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Articles from 2016 In March

corn planting

Prospective planting: Southeast corn up, peanuts down, cotton steady

Southeast farmers say they will plant less peanuts and soybeans in 2016 with cotton acres remaining steady. They say they will plant more corn, however, and that sticks with the national trend of other U.S. corn farmers who plan to plant the third largest corn acreage in seven decades.

The Prospective Plantings report released March 31 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service is the first best guess at what U.S. row crops farmers plan to do come planting season, which has already started in the Southeast. The report is based on surveys conducted during the first two weeks of March from a sample of more than 84,000 farm operators across the United States.

“This report holds up in showing trends in what farmers intend to do. When looking at this report today, you can see growers in the Southeast are looking to minimize their revenue risk during what is still a depressed market situation, so they are using the programs available to help them do that. That would be making planting decisions based, at least in part, on where ARC and PLC are and also looking at crop insurance to cover their risk. But I think this report also shows a trend of trying to get back toward a more typical crop rotation in the region,” said Nathan Smith, Clemson University Extension economist based at the Sandhill Research and Education Center.

The report gives a snapshot of where growers’ minds were in early March. Right now, the Southeast is seeing, and is expected to keep seeing, above-normal rainfall for the spring planting season. This weather will affect actual, final planting decisions in the region and could impact yields, Smith added.

All cotton planted area for 2016 is expected to total 9.56 million acres, 11 percent up from last year. U.S. upland cotton growers say they will plant 9.35 million acres in 2016, which is about 11 percent more than last year.

But cotton acres in the Southeast look to stay about the same, or only slightly higher.

Georgia cotton growers intend to plant 1.15 million acres, or about 2 percent more than last year. Alabama growers are planning for 320,000 acres (2 percent more than in 2015) with Florida growers looking at 90,000 acres, or 6 percent more than in 2015.

But Tennessee growers are planning the largest increase in cotton acres in the Southeast with 235,000 acres, which if realized will be 52 percent more cotton acres than last year.

North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia growers plan to plant less cotton. North Carolina growers are looking at 290,000 acres, or 25 percent less cotton acres than last year. South Carolina growers are planning on 190,000 acres, or 20 percent less than last year, with Virginia at around 80,000 acres, only slightly less than last year.

U.S. peanut farmers say they will plant 1.48 million acres in 2016, which is 9 percent less than they planted in 2015.

Georgia planted 785,000 peanut acres last year. Georgia growers indicated they will drop peanut acreage in 2016 to 730,000 acres, which is about 55,000 less acres than they planted in 2015. Alabama peanut growers say they will plant 170,000 acres in 2016, 30,000 acres less than last year. Florida is pegged at 150,000 peanut acres for 2016, or 40,000 less acres than 2015.

From an economic point of view, “it’s a good thing for peanuts to be down because we needed to reduce peanut acres from a supply-demand standpoint to reduce the surplus the industry has. But it all will depend on what yields end up being as to how much we decrease the surplus. Yields can override an acreage shift when it comes to production. If you go by history, we likely will see another two-ton national average for peanuts like we’ve seen over the last four years in a row,” Smith said.

North Carolina peanut growers plan to plant 95,000 acres in 2016, which is 5,000 more acres than last year. South Carolina growers say they will plant 110,000 peanut acres in 2016, only about 2,000 less than in 2015. And Virginia growers plan to stay steady at 19,000 acres of peanuts in 2016.

Soybean acreage in the Southeast will follow the national trend and be pretty much less across the region in 2016.

North Carolina growers plan to lead the region in soybean acres with about 1.7 million acres, or 7 percent less than in 2015. Kentucky growers plan to plant 1.65 million acres, or 10 percent less than in 2015.

Virginia plans for 630,000 acres, or the same as last year.

Alabama growers look to plant 470,000 acres of soybeans, or 30,000 less acres than in 2015. South Carolina growers look to plant 440,000 soybeans acres in 2016, or 35,000 less acres than in 2015. Georgia growers say they will plant 320,000 soybean acres in 2016, or 5,000 less acres than 2015.

Corn acres will be up across the board in the Southeast, according to the report.

