DTN Retail Fertilizer Trends

Wed. May 04, 2016 11:06 AM

By Russ Quinn
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) -- Not much movement is being seen in retail fertilizer prices with bids continuing to trade in a narrow range for the third straight week, according to DTN's latest retail fertilizer survey.

Four fertilizers edged higher while the other four fertilizers were lower compared to last month, DTN's survey from the last week of April found. None of the four fertilizers moved by any significance. MAP averaged $502 per ton, anhydrous $587/ton, UAN28 $274/ton and UAN32 $321/ton.

The remaining four fertilizers were down compared to the month earlier, but again the move was slight. DAP averaged $476/ton, potash $366/ton, urea $560/ton and 10-34-0 $560/ton.

On a price per pound of nitrogen basis, the average urea price was at $0.42/lb.N, anhydrous $0.36/lb.N, UAN28 $0.49/lb.N and UAN32 $0.50/lb.N.

Tight crop margins have small grain and corn farmers less interested in applying fertilizer in North Dakota, according to one fertilizer retailer. Jim Maier, who owns and operates Dakota Grain Company located in Elgin, North Dakota, said while he doesn't know how much farmers will ration use this growing season, he believes less will be applied in his home region of south-central North Dakota.

"I think we are going to see less fertilizer applied this spring here, mainly in the form of less phosphorus (P) and potash (K)," Maier told DTN. "With $4/bushel wheat and $3/bushel corn, guys are going to really struggle to be profitable this year."

Confirming that trend, fertilizer manufacturer Mosaic Co. reported this week that first-quarter sales of both potash and phosphorus products were running about 25% below year-earlier levels.

Maier said he thinks fertilizer prices will be fairly steady for the rest of this spring application season. There already has been some recent $5-per-ton price decreases, but he doesn't see prices moving too far in either direction, he said.

Longer term, fertilizer prices could remain steady to perhaps decrease some for the next growing season. He said he didn't hear of any local farmers not getting financing from their banks for this growing season, but he does have some concerns about the next growing season if commodity prices do not increase.

"I really do think fertilizer prices next fall will have to be lower, short of higher grain prices," he said. "Farmers are struggling to breakeven this year, I can't imagine what it will be like if we have this same situation next growing season."

Despite recent price stability, fertilizers remain significantly lower compared to a year earlier. All fertilizers are now double digits lower.

UAN32 is 13% lower, 10-34-0 is 14% less expensive, urea is 15% less expensive and MAP is 16% lower from a year ago. In addition, DAP is 17% lower, both anhydrous and UAN28 are 18% less expensive and potash is 26% lower.

DTN collects roughly 1,700 retail fertilizer bids from 310 retailer locations weekly. Not all fertilizer prices change each week. Prices are subject to change at any time.

DTN Pro Grains subscribers can find current retail fertilizer prices in the DTN Fertilizer Index on the Fertilizer page under Farm Business.

Retail fertilizer charts dating back to November 2008 are available in the DTN fertilizer segment. The charts included cost of N/lb., DAP, MAP, potash, urea, 10-34-0, anhydrous, UAN28 and UAN32.

DTN's average of retail fertilizer prices from a month earlier ($ per ton):

Apr 27-May 1 2015 571 598 492 455
May 25-29 2015 570 597 492 459
June 22-26 2015 572 597 490 469
July 20-24 2015 569 594 487 469
Aug 17-21 2015 568 587 477 448
Sept 14-18 2015 563 579 462 432
Oct 12-16 2015 547 564 440 418
Nov 9-13 2015 547 561 426 405
Dec 7-11 2015 534 555 417 397
Jan 4-8 2016 495 521 392 381
Feb 1-5 2016 488 502 381 370
Feb 29-Mar 4 2016 476 492 373 374
Mar 28-Apr 1 2016 478 501 370 386
Apr 25-29 2016 476 502 366 386
Date Range 10-34-0 ANHYD UAN28 UAN32
Apr 27-May 1 2015 652 711 332 371
May 25-29 2015 650 710 332 371
June 22-26 2015 641 690 330 369
July 20-24 2015 636 689 324 354
Aug 17-21 2015 611 667 309 349
Sept 14-18 2015 593 653 300 345
Oct 12-16 2015 584 640 295 338
Nov 9-13 2015 581 631 289 332
Dec 7-11 2015 575 625 284 330
Jan 4-8 2016 572 582 273 316
Feb 1-5 2016 549 555 263 305
Feb 29-Mar 4 2016 566 537 260 309
Mar 28-Apr 1 2016 561 580 268 315
Apr 25-29 2016 560 587 274 321

Russ Quinn can be reached at russ.quinn@dtn.com


Awaiting the Aphid

Wed. May 04, 2016 9:38 AM

By Emily Unglesbee
DTN Staff Reporter

ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) -- An unwelcome guest spent the winter in north Texas this year -- the sugarcane aphid.

The aphid usually overwinters in Mexico and the Gulf and must journey northward during the spring to infest sorghum fields. This year it overwintered as far north as the Texas panhandle, a sizeable head start for the pest and bad news for sorghum growers, Texas A&M entomologist Pat Porter warned.

"We're expecting an intense season," he told DTN. Since its arrival on sorghum in Texas in 2013, the sugarcane aphid has spread rapidly across the southern U.S., as far north as Kansas and Illinois and as far east as the Carolinas.

The pest deals sorghum plants a double blow; it sucks moisture from them, damaging their yield potential, and also leaves behind a sticky honeydew that clogs field equipment during harvest. Under dry conditions, the pest can reproduce rapidly and colonize an entire field in a matter of days.

Last year, heavy spring rainfalls slowed the pest's initial spread in Texas, but drier conditions later in the year allowed it to march into new territory in Kansas and southern Illinois by fall. You can see a map of the aphid's latest conquests from Texas A&M here: http://bit.ly/….


Controlling the pest will be difficult for many growers this year. In the fall of 2015, EPA cancelled the registration for sulfoxaflor, the active ingredient in Dow AgroSciences' Transform insecticide. Transform was one of only two insecticides effective against the sugarcane aphid. Its cancellation leaves most growers with only Bayer's Sivanto insecticide to control the pest this year.

In April, the EPA granted a Section 18 emergency use exemption for Texas sorghum growers to use Transform in 2016. Other states such as Kansas have also petitioned the agency for Section 18 exemptions, and although the Texas approval bodes well for them, the EPA has not yet approved any other requests.

Entomologists have warned that controlling the aphid with only one insecticide is a surefire recipe for resistance. The aphid reproduces asexually and produces multiple generations within a season, which makes it excellent at evolving resistance to repeated use of a single insecticide.

Texas growers with access to both insecticides should plan to use both Transform and Sivanto if they make more than one application against the aphid this year, Porter said. "Every time you spray, rotate chemistry," he urged.

The temporary Transform label for Texas growers bans applications from three days prior to bloom through seed set in an effort to protect pollinators, which may also complicate application decisions.


