Monthly Archives: October 2012


El Niño Fizzles and Winter Might Be ‘Nothing Special’

By Robert Burns, Texas AgriLife Extension
October 31, 2012

El Niño has fizzled, and you can forget the forecasts of a wetter, cooler Texas winter, said the state climatologist.
Though many agricultural producers may be disappointed in not having a wet winter to replenish soil-moisture levels, there’s some good news mixed with the bad, said Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon, state climatologist and regents professor at Texas A&M University.

Despite a now wavering El Niño, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration was still predicting warmer-than-average temperatures in much of the south. But it’s less of a sure thing than it was a month or so ago when a strong El Niño was expected , said the Texas state climatologist. (NOAA contributed image)

“The closest thing to a sure bet is that this won’t be another La Niña winter,” Nielsen-Gammon said. “But next year the odds are La Niña will ramp up again, and with them the chances that next winter will be a dry one.”
As recently as late August, forecasters, including those at the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center, were expecting a stronger-than-average El Niño to develop in the tropical Pacific, he said.
The earlier prediction of a strong El Niño was good news for drought recovery for most of the state, Nielsen-Gammon said. Though an El Niño’s effects are usually stronger in the southern parts of the state and along the Gulf Coast, it generally leads to wetter, cooler weather for the entire state.
Typically, the development of an El Niño begins with warmer ocean temperatures, at least about 1 degree Fahrenheit, above normal, which is what climatologists were seeing during the summer, he said. The situation, once it begins, usually results in a “feedback situation” that further raises ocean temperatures and magnifies the effect.
“As the warm temperatures spread across the Pacific, the winds weaken, allowing the warm water to remain at the surface longer before losing any of its heat,” Nielsen-Gammon said.
“However, the feedback failed to develop, and now we are expecting a neutral situation,” he said.
“Neutral situation,” means there are now equal chances of either a wet or dry winter, Nielsen-Gammon said.
“In the meantime, the tropical Pacific is likely to stay neutral, he said. This means a good chance that rainfall this spring and summer will also tend to be close to normal, to the extent that Texas weather is ever normal,” he said.

By |2012-10-31T14:26:37-05:00October 31st, 2012|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Global Stocks-to-Use on Corn at Multi-Decade Low

OCTOBER 26, 2012

The global supply of both corn and soybeans will tighten next year as world feed demand remains strong, according to USDA’s latest World Supply and Demand Estimates released in mid-October.
World production of corn is expected to reach 839 million metric tons, down slightly from September’s estimated 841 million metric tons. USDA now estimates that global feed demand will be 504.49 million metric tons, also down slightly from the department’s September projection of 505.84 million metric tons.
With feed demand expected to remain buoyant, the stocks-to-use ratio for the global corn supply has dropped to 13.7%. During the 2007-08 crop year, when corn prices were driven higher by a world wheat shortage, the global stocks-to-use figure was between 17 and 18%. According to Matt Roberts, agricultural economist with Ohio State University, this month’s global stocks-to-use ratio is the lowest since at least 1985.
“Why have we seen the slide in corn prices over the last six weeks? Harvest pressure. The basis has weakened as corn has come off, and for the time being we don’t have that sense of panic,” says Roberts. “When people start to look at the various scenarios of what could happen, we could see corn prices move higher.”
In its recent report, USDA estimates 2012-13 corn production in Brazil at 70 million metric tons, down slightly from the current 2011-12 crop of 72.73 million metric tons.
“If South America comes out with a big crop, that could take pressure off U.S. exports and reduce the draw on the U.S. corn supply,” says Roberts. But that’s a big if in Roberts’ mind because Brazil is just now planting its 2012 crop.
“We have not seen the demand destruction we would need to see to justify recent price declines,” he adds. “In six to eight weeks, the panic will return.”
Global Bean Supply Also Tight
USDA expects world production of soybeans to increase due to large crops in South America and expects world carryout to grow. The department projects a world bean crop in 2012-13 of 264.28 million metric tons, up 3.4% from its September estimate of 258.13 million metric tons, but still substantially smaller than the 2011-12 crop of 238.11 million metric tons.
The 2012-13 world carryout is projected to grow to 57.56 million metric tons, up from the previous year’s 54.79 million metric tons.
The global stocks-to-use ratio is now 22%, according to Roberts’ calculations. By comparison the 2008-09 ratio was 19.2%. “The soybean market is tight,” says Roberts. “USDA statistics, I believe, underestimate how tight it is.”
If, for instance, the world stocks-to-use ratio is calculated using the 2012 South American crop, the one harvested this past spring, and the North American crop being harvested now, the stocks-to-use ratio would drop to 12 or 13%. “If we just look at the calendar year, we are as tight as we have ever been in soybeans,” says Roberts.
World demand for soybeans, particularly from China remains strong. “There’s more upside in soy from now through March or April because the market is so physically tight,” says Roberts.
On […]

By |2012-10-26T10:37:42-05:00October 26th, 2012|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Former Ag Secretary makes Election Predictions

October 25, 2012
By: Editors
By John Block, Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Matz PC

We are about 10 days away from the election. Most of the focus has been on the Presidential race. However, let’s not forget that there are 3 branches of government. We have the Executive – that’s the President; we have the legislative – the Congress; and the judicial – our judges.

Whoever gets elected as President likely will have a chance to appoint a Supreme Court Justice, assuming one of the current justices should retire over the next 4 years.

The President has a lot of power. He can help to shape the court consistent with his philosophy. He can veto legislation coming out of the Congress if he doesn’t like it. Through his leadership, he can help point the country in his preferred direction. Finally, he is “Commander in Chief” and can use our military to protect the country. He cannot declare war. That’s up to Congress. With all the focus on the President, we tend to ignore the importance of the Congress.

