Farm Progress is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Serving: United States

Farmers should be business partners in marketing

When you grow a crop for market, it makes you a producer. When you market a crop, however, it makes you a business partner.

In a panel discussion on alternatives to marketing North Carolina commodities at the Joint Conferences of the North Carolina Corn, Small Grains and Soybean associations recently, Wade Hubers challenged farmers to be "more proactive in marketing grain. Farmers need to be adamant about price."

Other panelists discussed alternative marketing opportunities.

A proactive marketing stance, says the Hyde County, N.C., farmer, means having a plan or a strategy and then a fall back plan. "Most of the time, we just hope for the best."

A marketing plan involves "knowing the numbers," Hubers says. For example, ending corn stocks are the lowest they’ve been in 28 years. "All those numbers, including USDA reports, give you information to use down the road."

Many options exist for the grain producer: Forward contracts, put options, pools or storage on farm, to name a few. "We need to decide how to use them and price and manage our risks," Hubers says.

For example, a cash contract puts a floor under the market when prices are high.

Most marketing strategies require time and money. Hubers called on lending institutions, grain buyers and merchandisers to help growers. "Grain buyers and merchandisers can help by combining an option with a cash contract to help manage risks."

He recommends thinking of marketing costs as another item in the budget. "It’s just like crop insurance," he says. "It’s difficult to spend it, because if you don’t use it, you won’t ever see it."

Ultimately, "it’s our responsibility to insure ourselves a profit," Hubers says.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Consider hiring a marketing consultant. "Ask your lender to help you," Hubers says. "Ask buyers to be creative."

A marketing strategy prevents you from being seriously wrong in the markets.

"Make it a goal to get in the top one-third of the price range," Hubers told the producers.

Other speakers urged growers to look at alternatives.

Braswell Milling Company of Nashville, N.C., has had success in the organic egg business. "We have a need to grow this business 20 percent in 2004," says Russ Powell of Braswell Milling Company.

The company uses 20,000 tons of certified organic feed each year. "We want to buy grain here in North Carolina," Powell says. Few North Carolina farmers, however, grow organic grain crops.

He says the company pays producers extra for soybeans and corn during the 3-year transition period to organic production. Organic soybeans are now in the $15-$16 per bushel range. "Organic beans could be in the $20 per bushel range by summer. Organic corn is $5.25 and could be $6 a bushel by summer.

"We hope farmers will have an interest in organic products," Powell says.

Dennis Tucker of Archer-Daniels-Midland, says flour consumption is down to 137 pounds per person from 146 pounds per person a year ago. He says the protein-based Atkins diet is largely to blame. "The Atkins diet has affected milling."

He, too, says organic production is an alternative for producers. Organic soft red wheat is currently bringing about $6 a bushel, compared with $3.25 for conventionally grown soft red wheat. Wheat for straw is also a growing market.

He encouraged producers to "be nimble and keep your ears open to where the niche markets are."

Sybil Bullard of J.R. Jones Grain Inc. suggests the development of a grain specifically for livestock feed.

e-mail: cyancy@primediabusiness.com

Entrants sought for NAICC scholarship

The National Alliance of Independent Crop Consultants offers a $1,000 scholarship each year through its Foundation for Environmental Agriculture Education.

According to Earle S. Raun, scholarship chairman, the award goes to a third-year student in agriculture with a major in crop production or an allied subject.

Known as the Richard Jensen Scholarship, it commemorates one of the early members of NAICC.

"We ask members and friends of NAICC to please consider young friends and acquaintances who might meet the qualifications and bring this scholarship to their attention," Raun says.

The 2003 scholarship recipient was Eliza Meck, who attends Pennsylvania State University.

Information on the scholarship may be found on the NAICC Web site, www.naicc.org

Completed applications are due by July 1, 2004, and the winner will be notified in early August..

Entrants sought for NAICC scholarship

The National Alliance of Independent Crop Consultants offers a $1,000 scholarship each year through its Foundation for Environmental Agriculture Education.

