Ag Instructor Vic Martin: Catching up on Ag News

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Great Bend Tribune
Published February 2, 2020

The Drought Monitor shows thing essentially unchanged from the previous week, however, this doesn’t include this week’s precipitation.  As of now the immediate area, except for the abnormally dry parts of Stafford and Rice Counties, are in good shape in terms of soil moisture for the start of wheat coming out of dormancy once the temperatures start to warm up.  The six to ten day outlook for Kansas predicts normal temperatures and slightly below normal precipitation for most of Kansas.  The eight to fourteen day is a bit different, calling for below normal temperatures and above normal precipitation.  Today let’s take a moment to catch up on current news in agriculture.

  • The USMCA, NAFTA 2.0, has been signed by the President.  The new accord is supposed to greatly benefit agriculture according to proponents.  As in any deal of this type, there are others who claim the benefits are minimal and consider the damage the tariffs have done.  One caveat, it is yet to be ratified by Canada.
  • A new trade deal with Japan is also supposed to improve agriculture exports.  Early signs indicate it may be a benefit for beef production.  Time will tell.
  • While not sure what the appropriate name is, the US and China have signed a Phase One trade deal to call a truce in the Trade War.  The deal purportedly will result in a very large increase in ag imports to China to the tune of fifty billion dollars.  Many ag econ experts view this amount with skepticism and are having trouble seeing how this can happen.  At the very least, it should help with exports.
  • To tie the previous points together, overall the grain markets seem unimpressed by these deals and haven’t responded terribly well. 
  • AFS, African Swine Fever, in China hasn’t gone anywhere and still looks to play a role in hog and feed markets.  This has been overshadowed by the Corona virus and the fact this has been an issue for a very long time now.
  • The forecast for the Corn Belt for spring is for wet and likely cool conditions which combined with the current soil conditions isn’t promising.  This could lead to another delayed long, drawn out planting season.  It will be interesting to see how this affects the markets.
  • The disconnect between input and output prices continues to be of concern.  This puts further pressure on producers to increase inefficiency.  It also again puts more pressure on smaller producers and could lead to even further consolidation.
  • In spite of increased Federal aid, farm bankruptcies increased twenty percent in 2019.  Along with this, farmer suicides increased and governmental agencies are striving to provide mental health services in these typically underserved areas.
  • And until November, politicians will spend time in farm country and speak to how the country can help agriculture.
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