Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Far East Markets Lift U.S. Beef Exports

October beef exports from the U.S. equated to 15 percent of total production and 11 percent of muscle cut production, compared to 13.5 percent and 11 percent, respectively, a year ago, according to data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

For January through October, exports equated to 14 percent of total production and 11 percent for muscle cuts (up from 13 percent and 10 percent). Export value per head of fed slaughter was $321.28 in October (up $70 from a year ago) and $287.32 for January-October (up $42.80).

Exports to Japan were exceptionally strong in October, increasing 25 percent in volume (22,586 mt) and 54 percent in value ($164 million). For January-October, exports totaled 206,879 mt (up 2 percent) valued at $1.33 billion (up 11 percent).

Other January-October beef highlights include:

Exports to South Korea were up 12 percent in volume (96,040 mt) and 41 percent in value ($674.9 million). October export volume was the largest of the year at 11,167 mt.

Exports to Hong Kong have already set a new annual value record of $898 million, easily surpassing the 2013 full-year total of $823.3 million.
October export volume was the largest ever at 16,779 mt.

Led by strong growth in the Dominican Republic, exports to the Caribbean were up 20 percent in volume to 19,042 mt and 26 percent in value to $124 million – just short of the full-year value record ($127 million) set in 2012.

Source:  U.S. Meat Export Federation

Artwork: Beef Belt Buckle
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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Georgia Pecan Crop Saved

Georgia's dry summer helped save its pecan crop, according to University of Georgia Extension horticulture specialist Lenny Wells.

A wet spring and increased scab disease pressure had Wells and other pecan experts pessimistic about this year's pecan crop. However, a lack of rain in June and July spared Georgia's pecan farmers from worsening scab disease. The result is a pecan crop that's expected to reach 85-90 million pounds, Wells estimated.

"We had all that scab inoculum built up from last year, and then we started off wet this year, with a lot of early leaf scab in the spring. Luckily, about the time that the nuts really started to size, which is when they're most susceptible to scab, it really dried off and let everybody catch up with fungicide protection," Wells said. "Even where there was a lot of scab pressure, our famers did a really good job of keeping the scab to a minimum, I think."

Another encouraging factor in the early pecan season have been prices. Wells said that, for the Stuart variety, contract prices have ranged between $2.40 and $2.50 per pound, and for Desirables - Georgia's most planted pecan variety - prices are higher at between $2.85 and $2.95. Wells expects those prices to stay high through November.

Foliage conditions, the worst he's seen in pecan trees, have been the only discouraging sign that Wells has observed. Pests like black aphids and mites have been major nuisances for pecan farmers. Black aphids have a toxin in their saliva that causes yellow spots to appear on leaves. Mites cause scorching on leaves. Early scab pressure in the spring meant higher rates of fungicides had to be applied. This resulted in bronzing of the leaves.

"If a grower does have a lot of foliar damage and has leaf loss, that's going to affect more of next year's crop than this year's. If they've lost a large percentage of leaves, particularly before October, that's not good for next year," Wells said. "Generally, we'd like to keep those leaves on until the first frost or as late as we can, just for the health of the tree."

Wells said that, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, last year's Georgia crop produced between 85-90 million pounds.

According to the UGA Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development, Georgia is the country's No. 1 producer of pecans. In 2013, Georgia's farm gate value for pecans was $315.5 million, with Dougherty and Mitchell counties named the top pecan producers.

Source: University of Georgia, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences

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Artwork: Stuart Pecan Tree

Monday, September 1, 2014

Corn Prices Continue to Fall

Corn prices continue the long retreat from the peak of September 2012, declining to the lowest level since late August 2010. The most recent price weakness reflects both supply and demand considerations.

On the supply side, ongoing reports of yields that exceed expectations in many areas suggest that the next USDA forecast of the U.S. average yield will be at least equal and perhaps exceed the September forecast of 155.3 bushels.

There is still some uncertainty about the magnitude of harvested acreage that will not be cleared up, at least partially, until the USDA releases the next Crop Production report. Even so, it appears that production will be large enough to result in a sizable buildup in stocks by the end of the current marketing year.

On the demand side, the partial shutdown of federal government activities leaves a void in the usual flow of weekly data, including export sales, export inspections, livestock slaughter, and broiler chick placements. The U.S. Energy Information Administration has also discontinued weekly estimates of ethanol production, imports, and stocks.

The primary news on the demand side has been the leaked report of an apparent EPA proposal to reduce the magnitude of biofuels mandates, including renewable (ethanol) mandates, under the Renewable Fuels Standards (RFS) beginning in calendar year 2014.

The RFS currently calls for a total of 18.15 billion gallons of renewable fuels in 2014, including 3.75 billion gallons of advanced biofuels. The remaining 14.4 billion gallons can be satisfied with either advanced or renewable biofuels. The rumored proposal for 2014 is for a total of 15.21 billion gallons of biofuels, including only 2.21 billion gallons of advanced biofuels and a maximum of 13 billion gallons of renewable biofuels.

