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  • Net farm income will likely fall for the fourth straight year in 2017, and the farm debt-to-asset ratio is rising. Even with a modest recovery in agricultural income in 2018 and beyond, pressure on farm finances is expected to continue.

    The good news? Grain and milk prices could see slight increases in 2017.

    Those projections summarize the latest analysis of national and global agricultural trends from the University of Missouri’s Baseline Briefing Book released in March. Based on market information available in January, the comprehensive report is prepared annually by economists with the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute and the MU Agricultural Markets and Policy team.

    “The world is an uncertain place, and commodity markets will continue to be volatile,” said Patrick Westhoff, director of FAPRI. “We use our models to develop a range of projected market outcomes that takes into account some major sources of uncertainty about future supply and demand conditions.”

    The report gives policy-makers, farmers, agribusinesses and the public an overview of the state of the U.S. farm economy and serves as a point of reference for policy analysts, he said.

    FAPRI’s most recent briefing includes declines in corn and wheat acreage and production in response to price decreases caused by record crops in 2016. Corn prices are projected to increase to $3.60 per bushel for the 2017–18 marketing year and $3.71 per bushel from 2018 to 2026. Meanwhile, shifts in relative prices are likely to push up soybean and cotton acreage in 2017. Strong export demand has supported soybean and cotton prices in 2016–17, and soybean prices are projected to average $9.57 per bushel in 2017–18.

    Cattle and hog prices are expected to decrease due to large domestic supplies. Although milk prices have dipped since 2014, stronger international markets could buoy prices in 2017.

    Other key results from the report include:

    • Net farm income has declined by 48 percent since its 2013 peak. It may likely increase in 2018 and later years.
    • Lower farm income and rising interest rates result in lower projected land prices and farm asset values. The debt-to-asset ratio increases from 11 percent in 2012 to nearly 14 percent in 2017 and 16 percent in 2026.
    • Agricultural risk coverage payments are expected to decline rapidly, largely because of reduced guarantees tied to moving averages of past market prices.
    • Crop insurance net outlays are projected to average about $8 billion per year for fiscal years 2018–2026.

    The full report is available at

  • Under the Trump administration’s proposed budget released in mid-March, USDA would face a steep, 21-percent cut in “discretionary” spending.

    Among programs and personnel potentially on the chopping block are rural clean water initiatives, county-level USDA staff, conservation programs, food safety, the National Forest System and research grants, according to the White House budget document.

    The $4.7 billion in cuts would leave USDA with a budget of $17.9 billion. The proposed reductions do not cover “mandatory” spending established by law, like farm subsidies and food stamps, only “discretionary” programs where lawmakers can adjust spending.

    The budget proposal provided little information about how the cuts will be carried out, but more details are expected to unfold when a traditional full budget is released in mid-May.

  • Missouri farmers, ranchers and other private landowners who voluntarily demonstrate outstanding stewardship and management of natural resources will have an opportunity to win a $10,000 award for their efforts.

    Applications are now being accepted for the Leopold Conservation Award Program, recognizing those who have made extraordinary achievements in voluntary conservation. Nominees will be evaluated on such criteria as conservation ethic, innovation, adaptability, resilience, leadership and communications.

    Administered by the Sand County Foundation, a non-profit conservation organization, the awards have recently come to Missouri for the first time through a partnership with Missouri Farmers Care and the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council.

    “This action fits Missouri Farmers Care’s role in educating and advocating for agriculture’s hardworking farm and ranch families and their history of responsible stewardship of the land and resources from which they derive their living,” said Alan Wessler, chairman of the MFC board and vice president of feed for MFA. “Those same families strive to ensure that the land and its wildlife environment are well taken care of to pass along to future generations.”

    Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the Leopold Conservation Award provides a visible forum where farmers, ranchers and other private landowners are recognized as conservation leaders. In his influential 1949 book, “A Sand County Almanac,” Leopold called for an ethical relationship between people and the land they own and manage, which he called “an evolutionary possibility and an ecological necessity.”

    Missouri’s inaugural Leopold award will be presented at the 2017 Governor’s Conference on Agriculture in December.

    Applications for the award must be postmarked by July 1, 2017. Visit for more information and details on the application process.

  • The Environmental Protection Agency can do its job without killing jobs. That was the message from EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt at the Thomas Hill Energy Center near Clifton Hill, Mo., today. The coal-fired electricity plant is owned by Associated Electric Cooperative Incorporated, which generates power for Missouri's rural electric cooperatives. The Thomas Hill facility has some 239 employees and an annual budget of $200 million, a significant contributor to the economy of Randolph County in rural north central Missouri.

    "The war on coal is over," Pruitt said. "The war on fossil fuels is over." Pruitt added that the United States has grown proficient in providing clean energy, something that should be celebrated. Pruitt outlined the measures the Trump administration has taken to roll back controversial rules from the EPA including Waters of the United States regulations that would have drastically increased regulatory oversight of land use across the nation. "Land is your most important asset," Pruitt told the crowd. "I know that. You know that. Washington D.C. doesn't know that."

