Two months after President Trump announced a $16-billion package to buffer the impact of the Sino-U.S. trade war on farmers and ranchers this year, the first driblet of the money is flowing — $100 million for market development. The awarding of the funds, announced by the USDA over the weekend, suggests the rest of the program could swing into operation in the days ahead.
Cotton growers plan to expand their plantings by a sharp 3 percent this spring, taking away land from soybeans, the most prominent casualty of the Sino-U.S. trade war, said the National Cotton Council over the weekend. Meanwhile, the USDA said the soybean stockpile will double in size by the time this year's crop is ready to harvest, creating the largest "carryover" ever.
With the shutdown behind it, the USDA will begin today to clear out a month's worth of backlogged data, including major reports that could jolt commodity markets and color farmers' decisions on crops to plant this spring. Chief economist Robert Johansson said there will be one exception — the globe-spanning WASDE report that serves as a monthly crop report for the world.
U.S. farmers intend to sow 3 million fewer acres of corn and soybeans this year than in 2017, said the USDA. The surprising development could draw down overly abundant U.S. stockpiles and bolster weak commodity prices.
The contest between corn, the longtime leader, and soybeans to be the most widely planted U.S. crop may be closer than initially thought, said USDA chief economist Robert Johansson, speaking at the agency’s annual Ag Outlook Forum.
For decades, corn has been the most widely planted U.S. crop. But the era of “king corn” is ending and the reign of soybeans, the versatile oilseed and the more profitable crop, is dawning, said the Agriculture Department in its 10-year agricultural projections.
Commodity prices will fall and export sales will be lost if the Trump administration withdraws from NAFTA, which generates one-third of U.S. agricultural trade, said U.S. farm and agribusiness groups in a letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. With farm income down sharply, "2018 would be an especially damaging time to lose America's two largest food and agriculture product markets."
In back-to-back-to-back reports, USDA economists will paint a numerical picture of the U.S. farm sector this week, with estimates of farm income, ag exports, and the output, demand and prices for 2018 crops. Most likely, they will add up to large crops, comparatively low grain prices and constrained income heading into the fifth year since the collapse of the commodity boom.
Minnesota ruled that biofuels will need to contain a mix of 20 percent soybeans or other renewable fuel sources, cutting the amount of emissions while boosting demand for soybeans, said MPR News. "This is an opportunity to add value to farmers' products," state agriculture commissioner Dave Frederickson said last Thursday, according to the report. "Given the fact that the first B10 mandate actually added about 63 cents per bushel, on every bushel sold, we're hoping to double that as we move into a B20 mandate."