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


Articles from 2020 In April

chicken-wings-GettyImages-484790082.jpg brebca/iStock/Getty Images Plus

What's a chicken wing worth in a COVID-19 pandemic?

If Americans don't have sports to watch or restaurants to dine in, what's a chicken wing worth? According to Texas livestock economist David Anderson, not much.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, chicken wing prices have collapsed. But it's not the only market suffering.

extension-david-anderso.jpg(David Anderson, Texas A&M University AgriLife Extension economist)

No matter the species, whether beef, hogs, dairy or chickens, the livestock industry is not unscathed by the rippling effects of COVID-19, said Anderson, Texas A&M University AgriLife Extension economist, as he addressed viewers on the Texas Ag Forum webinar April 28.

According to Anderson, livestock markets have six adjustments in common:

  1. Restaurants to grocery stores. "Before COVID-19, roughly half of the food we purchased, we purchased away from home. So we've got this shift from the restaurant supply chain to the grocery store supply chain, and the two need different things -- different forms, different sizes, different cuts.
  2. Recession stocking shelves. "We've got grocery stores, what I term recession stocking. For instance, during a recession, people eat beef, but they eat fewer steaks and more hamburger. And so when we have grocery stores stocking shelves in anticipation of a recession, that's more ground beef or more chicken -- more value cuts across all of our species."
  3. Slowdown and shutdown of plants. "Then you have the wave of coronavirus, where we have slowdowns and shutdowns of plants, which causes a whole other set of ripple effects."
  4. Lower producer prices and higher meat prices. "Plants closing results in lower producer prices and higher meat prices. So, producers are hit with losses, and consumers are going to face higher prices, at the same time, we're thinking about recession, rising unemployment, and lack of income."
  5. Double whammy for restaurants. "As restaurants start to reopen from being shut down and the financial losses they've faced, they are reopening in a climate of sharply rising meat prices. The effects are really going to be a double whammy."
  6. Effects of lower producer prices. "For example, in hogs, once the supply responds to disastrously low hog prices, and when producers are faced with the decision of euthanizing pigs, those pigs won't be available to a packing plant down the road, whether that plant's open or not."

Anderson also focused on the effect the pandemic is having on the individual markets, beginning with cattle slaughter. Referring to the "Cattle Slaughter," graph below and the blue line representing 2020, Anderson said, "We moved a lot of cattle through the system in March, in fact, throughout the first quarter of the year. Look at the decline in slaughter as plants close down and as plants slow down. It's a pretty sharp decline.

"When I see charts that look like this, I accuse people of having a typo, but there's no typo this time."


Before plants started closing, weekly beef production was roughly a pound and two-thirds per week per person. "Now we've cut it to just over one pound per capita per week. So, we lost about a half a pound of beef production per week per person," he says.

Fewer cattle sent to market, means fewer cattle processed. "The number of cattle on feed is 5% below a year ago on April 1. So, we're backing up cattle throughout the production system. Fewer on feed means they are out there on pasture somewhere."

Turning to the wholesale value of beef, Anderson said while there were record prices about a month ago as people rushed to grocery stores, that has since slacked off. "And then all of a sudden, we have this new increase and record-high prices, $311 a hundredweight on Monday.

"As we're cutting back production, consumers are going to see higher prices."

Feed cattle prices are also declining. "We lost the demand from processing plants to buy those animals, and we've curtailed supplies going out the other end to the consumer. Calf prices follow suit -- prices are well below what they were a year ago, reflecting the ripple effect throughout this system."


Another industry feeling the effects is dairy. "Texas is a major dairy-producing state. This whole thing hits as spring flush begins. Milk production is greater than it was a year ago, which has contributed to dumping milk in some parts of the country. We're only in the first stages of how we respond to disastrously low prices and curtailing milk production," Anderson said.

Hog production

While Anderson admitted, there are much larger hog-producing states than Texas, he said just like beef, there's been a sharp decline in hog slaughter. "Again, we're losing about half a pound of pork production per capita per week on the hog side – starkly lower production, wholesale prices skyrocketing, and lower hog prices."



