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FAO Criticizes Livestock's Impact on the Environment

The global livestock sector is a major generator of greenhouse gas emissions, the Food and Agriculture Organization said in a report it released Wednesday.

According to the report, titled "Livestock's Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options," the livestock sector accounts for more than 9% of carbon dioxide derived from human-related activities, 65% of human-related nitrous oxide, 37% of human-related methane and 64% of ammonia.

"Livestock are one of the most significant contributors to today's most serious environmental problems. Urgent action is required to remedy the situation," says Henning Steinfeld, dhief of FAO's Livestock Information & Policy branch and senior author of the report.

The agriculture sector is growing faster than any other section of agriculture, contributing about 40% of global ag output, FAO says.

Illinois Corn Growers Seek Market-Oriented Farm Bill

The Illinois Corn Growers Association (ICGA) has announced formal support for a revenue-based safety net in the 2007 Farm Bill. The delegates also voted against extending the current farm bill.

"ICGA has done extensive surveying of its membership, conducted a series of statewide Farm Bill Listening Sessions, and our delegates recently debated farm bill options at our annual policy session. This extensive corn grower input allows us to move forward with confidence that we are pursuing a needed change in farm policy," said Steve Ruh, ICGA president of Sugar Grove.

Participants in the survey and listening sessions felt farm payments should be made when income is low rather than when yields are low. More than 60% said the current farm bill should not be extended.

"Many Illinois producers were hurt by unfavorable weather in 2005 and due to low yields did not benefit from significant loan deficiency payments. Growers told us current disaster aid proposals do not do enough to help producers in times of poor crops. There is good consensus that a revenue-based approach is viable and sustainable," Ruh said

The Iowa Corn Growers Association also supports the revenue-based concept. Earlier this year delegates at the National Corn Growers Association's (NCGA) meeting in Washington, DC overwhelmingly voted to study a revenue-based proposal for consideration at NCGA's Corn Congress in March.

"Some Congressional leaders, including incoming House Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson of Minnesota, want a permanent disaster aid program. A revenue-based approach would meet this objective and does so in a way that is positive for the industry and more cost effective for taxpayers. Current farm policy is also making it very difficult to negotiate international trade agreements, and this will address that concern too," Ruh said.

Trade is key

It is important that farm bill legislation be international trade compliant, according to 72% of ICGA members. A staggering 88% said trade will continue to be a major issue affecting their profitability in the next five years, with 46% of that group saying it would become an "increasingly important factor."

"Growers feel the market is becoming more supply driven with growing demand for corn resulting from ethanol expansion, and as this happens the probability of LDP's and counter-cyclical payments lessens. It appears this is an opportune time to re-tool our farm policy," Ruh said.

Large navel orange sizes necessary for survival

Certainty is never part of a farmer’s life. For California citrus growers there is more uncertainty than for most California commodities.

Starting with this season, Joel Nelsen, president of California Citrus Mutual, the only certainty is it will be the smallest crop in decades.

The official government estimate says the navel orange crop will be 27 percent smaller than the largest California navel crop ever last season.

Nelsen reported to the 25th annual Agribusiness Management Conference in Fresno, Calif., recently that a small crop does not necessarily mean better citrus grower returns.

It’s a question of fruit size; not crop size.

A stifling July heat wave retarded growth, and the industry is nervous that fruit size will not satisfy consumers, noted Nelsen.

“Last year we learned first hand that consumers do not want small oranges,” he said. There is time for fruit size to catch up, but the uncertainty is if the fruit will size.

Fortunately, exterior and interior quality should be good.

“For oranges, cautious optimism is the best catch phrase,” Nelsen said.

The biggest news in the California citrus industry is the development of a mandarin variety industry.

“Call them tangerines, Satsuma’s, Clemetine’s, murcotts, etcetera, but the bearing acreage is now at 12,000 acres and will soon double,” Nelsen said.

Tonnage will obviously increase significantly over the decade. The question is will it cannibalize orange sales or increase consumption of all citrus.

