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Wet Weather Saps Nitrogen from Corn Fields

This map depicts accumulated precipitation in inches from April 1 2013 to June 9 2013 Yellow shaded areas represent 46 inches green areas ranging from light to dark represent 818 inches and blue shaded areas indicate 19 to 24 inches of precipitation
This map depicts accumulated precipitation in inches, from April 1, 2013 to June 9, 2013. Yellow shaded areas represent 4-6 inches, green areas, ranging from light to dark, represent 8-18 inches, and blue shaded areas indicate 19 to 24 inches of precipitation.

Producers who don’t plan, watch and act for nitrogen deficiencies in their corn will lose green in their crop and at the bank, says a University of Missouri Extension plant scientist.

Peter Scharf says drenching rains have depleted nitrogen fertilizer from the soil, especially anhydrous ammonia applied last fall. That was seven hard months ago.

Fall weather was good for field work, so Missouri corn producers applied nitrogen then in larger-than-usual quantities. Those who didn’t apply in the fall had to apply this spring, when it’s been too muddy to work most days.

But the risk of losing nitrogen applied in spring is lower.

Snow and rain in February and March began replenishing moisture to drought-stricken soils.

And the rain kept coming. Almost 60 million acres in the Midwest received more than 16 in. of rain between April 1 and June 9, prime planting time. Iowa and Missouri got particularly damp.

When it gets this wet, N-Serve added to fall-applied ammonia doesn’t provide enough protection from nitrogen loss, Scharf says. He suspects that well-drained soils have had the largest losses because the heaviest rains fell during April, when well-drained soils are more vulnerable to loss than poorly drained fields.

As a result, farmers who applied nitrogen before planting should plan how they will apply additional fertilizer and what equipment will be available, he says.

Additionally, fertilizer retailers should make plans on how to help customers apply nitrogen to growing corn. Scharf says good options include tractor-driven injection equipment, tractor-drawn dry N buggies, sprayers equipped with drip nozzles, high-clearance self-propelled spinners and airplanes.

One alternative is to use high-clearance fertilizer applicators equipped with canopy sensors to assess nitrogen status. This allows direct on-the-go and spatially variable nitrogen applications, but correct interpretations of the sensor assessment are critical.

Scharf says farmers should visually monitor their corn constantly for light green color, which indicates insufficient nitrogen. If the corn leaves remain light after soil has dried, you need to add more nitrogen. This is most reliable for corn that is at least a foot tall.

Nitrogen stress differs from field to field on the same farm, he says. The best return on the dollar for rescue nitrogen is on fields that look the worst. Fields applied with nitrogen this spring or after planting are less likely to need more nitrogen, but producers should keep a watchful eye.

Scharf also cautions that it is difficult to monitor corn from ground level. Views and photos from airplanes afford a more accurate assessment. He says many airfields have local pilots for hire.

He says he could predict yield loss from a straight-down aerial photo of corn that is at least hip-high. Anyone interested in this service may contact Scharf at (573) 882-0777.

 

 

Crops Continue Slow Progression

 

The lack of hot, dry weather has continued to hamper crop progress, according to the Crop Progress report released Monday by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).

Corn crop emergence stands at 92% for the 18 major corn-producing states vs. 85% a week ago but below the average of 97% for 2008-2012.

Corn condition dipped slightly to 52% in good condition compared to 53% a week ago. Only 12% of the crop is rated in excellent condition. In the 18 states surveyed, 34% of the corn crop was listed as in fair or poor condition.

As of June 16, 85% of soybeans were planted in the 18 states reporting, up from 71% a week ago but below the five-year average of 91%.

Only 66% of soybeans have emerged, according to the NASS report, vs 48% a week ago and an average of 80% for 2008-2012.

Read more of the NASS Crop Progress report by visiting www.usda.gov and clicking on Agency Reports.

 

Expect Corn Projections to be Dialed Back

Expect Corn Projections to be Dialed Back

Last week, I cited two topics of concern from World Pork Expo (WPX) – Smithfield/Shuanghui and porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) virus.  Not to be short-changed, a third concern was the impending information from the June Crop Production and World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimate (WASDE) reports from USDA.  Those were released last Wednesday.  While the information in those reports is news, I suppose, little of the WASDE report differed from what we had already seen from USDA in recent months.

