Thursday, 30 August 2012

Agriculture, the Fed has been watching you

The Federal Reserve Board of Governors is expected to have its finger on the pulse of the economy, but how about on the pulse of agriculture, and its part of the U.S. economy? The Fed’s Beige Book, which is a summary of the data fed to the Fed, indicates the Federal Open Market Committee which sets monetary policy, is getting a fair picture of agriculture and the stress that the drought is having. Let’s read what is contained in the Beige Book released on August 29.

The Beige Book is named for the color of its cover, nothing more, but is published every six weeks ahead of the FOMC meeting at which interest rate policy is reviewed and adjusted. About two weeks after the meeting, the Beige Book is released to the public. The report’s chapters reflect the economic activity in each of the twelve Federal Reserve Districts, such as manufacturing activity, consumer purchases, real estate transfers and the like. Agriculture is one of those sections in each report, by some of the twelve district banks, where agriculture is a major part of the economy in its district.

Seventh District—Chicago

“The drought has substantially reduced expected yields for corn and soybeans, although the impact varied considerably across the District. Scattered rains near the end of the reporting period helped revive soybeans to some degree; however, with the exception of some late-plantings, the precipitation was too late to improve yields for most of the corn crop. Crop insurance and higher prices will partially offset lost revenue. However, some farmers face the prospect of having to buy corn at market prices after selling ahead more than they will likely harvest. Livestock pastures are in poor shape as well, and fields with low corn yields were being chopped for silage to feed livestock. With feed costs high, livestock operations cannot cover their costs of production, and operators have reduced their herds accordingly. Hog and cattle prices were down from the prior reporting period, while dairy prices were up as milk production dipped.

Eighth District—St. Louis

“Severe drought conditions have caused downgrades to forecasted crop production. Annual 2012 production of cotton, soybean, and corn in the District states is expected to fall from 2011 levels by 12 percent, 18 percent, and 24 percent, respectively. In contrast, annual production of rice and sorghum in the District states is expected to increase by at least 12 percent. The fraction of all crops rated in fair or better condition has fallen in all District states since the previous report. Similarly, the fraction of pasture rated in fair or better condition declined in all District states. The District states’ year-to-date coal production for the end of July was 3.4 percent higher compared with the same period last year. Meanwhile, the District states’ coal production for July 2012 was approximately on par with July 2011.”
Original Article Here

Bihar to get Indo-Israel agriculture centres

New Delhi, Aug 30 — Two Indo-Israel Agriculture Centre of Excellence may come up in Bihar.

This follows hour-long discussions Israeli ambassador Alon Ushpiz had with Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in Patna Wednesday, an Israeli embassy statement here said.

Accompanying the ambassador was the embassy's agriculture counsellor, Uri Rubinstein.

The agricultural centres will focus on fruit and vegetable cultivation, the statement said.

Nitish Kumar and Ushpiz also discussed possibilities for cooperation in water treatment, aquaculture, dairy and grain storage. Solar energy was also identified as a potential field for cooperation.

Ushpiz invited Nitish Kumar to visit Israel.

Said the ambassador: "There is no doubt that the potential for cooperation between Israel and Bihar is rich, and what we can achieve together in agriculture and water is indeed promising.

"I hope that in the next couple of months we will be able to marry Israeli technologies and know-how in the fields of fruits and vegetables, dairy, crop storage and water, with the proven capabilities of the farming sector of Bihar."
Original Article Here

Drought-hit Russian grain yields down 27 percent

Drought-hit Russian grain quality has fallen sharply, with yields from the key global wheat supplier's current harvest down 27 percent from last year to 1.92 tonnes per hectare as of Tuesday, the country's Agriculture Ministry said. 

Russia had completed 62 percent of the harvest by August 28, reaping 53.4 million tonnes of grains, down from 60.3 million tonnes by the same date in 2011, data published on the ministry's website www.mcx.ru showed. By August 26, 2010, Russia had harvested some 42 million tonnes of grains. It did not provide specific wheat harvest data. 

The impact of Russia's weather-ravaged harvest is being felt on international markets with Benchmark Chicago wheat rising on concerns the country may curb wheat exports. Russia barred grain exports for almost a year in August 2010 after a severe drought. Some market observers have speculated this year Russia's wheat harvest may fall below the crop of 2010, when it brought in 41.5 million tonnes of wheat out of a total grains harvest of 61 million tonnes. The Volga region harvested 13.2 million tonnes of grains by August 28 with yields down to 1.42 tonnes per hectare from 72 percent of its area. 

News Summary: Agriculture prices rise, oil falls

By The Associated Press 

THE ISAAC EFFECT: Prices for wheat, corn and soybeans rose. That was partly from Hurricane Isaac. Its rain might be welcome after a drought, but it's unlikely to have much effect on crops that have been suffering all summer. It will also cut into harvesting time in the Southeast.

THE ISAAC EFFECT, PART 2: Oil prices fell, despite Isaac's forcing some Gulf Coast rigs to temporarily shut down. Investors seemed more swayed by a government report that inventories of crude oil rose last week for the first time in a month.