Kentucky farmers say they will plant 1.5 million acres in 2016, 7 percent more than in 2015. North Carolina growers plan to plant 930,000 corn acres in 2016, 18 percent more than in 2015. Georgia growers look to plant 390,000 acres, or 18 percent more than in 2015. Alabama plans on 340,000 acres, or 30 percent more than in 2015.Tennesee growers say they will plant 840,000 acres of corn, or 8 percent more than in 2015.

The national view

U.S. corn growers say they will plant 93.6 million acres this year, according to USDA report. This will be the first increase in planted corn acreage since 2012 and, if realized, will be the third largest corn acreage since 1944. Corn growers in 41 of the 48 contiguous states expect to either maintain or increase the number of acres they plant to corn, with the expectations of higher corn returns in 2016 compared with other crops.

Growers in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, and North Dakota expect to increase their corn acreage by 400,000 or more acres in 2016.

Assuming the five-year average 91.3 percent harvest rate and the projected 25-year trend yield of 165.4 bushels per acre is achieved, farmers will harvest 14.13 billion bushels in 2016, nearing the production record of 14.2 billion bushels set in 2014, according to the National Corn Growers Association.

"U.S. farmers produced an abundant crop in 2015. Given the strong carryover entering this growing season, we may see quite a large corn supply at harvest should weather prove favorable in 2016," National Corn Growers Association President Chip Bowling said.  "While many factors may change the reality on the ground as planting progresses, American corn supplies should remain ample for the year to come. Given the impact this continues to have on prices, the work being done at NCGA to grow demand will prove even more important as we work to find markets for our product and remain profitable into the future."

U.S. soybean growers expect to reverse the recent trends, which saw several record-high years. In 2016, growers expect to plant 82.2 million acres to soybeans, a less than one percent decrease from 2015. In Louisiana, Minnesota, and Mississippi, growers expect to decrease their soybean acreage by 200,000 acres or more in 2016. Despite the overall decrease in acreage, growers in North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin expect to see record-high soybean acreages in their states, according to the report.

 Other key findings in the report are:

  • All wheat planted area for 2016 is estimated at 49.6 million acres, down 9 percent from 2015.
  • Winter wheat planted area, at 36.2 million acres, down 8 percent from last year.
  • Sorghum growers intend to plant 7.22 million acres in 2016, down 15 percent from 2015. Kansas and Texas, the leading sorghum-producing states, account for 74 percent of the expected United States acreage.
Farm scene

Wall family follows master farmer family tradition

It wouldn’t come as a surprise to Tom Wall’s vo-ag teacher that Tom would one day follow in his father and uncle’s footsteps to become a Master Farmer.

“Tom was an intelligent and eager learner with an outstanding swine project,” Francis Abel recalls. “In his senior year of high school [two years before his dad, John, and uncle Larry became Master Farmers], the state FFA awarded Tom its highest honor: the Iowa Farmer Degree.”

After earning a degree in farm operations from Iowa State University in 1981, Tom worked into the Wall Brothers Farm operation. He bought half the machinery and hogs over time from Larry, and later farmed in partnership with his father.

Always a partnership
Partnerships among Wall brothers are not new to the Wall farm. “My grandpa John and his brother Thomas bought our home farm together in 1916,” Tom says. “We’re proud that it’s going to become a century farm this year. Grandpa had lived in Cedar County, and Uncle Tom ran a saloon in Clinton. The story is that Thomas read the writing on the wall — that prohibition was on the horizon — and decided to put his money into a farm instead. Grandpa and his brother were followed by Dad and his brother Larry, who started farming here as partners in the 1950s.”

Tom married Anita, a pediatric nurse, in 1987, and they bought into 63 acres. They added 53 more acres in 2002 after Larry passed away. Tom and Anita now farm that land and rent another 810 acres, growing about 900 acres of corn and soybeans on rolling land just northeast of Iowa City in Johnson County. Tom adds value to his homegrown grain by feeding 6,000 head of wean-to-finish hogs each year. He has a share in a sow unit, taking 18- to 21-day-old pigs every nine weeks.

