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Articles from 2008 In June


World food policies must change — including our own

(Click on title to read article)

This summer the world woke up and realized it couldn't keep feeding the planet with the same old outdated ag policies. And despite how efficient we believe our own agriculture to be, we all have a long way to go to make the world's ag and food infrastructure more productive, sustainable and fair. 800 million hungry mouths a day should be proof enough that we're failing.

That wake-up call came like a jolt when food prices began climbing, to as much as 40% over prices a year ago. USDA Secretary of Agriculture Ed Shafer hit a home run at the World Food Summit when he suggested a three-step approach: Get more food to the most malnourished people now, change ag policies — including barriers to biotech — so that more food can be produced over the long term, and third, establish a good trade deal that opens doors between nations.

Getting more food to hungry people now shouldn't be an issue. Countries, including our own, are opening their purse strings to help others in need.

The second goal will be tougher. What's needed is bold, pro-poor government policies to help transform outdated agricultural infrastructures. That is a huge challenge in places where government leaders aren't always looking out for their citizens.

The recent earthquake in Myanmar (Burma) is a tragic, yet typical case, as government leaders there refused to allow aid workers inside the country. U.S. Navy ships laden with relief supplies steamed away from Burma on June 5, their helicopters barred from delivering supplies by the ruling junta.

Zimbabwe, once an African breadbasket, is now decimated thanks to President Robert Mugabe, who recently suspended all humanitarian work of CARE because of allegations it sided with the political opposition party in the current election season there.

Land policies in Africa are different from country to country. Across the continent, ag lands have been decimated, in part by lack of secure property rights. In Tanzania, for example, land is owned and redistributed in accordance with customary or religious laws and land ownership is determined by clan elders, such as a village council.

Getting more production from every acre will require using new technologies, including precision techniques, better water management and yes, biotechnology. That may not sit well with some countries that use GMO scare tactics as an artificial trade barrier.

$1 trillion in trade Trade is the final piece of this puzzle, and perhaps the most important. It may shock you to learn that the amount of money being spent globally on importing food is set to top $1 trillion in 2008, thanks in part to soaring food prices.

We cannot adequately feed people without free flow of goods between countries. Throwing up barriers to trade often results in unforeseen consequences, as is the case in Argentina, where striking farmers caused havoc at the grocery stores when the ruling powers slapped controls on soybean exports. Using •food security' as an excuse for higher tariffs or to protect markets solves nothing. It also discourages production at a time when production is most needed.

We're not completely innocent in this picture. The U.S. Congress just passed a pork-ladened farm bill with trade-distorting subsidies that will only add to our reputation as hypocrites when it comes to trade reform. Will we have the political willpower to dismantle our own trade-skewing rules?

What's needed is a new multilateral trade pact in WTO that removes all export subsidies and lowers or removes direct subsidies to rich-country farmers, including our own.

Such a deal should also remove protectionist tariffs in developing countries. While those tariffs are meant to protect subsistence farmers, they often stand in the way of the creation of regional farm markets that could spur greater agricultural output and productivity.

In the big picture, U.S. citizens are blessed. We live in a country where bountiful production allows us to feed ourselves and many others around the world. Exercising wisdom, fairness and sound leadership as commodity markets right themselves will not only build confidence with our trading partners. It will also re-establish our credibility with new and existing global partners for the long-term.

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Farm Bill Implementation Underway

For the full article, click on the headline above.

This year's farm bill took months, really years in the making. At the end of June Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer announced some of the first rules for implementing the 2008 Farm Bill. (Click HERE for the full transcript and audio from Schafer.) Schafer announced June 25 sign-up for the 2008 Direct and Counter-cyclical Payment Program (DCP) helps deliver certainty for the crop year and the option of a timely advance payment. Contracts are at USDAServiceCenters and signup will continue until September 30, 2008. USDA's DCP readiness follows the June 12 availability of marketing assistance loan and loan deficiency payment (LDP) provisions, within three weeks of commodity title enactment. (For the full announcement, click HERE) The rules for the 2008 DCP are very similar to those for 2007. Schafer said that allowed USDA to move quickly in developing software to process this year's contracts.

The '08 farm bill did however make one immediate change to the DCP by ending payments to farms with less than 10 base acres, unless they are owned by a socially disadvantaged or limited resource farmer or rancher.

Schafer said this year's program is similar to last year's in two important ways. First, producers won't need to file new farm operating plans unless they have had changes in operations that would affect their eligibility.

