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Articles from 2013 In November


Still No Farm Bill (And Why We Care)

Still No Farm Bill (And Why We Care)

‘Tis the season to focus on our plentiful, affordable food, our full stomachs, and our thankfulness that one leads to the other. As we lick the remaining Thanksgiving turkey gravy (or ham) from our lips, turn our attention to what’s left of the pumpkin pie and focus on what needs attention on our Christmas lists, I think we must admit that the world looks like a better place when we aren’t hungry. So how in the world did we get to this point of growing disconnect about the fact that food comes from farmers?  And how can our country not understand that supporting a comprehensive farm bill  also helps support that plentiful and affordable food supply? Let’s ponder what we all actually gain from a farm bill.

Congress has two weeks remaining before it recesses for the year. The farm bill is one of the priorities Congress faces as the clock winds down. A recent White House Rural Council report outlined that all Americans can benefit from a new farm bill. The report details economic benefits, rural infrastructure support and development, and conservation efforts, among other positive outcomes that are impacted by the farm bill.

If economic benefits capture your attention, consider that the farm bill helps keep the momentum rolling on the economic growth of the U.S. agricultural economy. The 2013 net farm income, adjusted for inflation, stands at the second-highest level since 1973 at $120 billion. The report says farm asset values are expected to rise 7.1% in 2013 and farm equity is expected to increase by 7.6%. Agricultural exports, efforts that are also supported by farm bill programs, are expected to exceed a record-setting $140 billion in 2013, supporting about one million American jobs. The farm bill authorized USDA’s trade promotion efforts, estimated to generate a return of $35 in economic benefit for every one dollar invested. The programs help U.S. agricultural producer organizations expand commercial exports markets for their goods abroad through support for organizations such as the U.S. Meat Export Federation, for example.

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The farm bill also supports research, education and extension activities, and helps fund competitive grants programs that provide science-based solutions to address major agricultural challenges of national, regional, and multi- state importance. Agricultural research and development generates high payoffs for farmers and the public: research shows that investing in agricultural research and development generates social rates of return of 20-60% annually. The report points out that between 1948 to 2011, U.S. agricultural output grew at an average annual rate of 1.5%, and total farm production more than doubled– with innovation-driven productivity growth accounting for most of this growth.

As we currently pause to appreciate the availability of food to put on our holiday tables, take a moment to reflect on the safety net that a comprehensive farm bill provides to help agricultural producers manage risk. The Farm Bill represents a key opportunity to further reform and improve farm programs, and restore disaster funding for livestock producers. The report contends that Congressional inaction on the Farm Bill means some of the programs that could have helped mitigate the impacts of severe drought conditions in 2012, and more recently during the South Dakota blizzard that caused thousands of cattle deaths this past October, are expired or currently have no funding – particularly safety net programs for livestock producers. Because Congress has not acted to reauthorize the Farm Bill, USDA is unable to assist producers and can only ask producers to keep accurate records for when a Farm Bill reauthorizes the lost programs.

And the bottom line, really, when it comes to farming, is to feed those who are hungry. Though it is currently an area of contention, a comprehensive farm bill will support vulnerable families by protecting food and nutritional assistance programs

The report points out that for the past 40 years, the farm bill has authorized the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), one of our nation's strongest defenses against hunger and poverty. SNAP helps families and seniors put food on the table, while also benefitting farm and rural economies. In 2012, SNAP kept nearly 5 million people, including 2.2 million children, above the poverty line. Program benefits are targeted to those most in need: the vast majority of SNAP participants are children, the elderly, or people with disabilities. Over 91% of SNAP benefits go to households with income below the poverty line, and 55% go to households with income of less than half of the poverty line (about $9,500 for a family of three). Most SNAP recipients who can work do so. Among SNAP households with at least one working-age, non-disabled adult, more than half work – and more than 80% work in the year before or after receiving SNAP.

The independent Congressional Budget Office estimates that every SNAP dollar generates up to $1.80 in economic activity. Every $5 in SNAP benefits generates as much as $9 of economic activity for the over 230,000 retail food outlets – supermarkets, grocers and farmers' markets – that participate in the program

As 2013 winds to a close, efforts continue between the House and Senate Agriculture Committees leaders to try and finalize the farm bill.  Some of the key issues continue to be the commodity title and the level of cuts to the SNAP program. Some experts have said there is a 50/50 chance of the farm bill differences being resolved. We aren’t taking bets, but we will continue to follow this developing situation via our Legislative Preview column and we will provide updates from our Washington, D.C. correspondent, Scott Shearer. In the meantime, we still believe that the farm bill matters.