East of I-35, Anderson said Texas is a major broiler-producing state. "There's been a sharp decline in chicks placed in grow out, again responding to slowdowns at plants and falling prices."

Referencing the graph below, Anderson used wholesale chicken wings as an example. "They have collapsed in price as well, which certainly highlights the struggles on the chicken side of things."



So, how is the livestock industry responding? "The economic response is to cut production. Because plants are closed, that generates lower, unprofitable prices for ranchers and producers, the chicken growers and hog farmers," Anderson said.

"This is unchartered territory. If we think about the short term, we've got some pretty tough problems. Longer-term, if we talk about beef, I have a more optimistic outlook for calf prices, given we've got some time."


At the conclusion of the webinar, Anderson responded to the following questions:

Question: Who recovers first? Dairy, pork, beef or chickens?

Answer: "The chicken producing process is a lot faster. So what we see already with sharp reductions in broiler production, and then their ability to respond faster just simply because the production process shorter in chickens than it is in hogs, beef and in dairy. Slowing down milk production is not good. You have to have a calf before you can have milk production from that cow. I think a good lesson for a lot of people who aren't involved in agriculture is we do deal with biology. It's not like flipping on a switch."

Question: What are the prospects for fall wean calf prices?

Answer: "Long term on the calf prices, I'm more optimistic. We have the luxury of time on the calf side, spring-born calves that are sold in the fall. We have an opportunity to see higher calf prices this fall than we had last fall. In the cattle cycle, we have fewer cows this year, which means we'll have fewer calves at the sale. It looks like we'll have a lot of feed and low feed costs, which are supportive of calf prices. I think it also gives us time to sort through some of the effects as they ripple forward, so if you have calves to sell in the fall, that would be headed to feedlots in 2021, we have a better price projection than we have now. My price projections for calf prices this fall are still better than we had a year ago.

Question: USDA's plan appears to be paying about 85% of the loss up to date and then about 30% after that. What do you say to people who have most of their output yet to be marketed? Are they going to get help 30% versus some people who marketed earlier, they're going to get 85% of the help?

Answer: "That's one of those hard questions. First off, we don't know any of the rules yet, other than that broad thing right there. So, we don't know exactly what this is going to mean, how it's paid out, or what the dollar amount is. Big picture, if you weren't going to sell until the fall anyway, we'll see what that calf price is in the fall. It may be you haven't faced injury yet because you weren't selling into this mess. So when we think about policy, we want to deliver help to those who truly need it because this is when they were selling versus folks who will be selling in the fall and may not realize those losses."

Max Armstrong's Daily Updates

MIDDAY Midwest Digest, April 30, 2020

Mortgage interest rates fell again, to the lowest level on record. 

Drought is almost non-existant across the heartland of America. 

Authorities in Kentucky say four children died and one is missing after an Amish buggy was swept away in a flood current.

Bars may be closed, but beer is still selling; in fact, sales have gotten a boost during the pandemic.


Pine cone in melting snow Calif. Dept. of Water Resources
A pine cone sits in melting snow at Phillips Station near Lake Tahoe.

Final snowpack survey confirms dry winter

The season’s final manual snow survey at Phillips Station near Lake Tahoe was conducted today by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR). The survey recorded 1.5 inches of snow depth and a snow water equivalent (SWE) of 0.5 inches, which is 3 percent of the May average for this location.

The SWE measures the amount of water contained in the snowpack, providing a more accurate forecast of spring runoff than snow depth alone.

Measurements from the 130 electronic snow sensors scattered throughout the state indicate that the statewide snowpack’s water equivalent is 8.4 inches, or 37 percent of the May average. 

Today's readings will help hydrologists forecast spring and summer snowmelt runoff into rivers and reservoirs, state officials said.

