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  • As of mid-April, high water conditions on the Ohio River and Lower Mississippi River (LMR) continue to affect navigation conditions, reducing tow sizes and delaying transit times.

  • The Port of Portland lost a second major container shipping company, Hapag-Lloyd, at the end of March. The first was Hanjin Shipping Co., which accounted for 78% of the port's business. The news is not good for shippers who relied on the Port of Portland to ship, among other things, agriculture products.

  • Farmers outside of traditional sorghum growing areas are considering adding acres to the mix this year as demand from China changes the supply and demand picture.

  • Brian Lohmar, the U.S. Grains Council's China Director, attempts to answer one of the most prescient questions in the grain markets: Will China import more corn?

Agriculture.com

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  • Telling corn farmers that ethanol is vital for decent prices could be preaching to the choir. After all, USDA projects corn purchases for ethanol and its byproducts to reach 5.2 billion bushels in the current marketing year, just barely behind to top corn market for livestock feed (and residual use) at 5.25 billion bushels.But just in case we’ve forgotten, one of the nation’s leading choir directors for the ethanol industry, Jeff Broin, wants to remind us. Broin is executive chairman and founder of one of the nation’s largest ethanol producers, POET, LLC, based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. And he’s co-chairman of the ethanol trade group, Growth Energy, which petitioned the EPA to approve 15% ethanol blends, E15, for use by most of the cars and trucks on the road today.“I think some farmers understand the importance of ethanol. I think that more understood it 15 or 20 years ago than understand it today,” Broin told Agriculture.com in an exclusive interview this week. “I think somehow some have forgotten the importance of ethanol in that it really changed the agricultural paradigm that we all lived 20 or 30 years ago.”“Back in the early 1980s when my father started looking at producing ethanol on his farm, corn prices were as low as $1.30 a bushel while costing more than two times that much to produce. At the time, not only was there a surplus of grain and low prices, there were set-aside acres and also storage payments for farmers to store corn that there was no market for,” Broin recalled. “So, from a farmer’s perspective, in the early 1980s the future of agriculture looked pretty bleak. That’s when my father built the small plant on his farm, which eventually led us to purchase a bankrupt facility and start what is today POET. The growth of ethanol over the next 20 years would definitely begin to balance the commodity supplies, not just for the U.S. but for the entire world.” Pointing to two graphs that show recent trends in U.S. ethanol production and farm income, Broin makes the case that even more ethanol production is needed.“If you look at the crop producer, the American farmer, ethanol is very important to them,” Broin said “There’s a graph that shows that as ethanol production grew, grain prices went up as well. But after ethanol production stabilized and plateaued, shortly after that, grain prices started to drop.  If you look at the increases in yield in the U.S. and around the world, and then you look at all the uses of corn and the rate at which they’re increasing, there is no way we can use up the future supply of corn and balance the market without more ethanol production and a higher percentage of ethanol in gasoline.”The graph showing income starting to fall is based on USDA data that was published by Congressional Research Service.In June, the EPA is expected to announce its proposed blending mandates, known as renewable volume obligations (RVOs) under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Broin’s case for blending higher levels of ethanol comes at the same time that a group of 37 U.S. senators called on the Agency to “reverse course from the 2014 proposed rule and maintain a strong RFS.” If the EPA followed the original goals of the RFS in the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act, the implied mandate for corn ethanol would be about 15 billion gallons this year, well above more than 13 billion gallons used in the U.S. in 2014. When asked what he thinks EPA will do, Broin said it’s difficult to predict.“We’re hopeful that the government stands behind its initial commitment in the RFS and holds to the volumes that we’re committed to,” Broin said. “I think it’s obvious that we can produce enough ethanol to meet the RFS and I think it’s also obvious that we have the corn supply and now cellulose as well to meet or exceed the RVO numbers. In addition, E15 is moving into several markets in the country and starting to increase the use of ethanol.”POET and other ethanol producers have been working with the National Corn Growers Association to offer incentives to regional fuel chains that agree to sell E15 and another announcement in the Midwest is expected soon.That’s one reason Broin thinks ethanol production for the U.S. market could be expanded.“The industry has produced well above the renewable fuel standard many times in the past, and I believe it will again in the future. In addition, cellulosic ethanol will create new volumes as well.”Poet is one of three large companies, along with DuPont and the Spanish energy company, Abengoa, that is starting to commercialize cellulosic ethanol. POET began making cellulosic ethanol at its Emmetsburg corn ethanol plant last September in a joint venture with Royal DSM of the Netherlands. The  POET-DSM Advance Biofuels cellulosic plant has a capacity of 20 million gallons which will be ramped up to 25 million gallons. A smaller, 2-million gallon capacity bolt-on plant at Quad County Corn Processors in Galva, Iowa, claims to be first in commercial cellulosic production last year with a process than converts corn kernel fiber into the advanced fuel.So far, cellulosic ethanol production has lagged behind the original targets in the RFS and when the EPA proposed lowering mandates in November, 2013, investment in more cellulosic ethanol plants was considered a victim of the apparent weakening of EPA commitment to expanding ethanol use. EPA leaders have suggested that targets to be announced in June will be larger and that the agency will be “getting the program back on track.”Broin said the EPA needs to support cellulosic ethanol through the RFS as well, or the industry could move outside of the U.S.“As we look to building cellulosic ethanol plants, we’ve had significant interest from other countries around the world,” Broin said. “EPA needs to continue to show support for both grain and cellulosic ethanol, or there’s a high probability these plants could  be built somewhere else. America and rural America will miss the opportunity to create the jobs and the revenue here.” “It could be almost anywhere. There’s waste cellulose in virtually every country in the world,” he added. “The U.S. currently has a billion tons of cellulose that goes to waste every year, that could produce 80 billion gallons of fuel, which is enough to replace our imports of oil for automobiles.”If ethanol production from corn also doesn’t expand, Broin worries that the effects of depressed corn prices will ripple through the farm economy.“We’ve seen more than a trillion dollars in increased land values in the last seven years, thanks to a balanced commodity supply, that was buoyed up by ethanol production,” Broin said. “All that new land value, that balance sheet value, could easily go away like it did back in the 80s. Why? Because ethanol quit growing.”“It changes the dynamics worldwide, for everyone, including the African farmer, the Indian farmer, and the Venezuelan farmer and the Ukraine farmer,” Broin said.     

