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 2002 In August

Veneman announces peanut program provisions

The loan rate schedule was one of several features of the new peanut program announced by Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman. Those included: Marketing loan rates, the weekly national posted price and disposition of last year’s crop still in storage.

“The Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 makes significant changes in the peanut program by replacing the peanut marketing system that was established over 60 years ago,” she said. “USDA employees have worked hard in a short amount of time to implement these new measures.

“While many of the changes are complex, this is an important transition period as these changes are intended to make the program more market oriented and to help the industry become more competitive in local and international markets.”

Veneman noted the new farm bill institutes a marketing loan program and loan deficiency payments (LDPs) that will treat peanuts in a manner similar to other commodities such as corn, soybeans and cotton. The law sets a national average loan rate of $355 per ton. The loan rates for each of the four types are:

  • Runner Peanuts: $355.72 per ton
  • Spanish Peanuts: $337.20 per ton
  • Valencia Peanuts: $353.66 per ton
  • Virginia Peanuts: $353.66 per ton.

Premiums and discounts will be applied for quality factors similar to their use for other crops.

Because of the former program and marketing structure, there is no widely reported cash price for peanuts as for other crops, thus necessitating that USDA establish a price.

Veneman said that as peanuts now will be marketed freely, some time will be required for prices to fully reflect the new market structure. USDA will report a “national posted price,” which will determine loan repayment amounts when the price is below the loan rate. In developing the posted price, USDA will utilize a variety of sources to report peanut sales transactions for all uses (both domestic and foreign sales) in various locations throughout the producing areas.

USDA will devote resources necessary to ensure the posted price is an accurate representation of the sales value of farmers’ peanuts, she said.

The “national posted price” applicable immediately to the four types of 2002 crop peanuts is:

  • Runner Peanuts: $373.72 per ton
  • Spanish Peanuts: $355.20 per ton
  • Valencia Peanuts: $371.66 per ton
  • Virginia Peanuts: $371.66 per ton.

The price for each of the four types will be updated each Tuesday at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time to reflect new transactions information available from the previous week. This process will continue until such time as market reported prices are more freely available.

Repayments for the 2002 crop peanut loans will then be handled the same as any other commodity. Peanut producers may repay the loan prior to maturity at a rate equal to the smaller of: (1) principal plus interest; or (2) the announced national posted price. The LDPs when available are the difference between the loan rate and the national posted price.

Veneman also announced new provisions for monitoring the disposition of the 2001 crop of peanuts that remain in storage. Each year under the previous program, large quantities of domestic peanuts were placed under loan, and USDA was charged with ensuring their disposal in a manner that prevents price disruption in the domestic and international markets.

Traditionally, three peanut associations entered into contracts with USDA to oversee the disposal of these peanuts. For the final disposition under the old program, USDA will assume this oversight role of verifying export transactions after Oct. 31, 2002.

Due to the large quantity of peanuts that remain in storage to be exported, Veneman also extended the export disposition date to March 28, 2003, when all exports of the 2001 crop must be completed.


'If it wasn't for the dew...'

Gloucester County, Va., father and son farmers Clem and Keith Horsley are in the same situation. “If it wasn’t for the dew, everything would be dead,” Keith Horsley says. “If you talked with most of the farmers around here, you’d hear the same story,” Clem Horsley says.

“The soybeans are taking a hit now,” Respess said at the Virginia Ag Expo in Port Royal in mid-August. “Another week of this weather and you can write off the soybeans, too.” Respess grows 450 acres of soybeans and 350 acres of corn. He estimates he’ll have a top corn yield of 70 bushels per acre — “And it goes downhill from there, right down to zero.”

Based on the Aug. 11 weekly survey of crops, farmers in the Old Dominion rated 62 percent of the corn crop poor to very poor, says Steve Manheimer, state statistician with the Virginia Agricultural Statistics Service.

Corn yields are expected to average 89 bushels per acre. Last year, corn yields were 123 bushels per acre; in 2000, farmers set a record of 146 bushels per acre.

Fifty-one percent of the soybean crop is rated very poor to poor. The Aug. 11 crop report forecast an average yield of 27 bushels per acre. Virginia soybean producers have had back-to-back good yields: 36 bushels per acre in 2001 and a record 38.5 bushels per acre in 2000. Manheimer points out that the soybean crop still has the potential to recover, if rain comes in time.

