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Articles from 2015 In February

Cotton growers could receive 72 cents to 73 cents for cotton in 2015

O.A. Cleveland admits he is gaining a reputation of being pollyannish when it comes to cotton markets and cotton prices.

“I’m often accused of being absurd with respect to predicting cotton prices, and I probably am because they’re always going to a dollar,” Dr. Cleveland said in a presentation to the 7th Annual Southern Consultant Meeting held by ADAMA in Memphis, Tenn.

“It may be next year rather than this year before we see prices get there, and you may have to commit a little fraud by selling it to two merchants to get a whole dollar,” he added, drawing a laugh from a group of about 50 consultants from the Mid-South and Southeast.

Dr. Cleveland, emeritus professor at Mississippi State University and a contributor to the monthly broadcast, said he believes growers could receive 72 cents to 73 cents a pound for their cotton “when it’s all said in done” at the conclusion of the 2015-16 marketing year.

Asking his audience what they thought their growers would plant in 2015, Dr. Cleveland seemed to confirm his suspicion that producers would plant less corn and cotton and more soybeans when the 2015 growing season arrives.

Lower cotton acres would be true not only for the Southeast and Delta states, but for the Southwest and the Far West, he noted, with drought continuing to take a toll on the cotton plantings in the latter.

35,000 California acres

“California, believe it or not, is going to plant only 35,000 acres of upland, not pima, cotton in 2015, based on the National Cotton Council’s Planting Intentions Survey,” he said. “California used to plant, 25 years ago, a million acres. Ten years ago, they had 600,000 acres. As I tell my California friends, all they’re doing is increasing the fruits and nuts.”

Arizona will not have as many acres of cotton (declining from 150,000 to 59,000 acres of upland cotton, according to the NCC survey), “but it will be high quality cotton,” said Cleveland, who has been observing and speaking about the cotton market for more than 30 years.

Texas could plant a million less acres of cotton in 2015 (down from 6.2 million to 5.2 million) because of the drought and because some growers are switching to more grain sorghum, particularly in the Coastal Bend region of south Texas.

Cotton yields and quality are changing for the better across much of the U.S. Cotton Belt. “Cotton seed producers have given us a three-bale to three-and-a-half-bale per acre crop,” said Cleveland. “Some of you are aware this season of four-bale crops in the Mississippi River Delta states.”

Some four-bale cotton may also have been grown in southwest Georgia. “I’m not aware of any four-bale cotton in southwest Georgia this past season. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was. Some of my friends in Georgia have land that could certainly do that.

“That’s just amazing to me,” he noted. “I can remember when I started my career we were trying to increase from a bale to a bale and a half. A bale and a half was big. Then we got up to that, and we’ve just kept on going.”

Rowing upstream

Dr. Cleveland said the U.S. crop is looking at a high of 14 million bales this year (2015 calendar year). “It could be pushing 15 million this year, but the U.S. crop is going to be down; the Brazilian crop is going to be down; Australia is facing a major catastrophe with respect to water. The crop they’re picking now is off 50 percent from last year.

“They are already booking fixed price cotton for 2016 at $545 a bale, already booking, and they essentially have bought the 2016 crop. Of course, some people are selling only what they know they’re going to be able to put water on because their water is in such short supply.”

“Everyone” knows that China has cotton reserves of somewhere between 50 million and 60 million bales and those supplies must be figured in to the current cotton market equation. Or do they?

Answering questions following his presentation, Dr. Cleveland said much of the cotton in China’s reserves, purchased when it raised its support price to the equivalent of $1.40 to $1.45 a pound, is of poor quality.

“Some of it has been in some form of storage for three or four years,” he noted. “The good quality cotton has been picked over, and their textile mills, by and large, don’t want to cotton that’s left. About all the cotton that’s left is suitable for is a really cheap T-shirt.”

Dr. Cleveland said someone asked him why he should continue to grow cotton? “I told him that when everyone else is rowing downstream, it’s time for you to row upstream. Everyone is dropping cotton, here and around the globe. And the result will be that supplies of quality cotton will begin to draw a premium.”

