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  • It may be a little early to start talking about 2015 planted acreage, but there are plenty of opinions on just how much farmers will increase soybean planting.

  • Crude oil futures have sunk to four-year lows, giving farmers an ample window to consider pricing their fuel needs for 2015.

  • Beginning Oct. 22, all Class I railroads will be required to publicly file weekly data reports regarding service performance.

  • Private analytical firm Informa Economics boosts U.S. soybean production above 4 billion bushels while holding corn production steady at 14.4 bb


  • Corn harvest is just shy of 1/3 complete, while soybean harvest has passed the halfway point, according to Monday's USDA-NASS weekly Crop Progress report. Corn harvest remains well off the average pace after another week of just single-digit progress as an overall percentage of this year's crop; as of Sunday, 31% of the nation's corn crop is harvested, up from 24% a week ago but off 7% from a year ago and 22% behind the previous average pace. The story's a little different for soybeans; farmers made better progress with that crop in the last week, going from 40% to 53% completion as of Sunday. That's still behind normal, though, as farmers had 61% of the crop harvested last year at this time. On average, 2/3 of the soybean crop is harvested by this time.See more from Monday's Crop Progress report One bright spot in Monday's report is corn maturation: It's caught up with the normal pace and, at 93%, means any frost at this point in areas where that's yet to happen will have minimal damage potential for the crop.Harvest has been a tough go in many parts of the Corn Belt in the last 2 weeks, when cooler temperatures and rainfall have been common. But, moving forward, much-improved harvest weather will likely show up as much bigger harvest completion numbers for both crops. Temperatures are expected to stay above normal through this week, with rainfall chances much fewer and farther-between than in recent weeks."Heavy rains across the southeastern two-thirds of Iowa early last week kept farmers out of the fields for several days and as a result we remain well behind the five-year average with only 19% of corn and 61% of soybeans harvested,” Iowa Ag Secretary Bill Northey said Monday. "The dry weather the last several days has been very helpful and farmers will be working long hours to get the crop in when conditions allow."Adds MDA senior ag meteorologist Kyle Tapley: "The precipitation forecast...remains rather dry across the Midwest and northern Plains. The dry weather across the Midwest and northern Plains would favor corn and soybean harvesting."Monday's federal crop data is likely to have just a slight impact on the grain markets moving through the overnight trade and into Tuesday's CME Group open-outcry session."Today's report is a little negative for prices tonight. I expect corn to start out 1 to 2 cents lower tonight," says Kluis Commodities market analyst and broker Al Kluis. "Today's report is likely to take [soybean] prices 2 to 3 cents lower tonight."Chat the data & the trade's response in Marketing Talk See more: 70-degree Temps Seen Propelling Harvest This Week Latest Field Shots: Illinois Farmers Mudding Out Corn Harvest

