Leonard Peterson wants farmers to know that if they're wrongly accused of a Swampbuster, a national law prohibiting farm program payments if farmers drain wetlands to plant crops, they might be able to win in court. Peterson was accused of violating the law in 2009, and after two unsuccessful national administrative appeals, he took the case to federal court.
In the end, the court ruled U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service had improperly denied him benefits for converting a wetland. Judge Ralph Erickson, in Fargo said there was "insufficient evidence from which a fact-finder could conclude" that Peterson's scraping of field drains led to an increase in production of crops or "had the effect of making the production of an agricultural commodity possible."
Company will invest $24 million in expansion that will add more than 155 jobs to area. Pilgrim's has received state approval for a $24 million expansion project at its poultry processing complex in Mayfield, Kentucky.
Higher feed prices are once again the main story reducing prospects for profitability in pork production. In the first quarter of 2016, corn prices received by U.S. farmers averaged $3.60 per bushel and high protein meal at Decatur Illinois averaged $276 per ton. Today, those prices are closer to $4.00 per bushel for corn and nearby meal futures are above $400 per ton. Will higher feed prices erase hog profits? Fortunately, lean hog futures have also received a recent boost due to prospects for additional pork exports to China. In 2014, Chinese pork producers reduced herds due to poor margins. Now there is a shortage of pork, resulting in record high retail prices. China's pork imports have been growing and China will likely displace Japan as the world's top pork importer this year. This is no small feat since Japan has been the largest pork importer since 1989.
USDA analysts have forecast total U.S. pork exports to grow by five percent this year to 5.2 billion pounds. However, weekly export data this year points to even larger growth. Total export commitments for 2016 are 17 percent higher than last year at this point. Export commitments include the amount already shipped this year plus undelivered sales. With the prospects for Chinese imports to expand this summer, total export growth may be stronger than the current five percent USDA forecast.
Pork producer margins are currently caught between the good news of potentially higher pork prices from growing exports and the bad news of higher feed prices from reduced South American corn and soybean production and weather concerns for 2016 U.S. crops. Both pork prices and feed prices seemingly are in a period of upward dynamics right now. How these two issues ultimately work out will have a great deal to do with margins for the remainder of 2016 and 2017. Hog price prospects have improved somewhat. Prices in 2016 are now expected to be near $52 per live hundredweight, compared to an average of about $50 last year. Prices are expected to be in the mid-to-upper $50s in the second and third quarters and then seasonally drop to the higher $40's in the fourth quarter this year and first quarter of 2017. While hog prices for 2016 are expected to be about $2 higher, the cost of production is also expected to rise by nearly $2 per live hundredweight with current feed price estimates based on futures markets for the rest of the year..
Catfish inspections could be on the chopping block. After a heated debate, the Senate narrowly voted to stop the U-S Department of Agriculture from inspecting the fish. Opponents of the inspections say there’s something fishy surrounding Wicker’s motives. They think he wants to squash competition from places like Vietnam, where the fish comes cheaper. They also believe an inspection program like this is waste of money. But Wicker claims it's cost-effective at just over $1 million a year. The USDA said, “The Administration has always prioritized appropriate controls that result in a safe food supply for American consumers. The Administration also seeks to ensure regulatory certainty for those throughout the supply chain. "The USDA rule resulted from a clear congressional directive in the 2014 Farm Bill that required the USDA to act. The Administration will continue to work with Congress to continue to maintain the safety of food supply, while ensuring regulatory certainty.”
The Texas Supreme Court ruled in favor of Coyote Lake Ranch LLC in its case against the city of Lubbock, Texas. The court ruled that the accommodation doctrine that applies to mineral estates shall also apply to surface estates — a decision praised by the Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Assn. (TSCRA). “The Supreme Court’s decision is a major victory for landowners across Texas,” TSCRA president Richard Thorpe said. “This ruling clarifies surface owners have protections against those who may own an interest in not only the mineral estate but also the surface estate.”
In 1953, the city of Lubbock bought the rights to Coyote Lake Ranch’s groundwater. In 2012, Coyote Lake Ranch took issue with the city's plan to drill an additional 20 groundwater test wells in the middle of the ranch, followed by 60 additional groundwater wells across the ranch. The owners of the ranch said the construction of these wells would have impeded the travel of their irrigation systems and destroyed grazing for their cattle. The ranch argued that the accommodation doctrine, used in the oil and gas industry, should also apply in this case. Coyote Lake Ranch filed its case with the Bailey County District Court, where a temporary injunction against the city halted construction of the groundwater wells in November 2013. In response to the injunction, the city filed an appeal in the Amarillo Court of Appeals, and the court ruled in favor of the city in June 2014.
