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December 2008 Archive for U.S. Farm Report Mailbag

RSS By: U.S. Farm Report, US Farm Report

Comments, questions, opinions...this is your chance to speak out regarding anything and everything reported on U.S. Farm Report. Viewer feedback updated regularly.

Terms to Remember

Dec 29, 2008
   I have seldom heard about margins about commodity trading.  What would margin be?  Also, I have seldom hear about points about commodity trading.  What would point be?
Roger Stoller

   Thanks for watching.  Here is a short tutorial on common terms you may hear on the show.  Points, normally refer to hundredths of a percent (interest rates) such that 100 points is 1%, but can also be used for other prices sort of generically.

Population Explosion

Dec 23, 2008
    First I'm not a farmer, but my part is investing in fertilizer manufacturers. One significant point I don't see mentioned is the population explosion.  It really seems to me as if we are really reaching a tipping point here.  The earth gained 79 million people last year.  At that rate the world will gain a United States in less than 4 years.  Will we be able to keep up with that?
   The only thing that I see tipping it the other way would be shifting from corn ethanol to celluistic ethanol during that time.  If too many farmers are going from corn to beans, wouldn't it pay to be contrarian and to go to corn?   On fertilizer, if too many farmers are holding back their purchases of fertilizer will the supply be there if they order in March?
    Of those I think that the population thing is the most important. And I think that it would be important to address that issue.  In the U.S. there is one new person in the country every 12 seconds. Which means every minute, there is one new family.
Mark Potochnik

One Man's Recovery Plan

Dec 19, 2008
As an observer of the economic recovery efforts currently underway I must say I have not heard a single plan that seems to be working.  We have funded banks that are not loaning money.  We have a scared populace that won’t borrow money.  We have looming layoffs and worsening conditions.  Not to mention the denial by executives getting bonuses and out right fraud that is being exposed by the failing markets.  So here is the “Frazier Plan”
I was ordering a Coupon to get my Digital TV converter for my analog set and realized this program could be the answer.  Briefly, the government is giving me a $40.00 coupon to purchase a $50 to $60 converter box.  It occurred to me the government could do the same thing with autos.  Think about it.  Here is how I see this idea working in an auto environment:
-First rule: the car must be built in the US.
-Second rule: the car must be rated at 30 MPG Hwy.
-Third rule:  the car cannot cost more than $17,000.
Each card carrying tax payer that is a US citizen could apply on line for a coupon valued at $8,000 to $12,000.  The difference in the purchase price of the auto would be paid by the coupon holder, for example 20% of the purchase price. This brings in the rest of the private sector to start the economy moving.
This plan does not prop up the automakers waiting on the economy to turn around.  What they need is sales.  The proposed loans to the auto makers does not help the rest of the industry if no one is buying cars, and what about dealers, suppliers, shippers and lenders?  The auto industry is large enough to completely jump start the economy.   The taxpayer is funding the whole thing anyway so why not let the taxpayer be the principal beneficiary?
GM has three models that qualify...Ford has three models...Chrysler has one...Toyota has three. Customers would visit their local show room to order the car they want.  They can upgrade with their own cash as long as the car meets the mileage requirement.
I estimate it will cost about 700 billion dollars.  It will leverage another 700 billion in private money.  It will reduce oil imports by about 1/3.  So what are we waiting for?  Send this on to your friends and to your congressman.
The Frazier Plan
Ed Frazier, Author
Dallas, TX

Cow Tax Comments

Dec 15, 2008
I live in Scotland county Missouri and have a cow calf operation. After thinking about EPA's taxation idea related to methane and cows, I wonder whether they will tax the conservation department of each state for all of the deer and turkeys that they say  they own, that we feed and house????

Best Regards,
Steve Dawkins
Quincy, IL

Am I ready to pay a global warming tax on animals?  NO!  The latest cause of GW (global warming) is cow droppings. If this is such a big problem - before PETA organizes any more protests, the US Ag department should research the system used in Germany. All waste goes into a methane recycling program. Every farm employs the same program. There is no stink in the air, and the electricity produced about fuels the entire country. Why can't America try this idea, at least in the feedlots here in Western KS?  It would be the answer for 2 major problems in society - methane pollution, and electricity.

Janette Haverkamp
Garden City, Kansas         

Garage Guy

Dec 08, 2008

John Phipps,

I work on a farm near Foxhome, MN in the Red River Valley. I had the wonderful job the last two weeks of topping 425 acres of sugar beets (out of 600) that we didn't get harvested because of a very wet October and November in our area. Our coop lost 30K of it's 108K. Ouch!! We're hoping that if we get the tops off it will dry out a little better next spring. As I go back and forth I get to see the best beet crop my boss has ever grown, frozen solidly in the ground only to rot there come spring. This hasn't happened before in the 40 years his family has grown beets. For entertainment I listen to a syndicated Radio program out of Minneapolis called Garage Logic. This guy named Joe read your entire article, "American Idle" about Garage Guy. I perked up when he said your name, since I've seen your articles in Farm Journal and seen you on US Farm Report. He is a big city boy but he related to your article just the same. Thought I'd let you know your getting some broader air time.