"We're recommending early planting this year, to outrun the aphid," Porter said. Research has also shown that neonicotinoid seed treatments can control the aphid for up to 40 days after planting, according to Louisiana State University's management guide.

The aphid tends to inflict the worst yield losses when it infests plants in the pre-boot stage, when the valuable grain head is still developing inside the stem. As a result, threshold recommendations vary by growth stage as well as geography. Some of the most conservative instructions favor spraying if the aphid is merely present on 20% of plants in the pre-boot stage. As the plant moves into boot stage, that threshold rises to 50 aphids per leaf on 20% of plants in the field and then 30% in flowering and milk stages.

Because aphid populations can take off so quickly, scouting twice a week if the aphid is in your region is highly recommended.

For more details, see threshold recommendations for southern Texas and Gulf growers here: http://bit.ly/… and recommendations for the High Plains and elsewhere here: http://bit.ly/….

Company and university scientists have also identified some aphid-tolerant sorghum hybrids in the past two years. See the most recent information on them here: http://bit.ly/….

For more details on aphid management, see the Sorghum Checkoff's guide here: http://bit.ly/….

Emily Unglesbee can be reached at emily.unglesbee@dtn.com

Follow Emily Unglesbee on Twitter @Emily_Unglesbee


Colorado Frack Ban Axed

Wed. May 04, 2016 7:32 AM

By Todd Neeley
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) -- Local bans on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in Colorado are now unconstitutional following a pair of rulings handed down by the Colorado Supreme Court Monday.

The rulings are considered good for farmers and ranchers, particularly in the northeast part of the state. Mineral rights have become a key income source for farmers in that part of Colorado.

Two communities in northeastern Colorado, Longmont and Fort Collins, approved local bans on fracking in recent years.

The region is seeing an increase in the use of fracking -- the cracking of underground geological formations with water pressure and chemicals to tap trapped natural gas and oil.

The court declared unconstitutional a 2012 voter-approved fracking ban in Longmont as well as a five-year fracking moratorium approved by voters in Fort Collins in 2013. Both were declared unconstitutional because they conflict with state law that allows fracking.

Chad Vorthmann, Colorado Farm Bureau's executive vice president and a board member for the group Vital for Colorado, told DTN the rulings were important.

"The ruling highlights how important property rights are to all of us from Front-Range homeowners to farmers in the four corners of our state," he said. "That was why many Vital for Colorado members filed as a friend of the court to underscore that local bureaucrats can't tell homeowners and private property owners what they can and can't do with their own property."

Longmont Mayor Dennis Coombs said in a news release Monday, "The case did not end as the city hoped, but we respect the Supreme Court's decision. "Longmont has secured important protections for the community including no drilling in neighborhoods, mandatory groundwater monitoring, setbacks from riparian areas, and other important regulations that will protect the health and safety of our residents."

Shawn Martini, senior director of communications for the Consumer Energy Alliance in Denver, told DTN the court rulings are good for farmers and ranchers who benefit from mineral rights. Had the court ruled differently it could have allowed local communities to put more restrictions on agricultural activities and other industries as well.

"This is a good thing for agriculture and rural parts of the state because the ruling protects the private property rights of mineral and surface owners and maintains the balance between the surface and mineral estates, and energy development and land-use planning that the current case law and statutes have created over the past few decades," he said.

Despite the ruling, Martini said he believes anti-fracking groups and anti-agriculture groups will continue to push the issue. He anticipates a statewide ballot measure on fracking.

"With the decision final, look for renewed effort by anti-energy groups to gather enough signatures to make sure they certify their four measures for the ballot in November," Martini said.

Kent Holsinger, an agriculture lawyer and founder of Holsinger Law, LLC, in Denver, said the ruling means agriculture and oil interests will continue to work together in Colorado.

"I see this decision as a win for both oil and gas and agriculture," he said. "Rather than competing for water resources, we largely see cooperation between ag and industry. Namely, agriculture is making money by leasing water rights to oil and gas. They're then investing the proceeds in improvements to their irrigation systems and/or keeping assessments lower for their shareholders."

Farmers account for about 84% of water use, followed by cities at 8% and industrial interests at 8%, according to information from Northern Water, a group that manages the Colorado-Big Thompson Water Project. Northern Water manages an allocation pool coming from a 13-mile pipeline to the Front Range.

A Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission report said less than one-tenth of 1% of water in Colorado is used for fracking.

The two Colorado Supreme Court rulings on hydraulic fracking can be viewed here: http://www.dtn.com/… and http://www.dtn.com/…

Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @toddneeleyDTN


View From the Cab

Tue. May 03, 2016 12:33 PM

By Richard Oswald
DTN Special Correspondent

LANGDON, Mo. (DTN) -- "It's been a wet one." That's the way DTN View From the Cab farmer Chase Brown characterized last week's conditions for corn planting at his place outside Decatur, Illinois.

"It's been slightly soggy. We only planted corn on Monday and Tuesday. We were rained out Wednesday," Chase told DTN late Sunday evening. It could have been wetter. Heavier rains skirted the farm at midweek, leaving behind only about four-tenths of an inch. That was enough to hold back the planter until Saturday when a more general rain of about an inch closed out the week. "It rained all day pretty hard," Chase said. Conditions have been cool, with highs in the mid to upper 50s. "I wore a sweatshirt most days (last week)," he said.

Test plots are a way farmers evaluate varieties and other factors affecting their success. Sometimes plots yield surprises even before they're harvested. "Tuesday morning I put in a test plot of eight Beck's Seed varieties, eight rows each, with our little Deere 7200 eight-row planter we picked up at a farm sale last winter. After two acres, I realized I'd used 50 gallons of starter. A bypass valve had stuck." The 25-gallon actual rate was about three times the recommended maximum for 7-22-5 in furrow placement. "I called my neighbor up and told him what I did. He had the very same thing happen to him," Chase said.

Precision farming has its ups and downs, and depending on how you look at it, lefts and rights. Chase told DTN that other than "GPS screw ups where we have some squiggles" (zig-zag rows auto-guided tractors sometimes make), corn is emerging well within about a week of planting. Chase remarked that when fieldwork resumes, he may use the eight-row plot planter in addition to the bigger 24-row machine for a speedier completion.

Cover crops have been burned down and are dying. Winter wheat has the upright look it gets just before heads emerge. Chase told DTN his wheat is fully recovered from frost it received a month or so ago.

Alfalfa is getting "super tall." Once the corn is planted, it'll be time to mow hay. Part of last week's rainy-day time was used getting hay equipment ready to roll. "We do most of the maintenance and service on our smaller balers, but on that big square baler, I'm a little more intimidated. We have a service that comes up from down in Oklahoma and tunes up big square balers. Last year it cost $1,500. This year it was $1,200. It's a lot of money for no longer than they were here, but the first time you pull into that field, it's worth it." That's because preseason tune-ups minimize downtime. "I'm glad we got that done. I'm kind of on my own with hay," he added.

