Tuesday, 31 July 2012

World Bank says rising food prices a concern

WASHINGTON: The World Bank on Monday said it stood ready to help governments respond to a broad-based run-up in grain prices that has again put the world’s poorest people at risk and could have lingering detrimental impacts for years.

“We cannot allow short-term food-price spikes to have damaging long-term consequences for the world’s most poor and vulnerable,” World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said in statement.

“The World Bank and our partners are monitoring this situation closely so we can help governments put policies in place to help people better cope,” said Kim, a public health expert facing his biggest challenge in two months on the job.

A severe drought in the US Midwest has cut projected grain yields dramatically, reviving memories of 2008 when a sharp increase in food prices caused riots in some countries and raised questions about the use of crops to make biofuels.

Wheat prices have jumped more than 50 percent and corn prices more than 45 percent since mid-June, with dry conditions in Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan, excessively wet weather in Europe and a below average start to the Indian monsoon season adding to global crop worries.

Prices for soybeans, a critical food and animal feed crop, also have risen almost 30 percent over the past two months and nearly 60 percent since the end of last year.

“When food prices rise, families cope by pulling their kids out of school and eating cheaper, less nutritious food, which can have catastrophic life-long effects on the social, physical, and mental well being of millions of young people,” Kim said. Kim said the bank has a number of programs to help governments should the situation worsen.

Those include policy advice, increased agriculture and agriculture-related investment, fast-track financing, risk management products and work with the United Nations and private voluntary groups to help governments make more informed responses to global food price spikes.

“In the short-term, measures such as school feeding programs, conditional cash transfers, and food-for-work programs can help to ease pressure on the poor,” Kim said. “In the medium- to long-term, the world needs strong and stable policies and sustained investments in agriculture in poor countries.”

World Bank officials stressed there is no indication, based on current crop forecasts, of any major grain shortages resulting from the reduced harvests this year.

In addition, lower prices for oil, fertilizer and shipping than in 2008 will ease the cost of importing food and planting next year’s crop, the bank said.

But Marc Sadler, head of agriculture risk management at the World Bank, said the situation is also “more complicated” than in 2008, when rice and wheat prices rose the most and then fell sharply the next year when plantings increased.

“The difference now is, if you look across the board, all prices are up,” making it tougher for farmers to decide how to allocate their acreage, Sadler said. “When corn prices are up, bean prices are up and wheat prices are up, which one, as a farmer, do you go for?”g he said.

Sadler underscored Kim’s point about the threat food shortages pose to a country’s long-term vitality.

“One of the most pernicious facts out there is that in the first thousand days of a child’s life, they develop 80 percent of their brains. So, malnutrition in those first thousand days has a long-lasting impact,” he said. reuters
Courtesy Dailytimes

Poor harvest pushes wheat prices up in Russia's eastern regions

Concern over poor harvest yields pushed wheat prices higher in Russia's eastern regions last week, adding to speculation the government may be forced to sell a part of its stock, analysts said on Monday. Russia is ready to sell some grain via state interventions, agriculture minister Nikolai Fyodorov said last week but did not specify when the intervention could take place.

From April to June Russia sold about 2 million tonnes of grain in state interventions and still has about 5 million tonnes in its stock. Wheat prices rose in Siberia, Urals and Volga regions despite stable prices in key export South regions thanks to strong demand from local clients and buyers from other regions, the SovEcon consultancy said in a note.

"A significant shortage of crop becomes more evident in Volga region, which is harvesting the new crop now," SovEcon said. "Urals and Siberia will start to harvest later, but it is difficult to expect a high crop there." Russia's southern breadbasket regions saw persistent rains after spring drought but weather remained dry in Siberia and Volga region, raising fears of possible disruptions in the country's grain export.

The pace of Russia's grain exports in 2012/13 season still lags the previous year. In the first three weeks of July, Russia exported 1.13 million tonnes of grains, including 975,000 tonnes of wheat, Dmitry Rylko, head of the Institute for Agricultural Market Studies (IKAR), said in a note. Russia exported 1.66 million tonnes of grains and 1.30 million tonnes of wheat in the first three weeks of July last year. Wheat with 12.5 percent protein content was stable at $310 per tonne in Russia's main deep-water ports last week, IKAR added. Barley feed prices in deep-water ports fell $5 to $295 per tonne last week. SovEcon saw prices for fourth grade milling wheat in deep-water ports stable last week at 9,200 roubles-9,400 roubles ($290) per tonne on a carriage-paid-to (CPT) basis.

Russia's wheat prices in shallow-water ports increased to 8,700-8,800 roubles per tonne last week from 8,500-8,600 roubles, SovEcon said. European milling wheat futures rose sharply in opening trade on Monday, tracking Chicago grain prices, as weather forecasts and crop surveys raised fears of more damage to US crops. Benchmark November milling wheat was up 7.50 euros or 2.91 percent at 265.25 euros a tonne by 0852 GMT, after rising as high as 265.75 euros in opening deals.

European wheat futures rise due to US drought worries

European wheat futures rose sharply on Monday, in step with US prices, as operators saw little respite ahead from a severe drought in the United States that couuld slash crops, traders said Concerns about the supply outlook in Russia, where weather-linked downgrades to crop forecasts have fuelled talk of export restrictions, also supported prices.