  • Long-disputed country-of-origin labeling, or COOL, gives U.S.-produced livestock a competitive advantage over its imported equivalent, according to a ruling handed down Monday at the World Trade Organization (WTO).Country-of-origin labeling, originally enacted in 2009 and revised in 2013, creates an environment in which livestock imported to the U.S. from Mexico and Canada faces a "detrimental impact" when it comes to "competitive opportunities" in the U.S. marketplace, for a number of reasons, according to WTO's Monday ruling."[COOL] necessitates increased segregation of meat and livestock according to origin; entails a higher recordkeeping burden; and increases the original COOL measure's incentive to choose domestic over imported livestock," according to the findings of a WTO compliance panel that found COOL to be in violation of the "Technical Barriers to Trade" (TBT) Agreement among the 3 nations. The decision handed down Monday -- one that now opens the U.S. to retaliation from Mexico and Canada in the cross-border trade of a list of ag products ranging from cattle to chocolate -- also affirms previous decisions in citing "increased record-keeping burden, new potential for label inaccuracy, and continued exemption of a large proportion of relevant products" for part of the reason COOL creates an environment favoring U.S.-produced livestock over animals raised in Canada or Mexico."These considerations confirmed that, as with the original COOL measure, the detrimental impact caused by the amended COOL measure's labeling and record-keeping rules could not be explained by the need to convey to consumers information regarding the countries where livestock was born, raised, and slaughtered," according to a WTO statement summarizing the body's ruling.Monday's ruling could open the door to retaliatory trade action from Canada and Mexico, something some U.S. livestock organizations want to avoid to prevent any erosion in the footing under current U.S. marketshare among the three nations and beyond."The United States must avoid retaliation from Canada and Mexico," National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) president Howard Hill says in an NPPC report. "Retaliatory tariffs on pork would be financially devastating to U.S. pork producers."Adds National Cattlemens' Beef Association (NCBA) president Bob McCan: "The announcement today by the WTO dispute panel on the U.S. Country of Origin Labeling rule brings us all one step closer to facing retaliatory tariffs from two of our largest trading partners. Our producers have already suffered discounts and faced the closure of a number of feedlots and packing plants due to the effects of this short-sighted regulation. COOL is a failed program that will soon cost not only the beef industry, but the entire U.S. economy, with no corresponding benefit to consumers or producers."Live cattle and hogs, beef and pork, corn, and some processed foods including pasta, corn syrup, prepared meat cuts and cheese are among the products that Canadian officials say could be targeted by any retaliatory trade action if COOL is not modified.Monday's ruling has accomplished something that's seemingly been impossible in the livestock industry, riling groups on opposite sides of the industry to a similar extent. One group, R-CALF USA, has long been a proponent of COOL and opponent of much of the work and action of NCBA. And while the group's leaders are still confident that COOL -- which they've long supported -- is necessary and justified, their reaction to Monday's action is similar in tone to that from NCBA."Congress must weigh this WTO ruling against our U.S. Constitution and our U.S. sovereignty very carefully and not engage in a knee-jerk reaction, which is precisely what the multinational meatpackers that do not have any particular loyalties to the United States, are asking Congress to do through their request that funding for COOL be stricken from the 2015 appropriations bill," according to R-CALF CEO Bill Bullard. "On the one hand, our U.S. courts have found COOL to be in full compliance with the United States' chosen form of government. On the other hand, the so-called world government, comprised of unelected and unappointed WTO officials, is now trying to supersede U.S. citizens' right of self-governance."Then there's the consumer side of the equation. This sector of the industry has long supported country-of-origin labeling as a way to keep the food consumer more informed. And WTO's action, according to some, threatens that consumer awareness."People have the right to know where the food they feed their families comes from. It is nonsensical that a label that lets consumers know the origin of their food is a trade barrier," according to Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. "Congress and USDA must stand up to the WTO and maintain the existing requirements for country of origin labeling. The WTO's continued assault against commonsense food labels is just another example of how corporate-controlled trade policy undermines the basic protections that U.S. consumers deserve. The United States should appeal the ruling and continue to fight for sensible consumer safeguards at the supermarket.”Moving forward, many groups are echoing the call from Hauter and Bullard to reexamine COOL and make changes to bring it into WTO compliance before retaliation can happen."Under the guidance of USDA, any changes to COOL to ensure full compliance with today’s decision should be able to be made administratively, while maintaining the integrity of COOL labels,” says National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson.Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) said Monday afternoon he agrees that COOL needs revamped, but it should be Congress' job to bring the policy back into compliance with WTO. "I’m a supporter of Country of Origin Labeling. It’s likely time for Congress to go back to the drawing board," Grassley says. "Country-of-origin labeling needs to be written and implemented clear of any trade distorting principles. As a member of the world trading community, we have an obligation to be trade compliant, even if we disagree with the rulings.Aside from any potential revisions taken up by federal officials or lawmakers in the near future, Monday's WTO ruling doesn't mean much yet. It's likely to be appealed, a process that could take years. The 2005 WTO case filed by Brazil that alleged the U.S. cotton program violated WTO rules and unfairly distorted the global marketplace for that crop was dropped recently after the two governments reached an agreement to terminate the case by the end of the month.See more on the 'Brazilian Cotton Case'See more from Monday's WTO ruling