Net Farm Income to Rise 15% in 2013

Net Farm Income to Rise 15% in 2013

Net farm income is forecast to be $131.0 billion in 2013, up 15.1% from 2012’s estimate of $113.8 billion. After adjusting for inflation, 2013’s net farm income is expected to be the highest since 1973, according to USDA’s Economic Research Service.

Net cash income is forecast at $129.7 billion, down 3.4% from 2012. Not all crops produced in 2013 will be sold by the end of the 2013 calendar year; ERS officials anticipate substantial increases in the annual quantity and value of crop inventories, particularly for corn.

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As a result, crop cash receipts are expected to decline by nearly 3% in 2013. The projected increase in livestock receipts (5.8%) is not sufficient to offset increasing expenses and lower crop receipts. Nevertheless, after adjusting for inflation, net cash income is expected to remain high by historical standards.

Highlights

  • Net cash income is forecast to decline by more than 3% from 2012.
  • Net farm income is forecast to increase 15%, which would result in the highest inflation-adjusted amount since 1973. Unlike net cash income, net farm income includes change in inventories and other adjustments.
  • The projected $10.9-billion (3.2%) increase in total production expenses in 2013 continues a string of year-to-year increases (except for 2009) that have taken place since 2002.
  • The value of livestock production is expected to increase by 6% in 2013, with receipts increasing almost 6%.
  • The value of crop production is expected to rise nearly 6% in 2013, although with large anticipated contributions to year-end inventories, crop receipts are expected to decline almost 3%.
  • Increases in farm asset values are expected to continue to exceed increases in farm debt, leading to another new record high for farm equity.
  • Farm financial risk indicators are expected to continue at historically low levels.

Read the rest of the USDA economic forecast at http://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/farm-economy/farm-sector-income-finances/highlights-from-the-2013-farm-income-forecast.aspx

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Friend of Agriculture Award Bestowed on University of Illinois President

 

University of Illinois President Robert Easter was awarded the 2013 Friend of Agriculture Award at the Illinois Commodity Conference held in Normal, IL, on Nov. 26.

“It’s always great to see someone with such passion about livestock production at the helm of one of Illinois’ most prestigious agriculture research facilities,” says Dereke Dunkirk, president of the Illinois Pork Producers Association. “His experience and contributions to the industry – particularly with livestock feeding – will make an impact on how farmers produce livestock for years to come. Congratulations on receiving this distinguished award.”

“Easter is a strong leader and highly respected among his faculty and peers on campus, across the nation and around the world,” says Doug Scheider, president of the Illinois Milk Producers Association. “We hope this award will show him just how much we appreciate his efforts.”

Before becoming University of Illinois president in July 2012, Easter spent his entire nearly 40-year career as a senior administrator and faculty member on the university’s Urbana-Champaign campus, where he earned his doctorate in animal science in 1976. His teaching has been recognized by the Midwest Section of the American Society of Animal Science and at the departmental and college levels.

In 1992, Easter received the American Feed Industry Association Award in Nonruminant Nutrition Research from the American Society of Animal Science.

In 1994, the University Of Illinois College Of Agriculture awarded Easter with the prestigious Paul A. Funk Award for contributions to Illinois agriculture.

Easter also is considered an expert in livestock feeding. He has co-authored a book on livestock production and has written more than 90 peer-reviewed articles, 11 book chapters and numerous papers for conferences and industry publications. Additionally, he has spoken to audiences in the United States and 30 foreign countries on livestock feeding.

“A leading voice for livestock production and feeding for over 30 years, Easter continues to support policies and production that help benefit each of our commodity groups,” says Bill Raben, Illinois Soybean Association chairman.

“This is a well-earned, multi-industry award.” “As a former member of the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development (BIFAD) under President George W. Bush,” says Paul Taylor, president of the Illinois Corn Growers Association, “It’s safe to say Easter has a clear picture of the challenges growers face and consistently supports policies, research and education efforts that help diminish these challenges. Easter is more than deserving of this award. We congratulate him on this honor.”

