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Equipment dealers hang “help wanted” signs nationwide

Agricultural, industrial and outdoor power equipment dealers throughout North America are now hiring, according to the North American Equipment Dealers Association.

A recent survey of dealers conducted by NAEDA and its affiliated associations indicates strong employee demand at dealerships in both the United States and Canada. More than 36 percent of dealers, with sales from $3 million and up, report they are looking to increase staff while less than 6 percent in those same categories reported the possibility of reducing staff.

“The 2006 Compensation and Benefits Survey confirms what we’ve been hearing all along from our dealers,” said Paul Kindinger, NAEDA president and CEO. “There is strong demand for employees in all job categories, and the demand is especially high for skilled technicians who can master the latest computer-based communications, diagnostic and GPS technologies.”

In addition to technicians, dealers have expressed a need for office workers, accounting personnel, department managers, salespersons and general management. The level of compensation, i.e., total cash, and benefits, such as health care and retirement plans, generally increases with a dealership’s sales volume.

“We encourage young people to visit local dealerships and learn about jobs available,” Kindinger said. “In many cases, dealerships offer part-time and intern employment opportunities, as well as post-secondary school scholarships to youths showing interest in the equipment industry.”

The Compensation and Benefits Survey is conducted every two years. NAEDA-affiliated dealers typically use the proprietary information to remain competitive with other dealerships in their regions.

The North American Equipment Dealers Association is based in Fenton, Mo. It provides educational, finance, manufacturer and government relations services, and legal assistance to approximately 5,000 retail agricultural, industrial and outdoor power equipment dealers in the United States and Canada.

Poor 2006 peanut crop cuts surplus amount in half

The surplus of U.S. peanuts could be cut almost in half this year, thanks to a combination of fewer planted acres and poor growing conditions in many areas of the Peanut Belt.

“Based on current production estimates, we’re looking at drawing down the surplus by 40 to 50 percent,” says Nathan Smith, University of Georgia Extension economist. “That looks very positive, but there still are a lot of peanuts out there. We had a record supply coming into this year, and we had almost record production last year. When you combine the carryover from last year, we were up 3.5 million tons.”

Smith presented the U.S. peanut outlook during the annual Southern Region Agricultural Outlook Conference held in Atlanta.

Looking at the current price situation, shelled prices went down a couple of years ago, and that has led to lower farmer prices, says Smith. We had strong historical increases in food use with the 2003 and 2004 crops, and last year’s crop was basically even. The Virginia market actually has seen a decline in use,” he says.

As for per-capita peanut consumption, the United States is at 6.7 pounds — the highest it has been since 1989.

“Last year, at about this time, more than 100,000 tons of peanuts were forfeited in the CCC storehouse,” says Smith. “In other words, the government took over ownership of about 100,000 tons. The big prediction this year was that it would be 600,000 to 700,000 tons, at least, if we produced the average annual yield. These peanuts were forfeited last year and went to fill 2005 crop orders. Recent numbers show that 23,000 tons of the 2005 crop had been forfeited, he adds.

“This year, the latest update has production back to 2002 levels — the last time we had disaster aid, and the carryover number has been cut in half. Planted and harvested acres are down from previous years, a little bit less than 25 percent off of last year’s crop. The U.S. planted crop was 1,242,000 pounds and the harvested crop is set at 1,213,000 pounds, with an abandonment of less than 2 percent. Yield for this year is estimated at 2,645 pounds per acre — quite a drop from last year’s average of about 3,000 pounds — with a total production of 1.6 million pounds,” he says.

Georgia produces about 45 percent of the total U.S. peanut market, says Smith. “South Carolina has become a big player with 60,000 acres, and Mississippi became an official peanut state this year with 16,000 acres. Georgia, Florida and Alabama contributed greatly to the drop in acres this year,” he says.

As far as yields, Alabama has an average yield of 1,900 pounds per acre this year while Florida has an average yield of 2,300 pounds per acre.

Turning to peanut use — under the new program — U.S. growers are not as dependent on exports, says Smith. Argentina is the main competition of the United States, and they’re concentrating on exporting rather than importing, he says.

“Looking at the balance sheet, if we were looking at a 2 million ton-plus crop as we have the last couple of years, we’d be looking at a similar situation of having too many peanuts. If harvest turns out as it has been projected, we’ll work those ending stocks down by about 40 percent.”

