Agriculture News August 8 2012

Women farmers in Kenya, a country where food security is projected to improve over the next decade. (Photo: World Food Programme.)

For what it’s worth, I noted a couple of interesting comments related to food growing during difficult weather conditions this past week.

On Twitter, ‏@JoshViertel, a New York food and farming activist tweeted, “Last night’s storm shook my world view. Old open pollinated corn varieties lodged (fell over) & broke, newer hybrids stood up strong.”

Also, an ABC News station in Wisconsin reported on the struggle of organic producers during this drought. They quoted agriculture development educator Dan Marzu, “With organic farming, a lot of genetics aren’t there as in the GMO crops so they are having a harder time with the whole drought.”

Let us know what you are observing.

The following are my news choices for this week . . .

Midwest Drought Forces South Dakota Farmers and Ranchers to Abandon Crops and Thin Herds – Most ethanol plants won’t accept a monetary payout in lieu of corn, which means that farmers who lose their entire corn crops may still have to buy corn from out-of-state to pay their ethanol obligations. (The Daily Beast)

Jeremy Grantham’s Quarterly Letter is out. ( K.M. Note: As usual, Grantham’s newsletter made a huge splash among online readers and limits to growth fans. Known for his gloom, this time he focuses upon a future of a world destined to run out of food. It is a good report and definitely worth reading. I do not agree with all of his statements, however.

Dreaming of a Place Where the Buffalo Roam – Former Silicon Valley entrepreneur Sean Gerrity is trying to turn a swath of northeastern Montana into a prairie reserve teeming with herds of bison. (

● Julian Cribb expects fish farming to be the fastest growing and biggest food industry in Australia by 2050 and that they will be fed algae. (

Plenty of Fish in the Sea? (SciAm)

Analysts expect next year’s 2012/13 U.S. corn ending stocks at 660 million bushels, which would be a tenuous 17-year low and nearly half of what the government predicted in July. (Reuters)

● Cargill’s CEO Greg Page said in an Op-Ed for the Washington Post, “We need to move to more market-driven biofuels policies, not inflexible mandates, subsidies and tariffs.” (W-P)
K.M. Note: While I loved hearing this statement from Page, I suspect it had something to do with this next news item since Cargill is a large ethanol producer . . .

Assuming one bushel of corn distills into at least 2.75 gallons of ethanol, companies stand to lose 48 cents on every gallon produced, based on the December contracts for the commodities. (Bloomberg)

Syria crisis: Food shortage warning from UN WFP and FAO. (BBC)

What’s Ahead for Global Food Security? The decade ahead presents a different picture, with food-insecure numbers rising by 37 million, although this 4.6 percent increase is below the 16.7-percent rise in population. … The bright spot for the decade is that the share of the population that is food insecure in sub-Saharan Africa is projected to fall from about 42 percent in 2012 to 38 percent in 2022. (USDA)

Genetically modified corn’s tougher stalks are puncturing tires and stranding farm equipment in the field. (WSJ)

This pesky citrus destroying bug, the Asian citrus psyllid, is on the rise in California. (NCTimes)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has named 125 producers in the country that will receive federal payments totaling $19.4 million through its Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels. (NHBR)

Monsanto awarded $1 billion against Pioneer. (Desmoinesregister)

A historic drought across the middle of the U.S. is shriveling crops—but not many farmers’ incomes, as widespread use of crop insurance and record corn and soybean prices cushion the blow to growers. (WSJ)

A Glimpse of the Alternative Fuel Future. (NYTs)

Australia Resumes Livestock Exports To Saudi Arabia. (Bloomberg)

● Farmland prices: Emerging markets such as Brazil and Argentina are dominating the growth in farmland prices, according to a new global Farmland Index from Savills. Growth has been most significant in Brazil, Argentina, Poland, Romania, and Hungary according to the data from 14 countries from 2002 to 2010. In Romania for example, land values increased by 1817% (US$ per hectare) between 2002 and 2010. (nuwireinvestor)

Rabobank Land Values Report Finds Land Values Increased More Strongly Than Expected. (Streetinsider)

