Good morning! This is Bob Bragg. Welcome to the June 18th edition of Farm News and Views.
For the past several weeks I’ve reported about problems that farmers are having planting crops in the Midwest, but weather has also been affecting farmers in Colorado. Last week, in the San Luis Valley, hail caused light damage to barley fields, Fall potato emergence is still behind the average, and some freeze damage was noted in alfalfa fields due to below freezing overnight temperatures . Although hay harvest is going well in southwest Colorado, it’s progressing slowly in much of the rest of the state due to persistent rain showers. A downside to the good soil moisture this spring is that growing conditions are ideal for weeds. Reports are coming in about robust stands of invasive cheat grass, also known as downy brome grass, that are causing concerns about fire danger later in the summer when this highly flammable plant dries out.
The Utah Farm Bureau recently reported that new data from the Department of Labor highlights the farmers’ and ranchers’ increasing reliance on the H-2A farm worker program in the United States. During January, February and March of 2019, the U. S. Department of Labor processed 5,380 applications by farms requesting the ability to hire H-2A workers. Over 88,000 positions were requested, which was more than 8,000 positions higher than in 2018.
Corn, soy beans and wheat prices have all surged over the past week due to concerns about how much crops have been affected by recent wet weather. Corn has reached a five year high, which is great for farmers who still have undamaged corn in bins. In contrast to production problems in the US, reports coming from South America indicate that the safrinha or second season corn crop yields may be close to record levels.
The latest Ag Economy Barometer from Purdue University and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange Group indicate that trade tensions and poor planting weather has driven farmer sentiments to multi-year lows in May. In a nationwide survey of 400 farmers, the index fell to 101, 14 points lower than in April, and the lowest reading since October of 2016. According to Jim Mintert, with the Center for Food & Agricultural Business at Purdue University, “Farmers are becoming somewhat less optimistic that the trade dispute with China will ultimately be resolved in a way that’s beneficial to U.S. Agriculture.”
Mintert pointed out that in March, 77 percent of farmers polled expected a favorable outcome, while the May survey reported that 65 percent of the respondents were positive that the trade dispute would end well for farmers. When farmers were questioned about making large capital investments in their farms in the near future, the positive response for this question fell to 37 percent, the lowest response since data was first collected the fall of 2015.
The USDA Economic Research Service forecasts that the food-at-home consumer price index will rise 1% to 2% in 2019. This increase would mark the fourth straight year of deflating or lower-than-average inflation of retail food prices. The gain would also be less than the 20-year historical average of 2.1%. Product categories that are likely to see price increases above 2 percent this year include dairy products, fresh fruit and vegetables, cereals and bakery products.
I’ll end today’s report with this thought from former President Dwight D. Eisenhower. “Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you’re a thousand miles from a corn field.”
Until Next Week, I’m Bob Bragg