“March and April storms brought needed snow to the Sierras, with the snowpack reaching its peak on April 9, however those gains were not nearly enough to offset a very dry January and February,” said Sean de Guzman, chief of DWR’s Snow Survey and Water Supply Forecast Section. “The last two weeks have seen increased temperatures leading to a rapid reduction of the snowpack. Snowmelt runoff into the reservoirs is forecasted to be below average.”

Weather variability

California’s weather variability has been on full display this water year. Dry conditions in October and November were followed by precipitation in December that measured 120 percent of average. Very dry conditions returned to much of the state in January and February, with March and April storms leading to the snowpack peaking at just 66 percent of average on April 9.

In normal years, the snowpack supplies about 30 percent of California’s water needs as it melts in the spring and early summer. The greater the snow water equivalent the greater the likelihood California’s reservoirs will receive ample runoff to meet the state’s water demand in the summer and fall.

The state's six largest reservoirs currently hold between 83 percent (San Luis) and 126 percent (Melones) of their historical averages for this date. Shasta Lake, California's largest surface reservoir, is 94 percent of its historical average and sits at 81 percent of capacity.

Source: California Department of Water Resources, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.​​
Time to look at packer consolidation

Time to look at packer consolidation

Four companies process 85% of all of the beef in the U.S., and just three companies control 63% of America’s pork processing. As the nation grapples with COVID-19, the harsh reality is that the consolidation and attempts to improve efficiencies could now provide a reason to rethink the onward march toward further consolidation. If not, farmers and consumers stand to lose.

Sens. Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) and Tammy Baldwin (D., Wis.) asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to open an antitrust investigation into the meat packing industry. The industry currently is dominated by just a handful of large, multinational firms that have concentrated meat processing into fewer and fewer facilities, leaving America’s food supply chain vulnerable to disruptions.

On March 19, Sens. Michael Rounds (R., S.D.), Kevin Cramer (R., N.D.), Steve Daines (R., Mont.) and John Hoeven (R., N.D.) urged the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate continued allegations of pricing fixing in the cattle market and also to examine the current structure of the beef meat packing industry for compliance with U.S. antitrust laws.

In the letter to FTC, the duo said market consolidation has led to the increased concentration of meat production in just a handful of plants. For instance, over the last several decades, the number of slaughterhouses processing more than 1 million hogs annually has more than doubled, and among the slaughterhouses processing more than 50,000 hogs every year, 90% are these “mega-slaughterhouses.” Cattle slaughterhouses have also seen increased concentration, with the average number of cattle slaughtered per plant doubling between 1976 and 2006.

In the letter, the senators noted that three pork plants closing because of COVID-19 has resulted "in the shutdown of a staggering 15% of America’s pork production" at a time when stable supply chains have become more critical than ever.

As a result, farmers cannot process their livestock — which are costly to maintain — and consumers risk seeing shortages at grocery stores, exacerbating the food insecurity that all too many Americans are currently experiencing.

“These harms might have been mitigated if the meat packing industry was less concentrated. The current COVID-19 crisis has exposed the vulnerabilities of American supply chains and the importance of ensuring that, when disaster strikes, America’s food supplies are not in the hands of a few mostly foreign-based firms," the letter stated.

Between 1980 and 2009, the price a rancher received per pound of beef declined from $1.97 to 93 cents (adjusted for inflation). Meanwhile, between 1999 and 2008, real consumer prices for ground beef increased by 24% (adjusted for inflation), from a monthly average price of $1.89/lb. in 1999 to $2.34/lb. in 2008.

“And, of course, these numbers assume that all sales took place in good faith -- an assumption which may not be warranted: Mega-meatpacker JBS was fined in 2018 for underpaying family farmers and ranchers by claiming cattle weighed less than they did. Similar dynamics have played out in the hog industry: Between 1992 and 2007, hog prices fell by 30% as producers became increasingly concentrated,” the letter said.

According to R-CALF USA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that during the last two weeks, more than 12,000 live cattle were sourced from Canada to be harvested at U.S. meat packers. In February, USDA announced that it would begin allowing imports of raw beef from Brazil. The agency then welcomed the first shipment of raw beef into the U.S. from Namibia on April 17.

