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Articles from 2017 In March

USDA confirms it: Big increase in soybean acres

Kenneth Schulze/iStock/Thinkstock corn field under bright blue sky

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday delivered a double dose of bearish news for soybeans with its forecast that farmers will plant more soybeans this year at a time when there are 200 million bu. more soybeans in storage than a year ago.

The grain trade expected more soybean acres, but USDA’s forecast of 89.5 million was even larger than trade estimates. That increase of 7%, or 6 million acres more than a year ago, will draw acres from corn and wheat, both of which will have smaller areas this year.

Also bearish for soybean prices was the quarterly stocks report, which showed 1.735 billion bu. of soybeans in storage, which topped the average forecast and was up from the 1.53 billion bu. a year ago. Corn and wheat stocks of 8.62 billion bu. and 1.66 billion bu., respectively, were above trade averages and greater than a year ago.

“USDA’s March 31 reports have a well-deserved reputation for surprises, and they proved why again today,” Bryce Knorr, Farm Futures senior grain analyst, said. “Soybeans got a double dose of bearish news. Farmers, as expected, said they want to plant record acres, and their intentions were even more than we found in our survey."

Knorr said growers across the country are moving to soybeans and cutting back on other crops, including spring wheat, sorghum corn. This was especially true in North Dakota, where soybean acreage is expected to be up 14% from 2016, while spring wheat seedings should be down 10%.

USDA said soybean acreage intentions are up or unchanged in the 27 of the 31 states it surveys.

Chicago Board of Trade soybeans for May "traded to six-month lows before the report," Knorr said. "The market is oversold, but the next downside support is $9.3725. A test of that level could trigger short covering, but growers shouldn’t expect any real rallies until we’re well into the growing season."

Near midday on Friday and after the report, May soybeans were down 17 cents at $9.46/bu., and new-crop November was down 8.5 cents to $9.5475/bu. May corn was up 6 cents to $3.635/bu., and December was up 6.25 cents to $3.8725.

Total wheat acreage is expected to be down this year because a drop in the winter wheat area has been known for months. Friday’s report was the season’s first for spring and durum wheat, and it showed spring wheat down 3%, at 11.31 million acres, and durum down 17%, at 2 million. North Dakota, the biggest durum and spring wheat producer, is expected to see a 10% drop in spring wheat acreage and a 21% drop in durum acreage.

“The acreage numbers are slightly supportive for corn. Corn was trending higher just ahead of the report, so there may be fund money deciding to get long today for a weather rally on end-of-the-quarter positioning,” Knorr said. “The stocks number would appear to indicate lower feed usage due to the fairly mild winter and abundant supplies of competing rations.”

USDA’s estimate is “only 68 million bu. above" the Farm Futures projection -- less than 1% -- which is within the range of sampling error, Knorr noted.

“May (corn) futures rallied up to the moving average resistance I suggested in this morning’s report on,” he added.


Birthday wishes to Orion Samuelson who is celebrating his 83rd birthday today in Arizona. 

One traffic safety expert says pedestrian deaths are climbing faster than motorist deaths.

The Senate Agriculture Committee voted to recommend Sonny Perdue as agriculture secretary with one no vote and one senator abstaining.

Wildfire relief - two very good ways to channel money to those victims are the websites: and the other is


Distractions - it just doesn't involve driving distractions, pedestrian deaths reaching nearly 6,000 last year. We're driving more because of improved economy and lower gas prices and more people are walking for exercise. There was an 11% spike in pedestrian deaths last year. More drivers and walkers are distracted by cell phones.

Hogs and Pigs report confirmed expansion in the nation's hog herd. Talking about higher production of pork down the road. Trade was bracing for bearish report, which it really didn't get. Breeding herd expansion of 1%. Exports and slaughter capacity forecast to increase by 8%.

Chicago-based McDonalds said it will offer fresh beef quarter pounders beginning next year. It will be cooked to order. Also allow customer to customize with choice of bun and toppings.

Farm Progress America, March 31, 2017

Max Armstrong offers some insight on farm safety issues that happen during busy times, like planting. For example, 40% of farm deaths are caused by tractor rollovers. Max offers other tips as well.

Farm Progress America is a daily look at key issues in agriculture. It is produced and presented by Max Armstrong, veteran farm broadcaster and host of This Week in Agribusiness.

