TODAY ON AGDAY:
April 4, 2011
GRAINS IN LIVESTOCK
U.S. cattle futures continue their surge to record levels. Fueling these eye popping numbers, low feed supplies and a shrinking domestic herd. And after last week's USDA grain stocks report analysts don't see prices backing down. Cattle prices ended the week over 121 dollars per hundred for April live cattle contracts. Feeder cattle futures are now near 140 dollars per hundred through august. Inventories of corn, a major component in livestock feed has the market on edge. Last week's USDA stocks report put corn 15 percent lower than last year at 6 and half billion bushels. That was less than the industry expected. Analysts say for livestock producers that means feed prices are likely to rise...as pressure mounts for a switch to other feed stocks and a rationing of use. Those high prices haven't dampened livestock demand. The national cattle herd remains at a five decade low and breeding hogs are just above all-time record lows.
Part of what's pushing those higher prices is world exports. The U.S. expects another banner year for meat exports. The chief operating officer with tyson foods--jim lochner--believes there's a new paradigm driving the market. He says U.S. consumers used to be the major market mover. Today it's producer profitability and world exports. World demand is now expected to remain strong even in the face of Japan's challenges. Radiation leaks from damaged nuclear power plants is beginning to impact that countries own production. Reports of soil and water contamination are forcing farmers to evacuate the area...leaving their animals behind. While initial concerns were japan would have to cut imports...there's now talk japan may have to increase both cattle and pork shipments to feed the population.
S producers plan for record crops, U.S. freight and barge operators are doing the same.
The U.S. inland barge fleet grew about two percent last year--the first increase since 1998. The USDA recently reported grain barge traffic around St. Louis is up 126 percent over last year. Those kinds of trends are likely to continue or increase as commodities reach for record yields. Add to it, increasing fuel costs and the logistics industry expects higher use of U.S. barges and railways. Shippers say fuel budgets will increase sharply in the next year as fuel prices remain high.
BATS AND AGRICULTURE
New reports out this morning may impact the fight against insects in farmer's fields.
It shows growing concern over a rapidly declining population of bats. A study in this week's journal of science reveals that the disappearance of bats due to the combined effects of a fungal disease called white-nose syndrome, and fatalities at wind-energy facilities, could have a serious impact on agriculture. Researchers says bats save farmers big bucks by eating insects that would otherwise feed on crops. In fact, estimates put the value of bats to the ag industry at roughly $22.9 billion dollars per year.
According to extension experts a hard freeze--hitting minus 18 degrees--killed an estimated 99 percent of the state's crop. Peach production isn't a major part of the AG economy in the state...currently there are only 250 acres of trees. However many home owners and rural property owners grow peaches.
SD CORN ACRES
Growers in the Dakota's are itching to get in the field. If the USDA intentions reports holds true, South Dakota could see its biggest corn crop in 80 years. It would be the second largest ever at nearly five and half million acres.
However, the USDA’S NASS office is already anticipating a late start. In North Dakota its set an average field work start date of April 26th. That's eight days behind last year. With an average 12 inches of snow still on the ground, cold soil temperatures and potential spring flooding are of biggest concern. These challenges may push North Dakota growers to other later season crops.
In agribusiness the Monsanto company is once again headed for court. This time the suit comes from thousands of certified organic farmers, seed businesses and organic AG organizations who say they need protection from patents on genetically modified seed. Agribusiness director, Lindsay Hill has the story. A group which includes 60 family farmers, filed suit against the Monsanto company challenging the company's patents on genetically modified seed. The plaintiffs issued the suit preemptively. They want the judge to declare that if organic farmers are ever contaminated by Monsanto's genetically modified seed, they need not fear being accused of patent infringement. Monsanto responded, calling the move a quote "publicity stunt designed to confuse the facts about American agriculture," saying these efforts "seek to reduce private and public investment in the development of new, higher-yielding seed technologies." the lawsuit was filed in a California district court. I'm Lindsay Hill reporting.
Thanks Lindsay. As we mentioned at the top of show, livestock continue to trade at record levels. Al Pell and Bill Biederman join us for a look at the industry...and whether or not it can survive higher corn prices.
Those itching to get outside may long for the enjoyment of fall hunting. For many states, however, spring brings with it turkey season. In Iowa, after several years of weather-related declines in turkey populations, gobbler counts are up. Joe Wilkinson from the Iowa DNR has our story. Thanks Joe. Still to come a dangerous epidemic is putting adults and children at risk. New statistics on drug-related poisonings next in ag for your health.
IN FOOD AND YOUR FAMILY: DRUG POISONINGS
There's a drug epidemic sweeping the country. A new study says it's taking hold in medicine cabinets all across the country...and its worse in rural America. Clark Powell with the Ohio State University medical center has more on the study and how you can protect your family.