Posted By Cindy May 29, 2013
Once again, Roseanne Roseannadanna comes to mind this week as farmers manage to almost catch up to normal in planting, but many in Iowa are looking at having to re-plant due to flooded fields.
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey posted this photo on his Facebook page yesterday of an Iowa corn field. “Lots of corn in Iowa is swimming after the weekend rains,” he wrote. “This week’s forecast suggests replanting won’t be happening for a while.”
Iowa farmers planted another 14% of their corn crop last week, bringing the total so far to 85% complete, which is still about 14% below normal for this time of year. Nationwide, however, the total is now at 86%, which is down just 4% from the five year average. Emergence is also starting to catch up, with 54% out of the ground compared to just 19% last week, but down from the 67% average.
Meanwhile, soybean planting is plugging along, still about 37% behind normal. Another 20% was planted last week nationwide, 24% in Iowa – but this photo also from Secretary Northey’s Facebook page shows that some of that planting was in vain.
“Soybeans planted, but drowned out before they emerged,” writes Northey. That field is located near Rembrandt, towards the northwest corner of the state. Iowa Governor Terry Branstad yesterday declared a disaster emergency in 13 counties in central and northwestern Iowa due to flooding.
This time last year the corn was growing like crazy – nearly 90% emerged – before the water shut off and the drought came. Like Roseanne used to say, “It just goes to show you, it’s always something. If it’s not one thing, it’s another.”
Posted By Cindy May 21, 2013
It’s truly amazing to see how quickly farmers can make progress in the field given just a little window of opportunity.
That’s what happened last week around the Midwest as the weather got warm and dry enough for growers to plant over 40% of the corn crop in seven days. According to the latest crop progress report, 71% of projected corn acres had been planted as of last Sunday. Illinois farmers jumped from just 17% planted the week ending May 12 to 74% on May 19, just 3% less than the five year average, while progress in Iowa increased by 56 points to 71%. “Farmers have the technology and the drive to accomplish more in a week than we could have in three only a few decades ago,” said Iowa farmer Pam Johnson, president of the National Corn Growers Association. “Last week, we knew that we needed a week of drier, warmer weather and, throughout much of the Corn Belt, we got just that.”
While farmers get the credit for working night and day when the window opens, it’s the new technology that really makes the fast pace possible, something noted in a Financial Times article today. “The blistering pace of planting shows how new technology, from global positioning systems and huge 48-row planters to self-driving tractors, has transformed farming from a small family business to an industry requiring huge capital investments. The largest corn planters could cost nearly $350,000 per unit.”
True that the new technology is costly, but it’s important to note that it is still small family businesses making those huge capital investments. As Pam Johnson added in her statement about the progress made last week “our nation’s family farmers will get the crop planted and work just as tirelessly through harvest to make sure that we provide the food, feed and fuel America needs.”
Emergence however is still lagging well behind normal with just 19% emerged nationwide, compared to the 46% average, but as NCGA chairman Garry Niemeyer said in the previous post, with more favorable weather, corn will probably “come flying out of the ground” now.
The photo in this post comes from the Kinze Manufacturing Facebook page taken last week in Ladora, Iowa by Alan and Barry Mohr.
Posted By Cindy May 7, 2013
Nothing like a little snow in May to really slow down a planter!
This photo from Minnesota was posted last week on the Case IH Facebook page. Despite the snow, Minnesota farmers did manage to get two percent of their corn crop in the ground last week, but they should have over half of it planted by now.
Nearly 50% of the crop nationwide should be planted by now in an average year, but only 12% was planted as of Sunday according to USDA. Last year at this time, nearly 70% of the crop was planted.
There was more progress last week than in recent weeks, even in states that saw more white stuff on the ground. Minnesota, Michigan, North and South Dakota, and Wisconsin all finally got a few points on the board after making no progress in the previous weeks. Illinois, Indiana and Iowa move up a few notches from 1-2% to 7-8%. But, again, all should be at or nearing the halfway point by now.
Emergence is far behind normal as well with 11 of the 18 top corn producing states showing no corn above ground yet. Just three percent of the crop has emerged compared to 29% last year and 15% average.
Not to worry yet, however. “It is still early in the planting season and slow progress at this point should not cause alarm,” said National Corn Growers Association President Pam Johnson, a grower in Iowa. “Modern farming technology has dramatically reduced the time needed for farmers to plant a large number of acres, and this means we can begin planting much later if need be.”
