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Farm lending activity slows

Nomadsould1/iStock/Thinkstock money growing in soil farm lending

The volume of new farm loans dropped sharply in the fourth quarter of 2016, according to the latest "Ag Finance Databook" by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Mo.

The data are derived from respondents to the "Survey of Terms of Bank Lending to Farmers," which asks bankers about new loans to farmers. The survey found that volume of non-real estate loans in the farm sector dropped 40% from a year ago, the largest year-over-year decline in nearly 20 years.

“However, as the outlook for farm income generally has remained weak and farmland values have continued to decline, both lenders and borrowers may have been more apprehensive about adding new debt heading into 2017,” the quarterly report noted.

Nathan Kauffman, Fed assistant vice president and executive of the Omaha, Neb., branch and Matt Clark, Fed assistant economist, wrote that the 30% year-over-year drop in the price of feeder cattle helped reduce the cost of purchasing the animals and likely contributed to the sharp reduction in loan volumes in the livestock sector.

Agricultural Finance Databook, KC Federal Reserve

Kauffman and Clark wrote that some of the reduced loan volume likely stemmed from lower costs of farm inputs, as the costs of seeds, fertilizer and cash rents were all down from a year ago, which likely was a “significant factor” in reducing the volume of loans used to finance operating expenses. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated that the cost of cash rent, fertilizer and seed accounted for more than 60% of the total cost of corn production in 2016.

“Because loans used for operating expenses comprise about 60% of non-real estate loan volume, the decline in input expenses likely curbed the volume of new farm loans originated in the fourth quarter as farmers prepared for the 2017 planting season,” the Kansas City Fed report noted.

Banks are taking steps to avoid past-due payments and help producers who face short-term cash flow shortages. Bankers extended the maturities for feeder livestock, other livestock and farm machinery loans by 16%, 42% and 13%, respectively.

Although the volume of new loans has dropped, a slower rate of loan repayments has actually brought about an increase in farm sector debt at commercial banks.

“In addition to loan demand, demand for loan renewals and extensions also has continued to rise,” the authors noted, adding that "the share of bankers that reported an increase in loan renewals and extensions was the highest in survey history" for the Kansas City, Chicago, Ill.; Minneapolis, Minn., and St. Louis, Mo., districts as well as the highest since 2001 in the Dallas, Texas, district.

Agricultural lenders and borrowers are increasingly cautious. “If profit margins remain low through 2017, the pace of new debt will be a key indicator to monitor in assessing the severity of financial stress through the year,” the report said.

Research IDs food influencers setting trends

A new research approach from The Center for Food Integrity (CFI) identifies influential consumer groups and the motivations that not only dictate food trends, but drive conversations that impact the decisions of others as they make choices at the grocery store or form opinions about the products, processes, people and brands that define today’s food system.

For the past 10 years, CFI has conducted annual consumer trust research to better understand public opinion and how to engage with consumers to earn trust. In the first-of-its-kind consumer research, the 2016 survey used an innovative research methodology called digital ethnography. It can help those in food and agriculture more effectively engage and balance the conversation as it provides much deeper insights into influencers including unspoken motivations, values, top-of-mind issues, emotional triggers, preferred social channels and sources, behaviors and trusted brands.

The research goes beyond surveying what people say they do to demonstrating what they are actually doing.

“We’re currently in the midst of a shift in the marketplace where the culture and conversation around conventional food, particularly online, is changing as consumers navigate which foods to adopt, moderate or abandon,” said Charlie Arnot, CFI CEO. “Digital ethnography identifies influencers who shape those trends.”

Digital ethnography pinpoints why consumers form beliefs and develop behaviors around food, and the why speaks to what they value, said Arnot.

“That’s important because the CFI consumer trust model shows that communicating with values is three-to-five times more important to earning trust than simply communicating facts and science,” he said.

“Better understanding why consumers make their food decisions and what they value in their food choices helps companies be more responsive to consumer needs. CFI’s latest research will help food companies do a better job of communicating what’s most important to consumers and the values we share,” said Leigh Horner, vice president, communications and CSR at The Hershey Company.

Of the five Consumer Types identified in the research, one of particular interest to the food system is Providers the largest group representing a third of the U.S. population.

