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KC Wheat is surging, stay long

“Charting is a little like surfing. You don’t have to know a lot about the physics of tides, resonance, and fluid dynamics in order to catch a good wave. You just have to be able to sense when it’s happening and then have the drive to act at the right time.” ~ Ed Seykota

Corn corrected to support, trend now sideways

Market showing signs of a change of direction.  Outside days, reversals, & breaking trend lines could contribute evidence of the turn.  Increasing volume would confirm the change whereas decreasing volume would indicate the move is temporary.

China’s 2020 Phase One Ag Purchases Well Below Target, But Back Up to 2017 Levels

Late last week, Aime Williams and Justin Jacobs reported at The Financial Times Online that, “China has purchased less than three-fifths of the US goods projected under the ‘phase one’ trade deal that paused a tariff dispute between the two countries a year ago, posing another challenge for the administration of Joe Biden in its relations with Beijing.”

“Chinese purchases of US exports fall far behind trade deal pledge,” by Aime Williams and Justin Jacobs. The Financial Times (January 21, 2021).

The FT writers indicated that, “According to analysis from the Peterson Institute for International Economics, Beijing has purchased just 58 per cent of the US exports expected under its projections, based on data to the end of last month.”

China has bought $23.5bn of the agricultural products covered by the deal, compared with an expected first-year figure of $36.6bn.

Looking ahead, Bloomberg News reported last week that, “As the pact enters its second year, all eyes are on whether a new U.S. administration under President Joe Biden will try to renegotiate the deal.

“China Failed to Meet U.S. Trade Deal Target in 2020 Amid Pandemic,” Bloomberg News (January 21, 2021).

Meanwhile, Lingling Wei and Bob Davis reported in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal that, “Looking to reset the troubled U.S.-China relationship, Beijing is pressing for a meeting of its top diplomat with senior aides to President Biden to explore a summit between the two nations’ leaders, according to people with knowledge of the initiative.”

The Journal article also stated that, “It isn’t clear whether Mr. Biden’s choice for U.S. Trade Representative, Katherine Tai, will push for enforcement of the Phase One deal or press for a new round of negotiations.”

In more narrow reporting regarding agricultural purchases, Reuters writers Hallie Gu and Dominique Patton reported last week that, “China’s soybean imports from the United States in 2020 rose by 52.8% from a year earlier, customs data showed on Wednesday, though the stepped up buying likely fell short of what was needed to fulfil last year’s trade deal between the countries.

“The world’s top soybean buyer last year brought in 25.89 million tonnes of the oilseed from the U.S., its second-largest supplier, up from 16.94 million tonnes in 2019.”

The Reuters article explained that, “Besides the push to meet the trade deal, soybean imports also rose as China rapidly replenished its pig herd after it was decimated by the deadly African swine fever during the last two years.”

And a separate Reuters News article last week reported that, “China’s grains imports soared to record highs in 2020, customs data showed on Monday, after tight domestic corn supplies pushed prices to multi-year peaks, driving demand for cheaper imports.

“China, the world’s top agricultural market, bought a record 11.3 million tonnes of imported corn last year, including 2.25 million tonnes in December alone, according to General Administration of Customs data.”

“China also imported a record 8.38 million tonnes of wheat, against a quota of 9.64 million tonnes,” the Reuters article said.

In other news impacting Chinese grain demand, Reuters writer Dominique Patton reported on Thursday that, “A new form of African swine fever identified in Chinese pig farms is most likely caused by illicit vaccines, industry insiders say, a fresh blow to the world’s largest pork producer, still recovering from a devastating epidemic of the virus.

“Two new strains of African swine fever have infected more than 1,000 sows on several farms owned by New Hope Liuhe, China’s fourth-largest producer, as well as pigs being fattened for the firm by contract farmers, said Yan Zhichun, the company’s chief science officer.

“Though the strains, which are missing one or two key genes present in the wild African swine fever virus, don’t kill pigs like the disease that ravaged China’s farms in 2018 and 2019, they cause a chronic condition that reduces the number of healthy piglets born, Yan told Reuters. At New Hope, and many large producers, infected pigs are culled to prevent the spread, making the disease effectively fatal.”

