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  • As the 2014-15 crop marketing year draws to a close, let's look at how basis fared in the past 12 months. In general, at the end of August 2015, corn, soybean and wheat basis is about 30 to 40 cents weaker than the 5-year averages for each crop.

  • The Surface Transportation Board needs to quickly move ahead with a comprehensive set of proposals for railroad grain shipping rates and rail revenue adequacy in order to create more certainty for both shippers and railroads, the former acting chairman of the STB told attendees at this year's National Grain and Feed Association Ag Transportation Summit.

  • I logged nearly 1,000 miles in the car over the past week, and I saw signs of this year's wet spring almost everywhere.

  • Manic-depressive behavior knows no borders.


  • The poultry industry has seen a decline in total egg production year-to-date, compared with 2014. A July USDA Chicken and Eggs report indicates that total egg production in the U.S. is 10% lower, and layers are down 9% compared to July of last year. Birds, states affectedSince December 2014, over 48 million birds have been affected by avian influenza (AI). The disease has been detected in 21 states, and positive cases included 211 commercial operations in the U.S.The cost of the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) outbreak to the poultry industry is high. The value of turkey and laying hen losses is estimated at nearly $1.6 billion, and economy-wide losses are estimated at $3.3 billion, according to a July report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS). The CRS July update goes on to say, “Since the HPAI outbreak in December 2014, 18 U.S. trading partners have imposed bans on all shipments of U.S. poultry and products, and 38 trading partners have imposed partial, or regional, bans on shipments from states or parts of states with HPAI cases. China, Russia, and South Korea, three of the top 10 destinations for U.S. poultry meat in 2014, have banned all imports of U.S. poultry.”Fall, winter outbreakThe last AI detection reported was June 17, 2015, but experts are predicting another potential outbreak this fall or winter as birds migrate south. According to the CRS report, a vaccine is being developed by the USDA, and APHIS is administering biosecurity measures to manage any future outbreak. Click here for the latest response information from the USDA and a biosecurity checklist.  July USDA Chicken and Eggs reportCompared to last year, total egg production in the U.S. is down by 10% for July 2015, and layers are down 9%, according to a USDA report released on August 21.Reported total U.S. egg production for July 2015 is 7.67 billion eggs. That includes 6.53 billion table eggs and 1.14 billion hatching eggs. Broiler-type eggs made up 1.06 billion eggs of total production, and 83 million were egg-type.The 329 layers reported on August 1, 2015, were made up of 271 producing table or market-type eggs, 54.6 million producing broiler-type hatching eggs, and 3.3 million producing egg-type hatching eggs. Egg-type chicks hatched during July 2015 increased by 1% from July 2014, for a total of 42.6 million. Broiler-type chicks also increased during July 2015, adding up to 805 million, 2% higher than July 2014. Details of the diseaseAvian influenza is a virus that can affect chickens, turkeys, pheasants, quail, ducks, geese, and guinea fowl, in addition to other birds. There are two types of AI that exist in the virus classification, and its ability of the virus to produce disease. Low pathogenic (LPAI) H5N1 is of less concern, and highly pathogenic (HPAI) H5N1, also known as “Asian” H5N1, is fatal in chickens and turkeys and spreads rapidly. Click here for more facts on avian influenza.

  • The Midwest is expected to experience warmer temperatures as we move into September, but encounter cooler conditions, overall, looking at the 31- to 60-day trend. Drier weather is also expected to sweep across the Corn Belt over the next 60 days, and, according to El Niño’s records, October should pan out to be drier than September. See details below. Outlook for August 30 – September 8
Most of the Midwest will experience cooler temperatures this week. However, as of Tuesday, August 25, the six- to 15-day forecast looks to be warmer, with overnight low temperatures expected to be five to eight degrees above normal, according to MDA Weather Services. While these warmer overnight lows could potentially cause some stress on corn kernel filling, Kyle Tapley, senior agriculture meteorologist for MDA Weather Services, says it should not pose a major threat. “First, the corn crop is already nearing maturity in southern areas,” says Tapley. “Second, by early September, even much-above normal temperatures would allow lows to drop into the 60s in most areas.”
See Weekly Crop Progress Report31- to 60-Day OutlookThe 31- to 60-day forecast has trended warmer for the northwestern Plains, Pacific Northwest, and western Prairies, but cooler for the Midwest, Delta, and Southeast regions. The Midwest, Delta, Southeast, and southern Plains are forecasted to have drier weather over the next 60 days, favoring corn and soybean harvest and winter wheat planting.“However, the drier pattern in the southern Midwest, Delta, and central Plains would reduce moisture and stress winter wheat germination,” says Don Keeney, senior agriculture meteorologist for MDA Weather Services. Drought Update
MDA Weather Services reports that two areas – east-central Illinois/west-central Indiana and northeast Iowa/southwestern Wisconsin – are two areas in the Midwest that have experienced prolonged dryness. Dry weather is expected over the next 10 days, increasing current conditions.The U.S. Drought Monitor shows that much of the Midwest remains drought-free, with the exception of southwestern Wisconsin.El Niño By MonthOctober tends to be the driest month of harvest season during El Niño, with the majority of wet conditions occurring across the western Midwest in September, according to MDA Weather Services.Historically, El Niño doesn’t present major issues for harvest season in the Midwest.“Of the four strong El Niño Years, where USDA harvest progress data is available, harvesting was well ahead of normal during three of those years – 1997, 1991, and 1987 – and was slightly behind normal in the remaining year of 1982,” says Tapley.

