Downward trend in positive PEDV cases... The National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN) says no new states reported porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) in the last week of March, maintaining that tally at 27 states. It reports 247 positive PEDV accessions out of 802 tested, down from a revised 270 the previous week to a grand total of 5,267. NAHLN states, "This maintains the general downward trend in positive case submissions."
Meanwhile, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM) has reported its first case of PEDV, with the diagnosis occurring on March 26 from Ruthland County. If this is incorporated into the NAHLN database, it will bring the number of states with positive cases to 28. More here.
EIA says rail congestion and cold temps boost spot ethanol prices... The Energy Information Administration (EIA) says ethanol spot prices have increased steadily since early February, with New York Harbor (NYH) spot ethanol prices in late March exceeding prices for RBOB (the petroleum component of gasoline) by more than $1 per gallon. Ethanol spot prices in Chicago and Gulf Coast markets also rose above NYH RBOB prices.
NYH spot ethanol prices widened the premium to Chicago prices to $1 in early March, compared to 25 cents in January. "Logistical constraints in and around ethanol production centers in the Midwest, mainly involving railroads on which approximately 70% of ethanol is shipped, appear to be a key factor driving recent prices," states EIA.
EIA continues, "Ethanol futures prices suggest that market participants expect the recent price increase to be short-lived as both rail system congestion improves and ethanol producers respond to the strong incentive that higher ethanol prices provide."
Demonstrating this was the drawdown in ethanol stocks nationwide by nearly 2 million barrels from mid-February to mid-March. Ethanol stocks have started to build again, reaching 15.88 million barrels the week ended March 28.
With ethanol margins still strong, it appears these delays are being worked out amid milder (yet still volatile) weather. As reported yesterday, ethanol production the week ended March 28 of 922,000 barrels per day was a new high for the year. This makes us more hopeful that ethanol production will improve from slower winter levels.
Drought Monitor reflects slight expansion in drought across central U.S... For the contiguous 48 states, the U.S. Drought Monitor showed 38.37% of the area in moderate drought or worse, compared with 37.27% a week earlier. Minor changes were made for the Southern Plains and Midwest drought area, with slight expansion in central and south-central Kansas, north-central Oklahoma, west Texas, the Panhandle of Texas, southeast Missouri and southern Illinois. But the forecast provides some hope for drought relief, as the monitor notes 2 to 6 inches of rain are expected the next week across the lower Midwest, with 2 to 3 inches of rain expected in the South and Southeast. Click here for more.
House budget plan expected to pass next week... The House Budget Committee approved Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) Fiscal 2015 budget plan, sending it to the floor for a vote next week. The resolution that calls for $5.1 trillion in cuts to federal spending over the next decade, and would adhere to the outlines of the budget deal struck last year by Ryan and Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) is expected to clear the House, but the Senate will not consider it. Learn more.
McCarthy promises final 2014 RFS by June... During congressional testimony April 2, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator (EPA) Gina McCarthy promised a final renewable fuel standard (RFS) for 2014 by June, or sooner if possible. In November 2013, EPA proposed requiring petroleum refiners and importers to blend 15.21 billion gallons of renewable fuels in 2014, substantially less than the 18.15 billion gallons Congress mandated under the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act. The corn-ethanol mandate was initially set at 13.01 billion gallons, much to the dismay of ethanol proponents. Also, asked about the 2015 RFS, McCarthy said she hopes the agency can propose the annual renewable fuel standards earlier in hopes of reducing uncertainty that could limit investment in the renewable fuel industry.
Dairy farmers concerned about administration's methane strategy... A House Energy and Commerce hearing Wednesday included questions on methane strategy. It was noted that some dairy farms fear the White House’s climate strategy could eventually force producers to install methane digesters. "No one at this point that I know of is talking about anything in the regulatory context," said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. The Obama administration would like to see farms install the equipment, which convert manure emissions electricity, but only as part of a voluntary, "collaborative process" to reduce methane emissions, McCarthy said. But Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) told McCarthy that "when farmers hear voluntary they know it’s followed up with mandatory." Farms with no more than 300 cows couldn’t afford the equipment, he said.
Legislation introduced to cap federal crop insurance premiums... Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) introduced crop insurance payment cap legislation that would save up to a billion dollars over 10 years by capping federal crop insurance premiums at $70,000 per farm each year. The legislation will not likely go far in the legislative process so soon after a new farm bill was completed, but it shows this program will be a favorite target for lawmakers seeking budget offsets cuts in the future.
U.S. lawmaker concerned that sanctions on Russia could hurt U.S. livestock exports... Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.) noted concern that proposed U.S., EU and United Nations sanctions against Russia for its annexation of Crimea could hurt U.S. livestock exports. "The sanctions are really a two-edged sword. It hurts us as much as it hurts them," Bishop said at a House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee hearing Wednesday. Kevin Shea, administrator of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, said USDA was not aware of any specific fallout from proposed sanctions. "We’ve sent thousands of live cattle to that region in the last few years. It’s a booming new market for us. We will stay on top of it," Shea said. He said APHIS would work with the State Department on the sanctions.
For more policy issue updates... Washington Consultant Jim Wiesemeyer today put together a policy issue update on a wide number of topics ranging from Black Sea tensions to tax incentive extenders to trade policy. Get more details on the previous policy stories and others not touched on in today's report here.