Thatcher: specific cuts still unclear

There is $23 billion committed to be cut from federal farm programs over the next decade. American Farm Bureau Farm Policy Specialist Mary Kay Thatcher said it’s unclear which programs will be cut, but she reiterated the importance of maintaining a strong farm safety net.

“One of the most important things to remember is that you write a farm bill for bad times, not for good times,” said Thatcher, in an interview provided by the American Farm Bureau Federation. “While we’re having pretty darn good prices in agriculture for virtually every commodity right now, we know that that will change and when it does change is when we’ll need to make sure that we have a safety net that protects farmers.”

The general thinking is that the bulk of the cuts will come out of commodity programs, and while members of Congress see high commodity prices, Thatcher said what they forget is that high prices mean nothing if there’s no production.

“We need to work on things like crop insurance, like safety nets that would provide protection for people like that,” she said. “2011 is a perfect year to talk about that. We’ve had floods and droughts and hurricanes and more weather disasters this year than any year we can remember for a long time.”

Depending on where the money is cut, Thatcher said there needs to be constructive alternatives for producers.

“If we indeed are eliminating direct payments, I think it makes the crop insurance program an even more important safety net,” said Thatcher. “We need to make sure that we don’t take major cuts in that program and that we come up with a second program that will complement crop insurance and really provide a safety net.”

It’s important to have the ability to grow food and to remain competitive globally, said Thatcher, adding that U.S. farm subsidies are currently much less than the vast majority of other developed countries.

REAP funds for anaerobic digesters in 8 states

U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack announcing funding for anaerobic digester projects in eight states. Funding through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grants can finance up to 25 percent of a project’s cost, not to exceed $500,000 for renewable energy systems, $250,000 for energy efficiency. Among the projects announced Wednesday:

  • Organic Matters, Inc. Bartow, Fla. $201,498 grant
  • AgPower Jerome, LLC Lincoln Co., Idaho $500,000 grant
  • New Energy Two, LLC Middleton, Idaho $500,000 grant
  • New Energy Three LLC Middleton, Idaho $500,000 grant
  • Sioux Pharm Inc. Sioux Center, Iowa $263,250 loan, $263,250 grant
  • Mill Creek Digester, LLC West Unity, Ohio $600,000 loan, $499,924 grant
  • Belmont County Bioenergy, LLC Independence, Ohio $750,000 loan, $500,000 grant
  • Lime Lakes Energy, LLC Norton, Ohio $1.5 million loan, $500,000 grant
  • Wooster Renewable Energy, LLC Wooster, Ohio $750,000 loan, $500,000 grant
  • Ringler Energy, LLC Cardington, Ohio $3,238,750 loan, $500,000 grant
  • Haviland Energy, LLC Paulding Co, Ohio $600,000 loan, $500,000 grant
  • Farm Power Misty Meadow, LLC Tillamook, Ore. $1 million loan, $500,000 grant
  • Farm Power Tillamook, LLC Tillamook, Ore. $2.65 million loan, $100,000 grant
  • Hard Earned Acres, Inc. Shippensburg, Pa. $331,709 grant
  • Reinford-Frymoyer Farm, LLC Mifflintown, Pa $337,224 grant
  • Arlen Benner Mount Joy, Pa. $500,000 grant
  • Jay Clifford Sensenig Lancanster Co., Pa. $309,733 grant
  • Riverview Farm Franklin, Vt. $429,703 loan, $214,851 grant
  • Heller Farms (Cow Poo, LLC) Alma Center, Wis. $1,321,187 loan, $500,000 grant

In Fiscal Year 2011, USDA, through the REAP program, provided nearly $21 million in assistance for biodigesters, and leveraged over $110 million in project development. Through its Value-Added Producer Grant program, USDA provides planning grants of up to $100,000 and working capital grants of up to $300,000 to be used for establishment of a biodigester. Additionally, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) offers financial and technical assistance through the Environmental Quality Incentives (EQIP) program.

