USFR Weekly Recap - March 31-April 1, 2012

March 31, 2012 05:38 AM

MARCH 31- APRIL 1, 2012

JOHN’S OPEN: Hello and welcome to U.S. Farm Report, I'm John Phipps. The over-hyped prospective planting report came out Friday and seemed to match what most producers imagined. But it is crucial, I think, to remember this was what farmers were thinking in early March, before record temps and additional soybean price increases. Time now for the's Al Pell.

PLANTING INTENTIONS: Thank you John and hello everyone. Two key reports came out of the USDA on Friday - the prospective plantings report and grain stocks figures. There were two big numbers. First, for corn - record acreage is predicted which was just above estimates. It is obvious, as well, where the acres came from: soybeans and wheat. Both fell below estimates. USDA pegs corn at just under 96 million acres versus 92 last year. For soy - just 74 million compared to just under 75 million last year. All wheat acres came in at 56 million after 54.5 million last year. The 1.5 million acres above market estimates for corn roughly matched the unexpected drop in soybean acres. Likewise, wheat acreage didn't live up to pre-report guesses.

GRAIN STOX: The other big story was grains stocks as of march first. Many market watchers were puzzled about possible wheat substitution for feed use. It appears we chewed up plenty of both, as all reported stocks were below expectations. These are the inventory numbers: corn - 6 billion bushels, about 150 million below expectations. Soybeans 1.3 billion, right in the middle of the range of guesses. Wheat was unsurprising as well -1.2 billion bushels.

NORTHERN WHEAT: In North Dakota the state NASS office expects the statewide average start date for field work will be this coming Monday. NASS says that's over a month ahead of the 2011 average start. It would be the earliest since 2003. Taking a look at wheat conditions from north to south - in Montana, NASS says more than half of the crop is just fair. A quarter is good and just 3% is excellent. And in Wyoming, winter wheat is showing lots of promise. 71% is good, the rest is fair. In Kansas, 59% is good or better. Oklahoma shows three quarters of the state's wheat is good to excellent.

ROUND TABLE:  Mike Florez and Chip Nellinger

JOHN’S WORLD: I realize many of you may just have eaten, but I'm afraid I will be bringing up a topic today that may provoke a strong visceral reaction. I'm talking about this year's first day on our farm. Like any startup, the first day of planting or harvest almost never proceeds according to plan, but since we were initiating a new planter, new tractor and new computer system - all from different manufacturers - we were prepared for considerable effort to get going. We're now at 87 hours and counting on this 2012 first day, and we are facing the mother of all troubleshooting challenges: the intermittent failure. Sometimes everything works fine, then suddenly stops. Sometimes it's the left side, then the right. We've swapped parts, cleaned contacts, replaced wires, reprogrammed, and still have not identified the problem. I'll bet TV's doctor House couldn't diagnose this one. We've called in expert help, and they have given it their best shot, but oddly seem to all suggest the problem is with the other equipment, not theirs. It makes me nostalgic for the days when machines didn't fail, but broke. The term says it all. Things that should have been one piece were two or several. Big chunks fell off in the field. Breakdowns had obvious causes. Gremlins have more devious tools now. However, I am confident we'll eventually thrash these problems out. If history is any guide, however, it will be several seasons before we truly trust these machines fully.

Hello and welcome to U.S. Farm Report, I'm John Phipps. The growing consumer resistance to lean fine-textured beef or LFTB has upset the beef industry. Al has more in a moment. But the most interesting aspect of the LFTB issue has been how it all came about. It was not initiated by a despised mainstream reporter writing a searing expose, but began on the food channel with a celebrity chef - Jamie Oliver. After that is was the social media - Facebook, Twitter, You Tube and websites that fanned the flames. Traditional media actually trailed the pack on this one. Which leads to an interesting problem. If mainstream media is not to be trusted, how does the processing industry get their rebuttal out? Let's get started with the headlines and Al Pell...

TEXTURED BEEF: Thank you John and hello everyone. Governors from four leading ag states are fighting back against what they consider a "smear campaign" against the beef industry. In particular, they have a problem with media - both traditional and social - using the phrase "pink slime" to describe a form of processed ground beef. Governors from Iowa, Kansas and Texas toured a plant run by Beef Processing Incorporated. That company is the leading producer of lean, finely-textured beef. In recent weeks, supermarket chains and restaurants backed-off from their use of the USDA-approved beef product. During the tour, BPI explained what parts of carcass are used and why it's treated with an ammonia-water-based mixture to kill bacteria. After the tour, the governors spoke about the damage the company has endured. BPI suspended operations at three of its four plants - including sites in Iowa, Kansas and Texas. The company says that's 650 workers.

