Posted By Cindy February 14, 2014
Word out of USDA this week that farm income is projected to drop dramatically this year brought visions of tractorcades and Farm Aids from the 1980s, but hold those calls to Willie and keep the tractors in the fields because a repeat of the infamous farm crisis is highly unlikely.
Net farm income is forecast to be $95.8 billion this year, down 26.5 percent from last year, and net cash income is expected to be almost 22 percent lower. “I wasn’t surprised at the farm income projections for 2014,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “After all, there are very little, if any, government payments involved in this projection because of the way in which the new farm bill is structured.”
Putting it in perspective, Vilsack says the projection is actually about $11 billion above the ten year average for farm income. “While it’s not as great as last year’s record, it’s still pretty doggone good,” he said.
USDA chief economist Joe Glauber says the reason another farm crisis is unlikely is that the farm financial picture going into this year is very positive. “Farmers are still carrying very low levels of debt relative to their assets,” said Glauber. In fact, farm asset values will likely increase this year, lowering the debt to asset ratio to just 10.5 percent, compared to the 25% seen during the ’80s. “You’d need almost a 70% reduction in land values to get you in that range,” he added.
In other words, this is not your father’s farm economy. And if the mood at the National Farm Machinery Show this week is any indication, farmers are pretty optimistic going into planting season this year and ready to plant some big crops to make up for lower prices.
Posted By Cathryn February 14, 2014
Have no fear, real farmers are here. And they want to tell you why Chipotle’s new TV series, “Farmed and Dangerous,” does not sit well with the farming community. For starters, the series, created for the online video-streaming service Hulu, mocks modern agriculture and warns viewers that today’s farming practices are dangerous and cruel.
The new series features Buck Marshall, an image consultant for Industrial Food Image Bureau, which spins and covers up negative behavior in the agriculture industry. In a recent New York Times article, Chipotle executives say the show intends to raise sustainability and animal-welfare concerns.
Farmers like Jennifer Schmidt would argue that the depiction of modern or, as the show refers to them, “industrial,” farmers is not accurate. Schmidt challenges Americans to go to the source with questions about food and to not believe everything you see on TV or the Internet.
“‘Farmed and Dangerous’ is intended to be a comedy, but I think the show is anything but funny,” says Schmidt. “As farmers, we want to open doors to open minds. And CommonGround volunteers like me want to invite consumers to take a peek behind our barn doors and see what really happens on our farms.”
The 100-plus CommonGround volunteers across the United States really want to help bridge the gap between farmers and those disconnected from farms. Americans can connect with CommonGround volunteers in multiple ways.
- Through blogs like Schmidt’s The Foodie Farmer
- Through social media – get a real-time glimpse of the farm. Check out which volunteers are on popular social media sites by heading over to our state page.
- Face to face – many CommonGround volunteers host farm tours. Connect online or through a state contact if you would like to visit a farm near you.
Posted By Cathryn February 13, 2014
A Reuters news story released today confirmed that the advanced tools and practices used by modern American farmers can have a massive positive impact in reducing global hunger if more widely adopted. Assuming the idea of reducing human suffering holds near universal appeal, this finding demonstrates how arguments for a return to the farming ways of yesterdays and against the use of tested, proven technologies would actually have a negative impact on anyone financially unable to pay the high price of adherence to these pseudointellectual ideals.
The study, conducted by the International Food Policy Research Institute, concluded that widespread adoption of an array of technologies, including biotech seeds, could cut commodity prices in half and reduce global food insecurity by as much as 36 percent by 2050. Noting that no single technology alone can produce this impact, the researchers found that used together practices such as no till farming, irrigation and biotech seed technologies can substantively change the future of global hunger.
For an infographic summarizing the findings, click here.
An over-fed, under-questioned segment of the population is pushing to take away the very tools farmers need to feed a growing world. With full stomachs, they use misinformation and empty rhetoric to launch a full sail assault on scientific advancement in agriculture. Whether for personal profit or out of sincere short-sightedness, anti-GMO activists and their anti-ag allies fight for misguided movements that would directly result in a future where more poor children go hungry.
The fight for modern farming is a fight to feed the world. Eschewing science in favor of foolish fanaticism has repercussions that reach far beyond U.S. borders and far into the future. Don’t let those born tomorrow suffer for the ignorance ignited today.