NOT-HEAVY METALS: Major metals all fell slightly. Precious metals like gold and silver were down, and so were industrial metals like copper and palladium.
Original Article Here

APEC agrees to avoid protectionism in agriculture: Russia

Asia-Pacific finance officials agreed that any protectionist measures, especially in the agricultural sector, are not helping global economic growth, Russia's Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said on Thursday.

Siluanov also said that any protectionist measures in the agriculture sphere would be "short-sighted".

A special joint ministerial statement said that the finance ministers of APEC economies "will also remain vigilant of other commodity prices, highlighting the need to avoid export bans, and other restrictions that are inconsistent with WTO rules in response to rapid increases in agricultural commodity prices."

(Reporting by Douglas Busvine; Writing by Katya Golubkova; Editing by Megan Davies)
Original Article Here

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Israel to work with Bihar in agriculture, solar and insurance sectors

PATNA: Isreal will step up cooperation with Bihar in sectors of agriculture, solar energy, water harnessing and health insurance.

Cooperation would be increased in agriculture sector with thrust on promotion of horticulture, dairy, fishery besides green vigitables and water area, the Ambassador of Israel Alon Ushpiz said today after an hour-long meeting with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.

"We'll have two centres of excellance in agriculture sector," he told PTI.

The cooperation in energy sector between Bihar and Israel with the support of the union government would also be extended particularly in the field of solar energy, he said.

"We also intend to ensure investments in medical insurance, " he said.

Describing Kumar as an impressive, competent and effective leader of Bihar where, he said, tremendous development works and economic growth were taking place in state.
Original Article Here

Horticulture and livestock could fetch billions of dollars: stakeholders

Horticulture and livestock, the most neglected sectors, if properly upgraded could turn the tables and fetch billions of dollars to meet the foreign exchange requirements, so desperately needed by the country under pressure, according to stakeholders here. 

Horticulture needs improvement in quality, post harvest care and cold chain infrastructure, while livestock suffers from lack of global food safety standards, cohesive supply chains and marketing system. Stakeholders explained that these two sectors which have unlimited potential need to be addressed as follows: Challenges which are increasing for horticulture, one of the most vibrant sub-sectors of agriculture, relate to the quality of produce. Unfortunately we have been riveted to increasing production and not so much on improving quality. 

They are unhappy with the performance of Pakistan Horticulture Development and Export Company (PHDEC) which carries the mandate to develop this sector. For all practical purposes it looks a 'dormant' body as it has nothing worthwhile to claim what it has contributed towards the development of this sector which has big potential of expanding and earning much needed foreign exchange for the country. Attempts made from time to time to seek information about its plans to enhance exports always remained unanswered and unattended. 

Pakistan needs to broaden its export horizons, and shipping higher volumes. The broader export strategy has helped boost significantly Pakistan's export earnings. Foreign exchange earnings through fruit and horticulture exports have risen every year but a lack of post-harvest and cold chain infrastructure is seriously hampering Pakistan's horticulture export potential. 

Similarly, lack of awareness among Pakistani exporters about global food safety standards, cohesive supply chains and marketing systems are to be blamed for keeping the country's produce export volumes low. Ahmad Jawad, member, export committee, Islamabad Chamber of Commerce says if we take a look for a while, Pakistan is the 13th largest producer of citrus in the world. This crop has potential up to $400 million but currently it stands at around $100 million. At present, there is little or no government intervention and assistance to alter the situation. 

Since 2006/07 Australia is assisting Pakistan under the Agriculture Sector Linkages Program (ASLP) to overcome certain constraints in Pakistan's agriculture exports sector but, surprisingly no fruitful progress is seen till date towards betterment of this crop. If we take the case of dates, Pakistan is one of 4th largest producer in the world and its exports could be enhanced up to $200 million with proper processing and packaging. Annual production of dates in Pakistan is estimated at around 535,000 tons, of which only 86,000 tons is exported and the rest is either consumed locally, or perishes for want of proper facilities. Since 1999, per acre yield of dates in Pakistan has not much increased, whereas the world-wide production has increased by 166 percent. 

Stakeholders demand that the government needs to pay urgent attention towards production, processing and quality enhancement, preservation, research and marketing facilities to save and ensure growth of this potent source of foreign exchange. They emphasised that this fruit is potent to make many more millions of dollars if care is taken and due attention is paid towards value-addition. Similarly Pakistan is the second largest country in "Guava" production after India. Recent research shows that it has stood to its potential as it has been named as one of the two fruits, which have maximum antioxidants. 

Pakistan's guava production increased from 19,000 tons in 1958 to 552,000 tons in 2008; an annual growth rate of 6.9 percent. Pakistan's major exports of guava are to UAE, UK, Saudi Arabia and Qatar whereas Canada is the largest importer of guava from Pakistan accounting for 26 percent of the total guava exports. 

Although Pakistan earns from guava about Rs 1 billion annually, a large portion of the crop is wasted due to short shelf life which could be saved, if value addition and processing plants are set up in the guava producing areas. It is unfortunate that Pakistan exports a negligible quantity of "apples" despite having potential of penetrating into the world apple market of 5 million tons. Owing to quality and standard crop yield Pakistan has sufficient potential to penetrate in the world market but there is need to develop this industry proper on proper lines. 