R-CALF USA chief executive officer Bill Bullard said there was a 22% surge in the combined volume of beef and cattle imports from mid-March to early April. Bullard said some members of his group have not been able to get a bid for their cattle for the past five weeks.

"While American ranchers are unable to access their own market, importers and meat packers are increasing the volume of imported beef while simultaneously depriving U.S. cattle farmers and ranchers access to their own markets,” Bullard said.

Hoeven, while speaking to the North American Agricultural Journalists on April 27, said, "We've got to find ways to do more with competitive pricing and transparency for our producers." Hoeven said industry groups need to come together on how to address the situation in a united way, because right now they're doing producers a disservice.

FTC has the power to shed light on these growing competition and security problems in the food supply, the letter said, suggesting that the commission should ask probing questions about major meat packing firms’ conduct, pricing and contracting, as well as how their commitments to overseas interests impact the U.S. market and national security.

California Board of Food and Agriculture meets Tim Hearden
The California Board of Food and Agriculture meets at the World Ag Expo in Tulare, Calif., in February.

State ag board to discuss business and job recovery

The California State Board of Food and Agriculture will hold a discussion with agricultural members of the Governor’s Task Force on Business and Jobs Recovery at its upcoming webinar meeting on Tuesday, May 5. 

The board will also hear perspectives from agricultural stakeholders on post-recovery needs. The meeting will be held from 10:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. via GoToWebinar. The access code is 797-704-859.

“California’s farmers, ranchers and agricultural workers continue to provide food for our tables and we cannot thank them enough for their ongoing service during this period.” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross.  “As we look towards recovery – from retail to food service – we need to safeguard a marketplace so that food from farms and processing plants can reach consumers and those in need.”

On April 17, Governor Newsom formed a state Task Force on Business and Jobs Recovery to chart a path forward on recovery in the wake of COVID-19. The Task Force will work to develop actions government and businesses can take to help California recover.

'Uncertainty is a challenge'

“As a farmer, current market uncertainty is a challenge,” said President Don Cameron, California State Board of Food and Agriculture. “However, I know that California agriculture will persevere. We have the innovation, diversification and commitment to grow the food we need and we will find solutions through partnerships and collaborations statewide and nationally.”

Invited Task Force members include: Theodore Balestreri, California Restaurant Association; Amelia Ceja, Ceja Vineyards; Ron Fong, California Grocers Association; Garrett Patricio, Westside Produce; Teresa Romero, United Farm Workers; Fred Ruiz, Ruiz Foods; and Elaine Trevino, Almond Alliance of California. Other speakers include: Dennis Donohue, Western Growers Center for Innovation and Technology; Trish Kelly, Valley Vision; and Glenda Humiston, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources.

The California State Board of Food and Agriculture advises the governor and CDFA secretary on agricultural issues and consumer needs. The Board conducts forums that bring together local, state and federal government officials; agricultural representatives; and citizens to discuss current issues and concerns to California agriculture.

Source: California Board of Food and Agriculture, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.​​
CollinPeterson.jpg Jacqui Fatka

Ag committee chair sets up task force to reopen pork plant

Political leaders gathered in Worthington, Minn., April 29 pledged the JBS pork-processing plant in the city would reopen soon, but not until the workers were safe.

"I think the biggest issue is making sure that these workers in this plant are safe and I can tell you that Tim (Walz) and I are not going to support anything unless these workers are happy, safe and comfortable going back to work," said House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson at the press conference shared via a shaky Facebook live feed from a Worthington airport hangar. Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and Peterson served together in Congress and were both on the agriculture committee.

The Worthington plant, which closed on April. 20 because of a COVID-19 outbreak among employees, is operating with a skeleton crew to kill hogs, but not process them for food. On Wednesday, 3,000 hogs were killed at JBS, according to a Star Tribune article.

