Ag Notebook: No market info for producers, S. Korea blocks beef imports from JBS USA
October 16, 2013
Shutdown creates vacuum in farm market info
Farmers and livestock producers use the reports put out by the National Agriculture Statistics Service to make decisions, but not only has the NASS stopped putting out new reports about demand and supply, exports and prices, but all websites with past information have been taken down, according to reports.
Since the U.S. Agriculture Department's local farm services offices also have been shuttered, farmers can't apply for new loans, sign up acreages for government programs or receive government checks for programs they're already enrolled in.
According to the Associated Press, Kansas Farmer's Union president Donn Teske, a grower in the northeast Kansas town of Wheaton, said he worried about payments he's owed for idling some environmentally sensitive land under the Conservation Reserve Program.
"I always look forward to that check coming in the mail," the 58-year-old said.
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But all of that, farmers say, pales in comparison to the lack of agriculture reports, because farmers today depend far more on global marketplaces than government payouts.
S. Korea cuts off beef imports from JBS USA
South Korea has cut off beef imports from a Colorado-based meat-packing company after finding a controversial growth enhancer in the meat.
The beef was in a 22-ton shipment from a Texas plant owned by Greeley, Colo.-based JBS USA, KUNC reported last week. Korean food inspectors found traces of Zilmax, a supplement designed to bulk up cattle before slaughter.
Many European and Asian countries, including South Korea, have banned the use of feed additives like Zilmax.
Some say the supplement may be causing the animals lameness or difficulty in moving.
Meatpackers Tyson and Cargill have stopped buying cattle that were fed Zilmax.
A few days ago the Chicago Mercantile Exchange put in a place a similar policy.
"We are working with our partners at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the South Korean government to resolve the issue concerning one of our U.S. facilities. Given the current situation in Washington D.C. and the lack of official notification from South Korea, we do not have definitive information at this time," JBS officials wrote in a statement.
Merck, the pharmaceutical company that makes Zilmax, has suspended sales while further research is done to see if there is a connection between Zilmax and lameness in cattle.
Colo.'s lavender industry finding fragrant niche
Cherries are nice, but Paola Legarre has bigger and better plans for her cherry farm nestled in the middle of Colorado's West Sloped wine and fruit country.
The plans involve neither wine nor fruit. In their place, Legarre is growing the state's largest lavender crop.
When it comes to lavender, "largest" is a relative concept. Her three acres of plants is tiny compared even with the modest scale of western Colorado's grape, peach, pear and apple farms.
Growers are raising lavender in everything from backyard patches to Legarre's precision rows replete with drip irrigation.
"I lost my whole cherry crop (to freezes) this year," said Legarre, owner of Sage Creations Organic Farm in Palisade, Colo. "But lavender is going to help offset that loss."
The number of commercial lavender farmers has increased nearly tenfold over the past four years — an impressive growth rate except for the fact that the 30 or so growers are collectively small enough that the size and value of their crop doesn't register in any agricultural statistics.
The industry is tinged with optimism about its potential, balanced by awareness of fads that never panned out.
Cattle on feed in feedyards lowest in four years
USDA reported that there were 9.876 million head of cattle on feed in feedyards with 1,000-plus head capacities on Sept. 1. That's down 7.2 percent from a year ago and is the smallest September on feed inventory since 2003, said Darrell Mark, adjunct professor of economics at South Dakota State University.
"In fact, it is the smallest for any month since August 2009. As feeder cattle supplies have declined over the last several years due to liquidation of the beef cow herd, the number of cattle on feed has decreased year-over-year for the past thirteen consecutive months," Mark said.
August fed cattle marketings totaled 1.883 million head, which Mark said is nearly 4 percent below August 2012.
"Average daily marketings for the month of August, however, were on pace with a year ago due to August 2013 having one less business day than August 2012," said Mark.
According to Mark, marketings as a percentage of cattle on feed were 18.8 percent last month. He noted that is the second consecutive month that this metric for the pace of marketings has exceeded year-ago levels, reflecting the heavier placement weights (and therefore fewer days on feed) that have become the norm in the last several months.
