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MORNING Midwest Digest, April 5, 2019


He claimed to be the missing boy from Illinois, but the FBI said he isn’t. The DNA doesn’t lie. He isn’t from Illinois, he’s from Ohio. He isn’t 14, he is 23. Maybe there will be more details today on why he claimed he was Timmothy Pitzen, who has missing eight years.

China has bought more soybeans from U.S. bringing purchase to 10 million metric tons since November. That’s still less than half China’s purchases in recent marketing years. ASA said last week it’s not pleased that President Trump said he could leave tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum even if trade deal is reached.

We love our pickup trucks, RAM closed gap on Silverado in number of trucks sold. Last year, RAM sold 22% of trucks sold. Chevy sold 24%.

In Green Bay, a memorial to Sept. 11 victims will be torn down. A fundraiser failed to generate money to repair the memorial along the Fox River.

Farm Progress America, April 5, 2019

Max Armstrong offers a look at slowing economic growth rates globally and how those will impact agriculture. The conclusion is that further challenges will be roadblocks for farmers, even though there are a few bright spots.

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.

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7 ag stories you might have missed this week - April 5, 2019

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Need a quick catch-up on the news? Here are seven ag stories you might have missed this week.

1. President Trump said Thursday a deal to end the trade war with China isn’t ready yet, but an agreement could be announced in a month. White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said “the last mile of the marathon is actually the longest and the hardest.” – Farm Futures

2. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Cory Booker, D-N.J., re-introduced the Opportunities for Fairness in Farming Act on March 28. The bill aims to bring transparency and accountability to the federal checkoff programs. – American Agriculturalist

3. Increasing concerns about future economic conditions drove the Ag Economy  Barometer down three points from 136 in February to 133 in March. However, the Large Farm Investment Index rebounded, and only 22% of farms surveyed expect to have a larger operating loan in 2019 than in 2018. – Farm Futures

4. Democrats gathered in Storm Lake, Iowa, for a rural issues forum on March 30. Democrats are eager to make inroads in rural America, which has been a reliable Trump stronghold. Tom Vilsack, former Iowa governor and agriculture secretary under President Obama, said Democrats need to show up and articulate their vision of rural America. – Wallaces Farmer

5. A study published in Nature Sustainability modeled how the production of corn contributes to air pollution In the United States. Researchers found ammonia from fertilizer application was the largest contributor to corn’s air pollution footprint. The study estimates “4.300 premature deaths can be attributed to corn production.”  - NPR

6. Researchers at MIT’s Media Lab are working to enhance the human disease-fighting properties of herbs and they also hope to help growers adapt to changing climates by studying how crops grow under different conditions. – MIT News

7. With the 2018 Farm Bill making hemp a commodity, there’s a lot happening with the crop. Farmers in Illinois grew hemp for the first time in 2018 under the oversight of Western Illinois University. The director of Western Illinois University’s Alternative Crops Research Program said about 80% of farmers’ interest is in growing cannabinoids. In Florida, members of the House and Senate are trying to take advantage of a 2018 federal law that legalized industrial hemp as an agricultural product. The Oregon State Police are having a hard time determining who is growing hemp and who is growing marijuana. In Minnesota, 370 growers have applied to grow 5,700 acres in 2019. – Prairie Farmer,,, The Farmer

Your bonus is from Missouri this week.

Have you ever smoked a corn-cob pipe? Missouri Meerschaum is the nation’s first, last and oldest corn-cob pipe factory and it’s celebrating 150 years this year. It employs 35 people and produces more than 30 styles of corn-cob pipes. The corn cobs come from a white hybrid corn developed by the University of Missouri. – St. Louis Public Radio

Flooded cattle country continues to send cows to packing plants

Solid prices continue for feeder cattle as they continue in their third week of higher prices, along with much larger volume than last year. Auction markets did see volume dip lower than the previous week, but prices were steady to $5 higher with the biggest price increases on the lighter weight stocker-type cattle. The heavier weight steers over 800 lbs. and heifers over 700 lbs. had the biggest numbers. Their prices were mostly steady to $1 higher.

There has been a tremendous movement of beef and dairy cows from the flooded areas directly to packing plants, which are having a tough time keeping up with harvesting all of these cows. That has really pushed prices lower the last two weeks. This is a simailar situation to what happens after hurricane disasters, too. The prices continued to slip a little lower after last week's big price drops.


MIDDAY Midwest Digest, April 4, 2019

Bridges in the U.S. are in sore shape, according to a new report. Iowa has the most structurally deficient bridges in the U.S. Nationwide, more than 47,000 bridges are rated deficient.

Closing the border with Mexico could have detrimental impact on U.S. agriculture.

Have you heard that fitness buffs have started drinking pickle juice?


Photo: CHUYN/Getty Images

Meat Market Update | Out-front sales and exports lead the way

The weekly average Choice cutout, which includes all types of sales -- including the daily Choice cutout, was $227.61. This was $1.16 higher than the previous week, even though the daily Choice cutout was over $3 lower for the week. There were 6,902 total loads sold for the week, which was 737 loads higher than the previous week and a very good total number helped by bigger out-front and export sales this week.

