USFR Weekly Recap - October 22-23, 2011

14:20PM Oct 25, 2011

OCTOBER 22-23, 2011

JOHN’S OPEN: Hello and welcome to U.S. Farm Report, I'm John Phipps. Once again, our farm spent several days in the midst of a brother-in-law storm system. That's what I call the ones that move in and can't seem to move out. Mike has explained that many lows become cutoff from the jet stream and simply drift until pushed out of the way, but these stagnant weather episodes are emerging as a regular feature in the Midwest. If you stop and think about it, many of the stories we report have their origin in weather, so perhaps we're overly sensitive to slight pattern changes. All I know is we have stopped talking about planting and harvest seasons, and begun scheduling for planting and harvest windows. Time now for the's Al Pell.

EPA DUST: The environmental protection agency says enough with the myths.
There will be no new farm dust regulations from its offices. For months farm groups have raised concerns about possible regulations of farm dust, including rural roads. This all began after EPA began reviewing the national ambient air quality standards for particulate matter. In a letter to lawmakers last week, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson said the agency won't be expanding its current air quality standards for dust created by agriculture...standards that have been in place since 1987.

TEXAS DUST STORM: Speaking of dust, they're using words like "biblical" and "dust bowl" to describe a massive wall cloud that roared through the Texas panhandle on Monday. A strong cold front brought wind gusts up to 70 miles an hour through Lubbock, Texas. The drought is so intense in Texas, there's little moisture to hold-down soil. There are some estimates the dust storm was two miles high. The wall of dust darkened skies and stopped traffic. Lindsay Kennedy from the National Sorghum Producers captured the storm on videotape as it roared through Lubbock. The National Weather Service out of Lubbock says it was a "ha-boob" that charged through town.  Haboob is Arabic for intense dust storm. The latest drought monitor shows 47% of Texas is categorized as D-4, an exceptional drought.

NATIONAL FFA: Also this week - the blue and gold descend on Indianapolis for the national FFA convention. Organizers says more than 50,000 members and guests attended this year's events. It's been a good year for membership. In the past year, more than 17,000 new students signed up, setting a new all-time high. Membership is now 540,000 students. Texas has the most students at nearly 82,000.

JOHN’S WORLD: This week the commodity futures trading commission voted to limit speculative positions in the markets they oversee. While only affecting the very largest traders - less than 100 in ag markets - the rules are controversial. We have been trading under some form of regulated limits for over 50 years, but the explosion in outside interest in commodities has raised the possibility of market crashes at the hands of a few participants. Whether you agree with these limits or not - and they will doubtless be challenged in court - two things seem obvious. The first is the failure of all our financial markets to self-regulate. This reassuring belief may have been valid in smaller, slower markets with more players, but as we found out with securitized mortgages, self-regulation doesn't work when the first mistake is enough to crash the whole system. Our computerized global markets don't allow participants the opportunity to avoid bad actors.  The bigger problem is while it is easy to point out market failures, it is virtually impossible to demonstrate successful regulation, since it prevents bad things from happening. Just like farmers grumbling about safety shields on machinery, we don't notice how fewer farmers lose fingers. I suspect this rule will not be popular, but will not unduly hamper our markets either. In fact, during the next serious July drought or bond market meltdown, it may just keep them open.

Hello and welcome to U.S. Farm Report, I'm John Phipps. The European debt crisis has become a long-running drama worthy of prime time attention. The mood from day to day is unpredictable and our markets recently have reacted to every Greek riot and German announcement. But lost in the varying prospects for success is the sheer perseverance of European countries in their struggle to find an answer. Unlike too many issues here, at least opposing factions keep talking and negotiating instead of issuing demands. There is still a long way to go, but I'm betting their relentless effort will win out to an imperfect but workable solution. There may be a lesson there for us. Let's get started with the headlines and Al Pell...

JAPAN BEEF: Thank you John. Following a tsunami and nuclear crisis in Japan earlier this year, it appears the country is ready to ease restrictions on U.S. beef. The country's own domestic production fell following those disasters. That has exporters hopeful Japanese markets will return to pre-2003 levels. Prior to 2003 Japan was America's largest beef buyer. Then following the outbreak of BSE or mad cow disease - Japan banned beef imports. In 2005, the government allowed limited imports, but only of boneless beef from cattle aged 20 months or younger. Now there’s talk that limit could be raised to 30 months. Japan's food safety commission must still approve the changes to allow older U.S. cattle. The National Cattlemen's Beef Association says American producers have been losing one billion dollars a year in that could be reclaimed if the age restrictions are eased.