According to Earle S. Raun, scholarship chairman, the award goes to a third-year student in agriculture with a major in crop production or an allied subject.

Known as the Richard Jensen Scholarship, it commemorates one of the early members of NAICC.

"We ask members and friends of NAICC to please consider young friends and acquaintances who might meet the qualifications and bring this scholarship to their attention," Raun says.

The 2003 scholarship recipient was Eliza Meck, who attends Pennsylvania State University.

Information on the scholarship may be found at www.naicc.org the NAICC Web site.

Completed applications are due by July 1, 2004, and the winner will be notified in early August..

Soybean group partnering with livestock producers

First a December case of mad cow disease shut many a door to U.S. beef exports. Then, in early February, reports of an Avian flu outbreak in poultry surfaced in Delaware, causing South Korea and Japan to lock out U.S. poultry products.

All of this potentially could impact the soybean market because any drop in domestic livestock and poultry production could theoretically translate into a similar decrease in the need for soybean-based feed products.

The soybean industry is apparently taking notice. In an effort to minimize the impact to soybean producers and offer support to their fellow producers, the United Soybean Board has created a Livestock Industry Initiative. The plan is for soybean growers involved in the commodity group to help develop a strategic plan for the long-term growth of the domestic livestock industry.

"U.S. livestock producers have faced increased regulation at home and competition abroad. At the same time, 97 percent of soybean meal goes to livestock feed. Soybean farmers cannot afford to be neutral toward the challenges that impact their number one customer," the United Soybean Board says.

According to United Soybean Board Chairman Criss Davis of Shullsburg, Wis., the U.S. poultry and livestock industries use more than half of the U.S. soybean crop. U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics show 51 percent of U.S.-produced soybean meal is consumed by poultry, 24 percent by swine and 19 percent by cattle.

"The impact and importance of the poultry and livestock industries to our economy are now very clear," Davis said. "The closer chickens, turkeys, hogs and cattle are to the soybeans we produce, the better our profit opportunities will be."

The soybean check-off already contributes more than $1.5 million a year to help build U.S. poultry, pork and beef exports. But Davis says he believes the soybean check-off, and the rest of the U.S. soybean industry, can do more.

"The domestic poultry and livestock industries probably represent the most under-appreciated economic sectors of rural America," says Davis. "Both are enormously important to us as soybean farmers. They are important to our rural towns and to Main Streets everywhere."

He says, "The success of the livestock industry is crucial to a large portion of our economy outside of just the producers. For example, a report released late last year by the Minnesota AgriGrowth Council shows the poultry and livestock industries account for more than $5.2 billion in economic activity and have a direct impact on 90,000 jobs in the state. That tops three of Minnesota's largest employers — Northwest Airlines, 3M and Medtronic — combined. This example illustrates the ripple affect that our livestock industry has on the economy. If production were forced out of the United States, not only would soybean producers lose their No. 1 customer, but all parts of the U.S. economy would suffer."

e-mail: dmuzzi@primediabusiness.com

Senate leaders delay energy bill vote

Farm groups are asking Senate leaders to step up their efforts to pass a slimmed down version of the energy bill amid reports the latter have decided to delay a vote on the measure until late March.

The groups, which include the National Corn Growers Association and Farm Bureau, urged Majority Leader Bill Frist and Minority Leader Tom Daschle to “seize every legislative opportunity to enact into law the Renewable Fuels Standard and renewable energy tax provisions in the proposed law.”

Washington observers say Frist, R-Tenn., and Daschle, D-S.D., decided to delay consideration of the law, possibly until late March, because of a failure to persuade Democratic senators to limit the number of amendments that may be offered to the bill.

Although the bill’s spending on ethanol-production incentives and other features has been reduced from an estimated $31 billion to $14 billion and its waiver of liability on MTBE dropped, Democrats reportedly want to change other features of the legislation.