Continues to learn
Tom mixes his own feed, working with JBS United for balanced nutrition. He knifes in hog manure, emptying pits twice a year.

He’s learned a lot from a Conservation Stewardship Program contract he has with the Natural Resources Conservation Service to manage nitrogen and phosphorus.

A certified crop adviser, he’s planted variety comparisons through Dekalb and Asgrow for over 25 years. “I think being a seedsman has made me a better farmer because I learn from my customers and fellow seedsman operations,” Tom says.

Tom is also learning from On-Farm Network trials through the Iowa Soybean Association. “They’re research-based, non-biased, and compare practices across the state,” Tom says. Tom’s son Greg is his right-hand man, helping through the growing season and with loading hogs. “Greg specializes in machine maintenance and repair; it’s really handy to have him fix a machine the same day it breaks down,” Tom says.

Anita tried her hand at combining one year, but says she does “all the unglamorous stuff that needs to be done: taking care of the farmstead, fixing meals, getting parts, and in the past, raising their three children. She’s working with their PC Mars recordkeeping system; they’ve been members of the Iowa Farm Business Association for more than 30 years.

A no-tiller for 20-plus years, using GPS and other technology, Tom is now trying to work cover crops into the operation.

He’s been a community leader and ambassador for agriculture for years, hosting conservation field days and international visitors, and regularly talking with media on ag topics.

One role he’s proud of is serving as a 4-H leader with his mother, Mary Ellen, for almost 35 years. “All three of our kids were in 4-H. We currently have 60 kids in our club. Besides animal projects, our club has sent projects to the Iowa State Fair ranging from DNA to tractor restoration to recycling telephone poles,” Tom says.

Tom has been a Eucharistic minister at his church for more than 20 years. He and Anita are members of the St. Bernadette Church at West Branch, where he’s taught religious education for more than 10 years.

Meet the Master Farmers
Myron and Joyce Pingel

Tom and Anita Wall

Clark and Judi Yeager

Bill and Cindy Northey

Rich and Nancy Degner

USDA’s Prospective Plantings, Grain Stocks, and Rice Stocks – Executive Summary

USDA’s U.S. and State Long Grain Rice Plantings, U.S. Cotton, Soybean, Corn and Sorghum Plantings

Agco Hesston windrower

Idaho dairy farmer is buyer of 100,000th Agco Hesston windrower

When Ray Robinson, operator of Moo Mountain Milk in Burley, Idaho, contacted his local Agco dealer, Agri-Service, to order three new Hesston windrowers for the 25,000-acre farm he and his partners operate to grow feed for their 20,000 dairy cows, he had no idea he was buying a milestone of Hesston history.

As it turns out, one of the three new windrowers he ordered was number 100,000 off the assembly line at Agco's plant in Hesston, Kansas.

On March 29, Robinson was on hand to celebrate with the Agco leadership team, design and production engineers and the workforce of the Hesston windrower line. Hesston Mayor David Kauffman proclaimed it "Agco Hesston Windrower Day" and the choir from Hesston High School (appropriately the Swathers) performed the national anthem to open the ceremonies.

The celebration honored 70 years of agricultural machinery manufacturing under the Hesston brand, which introduced the industry's first self-propelled windrower in 1956 and has continuously manufactured them -- with generation after generation of improvements -- for the past 60 years.

Robinson's farming and dairy operation utilizes six Hesston windrowers, which he and his partners utilize to harvest green forages as well as condition hay for baling. He said he loves Hesston swathers because of the design of the razor bar head, which enables a single operator to access and change out the gear box if it becomes necessary.

"We generally operate a swather for about two years and put about 1,000 to 1,300 hours a year on it then we trade it in for a new model," Robinson said. "I like to use the newer equipment because with the size of our operation, we just can't afford breakdowns."

Robinson said he has been involved with dairying and farming all his life, starting out working with his dad 50 years ago when he was only 16. Over time, the operation has grown as additional family members and partners have joined the business.

"We milked 300 cows in 1998, by 2000 we were milking 6,000 cows and by 2003, we milked 10,000. Then in 2008 we built a milk plant to process our own milk," he said.