Prime calves’ Immunity response this spring for better outcomes this fall

vaccinating calves

Source: Zoetis


Think of it this way: a preemptive strike early in a calf’s life helps prepare it for disease challenges during the grazing season, at weaning and beyond. It’s like priming the immunity pump in the spring to ensure everything works better in the fall.

“Spring vaccinations for respiratory disease set calves up for success during the summer grazing season,” said Jon Seeger, managing veterinarian with Zoetis. “Fall vaccinations help calves respond to disease challenges during weaning and comingling.”

Seeger says it is key to protect calves against viral diseases that cause respiratory challenges like bovine respiratory syncytial virus (BRSV), infectious bovine respiratory (IBR) disease and parainfluenza 3 (PI3).

“We see great value in the rapid, lasting immune response to the intranasal administration in the spring with young calves,” said Seeger. “But we also see a more robust immune response when we booster at pre-weaning with modified-live combination vaccine when it follows the intranasal in the spring.”

Research at North Dakota State University demonstrated a significant (p=0.006) immune response to BRSV in calves given an intranasal vaccination at approximately 74 days of age, and again when boosted 153 days later.1

“The real benefit for calves to have the first dose in the spring is that if they are exposed to a disease challenge mid-summer, they have a better immune response and are less likely to get sick than if they aren’t vaccinated before summer grazing.”

Seeger also says it is important not to forget protecting against Mannheimia haemolytica and bovine viral diarrhea (BVD) types 1 and 2.

Seeger concludes that producers should think of spring vaccinations as first steps in building a complete immunization plan for the calf. “Our goal is to set the calf’s immune system up for success in responding to disease challenges,” said Seeger.


1Stokka GL, Neville B, Seeger JT, Stoltenow C, Dyer N, Gaspers JJ. Evaluation of the serologic effect of concurrent IBR, BRSV, PI3 and Mannheimia vaccination and time interval between the first and second dose on the subsequent serological response to the Mannheimia toxoid and BRSV fractions on spring-born beef calves in North Dakota. North Dakota Beef Report 2014;40-42. 


Weekly Cattle Market Wrap Up | Normal seasonal declines continue

Weekly Cattle Market Wrap Up

Feeder cattle receipts continue normal seasonal decline but still well above last year. The price rally is slowing down a little with early week auctions steady to $5 higher, but mid-week auctions steady to $2 higher, with some weakness on lighter weights.
Slaughter cow receipts were 6,00 head which was 1,000 head lower at our test auctions, but prices were mostly steady to $1 lower. Buyers are becoming more cautious as cow meat prices appear to be topping out.


Meat Market Update | Daily cutout tops out

The weekly average Choice cutout was $3.46 higher, helped by those formula sales that were based off of the previous week's increased prices. However the daily cutout topped out and started to decline which is following the previous year's type of trend. Also there was a good increase in both export and out-front sales volume this week which kept total sales way over last year.


It's a very different investigation for sheriff's deputies in Nebraska. They are going through angry emails after NCAA game. Reviewing more than 3,000 voicemails after Kentucky's loss to North Carolina. After he served as the referee for the game, bad reviews started flooding his company website. 

Most analysts would agree March planting report due out Friday is one of most volatile market days. Quarterly grain stocks report is released at same time. Wheat acreage is released at same time. Wheat acreage at lowest level in this county since World War 1.


Politicians, OCM have checkoff programs in the crosshairs

Washington D.C.

Thinking big, at least for the Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM), means going after all commodity checkoffs, instead of just the beef checkoff, in order to get at their admitted real target, NCBA. Or as OCM put it in a news conference this week, “Terminating the NCBA gravy train.”

What is really sad is, in their efforts to paint a vivid woe-is-me picture, OCM can ensnare folks who ought to know better. For example, we’ve often admired Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) for his stout conservative stands on many issues. But in his anti-big government zeal—in which we normally cheer him on—he’s overshot the mark this time.

Lee spoke at a Congressional briefing in Washington on Tuesday to introduce two bills and almost the first words out of his mouth were in error. He said checkoffs “use your tax dollars” and abuse them.

Some staffer should have saved Lee from that huge error. Senators have a lot of issues to keep track of, but in a state where agriculture is one of the top industries, Lee should perhaps have known by himself that no taxpayer dollars go into the beef checkoff.

