USDA Cuts US Corn, Soy Estimates; Grain Mkts Up (2nd UPDATE)

(Updates with closing grain prices; additional analyst comments)

CHICAGO -(Dow Jones)- The U.S. Department of Agriculture Friday cut its projections for 2008 U.S. corn and soybean production, keeping supplies of the commodities tight and helping lift grain prices.

The reduction in crop size, which was the result of poor growing weather in August, could be the start of a trend, especially because the crops were already lagging developmentally because of delayed planting and spring floods in parts of the Midwest, grain analysts warned.

The USDA estimates U.S. 2008 corn production at 12.072 billion bushels, down 216 million from the agency’s August estimate. The soybean crop is expected to come in at 2.934 billion bushels, down 39 million bushels from last month’s forecast. In both cases, the agency said, weather during August lowered the average yield for each crop, thereby lowering total production.

Read moreUSDA Cuts US Corn, Soy Estimates; Grain Mkts Up (2nd UPDATE)

China to urgently boost GM crop development

China has said it must urgently step up the development of genetically modified crops as it faces mounting challenges to feed its 1.3 billion people due to shrinking arable land and climate change.

Newly-approved plans aim to cultivate high-yielding and pest-resistant genetically modified species, the State Council, or cabinet, said in a statement posted on its website late Wednesday

At a meeting chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao, Chinese leaders said the plans were “of strategic significance” in the country’s drive to make its agricultural sector more efficient and competitive internationally, the statement said.

“Departments must fully understand the importance and urgency of this significant project, further improve the programme and waste no time to carry it out,” it said.

It gave no details on which crops should be developed, but analysts said the plans were likely to focus on developing genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, including corn and rice.

China has become a major producer of genetically modified cotton and vegetables such as peppers and tomatoes, but it has yet to begin large-scale production of genetically modified rice, corn and soybeans.

Read moreChina to urgently boost GM crop development

The Price Of Food: 2007 – 2008

Related articles:
The U.S. Has No Remaining Grain Reserves
Floods wipe out US crops
Nine meals from anarchy – how Britain is facing a very real food crisis
Time to Stockpile Food?
Food Riots are Coming to the U.S.
UN alert: One-fourth of world’s wheat at risk from new fungus
THE FOUR HORSEMEN APPROACH – FAMINE IS IN THE AIR

The meat prices will very soon go through the roof too, because the livestock is fed with corn, soybeans and hay. And the prices will continue to rise because of accelerating inflation, the missing bees, flooding and more natural disasters coming. – The Infinite Unknown
__________________________________________________________________________________________

Source: Cattle Network

May

May

Percent

Meat & Dairy

Unit

2007

2008

Change

Ground Chuck Lb 2.766 2.798 1.16%
Ground Beef Lb 2.307 2.313 0.26%
Steak Round, Choice Lb 4.134 4.178 1.06%
Bacon, Sliced Lb 3.651 3.637 -0.38%
Pork Chops Lb 3.194 3.268 2.32%
Chicken Breast Lb 2.312 2.392 3.46%
Turkey, Frozen Lb 1.146 1.258 9.77%
Eggs, Grade A Doz 1.504 1.930 28.32%
Milk, Fresh Gal 3.259 3.760 15.37%
Cheddar Cheese Lb 3.976 4.397 10.59%
Source: ERS/USDA – Retail Prices

Field Crops

Unit

2007

2008

Change

Barley Bu $3.12 $4.76 52.56%
Beans, Dry Edible Cwt $3.08 $5.06 64.29%
Corn Bu $3.49 $5.12 46.70%
Cotton Lb $0.44 $0.61 37.95%
Flaxseed Bu $7.08 $16.60 134.46%
Hay Ton $138.00 $166.00 20.29%
Lentils Cwt $13.20 $32.70 147.73%
Oats Bu $2.49 $3.46 38.96%
Peanuts Lb $0.18 $0.20 12.29%
Peas, Dry Edible Cwt $10.10 $16.40 62.38%
Potatoes Cwt $7.95 $9.21 15.85%
Rice, Rough Cwt $10.00 $15.00 50.00%
Sorghum Cwt $6.49 $9.18 41.45%
Soybeans Bu $7.12 $12.30 72.75%
Sunflower Cwt $16.60 $27.40 65.06%
Wheat Bu $4.88 $8.80 80.33%
Source: USDA/NASS – Ag Prices Received