Pakistan experiences massive post harvest losses in this crop. Balochistan province has 102,300 hectares under cultivation and produces 220,000 tons of apples per year besides KP which also has a massive share in apple production. In the field of floriculture, Pakistan has lot of potential to develop. Market demand of floriculture products is growing fast. Pakistan is a country of small farming households, where floriculture is the best option to enhance the income for the poor. 

Floriculture is viewed as a lucrative enterprise for poverty alleviation. Some initiatives have also been taken for the promotion of floriculture to enter the global floriculture trade. Policymakers need to draw upon the experience of other countries. Every year we only stuck to organising flower shows in big cities to seek of tribute. We have favourable climate and cheap labour for growing these crops. They need much less land and water for production than other crops. Net profit on the investment is much higher for these crops compared with other conventional crops and though the products are in high demand all over the world, there is lack of resources and skilled persons to develop floriculture industry up to international standards. 

Pakistan had negligible share in world-wide floriculture trade despite having fertile lands and best irrigation system to venture in this enterprising business which not only generates rural employment, but also fetches precious foreign exchange. Pakistan earns almost Rs 35 million in this regard but the room for growth is still there. 

In order to compete with the world, we need to study the economic trends, such as shortage or over-supply of some flower species in particular seasons; as such factors result in changes in prices that may become too low to grow them economically. 

Stakeholders advised the government to issue directives to banks for issuing soft loans to boost this industry. Halal meet is another area which needs proper exploration. Pakistan which has 159 million animals should take speedy initiatives in the international Halal food market by complying with the international codes as it would not only lead to earning a big foreign exchange but also stabilise the national economy. 

Pakistan has extraordinary natural strengths, the country also faces massive infrastructure shortcomings which handicap the ability of many Pakistani businesses to effectively compete against firms from Australia, Brazil or even India." The Halal food market, at just over $640 billion a year world-wide, is one of the largest opportunities in the food and agribusiness sector. Presently our total meat exports stand at around $100 million and could surpass the $500 million mark easily in about five years subject to Livestock Departments establishing latest infrastructure and work on the marketing techniques. 

Between 2001 and 2009, the global beef trade grew at an average of 10.4 per cent to reach just over $30 billion, according to data available from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). It looks very pathetic that Pakistan's market share within this rapidly growing market is only 2.9 per cent. However, Pakistani exporters seem to be determined to have an increased share in this trade. 

Brazilian animal is exactly the same as most of our breeds of cattle. The quality of meat is also the same. The only difference is their ability to market their meat better than us. Pakistan can easily displace Brazil as the Middle East's leading meat supplier. 

Stakeholders urged the government to support horticulture/livestock sector of Pakistan in order to enhance export volume in coming years with proper incentives and policy and also take progressive initiatives to venture for the exploitation of export potential and to search more markets like South American countries, North Africa, Central Asian states and South Asian region. "We are in a position to take up this industry into billions subject to proper determination and could contribute heavy amount to the national kitty which will help us to get rid of international donors," stakeholders said. 

Wal-Mart joins agriculture sustainability group

By Michael Hirtzer

(Reuters) - The world's largest retailer Wal-Mart Stores Inc has joined an alliance of other Fortune 500 companies, including Cargill and Kellogg Co, seeking to make agriculture more sustainable.

The Field to Market alliance was started three years ago by the non-profit Keystone Center to improve agricultural productivity and reduce the use of natural resources. It includes farm groups, grain handlers and food makers but Wal-Mart is the first retailer in the group and now its largest member.

"We have pretty ambitious goals to sell products that are sustainable and this is directly within that framework," Rob Kaplan, Wal-Mart's senior manager of sustainability, said of the new partnership.

The group studies major crops and works with farmers to make agriculture more environmentally friendly. A report released earlier this summer highlighted how six crops -- corn, cotton, potatoes, rice, soybeans and wheat -- are now being produced more efficiently than they were in the last three decades.

On one project sponsored by Field to Market, General Mills Inc worked with 25 wheat growers in Idaho to learn how to maximize the use of fertilizer and other products used in farming, such as seed, insecticides and herbicides.

Wal-Mart is seeking to eliminate 20 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions from its global supply chain by the end of 2015. Last year, the company said it turned 1.2 million pounds of cooking oil recovered from its stores into biodiesel, soap and a supplement for cattle feed.

Other members of the alliance include Bunge Ltd, Coca-Cola Co and the National Corn Growers Association.

(Reporting by Michael Hirtzer in Chicago. Additional reporting by Jessica Wohl; editing by Carol Bishopric)

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

ICAR to focus on retaining rural youth in agriculture

B. S. SATISH KUMAR 

Large-scale migration of rural youth from farming to urban areas has caused concern among the country’s agricultural policy makers as such a trend, if not checked, is likely to affect agricultural activities in the future.

In a bid to address this trend, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has constituted a seven-member expert committee, headed by University of Agricultural Sciences-Bangalore Vice-Chancellor and Agricultural Extension expert K. Narayana Gowda, to suggest ways of attracting youth to agriculture. What inspired the ICAR to constitute such a panel was the recent initiative by the UAS-B to encourage youth to take up farming.

Dr. Gowda told The Hindu that the committee with a theme — Attracting and Retention of Youth in Agriculture (ARYA) — will come out with region-wise recommendations in November regarding the measures to be taken to attract the youth.

