USFR Weekly Recap - August 4-5, 2012

August 4, 2012 09:43 AM



EPISODE # 2034
AUGUST 4-5, 2012



Hello and welcome to U.S. Farm Report, I’m John Phipps. Perhaps it is the Olympics or politics or empathy fatigue, but the drought is fading from media popularity. I suspect since food prices didn't double overnight, we all just moved on, as we say these days. Even on our farms, despite crops continuing to go downhill, many of us have switched from anxiety over the next rain to simple damage control mode. Combines began to roll this week in my area as the worst fields were scavenged for what little could be saved. Public attention is fickle. Unless we discover even more catastrophic yields than we now imagine, as withered crops disappear, so will headlines.


With the clock ticking before the August recess for Congress, the House passed a disaster relief bill. In a patent infringement case between Monsanto and DuPont Pioneer, Monsanto walked away with a victory. Monsanto sued Pioneer for what they called unauthorized use of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready Technology. Monsanto says pioneer illegally used the Roundup technology to patch problems with DuPont’s own Optimum Gat technology. The court awarded Monsanto 1 billion dollars, although DuPont Pioneer is appealing the judgment. With most of the cornbelt suffering from drought conditions, one major analytical firm has dropped its production forecast.


Our round-table comes to us from Farm Journal's Soybean College held this week in Coldwater, Michigan.  Joining Al on stage - Mike Florez, Mike North and Brian Basting.  Al takes it from here...


To the disappointment of many farmers, the leadership of the U.S. House refused to bring the farm bill to the floor for a vote. Although this is now a familiar pattern in our national legislature, the peculiarities of this year's political maneuvering indicates we are no longer operating anywhere close to business as usual. Not only did fierce intercommodity rivalry cause problems, but parties split along regional lines. With budget pressures preventing the traditional pattern of compromise - sweetening the pot to get needed votes - legislators seemed to be stumped on how to negotiate. But some other less noticed obstacles face this new farm bill. For the first time, adamant opposition to all farm subsidies has more than a few fringe votes. And more ominously the possibility of separating the farm portion from Snap or food stamps got serious attention. Farm program proponents have foolishly, in my opinion, spent too much time griping about how the bulk of the Farm Bill goes to nutrition, not farmers. This is remarkably short-sighted. Farm subsidies are a barnacle on the freighter of Snap payments, using that food assistance to steam through the house, where most members have few if any farms in their district. Should farm payments be isolated in a standalone bill, I doubt it would come close to passage. And we all know it. Whining about how little money in the Farm Bill goes to farmers is counterproductive for subsidy fans. Either way, these headwinds will only be intensified after Congress reconvenes, and the budget pressures will be truly draconian.


Hello and welcome to U.S. Farm Report, I’m John Phipps. As we get continued forecasts without meaningful weather changes, farmers are sticking a fork in the 2012 crop. What you see now is as good as it's going to be, it seems. Oddly, this can almost be a type of relief, as we move from hoping to coping. Nor should there be long to wait before we have actual numbers to verify the extent of the disaster.  One of the stranger challenges facing many of us is adjusting high capacity harvesting equipment to tiny yields. Another is wondering what, if anything, the last three years tell us about next year. Until we get widespread significant rains, that question will loom larger and larger.


As much of the U.S. continues to be under some type of drought, AG Secretary Tom Vilsack announced USDA is responding with more relief. Livestock groups have officially filed a petition to the EPA for a waiver of the current ethanol mandate. The request is for the remainder of this year and into part of 2013. The groups say producers are already feeling the brunt from lower projected corn yields. And with the amount of corn required to meet the mandate, it creates a losing situation for livestock. The Renewable Fuels Association immediately responded to the waiver request. The group says waiving the RFS won't give livestock groups the type of relief they are seeking or significantly lower feed prices. The U.S. House of Representatives has voted to keep the current tax code for another year. Included in that is the estate tax, or commonly known as the death tax, which has been voted to remain at 35%. Groups such as the National Cattleman's Beef Association say the death tax is an unnecessary burden on family farmers. If Congress doesn't pass the measure by the end of the year, the death tax will revert to a 1 million exemption level at a 55% rate. Urban sprawl is something agriculture knows all too well. And when it comes to the Florida Everglades, urban spiral is encroaching and forcing the area to be drained and developed. The NRCS says this has hurt native animals, plants and water quality. Now the USDA is working to help restore the area.


When you think of crops that are produced in Iowa, corn and soybeans are probably the first two that come to mind. But there's a business in Hinton, Iowa that produces another green crop - asparagus. Specifically, pickled asparagus. Al Joens from affiliate KTIV in Sioux City says the business started with one man's desire to share a secret recipe that he thought was just too good to keep in the family. Next week...we'll take you soaring with the Eby family of Wakarusa, Indiana. While their business is risky, this family of crop dusters is well-grounded.


In our drought-watch coverage - the rate of decline in U.S. corn and soybeans slowed in parts of the eastern cornbelt as recent rains provide relief to some parched areas. Still the percentage of U.S. corn and soybeans rated in "good" or "excellent" condition dropped for an eighth successive week. Now, just 24% of the nation's corn crop fits that category. While some crop farmers have insurance to help cover losses from the drought, livestock producers do not. Also they're feeling the effects of the much higher feed costs - in some cases, three times higher. Tyne Morgan looks at some of the losses in the show-me state where crops are poor and water is short.


Al Pell now joins us in the studio. Where are we off to for Tractor Tales? We're headed back to scenic northwest Washington state for a classic two cylinder.


Today's Country Church Salute goes to the Green River United Methodist Church in Green River, Illinois. The town was settled around a railroad station and worship services began about twenty years later. Although there was a hiatus in services from 1938 until 1944, the Ladies Aid Society maintained the building and have been the backbone of the congregation since. One ongoing ministry is making teddy bears for hospitalized children with over 600 to date.


Time now for our weekly look inside the Farm Report mailbag... Dave Starner noticed my handsome hat in last week's commentary and asked where he could get one. We'll post a link, but meanwhile here's some timely fashion advice on that very topic.




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