As of April 30, there are 742 cases of COVID-19 in Nobles County, where the plant is located, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.  There has been one fatality. Close to 500 workers from the plant have tested positive, Peterson said.

Walz spoke directly to the workers during the press conference, saying "we need to be processing food for this country. We need to get this plant up and running. We need to make sure our markets are still functioning and the only way we do that is to ensure that worker safety. No executive order I do or the president does is going to change the fact that the virus will infect you if you don't do things right and no executive order is going to get those hogs processed if the people who know how to do that are sick."

On April 28, President Trump signed an executive order to keep meat and poultry processing plants operating across the country. The order directs Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to "take all appropriate action under that section to ensure that meat and poultry processors continue operations consistent with the guidance for their operations jointly issued by the CDC and OSHA."

Peterson said he'd been on the phone with Perdue and said the secretary pledged to send whatever help was needed to get the plant up and running. He said reopening the plants in Sioux Falls and Waterloo, Iowa, and Worthington were priorities for the agriculture secretary.

As part of the Peterson plan, a working group is being formed that includes representatives from Minnesota's health and agriculture departments, the plant and from the worker union. The small group has the task of figuring out what's needed to reopen the plant sooner rather than later.

"The way this plant is going to get opened is when the workers are going to be safe," Peterson reiterated.

Reopening will likely include testing protocols and social distancing conditions within the plant so workers aren't standing next to one another.

"If we just magically said, 'ok, everybody go back to do whatever you want to do," they're not going to come back because they don't feel safe," Walz said. In Minnesota, the biggest outbreaks can be traced to areas where people are close together, like the workers at processing plants.

The JBS plant in Worthington is the test run, Walz said, likening it to a forest fire where a team drops in to put out the fire and any embers so they don't reignite. A team is at work in Nobles County and will continue to isolate, trace and test. They do feel a sense of urgency, he said.

"The surest way we get this economy back going again is we make sure people feel safe and secure," Walz said. "We make sure that they feel like the risk management has lowered the risk to an acceptable point and then we can get things rolling, and I think that's how we feel about this plant. It needs to run and it needs to run safely. It does us no good to open it back up again and in two weeks have 500 more people (sick). Where are we going to keep getting the workers?"

Peterson pledged to continue working to find solutions and also figure out how to compensate pork producers who kill hogs because they don't have space for them with the packers closed and causing a backlog.

"I can tell you that as the chairman of the ag committee, this is not going to happen again on my watch," Peterson said. "We get this thing set up, we are not going to disband it. We are going to keep it in place. We are going to have a way to respond to emergencies that's on the shelf and we can take off whenever we have a situation that happens. And it's gonna happen again. . . . "Whatever it is, we are not going to go through a situation where we were caught flat-footed like we were with this situation."

Yeargins-2020-Farmer-of-the-Year-equipment-wide.jpg University of Tennessee
Jay Yeargin of Greenfield, Tenn., has been named by UT Extension as the Tennessee Farmer of the Year for 2020. He's pictured here with his wife Alice Ann.

Jay Yeargin named Tennessee Farmer of the Year

In a profession where the average age is 58, you might call Jay Yeargin of Greenfield, Tenn., an upstart. Yet, this 37-year-old has been farming for more than 16 years and is well known in the agricultural community. This year his reputation as a quality producer has jumped again. Yeargin has been named by University of Tennessee Extension as the Tennessee Farmer of the Year for 2020.

The row crop producer from west Tennessee, who also runs a 60-head beef cattle operation, started farming with just 60 acres when he was 21. Today the operation, which he runs in tandem with wife Alice Ann, has 2,700 acres in production, of which approximately 40 percent is owned land. Yeargin grows yellow corn, soybeans and wheat along with his cattle. He also produces a fair amount of hay — some 700 round bales a year, all on non-irrigated land. Some years he grows food-grade white corn, which when sold at a premium enables his farm to enjoy a measure of financial success. 