Benchmark November milling wheat on the Paris futures market was up 7.00 euros or 2.72 percent at 264.75 euros a tonne by 1143 GMT, after rising as high as 265.75 euros in opening deals. On the less liquid European maize (corn) futures market, November maize struck a contract high of 252.75 euros. New-crop US corn futures rose to a contract high while soybeans hit a one-week top as operators braced themselves for more yield losses and rationing of demand. With little sign of much rainfall in the coming 10 days, operators feared soybean crops would now suffer serious damage as corn plants have in the past month.

"We had the weather problem with the Russian wheat crop, then we had the problem with US corn, and now we have a problem with US soybeans," Michel Portier, head of grains consultancy Agritel, said. With forecasters continuing to pare back US corn estimates, the focus was now on limiting demand.

"Without rationing demand through high prices there is no way we can balance supply and demand," Portier said. Agritel currently estimates the US corn crop at 285 million tonnes, below the 300 million tonnes forecast last week by the International Grains Council, and puts the Russian wheat crop at between 43 and 45 million tonnes, against 45 million seen by the IGC.

In France, the return of rain since Friday, including heavy showers in northern grain belts that could further delay harvesting, revived concerns about quality damage. In exports, traders were awaiting the outcome of a tender by major importer Algeria, with bids due on Monday.

GERMANY German prices were pushed up by the sharp rises in Paris and Chicago futures despite better harvest weather forecast for Germany this week. Standard milling wheat for September delivery in Hamburg was offered for sale up 4 euros at 268 euros a tonne with buyers at around 266 euros. "The rises in Chicago and Paris market are again the driving force with local price factors pushed aside once more as repeatedly seen in the past few weeks," one German trader said.

"The US drought and the possibility of grain export restrictions in Russia are the dominant themes and the weather over the weekend in the two countries has not brought significant changes to the picture." Germany had a disappointingly rainy weekend, interrupting a week of sunshine and wheat plants now need more sunny, warm weather.

Better and mostly dry, warm weather but with widespread clouds is forecast for most of Germany up to Friday. "Last week's sunshine did wheat plants good after the very wet spring and they need more sun," the trader said. "We still have several more weeks before the harvest starts and if we get enough sun the crop can still turn out well, but it is not possible at the moment to make precise forecasts about German wheat quality this year."

Mozambique's agricultural fortunes rest on a choice between Obama and Annan

Mozambique is a development paradox. Rural poverty is increasing despite high growth rates and billions of dollars in aid. Now the country has been targeted by two contrasting models of agricultural development. The Barack Obama model was backed by the G8 in Washington in May, while the Kofi Annan model was proposed by the Africa Progress Panel (APP). Which works better for the poor?
The APP, which is chaired by Annan and counts a former IMF head and a former US Treasury secretary among its members, is heavyweight and conservative. It says one of the biggest dangers in Africa is the growing inequality between rich and poor, which is creating a threat of social instability. In sub-Saharan Africa, the APP argues, "the pattern of trickle-down growth is leaving too many people in poverty". The panel warns that Mozambique is one of Africa's more unequal countries, pointing out that – despite having huge agricultural potential – the republic is a net importer of staple foods.
The APP report calls for "fundamental change" in both donor and African government policies. "Raising the productivity of smallholder farmers is critical," it says. "Smallholder agriculture must be placed at the centre of a green revolution in Africa." This will require more government action and more support for small farmers. Let's call this the Annan model.
The second agricultural model for Mozambique was agreed in Washington in May, when G8 leaders adopted a new alliance for food security and nutrition proposed by President Obama and USAid. The idea is to use giant agribusiness to end hunger in Mozambique and five other countries. The first project in Mozambique will be to support Cargill, the giant grain trader and largest private company in the world, to take 40,000 hectares of farmland. US officials say this will include some smallholder contract farming, which means Cargill will not make enough profit from the investment, so the giant transnational grain trader must be subsidised from G8 aid. Let's call this the Obama model.
The two models are incompatible. The APP report points specifically to the very large land concessions in Mozambique, and warns that "for Africans, the benefits of large-scale land acquisitions are questionable".
The UN Development Programme (UNDP) recently issued its Africa human development report 2012, which points to "the recent international scramble for land in sub-Saharan Africa" and urges caution on big foreign investors. "Much agricultural technology for producing crops is scale-invariant (it is as efficient on small farms as on large), so large farms should not be expected to be inherently more efficient," says the report, which also warns that "private investors naturally prioritise their own objectives, not the wellbeing of the poor and vulnerable."
Mozambique's experience with large investors has not been all bad. Indeed, a single US multinational has probably done more to reduce poverty in Mozambique than any donor action – without subsidy and without grabbing any land. Universal Leaf Tobacco has agreements with 150,000 peasant families, and their earnings from tobacco have lifted thousands of families out of poverty. How ironic that the antidote to poverty should be a poison, tobacco.
But Universal's success stems from a different model to Obama's – outgrower or contract farming. The company provides seeds, fertiliser and other inputs as well as extension services, and guarantees to buy the crop. In return, farmers must sell their tobacco to Universal. This package works because of two factors. First, risk is shared, so if a drought or cyclone destroys the crop, farmers do not have to pay Universal for the seeds and fertilisers they received. Second, the market is guaranteed; farmers who grow tobacco can be sure they will sell it.
Elsewhere, Mozambique has the lowest agricultural technology levels in southern Africa, because the present free-market policies oblige peasants to shoulder the risks associated with weather, pests and a lack of market. Mozambican farmers are very poor – the average rural cash income is $31 a person annually. That is less than the price of a bag of fertiliser.
Very few peasant farmers are willing to risk their whole year's income on fertiliser, or better seed, or a different crop. The problem for Mozambican peasants is that foreign companies will only share the risk with tobacco and cotton, and are not interested in other crops. And under the present free-market system pushed so hard by the international community, the state is not allowed to share the risk for maize and other domestic food crops.
Nearly all Mozambican farmers still use only a hoe, and do not have a tractor or oxen to plough, so they can only farm 1.5 hectares. As international investors are now noticing, that leaves vast tracts of underused land. The difference between the Annan and Obama models lies in the use of that land. Under the Obama model, giant northern agribusinesses like Cargill would – with G8 help – take the underused land and end poverty through what the APP calls "the pattern of trickle-down growth". The Annan model would upgrade millions of peasant farms to up to 5 hectares each, using most of the available land, but providing initial support with mechanical ploughing, inputs and assured markets.
The question is, will the Annan or Obama model lead to the biggest reduction of poverty and the best use of Mozambique's land?
Original Article Here

