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Serving: United States

USDA: largest corn planting in 63 years

U.S. corn producers are expected to plant 90.5 million acres of corn this spring — the highest acreage planted in 63 years. According to USDA’s March 30 Prospective Plantings report, released this morning, the increases are coming at the expense of cotton and soybean acres, down 20 percent and 11 percent, respectively.

According to the report, from surveys taken during the first two weeks of March, corn acres would be at the highest level since 1944, when 95.5 million acres were planted. Expected acreage is up in nearly all states due to high corn prices.

Illinois farmers intend to plant a record high 12.9 million acres of corn this spring, up 1.6 million acres from last year. North Dakota and Minnesota growers also expect to plant record high corn acres, up 910,000 and 600,000 acres, respectively.

Cotton plantings for 2007 are expected to total 12.1 million acres, 20 percent below last year.

Upland acreage is expected to total 11.9 million acres, down 21 percent from last year and the lowest since 1989. Growers intend to decrease planted area in all states with the largest acreage declines in Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, Mississippi and Texas.

American-Pima cotton growers intend to decrease their plantings by 10 percent from 2006, to 292,000 acres. California producers expect to plant 250,000 acres, down 9 percent from last year’s record high.

In Mid-South states, cotton acres are down close to 40 percent in Louisiana and Mississippi, 29 percent in Arkansas and 20 percent for Tennessee and Missouri.

Soybean producers intend to plant 67.1 million acres in 2007, down 11 percent from last year. If realized, this will be the lowest planted area since 1996. Acreage decreases are expected in all growing areas, except in New York and the Southeast.

Large decreases in soybean acreage are expected across the Corn Belt, with the largest decline expected in Illinois, down 1.4 million acres from 2006. However, area planted to soybeans is expected to increase in the Southeast, with Georgia expecting the largest increase from last year at 95,000 acres. Planted acreage in New York is expected to be the largest on record at 210,000 acres.

Area intended for rice in 2007 is estimated at 2.64 million acres, down 7 percent from 2006 and down 22 percent from 2005. If realized, this will be the lowest planted acreage since 1987. Growers in Arkansas intend to plant 1.22 million acres, down 13 percent from last year.

All wheat planted area is estimated at 60.3 million acres, up 5 percent from 2006. The 2007 winter wheat planted area, at 44.5 million acres, is 10 percent above last year and up 1 percent from the previous estimate.

e-mail: erobinson@farmpress.com

FSA extends DCP sign-up

USDA’s Farm Service Administration has extended the deadline for enrollment in the 2007 Direct and Counter-Cyclical Program (DCP) from June 1 until Aug. 3. The enrollment period began Oct. 1, 2006.

Producers who have not enrolled in the 2007 program must do so before the Aug. 3 deadline.

FSA cited issues related to performance of the Web-based system and increased workload as reasons for the extension.

There will be a late enrollment period through Sept. 30 for farms that do not meet the Aug. 3 deadline, but producers will be assessed a $100 late fee on farms enrolled between Aug. 3 and Sept. 30.

Tennessee wetlands program open

The Natural Resources Conservation Service in Tennessee is now accepting applications from landowners for more than $2.1 million to protect, restore, and enhance wetlands on their property.

NRCS-TN manages the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP), a voluntary wetlands restoration program providing technical and financial support to participating landowners.

Applications must be submitted no later than May 1, 2007, to be ranked.

“Tennessee’s wetlands are important because they support diverse populations of fish, wildlife and plants,” said State Conservationist Kevin Brown. “They also protect our water quality by filtering out pollutants and providing natural flood control by storing and absorbing excess water. It is vital to Tennessee’s environment to restore, protect, and preserve our wetlands.”

The Wetlands Reserve Program aims at restoring wetlands that have been impacted through agricultural activities while improving wildlife habitat for waterfowl.

Eighty-two percent of Tennessee’s wetlands are concentrated in just 20 counties (Dyer, Gibson, Haywood, Weakley, Shelby, Tipton, Obion, Lake, Carroll, Hardeman, Fayette, Henderson, Lauderdale, Madison, Henry, McNairy, Hardin, Crockett, Coffee, and Rutherford).

The program offers landowners two options: permanent easements and 30-year easements. After an agreement has been reached, the landowner continues to control access to the land — and may lease the land for hunting, fishing, and other undeveloped recreational activities.

