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RFS Matters for Biodiesel

Soon the United States Environmental Protection Agency should release its annual update to the Renewable Fuel Standard mandates. This year’s RFS is really important to the biodiesel industry.

More often than not when the federal government’s Renewable Fuel Standard is discussed people are thinking about corn based ethanol or other feedstocks that can produce ethanol. However, when U.S. EPA finally releases the RFS mandates - supposedly sometime this month - it may be the biodiesel industry that pays the most attention.

Quote - The industry for which the RFS is really a life or death matter is biodiesel.

That’s University of Illinois Ag Economist Scott Irwin. Biodiesel, by-the-way, is mostly produced from soybean oil.

Quote Summary - Because if the EPA would choose to go back to the RFS statutory level mandates, at least for a few years in the short run, it would launch - likely - the biggest boom in biodiesel’s history. But, if they choose to stay on the path of the proposals from 2013 it would cut the knees out from under the industry. The biodiesel industry is waiting on the edge to find out what happens.

This edge made the industry unhappy with the federal government earlier this year when it opened the door for biodiesel imported from Argentina to qualify as an advanced biofuel under the U.S. RFS mandates. Scott Irwin sees this move far more favorably the industry.

Quote Summary - I favor the position that EPA is likely to move the mandate levels back up near or to the statutory levels this year, or at least by 2016. This would necessitate a tremendous boom in biodiesel production. It would be more than current U.S. production capacity. So, one view of the Argentine biodiesel announcement is that it is a precursor of the statutory requirements and related documentation of enough registered biodiesel both inside and outside the United States to fill the mandates.

It may be, then, that the January announcement allowing Argentine biodiesel to qualify as an advanced biofuel in the United States sets the stage for U.S. EPA to follow the letter of the law as written by congress. It is not possible to do so without additional gallons of advanced fuel from some source.

2014 Loss Experience for Revenue Protection Products

by Gary Schnitkey

Most of the 2014 insurance payments on COMBO products have been entered into Risk Management Agency’s Summary of Business, allowing us to calculate loss performance for individual products accurately. This article describes loss performance for Revenue Protection (RP), a revenue insurance plan used to insure most acres in the United States.



Corn, soybeans, and wheat had loss ratios of 1.04, .54, and 1.12, respectively. Loss ratios were above 1.0 in many counties of Iowa and Minnesota for corn and soybeans. Counties in the southern Great Plains had loss ratios above 1.0 for wheat. In Illinois, RP loss ratios were .40 for corn and .24 for soybeans.

Corn

In 2014, RP was used to insure 69.9 million acres of corn in the United States, representing 88% of total acres insured with crop insurance. Total premium on RP products was $3,350 million and total crop insurance payments were $3,484 million, giving a loss ratio of 1.04 ($3,484 in losses divided by $3,350 in total premium). A loss ratio above 1.0 means that insurance payments exceeded premiums. Over time, average loss ratios should equal near 1.0. On a per insured acre, insurance payments equaled $49.86 per acre (see Table 1).



Loss experience varied tremendously across states. For the eleven states with the most insured acres, RP’s loss rate was the highest for Minnesota at 3.01 and the lowest for Missouri at .11 (see Table 1). Iowa had a loss ratio of 2.21 while Illinois had a .40 loss ratio.

For Midwest states, the 2014 projected price was $4.62 per bushel while the harvest price was $3.49 per bushel. The harvest price was 75% of the projected price, meaning that coverage levels of 80% and 85% would have crop insurance prices if the actual yield did not exceed the guarantee yield. While much of the country had above average corn yields, there were areas of the country where yields were at or below guarantee yields. These areas included northern and central Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. As a result, RP products had high loss ratios in these areas, as illustrated in Figure 1 which shows RP loss ratio by county (see Figure 1). In most other areas of the country, loss ratios were well below 1.0. As one would expect, loss ratios were higher in areas with lower relative yields.



Soybeans

In 2014, RP was used to insure 65.2 million acres of soybeans in the United States, representing 88% of total acres insured with crop insurance. Total premiums were $2,092 million and total payments were $1,126 million (see Table 2). Total payments were far less than total premiums resulting in a loss ratio of .54. Since 2008, loss ratios for soybeans across all policies have not exceeded 1.00. On a per insured acre basis, insurance payments equaled $17.27 per acre.



Loss experience for soybeans had less range than those for corn. For the eleven states with the most insured acres, RP’s loss ratio was the highest for Minnesota at 1.25 and the lowest for South Dakota at .18. Iowa had a loss ratio of 1.07 while Illinois has a .24 loss ratio.

For Midwest states, the 2014 projected price was $11.36 per bushel while the harvest price was $9.65 per bushel. The harvest price was 85% of the projected price. Even at an 85% coverage level, farmers had to have actual yields below guarantee yields before insurance payments were made.
Most counties across the United States had loss ratios well below 1 (see Figure 2). Areas with loss ratios above 1.00 included counties in northern and central Iowa, Minnesota, northern Wisconsin, and some counties in Michigan, and New York.