Agriculture panels look at disaster relief

Leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees are slated to meet Tuesday morning amid signs that House Republicans may pull back from a one-year extension of farm programs and focus instead on the immediate needs of drought-stricken livestock producers.
The extension — due on the House floor Wednesday — remains highly divisive even as there is broad support for new disaster aid to fill gaps in the current farm law for livestock and some specialty crops.
No final decisions have been made. But Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, the ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, appears open to this approach, absent an agreement by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to allow House-Senate negotiations in August on the larger five-year farm plans favored by the two committees.
The Senate approved its farm bill in June, but Boehner has so far blocked House action for fear of a messy fight dividing his party. Instead, the speaker prevailed on House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) to move ahead with a one-year extension, filed late Friday.
But Peterson is balking and appears to enjoy the backing of major commodity groups who share his fear that the extension will be used as an excuse to kill any further farm bill action by this Congress.
Lucas himself wants to move ahead with a five-year bill and has been put in a difficult spot by his leadership. Friday’s unveiling of the 48-page draft extension was more haphazard than is the chairman’s style. His typically close working relationship with Peterson is showing some strains. And despite the fact that Lucas included substantial disaster aid in his extension, it has been met with a steady drumbeat of complaints from the right and left.
Fiscal conservatives and taxpayer groups are upset that the bill walks away from earlier promises to end costly direct cash payments to farmers. Environmentalists are agitated by the fact that the greatest share of the cuts to pay for the disaster aid would come from conservation programs.
House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who has major agricultural interests in his own home district, reached out to Peterson over the weekend. And given the severity of the drought, the GOP leadership badly wants to show some progress before sending their farm state members home for the August recess.
“They are beginning to figure out that this is a big albatross and want to get it off their back,” Peterson told POLITICO. He said McCarthy was not unsympathetic with his desire to get onto the five-year bill but as an interim step, just dealing with the livestock aid is an option.
As now drafted, the one-year extension provides about $621 million in new assistance, most of it paid out in 2013. To offset this cost, a very modest $261 million cut would be taken from the direct cash payments while $759 million would come from conservative programs.
The Senate is mindful of the pressure to do something, as well to reassure livestock producers. And as a practical matter, the two committees had always expected to do so as part of their five-year plans.
Peterson said he has continued to consult with Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), who chairs the Senate Agriculture panel. And she and her ranking Republican, Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, are expected to be part of Tuesday’s meeting.
Original Article Here

'Good times return' for Aussie farmers

The good times have returned for Australian farmers, the federal government says as it pushes for increased foreign investment in agriculture.
Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig said that after years of drought, a global financial crisis and devastating floods, the farming industry is back on track.
"There's never been a better time to be a farmer," he told grain producers at a Melbourne conference on Tuesday before taking questions on foreign ownership in the industry.
"Foreign investment across not only grains but across agriculture plays a vital role," he said.
"It has continued to provide jobs and opportunities in rural Australia, and a deeper engagement with our near north, including Asian countries like China, I think, is one of the next steps we will take."
Earlier this month, the federal government released an agricultural discussion paper meant to lead to a national food plan that will address long-term sustainability and food security.
The paper came as the latest crop forecasts predict a 15 per cent fall in production to 38.5 million tonnes.
But Senator Ludwig said that number is still higher than the 10-year average, and with US grain production on the decline, Australian farmers can expect higher prices.
"These are positive times for Australia and our economy."
He said foreign workers will be a part of Australia's continued success in agriculture.
"We not only need a skilled workforce from within, we will also need a vibrant skilled workforce from overseas," he said.
Grain Trade Australia says it will push for expanded access to export markets.
Original Article Here

