decisions, for the past couple of years deciding to let the corn crop dry in the field or run it through the grain dryer was an easy decision, Mother Nature did the job, but this year some growers may be wrestling with what to do.

Barry Ward, Extension ag economist at the Ohio State University says for some the decision will be fairly easy, for others the decision might be a little more difficult. Something to consider Ward says is the amount of dry down we can expect.

“Typically the latter part of October about a half of percent per day, ballpark and then as we get into November about a quarter of a percent per day, so if we use those rules of thumb and some common sense and taking a look to see what the weather is going to be like, we can get some idea of what kind of dry down to expect and whether that’s going to be worth leaving it out there and all the issues of leaving it out there,” said Ward.

Which in a year like the Eastern Corn Belt has had in 2011, Barry Wards says issues like stalk strength becomes an important factor to consider.

Audio: Barry Ward, Extension ag economist, OSU (7:45 MP3)

Iowa Farm Bureau applauds FTA passage

Iowa Farm Bureau is applauding Congressional passage of the free trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Colombia.

The group’s director of research and commodity services, Dave Miller, says the agreement with South Korea will probably have the most direct impact on Iowa farmers.

“South Korea is emerging as a very significant buyer of beef and pork and corn and soybeans—four of the major commodities grown in Iowa,” Miller says.

Miller says Colombia and Panama are also significant purchasers of corn and soybeans—and to a lesser extent, pork and beef. 

According to an economic analysis from the USDA, the three agreements are expected to increase direct exports, from Iowa alone, by 162 million dollars—and add 1,460 jobs.

Closing Grain and Livestock Futures: October 14, 2011

Dec. corn closed at $6.40, up 1 and 3/4 cents
Nov. soybeans closed at $12.70, up 13 cents
Oct. soybean meal closed at $328.40, up $3.20
Oct. soybean oil closed at 53.27, up 100 points
Dec. wheat closed at $6.22 and 3/4, up 4 and 3/4 cents
Oct. live cattle closed at $121.65, up 60 cents
Oct. lean hogs closed at $93.57, up 57 cents
Nov. crude oil closed at $86.80, up $2.57
Dec. cotton closed at 101.94, up 38 points
Oct. Class III milk closed at $17.92, down 2 cents
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 11,644.49, up 166.36 points