Respess and the Horsleys saw their last good rain in late July. “It was the first rain that we’d had since early May,” says Keith Horsley. All three farmers used the word “spotty” to describe their corn and soybean crops. The Horsleys grow 750 acres of corn and 850-900 acres of soybeans.

“We had some potential on our later planted corn, but missed the rain,” says Keith Horsley. “We had a neighbor picking his earlier planted corn. He was getting 55 bushels to the acre.”

Respess hopes he can harvest enough corn and soybeans to “make payments and get some operating income.” Thinking out-loud, he mentions the possibility of having to get off-farm work this winter.

“I’ve never had a loss where it hit both crops,” Respess says. “Three weeks ago we thought we were going to have a bean crop.”


Our Columnists:

Despite the federal government's contention that global warming has begun, and that farming conditions will change accordingly, the opposite has been true in some regions of the United States.

U.S. weather prognosticators insist that American farmers increasingly will have to deal with the effects of global warming. In a report to the United Nations this past May, the government said that if farmers can adapt, the changing climate actually may increase the nation's farm productivity of at least the next several decades. Yields of cotton, soybeans, wheat, barley and other crops could go up.

But it's tough to project what the weather will do tomorrow, much less project temperature and precipitation for the next 100 years. Critics say precipitation projections are especially suspect, and that projected temperature increases are tiny compared to the year-to-year variability in the climates of most states.

Global warming, increased or decreased precipitation — whatever occurs in the future, if you're a Southeastern farmer, you can count on one irrefutable fact: You will have to learn to farm with less water.

Several Southeastern states are in the process of doing something that — until recently — was unheard of in this region. They are coming up with plans to regulate the use of water, and they're not forgetting those of you at the farm level.

The situation has been exacerbated by a relentless drought that settled in for a fifth year of ruining crops, drying up wells and causing record-low river and stream flows.

The hardest hit area appears to be a swath stretching from middle Georgia through the middle of the Carolinas and into central Virginia. Since the drought began in May of 1998, some areas are 60 inches below normal rainfall — the equivalent of a year's worth of precipitation.

Georgia officials have stated that the prolonged dry spell may become the "new drought of record" by which all other droughts are measured. On the coast, Georgia's shrimpers and crabbers have blamed the drought for decreased freshwater flows into estuaries, causing abnormally high salinity levels.

The Carolinas have been hit especially hard this year. Nearly half of the rivers of North and South Carolina are at record-low levels. At least 50 municipalities in North Carolina and 20 water systems in South Carolina have imposed mandatory water restrictions.

In South Carolina, state officials have estimated that the Pee Dee River could essentially dry up within the next several months, closing nearly all the industries and water suppliers along its banks.

Georgia officials say the worst drought were the dry spells between 1939 and 1955. But the dryness that has gripped much of the state for the past four years may very well be a new drought of record, they say. Climate data released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows the 12-month period from July 2001 to June 2002 to be Georgia's fifth driest year in 108 years. And the Carolinas were even drier.

South Georgia especially is feeling the heat, with almost all rivers at extremely low levels.

It's true enough that you can't do anything about the weather. But you can make sure that your voice is heard as officials throughout the South begin the ominous task of divvying up water resources.


How big is too big?

OK. I admit it. I'm one of those urban recipients of government payments to big, wealthy farmers. Or I could be if I decide to fill out the paperwork.

I recently received a letter from USDA informing me of the amount of Agricultural Use Land the Farm Service Agency is showing for the farm my brothers and I own in St. Francis County, Ark.

FSA has sent similar letters to other farmers to help them prepare for signup for the direct and counter-cyclical payments from the new farm bill. The signup is scheduled to begin at county offices Oct. 1.

Before the Environmental Working Group begins filing Freedom of Information Act requests so that it can tell the world how much money my brothers and I could receive, let me add that the Agricultural Use Land on our farm is 44.7 acres. Of those, 15 have been planted in soybeans in recent years.

As you might judge from the numbers, our payments will not rival those of NBA star Scotty Pippen or others who have been pilloried in the media for taking money from farm programs.