Changes proposed to Wisconsin atrazine prohibition maps

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection is making some changes to the atrazine prohibition maps for the state. There is actually no change to the 101 prohibition areas just a change in the maps. Stan Senger with DATCP says over the past 18 years road names have changed, new roads have been added, one road was moved to accommodate construction of an interchange. So, while switching to new mapping software they decided to update all of the maps and because there are changes a public hearing must be held.

The hearing will be November 8, from 3-4 p.m. in Room 266, second floor, DATCP, 2811 Agriculture Drive, Madison. A brief presentation about the updates will take place at 3 p.m., followed by an opportunity for the public to give verbal testimony from 3:20 p.m. to 4 p.m. Written comments will also be accepted by postal mail, email or fax. Send comments to Rick Graham, DATCP, PO Box 8911, Madison WI 57708-8911 or email to or fax to 608-224-4656. All comments are due by November 15, 2011.

You can view the new format of the existing atrazine prohibition area maps here:

NAWG plan supports strong crop insurance

The National Association of Wheat Growers has sent its farm bill priorities to House and Senate Ag leaders. NAWG says it strongly opposes “any reductions to the baseline available for the federal crop insurance program.” They say more than 85 percent of non-irrigated wheat acres planted in the U.S. are covered by crop insurance and they consider federal crop insurance “essential.”

NAWG says any changes to the direct payment program should be done in “a responsible, staged manner.” They ARE in favor of phasing down direct payments over a few years. However, they say the revenue-based programs proposed by other commodity groups would NOT protect wheat growers when there are “large, rapid commodity price declines accompanied by slower input price declines” as in 2009 and ’10.

Vilsack to go to Vietnam and China

Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack says he’s going to Vietnam and China next month to work on strengthening bilateral trade relations and “support the American brand” in the Asia Pacific region. Vilsack said at a policy summit in DC that trading partners in the region recognize the great productivity and highest quality food and ag products from US farmers, ranchers and producers. He says the Obama administration has made expanding market opportunities for American goods a top priority. He pointed to the signing of the three Free Trade Agreements by President Obama last week. Vilsack says “partnerships with growing markets like those in China and Vietnam are integral to the strength of the U.S. economy in the decades ahead.”

Vilsack will make the trip in mid-November and will be the first sitting American Ag Secretary to visit Vietnam.

New American Royal home proposed

Plans have been announced to upgrade Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Missouri – the home of the American Royal – into a state-of-the-art livestock, equine, rodeo and agricultural events center. The American Royal Association and the Kemper family on Tuesday proposed that the arena be razed and a new five-thousand seat facility be built in its place. They say it will save the city money to replace – as opposed to maintaining – Kemper Arena, which was built in 1972. The American Royal Association would hold a fundraising campaign for the new facility that it says will be well suited to Kansas City’s “animal health corridor.” City officials reportedly have not yet signed on with the $70 Million plan.

The American Royal began as a cattle show in the Kansas City Stockyards in 1899.

Grains and oilseeds lower on dollar

Soybeans were lower on fund and technical selling, along with spillover from the outside markets. The dollar was up and crude oil was down sharply ahead of news out of the E.U. debt meeting. Past that – there was no real fresh supportive news and the path of least resistance right now is down. Soybean meal and oil were lower on spillover from beans and the general broader market uncertainty. China’s National Grain and Oils Information Center projects 2011/12 soybean imports at 56 million tons, which would be up 7% from the 2010/11 total. USDA’s weekly export sales report is out Thursday at 7:30 AM Central. Soybeans are pegged at 500,000 to 1 million tons, meal is seen at 75,000 to 250,000 tons, and oil is placed at 5,000 to 15,000 tons.