He said the recommendations would lead to formulation of a national policy as the ICAR would take up these recommendations before the Planning Commission. He said the committee was not trying to retain all the youth in rural areas. “Our concern is mainly about the school and college dropouts who migrate to cities in search of menial jobs. It has become a social problem as most of these youth find it difficult to sustain their families with the pittance they earn in cities. We want to convince them, through concrete examples, that they can earn much more than they earn in cities if they continue in farming,” he said.

The committee will address issues such as providing training on innovative and sustainable agricultural practices to help make agriculture a profitable venture. This would involve a series of activities, including creation of infrastructure facilities in various aspects of farming and providing marketing linkages, and in exploring opportunities in secondary agricultural operations such as value addition of crops and hiring, and servicing of mechanised farm implements, he said.

To begin with, the committee is thinking of conducting a sample survey to find out the quantum of migration of rural youth. At present, the indications are that the migration of rural youth to cities is around 45 per cent in the country.

He said youth shun agriculture as society looks down upon farming. Families of prospective brides do not prefer farming youth, Dr. Gowda said. The committee would also look into providing social recognition for them.
Original Article Here

A broader vision on agriculture

As a long time advocate for small business and local entrepreneurs, I felt compelled to respond to an article I read in the Business Section of the Monday, August 13, 2012 edition of the The Nassau Guardian with the heading, "Landscapers outraged by 'reckless' policy."

Since my wife is in the floral business and I know that she has to secure an import permit each and every time she brings flowers into the country, I immediately became curious as to what this outcry was all about.

I contacted the Ministry of Agriculture to find out whether the policy had changed and was told that it had not, which leaves me to conclude that someone had imported plants into the country improperly and was now attempting to demonize the minister for trying to protect local growers.

How can $500,00 worth of plants be imported into our country without first securing from the relevant government agency prior permission to do so?

What am I missing here?

I happen to have been engaged as a consultant by the owner of a major landscaping and nursery local company which owns millions of dollars worth of landscaping and earth moving equipment and acres upon acres of plants of many varieties (fruit and ornamental trees).

When I visited the farm on Eleuthera earlier this year, it took us hours to drive through the farms which has literally over 50,000 mature trees ready for market which, incidentally, are exactly like the ones that I am told are regularly imported for major landscaping jobs on the island.

What madness; at a time when the government is advocating "Bahamians first."

It would seem to me that the president of the landscapers association should be examining why the trees were brought into the country without the proper permits and further he should be promoting the concept of import substitution which has been a rallying cry throughout the Caribbean for decades instead of accusing the minister of being "reckless."

How else are we going to diversify our economy, lower imports thereby simultaneously improving our balance of payments and foreign reserves, reduce the staggering unemployment statistics and tangibly support the expansion and Bahamian ownership of our industries?

This is agriculture for crying out loud, which is high on everyone's list when the discussion of economic diversification comes up.

How is it then that we can have Bahamians in high places who seem to be blatantly militating and advocating against the very initiatives that are designed to stimulate national development and motivate and arouse the entrepreneurial spirit among our people?

If indeed we are committed to Bahamianization and the development of local entrepreneurs then we must begin to demonstrate that through our actions and support the government in enforcing policies that encourage those stated objectives, and this should apply across all industries.

So, I conclude by saying to the president of the Bahamas Landscapers Association, broaden the discussion, don't just seek to maintain the status quo, but rather equally apply your energy to defending and promoting those Bahamians who are prepared to invest in The Bahamas by providing inputs into your industry.

In economics we call this "backward integration" which is when vertical integration is employed that allows a company to produce more of the inputs into final products.

That is how an economy and by extension a country grows its primary economic base.

The minister should be congratulated for his efforts to protect the local growers and move past the lip service that has been so prevalent to date.


Paul D. Major
Original Article Here

China, ASEAN to strengthen cooperation in agriculture

China and ASEAN countries will bring high-quality agricultural products to south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region from Sep. 21 to 25 to deepen exchange and cooperation in agricultural technologies.

China and ASEAN countries will promote cooperation in agricultural technologies, including those related to cultivation, manufacture, research and development, seeding, pesticide and fertilizer, said the secretariat of the ninth China-ASEAN Expo (CAEXPO), which will start on Sept. 21 in the regional capital of Nanning.

The secretariat said 600 booths will be set up for the expo to display modern agricultural technologies, as well as livestock and food products from China and ASEAN countries.

So far, 360 enterprises from the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan, as well as ten ASEAN countries, have applied for the booths, up 26 percent from a year earlier.

The expo is expected to attract more than 110,000 businessmen and customers, the secretariat said.

CAEXPO, hosted by the trade and economic organizations and departments of China and ASEAN countries, has been held annually since 2004.

Palm oil climbs to six-week peak

Malaysian crude palm oil futures rose to a 6-week high on Monday, as traders continued to bet on tight global edible oil supplies with no sign of the drought easing in the soya-producing US Midwest. US new-crop soyabeans hit a contract high on Monday after farm newsletter Pro Farmer estimated US soyabean production would be worse than forecasts by the US Department of Agriculture. 

