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Commodity Communicator Weekly

December 14, 2012

2013 USFRA EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE ELECTS ARKANSAN. . . . .The U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance recently held an election of officers during its annual meeting in New York. USFRA board members elected by their peers to serve as the 2013 USFRA Executive Committee include: Chairman—Bob Stallman, President of the American Farm Bureau Federation;  and Vice Chairman—Weldon Wynn,  Vice Chair of the Cattlemen's Beef Board and cattle producer from Star City, Arkansas.  The USFRA Board is comprised of 18 representatives of affiliate farmer and rancher-led organizations and agricultural industry partners.

AG EXPORTS KEEP CLIMBING. . . . .A recent trade report released by USDA  forecasts American farm exports to  continue at an astonishing trend that began in 2009. In the years since, U.S. agricultural exports have climbed more than 50 percent in value, from $96.3 billion in 2009 to the most-recent forecast of $145 billion in 2013. Overall, these exports support more than 1 million American jobs.

. . . . .The 2012 agriculture census, which will be mailed out in mid-December, will ask farmers for the first time about Internet usage, land use and crops used for renewable energy. According to USDA, the answers to these questions and others will help policymakers with important program development and funding decisions.
“There’s strength in numbers, so the more farmers that are counted, the better for the agricultural industry,” according to Renee Picanso, director of USDA’s Census and Survey Division. AFBF, too, is urging all of its members to fill out the census and return it by the deadline on February 4.  An online version is also available.

IMMIGRATION REFORM. . . . .The Obama administration intends to begin an all-out push for comprehensive immigration reform as soon as all the heat on the fiscal policy dies down.  A key point in the push will be divining a path for citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants.  The rest of the hoped for bill will involve a catch-all on security measures, heightened penalties on employers hiring illegal immigrants and creation of new special visas to bring in foreign workers.  White House advisors are ready to launch a social media wave which could include the same groups that assisted in bringing out the record number of Latino voters in the Presidential election.  Cabinet Secretaries are prepared to declare how changes in immigration laws could benefit businesses, education, healthcare and public safety.  Congressional committees will hold hearings on the legislation as soon as late January or early February.  This bump in activity corresponds to Pew Hispanic Center census data showing illegal immigration is down and enforcement is at a record high.  This has all led Democratic strategists to think there is a narrow window in the new year to launch the initiative in Congress.

DECLINE OF MILK CONSUMPTION. . . . On Monday, December 10, 2012, the Wall Street Journal reported that in an age of vitamin waters and energy drinks, the decades long decline in U.S. milk consumption has accelerated, worrying dairy farmers, milk processors and grocery chains.  Per-capita U.S. milk consumption, which peaked around World War II, has fallen almost 30% since 1975, even as sales of yogurt, cheese and other dairy products have risen, per USDA.  The reasons include the rise in popularity of bottled waters and the concern of some consumers that milk is high in calories.  Another factor per the USDA is that children, who tend to be heavy milk drinkers, account for a smaller share of the U.S. population than they once did.  To revive sales, milk companies and retailers are pushing smaller, more-convenient packages and health-oriented varieties, including protein-enhanced milk.  The dairy industry is also retooling its marketing to tout the authenticity of cow's milk and to deride fast-growing alternatives like soy and almond milk as "imitation milk."  The decline's recent acceleration is due in part to increases in milk's retail price, a result of the soaring costs for grains fed to dairy cows, but the depth of this year's slide has surprised some food-industry executives because retail milk prices have risen only slightly this year after surging 9.2 percent last year.  Americans drank an average of 20.2 gallons of milk last year, a decline of 3.3 percent from the previous year and the biggest year-over-year slide since at least 1975, per the USDA.  For me, there’s nothing like a cool glass of refreshing milk while enjoying some homemade holiday cookies.

DAVID WALT RECEIVES ARKANSAS SOYBEAN LEADERSHIP AWARD. . . . .The Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board recognized David Walt of Dumas with the Arkansas Soybean Leadership Award at the 2012 Arkansas Soybean Research Summit in Forrest City, Arkansas on Tuesday, December 4.  The Arkansas Soybean Leadership Award is given to an Arkansas soybean farmer who has made significant contributions to the soybean industry. Walt, a longtime soybean farmer in Desha County, served on the Arkansas Soybean Promotion board for 16 years, including a term as chairman. Walt has been a member of the Arkansas Soybean Association for 27 years and has served his community for over 40 years. "The greatest opportunity I was given was the appointment to serve for 16 years on the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board. I am truly amazed at what this distinguished group of farmers has been able to accomplish over the years to advance the profitability of soybeans," said David Walt.

RECORD GLOBAL RICE TRADE, PRODUCTION AND NEAR-RECORD SUPPLY, USDA CHILD’S SAYS. . . . . Global rice trade and supply will reach a new record in calendar year 2012, according to Nathan Childs, senior rice market analyst at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Economic Research Service. Childs, who spoke this week during the 2012 USA Rice Outlook Conference, said huge long-grain shipments from top rice exporters India and Vietnam to West Africa and China (largely due to low prices and available supplies) will result in a record trade year, with 38.5 million tons exported globally. Global ending stocks for 2012 are down 3 percent from 2011/12, but are at the second-highest level in a decade. Yield will also reach record highs.

U.S. rice production is up 7 percent this year, Childs said, but this year's rice crop is one of the smallest in many years, with increased area in Arkansas and Missouri and all other rice states having a decline in acreage. Globally, medium-grain exports have also had a strong export year, with Australia rebounding from years of drought with strong export supplies. Turkey is the only large medium-grain export market for U.S. rice, Childs said.

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