Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Monday September 23 Ag News


For the week ending September 22, 2019, there were 5.4 days suitable for fieldwork, according to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service. Topsoil moisture supplies rated 1 percent very short, 12 short, 76 adequate, and 11 surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies rated 1 percent very short, 10 short, 82 adequate, and 7 surplus.

Field Crops Report:

Corn condition rated 3 percent very poor, 6 poor, 20 fair, 55 good, and 16 excellent. Corn dented was 91 percent, behind 97 last year and 96 for the five-year average. Mature was 37 percent, well behind 65 last year, and behind 56 average. Harvested was 3 percent, behind 8 last year, and near 6 average.

Soybean condition rated 1 percent very poor, 5 poor, 20 fair, 62 good, and 12 excellent. Soybeans dropping leaves was 55 percent, well behind 81 last year, and behind 69 average.

Winter wheat planted was 51 percent, near 49 last year and 53 average.

Sorghum condition rated 3 percent very poor, 4 poor, 14 fair, 69 good, and 10 excellent. Sorghum coloring was 93 percent, near 94 last year and 96 average. Mature was 22 percent, well behind 45 last year and 43 average.

Dry edible bean condition rated 15 percent very poor, 18 poor, 22 fair, 41 good, and 4 excellent. Dry edible beans dropping leaves was 84 percent. Harvested was 37 percent.

Pasture and Range Report:

Pasture and range conditions rated 1 percent very poor, 3 poor, 20 fair, 61 good, and 15 excellent.


Another week of heavy rainfall across Iowa allowed just 3.3 days suitable for fieldwork statewide during the week ending September 22, 2019, according to the USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service. Fieldwork activities included harvesting hay and seed corn, chopping silage, and seeding cover crops.

Topsoil moisture condition was rated 1 percent very short, 7 percent short, 75 percent adequate and 17 percent surplus. Precipitation this past week helped increase topsoil moisture levels in all districts; however, the Southeast District remains the driest with a topsoil moisture rating of 36 percent short to very short. Subsoil moisture condition was rated 2 percent very short, 9 percent short, 79 percent adequate and 10 percent surplus.

Nearly all of the corn crop was in or beyond the dough stage at 97 percent complete statewide, over 2 weeks behind the 5-year average. Eighty-two percent of the crop has reached the dented stage or beyond, 17 days behind last year and 12 days behind average. Eighteen percent of corn reached maturity, 19 days behind last year and 2 weeks behind average. There were a few reports of farmers in the central Iowa district that harvested corn for grain this past week. Corn condition rated 65 percent good to excellent.

Sixty-five percent of the soybean crop has begun coloring or beyond, 11 days behind last year and 8 days behind average. Twenty-two percent of the crop has begun dropping leaves, 12 days behind last year and 9 days behind average. There were also a few reports of soybeans being harvested in the west central and central Iowa districts. Soybean condition rated 62 percent good to excellent.

The third cutting of alfalfa hay reached 87 percent, just over a week behind average. Pasture condition rated 43 percent good to excellent. Continuous rainfall this past week caused feedlots to become muddy.

U.S. Corn Condition Up 2 Percentage Points; Soybean Condition Unchanged

The percentage of U.S. corn and soybeans that has reached maturity fell further behind the five-year average last week, according to USDA NASS' latest Crop Progress report released Monday.

As of Sunday, 29% of corn was estimated as mature, well behind 69% at the same time last year and 28 percentage points behind the five-year average of 57%. Corn dented was 79%, 15 percentage points behind the five-year average of 94%.  Nationwide, corn harvest progressed 3 percentage points to reach 7% as of Sunday, behind last year 15% and 4 percentage points behind the five-year average of 11%.  The condition of corn still in fields was estimated at 57% good to excellent, up 2 percentage points from the previous week, but still the lowest good-to-excellent rating for the crop at this time of year since 2013.

Like corn, the percentage of soybeans reaching maturity fell further behind the average pace last week. NASS estimated that, as of Sunday, 34% of soybeans were dropping leaves, 25 percentage points behind the five-year average of 59%. Soybean condition held steady at 54% good to excellent.