Other pieces of legislation, such as a medical malpractice lawsuit reform measure backed by Frist, also appear to be getting in the way.

NCGA officials, who have been fighting for passage or a Renewable Fuels Standard and other tax incentives for ethanol production for more than three years, said the bill enjoys broad bipartisan support because it addresses the need for more sustainable energy production.

The farm group letter cites rising gasoline prices, falling natural gas supplies, lagging employment and dependence on foreign energy sources as reasons for immediate enactment of RFS. The group responsible for the letter, called the Coalition for a Renewable Fuels Standard, argues that the energy bill will address these concerns by stimulating investment in domestic renewable energy technologies.

“This legislation just makes good sense,” said NCGA President Dee Vaughan, a farmer from Dumas, Texas. “Aside from bolstering our domestic energy security, RFS would create new jobs, increase opportunities for corn growers and help to protect our environment. It’s obvious that the American public is behind this legislation; now we just need our lawmakers to close the deal.”

According to the letter, RFS enactment would reduce crude oil imports by 1.6 billion barrels and shrink the U.S. trade deficit by $34.1 billion through 2012. Passage of the legislation would also generate more than $5.3 billion in rural economic development and increase farm income by $55.2 billion.

And contrary to recent reports in popular media, an increased supply of domestically produced fuel would likely reduce consumer gasoline costs by 6.6 cents per gallon.

The coalition also points out employment benefits that are likely to result from RFS enactment. RFS alone is expected to account for more than 214,000 new jobs, while the comprehensive energy legislation package is estimated to produce nearly 1 million new jobs. “Such an employment increase is needed, particularly across rural America where small towns and family farms need the economic stimulus,” the letter says.

Due to reports that floor action on the energy bill may be delayed until late March, Vaughan re-emphasized the need for prompt action on important renewable fuels legislation.

“We’re getting closer,” said Vaughan. “But we still have some significant obstacles to clear. This has been a long process, and we’re hopeful our elected officials will step up to the plate and do what’s best for U.S. employment, the economy and the environment.”

Other groups signing the letter were: Renewable Fuels Association; American Coalition for Ethanol; American Farm Bureau Federation; National Farmers Union; National Biodiesel Board; American Soybean Association; National Grain Sorghum Producers; New Uses Council; American Corn Growers Association; Women Involved in Farm Economics; Clean Fuels Development Coalition; and Ethanol Producers and Consumers.

Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., introduced the new, leaner energy policy bill two weeks ago after Frist and Daschle agreed to allow the bill to be considered swiftly and with as few amendments as possible.

The energy bill has been stalled in the Senate since early December for lack of enough votes (60) to bring cloture to a sometimes raucous debate on its provisions.

Following its introduction, Frist and Daschle submitted a colloquy into the Congressional Record that outlines agreement, which was reached in a meeting on Feb. 12.

“I worked closely with leadership to make sure this energy bill addresses our energy challenges, achieves the same goals the old bill did and creates as many new jobs,” said Domenici, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “It does.

“We cut costly provisions, we didn’t cut jobs,” he added. “I was particularly concerned about protecting the new jobs created in the near-term. We’ve done that. The tax incentives for renewable energy, coupled with the ethanol, clean coal and natural gas provisions create every single job the old energy bill would have created. They create them as swiftly as the old bill would have done.”

The estimated cost of the new Domenici bill, S-2095, is less than $14 billion, taking into account a $1.245 billion savings in the authorizing portion of the package. The new bill costs less than half of the estimated $31 billion cost of the old bill that passed the House in November.

The leaner energy bill includes the tax package passed by the Senate Finance Committee last May. The estimated cost of the tax package is reduced to below $15 billion by delaying the implementation of most provisions until later this year.

“We shaved off half the cost and still pump more than 800,000 new jobs into our economy,” said the New Mexico Republican. “The ethanol provision alone will do more to bring new life to rural America than anything that has passed through Congress in the last two decades.”

