Subcommittee hears pros, cons of SNAP

The House Agriculture Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, and Nutrition held a hearing addressing the effectiveness of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Among those delivering testimony, Robert Doar, a Morgridge Fellow in Poverty Studies at the American Enterprise Institute testified that SNAP doesn’t do enough to lift people from poverty.

“I have been a strong supporter of providing aid to people in need, but I also want them to escape poverty,” Doar testified to subcommittee members.  “Assistance programs that do not lead people into employment, but instead finance non-work, will have one sure outcome, they will keep people poor.”

On the other hand, Stacy Dean, a food assistance policy specialist, testified to SNAP’s effectiveness.

“SNAP is a powerful anti-poverty program,” said Dean, during her testimony to the subcommittee.  “While benefits are modest, just $1.40 per person per meal, they do have a big impact.  SNAP lifted about nearly 5 million Americans above the poverty line in 2012, including 2.2 million children.”

It was pointed out in the hearing that in five years, participation in SNAP has grown from 28.2 million to 47.6 million recipients. 

U.S. corn, soybean condition ratings decline

The national corn and soybean condition ratings both dipped slightly over the past week.

As of Sunday, USDA reports 75% of corn is in good to excellent condition, down 1% from the week before, but that is still well above this time last year. 78% of the crop is silking, compared to 67% a year ago and the five year average of 75%, while 17% is at the dough making stage, compared to 8% last year and 16% on average.

71% of soybeans are rated good to excellent, 2% less than a week ago, but 8% more than a year ago. 76% of soybeans are blooming, compared to 62% last year and 72% on average, with 38% at the pod setting stage, compared to 18% a year ago and 31% on average.

83% of the winter wheat crop is harvested, compared to 80% both last year and on average. 93% of spring wheat has headed, even with a year ago and the average pace, with 70% of the crop in good to excellent shape, unchanged, but with 1% moving from good up to excellent.

52% of U.S. pastures and rangelands are in good to excellent condition, down 1%.

2013 mink production

Mink production in the U.S. in 2013 totaled 3.5 million pelts.

Wisconsin was the top mink producing state, producing 1,129,960 pelts, Utah was second, producing 855,380 pelts. Mink production in Ohio totaled 104,900 pelts in 2013.

Nationally, female mink bred to produce kits in 2014 totaled 851,530.

Slow week for export inspections

USDA reports soybean export inspections for the week ending July 24 were larger than expected, while wheat was within the anticipated range and corn was below pre-report estimates. All three were less than what’s needed weekly to meet USDA projections for their respective marketing years.

Wheat came out at 395,963 tons, down 131,670 tons from the week ending July 17 and 311,014 lower than the week ending July 25, 2013. At this point in the 2014/15 marketing year, wheat inspections are 3,643,897 tons, compared to 5,116,841 in 2013/14.

Corn was reported at 805,365 tons, 136,612 less than the prior week, but 512,032 more than this time last year. For the 2013/14 marketing year to date, corn inspections are 41,818,344 tons, compared to 15,954,578 in 2012/13.

Soybeans were pegged at 112,345 tons, up 15,185 from the previous week and 75,760 higher than a year ago. So far this marketing year, soybean inspections are 43,022,445 tons, compared to 35,333,329 last year.

Sorghum inspections totaled 178,192 tons. That’s an increase of 63,830 tons on the week and 127,548 on the year. 2013/14 sorghum inspections are 4,191,328 tons, compared to 1,578,425 in 2012/13.

Farm Bill provides risk management options

Joe Shultz, Chief Economist, Senate Agriculture Commitee (1)_webOver 200 farmers attended a Farm Bill Implementation Forum at Bowling Green State University on Friday, July 25.


Sponsored by Ohio Farmers Union the Forum was designed to provide insight into what the new Farm Bill provides and while complex, Joe Shultz, Chief Economist for the Senate Agriculture Committee says it also provides farmers with options.


“It does look a lot different than the previous Farm Bills, but I think that reflects the diversity of agriculture and really the strength of American agriculture,” said Shultz. “It will be a good bill and it offer some real options to producers.”


Shultz also says farmers will have plenty of time to study the options before signing up, sometime next year.


“We’ve also provided more tools for farmers to get educated, the Farm Bill provides some money for outreach and education meetings, we’re also providing some online decision making tools so producers can enter their data, their farm history online and get some good information about which decision makes the most sense for their operation,” Shultz said.

Audio: Joe Shultz, Chief Economist, Senate Agriculture Committee (4:25 mp3)


Brownfield’s Dave Russell also talked with Ohio Farmers Union President Joe Logan following the Forum at BGSU.

Audio: Joe Logan, President, Ohio Farmers Union (2:40 mp3)

July 1 cattle inventory lowest in more than 40 years

USDA reports the total U.S. cattle and calf inventory on July 1, 2014 was 95.000 million head, down 3% from the last report in 2012 and the lowest July 1 total since the series of reports started in 1973. The report was suspended in 2013 due to government sequestration. All cattle and calves on feed for slaughter were reported at 11.600 million head, a 6% decrease.

All cows and heifers that have calved came out at 39.000 million head, 2% lower than two years ago, with beef cows at 29.733 million head, down 3%, and milk cows at 9.267 million, up 1%. All heifers weighing 500 pounds and heavier were pegged at 14.900 million head, 5% below the previous report, with beef replacement heifers at 4.100 million head, 2% lower, milk replacement heifers at 3.900 million head, a decline of 5%, and other heifers at 6.900 million head, a drop of 7%.