Easter was reared on a grain and livestock farm in southwest Texas. Today, in addition to acting as University of Illinois president, he operates a small grain farm in central Illinois. Easter also is a retired officer in the U.S. Army Reserve, where he served for 20 years.

The Friend of Agriculture Award is presented by the Illinois Beef Association, Illinois Corn Growers Association, Illinois Milk Producers Association, Illinois Pork Producers Association, Illinois Soybean Association and Illinois Wheat Association. The award is given each year to individuals who have contributed significantly to improving agriculture in Illinois. Nominees are submitted by each of the sponsoring commodity groups and selected by representatives of the groups.

 

 

 

Uncovering Answers about Pork’s Role in School Lunches

Uncovering Answers about Pork’s Role in School Lunches

Where does pork fit into the new school lunch guidelines?  

“There are a lot of gray areas with the government’s new school lunch guidelines, which went into effect in 2012,” says Adria Sheil-Brown, manager of nutrition communications and research for the Pork Checkoff. “Implementation of the federal guidelines can vary by state and even by school district.”

This issue matters to the pork industry because there are nearly 10 fresh and low-sodium pork products available through the federal school lunch program, including pork chops, pork roasts, ham and more. In 2009-2010, the U.S. Department of Agriculture bought 100 million pounds of pork, valued at $165 million, for food assistance programs, including school lunch and breakfast.

To help dispel myths and share facts about how pork fits into the new school lunch guidelines, the Pork Checkoff hosted an hour-long “pork school nutrition 101” webinar earlier this fall. Featured speakers included specialists from the Iowa Department of Public Health.

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“The National Pork Board and state pork associations have been getting a lot of questions about pork and the new school lunch guidelines, so we brought in the experts,” Sheil-Brown says. “The presenters were enthusiastic, and we had a great turnout from state pork associations and pork producers.”

Healthy School Lunch Options
The Pork Checkoff has developed a school foodservice fact sheet that highlights the benefits of lean pork. Available at the Pork Store, the fact sheet also offers ideas on how to incorporate pork into school foodservice menus.

“Schools are always trying to come up with new ways to interest the kids in healthy eating,” Sheil-Brown says. “We want to remind them that pork is a healthy option that can be used in everything from breakfast sandwiches to tacos.”

Pork Checkoff-funded nutrition research shows that on average, the seven most common cuts of pork are 16% leaner than 20 years ago, and saturated fat has dropped 27%. Pork also packs nutrients in every lean serving. A 3-oz. portion of pork tenderloin, for example, is an excellent source of protein, thiamin, vitamin B6, phosphorus and niacin, as well as a good source of potassium, riboflavin and zinc.

This information is showcased at the Pork Checkoff’s Pork and Health website, which also includes a convenient recipe database. “Foodservice directors are clamoring for pork recipes, and we want to offer them plenty of inspiration and information,” Sheil-Brown says.

Promoting pork in school lunch menus provides another long-term benefit, she adds. “If we can get kids to enjoy pork at an early age, they will hopefully continue to be pork consumers throughout life."

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Providing Thanksgiving Food Baskets to the Needy

Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, today joined with the National Pork Producers Council, the Ohio Pork Producers Council and Walmart to provide Thanksgiving food baskets of ham, turkey and all the trimmings to needy families in the Cleveland area.

Fudge greeted families and thanked volunteers who participated in the City Mission – a Cleveland charity – effort to distribute the food baskets at the Corinthian Baptist Church in Cleveland.

“NPPC and Ohio pork farmers are honored to work with Congresswoman Fudge to do a small part to help those in need have a great Thanksgiving,” says Dick Isler, executive director of the Ohio Pork Council.

Ohio pork farmers have been involved in the fight against hunger for years, donating just over one million meals of nutritious pork to Ohio food banks since 2009. This Easter, the Ohio Pork Council, Ohio farmers and other industry partners rose to the occasion, providing 37,554 pounds (187,770 meals) of protein-rich ground pork to several Ohio food banks in an effort to make sure that no Ohio family went without a nutritious, hearty meal during the holiday season.

Annually, NPPC’s 43 state pork associations provide hundreds of thousands of pounds of pork to needy people, including victims of tornadoes in Oklahoma and of Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey.

