Apr 18, 2014
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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.

Tax Reform...Not So Fast!

Apr 15, 2014

 ***Editor’s Note:  Below is a viewer comment received in response to last weekend’s Mailbag segment followed by a transcript of John’s comments…

Viewer Comment: 

Dear Mr. Phipps, I usually enjoy your comments for their fair and level-headed approach, even when I do not always agree with everything.  But today you outdid yourself. Your comments about the thwarted attempt to bring a bill for changing the tax code were excellent. You hit the nail right on the head and unmasked the hypocrisy of people who want to deal with the country's debt problem , but hold on to their own loopholes and exemptions while attacking the aid for less fortunate members of our society. Unfortunately too many farmers belong to the ranks of hypocrites, obviously not aware of the fact   that agricultural goods like others need consumers with money in their pockets and therefore depend on wealth being widespread instead of being concentrated , something that can only be accomplished with taxes  unless we give our economic system an extreme make-over. 

Sincerely, Klaus Karbaumer

Mailbag Transcript:

Time now for our weekly look inside the Farm Report Mailbag…our email today has a simple answer, so let’s get to it:  "I agree that the tax code is too complicated.  However, when the Congressman proposed that fertilizer no longer be deductible, I sat up straight and said ‘What???’." That’s from Pat Bird in Marcus, Iowa.  It refers to my comments about the tax reform bill proposed by House Ways and Means Committee chair, Dave Camp. 

Pat, the quick answer is never mind – that bill died a quick and brutal death at the hands of fellow Republicans who were aghast at ending tax breaks for special interests and taxing big banks. Like Pat, virtually everyone found something to hate in the proposal, so it was hastily buried before it could become even just a baseline for future reform.  My admiration for the bill was that it was specific and finally began the work of pruning out wasteful favoritism in our tax code.  And it named names, so to speak.

But it turns out Americans love their bit of wasteful favoritism, so now we’re back to talking about getting our financial house in order by ranting over vague generalities like "entitlements" or "pork".  Regardless, Representative Camp deserves high marks for his honest effort to make our tax code more effective and fair.  And his numbers added up.  The lesson to be learned is that during this election season, any time a candidate talks about balancing the budget, the correct response is "show me the math".

Viewers Speak: Input Prices, EPA & Storage

Apr 02, 2014

 ***Editor’s Note:  The following comments were received in response to the March 29-30, 2014 edition of U.S. Farm Report…


#1:  Dear Mr. Phipps, A year or so ago I made the comment to U.S. Farm Report that the farmer was nothing but a pawn between large conglomerates that supply farm products and large conglomerates that purchase farm commodities. You disagreed with my comments and told your audience that all I had to do was look at your tax return and see your profits to disprove my comments. I am in shock today (March 30, 2014) because it sounded like you said in your USFR commentary that the farmer was a pawn to large conglomerates that supply farm products. I realize this large farm conglomerates fund your USFR program so I don’t expect you to agree with me. Mark Lenertz

#2:  I am now "retired", but in the past worked for USDA SCS, Fortune 500 companies, co-ops and family owned business involving agriculture.  The greatest and most disappointing challenge came in 1980 when I could not convince several of the co-op customers to sell grain and liquidate debt before incurring more debt for land acquisition.  One of my biggest obstacles was overcoming lenders advice that "the land will always stand good for the debt".  Well, it didn't and in the farm crisis of the 1980"s, cash flow and debt serviceability became king.  If one does not know overall cost of operations and how to account for the same, then it is next to impossible to define cost of production for any one segment of the operation.  There are fixed and variable costs.  Variable costs where one item is a function of something else is the most difficult and all this has to take place in an environment where the producer has little control over prices received.  Capital, or fixed costs, must take place where long range returns are unknown, but costs are defined. Throw into that policy shifts by the government and marketing gets really complex.  How a farmer or rancher sells their product, outright cash, futures, options or contract will also determine rate of return.  While a lot of technology has helped lower input costs of fuel, seed, fertilizer and chemicals, it seems administrative costs like crop, weather and yield insurance has increased as the size of the risk increased.  The bottom line is you have to have an "understanding", not a complete algorithmic analysis, of your costs, a rate of return that is acceptable to you and a marketing plan you are comfortable with.  Otherwise, the discomfort will lead to bad decisions based on hope or greed. Victor R. Grunden