Farmers National Co: The Eastern Cornbelt Land Market Is Seeing Strong Prices

Source: blog by Randy Dickhut, Sr VP – Real Estate Operations, Farmers National Co., Omaha, NE

Buying interest in farmland has been stable for the past several years, but the number of callers and buyers grew from summer on through the balance of 2020 according to Linda Brier, Area Sales Manager for Farmers National Company in the eastern Cornbelt. Owning farmland has always been a priority for farmers, but interest in the real asset by investors grew the past year.

Prices for top-quality cropland sold at Farmers National Company auctions and through its listings increased significantly since before harvest. Demand for good farmland has definitely increased and we are seeing good cropland sell for prices last seen in 2013.

Government payments, low interest rates, and rising grain prices sustained farmers’ interest in buying land especially in the fall time frame. The boost in net farm income provided the financial comfort for farmers to more aggressively step into the land market. Add in the growing number of investors who want to own farmland and you have a strong demand driven land market comments Brier.

Public auctions are a common means of selling farmland in the Midwest. Covid-19 restrictions changed how farms are being sold depending on the time and the rules of the area. Farmers National Company has the most complete tool box of auction and sales methods of anyone to sell land. This includes all variations of online auctions. Farmers National Company agents use the best sales method available to bring about a successful sale for our clients observed Brier.

Farmers National Company’s land sales volume was up 35% during the final quarter of 2020 compared to last year despite there remaining a normal to lower supply of land for sale in the overall market. Looking ahead, Brier thinks investor interest and farmer demand coupled with a low supply of good cropland on the market will continue to drive the land prices in 2021.

Soybean Cyst Nematodes Keep Spreading, Economic Losses Increasing

“In just the past three years, soybean cyst nematode (SCN) has spread to 55 new U.S. counties in 11 states,” says Greg Tylka, Iowa State University (ISU) nematologist and co-leader of The SCN Coalition. “The most damaging soybean pathogen, SCN has also infested 24 new counties and rural municipalities in the Canadian provinces of Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec.”
Periodically, Tylka surveys plant health professionals at universities as well as state and provincial departments of agriculture in the U.S. and Canada about SCN’s spread.

“We compared the 2020 results with the 2017 survey. The results reveal steady expansion of the distribution of SCN throughout North America,” Tylka says. “And the pest will almost certainly continue to spread among and within soybean-producing areas.”

New York has greatest number of new infestations
At 29, New York reported the largest number of newly infected SCN counties in the United States. Gary Bergstrom, a plant pathologist at Cornell University, says the first discovery of SCN in the state in 2016 led to an intensive SCN survey by Cornell Cooperative Extension educators coordinated by the state’s IPM program.

“SCN is now widespread in New York,” says Bergstrom. “Soybean growers are fortunate that in most fields where SCN has been detected, population densities are low, although it’s concerning that a few counties had higher numbers.”

Bergstrom is not surprised SCN continued to spread across New York given its steady expansion of soybean acres over the last few decades. “This should be a wake-up call for soybean growers in New York and neighboring states,” he adds. “SCN is coming to you if it’s not already there.

“Growers are asking more questions about SCN-resistant varieties, nematode-protectant seed treatments, and soil testing for SCN,” he adds. “Coalition resources are invaluable in our efforts to educate soybean growers about the importance of active management. Our next step is studying the virulence of SCN populations to help growers select SCN-resistant varieties.”

Economic loss from SCN $1.5 billion annually
Also, in 2020, plant pathologists from several land-grant universities published research examining the economic losses of soybean diseases. Using a variety of statistical approaches, the researchers estimated economic impacts of 23 common soybean diseases in 28 soybean-producing states in the U.S. from 1996 to 2016. The result: SCN caused estimated yield losses of nearly $32 billion during that time. That’s more than $1.5 billion annually.

“The magnitude of economic loss caused by SCN is due to three factors,” Tylka says. “It’s widespread and expanding distribution, its capacity to survive long term in the absence of soybeans, and its ability to consistently reduce yields.”