“Providers never feel quite good enough,” said Arnot. “And the last thing they want is to be seen as a neglectful parent or to be caught snoozing when something new is known about the foods they buy for their family. To ease the anxiety, they look to other Consumer Types for guidance.” 

This influence is why more Americans are flocking toward various attributes of food that they consider evolved and that signify progress, Arnot said. “We see that in the demand for food less processed, simpler labels and labels that indicate the product is 'free from everything from gluten to GMOs.”

“Understanding consumer attitudes toward food and how those attitudes influence the conversation allows food companies to more effectively talk with consumers. Consumers want to feel good about the products they buy for themselves and their families and want easy access to balanced, useful information to know they are making the right choices,” said Horner. “These insights will help food companies build trust by meeting consumers’ expectations for transparency and engaging in a meaningful conversation about the food they buy.”

The Center for Food Integrity is a not-for-profit organization that helps today’s food system earn consumer trust. Our members and project partners, who represent the diversity of the food system, are committed to providing accurate information and working together to address important issues in food and agriculture. The Center does not lobby or advocate for individual companies or brands. For more information, visit www.foodintegrity.org. 

An open letter to Sonny Perdue


Dear Sonny;

Congratulations on your nomination by President Trump to be the next Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

If Senate confirmed, you will have the most awesome conference room of all the cabinet members, mostly because it looks out directly over the Nation’s Mall at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

Yours will be the only office on the Mall, and you will even have the closest walk to a Metro Station, not that you will be taking the Metro, you will be chauffeured around in nice, black cars.

I know you are a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, you were the Governor of Georgia from 2003-2011 during the great Peanut Debacle, and that you grew up on a farm. You should make a very excellent Secretary.  

What you need right now, to make your job less stressful, is an excellent undersecretary for food safety. If you don’t have one, groups such as the Humane Society of the United States, PETA, Centers for Science in the Public Interest, Consumer Federation of America and Food and Water Watch will beat down your doors.

Without an undersecretary for food safety, you might even have to testify in front of a Congressional Committee or two if there is a large foodborne illness outbreak traced back to a product you are responsible for.

President Obama evidently did not think the position was too important as that chair sat empty for nearly five of the eight years he was in office. He got lucky.

He did not have a Westland Hallmark Meat Co. recall, the largest in U.S. history. He did not have a TOPPS recall that involved tainted meat from Canada, he did not have to close both the Canadian and Mexican borders to imported meat due to the lack of food safety measures equal to the U.S.’s inspection system.

He did not have the first cow found dead from Mad Cow Disease, he did not have the Jack in the Box disaster, and he did not see any human deaths from “bird flu.”

You won’t be so lucky. History repeats itself. You need someone to prevent disasters, and to respond to them when necessary.

Your man is sitting in your back yard. He is Mike Doyle with the University of Georgia.

I think you would make both the consumer groups mentioned above and the meat and poultry industries very happy.

Because the person who fills the chair of the Undersecretary for Food Safety, just down the hall from your office, Chairs the United States’ Codex Alimentarius Policy Committee in addition to several others and has ultimate responsibility for the safety of our meat and poultry, not to mention egg products and catfish, he or she is considered the top food safety official in the United States.

When Congress reorganized the USDA in 1993, the position of undersecretary for food safety became a Presidential appointment requiring Senate confirmation.

In the 24 years that have followed, there have only been four appointments:

  • Cathy Wotecki, PhD, by President Clinton.
  • Elsa Murano, PhD and myself, MD, by President Bush, and
  • Elisabeth Hagen, MD, by President Obama.

Two MDs, three females one male, two from within the Beltway, two from the Midwest.

Two Republican appointees. Two Democrat appointees.

There is, however, one thing in common.

We all lasted only 1,200 days, give or take a few here and there.

That means someone was at the job just 13 out of those 24 years. Not acceptable.

It is a tough job, one you don’t want to have to fill in for.

Make sure Mike agrees to stay until you are done and then sign him up.

It will take at least six months to get vetted and to get the Senate to vote, so if this is a one-term President, that leaves 1,200 days, give or take a few, for the next undersecretary to serve.

Just like his or her predecessors.