The bill was introduced under Rule 14, which meant it will be immediately placed on the Senate calendar where it can be brought to the Senate floor for consideration at any time without the need to go through the committee process. However, a Rule 14 process is a two-day process, which may not be completed until late in March.

But it now appears Senate Democrats have balked at the amendment-limiting agreement.

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com

U.S. soybean growers applaud China ruling

ST. LOUIS – The American Soybean Association says it welcomes news that China will now allow imports of genetically modified soybeans on a long-term basis.

The announcement Monday by China’s government is based on two years of field and food safety tests that have confirmed the safety, healthfulness and environmental friendliness of Roundup Ready soybeans.

After importing those soybeans under a series of interim measures, China has now issued a final safety certificate for the importation of soybeans and soybean products derived from biotech-enhanced Roundup Ready seedstock.

"China’s decision to issue final safety certificates for Roundup Ready Soybeans is good news for U.S. farmers, as well as for Chinese consumers who rely on imports of high quality soybeans to be processed into cooking oil and livestock feed," says American Soybean Association President Ron Heck of Perry, Iowa.

"This action will help ensure a steady market for U.S. soybeans, while helping stabilize meat, fish, egg and cooking oil prices for Chinese consumers."

First certified by the U.S. government in 1995 and then approved by 38 other countries, Roundup Ready soybeans are the only biotech-enhanced soybean variety commercially planted in the United States. Currently, 85 percent of U.S. soybeans and more than 60 percent of soybeans in world trade have been genetically altered.

Within the last seven years, China, a genetic center of origin for the soybean, has made a dramatic transition from being a net soybean exporting country to the largest export market for U.S. soybeans.

In 2003, U.S. soybean exports to China totaled 10.9 million metric tons, or 400 million bushels, worth $2.8 billion. This represents more than 35 percent of all U.S. soy exports and more than 40 percent of China’s import requirements.

"Today’s announcement covering soybeans and a handful of biotech events approved for other crops also marks a significant step toward universal acceptance of crop biotechnology that is improving the environment today and will help feed the world tomorrow," says Heck.

Biotech-enhanced soybeans have allowed farmers greater flexibility in adopting conservation tillage practices that save millions of tons of valuable top soil and reduce the number of times farmers have to run equipment over their fields, which saves millions of gallons of fuel.

Biotech crops also have allowed farmers to reduce the amount of insecticides and pesticides applied to their fields, and use products that are more environmentally friendly because they biodegrade more quickly, according to Heck.

"In the past, ASA has expressed concern about the willingness of China’s regulatory agencies to repeatedly move the regulatory target for approval of Roundup Ready soybeans," Heck says. "So we are very pleased that this announcement actually comes well before the scheduled April 20 expiration of the interim safety certificate program."

"At times, U.S. soybean exports have faced issues such as trade restrictions, import permit delays, confusion over biotechnology regulations and problems with transparency," he says.

"This hurt U.S. soybean producers, and made life difficult for major buyers of U.S. soybeans in China who need to be able to operate knowing that they have a free and unencumbered flow of soybeans from the United States."

The American Soybean Association says it has worked diligently to obtain meaningful access for U.S. soybeans and soybean products in China’s World Trade Organization accession agreement. During the past several years, the commodity group has repeated called on the administration and Congress to insist that China’s political leadership honor and enforce its commitment that access to the Chinese market for U.S. soybean exports would not be restricted.

In December, the American Soybean Association signed a cooperation agreement with representatives of the China Chamber of Commerce of Import and Export of Foodstuffs, Native Produce & Animal By-Products in support of continued U.S. soybean exports to China. The agreement calls for a wide range of mutually beneficial exchanges and activities, including the exchange of delegations between ASA and CFNA.

"In 1982, long before China imported soybeans, ASA producer-leaders decided to open an office in China to begin building demand for U.S. soybeans," Heck said. "While U.S. soybean farmers have greatly benefited from ASA’s work in China, so have Chinese consumers. Today, imports of soybeans from the United States allow China to keep meat and vegetable oil supplied and prices under control for Chinese consumers."