New Agriculture and Anatomy Sections Published at ScienceIndex.com

The Agriculture and Anatomy Sciences are two new key biology branches covered by the Sciences Social Network ScienceIndex.com. The users of the website monitor 352 scientific journals publishing in these two branches and submit the most recent and significant articles for inclusion in ScienceIndex.com. While the site currently contains a total of 1,662,184 posts, it features 51,867 articles in these two sections. ScienceIndex.com was established in 1998 to index the very latest news, headlines, references and resources in all fields of biology, business, chemistry, engineering, geography, health, mathematics and society.
Mannheim, Germany (PRWEB) July 31, 2012
ScienceIndex.com is a Agriculture and Anatomy Sciences Social Network established in 1998 to index the very latest news, headlines, references and resources from science journals, books and websites worldwide. The site covers news in all fields of biology, business, chemistry, engineering, geography, health, mathematics and society. In the field of Biological Sciences, the site has now included the two new categories Agriculture and Anatomy. While the Agriculture section covers the cultivation and production of crops, raising of livestock, and postharvest processing of natural products, the Anatomy section covers the shape and structure of organisms and their parts.
ScienceIndex.com's Biology Category covers life and living organisms, including their structure, function, growth, origin, genetics, and distribution. Its ten sections include Agriculture, Anatomy, Biotechnology, Ecology, Environment, Forestry, Genetics, Microbiology, Physiology and Zoology. Users can receive alerts for newly published content in this category by subscribing to ScienceIndex.com's Biology Category RSS feed.
ScienceIndex.com's Agriculture Section covers the cultivation and production of crops, raising of livestock, and postharvest processing of natural products. It currently contains 50,445 articles partly derived from 346 scientific journals. The latest articles in this category are also available through an Agriculture Section RSS feed. One of the latest additions in this section presents an haplotype analysis of molecular markers linked to stem rust resistance genes in Ethiopian improved durum wheat varieties and tetraploid wheat landraces. The recent emergence of wheat stem rust race Ug99 (TTKSK) and related strains threatens world wheat production because they overcome widely used resistance genes that had been effective for many years. This study is the first analysis of the presence of stem rust resistance (Sr) genes in Ethiopian durum wheat varieties and tetraploid wheat landraces based on linked or associated molecular markers. Another recently included article investigates the ameliorating effects of eggplant, datura, orange nightshade, local Iranian tobacco, and field tomato as rootstocks on alkali stress in tomato plants. This study reveals that soluble sugars content, photosynthetic pigments content, Fv/Fm and PI values in plants grafted onto datura rootstock are higher than those in non-grafted plants. Thus, the use of datura rootstock can provide a useful tool for improving alkalinity tolerance of tomato plants under NaHCO3 stress.
ScienceIndex.com's Anatomy Section covers the shape and structure of organisms and their parts. It currently contains 1,422 articles partly derived from 6 scientific journals. The latest articles in this section are also available through an Anatomy Section RSS feed. One recently included article in this section investigates the enamel microstructures of bovine mandibular incisors. Bovine teeth have been considered as an excellent substitute for human teeth for dental research, however, the enamel microstructures of bovine and their spatial relationships have not been well described. Another post covers the cranial nerve (Nervus terminalis, cranial nerve N) in humans. This nerve is very distinct in human fetuses and infants but also has been repeatedly identified in adult human brains. Based on the available evidence, the Nervus terminalis appears to be functional in adult humans and should be taught in medical schools and incorporated into anatomy/neuroanatomy textbooks.
The Sciences Social Network currently contains over 1.66 million posts distributed among its' 75 categories. 78,113 users monitor 11,384 journals publishing within the scope of the site. Since new science content is discovered in real-time, the delay between original publication and appearance at ScienceIndex.com is no more than two days. The site provides an advanced search feature which suggests up to ten closely related articles for a search and every displayed post.

Original Article here

Agriculture Officials Warn About Asian Longhorned Beetle

 Mitch Wertlieb, Produced by Amy Noyes
Vermont is facing threats from invasive species in water and on land. We've been hearing this week about threats to the Lake Champlain food chain from the spiny water flea. Senator Patrick Leahy is even calling for a closure of the canal linking the Hudson River and the Big Lake to prevent the species from entering Vermont.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is issuing a warning about the Asian Longhorned Beetle, an invasive insect that poses a serious danger to Vermont's maple trees, among others.
VPR's Mitch Wertlieb speaks with Rebecca Blue, Deputy Undersecretary with the Dept. of Agriculture. Blue says the beetle hasn't been found in Vermont yet, but it's apparently it's close enough to be of concern.
 Original Article Here

Monday, 30 July 2012

Agriculture prospects not rosy, all eyes on August rain

Farmers, agricultural labourers and the state government await the start of August with bated breath, as they feel that the rainfall in Bihar during August would decide the agricultural prospects, on which so much of their life and joy depends.
If the rainfall in the state during July helped farmers in growing paddy seedlings and also their uneven transplantation in various parts of the state, the expected torrential rain in August and accumulation of water in paddy fields would help in strengthening of roots and stalks of paddy plants.
Indeed, due to drought-like conditions due to scanty rainfall till almost the first fortnight of July, government officials in Bihar got together to meet the challenge of drought conditions, if it recurred again after 2009 and 2010. As a matter of fact, CM Nitish Kumar himself alerted the departments concerned in this regard.
"By the last week of July, things have improved in the state. We do expect good rainfall in August. Government declares any district as drought-affected according to existing objective conditions," said a disaster management department (DMD) official, adding: "At present, things do not seem to be that bad, but everybody is concerned about the condition and also keeping watch. July rain, even though it was not uniformly spread, helped the farmers."
As for the ground situation, against the targeted coverage of 34.75 lakh hectares of land with paddy transplantation in the state, the actual coverage was to the tune of 14.23 lakh hectares - or 40.97% of the target - till July 24. However, the reassessment made on July 25 showed that the actual coverage, after accounting for the partial damage caused to transplanted paddy seedlings, was 13.42 lakh hectares.
Similarly, while the target for Kharif maize coverage was 4.25 lakh hectares, the crop was sowed in 2.96 lakh hectares (or 69.71% of the target) till July 24, and the actual coverage stood at around 2.85 lakh hectares.
Even this level of crop cultivation could be possible because the state received 342.6mm of rainfall between June 1 and July 24 this year. With normal rainfall for the period being 429.8mm, the deficiency was around 20%. However, between July 1 and July 24, the state received 253.3mm rainfall against the normal 260.3mm, marking a departure from the normal of 3%.
What makes the situation dicey is the fact that between June 1 and July 24 this year, the rainfall has been 6mm less than the 348mm of rainfall received from June 1, 2010 to July 24, 2010 - the drought year. In the situation, rainfall in August would, indeed, prove to be crucial for the state.
Original Article Here