Oh, by the way, George Ervin Perdue III sounds more Secretarial than Sonny, but that is just my thinking.

Oh, and by the way again, the president of the USDA inspectors’ bargaining unit is located down your way in Huntsville, Ala., another good ole boy from the South. Look him up. It could do wonders in smoothing over your Senate hearing and your anticipated tenure at the James Whitten Ag Building.

Enjoy and tell the troops at the USDA hi from me.


Dickie Raymond

Trump eyes NAFTA overhaul

Thinkstock NAFTA flags Canada Mexico United States

Just hours after being sworn into office, President Donald Trump didn’t go after China but, rather, made strong promises about overhauling the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

"President Trump is committed to renegotiating NAFTA. If our partners refuse a renegotiation that gives American workers a fair deal, then the President will give notice of the United States' intent to withdraw from NAFTA," the White House website said.

Nomination hearings for many of Trump’s Cabinet picks also gave a glimpse into how the new Administration plans to tackle addressing NAFTA.

Wilbur Ross, Trump’s nominee for commerce secretary, looks to be the one who will take the lead role in advancing Trump’s trade policy. He said to senators, “I am not anti-trade. I am pro-trade, but I’m pro-sensible trade.” He said expanding exports would be the number-one priority.

Ross vowed to make sweeping changes to NAFTA his top priority as the Trump Administration looks to make good on campaign promises.

Steve Mnuchin, Trump's pick for treasury secretary, said during his nomination hearing that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) should be the starting point for renegotiating NAFTA. Sen. Tom Carper (D., Del.), in his exchange with Mnuchin, said the decades-old NAFTA was revisited in the context of TPP. “I would hope that the starting point is the work that you’ve done,” Mnuchin said of the work on TPP. “I’m optimistic that we can renegotiate a deal that’s both advantageous to us and advantageous to Mexico.”

Ag groups speak of importance

In 2016, U.S. farmers sent nearly $24 billion and $19 billion worth of agricultural products to Canada and Mexico, respectively, which agricultural groups made sure to point out in a letter they sent to Trump and Vice President Mike Pence earlier this month.

“Disrupting U.S. agricultural exports to these nations would have devastating consequences for our farmers and the many American processing and transportation industries and workers supported by these exports,” the letter stated.

Mexico is currently the top importer of U.S. corn, the number-two customer for U.S. dried distillers grains with solubles and a leading buyer of U.S. barley and sorghum, making it a critical market for U.S. farmers.

Ryan LeGrand, U.S. Grains Council director in Mexico, said trade has quadrupled between the U.S. and Mexico under NAFTA.

“Animal sectors in Mexico have greatly benefited from the phasing out of tariffs and quotas for U.S. corn and other grains into Mexico,” LeGrand said. “When NAFTA was implemented, the Mexican animal production sector was really in its infancy, and today it has grown into a state-of-the-art industry and rivals any of the top feed industries around the world.”

LeGrand warned that if NAFTA’s preferences weren’t in place, U.S. farmers would feel the pinch.

“It would be a pretty bad situation for American farmers if NAFTA is weakened. We really don’t want that to happen because what you would probably have is an increase in tariffs, and that would cause the Mexicans to look south — look to Brazil and Argentina — for more of their corn, cutting into our market share and eventually affecting the price of U.S. corn,” LeGrand said.

Industry groups in Canada are hoping to maintain a beneficial relationship with the U.S. The Canadian Cattlemen’s Assn. said it expects that the Canadian government's trade policy apparatus will be “geared toward ensuring the overall Canada-U.S. relationship is poised to maintain the preferred relationship that (NAFTA) currently provides and to identify possibilities to further improve trade opportunities.” The cattle group also expects the government of Canada to encourage industry groups and individual companies to reach out to U.S. counterparts to ensure that all fully appreciate the value of maintaining the close relationship.

N&H TOPLINE: LED display lighting may affect whole beef cuts

Photo by venakr via iStock. red meat in meat case
LED lighting could have significant effects on delaying the browning of red meat. After conducting tests on hamburger patties, a research team at CAFNR has recently finished its analysis of whole beef muscles.

