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March 5th - Closing Futures Summary

Cattle futures struggled after opening strongly. As expected, cattle futures opened sharply higher in the wake of Wednesday’s big advance. However, bulls couldn’t sustain the gains in nearby futures, thereby suggesting the industry remains quite doubtful of beef demand strength this spring and summer. April cattle futures settled 0.78 cents lower at 153.27 cents/pound Thursday afternoon, while August cattle skidded 0.22 cents to 144.15 cents/pound. Meanwhile, April feeder cattle futures jumped 1.00 cent to 205.37 cents/pound, and August feeders vaulted 1.55 to 206.92.

Sorghum news may have supported corn futures Thursday. The U.S. dollar remained very strong today, thereby tending to exert downward pressure upon the crop markets. The weekly USDA Export Sales report seemed somewhat supportive of the corn market, but one has to wonder if early news of a 108,000-tonne sorghum sale to an unknown destination encouraged corn bulls as well. May corn futures closed up 1.0 cent at $3.905/bushel Thursday, while December rose 0.25 to $4.14. 

Soy meal prices proved relatively firm. As with the grains, the soy results of the Export Sales report were decent but not outstanding, which apparently weighed on Chicago prices. Talk of flat soy quotes at Gulf ports seemingly supported the meal market. Big overnight palm oil losses depressed soyoil, with beans also appearing to feel downward pressure. Talk of deliveries against the expiring March contract may have exaggerated the selling. May soybean futures slumped 8.5 cents to $9.855/bushel at Thursday’s close, while May soyoil dropped 0.64 cents to 31.57 cents/pound, and May meal slipped $1.9 to $325.2/ton. 

The wheat markets continued Wednesday’s decline. Ongoing U.S. dollar gains are very likely hurting wheat export prospects, especially with the golden grain already viewed as being comparatively expensive on global markets. The FAO also boosted its global wheat and cereal production and carryout forecasts overnight, thereby adding to the selling pressure. The Export Sales result seemingly did little to halt the slide. May CBOT wheat dove 15.5 cents to $4.805/bushel in late Thursday trading, while May KC wheat fell 10.25 cents to $5.17/bushel, and May MWE wheat sank 7.25 to $5.585. 

CME hogs also ran into resistance Thursday. Wednesday’s rally in nearby April hog futures was impressive, since it suggested renewed industry optimism despite recent spot weakness. Bulls proved unable to build upon the rally this morning, which almost surely reflected midday reports of sizeable pork losses. April hog futures dropped 1.17 cents to 66.82 cents/pound as Thursday’s CME pit session ended, while June hogs tumbled 1.15 to 80.40. 

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"Click Here" to view a Slide Show of Drought Monitor maps for the last 12 weeks
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March 5th - U.S. Meat Markets Struggling

A myriad of factors are joining forces to create significant challenges for beef, pork and poultry markets so far in 2015. These include supply and demand factors, domestic and international factors, and short and long term factors. Many of the factors are affecting all meat markets while others are specific to individual meats.

International demand for U.S. meat is being dampened by the strong dollar, which makes U.S. product more expensive in global markets. This is particularly challenging for beef, which is already high relatively to other meats due to limited supplies. In the case of pork, falling U.S. prices due to increased production are offset to some extent in international markets by the strong dollar. Meat exports are being further disrupted by the backlog at west coast ports. The inability to move perishable product out of the ports has resulted in reduced export demand and diversion of meat back into domestic markets. Cold storage holdings of red meat and poultry were up significantly in January, partly as a result of the port slowdown. Settlement of the labor dispute this past week will improve conditions but it will take several weeks for port operations to return to normal. Simultaneous to reduced export flow of meat, a series of severe winter storms has crippled population centers in the eastern U.S. disrupting normal meat shipments and reducing meat demand domestically.

Pork production is increasing rapidly with planned expansion enhanced by smaller than expected PEDv impacts. The PED virus, while still circulating in U.S. pig herds, is having less impact this winter due to a combination of vaccine effectiveness, natural immunity and improved biosecurity which limits that spread of the virus among hog farms. Pork production is expected to increase four to five percent in 2015 and with little growth in pork exports expected, the majority of the increased production will be consumed domestically. Abundant supplies of European pork are finding their way into many global markets increasing the competition for U.S. pork. Wholesale pork values are falling and sharply lower hog prices may curtail production at some point but not likely before the end of the year or into 2016.

Poultry production is also expanding in 2015 on lower feed prices and improved returns in 2014. A nearly four percent increase in broiler production is expected in 2015 and, like pork, broiler exports are likely to see only slight growth leaving most of the increase in broiler production to fall on the domestic market. Broiler wholesale values are higher than year ago levels for breast meat and wings, though sharply lower for legs. However, increased broiler supplies and falling pork values will likely weigh on broiler product values in the coming weeks.