#3:  While driving my grandchildren to school this morning I was listening to a guest on 890 AM radio who talked about the 30 % less income that farmers will be making in 2014.  He seemed to have a solution to the problem.  He claimed that farmers spend too much on input costs and could pay less for such things as fertilizer, seed, etc.  It appears that person has no knowledge of how the ag industry works.  We are one of the only businesses that have to buy at retail and sell at wholesale.  While we have some control over our crop or livestock sales income, or loss, we cannot tell our ag input suppliers what we will pay for our inputs.  We pay whatever they price them at or we do not get them.  Pure and simple!  Anyone with any ag background at all knows that in low profit years we try to keep our input costs as low as possible without affecting our yields adversely.  And with Mother Nature always doing things her way, it can be a tough call to know how good or poor of a crop to expect.  Try going to J. C. Penney’s, Macy’s, Target, WalMart, Sears, or any other retail store and asking them at the check-out counter if they will lower the price for you.  GOOD LUCK!! It isn't going to happen.  Well it works the same in the ag sector except we can't open the Sunday paper and clip coupons for savings toward fertilizer, seed, chemicals, and livestock.  Hopefully things will change before the majority of us are forced to quit farming or just throw in the towel and apply for your jobs.  It gets very frustrating when we get a few good years mixed in with so many poor ones.  Our input costs go up dramatically in good years and never go back down to where they should be during the lean years.  Sooo, whoever that was on 890 Radio at 8:00 am today Mar. 28, get it right or please don't give the public the wrong impression.   Most of us have a pretty damned good idea where our money is going and would love to change input costs to our advantage.  Just Sayin' – Keith Stumbo

#4:  I shall be grouping John's theoretical correlation of the expansion of storage space with the expansion of the universe with my own long held theory that the chief force holding back the universe falling into a state of entropy is the presence of a certain type of woman to clean out and re-organize all closets in the household on a semi-annual basis.  I am now working on a high brow sounding name for our now conjoined theories- something to entertain the mind when reading the newspaper. Cindy Wilsey

#5:  Shortly after viewing the US Farm Report broadcast on Saturday, March 29, 2014, I watched FOX News discuss the new EPA Water Regulations.  The US Farm Report appeared to mix two issues into one.  First, Dr. Norman E. Borlaug's work to produce a new strain of wheat had enabled millions to be fed, who otherwise would likely have died.  Second, the celebration of Dr. Borlaug's accomplishment and the EPA's new water regulations appeared to me to be celebrated together.  Maybe I'm a little slow, but these two issues appeared to both be presented in a positive light.  Dr. Borlaug should be, but not EPA new regulations.  On Fox News (Forbes on Fox) the EPA's new rules received a different approach: "EPA plan to protect wetlands may give government power to grab homeowners land."  Senator David Viter (R-LA) Environment & Public Works Committee Member said, "The waters of the US' rule may be one of the most significant private property grab in US history."  Shouldn't the US Farm Report be presenting the EPA's growing control over private property owners be an important issue?  Land owners need to know that the EPA intent is really all about control. While I'm writing, I believe the US Farm Report should examine the reason Earth Day was originally established.  I'm assuming it will be mentioned in a future broadcast.  Earth Day began on what would have been Vladimir Lenin's 100th birthday, so instead of Earth Day, it's really a Vladimir Lenin's birthday celebrationUnder Lenin's leadership millions died due to the total control policies the US' EPA is now working to enact. Richard Champion 




