AgDay Daily Recap - September 23, 2011

September 26, 2011 05:01 AM

SEPTEMBER 23, 2011

Good morning. U.S. markets took a beating on Thursday. Global economic concerns and reaction to the fed's decision to buy long term bonds in hopes of lowering long term interest rates drove the rally that saw the DOW fall nearly 400 points. On the commodity side, even news of Taiwan purchasing more than 300 million bushels of U.S. corn couldn't help futures. Chicago December corn fell 35 cents to $6.50. Soybeans dropped under 13 dollars and wheat landed in the mid sixes. Livestock weren't immune either. October live and feeder cattle futures fell about three bucks and lean hogs dropped more than a dollar. Later in agribusiness, we'll take a closer look with Gary Wilhelmi.

A bill with the potential to have a major impact on American agricultural labor is heading for the House of Representatives. The judiciary committee passed the measure which mandates all employers in the U.S. must use e-verify--to confirm their employees eligibility. The proposal is called the legal workforce act. The committee voted 22 to 13 to pass the bill. Ag groups are concerned because it doesn't provide any provisions for agricultural workers. Many farmers, especially in the produces and fruit industries rely heavily on seasonal immigrant labor for field work. An amendment by Dan Lungren of California was stripped from the bill. It sought to create a market based guest worker program run by the USDA.
The bill is now headed for the house floor.

In the senate, members are preparing to vote on a road block to three pending free trade agreements. The vote is for the trade adjustment assistance program-- it would help workers displaced by foreign competition as a result of the agreements with South Korea, Columbia and Panama. The president is demanding the assistance program pass before he'll send the FTA to congress for approval. If the assistance program passes the trade agreements could be approved as early as next month.

South Korea continues to be a top export market for U.S. agricultural products. That's why the U.S. Dairy Export Council is preparing for its largest ever trade mission to South Korea. South Korea is now tied with Mexico as the top export for U.S. made cheese. That market is worth more than 130 million dollars to dairy producers. An outbreak of foot and mouth disease devastated herds. Local milk supplies in South Korea are down about 10%.

The National Milk Producers Federation is in favor of reforming U.S. dairy policy. The biggest change, the ability for producers to opt in or out of a government safety net. Originally proposed as The Foundation for the Future--after listening to producers and industry players the federation made several changes. Under the new proposal the dairy producer margin protection program or a government subsidized safety net--is still in place.  But producers can either opt in or out. If they choose to take the safety net-- they'll also be required to participate in a market stabilization program--it discourages milk production during periods of tight margins--in hopes of raising prices. The federation says it's a compromise for those farmers uncomfortable with a mandatory government program to manage milk production.

From antibiotic use in livestock to genetically modified crops, the nation is now having a "dialogue" when it comes to how our food is raised and grown under modern agricultural practices. An organization called the "U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance" conducted a town hall meeting Thursday called "The Food Dialogues." The conversation was conducted at four inter-connected locations - Washington D.C., New York, California and Indiana. This location is Fair Oaks Farms in northwest Indiana, which milks about 32,000 cows a day. The panelists faced a wide array of questions about the food supply, such as safety, quality, sustainability, and conventional versus organic farming. The conversation includes leaders in farming, food service, policy and education. According to a study commissioned by U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, 72% of consumers know nothing or very little about farming or ranching. And 69% of consumers think about food production at least "somewhat often".

As American's become further removed from the farm, efforts to educate the next generation are growing. Kent Faddis with the University of Missouri shows us how a trip to the country is helping connect kids to their food.

Gary Wilhelmi

University teams from across the globe are building solar homes on the national mall in Washington for the Department of Energy's solar decathlon competition. The decathlon begins today and runs about a week. Organizers say the winning home will be affordable, comfortable, attractive. But more important, the winning home will also provide adequate hot water and as much or more energy than it consumes. Teams come from many land-grant schools in this country, but there are also foreign competitors from Belgium, Canada, China and New Zealand. In this report from the University of Illinois, Todd Gleason shows us the U of I entry that's been in the planning stages for nearly two years. Thanks Todd. About 4,000 engineering students are taking part in this competition. Up next food and your family.

In food and your family this morning it may be worth a check of the cantaloupe in your fridge. A listeria outbreak traced back to Colorado grown cantaloupes has now been linked to eight deaths. According to the centers for disease control, 55 people in 14 states have been sickened. The death count of 8 is the highest in three years-- you might remember that's when tainted peanuts were responsible for the killing nine people. The listeria laced cantaloupes have been traced back to Jensen Farms in Holly, Colorado-- shipped between July 29th and September 10th. The label may say Colorado grown, distributed by Frontera Produce, or Sweet Rocky Fords.

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