TODAY ON AGDAY
FEBRUARY 13, 2012
The U.S. Ag Department tallied-up the final numbers and 2011 ended-up as a record year for exports of agricultural products. Total agricultural exports for the 2011 calendar year hit 136.3 billion dollars. That's 20-billion dollars higher than the previous year. USDA says the final numbers really come as no surprise, as the country was on a record pace through-out much of the year. USDA says there was a rise in both the value and volume of ag exports coming from the U.S. A weak American dollar made U.S. ag products attractive to many countries.
Also in 2011, congress finally approved - and the president signed - three free-trade-agreements. While not fully implemented, ag groups say those will help push U.S. ag exports even higher in the coming years. The next hurdle is the "Trans-Pacific-Partnership" trade deal which would open many doors in the Pacific Rim.
AG EXPORTS CEO’S:
USDA says grains were the biggest contributor to the overall record. It was also a big year for cotton, dairy and pork exports.
Much of the success in the overall ag export numbers comes from the livestock sector. On Friday, the U.S. Meat Export Federation said exports of U.S. beef, pork and lamb set new highs across the board in 2011. It reached 11.5 billion dollars for the three products combined. For beef alone, there was a 20% increase in volume from 2010. And for the first time, beef exports climbed above five billion dollars. During the recent Cattlemen's Convention in Nashville, ranchers and trade groups were discussing how to build upon the 2011 success in beef exports. Even though, it's not fully implemented, the free-trade agreement which was signed last fall, will be felt in the beef sector.
BEEF EXPORTS NCBA:
Rodibaugh says the U.S. beef industry will benefit even further from exports when Japan eventually agrees to accept beef from animals 30-months or younger in age. Right now, they only accept animals 20 months or younger.
CHINA DES MOINES:
Keeping with trade, China moved into the top spot in 2011. It's the number one market for U.S. ag goods, buying near 20-billion dollars’ worth. This week, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will host top Chinese officials during the first U.S. China Agricultural Symposium. The ag Secretary says strengthening the partnership with China's growing market is integral to the strength of the U.S. economy in the decades ahead. China's Vice President and Minister of Agriculture will attend the event being held in Des Moines, Iowa. Pro Farmer editor Chip Flory says China is key when discussing its impact on grain markets. Chip says China is self-sufficient on corn, but it must continue to import soybeans as the country is only able to provide 20% of what it consumes.
Secretary Vilsack may need start focusing on farm labor. A new study from the American Farm Bureau says the pending labor shortage is putting billions of dollars in jeopardy. AFBF just released an economic analysis. It found American farmers could lose 5 to 9 billion dollars a year if employee shortages can't be filled. A University of Georgia report says that state alone lost nearly 400 million dollars last year due to crop rot. Out in Arizona Kevin Rogers says without changes in Washington farms in his area will be in trouble as well.
An organization dedicated to humane treatment of family pets is calling for an investigation of HSUS. The Center for Consumer Freedom want's the Federal Trade Commission to look into deceptive fundraising. The organization says HSUS runs ads portraying sad looking dogs and cats yet most of its money is used to push an activist animal rights agenda.
IDAHO CRUELTY BILL:
Livestock growers in Idaho are paying attention to a new bill making its way through the legislature. Anyone caught abusing animals three times would face felony charges. The cattle group backing the legislation is trying to stem a ballot vote pushed by an animal welfare group. Their plan would make animal cruelty a felony on a first offense.