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Commodity Communicator Weekly

March 21, 2014

The Arkansas Forage and Grasslands Council has set their spring tour for Friday, May 2.  See the attached flyer.
AFGC Tour 2014.pdf

Please review safe practices for the handling, management and storage of treated seed in order to minimize potential risks to the environment and non-target organisms. For more information visit  

A new report from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) should help the USDA make its case for proposed overhaul of poultry inspections. “NIOSH says it found no link between increased line speeds and worker injuries at a poultry plant in South Carolina. The plant increased its line speeds from 90 birds per minute to 175 birds per minute between August 2012 and June 2013 but experienced no increase in hand or wrist problems among workers. “ “‘The data from the NIOSH study now supports what we’ve been saying all along,” Al Almanza, FSIS administrator, said in an interview.” See the NIOSH report here:


Some of the largest food and agriculture companies want to hire more scientists, but there just aren’t enough to go around, finds a study performed by Readex Research with funds from the Coalition for a Sustainable Agriculture Workforce. The researchers involved in the study didn’t have to go too far to find examples of job openings not being filled. The coalition behind the funding is itself made up of such agriculture giants as Cargill, DuPont, Dow AgroSciences, Kellog’s, Monsanto, Syngenta, Dole and John Deere. Six of the group’s companies are looking to hire more than 1, 000 scientists over the next two years, representing 13 percent of their current agricultural scientist workforce, but candidates are sparse, researchers reported. In particular, scientists in the biotechnology, crop protection and seed fields are the most sought after. Nearly half the new hires will need to hold doctoral degrees.


The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service is calling out The New York Times for implying in an article published last month that a shortage of meat inspectors is leading to more recalls. “The fact is, vacancies within the agency do not mean there are less inspectors on the job in our nation’s meat plants,” writes Aaron Lavallee, FSIS’ deputy assistant administrator for the Office of Public Affairs and Consumer Education, in a blog post titled, “Setting the Record Straight on FSIS Inspector Vacancy.” “FSIS is legally required to have a sufficient number of inspectors present in every single meat and poultry plant in the country. No plant in America is allowed to operate if it does not have the required number of safety inspectors in the plant at all times, and every plant currently operating in America has the necessary food inspection staff.” “It is irresponsible to attempt to confuse FSIS vacancy rates with plant inspector shortages and then imply that meat and poultry products are less safe as a result. There is no connection between recent recalls and FSIS vacancy rates, and any claims that these issues are linked are false,” Lavallee says in the post.


The Environmental Protection Agency is now taking comments on its massive agricultural worker safety standards proposal, intended to reduce cases of accidental pesticide exposure, having published the regulation in the Federal Register. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy signed off February 20 on the proposal, which seeks to improve training, increase access to information, improve safety precautions and modernize compliance standards. Final rules are expected by the end of the year.

EPA reports logging 1,200 to 1,400 incidents of accidental pesticide poisonings each year, but speculates that the number is much greater as illegal immigrants fear reporting.
Proposed Rule:!documentDetail;D=EPA-HQ-OPP-2011-0184-0119

After finding a cornfield in Iowa in 2011 that was decimated by rootworm despite being planted with the Bt corn, Iowa State University entomologist Aaron Gassmann and his team began to study the pests’ interactions with the genetically modified organism (or GMO) corn in a lab. Their study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, describes the western corn rootworm’s rapid evolution after feeding on the engineered crop.  See full study

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization issued a little-noticed report this week that says the world needs to boost agriculture production by 60 percent to meet estimated food needs in the coming decades. "We estimate that by 2050 the world needs to increase food production by 60 percent [to] meet the demand at that time," Hiroyuki Konuma, FAO’s assistant director-general, says in the report. "This is worldwide. But when we look at only developing countries, we estimate a 77 percent increase is needed — it's a more important fear because 98 percent of [the] worldwide population increase will be happening in developing countries." The FAO report is here:


The National Chicken Council argues, in a letter to the editor published in the New York Times, that raising chickens like we did more than 80 years ago would be a bad experience. If poultry farms raised chickens "the way we did in 1930, while trying to feed 195 million more people, 1.6 billion chickens would die on the farm from things like disease and predators."  The letter, which can be found here:
Responds to a Nick Kristof column last week on poultry consolidation, which can be found here:

U.S. corn exports to Japan have begun to rebound, based on recent USDA data, and are looking for a strong finish in the 2013/14 marketing year, which began September 1, the National Corn Growers Association says. Japan turned to South American corn in the previous year, after a crippling drought hit the U.S. Corn Belt and drove prices to uncompetitive levels. NCGA credits the U.S. Grains Council for “aggressively” defending the market for U.S. grains in Japan, noting how USGC, of which NCGA is a member, provided reliable data in reports and in conferences attended by Japanese buyers.