Tanzania: Experts Tout for PPP in Agriculture

INSUFFICIENT involvement of the private sector in agricultural development is a reason for slow pace in transformation of the sector into commercial farming as the potential driver for economic growth and poverty reduction.
This was said over the weekend in Dar es Salaam by the Principal Economist in the Ministry of Agriculture Food Security and Cooperatives Ms Margreth Ndaba at the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) multi-stakeholder dialogue.
"Without the Public Private Partnership (PPP) in agriculture development, commercial farming will remain unrealisable," said Ms Ndaba, also the head of Development Assistance and International Coordination in agriculture sector.
She said unreliable infrastructure like limited storage capacities, lack of value addition, poor farming technology and transport facilities retard agriculture transformation endeavours. To compliment government efforts, the PPP is the best option in commercialising agriculture activities.
The multi-stakeholder dialogue was co-organised by the Research and Social Research Foundation (ESRF) and the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN).
In his opening remarks, an official in the Ministry of Agriculture Food Security and Cooperatives Mr Mbogo Futakamba said the meeting stems from the fact that Non-State Actors have inadequate awareness of the CAADP process in the country.
"The government values and embraces participation of non state actors in the country's development and agricultural sector in particular as a way to ending the woes of poverty in the society," he said.
The main purpose of CAADP dialogue is to ensure multi-stakeholder participation in the development and implementation of agricultural policy. Some of the Non-State Actors (NSA) are like Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), farmer and producer organisations, researchers, parliamentarians, the private sector and the media.
Mr Futakamba mentioned Kilimo Kwanza and the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT) as significant initiatives which aim at greater involvement of private sector in the agriculture activities.
For example, SAGCOT's objective is to foster inclusive, commercially successful agribusinesses that will benefit the region's small-scale farmers, thus improving food security, reduce rural poverty and ensure environmental sustainability.
The PPP has emerged as a key vehicle to diversify economies, grow agribusiness, ensure food security and thrive. It also stimulates access to finance, inputs and markets for smallholder farmers.
Original article here

Agriculture still attracts visitors to Delaware State Fair

Kent County, Del., resident Lawrence McClements holds his great-grandson Dalton in the cow barn at the Delaware State Fair on Saturday. The McClements family has been showing dairy cows at the Delaware State Fair for 75 years. / GARY EMEIGH/THE NEWS JOURNAL
When Lawrence McClements showed his first pig at the Delaware State Fair in 1937 at the age of 13, there were no splashy, big-name music acts on Saturday night, no corporate sponsors and no fried Oreos.
"There's a lot of changes," McClements said in the fair's Schabinger livestock pavilion Saturday morning, the last day of the fair. He stood with four generations of family members next to their collection of blue-ribbon Holstein dairy cows.
"You had three pigpens, two small cow stables that you bumped your head when you went in and two horse stables," McClements said, recalling the way the fair was 75 years ago, when he got his start.
McClements, a lifelong Kent County, Del., resident, is 88 years old now and has raised a clan of farmers who have kept pace with the changing nature of the Delaware State Fair.
For them and other longstanding Delaware farm families, the fair is more than just a place to gather for 10 days each July, collect a few ribbons and catch up with old friends.
The fair represents their hope for the future of the state's agricultural industry and the preservation of their way of life.
Eddie McClements, Lawrence's grandson, helps run the family farm in Kenton, Del., and care for its 80 head of dairy cows and 60 hogs.
"It's getting harder simply because of the cost of diesel fuel to run the tractors, the price of corn seed," Eddie McClements said. "Basically, if I wanted to start today on my own, it would be impossible."
Several years ago, when housing subdivisions were springing up in Kent County cornfields like ragweed, the McClements family was approached by developers but turned them down flat.
"They came, but we're still farming," he said.
But even though there are fewer family farms in Delaware than there used to be, Eddie and his grandfather are encouraged by the number of young people who show animals at the state fair each year.
"It's a lot younger group of kids now, if you look throughout the barn," he said.
Many of those young exhibitors don't even live on farms, but participate by partnering with farms like the McClements'.
Bob Moore, who showed his first animal at the fair in 1960 and is now on the board of directors, said many young fair participants lease animals to show.
"A 4-H'er or young person will work out an arrangement with the farmer, and in exchange for being able to show the animal at the fair, they'll go to the farms and clean pens or whatever," he said. "Many of those kids would never have that experience at all. ... That gets them interested in agriculture, and they might pursue it."
Moore also said the agricultural side of the state fair remains popular with visitors, in spite of the big concerts and attractions featured these days.
"We've done several surveys with our fairgoers to see what parts of the fair they like best, and always on top is the animal exhibits," he said. "The basis of the fair is still agriculture."
Eddie McClements said he thinks Delaware farmers will always be the heart of the fair.
"He's been here 75 years now," Eddie said, referring to his grandfather.
"I'm hoping to make it to 100. I have no intention of ever stopping."
Original Article here

Demand for agricultural research increasing

MARK COLVIN: The leader of one of the world's biggest agronomy centres hopes the current drought in America and Europe will focus global attention on the need for agricultural research.