Spring wheat harvest maintained its slow but steady progress last week, reaching 87% as of Sunday, 10 percentage points behind the five-year average of 97%.   Winter wheat planting progress, on the other hand, remained near the average pace at 22% complete as of Sunday, compared to the five-year average of 24%.

Sorghum coloring was estimated at 90%, equal to the five-year average. Sorghum mature was estimated at 42%, behind the average of 53%. Sorghum harvested reached 26%, behind the five-year average of 31%. Barley harvested reached 92%, behind the average of 99%. Oats were 96% harvested, also behind the average of 99%.

Cotton bolls opening was estimated at 64%, ahead of the average of 57%. Cotton harvested was estimated at 11%, equal to the five-year average. Cotton condition -- for the portion of the crop still in fields -- was rated 39% good to excellent, down 2 percentage points from the previous week's 41% good-to-excellent rating. Rice harvested was 58%, slightly behind the average of 61%.

Ricketts Submits Comments on Federal Labor Rule Regarding Detasseling

Recently, Governor Pete Ricketts submitted comments to the U.S. Department of Labor on pending changes to rules governing the Temporary Agricultural Employment of H-2A Nonimmigrants in the United States.

“Much of the seasonal farm work done for a seed company with fields in Nebraska is performed by a separate company (harvest company) that contracted with the seed company,” wrote Governor Ricketts in his comments.  “The seed company is the beneficiary of the work performed by the H-2A worker, but they are not the employer of the H-2A worker.  The contracted harvest company often comes in from other states.  The employer from out of state does not have the networking connections or known reputation to find available Nebraska workers.  Meanwhile, there are Nebraska harvest companies that have the workers available to perform the work.  In 2019, Nebraska detasseling (harvest) companies had 710 employees wait listed, but certifications were still granted for H-2A workers to perform detasseling.”

Recently, some companies have been using the H-2A program to hire outside labor to detassel seed corn while hundreds of Nebraskans ready to do the work remain on wait lists.  In his comments, Governor Ricketts recommends adding a new labor availability check to the H-2A program to protect the program’s integrity.  This additional verification would ensure that Nebraskans willing to detassel get the opportunity before companies bring in other labor.

“The State of Nebraska recommends that the petitioning harvest company be required to include with its petition a certification from the benefiting seed company that it solicited bids for the work and no bids were available that did not utilize H-2A workers,” wrote the Governor.

Each summer, more than 7,000 Nebraskans work as detasselers, performing indispensable seasonal labor for seed companies.  They rise early to work in the cornfields and spend long hours in the summer heat to ensure that the cross-pollinating process yields a pure seed.  For students and schoolteachers, detasseling is a welcome source of summer employment and a great way to earn income.  For many Nebraskans, detasseling is their first job and serves as a formative, character-building experience.  Detasselers learn the value of hard work, the importance of teamwork, and skills in leadership.  Detasseling also connects the residents of small towns and cities with Nebraska’s farmers, helping more Nebraskans build ties to the state’s #1 economic industry—agriculture.

Healthy Soils Task Force to Meet Wednesday

Keith Berns, chair, has scheduled a meeting of the Healthy Soils Task Force for Sept. 25. The meeting will begin at 1 p.m. at the Upper Big Blue Natural Resources District office at 319 E 25th Street, York.

The Task Force will review objectives and discuss research regarding healthy soils activities in other states. The next steps in developing a state healthy soil initiative and action plan will also be discussed.

For more details, call the Nebraska Department of Agriculture at (402) 471-2341.

Who has the Hunting Rights for Leased Land?

J. David Aiken – Extension Water and Agricultural Law Specialist

A written cropland or pasture lease can specify who has hunting rights. If the written lease does not reserve hunting rights to the landlord directly or indirectly, the hunting rights would go to the tenant for the duration of the lease. This surprises most folks who wrongly believe that the landlord automatically retains many property rights that in fact go to the tenant during the period of the lease term (unless the lease specifies otherwise). A lease written by an attorney would normally address hunting rights (typically reserving them to the landlord), but a lease written by a non-attorney might overlook that issue. I would advise tenants who want to keep their leases to discuss hunting rights with the landlord if those rights are not clear and to not take any action that could cost the tenant the lease when it is up for renewal.