Demand actually has been estimated at being up by about 1.4 percent on food use, says Smith. “It’s hard to say on exports — we’re basically holding our own. China is the largest exporter, followed by Argentina and the United States. As far as quality edible peanuts, Argentina and the United States are the high-quality suppliers, while China and India export a lot of boil-grade peanuts.”

The National Posted Price, which comes out each week, determines the LDP on peanuts, and it’s a “black box” method, he says. “USDA won’t reveal how they do it for fear of manipulation. AMS issues a peanut report of shelled prices, but they will be discontinuing that report. NASS will work towards a weekly report of peanut prices, which is a voluntary report of surveys done with shellers of the total amount they paid for a ton of peanuts. There’s no real market to derive spot prices on peanuts.”

Shellers, says Smith, either buy peanuts out of loan or they give option contracts. “They’re all option contracts, which means shellers have the option of buying from the farmer if they want to. The National Posted Price is actually above the loan rate now, so there’s no LDP.”

Economic considerations this year, brought on by rising energy costs and a surplus crop, have created a cost/price squeeze for farmers, says Smith.

U.S. peanut acreage decreased this year primarily because there were not any pricing opportunities, says Smith. “Peanuts had a cost advantage over cotton this past year, but we still planted more cotton because of uncertain pricing opportunities for peanuts.

As for the outlook, the domestic market has slowed, but it’s not going backwards. We’d expect to consume about 2 million tons. We have a buffer because we carried over at least half of that. We have seen prices rise in the shelled market, and that’s a result of the National Posted Price going up. Argentina says they’re increasing acreage, but they have some very dry weather.”

With the cost/price squeeze, Smith predicts farmers will be looking for $380 per ton as a sign next year to plant peanuts. “They’ll also be looking at corn and cotton. This cost/price squeeze leads to a situation where better prices will be needed to encourage peanut plantings. The cotton and corn markets will have an impact on peanut acres in 2007.”

e-mail: phollis@farmpress.com

Odom extends forage assistance deadline in Louisiana

Louisiana Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Bob Odom has extended the deadline for livestock producers to apply for federal disaster funds made available because of drought during the spring and summer of 2006.

All applications must be postmarked by Thursday (Nov. 30) and sent to the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry. They can also be hand-delivered to LDAF headquarters in Baton Rouge. The original deadline was Nov. 15.

USDA made the disaster funds available to producers who experienced forage losses due to drought conditions in Louisiana between March 7 and Aug. 31.

“All of the pertinent information is on the LDAF Web site, including forms and fact sheets,” said Odom. “We’ve received numerous calls from producers who did not know about the program in time to apply so I extended the deadline.”

To be eligible for the assistance program, USDA determined the producer’s parish must have experienced exceptional drought (category D4 drought on the U.S. Drought Monitor) or extreme drought (level D3) between March 7 and Aug. 31. All applications must be submitted with a completed, signed and dated IRS W-9 form.

For a list of the eligible parishes and the forms needed for filing an application, go to http://www.ldaf.state.la.us. You can also contact Roy Johnson, LDAF, 225 922-1280, if you have questions regarding the program.

Distribution of the funds is being coordinated by the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry with assistance from USDA’s Farm Service Agency, the Louisiana Cattleman’s Association, the LSU AgCenter and the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation.

email: flaws@farmpress.com

New program offers state farmers new opportunity

Oklahoma’s public school students will soon be enjoying more locally grown fruits and vegetables in their school meals, because of new legislation creating the Oklahoma Farm-to-School Program.

As part of the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry (ODAFF), the Farm-to-School program will supplement fruits and vegetables from out of state with produce grown within the Sooner State.

It’s an opportunity for the state’s agricultural producers to increase their presence in a relatively untapped market, said The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation’s horticulturist Steve Upson.

“A combined 700,000 meals are served every day in Oklahoma’s public education facilities, so the potential for significant sales exists,” Upson said. “According to one estimate, farmers could sell $6 million worth of fruits and vegetables to Oklahoma schools.”

However, some growers have voiced skepticism about the opportunities made possible by the Farm-to-School program because Oklahoma’s growing season doesn’t coincide with the majority of the public school year. Upson said using season-extension technology, such as plastic mulch, row covers, hoop houses and greenhouses, can help farmers participate in growing crops for the program.

“No one is suggesting that Oklahoma farmers can supply all the fresh fruits and vegetables for our schools,” he said. “However, Oklahoma’s farmers should attempt to take advantage of this opportunity. It could mean a nice increase in revenue. Additionally, many crops that are currently grown in the state can be harvested in the spring and/or fall.”

