Heat “emergency” forecast in cattle country

The high heat and humidity in the middle of the U.S. and part of the southwest today directly impacts cattle country.  The USDA/NOAA forecast map shows Kansas, Oklahoma and most of Texas and neighboring states at the “emergency” level for heat stress in cattle.  Parts of southern California and Arizona are also at the emergency level. The next level down, the “danger” level, covers most of the Eastern U.S.  The heat wave is expected to remain in Texas, Arizona and Southern California after it reaches its peak in most other areas today and will then diminish.

Cattle feeders are reminded to work cattle early or in the evening during these conditions.

U.S. soybean rating improves

The USDA’s condition ratings for this year’s corn and soybean crops continue to hold at extremely high levels for this point in the season.

As of Sunday, 76% of corn is in good to excellent shape, unchanged on the week and 13% more than this time last year. 56% of the crop is silking, compared to 39% a year ago and the five year average of 55%.

73% of soybeans are rated good to excellent, 1% more than last week and 9% above last year. 60% of beans are blooming, compared to 43% a year ago and 56% on average, and 19% are at the pod setting stage, compared to 7% last year and 17% on average.

75% of the winter wheat crop is harvested, compared to 74% a year ago and 75% on average. 84% of spring wheat has headed, compared to 85% on average, with 70% in good to excellent condition, unchanged on the week.

53% of U.S. pastures and rangelands are called good to excellent, down 2% from last week.

NFU asks for water map from EPA

National Farmers Union leaders have asked the EPA for a map with estimates of which bodies of water will be considered jurisdictional under the agency’s Waters of the U.S. rule in the Clean Water Act.

NFU President Roger Johnson and members of NFU’s board of directors held a conference call last week with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.  They then sent a letter to McCarthy asking for clarity in some of the definitions in the proposed rule.  Johnson says the EPA proposal has created “LESS clarity, not more as intended.”

The group is also asking for answers to their questions about “wetlands in the Prairie Pothole region, coordination with state agencies and the treatment of unconnected bodies of water that are seasonal.”

Johnson says, at this point, the EPA’s “interpretive rule” has caused “confusion and resentment” in rural America.

Meanwhile, the nation’s largest farmer organization, American Farm Bureau Federation, supports efforts in Congress to stop the EPA proposed rule and has asked the EPA to rescind the rule.

National Farmers Union

American Farm Bureau Federation

AFBF sends EPA “counter point” to Congress

The American Farm Bureau Federation is countering statements by an EPA official on the proposed water rule of the Clean Water Act.  Farm Bureau Congressional Relations Director Mary Kay Thatcher tells Brownfield Ag News the AFBF has given that document to members of Congress, “We put out a lengthy paper, sort of doing a point-counter-point on ‘they say this’ but here’s the exact language out of the 350 page rule that we think proves exactly the opposite. So, we have great concern about this.”

Thatcher says EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy’s public relations campaign raises even more concerns because the AFBF believes McCarthy did more talking than listening to farmers, “We just think there’s a HUGE disconnect between what EPA thinks they’re doing and the real effect of what it’ll have in the country and we think that was very well highlighted with her trip to Kansas and Missouri and also in the webinar that EPA did earlier this week where they tried to explain their position.”

Thatcher says this is the biggest issue in agriculture and farmers need to weigh in during the public comment period on the rule, “It’s a hard issue to get your arms around for a farmer but it’s not one we can ignore. We absolutely have to have your input to members of Congress and to EPA if we’re going to win on this issue.”

Thatcher says the House transportation committee voted this week not to let the rule move forward and the House environment committee voted not to fund the rule.  Thatcher says that should send a message to the EPA.

Thatcher spoke with Brownfield at the Kansas City AgriBusiness Council meeting on “big data” on Thursday.

Interview with Mary Kay Thatcher (5:00 mp3)

Corn export sales solid

USDA reports corn export sales for the week ending July 10 were larger than expected, while wheat was below all estimates and soybeans and soybean products were within what analysts were anticipating. Physical shipments of soybeans were above what’s needed weekly to meet USDA projections for the current marketing year, but corn and wheat both fell short of their respective marks. The 2014/15 marketing year for corn and soybeans starts September 1.

