Monday, March 20, 2023
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Last-Minute Planting Changes Are Still Possible This Spring


As spring planting continues to draw closer, farmers are all but ready to go. Mac Marshall is vice president of market intelligence for the United Soybean Board and the U.S. Soybean Export Council. He says farmers have to balance a lot of factors to get ready for planting in what is often a challenging market environment.

Marshall; “We had USDA come out with their expectations for the area for this next year and not seeing a lot of change in soy, some rebound in corn area. But we’re still weeks away from planting in many parts of the country, and the farmers are always balancing a whole suite of decisions. I always say farmers are going to balance what’s going to lead to economic viability and prosperity, gotta balance the economics with the agronomics, what’s going to be sound and best for your operation? Not just now, but for the years to come.”

While there are pressures ahead of planting, 2023 is a little more typical than what farmers faced last year.

Marshall; “There were tremendous market disruptions going on. I mean, Russia had just invaded Ukraine two weeks prior. Everybody’s trying to figure out what this means for world grain and oilseed markets, what that’s doing to price, and, at that time, the market was calling for a lot of corn. There was an expectation we’re gonna have a large corn area, I think, particularly in light of the fact that so much of that supply was not able to get out of Ukraine. Corn prices were calling for it. But with fertilizer price pressure and availability being an issue, that led to some sort of a pullback.”

Economics is only part of the decision. Marshall found that out last year when corn prices were rising higher because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Marshall; “By and large people were like, ‘I know corn prices are where they are, and I know bean prices were there, but I’m going to do what I can to stick to a 50-50 rotation because I gotta manage that nitrogen cycle.’ That’s the sort of thing where if you’re only looking at the balance sheets, you’re just looking at the futures prices, you’re not getting the full picture of some of the other things that go into farmers’ psychology and decision-making in agronomy and making sure you’re a good steward of the land and managing your inputs as best you can.”

There’s no doubt economics will play a big part again in 2023 due in large part to input costs that are still high. That means there may be some last-minute acre switching between corn and beans.

Marshall; “Fertilizer prices are not where they were last year, but let’s not pretend that it isn’t still a margin-compression issue. They’re still significantly higher than they were in 2021, and the same is true for a lot of inputs, so that factors into farmers’ decisions as well. It’s not just what’s going to grow well. It’s given input costs, can I make the right decisions that are going to shepherd the crop and put it in the best position? So, the big takeaway between now and the end of March? I think there’s still some time for that to volley back and forth.”

Rural Mainstreet Economy Goes Negative for March


After three straight months of readings slightly above growth neutral, the Creighton University Rural Mainstreet Index fell below the growth neutral threshold. The March index slumped to 45.6 from 50.1 in February. The index ranges between 0 and 100, with a reading of 50.0 representing growth neutral.

However, survey organizer Ernie Goss of Creighton University says farm credit is in a good position currently.

The slowing economy, higher borrowing costs and labor shortages continued to constrain the business confidence index to a weak 39.1 from 44.4 in February. Although, Goss says farmers remain in a good spot for now.

The region’s farmland price index decreased to 63.0 from February’s 63.5. This was the 30th straight month that the index has advanced above 50.0. As a result of solid farm financial conditions, the farm equipment-sales index climbed to 59.5 from 52.1 in February. The index has risen above growth neutral for 26 of the last 28 months.

Story and audio provided by NAFB News Service and George Bower, KICD, Spencer, Iowa

Vilsack Hedges on Payment Limits


USDA is caught in a delicate balancing act when it comes to farm subsidy payment limits that seem to help big versus small- and medium-sized operations.

USDA Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack at a recent Senate hearing said; “Senator, I think there need to be realistic and reasonable limits.”

But that was as far as Vilsack would go when Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley–renewing his earlier failed bids to pass payment limits–asked Vilsack if such limits could keep big producers from getting bigger at the expense of smaller ones.

Vilsack; “90 percent of farmers, most of them, are not making the majority of their money from farming. So, the small- and mid-sized producer doesn’t get as much help as a larger producer.”

Who gets more than three-quarters of their income from farming and thereby gets twice the subsidy—$250 thousand–of the smaller one. But the answer isn’t simple according to Vilsack; “We need to understand and figure out how do we do this in a way that recognizes the capital contribution of large producers, but at the same time, understands and appreciates that they may be in a better position to withstand a shock than the small- and mid-sized person who’s just on the edge every single year—it’s tough.”

Vilsack told Grassley the key is to create new revenue streams for the smaller producers and that commodity-based markets alone won’t keep them in business. Not mentioned was payment limit opposition by large Southern operations and their Congressional lawmakers whose votes are needed to pass a farm bill.

African Swine Fever Surging Again in China


African Swine Fever is making a resurgence in China and will potentially push prices higher for the most popular protein in the country. Bloomberg says multiple outbreaks have shown up in different parts of the country throughout the winter.

Rabobank expects the most recent wave of ASF to significantly lower production capacity and push prices higher during the second quarter of 2023. The outbreak was most severe in the northern regions of the country, and multiple areas are still struggling with the disease. Rabobank estimates say the latest wave has hit 10 percent of the nation’s sow herd, which controls hog production.

An outbreak in 2018-2019 decimated China’s pig herd, at the time, the largest herd in the world. The spike fueled inflation as pork is a key element in the Chinese consumer price index. Official estimates say 8-15 percent of total production could be lost in the current outbreak.

USDA Awards Funding to Protect U.S. Cattle From FMD


The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service awarded the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association with $445,400 in funding to advance the Secure Beef Supply Plan. The plan would go into effect in the event of a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in the U.S.

