Rural Affairs group says EPA rule is good

The Center for Rural Affairs says the proposed rule from the EPA and Corps of Engineers clarifying which waterways fall under the Clean Water Act is good for rural America.

But, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) says the rule is a vast overreach and will be detrimental to farmers and ranchers. Ashley McDonald, NCBA’s environmental counsel says,  “You know, it’s very costly. It’s going to be very time consuming and it’s going to be a big headache for cattle producers across the country.”

John Crabtree is Media Director for the Center for Rural Affairs tells Brownfield Ag News, “I think the NCBA’s reaction is where the overreach is.”

Crabtree says the rule provides clarity and removes the confusion caused by Supreme Court rulings that were vague about which waterways were covered, “The water that falls on and crosses our land and feeds the rivers is crucial to agriculture but it’s also crucial to the people downstream that drink it. And, so, we have a shared responsibility and this rule helps everyone see what their role is and what their responsibility is.”  Both groups urge people to submit comments on the rule – which will be open for public comment for 90 days.

Interview with John Crabtree (9:00 mp3)

Mixed reaction to EPA’s CWA rule

So far, a mixed reaction from the ag community to the EPA’s proposed Clean Water Act rule.

The National Farmers Union (NFU) calls it an “ag-friendly announcement”.  NFU says the rule maintains agricultural exemptions, adds new exemptions and encourages enrollment in USDA conservation programs.   Best of all, NFU says, the EPA rule will provide certainty surrounding Clean Water Act requirements for agriculture in the wake of complicating Supreme Court decisions.

But a much different reaction from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA).  NCBA calls the EPA proposal to put more small streams, waterways and wetlands under Clean Water Act protection “a vast overreach”.  NCBA president Bob McCan says the proposal will require cattlemen to obtain “costly and burdensome permits to take care of everyday chores like moving cattle across a wet pasture or cleaning out a dugout.”

The proposal will be open for public comment for 90 days.

NCBA blasts EPA’s water rule

The EPA has issued its much-anticipated “waters of the U.S.” rule.  And at least one farm group is not happy.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) calls the EPA proposal to put more small streams, waterways and wetlands under Clean Water Act protection “a vast overreach”.  NCBA president Bob McCan says that, under the proposed rule, essentially all waters in the country would be subject to regulation by the EPA and the Corps of Engineers, regardless of size or continuity of flow. 

“This is a step too far, even by an agency and an administration notorious for over-regulation,” says McCan. “This proposal by EPA and the Corps would require cattlemen like me to obtain costly and burdensome permits to take care of everyday chores like moving cattle across a wet pasture or cleaning out a dugout. These permits will stifle economic growth and inhibit future prosperity without a corresponding environmental benefit.”

McCan says that, for the first time, ditches are included in the definition of a “tributary” and now will come under federal jurisdiction. Activities near a jurisdictional ditch will now require a federal permit.

“This proposed regulation and the burdensome federal permitting scheme will only hinder producers’ ability to undertake necessary tasks and, in turn, result in an exodus of ranchers from the field,” he says.

The proposal will be open for public comment for 90 days.

Hog inventory report expected to show PEDv impact

PEDv has tightened the supply of market ready hog numbers, sending futures, cash, and wholesale prices to new record highs this year.

Friday, the industry will get more clues as to just how much market ready numbers have tightened when USDA releases its Quarterly Hogs and Pigs Estimates.

Allendale Inc. projects all hogs March 1, 2014 at more than 5% below March 1, 2013, with the breeding herd down 1% and market hogs dropping 5.5%.

Still, Allendale does expect year to year increases for the December through February farrowing and pig crop figures, along with increased farrowing intentions this spring and summer.

The numbers are out Friday, March 28 at 3 PM Eastern/2PM Central.

Rail issues concern West Coast grain shipper

Increased shipments of coal and oil, by rail, to the West Coast are creating logistics challenges for a Tacoma, Washington-based grain export facility.

“It’s not uncommon to be waiting for a shuttle train—or a 110-car train—to finish a cargo on a vessel,” says Terry Johnson, who manages the TEMCO grain export terminal in Tacoma. “I’m sure the cold weather back in the Midwest—the rough winter—and all the traffic that’s increased with coal trains and oil trains has really hurt our logistics this year.”

Johnson says as exports of coal and oil to China and other Asian countries increase, grain shipments are being squeezed.

“Grain is not a high priority on the railroad,” Johnson says. “Energy and containers and merchandise moves—and of course, Amtrak—so we’re kind of on the low rung there.”

The supply of rail cars is not the issue, Johnson says. It’s because rail lines funneling into the Pacific Northwest have become jammed up due to the increased energy shipments.   And Johnson is concerned that if those shipments continue to increase, the problem will only worsen over time.

TEMCO is a joint venture between CHS and Cargill.  The TEMCO facility was one of the stops on last week’s “See For Yourself” tour, sponsored by the Nebraska Soybean Board.

AUDIO: Terry Johnson (5:37 MP3)

Cattle placements jump 15%

We’re probably going to see more cattle on the market in the coming months.