The Congress passes legislation to address issues of the day. The Congress appropriates money to build roads, provide food stamps, school lunches, support our military, money for everything.

Since the Congress is responsible for approving all the spending, you might think they would prepare and approve a budget. The Republican House of Representatives did. The Democrat-led Senate has not passed a budget in 3 years. How irresponsible is that?

With that as background, here is what I predict in this election:

1.With 435 House seats up, the Democrats would have to take 25 seats away from Republicans to regain control. That won’t happen. They might flip 8 or 10. The House remains Republican.
2.Republicans will add some seats in the Senate but will not be able to get a majority.
3.A month ago, it appeared to me that President Obama would hold on to win the Presidency. I’ve changed my mind. I won’t bet the farm on it, but I give the nod to Mitt Romney.

Farm programs under a Romney Presidency won’t look much different than under Obama. Romney, however, will support more relief from the death tax for farmers and small businesses. Romney will put the brakes on the EPA rush to regulate everything. A Romney Presidency will have more courage to deal with our serious debt problem.

By |2012-10-25T07:10:10-05:00October 25th, 2012|Uncategorized|0 Comments

In Search of Hardier Corn

The agriculture industry is trying to toughen up corn.

With the Farm Belt recovering from one of the worst summers of drought in decades, the companies that supply corn seeds are rolling out new strains that can survive with less water. It’s a wide-ranging, big-budget battle covering a lot of fronts, from crossbreeding crops to tinkering with the plants’ genes.

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.There is no magic bullet, researchers warn. But even incremental gains could have big results, given the size and importance of the corn crop.

Advances that produce just a 1% gain in corn yield from year to year can have “a huge economic impact,” says David Lightfoot, a geneticist at Southern Illinois University. “It’s the crop that’s grown in some of the driest areas of the Midwest, and it’s the one where progress is going to have the biggest payoff.”

Stalking the Perfect Ear
The U.S. is the world’s biggest producer and exporter of corn, generating a crop valued at $76.5 billion in 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Corn also touches many parts of the economy—serving as the basis for food sweeteners, livestock feed and ethanol fuel—and poor harvests can have far-reaching repercussions.

Enlarge Image


A trial of Syngenta’s drought-resistant corn (right) versus a conventional strain during this year’s drought.
.For years, Monsanto Co., DuPont Co. and Syngenta AG have used conventional breeding techniques and biotechnology to create corn that is hardier overall, including hybrids that hold up better when water is scarce. Their efforts—as well as improved farming practices—have reduced drought-related losses in yield for the U.S. corn crop by about 1% a year in recent decades, according to a study published in 2010 by Iowa State University researchers.

But recently the ag giants began introducing corn varieties that are specifically designed to endure drought.

Syngenta has offered a limited commercial launch of a drought-tolerant corn called Agrisure Artesian over the past two years and plans an expanded offering for next year’s planting. The seed can increase yields by as much as 15% over other hybrid corns in “a moderate to severe drought,” says Wayne Fithian, a Syngenta product manager who oversees drought-tolerant corn.

DuPont’s Optimum AQUAmax hit the market last year and was planted on about two million acres in the Corn Belt in 2012. DuPont’s agricultural arm, DuPont Pioneer, says harvest data show that in drought conditions, the corn has yields about 8% higher than leading competing hybrids.

Several farmers who planted drought-tolerant varieties this year say they are satisfied with the results. In Elgin, Neb., Philip Starman says he plans to use Optimum AQUAmax again next year after testing it for several years. The corn appeared to endure better in the drought than his other corn. “It seems like it takes a lot more stress, it’s a lot […]

By |2012-10-17T14:59:33-05:00October 17th, 2012|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Perfect Harvest Weather Prevails

October 10, 2012
By: Editors
In the Corn Belt, cool weather prevails in the wake of a cold front’s passage, according to USDA’s Joint Ag Weather Facility. In the vicinity of the cold front, rain showers are affecting the lower Great Lakes region. Meanwhile, a record-setting harvest pace continues in the upper Midwest, where more than three-quarters of both corn and soybeans had been harvested by October 7 in Iowa, Minnesota, and South Dakota.

In the West, warm, dry weather favors fieldwork, including Northwestern winter wheat planting and the Arizona cotton harvest. However, developing drought is hampering wheat emergence of some rain-fed winter wheat.

On the Plains, dry weather prevails. Across the northwestern half of the Plains, drought is limiting winter wheat emergence. On October 7, emergence was at least 20 percentage points behind the 5-year average pace in South Dakota (8% emerged versus the average of 49%), Nebraska (31 vs. 62%), Colorado (36 vs. 57%), and Montana (14 vs. 35%).

In the South, dry weather favors an acceleration of fieldwork, including cotton, soybean, and peanut harvesting.

Looking Ahead
As the week progresses, cool air will retreat northward, with below-normal temperatures mostly confined to the Midwest and Northeast by late in the week.

Over the weekend, above-normal temperatures will develop from the Plains to the East Coast. Meanwhile, fairly tranquil weather will yield to increasingly stormy conditions.

On Thursday, showers will develop across the Southwest, expanding into the central and southern Plains and Midwest by the weekend. Late-week rainfall could become heavy in the Great Lakes region, where totals may exceed 2 inches. Elsewhere, much-needed precipitation will also overspread the Pacific Northwest, starting on Friday.

The NWS 6- to 10-day outlook for October 15-19 calls for warmer-than-normal weather nationwide, except for near-normal temperatures in the Northwest. Meanwhile, above-normal precipitation across the majority of the U.S., including the Northwest and from the Mississippi Valley to the East Coast, will contrast with drier-than-normal conditions across the central and southern High Plains and the Southwest.

By |2012-10-10T15:44:14-05:00October 10th, 2012|Uncategorized|0 Comments