Rain benefits Nebraska’s crops, pastures

Although they were a bit excessive in some areas of east central Nebraska, last week’s rains were generally beneficial to the state’s row crops and pastures.

The latest crop progress report puts the good to excellent rating on corn at 71 percent; soybeans at 72 percent; sorghum 60 percent; and dry beans at 81 percent.  Pasture and range conditions were rated 52 percent good to excellent and 33 percent fair.

The rains hindered the hay harvest in some areas, but the third and fourth cuttings of alfalfa hay are still running close to normal overall.

There were a few reports of winter wheat being seeded. The moisture will be positive for the early growth of winter wheat.

Some corn, soybean development stages trail average

U.S. corn and soybean crops remain in great shape, but a couple of key development stages are still slower than average.

As of Sunday, 90% of corn is at the dough making stage, compared to the five year average of 89%, 53% has dented, compared to 59% on average, and 8% has reached maturity, compared to 16% on average. 74% of corn is in good to excellent shape, up 1% on the week.

95% of soybeans are at the pod setting stage, matching the five year average, and 5% of the crop is dropping leaves, compared to 7% on average. 72% of soybeans are rated good to excellent, 2% more than a week ago.

38% of spring wheat is harvested, compared to 65% on average, with 63% of the crop called good to excellent, down 3% from last week.

48% of U.S. pastures and rangelands are in good to excellent condition, unchanged.

FAPRI projects price weakness for 2015

The Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute projects that 2015 will see some moderation in livestock prices and continued low crop prices.

The institute’s director, Pat Westhoff, tells Brownfield Ag News that corn prices could hover near $4 a bushel through 2020, after dropping down to $3.89 in the coming year.

“It’s certainly in line with where markets appear to be now,” said Westhoff, from his office at the University of Missouri.  “Futures are actually a trifle lower than that right now for the 2014 crop; the market probably anticipates an even bigger crop than was projected by USDA this past month.”

During that same five years, soybean prices are projected to range from $10.30 to $10.69 a bushel.  Wheat prices are projected to drop to $5.97 a bushel by 2020.

Westhoff says the FAPRI projection will help farmers decide whether to take part in the government’s Price Loss Coverage program or the new Agricultural Risk Coverage program.

“If we’re talking about corn and soybean producers, it leaves some possibility that quite a few producers might be able to get significant payments for the 2014 crop; payments they would not receive until next fall,” said Westhoff.  “But those expected payments are very much contingent on where prices turn out to be.”

On the flip side, livestock producers are seeing higher prices resulting from strong demand and limited supplies. With lower feed costs, Westhoff expects producers to expand production, which will eventually lower prices.

If livestock prices moderate, Westhoff says it’s possible food price inflation could drop to less than 2 percent in 2015.

AUDIO: Pat Westhoff (8 min. MP3)

Iowa farmers hope warm temps continue

As they head into the home stretch, Iowa’s corn and soybean crops continue to look very good, although they could use a few more days of good, warm weather in September to help with the maturation process.

According to the latest crop progress report, 53 percent of Iowa’s corn crop is in the dent stage, four days behind normal.  The percentage of soybeans with leaves turning color reached eight percent, 10 points behind the normal pace.  Corn rated 76 percent good to excellent with soybeans at 73 percent.

Wet conditions have slowed hay harvest.  The third cutting of alfalfa was 53 percent complete, 23 points behind the five-year average.  But pasture condition improved to 62 percent good to excellent.

Crop conditions hold steady in Ohio

According to the Ohio field office of the National Ag Statistics Service (NASS) condition ratings for corn and soybeans in Ohio held steady in the past week.

As of Sunday, 74 percent of the Ohio corn crop and 80 percent of Ohio soybeans were rated in fair-to-good condition.

87 percent of the corn is at the dough stage, one point behind the 5-year average, 41 percent of the crop is dented, eight points behind the average pace, three percent of the corn crop is mature.

97 percent of the Ohio soybeans are setting pods, five percent of the crop is dropping leaves, four points behind the 5-year average.

Other crops, corn silage harvest is two percent complete and eight percent of the tobacco crop has been cut.

Topsoil moisture in the state 73 percent adequate to surplus.

Rootworm pressure down in ’14

Corn rootworm populations were lower this summer across much of the Midwest.

Sean Evans, a corn technology development manager with Monsanto, attributes the decrease to a combination of factors. He says the harsh winter likely increased the mortality of overwintering eggs. And saturated soils this spring and summer affected the survival rate of rootworm larvae.

“When the larvae are very small, they are very susceptible to water,” Evans says. “If they don’t have oxygen, they don’t survive and don’t chew on the roots and cause the damage that we see.”

But Evans says farmers can’t let their guard down on rootworm. He says they should continue to follow best management practices, the most important of which is regular rotation from corn to soybeans.

“It resets that field and eliminates that population that could be a potential problem,” he says, “and really you’ve got a couple years, at that point, before you have beetles moving in after that soybean crop to reestablish themselves.”