Posted By Cindy January 31, 2014
We recently got to meet Sara Ross, Iowa farmer and part of CommonGround Iowa. Sara and her husband Kevin operate a diversified farm near Minden, IA. She loves the volunteer work through CommonGround and talks about how it is helping her engage with non-farm folks about where their food comes from. She has been featured a couple of times in posts here on Corn Commentary, but here we have an interview in both audio and Google Glass form! Chuck Zimmerman did one of his new Google Glass project interviews with Sara at the National Biodiesel Conference.
Listen to Sara talk about her work with CommonGround and see it by Glass video below. Sara Ross, farmer and CommonGround volunteer
Posted By Cindy January 23, 2014
In case you haven’t heard, lots of folks are droning on about the great potential for the use of drones in agriculture.
The politically correct term is actually Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, or UAV, but drone still seems to be the preferred word, despite any negative connotations it may have.
When it comes to the potential for agriculture, Kansas State University precision agriculture specialist Dr. Kevin Price thinks the growth in the next few years “is gonna blow your socks off.”
“About 80% of the money that will be spent on the unmanned aircraft systems will be spent in the area of agriculture. There are ten times more applications in agriculture then there is in any of the other application areas,” said Dr. Price. “They’re predicting it’s going to be close to a 100 billion dollar industry by the year 2025.”
He said agriculture applications for drones in development include data collection on crop health and yields, nitrogen and chemical applications, spot treating of insects and disease, and much more. Data collection of field images by cameras mounted on drones within an inch of accuracy.
Dr. Price says the cost of a UAV, depending on the type, can range from under $1000 to as much as $12,000, but the returns could make it worth the price tag. “We believe that if we can save a farmer even one percent, the technology will pay for itself very quickly,” he said, adding it could be as much as three percent in terms of saving on fertilizer costs and catching diseases earlier.
While there is great good potential for drone use in agriculture, there are also concerns about abuse or misuse, such as the government or activists using them to gather data on farming operations. That’s why the American Farm Bureau adopted new policy on drones at the recent annual meeting, supporting the use for commercial agricultural but opposing government use of drones for regulatory enforcement, litigation or natural resource inventory surveys. AFBF delegates also advocate consent requirements for drone users flying over private land.
“There’s no question this technology is moving forward and moving fast,” said Dr. Price. “FAA is scrambling to set some regulations so this doesn’t become like the wild west with people doing lots of crazy things with it.”
Listen to Dr. Price answer questions from agricultural reporters at the AFBF meeting: Kevin Price Press Conference
Posted By Mark January 17, 2014
A true David and Goliath battle is under way between the nation’s family farmers and Big Oil in the form of the American Petroleum Institute (API). And farmers in recent weeks bounced a big rock off the head of the petroleum behemoth. At issue is American ethanol.
For months the oil industry has been involved in a well-funded campaign of both public and covert efforts to undermine the growing role of sustainable biofuel like ethanol. They capped this massive misinformation campaign by leaning on the White House and EPA to propose a change to the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) that would reduce ethanol use by 1.4 billion gallons this year.
The bad news is the most recent slap in the face, if successful, has the potential to hammer farmers and the rural economy to the tune of more than 10 billion dollars.
Before this recommendation can be accepted EPA’s proposal must go through a formal public comment period. Thousands of corn farmers across the country have responded with a vengeance submitting comments urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to retract its proposed 10 percent cut in the amount of corn ethanol in the 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard.
The volume of supportive comments coming from farmers as well as equipment dealers, bankers, school administrators and consumers who favor a fuel choice has been incredible so thanks to everyone who has taken the time to register your opinion.
The response has been so terrific that it tweaked API and in response they have launched yet another effort to remove any competition from the fuel marketplace. It takes the form of an annoying and deceptive “robo-call.”
On the pre-recorded action request API refers to those supporting ethanol as both a “special interest group” and as “extremists.” Since most those making the calls are farmers, I guess that means you. They also use the same old hackneyed and debunked arguments saying ethanol leads to higher food prices and damages car engines.
If being called an extremist makes you a little angry fight back. If having one of the world’s most prosperous industries try to increase their profits at your expense….fight back.
Corn growers: Click here to send a public comment to the EPA.
Non-farmers: Click here to customize and send a public comment to the EPA.
I wish it was a real person calling rather than some digital dweeb called Tom, because I would tell him to quit bugging hard working Americans and get back to cleaning up the their latest oil spill.
Posted By Cathryn December 27, 2013
The Washington Examiner needs to examine their facts before publishing pure poppycock. In an article which ran on December 20, the paper claimed that National Corn Growers Association National Corn Yield Contest record holder David Hula grew his record-breaking bounty using organic production practices. Contest records clearly show this is completely untrue.