A smaller supply of soyabeans to be crushed into soyabean oil had widened palm oil's discount to soyabean oil to above $250 per tonne, shifting more demand to the cheaper tropical oil. "There's a lot more upside for crude palm oil prices because so far palm oil has been lagging behind soyabean oil," said James Ratnam, an analyst with TA Securities in Malaysia. "The second thing is that there could be new stimulus measures coming out from China and the US that could boost sentiment." 

The benchmark November 2012 contract on the Bursa Malaysia Derivatives Exchange gained 0.7 percent to close at 3,091 ringgit ($994) per tonne after touching an intraday high at 3,122 ringgit, a level last seen since July 17. Total traded volumes stood at 25,999 lots of 25 tonnes each, just slightly higher than the usual 25,000 lots. Palm oil will consolidate further in the range of 3,044-3,097 ringgit per tonne before climbing up towards 3,183 ringgit, Reuters market analyst Wang Tao said. 

Demand appears to be picking up with Malaysia's exports rising 5.7 percent for the August 1-25 period from a month ago, cargo surveyor Intertek Testing Services said on Saturday. Traders will be watching for further indications on export trends as another cargo surveyor, Societe Generale de Surveillance, releases its August 1-20 data together with August 1-25 data later in the day. 

Refiners in Malaysia's top oil palm growing state of Sabah will pay millers less for edible oil from next month to preserve margins and better compete with Indonesia, the Business Times reported on Monday, in a move likely to hit planters' revenues. Planters are also concerned by a possible return of El Nino to South East Asia as the hot and dry weather pattern can deal serious damage to palm oil production in Indonesia and Malaysia. 

Other vegetable oil markets also traded higher on an oilseed supply squeeze due to the US dry weather. By 1005 GMT, the most active US soyaoil contract for December delivery gained 1 percent and the most active January 2013 soyaoil contract on the Dalian Commodity Exchange rose 1.4 percent. 

Monsanto: Precision agriculture system set for '14

By Owen Fletcher

--Monsanto to offer FieldScripts service in four states in 2014

--Service analyzes fields to recommend a corn hybrid for planting and a varying number of seeds per acre for each part of the field

--Next year Monsanto also plans to test product meant to ensure seed planting at a uniform depth in varying soil conditions

HUXLEY, Iowa--Monsanto Co. MON +0.69% said Monday that in 2014 it will start offering a service for farmers that analyzes their fields to determine how densely corn seed should be planted in each part of it to maximize yields.

The service, called FieldScripts, will also generate a recommendation on what type of corn hybrid would best suit the field in question, Monsanto officials said. It will deliver the recommendations via an application for Apple Inc.'s iPad tablet computer so farmers can buy the seed and use a control system to plant it at the recommended number of seeds per acre, which will vary throughout a field.

Monsanto will test the service in Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana next year and start offering it on a limited basis in those four states in 2014, John Raines, commercial lead for integrated farming systems at Monsanto, said.

The service is part of Monsanto's foray into a growing field called "precision agriculture," which refers to the use of computer technology and global-positioning systems to help farmers efficiently use seeds, fertilizer and chemicals.

Monsanto is also working on a way to allow farmers to mechanically plant multiple different hybrids in a single field, although that will also require new planter equipment to become available, Mr. Raines said.

Next year, Monsanto will also test a product called Delta Force that will allow a planter to automatically adjust movements based on varying soil conditions, such as the degree of softness in each part of a field, so that all seeds are planted at a uniform depth, Mr. Raines said.

In January, the company unveiled its Integrated Farming Systems unit, which is focused on precision agriculture. FieldScripts is the unit's first product.

This year, it also acquired Precision Planting Inc., a maker of computer displays and other electronic systems used to tailor planting.
Original Article Here

Farmer promotes sustainable agriculture in Sweden

A large portion of the world's available fresh water is used in agriculture. In water-rich Sweden, some farmers are employing sustainable practices with their livestock in order to conserve their resources.


Elisabeth Gauffin, wearing heavy-duty rubber boots and a quickly thrown-on work jacket, tends to 180 dairy cows. Since 1986, she has run the Stabby Gard farm near the city of Uppsala, which lies just north of the Sweden's capital, Stockholm.

Gauffin discusses her philosophy as she pets one her cows while it feeds at its trough. The Swedish farmer says that the sustainable use of resources is tremendously important on her farm.

"For example, we use less energy when the cows stand outside," says Gauffin, adding that the cows take shelter under the heated roof only for a short period during the winter.

"The animals are currently resting," she continues. "Two months out the year they can't give milk. Then they start producing again, and we milk them for eight to 10 months out of the year."

Sustainable farming

Stabby Gard uses all sources of energy available at the farm, from the body heat of the cows to the use of their manure for field fertilizer. Gauffin also cultivates grain in a sustainable fashion. She avoids monoculture farming, which means cultivating just one crop. Instead, she rotates the use of peas and rapeseed.

Water resources are also becoming a growing issue, according to the farmer.

"Sweden is a water-rich country," Gauffin says. "We're doing well here in that regard, because we're surrounded by water. But when there are heat waves during the summer, we also notice that water becomes scarcer."

Up until now, she has not had to think about how much water she uses to produce a single liter of milk.

"But if climate change continues, that will become an issue in all of Sweden," Gauffin says.
Original Article Here

Strategies for investing in agriculture

By Russell Pearlman

High crop prices could be a boon to farmers and investors alike. Here are ways to buy into the world’s growing demand for food.

