Americans will eat more chicken, already their favorite meat, as stay-at-home orders have consumers shopping at the supermarket rather than going to restaurants, said ag lender CoBank on Thursday in assessing the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on food producers and processors. (No paywall)
Out of the $23.5 billion earmarked for agriculture in the latest coronavirus relief package, "I think at least $9 billion will be going to livestock producers," said Senate Agriculture chairman Pat Roberts on Wednesday.(No paywall)
U.S. farmers will harvest their largest corn crop ever this year, fueled by the largest plantings since 2013 — growing so much corn that carry-over stocks will be the largest in more than three decades, according to USDA's projection at its annual Ag Outlook Forum. The soybean crop would be the fourth-largest on record, with exports recovering to pre-trade-war levels thanks to "increasing global import demand, particularly for China."
Although ag bankers in the Midwest and Plains say the administration's multibillion-dollar trade war payments were a boon to farmers and ranchers, some lenders are still concerned about underlying weaknesses in the sector.
For all its cachet as a potential money-making crop for American farmers, industrial hemp ranked midway between safflower and flaxseed in plantings, with an estimated 230,000 acres in 2019, and industry leaders disagree whether 2020 will be a year of expansion or retrenchment. But the USDA is approving state plans to regulate hemp production and offering crop insurance for hemp growers, steps that could help establish the crop.
Although President Trump declared "a very large Phase One Deal with China," the White House put few agricultural details in writing over the weekend, saying the agreement calls for "substantial purchases" of farm exports, rather the quadrupling trumpeted by U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer. Analysts such as Joe Glauber of IFPRI were dubious that U.S. exports, forecast at $11 billion this year, could leap overnight to the $40-billion-a-year level cited by the administration.
Fueled by $14.5 billion in Trump tariff payments, U.S. net farm income will climb to its highest total since the commodity boom crested in 2013 and a dramatic rebound from the plunge that accompanied its collapse, the USDA estimated. When crop insurance indemnities are added to "direct farm program payments," a category that includes trade war aid, land stewardship payments and traditional crop supports, the government will provide an unusually high 31 percent of farm income this year.
Low commodity prices and high costs are tightening the credit squeeze on the farm sector, with little expectation of improvement in the near term, according to ag bankers in the Midwest and Plains. Some farmers and ranchers will liquidate assets during the winter to stay afloat, and some highly leveraged operators will be forced out of business, they said.
With a return to normal weather, farmers will expand vastly their corn and soybean plantings next year — enough to produce their largest corn crop ever and the fourth-largest soybean crop, according to USDA's agricultural projections. Bumper crops will drive down market prices in the near term and create huge stockpiles that will take years to whittle down.