The challenges for the beef industry are particularly troublesome. Beef production is expected to decrease another one percent in 2015, in addition to the nearly 6 percent decline in 2014. Yet the pressure for higher beef prices that accompanies limited supplies is running headlong into weaker export demand, aggravated by the strong dollar; the domestic market disruptions described above; and growing pork and poultry supplies that sharpen the competition among meat in the domestic market. Falling pork wholesale values have led to an extremely wide beef to pork wholesale price ratio limiting the ability of beef prices to advance. Beef wholesale values, after a brief rally in early January dropped sharply into February and have managed only to stabilize recently despite lower beef production.

In the latest Cattle on Feed report, feedlot inventories were about even with one year ago. January placements were down 11 percent from one year ago. Delayed feedlot marketings, down nine percent year over year in January, have allowed feedlot inventories to hold close to year ago levels but feedlot production continues to fall. Total feedlot placements in the past six months are down 3.8 percent from one year ago and the 12 month moving average of placements is at the smallest level since July 1996. Feedlot marketings and cattle slaughter will continue lower year over year in 2015.

Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University

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March 4th - Lower Oil Prices, Stronger Dollar Impact Felt Across the Country

Lower oil prices and the stronger dollar were depressing activity in several sectors, notably manufacturing, agriculture and energy exploration, according to the latest Federal Reserve's report on current economic conditions. The report, known as the Beige Book, found that manufacturers in Boston, Cleveland, and Chicago, and the farm sector in Texas and California were being hurt by weaker demand for exports due to the high value of the greenback. Energy exploration declined in the Gulf of Mexico, Texas and North Dakota due to reduced demand from lower oil prices. Overall, the report found moderate growth in six of the Fed's 12 districts, with mixed but generally slower growth in the other regions. The report covers conditions from early January through mid-February.

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March 4th - Are the Futures Broken? 

One can look at any given contract of live and feeder futures and know one thing -- the prices last quoted on the exchange will be wrong. Each transaction making up trading sessions is a guess or a bet of future prices and 99.9% of those guesses will be in the final analysis determined to be wrong. This pertains to longs and shorts.

The CME as the operator of the exchange where those futures are traded has no obligation to provide satisfactory prices to hedgers or to provide a profit to speculators. They do have a responsibility to provide a fair marketplace and to assure the rules are followed and the contract specifications are relevant to the industry and product described.

The February contract expired Friday. Recently, the contract traded down to $150 and market watchers complained those prices were out of touch with the fundamentals and the contract was broken. In the final analysis the contract's expiration, the price level corrected to cash prices. With the exception of a handful of contracts trading in the last minutes, most of the last two day saw the prices above $160 or near the final cash.

April now assumes the role of spot month and again is trading just over $150 after having traded as low as $145 last week. Macro-investors have been betting the entire commodity complex was due for a decline and cattle are part of the basket in those bets. The money controlled by hedge funds can easily overwhelm the normal money flow in cattle contracts. The result and the disconnect has been between the cash and the futures giving the cash the largest premiums to futures in years -- maybe ever.

The implications for the industry is for change in marketing tactics. More cattle feeders are covering hedged positions and selling cattle forward in the cash market. Other unhedged feeders are forward selling the cattle and buying the futures. Both strategies are designed to capture the spread between current cash and current spot futures.

It is always easy and convenient to comment on the fact that those shorting the futures lack any knowledge of the market fundamentals. This is wrongheaded. There will be more pork and chicken in future months and beef will struggle to keep its price premium in the supermarket. No one is able to properly measure and predict that supply/demand price point. But always if market watchers believe the futures contracts are mispriced, they can place their bet. Those operating in the cash markets for cattle, feeder and fed, are betting every day with their purchases that the premium basis will continue.

Ag Center Cattle Report

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March 3rd - Turnaround Tuesday as Bears Voices Increase

It’s certainly not unusual to see an inside day, pull back after the impressive rally CME cattle futures have just posted. But as the market approaches substantial overhead resistance, the bear drumbeats get louder. The same litany of bearish arguments continues to be repeated as justification why cattle futures have no business continuing their uptrend.

Futures Content to Keep a Distance

This 2015 market has clearly squared off as a demand bear/supply bull contest which the bears are winning at present, in spite of the just completed big rally. The basis narrowed in dramatically since early last week, but Apr LC is content to keep its distance, wary of proceeding more than $5 back of where the bulk of cattle traded last week and now backing away.

Summer Months Out of Reach

The LC summer months are losing to Apr LC on the rally and the break and are exceedingly discount, stubbornly trading at or below last summer’s cash prices and well below industry break-evens. Cattle feeders have been shunning these month as packer contracts for the summer now lag well behind last year.

