WEEKLY NEWS HIGHLIGHTS

NEWS BRIEFS COMPILED BY RED RIVER FARM NETWORK 

Chairman's Mark Released — In his 2007 Farm Bill plan, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson made small tweaks in the farm safety net from the 2002 farm program. The target prices for wheat, barley, oats, oilseeds and soybeans increase and the loan rates are rebalanced for wheat, barley, oats, oilseeds and small chickpeas. It also establishes a separate loan rate for feed and malt barley. The current sugar program and Milk Income Loss Contract program are extended. In addition to individual yield or revenue policies, farmers can also purchase supplemental area-based crop insurance.

Loan Rate Increase for Sugar — During a farm visit in Hallock, House Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson said the new farm bill will include a penny loan rate increase for sugar. "They haven't had a loan rate increase for 22 years; we are going to have a penny loan rate increase on raw sugar, which is a little more than beet sugar." Peterson also says there will be a program to use excess import quota sugar for ethanol production.

Energy is Big Part of the Story — Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar says the critics of the new Farm Bill don't understand the role farmers will play in the production of energy. "What they don't see; as we move to this energy revolution, the farmers are a major part of this and they need to have that saftey net in place." During a stop in Hallock, Klobuchar said biofuels are revitalizing rural communities. "We are really at the beginning of this strong, strong direction toward economic independence and also energy independence."

Conrad Takes Farm Bill Testimony During Recess — North Dakota Senator Kent Conrad's priorities for the 2007 Farm Bill include a strong farm safety net, permanent disaster assistance, energy and conservation. Conrad hosted hearings in Minot and Williston Thursday, where he took testimony on the new farm legislation.

New Farm Bill Gets Attention Beyond Rural America — Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison says his urban constituents are telling him the next Farm Bill should promote conservation, boost nutrition programs, support family farms and offer incentives to get more minority farmers on the land. Ellison agrees; "not only from the standpoint of its ability to provide good nutrition to people who live in rural and urban America, but also for its opportunity to provide renewable fuels to our country in an age when we are facing global climate change." Ellison says the new Farm Bill should move away from subsidies for large farms and focus more on supporting smaller operations.

Trade Squabble — In a letter to Democratic leadership, US Trade Representative Susan Schwab said she is "deeply concerned" about possible new demands for trade. After an agreement between Administration and congressional leaders two months ago, new labor and environmental standards are required by trading partners. Schwab says Congress is now considering new preconditions. Free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia, Peru and Panama are at stake.

Wheat Group Upset with Loss of TPA — US Wheat Associates is disappointed that Trade Promotion Authority was allowed to expire. President Alan Tracy thinks many countries are likely to be skeptical about negotiating with the US knowing Congress has the ability to amend an agreement.

Ag Coalition Supports FTA — The Agriculture Coalition, which includes 34 farm organizations, has sent a letter to Congress urging support for the US-South Korean Free Trade Agreement. Once the deal is implemented, the coalition says $2 billion in current US farm exports to Korea immediately become duty-free. The Ag Coalition membership includes the National Association of Wheat Growers, National Corn Growers Association, American Soybean Association and National Pork Producers Council.

Crop Estimates Coming Out — USDA releases its latest crop production estimate Thursday. Ahead of the official estimate, a variety of private projections are being released. Informa Economics is forecasting a 13.3 billion bushel corn crop and a 2.7 billion bushel soybean crop. Allendale is pegging corn yields at 12.7 billion bushels and soybean yields at 2.6 billion bushels.

Watch the Forecast — Market analyst Virg Robinson of P-H-I Marketing says weather is taking on greater importance for all crops. "July weather is pretty critical and important for corn; August and early September weather is important for soybeans; I expect the market to remain awfully nervous, awfully sensitive to weather and crop conditions as we progress through this summer growing season."

Brazil Will Surpass US in '09 — A leading market analyst predicts Brazilian soybean production will surpass the United States by 2009. Silvio Porto, who is with Conab, has one caveat. Brazil must get a handle on asian soybean rust. Conab says Brazilian soybean production totaled more than 58 million metric tons in 2006-2007.

Brazil Exporting More Ethanol — In the first half of 2007, Brazilian ethanol exports increased more than 70 percent over one year ago. The United States remains the primary buyer, taking in nearly 60 percent of Brazilian exports. Brazil is on track to equal or top the record export pace of 2006.

Biofuel Up — A study co-written by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization says biofuels will be key for most aspects of agriculture development over the next decade. The study sees no reversal of high commodity prices anytime soon. The study says ethanol production in the US is expected to grow by almost 50 percent this year, and as growth rates decline thereafter, to double by 2016. The report put Brazil as one of the fastest growing biofuels producers and projects its ethanol output would reach some 44 billion liters in the next ten years, or 145 percent more than last year.

Many Factors in Retail Milk Price — Retail milk prices have moved higher, but dairy farmers shouldn't shoulder the blame. Suzanne Vold, who is a Glenwood, Minnesota dairy farmer, says many factors affect the price retailers charge for milk. "The factors include everything from what we do on the farm to processing to transportation, marketing that's done at co-op or processor, marketing done at the retailer level; farmers receive less than 30 cents of every dollar consumers spend on dairy products." Vold says dairy products remain one of the best values in the supermarket.

Class III Price Revised Higher — USDA has revised the Class III milk price for June to $20.17. That's six cents higher than the price announced June 29th. The National Agricultural Statistics Service revised the moisture content for 500 pound cheddar cheese for the week ending June 16th. That resulted in the change in Class III milk prices.

Will the Short Supply of Gasoline Have an Impact on Diesel Fuel this Fall? — Todd Johnson of Johnson Oil Company in Hallock, Minnesota says it could. "We're hearing some rumblings in the industry that as they try to catch up on the gas distribution, they'll just send gasoline down the pipe and gasoline only," said Johnson, "You know what will happen, that will compromise our diesel supplies." Ahead of the harvest rush, Johnson is encouraging growers to fill their diesel tanks now.

Inspector General Targets ACWF — According to a report in Feedstuffs, an environmental foundation may be forced to return EPA grant funds. In the last decade, America's Clean Water Foundation received $25 million in grants from the Environmental Protection Agency. An EPA inspector general's audit determined the foundation did not keep appropriate records. The report says the records were so lax, the foundation did not realize an employee embezzled a half-million dollars. When the EPA cut off funding, America's Clean Water Foundation closed last year.

Record Pace — With more corn in the ground this year, there is more interest in the National Corn Growers Association yield contest. The number of entries submitted is on pace to top the record set seven years ago. More than 20 percent of this year's entries are from farmers who never entered the contest before. The deadline for entries is August 1st.

ADM Moving Forward in South America — Archer Daniels Midland will begin production at its Brazilian biodiesel plant in August. The facility, which is being built in Rondonopolis, will have the capacity to produce 300,000 metric tons of biodiesel per year. ADM already operates four soybean crushing plants in Brazil.

Accelerated Trait Integration — Researchers at Pioneer Hi-Bred International are accelerating the development of new products. Research scientist Mike Chapman says Accelerated Trait Integration will allow new stacked hybrids to reach the market sooner. "Often times we'll traditionally commercialize an elite grain hybrid and then follow up with the various conversions; now Pioneer is making those conversions earlier, so we don't slow down our elite genetics entering the marketplace."

CHS Opens Grain Marketing Office in Geneva, Switzerland — CHS Chief Operating Officer Mark Palmquist says the European location complements their existing grain business. The location will source and market a variety of grains and oilseeds, including wheat, barley, canola, sunflower seeds and corn.   

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