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September 2009 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.

Commentary on Hands

Sep 30, 2009
I was watching the farm report on Sunday and really liked the comments John Phipps made on hands. I am a recently retired 4-H educator and 4-H volunteer and would like to have a copy of his commentary and would like to use parts of it in recognition ceremonies for my 4-H members and at camp. It was perfect. 

Nikki Eyre
Hillsboro, OH

*Editors Note:
Here is a copy of John's commentary from the September 26-27 show.  
John’s world: as harvest stumbles into full swing in the next few days for much of the country, there are almost ritual warnings to be sounded. Many center on rural roads and the hazards of ever larger machinery, especially at night. Some sound the alarm about grain handling and people at risk in bins and wagons. Most of all, the alerts for keeping children safe should be uppermost in our minds. I would like to add one small encouragement: take care of your hands. My estimate is in any group of 100 farmers there are only about 985 digits. Harvest is too often a time when we damage these most unique features of human construction. Hands are not just the primary tool manipulators for humans, they are how we lift the fallen, applaud the excellent, guide the wayward, comfort the despairing, and hold the future. We refer to productive workers as "good hands" and place hands on those to be blessed. Our hands are marvels of engineering ingenuity and efficiency. To damage them in a moment of thoughtlessness is not just a loss of capability, but self-disrespectful. So this fall, take care of your hands. Please. And given the prospects for a nasty flu season, wash them often.

Comments & Concerns...

Sep 24, 2009
***Editor's Note:  Below are viewer comments generated by the September 19-20, 2009 edition of U.S. Farm Report...

Hi guys,
   Just letting you guys know about the good work that you do every week and everyday with the US Farm Report and AgDay.  I have become a very faithful viewer of both the shows since there is nothing like this in Southern Ontario anymore.  Since our provincial government doesn't know that there is life outside of Toronto and that this province has a good farming sector and some really good land in the province cut backs all around have made  ag shows like yours obsolite in Ontario.  Farming is a great way to make a living and most of the stuff that goes on in this province basically is dependant on what happens south of the border.  May as well get rid of the border and just let us Canadian farmers join up with our neighbours to the south.
Thanks,
Allen DeVos 


Dear Sirs:
  You have a very informative show, which I appreciate.  Farmers make their money from the land and city folks like me make a living building ag implements.
  In 1980 when we instituted the Russian grain embargo, my livelihood along with a lot of other folks went up in smoke.
  In the years since, it doesn't seem like we've learned much. Even to the casual observer, a trade war with China is unavoidable. The results for farmers and ag related industries will be disastrous.
  Our government hasn't run a trade surplus in 40 years and it just gets worse. Warren Buffet said these trade deficits over time will hurt us bad.....and he's right. We cannot continue with large trade deficits particularly in regard to China. They already have too much leverage from their $ denominated holdings and are getting nervous. There's no end in sight except for some sort of severe economic mishap.Trade imbalances that we should have controlled years ago are now out of control.
  Consider the amount of ag goods China purchases and it will look like the Russian grain embargo all over again. The basic problem is that US citizens think nothing of the government books and totally focus on their own wallet.....and that threatens the whole system. It's personal greed and we've got it bad. 
Robert Blain 
Cedar Fall, IA 

 
Dear Folks at the US Farm Report Show,

I'm another non-farmer who is a fan of the show. I watch to see what I can learn about the situation with food in America. I've heard on other shows how we, the consumers, should buy local, and many of us have farmers' markets available once a week close by in our neighborhoods.

But some of us want to know our local farmers so we can create a direct relationship for buying a certain kind of produce.  I make a fine pesto sauce for friends and family. I need a way to find a local supplier to grow a small amount of basil for my pesto production season. I've recently located inside city limits where the growing space is not available. Help!