Play it safe: farming equipment

The world’s population is growing fast, but the amount of land to grow food is not. So, as simple supply and demand economics would dictate, food prices are rising.

According to the United Nations, grain prices have more than doubled since 2003, and some analysts expect them to continue rising for the foreseeable future. That trend could be a boon to American farmers, and when farmers feel rich, they often shop for new equipment.

Gary Bradshaw, a portfolio manager for the Hodges family of mutual funds, likes Titan Machinery TITN -0.99% , a distributor of tractors in the Great Plains. Titan’s 2011 net income was $44 million, nearly double what it was in 2010.

For a more international bet on farming, Bradshaw also likes Deere DE -1.50% . The Moline, Ill., maker of giant green tractors and other big-ticket farm equipment grew its net income by 56% in four years, from $1.8 billion in 2007 to $2.8 billion last year.

Go for broke: a chicken run

If the rest of the world is going to eat more food, it surely will eat more chicken, right? U.S. chicken-piece prices have risen anywhere from 2% (breasts) to more than 120% (wings) from a year ago.

But buying into poultry is a lot riskier than taking a flier on most other farm-related businesses.

Because prices have been so good, chicken firms could produce a lot more birds. “The danger is you drive prices lower,” says Heather Jones, a managing director at BB&T Capital Markets.

Plus, higher crop prices pose a problem: Sanderson Farms, the nation’s No. 3 chicken producer, says its feed costs (primarily corn and soybeans) were nearly 40% higher last year than in 2010.

Still, chicken producers have made their operations more efficient, and they’ve steadily increased exports to Asia and Europe. Bradshaw says he’d consider buying Pilgrim’s Pride, another major chicken producer, if its stock price dipped. 
Original Article here

Monday, 27 August 2012

Federal immigration program can help young workers


In an animal laboratory in central California's dairy country, Juan Carlos Martin cleaned and fed dozens of cows.
Smuggled through a U.S. border checkpoint in a car at age 13, the Mexico native had hoped for an education and career, but started working full time at the end of high school after an accident incapacitated his father.
Now 23, Martin was surprised to learn this week that he may be eligible for the new federal program that temporarily defers deportation and grants work permits to young illegal immigrants.
Much of the attention surrounding the program that began last Wednesday has focused on students. But researchers say it could also benefit hundreds of thousands of young adults working in low-wage industries such as agriculture.
"The stereotype about the young people who are eligible is that they're college students and academic superstars that speak English perfectly. And that is, of course, not true for all of them," said Ed Kissam, a labor policy researcher.
To be eligible, immigrants must prove they arrived in the United States before they turned 16, were younger than 31 as of June 15, have been living in the country at least five years, are in school or graduated, and have not been convicted of certain crimes.
The program is also open to individuals who haven't graduated high school or received a GED, as long as they enroll in an adult education program, vocational training or even English language instruction.
Agricultural workers like Martin say a work permit and the benefits that come with it could open doors previously closed, leading to better paying jobs, improved working conditions and benefits, and a path to higher education.
"This would change my whole life," said Martin, a high school graduate. "I came to this country with the goal of studying and getting ahead. But you really can't do it without a work permit, a Social Security number and a drivers' license."
Despite the possibilities, workers and advocates say farmworkers and others who are out of school could face significant hurdles when applying: a lack of information about the program, limited English skills, little access to legal advice and limited access to adult school to fulfill the program's education requirement.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals does not grant legal residency or a path to citizenship.
More than half of the 1 million young illegal immigrants eligible for the program are in the labor force, mostly working in low-wage industries — holding either a high school degree or GED, or lacking a degree altogether, an analysis by the Migration Policy Institute shows.
Agriculture could be one of the most affected. Two-thirds of farmworkers are foreign-born Mexicans, the majority without legal status, and many are young — more than half are under the age of 31, according to the National Agricultural Workers Survey. Data from the survey shows that at least 54,000 farmworkers could qualify for the program.
Jaime Hernandez, 23, who picks strawberries in the Santa Maria area for $8 per hour, found out about the program from a friend and is hoping to apply.
Hernandez, who crossed the Arizona desert with his parents at age 11, dropped out of high school in Madera, Calif., to work in the fields and help his family make ends meet. He recently finished a GED course, but never took the diploma exam, because his 10-hour workdays didn't leave him time. He now plans to sign up for the test.
If he is granted a work permit, he plans to get a better-paying job, and go back to school to become a lawyer or a radio engineer.
"I'm afraid, I don't have the money to pay for a lawyer, and I don't know if I am guaranteed acceptance or if I will be rejected," Hernandez said. "But still, it's worth it ... I'm not giving up."
Organizations helping eligible applicants say many workers don't know they may be eligible.
"Working people in the fields, many don't understand the program," said Ramiro Medrano, an adviser with the Pajaro Valley Unified School District near Watsonville, which is holding an information session about the program Sunday. "Most call about their kids. When I ask them, 'How old are you?' it turns out the parents could qualify."
The UFW Foundation has also been holding information sessions and phone meetings with farmworker union locals to spread the word.
For eligible workers who have never filled out an application and speak little English, applying for Deferred Action is intimidating, said the group's Richard Gorman. "Our hope is that once they have papers, once you take away the fear of deportation, that will encourage workers to stand up for themselves and for others in their own workplaces, to form a union or complain to their boss when there is a problem."
Some farmers are worried the program could cut into their workforce. One group of growers, the Nisei Farmers League, is discouraging farmworkers from applying, worried workers or their families could be deported once their addresses are given to the federal government.
Another worry: Because the application for work authorization asks for all previously used Social Security numbers, the information could lead the government to track down agricultural employers who hired the illegal workers and subject them to audits or sanctions, said the league's president, Manuel Cunha.
"There is no safe haven at the end of the day," Cunha said.
Federal immigration officials have said they won't use information from the applications for immigration enforcement against workers. Officials declined to comment on whether information provided by applicants would be used to prosecute or audit employers.
Original Article Here