Steers weighing 500 pound and heavier were 13.500 million head, down 4%, with bulls in the same weight class at 1.900 million head, statistically unchanged. Calves weighing less than 500 pounds came out at 25.700 million head, 4% lower.

The 2014 calf crop is projected at 33.600 million head, 1% less than 2013 and down 2% from 2012. Calves born during the first six months of the year were 24.300 million head, a decrease of 2% from a year ago and 3% below two years ago.

Cattle placements down 6%

According to USDA, cattle placements on feed during the month of June were slightly lower than expected.

Placements last month were 1.455 million head, down 6% from June 2013 and below Dow Jones’ average estimate for a 4.4% decline. Cash prices are at record levels and feed costs are down, but feeder cattle supplies are extremely tight and pasture conditions have improved. Most of the placements were heavier weight cattle, weighing more than 700 pounds: cattle and calves weighing less than 600 pounds were 400,000 head and 600 to 699 pounders were 245,000 head, while the 700 to 799 pound category was 320,000 head and cattle weighing more than 800 pounds were 490,000 head.

Marketings came out at 1.847 million head, 2% less than last year and in-line with expectations, and the lowest fed cattle marketings for the month of June since the series of reports started in 1996.

The total number of cattle on feed in the U.S. on July 1 was 10.127 million head, 2% lower than a year ago.

Other disappearances were 75,000 head, a 19% year to year increase.

The report generally looks neutral.

Ag senators expressed concerns to McCarthy

Republicans on the Senate Agriculture Committee met this week with EPA administrator Gina McCarthy to express their concerns about the agency’s “Waters of the U.S.” proposal and other EPA actions that are many view as “anti-agriculture”.

Nebraska Senator Mike Johanns, who was in the meeting, describes McCarthy’s attitude as “determined”.

“She was polite and she listened to us, but at the end of the day I’m not certain that we moved the ball down the field at all,” Johanns says. “She’s determined to regulate.  I think she believes she has the power to do that and she’s going to do it.”

Johanns suggested to McCarthy that she scrap the rule and start over.  But he doubts that will happen.

“I do think what’s happening here is the Obama Administration recognizes that they only have a couple years left—and I just think you’re going to see a blizzard of regulations over the next two years and five months,” says Johanns. “So I just think this battle will continue.”

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, who was also in that meeting with McCarthy, says it did little to alleviate his concerns that the agency isn’t listening to the people its rules will directly impact.

AUDIO: Mike Johanns (7:17 MP3)

Rural Council commits billions to infrastructure projects

The White House Rural Council is committing $10 billion to create a new U.S. Rural Infrastructure Opportunity Fund for job-creation and rural infrastructure projects across the country.  The USDA says greater investment is expected to follow.  US Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack says the investments will be made in the form of loans through CoBank, a cooperative lender that’s part of the Farm Credit System.

“There is significantly greater demand for credit than the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service has to service all the projects,” said Vilsack on a conference call this week.  “In other words, there’s a waiting list of water and waste water projects out in rural America that we would love to fund, but we simply don’t the capacity to do it.”

Target investments include hospitals, schools, and other rural infrastructure.

Creation of the new fund was announced during the first-ever White House Rural Opportunity Investment Conference to promote investment opportunities in America’s rural communities.

Wisconsin expands AEA acreage

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection will create four new Agricultural Enterprise Areas or AEAs and expand an existing one on January 1st, 2015.  The new areas cover more than 191,000 acres in Clark, Columbia, Marathon, Monroe and Outagamie Counties.  It will bring the total amount of land under AEAs in the state to 940,000 acres in 22 counties.

The new areas are:

  • Friends in Agriculture AEA, Clark County: 17,158 acres the towns of Fremont and Lynn.  36 petitioners hope to create the state’s largest contiguous block of working lands by linking with other AEAs.
  • Greenville Greenbelt AEA, Outagamie County: 1,444 acres in the town of Greenville.  Nine petitioners seek to preserve existing farmland for agriculture by supporting policies to increase development densities in the urban portion of their town.
  • The Headwaters of Southeast Monroe County AEA, Monroe County: 86,380 acres in the towns of Clifton, Glendale, Willington and Wilton.  99 petitioners aim to foster a conservation movement to protect resources, build support for policies that protect productive ag land, and minimize land use conflicts.
  • West Point AEA, Columbia County: 17,158 acres in the Town of West Point.  21 petitioners seek to protect soil and water quality and wildlife, slowing fragmentation of ag lands, preserving multi-generation farms, encouraging ag diversity, modernizing farm operations to remain competitive, and provide farm-related education.
  • Heart of America’s Dairyland AEA, Clark and Marathon counties: expands an existing AEA by about 70,000 acres, bringing the covered area to about 234,500 acres. With 125 new petitioners, newly added towns are Weston and York in Clark County and Bern, McMillan and Eau Pleine in Marathon County.  The largest AEA in Wisconsin seeks to preserve the region’s agricultural heritage.


AEAs are part of Wisconsin’s farmland preservation program, designed to encourage preservation of agricultural land use and to promote agricultural economic development. Local landowners, in partnership with local governments, must seek the designation.

Farmers owning land within an AEA can receive tax credits in exchange for signing an agreement to keep their land in agricultural use for at least 15 years.  Landowners in AEAs are not subject to any new land use regulations.  In turn, the designation provides some certainty for farmers and agribusinesses that their area will remain in agriculture, so they can be confident about investing in their businesses.