Management options to protect soybean yields
If SCN is left unmanaged, population densities and the potential for yield losses steadily increase. Unfortunately, SCN often goes unnoticed in fields because aboveground symptoms of damage and yield loss may not be visible.

“That’s why scouting fields and soil sampling are two key management tools, because it’s harder to reduce damaging SCN population densities than to keep them in check. The SCN Coalition also recommends growing soybean varieties with resistance to SCN in rotation with nonhost crops, and using nematode-protectant seed treatments,” Tylka says.

He encourages soybean growers to look for varieties that don’t contain resistance genes from the PI 88788 breeding line. “PI 88788 has been used in the vast majority of varieties for most of the last 30 years. That’s led to SCN populations increasingly reproducing on PI 88788 varieties and decreasing yields.” A list of varieties with Peking SCN resistance is available here.

Tylka’s 2019 soybean variety trials for ISU Extension showed the problem with PI 88788. In the trials, soybean varieties with the Peking source of resistance yielded 22 bushels per acre more than varieties with the PI 88788 SCN resistance.

Farm Credit System Unit Compeer Financial Commits $1.9 Million To Developing Ag’s Workforce

Compeer Financial, a Farm Credit cooperative based in the Upper Midwest, has committed $1.9 million in grants and scholarships over the next 5 years through its Agriculture and Rural Initiative to 30 post-secondary colleges.

The shortage of skilled workers is an ongoing challenge for farmers and other agriculture-related businesses. Compeer Financial, an organization whose mission is enriching agriculture and rural America, is serious about addressing the problem and is putting significant financial support behind the effort.

Compeer is partnering with community and technical colleges to bolster vocational agriculture education programs and make them more accessible to young adults. Last week, representatives from Compeer’s Fund for Rural America Board met with 30 post-secondary colleges to announce the first major gift from the Agriculture and Rural Initiative. The $1.9 million in grants and scholarships will go toward educational training for young adults pursuing a future in agricultural-related careers.

The Agriculture and Rural Initiative was created by the Compeer Financial Board of Directors in 2019 to make signature investments in programs and projects that directly address the needs of farmers and others who work in agriculture. Compeer Financial clients often list workforce development among their highest concerns.

“The agriculture industry offers an array of career opportunities, and jobs are waiting for those with the right skills,” said John Monson, chief mission and marketing officer. “We’re excited to work with our partners in higher education to provide opportunities for more young adults in rural communities and enhance training programs to prepare them for a successful future in agriculture.”

Compeer’s investment will be in the form of $1.6 million in grants and $375,000 in scholarships. Technical and community colleges participating in the effort serve 144 counties in Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin making up Compeer’s territory and have an established agriculture education program or pathway. Colleges may use the grants for equipment and technology; student recruitment, outreach, retention and professional development; and teacher training.

Each partner college will also receive two annual $1,250 scholarships to award to students enrolled in the school’s agriculture program or pathway over the next five years.

In addition to extending financial support, Compeer will connect partner colleges with team members who are alumni or live in the area to serve as resources for teachers, students and advisors. Through these relationships, Compeer can also be a conduit between graduates looking to put their training to work in the agriculture industry with clients who have jobs available.

“Compeer is a strong supporter of high school programs and organizations focused on agricultural education for youth,” said Roger Newell, a trustee of the Fund for Rural America. “This new area of focus will help take those students with a passion for agriculture and prepare them for life-long, rewarding careers.”

Lawsuit Alleges Crop Input Suppliers Collude In Pricing, by Katie Dehlinger, DTN

new lawsuit alleges crop input manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers coordinated a boycott of online sales platforms such as Farmers Business Network and AgVend to prevent greater price transparency, a move the lawsuit argues amounts to collusion to keep prices artificially high in violation of antitrust laws.