And a little cooperation from Mother Nature would help.
Posted By Cindy May 6, 2013
Representatives from eight nations just gathered in Washington DC to discuss how they can work together to share important agricultural data with the rest of the planet with the ultimate goal of increasing global food security. Overall, they agreed that they need to make government data sets such as research and crop production as accessible as possible.
At the G8 Open Data for Agriculture conference, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack revealed how the U.S. data would be made available in a new virtual community for Food, Agriculture and Rural issue, located at www.data.gov.
“This new online community is a big step toward opening information for agriculture, making it public in useable formats,” said Vilsack. “This will increase the value of the investments U.S. taxpayers make in agricultural research, it will create a data ecosystem that will fuel economic growth, it will help drive that innovation to meet our global food challenge we all face.”
Other G8 countries represented at the conference are also making their ag data available in similar ways. USDA Chief Scientist Dr. Catherine Woteki says the idea is to share research and production information particularly with farmers in Africa to help them increase productivity. “Some of that is coming from our plant and animal research program, where we’re mapping the genomes of important crops and animal species for agriculture,” she said. “We’re also including all of our agricultural statistics that traditionally we have made available but now it’s going to be easier through this new community on data.gov.”
Paul Welbig of Raven Industries, who attended the G8 conference as an industry partner actively involved in data distribution platform development, says the ability to share information with farmers in less developed nations is easier than ever before. “Remarkably enough, although they may not have running water or electricity, a lot of these communities actually do have good wireless access and cell phones are a main means of communications” especially by SMS or text messaging. So, applications have been developed taking the ag data sets and communicating them by SMS platforms.
Why is this important? Welbig says one of the most significant developments in agricultural productivity in recent history was made possible by the sharing of open data. “And that was GPS,” he said. “The satellite signals that were once proprietary to the government. They made those signals available and now look at the precision ag industry as a result of what they can do with this open data.”
Posted By Cindy May 2, 2013
Planting progress continues to be slowed by wet and cold weather in most of the major corn producing states, with some states even getting more snow last week.
According to USDA, just 5% of the U.S. corn crop was planted as of Sunday, only a percentage point of difference compared to the previous week. Last year at this time, nearly half the crop was in the ground and normally at least 30% should be planted by now. All 18 major corn producing states are behind the five year average. The only states even close are North Carolina and Texas. Every state should be showing progress in the double digits, but only six are and five have nothing in the ground yet. Another half dozen have less than 3-4% planted.
In Missouri, where both the photos on this page were taken last week, corn planting was 15 percent complete as of Sunday, 24 days behind last year and 15 days behind normal. According to the Missouri Corn Growers Association, farmers in southeast Missouri were starting to see corn emerge last week, while some northern Missouri locations were dealing with snow. The Gary Porter family of Mercer in north central Missouri made a little snowman instead of planting last week.
Jason Mayer of Dexter, sent in this photo of his corn emerging. Johnny Hunter in the same southeast area of the state reported last week that he was finished corn planting and was hopeful the crop would make it through the cold temperatures. “Cold has caused a slow start and corn is only in V1 or V2 stage, which is pretty rare for almost the first of May,” Hunter reported to MCGA. “Cold is costing us bushels right now and corn doesn’t look that great, but we have an even stand so I’m happy with that.”
Just 2% of total U.S. corn has emerged, compared to 14% last year at this time and 6% on average. In Missouri, 9% of the crop has emerged.
Posted By Cindy April 22, 2013
This spring is an example of what Gilda Radner’s character Roseanne Roseannadanna on the old Saturday Night Live shows used to say: “It just goes to show you, it’s always something! If it’s not one thing, it’s another!”
That’s what farming is all about when it comes to the weather. Last spring’s weather was picture perfect for planting and fast emergence – this year, not so much. By summer of 2012, the crops were wilting from heat and lack of moisture – now fields in some areas are flooding. If it’s not one thing, it’s another.
“Virtually no field work accomplished across the heart of the Midwest” this past week, according to USDA meteorologist Brad Rippey. Corn planting as of April 21 was just four percent nationwide, compared to 26% this time last year and 16% for the five year average. I took the photo in this post on Sunday off I-35 in DeKalb county Missouri. The Show Me State is showing 13% of the corn planted, compared to nearly 50% this time last year and about 30% for the average.
