Record exports: Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said last week that U.S. agricultural exports topped $140.9 billion, a new record. He said the past five years have been the strongest five-year period for agricultural exports in the nation's history. "In fact, compared to the previous five-year period, U.S. agricultural exports increased by a total of more than $230 million, and the average volume of commodities exported increased by nearly 4 million tons per year."
Feedlot inventory: Continuing a long-established trend exacerbated by multiyear drought, the number of cattle on feed in major U.S. feedlots is expected to be 7% smaller than the prior year's inventory. According to a pre-report estimate from the Livestock Marketing Information Center, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's November "Cattle on Feed" report should also show October placements that were up 3.3% and marketings up 1.1%. The National Agricultural Statistics Service was scheduled to release the monthly report Nov. 15. Cattle prices took a slight breather last week, with some negotiated sales as low as $130.50/cwt., down from the record $132-133 reported in recent weeks. Choice boxed beef values continued to hover just above $200/cwt., settling at $202.56 last Thursday.
Hogs struggling: While prices are still relatively strong, cash hogs have softened quite a bit over the past few weeks. Weaker cutout values have packers slaughtering fewer hogs, despite improving margins. Year to date, slaughter is down 1.5%. On a weighted average basis, eastern Corn Belt hog prices have fallen more than $7/cwt. over the past four weeks, with western Corn Belt prices down more than $9/cwt. to hit $79.82 last Thursday.
Eggs jump: With solid demand in most regions of the country, egg prices jumped for a third week in a row. Midwest warehouse prices for large eggs were mostly $1.29-1.32/doz. last week, up sharply from $1.02-1.05 reported during the final week of October. Earlier in the month, Egg Farmers of Ontario announced that its member producers were passing lower feed costs on to consumers in the form of a 6-cent drop in the price per dozen. The feed cost savings have led to increased profitability in the sector and projections for better profits in 2014.