AgDay Daily Recap - January 2, 2012

January 4, 2012 03:04 AM

JANUARY 2, 2012

Good morning. As we turn the calendar on another year, we stop to reflect on the one we're leaving behind. 2011 was a year of records. It was a year anticipation, excitement and disappointment. From a frigid cold snap in the middle of the country, to a February blizzard stretching from the southern plains to the great lakes bringing parts of the country more than 20 inches of snow. All that snow led to a wet spring and delayed planting. Meanwhile across the south, la Nina baked fields and pastures in a historic drought. Cattle were liquidated, hay prices skyrocketed and dairies struggled to pay high feed costs. The top ten stories from our perspective look like this:
The high price of corn and its impact on livestock producers. Those higher commodity prices led to record farm income in 2011. Then we get into weather issues including flooding along the Missouri and Mississippi and drought in the south. All together it made for wild growing weather and mediocre yields across the country. Then there was the collapse of MF Global, rising land prices, record ag exports, and rising consumer prices. Who could forget the 2011 tornado outbreak

Like I mentioned farm income is poised to set records in 2011. The USDA says net farm income is up nearly 30%--topping 100 billion dollars for the first time ever. That's thanks to higher prices for both crops and livestock.

Those higher prices were due--in part--to record agricultural exports. USDA says U.S. ag exports reached more than 137 billion dollars in 2011--shattering old highs by 22-billion dollars. That puts the trade surplus of U.S. ag products at nearly 43-billion dollars, also a record.

But those income and export records couldn't have been reached without record commodity prices. Corn hit a record of $7.99 and 3/4 2011. The cotton price index hit an all-time record in March of $2.43 before falling to less than half that by the end of the year. On the livestock side, live hogs traded at record levels in august coming in at 82 dollars. Live cattle peaked in November at 125, while feeder's found their record top in mid-December at 145.

All of those peaks can be traced back to two things, weather and short supplies. It was low ending stocks and high prices that had farmer's chomping at the bit to hit fields running. Weather on the other hand...had another idea. Massive snow fall and spring storms soaked farm fields across the northern half of the U.S. That put planting way behind. Crops that had emerged were swallowed by standing water. At one point Ohio, had only 11% of its corn crop planted. The average for that time of year was 80%. Northeast North Dakota was no better. In Ward County alone - where the city of Minot is located – 75% of acres there remained fallow in 2011.

By early June farmers did manage to plant 92.3 million acres--the second largest crop since 1944. But that heavy snowfall and spring rains refused to let up. By May, the Missouri and Mississippi rivers were wreaking havoc from the northern plains to Louisiana. In south eastern Missouri, the Army Corps of Engineers blew a hole in the Bird's Point levee along the Mississippi. They were attempting to save the small town of Cairo, Illinois. But that decision led to flooding to about 130,000 farm acres...leaving producers to start over. The surging water left scars in the farm-land. The core has started to re-build the levee, but it's still lower than the original level which was breached. Various agencies estimate flooding stole more than three million acres in 2011.

While some fields were saturated others were parched. In 2011 la Nina returned and brought to the southern plains a drought--the likes of which rival the dust bowl days of the 1930's. First it was wild fires--Texas alone saw more than 20-million dollars in ag losses. That was just in April. Farmers couldn't even pump enough water to keep their withering plants alive. In Texas--one of the hardest hit, losses from the drought total more than 5 billion dollars. Record heat, record days over 100 and rain nowhere to be found. Cattlemen culled herds, or shipped cattle to greener pastures up north. More than 600,000 cattle left the state. Earlier this year regional reporter Erica Goss talked with two producers who are struggling to find feed and water for their animals.

To say watching markets in 2011 was exciting might be understating reality. But while commodities were streaking for year's end a financial giant it turns out was struggling. In late October--market clearing house—MF Global-- filed for bankruptcy. Now many in the ag community are wondering if they'll ever see their money again. Still plenty to work out in situation for 2012. Straight ahead we'll look back at a deadly year in tornado alley.

For many families, 2011 will be remembered for its fierce weather. In addition to record heat, record drought and record flooding, it was a record year for tornadoes. Meteorologist Cindi Clawson takes a look at the year of twisters.

Mark Gold

In Food and Your Family this morning, we'd thought we'd take a look at some of the biggest stories impacting food and production this year. We begin with on farm challenges that left unharvested production in the fields to rot.

In 2011, farm labor shortages were reported across the country. From shorthanded growers in the apple orchards of the northwest, to inmates working fields in the south, it’s an issue that's touched many of us in ways we may not realize. Behind the issue--state's tightening immigration laws, fewer migrant workers and even more baffling--in a time of high unemployment--Americans simply unwilling to work in the field.

In 2011 we saw a record number of Americans go on the "Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program" or SNAP. You may know it as food stamps. USDA says more than 46-million Americans continue to rely on the food program. That's one out of every seven people in this country. Washington D.C. and the state of Mississippi - with more than a fifth of residents received food stamps - have the highest rates of recipients.

In June 2011 we also said good-bye to the "food pyramid" as an illustration of the government's dietary guidelines. It was replaced with USDA's "my plate." Simply put - the official recommendations say Americans should fill half your plate fruits and vegetables. The other half is whole grains and protein...and a side serving of dairy.

We'd love to hear from you! Contact us at 800-792-4329. Or drop an email to You can also check us out on some of that new technology, at

Back to news


Spell Check

No comments have been posted to this News Article

Corn College TV Education Series


Get nearly 8 hours of educational video with Farm Journal's top agronomists. Produced in the field and neatly organized by topic, from spring prep to post-harvest. Order now!


Market Data provided by
Brought to you by Beyer