Remarks made last week by the chairman of Nestle about the use of corn for biofuels production were not only wrong but dangerous, the president of the National Corn Growers Association said.
“It is scandalous, ludicrous and highly irresponsible for the chairman of a global conglomerate that tripled its profits last year to talk about higher corn prices forcing millions into starvation,” said NCGA President Bart Schott. “Perhaps if Nestle is so concerned about food prices, its board will consider putting more of their $35.7 billion in 2010 profits back into poor communities. Just their profits alone represent more than half the entire farm value of the 2010 U.S. corn crop.”
Schott was reacting to comments by Nestle Chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe at a meeting last Tuesday of the Council on Foreign Relations. Schott also challenged Brabeck-Letmathe to take the time to study facts and figures before making ridiculous comments about an industry that he clearly knows little about, nor bothered to study up on.
The U.S. Grains Council received initial reports that Friday’s earthquake and the subsequent tsunami may have caused significant damage to many of Japan’s agricultural facilities and production areas. While the extent of the damage is not yet known, it will likely impact grain trade.
“Some ports in northern Japan, Kushiro, Hachinohe, Ishinomaki and Kashima, were hit by the tsunami. We’ve heard some feed mills and livestock operations have also been damaged by the tsunami. Those facilities were not severely damaged by the earthquake itself but were affected by the tsunami,” said Tommy Hamamoto, USGC director in Japan. “It is too early to tell what effect this will have on Japan’s agricultural sector, but it could be of significance.”
American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman wrote to members of the House today urging them to support passage of H.R. 872, the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2011, and sign on as co-sponsors.
“In addition to agricultural producers, a significant number of stakeholders will be impacted by a new federal requirement under which the Environmental Protection Agency and delegated states must issue Clean Water Act National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System general permits for certain pesticide applications,” Stallman told lawmakers in his letter. “This unprecedented action is the result of a 2009 decision of the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.”
Stallman called on Congress to take action before the permit requirement becomes final.
“We are concerned that due to unrealistic deadlines for state-delegated implementation and compliance many states will not meet the court ordered deadline of April 9, 2011,” Stallman wrote. “Adding to the uncertainty, EPA has yet to release a final permit. This leaves pesticide users without time to fully understand or come into compliance with the permit and further increases their potential liability.”
The overall mix of crop production across the country this year is likely to be the same as last year, according to the Wall Street Journal. Prices of all commodities are soaring, and there shouldn’t be a big shift from one crop to another.
Analysts expect next month’s planting intentions report by the Agriculture Department will show only minor changes, which could help the price rally for farm commodities.
It will also prove difficult to put more cropland into production. Gerald Bange, chairman of USDA’s World Agricultural Outlook Board, signaled at AFBF’s annual meeting in Atlanta in January that 10.7 million acres could move into production this year, but some analysts believe this land won’t move into use because it is often less productive.
The Agriculture Department’s dramatic 9 percent cut in the estimate of corn stocks puts the stocks-to-use ratio at the lowest level since the Great Depression, but Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said he believes there will be enough corn for food, feed, fuel and exports.
Joe Glauber, USDA’s chief economist, said corn stocks will remain tight until 2012 and it will take time to rebuild. The stocks-to-use ratio for the 2010-2011 marketing year, which runs through Aug. 31, is estimated at 5 percent, the lowest since 1995-1996. In 1936-1937, during the Great Depression, the stocks-to-use ratio was the lowest ever at 4.5 percent. The average ratio is 13 percent.
Lower supplies and higher demand continue to play a major role in price increases for wheat and corn in the Agriculture Department’s February crop report released today. USDA made no changes in the wheat, soybeans and cotton stocks estimates, but corn stocks were reduced to 675 million bushels from 745 million bushels in the January estimate.
This puts corn stocks at a very tight level of 5 percent, the same as the record level of 5 percent that occurred in the 1995-96 marketing year. Tight supplies are driving up corn prices, with USDA projecting the 2010-11 marketing-year average farm price to be $5.05 per bushel to $5.75 per bushel, up from $4.90 to $5.70 in the January report.
The Agriculture Department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service on Thursday announced its decision to grant non-regulated status for alfalfa that has been genetically engineered to be resistant to the herbicide commercially known as Roundup.
“After conducting a thorough and transparent examination of alfalfa through a multi-alternative environmental impact statement and several public comment opportunities, APHIS has determined that Roundup Ready alfalfa is as safe as traditionally bred alfalfa,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “All of the alfalfa production stakeholders involved in this issue have stressed their willingness to work together to find solutions. We greatly appreciate and value the work they’ve done so far and will continue to provide support to the wide variety of sectors that make American agriculture successful.”
After releasing a final environmental impact statement in December 2010, USDA took another step to ensure that this issue received the broadest examination before making its final decision. USDA brought together a diverse group of stakeholders to discuss feasible strategies for coexistence between genetically engineered, organic and other stakeholders. The stakeholders helped to identify areas of consensus; issues where the group disagreed and opportunities for further dialogue; and areas where USDA could—or should—play an important and helpful role.
Farm Bureau is pleased with the announcement, as it clears up uncertainty for producers and allows them to move forward with planting decisions.
Ag blogger Emily Zweber explains in this post, what the deregulation means for her family farm.