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Beltwide: Prices been low enough, long enough?

That’s the question on many growers’ minds as they try to convince their lender to loan them enough money to go one more year. It, unfortunately, is a question without a simple answer, according to analyst Sharon Johnson.

Johnson, speaking at the Beltwide Cotton Conference in Atlanta, said the large U.S. and world crops coupled with economic recession and the events of Sept. 11 created “prices that have not been this low in several lifetimes.”

Whether U.S. growers have seen the worst or the worst is yet to come may depend on the answer to the following question:

“Have prices been painfully low enough, long enough, to begin the process of reducing supply while stimulating demand and therefore shrink ending stocks here and abroad to acceptable levels?” she asked. “Although seemingly simple, the answer is very complicated given how intertwined the U.S. and world cotton markets are.”

Johnson, an analyst with Atlanta-based Frank Schneider & Co., said an amazing number of negative fundamentals led to the “perfect storm” that engulfed the U.S. and world markets last year.

“Most of the negative fundamentals have already been identified, including the record size of the U.S. and world crops resulting in burdensome ending stocks especially in the United States; an eroding economic environment at home and overseas; U.S. mill consumption dropping to a 13-year low due to foreign imports and the strong dollar; and, of course, the Sept. 11 terrorist attack that further exacerbated perceived weakness for any and all commodities,” she noted.

“The market’s sell-off that began in November 1999 and continued through most of 2000 was truly extraordinary and considered history making by many traders and analysts.”

Johnson told Beltwide participants that the difference between the seasonal high and seasonal low from year to year typically averages 15 to 20 cents. “Normally, the more bullish the year, the wider the range and vice-versa, but this past calendar year and the current crop year has run contrary to that rule.”

As of the Beltwide, the cotton futures market had been as high as 42.60 cents per pound basis the October contract in early August and as low as 28.20 cents in late October basis the December contract, a difference of 14 cents. On a larger scale, the nearby month has fallen more than 30 cents in the last 14 months.

“A review of technical indicators illustrates how unusual that price movement was and will help put in perspective the size of the drop as well as the absolute price low reached,” she noted. “The Relative Strength Index, Stochastics and other indicators of recent months show not only how one-sided the market move was but also just how low futures traded down using a percentage scale.

“When inflation is taken into account, you could even say that cotton prices have not been this low in several lifetimes.”

Based on the recovery of the market to date since the October low, Johnson believes an upside price of 43 cents per pound is possible with the spring contracts. “This price level equals a 38 percent retracement of the 30-plus-cent drop and also represents a significant support/resistance level on the weekly chart,” she notes.

“Some technicians are using 48 cents as their upside target, which is a 50 percent retracement of the entire sell-off, but my suspicions are that we may not see prices that high until sometime in 2003” because of high ending stocks levels.

She also thinks the July contract may have difficulty moving higher unless springtime plantings in the United States are much lower than anticipated. “In fact, July could bear the brunt of this year’s U.S. burdensome stocks and pressure from possible overseas panic selling as the season winds down.”

Conversely, a sell-off back into the 20- to 30-cent range in the near-term contracts appears doubtful unless fundamentals worsen substantially or another Sept. 11 attack occurs.

“Cotton futures, having run up 10 cents from the late October low, have held extremely well in the mid-30s,” she said. “With the funds in a moderately long position, it is possible this area of support could be breached. The key to any re-test of the low 30s is tied to where sufficient mill buying is waiting in the wings.”

For new crop, New York futures should continue to find support in the low to mid-30-cent range into harvest, barring another sharp increase in ending stocks and assuming that the Cotton Outlook A Index will move higher as organizations such as the International Cotton Advisory Committee are forecasting.

“However, potential actions by the Commodity Credit Corp. in auctioning off substantial portions of loan cotton forfeited by producers could weigh on cash and futures enough to threaten this crop year’s seasonal low,” she notes. “If the 28.20 low fails to hold, the next line of support is approximately 26 cents, the 1972 low.”

In general, when prices fall as quickly and dramatically as they did in 2001, it is a one-time event such as the low that occurred in 1986 or the high in 1995, Johnson said. So, the big question may be whether history will quickly repeat itself with even lower prices this fall or if growers have seen the worst of these prices?

