I mentioned last week in this column the problem that is arising between Russia and Ukraine. Ukraine is the breadbasket that Russia wants to keep hold of for its own needs, and it has threatened to use military force unless things settle down. Again we see another example of how important food is in trade agreements, in negotiations, and as a national priority.
We in America must become more cognizant of the value and availability of our food supply. I hope that all you people in the business of growing food or animal protein understand the important role you play in the national scene. I've been convinced of this for many years, and there's no doubt about it: it's vitally important that all of you people in the production of food pay attention.
One thing that upset the applecart in the last number of years was when our government jumped in, supported, and reinforced the use of corn to produce ethanol in an all-out attempt to ease up the need for outside fuel. We don't need a lot of intervention like that on the part of government.
I haven't changed my mind at all that this cattle business is going to be good the rest of the year. You folks who have a good ranch, grass, and a good herd of cattle around you, stay hitched. Through the calving season, save as many as you can and keep them as sound as you can. Keep them growing as best you can, and you're going to like the results come summer and fall of getting a good payday when you go to merchandise and selling those calves or yearlings.
When you look at the interest on our national debt, it's more than what the government wants to take away from the military. Remember, the interest on our national debt is almost twice as much as the amount of money we're wanting to take away from the military. We must be careful of that. Understand, there's one thing these other countries that do not like us do and that's watch like a hawk, and when we get short of money and when we get weak, that is when those countries might strike at us militarily. Remember, strength brings prosperity, and strength brings peace. These envious countries aren't going to strike us if they know we're strong militarily and financially, but if we get on the weak side on either issue, here they will come, and don't forget it. A strong military and a strong economy will keep us free and safe, but if we don't watch ourselves, we will get in a big jam in America because they will strike when we're weak. It's not going to change; that's human nature, and these folks who don't like us but want our food and want our money and want our way of life, they'll come and they will be militarily strong. Just pray that some of these countries don't develop an atom bomb because they'll hit us right between the eyes in a very short time if they ever get one. Even though we may have been friendly with them, through trade agreements for instance, we have to let them know that not only have we been their friend but also in no uncertain terms we can be their worst enemy. That will keep us free. That will keep us strong!
Isn't this an especially fine photograph? When Heidi Todd sent it in, she titled it "God's Masterpiece."
She wrote: "This picture was taken by my husband while he was out feeding our sheep... a truly
magnificent picture of a place we call home, the Crazy Mountains near Big Timber...
this is why we live in Montana!"
NFU: Trade agreements must address currency manipulation...
The National Farmers Union (NFU) said last week that it supports recent remarks made by Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Representative Sander Levin (D-MI) on currency manipulation. The two said during a telephone press conference that Congress would not grant the president trade promotion authority or approve a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) unless it includes disciplines on currency manipulation, an issue not being addressed in negotiations.
According to an Economic Policy Institute study, two TPP members -- Malaysia and Singapore -- are among the world's major currency manipulators, and a third nation -- Japan -- has announced its intent to intervene in the exchange market to lower the value of the yen. NFU President Roger Johnson said, "Currency manipulation distorts the value of imported and exported goods and increases the likelihood that our existing trade deficit will only continue to rise. U.S. negotiators must affirm a goal of decreasing the enormous U.S. trade deficit, which harms our economy and destroys U.S. jobs. I urge our congressional allies to continue their stance against currency manipulation and to reject any attempt to pass misguided agreements that reinforce the inequality of our trade playing field. It is encouraging to see two seasoned and respected congressional leaders reinforce NFU's long-held trade policy: every future trade agreement must address issues such as the trade-distorting effect of currency manipulation."
Drought information system reauthorized...
A bill that reauthorizes the National Integrated Drought Information System for five years has been passed by both chambers of Congress. The bill also supports an interactive, early warning system of timely and accurate drought information, as well as an integrated weather monitoring and forecasting system. Supporters say the measure will give farmers, ranchers, and local communities the tools and information they need to manage resources, protect crops and livestock, and prevent economic losses.
