CONSULTANT MOST CONCERNED ABOUT PLANTING DELAYS IN NORTHWEST CORN BELT... Crop consultant Dr. Michael Cordonnier says he is most concerned about the ongoing planting delays in the northwest Corn Belt, where snow fell again last night. He says there is still time for producers in the central Corn Belt to get their crop planted in a relatively timely manner -- if weather conditions improve as expected.
As of Sunday, USDA reports just 4% of the nation's corn crop has been planted, which compares to 26% last week and 16% on average. No planting has yet occurred in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota, with just 1% planted in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.
Dr. Cordonnier says one to three million acres in the Dakotas and Minnesota are at risk of being switched from corn to another crop due to the anticipated risk of flooding and poor conditions so far this spring. "The planting window for corn in the northwest Corn Belt is normally quite narrow and it is going to be even more compressed this year once the temperatures start to warm up," he says.
COURT REFUSES TO DISMISS FARMER'S SUIT AGAINST EPA... On Monday, a U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia rejected an effort by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to dismiss a case brought by West Virginia poultry farmer Lois Alt, scoring a win for poultry and livestock farmers, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), who along with the West Virginia Farm Bureau, are co-plaintiffs. Alt had challenged an EPA order that she obtain a Clean Water Act discharge permit for stormwater runoff at her farm or be faced with $37,500 in fines each time stormwater came in contact with dust, feathers or small amounts of manure outside of her poultry houses. EPA also threatened separate fines of $37,500 per day if she failed to apply for a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit for stormwater discharges.
EPA in December withdrew this order, but the U.S. Federal court ruled the case should go forward to clarify for farmers as to whether discharge permits are required for "ordinary precipitation runoff from a typical farmyard."
"EPA seems to have believed if it withdrew the order against Ms. Alt, the court would dismiss her lawsuit," said AFBF President Bob Stallman. "The tactic failed because the court recognized EPA wasn’t changing its underlying legal position, but just trying to avoid having to defend that position." Click here for related information.
MORE CROP INSURANCE USE EXPECTED FOR 2013 CROPS... In an early look for 2013 crops and insurance participation, a growing number of sources are predicting more farmers will buy crop insurance, and some at a higher level, especially after last year’s drought showed how well the program worked. Already, producers have 86.664 million net acres insured for 2013 crops which is ahead of the level seen for 2012 crops at this point last year of 84.413 million net acres.
BAUCUS TO RETIRE FROM SENATE... Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont.), current chairman of the powerful Finance Committee, has decided to retire rather than seek reelection next year, The Washington Post reported. Former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer will be at the top of Democrats' wish list as the candidate for the seat. Baucus is also a senior member of the Agriculture Committee and he has long been a key player on the Environment and Public Works Committee. He is currently the second most senior Democrat on the panel, and chairs the Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure. His retirement would allow Delaware Democrat Thomas Carper to move into the No. 2 slot.
He was one of the main authors of the Affordable Care Act, which goes into full effect in 2014. Baucus recently challenged Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at a hearing, warning of a "train wreck" because the Obama administration wasn't doing enough to make sure people understand the law. The law is unpopular in Montana, where the voters easily approved a ballot initiative in November that rejected the law's individual mandate.
Baucus had nearly $5 million in the bank at the end of the first quarter but was expected to face a tough fight in his GOP-leaning home state. A February survey from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling found that Baucus was polling in the mid-40s and trailing both GOP Rep. Steve Daines and former Gov. Marc Racicot in general election matches.
Baucus is the eighth senator to announce plans to retire, joining his Finance Committee colleague Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) and Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) and Mike Johanns (R-Neb.). Get more details about the likely impact of his departure.