May

May

Percent

Fruits

Unit

2007

2008

Change

Apples Lb $0.27 $0.34 26.02%
Grapefruit Box $4.49 $5.12 14.03%
Lemons Box $8.14 $20.77 155.16%
Oranges Box $11.12 $6.95 -37.50%
Peaches Ton $820.00 $948.00 15.61%
Pears Ton $651.00 $525.00 -19.35%
Strawberries Cwt $68.60 $66.70 -2.77%
Tangerines Box $17.01 $5.98 -64.84%
Source: USDA/NASS – Ag Prices Received

May

May

Percent

Vegetables

Unit

2007

2008

Change

Asparagus Cwt $91.90 $99.80 8.60%
Broccoli Cwt $26.70 $27.30 2.25%
Carrots Cwt $32.00 $25.50 -20.31%
Cauliflower Cwt $24.90 $37.40 50.20%
Celery Cwt $18.30 $37.70 106.01%
Cucumbers Cwt $28.50 $17.50 -38.60%
Lettuce Cwt $13.60 $16.80 23.53%
Onions Cwt $24.20 $31.70 30.99%
Snap Beans Cwt $38.80 $39.60 2.06%
Sweet Corn Cwt $21.40 $23.10 7.94%
Tomatoes Cwt $35.60 $40.40 13.48%
Source: USDA/NASS – Ag Prices Received
Prepared By: Rob Cook, rob@cattlenetwork.com

The Best Farmland in the U.S. Is Flooded; Most Americans Are Too Stupid to Panic

The best commentary I could offer is a link to a previous story:

World’s Largest Maker of Crop Nutrients: Famines May Occur Without Record Harvests

But I’ll ramble on a bit more about this, anyway.

As soon as I became aware of the flooding situation in the American Midwest, I posted the story with the EMERGENCY prefix on the title. Just so we’re clear, when I write EMERGENCY at the beginning of a post title, this is my way of indicating that the situation is as serious as it gets. It means that I feel as though everyone reading should consider taking immediate evasive action. All the jawboning about conspiracy, how things could have been, how things should be, etc. are behind us now. You know, EMERGENCY, act fast, eyes wide, nostrils flared, etc.

While the food supply situation has skated along a knife edge so far this year, with higher prices and many countries experiencing food riots, widespread famine did not take hold. In an incredible move, the Japanese quietly eased rice shortages by releasing portions of their imported rice stockpiles-from giant warehouses in Tokyo-into the system; a welcome but one off blip in the big picture. What happens next time?

Now, this growing season, when yields need to be at record levels to avert disaster, what do we find? Floods or droughts in several of the breadbaskets of the world.

Whatever your plans are, I hope that you’re ready to execute them (or, better yet, are executing them). I’m pretty sure that most people have done nothing, and I don’t know why this continues to amaze me.

How can so many people, even those who should know better, be content to hit the wall without doing anything at all to change course? This includes my own family, who lives in Southern California.

I view Southern California as one of the most dangerous death traps in the world. Since it’s such an important focus of economic activity, though, I like to keep tabs on herd activity there, just for my own situational awareness. I can’t get a meaningful response from my dad-who thinks that traffic jams everywhere in the region and at all times of the day and night represent ‘progress’-I emailed someone there who’s about to flee to a country in Northern Europe. I asked if there was even a subtle sense of panic setting in with regard to the food and fuel prices. Here is part of the response I received:

I have noticed that most people don’t even have instinct enough to panic and hoard, and they wouldn’t know *what* to hoard. They don’t cook, they don’t know what a ‘staple’ means. A young woman in my training last week brought animal crackers and cheese ruffles for breakfast, and a box of Cheezits and Coke Zero for lunch. I asked her mockingly if she’d tried fruit or vegetables, she said she couldn’t afford them. I once saw a woman behind me at Ralphs with food stamps, and she was buying cottage cheese, dry pinto beans, and wheat bread, and told her kid to put the Doritos back. If you don’t have that kind of sense to begin with, the current situation is not going to give it to you.

We’re now well into a phase where system maintenance depends on the inability of the herd to grasp the nature of the immanent threat. “Yes, Kevin,” you say. “Same as it ever was.”

