Home 5 Ag Stories 5 Ag Stories You Need to Read Today, April 29

5 Ag Stories You Need to Read Today, April 29

15% of Iowa’s corn crop is in the ground

DES MOINES, Iowa – Yesterday’s crop progress report showed 15% of this year’s Iowa corn crop is in the ground.

That’s about half of the 5-year average at 33%, and well above last year’s progress at this time: just 2%. Corn planting is progressing the most in northwest and west-central Iowa, with 26% and 27% of the crop planted, respectively. Progress is lagging the most in north-central and northeastern parts of the state, where only 4% and 2% of the crop has been planted. Iowa’s progress is third after progress in Illinois (32%) and Nebraska (20%).

Nationally, 19% of the corn crop has been planted, as compared to 6% last week and the 5-year average at 28%.

USDA reported soybean progress at 3%, nearly on-track with the 5-year average of 4%. No soybeans have been planted in Iowa yet; most progress so far has been in Illinois (2%) and Nebraska (6%).

Produce shortage possible at first 2014 Downtown Farmers’ Market in Des Moines

MINGO, Iowa – The first Downtown Farmers’ Market this year is slated for May 3 in Des Moines. But the precipitation and lingering winter cold delaying corn planting this year is also keeping produce growers out of their fields.

Organic farmer Larry Cleverley grows produce north of Mingo in central Iowa. He says soil temperatures in his area only just peeked over the 50 degree mark at the beginning of April, at which time he managed to get some crops in the ground, such as peas, arugula, beets and radishes before getting washed out.

“We were able to get into this field April 6th,” says Cleverley, noting that “nothing we planted is going to be big enough for the farmers’ market this Saturday. All we’ll have this week are mostly things that we forage from the wild; we’ll have some wild nettles and some ramps, which are wild leaks. [We might have] some wild arugula that we overwintered, but the cultivated stuff is just not going to be big enough.”

Cleverley says he expects a good supply of lettuces and greens available at the second Downtown Farmers’ Market on April 10.

Are cattle producers considering herd expansion?

WASHINGTON – It wouldn’t be a cattle on feed report without at least one surprise, and one USDA livestock analyst says last Friday’s report could indicate cattle producers have herd expansion on their minds.

With widespread drought in western states and high prices on cash cattle, some analysts had expected Friday’s cattle on feed report to show higher placements this March as opposed to last year. Instead, the Agriculture Department reported placements in March of this year as 5% lower.

USDA Livestock Analyst Shayle Shagam says that’s one of two key takeaways.

“Cattle supplies are tight, which is reflected in the fact that the placement number was low,” says Shagam, “and producers are likely holding onto their heifers, in hopes that they will have the ability to breed those animals and begin the expansion cycle.”

Shagam observes fully 34% of cattle in feedlots as of April first were heifers or heifer calves. That’s 6% fewer heifers heading to feedlots than last year, and pending the availability of water and forage in the future, could mean expansion of the cattle herd is in the cards.

That’s not much relief on the retail side of beef; overall food price inflation is still slated to rise 2.5%-3.5% this year, with beef prices already 7.5% higher than last year. What that means is record-high beef prices will likely stick around, well into this summer’s grilling season.

China’s corn yields are lagging behind

WASHINGTON (USDA ERS) – Data sources indicate that China’s corn yields continue to lag behind yields achieved in the United States, the world’s leading producer, with implications for China’s ability to meet future corn demand through domestic production.

Both China’s official yield estimates provided by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and alternative survey-based estimates provided by China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) show China’s average corn yields to be both lower and growing more slowly than U.S. average yields. A key factor constraining yield growth in China is slow progress in breeding appropriate varieties to build on past gains achieved from the adoption of hybrid corn.

While fertilizer use is already high by world standards, improvements in pest protection and drought resistance—potentially through the adoption of genetically modified varieties—may offer yield gains. Current USDA corn supply and demand projections for China indicate that demand is likely to outpace production, leading to expanding corn imports.

Final 2012 Census of Agriculture Data out Friday

WASHINGTON – The final results of the 2012 Census of Agriculture will be released at 11 a.m. Friday morning via a live webcast this Friday. The scope of information released reaches down to the county level, which NASS Administrator Dr. Cynthia Clark says will be invaluable. Clark adds that the data will help farmers, ranchers, policymakers, agribusinesses and others make decisions for the future.

The complete set of data will be available after the live webcast starts here.