Nothing is different nutritionally when red meat darkens to brown, but try telling that to the average customer at a grocery store. “That’s the number-one driver consumers have,” University of Missouri meat scientist Carol Lorenzen said about the bright redness quality of meat.

A research team that included Lorenzen, professor of meat science in the Division of Animal Sciences, and her graduate student, Jade Cooper, has been investigating the impact of light-emitting diode (LED) lighting on beef color. The team published a research paper in the October 2016 issue of the Journal of Animal Science that focused on how meat vendors can slow down the redness-discoloration process in hamburger meat when it is kept under LED bulbs.

For comparison, meat samples were also kept under the industry standard incandescent bulbs, which emit more heat than LED bulbs, as well as under no light for a negative control.

At the moment, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, only 5% of the lights in the U.S. are LEDs, but that number is expected to balloon to 85% by 2035. This should result in a 75% decrease in energy consumption.

“It’s really imperative for grocers that we investigate different lighting technologies from an energy-saving standpoint and a meat quality standpoint,” Cooper said.

The team also included meat science professor Bryon Wiegand; Leon Schumacher, program chair of agricultural systems management program, and Ingolf Gruen, program chair of food science — all from the University of Missouri's College of Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources.

In addition to looking at the color of ground beef patties at both 5% and 25% fat at intervals of one, three, five and seven days, the team analyzed the patties for concentrations of myoglobin (the protein responsible for the meat’s color) and lipid oxidation (a major cause of quality deterioration that can lead to the development of rancidity or off-flavor in raw or fatty tissues).

The deli cases, which were purchased by Mexico, Mo.-based True Manufacturing using funds from Mizzou Advantage, were kept at temperatures near 2°C (35.6°F) during the experiment, which was funded by a grant through the Missouri Beef Industry Council.

In all three conditions, more discoloration occurred the longer the samples were left in the display cases. On the fifth day, the LED patties had maintained a noticeable amount of red color compared to those under fluorescent lights. Those patties also had less oxidation of color and fat, adding to the extra display shelf life. As expected, it should be noted that the best results were achieved with no lighting — even though a retailer does not have the option to present it to the customer that way.

“If we could, we would do it, but people want to see the meat,” Lorenzen said.

Furthermore, also as expected, the patties with 25% fat were considerably less red than their 5% fat counterparts, regardless of the lighting.

Lorenzen said most ground beef is generally off the shelf at a grocery store or deli within a day, given supply and demand. Still, the results with LED lighting have led to further discussion — and experimentation.

Whole cuts

With additional funding from the Missouri Beef Industry Council, Lorenzen and Cooper recently completed the research and analysis of a test using the same display cases on a whole muscle beef project in which a high-oxidation muscle (round) and a low oxidation muscle (chuck) were used. These cuts were chosen because of certain biochemical properties that lead to different color stabilities, the researchers said.

Although the final report on the test is still being written, the chuck steak, which had lower color stability under novel lighting conditions, turned brown at different rates depending on light bulb source, whereas the round steak, which had a higher color stability, did not.

Based on the results of both tests, Lorenzen and Cooper said the use of LED lighting has the greatest application in areas that are closer to the bulbs, such as a deli case or full-service case. Still, they emphasized that more research is needed before any definitive suggestion can be made to those in the deli and grocery industries in regards to LED lighting.

“We’re still working on data to make a recommendation like that, even though the data are very promising,” Lorenzen said.

Exchange rate dynamics may create headwinds for trade with Mexico

Recent depreciation of the Mexican peso could create a drag on U.S. animal product exports in 2017, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s January “Livestock, Dairy & Poultry Outlook.”

According to USDA, the value of the peso in early January fell almost 20% compared with its value in January 2016.

Most recent U.S. export data show that, on a volume basis, Mexico is the largest foreign destination for U.S. exports of pork, poultry (broilers, other chicken and turkey) and dairy products (skim milk powder and cheese). Mexico is also the third-largest export market for U.S. beef, after Japan and South Korea.

USDA said lower U.S. prices resulting from larger product supplies could offset some of the negative exchange rate effects as the year unfolds.

Prices of livestock and poultry are expected to be lower in 2017 compared with last year, with cattle prices to be down 10%, hogs down 15% and poultry down 2% for broilers and down 7% for turkey.