Figure 1 shows USDA’s June corn supply and utilization table from last week’s report.  As expected, USDA did not change planted or harvested acre projections even though it is almost universally accepted that this year’s total will fall short of the 97.3 million acres projected in the March Prospective Plantings report. 

As of last week, 95% of the corn acres were planted but the percentages in some key states were substantially lower than that figure.  Only 92% of Iowa’s acres were planted.  Minnesota plantings were at 90%, while farmers in North Dakota and Wisconsin had planted only 89% and 81% of intended acres, respectively.  Put those percentages with the planned acres and you get 1.14 million unplanted acres in Iowa, 900,000 in Minnesota, 450,000 in North Dakota and 830,000 in Wisconsin.  Add in shortfalls in some other states, most notably Illinois at 490,000 acres, and last week’s progress report implies 4.5 million “unplanted” corn acres as of June 9.   Some acres in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri and Indiana may still get planted, but a good portion of those Minnesota and Wisconsin and most, if not all, of the North Dakota acres are very much in doubt, especially given crop insurance features which will compensate farmers pretty well even if they plant nothing.  Bottom line:  The final acreage figures will be substantially lower than 97.3 million acres and could be below 94 million acres.

USDA dropped its projected yield from 158 to 156.5 bu./acre, a little more than what was expected by analysts that were surveyed before the report.  But the analysts were guessing what USDA would say, not what the actual yield would be.  By most accounts, that figure is much lower than 156.5 bu./acre.  Iowa State’s Elwyn Taylor told WPX audiences that, according to historical yield-to-price relationships, Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) corn futures markets were pricing in a yield of about 147 bu./acre. 

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So, while the latest USDA numbers say a crop of 14.005 billion bushels, year-end 2014 stocks of 1.949 billion bushels, and, consequently, a year-end stocks-to-use ratio of 15.2%, I expect we are going to see much lower numbers in July when USDA releases its upcoming acreage report and begins to earnestly estimate this year’s yield based on where the acres are and the actual condition of that crop. 

If we get 94 million acres planted, harvest a normal 92% of them, and get a 147-bu./acre yield, the crop will total about 12.7 billion bushels.  Prices would be much higher than USDA’s current $4.40 to $5.20/bu. range, and various usages would have to be curtailed.  

Total usage for 2012-13 is currently pegged at 11.15 billion bushels;   2013-14 usage would not be dialed back that far, but it could certainly be reduced to the 12.547 billion bushels of 2011-2012, implying 2014 carryout stocks of just over one billion bushels and a year-end stocks-use-ratio of 8%.  A similar ratio in 2011 resulted in a national average farm corn price of $6.22/bu.  I thought $5.30 Dec corn futures were too high in early April.  Now those futures don’t look so pricey!

Soybean Projections

USDA made no changes at all to its 2013-2014 forecasts for soybeans except to add $10/ton to both ends of its forecast price range for soybean meal and $0.25/bu. to both ends of the range for soybeans (Figure 2).  Both of those ranges are still significantly lower than current new crop futures, which are apparently quite concerned about soybean plantings and yields.  Soybeans, of course, still have some growing time but the risk of an early frost is quite real, so we can understand the market’s concern.

Hog Price Prospects Better

The best news of the week, of course, was the belated but much-hoped-for rally in cash hog prices and lean hog futures.  Last week’s average national net hog price across all purchase methods was $99.18/cwt., the fourth-highest ever (Figure 3). 

June Lean Hogs futures expired on Friday at over $102/cwt.  We expect cash hogs to hang in this mid-to-upper $90s through the first part of August now that they have reached this level.  Q4 hogs could be priced at about $83/cwt. on the Board of Trade which, with negative basis and positive premiums, would be near the net price received in Iowa and Minnesota; $83/cwt. is the top of my Q4 price forecast range based on the March Hogs and Pigs report, so I think producers should consider pricing some hogs at this time.  It’s not a “plus-$3-over-forecast” situation in which I would say, “Sell, sell, sell!” but it is a good price relative to my expectations and taking it would reduce revenue risks significantly.  Consider that reduction relative to your financial position before taking action.