On the Bright Side

In spite of many market watchers’ half-empty assessment, boxed beef values and packer margins keep increasing and yesterday’s kill, up 10k from a week ago, promises this week’s total will likely end up between 530-540,000 head, compared to a year ago at 547,000. It is true packers own over 30% more forward contracted cattle than a year ago and combined with formulas and cattle bought with time, will hunt and peck to top out each week’s scheduled slaughter until the calendar and Mother Nature speak to improved seasonal beef demand.

Boxed Volume Limited Last Week

March is never a house-a-fire when it comes to beef demand and yesterday’s USDA comprehensive cutout report showed the last week of February was nothing but slow. Regardless of the category, boxed beef volume was lousy. With record non-holiday low kill levels though, there isn’t much to sell. Seasonally boxed beef prices are the upswing for another 3-4 weeks and packers will do their best to keep margins squarely in the black.

Soon It Will Be the Cash Market’s Turn

Futures will likely hold on any further pull back to mid-range, finding support at the 10-day moving average near $150 in Apr LC, as where cash trades this week takes center stage. Even bears expect cash, in its limited state, trades no worse than steady this week.

The Beef

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March 2nd - So Far, 2015 Beef Production Smaller Than Expected

USDA estimates beef production through the end of February to be down 5.2 percent from the same period last year.  Total cattle slaughter is down 7.0 percent year over year including a 6.4 percent decrease in steer slaughter and a 8.7 percent decrease in heifer slaughter.  Total cow slaughter is down 6.6 percent including a 4.0 percent increase in dairy cow slaughter and a 17.9 percent decrease in beef cow slaughter. 

Overall cattle carcass weights are currently 20 pounds above year ago levels.  Average cattle carcass weights are a function of both the carcass weights of various classes of cattle and also the composition of slaughter by class of cattle.  Currently, steer carcass weights are up 19 pounds over last year and heifer carcass weights are up 15 pounds.  Cow carcass weights are up 29 pounds year over year mostly the result of more dairy cows in the cow slaughter total.  So far this year dairy cows represent 58 percent of total cow slaughter compared to 52 percent one year ago.

Increased steer and heifer carcass weights reflect feedlot response to market conditions the past several months.  Feedlot inventories have been slightly above year earlier levels since November, mostly as a result of delayed feedlot marketings of cattle.  Total feedlot placements of cattle the past six months are down 3.8 percent year over year.  In the same six months, feedlot marketings are down 7.2 percent.  Data from Kansas feedlots shows that feedlots fed cattle an extra 16 days the past six months compared to the same period a year earlier.  This led to increased final weights despite the fact that placement weights were smaller.  Interestingly, feedlot performance was poorer during the past six months with decreased average daily gains, increased feed/gain ratios and increased death loss.

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February 27th - National Feeder & Stocker Cattle Summary
USDA-MO Dept of Ag Market News

RECEIPTS:   Auctions   Direct   Video/Internet    Total
This Week     134,200     46,000             700         180,900
Last Week     176,600     46,700        25,700         249,000
Last Year       232,200     50,100        36,700         319,000

Compared to last week, yearlings traded mostly 2.00-5.00 lower, with calves selling unevenly steady.  Weather curtailed receipts throughout much of the Southwest and Southeast as snow/ice storms moved across the trading areas.  Significantly reduced sales were reported in Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee where many stocker buyers go to fill their springtime orders.  Pressure still looms over the market with neither buyers nor sellers content and about the only market participant satisfied is someone who sold cattle two months ago.  Lightweight stocker calf prices were very uneven depending on conditions and locations.  Heavier yearling feeders weighing over 800 lbs found few friends with the continued erosion of the CME cattle futures and few options to achieve profitability.

At times it almost appears that the feeder cattle market has given up demand for lent.  Feeder and Live cattle contracts just keep getting beat up and continued a downtrend that accelerated last Friday and continued into the first part of the week.  Then cattle futures did spark to life on Wednesday and Thursday but for the most part have remained unresponsive to anything that can be construed as positive.  We have lost the fund positions in the cattle futures, as the relentless buying that drove the market last year has stopped.  The West Coast Port labor dispute has ended, which was a bearish factor on the market but has failed to put any positive spin on the future prices.

Beef demand for the domestic market remains critical for the US beef industry.  Harsh winter conditions in the Northeastern seaboard have certainly played a role in slowed foodservice business and demand.  There is some positive news this week, as we are starting to see a late February rally in Boxed-beef as cutouts have closed with sharp gains on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week and modest gains on Friday.  Choice has gained over 5.00 and select over 9.00 in the past week with Choice product closing at 247.58 on Friday afternoon, maybe looking forward to warmer spring days ahead.  Auction volume included 73 percent over 600 lbs and 38 percent heifers.

