Keith Good: Corn Planting Could be Delayed in Parts of Corn Belt

Agricultural Economy

Christopher Doering reported late last week at The Des Moines Register Online that, “The U.S. government offered a mixed spring outlook for Iowa, predicting improvement in the drought conditions plaguing more than half of the state while warning there could be flooding along parts of the Mississippi River.

“The government also warned that Midwest farmers could see delayed corn planting with late thawing.”

Mr. Doering added that, “U.S. Agriculture Department meteorologist Brad Rippey said the frozen ground, which in some parts of the northern U.S. Corn Belt is 5 to 6 feet deep, will likely need additional time to thaw before farmers can enter their fields.

“‘We are facing the prospect of some delayed corn planting issues across the northern Corn Belt,’ he said.

“While later corn planting can sometimes push key pollination and reproductive stages into the summer when it’s hot, Rippey said ‘at this time there is no real great concerns for (a drop in) crop production due to the late planting.'”

Brandy M. Krapf, Dwight D. Raab and Bradley L. Zwilling of the University of Illinois noted on Friday at the farm doc daily blog (“Cost to Produce Corn and Soybeans in Illinois-2013“) that, “Total costs to produce corn for all combined areas of the state [Illinois] were$965 per acre. This figure increased 5 percent compared to the year before… . [T]otal cost per acre to produce soybeans increased, from $661 per acre in 2012 to $697 per acre in 2013 [see related graph].”

Meanwhile, Mark Grossi reported last week at the Fresno Bee Online that, “Larry Starrh’s voice choked with emotion Wednesday as he told congressional members of his family’s decision to dry up 1,000 acres of almonds this year and let the trees die due to water shortages.

“‘Shortages that were created and controlled by regulations that have been imposed and brandished like weapons,’ the Kern County farmer said. ‘Sadly, in the real world, water is about power, water is a weapon, water is a hostage.’

“Starrh was one of nine witnesses at a loud House Natural Resources Committee field hearing on California’s water crisis convened in the Fresno City Council chambers. He echoed the thoughts of many in the audience about environmental regulations that curb farm water deliveries.”

Bettina Boxall reported on the front page of yesterday’s Los Angeles Times that, “Thanks to seniority, powerful Central Valley irrigation districts that most Californians have never heard of are at the head of the line for vast amounts of water, even at the expense of the environment and the rest of the state.

“The list of the water-rich includes the Glenn-Colusa, Oakdale, South San Joaquin and Turlock districts. The average amount of Sacramento River water that Glenn-Colusa growers annually pump, for example, is enough to supply Los Angeles and San Francisco for a year.”

The article added that, “In 2013, when government water projects slashed allocations to many San Joaquin Valley growers and the urban Southland because of dry conditions, the district drew its usual supply.

“And although Glenn-Colusa and other senior diverters in the Sacramento Valley face unprecedented cuts this year because of the continuing drought, they have been promised 40% of their normal deliveries. Most growers supplied by the Central Valley’s big irrigation project will probably get nothing [related graph].”

The article stated that, “To protect endangered fish species, those southbound water shipments have been subject to escalating restrictions, triggering an endless cycle of lawsuits and proposals to stem the delta’s decline. The most recent is a $25-billion state plan to restore habitat and replumb the delta with the construction of two huge water tunnels.

“At the same time, the impact on the delta of the massive upstream diversions has essentially been ignored. Regulators don’t even know the total quantity that irrigators and cities suck from the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers and their tributaries.”

In other news, Bloomberg writer Megan Durisin reported on Friday that, “U.S. feedlots placed 14.7 percent more cattle in February compared with a year earlier, the government said today.”

However, Friday’s USDA report noted that, “Cattle and calves on feed for slaughter market in the United States for feedlots with capacity of 1,000 or more head totaled 10.8 million head on March 1, 2014. The inventory was 1 percent below March 1, 2013 [related graph].”

“This was the 19th consecutive month of year over year declines in the inventory,” USDA livestock analyst Michael Jewison noted on Friday.

Meanwhile, AP writer Dirk Lammers reported on Saturday that, “Cattle ranchers discovered tens of thousands of dead animals in their fields last fall after an unexpected blizzard slammed western North and South Dakota, a devastating loss for their livelihood, but they’re finding renewed hope as spring calving season contributes to their herds’ recovery.”

The AP article added that, “Cattle experts say recovery could take years for ranchers who lost high percentages of their herds. In South Dakota, more than 40,000 cattle, sheep and horses caught in the rain, snow and high winds died of congestive heart failure brought on by stress. North Dakota’s losses are believed to be more than 1,000 animals.”

“Also, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will start accepting applications next month for a livestock disaster program that was reauthorized the five-year farm bill. Ranchers will be able to sign up if they incurred losses from 2012 through 2014,” the article said.