That plant, High Desert Milk, makes non-fat milk powder and butter that they sell to 40 different countries. By 2010, the milking herd had grown to 20,000 cows. The dairy raises its own replacement heifers and retains its steers as well, finishing them out in lots the company owns in Colorado.

"My favorite quality of the Hesston swather is the double conditioner," he said. "It gives me a day to a day and half quicker dry time."

Moo Mountain Milk is still growing and moving into new ventures, he said. By the end of the year, the company will add cottage cheese and buttermilk to its processing operation and is in the process of building a new dairy facility for 2,500 cows that will be dedicated to organic milk production.

That new venture, Nature Rich Organic Milk, will operate independently and will utilize feed grown on a dedicated organic farm. Hesston swathers will be used in that operation as well as in the conventional farming operations.

"Everything has to be grown and handled separately for the organic operation," he said, "but we have a processor who has a high demand for that and it's a good value-added venture for us."

It's all part of growing into the next generations of the farm, he said.

He brought his son, Justin, and twin 11-year-old grandsons to the Hesston ceremony.

"The boys love being out on the farm and around all these great machines we use, so they are very excited to see this windrower roll off the production line, experience the factory where they are made and just be a part of this special occasion."

Billions of pounds of fruits and vegetables would have to be imported if Texans were to follow recommended consumption of fruits and vegetables according to Dr Luis Ribera an AgriLife Extension ag economist in College Station
<p>Billions of pounds of fruits and vegetables would have to be imported if Texans were to follow recommended consumption of fruits and vegetables, according to Dr. Luis Ribera, an AgriLife Extension ag economist in College Station.</p>

Can South Texas close gap in fruit and vegetable demand?

If Texans suddenly began consuming recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables, there wouldn’t be enough produce to go around. That’s the conclusion of a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert who said the state has started looking into how to close that potential gap.

 “Even if people wanted to comply with recommended consumption of fruits and vegetables, there’s just not enough,” said Dr. Luis Ribera, an AgriLife Extension agricultural economist in College Station.

For the latest on southwest agriculture, please check out Southwest Farm Press Daily and receive the latest news right to your inbox.

“AgriLife’s Healthy South Texas and other health-related programs are now pushing recommendations of dietary guidelines to reduce the consumption of fats and oils, fatty meats, and enriched grains in favor of whole grains, and the increase of fruits and vegetables,” he said.

To help meet the demand for more produce as those health programs succeed, Texas A&M AgriLife Research and AgriLife Extension have begun efforts to rejuvenate the South Texas industry with the recent dedication of their new Texas A&M Rio Grande Valley Vegetable and Education Building in Weslaco, Ribera said.

“The idea is to be competitive with both domestic and overseas producers in the production of fruits and vegetables,” he said. “While South Texas probably won’t be able to produce all the needed fruits and vegetables – the area can’t produce bananas commercially, for example – it will help close the gap.”


And it’s not just health-related programs that are driving up the demand for fruits and vegetables. Studies show that consumption is on the rise as the population increases, Ribera said.

“It’s very simple: We’ll have to either produce more or import more,” he said.

Ribera noted that Mexican imports of fruits and vegetables have already increased dramatically recently, especially via trucks through Texas land ports of entry. More imports are also now coming in from Central and South America and other countries overseas.

“These increased imports are not a bad thing,” he said. “They satisfy a year-round demand when Texas and other domestic produce is not in season. We need imports. In the past, if consumers wanted to buy oranges, for example, they’d have to wait until Texas citrus was harvested in the fall and winter. Now we get citrus year round from other countries.”

California and Florida, however, can’t be counted on to fill any additional demand.

“California has been suffering a major drought and a devastating lack of water,” he said. “As a result, the price of available water there has increased dramatically, from about $140 per acre-foot of water in recent years to about $1,100 per acre-foot. And Florida’s production of fruits and vegetables has flattened out.”

To lessen dependence on other states and countries, Ribera said AgriLife Research and AgriLife Extension have increased their commitment to increase production of fruits and vegetables in Texas.


“The Rio Grande Valley and the Winter Garden area near San Antonio are more favorable areas for production than California, for example, because of lower regulatory and environmental costs, as well as lower water costs.”