Syngenta is advising its growers to prepare again for larger-than-normal soybean seeds. The change is not due to a genetic modification. Rather, it is the result of dry weather conditions during the growing season followed by late season rains.


To continue fostering this developing market, a trade team of sorghum traders, nutritionists and a sorghum producer traveled to China the week of March 10 to host sorghum seminars. The seminars were in partnership with the U.S. Grains Council, Texas Grain Sorghum Producers, Texas Department of Agriculture and the Sorghum Checkoff. These seminars provided information about strategic procurement of U.S. sorghum availability and technical uses, including nutrition and milling of sorghum.

The educational seminars were a huge success with more than 300 brokers, buyers, logistics experts and nutritionist attending the Quingdo meeting. In fact, attendance continued to be strong throughout the week, with more than 250 attending the Guangzhou seminar and 75 participants in Shanghai. All indications from visiting with China buyers are they are happy with the quality of U.S. grain sorghum thus far. In addition to the seminars, the group visited the Dongguan Chiwan Wharf Co. and toured the Shanghi Yangshan Port. The trade team also met with Mr. Hoa Van Huynh, Foreign Agriculture Service chief, in Guangzhou, China.

The negotiations in the creation of a Black Sea grain pool of Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan had been suspended, President of the Russian Grain Union Arkady Zlochevsky told journalists, answering an Itar-Tass question. "The pool is senseless without Ukraine," he said. Zlochevsky is also certain that after the change of power in the country "there is nobody" in Ukraine "to talk to" on the creation of such an economic union. ... Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan in 2009 had agreed on the creation of a so-called Black Sea grain pool as a marketing and logistic union of countries that use Black Sea ports for the export of grain to the international market. The negotiations later stalled and intensified at a new stage in October 2013.

Several industry groups have moved to address farmer concerns regarding privacy of farmer field data by launching the Open Ag Data Alliance (OADA).  The OADA forms an open standards software project to ensure farmers have full data access, security, and privacy, say those forming the OADA.
More information about OADA can be found at:

The first major expansion of the Panama Canal was expected to be completed this year in time for the canal’s centennial but now it is anybody’s guess. Officially, the new date is December 2015. Unofficially, it may be much later. According to the Agriculture Department, 17 percent of world grain shipments pass through the Panama Canal and 90 percent of them are from the United States.

. . . . .Maggie McHugh
The biggest of all the hitches holding up the completion of immigration reform thus far is that well known concern, the special pathway to citizenship put forth in the Senate Bill, S. 744.  Immigration reform supporters argue that the alternative would be that all normal channels for citizenship be completely unblocked.  Barriers to the green cards, the very start of the path to citizenship, need to be resolved to accomplish this. Realistically speaking, 4 to 6 and a half million out of the estimated 11 million could attain citizenship this way.  At least, even at that rate, immigration reform can get closer to a comprehensive approach.  One good reason for implementing this particular side door is the fact that Americans are currently eating more and more food produced off shore due to the broken immigration system that hobbles our ability to obtain sufficient, timely agricultural labor.  The Partnership for a New American Economy and the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform announced in a joint press conference March 18 that Americans are consistently turning to imported foods to fill their dietary needs when they cannot find the desired homegrown food in the supermarket.  Shoppers have noticed gaps in availability of such items as canned fruits and vegetables from one week to the next.  Consumers are seeing the results of unharvested crops that rotted on the branch or the ground due to critical agricultural labor shortfalls.  Where there once was shelf space devoted to domestically produced different sizes, types and packaging of particular fruits or vegetables, those choices have dwindled due to farm labor shortages.  That is, the product either isn’t on the shelf, or is on the shelf in much smaller numbers as well as in sizes that shoppers do not find useful.  Offshore products fill the hole.  American agriculture is losing millions of dollars a year as a result.  Grocery store managers abhor gaps on their packaged food shelves the same way nature abhors a vacuum and they strive against the odds to keep the shelves brimful.  Gaps are just not good for their bottom line.  This situation was predicted well over two years ago by growers who couldn’t get the sufficient, timely farm labor they needed.  Fully harvested homegrown food would certainly mean an all-round stronger economy.


The Poultry Federation Annual Spring Symposium is April 22-23. The Grower Symposium will begin at 2 p.m. on Tuesday April 22.  This event is free to all growers and any help you can give us in getting the message out will be much appreciated.  Attached is an agenda.

Grower Symposium 2014.pdf           2014 Symposium Agenda.pdf


Farm Bureau Bank offers credit cards, deposit accounts, vehicle loans, mortgage loans, business services, and student loans.  Visit the website at or call 1-800-492-3276 for more information.

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