Access to water key for food security: FAO chief


Global food security starts with ensuring access to water, the head of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said at the beginning of World Water Week Monday.
"There is no food security without water security," said FAO director-general Jose Graziano Da Silva in Sweden, which is hosting the annual event organised by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI).
With crop growing hampered by the effects of pollution and climate change, agriculture must become "more efficient and fairer", he said, adding that nations all over the world need to "produce more with less" and manage water resources well.
The conference, whose theme is water and food security, also heard from Swedish Cooperation Minister Gunilla Carlsson who urged the business world to find fresh ideas and new partners to help improve food security.
"The need for innovation and collaboration with corporations and small businesses are significant," she said.
"Increasingly, business is looking for innovative models building on local ideas and demand, rather than adapting products and distribution processes that were conceived for US or European markets."
Da Silva also called on the private sector to develop agriculture in a responsible manner in emerging countries.
Original Article Here

Analysis: Brazil's economy to get welcome boost from farm sector


By Reese Ewing

After a tough first quarter, Brazilian farmers are injecting life back into a stagnant economy at a time when manufacturers and consumers are retrenching.
Agriculture has long been known as the green anchor of Brazil's economy, now the world's sixth-largest. One of the world's breadbaskets, Brazil is a major producer of soybeans, corn, sugar, coffee, oranges and beef, and has invested heavily in the past decade to keep up with surging global demand.
But the agricultural sector kicked off 2012 on the wrong foot, adding to the woes of an economy that has been struggling for the past year. Agricultural output contracted 8.5 percent in the first quarter, hit by a drought in the grains belt, a poor sugar cane crop and tight credit markets.
The slump in Brazil's farm belt, however, was short-lived. The agricultural sector, which accounts for nearly 30 percent of Brazil's gross domestic product, is expected to be a bright spot when GDP data for the second quarter is released on Friday.
And the trend is expected to continue well into next year, as Brazilian farmers reap the benefits of record prices for soybeans, corn and beef, helping to fill a void in global supply after a crushing drought in the United States.
"The outlook for grains is super positive and soy is going to lead it," said Jose Hausknecht, a director at MB Agro, a local consulting firm that tracks the agricultural sector. "It will start to show up in the second quarter."
That's good news for multinational commodities traders like Bunge Ltd (BG.N), Cargill CARG.UL, Louis Dreyfus LOUDR.UL, ADM (ADM.N) and Noble Group (NOBG.SI), which all rely on business in Brazil for their revenue. The same holds for farm machinery makers John Deere (DE.N) and AGCO (AGCO.N).
To be sure, Brazil's economy faces many hurdles that may be too big for the farm sector to overcome alone. Big industry, including automotive and manufacturing, is a key part of the economy and is not expected to recover soon. And consumer confidence has started to fall as have federal tax revenues.
Even in commodities, some sectors are dragging. Big miners such as Vale (VALE5.SA) have been battered by weaker prices for iron ore, copper, nickel and aluminum. And poultry and pork producers are cutting production due to high feed prices.
SOYBEANS TO LEAD
Elsewhere in the farm sector, the prospects shine.
Despite last year's drought, Brazil still brought in a record crop of 166 million tonnes of grain that started peaking in March, which will support economic growth. This coincided with a weakening of the Brazilian real, which makes dollar-linked exports worth more in local currency terms.
"The second quarter numbers will surprise everyone," Agriculture Minister Jorge Mendes Ribeiro Filho said after meeting with President Dilma Rousseff last week.
In reais, soybean futures prices jumped 28 percent from March through June. Soy exports, Brazil's biggest farm export earner, are up 11 percent in the second quarter, despite a 12 percent drop in last year's harvest.
The trend for increased exports looks set to continue in the wake of the drought over the U.S. soy and corn crops.
China's commodity imports continue to defy expectations of a major slowdown. The latest tranche of trade data paints a strong picture, Barclay's Research said. China, Brazil's main trade partner, imported 318 percent more corn and 10 percent more soy in the past quarter.
"China's food imports going forward are likely to result in a soft commodities super cycle," said Bo Zhaung, a China-based economist for research analysts Trusted Sources, who recently visited Brazil.
Brazilian farmers also planted a record corn crop this year, harvesting 72 million tonnes, above the 66-million-tonne soy crop for the first time in a decade.
Corn exports are up 111 percent from last year from April through June, the trade ministry said. Corn futures prices in local currency terms were little changed in the quarter but are up 38 percent since June.
Going forward, the scenario looks exceptional for grains, as local soybean producers gear up for one of the most expressive leaps in planting in decades, in response to record prices caused by the U.S. drought.
Brazil's crushing industry association Abiove expects the soy industry to export a record 37.5 million tonnes of soy from the crop that will start planting in September, up from 30.5 million in exports from this crop. And revenues from exports are expected to rocket to $30 billion from $22.6 billion.
May-June rains improved the outlook for next year's sugar cane crush, which should near the record 560 million tonne center-south crop of 2010/11.
And local beef producers, who are less at the mercy of global grains prices because Brazil's 200-million-head herd is largely grass-fed, are looking at a "Christmas Year for beef" sales, said Luis Ricardo Luz, operations director at one of Brazil's big meat packers Minerva (BEEF3.SA).
INFRASTRUCTURE HURDLES
Record crops will mean stress on Brazil's dilapidated infrastructure, however. Ports, roads and railways have been the Achilles heel of the country on which the world is increasingly depending for its raw commodities.
Roberto Messenberg, an economist at Ipea, a government think tank, said strong food prices would fuel a revival in Brazilian agriculture but warned that structural change and infrastructure investments were still essential for sustainable growth.
"Recovery in agroindustry, due to climate shocks, is temporary and doesn't mean a medium-term investment trend," Messenberg said.
President Rousseff is trying to tackle Brazil's infrastructure deficiencies with a $66 billion investment plan that will grant concessions to private companies to overhaul and expand the country's roads and railways. A similar plan for airports and seaports is also in the pipeline.
But government officials acknowledge that the projects will take years to be completed.
(Editing by Todd Benson and Tim Dobbyn)
Original Article Here