David Anderson, Livestock Marketing Specialist at Texas A&M University, tells Brownfield the placements tell the tale in the most recent USDA cattle on feed report, “It’s important to remember that last February was the smallest February cattle placements ever, but this time we’re up 15% and what it really means is with total cattle on feed down 1% from a year ago, we’re looking at, as we get into the summer, as those cattle are finishing, that we might see more cattle supplies. We’ll get away from the tight supplies and get a little more beef on the market.”

Anderson does caution that any expansion in the U.S. herd is going to be at least partially dependent on weather and feed costs.

USDA reports placements of cattle into feedlots during February were even larger than expected. Placements last month came out at 1.650 million head, up 15% on the year, and above the average estimate, which called for a 9.7% increase, taking advantage of record cash prices and lower feed costs. Most of those placements were heavier weight cattle. Placements of cattle weighing less than 600 pounds were 390,000 head and 600 to 699 pound placements were 330,000 head, while 700 to 799 pound placements were 415,000 head and placements of cattle 800 pounds and heavier were 515,000 head.

Marketings during February were pegged at 1.549 million head, down 3% on the year and the lowest for the month since the series of reports began in 1996.

The total number of cattle on feed in the U.S. on March 1, 2014 was reported at 10.790 million head, 1% less than on March 1, 2013.

Other disappearances were 71,000 head, a year to year jump of 18%.

China buys U.S. corn

USDA reported net sales of 69,476 tonnes of corn to China in the week ended March 13. That would be China’s first purchase of U.S. corn in seven weeks. The buy came as a surprise given the dispute over Syngenta’s MIR 162 has not been resolved.

The Chinese have rejected 887 thousand metric tonnes of U.S. corn since November because it contained the unapproved genetically-modified variety.

Reuter’s reports China’s biosafety committee is scheduled to meet later this month, if no decision is made on Syngenta’s application for approval the next opportunity would not occur until June. Syngenta first applied for Chinese approval of the variety in March of 2010.


FAPRI outlook points to lower farm income

Farmers should expect volatility in corn and soybean markets for the next few years. That’s according to Pat Westhoff, director of the University of Missouri Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute. Over the next five years, corn will average $4 a bushel and soybeans $10 a bushel, said Westhoff, citing FAPRI’s recent baseline outlook. Global competition and unrest will contribute to market direction, Westhoff added.

“Just where prices will go in any given year can be very dependent on weather, and as we’ve seen, very dependent on political developments as well,” said Westhoff, during an interview with Brownfield Ag News. “With lots of additional supplies in the world and with reduced overall growth in the demand side than what we’ve been used to for the last few years, prices are likely to average a lower level than we’ve had in recent years.”

Westhoff calls FAPRI’s grain price projections more pessimistic than a year ago, but more optimistic than USDA’s.

On the other hand, the reduced fortunes for crop growers will result in better days for livestock producers.

“Throw in the fact that we have very good prices for cattle right now and not too bad prices for some other livestock species as well, we should have pretty good returns for most livestock producers in 2014,” said Westhoff.

As a result of the falling markets for corn, soybeans and other grains, FAPRI is estimating that net farm income will drop 24 percent in the next year.

AUDIO: Pat Westhoff (9 min. MP3)


Report: Farmers can’t meet produce demand

A group pushing Congress for immigration reform says U.S. farmers don’t have the labor force to meet consumer demand for fresh U.S. grown fruits and vegetables. That’s according to a recent report commissioned by about 70 agriculture groups, including the American Farm Bureau. The report’s title hints at its conclusions: No Longer Home Grown – How Labor Shortages are Increasing America’s Reliance on Imported Fresh Produce and Slowing U.S. Economic Growth.

The report shows the share of fresh fruits and vegetables imported and consumed by American families has grown by over 79 percent in recent years. It also shows that U.S. fresh produce demand and consumption have grown, but production hasn’t.

Another finding from the report is that U.S. GDP would have been $12.4 billion higher in 2012 if U.S. fresh fruit and vegetable growers had been able to maintain domestic market share. The report says U.S. farmers are unable to maintain domestic market share because of the inadequacies of the H-2A visa program. Labor alone accounts for as much as $3.3 billion in missed GDP growth in 2012 and for $1.4 billion in farm income not realized in 2012.

American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman says the report provides more evidence pointing in the same direction, that farmers and consumers both need responsible immigration reform.

The NAFB News Service contributed to this article.

Most of Southern Plains short of soil moisture

Crop condition ratings for hard red winter wheat declined again over the past week, due to more dry and windy weather around the Southern Plains.

The western half of Kansas remains locked in a drought and around the state, 55% of topsoil and 57% of subsoil are short to very short of moisture. 34% of Kansas’ wheat crop is rated good to excellent, with 61% in fair to poor condition.

In Oklahoma, drought conditions are present across the entire state with 75% of topsoil and 82% of subsoil short to very short of moisture. Only 1% of the wheat crop is called excellent, with 71% in fair to poor shape.

Rainfall around Texas last week was light and scattered with 73% of the state reporting short to very short topsoil moisture. 13% of Texas’ wheat is called good to excellent with another 68% fair to poor. 15% of Texas’ corn crop is planted, compared to 40% last year and 31% for the five year average.

USDA’s national weekly crop progress reports resume April 7.