Even with a steady population growth in South Texas, there is considerable available irrigated farmland there that can be put into production, Ribera said.

“With improved cropping systems, which include improved yields using improved varieties of fruits and vegetables with disease and pest resistance, South Texas could help meet the demands,” he said.

As part of their commitment, officials at AgriLife’s Rio Grande Valley Vegetable and Education Building in Weslaco have already begun the process of assembling a team of breeders, plant pathologists, entomologists and other professionals.

“We have to figure it out because if the demand is there, the supply will come,” he said. “AgriLife’s efforts include reaching out to growers to get them on board because the South Texas produce industry has every potential of thriving again.”

Secret life of a farm monitor

NOTE: The photos above walk you through the process of designing and testing monitors that can stand up to agriculture. Read on to learn more about Wachendoff and its history - including the firm's first epic fail in agriculture.

The road to success is often a bumpy one. And for Wachendoff, becoming one of the leaders in the design and manufacturing of display consoles for the agriculture and off-highway market, those bumps are what helped fuel the development of this world-class firm.

Wachendorff started in 1978 as a trading company that designed display consoles for manufacturing. Business was good, and the relatively small staff gained a steady client base from their headquarters in Geisenheim, Germany.

But in the mid-1990s, the company took on a project that would propel it to the success it enjoys today. The tractor manufacturer Fendt wanted an electronic console for its tractors, and Wachendorff delivered the prototype to Fendt engineers.

The first test didn’t go as planned. As Thilo Nagel, general manager at Wachendorff, explains, “Fendt engineers took the first design of the console and subjected it to a battery of tests that simulated real-world working conditions. After some time the pieces of the console were returned. It was back to the drawing board.”

Determined to succeed

But that first test did not deter Wachendorff. Instead, it was taken as a new challenge to design the console to withstand extreme conditions and develop testing procedures that, to this day, are ingrained into the Wachendorff culture. In 1998, Wachendorff delivered its revolutionary console that was a precursor of the units of today.

Wachendorff may not be a name you’ve heard of before, but it is a leading manufacturer of in-cabin mounted consoles for the agricultural and construction industries. Peter and Robert Wachendorff recently sold the company to Topcon. “This acquisition is a key ingredient of our global strategy to strengthen our ability to serve original equipment manufacturers and establish the foundation for Topcon manufacturing in Europe,” Ray O’Connor, Topcon Positioning Group president and CEO said at the announcement of the purchase. “This world-class facility in Germany is second-to-none in its operational quality, employee dedication, and astute leadership — all of the characteristics needed to exceed the high-precision standards required for our industry.”

Torture test, from start to finish

The Wachendorff company of today is a far cry from its humble beginnings. The seven employees who crowded into the headquarters –located in Rolf Wachendorff’s family home – is now a global market leader with more than 100 employees in a large building in Geisenheim.

In addition to the assembly of control units for Topcon, as well as other Wachendorff clients, new concepts, new product designs and new components are also put through their paces. Approximately half of the employees are engineers who are working on the design and manufacture of new control unit concepts, as well as improving current designs.

And what Rolf and his employees learned from that first test with Fendt has become a hallmark of Wachendorff: It’s product testing – to the extreme.

A large room within the Wachendorff facilities is filled with testing equipment. It is where a tractor console (or a new concept for a tractor console) is subjected to every imaginable test. Cold, heat, water, salt, vibration, electromagnetic shocks, exposure to’s a veritable torture chamber. Pre-production parts are subjected to various tests all along the development phase and final prototypes have to withstand hundreds of hours of tests before they go into production. “Our tests replicate what happens in the real world,” Nagel says. “And more. We want to ensure that every unit we produce is of the highest quality and is of the most durable design. It is what our customers demand, and what we demand of ourselves.”

Units are hand assembled in Geisenheim in specific work bays by dedicated teams. And while only two or three employees may constitute the assembly line for a given controller, it is a streamlined process that is backed up by a team of employees who work on the entire supply chain. Even at assembly, every unit finally goes through an initial test. It is “cooked” in an oven at 60 °C (140 °F), then cooled down to minus 30 °C (minus 22 °F), then heated up again. After that, there is a vibration test and the unit is switched on again for a final functional test before being packed in a box for shipping.