Neil Harl has been waiting for an uprising in the countryside that doesn't seem to be coming. A professor emeritus in ag economics at Iowa State University, Harl has been watching the consolidation of companies selling agricultural inputs his entire career. He recalls in the early 1980s there were more than 400 seed companies around the country. Consolidation in the seed industry intensified in the past three decades. Since 2010, two companies -- DuPont Pioneer and Monsanto -- have controlled 70% of corn hybrid sales, according to industry numbers. Harl is surprised by the lack of apprehension from farmers who have seen prices for inputs continue to go up. "I would have expected uprisings over the last several months," Harl said. "Farmers haven't been able to organize against (seed) price increases so they have a take-it-or-leave-it kind of situation there. Harl added, "It's probably going to have to get worse before there is enough of an awakening. There's so much at stake here that I wake up in the morning and wonder what else we can do to get people excited about this because I think it's worthy of that kind of attention."
The latest round of consolidation in the seed and chemical industry kicked off late last year as Dow Chemical and DuPont announced plans to merge in a deal then valued at about $130 billion. Dow-DuPont will spin off into three separate divisions, including a stand-alone ag division. Since Dow-DuPont, the state-owned China National Chemical Corp. (ChemChina) announced plans to buy Swiss-based Syngenta for $43 billion. That deal came after Monsanto Co. spent much of last year trying to woo Syngenta. Now, Monsanto is on the other side of the sale block, with a $62 billion offer from Bayer AG rejected only because Monsanto wants a better deal for its shareholders.
Peat miners, golfers, and landowners with real property containing or adjacent to Waters of the United States will benefit greatly from the Supreme Court’s May 31st decision in U.S. Army Corps of Engineers v Hawkes Co. Hawkes resolved whether an approved jurisdictional determination by the Army Corps of Engineers (“Approved JD”) involving wetlands owned by a peat mining company in Minnesota is an appealable final agency action under the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”). In a major victory for property rights, the Supreme Court unanimously held that landowners may appeal Approved JDs under the APA to federal district court.
Because for years, both the American Bankers Association (ABA) and the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) have been doing everything in their power to undercut Farm Credit in the halls of Congress. And they both have gone on record over the past year advocating that Farm Credit be abolished.
Last year, for instance, then ABA President & CEO Frank Keating did a recorded interview in which he explicitly called for Farm Credit to be eliminated. “To have the Farm Credit System, an ossified anachronism, still in existence just makes no sense whatsoever,” Keating proclaimed. “It's time we have the debate [in Congress], which we are, and the next step of course is not just to have the debate but actually get rid of the Farm Credit System.” Meanwhile, at the ICBA website, a list of policy priorities for 2016 includes the following: “ICBA urges Congress to either abolish the FCS, or at a minimum restrict the FCS to its historical mission of serving the agricultural marketplace.”
The customer-owners of the Farm Credit System include over 525,000 farmers, ranchers, cooperatives and other rural borrowers across the country. They rely on Farm Credit every day for loans and other financial services that help their businesses succeed and their communities stay viable. As customer-owners of Farm Credit institutions, they have a direct say in how their institution accomplishes its mission to support rural communities and agriculture. And because they are owners, they know that Farm Credit will be there to meet their needs in good times and bad.
“Glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through the diet,” a World Health Organization/Food and Agriculture Organization panel has concluded.
The Joint WHO/FAO Meeting on Pesticide Residues (JMPR) came to the same conclusion about malathion and diazinon, two other pesticides evaluated along with glyphosate by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in March 2015.
IARC concluded that all three chemicals were probable human carcinogens. The glyphosate finding has since become a rallying cry for glyphosate foes and an object of derision for Monsanto and other pro-glyphosate forces.
Hollywood, Florida commissioners voted 6-1 in favor of the ban before a packed house, with Commissioner Patty Asseff casting the lone dissenting vote. Under the ban, pet shops will be forced to sell dogs and cats from animal shelters and rescue groups. The controversial proposal drew more than 55 speakers, including Judy Norford, the owner of Puppy Palace, the only store in Hollywood that sells commercially bred animals. "My puppies are my life," Norford said. "I eat, sleep, drink puppies. No one loves animals more than I do." Ron Book, attorney for Norford, argued dog lovers should have the right to choose purebred puppies from pet shops. But dozens of speakers urged city leaders to put the squeeze on what they say is a cruel industry that forces animals to live out their lives in tiny cages without toys, human attention or even basic medical care. They listed several cities nationwide that have passed similar bans, including Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles. But several speakers — many of them employees and relatives of Norford — defended Puppy Palace, saying it has been in business for 32 years and has a long list of happy customers.