Farmers in pinch over checks they can't cash
One of the ripple effects farmers are feeling in the wake of the government shutdown is the inability to cash some checks from elevators when they bring their grain in after harvest.
State law requires elevators to include a lender's name on a check when a farmer has a loan against the grain. With no one at Farm Service Agency offices because of the shutdown, checks can't be cashed when the lender is the FSA.
"It impacts not only our farmers, who are relying heavily on the money, but also the local grocery store, hardware store, the feed and seed," Poppe said.
In response, Archer Cooperative is working with individual farmers case by case to approve emergency loans if the farmer qualifies. Poppe said Archer approved two in the last week.
Farm Bureau reverses policy on conservation compliance
The American Farm Bureau Federation board last week reversed its policy position that crop insurance should be linked to conservation compliance, and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., praised that decision recently.
Earlier this year Farm Bureau, a generally conservative, Republican-leaning association, organized a large coalition of farm and conservation groups in favor of an agreement to tie crop insurance benefits to conservation compliance. The proposal was considered a breakthrough in the conflict between conservation and farm groups and was included in the Senate farm bill, but not in the House bill.
Farm Bureau did not issue a news release about the board's reversal, but it was announced this week by Lucas, who had opposed requiring farmers to comply with federal conservation standards to get crop insurance benefits.
New fund provides relief to flood-damaged Front Range food producers
In partnership with The Community Foundation Serving Boulder County, Colo., and the Boulder County Farmers' Markets, non-profit Local Food Shift Group has established a Farm Relief Fund to assist farmers, ranchers and local food entrepreneurs in the Front Range who have experienced losses due to the recent floods.
Farmers' markets and farmstands have had to close at the height of the harvest season, causing significant revenue loss for small-scale operations.
For most producers, no insurance covers these losses. Many are now struggling to recover, rebuild, and reseed. For some, the need is urgent. Farmers and ranchers are not only facing immediate revenue loss from contaminated crops or market closures, but may also be looking at significant repair of water infrastructure and uncertainty about the impact on next year's growing season.
Details are available at localfoodshift.com/site/boulder_county_flood_relief.
Malone Foundation Gives $6 million to CSU Equine Sports Medicine Program
The Malone Family Foundation, led by media magnate and philanthropist John C. Malone, has donated $6 million to Colorado State University's Orthopaedic Research Center to significantly advance the world-renowned center's scientific discovery and clinical expertise in equine sports medicine and rehabilitation.
The transformational gift will establish the Leslie A. Malone Presidential Chair in Equine Sports Medicine and will expand the Orthopaedic Research Center's pioneering Equine Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation Program by supporting an additional faculty member and resident. The faculty member to hold the chair has not yet been named.
The donation represents a marriage of interests: Leslie Malone, who runs Harmony Sporthorses in Kiowa, Colo., among other international horse operations, has been committed for nearly two decades to boosting the prestige of dressage in the United States through focused horse breeding and training programs. She has worked with multiple Olympians – both horses and riders – and raises Hanoverian, Oldenburg, and Dutch Warmblood sport horses.
— Colorado State University
fall festivals mean big bucks for area farmers
Thousands of people will make the trip east to Miller Farms, on Weld County Road 19 near Platteville, Colo., this month, many of them city folks who don't normally get to harvest their own crops.
But getting to pick your own vegetables is only one reason people come to Miller Farms' Fall Harvest Festival. There's the corn maze, the chili roasting and the giant hill that kids love to climb.
But veggie-picking is still a main attraction — fitting, because that's where it all started.
"We kind of started it really small, to sell pumpkins in the fall," said Joe Miller, the third-generation owner of the farm. "Then we thought we would kind of show people where it comes from, and we never comprehended they would be so excited to harvest it as well."
Visitors to this year's 18th Fall Harvest Festival can take a wagon ride out to the fields were they can pick their own onions, sweet corn, potatoes, celery and more, with a family of four getting five bags each — that's 20 bags of fresh-picked produce — for $55.
"It really helps us," Patterson said, adding that it's not unusual for the farm to see 5,000 visitors on a given weekend in October.