"Obtaining a final safety certificate for Roundup Ready soybeans has been one of the American Soybean Association’s major goals for the past several years," Heck said. "ASA views today’s announcement to be the result of continued vigilance, and it demonstrates ASA’s willingness to confront any efforts to restrict market access for U.S. soybean farmers."

e-mail: dmuzzi@primediabusiness.com

Soybean experts divided by river

There’s no rancor, animosity or fur flying in what follows. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a pointed debate going on the use of Dimilin in soybeans. When it comes to the use of the product as a yield enhancer or fungicide, Extension viewpoints in Mississippi and Arkansas couldn’t be much different.

Dimilin is a product that has long been marketed as an insecticide, a juvenile growth hormone that inhibits chitin (which forms insect exoskeletons) development. The active ingredient in the Crompton/Uniroyal Chemical product is diflubenzuron.

“As far as its insecticide properties, it works great,” says Cliff Coker, a plant pathologist with the Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service. “We recommend it for grasshoppers and some other insects.”

Any further claims for the product, says Coker, have yet to be proven on Arkansas soils. “I’ve looked at Dimilin in conjunction with fungicides, including Quadris. We saw no yield response. I’ve also looked at Dimilin by itself. In 1997, I looked at Dimilin as a yield-enhancer.

Tests all over

“There were tests spread all over the Arkansas delta – from Mississippi County down to Chicot County. It was put out on high-yielding beans at a 2-ounce rate at R-3/R-4. We saw no yield response to those tests – while using replicated, small plots, big plots, aerial application, weigh wagons and all the other tools – at all.”

Chris Tingle, Arkansas’ soybean specialist, says Dimilin has been tested in the state for years and still is. This year, state researchers will once again look at the product in multiple, replicated experiments.

“I’ve talked to Lanny Ashlock long and hard about this,” says Tingle, referring to the former Arkansas soybean specialist. “Researchers found nothing under his watch nor have they under mine. We’ve looked at this product over many environments, at multiple rates, at different growth stages and everything else. We’ve found nothing. We’ve seen no yield or fungicide enhancement that’s touted in other states.

“It’s tough. Before making any recommendation, I have to consider that a product has the potential to be applied to 3 million acres. We must be able to back our recommendations up with data. We just don’t have that data for Dimilin.”

Ashlock, who now works at Cullum Seed, agrees with Tingle’s characterization. Perhaps, he suggests, “both camps are right because the soybean production environments in much of Arkansas are just different enough from those found further into the Southeast.”

Not only is much more rice grown in his home state, suggests Ashlock, but there are also, “possible slight differences in temperature and humidity…It’s kind of strange. These are credible scientists on both sides of the river.”

On the other hand

Across the Mississippi River, Alan Blaine, Extension soybean specialist, has two research colleagues who began studying Dimilin in the early 1980s. “We’ve had extensive testing on this for over 20 years, and this is not a product to use in every situation. However, I want to highlight some situations where we feel it’s beneficial.”

Over the years, Mississippi researchers have observed Dimilin doing three things:

  • Providing control of certain pest species.

  • In some situations researchers have noted the reduction of frogeye leafspot in conjunction with Dimilin.

    “We’re not saying Dimilin is a broad spectrum, across-the-board fungicide. But it appears to help on some diseases and we continue to study it.”

  • It has yield enhancement abilities.

At times, in the absence of insect pests, yield responses have been observed that we feel are due to (Dimilin-related) disease suppression…In around 50 tests, we’ve seen results from no response to an increase of 8 bushels.”

Blaine says the normal use rate of Dimilin is 2 ounces (costing about $2.50 per acre). It provides a residual of about three weeks.

One area where Dimilin has been inconsistent is in early-planted soybeans – particularly early Group 4s. Mississippi’s best results with Dimilin are seen on Group 5’s planted after mid-April.