 

 

EU Talks of Tripling Support for Ag Exports

As budget cuts continue to be debated in Congress, the European Commission has proposed more than tripling its spending in the international marketplace to support the export of Europe Union (EU) agricultural and agri-food sector products.

“Enjoy, it’s from Europe” is the slogan for the proposed expanded export initiative that “aims to help the sector's professionals break into international markets and make consumers more aware of the efforts made by European farmers to provide quality products, based on a genuine strategy established at European level,” according to EU media reports.

The proposal, which will be submitted to the European Parliament for its review, would boost European aid for agricultural exports progressively from €61 million ($82.5 million) in the 2013 budget to €200 million ($270.5 million) in 2020.

“In a world in which consumers are increasingly aware of the safety, quality and sustainability of food production methods, European farmers and small- or medium-sized enterprises are in a position of strength,” says European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Dacian Ciolos. “The European agricultural and agri-food sector is well-known for the unrivaled quality of its products and its compliance with standards that are unmatched anywhere else in the world. With over €110 billion worth of exports already, this is a formidable asset for boosting growth and employment within the EU.”

“This proposal from the European Commission sends a clear message that I hope our Congress is listening to,” says Mark Jagels, chairman of the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) and a fourth-generation farmer from south-central Nebraska. “With 96% of the world’s population living outside our borders, we need to focus our energy and resources on putting U.S. meat and other agricultural products on the world’s tables. If we don’t, our competitors in the EU and around the world will gladly take that business off our hands.”

Jagels noted that the benefits of supporting U.S. agricultural exports are well-documented.

“U.S. agricultural exports, which topped $141 billion in value in FY 12, support nearly 1.2 million American jobs,” Jagels says. “They accounted for a $38.5 billion surplus in the balance of trade for the year – one of the few bright spots in our economy.”

A recent study conducted for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported that the investment of USDA and checkoff funds in USMEF programs over the prior 10 years returned an average of $7.42 in net revenue to the U.S. pork industry and $3.87 to the beef industry per dollar invested.

“Where better can we invest our tax dollars than in supporting agricultural exports that create jobs, bolster an essential industry and put tax revenue back into the government’s coffers,” Jagels says. “We need to take a cue from the European Union and support agricultural exports rather than reducing spending on these essential programs.”

K-State Team Analyzes Agricultural Lending Practices

Agricultural lenders indicated that 2013 credit conditions held, but they look for future conditions to soften, according to the results of the September 2013 K-State Agricultural Lender Survey. Respondents expected loan interest rates to rise, non-performing loans to increase slightly from their current low level and farmland value gains to slow and then dip in the longer term. 

Allen Featherstone, interim department head and professor of agricultural economics and program director of the Master in Agribusiness degree at Kansas State University, said this survey gives farmers an idea of the current and future state of agricultural credit conditions. As with the survey conducted in the spring of 2013, the purpose of the fall K-State Agricultural Lender Survey is to not only answer questions about the evolution of agricultural credit conditions, but also to provide a broader overview of all agricultural lenders.

There were noticeable differences among the spring and fall survey responses, Featherstone said.

•        Unlike the spring results, fall survey respondents expected interest rates to increase in the short term and long term for operating, real estate and intermediate loans.

•        Non-performing loans during the past three months for the crop sectors of corn, soybeans and wheat experienced a decrease; however, non-performing loans are expected to increase in the long term for these sectors. One reason for the increase in non-performing loans in the long run is that currently many lending institutions have few, if any, non-performing loans.

•        Responses to a new question for the fall survey indicated that land prices increased during the past three months. While this upward trend is expected to stay in the short term, respondents believe land prices will start decreasing in the longer term.

For more information about the outlook for agricultural credit conditions and commentary on areas of concern within agriculture, go to the K-State Agricultural Lender Survey, http://www.ageconomics.ksu.edu/p.aspx?tabid=705.

This survey was developed by K-State’s Department of Agricultural Economics’ Brady Brewer, doctoral candidate; Brian Briggeman, associate professor and director of the Arthur Capper Cooperative Center; Allen Featherstone; and Christine Wilson, professor and assistant dean, Academic Programs, for the College of Agriculture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrating the Hispanic Holiday Season with Pork

To celebrate the Hispanic holiday season, the Pork Checkoff will launch a social media promotion – “21 Dias de Tradiciones Navideñas” (21 Days of Christmas Traditions) – on its Spanish-language Facebook page as part of its efforts to engage with Hispanic consumers during the holidays.