Viewers Speak: GMO's, Gluten & Tax Codes

Mar 27, 2014

 ***Editor’s Note:  The following comments were received in response to recent episodes of U.S. Farm Report…

#1:  Dear Mr. Phipps - Your commentaries on March 8 and March 15 hit the bullseye concerning the misconceptions about a connection between childhood vaccinations and autism, the GMO debate, and the possible connection between gluten content and celiac disease. My view is that this rejection of science is caused by the fact that over the last 40 years, our high schools and colleges have taught people what to think, not how to think. Plus, high school graduation requirements in science and math have been reduced dramatically. When my kids were in high school, I had to (on a daily basis) dispel numerous fallacies presented to them by teachers with some kind of personal agenda. The most egregious was when a teacher told them they should not eat chocolate because, he claimed, it comes from the same plant as cocaine!  One of my current co-workers, who has kids in junior high and high school, is having to fight the same battle I did 20 years ago. We have produced a couple of generations of highly ignorant people with this self-destructive methodology. The dumbing down continues, and far too few parents are combating it.  Ed Jones - Palmdale, CA

#2:  Gluten is just another in the long line of food related concerns and like the majority of the others, is being pushed by a small group.  It's the old adage of the wheel that squeaks gets the grease.  Others of note are the GMO/GME's and it appears to me that none have looked in a mirror lately and as all humans are a genetic product and all that game and animals that we have been eating over the years is also, so it's a bit late to be of concern. Organics are better than conventional but when analyzed in a lab - come out exactly the same.  Add items like peanut butter and minimize that perhaps one in 10K has an allergy and it becomes time to panic. FDR put it best … "We have nothing to fear - but fear itself."  It gets a workout these days.  Bill Lindblad - Hillsville, VA

#3:  I suggest a website www.inpowersisterhood.com by Janelle Saar.  Go to the Blog section and find "Do you want to keep that belief?"  GMO opponents have evolved to the "belief" stage with sufficient time and distance to become internalized.   Logic, science, marketing, money, etc…are not effective as John pointed out.  If GMO is to survive, the belief must be changed.  Please check the Blog.  Thanks -Harry Wallace 

#4:  I enjoy US Farm Report.   The other day John Phipps commented on a congressman speaking on the subject of redoing the income tax forms (simplifying it to a 10% or 25% level).  I agree that the tax code is too complicated.  However, when John Phipps said that this congressman proposed that fertilizer no longer be deductible, I sat up straight and said "WHAT ?????".     I can only assume that this congressman thinks that fertilizer is over applied and more of a pollutant than a necessary input for the crop.  This is just plain absurd, and in my opinion another example of how out of touch with agriculture many of our elected officials are.  Pat Bird - Marcus, IA

Viewers Speak: Cost of Production and a Weather Question

Mar 11, 2014

 ***Editor's Note:  The following viewer comments were received in response to the March 8-9, 2014 edition of U.S. Farm Report...

#1:  I'll tell you right up front that I am a retired part time farmer and certainly don't pretend to be a marketing expert. One statement that marketing advisers like to make that always raises questions in my mine is roughly "Know your cost of production and if the price of corn, beans, etc. is above your cost of production you need to think about selling". I would NOT dispute that you MUST know your cost of production. However I would argue that your decision to sell needs to be made only on your best understanding of the markets. It seems to me that if the market is up, yet still below your cost of production, you need to be thinking about how to either enhance the value of your crop, or lower your cost of production! Holding for a higher price will simply compound your losses. The Achilles heel of the part time farmer is a high cost of production. Gail Metzger - Bronson, MI

#2:  Does humidity affect how we perceive cold as it does how we perceive hot?  I have noticed a few times that a day will feel colder than the day before, but the temperature is a few degrees higher.  Everything thing else is almost the same such as wind speed, cloud cover, etc.  If humidity does affect how we perceive cold, is it not mentioned because wind chill is a bigger factor?  Thanks, John Morgan - Lexington, MO