While it may be just a blip on the map, our little farm has been a source of pride for my brothers, two of whom live on the farm. (We have an abstract for the land, which was purchased by my grandfather in the 1930s, which shows it was originally settled as part of a grant for service in the War of 1812.)

For the first few years, my grandfather made a living off those 70 acres, planting cotton to sell and corn and hay to feed his cattle, hogs and mules. He also grew a large garden that included a half-acre potato patch.

When my father returned from World War II, he and my grandfather rented land on two adjoining farms so they could try to support two families. But even that wasn't enough, and my Dad went to town and got a job with the local power company.

In a few days, the House will debate the 2003 agricultural appropriations bill. Reps. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, Nick Smith, R-Mich., and others are expected to offer an amendment similar to the Grassley-Dorgan payment limit legislation.

Most expect the amendment, which would limit farmers and their spouses to payments of $275,000 a year, to again be offered when the appropriations bill moves to the Senate. The idea: stop payments to “big,” wealthy farmers.

My question to Reps. Kaptur and Smith and other payment limit proponents is that if they want to stop payments to big farmers, what size is too big? Is it 15 acres? 150 acres? 1,500 acres?

Studies show that many Sun Belt farmers would hit the Grassley-Dorgan payment limit with less than 1,500 acres of cotton. For rice, the acreage is much smaller and for cotton and peanuts even less than that.

If my father and grandfather couldn't support their families on 150 acres in the 1950s, how do Kaptur and Smith think a farmer can possibly do the same in 2002 with the astronomical increases in production costs that have occurred?

Dunavant says: China stocks could push cotton futures higher

William B. Dunavant says cotton farmers probably won't see a lot of merchants “beating down their doors” to buy their cotton over the next three months.

But once November rolls around and the cotton market begins to learn more about the status of China's cotton stocks and whether it intends to conform to WTO rules, things could get quite interesting, he says.

Dunavant told farmers attending a cotton quality and marketing seminar in Memphis that he believes December futures could trade in a range of 44 to 52 cents per pound over the next several months.

What could push futures to 52 cents, a price not experienced by the nearby contract since early in 2001? “If China really becomes aggressive in issuing import licenses late this year or early next year, we could see prices move up significantly,” he said. “So much depends on what happens in China.”

Production and stocks figures for China have always been a mystery, but this year's numbers are proving to be even more puzzling than usual, said Dunavant, the chairman and CEO of Memphis-based Dunavant Enterprises.

“USDA recently raised its estimate of Chinese stocks 3 million bales to 13.1 million, an estimate that is angrily disputed by our people in China,” he said at the seminar sponsored by Bayer CropScience and the Ag Market Network.

“They put the carryover in August 2003 at 9 million bales. Our people say it will be much closer to 6 million bales. Now we're not trading that number yet — we're not sure we believe it. But, if it is only 6 million or 6.5 million or 7 million bales, China will be forced to import more cotton.”

The other side of the equation is whether China begins to conform to World Trade Organization or WTO rules as it promised to do as a condition of its joining the world trade body. That agreement includes the establishment of tariff rate quotas that will open the Chinese market to more imports beginning in January.

“It will take intense pressure from the U.S. government, the WTO and other countries to get China to conform to the WTO rules,” said Dunavant. “They have been very good at circumventing those regulations.”

But the key may be the potentially lower stocks numbers. “USDA is forecasting that China will consume 26.1 million bales of cotton or more than three times what the U.S. textile mills will consume,” he said. “If China's stocks drop to 6 million bales, they cannot sustain those operations.”

In recent weeks, Dunavant Enterprises has sold 40,000 bales to China for August-December delivery. “That's the first time they've been that aggressive in buying cotton in some time.”

In another possible reflection of a shortfall in cotton supplies, prices at China's weekly cotton auction have risen from the equivalent of 51 cents per pound for base staple and quality to 58 cents per pound, he said.

China's stock reductions are occurring because of increased spinning and flooding in some growing areas. But other U.S. competitors are also experiencing problems.

Australian growers are suffering through a drought. “They just harvested 3.25 million bales,” he said. “Our people say that unless they begin to receive rains over the next few months, next year's production could drop to 2.2 million bales.”

India and Pakistan are expected to produce 1 million bales less than last year because of problems with the monsoon rains but could consume 300,000 bales more than the previous year. The Central Asian countries (Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, etc.) are also experiencing production difficulties.