Any cotton that is graded a 31 35 will draw a premium, he said. “Believe it or not, Oklahoma had some middling 40s this past season – about 300 bales – and they had a 14-cent premium. The Mid-South has finally got on the bandwagon, and we had our best quality we’ve ever had. That’s a big plus.

“I know weather has a lot to do with it, but it’s not unusual anymore to get a middling cotton in the Mid-South. A strict-low-middling inch and three-quarter grade is the perfect cow, according to the New York Cotton Exchange, but it doesn’t even draw a yawn in the international market.”

Fore more on cotton marketing, visit

Fish farming is gaining ground in Iowa

Fish farming is gaining ground in Iowa

For the aquaculture research center at Iowa State University, just keeping up with the current isn't an option.  If the North Central Regional Aquaculture Center (NCRAC) does its job right, it has to stay on top of emerging trends in the industry and identify research questions that will help the industry progress. Floating merrily along with the current won't get the job done.

"Aquaculture in the Midwest has grown and matured in recent years," observes Joseph Morris, professor of natural resource ecology and management and the director of the ISU center at Ames. "At the same time, people are eating more fish, and there's a growing acceptance of fish as a source of healthy protein."

CORN, SOYBEANS, FISH: Fish farming is Iowa's newest ag enterprise. A report by USDA on the number of fish farms in Iowa shows they jumped from 21 in 2005 to 31 in 2013. Several more were built in 2014 and are planned to be completed in 2015.

USDA Midwest regional aquaculture center is at Iowa State
A USDA report on the aquaculture industry released last year showed that the number of fish farms in Iowa jumped from 21 in 2005 to 31 in 2013. Sales generated by Iowa fish farms totaled around $1.47 million in 2005 and grew to $2.81 million in 2013, according to the report.

And it's the North Central Regional Aquaculture Center's mission to stay on top of the trends and provide the research and outreach necessary to keep the progress coming.

The center is one of five regional aquaculture centers established by Congress and administered by USDA. The center gathers input from the aquaculture industry in 12 Midwestern states and directs federal funds to research and extension projects that advance the industry's needs in partnership with regional university and governmental partners. The center, based at Iowa State since 2012, will host its annual meeting in late February amid what Morris calls a continued focus on those research and extension projects that can best support the industry.

Producers are getting the fish farming business figured out
Unlike pork, beef or poultry production, Morris says many basic questions about aquaculture remained unanswered as recently as 20 years ago. In those days, an aquaculture firm's primary focus was figuring out how to keep fish alive, the consequence of a limited understanding of how to systematically produce fish for mass consumption.

Producers have gotten a better feel for production methods since then, he says, so they can now devote more of their time and resources to other concerns like marketing and distribution. Producers are using social networks and advanced data management to identify and reach new customers. It's a trend that Morris says the center is working to advance.  

One of the center's biggest challenges is dealing with the sheer diversity of aquaculture in the 12 states under its jurisdiction, everything from perch and walleye to sunfish and bass. "There's a lot of interest in aquaculture from a lot of angles right now," he says. "We've got to make sure we're aligning research and outreach projects with what the industry needs to be successful."

Agriculture literacy is focus of local Iowa grants

Agriculture literacy is focus of local Iowa grants

The Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation (IALF) is making grants available to support local efforts to develop an understanding of agriculture in students as well as adults.

The Agriculture in the Classroom Local Support Grants are designed to help communities initiate new projects or expand existing projects that promote agriculture literacy through education and outreach. Grants can be used to fund innovative lessons, activities, classroom resources, guest speakers, outreach programs, field trips and other projects.

AG IN THE CLASSROOM: Iowa Ag Literacy Foundation is making grants available to fund local projects and programs that promote a better understanding of agriculture. The grants support lessons, activities, classroom resources, guest speakers, outreach programs, field trips etc.

"Agriculture affects us all and is an important part of the state's economy," says IALF executive director Will Fett. "We hope these grants allow local organizations to teach more people about food, fiber, fuel and natural resources."

Who is eligible to apply for these IALF grants?
Organizations that have agriculture education as a part of their mission or purpose are eligible to apply. Applicants can apply in one of three areas: Start-up, Scale-up, or Continuing Excellence.  