At Wachendorff more than 55,000 consoles are produced every year. Each and every console has to go through the same battery of tests before it goes out the door.

Challenges, and opportunities

While Wachendorff prides itself on the company’s ability to consistently produce durable and reliable consoles, production does come with its own unique challenges. The availability of the inner workings of the display units is of prime concern to the engineers. “When we design a unit, we must ensure every part going into the unit will be available for several years,” Nagel says. “That can be very difficult, especially with how fast computer parts change.”

So while the exterior of a control unit may look the same from year to year, the components inside may be different. However, engineers must ensure all units work the same. “We may upgrade a certain piece within a unit, but we must know that it will work the same way,” Nagel says.

The demands put upon controllers in farm machinery continue to grow and engineers have to create units that are easy to use, easy to understand and provide a positive experience to the end-user at the same time. “Even as controllers can do more things, they also have to be functional,” Nagel says. “This is an opportunity for us, since our employees understand that a console is more than a piece of electronics in the cab. It is a resource that an operator uses every time he gets into the cab. It must work, and work well.”

Vilsack will travel to Berlin, Paris

Vilsack will travel to Berlin, Paris

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will travel to Berlin and Paris next week to discuss areas of mutual interest between the European and American agricultural sectors. In Berlin, Vilsack will meet with German officials as well as farmers about rural economic development opportunities and to underscore the importance of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). He will then lead the U.S. delegation to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Meeting of Agriculture Ministers, which is being held in Paris.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will travel to Berlin and Paris next week.

While in Berlin April 4-5, Vilsack will meet with German Minister of Food and Agriculture Christian Schmidt and other government officials, as well as with an organization of rural youth and young farmers. He will discuss how the TTIP agreement, currently being negotiated between the United States and the European Union, will benefit both parties' agricultural sectors by stimulating rural economies, streamlining import procedures, providing more food choices for consumers, addressing climate change, and increasing food security.

Vilsack will then travel to Paris, where he will co-chair the OECD agricultural ministerial that takes place April 7-8. He and other agriculture ministers from OECD countries and partner economies around the world will explore how their governments can work together to feed a growing world population, while managing natural resources and dealing with climate change.

Source: USDA

Combine harvestin rice in Louisiana

Robert Coats: Analysis of USDA's 2016 Prospective Planting Report


USDA’s March 31 Prospective Planting report indicates 2016 long grain rice planting intentions of 2.452 million acres, up 31 percent from 2015. This compares to the previous five-year average of 1.93 million long grain acres and a previous 10-year average of 2.141 million acres.

Bottom line: This implies that the U.S. long grain rice market needs additional demand, especially from outside the Western Hemisphere.

• Depending on the farm, its financial depth, etc., I would stay with a reasonably typical crop rotation. I really do not see rice having a major economic advantage over soybeans and corn given the anticipated long grain rice acreage expansion over 2015.

• USDA, in its Feb. 26 2016 Rice, Grains and Oilseeds Outlook presentation delivered at the this year’s USDA Outlook Forum, projected total 2016 U.S. long grain rice acreage at 2.08 million acres or 240,000 acres more than last year’s 1.84 million acres. It projected a 2016-17 marketing year average price of $11.30 per hundredweight or $5.09 per bushel, which is the same as its current 2015-16 price expectation.

• Without expected additional demand for U.S. long grain rice near term and a projected 2016 U.S. long grain rice acreage of 2.452 million acres, the potential increased production will likely weigh heavily on U.S. long grain rice prices.

Upland cotton

USDA’s upland cotton planting intentions show a current expectation of 9.562 million acres, up 11 percent from 2015. The average trade forecast is around 9.4 million acres. This compares to the previous five-year average of 11,185,400 cotton acres and a previous 10-year average of 11.048 million acres.

Cotton prices appear to have the potential of making a price bottom around 50 cents. The 2016-17 cotton marketing period has real price potential, but first we must find a multi-year price bottom followed by a consolidation period.