“World stocks are getting tighter, tighter, tighter,” said Dunavant. “But stocks in the United States are not. Based on USDA's estimates of an 18.4-million-bale crop for 2002 and a slight increase in domestic consumption, carryover is expected to decline from last year's 7.6 million to 7.1 million bales. That's still a lot of cotton.”

That's also why December cotton futures have not risen to significantly higher levels given the world cotton situation. Although 52 cents is much higher than the prices of recent months, it would still only take producers back to the U.S. loan rate.

It's also why merchants won't be beating down growers' doors in the near future. “Merchants have purchased a lot of equities in old crop cotton that they have to work through, and that's why you won't see much interest in new crop until late November or early December,” he noted.

Another potential detour on the right to higher prices could come from the commodity funds, who are currently 37 percent long in New York futures. “If the commodity funds blow out of their positions, the market will drop,” he said. “The low end of my range (44 cents) could even be tested tomorrow given the close below 45 cents in December today.”

Dunavant said he intends for his company to be long if the market goes below 44 cents.

“I think the market will go higher eventually, and the situation in China could impact how soon that happens.”


U.S. cotton shippers say: China falling short of market promises

U.S. cotton shippers say the Chinese government is delivering far less than it promised when it agreed to open its markets to more foreign-grown cotton as a condition of its joining the World Trade Organization.

Representatives of the American Cotton Shippers Association (ACSA), Calcot Ltd., the National Cotton Council and Cotton Council International made the complaint at a meeting with J.B. Penn, undersecretary of agriculture for farm and foreign agricultural services and officials with the office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR).

They said China is also attempting to use the requirement of two new tests for short fiber content and neps as a way to limit additional imports and protect its domestic cotton industry.

In establishing the Tariff Rate Quota (TRQ) system required by the WTO accession agreement, the Chinese “in reality intended to limit imports of foreign cotton through a scheme that established a large TRQ level of 3.767 million bales or 820,000 metric tons, but in effect limits the actual amount of unrestricted or private sector free trade to only 230,000 bales,” said William B. Dunavant III, president of ACSA.

Dunavant, president of Memphis, Tenn.-based Dunavant Enterprises, and Tom Smith, president of Calcot, said the Chinese are doing this by allocating one third of the TRQs to the four state trading entities in China and the remaining two-thirds to the so-called “processing trade” and the private sector.

“The state trading entities have been allocated their TRQs, but have been requested not to use them, while the processing trade can only import cotton if the end products will be re-exported,” said Dunavant.

“Otherwise, the goods will be considered ‘smuggled’ and a tax in excess of the value of the product will be applied,” said Smith. “That leaves the private sector's 230,000 bales as the only true free market quota open for export to China.”

Dunavant said the “Catch 22” for the private sector category is that mills will not be allowed to apply for an import allocation without a signed contract from a foreign exporter of raw cotton. No exporter will take the risk to enter into a contract with a mill without an import allocation so, “in effect, the Chinese TRQ system is a complete sham.”

The delegation also brought to USDA's and the USTR's attention the recent announcement by the Chinese that they will be employing a new classification standard that will limit imports to cotton that does not contain short fiber content or neps.

The Chinese filing with the WTO says: “In this revision, Short Fiber Content (SFC) and Nep Count are included into the quality requirements of the national standard GB1103-1999 Cotton Uplands Cotton. Test for SFC shall be conducted according to GB/T6098.1-1985 Test Method of Cotton Fiber Length using Roller Analyzer. Test of Neps shall be conducted according to GB/T6103-1985 Test Method for Raw Cotton Trash.”

The Chinese informed the WTO that the “national standard for cotton is revised in order to improve the quality of cotton, to satisfy the needs of textile enterprises for high quality cotton, to prevent fake and bad quality cotton from flowing into the market and to fight deceptive practices in trade.”

The proposed date of the adoption of this anti-competitive effort, which Dunavant and Smith said clearly violates WTO regulations, is Sept. 30, and the proposed effective date is April 1, 2003.

According to news reports an official at the State Fiber Inspection Center, under the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, said that foreign cotton suppliers will be required to submit certificates attesting the cotton cargoes have passed the two tests before being unloaded at the Chinese ports.