There are now 140,043 acres of navels in the ground; 12,000 nonbearing.

The record 91-million carton 2005-06 navel season “should not be taken as an unusual event, but rather a preview of seasons to come.”

Mandarins will become more competitive with navels, especially smaller sizes (113 and under).

“Consumers wanting a smaller piece of fruit will more likely buy a mandarin and those wanting an orange want a big orange.”

Production of navels will certainly increase. However, total sales are not. From 57 to 63 million cartons of fresh navels are being sold every year, regardless of how many are produced.

“Unless the industry can affect an increase in orange consumption, utilization is going to go down,” he said.

Ninety million carton crops will become common.

“If the state is producing 90 million and selling 60 million, then 30 million or 30 percent is not going to be packed.”

Therefore, in the future producing a high percentage of good quality large fruit will be required for producers to be economically successful.

“Producers need to understand that without expanded markets, 60 percent to 70 percent utilization will be the norm. Most of the elimination will be orange sizes 113 and smaller.

“Profitable percentages will only be derived from selling a higher percentage of 72s and larger with 88s becoming the breakeven size. Growers with groves producing small fruit year after year will continue to lose money,” he concluded.

e-mail: hcline@farmpress.com

Industry poised to market 1.5 billion-pound crop

A 45 percent increase in the supply of a commodity from the largest crop ever recorded over a short, four-year time span would be cause for concern for most California commodities.

However, almonds are not like any other California commodity. California almond growers have gathered record and near-record crops the past five years coupled with receiving record and near-record prices.

With 100,000 acres of non-bearing orchards to add to the current inventory of 580,000 acres that basically produced the five-year of records, the industry is expected to reach 1.5 billon pounds of production in just four years.

However, according to a report from the USDA NASS California field office given at the recent 25th annual Agribusiness Management Conference in Fresno there is a “wide array of positive and democratic indicators” that provide assurance that California growers will profitably market the 1.5 billion crop with relative ease.

Prices may not maintain their stratospheric levels of the past 5 years--$2 per pound or more, but according to the NASS there seems to be little cause to predict the sky will fall when the crop reaches 1.5 million. This is no more likely to happen than it did when the crop reached 1 billion pounds for the first time in 2002. Many predicted a market collapse then. Prices went up instead.

Positive factors supporting continued financial success for almond growers include:

--Rising prosperity in emerging markets like China and India.

--Increasing health consciousness among today’s global consumers. --The ever-growing body of published scientific research on almond health and nutritional benefits will continue to provide an “especially powerful incentive” for consumers to regularly incorporate almonds into their daily diet.

--Domestic average U.S. consumption is skyrocketing. It has gone from 0.77 pounds in 2000 to 1.02 pounds in 2005, a period of record high prices for almonds. This is not expected to reverse itself.

Almond Board of California consumer research found “strong upward movement for almonds in almost every measure of awareness, attitudes, and usage.”

This reflects the success of the industry-funded generic public relations and advertising programs in improving perceptions and increasing reported purchases of almonds in the U.S.

California produces 100 percent of the U.S. crop of almonds and 80 percent of the world supply. The crop represents a value of about $2.5 billion annually.

One-third of the California crop is sold domestically. The other two-thirds is sold to 90 markets worldwide. In the past five years, almond exports have increased 11 percent. Almonds are the largest specialty crop export in the U.S. Almonds are the largest agricultural export from California with a value of $1.6 billion, more than the combined value of wine, table grapes, raisins and grape juice.

The top five export markets are Spain, Germany, Japan, Italy and France, which combined accounted for 50 percent of total export shipments.

According to USDA, signs are favorable for expanded almond consumption in Indian, China, Mexico and Russia, all emerging new markets for California almonds

However, similar opportunities for growth are evident in established almond markets like Canada, Western Europe and Japan.

