Showing posts from March, 2014

USDA Quarterly Hogs & Pigs Report - March 28, 2014

USDA has released the March 2014 Quarterly Hogs & Pigs report. It, by most accounts, shows more inventory than the trade expected. However, the figures reported do show an impact from PED-V. This impact is, simply put, not as dramatic as the price rise has been in lean hog futures. The futures are still looking forward to what most expect to be a short market ready supply of hogs in April, May, June, and July. The following is excerpted from USDA's March 28, 2014 Quarterly Hogs & Pigs report.

Cost to Produce Corn and Soybeans in Illinois-2013

In 2013, the total of all economic costs per acre for growing corn in Illinois averaged $1,033 in the northern section, $966 in the central section for farmland with "high" soil ratings, $951 in the central section for farmland with "low" soil ratings, and $872 in the southern section. Soybean costs per acre were $727, $715, $673 and $631, respectively (see Table 1). Costs were lower in southern Illinois primarily because of lower land costs. The total of all economic costs per bushel in the different sections of the state ranged from $4.90 to $5.20 for corn and from $12.32 to $12.88 for soybeans. Variations in this cost were related to weather, yields, and land quality.

Reports Continue to Support Corn & Soybean Prices

March is one of four months that contain an unusually large number of USDA reports. These, as you'll hear from University of Illinois Ag Economist Darrel Good, reflect supply and demand conditions for corn and soybeans.

Grain Tube Training to Save Lives

Grain Entrapment - Those that work in and around flowing grain know just how dangerous it can be. That's why they train to be in the bins and how to extract someone that has been trapped in a bin. Todd Gleason has more from the Illinois AgriCenter in Bloomington.


Pig in a Bucket

How many of you have ever had a farm animal living in the house?

Here's a story written by a farm wife in Illinois. One of her latest blog posts is titled "The Bawling in the Basement".  It is a great little read and reminded me of a story from my childhood.

Pig in a Bucket

There was a pig in a bucket. Not its snout nuzzling in for corn or water as most pigs are prone to do when a bucket is carried into the lot, but the whole pig. A very little pig. A very little pink pig. A very little pink pig in a bucket.  A very little pink pig in a bucket in the closet. A very little pink pig in a bucket in the closet in the kitchen. Weird...

This little pink pig in a bucket was the runt of the litter. Dad had determined it would not suffer the terminal fate of most runts. So, there was a pig in a bucket in our kitchen. Mom was tasked with keeping this pig alive. It was in the closet in the kitchen because it was very warm in the closet. That's what little pigs need. Sometimes this comes from the sow, but that can be a dangerous affair. Sows tend to lay down on the piglets that don't move fast enough and they don't get back up.

The furnace was in our kitchen closet. It was a very warm place and I suppose if you were a piglet curled up atop a pile of fuzzy rags in a bucket this wouldn't be such a bad spot to start life. This would especially be the case if you happened to know what the phrase "sucking hind tit" means. That's the teat reserved for the runt, and very unlikely to have enough milk for survival.

Mom fed this little pig in a bucket from a baby bottle. I don't recall if it lived, but the effort was valiant.

Addressing Compaction

Here's a beautifully told story about compaction.

Read it on Griggs Dakota now.

Yes, beautifully told. There is an art to good story telling and sometimes it has to do with the words, at others the visuals. Occasionally it is possible to bring a mundane story to life. If you don't believe me just check out this blog about farm life in Griggs Dakota.

Map of Ukraine's Primary Grain Export Facilities

No guarantees here, but I believe this map represents Ukraine's primary grain export facilities. You can use this link to view the satellite image in a Google Map of the Elevators.

This map shows what appear to be six unique grain export elevator sites in three different Black Sea port sites; Odessa, Yuzhne, & Nikolaev. One of the Nikolaev sites looks a bit more like a fertilizer transfer and storage facility.

The New Farm Programs Explained

The following presentation was recorded at the WILLAg All Day Ag Outlook March 4, 2014. In in University of Illinois Ag Policy Specialist Jonathan Coppess explains the new programs in the 2014 Farm Bill. You may also use this link to view the program.