Illinois and Indiana managed to get 1% planted during the week, a far cry from last year when Illinois had 56% and Indiana had 43%. Ohio stayed stagnant at 1%, compared to over 30% this time last year. “Still haven’t seen a single field planted in some of the other major states,” said Rippey. That includes Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, and Colorado. But, normally those states should only be about 10% or less by now so there is still plenty of time to catch up.
The good news is that the moisture is much needed and that should be a big help whenever the crop does get in the ground. Warmer temperatures will also be helping the soil temps heat up a bit.
Posted By Cindy April 12, 2013
“I believe we will have a bill this year because we have to have a bill this year.”
That’s what Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said to agricultural journalists meeting in Washington DC. While he is confident there will be a “food, farm and jobs” bill sometime this year, he’s not sure about exactly when that might be. “I don’t know when Congress is going to act,” said the secretary. “I know what the ag chairs have said and that is that they’re anxious to get started now.”
That seems to be the general consensus among the policy watchers on Capitol Hill but that’s just about the same thing that was being said last year at this time. The committees were starting to work and the industry was feeling confident that the work would be getting done before the 2008 bill expired in September. Obviously, it didn’t happen.
Secretary Vilsack had two main reasons why we “have to have a bill” this year. “Producers need solutions and a five year plan to make decisions, but there are certain parts of the bill that will resolve sticky issues for us” the Brazilian WTO case regarding cotton being the primary example.
Of course, we had those same two reasons last year, but it was still okay to “kick the can” down the road for awhile. Hopefully it will be different this year. There has to be a point where the road dead ends.
Listen to Vilsack’s remarks and Q&A from reporters here: Secretary Vilsack
Posted By Cindy March 20, 2013
Our U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack spoke at the annual National Ag Day banquet Tuesday at the USDA Whitten Bldg.
Secretary Vilsack wished everyone a Happy Ag Day and then talked about American farm productivity, pointing to a chart showing how high the ag sector is compared to other industries since 1948. “American agriculture’s productivity far, far outpaced the entire American economy and its productivity,” Vilsack said. “It’s a remarkable story and it’s in large part a result of American farmers and ranchers embracing new technologies and new ways to do business.” Vilsack added that the main beneficiaries of this tremendous productivity are consumers.
Vilsack spoke to farmer and rancher representatives in Washington D.C. this week for National Ag Day.
Listen to Vilsack’s remarks here: Ag Secretary Vilsack Remarks
2013 National Ag Day Activities Photo Album
Posted By Cindy March 11, 2013
Projected 2012/13 U.S. corn ending stocks were unchanged from last month’s estimate in the World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimate report out Friday, lowering exports but increasing feed use and keeping corn use for ethanol the same.
Corn exports were lowered 75 million bushels, imports were increased 25 million, and feed usage was increased by 100 million – due in part to “continued expansion in poultry production.” The projected season-average farm price for corn was lowered by 20 cents a bushel to $6.75-7.45.
Projected corn use for ethanol this season remains unchanged at 4.5 billion bushels, which is down 10 percent from last year on lower gasoline use, according to USDA Deputy Chief Economist Rob Johansson. “Obviously we expect that will increase towards the end of this year when the new crop comes in,” said Johansson.
Export projections were lowered by eight percent from last month “based on the slow pace of sales and shipments to date and stronger expected competition from South American corn and from competitively priced feed quality wheat.” But drought is the main reason the forecast of 850 million bushels for this year is nearly half last year’s total estimated 1.5 billion bushels in exports.
Weather is always the key variable when it comes to predicting global supply and demand for agricultural commodities but there is another variable in the mix that could also impact those estimates this year. USDA noted at the very top of the March report that “potential impacts of U.S. budget cuts are not reflected in today’s report.” Whether that may be due to sequestration or lack of funding for export promotion programs or a combination of cuts is not specified, but the final outcome right now seems to be just as unpredictable as the weather.
Posted By Cindy March 1, 2013
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack gave a sequester day speech at the 2013 Commodity Classic in Orlando on Friday.
“On this day in particular, it’s great to be outside of Washington,” Vilsack said. “Frankly, I have to apologize to all of you. This is crazy what is happening. In a functioning democracy this shouldn’t happen.”
Vilsack told corn, soybean, wheat and sorghum farmers that USDA furlough notices will be sent out next week and there will be some offices where people “simply aren’t there.”
Listen to Sec. Vilsack’s speech here: Sec. Vilsack Speech
Listen to Sec. Vilsack’s press conference here: Sec. Vilsack Press Conference
2013 Commodity Classic Photo Album
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