Name any Upper Midwest state and there’s a good chance widespread alfalfa winterkill is being discussed. Although no year is a good year to be looking at brown alfalfa fields in the spring, the timing for this year is especially bad with wet conditions severely delaying spring field activities and the dairy economy still reeling from an extended period of low milk prices.By now, most alfalfa growers have been able to assess the damage, which ranges from complete loss to only portions of fields. I’ve heard about situations where the high spots were dead from not holding snow cover and others where the low spots had killed, presumably from being under ice and water for an extended period of time.The decision of whether to keep the stand or issue “last rites” is not always easy.“In fields where stand loss is patchy, decisions whether to keep the stand should be based on the health of the remaining plants and the total area lost,” says Kim Cassida, Michigan State University’s extension forage agronomist.
Deere cut its profit and sales expectations for the year as a trade war between the U.S. and China escalates at the same time that farmers are attempting to recover from a planting season besieged by heavy rains.Prices of soybeans targeted by Chinese tariffs last year fell to a 10-year low this week as the countries traded jabs ."Ongoing concerns about export-market access, near-term demand for commodities such as soybeans, and a delayed planting season in much of North America are causing farmers to become much more cautious about making major purchases," Deere Chairman and CEO Samuel Allen said in a prepared statement.Deere now expects to earn about $3.3 billion in 2019, down from its forecast three months ago for profits of about $3.6 billion. The company is less optimistic about revenue as well, lowering its forecast of a 7% increase, to just 5%.Company shares slumped 5 percent to a new low for the year.
A National Farmers Union executive and active Wisconsin dairy farmer joined Midwest agricultural leaders this week in condemning President Donald Trump's ongoing trade war with China, warning of increased financial stress and suicide among farmers. Patty Edelburg, vice president of the Washington-based NFU group, which says it represents some 200,000 U.S. farms, appeared on Fox News Thursday and detailed what she viewed as the dire state of American farming amid falling income and commodity prices, resulting in a surging number of bankruptcies, increased financial stress and suicide in the agricultural community. “It has been insane,” Edelburg told America's Newsroom anchors Sandra Smith and Jon Scott Thursday. “We’ve had a lot of farmers—a lot more bankruptcies going on, a lot more farmer suicides. These things are highlighting many of the news stories in our local news."Recent national data and surveys show rural mental health problems are rampant and rising among U.S. farmworkers.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said that a second trade aid package for farmers may total $15 billion to $20 billion, the latter figure $5 billion higher than President Donald Trump has suggested. Perdue said that USDA would calculate "the legally defensible trade damage done to our producers," give that estimate to Trump and would be "prepared to defend those amounts" to the World Trade Organization, where the United States could face charges that it has violated rules on subsidies. Perdue said he could not comment on whether the formula for providing payments to farmers would be different from the last package, in which soybean growers got $1.65 per bushel, corn growers got one cent per bushel and wheat growers got 14 cents.Perdue also said that, although Trump has talked about using a portion of tariff receipts to pay for the aid, he believes that the money will come from the Commodity Credit Corporation, as it did last time.The CCC can spend $30 billion per year, and it is not known whether the CCC is bumping up against its spending cap this late in the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.
President Trump is worsening an economic disaster by ratcheting up a trade war with China. On Friday the US announced new tariffs on a wide range of Chinese imports, to which China retaliated on Monday by hiking tariffs on soy, pork and poultry. Soybean futures markets plunged again, after having set a 10-year low late last week. Soy prices on May 10 were about $2.50 per bushel below where they were when Trump won in November 2016. China is our biggest soy customer. Trump slapped on new tariffs when negotiations on a new trade deal fell apart. It takes patience to trade. As you trade, perhaps China gets a little better on human rights.Trump threw a tantrum that will take years to recover from.And it won’t help free Chinese political prisoners or protect Silicon Valley trade secrets one bit.Future markets suggest that investors do not expect a trade deal soon. Put that on top of flooding, and chronically low prices before the trade war, and we find a new farm crisis in the offing. The USDA gave farmers a Trump Bump check of $1.65 per bushel of soy for the first trade war fiasco, and plans to pony up another $15 billion to help ease the pain. But the disaster payment doesn’t add up to the $2.50 per bushel the farmer loses every year because of this trade war.
Robots with fingers designed to pick mature tomatoes, among the most delicate of crops. A Fitbit-like collar that monitors the wellbeing of a cow. Drones with sensors to identify dry areas of a field or discover crop production inefficiencies. “In 30 years, what we’re doing or seeing as innovative now will be viewed as tradition,” said Susan Duncan, associate director of the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg.Science and technology will be core to the farming revolution, which teachers and agricultural leaders envision as including robots, temperature and moisture sensors, aerial images and GPS technology, alongside big data that affects everyone — suppliers, farmers, traders, processors, retailers and consumers.But agricultural educators and advocates are concerned about the future of agricultural education, given the industry’s broad needs and the lack of qualified job candidates.
USDA is investing up to $25 million per year over the next five years to help support the adoption and evaluation of innovative conservation approaches on agricultural lands. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is accepting proposals through July 15, 2019, for On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials, a new, additional sub-program created by the 2018 farm bill for the USDA’s Conservation Innovation Grants program. On-Farm Trials include a Soil Health Demo Trial, also created by the 2018 farm bill.
More than $660,000 has been earmarked for land conservation agreements with Saskatchewan beef producers.The Saskatchewan Stock Growers and the South of the Divide Conservation Action Program have received funding support from Ottawa and the U.S. National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.Stock Growers manager Chad MacPherson says the funds will go to producers who participate in land conservation and species-at-risk protection.He says two grazing corporations, the Val Marie Grazing corporation and the Beaver Valley Grazing Corporation are involved with the Stock Growers for land conservation and protection of species-at-risk.
David Oppedahl, a Senior Business Economist at the Chicago Fed, explained in The AgLetter that, “District agricultural land values were the same in the first quarter of 2019 as in the first quarter of 2018, although they did move up 1 percent from the fourth quarter of 2018. Indiana and Iowa saw year-over-year decreases in farmland values, while Illinois and Wisconsin saw no changes.”
Alton, Ill., a tourist town on the edge of the Mississippi River, has been fighting floods about every eight months for the last six years. This week’s crest, which ranked No. 7 among the city’s 10 worst floods, forced the closure of the city’s riverboat casino, left its riverfront park underwater and closed portions of its downtown. Mayor Brant Walker said the 100-year floods that communities like his are seeing every two years underscore the need for an approach that tackles the problem across the entire river system.