Customers for Chase's hay include some atypical buyers. "We've been getting calls on hay ... mostly horse people. We're about cleaned out. Small square bales go to the horse market, but we have some dairies we work with... I've sold hay to zoos, dairy goats, and I have customer who raises buffalo. We'll send a fair amount of hay in Arthur, Illinois, where the Amish settlement is," Chase said. The Amish are good customers. "If you have what they want, they're willing to pay for it."

A seed customer has harvested a field of triticale with good results. It yielded about 4 tons per acre of quality silage they'll feed to their purebred Angus cowherd. "They chopped it on Tuesday ahead of the rain. They're kind of excited to get a third crop in two years off that farm." That's because there's still plenty of time to plant full-season soybeans on the field.

Thanks to wet fields, another chore is done: The roof on a garage has been replaced. "I'm not a roofer, but we have an Amish friend who is. I helped him tear off the old one. We have quite a few Amish friends. Their settlement is about an hour away. They've got everything we need from fence posts to carpentry. They make parts for older (farm) machinery, things a dealer may not have. Their baked goods are kind of worth going down there for ... We've got to have nourishment, too," Chase explained.

Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, View From the Cab farmer Jim Hoover of Newport has had his share of rainy weather -- and then some.

"We've had quite a bit of rain ... three-and-a-half days we couldn't do anything except work around the buildings. We've been averaging a little over a half inch every day. It's still raining tonight with more forecast tomorrow. It started at noontime on Thursday. If not for that, I would have been done here on corn," Jim told DTN late Sunday. "We did get some beans in. Mason (Jim's grandson) planted 60 or 70 acres. I would like to see it slow down now, but so far we're alright," he added

High temperatures at the farm have averaged in the 50s with lows in the 40s. About 150 acres of Jim's corn has emerged. He has about 150 acres left to plant on the home farm before he moves the planter to the farm near Tower City where another 650 acres are to be planted.

Jim's triticale and wheat seed fields "look real nice. They're up to about 18 inches tall now." It's time for inspectors to walk the fields looking for signs of noxious weeds that might contaminate the crop. Four to six people will split up into groups using FSA maps and GPS to locate the fields and mark any areas needing attention.

Craig, Jim's son and partner, has finished burndown herbicide applications to all planned soybean fields.

Jim and Craig each have three turkey buildings at their home farms. One of the three, a brooder building, is where newly delivered poults are grown before being divided and placed into two finishing buildings nearby. Last week, Hoover Turkey Farm (as it's been known since the early '70s when Jim started raising turkeys) received 18,000 new turkey poults -- also known as heavy hens. They're called that because they will be fed to about 10 pounds heavier than usual. "We'll have to grow them longer. The genetics on these birds is unbelievable; (they'll weigh) 26 to 30 pounds. Years ago, they didn't have strong enough legs to hold up that much weight," he said.

"Toms will be blue at that weight (an indicator of sexual maturity). Heavy hens are better than toms. They get a really nice breast of about 8 or 10 pounds. Hens are really for the consumer as a quality product," Jim explained.

Roast turkey is good for big meals. But what does the guy who raises turkeys eat for a fast lunch? "I get a good product from Oscar Meyer. It's smoked turkey breast and comes already sliced. It's a really good product. I eat it all the time," Jim said.

Jim's daughter, Stacey, and her husband, Mark, have been busy at their farm where they sell produce direct to consumers. "Two weeks before Mothers Day is a good time for people to buy flowers. Lines at the cash register were 20 to 30 feet long," Jim told DTN.

The price of concrete has encouraged Jim's son, Craig, to look for an alternative surface inside his new 60- by 120-foot machine shed, and on the driveway leading to it. A plentiful supply of Pennsylvania slate rock nearby is the answer. Slate will even help replace spouting on the building by placing a wide border of rock outside under the roof drip edge, allowing rain to run off and away from the building. Parking loaded semi-trucks inside means thick concrete and more expense. "It saves you money. If you do a nice job, it looks good. And we can do that ourselves," Jim said. "We try to get black slate. We have a lot of slate here. You have to have a license to sell it. You try to get the black stuff because it's in 2-to-6-inch pieces that pack in really nice."

Work sprucing up the old barn to match the new machine shed is done. Craig's wife, Jill, approves. "My daughter-in-law is tickled pink with the job our Amish carpenters did on both buildings," Jim said.

Richard Oswald can be reached at talk@dtn.com


EPA: Glyphosate Likely Not Carcinogenic

Tue. May 03, 2016 10:46 AM

By Todd Neeley
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) -- Glyphosate is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans, according to a document inadvertently posted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's website Monday.

Monsanto was quick to take advantage of the EPA error, issuing a press statement lauding the report which was completed in October 2015.

When contacted by DTN Monday evening, an EPA spokesperson said they were unsure why the report was posted -- calling it a "mistake." The document was described as the final report of a cancer assessment review committee (CARC) on the health effects of pesticides.

The CARC report had yet to be reviewed by a scientific advisory board. EPA said Monday the advisory board is slated to complete its review by year's end, when an EPA assessment is finalized or released.

"The CARC concluded that the epidemiological studies in humans showed no association between glyphosate exposure and cancer of the following: oral cavity, esophagus, stomach, colon, rectum, colorectum, lung, pancreas, kidney, bladder, prostate, brain (gliomas), soft-tissue sarcoma, leukemia, or multiple myelomas," the report said.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer, or IARC, in Lyon, France, assessed the carcinogenic potential of glyphosate in March 2015. The IARC concluded glyphosate was "probably carcinogenic to humans."

That conclusion prompted EPA to re-evaluate the herbicide's carcinogenic potential.

Though the assessment report has been made public, EPA said in a statement the agency will have more to say about glyphosate later this year.

"Preliminary glyphosate documents were inadvertently posted to the agency's docket," according to the EPA statement. "These documents have now been taken down because our assessment is not final.

"EPA has not completed our cancer review. We will look at the work of other governments as well as work by HHS's (Health and Human Services) Agricultural Health Study as we move to make a decision on glyphosate. Our assessment will be peer reviewed and completed by end of 2016."

EPA said it continues to work through "some important science issues" on glyphosate.

That includes a residues study of the chemical in human breast milk, in-depth human incidents and epidemiology evaluation, the IARC's cancer re-evaluation released in August 2015, and a preliminary analysis of glyphosate toxicity to milkweed which is a critical resource for the monarch butterfly.

"We hope to issue the draft cancer risk assessment for public comment later in 2016," EPA said. The agency currently is conducting a registration review of glyphosate as it does for many chemicals periodically.

Glyphosate is off-patent and sold by many agriculture companies. Monsanto developed glyphosate as the active ingredient in the company's herbicide Roundup.

Monsanto said in a press statement the EPA assessment released Monday supports what an ongoing body of research has revealed about glyphosate.

"No pesticide regulator in the world considers glyphosate to be a carcinogen, and this conclusion by the U.S. EPA once again reinforces this important fact," said Hugh Grant, Monsanto's chairman and chief executive officer.