USDA said lower livestock and poultry prices are likely to result in lower prices for both domestic and foreign consumers of beef, pork and poultry.

Higher U.S. prices of eggs (up 10%) and milk (up 11%) over last year, on the other hand, could weigh on exports to Mexico, USDA noted.


Wheat virus crosses over, harms native grasses

Photo by Kurt Stepnitz Switchgrass detail.
New Michigan State University research shows that a common wheat virus can spread and harm perennial native grasses, such as switchgrass.

It was once thought that crop diseases affected only crops. New research shows, however, that a common wheat virus can spread and harm perennial native grasses.

In the current issue of the Journal of Ecology, researchers from Michigan State University, the University of Kansas and the University of Virginia show that farmers and scientists need to think about how best to protect native plants from diseases emanating from crops.

“Crop fields were once considered tiny islands in a sea of wild vegetation, so farmers and scientists focused on protecting crops from wild pathogens,” said Carolyn Malmstrom, Michigan State plant biologist and co-lead author of the study. “Now, around the world, the situation has reversed, and diseases from agricultural fields affect not only crops but also substantially harm native plants such as switchgrass.”

The findings were based on a multiyear field study in Kansas. There, like in much of the Midwest, plains of native grasses have been transformed to fields of wheat or other cereal crops, meaning the patches of grasses are now the islands in an ocean of crops.

A widespread wheat pathogen, barley yellow dwarf virus, can cross over and affect switchgrass -- a prime candidate for biofuel research. The research team combined the field results with a statistical model and showed that the virus can reduce the vitality of switchgrass by 30%. Interestingly, the infection can affect switchgrass growth even though the native plant displays hardly any signs of disease.

“Crops have been bred for yield, sometimes at the cost of plant defense. If they are susceptible, fast-growing crops can serve as highly competent hosts that amplify viruses within a region,” Malmstrom said. “In these ‘domesticated’ landscapes, farmers, conservation biologists and epidemiologists need to be aware that diseases from crops can move into wild and native plants, which may need protection.”

While the study focused on only one virus, it shows that science needs to catch up in understanding how crops influence native plants and to build more knowledge of virus ecology in general.

“There are many mysteries surrounding how crop viruses affect natural ecosystems,” Malmstrom said. “It’s important that we build a base of research in this area. For example, if a novel virus emerges and threatens important species, we will need to draw on baseline information about virus ecology to address it; the big gaps in understanding need to be tackled.”

Studies question role of postdoc programs, GRE requirements

Federal research agencies, such as the National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Institutes of Health, tout postdoctoral positions as valuable training for those pursuing for scientific careers.

However, a new study by Boston University and University of Kansas researchers has found that "postdoc" jobs don't yield a positive return in the labor market and that these positions likely cost graduates roughly three years' worth of salary in their first 15 years of their careers.

"Biomedical scientists require postdocs in order to do the work of science. However, the postdoc only prepares students for academic careers — jobs that are very difficult to come by," University of Kansas economics professor Donna Ginther said. "Ours is the first study to document the opportunity cost of taking a postdoc on the subsequent career outcomes of former postdocs. We show that the cost in terms of foregone earnings is very high. Most postdocs would be better off if they took jobs when they completed their degrees."

Ginther and co-author Shulamit Kahn, associate professor the Boston University Questrom School of Business, published their findings in the report "The Impact of Postdoctoral Training on Early Careers in Biomedicine" in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

The researchers said several of their findings challenge published assertions about recent trends in postdoctoral positions because their paper compared later careers of people with biomedical doctorates who had postdoc experience and those who didn't. They examined biennial longitudinal data from the 1981 to 2013 waves of the NSF "Survey of Doctorate Recipients" matched to the 1980-2013 NSF "Survey of Earned Doctorates."

They found of people who started in postdoc positions, the median annual starting salary during their first four years after earning their doctorate was $44,724 in inflation-adjusted 2013 dollars, compared with $73,662 for those who directly entered the workforce. After controlling for all factors, the 10-year post-doctorate salaries of those who started in a postdoc averaged $12,002 lower than those who skipped postdocs.