Wyoming's sheep industry could be poised for a comeback
Veterinarian Eric Barlow sat on a dirty, white bucket and rubbed a probe over a ewe's belly, waiting for the shadowy outline of a lamb to appear on the screen before him. "She had two last year," said rancher Peter Camino.
"One," Barlow said, as the sheep jumped out of the box and into a corral.
"That's not what we want," Camino responded. "We want to hear two."
Barlow started giving Camino's sheep ultrasounds about 15 years ago. They work long hours through blizzards and blazing sun. The end result, Camino says, is worth it. He knows exactly how many lambs he may have in the spring, allowing him to plan. "It all comes down to the bottom dollar," Camino said. "If you can't do it efficiently dollar-wise, you can't stay in the business."
And Camino knows. He's watched friends and family drop out of the sheep ranching business across Wyoming. The nation's sheep industry has been plagued for decades by drought, predators, high fuel and feed costs, volatile lamb prices, and dwindling labor. In 1940, more than 3.78 million sheep and lambs grazed Wyoming's mountains and prairies, according to the Wyoming Ag Statistics Service. In January, Wyoming ranchers reported owning 355,000 of the animals.
Wolf packs in northeastern Oregon grow...
SSS stickers, anyone?
Local wolf populations saw increases of 33% in 2013 and the addition of two new packs. An annual report released last month by the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife estimated the current wolf population in northeastern Oregon at 64 wolves, with eight packs dispersed through Wallowa, Umatilla, Baker, and Union counties. But "the actual number of wolves in Oregon is likely greater than this minimum estimate," the report said. "Even though there are very difficult issues we deal with, really there is change occurring. And many people are beginning to understand what it means to live in areas with wolves," wolf coordinator Russ Morgan said.
The Umatilla pack, which was first discovered in 2011, currently consists of an estimated six wolves. In 2013, the pack was responsible for depredations that included five dead sheep, one injured sheep, and one dead goat. Umatilla County had the second-highest payoff to ranchers who suffered livestock losses - $3,975. Wallowa County -- which is the hunting grounds for the Wenaha, Minam, Imnaha, and Snake River packs -- had the highest depredation costs - $10,693. Wallowa County rancher and Oregon Cattlemen's Association Wolf Committee member Todd Nash said it comes as no surprise to him that local wolf population are doing well. And he noted that studies of wolf populations in Montana and Idaho showed that packs can double their numbers every three years. What is unknown to him and other ranchers is what will happen when Oregon wolves grow numerous enough to where they no longer qualify as a protected species. "I see it headed for lawsuits for a long time. I see the environmental community slapping lawsuit after lawsuit on us," Nash said. He added that local ranchers are now forced to keep a near perfect count of their herds if they expect to make claims on missing livestock, where no remains are found.
Corn, soybeans, and wheat: volume of exports in thousand metric tons, value of exports in billion dollars, and price per metric ton in dollars.
The price and value of ag exports
By Daryll E. Ray and Harwood D. Schaffer
Exports are a big deal for agriculture... always have been and always will be. Of course, the mix of ag exports has changed over time. Tobacco exports back to the mother country have been replaced with worldwide exports of grains, oilseeds, livestock products, and a host of other foods -- some sent raw or in bulk, others highly processed. Recent years have been particularly good for ag exports. Ag exports set a new record of $140.9 billion in Fiscal Year 2013. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack commented, "The period 2009-2013 stands as the strongest five-year period for ag exports in our nation's history."
Last fall he encouraged Congress to pass a farm bill, partly as a means to keep up the "incredible momentum" of ag exports by continuing to fund trade promotions programs. The Agriculture Act of 2014 came through with funding for the Market Access Program. The 2014 Farm Bill also creates an Undersecretary of Agriculture for Trade & Foreign Agriculture. Clearly, Congress and the Obama administration are fans of ag exports and are planning for continued growth in the value of ag exports. The question is: Will the value of ag exports during the time of the 2014 Farm Bill experience the remarkable growth that was chalked up during the tenure of the 2008 Farm Bill?