Still No Agreement on Farm Bill Funding — Speaking at the USDA Agricultural Outlook Forum, Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer said no agreement has been reached on a level of funding for the Farm Bill. The former North Dakota governor thinks it is still possible for lawmakers to agree on a number before the current farm law expires March 15th. "If we've made a framework agreement and we're working on the details, I suspect that Congress would be willing to extend for a month or something to get the job done." If the framework isn't in place by mid-March, "I think that we won't see a Farm Bill this year." Schafer said the White House will not agree to a farm bill that includes revenue-raising tax measures or budget gimmicks.

USDA Chief Economist Paints a Rosy Outlook — Speaking at the Ag Outlook Forum, Chief Economist Joe Glauber said the value of US crop production will top $175 billion in 2008. That tops the record seen last year by more than $30 billion "and this trend is not likely to abate soon." The good times could spur farmers to plant almost seven million more acres to the eight major crops this year. That includes more double-crop soybeans. Glauber says the farm economy will stay strong for at least two years and maybe more.

This is a Time of Great Opportunity — Virginia Tech Professor Emeritus David Kohl says this is also a dangerous time for agriculture. "You're playing double jeopardy; it's kind of like the game show," said Kohl, "Input costs are up and land costs are up; all you got to do is have a hiccup, created by weather or economics and you could take a lot of money off the double jeopardy board very, very quickly." Speaking at the International Crops Expo, Kohl said good farm managers manage the manageable and manage around the unmanageable. The Farm Bill was cited as an example of an issue that is unmanageable.

No Early Out — Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer has closed the door on the possibility of allowing some land now in the Conservation Reserve Program to come out early. There will be no changes, relative to the 2008 crop, for CRP contract holders. Schafer does expect that a number of landowners whose CRP contracts expire could take the opportunity to return that acreage to crop production.

Informa Releases Acreage Estimate — Informa Economics made no changes in its acreage estimates from a month ago. The Memphis-based consultant estimates corn acreage at a little over 90 million acres and soybeans at 69 million. Informa's winter wheat acreage estimate is 46.6 million acres, the same as USDA's estimate. USDA will issue its first survey-based estimate of planting intentions on March 31st.

The Decision Still Coming on Soybeans — Growers are using the market as their cue for acreage decisions. Tom Frappier, who is with Pioneer Hi-Bred International and is based in Fargo, says most farmers have secured their seed corn supplies. "A lot of seed already has been invoiced and has been locked in," said Frappier, "Soybeans probably are the one that guys are still waffling on those acres."

Record Exports — Compared to 2006, US pork export volume increased three percent in 2007. The value of those exports increased ten percent. Both of these figures are new records. Japan, Mexico and Canada are the top markets. Rather than focusing on frozen product, John Hinners of the US Meat Export Federation says the United States successfully moves plenty of fresh pork. "Fresh has been something that we've been pushing for a number of years because we knew that the US would have an advantage and consumers around the world want a fresh product." US beef exports increased 24 percent in volume. Beef sales are up, but still face market access challenges, stemming from the 2003 BSE discovery.

Border Issue in Court — R-CALF USA is seeking a court injunction to stop the importation of cattle over 30 months of age from entering the United States. At the Sioux Falls hearing, USDA, the US Department of Justice, the Canadian government and the Canadian Cattlemen's Association argued against the injunction. The court ruling is not expected to come anytime soon.

Commodity Classic in Nashville — Commodity Classic, which is the annual meeting of the National Corn Growers Association, American Soybean Association and the National Association of Wheat Growers will be held this week in Nashville.

MCGA Defends Ethanol Industry — The amount of water used in ethanol production has made headlines and the Minnesota Corn Growers Association says the story needs to be put into context. According to President Roger Moore, Minnesota's ethanol industry used less than two-tenths of one percent of all of the water used in the state in 2005. At the same time, the Twin Cities metro area used as much water in two days as all the ethanol plants in the state use in one year. The MCGA says it takes two to three gallons of water to produce one gallon of ethanol. The US Geological Survey estimates it takes more than 16 gallons of water to produce one pound of beet sugar and 1,500 gallons of water to produce one barrel of beer.

Ethanol Pipeline — Two US oil products pipeline companies are assessing whether to build the first dedicated ethanol pipeline from the Midwest to the heavily populated areas of the Northeast. Magellan Midstream Partners and Buckeye Partners are proposing a pipeline with a preliminary cost of more than $3 billion and would span roughly 1,700 miles.

Bidding for Land — According to the Landowner newsletter, farmers are the number one buyer of Midwestern farmland. Editor Mike Walsten says growers can lock in substantial profits for the 2008, 2009 and 2010 crop years. Because of that, farmers are aggressively bidding for additional ground to expand their operations and reduce exposure to rising rental rates.

Land Values a Factor in Drainage Decision — With high commodity prices and input costs, more farmers are considering drainage options. Max Fuxia, who is with Ellingson Drainage, says high priced land is also a factor. "When we first started in the business up here in 2001, you could buy land for $800 and tile was $400, maybe $500," related Fuxia, "Guys would tell me if I have to spend $500 for tile, I'm just going to go buy some more land; now the tide has turned and with the high land prices, tiling just makes a lot more sense."

Dupont Online — Pioneer Hi-Bred has launched a new online service that links corn growers with end users. MarketPoint is starting as a pilot program in Nebraska, but if successful, it will be expanded to other areas. End-users, such as ethanol plants and livestock feeders, can source specific hybrids through this program.

Syngenta & Dupont Find Agreement — Syngenta and Dupont have signed a deal, providing Dupont and Pioneer Hi-Bred access to Syngenta's latest insect control technology for corn. MIR162 is designed to protect corn above the ground, controlling a variety of insects, including fall army worm and black cutworm. This trait is expected to receive regulatory approval in the United States by the end of this year.

Planter Recognized — No-Till Farmer magazine has voted Case-IH's Early Riser planters the 2007 No-Till Product of the Year in the equipment category.

SD Taste of Elegance Winner Named — Chef Tyler Honke of Tre Lounge in Sioux Falls is the 2008 South Dakota Pork Producers Council Taste of Elegance winner. Honke was also the winner of the 2007 competition.



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