Wheat came out at 320,700 tons (11.8 million bushels). Japan purchased 115,100 tons and China bought 60,000 tons, while unknown destinations canceled on 38,100 tons. Roughly a month and a half into the 2014/15 marketing year, wheat exports are 311.9 million bushels, compared to 427.5 million early in 2013/14.

Corn was reported at 573,700 tons (22.6 million bushels), up 58% from the week ending June 3 and sharply higher than the four week average. Japan picked up 246,900 tons and Colombia purchased 94,300 tons. At this point in the 2013/14 marketing year, corn exports are 1.896 billion bushels, compared to 736.7 million in 2012/13. Sales of 495,000 tons (19.5 million bushels) for 2014/15 delivery were mainly to unknown destinations (198,900 tons) and Japan (150,400 tons).

Soybeans were pegged at 37,700 tons (1.4 million bushels), down 33% from the previous week and 71% lower than the four week average. Taiwan bought 44,000 tons and China picked up 6,400 tons, but unknown destinations canceled on 28,500 tons. For the marketing year to date, soybean sales are 1.676 billion bushels, compared to 1.335 billion this time last year. Sales of 561,000 tons (20.6 million bushels) for 2014/15 delivery were primarily to China (365,000 tons) and unknown destinations (149,500 tons).

Soybean meal came out at 83,800 tons, 72% larger than the week before and 33% more than the four week average. Morocco purchased 20,000 tons and Mexico bought 19,900 tons, while unknown destinations canceled on 35,400 tons. So far this marketing year, soybean meal sales are 9,946,000 tons, compared to 9,524,800 tons a year ago. Sales of 89,600 tons for 2014/15 delivery were mostly to unknown destinations (55,700 tons) and Egypt (27,000 tons).

Soybean oil was reported at 8,300 tons, 35% smaller than the prior week and 25% less than the four week average. Mexico picked up 5,400 tons and Nicaragua purchased 1,600 tons. Cumulative soybean oil sales for the current marketing year are 779,500 tons, compared to 897,000 last year.

Net beef sales totaled 9,000 tons, down 50% from the previous week and 37% lower than the four week average. The listed buyers were Japan (3,500 tons), Mexico (1,900 tons), South Korea (1,400 tons), Canada (1,200 tons), and Taiwan (300 tons).

Net pork sales totaled 3,400 tons. That’s a decline of 62% on the week and 70% less than the four week average. The reported purchasers were Japan (800 tons), China (500 tons), Mexico (400 tons), the Philippines (400 tons), and South Korea (400 tons). Hong Kong canceled on 100 tons.

The impact of the California drought

A new study from the University of California-Davis shows just how serious the drought is in the Golden State.  The UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences says this is currently the third-worst drought on record in the state with river water for the Central Valley reduced by roughly one-third.  Groundwater pumping is replacing the river water losses especially in the San Joaquin Valley and Tulare Basin.

So far, the direct cost to California agriculture is $1.5 billion: $1 billion in lost revenue and a half-billion in additional pumping costs.  428,000 acres or five percent of irrigated cropland is going out of production in the Central Valley, Central Coast and Southern California.

Josue Medellin-Azuara is Senior Researcher at the Center for Watershed Sciences, he says while the groundwater is limiting the agricultural losses this year, if the drought continues this is like a bank account and it will eventually run out and then they will be in real trouble.

The study found consumer food prices are largely unaffected as they are driven more by market demand than drought.  Medellin-Azuara says the bigger impact is on feed crops like alfalfa and corn silage which in turn hits the livestock and dairy industries harder.  So far, the study says the dairy and livestock industry in the Tulare Basin has lost $203 million.  Fortunately, milk prices are at record-highs so dairy producers are able to withstand this for now.  If the drought continues, additional wells in the Tulare Basin are expected to run dry.  “If we keep pumping at these levels to replace surface water we will start seeing serious consequences.”