The weekly average Choice rib primal and Choice loin primal were $3-4 higher, continuing to follow normal seasonal increases and both were helped by higher priced out-front sales again this week. These two middle meat primals continue to push higher than last year.

MORNING Midwest Digest, April 4, 2019

The FBI is working with several agencies across several states after a boy was found in Kentucky, claiming he was the boy who'd been kidnapped several years ago in Illinois.

The American Road and Transportation Builders Association released a bridge inventory analysis recently. More than 47,000 in the U.S. are structurally deficient.

The U.S. will likely sell more pork to China because of African Swine Fever, but Brazil is ready to sell some, as well.

Parts of the heartland are getting rain this morning. 


Photo: domoyega/Getty Images

Farm Progress America, April 4, 2019

Max Armstrong explores the comments of a commodity market analyst who says the cash hog market is higher than it can sustain given current conditions. The gains in the market may be an “overbought” scenario that this analyst says is too aggressive. Max looks at some factors that may be bringing that support.

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.

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El Niño intensifies: What’s that mean for spring weather?

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By Chad McNutt

Since mid-February, we have seen an intensification of El Niño. El Niño intensifying this late in the year is somewhat unique.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and other forecast groups gave us plenty of notice El Niño was coming, but how it actually evolved was a surprise.

El Niño vs La Niña

Burt first, some background.

El Niño conditions occur when warmer than average water accumulates in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. Alternatively, La Niña conditions occur when cooler than average waters accumulate in the same region of the Pacific Ocean. 

Why is this important? El Niño and La Niña can shift seasonal temperature and precipitation patterns across the U.S. and around the globe. When the tropical ocean either warms or cools, it can affect pressure gradients, which can in turn change atmospheric wind patterns that can alter precipitation patterns.

For the U.S., El Niño events usually have a jet-stream that is shifted south. That can bring above-normal precipitation across the southern tier of the country, while producing less storminess and milder conditions across the northern tier. 

La Niña events, on the other hand, feature a jet-stream that is shifted north over the northern U.S. and Canada. That produces colder and stormier conditions over the northern tier of the country and less precipitation and milder temperatures over the southern tier.

What’s happening now

To quickly recap, El Niño has been very slow to form, then in January it essentially went MIA, and finally, in mid-February, El Niño began its much-anticipated push. That caused NOAA to finally issue an El Niño Advisory.

Usually, by February and March, El Niño events begin winding down. Not this one. Instead, we have seen it intensify and with it, a very active storm track has brought much-needed moisture to much of the western U.S. 

U.S. Drought Map Comparisons


The wet conditions have reduced the area considered in drought by the U.S. Drought Monitor by over 10 percentage points over the last month (see map above).

Another way to look at the drastic change is to look at the percentage of the major cattle, corn, and hay-producing areas that are in drought. At present, 2% of cattle and 2% of hay are in drought and no major corn growing area is in drought. These are the lowest percentages since the three stats started to be tracked by USDA in 2011.

Los Niños?

According to Klaus Wolter, retired researcher at the University of Colorado who specializes on El Niño and La Niño events, “While most El Niño events tend to persist through winter and weaken into spring, they can get a late boost during the winter, with the most recent examples being the weak El Niño of 2014-15 that morphed into the Super Niño of 2015-16, and the weak El Niño of 2004-05 that had a late rally in early 2005, but then dissipated by mid-2005.” 

Wolter said that going forward, “The majority of the ECMWF [European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts] model runs show moderate El Niño conditions during early summer, followed by greater uncertainty in the fall.” 

Wolter said even though there is uncertainty in the fall timeframe there is still increased odds of a second El Niño winter (aka the rare Los Niños or the double-dip El Niño) given that the majority of climate models show El Niño conditions into early 2020.

Wolter described that while two-year El Niño events are not quite as common as “double-dip” La Niña events (i.e. two or more years of La Niña), they have occurred six times since 1948: 2014-16, 1991-93, 1986-88, 76-78, 68-70, and 1957-59. 

“As best as we can tell, the late spring season (April-June) during such conditions tend to be similar to typical El Niño springs, with much cooler-than-average temperatures most likely in the Southern Plains and much warmer-than-average temperatures in the northwestern U.S.,” Wolter said.

April 2019 Weather Outlook

The above maps show the risk of warm or cold extremes (left map) during April-May-June of El Niño, compared to the average outcome during the first-year spring of a two-year El Niño (right map). Essentially, what Wolter is saying is that it does not make much of a difference for spring, whether you consider all El Niño events, or just the ones that persisted into the following year.

Weather Patterns

For precipitation, the general risk (left map above) of being in the wettest 20% of the observed springs during 1895-2014 is highest from southern California along the Mexican border and continuing to Louisiana during El Niño springs. The risk of ending up in the driest 20% is highest over the Northern Plains and Midwest, which is consistent with what we would normally expect for an El Niño.

The take home from all this is that El Niño is currently solidifying and will favor a wet and cool spring in much of the U.S (see the latest NOAA Seasonal Outlooks). If it continues to strengthen into the summer, the odds for a second El Niño winter in 2019-20 are better than 50%.


This story was adapted from an article on McNutt is the co-founder of Livestock Wx and editor of the Livestock Weather Journal.