If the cropland lease is unwritten, the tenant would have the hunting rights unless the parties have a different agreement. This is under the general notion that in the absence of explicit limitations (as would be included in a well-written lease), the tenant has full rights to use the land to the exclusion of all others, including the landlord, during the term of the lease. 

For a May 1-October 1 pasture lease, the same rule would likely apply but only during the May 1-October 1 period. That is, the tenant might have the hunting rights from May 1 to October 1, but not outside that period without the express permission of the landlord. This may seem like a peculiar result but is how I think Nebraska courts would rule on the issue in the absence of a written lease.

Farm Bureau Developing Relationships with Food Companies

Farm Bureau is increasing engagement with companies along the food supply chain to build strategic partnerships. Those relationships are yielding benefits for American famers.

Sarah Brown Dirkes, is in her fifth year with the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) as the Executive Director of Industry Relations. She is passionate about working to build strategic partnerships between farmers and ranchers and the companies who deal directly with consumers. Dirkes spoke to the Nebraska Farm Bureau Board of Directors about the importance of farmers having open and tough discussions with supply chain companies across the country.

“Every time I go home to my family’s apple farm in upstate New York, I see something new that we are implementing to improve our operation and to grow a better product for the consumer. My brother and I are the eighth generation on our farm and change is imperative for growth and to sustain generational family farm operations. We need to have tough conversations and identify where we can collaborate with food industry partners to pave the way for success for American farmers and ranchers in light of the competitive marketplace in which food companies operate.”

As we look ahead, companies on each end of the supply chain will want to stay competitive and continue to seek marketing opportunities to differentiate their products. As this happens, Farm Bureau will continue to foster relationships to help companies make these decisions in a way that also work for farmers.

Dirkes says food companies are now coming to talk to Farm Bureau about sustainability, animal welfare, and labor standards because of the relationships that have been formed and incubated over the past several years. “This is the dream and we hope this continues as we work to amplify the voice of America’s farm and ranch families.” Dirkes said.

Lending and farm program resource guide for veterans released by Center for Rural Affairs

With the average age of a U.S. farmer at nearly 60 years, and millions of acres expected to change hands over the next few years, many Americans are thinking about who the next generation of producers will be. Veterans could step in to fill the need, according to a white paper released today by the Center for Rural Affairs.

“Saluting Service: A Guide to Lending and Farm Program Resources for Veterans,” authored by Cora Fox, highlights the needs of America’s next generation of producers, which includes individuals who served their country and who are now pursuing a second career in agriculture.

“Awareness of U.S. Department of Agriculture farm programs and key provisions, particularly with regard to lending, is important for veterans transitioning from the military to a second career in agriculture,” said Anna Johnson, policy manager with the Center for Rural Affairs. “Veterans must know what programs are available, and how to utilize them to fit the needs of their farming operations.”

The white paper outlines farm programs that specifically target beginning and veteran farmers and ranchers, including Farm Service Agency loan programs and Natural Resources Conservation Service programs. Additionally, the author mentions programs and provisions that were added in the 2018 farm bill to help beginning farmers and ranchers.

“The impact of these programmatic changes is to be determined, but we recognize these changes reflect positive progress toward the removal of barriers for the next generation of producers,” Johnson said.

For more information and to view “Saluting Service: A Guide to Lending and Farm Program Resources for Veterans,” visit cfra.org/publications/SalutingService.

Cowboys to Rally, Call on Trump Administration to Save American Cattle Rancher

Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) is hosting a rally and meeting to call on President Trump and U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Perdue to take action to ensure fair prices for cattle farmers and ranchers. If they fail to take swift action, America’s farmers and ranchers will go broke.

