by Jim Erickson
Alabama universities receive USDA grants
Eleven grants to support research, teaching and Extension activities will go to two 1890 historically black land-grant colleges and universities in Alabama through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Overall, 53 grants were awarded totaling more than $18 million.
Fiscal year 2015 grants include:
Teaching - Alabama A&M University, Normal, $150,000; Tuskegee University, Tuskegee, $442,731 (3 awards)
Research - Alabama A&M, $1,093,892 (3 awards); Tuskegee, $1,100,000 (2 awards)
Extension – Alabama A&M, $249,963; Tuskegee, $226,869
Survey shows farmland rental trends
According to the Tenure, Ownership and Transition of Agriculture Land survey, 354 million acres of farmland in the lower 48 states were rented to farmers by 2.13 million landlords in 2014.
The average amount of land rented out per landlord yields insights into whether rented farmland is concentrated among particular types of landlords. Operator landlords – farm operators who rent land to other farmers – typically rented out more acreage than non-operator landlords.
Among non-operator landlords, the acres held in corporate, trust and other types of non-operator ownership arrangements are more concentrated (proportionately more land in fewer hands) than individual and partnership non-operator landlords.
The median rented acreage for farmers who rent land from others was 111 acres in 2014, larger than the median acreage rented to farmers by each landlord type. This means that most farm operators looking to rent farmland must instead piece together holdings from multiple landlords.
USDA targets new, beginning farm operations
USDA has announced a commitment to prioritize $5.6 billion over the next two years within the department’s programs and services that serve new and beginning farmers and ranchers. A new, tailored web tool designed to connect burgeoning farm entrepreneurs with programs and resources also is available to help them get started.
The new web tool is available at www.usda.gov/newfarmers. The site was designed based on feedback from new and beginning farmers and ranchers around the country, who cited unfamiliarity with programs and resources as a challenge to starting and expanding their operations.
The site features advice and guidance on everything a new farm business owner needs to know, from writing a business plan and obtaining a loan to grow their business and filing taxes as a new small business owner. By answering a series of questions about their operation, farmers can use the site’s "Discovery Tool" to build a personalized set of recommendations of USDA programs and services that may meet their needs.
Using the new web tool and other outreach activities, and operating within its existing resources, the department has set a new goal of increasing beginning farmer and rancher participation by an additional 6.6 percent across key USDA programs, for a total investment value of approximately $5.6 billion.
Programs were targeted for expanded outreach and commitment based on their impact on expanding opportunity for new and beginning farmers and ranchers, including starting or expanding an operation, developing new markets, supporting more effective farming and conservation practices, and having access to relevant training and education opportunities.
Safety-net payments due to half of farms that signed up
USDA has announced that nearly one half of the 1.7 million farms that signed up for either the Agriculture Risk Coverage or Price Loss Coverage programs will receive safety-net payments for the 2014 crop year.
Unlike the former direct-payments program that paid farmers in good years and bad, the 2014 Farm Bill authorized a safety net protecting producers only when market forces or adverse weather leads to unexpected drops in crop prices or revenues. The ARC/PLC programs primarily allow producers to continue to produce for the market by making payments on a percentage of historical-based production, limiting the impact on production decisions.
Nationwide, 96 percent of soybean farms, 91 percent of corn farms and 66 percent of wheat farms elected the ARC-County coverage option. Ninety-nine percent of long grain rice and peanut farms, and 94 percent of medium grain rice farms elected the PLC option.
Overall, 76 percent of participating farm acres are protected by ARC-County, 23 percent by PLC and 1 percent by ARC-Individual.
Crops receiving assistance include barley, corn, grain sorghum, lentils, oats, peanuts, dry peas, soybeans and wheat.
DDGS exports on the rise
U.S. exports of distillers dried grains with solubles, a common byproduct of corn ethanol production, have grown from nearly zero in 2005 to as high as 12 million metric tons in the 2013/14 marketing year (September/August), with 10 million metric tons forecast for export in the 2015 marketing year.
The increase in exports reflects the expansion in ethanol production occurring over this same period, rising from just under 4 billion gallons in 2005 to more than 14 billion gallons in 2014. While U.S. corn exports still exceed the volume of DDGS exported, these markets are linked because each ton of corn processed into ethanol produces just under a third of a ton of DDGS.
While ethanol production accounted for 38 percent of U.S. corn use in 2014/15 and exports were less than 14 percent, DDGS exports represent another way that U.S. corn production enters global markets.
Administration promotes Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement
The Obama administration is promoting the Trans-Pacific Partnership as an important step forward for U.S. agriculture.
Officials say the agreement provides new market access across the board for America’s farmers and ranchers by lowering tariffs and eliminating other barriers, and will boost exports and support jobs in our rural economies.
The agreement will advance U.S. economic interests in a critical region accounting for nearly 40 percent of global GDP, the administration said. It will also help the United States respond to the regional and bilateral trade agreements already in place or being negotiated by competitor countries.
The proposed pact will expand U.S. agricultural exports, generate more rural economic activity and support higher-paying American jobs, the administration added.
With opponents saying the agreement will do more harm than good to the U.S. economy, debate in coming weeks on whether or not to approve the measure is expected to be lively.
Fluid milk availability declines as 2 percent ranks first
According to food availability data from USDA’s Economic Research Service, 19.1 gallons of fluid milk were available for each U.S. consumer to drink in 2013, the most recent period for which information is available. The volume is down from a peak of 42.3 gallons in 1945.
Declining per capita milk consumption reflects a variety of factors including competition from soft drinks, fruit juices, bottled water and other beverages; generational differences in the frequency of milk drinking; and a more ethnically diverse population, some of whose diets do not normally include fluid milk.
Plain (unflavored) 2 percent milk surpassed plain whole milk in 2005 and became America’s most popular milk. In 2013, plain 2 percent milk accounted for 35 percent of fluid milk availability (6.7 gallons per person), while plain, whole milk availability was 5.2 gallons per person, down from its high of 38 gallons in 1945.
Plain 1 percent milk and skim milk each accounted for 14 percent of fluid milk availability. Flavored milk such as chocolate and strawberry made up 9 percent of fluid milk availability.
After sharp drop, U.S. textile industry showing slight gain
Employment at U.S. textile plants has fallen by nearly two-thirds over the past 20 years as fabric production and apparel manufacturing shifted overseas in search of lower labor and production costs.
Today, more than 60 percent of clothing and other textile products purchased by U.S. consumers is produced outside the United States. However, both the sharp decline in U.S. textile employment and the rise in import share of U.S. fiber consumption began to level off around 2009.
In recent years, the U.S. textile industry – particularly the capital-intensive yarn and fabric production industry – has shown signs of a modest rebound. Cotton consumption by U.S. textile mills in marketing year 2015 (August/July) is forecast at 3.7 million bales, up 3.5 percent from a year ago and 12.1 percent from its 2011 low. In 2014, U.S. textile mill employment also showed its first gain since 1994 - up 0.2 percent.