“Those technicians I know and trust say it is the latter,” she said. “Perhaps the best response for you and I as fundamentalists is to hope the technicians are right but be prepared if this crop year’s lows fail to hold as the market attempts to make that final generational low.”

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com.

Grassley amendment could tighten payment limits

First and foremost is a proposal Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, is expected to offer. Grassley’s amendment would place a strict limit of $225,000 per farmer on all farm program payments and eliminate marketing certificates for cotton.

Grassley intended to offer the payment limit proposal as part of a comprehensive amendment to the Senate farm bill’s commodity title prior to the Christmas recess. But the amendment got pushed aside in the maneuvering to invoke cloture and force an up or down vote on the farm bill before the holidays.

“We don’t want 10 percent of the farmers getting 60 percent of the farm bill,” Grassley told a group of about 30 farmers in his home state shortly before he and the rest of the Senate returned to Washington from their holiday recess.

He was expected to offer the amendment as soon as the Senate got down to work on trying to resolve the heated issues that stalled action on the bill in mid-December.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle said he hoped the farm bill would be one of the first measures the Senate takes up and completes within the first few days of its return on Jan. 23.

“Because of the schedule, we only have two days this week and two days next week to work on this legislation,” he said, speaking during the Senate’s opening session. “This is an ambitious agenda, but I know we can do it if we work hard and make each day count.

“Passing a farm bill and moving it to conference and then to the president’s desk is critically important. I noted the other day that USDA said that without a new farm bill this year or some form of emergency assistance, farm income could be down by 20 percent this year.”

According to Washington sources, the Grassley proposal would cap fixed, decoupled and target price deficiency payments at $75,000 and marketing loan gains and loan deficiency payments at $150,000 per farmer. It would provide an additional $50,000 limit for husbands and wives when both qualify for payments.

The proposal contrasts with an estimated $500,000 payment limit in the Daschle-Harkin bill passed by the Senate Agriculture Committee in November and the House bill that was passed Oct. 5.

In a section of the proposal entitled “Direct Attribution of Payments,” Grassley says

“Limitations will be tracked through individuals, entities, partnerships, etc. directly to individuals. While producers may continue to participate in operations that exist today, direct attribution eliminates the interest in participating in multiple entities.”

The proposal also says that any grower whose adjusted gross income for the previous three years exceeds $2.5 million or who received less than 75 percent of his adjusted gross income from farming will not be eligible for a payment.

In one section, the proposal says that gains received from the use of commodity certificates would be counted against the payment limitation. But it also says that generic (commodity) certificates “will have little value because loans issued beyond loan gain limitations will essentially become resource loans.”

The USDA Office of Inspector General would be required to conduct in-depth reviews in five counties in six states on a yearly basis to ensure enforcement of the rules.

While Grassley’s proposal is receiving most of the attention, several other Midwest senators have indicated they planned to introduce or support amendments tightening limitations.

Senators Tim Johnson, D-S.D., Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., and Don Nickles, R-Okla., have spoken in favor of tightening limitations, and Johnson reportedly had also planned to introduce an amendment before the Christmas recess. Daschle and Senate Ag Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, have also spoken about targeting benefits to smaller farmers.

In his comments to the growers in Missouri Valley, Iowa, in mid-January, Grassley accused Democrats of failing to address the payment limits issue because they needed the support of senators in southern states. “Now, I’m going to give them a chance to put their vote where their mouths have been for the past few years,” he said.

Besides Grassley and Johnson, other senators have indicated they plan to offer amendments. Those will likely include the Cochran-Roberts amendment, named for Republican Senators Thad Cochran of Mississippi and Pat Roberts, which was offered but failed to secure enough votes prior to the Christmas recess.

The White House has endorsed Cochran-Roberts, giving its authors a stronger hand when the Senate resumes debate on the farm bill.

Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., who recently blasted the Daschle-Harkin bill on the pages of the New York Times, is also expected to re-introduce his income insurance proposal. The Lugar bill was defeated 30-70 before the Senate recessed.

Farm organizations, meanwhile, began stepping up their efforts to remind the Senate of the need for quick action on the farm bill.

In a letter to Daschle and Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi, American Soybean Association leaders noted that soybean prices are at 30-year historic lows and the outlook for improvement is not positive.