I don’t think so. The food situation is far off the radar screens of Joe Average. It only becomes a problem after it’s too late to do anything substantive to ameliorate conditions. We’ve already seen food riots, armed escorts for grain deliveries, rationing, sharply higher prices. And still, I’m mostly noticing yawns and drugged gurgles from the herd. Meanwhile, the die is all but cast on this year’s lower crop yields.

If the herd had any idea of what was coming, this show would be over inside of 24 hours. You might be sick of reading this on Cryptogon, but, it’s worth repeating: Use your time wisely.

Via: Financial Times:

Consumers were warned to expect even sharper increases in global food prices after US officials said that some of the country’s best farmland was facing its worst flooding for 15 years.

Agriculture officials and traders said the damage could push up worldwide corn and soyabean prices, which have spiralled in recent days as floods have swamped crops in parts of Iowa, the US’s biggest corn-producing state.

The warning comes at a time when high food prices are already sparking protests across the developing world.

Corn futures in Chicago this week rose to record highs of more than $8 a bushel on fears that up to 5m acres of the crop could be lost, while soyabean prices hit a record of $15.93 a bushel.

Read moreThe Best Farmland in the U.S. Is Flooded; Most Americans Are Too Stupid to Panic

Mississippi overflows levees, crops threatened

The swollen Mississippi River ran over the top of at least 12 more levees on Wednesday, as floodwaters swallowed up more U.S. farmland, adding to billion-dollar losses and feeding global food inflation fears.

Volunteers and aid workers were piling sandbags up and down the most important U.S. inland waterway to try to protect more levees and thousands of acres of prime crop land threatened as the river’s crest moves south after last week’s torrential rains.

About 10 levees were breached earlier this week, bringing the total to 22 on Wednesday. The levee breaches lowered the river level by letting water spill onto the surrounding land.

“Their misfortune had been our fortune. I’d rather it hadn’t come at the expense of others. But it is what it is,” said Steve Cirinna of Iowa’s Lee County Emergency Management Agency.

Read moreMississippi overflows levees, crops threatened

U.S. corn soars to record as crop flooded

CHICAGO (Reuters) – U.S. corn futures soared more than 4 percent to a fresh record high for the fifth consecutive trading session on Wednesday as flooding expanded in the U.S. Midwest, harming the 2008 corn crop.

“There’s still no indication that we’re getting ready to change this pattern. Concerns continue from planting issues to emergence to crop development,” Mike Palmerino, forecaster for DTN Meteorlogix, said.

Corn prices on the Chicago Board of Trade have surged 80 percent over the past year, with nearly 17 percent of that tacked on just this month.

Soybeans surged 3 percent and wheat leaped nearly 5 percent as those markets followed corn, but the historic rainfall and flooding in the United States also were beginning to hurt soy and wheat crop prospects.

“There is definitely concern. There is way too much water and, even if it is drier next week, it won’t matter now. It’s too late to plant corn and even bean yields are being affected,” Vic Lespinasse, an analyst for GrainAnalyst.com, said.

Corn prices rallied the daily trading limit of 30 cents per bushel early in the session and the new-crop July 2009 contract soared to a record $7.56-1/4, surpassing the record of $7.35 set in during Asian trading hours.

By midday, U.S. corn for July 2008 delivery was locked up the 30-cent limit at $7.03-1/4 per bushel.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture this week slashed 5 bushels per acre from its estimate for U.S. corn yields because of excessive rainfall and flooding in key corn states, including top producers Illinois and Iowa.

Now there are ideas that yields and corn acreage will fall further because it keeps raining. This season has come the closest to the historic flood in summer 1993.

“That’s the year everyone is looking at as a comparison,” Palmerino said.

That summer the U.S. Midwest suffered from heavy flooding after weeks of rain that eventually caused the Mississippi River, a major North American river and grain shipping artery, to flood, washing out surrounding corn and soybean fields.

“The size of the corn crop is coming down, and maybe the wheat crop too,” said Chicago cash merchant Glenn Hollander of Hollander-Feuerhaken.

U.S. wheat markets leaped to keep up with corn and now the maturing winter wheat crop is being threatened by the rains.

Wheat for July delivery was up 58 cents per bushel at $8.67 per bushel at midday, nearing its 60-cent trading limit.