WENDY’S: In other news Wendy's has announced two changes to their animal welfare standards for both chickens and pigs. The nation's number two quick service chain says it will eliminate the use of sow gestation stalls by suppliers. Wendy’s has supported the elimination of gestation stalls since 2007, but it will now require all U.S. and Canadian pork suppliers to provide their plans for phasing away from the stalls. This comes after McDonalds made the same announcement last month. The other change is replacing the industry standard of stunning chickens before they are processed. Wendy's calls it a more humane practice.

CHERRY BLOSSOMS: The cherry blossoms are just-past the prime viewing in Washington, D.C. It only lasts 7-10 days. If you've never seen it, it's truly a spectacular sign of spring - no matter if you're a sight-seer or scientist. The cherry trees around the Tidal Basin in Washington D.C. draw visitors from around the world. The gift from Japan consisted of approximately three thousand trees that were given from Japan to the U.S. as a symbol of friendship. Flowering cherry trees are also an important part of the National Arboretum in Washington, where researchers are working to make the trees durable as well as pretty. The 2012 National Cherry Blossom Festival runs through April 27. By the way, the national arboretum released a new cherry tree variety this year. It's called the "Helen Taft", named after the First Lady of President William Taft. Mrs. Taft planted the first of two cherry trees at the tidal basin on March 27th, 1912.

HEARTLAND; BARTLETT FARM: We often celebrate our centennial farms. After all, that's quite a milestone. So imagine how you celebrate when your family has been on the same soil since before George Washington was President. Clinton Griffiths took a trip to Salisbury, Massachusetts for a history lesson, through the eyes of a farmer. Clinton says the Barlett Farm may be the oldest family farm in the country - that hasn't been verified yet. Thanks to the entire family for sharing their story.

TORNADO RELIEF: In Kentucky, the recovery process continues following the devastating storms from a month ago. Rural communities were hit hard. In addition to homes and barns, farmers lost miles of fencing which allowed livestock to run free. But as Jeff Franklin tells us in this report from the University of Kentucky, extension agents are helping those in need.

TRACTOR TALES: Al, what's on tap for tractor tales this week? John, we're off to the sunshine state to check out a 1939 John Deere Model "B". This collector bought this tractor from a friend in upstate New York...but you'll never guess how the transaction took place. Don't forget - you can watch tractor tales online at or find us on Facebook. The segments are also available as podcasts from iTunes.

CHURCH SALUTE: Today's country church salute goes to Deroche Missionary Baptist Church near Bismarck, Arkansas. Organized in 1847, the church has met continually since then - except for the four years of the civil war. Church member Terry Thomason says some of the descendants of the first members still attend worship at this church. That's about eight generations. Early members moved to this part of Arkansas from Tennessee and Georgia during the westward expansion of the United States. Congratulations to Deroche Missionary Baptist Church...this week’s recipient of our Country Church Salute. As always we want to learn about your home church as well... Salutes can be sent to the address on the screen. Stay with us - the mailbag is next.

MAILBAG: Time now for our weekly look inside the farm report mailbag...I knew this e-mail was coming after Baxter Black’s episode last week - and I'm glad it did. "He was under the pickup and all that held it up was a jack. As anyone that has had any dealings with such jacks know how unsafe they really are!" Michael Williams - East Prairie, Missouri. Michael, you are absolutely correct in your objection to the unsafe practice shown. I will not offer an excuse, but will explain how it got on the air. Since Baxter's episodes are produced and sent to us in bundles, the only people who would likely see them before they air are our program producers and technical staff. I suppose I should screen them ahead of time, but let's face it, Baxter is a humorist and while he crowds the line in good taste occasionally, his work is both professional and polished. When Al and I watched that scene in the studio last week, we both groaned at the same shot you saw. Like you, both Al and I have had acquaintances killed by vehicles falling off jacks. It is not a defense, but if Baxter was not demonstrating the correct way to work on truck. He was making fun of his ineptitude, and I don't think anyone got the message "This is ok because Baxter does it". Nonetheless, perhaps I should have stopped the taping and substituted another Baxter episode. That was my error, but maybe this reply will help to remind people of the stupidity of what they glimpsed for a few seconds. Thank you for the reminder. As always, we want to hear from you, send comments to or leave us a voice mail at 800-792-4329.

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