Keith Good: Beige Book — Observations on Ag Economy

    The Federal Reserve Board has released its Summary of Commentary on Current Economic Conditions. Commonly referred to as the “Beige Book,” the report included the following observations with respect to the U.S. agricultural economy:

    Fifth District- Richmond- “Agriculture contacts reported that fertilizer prices remained stable, chemical prices rose slightly, and farm equipment prices edged up. A South Carolina farmer said that delayed planting increased field days but did not affect his crop plans. Wholesale agribusiness executives reported that sales were at normal seasonal volumes.”

    Sixth District- Atlanta- “Parts of the District saw excessive rain, with flooding reported in lower Alabama and the Florida panhandle. There were some reports of crop damage and delayed planting attributed to excessive moisture.”

    Seventh District- Chicago- “Corn and soybean planting progressed quickly after precipitation and cool temperatures slowed fieldwork earlier in the spring, though planting in Michigan and Wisconsin was still lagging. Cold soil temperatures are still a concern; some contacts reported that the corn crop was in good shape but that the emergence of soybeans was behind average. Moisture levels were at least adequate for planting throughout the District, although parts of Iowa remained in drought. Corn and wheat prices were lower, while soybean prices drifted higher. Livestock prices remained well above the levels of a year ago, although hog prices moved lower. High milk prices encouraged the expansion of dairies, and high cattle prices appear to be leading to some new entrants into the livestock business. Farm machinery was readily available after several years of waiting lists for purchases.”

    Eighth District – St. Louis- “As of mid-May, on average, corn planting across the District was about 81 percent complete and about 93 percent of the winter wheat crop was rated in fair or better condition.”

    Tenth District- Kansas City- “Farm income prospects for crop producers dimmed since the last survey period, while profitability in the livestock sector improved. Winter wheat growers were concerned that the poor condition of the crop would limit profits despite an upswing in wheat prices. Corn and soybean prices were steady since the last survey period but remained well below year-ago levels. Spring planting prompted increased demand for operating loans to pay for crop inputs. In contrast, profit margins for livestock operators improved further as low cattle and hog supplies pushed prices higher and feed costs remained flat. Strong demand for grazing pastures supported a modest rise in ranchland values, but cropland values generally held steady. Farm loan repayment rates dipped below year ago-levels, and District bankers reported a slight rise in carry-over debt relative to last year.”

    Eleventh District- Dallas- “District drought conditions worsened further over the reporting period. Most of the Texas panhandle fell into exceptional drought, the most severe drought classification. Winter wheat crop conditions deteriorated and a relatively large share of Texas’ wheat acres were abandoned and will not be harvested this year. Cotton planting season began and farmers were already concerned about poor production due to the very dry soil, particularly for dryland cotton. Agricultural commodity prices stayed strong. Export sales for cotton fell over the last six weeks in response to high cotton prices.”

    Twelfth District- San Francisco- “Demand for assorted fruits and vegetables and livestock products increased, but production in agricultural and resource-related industries was uneven across the District. Concerns about water costs and availability mounted in some areas. Contacts noted that drought conditions in California and Arizona led to reduced herd sizes and decreased plantings of annual crops, including tomatoes and rice. On the other hand, farmers in Idaho anticipated adequate water supplies and planted grains, hay, and potatoes ahead of schedule, expecting the level of plantings in 2014 to be similar to 2013. In general, dairy operations benefited from low feed costs. Pork production remained weak as a fatal virus swept through pig farms in some areas. Contacts noted that demand from China for fertilizer and logs was strong.”

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