“At our farming operation, we utilize several different ways to market our crops. We are able to deliver our grain to the best market, even if it isn’t the closest, because we own our own trucks and have grain storage on the farm,” says Yeargin. “Storage gives us more options and allows us to have full-time employees, so we can deliver grain all winter.” 

Agriculture Field

Yeargin is expected to be introduced as the 2020 Tennessee Farmer of the Year Aug. 13 at the Tennessee Farm Bureau President’s Conference in Franklin, Tenn., and at the UT Institute of Agriculture Ag Day celebration scheduled for Oct. 3 in Knoxville as well as other agricultural events (virtual or real) throughout the summer.

He was nominated for the honor by Jeff Lannom, UT Extension agent and director of Extension in Weakley County. Farmers from across the state were nominated for the honor by their county Extension agents or by Extension area farm management specialists. 

Lannom says he nominated Yeargin because of his excellent farming practices, his strong family values and his spirit of volunteerism. 

A 2004 graduate of UT Martin, Yeargin earned a degree in Agriculture Business. Alice Ann followed one year later with a degree in Business Administration with a concentration in marketing. “This time in my life is where I really grew as a person; not just in the classroom, but networking with others in the agriculture field,” says Yeargin.

“I was able to make lifelong friends all across the state that share the same challenges and ideas. I also stay in close contact with many of my professors. I am so grateful to be able to use them as a resource, but also share my working farm with their students as a hands-on teaching environment.”

When not working on the farm, Yeargin also operates a mowing and track hoe business, and he has an extensive list of county-, state- and national-level activities in a variety of organizations that range from serving as a deacon at the First Presbyterian Church, as director of the Weakley County Farm Bureau, and as a member of the State Ag Enhancement Advisory Board. Along with Alice Ann, Jay was named runner up for the American Farm Bureau Young Farmer and Rancher Achievement Award in 2017.


In addition to also serving in various community-based activities, Alice Ann has served as the Weakley County Chamber of Commerce president, and was named as the Tennessee Farm Bureau Young Farmer and Rancher Outstanding Young Woman in 2013. 

Lannom adds that the Yeargins host the annual Governor’s School of Agriculture at their farm and the farm is are regular cooperators in the University of Tennessee County Standardized Testing Program by planting and harvesting multiple soybean varieties.

As parents to a young son, the couple also invests a great deal of time toward growing what they hope will be a future Tennessee Farmer of the Year.

As Tennessee Farmer of the Year, Jay will compete in the Southeastern Farmer of the Year competition at the Sunbelt Ag Expo in Moultrie, Ga., Oct. 20-22. The Southeastern Farmer of the Year competition chooses from among the top farmers from 10 Southeastern states (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia) and is sponsored by Swisher International, Inc.

The award recognizes excellence in agricultural production and farm management, along with leadership in farm and community organizations. The award also honors family contributions in producing safe and abundant supplies of food, fiber and shelter products for U.S. consumers. The overall Southeastern Farmer of the Year will be announced at a luncheon on the opening day of the Expo. 

Source: The University of Tennessee, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.
corn-soybean-planting-489808205.jpg BanksPhotos/Getty Images Plus

2020 planting considerations

Warmer temperatures and great soil conditions in portions of the state allowed the planting season to begin this week. Everything we do at planting sets the stage for the rest of the year. With tight economics, it’s important to make wise decisions with the factors we can control during planting season.

Soil conditions

  • Compaction can occur from driving on or tilling in wet soils, creating clods and hard pans. Sidewall compaction can occur when injecting fertilizer or planting seed into wet soils when it’s being “mudded in.”
  • Plant into soil temps as close to 50°F as possible. Check weather conditions for the next 48 hours and avoid saturated soil conditions. If planting a few degrees less than 50°F, make sure to check with seed dealers on more cold-tolerant seed, and only plant if the forecast is calling for warm temperatures the next few days that would also help increase the soil temperature. Once planted, corn seeds need a 48-hour window and soybean seeds need at least a 24-hour window when the soil temperature at planting depth does not drop much below 50°F and no cold rains are anticipated.