Dorothy Hawkins
Middleton, WI


   I tune in to RFDTV more now than ever.  The economy is in  a tailspin and I get really tired of the politics of this situation.  The comments on the Farm Report this morning struck a nerve about how the United Steel Workers  are going to hurt farmers on prices for tractor tires.  Unionworkers get blamed for things that we can't control.  When the tire companies go overseas they don't pass the savings on to the customer,  Those saving become bounses for upper management.  I worked for Chrysler in Huntsville, Alabama for 31 years.  We built all of the electronics that went into their vehicles.  Yes I am still a United Autoworkers member.  I am not very happy how our how our union is now in the pocket of management.  The workforce is no longer their priority.  When I first went to work there I could not get over how unorganized and wasteful the company was.  Along came the Japanese operating program, Modern Operating Agreement, in 1985.  This was a very good program for the worker and management.  Inventories went to just-in-time, assembly times improved because of worker input, everybody benefited from expenses being reduced and wages increasing from the hard work of all employees working to produce a affordable car/truck at a decent price.  Did you know Chrysler had the most efficient build/cost rate per vehicle?   Have you priced a diesel heavy duty truck lately?  $50 to $60,000 is way to high considering the cost cutting that is in place.  My point is that unionworkers are some of the most hardworking people around.  We are just tired of losing benefits, wages, working crazy shift hours that reduce overtime,  we have to work lots of overtime, yes overtime is manditory, because management will pay benefits on one employee instead of hiring more workers.  The last two years I worked were 12 hours a day, 8 on Saturday and Sunday,  because they sold our plant to Siemens.  I stayed with Chrysler as I was so close to retirement.  I am sorry I am rattling on.  No one want to look at the real problem with America right now.  Keep People working.  Stop sending work overseas.  The CEO's reap huge profits from lower costs and don't pass these on to the consumer.  Greed is running rampant.  Don't blame us.  We are doing our part.  We believe enough is enough.  Thanks for letting me rant.  I am very concerned about our future.  We are no longer the rock solid country we used to be. 
Deborah Carroll Nicholas

Tractor Tales and Some Things to Think About...

Sep 17, 2009

How about this for Tractor Tales this week????

This is one of the 1,500,000+ pound rigs moving through Lancaster County over the next 2 weeks. Can you say look out for wide loads during harvest!!! It is traveling a 70 mile route overland through Lancaster County to Three Mile Island nuclear plant. There are 2 units traveling about 1 mile apart. Top speed 3-4 mph. A crew of 100 workers per unit and it is 17' wide and 25' tall. Trees have been trimmed, power lines raised, bridges reinforced, temporary stream crossings have been built, and at some bridges additional cranes will be available to, shall we say, 'lighten the load'. There are 26 axles with 8 tires each. That's 208 tires on each unit and each axle has it own steering and suspension system. Each half can do a 360 degree turn within in its own footprint, can you say skid steer!!. There are 6 diesel engines that power each unit and I believe it is hydraulically driven. No steering wheel, just a joystick for an operator that walks along side. The transport units themselves weight over 300 tons and were built just for this job!!  Think I can 'sneak my combine in behind without having to take off the head????Additional updates are available at www.lancasteronline.com for our local paper, and WGAL channel 8 web site. They are moving 4-6 miles a day. It will trek (for you John!!) past some of our corn and soybean fields.Do you think any one would dare weight my trucks out of the field on a portable scales for being overweight???
A faithful Lancaster County viewer,
Karl M. Hess



Hello USFR, Al Pell, John Phipps and Mike Hoffman, two things I wanted to mention.
 
   One - if you all didn't know it already the ecology movement in all it's extremes has been destroying the farmers out in the northwest states because of the little fish they want to save. Certain rich farmland is being allowed to dust bowl destroying farm families. I know you are aware of that already. But the new information I wanted to mention is that Sean Hannity the radio talk show host of the 2nd largest radio audience in the US is going to be out there talking to some of the farmers and thier families and probably give the story some national exposure it hasn't had. That part I thought you might like to know. Too bad I didn't think to mention it to you before. I don't know how many programs he has in mind to do out there but I heard that today 9-17-09 he was going to be out there personally to do todays program. I imediatley thought about you guys and what you could tell Hannity with all your experience in Agriculture. Even if you could get a link to your websites onto his website perhaps you could link a few of your program stories that you have done on this disaster to get people better informed on this insane out of balance concern for a fish instead of long established  farms and families.
   Two - I have long wanted to find a simple table of "A Farmers Weights and Measures" so to speak. A sort of picturegram or short cartoon or something to give the average non-farmer guy like me some perspective on things. Example: A "Bushel" originally it might have included the whole ear of corn with it's covering because it would help to preserve it at least for a while back in the early days of this country. A bushel might have been a certain size, but of late it is measured by pounds, not by the basket. And now not only that, it has been shucked and the seeds is the only part left of what used to be a bushel. And now it must have a certain moisture content even before you can get the seed off the cob. And that's just the bushel. How about this which has always eluded me but would be the coolest part. Now picture this, Me and a Farmer standing on top of a Tall Silo and the farmer points to the field and snaps his finger and says this is what we put into the field to get the crop going. And at his snap would appear a line of 55 gallon drums of fuel needed just for field prep, a line of containers used for chemical fertilizers and anhydrous, and what ever. Then the bags of seed, and the Stack of Money it takes to get it all going. A tally of the hours spent, And the "bucket of sweat" produced from worry to get it all planted on time. Then provided the weather has co-operated ideally with the farmer another snap, show the field ready for harvest also showing a rain scale with the amount of rain in a GOOD year. Another snap, then the lines of fuel and other items needed for the harvest. The hours, fuel, wagons etc. Then most intriging to me would be this. Farmer snaps his finger and shows bushel baskets of the harvested seed sitting where the corn was standing along with the square feet it took to grow a single bushel. Then a snap to show how many bushels fit in a single box car, snap, how many box cars it takes to hold a single 5,000 bushel corn contract. How many acres it took to fill a single contract of corn. etc, etc.
I hope that makes sense, I typed it up kind of fast. On top of that I've always been curious how a single farmers has to try to fill or buy or sell his corn considering that maybe he can't grow a whole 5,000 bushels for a single contract. How does it all work? Where does the plan start?
Craig Ritchie in Minnesota, a Non-Farmer concerned about our poor farmers in case I ever wanted to be one.