Keep it up,

Nathan (an old country boy)

*Editor's Note:  Below is the transcript of John's article referenced in Nathan's note...

American Idle

   We don’t kill time here in the US like we used to. Maybe we’re trying too hard, or not using the right technology. There just has to be a way to learn to do nothing slowly.  Back in the good old days, men especially knew how to be idle. We’re not sure about women, because few of them had a chance to sit down and write about leisure, but that’s another issue. Men, especially older men of my grandfather’s generation could stare absolute inactivity in the face without flinching.
   For example, if you dig back into your past, you may recall – or even have actually witnessed – old men whittling. Now try to think of the last time you even heard of whittling, let alone saw it done. To be fair, it may have disappeared as an act of premeditated idleness simply because all the world’s pocket knives are gradually being collected in trash cans at airports, but whatever the reason, the act of slowly dismembering a piece of wood is not on the agenda often these days. In fact, it is somewhat chilling to contemplate what Jan would think were I to announce, “I’m going out on the porch for few hours with this sharp steel implement and a stick.”
   Whittling, like other forms of inactivity, required a commitment to unpopular consequences as well. Idle people in groups had to be comfortable with recycling the same conversations endlessly. True practitioners soon exhausted all available information and while many resorted to on-the-spot fabrication, most simply slumped into passive silence, punctuated by monosyllabic grunts. Some idleness purists even disdained conversation as too hyper, making them historically gifted listeners.
   The closest example I can find today to matching that depth of inertia would be garage sitting. These are the people who open their garage doors and sit in a lawn chair watching the street. Many wave at passing motorists, most simply stare. No book, no radio, no (shudder) iPod disturbs their concentrated lack of ambition. And yet they maintain an air of serene composure impossible to duplicate with any amount of self-help literature or professional counsel. 
   What has always fascinated me about garage sitters was the way our minds soon incorporated them as part of the landscape, rather than inhabitants. When passing you soon began to note when Garage Guy was NOT on station – not when he was.  Should the lawn chair be missing or empty during sitting season, concern rose in our minds. His initial appearance each year was the arrival of the Robin of Indolence.
   This is one of the hidden powers of idleness, it is easy to accept and become part of our lives. Idle people are not competitive threats after all. Unlike neighbors who raise the standards for industry and accomplishment, idlers reflect well on us even if we are pretty close to being total goof-offs ourselves. In effect, Garage Guy raised the self-esteem for all who passed simply by anchoring the low end of the ambition scale.
   Not only that, but each time I passed he was making it look easy. To be easily entertained is one thing. To require no entertainment at all is no mean feat. I have been entombed in delayed aircraft on runways and have watched enforced idleness take its toll. In contrast, a planeful of accomplished garage sitters would barely bat an eye.  
   Idleness has fallen into disrepute in this age of multi-flailing. We have curiously come to admire our existential version of plate-spinning, convinced that doing more is being more. Yet one glance at Garage Guy shows that far from being less, his stolid lethargy makes him more real. He occupies space – the same space - for hours on end. That’s not just reality – it’s practically geology.
   Idle hands are the Devil’s playground, of course. But attached to a true disciple of immobility, they don’t constitute a threat to anything beyond easy reach. Too, if you are not doing anything, you are probably not doing anything wrong.  Deep in our modern hearts we long for the courage to be idle. To stand up for sitting down for a long time. To refuse to be connected, engaged, or even interested. To have thoughts so unfretful we could abide with them alone for hours on end. To eschew even the flickering mental attention required by television.
   Open the garage door. I hear a lawn chair calling my name.

Hello from Cotton Country

Dec 05, 2008
     I'm a 3rd generation Cotton Farmer on my first real crop. The gap between my father and grandfathers farming operations spans nearly 50 years. I purchased a one row horse drawn planter a few years back at a farm where my grandfather had share cropped and found some cotton planting plates in the planter. This sparked an idea.  I guess farming is in my blood. The cotton I grew this year made the front page of the local newspaper because of the gap in cotton production in Piedmont section of North Carolina. My farming operation looks like a page from a Harris Barnes cotton farming  book. This year I got invited to the farm show in Boone , IA and took a tour of the Monstanto Pipeline products. This really made me see how small my operation was but how well informed I was in the AG world because of your show. Thanks and keep up the good work.

Mark Phelps
Clemmons, North Carolina

What about New York?

Dec 01, 2008
 I have enjoyed USFR for years, but have yet to see a piece on Central New York.  There is a rich farming tradition here...dairy farms south of the Erie Canal, and muck/vegetable farming just north of it.  We don’t see the large volumes typically associated with centers such as Iowa corn or Salinas vegetables, or corporate dairies, but seldom does such diverse agriculture coexist is as close proximity as it does in my hometown, Canastota, NY.  I would love to see a spotlight on my area, as every person who is proud of their heritage would.  I would be glad to put you in touch with people actively farming the area, all 3rd generation or better.

Hopefully Yours,
Michael Picciano MD
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