The possibility of dropping the overall mandate by almost three billion gallons was not widely anticipated. The reduction in the non-advanced component of the mandate from 14.4 to 13 billion gallons has been interpreted as a negative development for corn demand in 2014 and beyond, he said.

Source: University of Illinois agricultural economist Darrel Good.

Artwork: Crop Corn
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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

U.S. Pork, Beef Exports Surge in March

The pace of U.S. beef and pork exports increased sharply in March, driven by double-digit increases to leading markets Mexico, the China/Hong Kong region and South Korea, according to statistics released by the USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

U.S. pork exports reached their highest monthly total since October 2012: 209,704 metric tons (mt) valued at $606.7 million, increasing 29 percent in both volume and value over March 2013.

Exports of U.S. beef rose 12 percent in volume to 93,380 mt valued at $516.2 million, an increase of 17 percent.

When measured in proportion to overall U.S. beef and pork production, March exports also showed gains. Total pork exports (muscle cuts plus variety meat) equated to 31.5 percent of total U.S. pork production in March (26 percent of muscle cuts alone) versus 28 and 23.5 percent, respectively, a year ago. Beef exports accounted for 14 percent of total production and 11 percent of muscle cuts – up from 12 and 9 percent in 2013.

The export value per head slaughtered set a new record of $69.93 for pork in March, topping the $60 per head mark for the first time and up from $50.38 last year. The export value per head of fed slaughter for beef was $271.57, up from $222.20 a year ago.

“Even with high prices and supply concerns, we are working to keep the visibility of U.S. beef and pork high in our key export markets, and they continue to respond positively,” said Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO. “Among the many encouraging signs are the continued strength of the Mexican market in both pork and beef, and the rebound of South Korea, which has been an area of focus for USMEF as that market has been challenged over the past year by an over-supply of domestic product.”

Source: U.S. Meat Export Federation
Complete export results are available on the USMEF statistics webpage.

Artwork: Butcher Shop Sign
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Friday, April 11, 2014

Strong Cattle Prices An Opportunity for Improvement

Spring and summer weather may be unpredictable but everything else associated with beef cattle production looks optimistic for 2014 according to Eldon Cole, livestock specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

“I hear beef producers talk about tight margins involved in practices like vaccinating, deworming, implanting, supplement feeding, fly control and a few others,” said Cole. “But the way the cattle price situation is now this year could be the time to perform some of the practices you’ve backed away from in the past.”

Cole says profit margins are projected to be at record levels this year and likely next year for all classes of cattle. That means this could be the year to experiment a little with a herd.

“Over the years, I’ve stressed the importance of improving the genetics in our cattle.  We’ve made progress but improvement can be made to practices that allow those genetics to be expressed,” said Cole. “So when management practices may not have appeared to be economically sound in the past, this year appears to be when these practices will pencil out.”

Now is a good time to inventory various management items used in the past. Some items are additive and may result in significant improvement in rate of gain, for example. Cole says it is still important to compare the cost/benefit side of the equation. But with prices going up, producers can afford to try a new practice or two now.

“I’d recommend visiting with your veterinarian, feed dealer and extension livestock specialist to assess what you might do this year to make a good year, even better.  You may even decide to put a few steers in a feedout program which can evaluate your herd’s genetic merit beyond the weaned calf stage,” said Cole.

Source: Eldon Cole in Mt. Vernon, Missouri (417) 466-3102

Artwork: Cattle Feedlot
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Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Chokehold on U.S. Cattle Markets

"With only four giant meatpackers in the market today, the cash market for cattle has become competitive in name only.  Just 25 or 30 years ago, a cattle producer might have had a dozen meatpackers to choose from. Fattened cattle were sold at auction barns where meatpackers big aggressively for the best animals, one upping another in heated auctions. It was the best kind of price discovery, transparent and built on vigorous competition. Bad cattle fetched low prices, the best cattle fetched the highest price the market would bear.

"Those auctions for finished cattle have ended. The market, such as it is, is played out in a series of phone calls as meatpackers dial up the
feedlots and tell them what they are willing to pay. The competition can be pallid. If two meatpackers don't want to buy cattle during any given week, for example, that only leaves two buyers to choose from: not the best scenario for igniting a bidding war. If three of the meatpackers aren't in the market, that would leave only one buyer, who could offer a take-it-or-leave-it price.

"This gives meatpackers a chokehold over the independent feedlot owners and the ranchers that supply them."

excerpted from:
The Meat Racket
The Secret Takeover of America's Food Business
by Christopher Leonard
Simon & Schuster, 2014

Artwork: Auction of Hereford cattle at the San Angelo Fat Stock
Show, 1940, in San Angelo,Texas.
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