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A Prism Business Media Publication March 1, 2006 | 060301   
TABLE OF CONTENTS
 >> Logan Hawkes

 >> USDA forecasting increased soy acres, supplies

 >> Asian soybean rust identified at Weslaco station

 >> Thornberry seeks extension of farm bill

 >> Fidel, Jacques Chirac to the rescue?

 >> News from the Top of the Hill

 >> 2006 corn, soybean returns projected

 >> Weather threatens West Nile virus for horses

 >> Energy costs trending downward but...

 >> WTO puts farm program on defensive

 >> Fiction writing 101: budget represents 'fiscal discipline'

 >> U.S. Grains Council pleased with WTO ruling

 >> Bioterrorism course focuses on biological issues

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  EDITOR'S NOTE
Logan Hawkes
03/01/06    Crop News Weekly
The merry month of March has arrived and it's a busy time in the world of agriculture. With so much to do and so little time to do it, it's difficult to keep up with the latest industry developments. That's why we bring you the kind of information you need each week in a comprehensive but compact newsletter designed to keep you on top. Let's get to it.

In the top of the news this week, how much of a good thing is enough? Price hikes for fuel and fertilizer have convinced many Southern farmers to switch to soybeans this year. Problems is, USDA predicts more soybean acres in the Midwest as well. Is it a recipe for disaster? Also this week, researchers at a USDA laboratory in the fertile Rio Grande Valley of Texas have confirmed Asian soybean rust at a Texas A&M Experiment Station in Hidalgo County. Officials say there is no worry over the development and spread of the rust spores however. And speaking of Texas, Congressman Mac Thornberry (Texas) says it would be unfair to our nation's agriculture producers to write a new farm bill in the midst of ongoing international trade negotiations. Thornberry introduced legislation last week to extend the current farm bill. If that doesn't work, perhaps farmers could follow the example of New Orlean's Mayor Ray Nagin Jr. who is asking foreign governments for help in rebuilding his city. Perhaps southern farmers hit hard by the hurricane could seek French aid as well, since the U.S. government seems so slow in responding.

You'll find these stories and more in this issue of Crop News Weekly. Happy reading.



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  FROM OUR MAGAZINES
USDA forecasting increased soy acres, supplies
02/27/06   
Southern farmers reportedly have been considering switching more acres to soybeans in 2006 due to this winter's price hikes for fuel and nitrogen fertilizer. Unfortunately, growers in other regions are, too. USDA is forecasting 2006 soybean plantings at 74 million acres, up nearly 2 million acres from the 2005. Analysts expect yields to fall below the 2005 record, but with increased plantings and large carry-in stocks, supplies will be up. And higher supplies usually mean lower prices. - Forrest Laws, Farm Press Editorial Staff

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Asian soybean rust identified at Weslaco station
02/24/06   
Researchers at the USDA laboratory at Weslaco, Texas, have confirmed Asian soybean rust on soybeans at the Texas A&M Experiment Station in Hidalgo County in the state's agriculture rich Rio Grande Valley. Agronomist Tom Isakeit says plant pathologist Marvin Miller reported the finding after examining a sample collected by technician Robert Saldana February 14. Isakeit says the field is about one acre in size and will not serve as a source of spores, since it has been harvested. - Ron Smith, Farm Press Editorial Staff

Thornberry seeks extension of farm bill
02/24/06   
Congressman Mac Thornberry of Texas says it would be unfair to our nation's agriculture producers to write a new farm bill in the midst of ongoing international trade negotiations. Today, Thornberry filed legislation to extend the current farm bill until the Doha round of World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations is complete. "Our nation's farmers and their lenders should not be asked to operate under rules that keep changing. We should get fairer global trading rules in place first before we write the next farm bill," said Thornberry. The current farm bill was approved in 2002, and many of its provisions are scheduled to expire in 2007. - Farm Press Editorial Staff