Organizers say, "We’re mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore. Since the repeal of mandatory Country of Origin Labeling for beef and pork in 2015, farmers and ranchers have seen the price they are paid for their cattle continually erode while meatpacking giants get rich. To make matters worse, following an August 2019 fire at a Tyson meatpacking plant, the Big Four meatpackers that control over 80% of the beef market have been gouging farmers and ranchers who now have even fewer options for selling their cattle. This past week, farmers and ranchers were losing over $200 per head while the monopoly meatpackers were making over $400.

"Rural America helped get President Trump elected, and rural America needs the Administration's help. It is time for President Trump and Secretary Perdue to take charge and take action. OCM calls on President Trump and Secretary Perdue to take six actions that they have the power and authority to take without an act of Congress. These actions are in line with the Administration’s priorities to “Buy American” and drain the swamp of corporate monopoly power."

Featured speakers:
    Corbitt Wall, journalist, agriculture market specialist, Cattle Market Summary
    Vaughn Meyer, Organization for Competitive Markets vice president and North Dakota cattle rancher
    Bill Bullard, Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF USA) Chief Executive Officer
    Wes Shoemyer, Family Farm Action board member and Missouri cattle farmer

The event is sponsored by the Organization for Competitive Markets, R-CALF USA, Family Farm Action, Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska, Ameican Grassfed Association.  It will be on Wednesday, October 2, 2019 from 9:30 AM to 4:00 PM CT at the Ramada Inn Ballroom, 3321 South 72nd Street, Omaha, NE 68124. 

Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) is a membership-based public policy research and advocacy organization headquartered in Lincoln, Nebraska. The mission of OCM is to work for transparent, fair and truly competitive agricultural and food markets.


All layers in Nebraska during August 2019 totaled 9.22 million, up from 7.85 million the previous year, according to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Nebraska egg production during August totaled 239 million eggs, up from 204 million in 2018. August egg production per 100 layers was 2,587 eggs, compared to 2,599 eggs in 2018.


Iowa egg production during August 2019 was 1.43 billion eggs, up 1 percent from last month and 2 percent from last year, according to the latest Chickens and Eggs report from the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

The average number of all layers on hand during August 2019 was 57.2 million, up slightly last month but down 2 percent from last year. Eggs per 100 layers for August were 2,502, up slightly from last month and up 4 percent from last year.

August Egg Production Up 2 Percent

United States egg production totaled 9.45 billion during August 2019, up 2 percent from last year. Production included 8.25 billion table eggs, and 1.20 billion hatching eggs, of which 1.12 billion were broiler-type and 82.8 million were egg-type. The average number of layers during August 2019 totaled 392 million, up slightly from last year. August egg production per 100 layers was 2,413 eggs, up 1 percent from August 2018.
All layers in the United States on September 1, 2019 totaled 393 million, up slightly from last year. The 393 million layers consisted of 331 million layers producing table or market type eggs, 58.5 million layers producing broiler-type hatching eggs, and 3.29 million layers producing egg-type hatching eggs. Rate of lay per day on September 1, 2019, averaged 77.8 eggs per 100 layers, up 1 percent from September 1, 2018.

Iowa Farm Income Appears Higher, but Farm Values Decline

The “2018 Iowa Farm Costs and Returns” analysis is now available, and despite a slight increase in net farm income last year, farmers saw another year of tight margins and a decrease in total farm assets and net farm worth.

The average accrual net farm income (adjusted for inventory changes and accrued expenses) increased by 6% in 2018, to $58,832.

“It wasn’t a huge increase in income, but at least we didn’t see a decline,” said Alejandro Plastina, assistant professor and extension economist at Iowa State University. “However, the rate of return on assets remains very low, compared to historical averages.”

The average value of total farm assets declined by $147,471 (6%), and the average value of farm net worth declined by $121,876 (7%), according to the report, which is available in the September edition of Ag Decision Maker, a monthly newsletter of Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

About 600 farmers provided income and expense data for this year’s report, which is organized through a collaboration of ISU Extension and Outreach and the Iowa Farm Business Association.

Kent Vickre, state coordinator with the Iowa Farm Business Association, said the data definitely reflects farmers’ struggles with profitability.