The California almond industry is on track to achieve the title “healthiest specialty crop in the world” and that bodes well for the 1.5 million pound harvest expected in 2010.

e-mail: hcline@farmpress.com

USA Rice’s plan: Eliminate genetically engineered traits

The USA Rice Federation has released a recommended plan of action to remove genetically engineered rice from the U.S. supply to re-establish a marketable supply of U.S. rice.

Following USDA secretary Mike Johanns’ Aug. 18 announcement of the trace presence of genetically engineered (GE) rice in the commercial supply, the federation has worked with industry and government officials to identify the Bayer CropScience LibertyLink traits and mitigate their market effects.

“The action plan released today proposes urgent, concrete steps to be taken to restore market confidence,” said Al Montna, a California rice producer and federation chairman. “We are requesting that state authorities take specific actions to ensure that commercial seed supplies for the 2007 crop have tested negative for the presence of LibertyLink genetically engineered traits. The plan also makes recommendations to all segments of the rice industry to further ensure that LibertyLink traits do not appear in the rice supply from 2007 forward.

“A specially appointed USA Rice Federation committee headed by Brian King, chairman of the USA Rice Merchants Association developed the plan. The committee included individuals from all segments of the rice industry over the last month, and we encourage in the strongest terms that the industry — and appropriate state authorities — take action so we may achieve the goal of removing all genetically engineered traits from the 2007 crop.”

These actions are recommended despite statements by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the food safety organizations in foreign markets that the GE rice at issue is safe for human consumption.

The Task Group recommendations call for:

· A standard seed-testing protocol for the detection of the presence of LibertyLink traits for all head row/breeder and foundation seed with test samples pulled by state certifying agencies using state-approved methods.

· Each seed processor to agree to submit samples with a state seed-certifying agency number to one of the Bayer-approved and USDA Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyard Administration (GIPSA) proficiency-tested labs.

· No Cheniere rice seed to be sold for rice production in 2007 and no 2007 crop-year Cheniere to be accepted at the first point of delivery; the allowance that buyers may accept 2006 crop-year Cheniere until July 31, 2007.

· An allowance for an increase of Cheniere rice seed production in 2007 for 2008 and 2009 seed stocks provided that all such seed stocks are certified negative for LibertyLink traits.

· State agencies to notify all seed processors, growers and dealers of these requirements and the need for certification. · Growers to provide, and first points of delivery to receive, documentation certifying GMO-negative results, with the Association of Official Seed Certification Agents to provide all LibertyLink-negative certification for commercial seed and USDA-GIPSA to certify that the process was completed under accepted protocols.

“The action plan we are proposing here is a living document,” said Montna. “As the industry learns more from the USDA investigation, scientists, customers and other industry experts, we will amend the recommendations as necessary and communicate those adjustments to the industry.”

To read the document detailing the recommendations summarized above, see: http://www.usarice.com/industry/communication/SeedRecs.pdf.

Just enough moisture to keep wheat alive

The drought appears to be slowly declining in the hard red winter wheat (HRW) area. Just when you think that the wheat is going to keel over and die, it rains enough to keep most of it alive.

Reports indicate that the parts of the Texas Panhandle, Oklahoma Panhandle and western Kansas have the best potential wheat crop in years. But along parts of the Kansas/Oklahoma border, severe drought persists.

USDA’s Nov. 13 Crop Condition Reports indicated that Texas winter wheat was 92 percent planted and 89 percent emerged compared to 89 percent planted and 70 percent emerged in 2005. The Texas crop condition index is estimated to be 77 this year versus 56 last year.

Oklahoma’s winter wheat percent planted was 98 percent with 85 percent emerged compared to 95 percent planted and 80 percent emerged last year. Twenty-nine percent of Oklahoma’s wheat crop is classified poor to very poor compared to 12 percent last year.

The Kansas report did not include a percent planted estimate but estimated that 94 percent of the wheat was emerged. Only five percent of the wheat was classified as in poor to very poor condition.

The reports indicate that both the Texas and Kansas crops are in better condition than last year’s crops. Some analysts report that planted acres are expected to be about 10 percent higher in both states.