Ginther said the findings could help universities, advisers and the postdocs themselves to address issues with those pursuing biomedical careers. Ginther and Kahn hope that this research will help biomedical doctorates make more informed choices by weighing the 20% chance of obtaining a tenure-track job against the financial and personal sacrifices of the temporary postdoctoral positions.

They also expressed the hope that academic advisers will learn about the availability of non-academic research jobs that do not require a postdoc.

"The current system of postdoctoral training benefits the postdocs' supervisors, mentors, their institutions and funding agencies by providing them with highly educated labor willing to work long hours to produce cutting-edge science at low cost," the researchers said.

The researchers suggested ways that universities and funding agencies could address these issues, including:

* Universities could hire staff research scientists to assist tenured faculty with research instead of postdocs.

* Pay postdocs more to reduce the reliance of faculty on "cheap" labor.

* Institute term limits on postdoc positions to encourage researchers to start in permanent positions rather than later.


Devaluing the GRE?

A research team at the University of North Carolina (UNC) School of Medicine found that the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), which is required for admission to graduate and doctorate programs across the country, is not the best indicator for predicting a student's success while pursuing a doctorate in the experimental life sciences.

From that research, the team recommended devaluing — if not eliminating altogether — the GRE from the applications process for biomedical doctoral candidates.

The team was led by Dr. Jean Cook, professor of biochemistry and biophysics and the associate dean for graduate education at the UNC School of Medicine. Dr. Joshua Hall, director of the National Institutes of Health-funded Post-baccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP) at UNC, and Anna O'Connell, director of UNC's Biological & Biomedical Sciences Program (BBSP), were co-authors in the research paper, which was published in PLOS One.

"My original interest in wanting to do a study like this really stemmed from my role directing our PREP program," Hall said. "I work closely with them and see them working as researchers and taking graduate coursework here at UNC, then they would apply to certain programs, but not get accepted. It would be frustrating to me to see students who were performing really well in the lab and in graduate coursework here, but they had low GRE scores and that kept them from getting offers to graduate programs.

"There was a correlation where students with higher GRE scores would get more offers than students who were preforming at a pretty high level as a researcher but who had lower GRE scores," he added.

After completing a research study that evaluated a cohort of 280 students who matriculated into UNC through BBSP, the team determined that quantitative metrics like GRE scores and — to some extent — grade point averages have been carrying more weight in the application process than they should.

The team's findings were specific to students pursuing graduate degrees in the experimental life sciences fields and who were accepted into the program, Cook said.

"I don't know if any of our information is relevant in the humanities, or the arts or even engineering," Cook said. "We only know about the people that we train, and it's possible that a complete different set of metrics will be useful in different disciplines."

According to UNC, the study followed a similar one conducted at the University of California at San Francisco in 2015, which determined that a student's background in research — and not the GRE score — appeared to be the strongest indicator of future success in doctorate programs.

First, Cook's team tried to define what made a "strong" student, then the team looked at what distinguished those students from those who weren't as strong.

Instead, they relied on graduation rates and first-author publications, which are a standard graduation requirement for most biomedical doctoral programs.

"We found that GRE scores simply didn't correlate with student success," Cook said. "Our message then to our admissions committee is: 'If the test score is spectacular, don't be seduced into thinking that it means they're going to be a great scientist while they're part of a lab at UNC.'"

O'Connell added, "If their score is low, don't be tricked into thinking that they're not ready or they won't be productive."

"Maybe this will force us to start thinking of other metrics that perhaps are better indicators of the things we're actually trying to measure and look for in an applicant — things like grit, optimism, perseverance and resiliency," Hall said.

WEEKLY EXPORT REPORT: Corn, soybean sales have big week

cargo ship

Corn and soybean export sales had solid gains in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's latest weekly report and topped trade forecasts, while the wheat numbers were down and below trade expectations.

Weekly corn sales of 53.8 million bu. were up sharply from the previous week, with Japan, Taiwan and Peru as the leading buyers. About 500,000 bu. of 2017-18 corn were sold to unknown destinations.

Also on Thursday, USDA reported a daily sale of nearly 5 million bu. of 2016-17 corn to unknown destinations. That business will be included in a future weekly report.