Over the past 45 years, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, or CIAT, has helped small-holder farmers in South America, Asia and Africa to improve their lives as well as their yields, and Australia has played a role too.

The centre's director Dr Ruben Echeverría says there are plenty of challenges ahead, but some big gains have also been made since CIAT was established in 1967.

RUBEN ECHEVERRIA: It was set up because at that time there was food price spikes. That sounds familiar now. So it was kind of a little panic on what's going to happen, population growing, lack of food. So CIAT was created to look at the humid tropics, how to increase food, reduce poverty in the humid tropics. 

Originally in Latin America but after 10 or 15 years of operations CIAT became global. So we've been working in Africa and Asia for the past almost 30 years.

ANNA VIDOT: What would you consider some of the great achievements, some of the things that CIAT's been able to achieve over that time? 

RUBEN ECHEVERRIA: So from the very beginning CIAT first had to map what CIAT was going to do and they found out that rice and beans are what poor people eat in the tropics, at least in Latin America at the time.

So the Rice and Bean Research Program started, then they move into cassava and then into forages. And the largest documented impact has been in rice; about 80 per cent of all rice in Latin America has some attribution to CIAT research.

And then the other three commodities we have documented the impacts of, improving yields, improving the agronomy. Lately, working all the way into more sophisticated things like drought tolerance.

In Africa CIAT has been very, very active on beans. And that has been a huge success, also documented in Africa, climbing beans. And then in Asia mainly has been forages and cassava. 

ANNA VIDOT: And of course it's 45 years on now but it's not the end of the process at CIAT. So what are the priorities for the organisation going forwards? 

RUBEN ECHEVERRIA: Well, first you talk about time lags, most of the research results that we're seeing now are the investments of funding that we got in the '80s or in the '90s.

It takes 15 years, for example, to develop a new rice variety perhaps or improve it here and there. So there's a huge pipeline of research that cannot be turned on and off and that's one of the major issues that management of these centres are facing all the time; is how to continue to have funding long term. 

ANNA VIDOT: Here within Australia we've had a debate about the role of government versus the private sector in funding agricultural research. From that global perspective, in terms of tropical agricultural, what kind of investment is there from governments and from the private sector for work like yours? 

RUBEN ECHEVERRIA: First of all both investments are needed; both are needed because they do different things. In the tropics, where we were and with poverty, there's not too much private sector to speak of. 

Our funding comes from grants from the World Bank, from Asia, AusAID and so on; either bilateral agencies who put together money to say okay do research for this area, for this crop for two or three years. 

But it's still a struggle. I think now we are facing the perfect storm. We have a growing population globally, less water, less land and the investments in research to face those challenges is not increasing fast enough.

If the drought, the current drought in Europe and in the US continues you're going to see quite a bit of a food price increase which will remind everybody what happened with agricultural research. 

I am an optimistic and I think the perfect storm has a solution which is through science. And we also hope that we ourselves do a bit of homework; how to use better the money that we are given to do it, particularly the taxpayers' money, which is hard to find. 

TIM PAMER: Dr Ruben Echeverría, the director of CIAT, the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture, which is based in Colombia. And he was speaking to Anna Vidot on a recent trip to Canberra.

Original Article Here

Deficit monsoon to impact agricultural as well as other sectors: Confederation of Indian Industry

The prevailing situation of deficit monsoon will have an impact on the performance of the agricultural sector as well as on other sectors through the effect on rural incomes feels Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), a non-government, not-for-profit, industry-led and industry-managed organization.

According to an umbrella organization of industries, because of weak progress in monsoons, the sowing of the major Kharif crops as on July 13, 2012 was down 18 per cent as compared to last year- almost similar to the pattern observed in 2009, which saw the worst drought in 4 decades.

"The government has to take urgent measures to ensure that rural livelihoods are protected." said Chandrajit Banerjee, director general, CII. "Not only will there be an impact on the performance of the agricultural sector but also on other sectors through the effect on rural incomes."

The CII release also states that, non-conventional sources of energy need to be explored in order to reduce the toll of deficient monsoons on power availability. Additionally, the forecast mechanism of Meteorological department also needs an urgent up-hauling to enable farmers and related stakeholders take timely decisions to cope up with any deficiency.

"A pro-active approach from the government is the need of the hour in order to mitigate the impact of the deficiency in monsoons and to ensure that the occurrence of such drought-like episodes is reduced to the greatest extent," said Mr Banerjee. "More than 60 years after our independence we remain highly dependent on monsoons for our food supplies and these needs to be corrected. In this context it is also extremely important to look at the kind of capital creation that has been happening in agriculture," added him.
Original Article here