Other best management practices include planting Bt hybrids pyramided with multiple traits targeting larval rootworm—and rotating between Bt hybrids without soil-applied insecticide and non-rootworm Bt hybrids with soil-applied insecticide.

Evans made those comments in an interview with Brownfield at last week’s Farm Progress Show.

AUDIO: Sean Evans (5:04 MP3)

Vilsack says safety net is strong

Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack says the USDA is on schedule with implementation of the crop-related commodity programs in the farm bill.

“We anticipate and expect very soon to be able to lay out some of the information on ARC and PLC,” Vilsack tells Brownfield.

ARC stands for Agricultural Risk Coverage and PLC means Price Loss Coverage.

Vilsack says he is confident that those programs will help provide a strong safety net for crop farmers as they move into what some economists predict could be an extended period of lower prices.

“I’m confident this is a good, solid farm bill that’s going to provide the protection needed to ensure that folks can stay in business regardless of the size of the operation,” he says, “and, hopefully, we’re going to see an expanded opportunity, particularly for young and beginning farmers.”

When discussing the “safety net”, Vilsack says it’s important to look at the farm bill in its totality, “not just simply focused on crop insurance or focused on the ARC or PLC program or the Dairy Margin Protection Program.  That is a component of the overall safety net which includes export assistance, additional market opportunities, diversification and support, and research—all of which is being implemented by the farm bill.”

Earlier this year, USDA awarded three million dollars to the University of Illinois, the University of Missouri and Texas A&M to develop online tools and outreach training that will help farmers and ranchers determine which new risk management options can best protect their businesses. USDA also awarded three million dollars to state Cooperative Extension services to provide in-person education to help producers make the most educated decisions regarding new Farm Bill programs.

AUDIO: Tom Vilsack (2:49 MP3)


Standability not seen as a problem

When you have the potential for extremely high yields in corn, as is the case this year across most of the Midwest, standability can become an issue.  But University of Illinois Extension agronomist Dr. Emerson Nafziger doesn’t think standability will be a problem this fall.

nafziger-emerson-u of illinois“The conditions in the mid-summer were so good that we think the stalks can put in pretty good lignin—that’s sort of the woodiness that it takes for them to stand even if they’re no longer alive at the end of the season,” Nafziger says. “At this point, I’m fairly confident that this crop will stand until the combines run.”

So unless there’s some sort of extreme weather event in September, Nafziger thinks the Midwest corn crop should have pretty clear sailing into harvest.

“At this point in time, a lot of people are just wondering what that yield monitor is going to look like—and if they haven’t seen a ‘3’ on it before, as the first digit, they’re probably going to see it this year, in some places in their fields at least.”

Nafziger comments came in an interview with Brownfield at the Farm Progress Show in Iowa.

AUDIO: Emerson Nafziger (6:51 MP3)

Another record year for ag exports

The U.S. is on its way to another record year in agricultural exports. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack tells Brownfield that, by the end of this fiscal year on September 30th, exports will have set another new record.

“(A record) 152.5 billion dollars of ag exports, as well as a trade surplus record of 43 billion dollars as far as selling more than we purchase in terms of ag products,” Vilsack says.

There are several reasons for the strong export numbers, says Vilsack.

“I think it’s a quality product at an affordable price—it’s a reliable supply—and I think it’s aggressive promotion that USDA is engaged in with commodity groups and others to basically make sure the world knows about American agriculture.”

Ag exports for fiscal year 2015 are currently projected at 144.5 billion dollars, down eight billion dollars from the revised forecast for fiscal 2014. The declines are due to lower values of soybeans and soybean meal, and lower volumes and prices for other grains.

AUDIO: Tom Vilsack (:51 MP3)

WOTUS debate rages on

The debate continues to rage over the EPA’s proposed Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule.

The latest development involves the release of EPA maps which critics say confirm that the agency is attempting to control land across the country.  Ashley McDonald of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association calls it “the smoking gun for agriculture”.  McDonald says the maps show that EPA knew exactly what it was doing and knew exactly how expansive its proposal was before it was published.

ken with karl brooks epaIn a blog post, EPA spokesman Tom Reynolds disputes that notion, saying the law has nothing to do with land use or private property rights.

In an interview with Brownfield at the Farm Progress Show, EPA Region 7 administrator Karl Brooks reiterated EPA’s basic message—that the proposed rule simply clarifies the EPA’s jurisdiction for the Clean Water Act.

“The rule serves the needs of American agriculture by clarifying the jurisdictional reach of both the EPA and our state environmental partners,” says Brooks.  “So, simple is good. Clear is better.  The interaction you don’t have to have with the EPA or with the Army Corps, that’s the best interaction for a producer.  That’s where the proposed rule would take us.”

Brooks says the EPA is listening to agriculture’s concerns.

“I’d like to think that, if you take just some of the more heated rhetoric out that tends to boil up around the edges of this conversation, you can really see some basic principles there that look like they might provide a way forward for the rule.”

Brooks says the goal for the final rule is “clarity and workability”.

AUDIO: Karl Brooks (5:37 MP3)