Soybean sales of 36 million bu. for the 2016-17 year were up sharply from the prior week’s small amount. China, Mexico and Indonesia were the leading buyers. Cancellations are being watched as global business will soon shift to South America, and in Friday’s report, unknown destinations cancelled 11 million bu.

Also, there was a net sale of 2.45 million bu. of 2017-18 soybeans to unknown destinations and to Japan.

Weekly wheat sales of nearly 9 million bu. for 2016-17 were down 38% from the previous week, with Mexico, Japan and Nigeria as the leading buyers. Also, 2.2 million bu. of 2017-18 wheat went to the Philippines and Honduras.

In the Chicago, Ill., futures overnight session, corn was largely unchanged, while soybeans trimmed about 2 cents off overnight losses after the export report. Wheat futures had little reaction to the numbers. At the end of the overnight session, March corn was a quarter-cent higher and May was a quarter-cent lower. March and May soybeans both were 7.25/bu. cents lower.

Chicago Board of Trade soft red winter wheat futures closed the overnight session a half-cent lower for March and 1 cent lower for May. Kansas City, Mo., March and May hard red winter wheat were each 2.5 cents/bu. lower for the session, while March spring wheat was down 2.25/bu. cents and May was down a quarter-cent.

Soybean meal export sales of 269,800 metric tons were more than double the previous week’s sales, led by unknown destinations, the Philippines and Indonesia. A sale of 48,800 mt of 2017-18 soybean meal went to unknown destinations.

Soybean oil sales of 41,500 mt were up sharply from the prior week. Colombia, the Dominican Republic and Guatemala led buyers. Also, 48,800 mt of 2017-18 soybean meal went to unknown destinations.

Sorghum sales of 2.24 million bu. were up from the previous week, led by China and Mexico.

Perdue expands nutrient recycling with $12m investment in composting

Perdue Farms has expanded its $68 million investment in nutrient recycling in the Delmarva region with the addition of a $12 million capital investment in a composting operation. The AgriSoil composting facility, which started operations next to Perdue AgriRecycle’s organic fertilizer plant in Blades, Del., increases the company’s capacity to handle surplus poultry litter from Delmarva chicken farms and adds the capability to recycle other agricultural byproducts that were previously land applied.

AgriSoil can compost poultry litter, nutrient-rich byproducts like treated bio-solids from poultry plant wastewater and other organic material like soybean stems. With the addition of the composting operation, Perdue expects to nearly double the amount of litter and byproducts recycled and relocated to an estimated 80,000 tons per year. Perdue AgriRecycle, which celebrated its 15th anniversary in 2016, already handled more than a billion pounds of poultry litter.

“Our company depends upon farmers, and we all want to protect the bay,” said Randy Day, chief operating officer for Perdue Farms. “The $80 million we’ve spent so far on nutrient recycling demonstrates our commitment to supporting the economic and environmental sustainability of agriculture and family farms on Delmarva.”

Environmentally responsible alternatives to land application

Just as with poultry litter, most of these other byproducts have been land applied, presenting the same risk for nutrient runoff, Perdue noted.

“Fifteen years ago, Perdue saw the coming need for an environmentally friendly alternative to land application of poultry litter and built Perdue AgriRecycle,” said Steve Levitsky, vice president of sustainability for Perdue Farms. “Now, we’re taking the same proactive approach to a broader range of byproducts.”

“The Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy is always looking for solutions to water quality problems caused by excess nutrients,” said Jeffrey Horstman, executive director and Miles-Wye Riverkeeper. “We commend and want to support the efforts of Perdue in their new Agrisoil and existing AgriRecycle initiatives. These efforts, investments and new technologies will reduce water pollution from excess nutrients on the Delmarva, which is very much in line with our mission.”

The AgriSoil process mixes raw material with wood and water from Perdue AgriRecycle’s scrubbers. A special fabric covers the mixture, trapping odors and promoting a natural composting function that breaks down the mixture and destroys pathogens and weed seeds. The process takes 60-70 days, naturally heating to 140-165 degrees F for an extended period of time. The end result is a high-quality, composted soil amendment that's high in organic matter.

The final product will be marketed for commercial use and to distributors of consumer lawn and garden products. The compost is especially good for improving sandy soils, restoring depleted soils and as a seedbed.