“Early enactment of a new farm bill effective for 2002 crops will end producer uncertainties about planting and avoid another year of ad hoc economic loss assistance,” said Bart Ruth, the ASA’s president from Rising City, Neb..

Ruth noted that ASA has repeatedly urged the Bush administration to keep the soybean loan rate for 2002 at $5.26 per bushel to prevent even more economic loss for soybean producers. USDA decided, instead, to delay announcing the new loan rate until after the new farm bill is passed.

“The only way to end the uncertainty over this year’s safety net for producers of soybeans and other crops is for Congress to complete a bill as expeditiously as possible that is effective for the 2002 crops,” said Ruth.

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com.

McCormick tractors now at Vermeer

Now you can find McCormick tractors at local equipment dealers instead of just antique tractor shows. Selected Vermeer Manufacturing dealers and other ag equipment retailers are selling 2002 models of four new McCormick tractor lines that range in size from 53 to 176 hp. The tractors feature a low-profile design, high-quality components and a bright red color.

The familiar McCormick name returns to the U.S. market as the result of a divestiture agreement made when Fiat purchased Case Corporation, merged it with New Holland, and formed CNH. Fiat was required to sell the McCormick name and Case’s manufacturing plant at Doncaster, England. The Landini Corporation bought both and became the fourth largest tractor manufacturer in the world as a result. Last year, Landini created McCormick Tractors International and located it in Doncaster.

Both McCormick and Case brand tractors are manufactured in the Doncaster plant until the end of 2002. After that, the plant will make only the McCormick tractors.

Vermeer alliance. The newly formed McCormick Tractors International sought an alliance partner in the U.S. to sell and service its machines. According to Joe Michaels, McCormick general manager, the company chose Vermeer because of its strong dealer network, lack of a tractor line and heavy livestock focus. The first tractors marketed with medium horsepower are targeted to livestock producers.

“Vermeer is positioned well in livestock with its hay background,” Michaels explains. “We’ve already talked to Vermeer dealers who may partner with us. However, we know not every Vermeer dealer is prepared to take on this level of commitment.” For that reason, Michaels also is recruiting other dealers who are familiar with the product line to sell McCormick.

The Vermeer operation in Pella, IA, will handle parts support and whole-goods logistics for McCormick. McCormick will run marketing, sales and customer service.

How unique? The big question from growers is how the McCormick lines differ from Case tractors. McCormick states that although the lines parallel current Case tractors, there are differences. For example, the 6-cyl. McCormick tractor features a Perkins engine, not a Cummins. And the 118- to 176-hp MTX tractors include a full Speed Sequencer transmission. The company promises the tractors will be unique to the McCormick line within a year.

The first four lines of McCormick tractors are the CX, C, MC and MTX series. In the spring, the company will introduce another line featuring 40 to 50 hp tractors. And next year, McCormick plans to round out its tractor selection on the high end with a series topping at 250 hp.

CX series. The smallest of the three McCormick lines, the CX series is designed for hay, row crops and front-end loader operations. Featuring a high-torque, 4-cyl., diesel Perkins engine, the tractors are available in 73, 84, 90 and 102 hp. Synchromesh shuttle transmissions along with powershift speed and creep speed control systems make the tractors productive and easy to control. A 4-wd front axle gives good ground clearance and high load capacity. A 2-wd option is available on most models. Suggested retail price range: $32,600 to $48,900

C-series. This line is similar to the CX series, but pared down. Two models, a 70- and 100-hp, are included in this line. Prices range from $24,200 to $37,6700.

MC series. Calling it a compact workhorse, McCormick states the MC series is built for power, speed, rugged reliability and tight turns. The 4-wd tractors provide just 14.3- to 14.7-ft. turning radiuses without brakes, depending on the model. Turbocharged, 4-cyl., diesel Perkins engines power the tractors that come in 90, 102 and 115 hp. The MC series tractors come with a spacious cab, four-speed power shift and power shuttle. Retail price range: $54,400 to $66,000.

MTX series. Offering more power, the MTX series provides top operator ease and comfort, a smooth transmission, responsive hydraulics and top power, according to McCormick. Five 6-cyl. models, with 118, 132, 147, 163 and 176 hp, make up the MTX line. The 4-wd models are standard-equipped with turbocharged Perkins engines. Retail price range: $69,700 to $98,400.