“If you have some Groups 4s planted in late April or early May, they’re going to act a lot like a Group 5,” says Blaine. “In that circumstance, you’re much more likely to see a response from Dimilin. Much of the efficacy of Dimilin has to do with planting date.”

Typically, timing of application in the state has been at the R-3/R-4 growth stage. In tests over the last couple of years, researchers have piggybacked Dimilin with a fungicide (most often Quadris). In order to do a combination treatment, the fungicide has been placed at a slight disadvantage.

”A tad late”

“To reach a happy medium, we’ve gone with fungicides a tad late. It’s worth the slight risk in order to just have just one trip over the field,” Blaine points out.

In the south delta region of Mississippi, the predominate worm species is soybean loopers. Blaine and colleagues have found that Dimilin applied as a preventative under heavy looper pressure won’t work. That’s true, he says, even if rates are increased to 6 ounces. It will suppress the worms, though, buying a grower seven to 10 days.

“Dimilin will suppress worms long enough to delay application for a week or so. That’s a big deal,” says Blaine.

Why? Because in some areas (until Mississippi received a Section 18 ewmergency exemption on Intrepid from EPA) growers had been in a two-spray situation to control loopers.

“There was no way around it. We had no really good residual material for loopers. Spraying so much was very expensive - $20 per acre. With Dimilin buying us a week to 10 days, many growers could cut field trips with the higher-cost product from two to one. A lot of times, we’re just trying to buy time until September’s cooler nights and conditions take loopers out.”

Blaine insists Dimilin will also “annihilate” green clover worms, velvet bean caterpillars (a pest common in Mississippi’s hill country), cabbage loopers and salt marsh caterpillars.

Three years ago, Dimilin’s efficacy was again revealed when grasshoppers threatened.

“We were in some dry weather and seeing a bunch more grasshoppers. We started putting Dimilin (at a 1-ounce rate) in with Roundup. We’ve since received a label in Mississippi for grasshoppers.”

While Dimilin doesn’t work terribly fast on grasshoppers (normally taking from five to seven days) its value to no-till producers rose. Blaine says with Roundup Ready soybeans, farmers often don’t just spray the fields but also ditches and turnrows. In so doing, the pest is deprived of its preferred grasses and moves into soybeans.

“If you’ve planted soybeans no-till and the crop is a week from coming up, a little Dimilin put in with burndown will control grasshoppers before the crop ever emerges. Obviously, if you’ve got high numbers feeding on the crop, acephate or Orthene is the product of choice.”

From a fungicidal standpoint, Dimilin is also promising, says Blaine.

“Research has shown that there are several organisms with a chitin component. Since Dimilin prevents chitin development, we feel it offers fungicidal benefits – particularly with frogeye leafspot.”

As proof, Blaine points to 1983 when two Mississippi State researchers “checkerboarded” plots in south Mississippi. Later, they noticed that everywhere Dimilin was sprayed there was no frogeye. It was concluded that this was due to Dimilin/chitin interaction.

Trying it again

Intrigued with the 1983 findings, Blaine saw the frogeye outbreak of 2001 as an opportunity to try and repeat the earlier results. In numerous grower fields, he tried and failed.

Then, last year, “just by pure luck, I had 14 early-planted Group 4 dryland fields in the verification program. I wanted to try and protect the yields because we had a heck of a crop. Some didn’t want me to do it, but I decided to put Dimilin on those fields. Today, I’ll tell you I should have put out a pyrethroid instead.”

Still, some interesting data came about because at the same time, on those same fields, “we had some remote sensing projects and were having flyovers. A fellow researcher suggested we leave an untreated strip right in the middle of the field. On three of the fields, growers were making their last herbicide shot. We asked them to put Dimilin in with their Roundup and to leave an untreated strip in the middle.”

Application was just prior, or right at, bloom. When the researchers later returned they found that where Dimilin had been sprayed there was no frogeye. Where the fields were untreated, “frogeye was everywhere.”

