Taking a balanced approach to 2013

The drought has presented challenges for all aspects of the agriculture industry.  If you ask Bluffton, Ind. based Bryan Smith, District Sales Manager for Seed Consultants, the question he hears most often from farmers is: “Will there be enough seed this year?”.

“The past two years have been challenging for everyone,” he says.  “Some companies lost seed production and then there wasn’t carry-over seed.  So across the industry there is a shortage.  For those that may not have their seed confirmed – they need to do that immediately.”

In planning for the 2013 growing season – Smith says farmer should take a balanced approach.  “If we looked at this year – and based decisions solely off of this year – I would tell my guys to plant late and to plant late maturing hybrids,” he says.  “BUT we know it is going to change next year.  I would tell everyone to just continue a balanced approach and to spread risk between different hybrids.” 

The biggest thing, Smith says, is putting the right genetics on the right the ground.

AUDIO: Bryan Smith, Seed Consultants (3:37mp3)

Continuing to assess Wisconsin’s drought

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker sat down with representatives of ag producer groups, local government associations, and environmental groups, Ag Secretary Ben Brancel, Emergency Management Director Greg Engle, FSA Executive Director Brad Pfaff and U.W. Extension Associate Dean John Shutske on Friday to assess the impact of and continuing response to the drought in Wisconsin. Much of the Badger State remains abnormally dry or in moderate drought.

The Governor says the meeting was part of an ongoing effort to share information and coordinate resources. “By bringing everyone to the same table we can assess the needs in our Wisconsin communities, share available assistance, and talk about how we deal with those future challenges together. We are committed to our state’s farmers as they continue to recover from this difficult year and prepare for next season.”

BOAH releases Raw Milk Study

During the 2012 Indiana State Legislature, the Board of Animal Health was tasked with putting together a study on the sale of raw (or unpasteurized) milk in the state.  Indiana State Veterinarian, Dr. Bret Marsh says the process has been lengthy and educational.

Marsh says BOAH believes the process of pasteurization has been highly effective in reducing pathogens that could be found in raw milk.  However – because of the increased interest in raw milk, BOAH has two recommendations for the General Assembly as they consider the issue.

Option A says: “If we maintain the current requirement for milk to be pasteurized, that ALL milk that is sold for consumption by consumers meet the same standards for sanitation and pasteurization,” he says.  “That includes milk from cow or herd shares or some of the products that are labeled for pet food only.”

If the legislature chooses to change the law and allow some limited distribution of raw milk (particularly sales from producers directly to consumers), Marsh notes that Option B recommends that BOAH be given the opportunity to establish the minimum sanitary stands needed to accomplish that task.

The 150 page study is now in the Governor’s office and will be available for review by legislators.

AUDIO: Dr. Bret Marsh, Indiana State Vet (2:49mp3)

The end of an era for the Wisconsin Farm Bureau

The 93rd annual Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation meeting this weekend will mark the end of an era. After 24 years on the board of directors including the last 9 as president, Bill Bruins is stepping down. Under his leadership, the organization has seen growth in membership including in the young farmer program and an increased influence in state and local government while contributing to resurgence in Wisconsin agriculture.

AUDIO: Bruins talks about his experiences and his goals 12:24 mp3

Giacomini to new post at CRI

The Chief Operating Officer of AgSource Cooperative is going to switch jobs. Effective January 1, 2013, Pete Giacomini will assume the newly created position of Vice President of Business Development at Cooperative Resources International (CRI) the holding cooperative for AgSource and Genex.

Giacomini has been COO of AgSource since 1985, he will continue until a replacement is found, the search is underway.

Originally Wisconsin DHI Cooperative, AgSource is the largest full-service DHI organization in the country. With seven laboratories in five states, the co-op provides milk, feed, plant tissue, food and environmental testing services and is the largest soil testing business in the nation.

AAA wants to halt sales of E15

The American Automobile Association (AAA) has asked the Obama Administration to block the sale of E15 gasoline in the U.S. saying it could damage millions of vehicles not designed to use it. Last June the EPA cleared the use of E15 on vehicles built after 2001, the AAA says the possibility of consumers mistakenly putting the fuel in older cars is too great and sale of the fuel should be suspended until gas pumps can be labeled and a public education campaign is launched.

The organization also calls for further testing on E15’s effect on engines. “AAA automotive engineering experts believe that sustained use of E15 in both newer and older vehicles could result in significant problems such as accelerated engine wear and failure, fuel-system damage and false “check engine” lights for any vehicle not approved by its manufacturer to use E15.”

Bob Dineen with the Renewable Fuels Association says AAA’s anti-ethanol stance is “well-known and tired.” He says the organization’s call for further testing of E15 “reflects a pathetic ignorance of EPA’s unprecedented test program before approving E15 for commercial use.” As for consumer education, Dineen says “the RFA is working with the petroleum industry, gas retailers, automakers and consumers to ensure E15 is used properly.”

