Ag Notebook: Record corn harvest on the way?

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USDA forecasts record-high corn production in 2013

U.S. corn growers are expected to produce a record-high 13.8 billion bushels of corn in 2013, according to the Crop Production report issued this month by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

The forecast production is up 28 percent from drought-hit 2012.

The early planting season was not very favorable for corn growers this year, as they were hampered by abnormally wet and cold spring weather.

U.S. growers wrapped up planting corn by mid-June, with 97.4 million acres planted to the crop. Also, with 64 percent of U.S. corn crop rated in good to excellent condition as of August 4, corn crop condition remains significantly higher than at this time last year.

Based on these conditions, NASS forecasts this year’s corn yield at 154.4 bushels per acre, the third-highest yield on record.

NASS forecasts 76.4 million acres of soybeans for harvest this year.

If realized, this will be the second largest harvested acreage on record.

Colorado exports on track to set record high

Colorado’s exports of manufactured, agricultural and mineral products increased 6 percent in the first half of 2012 compared to the same period in 2012, growing from $3.9 billion to $4.2 billion.

At the current rate of growth, the state is projected to reach over $8.6 billion in annual export sales revenue, which would be a record high. Colorado’s rate of growth topped the one percent national average for merchandise export growth for the same period.

“Exports continue to help strengthen Colorado’s economy,” said Ken Lund, executive director of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT). “Selling more Colorado-made goods in international markets means more jobs in Colorado. We commend the hard work of our businesses and entrepreneurs and will continue to support them as together we strive for even greater growth.”

Key merchandise export categories for Colorado include computer and electronic products, food and kindred products, machinery, and chemicals.

Among Colorado’s top ten exports, electronics (+ 24 percent), civilian aircraft (+ 45 percent) engines and motors (+ 1,235 percent) and frozen beef (+ 33 percent) showed significant increases.

Mainland China remained third with $313 million in exports, decrease of 6 percent.

Japan moved up to fourth at $223 million, followed by Switzerland, the Netherlands, the Republic of Korea, and Malaysia.

economist: States hurt by lower ag prices

Economic growth slowed down this month in rural areas of 10 Midwest and Plains states, according to a report issued Thursday.

The overall economic index for the region slipped to 55.8 in August from 57.3 in July, but was far ahead of the 47.1 in August 2012, said the Rural Mainstreet Index report, a monthly survey of rural bankers.

Creighton University economist Ernie Goss, who oversees the survey, said the drought was weighing heavily on the region last year.

“This year weaker agriculture commodity prices are having a dampening impact on the farm economy and businesses tied to agriculture,” Goss said. “Even so, the economy continues to expand at a reasonable pace, according to bank CEOs.”

The index is based on a survey of rural bankers in Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. It ranges from 0 to 100, with 50 representing growth neutral. A score above 50 suggests economic growth in the months ahead.

The confidence index, which reflects expectations for the economy six months ahead, dropped to 53.4 in August, down 3.2 points from 56.6 in July. Goss blamed that on weaker commodity prices and a decline in farm equipment sales.

The index on farmland prices declined in August, to 55.8 from 58.2 in July. It was the eighth drop in the past nine months.

NREL, Colombian oil firm unlocking ag waste feedstocks for biofuel

The Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory is working with Ecopetrol, the largest oil company in Colombia, to process the residue from sugar cane and palm oil harvesting into fuel ethanol for blending with gasoline.

The Cooperative Research and Development Agreement between NREL and Ecopetrol aims to optimize the conversion process for bagasse (the material left over after the sugars are removed from the sugar cane) and to analyze the economic case for commercial production of biofuel from these materials.

The CRADA will also include some limited study on palm rachis — the material left over after palm oil production.

The $2.3 million 18-month project is being funded by Ecopetrol, which turned to NREL for its expertise on conversion of biomass, its compositional analysis and techno-economic analysis capabilities, and NREL’s unique facilities.

NREL has a pilot plant at its Golden, Colo., campus that has conversion capabilities from lab scale to pilot scale, processing up to one ton per day of biomass – everything from corn stover to switchgrass and poplar trees.

Colombia has an abundance of biomass in the form of sugar cane.