Wheat

In 2014, RP was used to insured 40.8 million acres of wheat, representing 85% of total acres insured with crop insurance. Total premiums were $1,330 million and total payments were $1,490. The loss ratio was 1.12 and payments averaged $36.60 per insured acre.



Figure 3 shows a map of county loss ratios for wheat RP polices. As can be seen, many counties in Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas had loss ratios above 1.00. Many farms in this area had low yields. Other areas of payments occurred in Washington, Wisconsin, Illinois, and along the Mississippi Delta. Large areas with low loss ratios include Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.



Summary

Lower prices for corn and soybeans resulted in RP payments for corn and soybeans. These payments were made in northern and central Iowa and Minnesota. Because of above average yields, loss ratios were low in most of Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio.

LINK to FarmDocDaily Article: 2014 Loss Experience for Revenue Protection on Corn, Soybeans, and Wheat

More Hogs than Expected

The USDA March Hogs and Pigs report did little to help explain why numbers were high, other than to simply admit that hog inventory counts from previous surveys were too low.



Pork supplies in the first quarter of 2015 were expected to rise one percent. In reality, first quarter pork production was up five percent. This is because they were 4.5 percent more hogs that weighed about a half percent more than their year earlier counterparts. More hogs at heavier weights has pushed prices down says Chris Hurt, and that’s not the end of it.
Quote Summary - There is an even more price depressing force coming to the market as the number of hogs coming to market in the most recent four weeks has remarkably been ten percent higher than year-ago levels. Higher than expected current numbers may mean that the breeding herd expansion is larger than USDA surveys have indicated and/or that PED death losses were smaller than producers reported to USDA.
If there has been an undercount of animals, the possibility remains says Chris Hurt for higher market numbers than anticipated for the rest of the year.

As a result of the higher actual marketings in the first quarter, USDA revised last summer’s pig crop upward by nearly three percent. As always, “the proof is in the pudding” meaning that if actual winter slaughter is higher than accounted for by last summer’s pig crop, last summer’s pig crop has to be revised upward. USDA did this by increasing the estimated number of farrowings. Hurt has been wondering, based on USDA’s numbers, if the breeding herd has been expanded.

While USDA raised the size of last summer’s farrowings, the size of the breeding herd was not increased. This still leaves unanswered the question of whether the breeding herd is actually higher, which would indicate that the breeding herd has expanded more rapidly than indicated by USDA survey numbers. If the breeding herd has expanded more rapidly than future animal numbers may also be higher than indicated by the USDA counts.

More pigs coming to market in the first quarter than expected must have come from a larger breeding herd thinks Hurt. He says current marketing numbers have been averaging ten percent higher. If the marketing herd is larger, then marketing numbers could continue to surprise the market on the high side and hog prices will stay depressed.

April WASDE Big for Corn

The March 31 USDA reports resolved some questions for the corn market, but left a couple of items hanging. The April 9 supply and demand tables will give the report some true balance.



Most traders saw last week’s USDA reports as a bad sign for the price of corn. The acreage figure was on the high end of trade expectations and the grain stocks number appears to show a slower than estimated pace of consumption. University of Illinois Ag Economist Darrel Good has a different take.
Quote Summary - Taken at face value the corn stocks number implies less feed and residual usage during the first half of the marketing year than the trade expected. It is about 69 percent of USDA’s projection for the year, 5.3 billion bushels. Over the last four years the first half feed use has been 74 percent and if the market assumes the actual uses is factually 74 percent then the 5.3 billion is not reachable.
However, Darrel Good goes on, if you look at the history prior to the past four years, which he considers anomalous, first half feed usage averaged something between 65 and 68 percent - not 74 percent .
Quote Summary - If we are on that path this year, then 5.3 billion bushels is still reachable, and we might do even more given the expansion in livestock numbers. Broiler numbers are up 3 to 4 percent. The winter pig crop is 7 percent larger than last year. It mens core feed demand should be very robust the last half of the marketing year.
Clearly says the ILLINOIS ag economist the market did not interpret USDA’s Grain Stocks report in this fashion. It, he says, likely expects the April 9 WASDE estimates to show a lower feed usage number and consequently an increase in the year ending stocks for corn.
Quote Summary - Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if the WASDE number is a bit lower in the April report. They may come down 100 million bushels on the feed and residual use projection and put all of that into the projected year ending stocks number. I think that is the way the market is leaning. Unfortunately, we won’t get another real read on that until we get the June Grain Stocks report three months from now.
Between now and then the trade will mostly forget about old crop corn feed usage as it concentrates more energy on divining how the 2015 corn harvest will affect the price of corn.

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