Follow the Corn – John Deere

This week I took a group of farmers, landowners, and listeners on the second Follow the Corn bus trip. We went to New Orleans to see Zen Noh’s export terminal in August of 2012. This time was a bit less ambitious. Just a quick trip to see John Deere in Illinois and Iowa.

We loaded our appropriately colored green and yellow Cavallo motor coach about 3:30pm Monday afternoon. Our first stop was at one of my favorite haunts in Peoria, Avanti’s Italian Ristorante. It is simple, affordable cuisine and every one agreed that it hit the spot.  If you go there be sure to order a Gondola to take home. You’ll thank me later.

Peoria is about half way between Champaign and the Quad Cities. It was an easy ride to our hotel across from the John Deere Pavilion. We checked in, and I’m certain everyone had fun playing with the ‘Sleep Number’ beds at the Radisson. It’s the little things that make a trip memorable. I try to stack those up when planning the Follow the Corn events.

Our first John Deere plant stop was Harvester Works. This is where Deere makes combines. We arrived at 7:40am for our 8am tour. It gave us all plenty of time for an extra cup of coffee and to play on the S Series combine in the plant lobby. It’s kind of a farm kids dream! I got to play on a combine and look at the cool art work on the walls. Art work, by the way, is a theme at Deere. It is everywhere and in everything. I read the John Deere Way, the book – actually I listened to it using Audible - earlier this year and Deere believes equipment should be beautiful, themselves pieces of art. It is part of the John Deere culture.

There is something of an orchestrated dance that happens on John Deere’s manufacturing floors to bring their equipment to life.

Here’s a fun little fact we learned at Harvester Works. The average life of a John Deere combine is about 17 years. Over that time it will have five owners. One of our tour guides happened to help design John Deere’s paint system. It is extraordinary and cost tens of millions of dollars to build. He was a humble man, and a simple dedicated John Deere employee who came up with a good idea to make John Deere green more durable in the field. He, like every John Deere employee we met, was pulling towards a simple goal of making a quality product for farmers to use. They were very proud of their equipment, but mostly concerned about how it would stand up for their farmers.

Earlier, I told you it was the little things that make a trip memorable. We had some discussion during the planning process about the noon meal on Tuesday. John Deere would provide one for a fee at the headquarters. It wasn’t cheap, but I was pretty sure it would be quote “one of those memory builders”. In fact that was the case.

We dined at Deere. It was white tablecloth cuisine served to us as we sat on fifty-year-old teak wood chairs designed especially for the headquarters building at its construction.

The John Deere headquarters were built to attract talent from around the planet. It isn’t located in New York because the company believes it is tied to the land. It is rugged, yet exquisite. The curator of the vast art collection housed at John Deere headquarters rotates it from floor to floor so that over time all the 1300 employees working on the campus can view the entire collection. The headquarters is an architectural masterpiece perfectly fitted into a rolling landscape of wood and water and meadow.

I was feeling pretty satisfied with myself and the Follow the Corn – John Deere tour after dinner. We were on time and things had gone very well. I’d even brought a few homemade cookies along for the ride. These were scrumptious and made by mom, that’s what I’ve always called my wife’s mother. The riders loved them. Things were good, but they were about to get much better.

Our third tour Tuesday was at John Deere Seeding Group. This is where Deere makes planters in the Quad Cities. It was a late edition added last Thursday. A University of Illinois alum at Deere arranged it so we could see the new ExactEmerge planter, or at least one of the units.

We arrived to find two very happy tour guides. They stayed just for us. They weren’t supposed to be there. This was my first happy surprise. I didn’t expect a tour of the planter manufacturing floor. More on it in a moment. We had come, however, to the Seeding Group to see Deere’s new 10 mile per hour planter. They brought in a unit, took it a part, let us handle it, showed us how it worked, and then took our questions. The farmers challenged them, pushed them, and listened to them explain why the new way to plant corn and other crops would work not only faster, but more accurately. I think we all, mostly, believed them.