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February 27th - Canadian Weekly Cattle Report

FED CATTLE NEAR RECORD HIGH

  • Few cattle are moving on the cash market because most available cattle have been sold on a contracted basis.
  • Cash offerings might increase in March because feedlots have held back cattle. Some contracted cattle might also be pushed back to March.
  • The cash market was mixed last week with one packer doing most of the buying. Cash prices were strong in light volume.
  • The Canfax average steer price was $189.21 per hundredweight, just $2 shy of the record high set in January and up $54.12 from the same time last year. The cash-to-futures basis improved and is stronger than the five-year average.
  • Alberta steers on a rail grade basis ranged $314.50-$318.50.
  • U.S. packer interest was quiet. Most Canadian fed cattle going south are forward contracted.
  • Canadian weekly fed exports to the United States have ranged 3,300-4,600 head in recent weeks, which is down from 6,000-7,900 over the same period last year.
  • Packers have little incentive to increase production and with more cattle available in March, prices might be pressured.
  • Reuters said cash cattle in Kansas last week moved at US$160 per cwt., $2 lower than the previous week. Nebraska cash cattle sold at $158 to $160, down as much as $4.
COWS POST RECORD HIGHS
  • D1, D2 cows ranged C$130-$147 to average $138.08 per cwt., up $2.58. D3 cows ranged $118-$130 to average $124.67, up $4.17.
  • This might not be the seasonal high because prices normally rise into the spring.
  • Western Canadian weekly cow slaughter was fairly consistent over the past three weeks, ranging 8,000-8,500 head. Packers could be forced to cut kill levels because non-fed volumes trading through commercial auctions have tightened considerable recently.
  • Alberta D1, D2 cows are fetching a premium over U.S. utility cows. This last happened in May 2013.
FEEDERS MIXED
  • Steers traded unevenly lower, while heifers showed modest strength.
  • The cash market remains strong with good demand and moderate supplies, despite futures market and Canadian dollar volatility.
  • Prices of calves 500-800 pounds gained on 800 lb. and heavier steers, with the spread at about $70.
  • The increasing number of heavy feeders and the relatively low cost of gain support this trend.
  • Weekly auction volumes increased but continued to run lower than a year ago.
  • Canfax expects feeder numbers to remain tight, given the large exports since last fall. Many more are booked to go south through March.
  • Local demand remains strong, and the feeder and calf market is well supported unless there is a big swing in the futures market or the dollar.
  • Bred cows ranged $2,165-$3,400, and bred heifers ranged $2,400-$3,500.
BEEF EDGES HIGHER
  • U.S. beef cut-out values rose with Choice up 82 cents at US$239.92 per cwt. and Select up $1.52 at $236.71.
  • Trade interruptions at west coast ports resulted in a 10 percent in-crease in beef inventories in cold storage at the end of January from the previous month and a 14 percent increase from last year.
  • The Montreal wholesale price for delivery this week was steady at C$318-$320 per cwt.
This cattle market information is selected from the weekly report from CanFax, a division of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association.
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February 27th - Shootin' the Bull Weekly Analysis
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In my opinion, the feeder cattle market is nearing completion of a 5 wave sideways correction that has a slight downward slant to it.  The April feeders are perceived to have bottomed on January 26th at the $196.60 low.  Since then, traders have jockeyed prices back and forth until they have now created 5 waves sideways.  This weeks rally is perceived as the completion of the 5th wave sideways at $201.85 April. I anticipate a resumption of the down trend to begin. 

My analysis suggests that there are more cattle available on the open market this year than last.  There may, or may not, be more animals in general, but who owns them is in stark contrast to last year.  My analysis suggests that there was a significant increase in the usage of forward contracting in the spring and summer of 2014.  When those contracts came to fruition in the fall, producers of all sectors began replacing that inventory at the highest levels for the year and staring at already discounted futures contracts for this spring.  It is perceived that a great deal of producers did not want to emulate last year and potentially miss out on what many anticipated to be another record breaking year for prices. 

However, the market is smarter than us all and the discount that was already factored into the spring contract months became reality as the USDA suggested liquidation was over and expansion had begun and cash prices began to fall.  Now we are into a major marketing time frame for calves and feeders.  Most of these to be marketed this spring were purchased at the high end of the price scale and I perceive a great many are un-hedged or not forward contracted. Therefore, because it is perceived there are more cattle to be marketed on the open market than last year, I anticipate further price declines as the need to sell is perceived greater than the need to buy at this time.  I continue to perceive commercial interests are using the basis to their advantage. 

In my opinion only, the year of 2014 and 2015 are anticipated to be the two years that helped cement vertical integration for the beef industry.  While speculators thrive off volatility and price movement, commercial's do not.  This year and last put producers through the rigors of what can happen when things get wild.  To reduce some of this, I would anticipate an increase in usage of both futures and options trading as well as forward contracting. 

