Farm News

Farm News

Friday, February 16th 2018

--The number of farms in the United States for 2017 is estimated at 2.05 million, down 12 thousand farms from 2016. Total land in farms, at 910 million acres, decreased 1 million acres from 2016. The average farm size for 2017 is 444 acres, up 2 acres from the previous year. Farm numbers and land in farms are differentiated by six economic sales classes. Farms and ranches are classified into these six sales classes by summing the sales of agricultural products and government program payments. Sales class breaks occur at $10,000, $100,000, $250,000, $500,000, and $1,000,000. Producers were asked during the 2017 mid-year surveys to report the value of sales based on production during the 2016 calendar year. Land in farms, at 910 million acres, was down 1 million acres from 2016. The biggest change for 2017 is that producers in Sales Class $1,000,000 or more operated 1.3 million more acres than in 2016. Similar to the previous year, in 2017 over 30 percent of all farmland was operated by farms with less than $100,000 in sales. Forty-one percent of all farmland was operated by farms with sales of $500,000 or more. The average farm size continued to increase in 2017 as the number of farms declined more than land in farms. The overall average size increased by 2 acres to 444 acres per farm. Average farm sizes increased in the $250,000 - $499,999, $500,000 - $999,999, and $1,000,000 or more sales classes and decreased or remained unchanged in the others. The total number of farms in Minnesota in 2017 was 73,200, down 100 farms compared with a year ago, according to the USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service – Farms and Land in Farms 2017 Summary report. The number of farms in both the $10,000-$99,999 and the $100,000-$249,999 sales classes decreased by 200 farms. Total land in farms in Minnesota in 2017 was 25.9 million acres, unchanged since 2013. Farms in both the $250,000- $499,999 and the $1,000,000 and over sales classes showed an increase of 100,000 acres from 2016. The average farm size in Minnesota in 2017 was 354 acres, up one acre from 2016. The average farm size in the $500,000-$999,999 sales class increased 19 acres from 961 acres on average in 2016 to 980 in 2017.

--The Dayton administration is asking the Minnesota Legislature to approve 20 million dollars in state bonding for low-interest loans to farmers. Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson says it's a non-partisan issue that's critical to all members of the legislature, "They want to be able to go home and say we are supporting young and beginning farmers, we're supporting this transition,... the land moving from one generation to the other." Frederickson says over half the dollar amount of the loans goes to beginning farmers. The programs also help farmers who are struggling financially because of low commodity prices.

--While dairy products including flavored milks are working their way back into school menus, a popular fast food chain has decided not to feature a couple of popular dairy products. McDonald’s announced they will stop promoting Happy Meals with cheeseburgers and chocolate milk by June. The restaurant chain says the items will be available, but consumers will have to request them since they won’t be listed on the menu boards any longer. The change is being applauded by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. A similar move was made four years ago to take soft drinks off the Happy Meal menu, which resulted in a 14% reduction in soft drinks going served to children.

--The USDA and the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy have agreed to continue working together to enhance environmental sustainability in the dairy industry. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue signed a Memorandum of Understanding Wednesday at a California dairy farm along with Dairy Management Inc. Chairman and Innovation Center board member Paul Rovey. Perdue says the USDA has resources that can help the dairy industry be successful, but they are spread out through various agencies. Perdue says the new memorandum can help the DMI-based online innovation center more easily interact with USDA and centralize research and conservation efforts. The original 2009 Memorandum of Understanding was credited with advancements in farm waste to energy programs. The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy was established in 2008 to address consumer needs and expectations and help dairy farmers share best practices. It is funded through the dairy checkoff.

--Syngenta says its overall sales were down one-percent last year but seed sales were six-percent higher than 2016. Syngenta CEO Erik Fyrwald calls 2017 “an historic year for Syngenta with the closing of the ChemChina transaction.” He says the company achieved “record free cash flow” in 2017 despite another challenging year in agriculture with pressure on farm incomes. But, Syngenta’s crop protection sales were down three-percent last year. Meanwhile, the Swiss-based company announced this week its acquisition of satellite-image company FarmShots Incorporated, of North Carolina. Syngenta says Farm-Shots aims to offer growers secure data about their crops on “multiple devices” that can be exported into most ag software.

--The U.S. Senate Ag Committee discussed the state of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission during a hearing Thursday. Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow of Michigan told Brownfield ahead of the hearing, markets need to be fair and transparent, and free of fraud and abusive practices. “I have a lot of questions just in general on what’s being done so that our farmers and businesses can continue to have confidence in using these tools for risk management.” CFTC chairman Christopher Giancarlo testified American agriculture and American commodity futures markets are vital national interests. “Even with extreme volatility as we saw recently, CFTC regulated markets were able to successfully take on and manage risk, enabling valuable risk transfer to support and stabilize the broader financial market.” The hearing reviewed many commodity trading issues including education, oversight and enforcement.


