The Harvesters – Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1873. Source: Wiki Paintings.
Below, is a selection of recent agriculture-related news.
Joseph Glauber, chief economist at the US Department of Agriculture, said corn prices could fall as much as a third from the average prices of the current season, while soya could decline by around a quarter, because of higher production in 2013. This story really made the rounds this past week, even as many climate articles were warning of another season of drought. Glauber knows the adage, “the cure for high prices is high prices”.
In the UK, some farms are folding after last year’s floods and disasters. Dairy income was down by 42%, some livestock farmers saw incomes down 50%, and cereal crop farmers saw incomes down by double digits. Others had complete wipe-outs. British farmers feel that they are not competing on a level playing field internationally.
This writing out of the UK presents a story seldom heard, that of the conditions and lack of respect for the rural poor. I’d call it a must-read.
Bloomberg provided us with a good overview of Ag trade between the U.S. and the E.U., which is being debated in current trade talks.
Liberia’s arable land is now under 100 percent foreign ownership. Der Spiegel covers foreign land grabbing and calls it a new form of colonialism.
Canada will discontinue subsidizing biofuels plants due to fiscal realities. They will continue to require a 5-per-cent ethanol mix in gasoline and a 2-per-cent biodiesel component in the diesel supply, however. Total subsidies to plants will top out at 1 billion by 2017.
Here is another good article from Jim Lane who writes about progress and companies trying to make drop-in biofuels, the challenges, the reality.
Although I covered the PNAS study about the loss of grasslands due to the ethanol program in last week’s news, I will feature two follow-up pieces this week. This one includes proposed legislation to save the sod.
And this second one is out of Minnesota:
As evidence, count the endless burning marshes that drifted smoke across North Dakota and South Dakota horizons last fall, also declining pheasant-hunting opportunities throughout the heartland and a federal crop insurance swindle that abets the conversion of Midwest grasslands to corn and soybean fields. … The conversion is being facilitated in part by subsurface farmland drainage, or pattern tiling… Such tiling is occurring at an exponentially higher rate now in Minnesota and the Dakotas than even five years ago.
Engineer, Robert Rapier, explains why the Air Force thinks the Navy’s biofuels goals will make this nation less secure, not more secure. Interesting read. The report he critiques is titled, “Twenty-first century snake oil: Why the United States Should reject Biofuels as Part of a Rational National Security Energy Strategy.”
Only 14% of beginning farmers are under age 35; those aged 65 and older, make up 32% of principal operators. The main opportunity to begin farming these days is through inheritance.
Rabobank’s report, titled “Crowding The Fields,” has interesting information about the potential to boost future corn yields in the U.S.
Here is a great FT read if you are interested in the changing face/challenges of agricultural production in Argentina.
In 2012, Walmart sold $119 billion worth of groceries while No. 2-ranked Kroger Co. rang up $61 billion in sales, according to Progressive Grocer. This is an Omaha article discussing Walmart’s new Neighborhood Markets.
Brian, an Indiana farmer with a superb blog, weighs in on the Indiana farmer vs. Monsanto debate.
More agricultural innovation coming from the Netherlands: They are testing the dandelion as a source for rubber. One tire requires 1500 dandelion plants. (Sounds too low to me, but that’s what they said.) The motivation is that demand for rubber is expected to exceed supply by 20 percent in 2020.
The BBC published a good photo series titled “bioengineering is changing the world”.
BONUS: You-tube video of a rural Kansas commute after the snow. Bleak.
Written and compiled by K. McDonald.