Corn is firm in the face of a higher US dollar index and a large carry out.  This leads me to anticipate corn to move higher when the US dollar tops and reverses and the carryout begins to be chewed through.  A couple of things have transpired over the past couple of days.  The first is the anticipation of the resumption of the upward trend in the US dollar index.  This resumption is perceived a 5th wave with an upside target measuring to $100.80. Upon termination of the 5th wave, I anticipate to see the US dollar reverse and move sharply lower in a corrective wave pattern.  Lastly, price of  long term rate instruments have moved lower over the past two weeks.  This has been anticipated.  The past three days have seen bonds correct a portion of that initial decline.  I anticipate a resumption of the trend lower in bond prices and therefore higher in bond yields.  If your organization is impacted negatively from higher rates, I recommend getting something done now to potentially help offset the anticipated rise in long term interest rates. 

Christopher B. Swift is a commodity broker and consultant with Swift Trading Company in Nashville, TN. Mr. Swift authors the daily commentaries "mid day cattle comment" and "Shootin' the Bull" commentary found on his website @ www.shootinthebull.com

An investment in futures contracts is speculative, involves a high degree of risk and is suitable only for persons who can assume the risk of loss in excess of their margin deposits.  You should carefully consider whether futures trading is appropriate for you in light of your investment experience, trading objectives, financial resources and other relevant circumstances. PAST PERFORMANCE IS NOT NECESSARILY INDICATIVE OF FUTURE RESULTS.

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February 27th - Comparison by State of Heifers Retained for Replacements
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January 1, 2015 Inventory vs. 2014 Inventory... Compiled from USDA National Agricultural Statistical Service Data
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Rank
State
2015
2014
% Change
2015 as
% of Total
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1
Texas
710,000
660,000
7.58%
12.29%
2
Montana
425,000
430,000
-1.16%
7.36%
3
Oklahoma
405,000
325,000
24.62%
7.01%
4
Nebraska
390,000
400,000
-2.50%
6.75%
5
South Dakota
380,000
340,000
11.76%
6.58%
6
Missouri
310,000
305,000
1.64%
5.37%
7
Kansas
260,000
240,000
8.33%
4.50%
8
Wyoming
183,000
175,000
4.57%
3.17%
9
Iowa
170,000
160,000
6.25%
2.94%
10
North Dakota
164,000
170,000
-3.53%
2.84%
11
Colorado
160,000
150,000
6.67%
2.77%
12
Arkansas
141,000
137,000
2.92%
2.44%
13/14
Kentucky
135,000
150,000
-10.00%
2.34%
13/14
Tennessee
135,000
130,000
3.85%
2.34%
15
Florida
125,000
115,000
8.70%
2.16%
16
California
120,000
110,000
9.09%
2.08%
17/18
Idaho
110,000
110,000
0.00%
1.90%
17/18
Oregon
110,000
105,000
4.76%
1.90%
19
Alabama
110,000
110,000
0.00%
1.90%
20
Virginia
105,000
115,000
-8.70%
1.82%
21
Mississippi
95,000
91,000
4.40%
1.64%
22
Minnesota
85,000
80,000
6.25%
1.47%
23
Georgia
83,000
82,000
1.22%
1.44%
24
New Mexico
80,000
70,000
14.29%
1.38%
25
Utah
 78,000
70,000
11.43%
 1.35%
26
Wisconsin
75,000
70,000
7.14%
1.30%
27
Louisiana
73,000
84,000
-13.10%
1.26%
28
North Carolina
69,000
72,000
-4.17%
1.19%
29
Illinois
64,000
63,000
1.59%
1.11%
30
Washington
51,000
50,000
2.00%
0.88%
31/32
Ohio
50,000
55,000
-9.09%
0.87%
31/32
Pennsylvania
50,000
50,000
0.00%
0.87%
33
Indiana
45,000
39,000
15.38%
0.78%
34
New York
40,000
45,000
-11.11%
0.69%
35
Nevada
37,000
36,000
2.78%
0.64%
36
Arizona
34,000
30,000
13.33%
0.59%
37
West Virginia
32,000
35,000
-8.57%
0.55%
38
South Carolina
30,000
30,000
0.00%
0.52%
39
Michigan
23,000
29,000
-20.69%
0.40%
40
Hawaii
11,000
9,000
22.22%
0.19%
41
Maryland
8,000
9,500
-15.79%
0.14%
42/43
Vermont
4,000
4,500
-11.11%
0.07%
42/43
Maine
4,000
3,000
33.33%
0.07%
44/45
Connecticut
2,000
1,500
33.33%
0.03%
44/45
Massachusetts
2,000
2,000
0.00%
0.03%
46
New Jersey
1,300
1,000
30.00%
0.02%
47
New Hampshire
1,000
1,000
0.00%
0.02%
48
Alaska
900
800
12.50%
0.02%
49
Delaware
700
500
40.00%
0.01%
50
Rhode Island
500
500
0.00%
0.01%