  • Commodity groups are responding positively Friday to an injunction issued late Thursday that at least temporarily blocks implementation of the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Waters of the U.S. rule. Judge Ralph Erickson of the District Court for the District of North Dakota found that 13 states suing to block the rule met the conditions needed for a preliminary injunction.The National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG), said the group is pleased by the thoughtful action of the North Dakota district court late Thursday to block implementation of the Waters of the U.S. regulation. The parties involved in the temporary injunction will not be subject to the new rule, effective today, and instead will be subject to prior regulation.” Regarding the court's action, NAWG president, Brett Blankenship made the following statement:“NAWG is encouraged by the action taken in the North Dakota district court to approve a temporary injunction against the Waters of the U.S. regulation.  This decision provides breathing room for grower concerns to be discussed in the courts without enforcement of the Environmental Protection Agency’s draconian new rule hanging over the heads of our nation’s family farmers.“We will watch closely the ongoing lawsuits and call on Congress to take action to address the regulation in a comprehensive manner. It is time for action to send the regulation back to the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to be rewritten.  Wheat growers support clean water and know the importance of protecting the natural resources that sustain our farming operations, feed our families, and feed a growing world population. The Waters of the U.S. regulation expands the reach of the Clean Water act and falls short in providing clarity to growers.”Chip Bowling, president of the National Corn Growers Association and a farmer from Newburg, Maryland, said in a statement:“We support the judge’s decision in North Dakota, which should give the courts and the public more time to figure out how to proceed with WOTUS. The Army Corps of Engineers has stated this rule is not based on science or law and is unlikely to withstand a legal challenge. When even the federal agencies responsible for this rule can’t agree on its constitutionality, it’s time for EPA to withdraw the rule and start this process over.“It is EPA’s view that this injunction only applies to the 13 states that filed the request. We believe EPA is incorrect. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time. Whether the injunction applies to 13 states or all 50, the WOTUS rule will have serious consequences for every farmer and rancher in America. It must not be allowed to stand. From the beginning, we have asked for a rule that provides farmers with clarity and certainty about their responsibilities under the Clean Water Act. Instead, what we got was less clarity and less certainty – along with more paperwork, more permits, and more hassle.“This court decision reinforces the need to permanently repeal the WOTUS rule. We urge the Senate to pass S. 1140, the Federal Water Quality Protection Act, as soon as possible. This law will force EPA to withdraw WOTUS and work with farmers and other stakeholders to rewrite the rule.“Clean water is important to all of us. NCGA is committed to working with the EPA, the Corps, and other stakeholders to protect America’s water resources.”National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Philip Ellis issued this statement Friday:“America’s cattlemen and women applaud the decision of the federal judge in North Dakota to block EPA’s “waters of the United States” rule, which was set to go in effect tomorrow, August 28. EPA’s rule is nothing more than an attempt to put more land and water under federal jurisdiction, blatantly disregarding private property rights. Over the last year and a half, the agency continually ignored the concerns of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, farmers, ranchers, and landowners across the country, to the point of calling the concerns of cattle producers ludicrous. In fact, only six months after receiving over 1 million comments, the agency pushed forward to finalize the rule, a clear indication there was no intention of considering public comment or stakeholder input. While the EPA claims it clarifies the Clean Water Act, even the Army Corps, which shares jurisdiction over the rule, has serious concerns for the scientific basis of the rule-making. In a statement released shortly after the decision was made, an EPA spokesperson said the ruling only holds for 13 states and that they plan to implement the rule in all others on Friday. If the EPA actually wants to protect navigable waters as it claims, they will put this subjective and ambiguous rule to rest and start over with stakeholders at the table this time around.”

  • Steve Meyer, the pork market specialist for Express Markets Analytics, saw demand for pork and beef building over the last couple of years, but it’s really taken off in 2015. “Total beef and pork expenditures are up another 14% to 16%,” he says. That doesn’t mean people are eating more red meat, it just means they are willing to pay more for the supply available. The total dollars spent on meat is in record territory again. Here are some positives Meyer sees for beef and pork. • Animal fats are no longer the whipping boy. Health and nutrition experts are turning more positive to animal proteins and fats. “Some even say they are necessary to good health,” says Meyer. “The old phobias are fading.”• The economy is picking up steam. Gross domestic product is set to grow 2% to 2.5% this year. While not phenomenal, it’s pretty good, says Meyer. Consumer income growth is uptrending by 3% to 3.5% this year; it was 0% two years ago.• Restaurants are growing and fuel 
savings are paying. We’ve now had several months of reduced fuel prices resulting from a worldwide glut of energy supplies. “The effect of that on consumer savings and spending is coming now,” says Meyer.The news is particularly positive for the pork sector, Meyer thinks. It will be 2018 before expanding cattle supplies actually hit grocery stores. In the meantime, pork is taking market share, and industry promotion is targeting beef head-on with ads that encourage consumers to cook pork like steak.He expects the coming year to be a good one for pork producers, with profits averaging $20 to $30 a head. Producers will have opportunity to buy cash corn for feed at $3 a bushel at harvest lows and soybean meal perhaps as low as $250 a ton. “Don’t get in a hurry to buy,” Meyer cautions. For efficient producers, those numbers translate to a cost of pork production of $60 per cwt or less. Cash prices and futures prices for hogs popped up above $80 per cwt (carcass basis) in the spring of 2015, with futures mostly at $70 per cwt or above for the coming year. Meyer predicts the resulting profits will bring about pork expansion, and he worries that pork profits could vanish by late 2016 and 2017.