About US Crop Production

Nogger asks Are The USDA Numbers Overstated?
(emphasis mine) [my comment]

Thursday, 14 January 2010
Are The USDA Numbers Overstated?

The highest corn yield ever by a country mile, and record production estimates for both beans and corn might not paint quite such an accurate picture as the USDA would like to make out.

Whilst very few people (except the odd deranged conspiracy theorist [he is referring to me]) would argue that US farmers have largely had anything other than some bloody good crops this year, many think that the USDA may be overestimating just how good things have been.

They did however issue a "rider" with Tuesdays numbers, saying that further surveys in states where the harvest was delayed may lead to these figures being amended in March.

So what are the real numbers? Respected private firm Lanworth Inc., who use perhaps a more sophisticated combination of satellite imagery, field surveys and ground data from the top producing states (as opposed to
the USDA's approach of one Spectrum ZX, some crayons and a pack of cards) say 12.318 billion bushels for corn and 3.081 billion bushels for soybeans.

Still some pretty weighty numbers, but 6.3% lower than the USDA on corn, and 8.3% lower in the case of beans.

Which also beggars the question, if the USDA can't accurately tell us what size the crops are that have already been harvested, the how far out are their planting intentions likely to be in the spring? We've now got to wait until March 31st to get the USDA's first stab at getting those right for corn & beans. And whilst we're on the subject, what about their winter wheat area which came in lower than the lowest trade estimate, and almost 4 million below the average trade guess of 40.916 million acres?

One part of this entry deserves special attention:

Whilst very few people (except the odd deranged conspiracy theorist) would argue that US farmers have largely had anything other than some bloody good crops this year, many think that the USDA may be overestimating just how good things have been.

My reaction: Nogger is a blogger who I have often quoted on this site (he knows it too, hence the "odd deranged conspiracy theorist" reference). Nogger does a great job covering what is going on in the Agricultural world, except for his tendency to accept USDA fictional production estimates.

"some bloody good crops this year"

Nogger suggest that only an "odd deranged conspiracy theorist" (me) would argue that "US farmers have largely had anything other than some bloody good crops this year". This needs to be corrected.

There are, in fact, many people who would argue that the US farmers DID NOT have bumper harvest in 2009. Below are a few of the people who disagree with Nogger and his "bloody good crops".

President Obama and Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsack

As seen below, President Obama and Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsack believe that Midwest farmers suffered significant production losses to field crops including corn and soybeans.

The USDA reports that 24 Counties in Arkansas Designated as Primary Natural Disaster Areas.

WASHINGTON, July 1, 2009 -The U.S. Department of Agriculture designated 24 counties in Arkansas as primary natural disaster areas due to losses caused by excessive rainfall and extensive flooding that occurred from May 4, 2009, and continuing.

"President Obama and I understand these conditions caused severe damage to the area and serious harm to the farms in Arkansas and we want to help," said Secretary Tom Vilsack. "This action will provide help to hundreds of farmers who suffered significant production losses to a wide variety of crops including cotton, soybeans, corn and other vegetables."

The USDA reports that 60 Counties in Georgia Designated as Primary Natural Disaster Areas.

WASHINGTON, Aug. 4, 2009 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture designated 60 counties in Georgia as primary natural disaster areas due to losses caused by excessive rainfall, flash flooding, severe wind, tornadoes, and lightning that occurred on and after March 26, 2009.

"President Obama and I understand these conditions caused severe damage to the area and serious harm to farms in Georgia," said Secretary Tom Vilsack. "These designations will provide help to farmers who suffered significant production losses to corn, wheat, soybeans, peanuts, upland cotton, and a variety of vegetable and fruit crops."

The USDA reports that 31 counties in Wisconsin Designated as Primary Natural Disaster Areas.

WASHINGTON, Sept. 30, 2009 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture designated 31 counties in Wisconsin as primary natural disaster areas because of losses caused by drought that occurred from March 1, 2009, and continuing.
...

"President Obama and I understand these conditions caused severe damage to the area and serious harm to farms in Wisconsin and we want to help, " said Secretary Tom Vilsack. "This action will provide help to hundreds of farmers who suffered significant production losses to alfalfa, grasses and forage crops, as well as barley, corn, oats, soybeans and wheat."

The USDA reports that 79 Counties in Mississippi Designated as Primary Natural Disaster Areas.

WASHINGTON, Nov. 17, 2009 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated 79 counties in Mississippi as primary natural disaster areas due to losses caused by the combined effects of severe spring and fall flooding, and summer drought, that occurred March 1, 2009, and continuing.

"President Obama and I understand these conditions caused severe damage to the area and serious harm to farms in Mississippi and we want to help," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "This action will provide help to hundreds of farmers who suffered significant production losses to a wide variety of crops including corn, cotton, rice, soybeans, wheat, pasture and forage crops."

The USDA reports that 24 Counties in North Dakota Designated as Primary Natural Disaster Areas.