Watermelon is one example of a fall-harvested crop. A 2005 Farm-to-School pilot program involving six school districts showed that more than $20,000 was spent on Oklahoma-grown watermelon.

According to a 2002 survey of school food service directors, other examples of field-grown fruits and vegetables that could be marketed during the school year included cucumbers, onions, lettuce, muskmelons and strawberries.

“Pecans are one crop not mentioned in the survey that would be perfect for the Farm-to-School program,” Upson said.

To address the profitability of hoop-house-grown crops being marketed in the Farm-to-School program, the Noble Foundation initiated a hoop house economics study in fall 2006.

“The objective of the study is to determine the break-even cost,” Upson said. “Hoop house budgets generated from this project will assist the Noble Foundation cooperators and growers in the southern Great Plains in making sound business decisions about participating in the Farm-to-School program.”

SCPA honors Eddie Ingram for outstanding service

The Southern Crop Production Association’s highest award for outstanding service to the organization by a member has been awarded to Eddie Ingram.

The William C. Larue Award for 2006 was presented at the association’s annual banquet at Amelia Island, Fla.

Named for the SCPA’s executive secretary for many of the early years of the organization, the award is given annually to a member or members having exemplified “the highest standards of honor and integrity, materially assisting in the accomplishment of SCPA’s goals.”

Ingram, who is with Bayer CropScience at Auburn, Ala., has served on SCPA’s State Affairs Committee for the past four years and as its president for the past two years.

“Under his leadership, the committee has monitored legislation and regulations in all southern states and has lobbied for passage of legislation favorable to our industry,” said Ed Duskin, SCPA executive vice-president.

“In 2005, a successful State Issues Summit was held at Richmond, Va., providing much needed information for state associations and organizations, as well as providing an excellent networking opportunity for participants.

“In August, 2006, the committee sponsored a Biotech Summit in Arkansas, which was well attended and helped to focus attention on the benefits of biotechnology in crop production.”

Ingram began his crop protection career in 1978 as a member of Union Carbide’s Temik product development group. From 1980-86, he was the company’s field development representative for Louisiana, after which he became national development coordinator for specialty products at Raleigh, N.C.

Following Rhone-Poulenc’s purchase of Union Carbide, he relocated to Lyon, France. In 1988, he returned to the U.S., serving as RP’s development manager for Latin America, covering Mexico and all points south.

In 1991, he became senior field development scientist, covering the states of Alabama and Georgia. When Rhone-Poulenc and Agrevo merged to form Aventis, he became a product manager, and when Aventis was acquired by Bayer, he assumed his current position as state affairs manager for the southern region.

He also currently serves as chairman of the Issues Committe for RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment), the national association representing manufactures, formulators, distributors, and other industry organizations involved with pesticide products used in turf, ornamental, pest control, aquatic and terrestrial vegetation, and other non-food/fiber applications.

“Eddie’s wide-ranging experience and knowledge of the crop protection industry has been of enormous value in furthering the goals of our association and industry,” Duskin said.

e-mail: hbrandon@farmpress.com

High cert’ stocks, slow trade weigh on cotton prices

The cotton market appears stuck between a rock and a hard place, according to analysts speaking at the Ag Market Network’s November teleconference, with rising certificated stocks and ending stocks and slow trade having a negative impact on prices.

About the only good news is the cotton market somehow survived a Monday, Nov. 13, washout which broke all previous New York Board of Trade records for volume at 61,464 contracts. Luckily the lows were made within the first 10 minutes of trading.

According to Mike Stevens with Swiss Financial Services, the large supply of certificated stocks (811,000 bales) is keeping December far under the March. “It’s a double whammy. With the close proximity of today’s price to the adjusted world price, U.S. shippers have a hard time offering cotton. You can’t get the cotton shaken out of the loan when you have the AWP holding firm and futures as low as they are. As they try to offer March cotton for first quarter, that contract is too high. So that puts us out of the ballgame there. About the only shippers who can make any export sales right now are those with hedged inventories.”

Part of the problem has to do with slowing demand from China. In November, USDA reported that Chinese imports were down for the fourth consecutive month. Chinese mills are continuing to run competitively-priced internally-produced cotton and still have a large supply of cotton imported prior to the expiration of the Step 2 program.

The growing U.S. cotton crop is problematic as well. Increases in USDA’s November estimate of yield in Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama and Texas came as a bit of a surprise. The result is a forecast supply of 21.3 million bales, a 640,000-bale increase over the October report.