And adjusted gross income compliance certification of record will carry forward this year. The adjusted gross income limit remains at $2.5 million for this year; however, starting in '09 producers won't be eligible for the program if their non-farm income exceeds $500,000 or their farm income is over $750,000. And as always, if farmers and ranchers are married, those figures would be doubled.

Other program changes will also be taking effect with the '09 crop year and beyond. Those will require USDA to issue new rules and handbooks and develop new software. Schafer said USDA would announce those changes as soon as they are ready and as they come to be implemented.

ACRE will be delayed

As it currently stands, the Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) won't be an option for farmers until at least 2009. When asked whether ACRE will be up in running in time for the planting of the winter wheat crop, Schafer said it's unlikely that USDA will have the rulemaking process complete.

The ACRE program requires additional implementation resources for the Farm Service Agency, stated Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Conner. Conner said USDA is working with Congress to obtain additional resources for both personnel and IT equipment to have timely implementation of the ACRE program.

"Our advisors tell us that the data that is necessary to implement ACRE simply cannot be put upon the current computer system that is housed in the Farm Service Agency, and there will need to be changes in that system before we can implement ACRE fully," Conner said.

Expectations Were Exceeded in USDA Acreage Report

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's June grain stocks and acreage reports revealed larger numbers than generally expected. Current estimates were negative for corn prices but provided some support for soybean prices.

"Taken together, the USDA reports were negative for corn prices," said Darrel Good, University of Illinois extension economist. "With a slowdown in corn use already happening, year-end stocks will likely be at least 100 million bushels larger than the 1.433 billion bushels projected by USDA earlier in the month. In addition, the acreage estimate suggests that less rationing will be needed next year, although stock levels will still likely decline during the 2008-09 marketing year."

For soybeans, production may fall short of the 3.1 billion bushels USDA projected earlier in the year, keeping stocks extremely tight for another year. Only 306 million bushels of wheat were in storage at the beginning of June, down 33% from a year ago and the lowest since 1949.

"Corn use during the summer quarter will be impacted by the rate of liquidation of animal numbers, which has been extremely modest to date, and the rate of wheat feeding, which should be substantial. Use for the year may fall short of the USDA projection of 6.15 billion bushels," Good said.

Widespread flooding is expected to result in more abandoned acres or, perhaps, more acres harvested for silage. Yield potential is difficult to predict, but based on improving weather, a benign weather forecast for July and improving crop condition ratings, potential yield is likely to be at or above USDA's June assessment of 148.9 bushels. The 2008 production potential may be between 11.8 billion and 12.0 billion bushels, Good said.

Yield potential also is still very uncertain due to late planting in many areas. Favorable summer growing conditions that extend well into September could result in a U.S. average yield near the trend of 42 bushels, producing a crop of more than 3 billion bushels. In general, however, the trade is probably skeptical that a trend yield in soybeans can be attained, Good said.

Source: Feedstuffs

Crop Progress Still Delayed by Wet Weather

Corn and soybean progress nationally remained behind schedule due in large part to wet conditions in the Midwest. USDA meteorologist Brad Rippey says only 3% of the corn crop is silking compared to the five year average of 9% and soybean blooming is at 4% nationally versus the usual of 11%. Emergence of both crops continues to lag behind, but Rippey says the conditions of both crops improved over last week.

"We did see some condition increases overall for the corn crop in the last week now rated 61% good to excellent," Rippey says. "In terms of the soybean condition, just a small upturn in condition nationally at 58% good to excellent, a point higher than last week but down from last year's 68% figure."

Winter wheat harvest is in full swing with several states such as Arkansas and North Carolina nearly done and four states in the past week had at least one-fifth of the crop harvested in that one week span. Nationally, 36% of the winter wheat crop has been harvested.

Dryness has been a concern in many cotton growing areas and Rippey says that trend is hurting the condition of the crop.

"Overall the crop now rated 45% good to excellent; 22% very poor to poor," Rippey says. "Last week we were looking at 47% good to excellent and 21% very poor to poor."

Rippey says several of the dry areas are seeing much worse conditions. Nearly 40% of Texas cotton is very poor to poor and 34% of South Carolina is rated very poor to poor.

House Ag Leader Urges EPA to Issue RFS Waiver

Fifty-one Republican House members have joined in the call to reduce the 2009 renewable fuels standard. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., ranking member of House Agriculture Committee, and others are asking Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson for the reduction to help alleviate the pressure from rising corn prices, according to a June 30 statement from Goodlatte.

