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Commodity Communicator Weekly

April 13, 2012

USDA URGES FARMERS TO SIGN UP FOR CENSUS OF AGRICULTURE. . . . .USDA is calling on the nation’s farmers and ranchers to sign up for the 2012 Census of Agriculture, ensuring that they will be counted among their peers. USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service conducts the census every five years. The 2012 form will be mailed to agricultural producers in December.

NASS sent out its National Agricultural Classification Survey earlier this year to identify potential agricultural activities and determine who should receive the census form. Producers who did not fill out the survey can sign up for the census and get more information about it online at

Federal law requires all agricultural producers to participate in the census. The same law also requires NASS to keep all census information confidential. The agency safeguards the privacy of all respondents so no individual operation or producer can be identified.


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. . . . .Sorghum producers can now access the National Sorghum Checkoff's popular regional production guides from their mobile device. Visit from your mobile web browser to view these handy digital guides.

GROUPS ENCOURAGE FARM BILL ENERGY TITLE CONTINUATION. . . . .On April 5, 111 agriculture organizations sent a letter to House and Senate Agriculture Committee leaders, urging them to renew core farm bill energy programs with mandatory funding. The letter emphasized that programs like the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) and the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP), among others.  Energy Title programs only accounted for 0.7 percent of overall spending in the 2008 Farm Bill, a modest investment when looking at the entire fiscal outlook. Programs under the Energy Title create many new opportunities for producers and their rural communities. Farm Bureau did not sign onto this letter.


U.S.-South Korea FTA: Implementation of the free trade agreements (FTAs) continues to make progress. The U.S.-South Korea FTA entered into force on March 15. Timing was important as opposition parties continue to raise threats to oppose the agreement and achieve a majority within their parliament when elections are held in April. Timely action has averted this threat. On a related matter, the United States plans to request a renewal of discussions on the U.S. beef trade, which had been tabled by mutual agreement until the FTA went into effect.

U.S.-Colombia FTA: Progress continues in talks between the United States and Colombia on various implementation issues. The Colombian government sent to its congress a bill that would implement several obligations in the FTA, particularly related to copyrights, cross-border trade in services and intellectual property rights. After the bill is approved, it has to go to Colombia's constitutional court for a ruling on its constitutionality. Colombia must complete the bilateral labor action plan as well. Timing for implementation remains uncertain, but it is the belief that an implementation date may be announced during the Summit of the Americas conference in Colombia on April 14-15. The most aggressive timeline would be June with the expectation that it would enter into force by mid-summer.

U.S.-Panama FTA: The U.S. Trade Representative recently announced that the United States and Panama have tentatively set Oct. 1 as the implementation date for that FTA. The Panama National Assembly gave its approval of the FTA last year, but Panama still has legislation that must be approved before the FTA can take effect.


FOREST SERVICE TO BUY LAND IN 15 STATES. . . . .The U.S. Forest Service will spend $40.6 million to acquire land in 15 states this year. The agency says the acquisitions will help protect water and wilderness areas while protecting nationally significant lands from development and providing recreational access for hunters, campers and other nature lovers.   The agency said it is purchasing the lands from “willing sellers at fair-market value or through partial or outright donations of property.” The projects, selected through a competitive bid process, are in Alaska, California, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah and Washington.

Projected Large Corn Crop Lowering New Crop Corn Prices. . . . .Corn Crop Corn planted acres are projected up 3.94 million acres in 2012. The largest increase in planted acres are expected to come from North Dakota and Minnesota where acreage is up 30% and 15%, respectively.  With much of the expansion is occurring in states that have lower yield potential and greater yield variability the trend yield of 164 bushels/acre adopted by USDA in their February 2012 Baseline Projections may not be achievable.

Assuming trend yields and average abandonment, the 2012 crop could be close to, or in excess of, 14 billion bushels. That record large crop would allow corn stocks to rebuild to levels that could push stocks-use above 10%. If that happens, expect prices to decline as the market would feel less urgency to ration the old-crop and to buy new-crop acres. This is already being reflected in the Futures market as December corn is trading at a $0.72/bushel discount to the July contract. Keep in mind that this discussion is mostly academic at this point as only 7% of corn crop has been planted as of April 9 – a lot can happen between now and harvest.

DTN Reports Urea and UAN Rally. . . . .Retail fertilizer prices tracked by DTN for the first week of April 2012 show multiple fertilizers on the rise, following up on urea's price leap over the past several weeks. For the first time this spring, the majority of fertilizers were higher in price compared to a month earlier.   Urea is the first fertilizer to top price levels last seen in late 2008.Once again urea led the way higher. The nitrogen fertilizer's national average price gained 14% compared to the first week of March and averaged $686/ton.  The $686/ton average price for urea also marks the highest price for the fertilizer since DTN has been tracking retailer fertilizer prices.  (Source DTN) Read More

CPI Reports Retail Food Price Increase. . . . .The Consumer Price Index for food overall increased in March, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The food index rose 0.2 percent in March after being unchanged in February, and was up 3.3 percent compared to a year ago, according to BLS. The index for food at home, unchanged in February, rose 0.1 percent in March. The food at home index has risen 3.6 percent over the last 12 months; this was its smallest 12-month change since March 2011. The index for food away from home rose 0.2 percent in March after a 0.1 percent increase in February and has risen 3.0 percent over the last 12 months.  The CPI numbers reported today track closely with AFBF’s most recent quarterly Marketbasket Survey results, which were released Thursday and showed a 7 percent increase in the retail price for 16 staple food items, both quarter-to-quarter and compared to one year ago.

