WEEKLY NEWS HIGHLIGHTS

Compiled by the Red River Farm Network:

Crop Production Report Will Be Released Tuesday — Traders expect USDA to estimate corn production at nearly 11 billion bushels and soybeans at 3.1 billion bushels. New crop ending stocks are expected to jump 115 million bushels for corn, but decline eight to ten million bushels for wheat and corn. The USDA numbers will be released at 7:30 Tuesday morning.

Don’t Base ’07 Seed Decisions on 2006 Crop — Despite a dry year, Hyland Seeds Western Regional Manager Talbot Bergsma says the soybean crop has held up well. For growers focused on 2007, Bergsma says the decision should not be based solely on current crop conditions. "Last year is probably a poor indicator of what you should do next year," said Bergsma, "Take a look at your long-term data; the weather isn’t the same; if you remember, last year, we were looking at extremely wet conditions."

Lawmakers Lobby for Disaster Bill — North Dakota Governor John Hoeven says the recent USDA drought relief package is not enough for farmers and ranchers. "We need to do more; we’ve got some assistance through USDA, but clearly there is a need for more and we are going to continue that push." Eight Midwestern governors have signed a letter of support for a congressional disaster assistance package. Hoeven and South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds are in Washington, D.C. this week "and we’ll be pushing that message very hard both with Congress and the Administration." Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Gene Hugoson is also in Washington to lobby for disaster assistance.

NCGA Disaster — According to one farm policy insider, Congress won’t take up the agriculture disaster bill until after the election. "Were just not seeing a Congress that is going to take up that kind of bill right now; they are focused on other issues, all of which revolve around getting re-elected," said Jon Doggett, vice president of public policy for the National Corn Growers Association. Doggett says a lame duck Congress may delay major spending decisions, like a disaster bill, until the new Congress is in place. That could delay the vote until February of 2007.

Senate Revisits Disaster Plan — North Dakota Senator Kent Conrad previously introduced disaster legislation to cover 2005 and 2006 agricultural losses. The emergency plan now includes aid to help cover the recent hurricane losses on the East Coast and $300 million to help agribusinesses affected by the drought. "We provide for those small businesses that have been so badly hit in the drought areas; I’ve been contacted by a number of businesses at home, crop sprayers and others, that have been devastated by this drought." Other sponsors of the disaster bill include Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, South Dakota Senators Tim Johnson and John Thune, and Minnesota Senators Mark Dayton and Norm Coleman.

Drought Impacts Economy — The Federal Reserve’s Beige Book says drought and near-drought conditions persisted throughout much of the country, depressing crop production and livestock sustainability. Conditions were distressed in the Atlanta, Richmond, Minneapolis and Dallas Districts. The Minneapolis Fed reports a decline in agricultural activity since the last report. Responses to the second quarter agricultural credit conditions survey indicate that overall agricultural income will be down in the third quarter, due to reduced yields and higher input costs.

Farm Bill Offered Big Savings — According to Combest, Sell and Associates, the 2002 farm bill saved nearly $17 billion. That figure is based on the Congressional Budget Office’s August budget baseline. Adding the commodity title, actual savings are nearly $19 billion. Former House Agriculture Committee Chairman Larry Combest is a principal partner in the firm. He’s working with several commodity organizations who want Congress to extend the current farm bill.

Lamy Says Political Will May Exist to Revive Trade Talks — WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy says negotiations can only resume if countries compromise on the issues surrounding agriculture. Lamy suspended the talks in late July after trade ministers failed to break the impasse over domestic farm subsidies and import tariffs. Lamy says it’s crucial to make progress between mid-November, after the elections, and early next year. That would give the US Congress an incentive to extend trade promotion authority.

No Progress Between WTO Partners — Key trading partners, including the United States, European Union and Japan, met in Brazil over the weekend. Officials are trying to put a positive spin on these negotiations, but there are no clear signs that stalled WTO negotiations will resume. US Trade Representative Susan Schwab said the Doha Round is in serious trouble, but efforts are underway to resuscitate the talks.

SK US Negotiations End — Four days of trade talks between the United States and Korea ended over the weekend and little progress was made. Agriculture remains one of the key hurdles in these negotiations. The two sides will meet again in October and December with the goal of securing a free trade agreement by the end of the year.

Task Force Considers Improvements in Beef Checkoff — An Industry-Wide Beef Checkoff Task Force is making four recommendations for the promotion and research program. The recommendations include an opportunity to petition for a referendum. This plan would require ten percent of beef producers to petition for a vote, which is similar to the Soybean Checkoff. The task force also wants to see the checkoff rate increased to $2.00 per head and make the checkoff more inclusive. The 18-member task force was co-chaired by South Dakota Farm Bureau President Scott VanderWal.

Silo Gas is a Bigger Worry This Year — Silo gas is a concern every year, but a University of Minnesota Extension farm safety specialist says it is a bigger worry this fall. "This toxic gas tends to form in higher levels in drought-stressed crops," said John Shutske. The newly-filled silo should be avoided for the first 20 days. Shutske says people can die hours or even days after an initial exposure to silo gas. While silo gas is usually associated with upright, concrete silos, the risk also extends to bunker or bagged silage.

Farm Real Estate Values Have Increased Steadily Since Early 1990’s — Economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis said farm conditions have had little influence on the rising farmland values. Instead, alternative uses for farm ground, such as urban development, recreation and hobby farms, have boosted farm real estate values.

The Corn Planter Will Need to Work Overtime — Testifying before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, USDA Chief Economist Keith Collins said farmers will need to plant 90 million acres of corn by 2010; that’s ten million more than this year. Collins isn’t worried about a supply crisis, saying productivity will absorb some of the increased demand. It may also be beneficial to take land out of the Conservation Reserve Program. "We do have 36 million acres in the United States set-aside for production for environment reasons; they only farm about 325 million acres in principle crops, so we are talking about ten percent of our crops have been set aside in the Conservation Reserve Program, some of that land can be farmed economically and sustainably." Responding to a question from South Dakota Senator John Thune, Collins said cellulosic ethanol should also be considered a "release valve for a tight corn market" and urged support for that technology in the next Farm Bill.

Brazil is Busy Exporting Ethanol — Shipments of ethanol from Brazil’s main port of Santos jumped 46 percent in the first seven months of this year. In July alone, ethanol exports were roughly one/third of what has been exported this year. The July figure is more than triple the year-ago level.

CHS Adds Investment in Energy — CHS has increased its ownership stake in the US BioEnergy Corporation to nearly 26 percent. The toal investment is worth $105 million. US BioEnergy is a producer and marketer of ethanol and distillers grains.

Bunge Will Have Ethanol Plants Next to Grain Facilities — The Carlyle/Riverstone Renewable Energy Infrastructure Fund and Bunge North America plan to work together to build ethanol plants. The plants will be built at US grain facilities controlled by Bunge. Carlyle/Riverstone will be the majority owner of these plants.

BASF and Thurston Genetics Host Open House — The next generation of biotech crops will offer output traits, such as elevated protein, oil and amino acid, for the livestock market. According to Bob Thurston of Thurston Genetics, drought-tolerant corn is also on the horizon. "We’re going to discover in hybrid corn that we can produce plants with very little water and you can imagine what that can do for the future of agriculture when we take marginal soils or marginal ground when we see a need for more corn products for the future; we are going to be able to go to other climates, drought ridden climates and sandier soil." With an expanding ethanol industry, Thurston expects the traditional Cornbelt to move into nontraditional areas. Thurston Genetics, which is a division of BASF Plant Science, held an open house last week in Olivia, Minnesota.

 

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