The promotion will run Dec. 1-21 and will celebrate 21 Latin American countries in 21 days and promote pork consumption to Spanish-speaking consumers. Pork, the most consumed protein in the world, is a staple in the Hispanic culture, especially during the holidays.

“This is a fun and engaging way for Hispanic consumers to learn more about other Latin American countries' pork dishes, customs and traditions,” says Jose de Jesus, director of multicultural marketing at the Pork Checkoff. “By sharing typical pork dishes, like tamales and pernil with family and friends, it will inspire Hispanics to try something new and creative.”

During the Facebook promotion, fans will have the opportunity to win a $25 gift card to purchase pork by commenting on the featured recipe each day. Fans who comment on posts will be entered into the grand prize drawing – a $550 gift card for a holiday meal with family and friends.

“Hispanics are very active on social media and like to share content, so engaging them on Facebook makes sense,” de Jesus says.

The National Pork Board will award the grand prize on “El Día De Los Reyes Magos” (Three Kings Day) on Jan. 6, 2014, celebrated by Latinos as the conclusion to the holiday season.

The National Pork Board's Hispanic online community encourages its online community to share recipes and exchange cooking tips with each other. Many traditional meals and new fusions of flavor will be featured daily on both its Facebook page, facebook.com/PorkMilRazones and Spanish-language website PorkElSabordeMilPlatillos.com to inspire fans to cook with pork.

 

Celebrating the Hispanic Holiday Season

To celebrate the Hispanic holiday season, the Pork Checkoff will launch a social media promotion – “21 Dias de Tradiciones Navideñas” (21 Days of Christmas Traditions) – on its Spanish-language Facebook page as part of its efforts to engage with Hispanic consumers during the holidays.

The promotion will run Dec. 1-21 and will celebrate 21 Latin American countries in 21 days and promote pork consumption to Spanish-speaking consumers. Pork, the most consumed protein in the world, is a staple in the Hispanic culture, especially during the holidays.

“This is a fun and engaging way for Hispanic consumers to learn more about other Latin American countries' pork dishes, customs and traditions,” says Jose de Jesus, director of multicultural marketing at the Pork Checkoff. “By sharing typical pork dishes, like tamales and pernil with family and friends, it will inspire Hispanics to try something new and creative.”

During the Facebook promotion, fans will have the opportunity to win a $25 gift card to purchase pork by commenting on the featured recipe each day. Fans who comment on posts will be entered into the grand prize drawing – a $550 gift card for a holiday meal with family and friends.

“Hispanics are very active on social media and like to share content, so engaging them on Facebook makes sense,” de Jesus says.

The National Pork Board will award the grand prize on “El Día De Los Reyes Magos” (Three Kings Day) on Jan. 6, 2014, celebrated by Latinos as the conclusion to the holiday season.

The National Pork Board's Hispanic online community encourages its online community to share recipes and exchange cooking tips with each other. Many traditional meals and new fusions of flavor will be featured daily on both its Facebook page, facebook.com/PorkMilRazones and Spanish-language website PorkElSabordeMilPlatillos.com to inspire fans to cook with pork.

 

USDA Issues Final Crop Report for 2013

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on Monday issued its final Crop Progress report for 2013.

The report reflected that 95% of the corn harvest has been completed in the top 18 states, compared with 100% of the harvest completed as of Nov. 24, 2012. The five-year average (2008-2012) for completion of the corn harvest is 91%.

The states of Colorado, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas have completed the corn harvest, with most other states within striking reach of finishing the job. Michigan at 84%, North Dakota at 86% and Wisconsin at 82% lag the furthest behind in completion of the corn harvest for 2013.

In the first two weeks of December, USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) will send out its annual December surveys on crops and livestock. NASS will survey approximately 90,000 U.S. producers.

Survey responses will provide the final information about the 2013 row crops focusing on harvested acreage, production and storage.

In addition, hog producers will be asked about their current inventory, pig crop and farrowing intentions for the next six months. With both data collection and data release taking place over a span of only four weeks, the results will be available starting with the Hogs and Pigs report on Dec. 27. That will be followed by the Dec. 27 Annual Crop Production Summary and other reports on Jan. 10, 2014.

Go to www.usda.gov to read the rest of the USDA report.