The 90-day forecast for most of the HRW Wheat Belt is for normal precipitation, which may be sufficient to maintain the Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas wheat crops. Overall, the 2007 U.S. winter wheat crop has the potential to be above average.

Since Sept. 28, the KCBT July ’07 wheat contract price has been trading between $4.70 and $5 and most of the time between $4.70 and $4.90. Most elevators are offering between a minus 35 cents and minus 45 cents basis the July contract price for June ’07 delivered wheat.

At this writing, the July ’07 wheat contract price is about $4.90. Using a minus 40 cent basis produces a June 2007 price of $4.50. Elevator managers report that they have written more forward contracts than in past years.

Since Oct. 4, the KCBT December wheat contract price has been between $5 and $5.50. During this same time period, the basis has remained constant at about a minus 28 cents. At this writing, the December contract price is $5.22. It will take two consecutive KCBT December contract price closes below $5 for prices to establish a downtrend and two consecutive closes above $5.50 to establish an uptrend.

Besides the condition of the 2007 winter wheat crop, the market is watching U.S. wheat exports. For the 2006/07 wheat marketing year (June 1 through May 31) the USDA projects that all wheat exports will be 925 million bushels. As of Nov. 9, 513 million bushels of wheat had been sold for export and 354million bushels had been shipped. For the first 23 weeks of the marketing year, weekly shipments averaged 15.4 million bushels. To meet USDA’s estimate, weekly shipments must average 19.7 million bushels.

As of Nov. 9, 149 million bushels of HRW wheat had been sold for export and 91 million bushels had been shipped. This is an average weekly shipment of 4 million bushels. Between now and May 31, weekly HRW wheat export shipments must average 7.2 million bushels.

Wheat prices have stabilized in about a 40-cent price range. Barring weather surprises with the U.S. winter wheat crop or production surprises with Argentina or Australia’s wheat production, prices should remain relatively stable. Between now and late winter, the odds of the KCBT March contract price ($5.31 at this writing) going above $5.60 or below $5 are relatively small.

Forage breeding program could have impact

The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation recently teamed with Forage Genetics International in a joint plant breeding program that has the potential to impact agricultural producers in more than one-third of the continental United States.

“This joint effort will advance the breeding programs of each institution, as well as create new research opportunities for both organizations,” said Mark McCaslin, President of Forage Genetics, which is a subsidiary of the Minnesota-based Land O’Lakes, Inc. “The relationship also models how non-profit and for-profit entities can work hand-in-hand to benefit agricultural producers and agriculture production in our country.”

The new plant breeding program will focus on the development of new cultivated varieties of alfalfa suitable for use in forage and livestock systems in the southeastern portion of the United States from the east coast to Oklahoma and Texas. The improved alfalfa cultivars will have intended uses in both beef production and dairy operations.

As part of the agreement, the Noble Foundation and Forage Genetics will share information from their current alfalfa breeding programs and their respective libraries of elite alfalfa germplasm.

Additionally, the Noble Foundation will evaluate new alfalfa cultivars produced through this program to identify varieties that are well-adapted for the Oklahoma and north Texas region. The Noble Foundation has more than 60 years of experience improving forages, performing plant science and developing advanced production techniques and methodologies for the southern Great Plains.

“This is an exciting partnership that holds a wealth of potential,” said Joe Bouton, Director of the Noble Foundation’s Forage Improvement Division. “An advanced alfalfa breeding program is designed to produce stronger varieties of alfalfa with value-added traits, all of which would greatly benefit agriculture producers.

USA Rice Issues Action Plan to Eliminate Genetically Engineered Traits from Rice Supply

The USA Rice Federation has released a recommended plan of action to remove genetically engineered rice from the U.S. supply to re-establish a marketable supply of U.S. rice.

Following USDA secretary Mike Johanns’ Aug. 18 announcement of the trace presence of genetically engineered (GE) rice in the commercial supply, the federation has worked with industry and government officials to identify the Bayer CropScience LibertyLink traits and mitigate their market effects.