Planting window versus calendar date

  • Weather conditions vary from year to year, thus calendar dates aren’t as important as planting windows for optimum corn yield. Not every year will the optimum planting date for corn be in April. This has also been found throughout the Corn Belt. In 2019, some growers commented late May/early June planted corn was some of their best yielding due to the strange weather conditions.
  • Planting soybean early is critical to maximizing yield. This has been found through numerous university studies in addition to grower-reported data. Because of this, an increasing number of growers are planting soybean earlier than or at least at the same time as planting corn. Use a fungicide + insecticide seed treatment when planting in late April/early May. UNL doesn’t have early-planted soybean research relative to a cost-benefit analysis of these treatments. CropWatch has additional information on considerations for early soybean planting.

Planting depth

  • Aim to get corn and soybean in the ground 1.5-2 inches deep. This keeps corn and soybean seed in even soil temperature and moisture conditions. In spite of monitors showing down force and seeding depth, it’s still important to get out and check seeding depth across the planter in each field.
  • For corn, proper depth is critical for root establishment and avoiding rootless corn syndrome where the nodal (crown roots) don’t get well established. Thus, avoid planting shallow into wet soils.
  • While soybean is more forgiving on planting depth, UNL research found lowest yields when soybean was planted 1.25 inches deep or less or 2.25 inches or greater with the highest yield at 1.75 inches deep.

Seeding rates

  • In general, our research has shown a trend of yield increases with increasing corn populations; however, it is very hybrid dependent. We’d recommend working with your seed dealer or testing different seeding rates via on-farm research.
  • In soybean, numerous studies have shown seeding rates can be reduced without significantly affecting yields. This has been found for both 15-inch and 30-inch planted rows in medium- to fine-textured soils in eastern and western Nebraska. The farmers in the Nebraska studies planted seed with at least 90% germination listed on the seed tag. Our recommendation based on the research is to plant 120,000 seeds/acre and aim for a final plant stand of 100,000 plants/acre. Reducing rates from 150K to 120K can save a grower $10/acre depending on seed costs.


Planting does set the stage for the remainder of the year! Agronomically and economically it’s important to do this right the first time.

If you’re interested in testing any of these considerations for yourself, a number of on-farm research protocols are available for various production practices or products. You can view them online or contact your local Extension cropping system’s educator.

Originally published by University of Nebraska.

Fresh fruit Tim Hearden
Fresh fruit fills a plate.

Move to boost produce deliveries to food banks applauded

A farm group is applauding California Gov. Gavin Newsom's move to send additional produce from farms to food banks impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Newsom announced Wednesday a statewide partnership between the state’s 41 food banks and 128 farmers and ranchers to provide 21 million pounds of fresh produce a month, KRON-TV in San Francisco reports. The governor says another 200 farmers are interested in joining.

Dave Puglia, president and chief executive officer of Western Growers, praised Newsom and state Department of Food and Agriculture secretary Karen Ross for expanding the state's Farm to Family program.

"The collapse of the food service sector has hit farmers who supply restaurants, schools, universities, hotel resorts and other institutional buyers of fresh produce," Puglia said in a statement. Many farmers who planted before the economy was shut down made the difficult decision to abandon their crops rather than double their financial loss by harvesting, packing and cooling highly perishable produce with no market."

Food 'orphaned' by shutdown

Puglia says it "makes sense" to redirect farm-produced food "orphaned by the economic shutdown" to food banks that have experienced a huge spike in demand.

"Our growers recognize this and have more than doubled their donations of berries, baby carrots, grapes and other fresh fruits and vegetables to food banks up and down the state in March and April," he said.

“Given the massive economic harm to farmers in our state, much more relief is needed, but this is a good step forward," he added.

Founded in 1926, Western Growers represents local and regional family farmers growing fresh produce in Arizona, California, Colorado and New Mexico. Its members and their workers provide half the nation’s fresh fruits, vegetables and tree nuts, including half of America’s fresh organic produce, according to the group's website.