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Canada Launches National Strategy to Prevent PED

To prevent the introduction of porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) virus into Canada, the Canadian Swine Health Board (CSHB) is formulating a national prevention strategy. 

PED virus is an aggressive strain causing widespread watery diarrhea in all ages, leading to up to 100% mortality in nursing pigs. Other ages of pigs are affected as well, although not as severely as nursing pigs. Investigative teams in the United States are working to establish the source of the outbreak, and it is hoped that detailed questionnaires from U.S. veterinarians contained in an epidemiological survey provide answers as well.

This is the first time this disease has been seen in North America, and therefore the Canadian herd has no immunity against this virus. As a result, the Canadian industry would suffer disastrous economic losses should this disease spread to Canada.

The CSHB’s Canadian Swine Health Intelligence Network (CSHIN) provides Canada a unique opportunity to monitor the health of pigs across the country. Fortunately, CSHIN data continues to indicate that the Canadian herd remains free of any signs of PED virus.

“Protecting the Canadian herd from this disease threat is critical to the success of our industry,” says Florian Possberg, CSHB Chair. “We all have a role to play, and the overwhelming response from the Canadian industry demonstrates the interest in doing whatever can be done.”

The CSHB was established to take a leadership role in addressing swine health risks for Canada. As such, CSHB notified the industry immediately of the PED threat, and has taken a collaborative approach in bringing together industry partners to develop a national strategy to address the PED threat. Much has already been done, and further steps have been identified to help ensure Canada remains PED-free.

Components of the national PED strategy include:

Heightened biosecurity: Good biosecurity is the key to stopping the spread of this disease, including ensuring that incoming animals are from healthy herds, all trucks and equipment are free of contamination, and knowing the quality and source of all incoming feed ingredients. Several technical bulletins and updates provide key information and are available at www.swinehealth.ca.

Effective surveillance: Besides the important monitoring of herds through CSHIN, effective surveillance means producers report any unusual signs of disease to their veterinarian, and also ensuring their veterinarian is participating in CSHIN. Producers and veterinarians can find out more about CSHIN by contacting Chris Byra, CSHIN manager, at [email protected]

Keeping up to date: The CSHB provides a free daily electronic update on swine health news. Especially now, all industry stakeholders should be receiving this to ensure they have the latest news on PED virus. Subscribe to CSHB News Updates at [email protected].

Risk analysis: While fundamental initiatives to address this threat are already in progress, a national risk analysis will provide key details on further protecting the Canadian herd. Some risk assessments for PED virus  are already underway, and consistently addressing these factors on a national basis is critical. Issues to be considered include diagnostic testing and capacity and financial impacts for producers and the rest of the value chain.

Control: An intervention strategy must be established so that a clear plan is in place, and can be immediately implemented, in the event of PED virus being identified in Canada. Components of this plan include containment to prevent its spread and strategies to eliminate the disease. This PED strategy will continue to be revised and enhanced as more information on the disease and its spread are learned. All Canadian swine industry stakeholders are encouraged to actively participate in this collaborative national strategy.

The CSHB was formed to proactively address swine health challenges through leadership, coordination and support in the management of the health of the Canadian swine herd. Its members include the Canadian Association of Swine Veterinarians, the Canadian Association of Veterinary Colleges, the Canadian Centre for Swine Improvement, the Canadian Meat Council and the Canadian Pork Council.

 

NPPC Supports Feral Swine Program

Last week the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) submitted comments in support of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services’ proposal for a national feral swine damage management program.

In its comments, NPPC called for immediate action. NPPC stated the expanded national feral swine damage management program was long overdue, and inaction would increase the risk of damage to agricultural and environmental sectors.

According to NPPC, feral swine are known to exist in 43% of swine-producing counties in the United States. The wild pigs pose a serious disease risk to the domestic swine population, carrying and transferring pseudorabies and brucellosis when they come into contact with domestic hogs.

A pseudorabies outbreak would threaten export markets and cause millions of dollars in economic losses to the pork industry, NPPC says.

Moreover, feral swine populations have grown at an alarming rate and are now found in 38 states, with an estimated population of more than five million animals. The damage to agriculture crops and the environment continues to grow at an alarming rate.