The men and women working the floor at the Seeding Group were on a dead run to make planters. Our tour guide, he was named Loren, asked a couple of times if we were in a hurry. “No”, came our answer. So, he took time to walk us through the plant. We stopped and gaped at the laser used to cut parts from sheets of metal. These came out of the machine smooth and flat. Some of them were handed off to men and women to be bent and pressed. Buck, though he was busy, stopped – and as he did somebody stepped up to his machine – to tell us how much he liked bending parts. He'd been doing it for 17 years. I think he told us his father and grandfather had done it, too. He was proud of Deere and glad to meet farmers that very well might be using a planter he helped to build.

Even the guys who ran red, were thinking about running green when we left the Seeding Group. We loaded the bus and headed for Waterloo, Iowa.

Frankly, the Tractor Cab Assembly Operations tour seemed a little rushed. I think this is because we were – at least at first – just another group of the some 20,000 that come through the plant annually. A little nudge and a request to have some one-on-one time changed the tempo. Deere provided our little entourage with four folks “in-the-know”. They were all fairly young and it was fun to watch the farmers give them a lesson on John Deere failures, successes, and even hopes. This is the plant were I was finally convinced John Deere actually builds each piece of machinery for an individual farmer. It is a line often repeated by John Deere employees. There are more than 8000 different versions of a single line of the R Series tractors. It is possible to build the tractor all year, and not build the same tractor twice. It’s a small thing, but rather nice to know when you spend so much money that no one else is likely to have exactly the same tractor.

Our last stop, before heading home, was in Coralville for lunch. The Iowa River Power Restaurant opens to the largest dam in the state. The owners converted a former electrical power generation plant into a fascinating place to eat. The glass façade opens to the Iowa River and inside there are 30 ton lifts and the iron to support them towering above the dining room. The food is good, too. We arrived home at 4:30pm just as advertised on the itinerary.

Afterwards, I almost called the cemetery in Logan County to sell my plots.

Women in Agriculture

I keep a whole series of folders tucked across the top of my web browser for quick and easy access to important items. The first folder is titled "Mac & News". I read the websites listed here every day, sometimes more than once a day. It contains links to Apple and Macintosh related news sites, along with a Google news page tuned to agriculture. "Weather" is second.

The next three folders are work related websites. Then comes the "Farm Muse" heading. It is filled with sites written by women in agriculture. These are the musings of women who live and or work on the farm. Thus the heading "Farm Muse". I open it on occasion just to see what they've written, or the photos they've taken. Here's my list...

...for your 'Road Trip' List!

I love out of the way places to travel and explore. A blacktop (a rural road) is one of my favorite things in all the world. They look the same just about everywhere I've ever been, but always hold a surprise or two. If you play your cards right you'll find something of interest and a great place to eat. Coming straight south from East Peoria, Illinois is a great road.

This one is wider than usual, and even has a name on the map, Springfield Road. There are many treats to see. If you are a "Lord of the Rings" fan you'll love the hobbit hole along the west side of the road. It sits there with a perfectly round door, just like those in the shire.

Once you drop down the mountain of a hill - for central Illinois - pass all the white fences, and mount the other side of the little valley, keep your eyes open for a pair of pines on the east side of the road (see the red pin on the map along Springfield Road). Hunkered down in those pines is a rock and plaque.

I think only those that have knelt upon the earth, filled their lungs with its sweet fragrance, and reached into it searching for a kernel of corn, can truly appreciate the rock and the acreage.

It is the birthplace of yellow dent corn. This is the place where a poor stand prompted Robert Reid to intra-seed a second open pollinated variety hoping for a good nick. It worked, and over the next forty years Reid and his son James diligently developed the new yellow dent corn variety. Eventually, it became the primary parent line behind nearly all modern corn hybrids.

If you farm, this is a sacred place to visit. 

Given that, I doubt it is a sacred place for the rest of the people in the vehicle. They'll need another reason. I would suggest the Harvest Cafe in Delavan. Bring your wallet, but do plan to have a magnificent meal in one of the most luxurious little spaces in rural route Illinois.