  • There is a buzz in the digital world that is trickling down to the ag community – farmers who purchase a tractor from John Deere don’t really own that tractor.It all stems from an article that appeared recently on Wired.com, “We can’t let John Deere destroy the very idea of ownership.” The article claims that the language in a recent filing in the U.S. Copyright Office by the Illinois-based company bears that out by stating farmers receive “an implied license for the life of the vehicle to operate the vehicle.”Rather than speculate on what that means, we asked John Deere to comment on the impact this filing has on farmers.“What we are doing, much like many other industries, is protecting the computer software code in our vehicles,” says Barry Nelson, John Deere’s manager of media relations. “This is a larger issue beyond John Deere vehicles, however. This affects anything that basically has a computer in it. Not all computers are open source."Think of it this way. You go into a bookstore and purchase a book. Even though you own the book, you do not have the right to copy, modify, or distribute copies of the book to others.“This is copyright law, but our filing expands it to the idea of software,” he explains. “The individual who wrote this article made it seem like John Deere is unique in this filing when, in fact, there are a number of industries involved.”Nelson says there are a number of reasons why the company is taking this approach including safety, government regulation, and performance.“We don’t want people hacking into the code on our computers that could lead to poor performance, faulty emissions, or other issues with our equipment,” Nelson says.It’s also about maintaining the standards set by the government. “With Final Tier 4, we’ve adjusted settings to be in compliance with emissions regulations,” he notes.However, he emphasizes that all of this does not mean you don’t own your tractor. “If a customer buys a John Deere tractor from us, he owns the tractor. He can still run diagnostics on his machine to repair it or work with his dealer for software-specific issues. If the farmer and the dealer know what the issue is, they can repair it, change the oil, provide maintenance, and do all the things they have always done.”

  • The weekend looks to be a wet, cool one in much of the Corn Belt, but by the beginning of next week, it will likely be go-time for corn farmers looking to get their crop planted, forecasters say."By Sunday, dry weather will prevail across all of the Midwest with an almost completely dry pattern expected across the corn belt through all of next week. The dry weather will be accompanied by gradually warming temperatures as well, with temperatures returning to normal or even slightly above normal levels by the end of next week," says MDA Weather Services senior ag meteorologist Kyle Tapley. "This weather pattern should be nearly ideal for corn planting, with a huge portion of the corn crop likely to be planted during that time period across the heart of the Corn Belt."See more of the latest weather chat, news and features!Late April Weather OutlookPublished: 4/24/2015Watch Late April Weather Outlook in the Agriculture VideoChatting Weather in Floor TalkPublished: 4/24/2015At mid-session, the May corn futures are trading 5 1/2 cents lower at $3.65 per bushel. The Dec corn futures are 5 3/4 cents lower at $3.88 per bushel. May soybean futures are trading 8 1/4 cents lower at $9.70. Nov. soybean futures are trading 8 cents lower at $9.53.Market Starter: Promising Planting Weather Ahead?Published: 4/24/2015Grain and soy markets began the overnight session on a firmer note but that buying quickly faded and it would appear that we are set to finish the week on a sour note. By far, corn has taken the brunt of the negative action this week as at the current trade we would be down between 10 and 11 ...Get Frosty At Your Farm? Check Planted Seed For Damage NowPublished: 4/24/2015Frosty temperatures were common in much of the Corn Belt overnight, and all signs point to a cooler-than-normal mid-range forecast for the region, one that doesn't inspire a lot of confidence in much early corn and soybean planting progress.El Niño Pattern Building; Cooler Midwest Summer Ahead?Published: 4/20/2015After a couple years of floundering around in seeming purgatory between La Niña and El Niño, the outlook has finally tilted toward the latter, a report that could foreshadow a break in crop-stressing weather conditions where it's needed most and more favorable crop weather for the Corn Belt.NASS - Publications - Current State Crop Progess and Condition ReportsPublished: 4/14/2015USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service Information. NASS publications cover a wide range of subjects, from traditional crops, such as corn and wheat, to specialties, such as mushrooms and flowers; from calves born to hogs slaughtered; from agricultural prices to land in farms. The agency has the distinction of being known as The Fact Finders of U.S.Some wet, some dryPublished: 4/24/2015Took a fast trip down and back 1-75 last week. Detroit Michigan to Southern Florida Had to be back for a commitment that could not be cancelled by Sat. I know this is not a very large area of crops, but was surprised that not one field had even started tillage or planting all the way down and back.CoCoRaHS - Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow NetworkPublished: 4/14/20153,741 daily precipitation reports received today as of 4/14/2015 8:31 AM EDT The saying " COCORAHS ACROSS THE UNITED STATES, CANADA, PUERTO RICO AND THE U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS! Rain doesn't fall the same on all" really proves to be true. How often have you seen it rain in your neighborhood and a few blocks away not a drop has fallen.USDA Weekly Weather & Crop BulletinPublished: 4/14/2015WeatherPublished: 4/14/2015Tweets by @FreeseNotisWx EVENING WEATHER UPDATE - 5:10 PM CDT Monday, April 13, 2015 MIDWEST U.S. - Today, a cold front brought rain to southern IL, IN, southern MI, and western OH. Most of these areas received .1-.25+ inches of rain, with some spots seeing up to .5+ inches.

  • PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil (Agriculture.com) - After the biggest truck strike in 15 years that began in February and March, Brazilian truckers are again blocking highways around the country to protest higher fuel costs and low freight prices combined with poor road infrastructure. A meeting between representatives of the movement and the government was held on Wednesday. As there was no agreement, truckers started to block roads by the first hours of the day on Thursday.The blockades are an issue of deep concern for farmers and deserve a close market-watch as the situation affects at least six important agricultural states of Brazil including Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, Paraná, Mato Grosso do Sul, Mato Grosso, and Minas Gerais. The states mentioned are big producers of at least one of the following crops: soybeans, corn, rice, coffee, cotton, and wheat.The Association of Corn and Soybean Growers released a public statement saying that indeed there will be "commercial losses" for farmers in the short-term. As Mato Grosso approaches the second corn crop harvest, which happens in early June, storage becomes an issue of worry. "We're at the peak of the sales and need flux. Buyers need to need to know the price of the freight. At the mid-term, we will have storage problems as we need to ship the beans to make more space for the corn that will be harvested," explained association president Ricardo Tomczyk at the statement. Tomczyk also cited concerns with contract deadlines and repercussions with importers.Market-wise, the only certain thing is that the soybean price would be pressured in the coming days. "It is yet very premature to estimate consequences for shipments because we don't know the extent of the strike. If the strike is big (in numbers and time), there will be delays on the deliveries at the ports this year," forecasts Porto Alegre market analyst Carlos Cogo in an interview with Agriculture.com.Brazil's truck strike resumesBrazil Strike Will ReturnAlso: Infrastructure Holds Back Brazilian Farmers[POP HORIZ VIDEO] At this time, there is no clear sign of when the strike will end. Brazil's Presidency Secretary General, Miguel Rossetto, who participated in the negotiations with truckers, has minimized the impact of the strike and says that the government cannot do much about the truckers' demands. "We cannot do an economic intervention without legal support," announced Rossetto, who also promised to fine the drivers who block the roads. The fines can get up to R$ 100,000 (US$ 35,248) per day.At the side of truckers, Carlos Dahmer, one of the leaders of the movement in Rio Grande do Sul, promised to continue the strike: "We've started the strike, but only the government can end it," said Dahmer, president of the Union of Independent Cargo Workers of Ijuí. As a form of precaution, this time around several truckers avoided loading the truck and driving if they already knew a stretch will be blocked in their path.In previous years, Brazil's oil giant, Petrobras, has fixed gas prices lower than the international market. Right now, the company changed the policy to recover recent losses from corruption and mismanagement. At the same time, the government has increased fuel taxes since February 1 to fight a fiscal crisis - one of the factors that pushed the first strike. "Independent truckers end up suffering a lot with these changes. And owners of fleets also do not want to reduce margins. But the freight prices are made of several factors that cannot change overnight," Augusto Pinho de Bem, a researcher at the Foundation of Economics and Statistics of Rio Grande do Sul, tells Agriculture.com.For Paulo Moura, a professor of political science at the Lutheran University of Brazil, the strike is a result of a major political and economic crisis that Brazil has lived over the last months. The country faces a severe recession with annual inflation close to 9% and growing unemployment as the Federal Police investigate cases of corruption, and unprecedented mass street riots call for the impeachment of incumbent president, Dilma Rousseff. Moura affirms that the crisis will only get worse in the coming weeks and months. "I think that truckers feel deceived by this government. There will be no quick solution and a radicalization of the protests can happen. The government is likely to unblock the roads just with a severe lack of supply. The second semester in Brazil tends to be even more critical [politically] with the opening of an impeachment process at the Brazilian Congress," says Paulo Moura in an interview with Agriculture.com.

 

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