"Glyphosate has a 40-year history of safe and effective use. Unfortunately, last year's inconsistent classification by IARC generated unwarranted concern and confusion about this important agricultural tool. This rigorous assessment of the data by EPA builds on the sound conclusions of both the European and Canadian regulatory authorities and once again makes it clear that glyphosate does not cause cancer."

In addition to the IARC classification released last March, the European Food Safety Authority determined in November 2015 that glyphosate is "unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans."

Also in 2015, the Canadian Pest Management Regulatory Authority concluded "glyphosate is unlikely to pose a human cancer risk."

Monsanto Monday took the occasion to point to what it says were flaws in the IARC's classification last year.

"The EPA, Canadian and European assessments all identified flaws with IARC's assessment," Monsanto said. "EPA's conclusion specifically notes that its assessment 'includes all of the studies (epidemiology and animals) reviewed by IARC as well as a subset of animal studies reported in a review article by Greim et al. (2015) but not reviewed by IARC.'

"Results from any further studies would not change the conclusion that glyphosate is not carcinogenic. Among other flaws with the IARC assessment, EPA concluded, 'The inclusion of the positive findings from studies with known limitations, the lack of reproducible positive findings and the omission of the negative findings from reliable studies may have had a significant bearing on IARC's conclusion on the genotoxic potential of glyphosate.'"

Also this week, a number of environmental and other anti-pesticides advocacy groups are slated to deliver to EPA Wednesday a petition with some 400,000 signatures calling for the agency to cancel glyphosate's registration. Those groups include Leaders from Care2, Moms Across America, Friends of the Earth, Beyond Pesticides, CREDO, SumOfUs and the Organic Consumers Association.

Read the EPA assessment here: http://www.dtn.com/…

Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @toddneeleyDTN


The Attraction of More - 1

Tue. May 03, 2016 7:58 AM

By Victoria G. Myers
Progressive Farmer Senior Editor

The biggest question in the cattle business today is a simple one: Where are the market lows? To know the answer would be to know the parameters this market operates within. It's not a crazy question. Lately, however, it seems as impossible a divination as choosing numbers to win a billion-dollar lottery jackpot.

Chris Hurt, Purdue agricultural economist, said the beef industry has a history of knowing what the right price range is for cattle. He likens it to the price of a gallon of gasoline and what we think of as a low price or a high price based on our history of pulling up to the pump. In today's market, extreme price volatility makes it hard to know what is too high or too low.

With the beef market, it's the same thing: No one knows what the "right price" really is, Hurt said.

"The historical markers we had are gone. When you are trading at $70 to $100 a hundredweight (cwt), as we primarily did from 2003 through 2011, it's easy to say, 'This is the high, and this is the low.' We are in the process now of reestablishing our new normal."

Cattle producers got caught up in the excitement of Choice steer prices (five-area direct) averaging $161 per cwt over the last half of 2014 and the first half of 2015. But after May 2015, those prices fell sharply, averaging $136 per cwt over the last quarter of the year.

Hurt anticipates 2016 finished-cattle prices will see a yearly average of around $130/cwt. This accounts for a downward trend after the second quarter of this year.


Last year was a good time to be a cow/calf producer. Steer feeder calves weighing 500 to 550 pounds marked record prices in May at $290 per cwt (Oklahoma City). By December, however, those prices were at $194 -- nearly $100 less. Hurt said for 2016, he expects an average range of $185 to $205 per cwt on those same calves.

Will that be enough to keep cow/calf producers interested? Is it enough to encourage continued expansion? J.T. Henshaw believes it is.

The Kentucky producer and his cousin and business partner, Luke Henshaw, have added cows to their herd and expanded pasture area with the purchase of some strip-mine land. This year, they will have a 350-head commercial Angus cow herd.

The Henshaws' cattle operation is spread over Union County, Kentucky, and Gallatin County, Illinois. The growth of the operation has been steady during the past five years, during which time J.T. said they've added 100 head split between a fall- and spring-calving herd.

"When you can sell a 500- to a 600-pound calf for $1.80 a pound, there is still money to be made. Five years ago, we were selling that same calf for $1 a pound," he said.

J.T. added if prices continue to move downward, he has places he can cut costs, such as eliminating the creep feed he currently gives calves.

"We started creep-feeding as the prices went up to add pounds," he explained. "If we see prices fall, and feed gets high, we'll stop putting as much into them. So there are things we could do to keep the herd where it is in terms of numbers but reduce our costs."

J.T. is not alone in his positive outlook. Expansion has been widespread across the country for nearly 24 months now. The central and Southern Plains have led in growth, with 60% of the nation's total expansion during the past two years. These areas destocked during drought, meaning part of the growth is, in fact, restocking as grazing conditions have improved.

Looking at the expansion regionally, the USDA reports the Southern Plains increased beef cow numbers 9%; the central Plains, 5%; the Western Corn Belt, 5%; the Eastern Corn Belt, 5%; the Southeast, 1%; and the Northern Plains, 1%. This growth bumped up 500-pound feeder steer and heifer (not retained for breeding) supplies by 4%.


This expansion phase, as welcome as it has been, is unlikely to resemble those of the past, economist Hurt believed. He said while some analysts are predicting the growth cycle will last into 2020, he expected there is about one year left in the trend.

He said the shortfall of cattle in 2014 and 2015 caused such an explosion of prices, the expansion was unusually aggressive. He added that moderating finished-cattle prices are already taking some of the super stimulation of high profits away from cow/calf producers. As a result, he believes the expansion phase will be a short three- to four-year process going into 2017.

The biggest challenges the beef industry is likely to see this year, in terms of the market, will be focused on the feedlot side. Price fluctuations and market risks for finished cattle could be extreme, depending on how the 2016 crop season progresses.

"I am concerned about the size of our crops," Hurt said. "We've had two near-record years in terms of yield for corn and soybeans, and no one knows yet how this year will work out. We are looking at the lowest prices in nine years on corn and soy meal. Our feed markets are set up as though everything will stay cheap, and that can lead to surprises.

"But our feeders are used to this, and they have no doubt locked in these low prices. They know how to manage price risks, and these are big price risks."

A positive is likely to be a modest rebound in annual per-capita disappearance of beef at the retail level to 54.4 pounds. This marks a turnaround, from a continued loss in per-capita disappearance over the last several years. The low point, assuming the increase materializes this year, appears as though it would be 2015, when the level was 54 pounds.


For producers such as J.T. Henshaw, risk and hard work come with the territory. And sometimes, when you're really lucky, it all works out just right.

"There's a lot of work involved in a cattle business. Just building and maintaining fences can be a full-time job. But sometimes it pays off," he said.

"Luke and I got in at the right time. We were lucky. We bought 80 pairs to come into the family business, and we got them for a decent price. Then cattle went through the roof, and we almost paid for those cows with the first calf. When that sort of thing happens, and you know you hit it about right, it makes you want to keep trying."



The export market for beef takes on a new level of importance, as prices look for a balance between supply and demand.

Just as U.S. beef producers are turning out more product -- 24.6 billion pounds this year, up from 23.7 billion pounds in 2015 -- global beef production is also expected to increase. During the next two years, price, new trade agreements and low feed costs will make beef an attractive commodity for sellers around the world.