The Health Care Debate

Sep 15, 2009
***Editor's Note:  John's comments on health care in the September 12-13, 2009 edition of U.S. Farm Report drew plenty of response...below are his comments followed by viewer reaction:

JOHN'S COMMENTARY:
      MOST OF THE NEWS HAS BEEN CENTERED ON HEALTH CARE REFORM AND THE PRESIDENT'S SPEECH.  EVEN FARMERS WATCHING FADING MARKETS AND WAITING FOR GOVERNMENT MEASURMENTS ARE PAYING ATTENTION.
     THEY SHOULD. IF YOU THINK CAREFULLY ABOUT IT, THE REFORMS BEING DISCUSSED COULD HAVE SIGNIFICANT IMPACT ON FARMERS AND THEIR FAMILIES. 
     MANY OF US HAVE TO GET HEALTH INSURANCE COVERAGE AS INDIVIDUALS - AN ORDEAL THAT IS GROWING MORE ARDUOUS EVERY DAY. 
     IN FACT, ONE OF THE MAIN REASONS SO MANY FARM FAMILIES HAVE ONE SPOUSE WORKING OFF-FARM IS TO FIND A GROUP THAT GUARANTEES SOME KIND OF COVERAGE. ASK ANY ONE WITH DIABETES OF A CHILD WITH ASTHMA.
     NOW ADD IN THE PROBLEM OF RECISSION, WHERE COVERAGE IS CANCELLED AFTER A BIG CLAIM DUE TO EVEN TINY OR UNRELATED ERRORS ON THE ORIGINAL APPLICATION.
     DESPITE THE HEATED RHETORIC, IT SHOULD BE NOTED THAT BOTH SIDES OF CONGRESS APPEAR TO AGREE ON NEW REGULATIONS TO END THESE PRACTICES. 
     HOW TO PAY FOR THEM IS ANOTHER MATTER, BUT THE ODDS ARE THESE PROBLEMS COULD SOON BE EASED.
     NOW IMAGINE HOW FARM FAMILIES WOULD CHANGE IF FEAR OF GETTING OR LOSING HEALTH COVERAGE WAS NOT AN EVERYDAY FEAR. I THINK WE WOULD SEE MANY MORE SPOUSES WORKING SIDE BY SIDE, FOR STARTERS.
     BUT BETTER STILL, I THINK REMOVING THIS HEADACHE WOULD ENABLE PRODUCERS TO DEAL BETTER WITH THE IMMENSE BUSINESS CHALLENGES AHEAD.

VIEWER REACTION:
#1:
   The majority of my co-workers are only there for the healthcare benefits to cover other family members working in the agriculture community or elsewhere or eligible to retire won't for the cost of healthcare premiums, co-pays, deductibles, that all continue to rise. Not to mention the hassle it is to communicate with healthcare insurance companies that continually deny coverage resulting in bankruptcy.
   Insurance companies have a monopoly on every aspect of our lives: life, burial, home, auto, to name a few. I am in favor of a single payer healthcare as is in other countries where healthcare has been levitated to a basic human right, not a privilege as in the United States of America.
Michael S. Braniff
Willmar, Minnesota

#2:
   My 65-year-old husband loves John. He thinks he should be president. His commentary on health insurance hit home. I'm 64 years old and still working for the insurance. I'd love to be home with him as we farmed together our whole 45yrs of marriage. Thanks for the great show.
Rosemary Stilen 