Click on any of the photos to show a lager version.

Illinois Soybean Summit Finishes On Time

Today I hosted the Illinois Soybean Summit. It, in the third year, has blossomed into a "must go" program. We heard from Arkansas farmers, a Nobel Prize winner, and a nationally known meteorologist, among others. There were about 350 in the audience.

SOYBEAN PANEL with Curt Kimmel, Wayne Nelson, & Chuck Shelby

CORN PANEL with Pete Manhart, Jacquie Voeks, & Bill Mayer

WILL the PIECES FIT with Sue Martin

CASH GRAIN PANEL with Greg Johnson, Aaron Curtis, & Matt Bennett

LAND VALUES in 2014 with Murray Wise

25th Annual All Day Ag Outlook at the Beef House

Brokers and analysts for Illinois Public Media AM580 Urbana gathered at the Beef House in Covington, Indiana to talk about the commodity markets with more than 300 farmers during the 25th Annual All Day Ag Outlook. Click photo to enlarge.
Left to Right - Murray Wise, Joe Vaclavik, Jacquie Voeks, Aaron Curtis, Matt Bennett, Bill Mayer, Chuck Shelby, Todd Gleason (microphone in hand), Greg Johnson, Pete Manhart, Curt Kimmel, Jason Clapp, & Wayne Nelson

Jack Crowner, 1932-2014 - Farm Service Radio Network

Grain is Flowing Through the Canal

Excerpted from U.S. Grains Council website.

The February 6th U.S. Grains Council Chart of the Week shows the export destinations of U.S. grain, including soybeans, corn, sorghum wheat, rice and other, that was transited through the Panama Canal following the 2013 U.S. harvest season. According to the Panama Canal Authority, this is a record year for U.S. grain cargoes passing through the Canal, with more than 20.4 million metric tons shipped so far this marketing year, October through January. That's a 36 percent increase over the same time period last year. Approximately 4 million tons (157.4 million bushels) of U.S. corn and 1.6 million tons (62.5 million bushels) of U.S. sorghum have transited the Canal since October 2013.

U.S. corn cargoes shipped through the Canal have increased more than 78 percent compared to 2012 volumes. Considering the 2013/2014 U.S. corn crop featured record production while the 2012/2013 U.S. corn crop experienced a severe drought, this is not surprising. According to the USDA's January World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates, U.S. corn production is expected to be a record 252.7 million tons (9.9 billion bushels) for the 2013/2014 marketing year that began in September 2013. This is a 30 percent increase compared to 2012/2013 marketing year.

China was the primary beneficiary of these cargoes with a 48 percent increase in shipments, followed by Japan and South Korea - end excerpt.

However, it is interesting to consider explanations for the slackened export pace of grains and oilseeds headed to Japan through the Panama Canal, as compared to the previous marketing year. Click on the chart and you'll see tonnage to Japan, Taiwan, and Guatemala are all trailing. This is surprising given 12/13 was a drought year. Here are some possible explanations. These nations have not yet regained full faith in the ability of the United States to be a reliable supplier. Or, since 2012/13 Gavilon has become a larger supplier of grains and oilseeds through United States west coast ports. This would mean fewer bushels of grains and oilseeds originating in New Orleans and transiting the Panama Canal.

NEBRASKA - a Movie Made with Real Farmers

A Conversation with the Freudenburg’s: Neal and Eula Freudenburg play a farm couple in the movie 'NEBRASKA'. It wasn't a stretch, because they are in fact a farm couple. Todd Gleason called them at their home one Monday morning in January and talked with them about their lives and the making of the movie.

Detroit's Urban Blight becoming Hantz Farms

During the 2013 AgMasters Program University of Kentucky's Ron Hustedde introduced agriculturalist to Hanrtz Farms. It is a project working to take the blighted areas of Detroit (between downtown and the 8 Mile Road) and turn them into farms. Todd Gleason spoke with Mike Score from Hantz Farms in 2010. You may listen to that interview.

Sunset in the Woods