"If you eat, you are involved in agriculture," says Fett. "These grants will help elevate the understanding of where the food on our plate comes from and how it is connected to the farmers who raise and produce it." The deadline for application is March 15, 2015 and the proposed project must take place between March 15 and October 31, 2015. To apply online, or for more information, visit

First issue of Iowa Ag Today distributed to classrooms
In other related news, a new magazine about agriculture produced by the Iowa Ag Literacy Foundation is being distributed to school classrooms in some counties in Iowa. The publication is named Iowa Ag Today and is a resource designed to encourage fourth and fifth grade students to explore the connection between agriculture and their everyday lives. It is aligned to academic standards and will add an Iowa connection to science, social studies, math and language arts lessons.


The first issue includes information on various farm animals, seed science, energy, mechanics and GPS, eating healthy, and caring for water and soil. It also features the different crops grown in Iowa and the companies across the state that process raw ag products into food.

About the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation: IALF serves as a central resource for educators and volunteers who want to teach Iowa's students about agriculture. The mission is to educate Iowans, with a focus on youth, regarding the breadth and global significance of agriculture. Iowa is a leading producer of ag products that are essential to feed a growing world population, estimated to reach more than 9 billion by 2050.

IALF believes it is important for all Iowans to understand the essential role agriculture has in their lives. IALF will support existing agriculture education efforts such as FFA, 4-H and Ag in the Classroom. IALF was created through a joint effort of agricultural stakeholders, including the Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, Iowa Pork Producers Association, Iowa Soybean Association, Silos and Smokestacks Foundation, DuPont Pioneer, GROWMARK, and the Iowa Beef Industry Council. For more information visit IALF online at, on Facebook, and Twitter.

The Buzz: Be prepared to profit from rallies

The Buzz: Be prepared to profit from rallies

Low prices dominated the marketing landscape this winter, but the view from Commodity Classic in Phoenix wasn’t all bleak. History suggest potential for modest rallies in corn and soybeans. But holding too long could be dangerous, for both corn and soybeans. Farm Futures market analyst Bryce Knorr kicked off the 20th annual convention with a panel discussion that included Ed Usset from the University of Minnesota and Illinois farmer and consultant Matt Bennett.

In a special edition of The Buzz, Bryce Knorr offers a look at the grain outlook and your chances to take advantage of market rallies as spring nears.

Bryce Knorr, Senior Market Analyst, Farm Futures, first joined Farm Progress in 1987. In addition to analyzing and writing about the commodity markets, he is a former future introducing broker and is a registered Commodity Trading Advisor. He conducts Farm Futuresexclusive surveys on acreage, production and management issues and is one of the analysts regularly contracted by business wire services before major USDA crop reports. Besides the Morning Market Review on, he writes weekly reviews for key commodities and crop inputs. A journalist with 38 years of experience, he received the Master Writers Award from the American Agricultural Editors Association.

Farm Futures Senior Editor Bob Burgdorfer comes to Penton Farm Progress with experience as a reporter covering grain markets and other global news with Reuters, Inc. A journalism graduate from Kansas State University, Bob has also worked at daily newspapers and Knight-Ridder as a commodity reporter, covering grains and livestock. He has earned five writing awards for his coverage of Mad Cow Disease, immigration issues and other international breaking news stories.

2015 Mid-South Farm & Gin Show opens today

Today is opening day for the 2015 Mid-South Farm & Gin Show at the downtown Memphis Cook Convention Center.

The event is sponsored by the Southern Cotton Ginners Association and Foundation and Delta Farm Press.
Tim Price, show manager, welcomes visitors to the show.

You might have attended Commodity Classic if...

As the 2015 Commodity Classic winds down in Phoenix, I am sure farmers will walk away with some insight from educational sessions, a wish list of equipment or technology purchases, and new friends that will last a lifetime.

However, you might have missed a few light-hearted moments that truly reflect what it is like for America's farmers to attend the Commodity Classic. Here are 10 ways to know if you had the full Commodity Classic experience.

10 ways to know you attended Commodity Classic

You might have attended the 2015 Commodity Classic if:

1. You checked into the hotel and the agent asked if you are with Syngenta. Note to future host hotels--never ask if a farmer is with (insert company name). More than likely, they will be with that company's competitor, as was made clear by the farmer's response next to me.