No clutch, on-the-go shifting occurs with a four-range, four-speed powershift transmission. Growers may add a creep speed transmission as an option. Also available is the Speed Sequencer that allows operators to change speeds and ranges with the flick of a switch. A large cab with wide front window and wraparound side windows provides good visibility. An independent, front-axle suspension creates a smooth ride.

For more information, contact McCormick, Dept. FIN, Box 81, Pella, IA 50219, 866/327-6733, www.mccormickusa.com.

HEMBREE BRANDON: What happened to Senate votes?

“I think this is going to be one of the most important years I’ve seen in agricultural politics,” he says. “We need to take a very close look at the people who represent us in Congress and insist that they do the job we elect them to do, rather than just play partisan politics.”

Addressing the opening session of the Beltwide Cotton Conferences in Atlanta, Irvin didn’t mince words about the performance of some of those congressmen last year.

“I’d like to know – we all need to know – just why there weren’t enough votes to get a farm bill passed. Some of these people didn’t stand up and be counted when we needed them. If we’re going to keep this nation’s agriculture strong, we’re going to need the support of our elected officials.”

In an increasingly urban Congress, agriculture doesn’t have the representation or the clout that it did during the decades when more people were dependent on the land for a livelihood. An urban populace, which has little idea of how its food is produced or how it gets to the supermarket shelves, is bombarded by media stories that blast “subsidies to rich farmers,” lament the corporatization of agriculture, lecture about the environmental problems of farming, and play up the scare tactics of activist groups opposed to biotechnology and almost everything remotely related to progress.

“When I was a boy, my mama and I could pick a bale of cotton in two days,” Irvin recalls. And although cotton has made a significant resurgence in Georgia and the Southeast in recent years, he says, “Where I grew up, cotton has been gone for so long the people who live there now have no idea it was ever grown there.”

This naivete of the public regarding agriculture and its importance to the country’s security and economy makes it even more vital that those who represent the sector in Congress be held accountable for their actions (or inaction), he says.

Also gone from Georgia and many other southern states are hundreds of textile mills and apparel manufacturing plants that for decades were contributors to rural economies Û driven out of business or moved offshore due to competition from cheap imports and cheap overseas labor.

Texas Tech Economist Don Ethridge says losses in this sector constitute “the worst crisis since the late 1970s, when these industries modernized and went high tech in order to remain competitive.” But now, he says, “They’re all high tech and the business is moving where production’s the cheapest.

“My concern is that a lot of cotton production will follow textile industries offshore because transportation and other costs will make it cheaper for those plants to use foreign cotton.”

In the same week as the Beltwide conferences, the USDA released estimates that U.S. farm income will drop 20 percent this year without a new farm program or more aid from the government.

That’s why it’s important that agriculture know who its supporters are on Capitol Hill.

e--mail: hbrandon@primediabusiness.com

BELTWIDE: Skip-row cotton producing benefits

“We are searching for any way we can to reduce the cost of production without reducing our gross income, “ said Robert McLendon, a Leary, Ga. cotton producer. “There is interest in skip-row because most of the cost of production we have now is on a row basis with the use of Bollgard and Roundup Ready technology.”

Growers can reduce down-the-row inputs in skip-row because they plant fewer feet of row per acre with the practice. And hopefully, cotton plants next to the skip will compensate by growing larger and producing more fruit.

The panel discussed the pros and cons of the practice during the 2002 Beltwide Cotton Conference in Atlanta.

When Clarkedale, Ark., cotton producer Allen Helms Jr., went to skip-row cotton in 2001, he went all the way converting 7,500 acres. He had no cotton in conventional row spacing this year.

“We felt like we could make more money on the skip in cotton than we could if we had more acres in grain,” Helms said. “And we wouldn’t have to buy a lot of new equipment. On one operation, we converted four-row pickers to skip-row at a cost of about $10,000 each. We went from covering four rows with each pass to four rows and two-skips.”

Helms, who irrigates about 75 percent of his land, did reduce his down-the-row costs, “however I wasn’t able to band some insecticides that I thought I could. Another cost is the boll weevil eradication fee. That assessment is paid based on the land acres.”

