CONSERVATION STEWARDSHIP PROGRAM OPEN FOR NEW ENROLLMENTS... USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is opening the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) for new enrollments for federal fiscal year 2014; signup will take place today through Jan. 17, 2014. Producers interested in participating in the program can submit applications to NRCS. Eligible landowners and operators in all states and territories can enroll in CSP through Jan. 17 to be eligible during the 2014 federal fiscal year. While local NRCS offices accept CSP applications year round, NRCS evaluates applications during announced ranking periods. Get more details.
FIRST SESSION OF 113TH CONGRESS ON TRACK FOR LEAST PRODUCTIVE YEAR EVER... According to congressional records, there have been fewer than 60 public laws enacted in the first 11 months of this year (only 52 according to the website GovTrack), so below the previous low in legislative output that officials have already declared this first session of the 113th Congress the least productive ever. In 1995, when the newly empowered GOP congressional majority confronted the Clinton administration, 88 laws were enacted, the record low in the post-World War II era.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), asked about what his majority had to show for its work in 2013, said in mid-November that the GOP was most proud of putting a brake on tougher regulations on business and impeding efforts by President Obama to push a more liberal agenda on the country. "Listen," Boehner said, "we have a very divided country and we have a very divided government. And I’m not going to sit here and underestimate the difficulty in finding the common ground, because there’s not as much common ground here as there used to be."
FORECAST WET FOR SOUTH; EL NINO SIGNAL... Meteorologist Gail Martell of MartellCropProjections.com says this week's forecast features wet conditions across the southern U.S. later this week, with the heaviest accumulations in the eastern regions. Still, she says areas of the HRW Wheat Belt are in line for some needed precip.
Meanwhile, much of the central U.S. is expected to experience extreme cold, with temps in Des Moines, Iowa expected to go from the low 50s today to the teens by Wednesday.
Martell says this weather pattern reflects an El Nino influence. "Stormy winters are common in the southern tier of the United States due to a strong sub-tropical jet stream that occurs with the El Nino. The strength of El Nino is measured by how warm sea surface temperatures are in the equatorial Pacific," she says. "Sea surface temperatures presently are below the threshold for El Nino from 0.20 C to 0.40 C above normal. The El Nino threshold is + 0.50 C." Click here for related maps.
RESTAURANT INDEX RISES TO FOUR-MONTH HIGH... The National Restaurant Association's (NRA) comprehensive index of restaurant activity -- the Restaurant Performance Index (RPI) -- rose to a four-month high in October. The index was up 0.7% to 100.9 and has spent eight straight months above the key 100-point level, which represents expansion in the industry.
Furthermore, restaurant operators' outlook for sales growth in the months ahead remains cautiously optimistic. Thirty-six percent of restaurant operators expect to have higher sales in six months (compared to the same period in the previous year), up slightly from 34% who reported similarly last month. Meanwhile, 11% of restaurant operators expect their sales volume in six months to be lower than it was during the same period in the previous year, compared to 13% last month.
Meat industry analysts monitor the index as it provides a demand signal. Currently, the index doesn't raise any red flags for red meat demand.