Reuters writer Tom Polansek reported last week that, “A research study has shown for the first time that livestock feed can carry a virus that has killed about 13 percent of the U.S. hog herd, the study’s lead author said, confirming suspicions among farmers and veterinarians battling outbreaks.
“The findings, published this month in the peer-reviewed BMC Veterinary Research journal, bring increased scrutiny on the feed industry in the fight against Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus, or PEDv.
“The fast-moving virus has killed an estimated 8 million piglets since it was first identified in the United States last year, pushing U.S. pork prices to record highs.”
Christopher Doering reported last week at The Des Moines Register Online that, “The study, published in the peer-reviewed BMC Veterinary Research journal, collected feed residue at three farms, one in northwest Iowa and two in southwest Minnesota, where the PEDv was found. From there, an experiment was conducted at South Dakota State University where five piglets were given the infected feed; all became sick. Another group of animals given a placebo were not infected with the virus. The study did not look into how the feed became infected with the PEDv.
“‘We did the study and that was for one reason, and that reason was not to incriminate the feed industry, the reason was to understand the risk so if it’s a real risk then we can try to protect our farms,’ said Scott Dee, director of research for Pipestone Veterinary Clinic in Minnesota, who was the lead author on the study. ‘Feed has always been thought of as a risk factor but no one had ever proven it before'” [see related Wall Street Journal article by Jesse Newman and Kelsey Gee from this March, “Feed Is Suspect in Spread of Deadly Pig Virus.”]
Tony C. Dreibus and Jesse Newman reported in today’s Wall Street Journal that, “‘We’re going to drown in corn this year.’
“The assessment, from Jeff Brown, 45 years old, a fifth-generation farmer outside Decatur, Ill., sums up the view of most people who grow, trade or process corn as they brace for another record U.S. harvest.
“Months of wet weather have fueled expectations for a corn crop so large that mounds of the grain will be a common sight across the Midwest after the harvest, which starts next month.”
The Journal writers explained that, “Expectations of a glut have driven corn prices down by 13% this year, to near four-year lows, after a 40% decrease last year. September futures, the front-month contract, rose 1% to $3.6575 a bushel on Friday on the Chicago Board of Trade. Contracts for December delivery, after the harvest, settled 0.7% higher at $3.7625 a bushel.
“The steep price declines have kindled hopes among some producers that bargain-seeking buyers could ratchet up purchases. But a close look at key consumers of corn suggests significant constraints to how much demand could pick up, even with the grain so cheap.
“A decline in livestock herds means there are fewer animals in the U.S. to feed, and U.S. demand for ethanol–a corn-based additive to gasoline–is pushing a government-set cap. Corn exports, meanwhile, are suffering from a plunge in purchases by China [related graph].”
Katie Micik reported on Friday at DTN (link requires subscription) that, “Prevented planting acreage declined significantly from last year and is largely concentrated in North Dakota and Minnesota, according to Farm Services Agency’s initial release of certified acreage data.
“Farmers were prevented from planting 1.54 million acres of corn, down from 2013′s total of 3.16 million acres.
“On soybeans, 827,131 acres went unplanted, compared to 1.7 million acres last year.”
Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas recently released its Agricultural Survey for the second quarter of 2014, which stated in part that, “District dryland values continued rising in the second quarter, but irrigated cropland and ranchland values were slightly lower. However, farmland values for all land types were above year-ago levels. Dryland values increased almost 6 percent over last year, while irrigated cropland and ranchland were up about 5 percent compared with last year.
“Farmland values are anticipated to continue trending up next quarter. This survey period, no respondents reported anticipating a decreasing trend. Credit standards continued to tighten this quarter, although the vast majority of respondents noted no change in standards [related graph].”
(A recap of other recent Federal Reserve Ag reports for the second quarter can be found here, while a summary of Fed reports from the first quarter of this year can be found in this FarmPolicy.com update from May).