“The action plan released today proposes urgent, concrete steps to be taken to restore market confidence,” said Al Montna, a California rice producer and federation chairman. “We are requesting that state authorities take specific actions to ensure that commercial seed supplies for the 2007 crop have tested negative for the presence of LibertyLink genetically engineered traits. The plan also makes recommendations to all segments of the rice industry to further ensure that LibertyLink traits do not appear in the rice supply from 2007 forward.

“A specially appointed USA Rice Federation committee headed by Brian King, chairman of the USA Rice Merchants Association developed the plan. The committee included individuals from all segments of the rice industry over the last month, and we encourage in the strongest terms that the industry — and appropriate state authorities — take action so we may achieve the goal of removing all genetically engineered traits from the 2007 crop.”

These actions are recommended despite statements by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the food safety organizations in foreign markets that the GE rice at issue is safe for human consumption.

The Task Group recommendations call for:

· A standard seed-testing protocol for the detection of the presence of LibertyLink traits for all head row/breeder and foundation seed with test samples pulled by state certifying agencies using state-approved methods.

· Each seed processor to agree to submit samples with a state seed-certifying agency number to one of the Bayer-approved and USDA Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyard Administration (GIPSA) proficiency-tested labs.

· No Cheniere rice seed to be sold for rice production in 2007 and no 2007 crop-year Cheniere to be accepted at the first point of delivery; the allowance that buyers may accept 2006 crop-year Cheniere until July 31, 2007.

· An allowance for an increase of Cheniere rice seed production in 2007 for 2008 and 2009 seed stocks provided that all such seed stocks are certified negative for LibertyLink traits.

· State agencies to notify all seed processors, growers and dealers of these requirements and the need for certification.

· Growers to provide, and first points of delivery to receive, documentation certifying GMO-negative results, with the Association of Official Seed Certification Agents to provide all LibertyLink-negative certification for commercial seed and USDA-GIPSA to certify that the process was completed under accepted protocols.

“The action plan we are proposing here is a living document,” said Montna. “As the industry learns more from the USDA investigation, scientists, customers and other industry experts, we will amend the recommendations as necessary and communicate those adjustments to the industry.”

To read the document detailing the recommendations summarized above, see: http://www.usarice.com/industry/communication/SeedRecs.pdf.

Conrad slowdown forces disaster assistance promise

If anyone had any doubts about how serious Sen. Kent Conrad considers disaster assistance legislation, those doubts were dispelled when the North Dakota Democrat practically shut down the Senate for three days.

The slowdown forced Senate leaders to agree to bring up the FY2007 agricultural appropriations bill for debate and to promise Conrad his disaster assistance amendment will get a vote when the Senate returns from Thanksgiving recess on Dec. 4.

“I have spent the last three days on the Senate floor insisting on an opportunity to offer my agriculture disaster bill,” Conrad said before the recess. “The outgoing Republican majority in Congress must not be allowed to turn away from farmers and ranchers who are suffering through the third-worst drought in our nation’s history.”

Conrad and fellow North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan initiated the slowdown after Senate leaders failed to honor a commitment to bring up the FY 2007 agricultural appropriations bill so that Conrad could introduce his disaster assistance legislation on Nov. 15.

Senate leaders had planned to and did pass a continuing resolution to keep the government operating through Dec. 8 without addressing individual appropriations bill. But Conrad forced them to also begin debate on the agricultural appropriations legislation.

“Two days ago I went to the floor to offer disaster assistance, and we were denied an opportunity to vote,” Conrad told reporters. “I then entered into a slowdown of Senate business to make the point that we were not going to accept being denied a vote.

“I was promised the agricultural appropriations bill would be brought up yesterday, and I could offer an amendment at that time. Unfortunately, that did not happen. But this morning, I was promised we would turn to the agricultural appropriations bill and that I would be able to offer the first amendment.”

Speaking on the day the Senate began its recess, Nov. 16, Conrad said the Senate would not have time to debate and vote on the agricultural appropriations bill and his amendment that day.