Viewers Respond: Climate Change and Honeybees

Feb 25, 2014

 ***The following viewer comments were received in response to the February 22-23, 2014 edition of U.S. Farm Report…

Viewer Comment #1:   John, would you please drop all this climate hoax? ENOUGH! This HOAX has been one of the most successful scams of the last 25 years deemed to make Al Gore a multimillionaire, that part has succeeded.  I recently attended one of Drew Lerners weather presentations.  His data showed the last warm year was 1998. Every year since, the global average temperature has DROPPED!  Another recent news report indicated that NOAA and NASA were manipulating numbers - this is believable based on factual data.  Another weather scientist (PhD) from Climate Canada said his models showed global cooling until 2040! Along with that, he said Fargo ND's climate could be what Winnipeg MB's is now.

Don't fall into the trap.  Jerry Mork


Viewer Comment #2:  The irrigation and drinking water provided by the Colorado River is a model of maximizing its fresh water usage before mixing with salt water in the Gulf of California.  If fact, very little if any Colorado River water reaches salt water as Mexico uses the remainder of this precious natural resource and commodity.  Compare this model with the fresh water in the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River.  To make matters worse, the State and Provincial governments of the US and Canada have usage rules which allows only those in the Great Lakes watershed to use the water.  This protection is designed to keep water thirsty areas from eyeing the Great Lakes for its water source and also ensure the Great Lakes keep normal or natural water levels.  But there is a fresh water wasting question.  There obviously is a location in the St. Lawrence River before it reaches the tidal basin where the fresh water is never brackish.  This water is probably the most wasted fresh water commodity source in the world.  While I have no idea of the financial cost of extracting and delivering this source of fresh water to drought areas, the fact that it is fresh water is priceless.  Is there a problem with extracting water before it reaches the tidal basin and becomes brackish?  No one ever complains about desalinating ocean water.  However, the cost of such operation is prohibitive except for drinking water.  Yet collecting water just before it becomes salty would save on all of the desalinating costs.  Just something to think about…Terry R. Krukemyer



Viewer Comment #3:  Your report on California vegetable production was right on.  With wild weather all over the world the move to locally produced food, including fruit and vegetables, makes sense. It is good for the environment, consumers and gives new opportunities to young producers.  Denny Verhoff


Viewer Comment #4:  Could you please send me a copy of this week’s comments on the issue of honey bees?  I am working on an innovative planter modification to solve this problem.  Keep up the good work. I am surprised your views and comments haven't ended your career as a TV journalist.  Thanks, Paul Henkel

Editor’s Note:  Below is a transcript of John’s comments from the Mailbag segment…

Time now for our weekly look inside the Farm Report Mailbag.  Richard Paton in Ontario sends us a heads-up about regulatory action on a widely used pesticide.  "Concerns about bee health have become a big problem in Ontario and there is talk of banning neonictinoids which would be a financial burden to farmers."  Richard, the suspected link between neonictinoids used to treat seed corn and honeybee die-offs has already triggered a temporary ban in the E.U.  The pesticide regulatory agency in Canada will rule soon on a petition to ban the use there.  But the problem seems solvable to me.  As long as new neonics stay on the seed underground they pose little threat.  It is the inadvertent combination of modern planters which use high velocity air for seed handling and the addition of talc on the seed to prevent seed flow problems.  When the talc contacts the seed and then is hit with a blast, talc particles are so fine they can spread farther than farmers can imagine.  This problem is largely blowout when lifting and turning at field edges.  When dust lands on flowers, it can kill bees with miniscule doses.  This is the working theory, anyway.  A replacement lubricant, better planter design and operator training can fix this it seems to me, along with farmer awareness of what talc escapes really mean. Farmers don’t want to kill insects they are not aiming for, and a little innovation up and down our production chain can resolve this.


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