Citing the rising costs of feed and energy, his statement noted, "Livestock producers throughout the country are struggling under the weight of increased input costs." Goodlatte also pointed to the impact of food price inflation on low-income Americans. Texas Gov. Rick Perry is currently seeking a request for a 50% reduction in the RFS. While remaining a supporter of alternative fuels, Goodlatte said, "The only factor we can immediately control is the amount of the corn supply that must be dedicated to meet the RFS.•bCrLf He urged the Administration "to reduce the government-mandated RFS. We cannot allow government mandates to pick winners and losers."

Source: Feedstuffs

Rural Business Grants Awarded

Fifteen organizations in seven states have been selected to receive grants in excess of $2.7 million for job creation and economic development.

"These funds underscore USDA's commitment to foster a healthy business climate in rural areas," says Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer. "Helping small and emerging rural enterprises thrive is critical to our mission to deliver economic opportunity to rural communities."

Most of the grants are going to areas that have been declared disaster areas. Several of the grants will be used in a revolving loan fund to help rural businesses rebuild following recent flooding and tornados.

The grants are funded through USDA Rural Development's Rural Business Enterprise Grant program, and funding of individual recipients is contingent upon their meeting all the requirements of the grant agreement.

Idaho Scientist Check Potatoes for Organic Use

Two University of Idaho agricultural scientists are evaluating seven potato varieties under organic production methods.

"There's a lot of interest and a lot of curiosity by growers," reports Nora Olsen, a UI Extension potato specialist. "A lot of people are wondering 'OK, if I were to jump into this, how would it work?'"

The study is sponsored by the Idaho Potato Commission.

Olsen and Extension soil specialist Amber Moore are digging up answers in order to make science-based information available to Idaho producers. This year, they planted two varieties of processing potatoes: Alturas and the late-blight resistant Defender; four fresh market spuds: Yukon Gold, Red Norland, Norkotah and Norkotah-8.

Idaho's mainstay potato variety, Russet Burbank, is also under observation in the organic test plot.

The planting will be watched for pest problems. Only organic type materials such as Spinosad will be used to control potato beetles.

Before planting, the experimental plots were fertilized with dairy manure or dairy compost and fish emulsion.

Two monumental problems faced in organic production are weed control and fertilizer.

"It's a new challenge for us and we're learning," says Olsen. "There are a lot of potatoes grown in this area and consequently there will be plenty of potato pests. We could have all the same problems than neighboring conventional growers do, and we'll need to deal with those problems in a modified way."

The team says a big challenge is making sure the potatoes get the nitrogen needed during the critical vine-ripening and tuber-bulking stages. Conventional producers typically apply pre-determined levels of nitrogen fertilizer at planting, followed by measured supplementary applications through sprinklers during the growing season.

Much of the nitrogen in the manure and compost applied to the organic plots must be converted by soil microbes into forms plans can use, a slower and less precise practice, notes Olsen.

The study reflects an increase in organic potato production in Idaho, which produced such crops on nearly 1,200 acres this year, up from about 500 acres a year earlier, mirroring a steady annual increase.

Ginseng Producers Re-Elect Hopperdietzel, Untiedt to Marketing Board

The state's ginseng producers recently re-elected Alan Hopperdietzel of Athens and Courtney Untiedt of Edgar to the Ginseng Board of Wisconsin, according to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

Both directors will serve three-year terms beginning July 1.

The ginseng board consists of seven members elected by their peers. The board administers the marketing order that assesses 20 cents per pound of dry ginseng root sales. Currently, extensive research is being conducted with the University of Michigan to develop new pesticides for approval for use on ginseng plants.

Late Corn Replanting Carries Major Risks

With corn prices at record highs, many farmers in Iowa replanted flood-damaged fields to corn this past week. Some replanted their drowned-out areas, others replanted entire fields. As of June 27, a few farmers were still considering replanting to corn as soon as their fields dry up enough to plant.

Other farmers planted soybeans in those fields - if they could. Replanting to beans isn't an option for everyone, as a previously applied corn herbicide such as atrazine prohibits going with soybeans as a replant crop.

This replanted corn runs high risk of frost

Years of data advise caution regarding the decision to go ahead and replant corn after about June 20. Recent yield simulations run by the Department of Agronomy at Iowa State University show that while the economics may work out in a perfect situation, replanting that late in June carries with it some major risks.