“I anticipate that we will finish the debate and have a vote when we return in early December,” he said.

Conrad said he reduced the funding in his amendment from $4.9 billion to $4.5 billion due to White House opposition. The reduction means farmers who do not have federal crop insurance coverage will receive a smaller payment percentage than those who do.

“This wasn’t what I preferred, but it may help get the amendment passed,” he said. “Farmers who have crop insurance will receive a payment of 50 percent of the established price on losses in 2005 or 2006 exceeding 35 percent. Those who do not will receive a payment of less than 50 percent.”

Even if Conrad is successful in his quest for a vote, the disaster assistance amendment faces an uphill struggle in the lame duck session. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has said he will offer an amendment to delete all disaster assistance funding from the ag appropriations bill.

Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns has also insisted that Congress should offset funding earmarked for disaster assistance with spending cuts in other agricultural programs.

If the amendment is defeated when Congress returns from recess, Conrad vowed to keep on fighting for the legislation. “The sooner we can pass the bill and send it to the president the better,” he noted. “But if it gets held over until January, we will continue the fight until we get it passed.”

e-mail: flaws@farmpress.com

Congressional turnover may have broad impact on 2007 farm bill

The “tidal wave” of voter sentiment that swept away Republican control of Congress could “turn negotiations on their head” in developing a new farm bill next year, says Jay Vroom.

“This administration, and all of us who have issues on Capitol Hill, will be faced with a new set of leaders — Harry Reid, Barbara Boxer, Ted Kennedy, and Tom Harkin,” the president of CropLife America said at the annual meeting of the Southern Crop Production Association.

“In the rankings for liberal Democrats, Tom Harkin, who will chair the Senate Agriculture Committee, is third only behind Boxer and Kennedy, which gives you an idea of the potential impact on policy that we face.

Harkin, from Iowa, has been in Congress since 1974 and currently serves as ranking Democrat on the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee.

“There are a lot of big smiles on the faces of those who represent Midwest agriculture and grain farmers.”

Vroom, whose organization represents agricultural chemical manufacturers, formulators, distributors, and associate members, says changes in key congressional posts will have an impact on the industry and agriculture.

“Unfortunately for us, (Democrats) were big winners in California; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Henry Waxman are both very liberal.

“Michigan was also a big winner. John Dingell will head the Energy and Commerce Committee. Rep. John Conyers Jr. will also be chairing a committee and Michigan’s senators will have increased seniority. A bright spot is Debbie Stabenow, who was re-elected to the Senate from Michigan and is a very good friend of agriculture.”

The loss of Rep. Tom Delay, R-Texas, earlier this year “was exacerbated” in the elections by the loss of several key congressional chairs from Texas, Vroom says, including Joe Barton, Energy and Commerce Committee.”

Ohio lost several key players, he says, and Louisiana had “a major loss” with Jim McCrery, who has played a key role in shaping tax policy and was poised to move forward on the Ways and Means Committee, but will now be ranking minority member.

The defeat of Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Calif., was “a major blow to our agenda,” Vroom says. “He, in many ways, steered final House action on the Endangered Species Act, and now the environmentalists are dancing on his political grave. They believe they now have the upper hand with all of production agriculture, and that’s really scary going into the 2007 farm bill debate.”

Also defeated was Sen. Conrad Burns of Montana, “a big blow, because he’s an old hand at standing up for what’s right with agriculture. He also chaired the appropriations subcommittee that funded the EPA each year, and was an important friend in that position, as was Rep. Charles Taylor of North Carolina, who chaired the House appropriations subcommittee that funded the EPA.”

A bright spot, Vroom says, is that the Blue Dog Democrats — a fiscally conservative group — “will end up stronger in the next Congress. Many of them are good friends of ours. The 44 of them will control 19 percent of the House Democratic Caucus. With the narrow margin that Speaker Nancy Pelosi has, she can’t afford to ignore them.”

e-mail: hbrandon@farmpress.com