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February 2011 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.

Organic Math

Feb 28, 2011

   I just saw your "comments" on organic foods & what a crock of crap.  Trust me Walmart wouldn't sell organic milk if there wasn't a demand.. people vote with thier money.  All it takes for someone else to start purchasing organic is for another recall or ecoli etc...just keep telling yourself that line.  Robbie Orr

***Editor's Note:  Below is John's response to this viewer followed by a transcript of his comments on U.S. Farm Report regarding the demand for organic produce...

Robbie:

Thanks for your response. We obviously disagree, so you can bet on anecdotal observations, and I'll work with real numbers. Like herehere and here.  I'm not saying organic isn't growing, but it's barely keeping up with market growth. 3% is 3% despite what appearances are. I'll revisit this issue from time to time to see who is closer to reality.  John

Farm Report Mailbag (February 26-27, 2011):

    TIME NOW FOR OUR WEEKLY LOOK INSIDE THE FARM REPORT MAILBAG...A VIEWER IN MARYLAND IS CONCERNED ABOUT THE GROWTH OF ORGANIC PRODUCTS:

   "THERE'S NOT A GROCERY STORE OUT HERE THAT'S NOT SELLING ALL NATURAL ORGANIC FOODS AND IS SELLING PRODUCE LIKE IT'S GOING OUT OF STYLE... IT'S ONLY A MATTER OF TIME TILL THE CHINESE, RUSSIANS AND THE EUROPEAN MARKETS WILL BE WANTING THE CHANGE TO ORGANICS. THEN WHERE WILL YOU BE?"

    WELL, ORGANIC SALES AREN'T QUITE THAT HOT. IT IS A CLASSIC CASE OF MARKETING SPIN AND POOR PUBLIC MATH SKILLS.  LET ME ILLUSTRATE: ORGANIC FOOD AND BEVERAGE SALES WERE ABOUT 27 BILLION DOLLARS IN 2009. THIS IS A BIG NUMBER UNTIL YOU COMPARE IT TO TOTAL FOOD SALES OF JUST OVER 1 TRILLION DOLLARS. ORGANIC SALES ARE ABOUT 3 PERCENT.
    ORGANIC SALES GROWTH WAS ABOUT 5 PERCENT IN 2009. BUT THE TOTAL FOOD MARKET GREW AT ABOUT 3% SO ORGANIC ONLY GAINED A SHARE GROWTH OF 2 PERCENT. THIS IS LESS THAN A TENTH OF PERCENT OF MARKET SHARE. AT THIS RATE IT WILL TAKE DECADES TO GET TO EVEN 10% OF MARKET SHARE.
    SECOND, MOST OF THE LOW-HANGING ORGANIC FRUIT HAS BEEN PICKED. CARROTS ARE ABOUT 25 PERCENT ORGANIC, FOR EXAMPLE. ORGANIC MILK AND ESPECIALLY MEAT ARE GROWING MUCH SLOWER.  JUDGING THE MARKET BY SHELF SPACE CAN BE DECEPTIVE. ALSO, THE EUROPEAN ORGANIC MARKET IS ABOUT 15 YEARS AHEAD OF US, AND IT FLATTED OUT.
    FINALLY, I DON'T HAVE PROBLEMS WITH CONSUMERS CHOOSING MORE EXPENSIVE FOOD.BUT ALL ORGANIC WOULD REQUIRE A VERY EXPENSIVE MARKET INCENTIVE. I THINK THAT OUTCOME IS VERY, VERY UNLIKELY.
 

A Tractor Tune

Feb 23, 2011

   I guarantee that this will be a big hit. You will be showing this more than once. Their tractor goes put-put-put and they play the guitars to the tune of the tractor puts.

 
Sally Wiese
Winneconne, WI

Lots of Letters

Feb 22, 2011

***Editor's Note:  This viewer feedback was received following the February 19-20, 2011 edition of U.S. Farm Report...

#1:  I saw your program and commentary on Saturday, Feb 19 on our local Syracuse, NY station at 6:00 in the morning.  I enjoy your show.  I have never farmed but I grew up in the rural south (Al & Ga) and live in a heavily farmed area in Central NY.  I prefer rural to city. I have gone to school and church with farmers all my 47 years. I couldn't agree more with your rebuttal to the fellow who thought large farms pushed people off the land.  It is simple economics and no one has a gun to their head to sell their land.  The math never lies.  Just as a family can't make a living any longer owning one store or one gas station, it has become nearly impossible for one small farm to support a family.  Times have changed.  It appears that your minor in Economics still serves you well. Glad to know John that you are a former submariner.  I was in the Air Force for 20 years, but now work with a bunch of former sailors at Nine Mile Point Nuclear Station near Oswego, NY.
John Hudgins, MBA - Nine Mile Point Nuclear Station