To prevent frogeye using Dimilin, says Blaine, you must spray the field prior to the disease arriving. Once frogeye is in a field, Dimilin has no impact.

“This year, I’m going to set up several field tests to see if we’re on to something with Dimilin and frogeye. I’m going to put Dimilin out at bloom. We’ve already seen similar preliminary results with frogeye in lab conditions. If this has an application here, we could be looking at two entirely different uses for the product.”

At this point, though, Blaine makes it clear that he’s not advocating Dimilin as a stand-alone fungicide.

“We use Dimilin as an insecticide,” he says, “and then it does other things that mystify us.”

e-mail: dbennett@primediabusiness.com

Another record year for pork ahead?

ARLINGTON, Va. – There’ll be a few more hogs to slaughter in 2004, but the number is still expected to fall about 300,000 head short of 1999’s record 101.5 million.

Nevertheless, says Joel L. Green, livestock analyst for USDA’s World Agricultural Outlook Board, 2004 will set a new record for pork production, 20.1 billion pounds, topping 2003’s record of 19.9 billion.

“Pork production will continue to be supplemented by increased slaughter of imported hogs,” he said at USDA’s annual Agricultural Outlook Forum at Arlington, Va., “and average carcass weights are expected to be about half a pound heavier.”

Prices after the first quarter of 2003 ranged from $3 to $25 per cwt. Higher than the previous year, Greene says, which led producers to expand their herds. “On Dec. 1, 2003, the inventory of all hogs and pigs was slightly over 60 million head, about 1 percent higher than at the same time the previous year. The expansion continued with a continually shrinking breeding herd.”

Still, he says, the nation’s hog herd has expanded because sow productivity increased last year, after holding steady the previous three years.

“In 2004, hog prices, on a national base of 51 percent to 52 percent lean, live equivalent, are forecast at $38 to $40 per cwt., about unchanged from last year’s average $39.45.

“Fairly strong demand for pork, especially from the export market, is expected to establish a steady price scenario for the year, and prices could move into the low $40s later in the year.”

But the fourth quarter is expected to bring seasonal low prices of $34 to $38 per cwt., as larger supplies become available, Greene says.

Pork retail prices are expected to be in the mid-$2.60 per pound range for 2004, about unchanged from last year.

Hogs “pouring across the border from Canada” have created industry attention, he says, with imports hitting 7.4 million head in 2003. Two-thirds were feeder pigs headed for U.S. finishing operations.

“In five years, the share of imports that are feeder pigs has increased from 50 percent to an expected 70 percent this year,” Greene says. “Available grain, slaughter capacity, and established business relationships are expected to continue to see feeder pig movement from Canada to the U.S.”

In 2004, hog imports are again expected to reach nearly 7.4 million head, the majority feeders.

Pork exports for 2004 are forecast to rise about 3 percent to 1.77 billion pounds, following a 6 percent increase in 2003, with Japan, South Korea, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Mexico as major customers.

“Exports are likely to get a boost this year from increased buying interest by countries that have banned U.S. beef imports because of BSE and poultry because of avian influenza,” Greene says. “Also, the weaker U.S. dollar exchange rate favors pork exports at the expense of Canada and Denmark -- especially for sales to Japan.”

Because of its foot-and-mouth disease status, Brazil, a major pork exporter, will have limited access to the lucrative Japanese market.

Pork imports are forecast at 1.2 billion pounds in 2004, about 3.5 percent higher than 2003, with growth expected to slow because the weaker U.S. dollar raises the price of imported pork.

e-mail: hbrandon@primediabusiness.com

China approves GM safety certificates

WASHINGTON – Chinese government officials announced they have approved permanent safety certificates for several grains and two cotton products derived from plants improved through biotechnology.

Those certificates include approval for Roundup Ready soybeans, two corn products and the cotton products. The latter are believed to be for Roundup Ready and Liberty Link corn and Roundup Ready and Bollgard cotton.