2. You grabbed your hotel key and found the latest chemical used on your farm. Then you wonder, "Did I pay for this?" However, great advertising reach by Bayer at the Renaissance Hotel. Not sure what companies were the keycard sponsors at other hotels.

3. The curb had signs that explained what crosswalk symbols mean. Apparently, farmers only know how to cross a ditch, walk a fence line or yield to tractor traffic. Take them out of rural America and they need pictures and directions on how to navigate the city. It made me giggle.

10 ways to know you attended Commodity Classic

4. The police crossing guard told you to "have fun buying that new tractor." At first, I thought which genius equipment dealer bribed the police. However, he did not encourage me on a color preference.

5. You got confused on geography listening to farmers from the south talk with farmers from the north. "Y'all it's awfully sunny out there." "Don'tcha know." I love accents of America's farmers. It is the first insight into what they might produce on their farm. Northern accents--corn, soybeans, wheat, alfalfa, dairy. Southern accents--peanuts, cotton, wheat, soybeans, beef cattle.

6. A restaurant waiter opened with "Our beef is corn-fed." Kudos for playing to your audience. Demerits for trying to explain the difference between Prime and Choice.

7. Directions from a fellow grower included "ride down the ILeVO elevators, walk past the Mycogen floor tile to the Syngenta escalators." Signage was prominent at the 2015 Commodity Classic and it came in pretty handy when you needed to meet someone.

10 ways to know you attended Commodity Classic

8. The carpet on the trade show floor was more cushy than the carpet at your home. Some exhibits this year just made you want to take your shoes off and walk barefoot. It was almost as impressive as the white carpet actually staying white at a farm show with more than 7,500 attendees.

9. You ran into the U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at a local restaurant and told him he missed an opportunity to address a room full of ag media and he says, "That wasn't a missed opportunity." Points for sense of humor and extra points for extending the deadline for base acre allocation and yield history updates to March 31.

10 ways to know you attended Commodity Classic

10. Your cell phone now has more numbers in it that require a different area code. Commodity Classic is a great event to make connections with corn, soybean, wheat and sorghum growers from across the country. It is fun to add more contacts in your phone to call for tips, advice, parts, or just a planting update.

Feel free to share your Commodity Classic moment in the "Comments" section below. I hope you came away from Phoenix encouraged about producing the food, fuel and fiber for the world. Safe travels back to the farm. 

5 Agriculture stories to read, Feb. 27, 2015

In the 5 ag stories to read this week, get some considerations for seed treatments when trying to cut costs this spring. If you plant cover crops, be aware of residual herbicides, and there's still time to sign up for the Conservation Stewardship Program. Read 5 tillage myths, and watch a video thanking farmers, that also helps FFA.

Members of the South Carolina Farm Bureaursquos National Advocacy committee meet with USRep  Joe Wilson RSC  in National Statutory Hall of the US Capitol Building
<p><span style="font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: 20px;">Members of the South Carolina Farm Bureau&rsquo;s National Advocacy committee meet with U.S.Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) in National Statutory Hall of the U.S. Capitol Building.</span></p>

Wilson meets with South Carolina Farm Bureau leaders in Washington

U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.)  met with representatives of the South Carolina Farm Bureau in Washington, D.C.  Feb. 25 and discussed  environmental regulations, labor concerns, immigration and transportation issues facing agriculture, while highlighting the important role farming plays in the South Carolina economy.

“The agriculture industry is a critical economic sector in our state,” Wilson said. “South Carolina farms comprise 4.8 million acres of land, or one acre of farmland for each citizen of the state, and the agriculture industry has been the basis for economic opportunity for families in South Carolina."

The meeting occurred during the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Advocacy Conference in Washington, D.C., held February 23-26.




Citrus orchard destroyed
<p>An orange grove near Porterville, Calif. last year was removed after irrigation water was cut to California farmers. Other permanent crops met a similar fate.</p>

California drought: State moves into fourth dry year

The Feb. 27 announcement of zero federal water to California farmers is another crushing blow to a state trying to gain economic traction and slow the bleeding of underground aquifers.