CANTALOUPE LISTERIA UPDATE: The FDA says dirty processing equipment maybe partially to blame for that deadly listeria outbreak linked to cantaloupe. If you'll remember, the outbreak was traced to Jensen Farms in Colorado. The Food and Drug Administration says it found pools of standing water on floors and old hard-to-clean equipment at the farm's packing facility. There was also a truck parked near the facility that routinely hauled discarded cantaloupe to a cattle operation. The FDA says it could have introduced contamination. The CDC says more than 120 people were sickened and 25 people died from the tainted cantaloupe.

SCHOOL POTATOES: And we have an update to the ongoing potato war in the nation’s capital. It seems the senate has now thrown its support behind the spud. Earlier this year, the ag department proposed rules aimed at limiting servings of potatoes in school lunch rooms to two servings per week. The senate by voice vote agreed to an amendment blocking USDA from limiting servings of potatoes or other vegetables in school lunches. The amendment was raised by senator Susan Collins of Maine. According to the National Potato Council, Maine ranks tenth in potato production. USDA can still dictate how those potatoes are prepared.

HEARTLAND: Organizers of the World Dairy Expo released attendance figures for the 2011 show this week. And they say they surpassed records in the number of animals on display, the number of companies selling their wares and the number of people who walked thru the gates. The five day event attracts visitors from 90 countries - making it the place to be each October for anyone and everyone interested in the dairy industry. As Clinton Griffiths reports, this year’s expo was boosted by a more profitable year on the farm. To learn more about this massive event, head online to

BAXTER BLACK: Make no doubt about it - Baxter Black tips the scale when it comes to creativity. As you'll see, he's not just a poet - he's got the music in him as well...
When we come back, tractor tales and our country church salute...please stay with us.

TRACTOR TALES: Al rejoins us now...what's on tap for tractor tales? We meet a young collector from southern Minnesota with a classic Farmall his grandfather owned.
Even though this 1936 Farmall F-20 saw few hours in the field, it could still use a little touch-up. The owner of this red classic plans on doing just that. Next week we head to the wolverine state where we meet a real work-horse. This Allis-Chalmers isn't the only one in the collection. And the owners aren't afraid to use them. That's next week.

CHURCH SALUTE: Today's Country Church Salute goes to the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Shelby, North Carolina. That's west of Charlotte. The church recently celebrated its 150th anniversary. The church completed construction of a new building in 2002, but it retained their older historic structure. They use it as a chapel. Reverend Valerie Shearer leads the congregation today. Recently the congregation began to address the issue of homelessness and hunger in their community. Our thanks to Shelby mayor Ted Alexander for sharing the story. And our second salute goes to St. Paul Lutheran Church in Ireton, Iowa. The congregation is celebrating 125 years of ministry this year. In 1886, the northwestern railroad company offered to provide land. So founders began a fund-drive to build a church. They collected 464-dollars and started construction. It was 18 feet by 24 feet. And it still stands today. Of course, they've built a couple of new church buildings since then. Andrew Carlson is the current pastor. Our thanks to Marlene Eilts and Eloise Heuer for this church salute. We'd like to hear from you as well. The address is on the screen. Stay with us - the mailbag is next.

MAILBAG: Time now for our weekly look inside the farm report mailbag....David Snider, from Minier, IL thinks our emphasis on exports is the wrong way to go. "We are making a big mistake in shipping our production overseas mostly as has never made any sense to be shipping our grain...when we could still be feeding out livestock on the farm." David, in the last decade or so, there has been a resurgence of support for less-specialized farms with multiple enterprises. Your objection that shipping grain is less efficient than transporting meat is also valid, but there are very real and powerful reasons why we operate the way we do right now. First of all, we can grow far more grain than our herds can consume. Bear in mind, that livestock did not disappear, they just have been gathered into larger installations. And the manure is being returned to the soil, just like before. The productivity of large feeding operations is an overwhelming factor in why we produce meat this way. Smaller farms cannot begin to match the labor, feed conversion, and uniformity standards not to mention the lower costs. We are working tirelessly to increase meat exports, but some customers want to feed their own meat animals and prefer to buy grain. Until bulk grain becomes too expensive to ship long distances, our farms will continue to grow what the market demands. Shipping meat should be our first priority, but selling grain isn't a bad idea either. As always, we want to hear from you, send comments to [email protected] or leave us a voice mail at 800-792-4329.