-
Total
5,777,400
5,551,300
+4.07%
 100.00%
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February 27th - Beef Cows: State Rankings & Change
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.January 1, 2015 Inventory vs. 2014 Inventory... Compiled from USDA National Agricultural Statistical Service Data
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. Rank
. State
2015
2014
. % Change
2015 as
% of Total
 
 
 
 
1
Texas
4,180,000
3,910,000
6.91%
14.08%
2
Oklahoma
1,900,000
1,795,000
5.85%
6.40%
3
Missouri
1,881,000
1,820,000
3.35%
6.33%
4
Nebraska
1,786,000
1,807,000
-1.16%
6.01%
5
South Dakota
1,632,000
1,635,000
-0.18%
5.50%
6
Montana
1,506,000
1,476,000
2.03%
5.07%
7
Kansas
1,477,000
1,414,000
4.46%
4.97%
8
Kentucky
1,007,000
992,000
1.51%
3.39%
9
Iowa
920,000
895,000
2.79%
3.10%
10
Florida
916,000
907,000
0.99%
3.08%
11
North Dakota
904,000
923,000
-2.06%
3.04%
12
Tennessee
883,000
864,000
2.20%
2.97%
13
Arkansas
863,000
862,000
0.12%
2.91%
14
Colorado
745,000
710,000
4.93%
2.51%
15
Wyoming
694,000
694,000
0.00%
2.34%
16
Alabama
672,000
681,000
-1.32%
2.26%
17
Virginia
637,000
637,000
0.00%
2.15%
18
California
600,000
600,000
0.00%
2.02%
19
Oregon
525,000
516,000
1.74%
1.77%
20
Georgia
489,000
500,000
-2.20%
1.65%
21
Idaho
481,000
465,000
3.44%
1.62%
22
Mississippi
468,000
477,000
-1.89%
1.58%
23
Louisiana
466,000
450,000
3.56%
1.57%
24
New Mexico
407,000
407,000
0.00%
1.37%
25
Illinois
376,000
355,000
5.92%
1.27%
26
North Carolina
363,000
355,000
2.25%
1.22%
27
Minnesota
350,000
340,000
2.94%
1.18%
28
Utah
324,000
340,000
-4.71%
1.09%
29
Ohio
282,000
293,000
-3.75%
0.95%
30
Wisconsin
275,000
250,000
10.00%
 0.93%
31
Nevada
217,000
231,000
-6.06%
 0.73%
32
Indiana
199,000
187,000
6.42%
 0.67%
33
Washington
198,000
214,000
-7.48%
 0.67%
34
West Virginia
185,000
191,000
-3.14%
 0.62%
35
Arizona
175,000
178,000
-1.69%
 0.59%
36
South Carolina
170,000
169,000
0.59%
 0.57%
37
Pennsylvania
150,000
160,000
-6.25%
 0.51%
38
New York
115,000
105,000
9.52%
0.39%
39
Michigan
112,000
119,000
-5.88%
 0.38%
40
Hawaii
69,800
71,800
-2.79%
0.24%
41
Maryland
41,000
38,000
7.89%
 0.14%
42
Vermont
12,000
12,000
0.00%
 0.040%
43
Maine
11,000
11,000
0.00%
0.037%
44
New Jersey
7,500
7,000
7.14%
0.025%
45
Massachusetts
5,500
6,000
-8.33%
0.019%
46
Connecticut
5,000
4,000
25.00%
0.017%
47
Alaska
4,300
4,300
0.00%
0.014%
48
New Hampshire
3,000
3,000
0.00%
 0.010%
49
Delaware
2,500
2,800
-10.71%
 0.008%
50
Rhode Island
1,500
1,500
0.00%
0.005%






-
Total
29,693,100
29,085,400
+2.09%
100.00%
.

February 27th - All Cattle & Calves: State Rankings & Change
..
January 1, 2015 Inventory vs. 2014 Inventory... Compiled from USDA National Agricultural Statistical Service Data
.
Rank
State
2015
2014
% Change
2015 as
% of Total
.      
 