“I think there are only so many years farmers can kind of borrow from their net worth,” Vickre said.

The average debt to asset ratio remained stable in 2018, at 24%, but is also the highest level since 2009. The average current asset-to-debt ratio increased for the first time since 2012, to 3.14 in 2018, but is still below the 10-year average of 4.21.

In addition to yearly comparisons, the report also compares farms based on total value of gross sales, and by their degree of profitability. The report was limited to farms with sales of $100,000 or more.

Surprisingly, perhaps, is the decline in farm size, with the average farm size declining by 21 acres – the lowest since 2013, to an average farm size of 668 acres.

Vickre said he’s not sure why farms may have decreased in acreage, unless some operators gave up some ground deemed unprofitable. He said it’s also possible some operators were frustrated and did not report their full acreage farmed.

Because the data is delayed by one year, the report does not contain 2019 information. The current year saw severe flooding and planting delays that could delay harvest and reduce yields.

Vickre said crop conditions vary widely across the state in 2019, depending on location, and if and when a crop was planted.

Financial assistance will also play into the profitability of 2019, according to Plastina. Various forms of disaster assistance have already been made available, and farmers are compensating part of their trade war losses with the Market Facilitation Program.

USDA August 2019 Cold Storage Highlights

Total red meat supplies in freezers on August 31, 2019 were up 1 percent from the previous month but down 1 percent from last year. Total pounds of beef in freezers were up 4 percent from the previous month but down 6 percent from last year. Frozen pork supplies were down 1 percent from the previous month but up 4 percent from last year. Stocks of pork bellies were down 14 percent from last month but up 30 percent from last year.

Total frozen poultry supplies on August 31, 2019 were up 4 percent from the previous month but down 5 percent from a year ago. Total stocks of chicken were up 6 percent from the previous month but down 3 percent from last year. Total pounds of turkey in freezers were up 1 percent from last month but down 7 percent from August 31, 2018.

Total natural cheese stocks in refrigerated warehouses on August 31, 2019 were up slightly from the previous month and up slightly from August 31, 2018.  Butter stocks were down 7 percent from last month but up 5 percent from a year ago.

Total frozen fruit stocks on August 31, 2019 were up 12 percent from last month but down 11 percent from a year ago.  Total frozen vegetable stocks were up 21 percent from last month but down 3 percent from a year ago.

USDA Cattle on Feed Report for September

Stephen R. Koontz, Dept of Ag Economics, Colorado State University

The USDA NASS Cattle on Feed report for September was released last Friday. My take on the report is that it is reasonably bullish. The fear and panic that impact cattle markets after the news of the fire at, and temporary closure of, the Tyson Finney County Plant has not much abated over the past 6 weeks. The Cattle on Feed report communicates that the market is adapting to the situation and it appears to me that there is no overwhelming bad news in the report - or other supporting USDA reports.

Cattle on feed for the slaughter market in the United States for feedlots with capacity of 1,000 head or more head totaled 10.982 million head on September 1, 2019. The inventory was 1.3% below September 1, 2018. This is modestly fewer cattle than were anticipated prior to the report but well within the range of estimates by traders and analysts. Cattle on feed over 90 days and over 120 days were well above last year, and are uncomfortably large, but both appear to be following the typical seasonal declines.

Marketings of fed cattle during August totaled 1.953 million head, 1.5% below 2018. These are strong marketing as the numbers in 2018 was huge. Expectations were for a decrease of 1.7% below the prior year so the marketings were very modestly better than expected but well within the range of expectations. Placements in feedlots during August totaled 1.884 million head, 9 percent above 2018. Pre-report expectations were for placements to be modest and 5.7% below the prior year. Actual placements were more modest than expected and at the low of the range.

