TODAY ON AGDAY
JANUARY 26, 2012
Good morning. While many in the agricultural industry are cautiously optimistic, the Federal Reserve has concerns about the nation as a whole. It lowered its estimate for economic growth to just over 2%. In November the fed anticipated economic growth would be nearer to 3%. While the fed downgraded its economic outlook, it was more optimistic about unemployment. It sees the jobless rate falling as low as 8.2%. Members also indicated a desire to keep interest rates constant through 2014. Chairman Ben Bernanke says, "Unless there is a substantial strengthening of the economy in the near term, it's a pretty good guess we will be keeping rates low for some time." If realized American farmers and land owners would get two more years to take advantage of the record low borrowing rates.
STATE OF THE UNION:
President Obama and members of his cabinet spent Thursday starting to 'sell' some of the ideas he proposed during his state of the union address on Wednesday. From the Ag perspective, the President repeated his call for spurring renewable energy industries through tax breaks. While not specifically mentioning ethanol or biodiesel, the President did call on congress to pass clean-energy tax credits that would benefit wind and solar energy industries.
The American Soybean Association is a big proponent of biodiesel, as soy is often used as a feedstock in production of the fuel. In a statement after the speech, ASA said it's pleased with the president's commitment to domestic energy production, but it hopes the white house and congress will recognize the potential of biodiesel. The American biodiesel industry produced approximately 1 billion gallons of biodiesel in 2011. ASA says part of that success relies on a biodiesel tax incentive. However, that tax break was not renewed by congress in 2011. The Soybean Association is pushing for it to be re-instated this year.
BTR CATTLE PRICES:
In our Beef Today Report, cattle prices hit another record this week. That's the sixth time in a month futures prices have topped their previous best. Analysts point to continually shrinking cattle inventories. New estimates say U.S. beef will cost consumers 5% more by the end of the year. Prices rose about 10% in 2011.
BTR DOWNER CATTLE LAW:
In California, the Supreme Court has ruled against a state law regarding the handling of downer cattle. The Golden State's 2008 law bans the processing of all non-ambulatory animals, including hogs. In a unanimous decision the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the law saying it steps on the toes of the federal meat inspection act which they say expressly preempts state law. The California legislature passed the law after animal activist groups released a video showing downed cows at a beef packing plant. A meat trade group filed the case on behalf of pig farmers in the state.
BTR CANADA KOREA:
After nine years, South Korea has reopened its doors to cattle from Canada. The country put a ban on Canadian beef after discovering mad cow disease in an Alberta cow back in 2003. South Korea says cattle less than 30 months of age can be shipped immediately. Before the ban, South Korea was Canada's fourth largest beef market. Officials say reopening trade could mean about 30 million dollars in annual sales by the year 2015.
BTR CATTLE EXCHANGE:
Our partners at Beef Today magazine have launched a new on-line tool to help connect cattle buyers with sellers. It's called www.cattleexchange.com. It allows sellers to post a free classified ad using pictures and video. The site lets shoppers easily sort and find what they're looking for. Sellers can also fancy things up by paying and posting enhanced listings. Over the past two years 65% of breeding cattle have been bought or sold with help from the internet. Feel free to check it out over at www.cattleexchange.com. You can get many more updates on the beef industry, including market and production information from our partners at beef today dot com.
For the first time ever, South Dakota is the nation's top sunflower state. Producers there outgrew their neighbors to the north by about 11 million pounds...combining 777 million pounds on the year. North Dakota has been top of hill since data started being gathered back in 1977. However, wet weather and flooding reduced plantings by hundreds of thousands of acres. Sunflower production in North dakota was down nearly 40%.
IN THE COUNTRY LEMONADE:
When it comes to overall citrus production in the United States, Florida leads the way. And most of that is due to the orange crop. But if you're talking lemons, California owns the category hands-down. USDA says California produces about 87% of the U.S. lemon crop. Tracey Sellers from California Bountiful TV takes us to Ventura County--the state's number one lemon producer. Thanks Tracy. Over the past three seasons, California produced an average of 754 million tons of lemons annually. About 66% of the crop went to the fresh market with the remainder going to processing. School kids will see more of those fruits on their plates in the near future. We'll tell you about required changes to school lunches next on food and your family.
In food and your family the nation's school meal program got its new marching orders yesterday. The nutrition standards are focusing on replacing unhealthy foods and canned fruit with more fresh produce. This is the first update to the meals program in 15 years.
Schools have until July first to get changes implemented. The USDA's final nutrition standards for breakfast and lunch requires schools increase the availability of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fat-free or low-fat milk. It wants to see less sodium, saturated fat and trans-fat on kids plates. According to the USDA the change will add more than 3 billion dollars in meal costs to school over the next 5 years. It says resources will be available to help cover the added expense.
PLANT HARDINESS MAP:
Those of you with a green thumb will be excited to review the USDA's latest revelation.
The agency is releasing its climate zone guide and it may change landscaping decisions.
The long-awaited update does include a number of changes. It shows northward warming trends--allowing gardeners in what were traditionally colder climates the option of plant new plant species. It also zeroed in on cold zones in the nation's mountains.
The last update to the map came out in 1990. Horticulturalists say the changes could mean new options at nurseries across the country.
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