The study was done at the request of the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

AUDIO:Medellin-Azuara talks about the study 9:15 mp3

Read the full report here

Zilmax back in the news

A Wall Street Journal report says that Merck Animal Health is meeting resistance in its efforts to revive its cattle feed additive Zilmax.

The report says Merck has delayed plans to begin a new round of Zilmax field evaluations because of continued unease among meatpackers. Merck suspended sales of the growth promoting beta-agonist last year when concerns emerged that might cause lameness in cattle.

Meanwhile, results of a Nebraska study show that Zilmax has “no noticeable detrimental effect” on cattle health.  University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) animal scientist Ty Schmidt says the study involved 20 heifers, with half receiving Zilmax at the recommended dose and half not receiving it.

“There are some differences that would be expected when you’re feeding cattle on beta-agonists,” Schmidt says, “but, overall, none of the differences were  glaring differences that suggest there was any type of animal well-being issue.”

Schmidt says that while they did not focus specifically on the lameness issue, there was nothing to indicate that it was a problem.

“We looked at a lot of the blood factors in terms of the immune system—white blood cells, red blood cells—and none of those factors were elevated,” he says. “So the animals, based on what we saw, weren’t fighting any type of inflammation or showed any indication that they had something going on that was causing them pain or distress.”

The study was a joint effort involving scientists from UNL and the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service.

AUDIO: Ty Schmidt (5:57 MP3)

Link to UNL news release

Commodity prices could trigger payments

The forecasts for a bountiful U.S. corn crop and increased corn stocks could potentially trigger subsidy payments for farmers this year.  Pat Westhoff, with the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI-MU), says prices might trigger payments under the two programs in the new Farm Bill.  Westhoff tells Brownfield Ag News, “If we were to get corn prices below $3.70 a bushel on a season average basis producers who signed up for the new Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program would be qualified for payments. Even if prices are higher than that, people who sign up for the Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) program might  be getting payments on this year’s crop.”

At this moment, though, he says payments for some southern crops appear most likely. He tells Brownfield, “I think right now, taking a snapshot of today, peanuts and rice appear to be two commodities where it’s very likely that prices will fall below the reference prices in the new Farm Bill. It could happen for corn and other crops as well but it’ll depend on the final size of the crop and what ultimate demand for that crop proves to be.”

Westhoff says it’s been awhile since corn prices have been this low, “It’s been several years since we’ve seen these kind of prices. Two-thousand-10 was the last time futures prices were this low. And, we have the potential of having a season-average price that could be the lowest since the 2008 boom.”  A lot, of course, depends on the weather moving forward.

Interview with Pat Westhoff (3:00 mp3)

U.S. corn rating improves, soybeans hold

This year’s U.S. corn and soybean crops continue to look very, very good overall.

As of Sunday, 34% of corn is silking, compared to 15% a year ago and the five year average of 33%, with 76% of the crop in good to excellent condition, up 1% from last week.

41% of soybeans are blooming, compared to 24% last year and 37% on average, with 72% rated good to excellent, unchanged from a week ago, but with 1% moving from good to excellent.

The winter wheat harvest is 69% complete, compared to 66% this time last year and 68% on average. 69% of spring wheat has headed, compared to 67% a year ago and 68% on average, with 70% called good to excellent.

55% of U.S. pastures and rangelands are in good to excellent shape, 1% less than last week.

USDA lowers corn estimate, raises soybeans

USDA has lowered its production outlook for corn, while raising the projection for soybeans.

This year’s corn crop is now estimated at 13.860 billion bushels, down 75 million from June on a lower harvested area estimate, based on the June 30 acreage numbers. The average yield guess was left unchanged and old and new crop ending stocks were both up on the month.

Soybeans are seen at 3.8 billion bushels, 165 million more than a month ago, on a larger harvested area projection. The average yield estimate for soybeans held steady and old and new crop ending stocks figures were both slightly larger than anticipated.

USDA also raised its domestic wheat production estimate, with a bigger spring crop offsetting a smaller winter crop, and the ending stocks guess was well above the average expectation.

Of course, there is still a long way to go until the corn, soybean, and spring wheat crops are made, and the winter wheat harvest is still ongoing. For corn and soybeans, the first survey based production projections are out August 12.