Report 8-17-21

Over the past few years, it’s been tough sledding for many agricultural producers, but reports released by the Kansas City and Chicago Federal Reserve Banks last week offered some good news to farmers and ranchers. The Kansas City report stated that a sharp turnaround in agricultural economic conditions because of support from government programs related to pandemic relief and a turnaround in market prices for grains and livestock that resulted in farm income and loan repayment rates increasing from a year ago at the fastest pace on record. These improvements in farm finances eased credit issues and contributed to softer demand for farm loans. At the same time, farm real estate values increased from 10 to 14% from a year ago in the Midwest, the largest increase since 2013.

Current prices for grains lends credence to the Federal Reserve reports. Cash Corn was selling for around $3.20 a bushel a year ago, and is now priced at $6.45, while soybeans hovered around $8.50 per bushel, and are now quoted at $13.30. In July of 2020, wheat struggled to stay above $4.00 a bushel, but today is $6.70 a bushel, but is likely to move higher because of dry conditions in the Black Sea regions of Russia.

However, on the down side, ag lenders in Colorado and Wyoming cite drought as a major challenge to producers this summer, and a banker in Oklahoma pointed out that “The increase in land values is making it difficult for both crop and livestock producers to afford purchasing land based on the amount of returns they generate from production.”

Census records are revealing that rural America lost more population over the past decade, highlighting an already severe worker shortage in the nation’s farming and ranching regions, which is encouraging ag leaders to call for immigration reform to help ease this problem. Census data released last week showed that population gains in many rural areas were driven by increases in Hispanic and Latino residents, many of whom come as immigrants to work on farms or in meatpacking plants or to start their own businesses.

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released a reevaluation of the Healthy Food Plan that will increase Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP benefits beginning on October 1st of this year. The reevaluation concluded that the cost of a nutritious, practical, cost-effective diet is 21% higher than the current Thrifty Food Plan. As a result, the average SNAP benefit will increase by $36.24 per person, per month, or $1.19 per day. This increase is the first time the purchasing power of the plan has changed since it was first introduced in 1975, which, according to the USDA release reflects “notable shifts in the food marketplace and consumers’ circumstances over the past 45 years.”

A Successful Farming Magazine article by Megan Schilling caught my attention. She pointed out that U.S. producers apply chemical herbicides on 293 million acres or 36% of agricultural land annually. But we still have herbicide resistant weeds like Marestail, Palmer amaranth and Water hemp that can produce from a quarter of a million to over a half million seeds per plant.

Roman poet Horace wrote, “Though you drive away nature with a pitchfork, yet she still will hurry back.”

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