“NCBA is grateful for this critical funding to help continue defending the U.S. cattle herd from the threat of foot-and-mouth disease,” says Allison Rivera, NCBA executive director of government affairs. “The Secure Beef Supply Plan combined with USDA’s national vaccine bank provides a strong safety net for cattle producers and multiple tools to mitigate the risk of a potential outbreak.”

This funding was made available through the 2018 Farm Bill and shows why continued support and further funding for animal disease preparation measures like the Secure Beef Supply Plan and the National Animal Vaccine and Veterinary Countermeasures Bank are so important as Congress works on the 2023 Farm Bill.

TFI Happy with Biostimulant Legislation


The Fertilizer Institute President and CEO Corey Rosenbusch is pleased with the introduction of the Plant Biostimulant Act. The act, introduced in both the House and Senate, will support the adoption of biostimulants by farmers and provide clarity to the emerging marketplace. Biostimulants have the potential to enhance the existing environmental stewardship of growers and complement their 4R practices.

“Biostimulants support environmental stewardship by improving the efficiencies of fertilizer application and soil health while also increasing crop yields,” Rosenbusch says. “With a growing population, demand for agricultural production continues to increase.” He also says biostimulants are a relatively new innovation in agriculture and that there’s great potential in these products.

However, there are hurdles to overcome, including the lack of a uniform framework to regulate them as plant nutrition products. “We need the guardrails this act provides to help foster innovation, research, testing, and a path to market these products,” Rosenbusch says.

USDA Accepting Applications for 2024 Export Programs


The USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service is accepting applications from eligible organizations for fiscal year 2024 funding for five export market development programs. FAS recently published the FY 2024 Notices of Funding Opportunity for the Market Access Program, Foreign Market Development Program, Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops Program, the Quality Samples Program, and the Emerging Markets Program.

Under the Market Access Program, USDA provides cost-share assistance to U.S. exporters and agricultural, fish, and forest product trade organizations for international marketing and promotion of U.S. commodities and products. Under the Foreign Market Development Program, USDA partners with nonprofit agricultural and forest product trade associations to build longer-term international demand for U.S. commodities.

The Emerging Markets Program supports technical assistance activities for developing emerging markets for U.S. agricultural, fish, and forest products. The application deadline for the five programs is May 19. For more information on the rest of the programs, go to

Drought Relief in the Western U.S.


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says spring flooding is an ongoing problem in the western U.S., especially in California.

The abnormally wet winter will further improve drought across much of the western U.S. as a historically-high snowpack melts in the months ahead. Winter precipitation combined with recent storms has eliminated exceptional and extreme drought in California for the first time since 2020 and is expected to further improve drought conditions this spring.

Moisture in the spring is expected to improve drought conditions across parts of the Northern and Central Plains. Drought conditions are expected to improve or disappear over the next three months in Florida. Areas of extreme to exceptional drought across parts of the Southern High Plains are likely to persist through the spring season.

Drought is also expected to develop in parts of New Mexico. In the Northwest U.S. and northern Rockies, drought conditions are expected to continue.

Allendale Predicts Corn and Soybean Planted Acres


A farmer survey by commodity brokerage firm Allendale says America’s farmers are expected to plant 90.41 million acres of corn and 87.76 million acres of soybeans this year.

Those projected corn planting acres would be below the USDA’s Outlook Forum forecast of 91 million acres but above the 88.57 million acres planted in 2022. Projected soybean plantings would top the USDA forecast of 87.5 million acres and exceed the 87.45 million acres planted to soy in 2022.

Allendale predicts the all-wheat plantings at 48.7 million acres, below the USDA prediction of 49.5 million but higher than the 2022 planted area of 45.73 million acres. Allendale projected U.S. farmers’ winter wheat seedings to be 36.52 million acres, below the USDA’s January estimate of 36.95 million acres but up from the 33.71 million acres seeded during 2022.

The brokerage and analysis firm projects “other spring wheat” acreage for 2023 at 10.6 million acres.

Vilsack Takes GOP Heat on SNAP, WOTUS, Pesticides, CCC, Trade, and More


USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack came under fire from Senate Ag Republicans on multiple fronts at a committee farm bill hearing. It started with top Ag Republican John Boozman accusing Vilsack of overstepping his authority and dramatically ramping up SNAP spending kept in check by former Secretary Sonny Perdue.

Vilsack said; “Senator, with all due respect, I don’t think I am necessarily bound by what Secretary Perdue decided while he was secretary.” Boozman in response said, “You’re bound by what this committee wanted to do, what CBO wanted to do, and we’re not bound by you finding loopholes to try and do things as you wish.”

Vilsack insisted he was acting within the law to update SNAP costs that other Republicans like Alabama’s Tommy Tuberville complained would now crowd out farm bill safety net spending. Tuberville; “Now this farm bill will have a price tag of over 1.4 trillion dollars, with over 1.2 trillion of it going to SNAP benefits.”

There were the usual complaints about the new Biden WOTUS rule and a non-FTA trade agenda, but also about depleting Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) dollars meant for commodity programs.

Vilsack; “We’re very careful to stay within the statutory language that authorizes the CCC expenditures, and we never ever, ever, ever put at risk the farm bill programs that require CCC funding.”

Some of which Vilsack says the USDA’s now spending to expand domestic fertilizer production and help food banks, but he also accused the Trump USDA of spending most of the $65 billion drawn since 2017.

And on USDA’s atrazine labeling recommendations, Kansas’ Roger Marshall says EPA ignored; “So, their, using their practices, we’re going to have to plow the ground, which we know is a huge carbon sink.” Vilsack “We have raised that issue with them, repeatedly.” Marshall “And what do they saying?” Vilsack “They have a disagreement with us, Senator. I don’t know what to say.” Marshall “Thank you.”

These comments were made this week during a Senate Ag Committee hearing.