Helms increased his seedling rate in skip-row cotton by 10-15 percent. “Looking back, that might have been too much. I was concerned that skippy, skip-row cotton might present a greater problem than skippy, solid cotton. I used hardly any Pix on the skip-row because I wanted to encourage the plants to grow into the skips.”

Jimmy Hargett, Bells, Tenn., noted, “If you’re on 30-inch rows and you go to skip-row, you’re going to save a third on a lot of the inputs.

“You can also plant faster, depending on what kind of rig you have. We have a 12-row planter and we’re getting over 45 feet per pass,” Hargett said.

Hargett figures he’s getting a 5-10 percent more yield per acre with a skip-row configuration. “But I’d have been tickled to get the same. I think it’s a way we can raise cheaper cotton.”

Jerry Hoelscher, Midland, Texas, has put his 40-inch, 2-1 skip-row cotton under drip irrigation. The area typically receives less than 3-inches of rain during the growing season.

Hoelscher’s yields are 850 to 1,100 pounds with the system. “I’m also able to mine 33 percent more nutrients from skip row.”

In the fall, Hoelscher runs a stalk chopper through the field. In the spring, he’ll plant with a John Deere MaxEmerge planter with trash wheels. He also has a cultivator with a guidance system, a spray bar and a front-wheel assist tractor. “That’s not a lot of investment and we don’t make a lot of trips across the field.”

Larry McClendon, Marianna, Ark., planted about 1,000 acres of skip-row in 2001. “Our motivation was simply to cut costs. All of my highly productive, dryland acres are in solid cotton. We’re putting the skip-row cotton on areas where we had never had strong production.

“We haven’t had a lot of problems,” McClendon said of skip-row. “I farm with 12-row equipment, so changing over was real simple. We didn’t buy any special equipment or make any special changes.”

McClendon no-tilled his skip-row cotton, however, “I did cultivate one field that followed soybeans because I ended up with some Roundup Ready soybeans in the field, which was Roundup Ready cotton.”

McClendon noted that his skip-row configuration did not yield as well as his solid cotton, “but again it is on lesser soils in a little different environment. The positive side is that it did yield better than those farms did in years past. We did have a reduction in down-the-row inputs to the tune of $40 to $50 per acre. We’re going to try it one more year.”

“On the very best of soils, you may take an 8-percent yield reduction in skip-row versus solid cotton,” said David Parvin, a Mississippi State University economist. “But your cost savings are going to more than offset that. On some of our mixed ground, you may actually have a yield increase with skip-row. When you get into the heavy soils, where we shouldn’t be planting cotton, but where we do sometimes, then there’s no advantage at all.”

However, “It worked better for us where soils were extremely heavy with a high pH,” said Helms. “I wouldn’t have expected that. But weather could have been a factor. I’m not real sure.”

Don Shurley, a University of Georgia economist, conducted six replicated skip-row tests at five locations and at press time had completed economic analyses on four of them.

“Based on one year of study, we found out that the savings are potentially more than just down-the-row costs. Anything you can put down the row, you can save costs on — inputs like seed, tech fees, starter fertilizer.”

In addition, “When you widen the planter out, every time you go through the field, you’re covering more ground with your trip up and down. So a lot depends on how you work your machinery to handle that skip pattern.”

Shurley’s research indicated that with 38-inch, 4X1 skip-row, with a 50-inch skip, “we had savings of 7 percent. If it’s a 2X1 full skip, we save a third. On a 2X1 with a 50-inch skip, we saved roughly 14 percent. On a 4X1, full-skip, we saved 20 percent.”

Shurley pointed out that the most consistent pattern was a 2X1, 50-inch skip-row pattern. “That gave us comparable or better yields and comparable or better net returns of the tests that we looked at.”

“We learned that we have a lot to learn,” said Robert McLendon. “One unknown is how much Pix to put out. We’re going to have to put some Pix on skip-row cotton, in irrigated cotton in south Georgia. But skip-row did save me 10 to 11 percent in costs, and I made about the same amount of cotton.”

e-mail: erobinson@primediabusiness.com

Corn+Soybean Digest

Producers Win First National Ag Conservation Systems Award

The Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) announces three winners for the first offering of the Core 4 Conservation Awards. These awards recognize producers who implement a system of conservation practices that not only protects or improves natural resources, but also enhances farm profitability. Winners will receive the awards Feb. 5 at the National Association of Conservation Districts Annual Meeting in Sparks, NV.