Feedlots marketed reasonably aggressively and placed very modestly through August. From the cattlemen's perspective, this is exactly what was needed. We'll see how the futures and cash markets react through the trading week. The weekly Livestock Slaughter reports confirm one of the big concerns: steer and heifer carcass weights have increased 15-20 pound per head over the past 6 weeks. This increase is typical during the late summer, but weights are still below last year and do not appear to have been too exacerbated by the plant closure. Much will be said about packer margins for August and the remainder of 2019. The live-to-cutout spread jumped to just below $500 per head. This is well above the very strong May-June peaks during 2018 that were close to $400 per head. The plants that are open and running are making exceptional money. (As are likely the employees getting paid bonuses and overtime.) Saturday slaughter volumes are rather high and will likely remain so through October. Which reminds me, we still have October to go to get through this beef tonnage.

Grain Barge Movements Up 36% Compared to Last Year

For the week ending Sept. 14, barge grain movements totaled 735,777 tons, a 106% increase from the previous week and 36% more than the same period last year. For the week ending Sept. 14, 473 grain barges moved down river. This is 252 more barges than the previous week. There were 374 grain barges unloaded in New Orleans, 45% fewer than the previous week.

For the week ending Sept. 12, total inspections of grain (corn, wheat, and soybeans) for export from all major U.S. export regions reached 1.60 million metric tons (mmt). Inspections are down 23% from the previous week, down 31% from last year, and 38% below the three-year average.

Total inspections were the lowest since the middle of July, with corn inspections dropping 31% from the previous week and soybeans decreasing 32% for the same period. Wheat inspections, however, were up 11% from the previous week. Mississippi Gulf grain inspections decreased 45% from the past week, while Pacific Northwest inspections increased 40%.

For the week ending Sept. 5, unshipped balances of wheat, corn, and soybeans totaled 21 mmt. This indicates a 40% decrease in outstanding sales, compared to the same time last year. Net corn export sales reached .499 mmt for the beginning of the new marketing year; up significantly from the past week. Net soybean export sales were 1.17 mmt, also up noticeably from the previous week. Net weekly wheat export sales reached .611 mmt, up 96% from the from the previous week.

For the week ending Sept. 12, 30 ocean-going grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf, 9% fewer than the same period last year.

RFA Thanks Lawmakers for Letter to EPA on Restoration of Waived RFS Volumes

The Renewable Fuels Association today thanked a bipartisan group of 25 members of the U.S. House of Representatives for asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to prospectively restore RFS volumes lost to small refinery exemptions.

In a letter to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, the House group also asked the Agency to stop the practice of “rubber-stamping” requests for exemptions, and to update its analysis on the benefits of renewable fuels on greenhouse gas emissions, the farm economy, and transportation fuel markets.

“We appreciate Chairman Peterson and the other members of the Biofuels Caucus for their continued support of American farmers and ethanol producers, and for recognizing EPA’s legal obligation to account for the impact of refinery waivers in determining annual renewable volume obligations,” said RFA President and CEO Geoff Cooper. “These elected leaders understand that the Renewable Fuel Standard is an important tool for economic growth, energy security and greenhouse gas reduction. They also know that for these benefits to be enjoyed, EPA must faithfully enforce the law as written.”

Proposed Rule Would Make Millions Vulnerable to Food Insecurity

A proposed rule to change the eligibility guidelines for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) would erode food security in the United States, according to the Alliance to End Hunger. If the rule is implemented, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that 3.1 million hungry Americans would lose food assistance through SNAP, and more than 500,000 children from affected families would also lose automatic eligibility for free and reduced-price school meals.

As a member of the Alliance to End Hunger, National Farmers Union (NFU) advocates policies that decrease hunger by improving access to safe, nutritious, and affordable food. Because the rule would achieve just the opposite, NFU President Roger Johnson reiterated the Alliance’s earlier opposition and emphasized the importance of the nutrition safety net. 

“Too many Americans don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Last year, about one in nine families experienced food insecurity. That number is still far too high, but it’s at its lowest level in over a decade – thanks in large part to SNAP and other nutrition assistance programs. Though there’s abounding evidence that the nutrition safety net works, this administration seems determined to limit its effectiveness and its reach. This latest proposal would remove one of the last lines of defense and leave millions of Americans – including hundreds of thousands of children - more vulnerable to hunger. We urge USDA to protect this critical program and ensure that all Americans are able to put food on their tables.”

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