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Fidel, Jacques Chirac to the rescue?
02/24/06   
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin Jr. has begun asking foreign governments for help in rebuilding his city. The volatile, ex-cable TV executive says the international community could "fill the gap" left by the federal government's recovery efforts. If Nagin is successful, it may be time farm organizations began asking foreign governments to help their members, given the lukewarm response of the Bush administration and some in Congress to disaster legislation for U.S. farmers. - Forrest Laws, Farm Press Editorial Staff

News from the Top of the Hill
02/24/06    National Hog Farmer
Competition in Livestock Markets - U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) has introduced S. 2307, the "Competitive and Fair Agricultural Markets Act of 2006," to amend the Packers and Stockyards Act and the Agricultural Fair Practices Act. Harkin said the legislation is in response to USDA's failure to "prevent unfair, manipulative and anticompetitive behavior," prohibited by the Packers and Stockyards Act. The legislation would:

  • Establish a USDA Office of Special Council whose responsibility will be to investigate and prosecute violations on competition matters.

  • Strengthen producer protections by making it easier for producers to prove unfair actions by packers without additional burdens of having to prove adverse affects on competition.

  • Strengthen USDA's authority in enforcing the Packers and Stockyards Act over the poultry industry and making it more in line with livestock.

  • Prohibit unfair or deceptive practices by a person that affects the marketing, receiving, purchasing, sale or contracting of agricultural commodities.

  • Provide contract protections to ensure that the contract clearly spells out what is required of the producer. Producers would be given at least three days to review or cancel the contract. The legislation would prevent confidentiality clauses so that producers are free to share the contract with family members or a lawyer to help them decide whether or not they should sign it. Producers would be protected from having their contracts prematurely terminated if they have made a sizable capital investment. The legislation also prevents mandatory arbitration so that companies do not prevent producers from going to the courts to speak out against unfair actions.

  • Prevent discrimination against producers belonging to an organization or cooperative by removing a disclaimer clause allowing processors, handlers, or contractors to refuse to do business with producers just because they belong to such organizations.

    Last year, USDA's Office of Inspector General released a report requested by Harkin that was critical of the USDA's Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards administration of the Packers and Stockyards Act.

    Biodiesel Tax Loophole - Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) has introduced S. 2309, which would ensure that the biodiesel tax credit is available only for biodiesel made from feed stocks (corn, soybeans, sunflower seeds, cottonseeds, canola, crambe, rapeseeds, safflowers, flaxseeds, rice bran, and mustard seeds) as intended by Congress. This legislation is the result of the Internal Revenue Service giving the biodiesel tax credit for production from palm oil. Harkin said, "Giving tax breaks for biodiesel made from palm oil is not what Congress had in mind with the biodiesel tax credit. This legislation will provide a simple, cost-effective and World Trade Organization compliant way to boost America's domestic energy production and help our rural economy through farm-based renewable energy."

    USDA Releases Japan Report - Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns last Friday released the results of USDA's investigation into ineligible veal shipments to Japan. The 475-page report was the result of an investigation by USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and the Office of the Inspector General. The report concluded, "Mistakes were made by the plant involved with the shipment and by USDA inspection personnel. Those mistakes resulted from a lack of understanding of which products were eligible for shipment to Japan. The ineligible product included veal with the vertebral column intact and veal offal." The entire report can be found on USDA's website at: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/PDF/Japan_Export_Investigation_Report.pdf.

    Thailand, Costa Rica Re-opens Markets - Thailand has reopened its market to U.S. boneless beef from cattle less than 30 months of age. In 2003, Thailand imported $2.8 million of U.S. beef. Costa Rica will now allow for importation of U.S. boneless beef, tongues, kidneys, livers and hearts. In 2003, Costa Rica imported $960,000 of U.S. beef. Neither country will require a beef export verification program if "the slaughter or processing plant is dedicated exclusively to production of beef products from animals less than 30 months of age and does not use imported beef products."

