April 2018
Ag Insight

Ag Insight

Alabama Farmers Named to Pork Producers Delegate Body

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced the appointment of 157 producers and six importers to the 2018 National Pork Producers Delegate Body. Included in the appointments are Tim Donaldson of Cullman and Daniel Tubbs of Oakman.

The National Pork Board and the delegate body were established under the Pork Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Act of 1985.



Soybean Plantings Predicted to Exceed Corn

For the first time, the area of soybeans planted in the United States is expected to exceed the area planted for corn, according to USDA’s recently released agricultural projections through 2027.

The two crops are the most widely produced in the United States, accounting for over half the acres planted.

Explaining the change, USDA notes corn production has benefited from sustained growth in yield per acre, allowing farmers to dedicate less land to corn while maintaining the same output. While soybean yields also have improved, the relative gains are not as large.

As corn yields grow, overall area planted is projected to continue trending lower.

In addition, soybean demand is heavily tied to domestic and international demand for meat because soybean meal is a primary component of animal feeds across species. Rising incomes in many emerging economies have translated to increased meat consumption and international demand for soybeans.

This rising demand is expected to place upward pressure on soybean prices, increase producer return and encourage further plantings.


USDA Webpage Offers Resources for Opioid Crisis

Rural communities looking for information on how to respond to the opioid crisis now have a new webpage from USDA featuring resources to provide assistance.

"While no corner of the country has gone untouched by the opioid crisis, small towns and rural places have been particularly hard hit," said Anne Hazlett, Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development.

The National Center for Health Statistics estimates over 63,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2016. Over half those deaths involved opioids, including prescription drugs and heroin.

USDA is working to help rural communities address this national problem at the local level through program investment, strategic partnerships and best practice implementation.

Those interested in more information should go to USDA website and search for USDA Launches Webpage Highlighting Resources to Help Rural Communities.



U.S. Grocery-Store Food Prices Down in 2017

Last year marked the second consecutive year average grocery-store prices have declined.

At-home food prices in 2017 were 0.2 percent lower than 2016, according to USDA’s Economic Research Service. The decline followed a larger 1.3 percent drop in 2016 – the first drop in annual grocery-store prices since 1967.

In contrast to falling food prices, overall inflation (prices for all goods and services, including food) rose 1.3 percent in 2016 and 2.1 percent in 2017.

During 2016-17, lower food-at-home prices were driven, in part, by increased domestic production of agricultural commodities such as beef cattle and eggs, lower transportation costs due to lower oil prices and a strong U.S. dollar that can make imported foods less expensive.

Grocery-store price changes can be volatile year to year. However, the 20-year moving average, or average price change for the previous 20 years, has been slowly declining from 4 percent in 1998 to 3.1 percent in 2008 to 2.1 percent in 2017.


U.S. Agency Opens Vietnam Office

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service recently celebrated the opening of its new office in Hanoi, Vietnam.

The office is expected to play a vital role in helping expand the United States’ $2.5 billion agricultural export market in Vietnam.

"Growing agricultural trade between the United States and Vietnam means new opportunities for American producers," said Greg Ibach, USDA undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs.

"With this increase in trade comes increased pest and disease risk, and our in-country expertise will ensure the safest trade possible, while still providing greater options for U.S. consumers.

"Having an APHIS office in the heart of Hanoi will not only help maintain existing markets, but foster new opportunities for American farmers who set the worldwide standard for food production."

"Vietnam is one of the fastest-growing global markets for U.S. farm and food products, currently ranking as our 11th-largest customer," said Ted McKinney, USDA undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs.

"The expansion of USDA’s presence in Vietnam is a clear indication of this country’s importance as a U.S. trading partner. The on-the-ground technical expertise of the APHIS team will be an important complement to the trade policy and market development work being done by our Foreign Agricultural Service staff."

The APHIS Hanoi office will maintain technical working relationships with their Vietnamese counterparts to resolve any concerns associated with the science-based standards both countries employ to prevent the introduction of animal and plant pests and diseases. By doing so quickly and locally, APHIS can help keep trade moving and benefit the producers and economies of both countries.

The opening of the APHIS office comes some 50 years after the Vietnam War’s Tet Offensive early in 1968, the major attacks on U.S. military installations, provincial and district capitals, as well as on the major cities of Saigon, Danang and Hue. The two-month-long offensive by the North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong fighters resulted in defeat for those forces, but it marked the tipping point in how the war ultimately would conclude.

The United States ended its military involvement in Vietnam in 1973. Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese in 1975. North and South Vietnam were unified the next year.



SNAP Benefits Go to Changing Demographic Mix

In an average month in fiscal year 2017, USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program provided 42.1 million low-income Americans with benefits to purchase food at authorized food stores.

The number of people receiving SNAP benefits has declined by 11.5 percent since the historical high of an average 47.6 million monthly in FY 2013.

In the 2016 FY (the latest year for which demographic data is available), adults age 18-59 accounted for 44.1 percent of participants, children younger than age 5 accounted for 13.4 percent of participants, school-age children accounted for 30.7 percent and the elderly accounted for 11.8 percent.

The composition of SNAP participants, as well as the overall SNAP caseload, can be affected both by changing economic conditions and modifications to program requirements. The composition shifted after the 2007-09 recession, as more working-age adults became eligible for the program and applied for benefits.

Working-age adults’ share of the SNAP caseload increased from 42.1 percent in 2006 to 46.4 percent in 2013, but has declined each year since then.



Winter Wheat Acreage Projected
Lowest in 109 Years

Winter wheat seedings – seeds planted for the next marketing year – are projected to be the lowest in 109 years even though the USDA estimate, based on 82,000 farmer surveys, generally exceeded industry expectations.

Winter wheat seedings for the 2018-19 marketing year are estimated at 32.6 million acres, slightly below the 2017-18 seeding estimate of 32.7 million acres.

In Kansas, the leading winter wheat-producing state, planted area is up 200,000 acres for the 2018 marketing year. Planted area is also up slightly in Texas. Collectively, these gains are not enough to offset the losses elsewhere.

Reduced profitability and agronomic factors reduced winter wheat plantings in Colorado and Oklahoma. These factors included delayed seeding due to a late corn harvest, disease challenges and below-average soil moisture levels.

The current projection for 2018 is less than 1 percent below 2017, but is down 10 percent from 2016.

Hard red winter wheat planted area is projected to be 23.1 million acres, a decline of 2 percent from 2017, while soft red winter planted area is forecast up 4 percent, year-to-year, to nearly 6 million acres.