For a second consecutive year, the Bureau of Reclamation will allocate zero water to California farmers via the Central Valley Project (CVP). The zero allocation applies to all agricultural water users with federal contracts in California.

In making its decision, the Bureau of Reclamation also declared a “Shasta-critical” year, meaning water contractors north of the Delta will not have irrigation water as the agency determines quantities to hold back for senior water rights holders and wildlife refuges in the Central Valley.

For northern California rice growers, this “Shasta-critical” designation can signal less available water and forced fallowing of rice land, which doubles as habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife along the Pacific Flyway.

Rice plantings last year were reduced by about 25 percent, said Jim Morris, spokesman for the California Rice Commission.

Farmers grow increasingly frustrated over decisions like this because data shows there was ample water in 2014 to supply minimal deliveries to growers based on previous dry years with similar or less water in the federal water system.

Using a chart labeled “doing less with more,” Mike Wade, executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition, illustrates this by showing that in 1992 nearly one million fewer acre feet of water was available in lakes Folsom and Shasta than there is today. That year agricultural contractors received 25 percent of their federal allotment.

The short answer to the discrepancy can be seen in actions taken under the federal Endangered Species Act and the 1992 Central Valley Project Improvement Act, which over the years have throttled back agricultural access to water long considered available to California farmers.

Pumping restrictions

This was exacerbated in recent years with pumping restrictions from the California Delta region into San Luis Reservoir near Los Banos to protect fish species in the Delta. San Luis Reservoir was built in the 1960s to stabilize water deliveries south of the Delta and help provide irrigation water to millions of acres of farmland in the San Joaquin Valley.

According to Wade, from Dec. 15, 2014 through Jan. 26 of this year, the impacts of regulatory constrictions on Delta pumping meant that over 315,000 acre feet of water that could have been stored in San Luis Reservoir instead was allowed to flow out to sea.

By comparison the 1992 federal surface water allocation to farmers was about 500,000 acre feet.

“This is not the drought causing this problem,” Wade said. “It’s regulators doing this.”

Wade has consistently challenged the state’s success at protecting fish as environmental regulations that went into effect decades ago to protect endangered fish do not seem to be working.

Water shortages to districts like Westlands Water District, which covers 614,000 acres of land in Fresno and Kings Counties, has severely cut back the acreage of crops like processing tomatoes, melons, garlic, lettuce, broccoli, cabbage and cotton.

It has also hurt the 100,000-plus acres of permanent crops grown in America’s largest agricultural water district.

Gayle Holman, spokesperson for Westlands Water District, said farmers there fallowed 220,000 acres – over 340 square miles – of farmland due to the Bureau of Reclamation’s decision to curb agricultural water deliveries in California.

“Now we’re looking at another zero allocation and anticipate that last year’s figure of 220,000 acres may go even higher,” Holman said.

Westlands has federal contracts to provide water to 700 family-owned farms averaging 875 acres in size that historically have produced more than 60 different commodities.

For senior water rights holders like Los Banos farmer Canon Michael, this year’s news though expected still stings.

“This is just horrible behavior on their part,” said Michael, who farms several thousand acres in the central part of the San Joaquin Valley.

Last year’s water shortage forced Michael to fallow about 1,000 acres of prime land that could have grown melons and other annual crops.

Michael is making cropping decisions for 2015 and expects to fallow at least what was left idle last year, though that number could grow as water availability is arguably worse than last year.

He does not expect to receive the minimum 75 percent water allocation the federal government is mandated to provide him under terms of the water contract he has with them.

Michael says he will likely focus on planting processing tomatoes and extra-long staple cotton. California tomato canneries say they want 15 million tons for their operations while ELS cotton prices have been positive, he said.

Along with the thousand acres left idle last year, Michael cut irrigation schedules to his alfalfa crop, leaving him with five cuttings instead of his typical seven.

Growers left dry

According to Michael, a decision earlier this year by State Water Board Executive Director Thomas Howard to stop pumping pulse flows from storm runoff into San Luis Reservoir killed any opportunity for the state to bank water and allocates it to farms.

“Any pumping during these storms would have helped,” Michael said.