USDA decreased domestic mill use by 100,000 bales in November and increased exports by 200,000 bales to 16.2 million bales. The latter “was not widely expected, but USDA is focusing more on foreign stocks-to-use outside China and there was some rationale for that,” said Texas A&M Extension Economist John Robinson

Market analyst O.A. Cleveland says the export figure, if realized, has a downside. “I understand USDA thinking that the more you produce, the more you are going to export. That theory has served USDA accurately through the years. It says unfortunately, that we are going to have to take this market a bit lower if we are going to export those types of numbers. That’s why I’m a bit more bearish.”

And it could be this way for a while, according to Stevens. “I don’t think we will see real good business out of China for maybe a couple of more months. The United States is going to be the residual supplier for the rest of the world. That’s what USDA is banking on, that we have the exportable surplus and the world will have to come to us sooner or later. But it’s likely going to be later. The Chinese using their own interior stocks is one of the big problems right now. We’re not going to see any big sales to China because their own price is so competitive.”

Robinson projects an old crop cotton price in the mid-40s for December and maybe a few cents higher for March. “For new crop, the fundamentals don’t suggest patterns much different than we’ve seen in the past, so I see December 2007 trading to 59-60 cents.”

Cleveland believes old crop cotton, December/March, could get down to 42-43 cents, 49-50 cents on the high side. “If December becomes attractive on new crop, I can’t get above 60 cents because of the bearish numbers, so I’m thinking in the mid- to upper-50s.

Stevens noted that there was a silver lining on the Nov. 13 trading. “With 61,000 contracts trading Monday, they hit it with everything but the frying pan, and the lows were made within 10 minutes of the opening.”

Cleveland noted that current high grain prices “very much favor a decrease in cotton acreage in the United States and globally for the next growing season. Cleveland believes that in the United States oilseeds will go on marginal cotton ground with corn going on the better cotton soils. “I would anticipate a reduction in U.S. cotton acres of 500,000 acres and 2 million to 3 million acres worldwide.”

e-mail: erobinson@farmpress.com

Joseph Krausz new department head at Clemson

The Clemson University Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR), a department of Clemson’s Public Service Activities, recently named Joseph P. Krausz as their new department head.

Krausz comes to Clemson University from Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, where he served as the associate department head of the Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology since 1997. He also served as a professor and an Extension plant pathologist while at Texas A&M.

Krausz is no stranger to tiger territory. From 1978 until 1986 he worked as an assistant/associate professor and Extension plant pathologist for Clemson at the Pee Dee Research and Education Center in Florence. After leaving Clemson, Krausz served as the head of the Honduran Foundation for Agricultural Research in La Lima, Honduras, before joining A&M in 1989.

Krausz received his bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York at New Paltz. He received both his master’s degree and his doctorate degree in plant pathology from Cornell University .

"I am both excited and honored to have the opportunity to serve the people of South Carolina as Head of the Department of Pesticide Regulation at Clemson University ,” states Krausz. “For me,” he continues, “returning to South Carolina after a number of years will be like coming home."

“We are excited to have Joseph Krausz onboard,” stated Neil Ogg, associate vice-president for Clemson University Public Service Activities. “DPR provides a great opportunity for someone with Dr. Krausz’s experience and leadership skills to assist in continuing our over 100 year-old commitment to the people of South Carolina.”

Power boost

New Apache sprayer has more capacity, horsepower

The new 2007 model Apache sprayer 710 boasts a number of improvements over the popular 2006 model that accounted for 30% of Equipment Technologies’ total sales for the year. Cab enhancements include a sound barrier mat in the lower windshield, a new location for the muffler, and double-pane, laminated glass windshields, all designed to make the cab quieter and more comfortable. “In our view, we have taken a machine with a remarkable first-year launch and made it even better — especially the creature comforts,” says Chad Ringer, Equipment Technologies lead engineer.

The new AS 710 is equipped with a 750-gal. tank for more capacity and JCB four-speed power shift, torque-converted transmission. It is powered by a 6-cyl., 155-hp diesel engine. “The 155-hp diesel engine, the efficiency of our mechanical drive train, and the lightweight design make for a great combination: low fuel consumption and an impressive power-to-weight ratio,” Ringer states.

Equipment Technologies first introduced the sprayer in 2006 as a vehicle for customer applicators who need capacity and power from a smaller machine. “A lot of guys have either upgraded from a 400-gal. sprayer or made this their first new self-propelled unit,” reports Jim Bates, vice president of sales and marketing.