Sharad Pawar suggests alternate crops for Punjab and Haryana


Depleting water table and worsening soil health in key food grain growers Punjab and Haryana have prompted agriculture minister Sharad Pawar to explore possibilities of introducing alternative crops such as pulses, oilseeds, fodder crops and horticultural crops in these states.

"Pawar will hold a meeting with the state governments in the third week of September to consider various aspects relating to the proposed crop substitution including suitability of different alternative crops and their impact of water and soil resources, cost of production, and marketing and processing of the alternative crops," said an official.

The decision was taken at parliamentary consultative committee meeting which also discussed raising agricultural production and productivity in eastern India by harnessing the ample water resource available there and injecting new technologies.

Pawar said that that due to various interventions the rice production in Bihar and Jharkhand had more than doubled last year over the previous year.

"Except for Odisha and Assam, which were affected by flood/drought, rice production has increased in all the States where this programme is being implemented. A record production of 55.3 million tonne of rice has been achieved by the eastern region out of total rice production of 104.32 million tonne during 2011-12," he said.

The government has already launched a programme named 'Bringing Green Revolution to Eastern India' in 2010-11 in eastern region of the country to raise agricultural production with an allocation of Rs. 400 crore for the first two years. It has now increased the outlay to Rs 1000 crore for the current financial year.
Original Article Here

Argentine mission promotes agriculture


JOINT projects to stimulate interest in agriculture careers are among the possible fruits of a visit last week by Argentinian university chiefs.
Like Australia, Argentina was big in livestock but underdone in the supply of agriculture graduates, according to the University of New England's Victor Minichiello, local organiser of the mission.
"People's understanding of a twenty first century agriculture career is often not up to date,'' Professor Minichiello said.
The visit also looked at opportunities for collaboration in IT and medical training.
The Argentinian institutions involved were the Universidad de Quilmes, Universidad Nacional del Litoral and Universidad Nacional del Sur.
Aside from UNE, the Australian institutions taking part were the universities of Sydney, Western Sydney, Newcastle, Melbourne, La Trobe, Swinburne, CSIRO and Victoria University.
Professor Minichiello said one possible project would be to connect schools and universities in both countries to promote careers in agriculture.
Another possibility was collaboration on global courseware in fields such as occupational therapy where language studies in English or Spanish could add another dimension.
Original Article Here

China to check implementation of agriculture law


China's top legislature will start a new wave of inspections on the implementation ofits Law on Agriculture inSeptember.
Five inspection teamsorganized by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress(NPC), will be sent to10 provincial regions including ShanxiInner Mongolia and Yunnan,according to a meeting of the NPC StandingCommittee held on Sunday.
Local legislatures of other provinces and regions were also ordered to check the enforcementof the law.
Wu Bangguochairman of the NPC Standing Committeesaid in a written comment that theinspections are aimed athelping find out the prominent issues that hamper China's rural reformand development and providing suggestions topromote the agricultural modernization.
The inspectionsthe eighth since 2003, will focus on five major areas including thedevelopment of modernagriculturegrain safety and the protection of farmland.
Uyunqimgvice chairperson of the NPC Standing Committeesaid at the meeting that it isfundamentally important topromote better implementation of the law as it provides firm legalsafeguard for the development of agriculture andthe improvement of living standards in ruralareas.
HoweverChina are facing a series of challenges in rural developmentincluding weak grainproductivitylack of along-term system for raising the farmersincomeand shortage offarmland and water resourcessaid Uyunqimg.
She urged all teams to finish the inspection task with high quality and ensure effectiveimplementation of the law.
Original Article Here

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