Howard’s decision seems to fly in the face of the emergency drought declaration California Gov. Jerry Brown, Jr. signed last year that ordered state agencies to streamline water transfers and relax regulatory restrictions on Delta pumping into San Luis Reservoir.

California Citrus Mutual President Joel Nelsen said Howard’s decision to halt pumping did not need to take place when it did and arguably should have been made by the full board, though the water board did grant Howard the authority to make such a decision if necessary.

For the Friant Water Authority (FWA) which moves water along the San Joaquin Valley’s east side from Chowchilla to Bakersfield via the Friant-Kern Canal, the water they consistently rely upon has likewise dried up as the Bureau of Reclamation has taken water otherwise earmarked for FWA and gives it to senior water rights holders elsewhere in the Valley.

Friant saw it’s first-ever zero allocation in 2014 and now faces a back-to-back allotment of no water.

According to FWA General Manager Ron Jacobsma, the district is in worse shape this year since carry-over water is no longer available and groundwater resources are severely stressed.

Last year, more than 200,000 acre feet of Friant water from Millerton Lake near Fresno was channeled down the San Joaquin River to the Mendota Pool to meet federal obligations with exchange contractors. These are the senior-rights holders that includes Michael and others in his area.

This move drained Millerton to less than 200,000 acre feet of storage today. Early 2015 snow surveys reveal very little snowpack in the watershed that feeds Millerton, meaning the lake will suffer further as the year progresses.  Its capacity is 520,000 acre feet.

Water prices could escalate

Jacobsma predicts prices for farmers able to find water could eclipse last year’s prices, which according to reports exceeded $3,000 per acre foot to some growers.

Growers of permanent crops, including tree nuts and citrus, will be particularly hard hit by this second year of zero allocation.

Almond and pistachio growers saw lighter-than-expected harvests in part due to lack of water. Lower chilling hours were also thought to play a role in the shorter crops.

Citrus growers too. In California, many of these groves are served by FWA and expect considerably worse conditions in 2015 as some have no groundwater.

Nelsen estimates that about 10,000 acres of California citrus was impacted by the zero allocation with upwards of 50,000 acres made vulnerable by short groundwater supplies.

In a statement released by CCM, Nelsen said, "Since 1992, over seven million acre feet of water has been transferred away from landowners in the southern San Joaquin Valley with no accountability as to the environmental successes achieved."

Nelsen continued, "Since 1992, those sourcing water from the Friant system have been paying additional dollars per acre foot for environmental enhancements with no accountability. The State of California has more than 320 species listed as endangered and yet all the efforts have not led to one species being removed from the Endangered Species Act list.”

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During last year’s report to county supervisors on the state of Fresno County agriculture, county Agricultural Commissioner Les Wright said the 2013 crop report revealed only a partial impact to county Ag values as the drought and water allocations primarily impacted growers on the western half of the county.

For the first time in modern history, Fresno County’s Ag value fell two years in a row from its record high in 2011. Due to water constraints, Wright expects his total Ag value – which typically has been the highest in the nation – to fall once again when 2014 numbers are compiled.

“We have to be the only state in the nation and the only nation on earth establishing policies that destroys the production of food,” said Nelsen.

March 31 new deadline for farm bill base, yield update and ARC, PLC programs

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Feb. 27 that a one-time extension will be provided to producers for the new safety-net programs established by the 2014 Farm Bill. The final day to update yield history or reallocate base acres has been extended to March 31. The final day for farm owners and producers to choose ARC or PLC coverage also remains March 31.

“This is an important decision for producers, because these programs provide financial protection against unexpected changes in the marketplace. Producers are working to make the best decision they can. And we’re working to ensure that they’ve got the time, the information, and the opportunities to have those final conversations, review their data, and to visit the Farm Service Agency to make those decisions,” said Vilsack.

If no changes are made to yield history or base acres by March 31, 2015, the farm's current yield and base will be used. A program choice of ARC or PLC coverage also must be made by March 31, 2015, or there will be no 2014 payments for the farm and the farm will default to PLC coverage through the 2018 crop year.

“These are complex decisions, which is why we launched a strong education and outreach campaign back in September. Now we’re providing a one-time extension of an additional month so that every producer is fully prepared to enroll in this program, “ said Vilsack.