Core 4 Conservation is a national agricultural conservation awareness campaign that promotes using a "systems approach" to addressing economic and environmental concerns in agriculture. This innovative approach to ag management results in better soil, cleaner water, greater profits and brighter future. CTIC coordinates the national campaign to increase adoption of Core 4 Conservation systems.

Ken Remington, dryland, no-till farmer of Central Washington County, CO, won first place. Remington has developed a comprehensive system of conservation practices for his 1,000 acres. He uses a three-crop/four-year rotation of wheat-corn-millet-fallow. Rotating crops, using no-till, and applying appropriate herbicides allow Remington to control weeds effectively.

The second place award is shared by two operations. Brothers Curt, Greg and Dan Swartzmiller are recognized for their Diamond S Farms in Attica, OH. The Swartzmillers know that 20 years of no-till has helped increase water infiltration and reduce runoff on their family farm. Cover crops and crop rotation, which have increased organic matter by 3%, along with nutrient and pest management, also are part of their winning system.

Mike and Richard Long of Berlin, ND, also win second place. The Long brothers integrate a small grain and row crop farm with pasture, hayland and a beef feedlot with a containment system. The Longs produce all the feed needed to produce and market their beef cattle, which graze on 230 acres of pasture converted from cropland.

The Core 4 Conservation Awards are sponsored by Syngenta, Capital Agricultural Property Services, Inc. (CAPS), IMC Global, CTIC and the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD).

For more information about the Core 4 Conservation Awards, contact CTIC, a nonprofit public-private partnership working to promote soil and water quality and equip agriculture with affordable, integrated management solutions. Call 765-494-9555 or go to www.ctic.purdue.edu.

Corn+Soybean Digest

Bt Corn Resistance Management Requirements For 2002

This year's resistance management regulations regarding Bt corn will not result in many changes for Nebraska producers who grow the crop, a University of Nebraska (NU) entomologist says.

"In practical terms, things will remain the same for 2002, although resistance management compliance requirements have been strengthened," says Tom Hunt, an entomologist at NU's Haskell Agricultural Lab near Concord, NE.

The resistance management requirements for Bt corn as stated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for 2002 are:

  • Growers must plant a refuge of at least 20% non-Bt corn that may be treated with insecticides as needed to control caterpillars, such as European corn borers, and other pests.
  • Refuge planting options include separate fields, blocks within fields and strips across fields.
  • External refuges must be planted within one-half mile of the Bt field; one-quarter mile or closer is preferred.
  • When planting the refuge in strips across the field, strips should be at least four and preferably six rows wide.
  • Insecticide treatments to control European corn borer, corn earworm, southwestern corn borer, fall armyworm and black cutworm in refuges are allowed only if an infestation reaches economic thresholds for these pests. Economic thresholds are determined using methods recommended by local or regional professionals. Microbial Bt insecticides must not be applied to non-Bt corn refuges.

"The EPA has clarified the language with respect to placement non-Bt refuges and relaxed a bit on row-width requirements for refuges planted as strips through a field," Hunt says.

Companies marketing Bt corn must monitor for the potential development of insect resistance, provide annual reports on the efficacy of resistance management plans and implement remedial action plans in the event insect resistance is detected.

"Many companies that market Bt corn have been performing these compliance activities for the last few years," the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources specialist says. "For Nebraska farmers, all this really means is that they may see some new language regarding resistance management in their contracts."

These changes follow a two-year-long EPA review. The EPA determined that Bt corn is safe and will be registered for another seven years.

"The EPA has done an extensive scientific evaluation and review of reports on Bt corn for controlling European corn borer and other related insects," Hunt says. "Some studies considered during the review addressed potential risks to Monarch butterflies, effects on birds and human allergies to Bt. They determined that Bt corn poses no significant risk to environmental or human health."