1
Texas
11,800,000
11,100,000
6.31%
13.14%
2
Nebraska
6,300,000
6,250,000
0.80%
7.02%
3
Kansas
6,000,000
5,800,000
3.45%
6.68%
4
California
5,150,000
5,250,000
-1.90%
-5.73%
5
Oklahoma
4,600,000
4,300,000
6.98%
5.12%
6
Missouri
4,000,000
3,850,000
3.90%
4.45%
7
Iowa
3,900,000
3,800,000
2.63%
4.34%
8
South Dakota
3,700,000
3,700,000
0.00%
4.12%
9
Wisconsin
3,500,000
3,400,000
2.94%
3.90%
10
Colorado
2,600,000
2,550,000
1.96%
2.90%
11
Montana
2,500,000
2,550,000
-1.96%
2.78%
12
Minnesota
2,330,000
2,300,000
1.30%
2.59%
13
Idaho
2,300,000
2,240,000
2.68%
2.56%
14
Kentucky
2,060,000
2,110,000
-2.37%
2.29%
15
Tennessee
1,730,000
1,760,000
-1.70%
1.93%
16
Florida
1,700,000
1,670,000
1.80%
1.89%
17
North Dakota
1,650,000
1,750,000
-5.71%
1.84%
18
Arkansas
1,640,000
1,650,000
-0.61%
1.83%
19
Pennsylvania
1,530,000
1,610,000
-4.97%
1.70%
20
Virginia
1,470,000
1,510,000
-2.65%
1.64%
21
New York
1,450,000
1,450,000
0.00%
1.61%
22
New Mexico
1,340,000
1,310,000
2.29%
1.49%
23
Oregon
1,300,000
1,280,000
1.56%
1.45%
24
Wyoming
1,300,000
1,270,000
2.36%
1.45%
25
Ohio
 1,250,000
1,250,000
0.00%
 1.39%
26
Alabama
1,220,000
1,270,000
-3.94%
1.36%
27
Washington
1,150,000
1,110,000
3.60%
1.28%
28/29
Illinois
1,140,000
1,130,000
0.88%
1.27%
28/29
Michigan
1,140,000
1,130,000
0.88%
1.27%
30
Georgia
1,040,000
1,040,000
0.00%
1.16%
31
Mississippi
910,000
930,000
-2.15%
1.01%
32
Arizona
880,000
920,000
-4.35%
0.98%
33
Indiana
870,000
860,000
1.16%
0.97%
34
North Carolina
800,000
810,000
-1.23%
0.89%
35
Louisiana
790,000
790,000
0.00%
0.88%
36
Utah
780,000
810,000
-3.70%
0.87%
37
Nevada
435,000
460,000
-5.43%
0.48%
38
West Virginia
370,000
385,000
-3.90%
0.41%
39
South Carolina
335,000
335,000
0.00%
0.37%
40
Vermont
260,000
260,000
0.00%
0.29%
41
Maryland
185,000
182,000
1.65%
0.21%
42
Hawaii
135,000
133,000
1.50%
0.15%
43
Maine
85,000
85,000
0.00%
0.095%
44
Connecticut
47,000
47,000
0.00%
0.052%
45
Massachusetts
38,000
39,000
-2.56%
0.042%
46
New Hampshire
30,000
32,000
-6.25%
0.033%
47
New Jersey
28,000
27,000
3.70%
0.031%
48
Delaware
17,000
16,000
6.25%
0.019%
49
Alaska
10,000
10,000
0.00%
0.011%
50
Rhode Island
5,000
5,000
0.00%
0.006%






-
Total
89,800,000
88,526,000
+1.44%
 100.00%
.

February 24th - Beef Producers Say Administration is Trying to Kill Their Industry

Lawmakers from cattle producing states are seeing red following a 571-page federal report that that encourages Americans to go green.

A panel of nutrition experts recruited by the Obama administration to craft the newest dietary guidelines suggested last week that the government should consider the environment when deciding what people should eat.

The report, which was presented to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, bills itself as a way to “transform the food system” and that’s got a lot of people in the heartland and those elected to represent them in Washington fuming.

“Generations of cattle farmers and ranchers have been and continue to be conscientious about conserving limited natural resources,” Sen. Chuck Grassley R-Iowa, told FoxNews.com. “They rely on the land and the environment for their livelihood. Those facts get lost in Washington and in arguments that eating red meat hurts the environment.”

The report, which is open for public comment for 45 days, will be used by the government not only to mold dietary guidelines but also used as the basis for government food assistance programs as well as school lunch programs, worth an estimated $16 billion annually.

The North American Meat Institute slammed the report, calling it “flawed” and “nonsensical.” Members of the meat industry as well as those from soda makers, say the panel has gone “beyond its scope.”

Dr. Richard Thorpe, a Texas physician and rancher, told FoxNews.com that he is disappointed in the panel’s recommendations and said “it’s absurd the committee would suggest the reduction of meat, or red meat, in the American diet.”

Thorpe says nutritional science is “constantly evolving” and that reports like the one released last week “can absolutely kill an industry” and called the report an “insult.”

The federal guidelines, which are updated every five years, have advised Americans about healthy eating choices. But critics say the newest report oversteps its boundaries and caters to a campaign aimed at driving out red meat producers.