With respect to climate and weather issues, Joby Warrick reported on the front page of today’s Washington Post that, “When the winter rains failed to arrive in this Sacramento Valley town for the third straight year, farmers tightened their belts and looked to the reservoirs in the nearby hills to keep them in water through the growing season.
“When those faltered, some switched on their well pumps, drawing up thousands of gallons from underground aquifers to prevent their walnut trees and alfalfa crops from drying up. Until the wells, too, began to fail.
“Now, across California’s vital agricultural belt, nervousness over the state’s epic drought has given way to alarm. Streams and lakes have long since shriveled up in many parts of the state, and now the aquifers — always a backup source during the region’s periodic droughts — are being pumped away at rates that scientists say are both historic and unsustainable.”
The Post article noted that, “It was never supposed to get this bad. For decades, the Central Valley’s farmers relied on their own form of drought-proofing: a vast network of reservoirs and irrigation canals built over years to capture annual snow melt from the Sierra Nevada mountains. And to recoup the costs of expensive irrigation systems, they switched to more profitable crops such as almonds, walnuts and rice, which require still more water.”
Maya Srikrishnan reported in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times that, “Montana farmer Rocky Norby has worked the land along the Missouri River for more than 20 years, coaxing sugar beets and malted barley out of the arid ground.
“‘Every year it gets worse,’ he said. ‘There’s not enough water to get through our pumps.’ Last month, he said, he spent more than $10,000 trying to remove the sand from his clogged irrigation system.
“The Missouri River’s stream flow has changed significantly over the last 50 years, leading to serious water shortages in Montana and Wyoming and flooding in the Dakotas, according to a U.S. Geological Survey report released last month.”
Yesterday’s article added that, “Climate shifts may be causing the disparate changes in the Missouri River Basin, the USGS report says. The scientists noted that higher stream flow in the Dakotas had occurred even as water use increased. In addition, they said, lower stream flow in some areas could be related in part to groundwater pumping… In the Great Plains, average air temperatures have warmed 3 to 4 degrees in the last century, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. That contributes to the problem.”
Also, Oklahoma State University agricultural economist Jayson Lusk indicated in a column on the editorial pages of today’s Wall Street Journal (“Cheeseburgers Won’t Melt the Polar Ice Caps“) that, “The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that U.S. agriculture, including livestock production, accounts for only about 8% of total greenhouse-gas emissions in the country. Livestock in the U.S. have lower greenhouse-gas footprints than in other parts of the world. This is partly because American producers generally use higher-quality feeds, higher-yielding breeds, and more productivity-enhancing technologies such as probiotics, vaccines and growth hormones. Future improvements in feed and animal genetics could further reduce animal-agriculture’s impact. As economists have shown, one should not underestimate the ability of innovation, markets, the courts and private negotiation to resolve the adverse effects of externalities.”
And Bloomberg writer Brian K. Sullivan reported on Friday that, “In 2012, forecasters and researchers entered the summer convinced an El Nino would form in the equatorial Pacific and its weather-changing effects would be felt around the world.
“It never happened.
“Now the specter of that failure has cast a shadow over similar predictions in 2014, with many wondering where this year’s El Nino is and if it will ever arrive.”
The article noted that, “The climate center currently gives El Nino a 65 percent chance of forming later this year and the Australians say it is at least 50 percent.”
Meanwhile, in a look a that changing dynamics of some aspects of U.S. agriculture, Tanzina Vega reported in yesterday’s New York Times that, “When he was 15, an immigration raid at a Japanese flower nursery turned Arturo Flores’s life around.
“The owners needed a new group of workers to replace the ones removed by immigration officials, and Mr. Flores landed a job cutting flowers. He slowly worked his way up to packaging and delivering them. In the mid-1980s he got a call from two businessmen looking to start their own cut-flower business. They asked him to manage deliveries and distribution. Today Mr. Flores, 50, is the president of Central California Flower Growers in Watsonville, a distributor in Santa Cruz County that sells more than 100 varieties of flowers and other plants.
