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)

Two Midwestern governors chastise EPA

The governors of Nebraska and Iowa are not mincing words when it comes to their feelings about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

In a conference call with reporters, Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman called EPA “the enemy of agriculture”.  Heineman says the agency is the biggest regulatory issue that farmers and ranchers face.

“The federal government, particularly under the Obama Administration, has been overly aggressive with regulation,” Heineman said. “We all support clean air, clean water and appropriate regulations.  But it’s the EPA that’s the enemy of agriculture, I’ll put it that way.”

Iowa governor Terry Branstad took the criticism of EPA a step further.  In an interview with Le Mars, Iowa radio station KLEM, Branstad put some of the blame on EPA for recently-announced layoffs at Deere and Company’s Waterloo, Iowa tractor plant.

“A few years ago, we had the best corn prices we’d ever seen. Now the EPA has cut the Renewable Fuels Standard, we have a large crop of corn out there and the price of corn is below the cost of production,” Branstad said. “When farmers see they’re not going to be making money, they quit buying equipment—and that’s just exactly what’s happened.

“We were promised by Gina McCarthy, the director of the EPA, we’d have a decision (on RFS) before the end of June.  They still haven’t—so I really lay that in the hands of the EPA,” Branstad said.  “They’ve really done real damage to the farm economy—and now the jobs at John Deere and farm machinery manufacturing as well.”

By statute, the final RFS rule for 2014 was due at the end of November last year. EPA finally submitted the final rule to the Office of Management and Budget on August 22nd.

Wisconsin increases Zone D bear quota

Citing an increase in human-bear conflicts, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is increasing the quota in Zone D in Northwest Wisconsin.  Zone D covers all of Douglas, Bayfield, Burnett, and Washburn Counties and parts Polk, Barron, Rusk and Sawyer Counties.

DNR Northern Wildlife Supervisor Mike Zeckmeister says they would like to focus on the southern portion of the Zone where the highest number of bear-related issues have been reported.

Of the 3,800 bears taken during last year’s hunt, 1,200 were taken in Zone D.  The Zone quota is raised to 1,600 for this year’s hunt.

The 2014 season starts September 3rd, hunters still looking for a place to hunt are encouraged to consider properties enrolled in the Agricultural Damage Program.  A list of those properties can be found on the DNR website here:

July poultry production up 1% on year

USDA reports poultry production for July 2014 was up 1% on the year at 3.887 billion pounds. Most of that, 3.375 billion pounds, was chicken, with turkey at 500.427 million pounds.

The preliminary live weight of all poultry was 5.129 billion pounds, 1% more than July 2013, with chicken at 4.487 billion pounds and turkey at 625.652 million.

Average weights were all above a year ago, with young chicken averaging 5.95 pounds per bird and turkey at 30.1 pounds.

Ante-mortem condemnations were 11.349 million pounds, or 0.22% of the preliminary live weight and post-mortem condemnations were 36.893 million pounds, 0.94% of monthly production.

For the year to date, U.S. poultry production is 25.871 billion pounds, 1% more than this time last year.

Ohio Cattlemen’s Roundup

Clark County Cattlemen will host the 2014 Ohio Cattlemen’s Roundup on September 5th and 6th.

Roundup begins Friday evening, September 5, with a gathering at R Genetics Livestock, then on Saturday morning, September 6, those attending will have an opportunity to be updated on a wide range of issues.

“We have Dr. Henry Zerby, Chair of the OSU Animal Science Department that will give us kind of the first glimpse of the new livestock facilities they are looking at Ohio State,” said Elizabeth Harsh, Executive Director of the Ohio Cattlemen. “We also have coming in two folks from NCBA, Mike Miller that heads up the consumer marketing piece and we also have Kate Maher that heads up our membership efforts.”

The Saturday afternoon program will feature farm tours.

“We’re going to Agle Family Farms to see their Shorthorn operation, then we’ll go to McDorman Farms which is a custom feeding feedlot, we’ll also go to Sexing Technologies and Ohio Heifer Center at South Charleston that exports females all over the world,” Harsh said. “A new addition, we’re also going to stop at the TruPointe facility in South Charleston.”

Those interested in attending the Ohio Cattlemen’s Roundup can register by calling the OCA office, 614-873-6736, or by registering online.