WASHINGTON, Nov. 30, 2009 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated 24 counties in North Dakota as primary natural disaster areas because of losses caused by the combined effects of drought, frost, cool temperatures, excessive rain, excessive late-season snowfall, flooding, ground saturation, hail, high winds and weather related losses from insects and diseases that occurred during the period of Jan. 1, 2009, and continuing.

"President Obama and I understand these conditions caused severe damage to the area and serious harm to farms in North Dakota and we want to help," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "This action will provide help to hundreds of farmers who suffered significant production losses to barley, canola, corn, forage, oats, peas, potatoes, soybeans, sunflowers, wheat and pasture."

The USDA reports that 53 Parishes in Louisiana Designated as Primary Natural Disaster Areas.


WASHINGTON, Nov. 30, 2009 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated
53 parishes in Louisiana as primary natural disaster areas because of losses caused by the combined effects of spring and summer drought followed by excessive rainfall that occurred during the period of April 1, through October 30, 2009.
...

"President Obama and I understand these conditions caused severe damage to the area and serious harm to farms in Louisiana and we want to help," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "This action will provide help to hundreds of farmers who suffered significant production losses to corn, cotton, rice, sorghum, soybeans, forage crops and sweet potatoes."

The USDA reports that 16 Counties in Tennessee Designated as Primary Natural Disaster Areas.

WASHINGTON, Dec. 11, 2009 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture has 16 counties in Tennessee as primary natural disaster areas due to losses caused by excessive rain, extensive flooding and cooler than normal temperatures that occurred from Sept. 1, 2009, and continuing.

"President Obama and I understand these conditions caused severe damage to these areas and serious harm to farms in Tennessee and we want to help," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "This action will provide help to hundreds of farmers who suffered significant production losses to corn, cotton, soybeans, tobacco and other crops."

The USDA reports that 58 Counties in Illinois Designated as Primary Natural Disaster Areas.

WASHINGTON, Sept. 11, 2009 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture designated 58 counties in Illinois as primary natural disaster areas because of losses caused by excessive rainfall and flooding that occurred from April 1, 2009, through July 31, 2009. ...

"Preside nt Obama and I understand these conditions caused sever damage to the area and serious harm to farms in Illinois," said Secretary Tom Vilsack. "These designations will provide help to farmers who suffered significant production losses to corn, wheat, soybeans, sorghum, feed and forage crops."

The USDA reports that 22 Counties in Iowa Designated as Primary Natural Disaster Areas.

WASHINGTON, Sept. 8, 2009 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture designated 22 counties in Iowa as primary natural disaster areas because of losses caused by severe storms, hail and flooding that occurred during the period of May 15, 2009, through July 31, 2009.

"President Obama and I understand these conditions caused severe damage to the area and serious harm to farms in Iowa," said Secretary Tom Vilsack. "These designations will provide help to farmers who suffered significant production losses to field crops such as corn, oats and soybeans, as well as pasture and forage."

The USDA reports that 32 Counties in Arkansas Designated as Primary Natural Disaster Areas.

WASHINGTON, Jan. 14, 2010 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated 32 counties in Arkansas as primary natural disaster areas due to excessive rainfall and extensive flooding that occurred from September 1, 2009, and continuing.

"President Obama and I understand these conditions caused severe damage to the area and serious harm to farms in Arkansas and we want to help," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "This action will provide help to hundreds of farmers who suffered significant production losses to a wide variety of crops including corn, forage, cool-season grasses, soybeans, wheat, green beans, and tomatoes."

ETC...



Are President Obama and Secretary Tom Vilsack also "deranged conspiracy theorists" for suggesting something other than stellar crop production?

US Governors

There are no governors bragging about record crop productions. Even in a state like Michigan where no disasters have been declared so far for 2009, Governor Jennifer Granholm isn't talking about record crop production. 9 and 10 News reports that Governor Requests Federal Disaster Help For Michigan Farmers.

Governor Requests Federal Disaster Help For Michigan Farmers
Posted: 8/3/2009

Today, Governor Jennifer Granholm asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture for federal disaster assistance for farmers in 27 Michigan counties. [which didn't happen]

Many are facing crop loss of more than 30-percent because of severe frost, freeze, snows and cold weather this spring.

Federal, state and local agencies are working together to assess crop losses.

If losses of 30-percent or more are confirmed, and the disaster request is approved, farmers will be able to apply for a low-interest emergency loan through the USDA-FSA.

The loan would cover up to 100-percent of their weather-related crop losses.

Govenors request for disaster declarations haven't slowed either. Just in the last week, Minnesota Public Radio reports that Gov. Tim Pawlenty seeks disaster declaration in 18 counties.

Pawlenty seeks disaster declaration in 18 counties
by Mark Steil, Minnesota Public Radio
January 11, 2010

St. Paul, Minn. (AP) — Gov. Tim Pawlenty is asking U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack for an agricultural disaster declaration for 18 Minnesota counties

The governor wants the U.S. Agriculture Department declaration for counties stretching from the Canadian border to the Glenwood area. Pawlenty says
the counties had several periods of bad weather last year, everything from too much rain to near drought conditions to an early frost.

Some farmers lost more than 30 percent of their crop to the weather. Crops affected by the bad weather included corn, soybeans, sugar beets, sunflowers, blueberries and barley. If the USDA issues a disaster declaration, the farmers would be eligible for low interest loans.

Strangely Governors across the Midwest appear not to be enjoying the "bloody good crops" produced by their farmers.

US lawmakers

For some bizarre reason, Southern lawmakers are scrambling for emergency aid for farmers. Strange, since if the Midwest farmers produced "some bloody good crops", they probably wouldn't be needing immediate aid to the tune of over 2 billion dollars.

The News Courier reports that Southern lawmakers seek emergency aid for farmers.

Southern lawmakers seek emergency aid for farmers
Posted at 12:55 AM on Monday, Dec. 14, 2009
By BECKY BOHRER
- Associated Press Writer
...
In Louisiana and Mississippi, early season drought and late-season rains compounded the losses many growers suffered due to the 2008 hurricanes. Lawmakers from Mississippi and Arkansas are helping lead a push for at least $2.1 billion in emergency farm aid and hope to gain approval by year's end from a Congress that has been focused on other spending packages and the health care debate.

"I believe we have a good argument for providing direct payments to farmers whose crops have been ruined this year by floods, drought and other disaster conditions,"
said Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss.

Ted McDermott is grateful for the effort, but questions whether it will help him much.
The northeast Louisiana sweet potato grower said he filed for bankruptcy after last year's storms left him with rotten potatoes, fields too wet to harvest and loans he couldn't pay off. He managed to plant 100 acres this year but the seemingly unrelenting rains in September and October left him with more rotted potatoes and the prospect of having to leave the state to find work.
Advertisement
"I think my business is done," said the 41-year-old from Oak Grove, who is still waiting for money from a grant and loan program the state set up with federal money after hurricanes Gustav and Ike.

"I needed help in the spring of 2009, coming out of my '08 losses, and I think at this point, I'm too far in the hole to come out of it. Unless they want to write a lot of my debt off," McDermott said, "and I doubt seriously they'll want to do that."

Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran released the following 2009 CROP DISASTER ASSISTANCE (S.2810) - FACT SHEET last November.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Chris Gallegos
November 20, 2009
(202) 224-5054

2009 CROP DISASTER ASSISTANCE (S.2810) — FACT SHEET
Excessive rainfall throughout the Mid-South has significantly impacted this year's crops.
Rainfall totals for September and October

Sept. '09

Sept. Avg.

Oct. '09

Oct. Avg.

Total Over/Under

Memphis, TN

8.59

3.31

10.56

3.31

12.53

Shreveport, LA

2.58

3.21

20.35

4.45

15.27

Greenville, MS

8.4

2.74

14.47

3.39

16.74

Jackson, MS

4.33

3.23

7.39

1.5

6.99

Huntsville, AL

5.96

4.29

8.17

3.54

6.30

Mississippi crop value losses as of October 26, 2009

Mississippi crop value losses as of October 26, 2009

Corn


Crop

Crop Value on Sept. 20 (1,000s)

Total value harvested (1,000s)

Lost crop value (1,000s)

Percent of value lost

Soybeans

$701,137

$394,114

$307,023

43.8%

$391,989

$379,594

$12,395

3.2%

Cotton

$149,221

$77,477

$71,744

48.1%

Cotton Seed

$41,774

$22,558

$19,216

46.0%

Rice

$239,107

$209,967

$29,140

12.2%

Grain Sorghum

$3,795

$2,207

$1,588

41.9%

Peanuts

$13,449

$8,742

$4,707

35.0%

Sweet Potatoes

$61,583

$22,432

$39,151

63.6%

TOTAL

$1,602,055

$1,117,090

$484,965

30.3%

(Source: Mississippi State University 10/27/09)
...

2009 CROP DISASTER ASSISTANCE — Q & A

Why do crop producers need disaster assistance for crop year 2009?


The above average rainfall in Mississippi this fall has significantly impacted both the quality of this year's crops and farmers' ability to harvest. Certain areas of the Mississippi Delta have received in excess of 15 inches of rainfall above normal since September 1. In certain instances, the damage has reached levels that will likely result in crops being totally abandoned. At this point, agricultural economists estimate losses exceeding 30 percent of Mississippi's total crop value.

...
How many counties have been declared a disaster by the Secretary of Agriculture?


For Mississippi, 79 counties have been approved by the Secretary of Agriculture. The counties of Newton, Kemper, and Neshoba did not meet the loss threshold of 30 percent for at least one crop in the county.
(This proposal excludes "contiguous" counties.)

If declared a disaster, what benefits would be available to producers under current authorities?

Secretarial disaster declarations immediately trigger the availability of low-interest Farm Service Agency emergency loans to eligible producers in all primary and contiguous counties.

What is the total cost of this disaster assistance proposal, and will this legislation be offset by reducing other government programs or be considered emergency spending (off-budget)?

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has scored this proposal at $2.193 billion. This legislation would be offset by utilizing the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). As of September 2009, total repayments from TARP investments exceed $70 billion.

Counties Declared Disaster by the Secretary of Agriculture
As of November 17


[WARNING: Graphic below is severely out of date. See mine above for up to date disaster designations.]



Only primary counties (yellow), which have proven losses equal to or exceeding 30 percent qualify for assistance.

The Pine Bluff Commercial reports that Lincoln optimistic of help for farmers.

LINCOLN OPTIMISTIC OF HELP FOR FARMERS
By Wes Clement/OF THE COMMERCIAL STAFF
Wednesday, January 13, 2010 11:02 PM CST

U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) is optimistic help is on the way for farmers whose crops were heavily damaged from record 2009 rainfall.

"Many farmers had major damage to crops, and the need for help is immediate since banks will begin making crop loans in a couple of weeks," Lincoln said Wednesday.

Chad Pitillo of Simmons First National Bank said last week the bank had already begun making crop loans and that some farmers would not have enough equity to continue into next season if financial assistance is not provided very soon.

Lincoln, who is chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, joined Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) to introduce legislation in mid-November that would provide quick damage assistance. In early December Rep. Marion Berry (D-Ark.) and Rep. Travis Childers (D-Miss.) introduced a companion bill in the House.

"It will be important that we find a bill that we can attach it to that can pass quickly," Lincoln said. "Since we are not in session, I don't know what bill that will be yet, but it is a high priority and I am focused on getting assistance to farmers as quickly as possible."

She said based on talk among colleagues, she thinks the assistance legislation will be supported by others in the Senate.

The Jefferson County Farm Bureau held a special board of directors meeting Jan. 6 to discuss the financial hardships faced by many Southeast Arkansas farmers.

"It has been an economic disaster for many farmers," Benny Fratesi, Jefferson County Farm Bureau legislative chairman said at the meeting. "From the reports we're getting from bankers, if they don't get help now, a lot of farmers will be out of business."

The latest amounts released by
the University of Arkansas Cooperati ve Extension Service estimate crop damage statewide to be about $309 million. An average yield of about $43 per acre was lost to the rains for corn, cotton, cottonseed, grass, hay, rice, sorghum and soybeans.

The National Weather Service

The National Weather Service is reporting precipitation on average 300 percent or more above historical norms across the Midwest during October, a key harvest month. This suggests crop damage on a national scale, casting doubt over USDA's record harvests.

Below are graphics of October 2009 Monthly Observed Precipitation and Monthly Percent of Normal Precipitation from National Weather Service.





The US Drought Monitor

The US Drought Monitor is reporting that Texas suffered the worst drought in recorded history in 2009, which doesn't mesh with the "bloody good crops" the USDA claims farmers produced.




USDA Soybean Rust Observations

With all wet weather plaguing farmers, disease outbreaks were bound to happen. In 2009, soybean rust has been found in 16 states and over 576 counties, as seen below (soybean rust was found in only 392 counties in 2008).



Widespread, extremely varied disease pressure (Soybean rust, brown stem rot, root rot, Sudden Death Syndrome (SDS), white mold, etc) is not conductive to record harvests.

NASA Satellite Photographs

The Wallaces Farmer reports about the devastating hail that destroyed crops across Iowa.

Rainfall

For most of Iowa, rainfall throughout the season was pretty average, with the slight exception in the east-central and southeast districts, where rainfall was a bit above normal from July on.
...
There were some very localized exceptions associated with summer thunderstorms that brought locally heavy rain to small areas.
Two of those storms were notable because of devastating hail that destroyed crops and caused other damage. The first, on July 24, cut a swath from about Calmar in Winnesheik County to western Dubuque County. The second was a remarkable storm that stripped crops from Ida County in western Iowa to Grundy County in eastern Iowa, and caused particularly intense damage in Hardin County near Eldora and near Callendar in Webster and Calhoun counties.

This August 10 storm was unusual in that it formed and persisted across Iowa in the mid-to late morning, associated with a slow moving cold front.

The two graphics (below) from NASA show an image of the damage from outerspace that was taken on August 23. Note the defoliation scars that document the extent of these events. ISU researchers have been analyzing damaged ears from these areas for ear rots and potential mycotoxin formation.


July 24, 2009 storm track, northeast Iowa


August 10, 2009 storm track, central Iowa

How dare NASA's pictures from outerspace suggest devastating hail damage across Iowa! This factual evidence from NASA suggesting US farmers had "anything other than some bloody good crops this year" is also inconsistent withproduction numbers coming from the USDA.


Agronomists and Agricultural Experts across the United States

Brownfield Ag News reports that intense crop damage from hail in Iowa.

Intense crop damage from hail in Iowa
July 29, 2009 by Julie Harker

Hail last Friday caused unprecedented damage to crops in northeast Iowa — from Howard to Dubuque counties — and producers are figuring out what to do next. Iowa State University Extension agronomist Brian Lang tells Brownfield that 400-thousand crop acres were hurt, 10 percent of which have been decimated. Corn in the area was in the tasseling stage, the absolute worst time, Lang says, to be hit by hail, "So, even these other areas that had less hail, if they're still looking at something like 75 percent defoliation — which is very possible over a large area of this damage — that easily cuts the yield by as much as two-thirds."Lang says the affected area has a lot of livestock and farmers can green chop some of the corn while figuring out other feed options. "If we can get a little off of that... We've still got time in August, here, for maybe a planting of a small grain like oats," says Lang.

Lang says at least half of their feed is gone because of the storm, "There's areas where it looks like barren lands that are ready for some spring planting — is kind of what it looks like in some of these places."


Lang thought he'd seen the worst hail damage in the area last month when hail struck 100-thousand crop acres in Howard an d Chickasaw County. But, last week's hail storm is, by far, the worst he's seen with Fayette County having the most acreage hit, where they're considering seeking government disaster aid. Lang advises producers not to touch anything until their crop insurance agents and hail adjustors have done their work.

The same storm system caused crop damage to about 20,000 acres in southwestern Wisconsin.

Interview conducted by Ken Anderson, Waitt Agribusiness

AUDIO: Brian Lang, Iowa State University agronomist for northeast Iowa (6 min., MP3)

[Audio clip is worth listening to]

[Alabama, Georgia, north Florida, November 6]

Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture Ron Sparks is calling it a "potential crisis" — the rainy weather conditions throughout most of September and October that have frustrated growers who were eyeing pretty good cotton, peanut, soybean and corn crops.

The same holds true for producers in Georgia and north Florida, where harvest has been delayed by almost continuous rainfall, during what is usually the driest months of the year.

"Prior to September, many producers were expecting to harvest a bumper crop and were very optimistic for the upcoming harvest season," says Sparks. "Uncommon and unfavorable precipitation during September and October have degraded various crops and caused poor harvesting conditions, which caused the harvest to be behind schedule by around four to six weeks."

The major crops affected by the recent rainfall are cotton, soybeans, corn and peanuts, says the Commissioner. "Reports indicate that our state is in dire need of dry weather within the next two weeks, which may eliminate a potential state disaster [Area was then hit by 5+ inches of rains from Topical Storm Ida]," he said in early November. "Producers are already suffering from heavy September and October rainfall and dry conditions will not eliminate damage that has already taken place to crops across the state. Many producers are experiencing a sharp decrease in crop yield, lower grading, and crop damage from recent rainfall."
...
"The bottom line is that Alabama producers are uncertain as to what the commodity markets will bring forth and where agriculture in our state is going," says Sparks. "The recent weather conditions over the past two months will definitely have a negative impact on Alabama's crop harvest."

...
William Birdsong, agronomist at the Wiregrass Research and Extension Center in southwest Alabama, reported that wet and rainy conditions continued to delay harvest for row crops. Cotton yields and lint quality continued to suffer as a result of the wet conditions, he said. Less than 5 percent had been harvested in his area, and this could go down as the worst crop in years if the rain does not subside.

[Arkansas, November 4]

On Monday and Tuesday, Gus Wilson, Chicot County Extension staff chairman for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, made the rounds, visiting farmers and getting a first-hand look at what record rain has left of crops in the state's southeasternmost county.
...
"It's bleak," Wilson said. "It's going to really hurt these poor Delta counties because here, agriculture is all that we've got."

Earlier this season, the harvest outlook was promising.

"In September, I was pretty happy with what I was seeing in the fields," he said. "Now we are going to be lucky to make half a crop compared to the last couple of years, all because of the weather."

"Seven or eight weeks ago, we were looking at 1,100- to 1,200-pound cotton" lint yield per acre, Wilson said. "Now we're 500 to 600 pounds."

The soybeans are just as bad. Back in September, "we had a good soybean crop. The yield was there," he said. "We have lost at least 60 percent to 80 percent due to the weather."

"Our rice is going to be half," Wilson said.
...
"This is the worst I've ever seen and I've been a county agent for eight years and around farming all my life," Wilson said.

Clarion Ledger reports that Farmers 'Flat, Busted Broke'.

December 7, 2009
Farmers hope for aid
Too many 'flat, busted broke'

Deborah Barfield Berry
Clarion-Ledger Washington Bureau


This year has been one of the worst Matthew Boyd can remember in his last decade of farming.

Heavy spring rains forced him to replant 100 acres of soybeans at his Sand Hill farm and cost him $3 to $4 a bushel on the price of the beans. That was followed by a summer drought and more rain in the fall that slashed his corn yield to about half his five-year average.

"This is going to be one of the toughest years financially," said Boyd, 41.

He and other farmers in the South say they desperately need the emergency aid included in legislation Mississippi's senators introduced last month.

"It's virtually a necessity because they're broke," said Ernie Flint, an agronomist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service. "They're absolutely flat, busted broke."
...
Last month, federal agriculture officials declared 79 of 82 Mississippi counties disaster areas, which allows farmers with a certain amount of damage to apply for low-interest loans.

Mississippi sweet potato farmers lost as much as 63 percent of their crops this year, said Benny Graves, executive secretary for the Mississippi Sweet Council.

"We were devastated," Graves said. "With agriculture, we expect ups and downs, but this is unprecedented, the level of destruction."

Graves said he's concerned that
many of Mississippi's 107 sweet potato farmers won't be able to operate in 2010.

...
Some rain-damaged crops were tossed out. Others sold for significantly reduced prices. Some farmers abandoned whole fields of crops, farm officials said.

The struggling economy and more restrictive lending practices also have hurt farmers.

"These farmers are looking at a very tight credit market," said Brian Breaux, associate commodity director for the Louisiana Farm Bureau. "They haven't been able to get on their feet."

Flint said that in addition to the weather, farmers also face rising costs for equipment, parts, fertilizer, feed and fuel. He said small- to medium-sized farms are at a disadvantage because nearly everything they sell is at wholesale prices, but they buy at retail rates. He said
some banks already are telling farmers they won't finance them next year.
...
Stephen Logan, a third-generation farmer in Gilliam, La., said he had never experienced crop losses bad enough to apply for federal disaster aid - until now.
Heavy rains, including 28 inches in October, cost him 50 percent of his cotton crop and 40 percent of his soybeans. He's banking on help from Cochran's bill.

Farmers are anxious to get federal aid by February, when many must have financing in place for the upcoming planting season, said Chip Morgan, executive vice president of the Delta Council.

"That's the barrel of the gun that we're looking down," he said.

Respected Newspapers like the New York Times

The New York Times reports about a promising summer washed away In Mississippi Delta.

[Mississippi, November 23]

The rainy autumn has made it clear that farmers across the Delta will lose money this year. But for smaller farmers in the area like Mr. Hart, who owns or rents about 1,000 acres, and Mr. Clark, with about 600 acres, the question is whether they will be able to go on.

The rain has affected farmers in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, eastern Arkansas and parts of Louisiana. Mississippi and Georgia have requested disaster declarations from the United States Department of Agriculture, and Alabama is likely to follow suit. But help from Washington, in the form of low-interest loans, often takes a year or more to reach the farmers who need it.

Lester Spell Jr., the Mississippi commissioner of agriculture and commerce, has asked Congress and the Agriculture Department to speed up the process, saying in a news release,
"I fear many of our hardworking Mississippi farmers will no longer be able to operate due to the excessive losses faced this year."

Mr. Spell cited
losses of more than 40 percent of the state's soybean crop, almost 50 percent of the cotton and more than 60 percent of the sweet potatoes.
...

On the dashboard of his truck,
Allen C. Evans III, a farmer near Clarksdale, has a sheaf of receipts from the grain elevator, showing the damage levels of each load of soybeans: 39.9 percent, 67.9 percent, 51.8 percent. A born fretter, he is afraid to call, he said, to find out the final reckoning of the disastrous season.

"You're just kind of walking around like a zombie," Mr. Evans said, "saying, never could I have guessed that the best crop I've ever raised in my entire life - the one I never worried about - of all the crops to have taken away from us, how can this be the one?"

In the Delta, those elevator receipts have become talismans of the times. Michael Patterson, who helps pay for his farming with the proceeds from his grain hauling company, displayed one showing a farmer who brought in 1,110 bushels of soybeans, but got paid for 11. The rest were damaged.

That farmer was distraught, Mr. Patterson said.

"You don't want to be the generation," he said, "that loses the family farm."

Doesn't it appear that the people at the New York Times are arguing that US farmers HAVEN'T had "some bloody good crops this year"? Are journalists at the New York Times also "deranged conspiracy theorists"?

Pictures of 2009 Harvest

Pictures from 2009 Harvest don't support the idea of farmers harvesting "some bloody good crops this year".

[Northern Kansas, October 16]

Harvest so far has been about as awful as the new Bob Dylan Christmas album.

Typically USDA's November yield forecasts increase, but
this is not a typical year, as freezing weather has dinged yields and caused major crop quality problems.

A colleague of mine sent me some snapshots of
an Iowa farm that had seven inches of snow last Satur day. Northern Kansas had over 10 inches of snow.


.

[Crop Comments, October 29]

10/29 - Clark County, Ark.: If there were any doubts about how nasty it is down here this ought to answer those questions.


-- Clark County, Ark.

[Missouri, Illinois, November 2]



This is supposed to be harvest season for corn and soy beans in the midwest.
You can't harvest flooded fields.

[Nebraska, November 5]


SNOW SHROUDS: Corn throughout the area received a heavy blanket of the white stuff Friday morning—up to 18 inches south of Brady. Snow fell three times in October. That coupled with plentiful rain has delayed harvest as much as three weeks.

Farmers Across the country

Below are selections of Ag web crop comments in which farmers express skepticism about the USDA's record harvests.

[Crop Comments, October 13]

10/13 - Buena Vista County, Northwest Iowa: Harvest at stand still after this snow, more moisture forecasted for most of week, beans yields in the 50's so far, about normal, corn has not been near as good as earlier thought to be by ear counts, still very wet 25% or more with 50 # test weights, I think the speculators are in for a big surprise by the time harvest ever gets on the way or done.
...
10/13 - Northern Indiana: We have not been able to even get into a field to harvest and weather has only let us plant 20 acres of wheat, the corn is running 28% and bean stems are still green. I think they should rethink the harvest out looks, can't see it being a bumper any thing...with a chance of early snow.

10/13 - Southeast Nebraska: After a fast flurry of activity until drying facilities were filled for corn and quite a few soybeans harvested but now rain and cloudy so quite a few rigs are idle. Yields vary but ours are not as good as last year by about 10% due to late planting and cool summer. Most corn moisture until last rain in upper teens and 20s and beans harvested on a few dry days and dry then are running at 15% and above.

10/13 - Brown County, S.D.: Haven't turned a wheel yet for harvest. Approaching 13 in. of rain for Sept. and early Oct. and now it is snowing. Gonna be an interesting harvest if we even are able to get in the field. Good times are gonna be had by all here.

10/13 - North Central Iowa: Combined beans last night until started snowing. Yesterday was first day of beans for almost two weeks. Most have only started with less than 20% of the beans harvested here. Some fields yielded OK but the bad fields with lots of SDS and mold are really pulling our average down. Corn is wet, and I've heard light weight 29% and 50-51#, some stalk rot. Virtually no corn harvested here.

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10/14 - North Central Texas: Over 2 feet of rain the last month. Most cotton will never be harvested.


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10/15 - Bartholomew County, Columbus, Ind.: Bean yields are very disappointing. My good low black ground where I usually yield the best crops are my worst yielding. The hilly ground where the excess water ran off is my best.
Average around 45 bu. weighed over scales. Another breakeven year, hopefully. Another 1/2 inch of rain on an already too wet ground. With temps in the 40's it's going to take forever to dry enough to get back in the fields. May God bless you all in a very frustrating and trying harvest 09!!!

[Crop Comments, October 26]

10/26 - East Central North Dakota: Total stand still in East Central North Dakota. Too wet to dig beets, too wet to combine soys, 1/2 or more of the dry beans left and too wet. Sunflower moisture went from 17 two weeks ago to 27 yesterday. And weather man says snow for Thursday, Saturday and Sunday of next week...Man are we in trouble...
...
10/26 - Bond County, South Central Illinois: Is this really possible? We have had the wettest couple of months in history. Most corn is still 30% and they are calling for 2-3 more inc hes of rain this week. We are losing crop as we speak. Lodging in the corn is starting to take place. Any suggestions? I am ready to punt!!!!
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10/28 - Ramsey County, Northeast North Dakota: Rain again with more rain & snow in the forecast for the next few days. We have only harvested 3 partial days in the past month. Pinto beans are less than 25% harvested, moisture has been over twenty on most, what is left will only be a salvage operation. Soybeans are less than 10% harvested, and they were upper teens to over twenty moisture. We had not planned to even try the corn until after Thanksgiving, may harvest it in the spring, did a lot last year and was pleasantly surprised by the increase in test weight and minimal loss.

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10/30 - Buena Vista County, Northwest Iowa: Raining here again, close to 10 inches now in October, Still some beans out in the fields here, I just got done, Yields decent in the 50's which is normal.
Some have gave up on beans and started corn, most of it from what I've heard is anywhere from 20% to 40% moisture and yields from 120 to 220, with very low test weights. Stalk Rot now a real concern & some guys are finding green snap they didn't know they had, those yields cut in half. I believe this harvest, when it's over, if ever will be one, we all will want to forget!

10/30 - Bond County, South Central Illinois: UN-FREAKIN-BELIEVABLE.

[Crop Comments, November 2]

11/2 - Houston County, Minn.:
Help me out here. I am confused. Just finished reading the crop comments. No harvest progress, beans to wet to combine or frosted while green. Corn molding, too wet to combine and many reports of very low test weight. Snow burying corn in Colorado and Nebraska. Flooding burying crops in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, etc., etc. Was at the local elevator yesterday. They are in a bind because they have contracts to fill but either no beans are coming in or they have to reject them because of high moisture. Biggest crop ever coming in??? Where?

...
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11/3 - Central Nebraska: 12 in snow just melted. Fields a saturated and corm is wet with little hope of drying down because of freeze before maturity. The USDA needs to wake up and smell the roses.

...
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11/4 - Franklin Country, North-Central Iowa:
Corn at 28%, we have maybe 10% harvested in this area. The last load of beans I took in was 14.2%, we have around 33% harvested around here. Yields for beans going low-50's to low-60's. Corn yields- only God knows. I would say we will be down around 25 bu from 2004 record yields; probably 190-195 will catch it this year. Certainly no record yield in my part of Iowa as the USDA is saying. Quality will be a big issue this year; I see a lot of corn getting dumped, rather than stored. The old-timers are saying they have not seen a harvest like this for many years and I hope we never see another one like this one for 30 years.

Common Sense

Anyone with an ounce of common sense would treat USDA skeptically. Virtually every country on earth experienced a sharp decline in Agricultural production. Nogger should know this, as he has been doing a good job reporting on it for the last year. The reason for the decline in production (in addition to adverse weather) is also the same everywhere: lack of credit and low commodity prices causing farmers to plant less and skim on imputs.

The record US crop productions is completely at odds with what is happened everywhere else. It might have been believable if the US had been blessed with good growing conditions, but this has not been the case. Common sense dictates that production must have fallen, significantly.

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Why is Nogger calling me a conspiracy theorist anyway?

Is it madness to believe the president of the United States when he declares most of the Midwest to have suffered significant production losses? Is it crazy to believe respected sources like Mississippi State University which claims 44 percent of the State's soybean crop was lost?

There is no conspiracy, just stupidity

There are only three groups of people predicting record US crop production.

1) Nameless, unaccountable statisticians at USDA releasing fictional production estimates.
2) Wall Street commodity research and brokerage companies (FCStone, Informa Economics, etc) which try to match their numbers to USDA estimates. These analysis groups have contacts at the USDA and rely on the USDA for a lot of their data, so it is no surprise their estimates are just as bad as the USDA's
numbers.
3) People like Nogger who look at the numbers published by the USDA and Wall Street analysis groups and assume the US farmers produced "some bloody good crops this year".

The USDA has polluted the media with the idea of record crop production based on fictional data. Any conspiracy (if you can call a couple of people at the USDA a conspiracy) is limited to the USDA itself, not outside analyst groups or bloggers like Nogger.

Why does Nogger believe the US produced "bloody good crops"?

This is very interesting questions. Nogger ridicules the USDA's approach as "one Spectrum ZX, some crayons and a pack of cards". Yet, for some unfathomable reason, he accepts the USDA's central premise of a "bloody good crops this year".

THERE IS NO NON-USDA DERIVED SOURCE PREDICTING RECORD HARVESTS. Even Lanworth's estimate is based in part on acreage figures provided by the USDA. On the contrary, remove USDA based data and news stories, and EVERYTHING points to a disastrous harvest. What Nogger is thinking is a mystery.

(Nogger, if you have any non-USDA data/evidence pointing towards a bumper harvest. I can't find any.)

Conclusion

If (when) Nogger turns out to be wrong about his "bloody good crops", he is not going to look good. After all, he is ignoring powerful evidence of a sharp drop in US crop production and placing a lot of faith in estimates from nameless, unaccountable statisticians at the USDA.

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5 Responses to About US Crop Production

  1. James says:

    Just to add a 'conspiritorial note:

    From Nogger's website...
    "Nogger
    Worked in agriculture for 30 years as a shipper, merchant, trader & broker, but still hasn't got the faintest idea what he's talking about. Likes beer."

    Question: Would a 'shipper, merchant, trader & broker' highlight a supply problem to producers ie farmers. If they did the producers ie farmers may ask for more money or hold on to their stock and not sell it.

    You had an article on marketskeptics on such a topic where someone went round saying prices would fall because of bumper harvests and get your crop to the mill as soon as possible.

    Also on Nogger's webiste you will see he is a "Specialist in website design and content for the grain & feed trade". A potential conflict of interest in providing accurate crop data of any use for farmers.

    I do hope Nogger's site is not another example of manipulated data to get lower prices for the people that do the real work and have the greater risks which is the farmers.

  2. Numonic says:

    Funny thing, I bet Eric definitely had to watch for typos making this blog article with the word "Nogger".

  3. Sebastian says:

    If you search Google for Nogger, you find this. I don't know if soybeans are used to produce it but that would make the connection. Otherwise i can't see why he chose the name Nogger.

  4. jerry says:

    The most important statement in Nogger's post is this:

    "So what are the real numbers? Respected private firm Lanworth Inc., who use perhaps a more sophisticated combination of satellite imagery, field surveys and ground data from the top producing states... say 12.318 billion bushels for corn and 3.081 billion bushels for soybeans."

    "Still some pretty weighty numbers, but 6.3% lower than the USDA on corn, and 8.3% lower in the case of beans."

    So what do you think of those estimates, Eric? Could this be consistent with all the disaster reports? As you've remarked earlier, politicians and farmers are eager to declare disasters each and every year, because they trigger subsidies.

    And if the shortfall is in the neighborhood of 6 to 8 percent, would that be sufficient to trigger the aftermath you're expecting?

  5. Philip says:

    Hi Eric
    We have been reading your site with great interest - and have added you to our aggregator http://www.investoridol.com.
    We wrote a recent article on rice:
    http://theinflationist.com/agriculture/investing-in-rice-agriculture. Would appreciate your input on rice.
    Also, given the bullish outlook of soft commodities, how are you positioning your trades/investments? What are you investing in - ETFs, futures, individual companies ?
    Thanks.

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