European grain markets followed the trends at the CBOT, extending their early rally. In Paris, the benchmark November wheat contract settled up 12.75 euros, or 6.6 percent, at 205 euros a tonne, after hitting 205.25 euros, its highest level since April 17.

“If you look at corn prices, wheat can only rise. We can’t have wheat cheaper than corn,” a European trader said.

U.S. traders said the excessive wet weather in the U.S. crop region was the main driver of the markets, but they also tied some of the gains to a strong rebound in crude oil and gold as the dollar fell.

“More rain is exactly what we don’t need, and today we have the added support from crude oil being up,” Lespinasse said.

U.S. soyoil, a key resource for the biodiesel industry, soared following crude oil, and soybean futures held to their own limit gains.

U.S. soy for July delivery was up its limit of 70 cents at $15.16-1/2 per bushel.

(Additional reporting by Christine Stebbins in Chicago and Sybille de La Hamaide in Paris; Editing by Walter Bagley)

By Sam Nelson
Wed Jun 11, 1:20 PM ET

Source: Reuters

Global free market for food and energy faces biggest threat in decades

The global free market for food and energy is facing its biggest threat in decades as a host of countries push through draconian measures to hold down prices, raising fears of a new “resource nationalism” that could endanger world food security.


Somali’s demonstrate against high food prices in the capital Mogadishu. At least two people were killed in clashes

India shocked the markets yesterday by suspending trading in futures contracts for a range of farm products in a bid to clamp down on alleged speculators and curb inflation, now running at 7.6pc.

The country’s Forward Markets Commission said contracts for soybean oil, chana (chickpeas), potatoes, and rubber had been banned for four months, even though a report by the Indian parliament last month concluded that soaring food costs had almost nothing to do with the futures contracts. Traders in Mumbai slammed the ban as an act of brazen political populism.

The move has been seen as a concession to India’s Communist MPs – key allies of premier Manmohan Singh – who want a full-fledged ban on futures trading in sugar, cooking oil, and grains.

As food and fuel riots spread across the world, a string of governments have resorted to steps that menace the free flow of food and key commodities. Argentina has banned beef exports, while Egypt and India have stopped shipments of rice.

Kazakhstan has prohibited wheat exports. Russia has slapped a 40pc export duty on shipments, and Pakistan a 35pc duty.

China, Cambodia, Malaysia, Philipines, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam have all imposed export controls or forms of rationing to ease the crisis.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has warned that this lurch towards national controls is becoming a threat to the open global system we all take for granted. “If not handled properly, this crisis could result in a cascade of others and affect political security around the world,” he said.

A new report by UBS says the scramble for scarce raw materials is turning ever more political, with ominous implications for ill-endowed societies that rely on imports.

“The bottom line is that countries with resources, particularly in food and energy are becoming more protective of these resources,” it said.

(I know I am repeating myself and I know that many are already well prepared. This is for the ones that are not:
Store food and water “NOW”. Do this in a relaxed manner because your brain shuts down when you are under stress and in survival mode. – The Infinite Unknown)

Read moreGlobal free market for food and energy faces biggest threat in decades

Emptying the Breadbasket

For decades, wheat was king on the Great Plains and prices were low everywhere. Those days are over.

At Stephen Fleishman’s busy Bethesda shop, the era of the 95-cent bagel is coming to an end.

Breaking the dollar barrier “scares me,” said the Bronx-born owner of Bethesda Bagels. But with 100-pound bags of North Dakota flour now above $50 — more than double what they were a few months ago — he sees no alternative to a hefty increase in the price of his signature product, a bagel made by hand in the back of the store.

I’ve never seen anything like this in 20 years,” he said. “It’s a nightmare.”

Fleishman and his customers are hardly alone. Across America, turmoil in the world wheat markets has sent prices of bread, pasta, noodles, pizza, pastry and bagels skittering upward, bringing protests from consumers.

But underlying this food inflation are changes that are transforming U.S. agriculture and making a return to the long era of cheap wheat products doubtful at best.

Half a continent away, in the North Dakota country that grows the high-quality wheats used in Fleishman’s bagels, many farmers are cutting back on growing wheat in favor of more profitable, less disease-prone corn and soybeans for ethanol refineries and Asian consumers.

“Wheat was king once,” said David Braaten, whose Norwegian immigrant grandparents built their Kindred, N.D., farm around wheat a century ago. “Now I just don’t want to grow it. It’s not a consistent crop.”