In its June 12 letter to USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services, NPPC President Randy Spronk urged Wildlife Services to adopt the preferred method of lethal control as it is currently the only effective option for control of feral swine.

To read the NPPC letter, click here.

 

 

Senate Passes Farm Bill

farm bill capitol art

The Senate passed S. 954, the “Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013,” by a strong bipartisan vote of 66-29.  The bill is estimated to save $24 billion through the elimination of nearly 100 federal programs, limiting payments to producers and consolidating 23 conservation programs into 13 programs. 

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Significant budget cuts included: elimination of direct payments for $16 billion in savings; cuts nutrition programs by $4 billion; and conservation programs are consolidated to save approximately $5.6 billion. There are increases in some programs. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said, “The Senate today voted to support 16 million American jobs, to save taxpayers billions and to implement the most significant reforms to agriculture programs in decades.  By eliminating duplication and streamlining programs, we were able to save $24 billion while strengthening initiatives that help farmers and small businesses reach new markets. This bill proves that by working across party lines, we can save taxpayer money and create smart policies that lay the foundation for a stronger economy.”  The House of Representatives is expected to consider the farm bill this week.

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Animal Welfare Institute Petitions USDA

Animal Welfare Institute Petitions USDA

The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) petitioned USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) asking that all slaughter facilities be required to create and implement a comprehensive, written animal handling plan. 

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Facilities would be required to have 1) all workers who have contact with animals be trained in humane handling, 2) stunning equipment be routinely tested and maintained, and 3) back-up stunning devices be available in both the stunning and holding areas of every slaughter plant.  USDA is currently reviewing the petition.  

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NPPC: Vote No On the Egg Bill Amendment

NPPC: Vote No On the Egg Bill Amendment

This week the House of Representatives likely will vote on including the “Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2013,” the so-called Egg Bill, in the 2013 Farm Bill. The bill seeks to put into federal law an agreement between the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the United Egg Producers (UEP) to mandate federal egg production standards.

The legislation, strongly opposed by the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the American Farm Bureau Federation, would set a dangerous precedent allowing Congress and federal bureaucrats to regulate all on-farm animal production practices.

NPPC strongly encourages producers to contact their representative to urge him or her to vote against the Egg Bill amendment (H.R. 1731).

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Also, visit www.stophsus.com or call (855) 723-2847. NPPC would oppose the entire Farm Bill if the Egg Bill is included.

There is also a possibility for an amendment to strike the amendment offered at the Agriculture Committee markup in May by Rep. Steve King, R-IA, that prohibits states from imposing laws that place production conditions on agricultural goods sold within its own borders but produced in other states, according to NPPC.

NPPC is supportive of the original amendment offered by King and would oppose an amendment to strike.

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Export Promotion an International Priority

U.S. farmers and ranchers are competing in a very active international market with many countries investing significant public and private funds in trade development and market promotion programs.  This is the finding of a study released by U.S. Wheat Associates (USW), who stated: “This is the first study to take an in-depth look at competing export market development programs as well as the source and amount of funding.”

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According to the study, the European Union (EU) central government and 12 individual countries (Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, France, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, South Africa and Turkey) spent an estimated $1.8 billion, including $700 million in public funds and $1.1 billion in private funds, on export promotion for agri-food products.  This compares to the United States in which an estimated $650 million, including $256 million in public funds and $394 million in private investment, were spent on trade development and marketing promotion programs of agri-food products.

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Agricultural Groups Support Trade Promotion Programs

Over 140 agricultural groups have sent a letter to the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee urging strong support for USDA’s trade promotion programs, the Foreign Market Development (FMD) program and the Market Access Program (MAP).  The groups are urging the programs be fully funded at current levels of $34.5 million for FMD and $200 million for MAP.

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 The groups said, “MAP and FMD have been tremendously successful and extremely cost-effective in helping maintain and expand U.S. agricultural exports, protect and create American jobs, strengthen farm income and help to offset the government-supported advantages afforded foreign competitors.”   Those signing the letter included the American Feed Industry Association, American Soybean Association, Livestock Exporters Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Chicken Council, National Corn Growers Association, National Cotton Council, National Farmers Union, National Pork Producers Council, National Turkey Federation, and U.S. Meat Export Federation.  

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