  • This week's likely to see a lot of corn and soybean harvest progress around the nation's midsection. So, if your harvest pace catches up and you end up with a little more time than the last couple of falls to get some fieldwork done, fall herbicide treatments may be on your to-do list. If you're going to spray this fall, don't forget a few key tips to get the most out of your time, money and effort, one expert says.Keep these 5 points in mind when you go to put down herbicide in the fall, says Ohio State University Extension weed scientist Mark Loux. First, application timing: When is best? As long as you beat a "hard freeze," you should have fairly good control. But, once temperatures are regularly dipping well below 32 degrees, your window's likely closed."Anytime between now and Thanksgiving will work, and possibly later. We have applied into late December and still eventually controlled the weeds present at time of application," Loux says. "Once hard freezes start to occur, there is usually a substantial change in the condition of certain weeds, such as dandelion and thistle, that renders them less sensitive to herbicides. We discourage applications during periods of very cold weather which can occur starting about Thanksgiving, and also (obviously) when the ground is snow-covered."Now, what about crop residue left in the field? That's a concern in a growing number of fields where conservation tillage and no-till are common practices. But will all that "trash" keep your herbicide from working? Not necessarily, Loux says. But, it never hurts to play it safe if you're worried about overall spray efficacy."We have not worried about this, and the herbicides seem to work regardless.  Most dealers I have asked seem to have the same impression," he says. "On the other hand, it probably wouldn’t hurt to wait a while after harvest to let the residue settle down, and the weeds to poke through. Dense crop residue usually prevents marestail from emerging anyway."Next, keep it simple. The goal of fall-applied herbicides is a simple one -- to knock down weeds that are already emerged -- so don't make things more complex than they need to be, Loux advises."Keep in mind that the primary goal is control of weeds that have already emerged.  This is hard to accomplish with a single herbicide, but there are a number of relatively low cost two-way mixtures that easily achieve this goal.  Our philosophy has generally been to start with 2,4-D, and then add another herbicide that results in more comprehensive control. Herbicides that make the most sense to add to 2,4-D based on our research: glyphosate, dicamba, metribuzin, simazine, Basis (and generic equivalents), Express (and generic equivalents), Canopy/Cloak DF or EX, or Autumn Super," he says. "These allow either corn or soybeans to be planted the following year with these exceptions:  simazine -- corn next year; Canopy/Cloak -- soybeans next year; Basis - possibly restricted to corn based on rate and geography. We do not see the need for three-way mixtures, although a case can be made to add a low rate of glyphosate to a two-way mix to control grass or improve activity on perennials."What about including a residual herbicide? Don't bother this time of year, Loux says. Especially if your applications have to wait until later in the fall, they'll likely degrade, dilute or get flushed away, leaving "inadequate concentrations of herbicide remaining in spring to control emerging weeds."Almost all of them peter out over the winter and fail to provide any control of spring-emerging weeds. Our research has repeatedly shown that applying other residual herbicides in the fall to get control in spring is a waste of money," he says. "The good news here is that any effective fall herbicide treatment with or without residual will result in a weed-free seedbed in spring, usually into April, so that the spring-applied burndown/residual treatment just has to control small weeds that emerge in the few weeks prior to planting. That is the goal."Finally, go easy on the amount of herbicide you put down this time of year, both to keep your total weed control budget in check as well as create the most effective weed-kill, Loux says."It doesn’t take a lot of herbicide to control weeds in fall, just the right ones. There is a tendency for some manufacturers to promote an expensive mixture of too many herbicides that just isn’t necessary. Avoid most residual herbicides, and also those that mainly 'speed up the kill,'" he adds. "Consider that fall treatments should comprise not more than about 25% of your total herbicide budget for a crop, and it can be accomplished for even less than that."

