AgDay Daily Recap - February 20, 2012

February 21, 2012 08:57 AM

FEBRUARY 20, 2012

Good morning. Farmland values in the heart of the Corn Belt continue their strong climb. And you would need to crack-open a history book to find a similar pace. The Chicago Federal Reserve Bank says during 2011 farmland values gained 22% in that district. Adjusted for inflation, that's the fastest pace since the bicentennial year 1976. To put that into perspective - Gerald Ford was president, Bruce Jenner won the Olympic gold medal in the decathlon, and apple computer was formed by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. According to Iowa State University, the statewide average price for good Iowa farmland - in 1976 - was about $1,700 an acre. Last year, it was about $8,200an acre. The results are based on surveys with 200 bankers in that district which includes Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin. 40% of the bankers expect to see gains in farmland values during the next fiscal quarter.

Much of the farmland value increase is based on strong commodity prices, especially corn. USDA says it expects U.S. farmers to plant 94-million acres of corn this spring. Those additional corn acres won't be just in the Corn Belt. North Dakota has so many cropping options the acreage battle is especially fierce in that state. Nick Dreyer with affiliate KMOT reports competition is squeezing out some well-known crops.

In the south, some farmers are switching away from cotton. A growing number of the acres is going to corn, soybeans and peanuts. As we first reported last week, the National Cotton Council expects the number of cotton acres to be planted this year to drop by 7.5%. The NCC surveyed producers in the 17-state cotton belt. The cotton council says the decline was not a surprise. It says the cotton area is consistent with current market signals, like stronger prices for peanuts and corn.

In news from our partners at Dairy Today - the shrinking number of dairy farmers. USDA says the country lost 2,500 dairy farms last year. That's a 4% decline. There are now a total of 60,000 licensed dairy farms. Dairy Today says the largest losses came from herds with 50 to 99 cows. That size farm accounted for about half of the dairy operations that shut-down. Who's making the milk? The Ag Department data shows herds with more than two thousand cows produce a third of the nation's milk supply.

Last week the federal communications commission denied the development of a nationwide wireless network by communications company Lightsquared. Now Lightsquared is lawyering up in an effort to save 1.6 billion dollars’ worth of investments. There were concerns that the technology developed by Lightsquared would interfere with GPS systems in not only farm equipment but in the military. The FCC says it wants to free-up spectrum space for mobile broadband. The agency says more high-speed internet and wireless service would help boost the economy, especially in rural America. But it feels Lightsquared does not have a practical way to mitigate interference.  A Lightsquared lawsuit could force a technical fix to the GPS interference. The company could either swap its wireless license for different bandwidth or the ruling could force GPS operators to use a filter for Lightsquared signals.

Bob Utterback

Woodland owners are constantly looking for a way to maximize income from the land.
For those who are lucky enough to have maple trees, syrup production is possibility.
Right now that sweet sap is flows freely during a six week window between January and March. Jeff Franklin with the University of Kentucky introduces us to a couple tapping their trees for the first time. Thanks Jeff. Jeff says after collecting the sap the family plans to take it to a neighbor's house who has a sorghum syrup mill. And soon they'll have their very own maple syrup. More food on Food and Your Family is next.

In Food and Your Family, if the giant king-size snicker bars are your snack of choice, you may want to stock up. In an effort to cut down on the calories in M-&-M’s, Snickers and Dove Bars, Mars Incorporated says it's cutting portions. By the end of next year, no portion will exceed 250 calories. This means the king size candy in grocery stores and gas stations will be divided into smaller "2 go" sizes. Whether these smaller portions actually cause consumers to eat less calories is still being debated. The company says the idea is to make it easier for consumers to control what is being called "responsible consumption."

Healthier mayonnaise could soon taste like regular mayo, thanks to researchers at a university in Iran. Food researchers are using products such as soy-milk and sunflower oil to make low-cholesterol and low-fat mayo. For consumers, it's all about taste.
The researchers say their faux mayo closely matches the taste and texture of regular mayonnaise. Mayo is one of the top selling condiments in the U.S. bringing in more than 1 billion dollars annually.

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