Corn+Soybean Digest

Brock Online Notes

China Said To Set Zero GMO Tolerance

China is expected to define genetically modified (GM) crops and products on a zero-tolerance basis, a move that some say is negative for Brazil soybeans, OsterDowJones News reported from Beijing Friday.

There are ideas that the zero-tolerance policy "could effectively shut out Brazilian soybeans." Until now it has been thought China would turn to Brazil for non-GMO beans.

The problem is that Brazilian farmers are using increasing amounts of black-market GM soybean seed and the Brazilian government doesn't even recognize GM soybeans. That would make it impossible for Brazilian exporters to get needed safety certificates from their government.

Actually, though, a zero-tolerance policy on GMO's looks rather bearish for all soybean imports into China, including U.S. soybeans. It seems more like simply a way to cut down on imports.

Editors note: Richard Brock, Soybean Digest's Marketing Editor, is president of Brock Associates, a farm market advisory firm, and publisher of The Brock Report.

To see more market perspectives, visit Brock's Web site at www.brockreport.com.

Corn+Soybean Digest

Peak Performers At TEPAP

This past week I was at the Super Bowl of Agricultural Business Management, the TEPAP School, the executive program for agricultural producers, directed by Danny Klinefelter at Texas A&M University.

The school is in the eleventh year with approximately 115 in attendance, representing a half billion dollars of revenue annually.

Participants indicate the benefit of the school is networking with other peak performer producers to charge the batteries of the mind, and interact with some of the top industry speakers. This year about 20% of the group was female, which has increased every year.

Each year I survey participants concerning various financial and business management measures and perspectives. The following are some of the results.

  • 97 utilize the Internet

  • 11.5 hours of average use per week

  • Nearly one half use the Internet over 20 hours/week

  • Top four sites used:

    Weather/E-mail

    Prices/making investments

    Agribusiness sites

    Bank, Farm Credit, USDA websites

  • 30% have ROA (return on assets) above 15%

  • 63% have ROA between 5% and 15%

  • Note they used cost basis balance sheets to measure returns

More on the results next week.

NFL Playoffs

  • I sure like Donovan McNabb. Here is a person who graduated, played four years of college football at Syracuse, and is a national leader.

  • Great to see the game played in the snow in New England. Reminds me of the old NFL Games. I dislike indoor stadiums.

  • What about Bobby Knight at Texas Tech?

  • Duke and University of Connecticut look strong in men’s and ladies’ B-Ball.

Travel Tip

Don’t be first or second in line to board the plane – you will be randomly checked!

My e-mail address is:sullylab@vt.edu

Editors' note: Dave Kohl, Soybean Digest Trends Editor, is an ag economist at Virginia Tech. He recently completed a sabbatical working with the Royal Bank of Canada. He is now back at Virginia Tech with his academic appointment, which is teaching, extension, and applied research.

To see Dave Kohl's previous road warrior adventures type Dave Kohl in the Search blank at the top of the page.

This online exclusive is brought to you by Soybean Digest

Corn+Soybean Digest

Conservation Tillage And Technology Conference

Farmers looking to cut production costs while improving their environmental impact may find such opportunities through research information, management practices and technology updates being highlighted at the annual Conservation Tillage and Technology Conference, Feb. 25-26 at Ohio Northern University in Ada, OH.

The conference will cover a wide range of topics including agriculture-related panel discussions, stri- till research, weed and pest management, soil fertility, GMO crops, value-added farming, crop consulting, soil and water quality issues, precision agriculture and producer programs.

The event is being sponsored by Ohio State University Extension, Northwest Ohio Soil and Water Conservation Districts, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, USDA Farm Service Agency and the Ohio No-Till Council.

Over 50 speakers from land-grant universities, the farming sector and agricultural industries and organizations will be speaking at the two-day conference. Highlights include a discussion of the 2002 Farm Bill, the latest in GMO crops from Monsanto and a presentation by Ohio State geologist Lonnie Thompson on the effect glaciers have on the land.

Early registration is $20/day or $30 to attend both days. Registration after Feb. 11 is $30 a day or $40 for both days.

For a copy of the agenda, registration information, or directions to Ohio Northern University, contact the Hancock County Ohio State Extension office at 419-422-3851 or the Allen County Soil and Water Conservation District at 419-223-0040.