Early projections called for another decline in beef exports in 2016, which would have been on top of a 12% drop in export sales between 2014 and 2015. However, more recently, some analysts have suggested another reduction in export sales may not take place, and marginal improvement is even possible.

Exports have been a top priority for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. At the group's annual meeting, President Tracy Brunner stressed passage of The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) would be critical to future beef prices and export growth. The TPP was signed Feb. 4. Under terms of the agreement, tariffs on U.S. beef would be reduced in Australia, Canada, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand and Vietnam. In Japan, tariffs on fresh, chilled and frozen beef imports could drop as low as 9% over 16 years from current levels of 38.5%.

Another trade program, which drew mixed reactions from those in the beef industry, was the mandatory country-of-origin labeling law. It was recently repealed. The World Trade Organization imposed retaliatory tariffs of $1 billion authorized to Canada ($780 million) and Mexico ($228 million) if the law was not repealed.

Had COOL not been repealed, the tariffs have been put into place, all U.S. beef exports to Canada and Mexico would have stopped, and the additional tonnage would have dropped into the U.S. market, negatively affecting prices. Tod Kalous, market analyst with CattleFax, said this would have added 1.5 to 2 pounds per capita to the U.S. net beef supply.

"Adding that additional 1.5 to 2 pounds of beef to the U.S. supply, in addition to the increased tonnage of pork and poultry on the U.S. market, would be worth $8 to $12 [less] per hundredweight, according to our estimate, in the fed-cattle market," Kalous said.

Current USDA projections for 2016 beef and veal exports are 2.5 billion pounds -- a 9% year-to-year increase. Imports for 2015 were projected to come in at 3.4 billion pounds (beef and veal) after accounting for reductions in beef from Australia and New Zealand. Despite that, compared to 2014, imports were 14% higher. That level is expected to drop in 2016, however, to 2.8 billion pounds, a 16% year-to-year change.

Victoria Myers can be reached at vicki.myers@dtn.com


Seeking Answers on ARC Yields

Tue. May 03, 2016 7:14 AM

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

OMAHA (DTN) -- Senator Charles Grassley wants USDA to explain disparities in payments for different counties under the Agricultural Risk Coverage program.

Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, told reporters in a weekly call Monday that he is sending a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack seeking some answers about how county yields are determined under ARC-County. Grassley pointed to counties in north-central Iowa where payments last fall on 2014 corn crop ranged from $23 an acre in one county to $91 an acre in an adjacent county.

"I've heard from farmers in my town hall meetings asking how county yields have been determined, because there are some instances where we have big discrepancies in payments between adjacent counties," Grassley said.

County yields are used two ways to calculate ARC-County payments. The county yields are multiplied by the national market year average price for the commodity to generate the actual county revenue average per acre. That actual revenue calculation then is compared against the ARC benchmark guarantee for that county. The benchmark guarantee comes from historical numbers for the county yields and national marketing year prices.

The Farm Service Agency has been dealing with issues on ARC payment disparities since 2014 payments were issued last fall. Until the 2014 farm bill was adopted, farmers were used to direct payments that allowed them to go to bankers and point to a consistent, steady payment guaranteed under the farm bill. Under ARC, potential government payments could vanish for counties that see bumper crops even though commodity prices are lower.

USDA paid out $4.4 billion in ARC-County payments last fall to about 800,000 farmers, but ARC-County payments were lower or did not trigger for farmers in counties where higher corn yields made up for the difference in lower prices. Farmers nationally enrolled roughly 96% of soybean base acres and 91% of corn base acres in ARC-County.

Grassley's complaint is similar to those raised late last year by Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson, D-Minn. Commodity organizations in North Dakota also have complained to FSA about wide payment disparities from county-to-county. At least one law firm in Oklahoma has held meetings with farmers in Southern Plains states over ARC-County variations to gauge the potential for possible litigation on the topic.

The Farm Service Agency has essentially a cascading system of trying to come up with county yields. The starting point for FSA is county yield data from the National Agricultural Statistics Service. NASS provides data from its annual yield survey sent to farmers across the country. To use that NASS data, however, reports from the NASS county surveys need to account for at least 25% of the acreage in a county and at least five farms in the county as well.

For counties where NASS did not get that level of survey response, the Farm Service Agency turns to another sister agency, the Risk Management Agency, to get the 2014 yield. RMA calculates yield by taking total production of crop insurance records and dividing that production total by the number of insured acres in the county.

FSA officials have told DTN they had solid county-level yield data on most crops and counties where as much as 90% of the base acres are centered for a given crop. Thus, the bigger struggles lie in the marginal production areas, outliers or areas where farmers may have added new commodities to the rotation in recent years.

Then there are still areas where neither county NASS nor RMA data was good enough. In that case, the Farm Service Agency goes to district-level data from NASS where yield surveys from multiple adjacent counties were used. District-level data is used as a default, but the Farm Service Agency provides state FSA committees some discretion to adjust those yields based on crops and soils.

Regarding his letter, Grassley said he wanted to learn more about the process USDA uses and see if there is any double checking that occurs when there are large variances in payments between different counties. Grassley said Congress did not foresee some of the issues regarding yield discrepancies that farmers have raised to him.

"We don't actually write any formulas in the legislation," the senator said. "We set broad parameters and have the administration fill in the regulations. From the language in the bill in the ARC program. I don't think there was any way to see the discrepancy. You might from one end of the state to the other, but from adjacent counties, I don't think that's possible. If it were possible for us to see that, then I don't think it would have happened in the first place."

Grassley said he wasn't raising the issue with USDA over ARC-County as a possible need to reopen the current farm bill.

"I haven't run into anybody who wants the farm bill opened up," Grassley said. "In fact, they're afraid of the farm bill being opening up because of (a possible) crop insurance cut."

Still, the senator said he's hearing more anecdotes that farmers who pay high cash rents are in trouble and increasing number of farmers are now leaving the business. It hasn't reached a crisis point that would demand significant changes to the safety net -- yet.

"If things don't improve dramatically, I might give you a different answer next year," Grassley said.

Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com.

Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN


USDA Weekly Crop Progress

Tue. May 03, 2016 7:03 AM

By Cheri Zagurski
DTN Managing Editor

OMAHA (DTN) -- Despite what seemed to be a very soggy week in some areas of the Corn Belt, the percentage of the nation's corn crop that was planted increased to 45% as of May 1, according to USDA's weekly Crop Progress report. That's 15 percentage points ahead of last week's total and the five-year average of 30%.

Corn is 13% emerged, compared to 5% last year and a five-year average of 8%.

"Monday's report should be viewed as mildly bearish for corn," said DTN Analyst Todd Hultman.

Soybean planting is 8% complete, compared to 10% last year and a five-year average of 6%. "Monday's report should be viewed as neutral for soybeans," said Hultman.

Winter wheat is 42% headed, compared to 26% last week, 39% last year and 34% on average. Winter wheat condition improved slightly to 61% good to excellent compared to 59% last week.