Community Supported Agriculture makes inroads into China

An urbanite farmer tending to his small plot of land.
BEIJING: The concept of Community Supported Agriculture is an alternative, locally-based socio-economic model of agriculture and food production.
Popular in Europe, Japan and the United States, the concept is now making preliminary inroads into China.
In a village northwest of Beijing, "farmers" are city dwellers who come during the weekends.
For about US$240 a year, urbanites get small plots of land to farm and grow their favorite produce.
Liu Mingyi, an urbanite farmer, said: "I grow maize, cherry tomatoes, bittergourds, tomatoes, scallions, brinjal, and two types of cucumbers."
Shi Huiyan, another urbanite farmer, said: "We grow cabbage, cauliflower, and we've already harvested celery, Chinese cabbage and spinach several times. With this small plot of land we don't have to buy any vegetables the entire summer." 
 Set up in 2009, Little Donkey Farm is China's first Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm.
 CSA began in the early 1960s in Germany and Switzerland due to concerns about food safety and the urbanisation of agricultural land.
 The result is a partnership between farmers and consumers to ensure safe organic produce and an ecologically-sound environment.
 Huang Zhiyou, assistant general manager, Little Donkey Farm, said: "Consumers pay us in advance which means that we don't have to take up loans. This also benefits farmers. 
 "In the past, they worked hard for months only to discover that when they try to sell their produce, the prices were subjected to great fluctuations. In this way, consumers are like our shareholders who pre-invest in us."
 In a country where food safety has often been a major cause for concern, the growing popularity of Community Supported Agriculture hardly comes as a surprise. 
 It is also an indication that a growing number of Chinese are willing to pay higher prices for food that they feel they can really trust.
 For an annual fee, the farm also delivers fresh organic vegetables to the doorsteps of urban consumers.

There are currently at least three dozen, possibly up to a hundred, CSA farms in China.
For urbanites-turned-farmers, the attraction isn't just the chance to bring home fresh produce.
 Xu Zhiyong, an urbanite farmer, said: "When I work I'm exposed to the sun. It's mainly a form of relaxation to me. I don't care about the end result as much as the process. To tell the truth, it's cheaper for me to buy than to grow my own."
 For others, it is the opportunity to expose urban children to nature.
 However, there are difficulties in implementing CSA in China.
 Huang Zhiyou, assistant general manager, Little Donkey Farm, said: "China has different land policies. It's not like western countries where land can be privatised, and farmers have rights over their land, and are free to decide what to do with the land. 
 "Things are less stable in China. Who owns the land? Is it the village? Is it the government? It's hard to say."
 While the CSA concept may not fully address the country's food safety problems, they do provide yet another alternative for more discerning consumers.

- CNA/cc

Agriculture sector down on profit-taking

By Ole S Hansen -
THE president of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, reacted to the continuing deteriorating outlook for Europe and rise in borrowing costs for some euro zone countries by saying that the ECB was “ready to do whatever it takes”. This resembled the now famous Jackson Hole speech by the US Fed’s chairman in 2010, when he signalled the introduction of QE1 later that year. The market took the comment by Draghi as a sign that the ECB will intervene to buy sovereign bonds issued by Spain and Italy, which both have seen borrowing costs reach levels where a bail-out could become necessary.
The euro jumped from a two-year low and the dollar weakness generally helped commodities move higher as well. The chance, however, that this risk-on rally in currency markets turns out to another one of a relative short duration is very high, given the current north/south divide within Europe as to what can and will be done to save the euro in its current set-up.
In a change from recent weeks, the agriculture sector saw the weakest performance during the past week, as both the grains and soft sub-sectors suffered losses above four per cent on the back of profit-taking following a dramatic rally recently. US weather forecasters now sees the chance of rain to reach drought-stricken parts of the country but the risk — particularly for corn — is that it is too little too late. Precious metals were the best performers, not least helped by a weaker dollar, with gold taking the lead after moving above previous levels of resistance at $1,610.
Oil markets
The strong rally in oil markets — which was kicked off in late June by geo-political concerns regarding Syria, Iran and most recently Iraq, together with lost supplies from a Norwegian oil strike — seems to have run out of steam as the macroeconomic sentiment continues to deteriorate.
The sanctions against Iran have proved very effective so far and exports from the country with nuclear aspirations have slowed to a trickle, removing an amount equal to what was lost during the Libyan conflict in 2011. The escalating tensions in Syria and worrying signs that it could spill over into Iraq have also unnerved the oil markets. All in all, this leaves the global oil market with less supply at a time of seasonal peak demand, and it has helped the price of Brent crude, the global benchmark for more than 50 per cent of physical transactions, to recover almost half of its March to June sell-off.
The rally has primarily been supportive for Brent crude as the tightness from lost Norwegian production and geo-political worries impacts this global benchmark the most. The front month futures spread between WTI and Brent crude has as a consequence widened by $5 since the oil prices reached the low point on June 21.
Following the strong rally since mid-June, Brent crude has now settled into a $102 to 108 trading range while trying to decipher which leg to stand on. Geo-political tensions and the chance of renewed quantitative measurements in Europe and potentially the US leaves the market supported despite weak macroeconomic conditions across many different economies.
Economic data from China has improved slightly recently, but at the same time oil imports in June were down 12 per cent from May, which could signal that the rush to fill commercial and strategic reserves have begun to slow as they fill up. The building and filling of strategic storage facilities has been a Chinese aspiration, in order to bring its forward cover closer to 90 days which is what OECD nations generally have.
Natural gas
The dynamics in the US gas market have changed over the last couple of months as the heat wave across the country have significantly helped to reduce the overhang of natural gas held in underground storage facilities. As the chart shows the current surplus inventory over the five-year average have now shrunk from 60 per cent in March to just 16 per cent. The demand for gas has been strong enough to push the August 12/September 12 futures contract spread into backwardation (August price higher than September) which is a relatively unusual event this time of year but which also reflects the fact that demand for gas has generally been rising as the low prices during the early months of 2012 saw power generators replace coal with gas.
The summer related peak in demand generally occurs within the next couple of weeks and as demand begins to slow, with another few months still to go before winter heating demand begins to exceed injections, storage levels can still climb towards and above the record high of 3,852 billion cubic feet from November 2011 and on that basis further advances much above $3 will begin to find some resistance.
Gold above $1,600
The yellow metal has taken a small initial step in its attempt to break out of the relatively tight trading range which has prevailed for several months this week. Spurred on strength against other currencies than the dollar, not least the euro combined with signs of renewed safe-haven interest it broke above previous resistance at $1,610. Whether this will be enough to drive it higher at this stage remains to be seen, as many view the recent dollar weakness as temporary and once the speculative overhang of long dollar positions has been removed renewed headwind from a strengthening dollar will make further advances difficult.
Hedge funds and other large investors are still holding a relatively small net-long gold position while ETP investors have scaled back their holdings from a recent record of 2,413 metric tonnes to 2,396 currently. The threat by Moody’s, the credit rating agency, might downgrade core European economies should support gold, as there are increasingly few quality investments available to the global investors looking to a safe place to put their cash.
While these all offer some level of support to gold, the main driver for a move higher will be the emergence of momentum in the market, something that has not been seen for months. Whether this require a break above the June high at 1,641 or the 200 day moving average at 1,655 remains to be seen but at least for now gold has a fighting chance of that happening providing 1,600 holds up against any downside selling attempts.
US crops
The price of key US crops finally succumbed to some selling this week following one of the strongest rallies in recent memory, 
which resulted in the price of both soybeans and corn reaching new record highs. The selling was triggered by weather forecaster who predicted that some rain would finally hit some of the drought stricken areas of the US Midwest, bringing some temporary relief, and causing some selling by money managers who had been scrambling to build long exposure as prices surged higher. Further dry and hot weather is however expected for next week, and while corn crops in many areas are beyond repair, soybeans could still benefit from rain. This helps to explain why corn has been the relative better performer during the recent setback as the chart below highlights.
(The author is Head of Commodity Strategy at Saxo Bank)

