AgDay Daily Recap - March 23, 2012

March 23, 2012 04:16 AM

MARCH 23, 2012

Good morning I’m Clinton Griffiths. While the drought that has plagued much of the western U.S. for the past year and a half, it may be over for one state, it's impact continues to grow for another. There may be an end in sight to the drought that has felt like years to many producers. AgDay's national reporter Tyne Morgan is here to tell us the fate of this 100 year drought.

Clinton, widespread rain hit much of the drought-stricken area this week, easing or eliminating the drought for the majority of Oklahoma. According to the most recent U.S. drought monitor report, 63% of Oklahoma is now free of drought or abnormally dry conditions. That's a jump of 36 percentage points from last week. According to an Oklahoma State climatologist, most of the eastern half of the state received 4 to 6 inches of rain since Monday, which is helping in that area. That rain has now moved the month of March to the 10th wettest on record for Oklahoma, with more than a week left until the end of the month.

Meanwhile, the impact of the drought on Texas agriculture is 2 billion dollars more than originally estimated. Texas Agrilife Extension Service economists released a new report pegging total agricultural losses from the drought at nearly 8 billion dollars. This makes it the costliest in U.S. history. The livestock sector took the hardest hit, with total losses estimated at more than 3.2 billion dollars, up from the previous 2 billion dollar estimate. The impact of drought to the Texas sorghum crop is 3 hundred 85 million dollars, up from 63 million. And cotton losses are now estimated to be 2.2 billion dollars, up from the 1.8 released last august. Clinton, I spoke with a farmer located just north of Lubbock Texas. He says although they got a little rain this week, it's not nearly enough to get soil moisture profiles back up to decent levels. He says he still needs at least 5 or 6 inches of rain to be comfortable going into planting this spring.

The value of farmland continues to rise across the Corn Belt. In Illinois, a survey from the state's society of professional farm managers and rural appraisers says top prices now range between 10 and 13 thousand dollars per acre. Respondents say farmland values jumped about 20% in 2011. Cash rents also increased between 50 and 60 dollars an acre. Excellent quality farmland in Illinois now rents for 379 dollars per acre.

There is a major development this morning regarding the movement of a herd of buffalo to northeast Montana. As we first reported yesterday, 63 buffalo were shipped to Fort Peck Indian Reservation in Montana. They were re-located from a facility near Yellowstone National Park.
On Thursday, a Montana judge granted a restraining order that blocks further relocations of
bison. Ranchers and property owners have been at odds with the Indian tribes and government over the plan to re-introduce bison to the area. Half the fort peck animals were to be transported to another reservation, but the ruling blocks those transfers. A hearing is set for next month.

Cotton harvest can be labor intensive. From stripping or picking the cotton, to tagging the bales, it requires several hands to make it all work. John Deere has introduced a new system to help further simplify that process. A new cotton harvest identification system will be added to the John Deere 77-60, which is a one stop shop. The cotton picker not only picks the cotton, but bales it into a round bale on the machine. The id system will help growers capture, store and retrieve important information about their cotton crop on one document. John Deere says the new system will help cotton growers save time and be more efficient during harvest.

Brian Basting

Every once in a while we stumble across a story that makes you proud to be a part of this industry. That's how I felt after a recent trip to Massachusetts. Just down the coast from Plymouth where the pilgrims landed is the small community of Salisbury. There I found a farm family who's been working the same soil since before George Washington was president. As I mentioned the Barlett Farm may be the oldest family farm in the country--that hasn't been verified yet. Thanks to the entire family for sharing their story. Food and Your Family is next.

The demand for larger pig pens could cost consumers in the end. The National Pork Producers council says producers will have to build larger barns to accommodate the group pens, which will cost producers more money. And that cost may be passed on to consumers. The recent announcement by McDonalds, which will eliminate the use of gestation crates by producers who supply the large fast-food chain, is forcing many pork producers to make the switch to larger group pens. The American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Association of Swine Veterinarians says there is no clear science that supports the advantages or disadvantages of either method.

And paying those higher prices may be tough for cash strapped consumers. A new report from Rabbobank says it's already impact dairy sales. The research group is looking at global dairy demand. It found consumption is stagnant to start 2012. High unemployment, falling real incomes, rising fuel costs, high retail prices for dairy kept western consumers from increasing their purchases. On the other hand the world's biggest suppliers have increased production more than 3% over the last year.

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