The unnamed State Fiber Inspection official said that “many textile mills have been asking us to add the two indicators to the inspection list for a long time, since the two have played a key role in affecting the cloth or yarn output during the ginning process. What we want to do is to protect the interests of the tumbling textile industry.”

“He failed to point out that the clear effect of the new requirement is to provide additional protection for Chinese cotton,” said Dunavant. “In point of fact, China is importing a relatively small amount of cotton from the United States, but it is exporting a massive amount of cotton textile products to it.”

Delta Council speaks out against Rule 19

If a lack of returned calls is any indication, the Memphis and Greenwood, Miss., cotton exchanges have no doubt where Delta cotton growers and ginners stand on the issue of penalizing cotton bales according to weight.

“This is not something we can support at all. Quite frankly, I don't know how many more licks we can take and still continue to get up,” says Bill Kennedy, chairman of Delta Council's Cotton Ginning and Quality Improvement Committee, and manager of Duncan Gin in Inverness, Miss. “One Delta gin ran their numbers and discovered these penalties would have cost them $92,000 in 2001.”

Chip Morgan, executive director of the Stoneville, Miss.-based Delta Council announced the group's effort to find an amicable solution, or compromise, with the cotton exchanges at an Aug. 20 committee meeting in Stoneville, Miss.

“I don't see a way around this, so we'd be well advised in getting together to come up with something we can live with. I'm hopeful we can change this and make it more lenient with greater thresholds. However, neither the Memphis or Greenwood cotton exchanges have returned my calls,” Morgan told committee members.

Kennedy believes this apparent lack of communication on the issue makes it clear the cotton exchanges are well aware of growers and ginners feelings about the Rule 19 changes.

The revision to the cotton exchanges' Rule 19 could result in ginners and cotton growers being hit with penalties of $3 to $20 per bale, or even having bales rejected, if they weigh less than 410 pounds. Under the new rule, cotton bales weighing between 440 and 474 pounds net are penalized $3 per bale, and those weighing between 410 and 440 pounds garner a $6 penalty. Those bales weighing less than 410 pounds can either be rejected outright, or if accepted, penalized $20 per bale. In addition, bales weighing more than 600 pounds net may be rejected.

“I'm not sure how we can stay out of that penalty range, even most of the time,” Kennedy says. “The larger capacity gins will have the most difficult time avoiding these penalties for underweight bales.”

He explains, “The higher rate of ginning per hour, the less control you have maintaining that bale weight within a set, narrow parameter. One additional charge on the tramper can mean a plus or minus 30 pounds per bale. On the other hand, you can't stay in business if you slow down.”

An exception to these penalties is made where any invoice averages 490 pounds or more, in which case there will be no penalty. And while the penalties went into effect Aug. 1, 2002, they also apply to that portion of the 2001 crop that was warehoused, but not yet invoiced.

According to Stanley Anthony, director of the USDA Ginning Laboratory at Stoneville, Miss., the weight of an official bale is 480 pounds, not 500 pounds, as many in the industry perceive. Achieving a perfect 480-pound bale of cotton is complicated by variations in variety, moisture content, trash content, growth conditions in the field and gin machinery condition.

It generally takes about 1,500 pounds of seed cotton to make one 480-to 500-pound bale of ginned cotton. However, Kennedy says, “We are dealing with a product that is inconsistent. Just because you have 1,500 pounds of seed cotton doesn't mean you're going to have 500 pounds of lint. It's hard to be exact with a non-uniform product.

“As ginners, we would love to set-up our gins to produce 480- to 490-pound bales of cotton at the beginning of the season, and then never have to change it during the season. The technology is not available, though, for us to stay within that tolerance in every instance,” he says.

What's worse, Kennedy says, the changes in penalties were a complete surprise to cotton growers and ginners. “Nobody has come to the industry and said we have a major problem with bale weights, and we need to do something about it. In fact, average bale weights per gin in the Mid-South haven't changed in 20 years.”


State works to suppress West Nile virus

They swarm. They bite. They suck your blood. And they spread disease. They're mosquitoes, and with more than 65 species in the state, Louisiana has more types of these insects than most other states in the United States.

“We're subtropical, their preferred climate,” says Dr. Michael Perich, a medical entomologist and internationally recognized mosquito expert with the LSU AgCenter. “One-third of the species in Louisiana are the same as in Brazil.”