#3:
   I have been watching your Saturday program on RFD television.  Your views are very liberal on cap and trade.  Texas cattlement do not have any support on any level, the total cost comes out of the individuals pocket.  You support national issues only and forget about the everyday cattlman.
   The views you air about the environment tells me you are in Al Gore's pocket or that you are on the receiving end of government subsidies, maybe it's both to include national health care.  You are supporting national health care by your comments about a man and a woman working side by side on the farm.  You are not telling  the whole story that is included in the national health care bill.  Have you read it?  The cost to the country and the cost out of the individuals pocket is not reported by you.  If you are going to talk about it, tell the whole truth.
   I oppose HR 3200 and HR 2454 because the costs far outweigh the benefits to farmers and ranchers.  "Spirit of the Countryside", no I do no think so.
Jimmy Jones

OTHER VIEWER COMMENTS FROM SEPTEMBER 12-13, 2009 PROGRAM:
   I have watched your show for a couple years now and more and more have become disenchanted with your format. You constantly babble on about three items, corn, soy beans and subsidy's, it gets really boring. There is so much more out there that you could cover and in the process do a great service for all farmers. Here in New York and I am sure in the State of Washington we are in the height of our apple harvesting season, you never mention that product, New York as I am sure is true of many other states is a major milk producer, dairy farmers have been really struggling and you only occasionally mention that fact.
   Not long ago there was a column in the WSJ concerning a cherry farmer in the state of Washington that had to dump more than 70,000 pounds of sour cherries due to an over supplied market, you never covered that story. I could go on and on but by now I am sure you get the picture, there is so much more out there than corn, soy beans and subsidies and oh yes your constant promotion of ethanol. On that subject you should contact companies as Star Brite of Ft. Lauderdale who has done a ton of research concerning the damage ethanol does to our boat engines and the fact we must buy $20 eight ounce additives to combat it's negative effects.  Wish you would add a bit to you format.
Doug Fuegel

A Question and Even More Comments...

Sep 09, 2009
***Below are comments following the September 5-6, 2009 edition of U.S. Farm Report...

NEW:
  
I am wondering if the USDA's reporting service has ever been discussed on your site?  This year the USDA has forecast record corn, wheat and soybean yields and the prices for these grains have crashed on the CBOT and in the local markets. I have farmed for 37 years and I understand that grain markets go up and down, but the problem I have with these USDA reports is that they are not based on actual numbers, but rather estimates.
   The FSA branch of the USDA has the certified planted acres on its computer system and the day after certification ends they would have a total on the planted acres.  My question is this.  Why doesn't the USDA use these actual numbers until after harvest is over?
   I would never want to be forced to sell my grain on an estimate. I want to get paid the true weight I have on my truck as it goes across the scale, but yet us farmers are supposed to except a market price based off these USDA reports that are nothing more then fake numbers pulled out of the air.
   Since June 30th when USDA released it first really questionable planted acres and projected yields reports the price of corn has dropped $1.45 a bushel. If you take that times the USDA’s projected bushels and the 2008 carryover corn and that is a lose of income to the American farmer of over 21 billion dollars. I would like to see the USDA reporting system to be more accountable for their reports. It is very important that these reports are accurate because the traders use them to set the prices of grain and livestock.  I know the USDA will have a list of excuses a mile long about why they use the methodology that they use , but there needs to be some changes made.

#1: 
  Enjoy so much your comments. Always felt you presented a very unbiased look at issues. Farming appears to be the last industry in America where the world markets are also trying to intercede with lower prices. Americans appear to gravitate to the lowest price even with risk. Not sure I understand that. Americans don’t mind spending billions to bale our GM and Chrysler, but when you pull up to a red light 3 of the 4 autos are Japanese rather than American. If we are not willing to buy American why would we bale them out?
   My question is why or how is it our ground beef today when cooked emits water as well as a little oil, but mostly water. Is this water an injection process from American processors or imports? How can we avoid this? Why isn’t it required to be posted on the package. Shrimp is just as bad. I understand it provides added weight and therefore a higher price, but there has to be a cost to the water injection, I would not like to pay for. Or is this all my imagination?
Dean C. Hill
Tallahassee Florida