Even the funds expended by USDA in its oversight of the beef checkoff are reimbursed back to USDA from checkoff funds. The beef checkoff was designed and voted into existence by cattlemen and is funded and run by cattlemen.

Lee’s second error has to do with one of the fundamental functions of USDA and FDA. That has to do with standards and labeling.

USDA is the agency responsible for tracking the contents of foods, the definition of food products, labeling and food producers’ adherence to those standards. Lee raised the question of whether mayonnaise has to have, by definition, egg yolks in it. The details of the story are murky, but because the American Egg Board is involved, Lee decried the government “deciding what the contents of a food product are,” and if we “let the federal government define mayo, we’ve run into a problem.”

That’s ironic, given that OCM has been a big proponent of pushing the federal government to further define and pin down the definition of “unfair,” such as prohibiting deceptive practices in the GIPSA rule. Yet Lee is decrying a basic government function to prevent consumer deception, i.e. is it mayo or not?

Lee’s next complaint was that the checkoff allows “big, corporate interests” to gather together and use the “immense protective power of the federal government.”

As one who has farm and ranch friends all over America, many of whom don’t run enough cows to rely on them solely for their income and engage in farming other crops or livestock, selling semen or seed or chutes or teaching school in town to keep the operation afloat, I resent that characterization of cattle-raising families. I even know a cattleman and corn farmer who is a minister and I defy you to decide for him what is his most important calling. But he is not a “big corporate interest” and he has been a checkoff supporter all along.

USDA statistics report that 97% of all U.S. farms are family-owned. That has a lot to do with supporting the rural communities OCM purports to be concerned with. And that is after decades of farm families having to work harder, get bigger and manage more efficiently and intelligently to survive and grow.

Concentration and specialization have occurred since tribal days. The immutable laws of economics hold that as your competitors get bigger, faster and stronger in any industry, you will have to do the same.

Sen. Lee has introduced one bill with one co-sponsor, Sen. Corey Booker (D-N.J.) that would do a list of things that already are law, and at least in the case of the beef checkoff, already being complied with. The bill would prohibit the checkoffs from contracting with any organization that lobbies (check), prohibits anti-competitive behavior (check), requires publication of budgets (check) and audits (check).

Lee has put his reputation on the line here by ignoring or being ignorant of the separation and financial firewall between NCBA’s dues-supported division and its checkoff-supported promotion division. And try as they might, OCM has still not come up with any credible evidence of the “abuses” they and Lee claim.

Lee has no co-sponsors for his second bill that would prohibit checkoffs from being mandatory. Not being familiar with checkoffs, Lee mistakenly believes that most of the operations that object to participating are small family farms. Long-time industry observers know better.

But I really bristled at Lee’s parting shot that checkoffs “take money away from the have-nots and give to the haves. That is the nastiest form of government.”

The beef checkoff is a self-help program that uses USDA as a third-party auditor—a concept checkoffs developed long before it became popular—and is designed, paid for and run by cattlemen and cattlewomen for one purpose. That one purpose is to better serve, protect and satisfy the consumers of America and the world.

It is not a nasty form of government. It does not give money to either the haves or have nots. And it is paid by the haves and the have-nots of the industry alike. But at least they voted to do so. Did any of us vote for the federal income tax?

Dittmer is a longtime beef industry commentator and executive vice president of the Agribusiness Freedom Foundation.

Perdue gets rare friendly confirmation hearing

Drew Angerer/Getty Images Sonny Perdue talks to Patrick Leahy before his Senate confirmation hearing.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) talks with Sonny Perdue before the start of Perdue's confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry on March 23, 2017.

President Trump’s nominee for agriculture secretary got something rare late last week from the Senate Agriculture Committee —a friendly attitude, relatively easy questions and several senators thanking him for his willingness to serve. Evidently, Ag Committee members had an exemption from Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-New York) instructions to attack on every front.

The committee followed up with an easy approval vote to recommend Perdue's nomination to the full Senate on Thursday, March 29.

During his March 23 hearing, a knowledgeable, confident and genial Sonny Perdue actually seemed to enjoy the back and forth, the recognition of his family and the obvious respect for his experience in agriculture and as Georgia governor. Incidentally, Sonny Perdue is not related to the Perdue poultry family.

