Feature

Pin it on human resources

What did the future look like in 1959?

In 1959, Richard Collins, editor of Missouri Farmer (as Today’s Farmer was known at the time), peered into the tea leaves. He considered how things might change as the 21st Century (distantly) rolled onto his generation. Collins asked the right questions, many of which, even a decade past his forward vision, have yet to be answered.

He was right to guess we’d be living longer, even if we’d gotten the better of longevity gains by the time of his column (stretching from an expected life of 47 years in 1900 to 70 years in 1959, and having reached a life expectancy of 78.2 by 2010).
With 2000 now in the history books, the news cycle reminds us that Collin’s questions are perennial. Can we stretch our commodity resources to accommodate an increasing population? And can we remain open-minded enough to employ our greatest resource—human talent and ingenuity—without succumbing to human folly? Here is Collins in September 1959:

Look to the future
WHAT will it be like here in the year 2000? Well, for one thing, you can expect a population numbering more than 350,000,000 persons.

Think of the change such a growth would involve. Twice as many to feed, clothe, house, educate, transport, entertain, etc. On the surface it looks like a big order.

One of the reasons authorities expect many more persons around in the future is due to the fact that we’re learning more about how to combat and control disease. In 1900, for instance, the life expectancy of the average American was 47 years. Today it is 70. It’s not only possible, but entirely probable that medical science will continue to find ways to add years onto our life span. So in the future there will be a much lager number and proportion of our population up into the twilight-age bracket.
Will we devise ways for these oldsters to continue to contribute to society? Surely we will.

What will we do then for food? This country has never experienced the problem of finding its growth and development limited by the amount of food it can produce—but the problem is far from unique in much of the world. In many places the Grim Reaper makes most of his harvest because of malnutrition and slow starvation.

How about other resources?
What will we do for sufficient water?
Will we find new sources of power to harness?
Can we stretch our supply of building materials—wood, concrete, steel, and plastic—or develop other materials for such use?
Certainly it will be an interesting and challenging period in which to live. Such a time will require an open-minded and progressive citizenry to make the most of it.

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Time to watch those bins

Unlike the past several years, Mother Nature gave us a bit of a break this year. Harvest progressed quickly and grain, for the most part, was dry when it was harvested and put in grain bins. However, just because the grain was dry and in good condition when it went into the bin doesn’t mean you can ignore it until spring and not have any quality issues. Bins still need to have the centers cored, and they need to be monitored to make sure problems do not arise.

Corn in bins

Read more: Time to watch those bins

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How to read that tag

Quests for information may take us to the internet, reference books, electronic media or someone with the right expertise. But when it comes to livestock feed, almost all the information we need can be found in one handy place: the feed tag.

The basics by law
Any commercial feed sold in the U.S. must be accompanied by a tag that gives:
•    The product name or brand name
•    A purpose statement—the class(es) of animals and feeding situation(s) the feed is appropriate for
•    Feeding and/or mixing directions
•    Guaranteed analysis, or chemical composition, stating the levels of specific nutrients guaranteed by the company
•    Ingredient listing
•    Appropriate cautions or warnings
•    Net
•    Manufacturer or distributor name and address
•    For medicated feeds: specific purpose, directions, name and concentration of active ingredients, and relevant warnings regarding withdrawal periods and misuse.

Why do some tags list more guarantees than others?
The only legal requirements for dry feeds are crude protein (if the feed is intended to supply protein), minimum crude fat and maximum crude fiber. Liquid supplements must also give percent dry matter. If a feed consists of more than 6.5 percent added mineral sources, beef feed tags must also guarantee minimum and maximum calcium, minimum phosphorus, minimum and maximum added salt (NaCl), and minimums for magnesium (Mn) and potassium (K). Other minerals and vitamins are

Read more: How to read that tag

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Hold and miss

Tight stocks have commodity prices on the rise. For many producers, that means shooting to sell at market peak.

“Rethink that!” said crops analyst Melvin Brees at the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI). “Hitting the high depends mainly on luck and is nearly impossible.”

Grain owners should have plans in place now for marketing both the old crop and new crop.

“No one wants to sell when prices are going up,” Brees said. “But expecting these price levels to last until harvest time might be asking a lot!”

In other words, if prices can go up fast, they can come down faster.
“We are in a complicated marketing situation, but it can be managed,” Brees said. Brees outlined several plans in his University of Missouri “Decisive Marketing” newsletter.

“Current prices offer profit opportunities that are well above typical break-even prices. Don’t let profitable prices slip away. It is one thing to pass up a good price on the way up, but don’t miss it on the way down.”

Growers can set upside and downside price objectives to target sales. Brees admits that upside price is difficult to set in an uptrend. But with prices at historic levels, targeting a higher price is almost sure to lock in a “good sale.”
Downside prices are easier to set, but more difficult to execute. Set a trigger price that will stop losses as prices drop.

“If the market moves higher, increase the downside price. This is called a ‘trailing stop.’”
As prices go up, you avoid making a sale and the downside price continues higher. If the price drops, you are out of the market at the highest downside price objective.

Another strategy is to use futures options. Options cost money for premiums, but they are flexible and can protect a very profitable price while allowing retained ownership of the grain. Then the producer can sell the grain at a higher price later. The combination can bring a high average price.

The third option is more traditional. Spread the sales through the year.
If prices continue up after making the first sale, the season average price goes up with subsequent sales. If prices reverse, at least part of the crop was sold at those historic highs.

Some grain marketers follow technical chart prices to guide sales. Until the uptrend line is broken on the chart, technical signals remain for continued upward prices. Sales are made when the chart line breaks.

For now, that trend line remains bullish, with prices pointed higher.
But Brees notes that records for the past 40 years show that downtrends follow major uptrends within 12 months—or less. The current uptrend has run almost seven months.

“Many factors, from energy prices to foreign markets, can change a booming market,” Brees said. Having a plan helps prevent selling all at the low.

To read the marketing newsletters, go to “Farmers Corner” on the MU FAPRI website at www.fapri.missouri.edu.
“You many not want to sell yet, but remember you have to sell sometime,” Brees said. “Be ready.”
Compiled by staff.

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