The deadline to register is this Thursday, August 28th.

Audio: Elizabeth Harsh, Executive Director, Ohio Cattlemen’s Assn. (3:35 mp3)

Kelly says Ag/Dairy/Deer bill won’t be overridden

Missouri State Representative Chris Kelly says there won’t be enough votes to override the governor’s veto on the omnibus ag bill during the upcoming veto session.  Kelly, who helped author the landmark dairy portion of the bill, says special interests are responsible for attaching the part of the bill that would move the regulation of captive deer to the state Department of Agriculture away from the Conservation Department.

Kelly says, “The extreme point of view with regard to captive deer got into the bill and the Republican leadership refused to take any amendments on the floor to remove it. So that’s why the governor had to veto the bill.”

Kelly, a Democrat from Columbia, says wildlife biologists, scientists and the entire Missouri Conservation Federation – made up of many thousands of hunters – oppose that part of the bill. Kelly says, “It’s just no way the veto is going to get overridden. We know that we have the votes to block it.”

Kelly helped write the dairy portion of the bill. He tells Brownfield Ag News, “And it’s going to cost ‘em some stuff that I really like. The dairy stuff, the beef stuff is good and important. But, you can’t allow that degree of special interest in legislation.”

Kelly says protecting Missouri deer from Chronic Wasting disease is huge, adding, “Wisconsin’s entire deer industry is in the tanks over Chronic Wasting Disease and that’s exactly where we’re going if we don’t deal with this.”  The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, however, indicates otherwise.  To date, it has analyzed more than 185,000 deer statewide, 2,500 have tested positive.  Of those, only 13 positives were found outside the CWD Management Zone in southern Wisconsin.

Kelly predicts the deer bill will not be separated from the omnibus Ag Bill in the September veto session and won’t come up again in the 2015 legislative session.  He tells Brownfield he believes, only then, will a stand-alone ag bill will pass without difficulty. By then, Kelly will have retired.

Interview Representative Chris Kelly (4:30 mp3)

Red meat supplies down 10% on year

According to USDA, red meat supplies in cold storage at the end of July were down 10% on the year at 933.788 million pounds. That follows year to year declines in slaughter rates noted by the Ag Department’s commercial red meat production numbers. Beef came out at 366.549 million pounds, a 21% drop from last year, and pork stocks were 529.250 million pounds, 3% lower than a year ago.

Poultry was pegged at 1.106 billion pounds, down 14% on the year, with chicken at 612.605 million pounds, 13% less than last year, and turkey at 491.116 million pounds, a 16% decline.

July placements, marketings lowest since 1996

USDA’s monthly cattle on feed report was close to pre-report estimates, with some categories at historical lows.

Placements during July were 1.560 million head, down 7% on the year, the lowest for the month since the series of reports started in 1996, and mostly cattle weighing more than 700 pounds. Before the report, analysts were anticipating placements of 1.53 million head. By weight, placements on cattle weighing less than 600 pounds were 425,000 head and 600 to 699 pound placements were 260,000 head, while 700 to 799 pound placements were 355,000 head and placements of cattle weighing 800 pounds and heavier were 520,000 head.

Marketings were pegged at 1.787 million head, 9% less than last year, and also the lowest for the month since the series of reports started. Analysts had been expecting marketings to be down around 8%.

The total number of U.S. cattle on feed as of August 1 was 9.837 million head, 2% below a year ago, and slightly more than what was projected ahead of the report.

Other disappearances were 63,000 head, down 2% on the year.

Nestle tightens pledge on animal welfare

The Nestle food and beverage company has announced an animal welfare agreement with World Animal Protection, a non-governmental organization.

The Swiss company says it will require its more than 7-thousand suppliers of animal products, from milk to meat to eggs, to adhere to stricter animal welfare practices.  The company says an independent auditor will conduct on-farm checks and those farms that don’t work to come into compliance “will no longer supply Nestle.”

The agreement is part of Nestle’s Responsible Sourcing program. Nestle is working with World Animal Protection to “tighten and improve the company’s “responsible sourcing guidelines.”  For example, spacing requirements for pigs and cows will be changed “to ensure they are not cramped and can engage in normal animal behavior.”

Some of Nestle’s many brands include Lean Cuisine, Cheerios and Haagen-Dazs.