"Corn planted this late has an early frost damage risk of around 40% in the southern part of the state and as high as 66% in the northern areas," says Roger Elmore, ISU Extension corn agronomist. "An early frost could mean the difference between 130 bushels an acre and 24."

Even the early season hybrids are risky

Simulations of yield potential for corn acres planted by July 1 in Iowa show early season hybrids will be the only reasonable option for anyone who finds it economical, and worth the frost risk, to replant. But planting the early season hybrids creates an additional risk since these varieties are less suited to Iowa's environmental stresses and disease.

If the weather is perfectly suited to growing corn from planting until harvest and the land is replanted by July 1, it may be possible to reach yields of 100 to 130 bushels an acre. But grain moisture content could be as high as 37% which means yet another additional cost to dry down the harvest. Complete details of the simulation can be found at:

http://www.extension.iastate.edu/CropNews/2008/062401RogerElmore.htm

Given the high prices of other commodities besides corn, farmers should also consider the benefits of planting soybeans, grain sorghum, various spring and summer annual forage crops, or even leaving the land fallow, says Elmore.

"The yield potential for corn drops off precipitously every day planting is delayed," says Elmore. "Our research shows a daily drop off in yield of 2.5%. And if you can't plant before July 1, corn isn't really an option."

WFTD Show Visitors Will Have Plenty of Food Choices

This year's Food Committee guarantees plenty of opportunities for show visitors to get reasonably-priced food and beverages fast. "We have put in place a fast food service system with five cash registers in each of the six food tents," says Dave Running, food chair. "Getting your food will be a very fast process."

Running says all food products are fresh daily, including all meat products, bakery items, fruits, vegetables and desserts. "However, every effort has been made to keep food and beverage prices affordable," he says. "They're basically at the same level as four years ago."

In addition to the traditional food tents, this year's show will also feature beverage stands at entrance gates and various locations around the grounds. In addition, a mobile cart serving ice cream will travel around the grounds.

Special items this year include:
* Plate lunches
* Ribeye steak sandwich
* Country Burger (1/3 pound ground sirloin)
* Desserts in every food tent
* Water in commemorative bottles

As in the past, each food tent will be staffed by a different charitable group as a way to raise funds. For serving food and collecting cash, each of them will share in the profits from food sales after the show completes its three-day run. This year's participating groups include Home Field Advantage, Denmark FFA Alumni, Wrightstown American Legion – Post 436, Wrightstown Lions Club, Wrightstown Optimists, St. Katharine Drexel Parish – Kaukauna, St. Patrick's Church – Askeaton, St. Paul's Parish – Wrightstown, De Pere Knights of Columbus, Forest Junction Civic League/4-H, SSCM Faith Community, West De Pere FFA, and Zion Lutheran-Wayside Youth.

Food selection and prices

Sandwiches

Hamburger 3.00
Cheese Burger 3.00
Country Burger (Ground Sirloin) 4.00
Ribeye Steak Sandwich 6.00
Hot Dog 2.00
Brat 3.00
Pork Sandwich 3.00
Turkey Sandwich 3.00

Plate Lunch (Dinner roll included with each plate) 6.00
Tuesday – Turkey, Mashed Potatoes, Corn
Wednesday – Ham Steak, Cheesy Potatoes, Baked Beans
Thursday – Chicken Breast, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans

Miscellaneous

Fruit Cup (with dip) 3.00
Veggie Cup (with dip) 3.00
Cheese Curds (4 oz.) 2.00
Chips (Regular, Sour Cream & Onion) 1.00
Yogurt (Strawberry, Blueberry, Peach) 1.00

Beverages

Milk (White, Chocolate, Strawberry) 1.00
Soda (Dr. Pepper, RC Cola, Diet Rite, 7-Up, Lemonade) 2.00
Water (Chippewa Spring Custom Label or Plain Label) 1.00
Coffee (with cream, sugar) 1.00
Orange Juice 1.00

Desserts

Pies (Apple, Cherry) 2.00
Chocolate Chip Cookie 1.00
Brownie 2.00
Cinnamon Roll 2.00

Breakfast Food – ONLY SERVED IN TENT 2

Breakfast Plate (Scrambled Eggs, Sausage, Potato & Biscuit) 4.00
Cinnamon Roll 2.00

Ice Cream Novelties 2.00
(Nestle Ice Cream Sandwich, Nestle Drumstick, Nestle Crunch Bar, Frozen Lemonade Cup)