Louisiana has nearly every mosquito habitat, Perich says, pointing out the state is home to fresh marsh, salt marsh, floodwater, rice field, urban and even tree-hole mosquitoes — a variation that lays its eggs in small pools of water found in holes in trees.

The south Louisiana habitat mimics tropical zones, creating conditions that support mosquitoes year-round, Perich points out. Some species actually thrive when temperatures are in the 50s and 60s — not uncommon as the high temperatures for south Louisiana in winter.

Among all the mosquitoes in Louisiana, the two principal species found where people live are the Southern house mosquito — Culex quinquefasciatus — and the Asian tiger mosquito — Aedes albopictus.

The Southern house mosquito, sometimes called the “sewer mosquito,” breeds in organically rich areas such as drainage ditches and septic ponds, Perich says. Although this species prefers to bite birds, it will feed on people, too.

“Birds are their steak; we're more like hot dogs,” Perich says.

But the LSU AgCenter expert says the No. 1 nuisance mosquito in Louisiana is the Asian tiger mosquito.

“It's very domesticated,” he says. “It lays eggs at the edge of water and breeds in backyard containers such as bird baths, flower pot saucers, swimming pool covers, boat covers and even in flowers such as bromeliads.”

The Asian tiger mosquito came to the United States in used tires from Asia.

“It's a vector (carrier) of about everything you can imagine, and it feeds on everything,” Perich says, adding that not all mosquito species bite people.

“Mosquitoes can be very host-specific,” the entomologist says. “Culiseta melanura, for example, bites birds exclusively. One species doesn't feed on blood at all, but on other mosquitoes.”

Even the mosquitoes that feed on blood don't do that to live, Perich says. For “regular food,” both male and female mosquitoes consume nectar as their main energy source.

Blood, on the other hand, contains the ingredients necessary to lay eggs. That's why only females bite.

Most female mosquitoes live about one week, Perich says. They bite animals — birds, people, dogs, horses and so forth — to get a “blood meal” to lay eggs.

Perich says the female mosquito has a three-day cycle between the blood meal and laying the eggs. Because they live only seven to 10 days, female mosquitoes will do this only two to three times in their lifetimes.

Besides old age, the No. 1 killer of mosquitoes is the sun, Perich says. That's why most mosquitoes feed at night.

But there are a few exceptions. Woodland mosquitoes can be active nearly all day because they live in deeply shaded areas. And the Asian tiger mosquito, which can carry West Nile virus, feeds during the daylight — generally from dawn to about 9 a.m. and again from about 4 p.m. until dusk.

Although most mosquitoes don't venture very far from their birthplace, marshland mosquitoes can travel as far as 12 miles looking for water and blood meals in dry weather. During these times, salt marsh and floodwater mosquitoes can be in large swarms that in some areas of the world have been known to kill young animals by biting them so often they bleed them to death.

Perich says mosquitoes can find you in several ways. Some of the cues are visual. Mosquitoes, like other insects, see in the blue, ultraviolet spectrum. So they're attracted to blue lights and clothing, but not to reds and yellows. That's why bug zappers have blue lights and why some people use yellow lights on porches.

Because they're often out at night when they can't see well, mosquitoes also are attracted by heat and aromas. This explains why some people are more attractive to the insects. They may “smell better” or have a slightly higher body temperature.

Finally mosquitoes are attracted to carbon dioxide — the stuff that comes out of your mouth when you breathe. “You can breathe,” Perich jokes. “Just don't exhale.”

Because of the way they feed on blood, female mosquitoes spread disease by picking up a disease from one animal and then passing it on to another, including a person or horse.

Most of these diseases are viruses, Perich says. And these viruses have to go through an incubation period — generally three to seven days.

To transmit a disease, the mosquito must get it from her first victim and after the incubation period, pass it on to another victim — probably the last one she bites before she dies.

Perich says the Southern house mosquito is the primary vector — or carrier — for St. Louis encephalitis and West Nile virus. While also the vector for West Nile, the Asian tiger mosquito is a vector for dengue fever and other diseases, too.

Viruses are commonly named after the area where they're originally discovered, Perich explains. For example, LaCrosse virus, which is carried by tree-hole mosquitoes and primarily affects children younger than one year old, was discovered in LaCrosse, Wis.