In the 1980s, more than half the farm’s acres were wheat. This year only one in 10 will be, and 40 percent will go to soybeans. Braaten and other farmers are considering investing in a $180 million plant to turn the beans into animal feed and cooking oil, both now in strong demand in China. And to stress his hopes for ethanol, his business card shows a sketch of a fuel pump.

Read moreEmptying the Breadbasket

Exposed: the great GM crops myth

Genetic modification actually cuts the productivity of crops, an authoritative new study shows, undermining repeated claims that a switch to the controversial technology is needed to solve the growing world food crisis.

The study – carried out over the past three years at the University of Kansas in the US grain belt – has found that GM soya produces about 10 per cent less food than its conventional equivalent, contradicting assertions by advocates of the technology that it increases yields.

Professor Barney Gordon, of the university’s department of agronomy, said he started the research – reported in the journal Better Crops – because many farmers who had changed over to the GM crop had “noticed that yields are not as high as expected even under optimal conditions”. He added: “People were asking the question ‘how come I don’t get as high a yield as I used to?'”

He grew a Monsanto GM soybean and an almost identical conventional variety in the same field. The modified crop produced only 70 bushels of grain per acre, compared with 77 bushels from the non-GM one.

The GM crop – engineered to resist Monsanto’s own weedkiller, Roundup – recovered only when he added extra manganese, leading to suggestions that the modification hindered the crop’s take-up of the essential element from the soil. Even with the addition it brought the GM soya’s yield to equal that of the conventional one, rather than surpassing it.

The new study confirms earlier research at the University of Nebraska, which found that another Monsanto GM soya produced 6 per cent less than its closest conventional relative, and 11 per cent less than the best non-GM soya available.

The Nebraska study suggested that two factors are at work. First, it takes time to modify a plant and, while this is being done, better conventional ones are being developed. This is acknowledged even by the fervently pro-GM US Department of Agriculture, which has admitted that the time lag could lead to a “decrease” in yields.

But the fact that GM crops did worse than their near-identical non-GM counterparts suggest that a second factor is also at work, and that the very process of modification depresses productivity. The new Kansas study both confirms this and suggests how it is happening.

A similar situation seems to have happened with GM cotton in the US, where the total US crop declined even as GM technology took over. (See graphic above.)

Monsanto said yesterday that it was surprised by the extent of the decline found by the Kansas study, but not by the fact that the yields had dropped. It said that the soya had not been engineered to increase yields, and that it was now developing one that would.

Critics doubt whether the company will achieve this, saying that it requires more complex modification. And Lester Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute in Washington – and who was one of the first to predict the current food crisis – said that the physiology of plants was now reaching the limits of the productivity that could be achieved.

A former champion crop grower himself, he drew the comparison with human runners. Since Roger Bannister ran the first four-minute mile more than 50 years ago, the best time has improved only modestly . “Despite all the advances in training, no one contemplates a three-minute mile.”

Last week the biggest study of its kind ever conducted – the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development – concluded that GM was not the answer to world hunger.

Professor Bob Watson, the director of the study and chief scientist at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, when asked if GM could solve world hunger, said: “The simple answer is no.”

By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor
Sunday, 20 April 2008

Source: The Independent

Wall Street Grain Hoarding Brings Farmers, Consumers Near Ruin

April 28 (Bloomberg) — As farmers confront mounting costs and riots erupt from Haiti to Egypt over food, Garry Niemeyer is paying the price for Wall Street’s speculation in grain markets.

Commodity-index funds control a record 4.51 billion bushels of corn, wheat and soybeans through Chicago Board of Trade futures, equal to half the amount held in U.S. silos on March 1. The holdings jumped 29 percent in the past year as investors bought grain contracts seeking better returns than stocks or bonds. The buying sent crop prices and volatility to records and boosted the cost for growers and processors to manage risk.

Niemeyer, who farms 2,200 acres in Auburn, Illinois, won’t use futures to protect the value of the crop he will harvest in October. With corn at $5.9075 a bushel, up from $3.88 last year, he says the contracts are too costly and risky. Investors want corn so much that last month they paid 55 cents a bushel more than grain handlers, the biggest premium since 1999.

Read moreWall Street Grain Hoarding Brings Farmers, Consumers Near Ruin