USDA’s soybean planting intentions show a current expectation of 82.236 million acres, down less than 1-percent from 2015. The average trade forecast is 83 million acres.

This compares to the previous five-year average of 79 million soybean acres and a previous 10-year average of 76.585 million acres.

Global oilseed fundamentals and global economic softness will continue to create pricing challenges until a multi-year price bottom is reached.


USDA’s corn planting intentions estimates show a current expectation of 93.601 million acres, up 6 percent from 2015. The average trade forecast was 90 million acres.

This compares to the previous five-year average of 92.638 million corn acres and a previous 10-year average of 89.560 million acres.

Some say corn has already found a price bottom and possibly under more normal past global growth that would be the case. Even without this planted acreage expectation, today’s global uncertainty is being driven by an array of global economic and political factors that are weighing heavy on this market like: individual country growth (China being a good example); currency uncertainty (for example, some believe the dollar has topped, but I anticipate the best case for the dollar near term is sideways price action); globally central banks are creating huge amounts of uncertainty which is leading to reoccurring market price squeezes; and the list goes on.


USDA’s sorghum planting intentions show a current expectation of 7.216 million acres, down 15 percent from 2015. This compares to the previous five-year average of 7.077 million sorghum acres and a previous 10-year average of 6.999 million acres.

Closing comments

• My advice to producers is much the same as this time last year. Be very respectful of the dangerous economic undercurrents associated with the global economic slowdown and bearish underlying rice, cotton, and grain market fundamentals.

• No one farming today has dealt with a farm business environment this dangerous and complex. Uncertainty rules near term, so producers, marketers, and agribusiness should be respectful of our domestic and global economic setting.

• The economic dangers and price uncertainty our producers face will remain until a multiyear price bottom is in place. Presently, it does not appear that rice, cotton, and grains have put in a multi-year bottom; therefore, just as in 2015, producers and supporting infrastructure should continue their super conservative farm manager ways and make business adjustments that will allow a possible positive cash flow.

All of the above has led to not only complex price charts, but dangerous levels of price volatility.

For additional details, download USDA’s U.S. and State Long Grain Rice Plantings, U.S. Cotton, Soybean, Corn and Sorghum Plantings and USDA’s Prospective Plantings, Grain Stocks, and Rice Stocks – Executive Summary.

Robert Coats is a professor, Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness, Division of Agriculture, University of Arkansas System. Contact him at

Change your county designation for ARC-CO payments?

Change your county designation for ARC-CO payments?

Under a new policy announced last fall, the USDA Farm Service Agency will allow eligible farmers to calculate Agriculture Risk Coverage-County payments based on the physical location of each tract of the farm. Previously, farmers with tracts of land that crossed county borders were seeing their entire base acreage calculated under ARC-CO based on the administrative county designated by the farmers.

BEFORE APRIL 15: Prior to April 15, 2016 farmers have a one-time opportunity to change the payment county from the administrative county to the county where the base acres are located, if the farm has base acres that cross county lines.

Question: Can farmers change their county designation for ARC-CO payments?
Answer: Yes, but only a very small number of farms are affected by this, less than 3% in Iowa, says John Whitaker, state executive director of USDA’s Farm Service Agency in Iowa. FSA will allow eligible farmers to recalculate ARC-County payments based on the physical location of each tract of a farm, if that farm stretches across county borders.

In early March, the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) sent a postcard to all farmers who have cropland in more than one county and are enrolled in the Agriculture Risk Coverage-County (ARC-CO) option of the farm program. Prior to April 15, 2016 farmers will have a one-time opportunity to change the payment county from the administrative county to the county where the base acres are located. You must contact your county FSA office before April 15 to do this. Contact them now if you have questions.

Question: How do I figure out whether or not it will pay for me to change the payment county?
Answer: You will have to recalculate whether you will get a higher payment by choosing the location county or not making any changes and continuing to use the administrative county for recalculation of ARC payments. Farmers may make a different decision on the county in 2015 than was selected in 2014. In other words, the ARC payment county is an independent decision between 2014 and 2015.

All Iowa State University decision tools for USDA farm programs are available online.