India’s blackout exposes choice between water & electricity – So, India’s power outage underscores a larger problem facing us. If you had to choose between power and water, what would you choose? (gigaom)

Farmers in Georgia are using moisture sensor technology to monitor irrigation while “living on borrowed time”. (Guardian)

“The Land Grabbers: The New Fight Over Who Owns the Earth” by Fred Pearce (W-P)

● Australia: Super-yielding wheat may solve food crisis – “Researchers at CSIRO’s division of Plant Industry were looking at ways to change starch in wheat (for industrial processing reasons) and noticed when they grew (these new wheat types) the plants ended up 30 per cent larger, with 30 per cent bigger heads and a 30 per cent increase in grain yield.” (Theaustralian)

Dryland Farming in California is an old world system which compacts soil with a roller to hold in moisture. (Grist)

Colleges see higher demand for degrees in agriculture – Iowa State University, where the agriculture college this fall expects to surpass an enrollment record set 35 years ago (USA Today)



  • U.S. farming expenses rose 10.2 percent in 2011 compared to 2010.
  • Total costs were $318.7 billion in 2011, up from $289.1 billion in 2010.
  • The drought contributed significantly to increased farm costs in 2011 as feed for poultry and livestock expenses were up sharply.
  • Per farm average expenditures went up 11.3 percent, to $146,653.


  • Fuel expenses for farming in 2011 were $15.3 billion over the previous year, of which $10.1 billion was for diesel. Diesel costs were up 23.7 percent. Gasoline was up 9.4 percent, to $2.8 billion.

Source: USDA

3 thoughts on “Agriculture News August 8 2012

  1. Creditcrumbs

    Hi KM,

    thank you for keeping this blog. I have been reading for about ~1.5 years now and found it highly valuable. I have also posted quotes and links from your site at other blogs (with hat tip or link to your site, of course).

    You mentioned that you disagree with all Jeremy Grantham’s statement in GMO Q2 letter. Did you mean that you disagree with some of his statements? That’s what I assume but your statement is a bit ambiguous. Can you clarify your positions? Do you think that there will not be global food shortage in the future, and if so, why? I appreciate your insights. Thanks.


    1. K.M. Post author

      First of all, thank you my friend, for promoting this site on other sites. That is always helpful to a writer like myself.

      I was actually expecting someone to call me out on that statement.

      To explain, I first have to say that over time I’ve come to narrow down what info I am capable of presenting, mainly because I’m only one person and this all takes a lot of time. There are a whole lot of investors who visit this site regularly, some at pretty high levels. They, like you, know that if they follow me, my opinions and ideas come out here and there, although my main objective now is to be an informational site that helps problem solve and detect coming trends.

      Partly why I didn’t expound on Grantham’s work is that to do it right would take time away from getting the real work done here that I prioritize.

      Yes, there were a couple statements or predictions that he made that made me cringe and there were things that I think are important that he did not say, but in a nutshell, I’d say that he’s far more doomer than I am in his outlook. Final caveat about predictions is that he might be right because predictions are always a gamble and since ag equals weather, weather is a wildcard. I shy away from making predictions because it might go against my motto here of “first do no harm”.

      Which also means that the reader here has to do some of the work. I present the information, they have to draw the conclusions.

      Hope that helps.

  2. K.M. Post author

    Reader rjs sent me an interesting email about his weather from the Cleveland region:

    Not much different than a normal summer since mid July…the heat wave broke & we’ve actually had too much rain (weeds & grass growing too fast, garden periodically muddy)

    With a deep loam, I was doing better when it was hot & dry. Everything in my garden grew deep roots & was unaffected by the drought, even onions averaged baseball size. Corn around here, which was spikey, looks better, but I suspect the cobs will not be full & the yield will be down. (I dont grow corn cause of the critters.)

    Recent rainfall totals, emptying raingage around 8 AM on dates below:
    july16th .44, 20th .64, 27th .56, 28th 1.04, 29th .32
    aug 5th, 6th, 9th: .18, .42, .74

    thunderstorm ongoing now, with the forecast for more rain (70%, 90%, 80% chance) over the next two days…


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