The lawsuit, which seeks class-action status, was filed in the U.S. District Court for southern Illinois by Barbara Piper on behalf of her late husband’s estate. Michael Piper, who farmed near Mt. Vernon, Illinois, died in 2017. The lawsuit argues that Piper paid more for Liberty herbicide than what would have been a sustainable price in a genuinely competitive market, just like many other farmers across the country.

Fourteen defendants are named in the legal filing, and among them, crop input manufacturers such as Bayer Crop Science, Corteva, Syngenta and BASF. The lawsuit alleges large wholesalers, particularly Cargill, Winfield Solutions and Univar Solutions, were complicit in anti-competitive practices along with retailers, including CHS, Nutrien Ag Solutions, Growmark, Simplot, Tenkoz and Federated Co-operatives.

In general, the companies named in the lawsuit say they believe the lawsuit is without merit and they intend to put forth a vigorous defense.

Boycotting Online Sales Platforms

The lawsuit argues the existing crop input distribution process, which uses a network of authorized retailers to reach customers, is designed to conceal pricing information, allowing companies to sell seed, chemicals and other inputs at higher profit margins while depriving farmers of information that would allow them to make better decisions.

“Farmers, through no fault of their own, are unwittingly paying more for crop inputs than they would in a truly competitive market,” the lawsuit states, arguing that input costs have risen substantially more than yields over the past 20 years. It argues that disparity is pushing farmers out of business. The lawsuit never mentions commodity markets or other factors that influence farm profitability.

The lawsuit details several companies’ reaction to Farmers Business Network’s (FBN) entry into the market, and the general concern that was widely discussed at CropLife America’s annual meeting in 2017. CropLife America is a trade association that represents major crop input manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers, but because there are no farmers on the board of directors, the lawsuit alleges, the organization’s meetings make “an ideal vehicle for collusion.”

The lawsuit alleges that retailer and wholesaler defendants pressured the manufacturers to refuse to supply FBN because electronic platforms would cut into their market positions and profit margins and that manufacturers complied by imposing strict conditions in its contracts with authorized retailers to prevent sales to the startup.

FBN attempted to break the boycott by purchasing Yorkton Distributors, a Canada-based retailer with decades-old supply agreements, but most of the manufacturing defendants canceled their contracts with Yorkton within a few months of the transaction. Instead, FBN began developing its own inputs.

AgVend, another online platform, shut down its efforts at online sales after manufacturers’ refusal to supply it.

“As a result of the Retailer, Wholesaler, and Manufacturer Defendants’ coordinated actions, farmers were deprived of the opportunity to purchase crop inputs at transparent, lower prices from electronic platforms. Instead, they were forced to continue paying artificially high prices for crop inputs purchased from local retailers subject to Defendants’ confidentiality requirements,” the lawsuit stated.

Canada’s Competition Bureau is formally investigating collusion, and the lawsuit said the U.S. Department of Justice is also considering opening a case.

Responses from Defendants

A representative from Corteva said they’re aware of the lawsuit “involving allegations relating to the manner in which several agricultural industry members marketed and sold products. Corteva believes that the allegations are factually and legally unsupported and will vigorously defend the case.”

A spokesperson for Syngenta said the company “is dedicated to the support and success of our customers, and we will vigorously defend any allegations that our actions have been improper or illegal.”

Bayer said it has not yet been served with the complaint, “and will review it in due course. Based on information in published reports, we believe the markets identified in this action are competitive, and the complaint has no merit.”

BASF also said it is aware of the lawsuit “alleging BASF and certain other manufacturers, distributors, and retailers of crop inputs violated antitrust laws. BASF strongly disagrees with the allegations in the lawsuit and intends to defend itself vigorously. Most importantly, BASF is committed to a fair and competitive marketplace that provides access for farmers to the critical products they need.”

A CHS representative said they’re aware of the filing, but it is company policy not to comment on pending litigation.

AgGateway, Agricultural Industry Electronics Foundation Align To Deliver Digital Solutions For Agriculture

AgGateway and the Agricultural Industry Electronics Foundation (AEF) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate on initiatives to increase the seamless exchange of information in farm operations, supporting the goals of growers in managing and using farm data. The agreement allows the two global, non-profit organizations to share information as needed to pursue agreed-upon projects, and to share the rights for resources they develop together.