But not all mosquito-borne diseases are viruses, Perich cautions. Malaria, for example, is caused by a parasite that mosquitoes can carry just as they do viruses.

Travelers — including people or migratory birds — can pick up a virus or parasite and bring it into the United States, where it can be transmitted by mosquitoes.

For example, Perich says the West Nile virus is an arbovirus — it's carried by birds. It's hard to predict and appears to occur in cycles, he says.

Some birds, such as blackbirds, blue jays and northern cardinals, die from West Nile virus. Others, such as house sparrows, don't.

“The way to attack West Nile is to suppress cases and shorten the season,” Perich says. “You can't eradicate the disease, but you can suppress it.”

Perich says mosquito abatement districts are important parts of mosquito control programs. They can spray to keep populations down and control the mosquitoes so they aren't as big a problem. The down side is that when control programs are effective, people don't notice because the disease doesn't appear.

“West Nile virus will always be here, but with control it will become less of a problem,” Perich says.

Malaria, dengue fever and yellow fever are more threatening than West Nile virus, Perich says, pointing out that yellow fever was last diagnosed in the United States in New Orleans in 1900.

Perich, who has suffered malaria, dengue fever and other mosquito-borne diseases, spent 15 years in preventive medicine for the U.S. Army before joining the LSU AgCenter.

“I've had it. I've seen it. I'm a little more driven,” he says of his experiences and his desire to work with mosquito-borne diseases.

“I've seen people die,” he adds. “I had a 13-year-old girl die of dengue hemorrhagic fever in my arms in Thailand. She was the age of my daughter.”

Perich works closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, the U.S. Agency for International Development and similar organizations around the world.

Part of his research is funded by international agencies and corporate sponsors.

The Nebraska native earned his bachelor's degree from Iowa State University and his master's and doctoral degrees from Oklahoma State University. He joined the LSU AgCenter faculty in 2001.

For more information on mosquitoes, go to

Rick Bogren writes for the LSU AgCenter.

USDA taps Emerson Trust for humanitarian aid

USDA officials said the United States will release up to 300,000 metric tons of wheat from the Emerson Trust, and, like the previous release of 275,000 tons announced in June, the wheat will be exchanged for an equal value of other commodities to relieve suffering and avert famine in southern Africa.

Drought continues to aggravate the complex food security crisis now facing half a dozen countries in southern Africa (Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe).

“The United States is the largest donor responding to the deteriorating food situation,” said an official. “Since the beginning of 2002, the United States has provided $144 million in emergency humanitarian assistance, including more than 290,000 tons in food commodities. An estimated 13 million people in the region are expected to need food assistance between now and next year’s harvest.

The Emerson Trust was established as an emergency reserve to allow the United States to respond to unanticipated food crises, such as the current situation in southern Africa. The reserve is being tapped because U.S. food aid programs this fiscal year are fully allocated to meet critical needs in other parts of the world.

Use of the reserve will help ensure that sufficient commodities can be provided quickly to respond to the crisis in southern Africa without undercutting U.S. food aid commitments elsewhere.

The wheat will be sold in exchange for an equivalent value of U.S. corn, dry beans and soybean oil—commodities that are more typically consumed by the poor in southern Africa.

These commodities will be shipped as emergency food relief under P.L. 480, Title II, a program administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

USDA’s Farm Service Agency will sell wheat in such a manner to minimize adverse impacts on the wheat market. Wheat and flour continue to be the leading commodities exported under U.S. food aid programs, typically accounting for more than half of the total tonnage. Large USDA wheat purchases are planned in coming months to meet prior food aid commitments to a number of countries, including Jordan, Ethiopia, Peru, El Salvador, North Korea and Afghanistan.

On June 10, USDA announced the release of 275,000 tons of wheat from the Emerson Trust. The wheat was exchanged for corn, dry beans, and vegetable oil. This food will arrive in southern Africa through December.

The Emerson Trust is an emergency food reserve available for humanitarian relief in developing countries and administered under the authority of the Secretary of Agriculture. The reserve was reauthorized through 2007 by the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002. Prior to the recent releases, the reserve held 2.5 million tons of wheat. Up to 4 million tons in any combination of wheat, rice, corn or sorghum can be held in the reserve.