And Ben Cohen and Racel Bachman reported on Friday at The Wall Street Journal Online that, “The [University of Michigan] men’s and women’s basketball teams guzzle five gallons of chocolate milk every week, said Michigan men’s basketball strength coach Jon Sanderson, who keeps a stainless-steel dispenser of chocolate milk in the weight room… . [M]ichigan’s choice of chocolate milk is more scientific than it sounds. A staple of many childhoods, chocolate milk is rich in protein and carbohydrates, which helps replenish exhausted muscles after workouts, nutritionists say. The state’s dairy industry also made similar deals with NCAA tournament teams Michigan State and Western Michigan. ‘We absolutely would love to attribute their success to chocolate milk,’ said Amy Viselli, its manager of nutrition outreach.”

Biotech

Reuters news reported on Friday that, “China’s corn imports from the United States, the world’s top exporter, decreased sharply in February, hurt by Beijing’s rejection of an unapproved genetically-modified (GMO) strain, but imports from Ukraine surged, official customs data showed on Friday.”

The article explained that, “Beijing has since November rejected a total of about 900,000 tonnes of corn from the United States after detecting Syngenta corn strain MIR 162, which is not approved by China’s agriculture ministry for import.

“But China’s imports of non-GMO corn from Ukraine surged to 192,374 tonnes in February, bringing the country’s total imports in the month to 479,758 tonnes, up 21.74 percent on year, data showed.

“China started importing corn from Ukraine late last year and feed mills continue to book cargoes under a loan-for-grains deal signed in 2012.”

Pam Smith reported last week at DTN (link requires subscription) that, “Syngenta is trying to put a fence around its new genetically-engineered rootworm trait called Agrisure Duracade for 2014. Sales of the new trait will be limited to a specific U.S. marketing region that corresponds to a trading relationship with Gavilon Grain Company.

“Syngenta signed an agreement with Gavilon in February as a way to specifically funnel corn produced from the Duracade trait into the grain stream. The trait has become controversial because it is not yet cleared for import into China and the European Union.”

Christopher Doering reported in Saturday’s Des Moines Register that, “After decades of work and a legacy that endures after his death, there is growing concern that opponents of genetically modified crops and big agribusinesses may be succeeding in rolling back progress made by Norman Borlaug.

“In an interview ahead of next week’s celebration, granddaughter Julie Borlaug said proponents of modern agriculture, led by supporters of genetic modification technology, have not done a good enough job communicating with the public about the work of the farmer and why seeds that boost yields and are resistant to drought, among other threats, are needed.”

In a “Q and A” format, Ms. Borlaug was asked: “What would he [Norman Borlaug] think about what’s going on now in agriculture?”

Ms. Borlaug indicated that, “He would be angry. He would be angry … (about) this anti-GMO, anti-big ag, anti-technology (movement). And how there seems to be so much ignorance and so much of a backslide of where people think we should be going.”

Daniel P. Finney reported on the front page of yesterday’s Des Moines Register that, “The scheduled unveiling of [Norman] Borlaug’s statue at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday falls on his 100th birthday. It’s also the culmination of nearly five years’ worth of holdups, stalls and nerve-wracking moments that threatened to prevent this moment of honor.”

And Texas Tribune writer Aamena Ahmed reported in yesterday’s New York Times that, “G.M.O. products, which are made from planting seeds with engineered DNA, make up about 90 percent of cash crops like cotton, corn and soybeans nationwide, according to the nonprofit Center for Food Safety, which supports labeling. The United States Food and Drug Administration also supports labeling but has said that it should be voluntary because foods with G.M.O.’s are safe.

“Maine and Connecticut require G.M.O. products to be labeled, and 26 other states have considered legislation. In Texas, there has been no such proposal, though interest has grown. Austin-based Whole Foods Market (a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune) announced that it would label products with genetically modified ingredients by 2018.

“Most farmers oppose G.M.O. labeling because it brings unnecessary attention to the product, which could slow sales, said Gene Hall, a spokesman for the Texas Farm Bureau, which represents agricultural producers across Texas, including large agribusinesses. (The Texas Farm Bureau has been a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune.)”

Farm Bill

Jason Angus reported last week at the Altus (Okla.) Times Online that, “[House Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R., Okla.) held a Town Hall meeting on Wednesday, March 19, in Council Chambers of the Altus Municipal Complex to discuss events in Washington D.C., and to take comments and questions from the citizens of Altus and Jackson County.”

The article noted that, “One difference in the new Farm Bill is the removal of annual direct payments, Congressman Lucas explained. Instead, farmers will use insurance products as a ‘safety net’ for poor market conditions or weather conditions, like drought, to help when those problems occur. Lucas said that although the previous direct payments were compliant with the World Trade Organization, they were no longer politically sustainable.

“‘This new system tries to make sure the safety net is there when we need it,’ Lucas said. ‘But when markets are good, when Mother Nature cooperates, and actually, that’s possible… then nothing will come from the Treasury.'”

Josie Musico reported on Friday at the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal (Tex.) Online that, “Joe Outlaw, director of the Agricultural and Food Policy Center, noted that in the new bill’s insurance program, producers will only be compensated if less-than-ideal crop yields justify it.