The company reports that the Apache mechanical drive system is more economical than a hydrostatic drive because it is rugged and less expensive to maintain and owners often are able to repair the vehicle themselves.

The suggested retail price of the new Apache 710 sprayer is $120,000. Contact Equipment Technologies, 2201 Hancel Pkwy., Mooresville, IN 46158, 800/861-2142, or visit www.apachesprayer.com.

Sen. Harkin’s ag committee

Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin will become chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry when Democrats assume control of the House and Senate in January.

Incoming Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said he anticipates naming Harkin Agriculture Committee chairman when he meets with the new Republican minority leader to discuss the make-up of each committee.

Harkin is no stranger to the post, having served there during the debate over the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act or 2002 farm bill in 2001 and 2002. (Democrats controlled the Senate when Vermont’s Jim Jeffords declared himself an independent in 2001.)

Although he didn’t get everything he wanted in the legislation, Harkin was able to include the new Conservation Security Program and the first ever energy title in the 2002 farm bill.

The naming of an Iowan to such a key role in the next farm bill debate may cause some apprehension among cotton and rice farmers because of the payment limit stance of Iowa’s senior senator, Charles Grassley.

But commodity group leaders say Harkin has never shown the same enthusiasm for tightening payment limits as Sens. Grassley and Byron Dorgan, Harkin’s Democratic colleague from North Dakota.

“Obviously, the setting has changed a little bit,” said one farm group staffer. “But, at the same time, I believe you will have two chairmen who are extraordinary supporters of U.S. agriculture, as were the previous chairmen. (Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., is expected to chair the House committee.)

“So having an Iowan and having a Minnesotan in the House is not a concern because they both are very interested in what’s best for U.S. agriculture. They bring a different sort of view, but they have a desire for a strong agricultural sector for the U.S. economy.”

Harkin said budget pressures are likely to lead to efforts to streamline farm programs, but he doesn’t expect the alterations to be earth shattering. “I’ll be the last person to pull the rug out from underneath our established farmers. They can’t have that done. If there’s a transition, it’s got to be a smooth one.”

Harkin said he wants to provide more incentives to farmers to experiment with crops such as switchgrass that may have potential for use in cellulosic ethanol. The latter could help U.S. agriculture meet the growing demand for renewable fuel supplies.

The senator is also expected to push for increased funding for the Conservation Security Program, which the Republican-controlled Congress has refused to fully fund and the Bush administration has never fully implemented.

Harkin and Peterson’s first challenge may be dealing with the Bush administration’s farm bill blueprint, which some expect it to unveil in January. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns has said subsidy payments should be reduced to prevent further legal challenges to U.S. farm programs.

“We’re not going to have the WTO write our farm policy,” he said, adding that a new farm bill “needs to be predictable, equitable and beyond challenge.”

e-mail: flaws@farmpress.com

Energy, plant issues highlight MU crop conference Dec. 5-6

Energy expectations will be the opening topic for the 2006 University of Missouri Crop Management Conference, according to Peter Scharf, associate professor of agronomy at MU.

The conference will be Dec. 5-6 at the Holiday Inn Select in Columbia, Mo.

James Fischer, senior technical adviser with the U.S. Department of Energy, will present the keynote address. He will focus on how American agriculture uses energy and how the industry could lead in the development of a future where energy is clean, abundant, reliable and affordable both on and off the farm.

The conference also features a range of crop management topics, presented in one-hour breakout sessions. Topics include corn diseases; soybean insects; best management practices for nitrogen; weed seedling identification; conservation planning; summer pasture options; a new federal drought-tracking program; hay and manure as nutrient sources; and crop/animal systems to use wet distillers grains.

A total of 11.5 Certified Crop Advisor Continuing Education Units is expected to be offered to those attending breakout sessions.

The conference also will offer an opportunity for Certified Crop Advisors (CCA) to become certified to write nutrient and pest management plans.

To be certified to write plans for these Natural Resource Conservation Service programs, consultants must successfully complete a training curriculum of seven modules, Scharf said.

Modules one through six may be accessed online. Module seven, an examination, must be completed in a face-to-face session. That session will be immediately following the crop management conference on Dec. 6. This may be the only examination in Missouri this year, Scharf said.

A one-hour refresher course reviewing the content of modules one through six will be offered during the crop management conference.

Updated information and registration materials are available at http://muconf.missouri.edu/cropmgt/index.html or by contacting the MU conference office at (573) 882-8320.