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    2006 corn, soybean returns projected
    02/21/06   
    Corn-after-corn production may be less profitable than soybean production in 2006, meaning the recent trend of increasing corn production may end, according to a University of Illinois (U of I) Extension study. "Between 2000 and 2004, corn returns exceeded soybean returns in many areas of Illinois," says Gary Schnitkey, U of I Extension farm management specialist who co-authored the study with fellow Extension specialist Dale Lattz. "Budgets suggest that recent cost increases have narrowed the gap between corn and soybean returns. Higher corn yields will be required in 2006 as compared to recent years for projected corn returns to exceed soybean returns. From a returns perspective, farmers may wish to plant soybeans on farmland that could be corn-after-corn in 2006." - The Corn & Soybean Digest

    Weather threatens West Nile virus for horses
    02/23/06   
    Unseasonably warm February weather in California is renewing the threat of West Nile virus, which serves as a reminder to horse owners to make sure their animals are vaccinated. Last year, 456 horses in California were known to have contracted the disease, with 200 deaths. In the great majority of those cases the horses were either not vaccinated or vaccinated improperly. - Farm Press Editorial Staff

    Energy costs trending downward but...
    02/22/06   
    The good news: The dramatic price rise in crude oil since 2002 is about to end. The bad news: Energy costs remain high. A slight downward trend, as well as predictions for relatively high prices, has little to do with hurricanes or rumors out of the Middle East, says Tom Tucker, president of John Stewart and Associates, in San Antonio, Texas. China moves the market, Tucker said recently during the annual North American Grain Congress, a joint conference of the National Sorghum Producers and the National Association of Wheat Growers. - Ron Smith, Farm Press Editorial Staff

    WTO puts farm program on defensive
    02/22/06   
    If the United States doesn't significantly cut back its domestic farm support, one group that could cry foul is U.S. pharmaceutical companies. Strange as that may sound, it's just one of several factors working against U.S. farm support programs, noted Kenneth Roberts, associate administrator for the Foreign Agricultural Service, Washington, D.C., and a U.S. trade negotiator. "We're on the defensive with our domestic support," Roberts told attendees of the National Conservation Systems Cotton and Rice Conference, in Tunica. "The 1996 farm bill was a market-oriented approach that was clear under WTO rules. But the 2002 farm bill made permanent some of the safety nets we had earlier. That has made it difficult for us." - Elton Robinson, Farm Press Editorial Staff

    Fiction writing 101: budget represents 'fiscal discipline'
    06/22/05   
    "She got the gold mine -- I got the shaft," the bit of country music doggerel by Jerry Reed, is somewhat reflective of the situation American farmers, and particularly those growing Sunbelt crops, find themselves in with the Bush administration and its death-by-a-thousand-cuts funding for agriculture programs. There is no little irony that farmers and agribusiness were among his staunchest supporters in both presidential elections, and have continued strongly in his corner, yet agriculture has taken one hit after another at the hands of his administration and the Congress his party controls. - Hembree Brandon, Farm Press Editorial Staff

    U.S. Grains Council pleased with WTO ruling
    02/22/06   
    The U.S. Grains Council is pleased with the WTO ruling in favor of the United States, Canada and Argentina in a case filed against the European Union in 2003. The three countries filed the case with the WTO in response to the EU's moratorium on the import of genetically modified crops and their products. "The council has long supported the filing of this case believing that the EU moratorium is an unjustified trade barrier to U.S. corn in violation of WTO rules," said Ken Hobbie, USGC president and CEO. "We're pleased to see a positive ruling for U.S. producers." - Farm Press Editorial Staff

    Bioterrorism course focuses on biological issues
    02/21/06   
    Ohio State University's Department of Plant Pathology, in collaboration with the International Studies Program, is offering undergraduate students a new course on a much-needed aspect of global and homeland security. "Bioterrorism: An Overview," being offered beginning winter quarter 2006, is designed to cover topics on how terrorism relates to public health, plants and animals from a biological and agricultural perspective. No other course instruction of its kind exists on campus. Chuck Curtis, an Ohio State Extension plant pathologist, says the course fills a gap in the intelligence and security track of the International Studies Program. - The Corn & Soybean Digest



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