MarketDesign-FeelPic-ThinkstockPhotos-1540x800 FeelPic/ThinkstockPhotos

Grain prices are at a critical juncture

Here we sit. It is the end of April. We as a nation have been in quarantine shelter at home for over a month. We have seen commodity prices fall to levels not thought possible. We have seen our government stretched and tested. We have seen our resilient farmers dump milk and euthanize hogs. We witnessed the closure of packing plants, only to then have a presidential declaration to re-open them. Farmers are planting at a swift pace even as Americans are driving less pushing energy demand down and leaving ethanol plants to either slow production or close. Corn prices have gone down to $3, wheat futures have dropped sharply, and soybean futures may be inching toward $8 with looming threats to potentially drop lower. Is all of the bearish news priced in? What hope do we have for a rally?

Thursday, April 30 is first notice day for May futures

The reason first notice day is significant is because any traders who are holding long futures positions in the May grains need to have exited long positions before this date, or be at risk of physical delivery. Sometimes in the two weeks between first notice day and last trading day for a futures contract, prices can become quite volatile. Or, prices can sit in a lull. Just depends on actual physical demand for a commodity (think crude oil recent price drama). We will be interested to see price action in the days ahead.

The U.S. dollar is finally moving lower

With the shock of the economic turmoil factored in for now, the economic markets seem to have stabilized for the moment. Yet, we wonder how the U.S. and global economy will recover; quickly, slowly, or somewhere in between. The government may make the step of printing money, which ultimately can lead to currency devaluation and eventually inflation. The U.S. dollar has fallen 2% off its highs in late March, but it needs to fall further if it is to be of benefit to our export markets (remember a lower U.S. dollar makes it cheaper for other countries to import our products based on the currency exchange rate). While a 2% drop is helpful, it pales in comparison to how much the Brazilian currency has dropped during that same time, nearly 12%! The extreme discount of the Brazilian Real is a large reason why Brazil has gained so much export business in recent months. Brazil is forecast to export 8.8 million tonnes of beans in the month of May. Half of those soybeans are destined for China. 

Be ready for any price scenario to occur

While we look at grain prices and hope that a seasonal price low will occur soon, hope is not a strategy. Are you ready with your marketing strategy should $3 support fail in corn futures leaving $2.75 as the next potential short term target lower? What if beans break below $8? It might be worthwhile to take another look at put option strategies to be prepared just in case. Yet, if we receive any friendly news in the weeks ahead, prices might rally even higher than anticipated, and you should be mindful of targets for cash sales. It seems like the marketing volatility will likely continue for the remainder of 2020 as we come to understand supply and demand scenarios, the global economic recovery from COVID-19, and get through a likely heated U.S. presidential election.

Reach Naomi Blohm: 800-334-9779 and
Disclaimer: The data contained herein is believed to be drawn from reliable sources but cannot be guaranteed. Individuals acting on this information are responsible for their own actions. Commodity trading may not be suitable for all recipients of this report. Futures and options trading involve significant risk of loss and may not be suitable for everyone. Therefore, carefully consider whether such trading is suitable for you in light of your financial condition. No representation is being made that scenario planning, strategy or discipline will guarantee success or profits. Any decisions you may make to buy, sell or hold a futures or options position on such research are entirely your own and not in any way deemed to be endorsed by or attributed to Total Farm Marketing. Total Farm Marketing and TFM refer to Stewart-Peterson Group Inc., Stewart-Peterson Inc., and SP Risk Services LLC. Stewart-Peterson Group Inc. is registered with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) as an introducing broker and is a member of National Futures Association. SP Risk Services, LLC is an insurance agency and an equal opportunity provider. Stewart-Peterson Inc. is a publishing company. A customer may have relationships with all three companies. SP Risk Services LLC and Stewart-Peterson Inc. are wholly owned by Stewart-Peterson Group Inc. unless otherwise noted, services referenced are services of Stewart-Peterson Group Inc. Presented for solicitation
The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress.