Featured Agriculture News

07/21/2017 - Aid Boosts for Cotton, Dairy

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday voted unanimously to advance a funding bill for USDA that would boost farm programs for both cotton and dairy producers.

07/21/2017 - Worm Rebellion Continues

Southern growers should be prepared to scout and spray most varieties of Bt cotton, including Bollgard II, WideStrike and TwinLink.

07/21/2017 - Spring Wheat Tour Preview

Low yields and fewer acres are expected as scouts fan out across the Northern Plains next week to examine the spring wheat and durum crop.

07/20/2017 - Kub's Den

During the time when any nation state thrived, it was only possible because of grain, such as wheat, which was an easily taxable product.

07/20/2017 - China to Import More US Soy

China bought the equivalent of the entire production of the state of Iowa, according to some reports.

07/20/2017 - DTN Retail Fertilizer Trends

Average retail prices for all eight of the major fertilizers were lower the second week of July 2017 compared to a month earlier, with anhydrous and urea seeing the biggest price declines.

07/19/2017 - Trump Touts American Products

President Donald Trump mentioned farmers several times and pointed out Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue at his "Made in America Product Showcase" on Monday.

07/19/2017 - Todd's Take

In spite of all the hype of algorithm-based computer trading, noncommercials are looking quite human again this summer.

07/19/2017 - House Budget Cuts Ag $10 Billion

House Budget Committee Chairwoman Diane Black, R-Tenn., on Tuesday released a fiscal year 2018 budget proposal that calls for a $10 billion cut in programs under the control of the House Agriculture Committee over 10 years.
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07/21/2017 Aid Boosts for Cotton, Dairy

By Jerry Hagstrom
DTN Political Correspondent

WASHINGTON (DTN) -- The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday passed a fiscal year 2018 Agriculture appropriations bill that would provide new aid to both cotton and dairy producers.

The bill would designate cotton seed as eligible for the Price Loss Coverage program while also propping up the Margin Protection Program for dairy farmers.

A summary of the bill's highlights distributed by Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran, R-Miss., noted that "The bill includes a provision which seeks to address the ongoing economic challenges facing U.S. cotton producers, and the entire U.S. industry, by designating cotton as an 'other oilseed' under Title I of the 2014 farm bill. This would allow cotton producers to participate in the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program just like all other major U.S. commodity producers."

Cotton producers have urged both former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and current Secretary Sonny Perdue to declare cotton seed an oilseed, but each has said that the USDA general's counsel office has advised that the secretary does not have the authority.

National Cotton Council Chairman Ronnie Lee, a Georgia producer and ginner, thanked Cochran "for his strong leadership on this issue" and said the policy, if enacted, "would apply beginning with the 2018 cotton crop, the last year of the current farm bill, and would help address the significant economic challenges currently facing America's cotton farming families."

Lee noted that the House Agriculture appropriations bill includes report language regarding a cottonseed policy and urges USDA to operate the $300 million Cotton Ginning Cost Share program beginning with the 2016 crop. He also said 26 senators and 109 representatives have sent President Donald Trump and Agriculture Secretary Perdue letters asking that USDA restart the Cotton Ginning Cost Share program, initially operated for the 2015 crop, for 2016.

"Both policy initiatives are needed to help U.S. cotton farmers deal with the ongoing financial stress and bridge the policy gap for cotton until the new farm bill is implemented," Lee said.

Senate Appropriations ranking member Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said in a news release that the bill includes provisions to improve the effectiveness of the Margin Protection Program and offer greater incentives for farmers to participate in the program.

Making these changes now rather than waiting for the farm bill next year allows USDA to implement these changes for a portion of the 2018 calendar year, Leahy said. If dairy farmers are forced to wait until the farm bill expiration next fall, it is unlikely that USDA would be able to implement any of these greatly needed changes until 2020, he added.

"These are crucial investments for dairy farmers who should not have to suffer through yet another year of a risk management program that falls short of providing an effective farm safety net," Leahy said. "I am hopeful that we can move forward from this starting point and first step, to reach a final bipartisan agreement that delivers an effective farm safety net to our nation's dairy farmers and cotton producers."

The House funding bill does not have similar provisions for cotton or dairy. These funding bills will have to eventually be reconciled before USDA is funded for fiscal-year 2018, which begins in October.

Leahy said the provisions make five specific changes:

1. "Moves the Margin Protection Program (MPP) calculations and potential payments to a monthly basis (currently bimonthly) to improve the program's accuracy and timeliness in responding to market conditions.

2. Dramatically reduces the premium costs for Tier I enrollment to incentivize producer participation at meaningful coverage levels of protection.

3. Adjusts the Tier I threshold level corresponding to substantially lower premium costs, to the first 5 million pounds of production, up from the current level of 4 million pounds of production (equivalent to 185 cows). This will better align the program with the median U.S. dairy farm size, 223 cows, and encourage more farms to participate and secure meaningful levels of protection to offer an effective farm safety net.

4. Waives $100 administrative fees for underserved producers, bringing the program in line with other USDA programs with similar service fee waiver, such as the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP).

5. Continues the program's current regulation offering farmers a one-time election to participate in the program for the length of the farm bill."

Rural Development amendment

The manager's amendment offered by Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Hoeven, R-N.D., included $896,000 to operate the Office of the Undersecretary for Rural Development and added language amending the 1994 Agriculture Reorganization Act to say that the secretary "shall" establish that office, even though the Trump administration has already moved to abolish that position.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., said during the markup that even though he is pleased with the job that Perdue is doing, "one of the problems is that you have a president who has only known urban America."

Tester said, "I look forward to the president putting up a nominee and I hope he does."

Rural development "can stop the mass exodus of people from rural America," Tester added.

Perdue told DTN on Thursday that he considers the provision to be a matter of "nomenclature." Noting that he has established the position of assistant for rural development in his office and named Anne Hazlett, a former Senate Agriculture Committee aide, to that position, he said Hazlett will do a good job whether she is an assistant to him or an undersecretary.

Perdue said he still considers that having an assistant in his office reporting directly to him to be an "elevation" of the post, while senators have said they believe an undersecretary has more authority.

Other Amendments

The committee also adopted by voice vote an amendment offered by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, to require labeling of genetically modified salmon, and one offered by Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., to forbid USDA from inspecting horses under the Federal Meat Inspection Act.

Sen. Jean Shaheen, D-N.H., offered, but then withdrew an amendment to end nonrecourse loans for cane and beet sugar to any entity that makes more than $300 million.

Shaheen said she realized that she was "tilting at windmills here" because she did not have the votes to get the measure through the committee.

"Like you I fight for my constituents," she said, noting she wanted to "put folks on notice ... [that] this is a program we need to look at" because she believes the higher prices for sugar have led to job losses in the sugar-containing products industry.

Hoeven said, however, that the program is needed because Mexico and other countries can "dump" sugar into the U.S. market with the European Union remains closed off to imports.

The major provisions of the bill are listed in a summary on the Senate Appropriations Committee website. http://dld.bz/…


07/21/2017 Worm Rebellion Continues

By Emily Unglesbee
DTN Staff Reporter

ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) -- From the Carolinas to Texas, the cotton bollworm is leading an assault on Bt cotton again this year.

Growing resistance to the Bt traits found in the most common cotton varieties is proving problematic as southern states face another large population of the pest, said North Carolina State University Extension Entomologist Dominic Reisig.

"We're seeing earlier and higher bollworm populations than normal," he said. "As the season progresses, that means we'll see more generations of the insect."

For now, entomologists are trying to get growers reacquainted with how to scout for bollworm eggs and caterpillars in order to make timely insecticide applications.


Last year, Texas A&M Extension entomologist David Kerns confirmed that some bollworm populations are resistant to Cry1Ac, the Bt protein found in both Monsanto's Bollgard II and Dow AgroSciences' WideStrike cotton varieties.

Now Kerns has also confirmed that some populations tested from Louisiana and Tennessee last year have resistance to Cry2Ab -- the second protein found in Bollgard II. Nor can growers lean on the second protein in WideStrike cotton, Cry1F, which has only sublethal effects on the bollworm, Reisig said.

Growers may also see problems with Bayer's TwinLink cotton, which expresses the proteins Cry1Ab and Cry2Ae, which act similarly to the proteins found in Bollgard II, Reisig said.

Many bollworms might be moving into cotton from corn this year (where they are called the corn earworm). There, they have been exposed to similar Bt proteins and may already be predisposed to survive on Bt cotton, Reisig added.

"Growers can't just lean back on Bt cotton and expect it to work this year," he said. "Especially not with the bollworm populations we're seeing."

The good news is that Monsanto, Dow and Bayer have all added the Bt protein Vip3A to new cotton varieties called Bollgard 3, WideStrike 3 and TwinLink Plus, respectively.

These products should supply good control of the bollworm, but their availability isn't as widespread as the older varieties yet, Reisig noted. Bollgard 3, in particular, won't have a full commercial launch until 2018, although some varieties are being planted on a limited scale this year.


Growers have two options for scouting the bollworm -- doing a pro-active search for eggs or a secondary search for emerged caterpillars.

The egg method is complicated by the fact that there is no good way to distinguish the eggs of the bollworm from the eggs of the tobacco budworm, which is well-controlled by Bt cotton, Reisig noted. The eggs will be white and tiny -- smaller than a pencil point -- and laid singly, not in bunches.

Most guides recommend looking on leaves in the terminal of the plant for eggs, but in North Carolina they are also commonly found in the middle of the plants, near blooms, Reisig said.

Reisig recommends spraying if eggs are found on 25% of the terminals scouted. In a university news article, Mississippi State entomologist Angus Catchot recommended Mid-Southern growers lower that threshold to just 10 to 15% egg infestation on "bloom tags" for WideStrike varieties. (See his article here: http://bit.ly/…).

The second strategy involves scouting for emerged bollworm caterpillars and spraying when they are still quite small and haven't yet burrowed into a bloom, square or boll.

This approach weeds out any tobacco budworm caterpillars, which will be controlled by the Bt proteins, but it requires being familiar with the size of different larval stages of bollworm. In a university article, Reisig categorizes the thresholds as follows: "Three second-stage bollworm (or larger) in 100 fruiting tissues on one scouting trip, two second-stage bollworm (or larger) in 100 fruiting tissues on two consecutive scouting trips, or one second-stage bollworm (or larger) in 100 fruiting tissues on three consecutive scouting trips)." (See his article here: http://bit.ly/….

Catchot recommends only diamides insecticides (or high rates of Intrepid Edge) for control of the bollworm in the Mid-South, as pyrethroids are not showing good control of the bollworm there anymore. Even with diamides, don't expect 100% control if you're spraying emerged caterpillars, he warned.

In North Carolina, pyrethroids are still among the insecticides recommended for use against bollworm, Reisig said. See a list here: https://goo.gl/….

Be sure to check for more local thresholds and insecticide recommendations with your state Extension office, as they can vary by state and region.

Emily Unglesbee can be reached at emily.unglesbee@dtn.com.

Follow Emily Unglesbee on Twitter @Emily_Unglesbee.


07/21/2017 Spring Wheat Tour Preview

By Emily Unglesbee
DTN Staff Reporter

ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) -- When crop scouts hit the road next week for the Wheat Quality Council's annual Hard Spring Wheat and Durum Tour, they'll take plenty of water, said tour organizer and council president Dave Green.

It's a pity they can't take enough for the wheat crop.

After a week of temperatures in the upper 90s, the spring wheat crop is showing the effects of months of drought in the Northern Plains, Green said.

"This is a crop that went bad because they just didn't get normal rains in the spring and early summer," he said. "It's struggling."

Scouts are likely to see lower yields and fewer wheat fields than normal, Green said. Many growers have abandoned acres at high rates in the western halves of South and North Dakota, where drought conditions are most severe.

In its most recent Crop Progress report, USDA estimated that 40% of the North Dakota crop is in poor-to-very poor condition and 32% in good-to-excellent condition. South Dakota's crop is in even more dire conditions -- the agency rated it 74% poor-to-very poor, with just 8% in good-to-excellent condition.

Each year on the spring wheat tour, crop scouts pack into vans and trucks and fan out onto established routes through the Northern Plains. Scouts stop and take measurements in wheat and durum fields as they go and use a formula to estimate yield. At the end of each day, each route submits its yield findings and an average yield number is announced for the day. On the third and last day of the tour, a final tour average is calculated and released.

This year, the tour will bring along 76 attendees, mostly farmers, millers, bakers, seed company and industry representatives, as well as members of the media, Green said.


The scouts will start in Fargo, North Dakota, on Monday, July 24. Usually they cover western Minnesota, central North Dakota, and eastern South Dakota the first day, before ending in Bismarck, North Dakota. This year, the tour may well skip the South Dakota section, simply because so much of that region has moved away from wheat acreage and into soybeans and corn, Green said.

On Wednesday, scouts will explore western and northwestern North Dakota, skirting the borders of Montana and Canada, before ending the day in Devils Lake, North Dakota. On Thursday, the tour drives through northeastern North Dakota on its way back to Fargo.

Scouts will see drought-compromised fields, but also fewer of them, Green noted. In the driest areas in south-central and southwest North Dakota and western South Dakota, he's heard estimates of field abandonment ranging from 30% to 55%.

Those fields were likely terminated or cut for hay, a much-needed commodity for drought-stricken local ranchers, said Tim Luken, who manages Oahe Grain Corporation in Onida, South Dakota. He estimates 15% to 20% of the spring wheat in his area has been baled for hay or sprayed out.

Most of the haying is probably done, as producers aim to have green wheat for the best livestock forage, Green said. "Everyone has told us that when we get there, if we see fields turning color and still standing, they're probably going to harvest it," he said.

USDA expects a spring wheat crop of just 423 million bushels, down 21% from last year, according to the agency's Crop Production report released July 12. Harvested acreage was pegged at 10.5 million acres, a 7% decline from 2016.


Durum production is also expected to plummet 45% to 57.5 mb this year, with acreage shrinking 21% from 2016 to just 1.86 million acres.

Yields will likely be low and variable, Luken said. USDA pegged the spring wheat crop's average yield at 40.3 bushels per acre, down 6.9 bushels from last year.

Luken said he heard estimates from western South Dakota ranging from 12 to 28 bpa. In central South Dakota, he predicted some fields may brush 30 bpa, but nowhere near the 34 bpa that USDA estimated for the state's average yield, he said.

"And those are the good fields," he noted. "There are a lot more bad fields than good ones."

Green said scouts will have to take special care this year to properly calculate yields in droughty fields.

"The thing we're worried about this year is that when it's this hot and dry, sometimes kernels don't even fill," he said. "We'll be training people to see how good the pollination has been -- to be sure to peel heads open and make sure there are kernels there."

Insects and disease aren't likely to be prominent this year, both Green and Luken agreed. "It's hard to have too many insects or diseases without moisture to feed them," Luken noted.

Harvest is 5% underway in South Dakota, and the North Dakota crop was just over a quarter coloring as of July 17, according to USDA.

Although tour scouts can't measure it, all eyes will be on protein levels in the spring wheat crop, Green noted.

Two years in a row of low-protein winter wheat crops have taken a toll on the milling and baking industry, which requires protein levels around 13% to 14%. Usually these end users rely heavily on a high-protein spring wheat crop to bring protein levels up in their blends.

Protein levels in the droughty crop this year will probably be higher, but lowered quality and a smaller harvest will hurt, Green said.

"It'll be much higher in protein than normal, but not the way you like to get protein," he said. "Wheat will be shriveled and have low test weights, which tends to cause milling issues."

You can see last year's Hard Spring Wheat and Durum Tour results here: http://www.wheatqualitycouncil.org/….

Follow DTN for daily stories on the tour's findings next week.

Emily Unglesbee can be reached at Emily.unglesbee@dtn.com.

Follow Emily Unglesbee on Twitter @Emily_Unglesbee.


07/20/2017 Kub's Den

By Elaine Kub
DTN Contributing Analyst

Grain markets played a huge role in human history. The very formation of early nation states and all the "great" early civilizations -- the Sumerians, the Egyptians, the Han Dynasty -- were only possible once humans started growing grain, and the history lessons all take it for granted that this is a good thing. Farming is a noble and desirable profession, and everyone should want to do it.

But history lessons would say that, wouldn't they? By definition, if we are still reading about a civilization today, it's only because that civilization happened to have some class of elites sitting around with enough time and education to write things down. There are no surviving epics from the "barbarians" who passed their time hunting and gathering and moving from place to place in small bands, as their desires moved them, although this might have been a much more pleasant, healthy way to live compared to life in the shadow of the Ziggurat of Ur.

The writing elites were supported by the excess grain taken away (taxed) from the broader population of working, drudging peasant farmers, so of course the elites thought that grain was pretty great. Of course that's how written history remembers this development in human civilization. One Sumerian text reads, "Whoever has silver, whoever has jewels, whoever has cattle, whoever has sheep shall take a seat at the gate of whomever has grain, and pass his time there."

But a forthcoming book called Against the Grain: A Deep History of the First Civilizations from James C. Scott, political scientist, anthropologist, and Director of the Agrarian Studies Program at Yale University, tosses all these assumptions upside down.

It's true that there was no such thing as an organized nation state without farming, and this was a newly powerful system of human organization, one that really only developed within the past 400 years across most of the globe. However, Scott points out the ways that humans themselves were "domesticated" (basically enslaved) to make this at all possible for the relatively few elites among a population. He leaves a reader wistful for a time when roving bands of humans had a better leisure-to-drudgery ratio (about 50/50) compared to the constant hard work that our farming ancestors have convinced us is so virtuous.

Think about it: even today with the significant aid of technology, how many hours have farmers invested in this season of growing crops, and how much of that effort is ultimately going to be sent to the government as taxes? Don't get me wrong -- I personally enjoy living in a society with well-maintained roads and law and order, but there's always a certain temptation to just live off the fish you can catch in the river and the wild plums you can harvest from the roadsides. How much stronger must that temptation have been when the choice was even starker: sitting around a campfire with your hunter friends, or collapsing at the end of a day spent hoeing weeds in Pharaoh's wheat fields?

As Scott puts it, "Why anyone not impelled by hunger, danger, or coercion would willingly give up hunting and foraging or pastoralism for full-time [fixed-field] agriculture is hard to fathom."

Grain states were fragile things, usually disintegrating within two or three reigns, due to sudden new epidemic diseases (human diseases or grain diseases, all only possible now that large populations were concentrated in one urban area), or drought or flood or pestilence, or climate variation, or the exhaustion of the soil and other nearby resources, or overly rapacious taxation and the subsequent fleeing of the peasant population. All the "Great Walls" of history, including the first one built in 2000 BC by the Sumerian King Sulgi between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, were built as much to keep a tax-paying population IN, as to keep barbarians OUT.

But during the time when any nation state thrived, it was only possible because of grain. Sure, there could be a sedentary grain farming population without any nation state, but there was never any such thing as a nation state without grain farming.

Population centers might develop, and wealth might be accumulated within a town, but in order to politically enclose a real empire, supported by other people's labor, a nation state needed to be based on an easily taxable product. Wheat (or barley or teff or any other cereal grain) can be dried and stored; it can be transported; it is visible, divisible, rationable, and assessable. In other words, its annual production can be easily seen and accurately counted by the tax collectors, unlike almost any other agricultural crop. Even wool was difficult to tax because the shepherds kept moving around and shearing their sheep in different locations. Once a grain crop is planted, it stays in one place and the peasantry must stay there, too.

That is how the farming tradition of growing ever-more grain got started. More yield per field, more fields per farmer, more of anything there can be more of. As Scott writes, "In the absence of either compulsion or the chance of capitalist accumulation, there was no incentive to produce beyond the locally prevailing standards of subsistence and comfort ... Beyond sufficiency, there was no reason to increase the drudgery of agricultural production."

Only 240 human generations have passed since the first adoption of agriculture (can you believe that?), and Scott calculates that perhaps no more than 160 generations have elapsed since grain farming became a widespread practice. It only took that many people to pass down and reinforce every deeply held attitude and belief we currently hold about farming.

It is fascinating to read the details of that progression, to think about how these beliefs originated, and to consider how closely we should still treasure them today.

*Against the Grain: A Deep History of the First Civilizations by James C. Scott. Yale University Press, 336 pp, $26.00, August 22, 2017, ISBN 978 0300182910

Elaine Kub is the author of "Mastering the Grain Markets: How Profits Are Really Made" and can be reached at elaine@masteringthegrainmarkets.com or on Twitter @elainekub.


07/20/2017 China to Import More US Soy

By Lin Tan
DTN Markets Editor

DES MOINES, Iowa (DTN) -- Seven Chinese soybean buyers signed agreements here last week to buy 12.5 million metric tons (460 million bushels) of 2017-2018 U.S. soybeans, the second-largest deal after the 2015 agreement.

"This is a deal of 5 billion U.S. dollars," said Xiaoping Zhang, China country director of the U.S. Soybean Export Council.

"They basically bought the entire production we have in the state of Iowa," said Iowa farmer April Hemmes. "To have the Chinese come and basically buy our entire production is huge."

China had imported 66.36 mmt (2,438 mb) of 2016/17 crop soybeans so far. According to China market estimates, there will be more than 23.7 mmt (870 mb) of soybeans on the way to China in the following three months, bringing total imports of 2016/17 crop to 90 mmt, a little shy of USDA estimates.

In its July 12 World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report, USDA estimated China would import 91 mmt of 2016/17 soybeans.

"Soybean exports have become the largest amount of U.S. commodities sold to China," Zhang told DTN after the signing ceremony. "Larger than Boeing aircraft exports."

A May 2017 report "Research on the Relation of China-US Economic and Trade" from the China Ministry of Commerce said, in 2016, the U.S. exported 33.6 mmt of soybeans, 440 aircrafts and 255,000 cars to China, valued $13.8 billion, $12.5 billion, and $12.1 billion respectively. Soybeans ranked first in U.S. exports to China.

While this is a large number of soybeans bought, we need to keep in mind that a Chinese delegation does this same sort of thing here in the United States every year. The fact that it is the second largest, to 2015, is more a statement regarding the continued growth of demand more than the value of U.S. soybeans on the global export market. It is a good start, but certainly continued business will need to be seen as the 2016-2017 marketing year ends (at the end of August) and 2017-2018 begins.

"There are still huge growth potentials for U.S. soybean exports to China in the future," said Hai Xu, counselor for science and technology with the Chinese Consulate in Chicago. Xu also contribute this results of contracts signing to the results of "the 100-Day Action Plan."

Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump had agreed in their first meeting in April this year to carry out a "100-Day Action Plan" under the framework of the U.S.-China Comprehensive Economic Dialogue (CED).

USDA expects China to import more than 94 mmt (3,454 mb) of soybeans in the 2017-18 crop year.

To further facilitate Chinese consumers, "U.S. farmers will also produce higher-quality soybeans for the Chinese market," Jim Sutter, CEO of the U.S. Soybean Export Council, told DTN. "The U.S. Soybean Checkoff had supported several U.S. seed companies in breeding better soybean varieties with higher required animal acid content, which will add value to soybean meal products."

Statistics shows that 62% of U.S. exported soybean went to the China market, added Zhang.


07/20/2017 DTN Retail Fertilizer Trends

By Russ Quinn
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) -- For the second straight week, retail fertilizer prices are showing significant movement after five months of holding mostly steady, according to fertilizer retailers surveyed by DTN. Prices for all eight of the major fertilizers were lower the second week of July 2017 compared to a month earlier.

As the fertilizer application season wraps up for this growing season, retail prices are beginning to decrease with lower demand.

Anhydrous is 10% lower compared to last month while urea is 5% less expensive. Anhydrous had an average price of $451 per ton while urea was at $321/ton.

The remaining six fertilizers had just slightly lower prices compared to last month. DAP had an average price of $436/ton, MAP $467/ton, potash $340/ton, 10-34-0 $431/ton, UAN28 $235/ton and UAN32 $268/ton.

On a price per pound of nitrogen basis, the average urea price was at $0.35/lb.N, anhydrous $0.28/lb.N, UAN28 $0.42/lb.N and UAN32 $0.42/lb.N.

Retailers report fertilizer prices are pushing lower as the application season wraps up and as retailers prepare to refill their fertilizer stocks. Steve Lias, general manager of Farmers Elevator Company located in Humboldt, South Dakota, told DTN nitrogen products in particular are moving lower right now.

"I think we are seeing urea and other nitrogen products significantly lower because of the new domestic supplies we now have in place," Lias said. "We pull from Port Neal's (Iowa) new facilities, and we do our own hauling now."

Lias said he thinks some retailers may hold off on their summer fill activities for a bit just to see how low prices fall. The danger of this, of course, is prices could always go the other direction, he said.

Longer term, Lias said, he believes nitrogen does not have much upside pressure while phosphorus fertilizers could hang around at their current levels.

"I think if there is one fertilizer which could be higher come fall it might be potash," he said. "We are already so low I could easily see a $20-per-ton increase to the price by then."

Prices of all retail fertilizers are lower compared to a year earlier. Five of the eight major fertilizers are double digits lower.

10-34-0 is 20% lower from a year ago while anhydrous is 17% less expensive, UAN32 is 13% lower, UAN28 is 12% less expensive and urea is 11% less expensive. DAP is 7% lower, MAP is 6% less expensive and potash is 5% lower.

DTN collects roughly 1,700 retail fertilizer bids from 310 retailer locations weekly. Not all fertilizer prices change each week. Prices are subject to change at any time.

DTN Pro Grains subscribers can find current retail fertilizer price in the DTN Fertilizer Index on the Fertilizer page under Farm Business.

Retail fertilizer charts dating back to 2010 are available in the DTN fertilizer segment. The charts included cost of N/lb., DAP, MAP, potash, urea, 10-34-0, anhydrous, UAN28 and UAN32.

DTN's average of retail fertilizer prices from a month earlier ($ per ton):

July 11-15 2016 467 496 358 360
Aug 8-12 2016 453 482 344 345
Sept 5-9 2016 446 464 325 325
Oct 3-7 2016 438 451 312 315
Oct 31-Nov 4 2016 436 451 314 319
Nov 28-Dec 2 2016 435 445 318 331
Dec 26-30 2016 431 443 321 336
Jan 23-27 2017 429 443 322 347
Feb 20-24 2017 433 452 332 359
Mar 20-24 2017 438 464 338 356
Apr 17-21 2017 438 466 339 352
May 15-19 2017 437 471 340 350
Jun 12-16 2017 437 470 341 338
Jul 10-14 2017 436 467 340 321
Date Range 10-34-0 ANHYD UAN28 UAN32
July 11-15 2016 538 547 266 306
Aug 8-12 2016 528 522 249 299
Sept 5-9 2016 478 502 228 274
Oct 3-7 2016 454 472 224 263
Oct 31-Nov 4 2016 452 471 244 262
Nov 28-Dec 2 2016 447 465 217 256
Dec 26-30 2016 437 466 217 254
Jan 23-27 2017 436 480 235 268
Feb 20-24 2017 440 490 241 276
Mar 20-24 2017 441 507 248 280
Apr 17-21 2017 437 509 247 280
May 15-19 2017 436 510 248 283
Jun 12-16 2017 435 500 246 278
Jul 10-14 2017 431 451 235 268

Russ Quinn can be reached at russ.quinn@dtn.com

Follow Russ Quinn on Twitter @RussQuinnDTN


07/19/2017 Trump Touts American Products

By Jerry Hagstrom
DTN Political Correspondent

WASHINGTON (DTN) -- In his remarks Monday at his "Made in America Product Showcase," President Donald Trump mentioned farmers several times and pointed out Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.

After being introduced by Vice President Mike Pence, Trump opened his remarks by saying, "And you know, Mike, it is true that, as I walked through the halls, we saw so many great companies, but the gentleman who was in charge of Omaha Beef -- they do beef -- he hugged me, he wanted to kiss me so badly."

"Because he said, 'Our business is a whole different business now because you got China approved; the other administrations couldn't even come close.' And I told him, 'You know how long it took? One sentence. I said, President Xi, we'd love to sell beef back in China again. He said, You can do that.' That was the end of that. Right? Sonny. The great Sonny Perdue. So we're very happy."

Later in the speech, Trump said, "American workers, farmers and innovators are really the best in the world -- we know that. And what we're doing [with] that is we're displaying those talents. You construct and harvest the products that fill our homes, feed our families, and defend our nation, and enrich our lives. I want to make a pledge to each and every one of you: No longer are we going to allow other countries to break the rules, steal our jobs, and drain our wealth -- and it has been drained. It has been drained."

And finally, he said, "My administration is removing the burdens and regulations on your companies so that you can compete, thrive, and grow. How many of you have noticed this so far? Because it's a big, big difference, right? That's a big, big difference. The people are coming up to me -- they can't even believe it.

"We took the farmer's land away. We took the homebuilder's land away. They have their land back now, and they're building homes and they're farming their farms, and it's a beautiful thing to see. And they're so thankful."

Among the agriculture-related products displayed at the "Made In America" event were:

-- Wine, The California Wine Institute, California

-- Fast food, Chick Fil A, Georgia

-- Rum, Koloa Rum Co., Hawaii

-- Farm equipment, Caterpillar, Illinois

-- Brooms, Broomcorn Johnnys, Indiana

-- Crab pots, Eddie Heath's Crab Pots, Maryland

-- Wool blankets, Faribault Woolen Mill, Minnesota

-- Fishing gear, Simms Fishing, Montana

-- Beef, Greater Omaha Packing, Nebraska

-- Candy, Kimmie Candy, Nevada

-- Doughnuts, Cider Belly Doughnuts, New Hampshire

-- Soup, Campbells Soup, New Jersey

-- Soda, Cheerwine, North Carolina

-- Shovels, rakes and hoes, Bully Tools, Ohio

-- Trencher/excavator, DitchWitch, Oklahoma

-- Wheel barrows, Ames, Pennsylvania

-- Beer, Narragansett Brewing Company, Rhode Island

-- Shotgun chaps, K Bar J Leather, South Dakota

-- Cowboy hats, Stetson, Texas

-- Maple syrup, Dubie Family Maple, Vermont


07/19/2017 Todd's Take

By Todd Hultman
DTN Analyst

Noncommercial traders are broadly defined by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) as any futures account that does not engage in "business activities hedged by the use of the futures or options markets." It does not matter if the account is an individual or an investment fund or some other form as long as they are not in the business of dealing with the physical commodity traded. (CFTC's definition of commercial and noncommercial traders can be found at: http://bit.ly/…)

If the number of contracts held in an account or group of related accounts reaches CFTC's reportable position level, those positions will be reported in CFTC's weekly Commitments of Traders report. In the case of corn, any position of 250 contracts or more gets reported in CFTC's weekly report. As of last Friday, 36% of corn's total open interest came from reportable noncommercial positions, 51% was from reportable commercial positions, and the remaining 13% was from smaller accounts with non-reportable positions. (Information on reportable position levels for grain futures at the CBOT can be found at: http://bit.ly/…)

Some analysts focus on the "managed money" section of CFTC's disaggregated reports to get a read on what traders are doing. Here at DTN, we talk about total noncommercial positions in CFTC's aggregated report. I mention that because it sometimes confuses our readers who hear more than one analyst. Personally, I prefer the broader noncommercial category because markets themselves don't care if the speculative trader holding a position is defined as managed money or not. A spec is a spec.

Which brings us to the point of today's article. The main reason we care about these designations is that it gives us valuable insight into the markets that we can't get anywhere else. Noncommercial traders have different ways of operating in the markets than commercials do, and we are seeing again this summer the importance of knowing the pros and cons of each.

Near the end of June, noncommercial traders in soybeans put their largest net-long position on record, just before USDA's Acreage report on June 30 sparked a dollar rally in soybean prices. Trader losses were compounded by a slow response, as it took them two weeks to back out of those net-shorts -- even though November soybeans posted a new three-month high as early as July 3.

As bad as that trading went, Friday's Commitments of Traders report just showed another flop, this time in corn. According to CFTC data, noncommercials increased net longs to 175,745 contracts on July 11, just in time to see December corn drop 34 cents the next two days.

The purpose here is not to gloat over others' pain, but to bring up something I have suspected for a long time. We hear a lot about commodity funds employing computerized trading algorithms these days as if that were a giant advantage. If you read enough of these articles, you might even get the sense that the average grain producer or small trading account doesn't have a chance in today's markets ruled by technological titans.

But when we look at the actual track record in grains the past few years and especially again this summer, we see one noncommercial train wreck after another. Where are all these fantastic algorithms? To borrow a famous book title, "Where are the customers' yachts?" (I'm referring to the 1940 book by investment humorist Fred Schwed Jr., "Where Are the Customers' Yachts?")

Writing an opinion piece for Bloomberg News on July 12, 2017, investment adviser Shelley Goldberg noticed that things are not going well for trading firms. She noted, "The number of commodity trading houses has dwindled over the years, and the institutional, pure-play commodity hedge funds that remain -- and actually make money -- can be counted on two hands." (To read Goldberg's full piece "Why Commodity Traders Are Fleeing the Business," visit https://bloom.bg/….)

It is fair to say that not all noncommercials are created equal and not all commodity funds are equal either. In fact, there are several managed futures funds that have a strong reputation for being disciplined trend-followers, and they will tell you that they will not come out ahead every year. But, over the long run, they expect to be profitable.

Judging by CFTC data, however, we can see that the bulk of noncommercial positions are not behaving as disciplined trend-followers, adhering to computer trading algorithms or strict rules of position-sizing. They are behaving as most people do, loading up on soybean positions when they think soybean acres will be higher than expected and loading up on corn positions when the extended forecast looks hot and dry.

In spite of all the talk of technology ruling the world, the actual record of noncommercial positions is far less glamorous. The siren call of those trying to predict the future is as strong as ever, and no doubt more technology than ever is being employed. As far as I can tell, fallible people are still calling the shots.

Todd Hultman can be reached at Todd.Hultman@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @ToddHultman1


07/19/2017 House Budget Cuts Ag $10 Billion

By Jerry Hagstrom
DTN Political Correspondent
Zachary Silver
Political Correspondent Intern

WASHINGTON (DTN) -- House Budget Committee Chairwoman Diane Black, R-Tenn., on Tuesday released a fiscal year 2018 budget proposal that calls for a $10 billion cut in programs under the control of the House Agriculture Committee over 10 years. But congressional agricultural leaders raised questions about whether a budget resolution will go into effect and whether it would cut agriculture.

The House Budget Committee is scheduled to markup the budget bill on Wednesday. But for that budget to go into effect, it would have to pass the House and be reconciled with a Senate budget bill.

Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Hoeven, R-N.D., told reporters Tuesday that he and other senators want to maintain the current level of funding for Agriculture programs.

"The president's budget was a starting point," Hoeven said after his subcommittee approved its fiscal year 2018 bill. "Our view is that we've got to strongly support agriculture."

The 2014 farm bill has saved more than $100 billion over 10 years, he added.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, said Black "has one of the hardest jobs in Washington, so I appreciate her efforts to land at a place where we're reducing the size of our debt."

"Decisions like these are always difficult, but as I've said from the beginning, the committee plans to be part of the solution. Many folks are going to have questions about where the proposed $10 billion in reconciliation cuts will come from. We need to see where this process lands with the Senate, and when we have a joint budget resolution, the committee will do its part to help generate any required savings."

If the House Agriculture Committee has to cut $10 billion from its programs, there would be pressure to cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the nation's largest food assistance program.

But House Agriculture Nutrition Subcommittee Chairman Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., said at the conclusion of a hearing Tuesday, "It has been noted throughout the hearing this morning that the budget resolution released this morning calls for $10 billion in reconciliation reductions from the Agriculture Committee."

"Several folks have offered suggestions in the press over the past few weeks for ways to cut SNAP to achieve those savings. I want to remind everyone that it is up to this committee to decide -- the Agriculture Committee -- how any required savings would be achieved -- not the Budget Committee and not folks who are freelancing in the press.

"And I would also note that we are only required to respond to reconciliation instructions that make it through the Senate and into a conference joint budget resolution," Thompson said. "So for the time being, we are going to keep our eye on the ball, and that means staying focused on the next farm bill."

House Agriculture Nutrition Subcommittee ranking member Jim McGovern, D-Mass., reacted passionately to the budget proposal at the hearing Tuesday.

"I am really angry at this budget," he said in his opening remarks. "If this is the budget and this is what we will see in the farm bill -- a cut of $10 billion, and I think that may be a floor and not even a ceiling -- I will predict right here and now we will not have a farm bill. I certainly will do everything I can to kill a farm bill that has a $10 billion cut in it."

As a member of both the Budget and Agriculture Committee, as well as the Nutrition Subcommittee, Rep. John Faso, R-N.Y., defended the budget released Tuesday by noting while "the budget does presume $10 billion in reduced spending over 10 years, it's important to note that this program [SNAP] will spend somewhere between $600-$700 billion over that 10-year period."