#2:  The host of the 700 club -- Pat Robertson -- was talking about the rising food prices and the hoards of hungry people around the world  --- then he said we should quit "using" corn for ethanol  -- "we need that corn for food", he said.  I think he is wrong -- very little of the corn kernel is used up for the ethanol: and, what's left, – the stillage – is good hog and/or cattle food and grows a lot of edible meat --  my gripe is that I can't prove it one way or another.......it's not as simple as taking government grazing land away from western ranchers. Surly there are some honest, non-political, reports that discuss this but I just can’t find them. Any good information you know about would be appreciated.  S. D. Wray from Greentown, IN

#3:  You know Florida clean drinking water is in danger. Oil drilling and pesticides will soon take over and make life unsustainable. Much more quickly than you think possible. Have you made arrangements for your children and grandchildren to live outside the USA, because all the other states have problems too? I watch the agriculture channels and I know how hard the chemical/fertilizer companies lobbied for this bill. Oil drillers can probe underground in a forty mile radius from the main drill site. After our aquifer is hit, we will all have to leave. Stop, please, think about it. What were your goals when you entered into politics?  Edna Marshall

#4:  In a recent session of Tractor Tales you did a story on a '36 Allis Chalmers tractor; in it you mentioned that the company also provided electric motors for submarines during WWII.  Allis Chalmers was also active in the nuclear industry, designing and fabricating reactors, which came to be nicknamed "tractor reactors"; the website www.wisconsinhistory.org/wmh/ will bring you to an article by the Wisconsin Historical Society.  Though I mainly watch your show for Baxter Black, Tractor Tales ( I don't farm) and Church Salute, I occasionally view other sections dealing with machinery; you have a fine show.  Mark Gallistel

#5:  John, I'd like to throw out a bit of info at your big time Farm Operators. I'm on the East Coast near by the EPA's Chesapeake Bay. Unless Obamas' scalpel knife cuts the EPA funds these little farmers out here are in a lot of trouble. One of my friends In Pa. had a 2500 head Hog Farm with consignments to Smithfield Hams in the south. Like all farmers his start up fees were astronomical so he sold a few lots to some city folks to put houses on, to offset and pay taxes up. Well wouldn't you know it those people complained about the Smells right after moving in. It just don't pay he told me to try to do the right thing. My cousin has a small Purebred Yorkshire Hog Operation in South Central Pennsylvania. His Grandmother my Aunt wanted to help him expand his Hog Business. The Township stopped them cold. Seems they had plans of the community to expand housing around their farm and no one want to take the chance on the smell. Now of course Pa. is a big Pork Eaters State but no one wants to live near them. So that being said I need to get to my main theme of this letter your Big Grain Producers out west. Your Neighbors and you need to take a trip out here to the East Coast and get some strategies together. You see there are big changes happening out here and it's called ORGANIC and NATURAL Foods. The Yuppies are influencing people that there is a big difference between your grain and the so called ORGANIC FOODS. I know you say there is room for all Farmers but you better take a look before the only people that’s buying you produce is other countries. The USDA said years ago that there is absolutely no difference between the Organic Stuff and Farmed with spray products to get better yields. The Government lets them (Organic People) use some sprays to keep down weeds but, not as much as you all do. Of course never mind that they have 40% less yields on the same ground you do either. There's not Grocery Store out here that's not selling All Natural Organic Foods and is selling produce like it's going out of style. All of the Grocery Stores have either added or expanded their departments in Organics. You say well that don't effect me, well maybe not yet but, at the rate they are expanding here it's only a matter of time till the Chinese, Russians and the European markets will be wanting the change to Organics. Then where will you be? So when is the best time to advertise against the new wave? Maybe just 5 years from now when your production yields are cut in half by the EPA restricting your usage of 24 D to 0. On that thought ask your wife if she may have been tempted to buy Organic because she saw you neighbor doing it in your grocery store... Just Thinking... 

Kind Regards,
XDirtfarmer in Maryland

Food Security

Feb 15, 2011

Dear John & the US Farm Report,

I was raised on a family farm (currently operated by my brother and sisters families). I am an Ag-Ed teacher in Montana. I have been trying to keep track of what is going on in the world, as far as food production and population etc…. I watch your show as often as I can.

