Changes in the farm economic landscape

oppedahl_davidDavid Oppedahl is a senior business economist in the economic research department at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. Oppedahl conducts research on the agricultural sector and rural development as well as conducting microeconomic research. He also directs the Chicago Federal Reserve District’s survey of agricultural banks on agricultural land values and credit conditions.

Oppedahl spoke at the recent Iowa Farm Bureau Economic Summit in Ames, after which Brownfield visited with him about changes in the farm economic landscape.

AUDIO: David Oppedahl (4:10 MP3)

Are you prepared to manage risk?

Profitability in the agriculture industry is changing.

As grain prices continue to decline, margins are becoming tighter.  Purdue Ag Economist Mike Boehjle has some suggestions for farmers to better manage their risk.

AUDIO: Dr. Mike Boehlje, Managing Risk (3:00mp3)

Americans choosing more chicken

More Americans, on average, are eating more chicken and price is not the main reason according to a new consumer survey. The survey found overall chicken consumption is up 17% from two years ago. While the lower price of chicken compared to the rising price for beef and pork was a factor, it was not the main factor in the overall increase in U.S. chicken consumption.  Respondents named nutrition and taste as the top reasons for choosing chicken. So how, then, does chicken compare with beef and pork from a nutritional stand-point?

HEALTHY LIVING PROGRAM – Chicken consumption/nutrition (1:30 mp3)

Tyson official: Animal wefare will continue to drive change

The vice president of animal well-being for Tyson Foods, Dean Danilson, says farm animal welfare issues will continue to be “a driver for change” in the meat industry.  And Danilson says those in the meat and livestock industries must continually ask themselves, “Is there a better way to do things?”.

Here is an excerpt from Danilson’s presentation at the recent Iowa Farm Bureau Economic Summit in Ames.

AUDIO: Dean Danilson (12:58 MP3)

Forage options after wheat

During the Western Ag Research Station Agronomy Day near South Charleston, Ohio, Mark Sulc, Extension forage specialist at Ohio State University talked about a number of forage options following wheat that will work across the Midwest.

Audio: Mark Sulc, Extension forage specialist, Ohio State University (2:55 mp3)

The market reacts to good prospects

The possibility of a good harvest is putting negative pressure on corn and soybean markets.  Matt Roberts, an agricultural economist at The Ohio State University, talks about what else may affect the market and what to do about it.  Roberts tells Brownfield Ag News that he’s not surprised by the bearish tone to corn and soybean prices.

U.S. soybean farmers place a lot reliance on demand from China, but because of questions about China’s economy, Roberts says it may be wise to also seek demand in other areas.

In general, Roberts says that farmers should prepare for economic rough spots by maintaining a cash cushion of a year’s worth of land charges.

AUDIO: Matt Roberts (3 min. MP3)

Using horses for physical rehabilitation

People with physical handicaps need all the help they can get to improve or to recover.  Horses are being used to do just that and it’s being proven to work.  K.C. Henry is executive director of the Horses and Humans Research Foundation.  She tells Brownfield the foundation funds research into how horses can help with rehabilitation.  Among the eight research projects completed is one to find whether young people with cerebral palsy improve their stability by therapeutically riding horses.  The organization is constantly looking for support and for volunteers.

AUDIO: KC Henry (3 min. MP3)

Changing the way farmers put on anhydrous

Tom Evans, Great Plains Ag Sales Manager_EDITTom Evans, Great Plains Vice President of Sales, says they’ve developed equipment that will change the way farmers apply anhydrous ammonia. He says the Great Plains’ Nutra-Pro Bar with high-speed anhydrous coulder is how.  We interviewed Evans at the Great Plains Media Day at the Kansas City Expo Center in Kansas City, Missouri.

Interview with Tom Evans (4:00 mp3)

It’s later than you think

Unless you work in DC, it’s tough to understand some of the unspoken signals that received from Capitol Hill.  In recent days, lobbyists sniffing the air like animals anticipating a storm, immediately understood the latest message:  We’re 100% into the race to October and recess until after the November 4 election.

We’re now feverishly calculating what, if anything, can/will be accomplished between now and the early October recess date.   The man/woman on the street would assume Congress would try and get as much done as possible to have a stellar record at which to point as they campaign.  Not so much; in fact, the mindset is more “do nothing, apologize for nothing.”

Consider the following:   There are less than 80 calendar days until the October 2 target recess date; of that total, there are less than 20 congressional “work days,” keeping mind Congress works a short Tuesday-Thursday week.   This tells us very little will be done prior to 535 members scuttling to airports in October, their party leaders having saved the controversial, the contentious, the ugly and the complex issues until the post-election lame duck session likely to begin just before Thanksgiving and end just before Christmas.

I heard this week the House GOP leadership told its caucus members to collect all solid candidates for what’s called the suspension calendar.  This means bills so noncontroversial, American and apple pie that 218 votes – a majority of the House – is a given.  Similarly, Senate leadership is putting together a list of noncontroversial issues and presidential appointments – judges, cabinet folks, and members of commissions, boards and the like, as well as the odd ambassador – to  fill its calendar so as to appear busy.

As the end-of-July drop-dead date pre-August recess approaches, there will appear to be a frenzy of legislative activity because Congress acts only with a looming deadline.   The same will happen toward the end of September as the October recess approaches.  Whether all of the activity and noise leads to achievement is anyone’s guess at this point.

Major legislation that must be done includes the bill to give the administration more money to deal with the Texas immigration crisis. This issue will consume the rest of July.  While there will be lots of public outcry, with noise very similar to that surrounding the broader immigration reform debate, this action should not be confused with comprehensive immigration reform, because that won’t be happening.  Reauthorization of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) will be achieved, but FY2014 spending bills are dead in the water.  Short of a miracle of bipartisanship and compromise, Congress will act in September to pass a continuing resolution to keep the government running until well after the November election.  Even then, it’s likely very few individual spending bills will be passed, rather another omnibus spending package will be enacted.

There will be no action to modify or repeal the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), and while the House continues to tack language onto bills to curtail EPA rulemakings on Clean Water Act (CWA) authority and greenhouse gas/carbon capture, the Senate will ignore those efforts.  There will be no legislative remedies to FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) rulemakings, and no energy legislation of any substance will see the light of day.  This week it also became clear reauthorization of federal highway programs, those that fund state highway, bridge and urban commuter projects, could be reauthorized, likely during lame duck.  Pre-election may see a short-term funding “fix” for the near-bankrupt Highway Trust Fund (HTF) through March or May, 2015, but no long-term funding solution.

Any legislative action in the lame duck session, of course, depends on how the numbers fall in November.  If voters decide they like the GOP House, Democrat Senate set-up, it’s pretty the same ballgame.

However, while the House looks pretty safe for Republicans right now, if the GOP takes the Senate, then the lame duck could be the shortest in history.   Only absolute must-pass legislation, such as an omnibus spending package, will be done; the rest will get punted into the 114th Congress in January.  No Senate Republican will be of a mind to give Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D, NV) any kind of “legacy” wins.

For lobbyists — and I think the public at large — the good news is that anything not accomplished by the end of the session dies.  All bills must be reintroduced, but all mischief ended.

Iowa’s ag secretary on RFS delay and EPA’s water rule

At the International Symposium of Beef Animal Welfare in Ames, Iowa, we asked Iowa secretary of agriculture Bill Northey for his thoughts on the delay in the announcement of the Renewable Fuels Standard volumes and the debate over the EPA’s plan to extend its jurisdiction over “Waters of the U.S.”.

AUDIO: Bill Northey (4:10 MP3)