  • The large size of fall-harvested crops in the U.S. has raised very real concerns about the ability to readily store the record supply of crops available this year. Supplies that exceed permanent storage capacity require the use of temporary storage facilities or may require delayed harvest in some circumstances. However, weather-related harvest delays to date and a rapid rate of consumption mean that overall storage issues may be less severe than feared this year.The supply of crops to be stored in the fall of the year consists of the inventory already in store as well as the newly harvested crops. The USDA's September Grain Stocks report showed the inventory of feed grains, wheat, and soybeans on September 1, 2014, at 3.528 billion bushels, 422 million bushels larger than the inventory of the previous year. The October Crop Production report estimated that the corn, sorghum, and soybean harvest would total 18.806 billion bushels, 1.134 billion bushels larger than last year's harvest. The fall supply of feed grains, wheat, and soybeans is estimated to be 22.334 billion bushels, 1.556 billion bushels larger than the supply of a year earlier. The majority (62%) of the total year-over-year increase in supply comes from larger corn supplies.Each year, the USDA provides an estimate of on-farm and off-farm grain storage capacity based on surveys conducted in December. Total storage capacity as of December 1, 2013, was estimated at 23.44 billion bushels. Some additional capacity has been added in 2014, but the total fall crop supply this year likely represents about 95% of total storage capacity. While overall storage capacity appears to be fully adequate to handle the available crop supply, issues develop because some of that capacity is occupied by other crops. More importantly, the location of available storage capacity does not always align with the location of fall-harvested crops. Still, not all of the supply has to be stored. Harvest occurs over a relatively long period of time, and crops are continually consumed.Harvest has proceeded more slowly this year than in the recent past due to wet weather in some major producing areas. As of October 12, the USDA estimated that only 24% of the corn acreage had been harvested, compared to the previous five-year average of 43%. That average includes 2009 when only 13% of the acreage had been harvested as of the same date. Soybean harvest has been a little more timely, but was estimated at only 40% complete as of October 12, compared to the previous five-year average of 53%. The slower pace of harvest has allowed for more crops to be consumed as harvest progresses, reducing the overall requirement for storage space.More Grain Storage FeaturesGear Up Your Grain Bins Keep Stored Grain In Good Shape 8 Tips For Long-Term Grain StorageWorried About Having Enough Grain Storage? Grain Storage Ideas From All Around The Farm Based on USDA weekly export inspection estimates, exports of feed grains, wheat, and soybeans from September 1 through October 16 totaled about 625 million bushels. Based on the USDA's projection of feed and residual use of corn for the 2014-15 marketing year and the recent seasonal pattern of that use, about 1.225 billion bushels of corn were likely used in that category during that same time period. Similarly, about 800 million bushels of corn were likely used for domestic food and industrial products, mostly ethanol. Feed and residual use of other feed grains and wheat was likely near only 50 million bushels as residual use of wheat is often negative during the fall quarter. Based on the National Oilseed Processor Association (NOPA) estimate of the domestic soybean crush for September and assuming a normal seasonal increase in October, about 170 million bushels of soybeans were likely processed during that time period. Based on a typical seasonal pattern, seed, feed, and residual use of soybeans was likely near 150 million bushels. Food and industrial use of wheat and feed grains other than corn would have been near 180 million bushels if use followed a typical seasonal pattern.In total, it is likely that consumption of feed grains, wheat, and soybeans during the period from September 1 through October 16 totaled about 3.2 billion bushels, or about 69.6 million bushels per day. That pace of use continues so that nearly 16% of the total fall crop supply has already been consumed. That magnitude of consumption has substantially reduced the requirement for crop storage capacity, resulting in a modest strengthening of the corn and soybean basis in many areas.While overall crop storage issues may be less severe than anticipated, regional issues persist. In addition, a more rapid pace of harvest, particularly for corn, is expected to occur this week and beyond as weather conditions remain favorable over much of the production area. A rapid pace of harvest would be expected to keep basis levels for corn and soybeans seasonally weak. A typical postharvest recovery in basis levels, however, is expected.Editor's note: Darrel Good is an ag economist with University of Illinois Extension.