I have a couple of comments. First I think there is plenty of problems with food production in the world, yes we need more education around the world on how to farm and what to grow etc…I am concerned about people and government, talking about bashing the ethanol production and the acres that go to producing corn for the ethanol industry. When we (the world) needs to keep finding ways to replace fusel fuels, rather than going backward in time. With the rising prices of cotton, (your show is saying that those prices are going higher and that many farmers are going to plant more acres to cotton). Now I have a problem with that, when most people at least in America have plenty of cloths, and if we need more of them we should be considering recycling the cotton that is in our dresser drawers, rather than plant more cotton). Last time I checked I do not eat any cotton….we are having a world food problem, right. We should be growing wheat and beans that people eat. Not just more cotton to make more clothes that we really don’t need. Let alone made (shipping the cotton overseas) overseas and shipped back for us to buy cheap clothes.

As the population continues to grow out of control, we must look at the big picture. For instance if more than one of the main food production continents have a drought or other nature disasters, we need to look at producing food for people not just corn and cotton. If the supply is a tight as your show says. We need to be planting grain that can be directly eaten by people. Isn’t corn mainly used to animals for food production, and then the meat consumed by people. IN Montana I believe that if we swift our management to grow out our own yearlings, this would cut down on the amount of corn needed to feed the beef animals. This would leave more corn for something else.

I must look at Washington and the people that we send there to work. Somehow we have to get them to look at the big picture as a whole group of people and not as individuals that are only concerned with the next election and their personal status.

I have said for 35 years that” America is going to starve our own Grandchildren”, because of the construction of cities, houses and development in our river bottom lands all across the U.S.A. Now would be the time to stop what we are doing and develop a long term plan for the country and its future. If not for any other reason but “Food Security” for our selves, at this point I am concerned about myself and not just my son and his children. 

Education is the key to success. But decreasing spending on Ag-Ed is a plan to fail. Benjamin Franklin said it best “To fail to plan, is to plan to fail”.

I am teaching my students (agriculture’s future farmers) to take care of their own families first and their own operation. It is the only sound advice that I have for them at this time. That would include raising their own fuels and growing their own food (gardens), keeping their own seeds for grain production. The American farmer is going to have to put themselves first and foremost. The American farmer has to survive in order to help feeding the world. Most of my students are wheat and beef producers.

Example: of Food Security: if Egypt stops the crude oil from moving around the world, how is the American Farmer going to the plant the seeds to produce the food that they rest of the world needs to eat?

Has anyone thought about: What is China going to do when they want all of the exportable grain from the USA? Are we not indebt to China?? Please forward this information to the right people that can start to make some of the right changes, changes that are going to be needed to have “World Security”! Not just make money for the short term. By the way do you know where America has the “Think Tank” for food security? I need to apply for a job.

 Thank you for your time.

 Patti Armbrister

PS   I think your show should be required for the people in Washington to view before they go to work.

 

The Mailbag is Full!

Feb 14, 2011

***The viewer comments below were received following the February 12-13, 2011 edition of U.S. Farm Report...

#1:   I have an observation to share.  Corn for North Dakota is a BIG IF---We have record snow accumulation.  I traveled to western Montana last week and there is a huge snow pack ALL THE WAY.  Never seen that before.  Always Always have areas of bare ground.    There is snow all the way south as well.  We thaw from SW to NE.  My observation includes that we in the northern corn belt will have a terrible time getting the crop in on time.   I want to contract 200,000 bushels of corn and have land ready and seed bought.  I DON”T DARE.                                                       Ed Schmid - Near Devils Lake, N.D.

#2:  Why does the Government still pay the farmer not to plant a crop? Don't you think it's about time they start paying them to plant crops?  This would make a lot more scents to the American public. This money that is spent like this could be put to better use.
Jesse Hittle - Manitou Beach, Michigan

#3:  Regarding the debate over the appropriateness of Baxter Black on your show: The first half-hour is hard news and the second half hour is lifestyle. I think Baxter Black is a perfect fit for the lifestyle segment, as much so as Tractor Tales or Country Church Salute. Personally I like the format of the show and find the balance between hard and soft news coverage accurately reflects life in agribusiness.  

Richard Ries - Madison, IN

#4:  Please keep Baxter as a feature on your show. He really connects with those of us with both crops and cows!

C.J. Bloomquist

#5:   I just wanted to say that I don't understand all the furor over Baxter Black. I enjoy listening to his segment. I especially enjoyed today's (2/12/11) segment about Wanda falling into the hole. I was laughing several times. I also enjoy Tractor Tales and Country Church Salute.
Thank you,
Chris Witmer - West Liberty, IA

 

 

To CRP or not to CRP

Feb 08, 2011

   I am a small hay and sheep producer in Malta, Montana. I was interested in your last show talking about Congressional interest in eliminating CRP as a way to cut the budget.  You may not be aware of the current administrations interest, through the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in turning our community into a wild bison range.  In February of 2010 a document was released that highlighted the administrations interest in creating 12 million acres of monuments under the antiquaties act.  Our communities along the Hi-Line of Malta and Glasgow would be included.