“‘(Direct payments) are gone, and I don’t see us going back to them anytime soon,’ he said. ‘The farm bill is a true safety net. There has to be a problem for the safety net to kick in.'”

The article added that, “‘We worked hard on this farm bill to give you some choices,’ said U.S. Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Lubbock. ‘You can tailor those choices to your particular option.'”

Barry Amundson reported on Friday at the Tri-State Neighbor (S.D.) Online that, “U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem and U.S. Sen. John Thune told participants at the Western Corn Belt Precision Ag Conference in Sioux Falls this week that the next step in the 2014 farm bill process will be monitoring the rules and regulations that USDA puts out with the legislation that Congress finally passed after a three-year struggle.

“‘We’ll be spending a lot of time on oversight,’ said Noem, who addressed the audience via Skype. ‘We want to make sure these rules and regulations work out here on the ground and provide the safety net we need.'”

The article added that, “Thune said what he heard in all of his trips across the state was that farmers wanted a strong crop insurance program, and he thinks the bill delivers on that.

“Besides keeping an eye out on farm bill rules and regulations in the coming weeks, the two said they will keep up the fight to prevent federal agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and OSHA from making unfair requirements for family farms.”

Philip Brasher reported on Friday at Roll Call Online that, “Nebraska’s success in recruiting new farmers and ranchers could point the way for other states and Congress to reverse the decline in the number of new producers.

“Nebraska has innovative beginning-farmer initiatives that include an exemption from personal property taxes as well as a tax credit for landowners who lease to new farmers.”

And Bill Tomson reported on Friday at Politico that, “The House Agriculture Committee’s GOP leaders are brushing aside an attempt by a growing number of states to block food stamp cuts, saying it won’t make a dent in their plans to shrink the program.

“Connecticut, Massachusetts, Montana, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island have all taken steps to preserve more than a combined $1 billion in food stamp benefits this year. And more states are expected to follow suit.”

The article indicated that, “But a March 14 memo sent by Republican leadership contends that any speculation that these states can negate the total $8 billion reduction over 10 years they fought to have included in the 2014 farm bill is just plain wrong.

“‘Various media outlets have reported on the announcements of these states,’ says the memo, a copy of which was obtained by POLITICO. ‘The press reports assume that the change in behavior of these states eliminates the savings estimated from the reforms included in Section 4006 [of the farm bill]. This is false and fails to recognize CBO [Congressional Budget Office] considerations included in the savings estimate.'”

Biofuels

DTN writer Todd Neeley reported on Thursday that, “The battle for U.S. corn ethanol industry market access to California may be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, as two of the nation’s largest ethanol groups have asked the high court to strike down California’s low-carbon fuel standard.

“Growth Energy and the Renewable Fuels Association announced Thursday that they have asked the Supreme Court for certiorari to make a final determination on the constitutionality of the California low-carbon fuel standard, that in its current form does not consider corn-based ethanol produced in the Corn Belt to be a low enough carbon fuel to meet the state law.”

And Tom Cherveny reported late last week at AgWeek Online that, “U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson is hopeful that the Environmental Protection Agency will not reduce the nation’s Renewable Fuel Standard by as much as it has proposed.

“‘I think we have made some progress with the administrator,’ said Peterson, a Democrat representing Minnesota’s 7th District, after two recent meetings with EPA Director Gina McCarthy.”

Regulations

And Carol Davenport reported in Saturday’s New York Times that, “[EPA Administrator McCarthy] is the chief architect and emissary of President Obama’s plan to fight climate change. At its heart are a pair of divisive E.P.A. regulations that are to set new limits on carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants — the chief source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States — and potentially establish Mr. Obama as the first American president to take aggressive action to stop global warming.

“But the rules could also be so stringent that they shut down large numbers of plants and imperil mining jobs. Republicans and the coal industry say the actions amount to a war on coal, and they are mounting a legal and legislative battle to fight them.

“It is the job of Ms. McCarthy, a veteran state environmental regulator with a salty sense of humor and a history of negotiating with polluting industries, to tamp down that wildfire, even while she oversees the writing of the regulations. So she has been on regular cross-country road trips that are both listening tour and sales pitch.”

Also, DTN writer Todd Neeley reported on Friday that, “Rancher Andrew Johnson’s family’s future in Fort Bridger, Wyo., may hinge on whether a stock pond he built in 2012 on his eight-acre ranch is used for fishing or to support ongoing farming activities.”

The article stated that, “The pond draws flocks of geese and ducks, an occasional bald eagle, and family fishing outings usually result in a haul of large brown trout. His cattle and other herds traveling along a county road drink from the pond throughout the year, Johnson said.

“Once the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency caught wind of the project built without a Clean Water Act permit, the agency ordered Johnson to remove what it says is a dam and to restore the creek — or face potential penalties of some $75,000 a day until the work is completed. EPA contends Johnson’s pond doesn’t qualify for an agriculture exemption.”


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