Ironically, Perdue had his hearing during the same month that the last secretary with extensive agricultural experience, Clayton Yeutter, passed away. Yeutter was secretary from 1989-1991 and was born and raised on a Nebraska farm. Yeutter farmed for 18 years before going back to get economics and law degrees which lead to several major government posts.

Besides his direct farm experience, Perdue seems tailor-made to deal with today’s key issues, especially antibiotic use. Most would hope his veterinary background will help guide USDA and other federal departments through thorny questions regarding human antibiotic resistance and alleged connections to animal agriculture.

Much of Perdue’s business experience has involved exporting agricultural products. In response to several questions, he pledged to aggressively push agriculture’s need for more export access within Trump’s administration.

He expressed a desire to work with U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) nominee Robert Lighthizer and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to see that agricultural products get “first on the list of things the U.S. has to trade.” Trade is at the top of farmers’ priorities these days, he said, adding that especially in the era of tough markets and rough financial outlooks, trade is the answer. Later, he added that Lighthizer had told him that 80% of the pressure he’s heard regarding trade has come from agriculture.

One of the few other Trump nominees still languishing, Lighthizer is waiting for a waiver regarding some previous work done for a foreign country.

One of the problems Perdue is facing is that President Trump’s proposed budget was prepared without input from the missing Secretary of Agriculture. Ranking minority member Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) was especially critical of the cuts in USDA’s budget, some 21%, the third largest of any agency. Certain key services for farmers and ranchers will see potential slashes of up to 1/3 of their current budget.

In another exchange, a senator noted that the very data needed to manage risk management programs were threatened with budget cuts under the President’s budget. Perdue stressed he would work with the committee to see what could be done to find more budget room.

Other issues

Several senators called for help in returning to common sense management of national forests in their states, to counter the gathering fuel caused by constant lawsuits stopping proper forest management, leading to terrible forest fires. The U.S. Forest Service has been begging and borrowing, as nearly two-thirds of its budget has been going to fight fires. That is spending money in the most expensive way, one senator said.

Perdue said he would work to make the national forests good neighbors to state and private lands. He also indicated that, given activist groups’ lawsuits hampering forest and water management and the 9th Circuit’s allowing of it, he would look at legislation to solve the problem. In fact, he would like to prove to the activist groups that properly managed forests are productive for everyone.

Of interest to cattle feeders, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) asked Perdue if he would support a strong Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) and Perdue confirmed that he would. Ernst also said agriculture needed a secretary who would let other agencies, especially EPA, understand the unintended consequences of their regulations, when farmers are the good stewards of the land.

A northeastern senator emphasized the importance of immigrant labor to agriculture. Perdue did commit to getting the immigrant labor to where it is needed, whether unseasonal like dairy farming or seasonal, like fruits and vegetables. Asked about reforming the H2A program, Perdue said trade and the H2A programs would be his top priorities.

Pressed about getting more food to more families through the SNAP or food stamp program, Perdue said he would work to get the program more efficient and effective.

Several senators brought up rural development needs, especially regarding water systems and broadband. Perdue said he hoped to get rural broadband into Trump’s infrastructure plans.

The problem of opiate and heroin addiction in rural communities was also raised, with questions about what USDA programs could help in that area.

Another senator complained of inflexibility in administering the last Farm Bill and hoped Perdue would be open to re-evaluating program administration. Perdue said he would.

On the subject of the Brazilian meat scandal, Perdue said he thought USDA would re-inspect anything that had come here but he believed nothing had been sent. If we shut things down, there would be repercussions, so he believed allowing USDA-FSIS to handle things as they knew how was the right course.

As for the Farm Bill, Perdue said the last one had made progress in ensuring farmers had some kind of safety net for production and prices and that the test is whether or not taxpayers are getting good value for their money. He wants it to be a good deal for taxpayers and for farmers. He also said conservation programs need to be improved. It is critical that farmers can use precision ag to get the most out of their inputs. Farming is all about continuous improvement, he said.

Crop insurance and risk management were areas in the Farm Bill needing improvement and he wants to see more emphasis on research, as that is the basis for agriculture’s productivity and adoption of high technology management.

At the Senate Agriculture Committee's March 29th meeting, they approved Sonny Perdue's nomination to be agriculture secretary. His nomination will now move forward to the full Senate.