Original Article Here

Irrigation altering Georgia's agricultural geometry

Center-pivot irrigators can keep hundreds of acres at a time watered and healthy, even during droughts. From the air, they can be spotted as circles, rather than conventional fields shaped like squares and rectangles.

By Rob Pavey
Peyton Sapp can recall a simpler time, when Burke County’s sprawling farms were divided mostly into squares and rectangles.
Today, however, more and more circles are appearing across Georgia’s rural landscape, as farmers invest in high-tech center-pivot irrigation systems.
“It’s almost a necessity now,” said Sapp, Burke County’s University of Georgia extension coordinator. “I don’t know of many farmers who can put up the money to plant without some percentage of irrigated land.”
The trend toward automated irrigators that can cost $100,000 to $150,000 or more to build and install is much more than a shift in agricultural geometry.
“When you talk about economic development, water use and agriculture, people don’t always lump it all together,” he said, noting that Burke County alone produces more than $100 million in agricultural commodities each year.
Although recurring droughts certainly influence the move toward irrigators, changes in the economic climate wield considerable influence as well.
“Even if you leave out the drought part of it, in any year, two weeks without rainfall can cause you to lose a crop,” he said. “Lenders lend money against land and equipment to help farmers plant, and they almost will not lend unless you have a certain percentage that is irrigated.”
Surface streams and irrigation ponds are still widely used, but modern center-pivot irrigators typically rely on subterranean aquifers that are far less vulnerable to the effects of drought.
“Because of the complexity of agriculture these days, your business plan can’t rely on irrigating from a farm pond,” he said. “Evaporation alone can drop a pond level to nothing – this year, we see it everywhere.”
Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division, which tracks the number of water withdrawals for agriculture, has issued more and more permits in recent years.
“We have only issued seven agricultural water withdrawal permits so far this calendar year, but several hundred applications are under review,” said agency spokesman Kevin Chambers.
The number of permits, including both groundwater and some surface water systems, rose from 245 in 2008 to 272 in 2009. The number fell slightly in 2010, to 240, before increasing to 379 permits last year.
State geologist Jim Kennedy said much of the state sits above major aquifers that are both abundant and resistant to change, making them reliable resources to keep corn, peanuts, cotton, soybeans and other crops alive.
“Those are the deeper, confined systems,” he said. “The time periods for recharge are on the order of sometimes hundreds, or even thousands, of years.”
Despite more and more water being pulled from deep wells, state officials do not foresee rapid depletion of major aquifers.
“Ponds and streams are hydraulically connected with the surficial aquifers, which are affected by drought,” he said. “You can see the fluctuations, and then when we get a rainy season, the streams and ponds come back.”
Wells drilled into the deeper aquifers can, however, create temporary “cones of depression” if located too close to a similar well. Such cones could temporarily affect nearby wells, which is one reason why state regulators evaluate and issue permits for agricultural water withdrawals.
The amount of irrigated farmland in Georgia is expected to continue to grow, even if the current drought cycle subsides, according to a University of Georgia projection, which calculated that there were 1,336,291 irrigated acres in the state in 2010. That figure, the report said, is expected to expand by more than 350,000 acres by 2050.
Other studies, including one conducted during preparation of the 2011 Georgia State Water Plan, also found that the Savannah River Basin holds abundant supplies of groundwater.
“In preparing a lot of these regional water plans, we find the sustainable yield for these aquifers was higher than the level of use,” Kennedy said.
 Original Article Here


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