Wednesday, February 14th 2018

--Another St. Cloud office has decided to close., Pilgrim's Pride will be closing their St. Cloud administrative office. In a statement Tuesday the company says "we have made the difficult decision to close the St. Cloud office and transfer responsibilities to our corporate headquarters in Greeley, Colorado." The decision will not impact the production facilities in Arcadia, WI or Cold Spring and has no impact on the companies feed mill teams, grower partners or customers. Pilgrim's Pride bought GNP in an all cash $350 million transaction back in January 2017.

--A negative trend in the number of veterinarians working with food animal producers sparked a nationwide incentive program that will be available in Minnesota. The USDA is offering student loan repayment support for recent vet grads who decided to work in rural areas of need. American Veterinary Association board member Dr. Courtney Wheeler says these vets play a critical role in food production statewide. "I think without the services of a well-versed, knowledgeable veterinarian, I don't think a lot of these producers are going to be able to thrive and improve their operations." Wheeler says vets today graduate with an average debt over 140-thousand dollars, making it difficult for them to accept lower paying positions in rural areas. "The most common issue for nominations this year was the retirement of veterinarians that currently own practices in rural areas and their inability to recruit new veterinarians." Wheeler adds changes in the food animal industry mean higher costs for vets to do business in rural areas, "We're seeing a trend towards larger agriculture industries and facilities, there aren't as many farmers throughout the state. They tend to be more geographically separated.” Wheeler says the cost of a veterinary education has increased dramatically, while the income potential for rural vets has remained the same. If selected, veterinarians must commit to at least three years in rural practice to receive $25,000 annually in loan repayments. Applications for the program can be submitted via the USDA website through March 16th.

--The U.S. Meat Export Federation says increasing demand from Asian markets last year led to a new record export value for beef. USMEF President Dan Halstrom says through November 2017 beef exports totaled more than $7.2 billion. “What does it really add to you as producers? On a fed cattle basis, $282 per head. Of course, it’s no surprise led by Japan, $75 per head, Korea $47, Mexico $38, etc.” He adds finding an export market for less desired cuts is boosting the total value of beef. “Beef lips are worth over $2 per pound today, and virtually all of them are exported to Mexico. So, $2 per pound versus rendered value of $4 per head.” Halstrom believes increasing beef production in the U.S. and a weakening dollar will also help continue to move more beef globally.

--Past Congressional attempts to reform the Renewable Fuel Standard have failed, but a biofuels lobbyist says the pressure is building to make some changes. The recent bankruptcy of a large east coast oil refiner and criticism by Senator Ted Cruz and, more recently, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, have reignited the calls for RFS reform. Biofuels industry lobbyist Tara Billingsley says the RFS conversations in Congress are getting more serious. “Every year, the House Energy and Commerce Committee decides that it wants to talk about RFS reform, every year they seem to get a little further in that discussion,” Billingsley says. “The Senate this year is taking that discussion further than they have in the past. They’ve kind of flirted with it in the past. They’re actually putting pen to paper in this Congress.” But Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen told reporters the ethanol industry needs to stand its ground. “I don’t believe that the RFS needs to be fixed. I don’t think it’s broken,” Dinneen says. “If there are issues that some refiners want to have addressed, tell me what they are and we’ll see what we can do regulatorily to address them. “As I said earlier, the discussion about renewable fuels ought to be how do we move forward, not how do we go backwards.” Dinneen says RFA will continue to push for an RVP waiver that would allow E15 to be sold year-round.

--A new study looks at the ethanol industry’s contributions to the nation’s economy. The analysis conducted by AFB Economics found that the U.S. ethanol industry added more than 44 billion dollars to the nation’s gross domestic products and supported near 360-thousand jobs in 2017. Mick Henderson, who chairs the Renewable Fuels Association, says the plant he manages in western Kentucky is a good example of ethanol’s economic ripple effect. “The ethanol goes to Nashville, the distillers (grains) goes to local poultry, the distillers corn oil goes to local biodiesel, and the CO2 goes across the fence to make liquid CO2 for your Cokes and Pepsis. And dry ice too, they actually have a dry ice plant,” Henderson says. “So we’re local supplied-local demand.” Additionally, the study found that ethanol displaced 532 million barrels of imported oil in 2017, keeping 27 billion dollars in the U.S. economy.