Hula, a perennial winner, deserves both recognition and admiration for his abilities. NCGA enthusiastically congratulates him on his accomplishment. The contest aims to encourage innovation and improvement, a goal Hula undoubtedly achieved. The fact that he did not grow his corn organically in no way, shape or form diminishes his success.
The false story published in the Examiner does detract from the overall success of modern famers though. Within days, anti-GMO activists have latched on to this pseudo-story to aid in their agenda-driven arguments. A record yield such as Hula’s would support arguments for the production possibilities using organic methods. But the record was not set using organic methods. So, the support they so desire does not exist.
NCGA keeps detailed records from each entry submitted to the NCYC. The information these forward-facing farmers provide sheds light on possible advancements and supplies the documentation needed to ensure the integrity of the contest. . The Biovante™ soil treatment Hula used may qualify as an organic treatment, but none of his other practices would qualify as organic. Like the vast majority of corn growers, he planted corn hybrids that contain biotechnology, used synthetic fertilizers and synthetic pesticides. Organic production practices would not allow the use of any one of these tools.
The Examiner should take a closer look at how it fact checks its stories prior to publication. By not getting the story right, they turned a success story from America’s farms into a tool for activists who advocate against them.
Posted By Cindy December 18, 2013
Seed treatments could arguably be called one of the greatest advancements in agricultural production since the plow. That’s why proper stewardship of this important technology for farmers is so critical.
American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) CEO Andy LaVinge says seed industry and agricultural organizations have partnered to develop a new guide for farmers under the industry banner of Seed Treatment Matters. “We got together with CropLife America, and the major grower groups – National Corn Growers, American Soybean, National Cotton Council and American Farm Bureau Federation – to talk about the adoption of new technologies we’ve seen on seed,” he said. “We want to make sure that technology is properly stewarded.”
“Seed treatment does matter,” LaVigne added. “As farmers look at their seed treatment and seed plantings, we want to make sure that it matters, what they plant and how they steward it.”
The guide developed by the groups is available at seed-treatment-guide.com and it will also be offered and discussed at 2014 grower meetings.
Listen to my interview with Andy here: Interview with Andy LaVigne, ASTA
Posted By Cindy December 4, 2013
The 2013 harvest is considered completed at this point and the overall consensus is that it was a strange year that turned out well in the end.
Lance Honig with USDA’s National Ag Statistics Service says it looks especially good compared to 2012. “Last year with the extreme drought, we’d be hard pressed not to be above last year,” he said, adding that the growing season this year was certainly different than last year but no more normal. “What is normal these days? Nobody knows what a normal is.”
Despite all the challenges that faced farmers this season, the nation’s corn crop is on track to be a record high 14 billion bushels, according to the November crop production forecast, which was the final one of the season. “So the next report will be the final end-of-season numbers coming out January 10,” said Honig. NASS is beginning the process this week of surveying some 80,000 farmers for that report “so we can capture that actual harvest information from them.”
Leah Guffey interviewed Lance at the National Association of Farm Broadcasting annual Trade Talk last month: Interview with Lance Honig, USDA-NASS
Found this YouTube video from Cross Implement in central Illinois using Luke Bryan’s Harvest Time to help celebrate this special time of year!
Posted By Cindy November 5, 2013
After a slow start, the 2013 harvest is pretty much back on schedule in most of the country, but it seems late compared to last year’s record pace.
As of Sunday, USDA reports 73 percent of the corn crop was harvested, two points ahead of average, but more than 20% less than last year at this time. Only a few states are running behind at this point.
Missouri is exactly on pace with the five year average at 82% complete by Sunday. Last week, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon joined the Missouri Corn Growers Association at a grain elevator in the northeast part of the state to celebrate the success of the season’s crop.
“Right now, state corn yields statewide are up and we’re seeing averages pushing well above 125 bushels per acre with some farmers reporting high yields of about 200 bushels per acre in this region,” said Nixon.
MCGA CEO Gary Marshall says the Missouri crop is “one of the largest we’ve ever had” and believes the nation’s crop this year will be “the largest in history.” USDA will be coming out with the latest crop estimate on Friday.
The governor had lots of praise for corn farmers and the added value they provide to the state’s economy in the form of ethanol production and exports. Listen to his remarks here: Missouri Governor Jay Nixon
Pictured here in this photo from MCGA: Acting Director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture Harry Bozoian, Gary Marshall, Gov. Jay Nixon and ADM Director of State Government Relations Chris Riley.
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