At any time, a landowner may request additional activities be evaluated to determine if they are compatible uses for the site. This request may include such items as permission to cut hay, graze livestock, or harvest wood products. Compatible uses are allowed if they are consistent with the protection and enhancement of the wetland.

Wetlands restoration is accomplished by installing small shallow impoundments and ditch plugs, removing subsurface drainage, planting trees, and fencing livestock out of streams and creeks. Currently, over 18,000 acres are enrolled in WRP throughout Tennessee.

Information about WRP is available at local NRCS offices or conservation districts in each county, and at the NRCS Web site at http://www.tn.nrcs.usda.gov.

Soy board sets spending priorities

Members of the United Soybean Board and soybean checkoff met recently in Louisville, Ky., to review the state of their industry and set funding priorities for the 2008 fiscal year.

USB directors from across the nation reviewed soybean checkoff programs, discussed strategic approaches for their programs and set funding levels to protect their investments well into the future.

In the current fiscal year, USB is working with a budget just over $44.5 million, and its board set an initial budget of just over $47 million for fiscal 2008. Eric Niemann, USB chairman and a soybean farmer from Nortonville, Kan., said it is always the goal of the board to allocate funds as they become available, as was evident at this meeting.

Approximately $6 million was made available due to increased checkoff collections. That amount allowed each USB program area to become fully funded for 2007, a goal not met previously because of uncertainties in the marketplace.

During the meeting, USB members evaluated the long-range strategic priorities of each program area as well as the ability of each program to impact the market.

Efforts by the checkoff will continue in areas such as the development of industrial uses for soy, including soy biodiesel, and soy flexible foams and solvents.

The checkoff-funded National Biodiesel Board estimates 2006 biodiesel sales totaled 200 million gallons and that nearly 3,000 U.S. fuel distributors and retailers now carry biodiesel.

Other industrial uses for soy continue to be on the rise, such as soy foam for automobile interiors, carpet-backing and furniture.

Going into the next year, the checkoff will remain focused on expanding soy use in Asian, North American and European markets. Currently U.S. soy has the fewest trade barriers among all world agricultural exporters, and U.S. soybean farmer-leaders have representatives in over 80 countries around the globe.

Another strategic focus for 2008 will be the ongoing commitment to support the domestic livestock and poultry industries. Efforts will continue to emphasize the importance of these industries to the U.S. economy and soybean industry, and to identify new soybean varieties that better meet the needs of animal feeds.

Turning to the human side of the marketplace, supporting the demands of the food industry will remain a top priority in the next fiscal year, with particular emphasis on the edible soybean oil market. Despite significant leaps in biodiesel usage, the majority of the oil crop still goes to edible oil markets.

USB members took a side trip during its meeting to visit the nearby headquarters of Kentucky Fried Chicken. YUM Brands, Inc., recently announced that all 5,500 KFC locations would be switching to low-linolenic soybean oil in their frying applications starting in April 2007.

Rounding out priorities for 2008 will be an ongoing commitment to production research and improvements to compositional quality. In addition, the checkoff will continue its efforts to identify and measure specific quality components in the bean, such as amino acids.

“Over the years, farming has changed quite a bit, but the farmers managing their operations have not,” says Niemann. “The soybean checkoff has effectively leveraged funds for nearly 20 years to maintain markets and ensure the creation of new ones.

“Soybean farmer contribution rates never changed during this time, and, because of efficient business practices by this board, U.S. farmers have remained competitive.”

USB will hold an open request for proposals from qualified companies for its fiscal 2008 communications contract this summer. USB is mandated by the Soybean Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Act, under which it operates, to annually evaluate its programs and program contractors.

USB is made up of 64 farmer-directors who oversee the investments of the soybean checkoff on behalf of all U.S. soybean farmers. Checkoff funds are invested in the areas of animal utilization, human utilization, industrial utilization, industry relations, market access and supply.

As stipulated in the Soybean Promotion, Research and Customer Information Act, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service has oversight responsibilities for USB and the soybean checkoff.

USDA Report: Corn Acres to Be Highest Since WWII

Driven by growing ethanol demand, U.S. farmers intend to plant 15 percent more corn acres in 2007, according to the Prospective Plantings report released today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service. Producers plan to plant 90.5 million acres of corn, the largest area since 1944 and 12.1 million acres more than in 2006.