"USDA's condition ratings resulted in a six-point increase in the DTN Winter Wheat Condition Index to 157," Hultman said. "DTN's index is up from 105 a year ago and well above the five-year average of 79. Monday's report is bearish for winter wheat."

Spring wheat is 54% planted and 22% emerged, compared with 69% and 24% last year and 39% and 14% on average. "Monday's report is mildly bearish for spring wheat," Hultman said.

Cotton is 16% planted, compared to 10% last week, 15% last year and an 18% average. Rice is 72% planted and 55% emerged, compared to 62% and 38% last week, 55% and 34% last year, and 56% and 39% on average.

Sorghum is 23% planted compared to 20% last week, 28% last year and a 26% average. Oats are 78% planted and 56% emerged, compared to 71% and 41% last week, 81% and 53% last year and 65% and 47% averages. Barley is 57% planted and 29% emerged, compared to 45% and 15% last week, 70% and 33% last year, and 47% and 18% averages.

The following are highlights from weekly crop progress reports issued by National Ag Statistics Service offices in individual states. To view the full reports from each state, visit http://www.nass.usda.gov


Planting activities progressed well early last week until a wintry precipitation event resulted in cool, wet conditions that prevailed through week's end. By Sunday night, virtually the whole of Colorado had received precipitation in the form of rain or snow.

Days suitable for fieldwork was at 3.9. Topsoil moisture was 2% very short, 9% short, 76% adequate and 13% surplus. Subsoil moisture is 4% very short, 15% short, 75% adequate and 6% surplus.

Corn is 19% planted with a five year average of 22% planted. Sorghum is 1% planted with a 2% planted five year average. Spring wheat is 51% planted with a 57% five year average and spring is 16% emerged with a five year of 23%.

Winter wheat is 67% pastured with a 45% five year average and 1% jointed with a five year average of 3%. Winter wheat crop condition is 12% very poor to poor, 23% fair and 65% good to excellent.

Barley is 75% planted with a 70% five year average and barley is 33% emerged with a five year average of 34%.


Rain slowed down planting progress and kept producers out of the field during the past week. Statewide, the average temperature was 58.0 degrees, 1.3 degrees above normal. Precipitation averaged 1.64 inches, 0.74 inches above normal.

There were 2.4 days suitable for fieldwork during the week ending May 1. Topsoil moisture supply was rated at 3% short, 71% adequate and 26% surplus. Subsoil moisture supply was rated at 6% short, 77% adequate and 17% surplus.

Corn planted was at 66%, up 24 percentage points from last week. Corn emerged was at 25%, compared to 11% last year and the 5-year average of 12%. Soybeans planted was at 9%.

Winter wheat headed jumped to 29%, up 27 percentage points from last week. Winter wheat condition was rated 5 percent very poor to poor, 27 percent fair, 68% good to excellent.

Oats planted reached 90%, compared to 87% last year. Oat condition was at 3% very poor to poor, 14% fair and 83% good to excellent.


Cooler temperatures in Northern Indiana along with strong weekend storms and increased precipitation in Central and Southern Indiana slowed planting progress. The beginning of the week was mild, but gave way for moderate to heavy rainfall through the weekend.

Much of the precipitation occurred from Central Indiana downward, bring severe weather in some areas. Statewide average temperatures were slightly above normal at 58.9 degrees. Statewide precipitation was 1.82 inches, above normal by 0.92 inches. There were 2.8 days available for fieldwork for the week ending May 1, down 1.2 days from the previous week.

Topsoil moisture was 0% very short, 2% short, 59% adequate and 39% surplus. Subsoil moisture was 1% very short, 2% short, 71% adequate and 26% surplus.

Corn planted in the state was 30% with a five year average of 22%. Corn emerged was at 4% this week with a five year average of 7%. Soybean planting was 6% with a five year of 8%.

Winter wheat was 81% jointed with a five year average of 60%. Winter wheat was 14% headed with a five year average of 9%. Winter wheat crop conditions were 4% very to poor, 18% fair and 78% good to excellent.

There have been some aerial applications on headed wheat to defend against stripe rust and head scab.


Although some fieldwork was done early in the week, as the week progressed rains halted planting across much of Iowa for the week ending May 1, 2016. Statewide there were only 2.0 days suitable for fieldwork. Cool and wet weather slowed crop emergence, and many reports indicate tile lines have been running steady.

Topsoil moisture levels rated 0% very short, 1% short, 74% adequate and 25% surplus. Subsoil moisture levels rated 0% very short, 1% short, 84% adequate and 15% surplus. The western third of Iowa reported 20% or more with surplus subsoil moisture.

Statewide, just 17% of the corn crop was planted during the past week. But with 57% of the crop planted, progress remained 1 day ahead of last year and 8 days ahead of the 5-year average. Corn was 7% emerged with a five year average of 3%.

Seven percent of the soybean acreage has been planted, 5 days ahead of the 5-year average.

Ninety-six percent of the state's oat crop has been planted, 2 days ahead of last year and 2 weeks ahead of normal. Oats emerged reached 68%, 4 days ahead of the previous year and 8 days ahead of the average. The season's first oat condition rating came in at 1 percent very poor to poor, 28 percent fair, 71 percent good to excellent.


For the week ending May 1, 2016, temperatures were two to six degrees below normal in the western half of the State, but near normal in the east. The state received up to five inches of rain in the northeast, with lesser amounts elsewhere.

There were 2.4 days suitable for fieldwork. Topsoil moisture rated 3% very short, 8% short, 72% adequate and 17% surplus. Subsoil moisture rated 4% very short, 13% short, 77% adequate and 6% surplus.

Winter wheat condition rated 2% very poor, 8% poor, 38% fair, 46% good and 6% excellent. Winter wheat jointed was 97%, ahead of 87% last year and the five-year average of 79%. Headed was 49%, ahead of 34% last year and well ahead of 28% average.

Corn planted was 50%, near 46% last year, but ahead of 41% average. Emerged was 27%, ahead of 20% last year and 16% average. Soybeans planted was 2%, near 5% last year and 4% average.


There were 2.8 days suitable for fieldwork in Michigan during the week ending May 1, 2016. Prospects for an early start to spring planting faded as colder than normal temperatures combined with rain activity most days limited field work opportunities and slowed growth in pastures and hay fields.

Topsoil moisture was at 1% very poor, 3% short, 50% adequate and 46% surplus. Subsoil moisture levels were 0% very poor, 1% short, 67% adequate and 32% surplus.

Corn is 8% planted with the five year average of 12%. Soybeans were 2% down from the 4% five year average. While corn and soybean planting started in a few southern counties, cool soil temperatures have delayed planting in most parts of the state, and slowed emergence in places where some planting had taken place.

Oats are 32% planted compared to the five year average of 44% and oats are 6% emerged and the five year average is 18%. Winter wheat is 35% jointed. Winter wheat crop conditions are 8% very poor to poor, 20% fair and 72% good to excellent.