“The United States welcomes the announcement today that China’s Ministry of Agriculture has completed its biotechnology regulatory review of Roundup Ready soybeans and two corn and two cotton products,” Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick said in a joint statement.

“These biotech crop approvals are a significant development that should assure continued U.S. access to this important market.”

A series of temporary approvals of safety certificates had been creating uncertainty for U.S. firms which shipped nearly $2.9 billion of soybeans to China in 2003. U.S. cotton sales to China have also risen significantly, amounting to almost $740 million in 2003 compared to $141 million the previous year.

“China’s decision to approve permanent safety certificates for several biotechnology crops is another positive step for trade between our two countries and demonstrates the Chinese government’s commitment to the WTO principle of using sound science to determine such issues,” said the statement.

“We will continue to engage China on outstanding biotechnology issues to ensure that both American and Chinese farmers have access to this technology to increase agricultural productivity and to provide safe and wholesome products to consumers.”

The decision comes after extensive testing by Chinese scientists who confirmed the safety of these crops, which has long been realized in the United States, according to the statement.

“The successful outcome of this issue resulted from close cooperation between the United States and China,” it said.

Previously, China required traders to obtain temporary safety certificates, usually good for only a few months, if they wished to import biotech grains. China is expected to finalize the safety approvals for other biotechnology products in the near future.

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com

Gary Gaar takes new Valent post

WALNUT CREEK, Calif. – Valent U.S.A. Corp. has named Gary Gaar as the new market manager for its Southern Row Crop segment. Gaar, a Louisiana native now residing in Tennessee, has more than 25 years of sales management experience in the Mid-South, Southeast and Southwest.

Gaar most recently served as Mid-South district manager for Syngenta Crop Protection, Inc. Prior to the Syngenta merger, Gaar’s sales district held the No. 1 spot in sales for eight years for Zeneca Ag Products. He has also worked in sales management positions for Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) and Elanco Products Co.

“I am very excited about the addition of Gary to our marketing team,” said Valent president Trevor Thorley. “The respect and trust he has gained in the marketplace, combined with his vast business skills and considerable knowledge of the Southern markets, will help him effectively market Valent’s key brands like Orthene and Select, while still allowing him to introduce new value-added products such as Valor lay-by for cotton.”

Gaar said his major goal is to create better communications between Valent, the market channel and Southern row crop growers. He said he looks forward to working with segments of the agribusiness community that he has built relationships with over the past 25 years and serving them through his new role at Valent. Gaar said he wanted growers to learn more about Valent’s portfolio and how it can help them increase productivity.

“It is a win-win situation for both the growers and Valent,” Gaar said. “Valent provides the growers with products that help them become more productive and create a better bottom line. In return, Valent also improves their bottom line through increased sales and loyal customers.”

Gaar has served on the board of directors for Agricenter International for eight years and was chairman of the board from 2000 to 2001. He is a member of several professional organizations including the National Alliance of Independent Crop Consultants, the Mississippi Agricultural Consultants Association, the Louisiana Agricultural Chemical Association and the Southern Cotton Ginners Association.

He received a bachelor’s degree in agriculture from Louisiana Tech University in Ruston. During his college career, he worked for Ray Young, an agricultural consultant in Louisiana with more than 50 years experience growing cotton, other row crops and cattle. Gaar said the internship he had with Young impacted many of the decisions he has made since graduation.

“Working for him had a very positive influence on the direction I took in agriculture and in my career,” Gaar said. “He inspired me to love farming the way he did and to keep pushing for new solutions to age-old agriculture problems.”

Valent U.S.A. markets and sells herbicides, insecticides, bio-insecticides, insect growth regulators, nematicides, baits and plant growth regulators for the agricultural, horticultural, turf, ornamental and professional pest control markets.

For more information about Valent U.S.A., and its products, contact Valent or visit its Web site at www.valent.com.

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com