Corn was lower on technical and fund selling, in addition to the outside market pressure. There was no real new news for corn either and there’s a continued lack of commercial buying interest. At this point, the pit’s waiting for E.U. news and the weekly export sales numbers. Ethanol futures were lower. USDA weekly export sales report is expected to show sales between 600,000 and 900,000 tons, well below the previous week’s total.

The wheat complex was lower on fund and technical selling, along with the higher dollar. The supply and demand fundamentals remain bearish, especially on the global supply side of the ledger. Egypt bought 120,000 tons of wheat from Russia at $243.44 per ton and Kazakhstan increased its export projection for the current marketing year from 10 million to 15 million tons. European wheat was lower on profit taking and the lower U.S. activity. According to Russia’s Ag Ministry, 96% of the expected acreage is harvested with the running total at 95 million tons. The Canadian Wheat Board has filed a lawsuit against Canada’s government in an attempt to keep their control of the western Canada grain export market. Japan issued a sell-buy-sell tender for 90,000 tons of feed wheat and 200,000 tons of feed barley. Australia’s Bureau of Statistics reports wheat stocks at the end of September were 8.3 million tons, down 15% on the month but up 61% on the year. Weekly U.S. wheat sales are estimated at 300,000 to 500,000 tons.

Pumpkins pack powerful nutrients

Pumpkins come in many shapes and sizes but there is definitely a difference between those grown for eating and those grown for displaying, especially in the taste.  Jack-o-lantern type pumpkins are the most popular for carving. This type of pumpkin will likely taste bland if you prepare it for eating Sugar Pie and Sugar Treat pumpkins are among those used for eating. They tend to be smaller and more evenly rounded than their carved out counterparts.

Healthy Living Program – Pumpkin (1:30 mp3)

University of Illinois Extention – Pumpkin Nutrition

Cattle buyer inquiry improved but no sales reported

The cash cattle market was not tested on Wednesday with feedlot managers passing bids of 119.00 to 120.00, 1.00 to 2.00 lower than last week. Asking prices are around 123.00 live and 194.00 dressed. One major was willing to call in at 191.00 to 192.00 in Eastern Nebraska and Western Iowa in the morning, but found no interest from producers at that time. Wednesday’s kill was estimated at 130,000 cattle, the same as last week and last year.

Boxed beef values were firm to higher on moderate to good demand and moderate offerings. Choice boxed beef was .66 higher at 187.45, and select was up .98 at 169.54.

Chicago Mercantile Exchange live cattle contracts settled 50 to 167 points lower. The choppiness of the stock market over the last several days as well as widespread general commodity pressure led the deferred futures moderately lower despite firming fundamental support. The pressure through the summer of next year seems to also indicate concern about long term beef demand, despite expectations of tighter supplies. October settled 12.05 lower at 121.05, and December was down 1.55 at 120.42.

Feeder cattle followed the lead of the live pit and ended mostly lower. The front months received some support from the lower corn futures market. October was up .07 at 139.72, and November was down only .10 at 141.70.

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Stronger dollar could impact meat exports

The U.S. dollar has recently strengthened against most foreign currencies, which makes for a tougher pricing environment for U.S. beef and pork exports.

That’s according to U.S. Meat Export Federation economist Erin Daley Borror. 

“Today, if we compare currencies back to one year ago, we’ve seen an actual appreciation in the Japanese yen and the Chinese renminbi, but recent devaluations in most other import markets—especially Mexico, Korea and Russia, with purchasing power dropping as much as 10 percent for Mexico and smaller devaluations in the other countries,” Daley Borror says.

Daley Borror says that can affect U.S. beef and pork exports both in terms of customer purchasing power, and when priced against the currencies of major competitors such as Brazil, Australia and Canada.

“The Brazilian real has had the most significant drop, trading off about 13 percent from its July values,” she says. “The Australian and Canadian dollars are also weaker than they were during much of this year—but they’re basically steady to higher than they were exactly one year ago.”

But Daley Borror remains confident that U.S. meat exports will post a solid performance through year’s end because global demand remains strong.