    The visit to Thomas Hill Energy Center was part of Pruitt's "Back-to-Basics" tour, which has included a trip to a Pennsylvania coal mine and a stop at the USS Lead Superfund site in East Chicago, Indiana.

  • When MFA Incorporated started the Safety Pays program in 2004, the goal was to reduce workplace accidents. The company also wanted to remind adults that they have very important reasons to make safety a motivator—children and other family members. That was the genesis of the Safety Pays poster contest. What better way to remind ourselves about safety than through the work of the next generation?

    Since that launch, MFA has continued to focus on safety, including the implementation of a program called SHIELD, an acronym for “safe habits improve employees’ lives daily.” That program depends on employees throughout the company being trained to talk about safety with their fellow workers. From truck drivers to office personnel to workers at feed mills and fertilizer plants, MFA employees are having conversations about safe work practices. So, again this year, we asked children and grandchildren of MFA employees and affiliates to give us their ideas about safety.

    Each year, the contest judges face a tough decision in choosing winners from the clever ideas and nice artwork submitted. After much deliberation, judges selected these as the top entries:

    Best of Show: Erin Fick, Freeburg, MO

    Erin is 12 years old and a sixth-grader at Sacred Heart School. She is the daughter of Kenny and Christy Fick. Kenny is a feed mill operator at the MFA Coop Assn #280 in Freeburg.

    Grades K-1: Saylore Landewee, Chaffee, MO

    Five-year-old Saylor is a kindergartner at St. Ambrose Catholic School. She is the daughter of Darren and Cassy Landewee. Cassy is a precision ag specialist at MFA Agri Services in Chaffee, Mo.

    Grades 2-3: Callie Pyle, Willard, MO

    At 8 years old, Callie is in second grade at Willard North Elementary. She is the daughter of Casey and Christy Pyle of Willard, Mo., and granddaughter of Calvin Pyle, a salesman for Golden City MFA.

    Grades 4-6: Madelynn Caldwell, Vandalia, MO

    Madelynn is 11 years old and attends sixth grade at Van-Far Elementary. She is the daughter of Chris Caldwell, an elevator operator at MFA Agri Services in Vandalia, Mo.

  • When it comes to railroads and waterways, Missouri is fortunate. The state has the nation’s second- and third-largest rail hubs and 14 public ports on the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, according to MoDOT spokesman Bob Brendel.

    Moving grain costs less by rail and barge, frees up highways and reduces wear and tear on roads and bridges. According to the Iowa Department of Transportation:

    • One large semi truck carries 910 bushels.
    • One jumbo hopper rail car carries 4,000 bushels.
    • One barge carries 52,500 bushels.

    A few years ago, agriculture had problems finding rail cars to move grain because of higher demand from the oil industry, but railroads invested in their networks. Today, agriculture faces less competition for rail shipping services.

    “Even with historic harvests the last couple of years, we’ve been able to move ag products by rail,” said Mike Steenhoek of the Soy Transportation Coalition.

    But Steenhoek remains concerned about barge traffic on inland waterways—especially at deteriorating locks and dams leading to and along the Mississippi River. Thanks to lobbying by agricultural and barging organizations, Congress has approved limited federal appropriations for locks and dams. However, Steenhoek pointed out, “Improvements to the upper Mississippi and Ohio rivers are over budget and won’t be done for another five or six years. There is light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s slow coming.”

    For years, MFA Incorporated has used ports along the Mississippi to barge in fertilizer and other products. For the past three summers, MFA has also moved grain by barge from Missouri River ports.

    “In 2016, MFA loaded 35 barges of grain on the Missouri River, eventually ending up in the Gulf of Mexico,” said Bill Dunn, director of transportation for MFA Incorporated.

    Shane Kinne, director of public policy for the Missouri Corn Growers Association, also says his group would like to see increased investment in river locks and dams, and he’s bullish on Missouri River barging.

    “We’re fortunate to have the Missouri River, yet battles about management priorities hamper its use to move products,” he said. “We continue to urge the Corps of Engineers to give a higher priority to navigation and flood control.”


May 2017 Today's Farmer

26-04-2017 Hits:26 Feature TF staff - avatar TF staff

The May issue of Today's Farmer magazine, MFA Incorporated's member magazine, was mailed to subscribers on April 19th. If you'd like to subscribe to the print edition of Today's Farmer...

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Rural roads take farmers for a bumpy rid…

27-03-2017 Hits:604 Feature Nancy Jorgensen - avatar Nancy Jorgensen

Steve Hobbs has spent the last several months hauling more than 60 truckloads of his 2016 grain crop from his farm near Mexico, Mo., to a nearby ethanol plant and...

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