Expected corn acreage is up in nearly all states, due to favorable prices fueled by increased demand from ethanol producers as well as strong export sales. Illinois farmers intend to plant a record 12.9 million corn acres this spring, up 1.6 million acres – or 14.2 percent – from 2006. Record-high acreage is also expected in Minnesota, North Dakota, California and Idaho. Iowa continues to be the largest corn acreage state with 13.9 million acres, up 1.3 million acres – or 10.3 percent – from 2006.

The increase in intended corn acres is partially offset by a decrease in soybean acres in the Corn Belt and Great Plains, as well as fewer expected acres of cotton and rice in the Delta and Southeast. U.S. farmers plan to plant 67.1 million acres of soybeans, the lowest total since 1996 and a decrease of 8.4 million acres – or 11 percent – from 2006. Area planted to cotton is expected to total 12.1 million acres, down 20 percent from 2006.

Area intended for rice is estimated at 2.64 million acres, down 7 percent from 2006 and down 22 percent from 2005. If realized, this would be the lowest planted acreage since 1987. Expected acreage of long grain rice, which represents 76 percent of total rice acres, is down 8 percent from last year. Producers of long grain rice were affected by USDA's March 5 ban on the planting of Clearfield CL131 after unapproved genetic material was found in the seed stock.

All wheat planted area is expected to increase 5 percent from 2006, to 60.3 million acres. Winter wheat acreage is up 10 percent and durum wheat is up 6 percent, while other spring wheat is down 7 percent. Other crops with expected acreage increases are sorghum, up 9 percent, and canola, up 12 percent, and barley, up 7 percent from last year's record low.

The Prospective Plantings report provides the first official estimates of U.S. farmers' planting intentions for 2007. NASS's acreage estimates are based on surveys conducted during the first two weeks of March from a sample of more than 86,000 farm operators across the United States. Following USDA's March 5 ban on the planting of Clearfield CL131 rice seed, NASS attempted verify the planting intentions of producers who, prior to March 5, indicated their intent to plant long grain rice.

Prospective Plantings and all other NASS reports are available online at www.nass.usda.gov.  

Source: National Agricultural Statistics Service

Judge Rules in Favor of Private BSE Testing

The federal government must allow meatpackers to test their animals for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, a federal judge ruled Thursday.
 
Kansas meatpacker Creekstone Farms Premium Beef wants to test all its cattle for the disease, a move that larger companies feared. If Creekstone is allowed to advertise its meat as tested and safe, it could essentially force the larger companies to test, too.
 
The U.S. Agriculture Department currently regulates the test and administers it to about 1% of slaughtered cows for the disease. The department threatened Creekstone with prosecution if it tested all its animals.
 
U.S. District Judge James Robertson ruled the government lacks the authority to regulate the test. Robertson put his order on hold until the government can appeal. If the government doesn't appeal by June 1, he said the ruling would take effect.

Source: Associated Press

DeKalb Horse Processing Plant Shuts Down

A horse processing plant at DeKalb closed on Thursday morning and 200 horses were turned away, according to Illinois State Veterinarian Colleen O'Keefe.

"The horses were being sent back to their farms of origin," said O'Keefe.

The Belgian-owned Cavel International Inc. horse processing facility was closed following a federal appeals court decision Wednesday by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly that prevents the U.S. Department of Agriculture from providing inspectors for a fee to the DeKalb-based plant.

Cavel was the last operating horse slaughter plant in the United States. The slaughter plant was specifically designed for horses and opened two and a half years ago, notes O' Keefe.

The recent ruling follows a federal court decision in January that upheld a Texas state law banning the sale of horsemeat for human consumption. The January ruling forced plants in Fort Worth and Kaufman, Texas to quite sending horsemeat overseas for human consumption.

Congress stripped funding for horse slaughter inspections two years ago, but the USDA opted to provide inspectors to horse slaughter plants for a fee. The judge ruled that the USDA did not follow proper procedures for setting up the program. In the U.S., any animals slaughtered for human consumption have to be inspected before and after slaughter, notes O'Keefe. "By removing staff members no slaughter can occur."

The court decision gives impetus to those trying to pass state and federal legislation to ban horse slaughter. In this spring's session, Illinois lawmakers are considering House Bill 1711 which calls for an end to horse meat processing in Illinois.

Horse slaughter is a highly contentious issue that pits animal protection groups against the Horsemen's Council of Illinois and some 200 veterinary, horse, cattle and ag groups that defend the humane slaughter of horses.