#2:
Gentlemen;
     I am one of what I imagine to be a multitude of viewers who seldom actually set foot on a working farm.  I do, however, make a point of getting up early on Sunday to watch the U.S. Farm Report.  Let me explain my behavior.
    I hold a MS in Economics from Ohio University and have spent years teaching basic Economics to incoming Freshmen at Columbus State Community College.  Shortly after a bout of insomnia had driven me to watch your show during the 1990’s I found myself frequently referring to stories I had heard on your program during my attempts at teaching a class.  Featured in these stories were tales of initiative, clever use of resources, and adaptation to market forces by seemingly ordinary people.   Rice farmers in California using ducks to prepare their field for spring planting, and dairy farmers running nearly pollution-free milk operations are examples.
    I am sure you must archive these stories as I have seen a few repeated.  I would like to suggest that it would be a splendid idea to collect some theme based stories from your archive, put them on CD disks, and make them available to schools for use in classes.  I know jaded college freshmen enjoy clearly presented agricultural examples of complex theory and I would expect that they would be equally well received even at the elementary level.
    I sometimes refer to my job as “explaining the obvious to the ignorant”.  A large portion of my own ignorance involves agriculture, but I can assure you that your program frequently shines a light into the dark corners of that ignorance.
Joe Mullin
Gahanna, Ohio

#3:
   Correct me if I am wrong, but it seems to me that the low prices for grain is due ,in part, to over production. 
Dennis Tucker
  
#4:
   Good Morning!  My husband was watching your program this morning and he said you mentioned some kind of program where if you were a landowner, you could receive tax breaks or compensation of some kind for holding part of your land as a nature preserve or game reserve.  We just bought a house with 4.2 acres.  2.2 acres of that is woods and we would like to check out this program.  Could you please send me the link.  I couldn't find it on your website. Thank you and have a wonderful day!!!
Cynthia Rutherford
***Editor's Note:  A good place to start is the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program from the Natural Resources Conservation Service...

Weather, Water & Wyoming...Viewer Comments Pour In...

Sep 03, 2009
***We received lots of feedback following our August 29-30, 2009 edition...

#1:
   What on earth is the government thinking to not allow the San Joaquin Valley in California to have its water for its agriculture??? That's got to be a major food source taken away. What about the farmers? That is their income taken away. And the environment! Where are the do-good environmentalists? Aren't they worried about the dust bowl created by no water? What is the government trying to do, destroy every facet of America?
Carol Hunt
Ely, Nev.

#2:
   Seems that soybeans and corn get all the attention when reporting on the grains.  How about more on wheat?
Mel Cobb

#3:
   It would be a welcome addition to hear some news regarding America's sugarbeet farmers and their crops. While the acreage is not as great as the corn and soybean crops that you continually talk about, it would be refreshing to hear some other crop data. We here in Wyoming would like to get some information on not only sugarbeets but also dry beans, alfalfa and malt barley, if you could see your way clear to do so.
Thank you,
Ted Propp Jr.

#4:
   I have been watching your show for at least 20 years now off and on but mainly on Sunday mornings. I really like the show and think that you do a great job on everything. I am not a farmer and never been a farmer, but I do know that farmers are the real backbone of the world. So I do understand that everything that goes on from Wall Street down to Main Street all goes by what happens on the farms in every aspect. Plus I like how each week you talk and show old churches and old farming equipment, so please don't change a thing at all, especially on Sunday mornings.
   What I am really writing to you about is that I have noticed in the past few years how the weather has been all around the country and the world, for the most part. I was wondering if the seasons are slowly changing? I mean, it's not as cold during the winter like I used to remember and its not as hot during the summer like I use to remember either. So far this year I believe the hottest temperature in St. Paul, MN was 97F degrees back in late April or early May, and we have only had three or four days of 90F-plus temperatures since. I also don't think that it really got below 0F degrees during the winter more than maybe 10 times all winter, which is not normal either. I know that in history the Earth has had different seasons where winter was summer and summer was winter. I was just wondering if that is slowly happening again? I don't know if I can actually believe all of the reports of global warming -- yes, some are true or can be true, but at the same time it could be all false, since nobody really knows at all. So maybe if you could give me the weather temperatures over the past 100 years or so, or whenever the Farmers Almanac first started to record temperatures, I could see if we are just in a weird weather pattern right now or not. I know that we go in weird spurts of weather types from year to year and/or decade to decade. But the 34 years I have been on this earth and in Minnesota, I just don't remember it being like this. So if you have a Web site address for this, please e-mail me back so that I can do the research myself and/or just let me know if you find something out one way or another, just in case I miss the episode where you might have this in it, if you actually put this as a segment on your show.
   Thank you and please keep up the great work for all farmers and nonfarmers around the U.S. and the world.
Patrick Shull
St. Paul, Minn.
 
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