CPI news release

AFBF News release

April 17 is Tax Freedom Day. . . . .Tax Freedom Day 2012 arrives on Tuesday, April 17 this year, four days later than last year due to higher federal income and corporate tax collections. That means Americans will work 107 days into the year, from Jan. 1 to April 17, to earn enough money to pay this year’s combined 29.2 percent federal, state and local tax bill.   If the federal government raised taxes enough to close the budget deficit—an additional $1.014 trillion—Tax Freedom Day would come on May 14 instead of April 17. That’s an additional 27 days of government spending paid for by borrowing.  Visit the Tax Foundation website for more information and to find state Tax Freedom days.

CFI Launches ‘Meet America’s Farmers’ on YouTube . . . . .The Center for Food Integrity has launched “Meet America’s Farmers” online at The YouTube channel currently features 144 videos from 79 farmers, 16 commodity groups and 12 states. Originally developed for use in the Farmers Feed US program, repackaging the videos on YouTube has greatly expanded the number of consumers who can be exposed to them and see how today’s farmers produce food.

Half of the videos consist of a featured farmer and his/her family providing a tour of their farm and showing what they do every day to raise safe, wholesome food for America’s consumers. Remaining videos featured on the site include “vignettes” that were originally developed for use on Facebook during Farmers Feed US sweepstakes, featuring other aspects of the farm and farmer’s life.

Individual farmers and farm organizations are invited to create their own videos for the channel, using a shared values approach to connect with consumers. The goal is to create a channel that shows the depth and breadth of America’s farmers, allowing them to share their stories and “open their farms” to consumers who are interested in better understanding how their food is raised. CFI has developed guidelines to provide farmers with criteria for developing their own videos, which can be found on CFI’s Farmer Resource Center (


EU Egg Shortage Ruffles Feathers . . . . .The European Union’s bakery and confectionery industry claims it has been hit with a “dire and unprecedented” egg shortage, according to a article. Meanwhile, suppliers of egg replacers that can be used instead in commercial baking applications and EU officials offered opinions on how long the egg shortage will last.  “I expect it to go on for a while,” said Soren Norgaard, senior manager at BA Bakery. The situation should be “temporary,” based on past experience, according to Roger Waite, speaking on behalf of the EU’s Agriculture and Rural Development Agency.   The Association of Chocolate, Biscuit and Confectionary Industries reported last month that egg prices had increased about 75 percent over the past six months. A ban on using cages to house laying hens went into effect in the EU earlier this year; a similar ban was put in place in Germany in 2010.


Federal Livestock Tracking Rule Nears Release. . . . .Thousands of comments have been reviewed, and a final version of a new livestock disease traceability rule is now expected by late summer or early fall, according to Neil Hammerschmidt, who manages the federal animal identification program. The rule will apply only to cattle over 18 months of age, or primarily breeding stock, with feeder cattle to be added to the plan in a later phase.

Some kind of federal mechanism to dictate faster disease tracking has been in the works for well over a decade, and many attending the annual conference of the National Institute of Animal Agriculture in Denver recently felt like the industry was finally ready to move forward on it.

U.S. Seeks Voluntary Antibiotic Limits in Livestock. . . . .
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said antibiotics should only be used under the supervision of a veterinarian to prevent or treat illnesses in animals. It asked companies to start phasing out the use of antibiotics for non-medical purposes, and said that process could take three years.

OPPONENTS HAVE IT WRONG ON ANTIBIOTICS USE. . . . .A Kansas State University study – using data from a 2006 USDA swine survey and a 2009 survey of swine veterinarians – shows that about 1.6-million pounds of antibiotics are used in pork production for growth promotion/nutritional efficiency and disease prevention each year. That’s far less than the 10.3-million pounds a year claimed in a 2001 report from the Union of Concerned Scientists. According to National Pork Producers Council President R.C. Hunt – that report – titled “Hogging It” – should have been titled “Fabricating It.” NPPC notes the KSU study found that overall antibiotic use – including for disease treatment – totaled 2.8-million pounds. That is 368-percent less than the amount asserted by the Union of Concerned Scientists for just growth promotion/nutritional efficiency and disease prevention. NPPC says the KSU study also belies the claim that 80-percent of all antibiotics sold are used to promote growth in livestock. KSU press release

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