“Farming businesses in the United States are still dominated by whites, but Mr. Flores (whose last name means ‘flowers’ in English) is one of a growing number of Latinos who own or operate farms in the country. While the overall number of farms in the United States decreased by 4 percent from 2007 to 2012, during the same period the number of farms run by Hispanics increased by 21 percent to 67,000 from 55,570, according to data released in May from the government’s 2012 census of agriculture. The numbers signaled a small but consistent pattern of growth in agribusiness among Latinos, many of whom have gone from working in the fields to sitting in the head offices.”
AP writer Christopher Bodeen reported on Saturday that, “U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s address to Hawaii’s East-West Center think tank this week drew attention primarily for its focus on the need for a constructive relationship with China to ensure regional peace and stability. However, Kerry touched also on U.S. relationships with five other key players in the region — Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Thailand — some of them locked in contentious disputes with Beijing. He also dwelt at length on the Trans-Pacific Partnership — a free trade pact the U.S. is negotiating with 11 other nations.”
Excerpts from Sec. Kerry’s remarks were also included in the AP report.
Bloomberg writer Evgenia Pismennaya reported on Friday that, “Russia is preparing for consumer prices to rise at the fastest pace since 2010 after President Vladimir Putin banned food imports from the U.S. and its allies and backed a sales tax, according to three officials… . [E]arlier decisions by Russia’s food safety watchdog to block pork imports have already added 1 percentage point to inflation this year, Natalia Orlova, chief economist at Alfa Bank in Moscow, said by phone. The bank raised its 2015 inflation forecast to 8 percent.”
Yeliz Candemir and Emre Peker reported on Friday at The Wall Street Journa Online that, “Turkey is preparing to ramp up food exports to Russia, hoping to benefit from Moscow’s ban on Western produce amid the conflict in Ukraine…[B]ut rushing to Moscow’s aid as it trades barbs with the West over Ukraine could put Turkey at odds with its allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.”
Kevin Concannon, Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services, indicated on Friday at the USDA blog that, “Several recent media reports have misrepresented how the bi-partisan Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act’s Smart Snacks in School nutrition standards will impact school fundraisers like bake sales.
“I’d like to set the record straight: the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is not imposing federal restrictions on bake sales or fundraisers.
“USDA has given states complete authority to set policies on fundraisers and bake sales that work for them. States are free to allow fundraisers and bake sales featuring foods and beverages that don’t meet the new standards during the school day if they choose. They, not USDA, are responsible for determining the number and the frequency of these events each year.”
Kimberly Kindy reported on the front page of today’s Washington Post that, “The explosion of new food additives coupled with an easing of oversight requirements is allowing manufacturers to avoid the scrutiny of the Food and Drug Administration, which is responsible for ensuring the safety of chemicals streaming into the food supply.
“And in hundreds of cases, the FDA doesn’t even know of the existence of new additives, which can include chemical preservatives, flavorings and thickening agents, records and interviews show.”
A news release Friday from Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D., Conn.) stated that, “[Rep. DeLauro] and Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today called on the Obama Administration to issue a strong final rule on menu labeling. DeLauro and Harkin were the chief sponsors of menu labeling legislation for nearly a decade, and authored the provision in the Affordable Care Act that is resulting in chain restaurants across the country coming clean about how many calories are in their food.
“The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published a proposed rule in the Federal Register in 2011. Since then, the draft has been stalled at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). DeLauro and Harkin worked carefully with the restaurant industry and the public health community to craft the bipartisan provision, and consider it a crucial step in helping prevent chronic disease.”
And Ramsey Cox reported on Friday at The Hill Online that, “Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) vowed to fight a recent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decision to restrict some farming on land near salmon streams.
“‘The Obama administration today chose to shove these new regulations down the throats of Pacific Northwest growers while they go back to the drawing board to determine if these vital crop protection tools even have an impact on endangered salmon,’ Hastings said Thursday.
“The EPA released a settlement agreement that would impose buffer zones for crop protection tools around any body of water with salmon. Hastings accused the administration of using ‘sue and settle’ tactics.”