“The goal is to make it much easier for growers to rapidly access and use information to improve productivity and sustainability,” said AgGateway President and CEO Wendy Smith. “Growers use systems that span across field equipment, on-farm computer systems and cloud systems, but often data still cannot flow seamlessly across these systems and functions. This agreement – which builds on our existing collaborative relationship with AEF – will make it easier to address those challenges.”

“The 200 agriculture equipment manufacturers and electronic component suppliers of the AEF work to ensure that all of their brands are compatible with one another and with other systems, so that farmers may operate as efficiently as possible in the field,” said Peter van der Vlugt, AEF Chair and General Manager, Kubota Innovation Center Europe. “Collaborating with AgGateway and ensuring that we are in alignment will support those efforts and ultimately better serve our farmer customers.”

As a first initiative in their collaboration, AgGateway and AEF may consider ways to address load/unload events in field operations. Load/unload refers to the ability to track the movement of harvested crop from the combine to the grain cart, to the semi (at the edge of the field) to the grain elevator.

The two groups note that better use of standards – and thus connectivity for beneficial data flow – is needed between the supply chain and field operations. The same is true of data formats optimized for equipment, and data optimized for on-farm computer systems.

More on AgGateway activities and how to become involved can be found at www.AgGateway.org

Bayer’s Third Generation Corn Rootworm Trait Gains Final Approval; SmartStax PRO Technology To Launch In U.S. In 2022

(PRNewsfoto/Bayer)

Bayer announced today receipt of the final safety certificate for import and food/feed use from China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs for the company’s third-generation corn rootworm trait (MON 87411). This approval represents the final key authorization for commercial introduction of SmartStax PRO Technology in the United States.

SmartStax PRO Technology is the next generation of corn rootworm protection, and the first product offering three modes of action for corn rootworm control. It combines the proven benefits of SmartStax Technology corn rootworm protection with a novel RNAi-based mode of action, providing improved control of corn rootworm over a range of pressure.

“We’re excited to receive this authorization and look forward to putting SmartStax PRO Technology in the hands of our grower customers,” said Scott Stein North America Corn Product Management Lead. “The introduction of a novel mode of action like RNAi will provide growers yet another tool to help control tough corn rootworm pests.”

RNAi-based technologies are developed from a naturally occurring process in the targeted plant or pest to stop or decrease the production of a specific protein and can be used to target specific pests, like the corn rootworm.

In addition to corn rootworm, SmartStax PRO Technology will offer growers protection against European corn borer, southwestern corn borer, fall armyworm, black cutworm and corn earworm.

“This is another example of Bayer’s continued commitment to providing new, innovative solutions and industry-leading technology that help growers address the tough challenges they face on their farms,” said Dr. Calvin Treat, Head of Crop Technology for Corn, Soybeans and Cotton. “We’re confident that SmartStax PRO Technology will provide tremendous value for growers.”

Bayer plans to conduct on-farm grower market development trials in 2021, while ramping up volume to meet grower needs for a U.S. commercial launch in 2022. Bayer also expects to have products to launch in Canada in 2023.

Mississippi State Entomologist Urges Use Of Bt Insecticides On Cotton, Not Corn In The South

The Beltwide Cotton Consultants Conference featured a panel on a very important topic for cotton growers in recent years, which is managing resistance to Bt insecticides that control bollworms. One of those on the panel was Mississippi State entomologist Dr. Jeff Gore.

“An important thing that we need to always remember is that these Bt traits are still extremely valuable for us,” said Gore. “I think it’s important to just always remember that even though we’re seeing some resistance and we’re having to spray some, it’s not the end of the world. The Bt is still providing a lot of value.”

Gore encouraged growers to avoid Bt corn varieties in order to help fight Bt resistance in cotton, noting that planting Bt corn in this region do not typically see the same return on investment as planting the same varieties in other parts of the country. Although he recognized the Bt trait can also be an important tool for corn, he urged growers across the Mid-South to save it for cotton.

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