A little less-profitable on the farm in November

The prices received by farmers for their products declined 2.9 percent in November. The USDA preliminary Index shows crop prices declined 3 percent from October but livestock prices increased 3.1 percent.

The November corn price averaged $6.71 per bushel, down 6 cents from October; soybeans decreased 40 cents to average $13.80 per bushel. All hay was unchanged at $193 per ton. On the livestock side, hogs increased a dime to average $62.10 per hundredweight; beef cattle were unchanged at $123 per hundredweight. Broilers were 6 cents higher at 57 cents per pound, turkeys declined 2 cents to 74.9 cents per pound while eggs increased 18.3 cents to $1.02 per dozen.

The November all milk price increased 60 cents to $22.10 per hundredweight. Florida has the highest price, $25.50 while California has the lowest, $19.40.  The November milk-to-feed ratio is 1.79 compared to 1.73 in October.

The November Index of Prices Paid by Farmers declined a half-percent from October. Producers paid lower prices for concentrates, supplements, gasoline and diesel which more than offset higher prices for feeder pigs, complete feeds, supplies and mixed fertilizer.

Compared to November of last year; prices received by farmers are ten percent higher while prices paid by farmers are up 5.3 percent.

Read the full NASS report here:

Engage: 2012 Indiana Farm Bureau convention

The 2012 Indiana Farm Bureau annual meeting is just days away. 

Indiana Farm Bureau president Don Villwock says they are expecting around 2,000 members to take part in the two-day event in downtown Indianapolis that is full of useful information for farmers.

Villwock tells Brownfield the breakout sessions at this year’s convention cover a variety of topics that are important to Indiana’s farmers. 

One of those sessions focuses on the new fertilizer use regulations.  “Fred Whitford is one of our speakers and always does a great job sorting through and making sure farmers have the correct information to stay in compliance with the new fertilizer laws and regulations,” Villwock says.

Because Indiana Farm Bureau holds their resolution session in August – Villwock anticipates a pretty quick delegate session.  “Really I don’t see at this delegate session that we’re going to tweak any of the policies and nothing new has really come up,” he says.  “Really I think our delegate session will focus on the business of Farm Bureau.  We’ll look at finances, go over our annual report, and then our elections and finally off to these great breakout sessions.”

Indiana’s Farm Bureau convention will be December 7 and 8 at the JW Mariott in downtown Indianapolis.

Big losses for wheat complex

Soybeans were lower on speculative and technical selling, along with end of the month profit taking. There was no real fresh supportive news outside of more planting delays in Argentina, while comparatively, conditions in Brazil look good. South Korea bought another 55,000 tons bean meal, but it’s from South America, and the International Grains Council raised its world soybean estimate to 267 million tons citing the expected record South American crop and better than anticipated U.S. yields. The Canadian Oilseed Processors Association, via Dow Jones Newswires, reports Canada’s bean crush during the week ending November 28 was a record 26,241 tons. Soybean meal and oil were down on spillover from beans.

Corn was lower on fund and technical selling. Contracts were due for at least some correction and profit taking after the recent strong bounce off of the November lows. Corn’s also watching weather in Argentina, but that’s largely being treated as a known factor at this time. Ethanol futures were lower. China’s National Bureau of Statistics states 2012 corn production was 208.12 million tons, up 15.34 million on the year, with corn production passing rice for the first time. According to Ukraine’s Ag Ministry, 95% of the corn harvest is complete at 19.25 million tons.

The wheat complex was sharply lower on fund and technical selling, in addition to month end profit taking. There was also no fresh news for wheat with the complex keeping an eye on the slow export demand for U.S. supplies. The trade does expect an increase in global demand but it hasn’t happened yet. Chicago had additional pressure from the heavier than expected first notice day deliveries on the December contract. European wheat was lower but losses were limited by the supply worries. China’s Bureau of Statistics reports wheat production for 2012 was up 3.18 million tons on the year at 120.58 million tons. South Korea bought 75,800 tons of wheat from Australia and in sell-buy-sell activity, Japan picked up 30,652 tons of food wheat, 5,050 tons of malting barley, and 790 tons of food barley.

Changes afoot in ag policy leadership

A number of ag policy leaders at the federal level are leaving their posts. U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk plans to leave his position and retire to his native Texas.

Larry Elsworth, chief agriculture advisor for EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, is retiring and no replacement has been named for him yet. Chief Dave White of the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service will retire December 3rd and will be succeeded by Jason Weller, current NRCS chief of staff. As is typical in a second presidential term, more members of the administration could be moving on.

Several members of Congress who are closely associated with agriculture won’t be returning next year. Some House Ag Committee members either lost their primaries earlier this year (Reps. Tim Johnson, R-IL; Jean Schmidt, R-OH; Tim Holden, D-PA) or in the general election in November (Reps. Bobby Schilling, R-IL; Joe Baca, D-CA, and, Leonard Boswell, D-Iowa). Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota, who chairs the Senate Budget Committee, is retiring after this term.