Oat planting, while making good progress this week, was still behind schedule. Wheat was greening up in the north and was jointing in the south; growers applied nitrogen and herbicide to wheat fields as conditions permitted.


Rain showers combined with below average temperatures slowed fieldwork during the week ending May 1, 2016. There were only 2.0 days suitable for fieldwork, though conditions in the northern and southeastern parts of the state allowed more opportunity for planting. Producers in a few areas were concerned about the effects of the cool and wet conditions on crop germination and emergence, though many others noted that the moisture received during the week was beneficial.

Topsoil moisture supplies were rated 1% very short, 6% short, 80% adequate and 13% surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies were rated 1% very short, 7% short, 80% adequate and 12% surplus.

Minnesota's corn planting increased to 59% complete, 13 days ahead of the 5-year average, but 2 days behind last year. Five percent of the corn crop has emerged, 4 days ahead of average.

Six percent of the soybean crop has been planted, which is equal to the average, but 4 days behind last year. Small grain seeding continues to be well ahead of average, nearing completion in the west-central and southwestern parts of the state.

Spring wheat planting was 63% complete, 16 days ahead of average, but 13 days behind last year. Twenty-seven percent of the spring wheat crop had emerged, 6 days ahead of average, but 4 days behind last year.

Eighty-two percent of the oat acreage had been planted, with 53% emerged, over 2 weeks ahead of the average. The barley crop was 46% planted and 18% emerged.


Rain last week slowed down planting of some row crops. Temperatures averaged 61.9 degrees, 3.0 degrees above normal. Precipitation averaged 2.33 inches statewide, 1.27 inches above normal. There were 2.1 days suitable for fieldwork for the week ending May 1. Topsoil moisture: 3% very short, 8% short, 72% adequate, and 17% surplus. Subsoil moisture: 3% very short, 12% short, 80% adequate, and 5% surplus. Spring tillage is 87% complete, compared to 57% last year and 65% for the 5-year average.


For the week ending May 1, 2016, wet, cool conditions kept producers from making widespread planting progress, according to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service. Snow blanketed the southwest as well as Panhandle counties late in the week with accumulations of six inches or more recorded in portions of the Panhandle. Statewide rainfall of one to two inches was common with heavier amounts of five inches or more were recorded in central Nebraska. Temperatures averaged four to six degrees below normal. Producers were waiting for soils to dry before planting could resume. There were 1.6 days suitable for fieldwork. Topsoil moisture: 1% very short, 6% short, 70% adequate, and 23% surplus. Subsoil moisture: 1% very short, 6% short, 82% adequate, and 11% surplus.

North Dakota

For the week ending May 1, 2016, temperatures averaged two to four degrees below normal in the northeast part of the state and four to ten degrees below normal in the southwest, according to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service. Rainfall up to an inch was received in the southern parts of the state with little precipitation in the north. The much-needed moisture aided pasture growth and improved planting conditions. There were 3.8 days suitable for fieldwork. Topsoil moisture: 0% very short, 7% short, 86% adequate, and 7% surplus. Subsoil moisture: 1% very short, 14% short, 81% adequate, and 4% surplus. Canola planted was 11%, behind 22% last year, but near 10% average. Sunflowers planted was 1%, ahead of 0% last year, but equal to average. Sugarbeets planted was 74%, behind 91% last year, but well ahead of 38% average.


Rain throughout the week kept growers in the northern parts of the state from doing fieldwork, while growers in the south were afforded more opportunities to plant crops, according to Cheryl Turner, Ohio State Statistician of the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service. There were 2.8 days suitable for fieldwork for the week ending May 1. The rain and cool temperatures in the northern counties limited most fieldwork to topdressing wheat and spraying for weeds. Some fields had standing water as well. Growers further south had more ideal weather for planting, and planted corn, oats, and even some soybeans. Producers throughout the state reported slow hay and pasture growth. Growers are also applying fertilizer when able to get into fields. Topsoil moisture: 0% very short, 1% short, 57% adequate, 42% surplus. Subsoil moisture: 0% very short, 2% short, 70% adequate, 28% surplus. Days suitable for fieldwork: 2.8 days.


Much of Oklahoma experienced heavy rain throughout the week in addition to flooding, hail and severe winds. According to the Mesonet, this April was the seventh wettest on record with a statewide average of 6.11 inches, almost 3 inches above normal. Moderate drought conditions stayed at 10%, no change from last week and severe drought was 2%, also no change from last week. Precipitation averaged 1.99 inches across the state, ranging from 0.74 of an inch in the West Central district to 4.51 inches in the Southeast district. Statewide temperatures averaged in the low 60s, with the lowest recording of 32 degrees at Goodwell on Saturday, April 30, and the highest recording of 92 degrees at Altus on Monday, April 25. Topsoil and subsoil moisture conditions were rated mostly adequate to short. There were 3.5 days suitable for fieldwork.

South Dakota

For the week ending May 1, 2016, cold, wet weather across much of the state kept fieldwork to a minimum, according to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service. Most locations received one-half to one inch of precipitation during the week, with heavier amounts in the south-central and southeast. Snowfall was reported in western South Dakota as temperatures were well below normal for most of the state. There were 1.3 days suitable for fieldwork. Topsoil moisture: 0% very short, 7% short, 75% adequate, and 18% surplus. Subsoil moisture: 1% very short, 9% short, 79% adequate, and 11% surplus.


The majority of the state received precipitation last week, which caused planting delays for many of the state's crops. Areas of East Texas received between 2 to 8 inches, while areas of Central Texas received only 0.1 to 1.5 inches. The Trans-Pecos and areas of the High Plains and the Upper Coast reported little to no rainfall. Strong winds and hail were reported in several areas of the state. Winter wheat and oats continued to mature throughout the state, with some hail damage reported in areas of the Southern Low Plains and the Cross Timbers. Areas of the Edwards Plateau experienced some damage due to high winds. Cotton planting was delayed in areas of the Northern Low and High Plains, the Blacklands, and Northeast Texas, due to wet conditions. Corn was beginning to emerge in areas of the Blacklands and South Texas. Sorghum planting remained active throughout the state, while producers in the Southern Low Plains applied fertilizer. Producers in the Southern High Plains began planting peanuts. Topsoil moisture: 7% very short, 24% short, 49% adequate, 20% surplus. Topsoil moisture: 4% very short, 20% short, 61% adequate, 15% surplus There were 4.8 days suitable for fieldwork.


There were 4.0 days suitable for fieldwork for the week ending May 1, 2016, according to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service. Below normal temperatures and widespread rains slowed fieldwork this week. Reporters noted variable rainfall totals from under half an inch to over three inches. This moisture was welcomed in the southern portions of the state, where soils have been dry. However, continuing muddy conditions and low soil temperatures in the Northern and East-Central districts further delayed planting activities. Many reporters commented that winter wheat and alfalfa put on a burst of growth during this cool, wet week. Planting, tillage, and manure spreading continued where conditions allowed. Topsoil moisture: 0% very short, 55 short, 77% adequate, 18% surplus. Subsoil moisture: 0% very short, 4% short, 84% percent adequate, 12% surplus. As of May 1, spring tillage was 53% complete statewide, 1 day behind last year, but 10 days ahead of the five-year average. Corn planting was 2 days behind last year, but 4 days ahead of the five-year average. Corn was starting to emerge in southern parts of the state. Oats planting was 3 days behind 2015, but a week ahead of the five-year average. Oats emerged was 2 days behind 2015, but 3 days ahead of the five-year average.