    Our humble rural community produced $87 million in raw agricultural products (feeder calves and small grains).  As you know these raw products travel across the region, country and world and multiply into $435 million in commerce.
 
   At a time when the USDA has identified 50 million Americans with food shortages, 17 million of which are children, 6.7 million who have "severe" food shortages and the loss of 41 million acres of forest, pasture and rangeland since 1987 and the loss of highly productive farm land at a rate of 1 million acres annually development (American Farmland Trust), this proposal seems unreal.
 
   How is the U.S. agricultural sector going to meet the needs of 3 billion more people in the world to feed by the year 2050, with these decisions?  If you would be more interested in finding out more about this, please feel free to contact me.  I am interested in someone shedding a little light on our situation.  Thank you for your consideration.
Marko Manoukian

***Editor's Note:  Below is a transcript of John's comments regarding CRP from the February 506, 2011 edition of U.S. Farm Report...
 
   TIME NOW FOR OUR WEEKLY LOOK INSIDE THE FARM REPORT MAILBAG....A PERTINENT QUESTION ABOUT CRP PAYMENTS FROM HANS SACRISON IN KALISPELL, MONTANA.
    "YOU INDICATED SOME OF THE FARM LAND (WASTE LAND) ON YOUR FARM WAS UNDER CRP OR A SIMILAR PROGRAM. YOU SAID YOU WOULD NOT FARM THIS LAND IN ANY CASE. MY QUESTION: WHY SHOULD THE TAXPAYERS PAY YOU NOT TO FARM LAND YOU WOULD NOT FARM ANYWAY?"
    WHY INDEED? YOU HAVE PUT YOUR FINGER ON A TROUBLING ASPECT OF FARM PROGRAMS IN GENERAL. IF, AS WE OFTEN SAY, FARMERS ARE THE BEST ENVIRONMENTALISTS, WE SHOULD NOT NEED MONETARY ENCOURAGEMENT TO DO THE RIGHT THING. AND IN TRUTH A LOT OF FRAGILE ACRES ARE VOLUNTARILY KEPT OUT OF PRODUCTION TO PREVENT EROSION.
    BUT TO GET FILTER STRIPS ALONG WATERWAYS BUILT CORRECTLY, FOR EXAMPLE, AND TO ENCOURAGE ABSENTEE FARMOWNERS TO PROTECT THE SOIL, SUCH PAYMENTS MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE.
    OF COURSE, WE COULD ALSO ACCOMPLISH THESE GOALS BY REGULATION -SIMPLY MAKING IT THE LAW. BUT IF YOU HAVEN'T NOTICED THERE IS CONSIDERABLE PUSHBACK ARISING FROM ENVIRONMENTAL REGULATION, SO LEGISLATORS DECIDED TO USE THE CARROT INSTEAD OF THE STICK.
    THERE IS ANOTHER SUBTLER ADVANTAGE TO PAYING FOR RIGHT ACTIONS. THOSE PAYMENTS ARE LEVERAGE TO ENCOURAGE OTHER ACTIONS. SO STOPPING THE CONSERVATION RESERVE MIGHT HAVE SOME CURIOUS CONSEQUENCES.
   FINALLY, WE SHOULD NOTE THAT WE MAY BE ABOUT TO FIND OUT HOW NECESSARY SUCH GOVERNMENT PAYMENTS ARE AS BUDGET CUTTERS NEED TO FIND BILLIONS TO REDUCE THE DEFICIT.
 

CRP: A Good Investment?

Feb 01, 2011

John,

    I listened to the US Farm Report 29, January in which you discussed the Conservation Reserve program and /or land under the Departmernt of Agriculture Department.

   In almost all cases I give you very high marks for logic and ethics in assessing different opinions regarding various aspects of government involvement in agriculture.  However, to paraphrase, you indicated some of the farm land (waste land) on your farm was under CRP or a similar program.  You said you would not farm this land in any case. 
My question: Why should the taxpayers pay you not to farm land you would not farm anyway?
    In my case, I am well past retirement age and have ten head of registered horses.  Government programs ( government infinite wisdom) has made these ten horses a liability rather than and asset.  Go Figure!  Thanks for your Ag program . I am a faithful listener.
Hans Sacrison
Kalispell, MT
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