About 90,000 horses go to slaughter each year in the United States, with most of the meat exported to Europe and Asia for human consumption. While the idea of eating horses is disturbing to most Americans, HCI President Frank Bowman of Pleasant Plains believes that horse slaughter is a necessary management option for the country's unwanted, unsafe and unsound horses.

"This is not a feel good issue. Nobody wants to slaughter horses," Bowman says. "But I'd rather see a horse go to slaughter than starve in someone's backyard."

Sheryl King heads the equine science program at Southern Illinois University. She's an animal scientist dedicated to teaching and promoting the humane care of horses. Like Bowman, she defends the need to keep horse slaughter as an option for horse owners. A ban would lead to an increase in abuse and neglect cases which often originate from an owner's lack of financial resources, she says.

Does Early Planting Encourage Secondaries?

Sure, we're knocking on April's door and farmers across the state are chomping at the bit to head to the fields. But could the practice of early planting offer an unwittingly helpful hand to secondary soil insects?

"As we plant earlier and earlier each year, we tend to increase the survivorship of these secondary pests," says University of Illinois Entomologist Mike Gray. "We've seen a surge in Japanese beetle populations, and last year was one of the most memorable seasons."

Japanese beetles, in their larval form, are one of many species of annual white grubs. Their annual life cycle sets them apart from the "true" white grubs, says Gray. "The ones with a three-year cycle are known as true white grubs," he explains. Historically they're viewed as more of a threat because they feed on root hairs during their entire second year as grubs, effectively interfering with nutrient uptake.

Japanese beetle grubs, on the other hand, are known as annual white grubs, due to their one-year life cycle. "Years ago, we said that if you have annual white grubs, they pupate by late May and early June, and then they're adults and they're not feeding all summer below ground," Gray explains. "Because of the shift to earlier planting, they're a bigger threat because they have more time to feed.

"Now both types are perceived as more of a threat."

District Judge Rules Private Companies can Test for BSE

The federal government must allow meatpackers to test their animals for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, a federal judge ruled Thursday.

Kansas meatpacker Creekstone Farms Premium Beef wants to test all its cattle for the disease, a move that larger companies feared. If Creekstone is allowed to advertise its meat as tested and safe, it could essentially force the larger companies to test, too.

The U.S. Agriculture Department currently regulates the test and administers it to about 1% of slaughtered cows for the disease. The department threatened Creekstone with prosecution if it tested all its animals.

U.S. District Judge James Robertson ruled the government lacks the authority to regulate the test. Robertson put his order on hold until the government can appeal. If the government doesn't appeal by June 1, he said the ruling would take effect.

Source: Associated Press

Corn+Soybean Digest

NCGA Outlines Farm Bill Proposal To House Ag Committee

On March 28, National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) President Ken McCauley outlined the organization’s farm bill proposal, the National Farm Security Act (NFSA), to the House Agriculture Committee Subcommittee on General Commodities and Risk Management. McCauley told the committee the proposal should be viewed as a viable policy alternative as Congress considers the new farm bill.

According to the NCGA proposal’s cost analysis, the association’s Commodity Title proposal of NFSA is projected at approximately $500 million above baseline. The analysis assumes a level of 75% buy up of individual revenue insurance, a county revenue guarantee at a coverage level of 95% of projected price and a two-year implementation process to allow USDA time to make the necessary changes.

NCGA also recommends implementation of a cap on projected prices used to determine trigger revenues. One option would be to base the cap on a multiplier of loan rates adjusted for basis and historical season average prices. To reduce the effects of market volatility on the program and to provide greater predictability to producers, NCGA proposes to establish projected crop prices as the average of the current year’s revenue insurance price and the previous two years’ prices.

“Making the necessary improvements in the farm safety net outlined in our proposal, corn growers are confident in the potential for long-term savings,” said McCauley. “Our proposal suggests needed changes to the commodity support programs that would help ensure better protection against volatile commodity prices and significant crop losses and would provide permanent disaster assistance.”

NFSA is designed to increase the market orientation of the Commodity Title, enhance the targeting of farm support so that payments arrive when farmers most need assistance and increase the efficiency with which taxpayer dollars are spent supporting agriculture.

In addition, NCGA held a conference call with news media where McCauley and Public Policy Action Team Chairman Steve Pigg presented a cost analysis of NFSA. The NFSA presentation and the NCGA written testimony are available on NCGA’s Web site at www.ncga.com.