Send comments to talk@dtn.com



National Crop Progress Summary
This Last Last 5-Yr
Week Week Year Avg
Corn Planted 45 30 45 30
Corn Emerged 13 5 7 8
Soybeans Planted 8 3 10 6
Winter Wheat Headed 42 26 39 34
Spring Wheat Planted 54 42 69 39
Spring Wheat Emerged 22 8 24 14
Cotton Planted 16 10 15 18
Sorghum Planted 23 20 28 26
Oats Planted 78 71 81 65
Oats Emerged 56 41 53 47
Barley Planted 57 45 70 47
Barley Emerged 29 15 33 18
Rice Planted 72 62 55 56
Rice Emerged 55 38 34 39
National Crop Condition Summary
(VP=Very Poor; P=Poor; F=Fair; G=Good; E=Excellent)
This Week Last Week Last Year
Winter Wht 1 6 32 50 11 1 7 33 50 9 6 14 37 35 8

Please send comments to talk@dtn.com


2016 HRW Wheat Tour Preview

Mon. May 02, 2016 7:44 AM

By Pam Smith
DTN Progressive Farmer Crops Technology Editor

DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- Wheat scouts headed to Kansas this week better bring their boots. Recent rains have left muddy fields across the Wheat Belt, warned Ben Handcock.

Dodging mud holes isn't something that happens every day in Kansas, especially this time of year. Those rains are expected to push yields higher on what already appears to be a decent crop overall, said Handcock, executive vice president of the Wheat Quality Council which organizes the tour of Kansas's hard red winter wheat fields every year.

While there are some pockets of wheat still struggling, Handcock said he expects scouts to measure some good wheat this year and find the crop more mature than typical. The April 24, 2015, USDA Crop Progress report put the Kansas crop 23% headed as compared to the 15% average. The report also pegged 36% of the wheat fair, 48% good and 5% excellent.

"We're going to see some winterkill, some stripe rust and a few other diseases in places, but I think for the most part it is a pretty darn good wheat crop," Handcock told DTN. "Still, it's a long time until harvest and a lot of stuff can happen."

Handcock said early dryness in some area could mean scouts see heads with fewer spikelets or seeds per head. "We'll be talking to scouts about how to weigh that in assessments," he said. Test weight and all other factors might be good, but a few less kernels do make a difference in overall yield, he noted.

This year's wheat crop has used up some lives getting this far, noted DTN Senior Analyst Darin Newsom. "Starting with coming out of dormancy in February, an Easter freeze in March, drought, flood (seems impossible, but not for the Southern Plains) and disease. All that is missing is pestilence, and maybe the scouts will be lucky enough to be swarmed by hordes of grasshoppers along the way," he ribbed.

Still, Newsom predicted the wheat scouts will find the best wheat in south-central Kansas, particularly in the Sedgwick, Reno, Kingman, Harper and Sumner County areas. The northwest and southwest legs of the tour will be more likely to spot production problems. However, Newsom noted that yield can be difficult to measure accurately because even thin wheat can recover and produce if weather cooperates from here on out.

"The overall average is likely to be in the 38 to 42 bushels per acre (bpa) with 50 bpa plus in the key south-central part of the state and calculators coming in at 30 bpa out west. Most likely, the western crop is really in the 15 bpa to 25 bpa range," Newsom said.

The tour gives the first comprehensive picture of Kansas's wheat crop and will be closely followed by farmers, food makers and traders -- commercial and speculative alike. However, DTN Analyst Todd Hultman noted that even poor yield estimates would be unlikely to move the market much this year. The world's wheat plate is full to overflowing.

"USDA gave Kansas an all-wheat yield of 37.0 bushels in 2015, lower than the national yield of 43.6 bushels. If Vegas said 37.0 this year, I would take the over, but domestic wheat supplies at 50% of annual use is the most important market factor to consider. With USDA giving U.S. winter wheat a high crop rating while we are hearing mostly favorable reports from Europe, Ukraine, South Russia and China, there is nothing the tour can say to affect wheat prices this year," said Hultman.

The 2016 tour will have 82 scouts spreading out, pulling samples from about 500 fields to estimate the state's average yield and production. Grain merchants, flour mills, wheat farmers, agronomists and media are among the participants. Hancock notes that NASS evaluates wheat fields at approximately the same time, so it's interesting to see how the numbers align.

"For the most part, this tour has traditionally come pretty close to measuring the crop, considering there's still a lot of season left to play out," Handcock said.

The 2015 tour estimate for Kansas was 288.5 million bushels with a calculated yield average for the entire tour of 35.9 bushels per acre compared to 33.2 bushels on the same routes in 2014. The scouts use a formula provided by Kansas Ag Statistics to arrive at a calculated average. The formula is based on a 10-year rolling average and changes slightly from year to year.

On July 1, 2015, USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service forecast the Kansas 2015 winter wheat crop at 334 million bushels with an average yield of 38 bushels per acre. In 2015, total Kansas production was reported to be 321.9 million bushels. Area harvested was 8.7 million acres and yield was 37 bushels per acre. Protein content averaged 12.7 percent with a test weight of 59.9 pounds per bushel and a moisture content of 11.2%. The wheat graded 53% No. 1 and 38% No. 2.

Kansas seeded 8.8 million acres of HRW wheat for 2016 harvest. Handcock said the significance of the tour goes beyond yield. "It gives the industry a snapshot of what will be in their flour mills and bakeries. They get to look at the quality and get a feeling of what they will be dealing with. We do this tour as a service to the industry," he noted.

In other words, there's no substitute for getting your boots muddy. "For two months NASS has said Oklahoma wheat wasn't ahead of normal and now, everyone is saying the crop is at least two weeks ahead of normal -- even in Kansas.

"Seeing headed wheat should give us more to go on, but the main thing is just getting out and actually seeing it," he said.

The tour starts Tuesday morning and data is combined each evening to create the average yield for that leg of the tour. On Thursday, the tour will release its statewide yield and production estimates.

Here's what the schedule looks like:

-- Tuesday: Manhattan to Colby, with one route hitting Nebraska's southern-most counties. Colorado, Nebraska give updates.

-- Wednesday: Colby to Wichita, with one route surveying northern Oklahoma. Oklahoma, Texas give updates.

-- Thursday: Wichita to Manhattan. This year the tour releases statewide yield and production estimates around noon, prior to the market close.

DTN/Progressive Farmer Crops/Technology Editor Pamela Smith will be tweeting her observations from the field. Follow her at @PamSmithDTN to see her latest updates or to ask her questions.

Pamela Smith can be reached at pamela.smith@dtn.com


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