Part of the problem, Thorpe says, is that the government is telling Americans they should also consider the sustainability of their food. That, for some, translates to eating less meat and loading up on vegetables and plants.

“Legumes should be a mainstay of an American diet?” Thorpe said, adding that it would take a wheelbarrow full of spinach to meet the same amount of iron in a serving of beef. He added that iron found in beef is not equal to iron in spinach, and that beef’s iron is more absorbable.

According to a June 2014 study in the journal Climatic Change, the average meat-eater in the United States is responsible for almost twice as much global warming as the average vegetarian and almost tripled that of the average vegan.

The Oxford University study dissected the diets of 60,000 individuals – 2,000 vegans, 15,000 vegetarians, 8,000 fish-eaters and close to 30,000 meat-eaters – and found the difference in diet-driven carbon footprints was significant. The Oxford study found that cutting a person’s meat intake could cut a person’s carbon footprint by 35 percent. Go vegan and slash your carbon footprint by 60 percent.

But some say that shouldn't matter. Others, like Thorpe, say there are big benefits to eating beef. 

“We feel the beef industry owns protein,” he said, adding that the Obama administration is promoting a type of diet that could be harmful to some people.  Thorpe says over the past three decades, the industry has “done nothing but reduce the amount of fat in our animals.”

Fox News

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February 20th - February Cattle on Feed Report

United States Cattle on Feed Up Slightly

  • Cattle and calves on feed for slaughter market in the United States for feedlots with capacity of 1,000 or more headtotaled 10.7 million head on February 1, 2015. The inventory was slightly above February 1, 2014.
  • Placements in feedlots during January totaled 1.79 million, 11 percent below 2014. Net placements were 1.71 million head. During January, placements of cattle and calves weighing less than 600 pounds were 405,000, 600-699 pounds were 340,000, 700-799 pounds were 477,000, and 800 pounds and greater were 565,000.
  • Marketings of fed cattle during January totaled 1.63 million, 9 percent below 2014. January marketings are the lowest since the series began in 1996.
  • Other disappearance totaled 77,000 during January, 8 percent above 2014.
Analysts regarded the report as neutral to slightly negative. 

Cattle on Feed Inventory in 1,000+ Capacity Feedlots as of February 1st
Millions of Head
.

.
Number of Cattle Placed on Feed in 1,000+ Capacity Feedlots in Janaury
Millions of Head
.

.
Number of Cattle Marketed from 1,000+ Capacity Feedlots in Janaury
Millions of Head
.

.
Cattle on Feed by State as of February 1st
.
.
.

February 20th - Cold Storage Report
  • Total red meat supplies in freezers were up 14 percent from the previous month and up 5 percent from last year. 
    • Total pounds of beef in freezers were up 10 percent from the previous month and up 14 percent from last year. 
    • Frozen porksupplies were up 18 percent from the previous month but down 4 percent from last year. 
    • Stocks of pork bellies were up13 percent from last month but down 39 percent from last year.
  • Total frozen poultry supplies on January 31, 2015 were up 11 percent from the previous month and up 5 percent from ayear ago. 
    • Total stocks of chicken were up 2 percent from the previous month and up 6 percent from last year. 
    • Total pounds of turkey in freezers were up 45 percent from last month and up 1 percent from January 31, 2014.
.

 February 29th Seasonal Drought Outlook

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February 12th - USDA World Agricultural Supply & Demand Estimates

The 2015 forecast of total red meat and poultry production is higher than last month on increases to beef, pork, and poultry production. USDA’s Cattle report, released January 30, revised the 2014 calf crop higher and pointed to a higher level of cattle outside feedlots on January 1, 2015. Given greater supplies of cattle outside feedlots, placements are expected to decline less rapidly during 2015 with fed cattle slaughter higher than forecast last month. 

Cow slaughter is raised slightly from last month with larger cow numbers, but is still expected to be below 2014. The increase in slaughter is partly offset by slower growth in carcass weights. Pork production is raised as slaughter to date has been above expectations. Broiler production is higher as recent hatchery data shows fasterthan-expected growth in chicks placed. Turkey production is also raised on hatchery data.

The 2015 beef import forecast is raised from last month as demand for processing grade beef remains strong and strength of the dollar makes the United States an attractive market. Beef exports for 2015 are reduced due to relatively high U.S. prices. Pork exports are lowered based on increased competition from other exporters and slower growth in global demand.

The broiler export forecast is lowered on weaker demand. Turkey exports are also reduced. 

Larger meat supplies are expected to pressure prices for livestock and poultry. Cattle prices for 2015 are lowered from last month, reflecting recent price weakness for fed cattle and greater supplies of competing meats. The hog price forecast is down on greater supplies of market hogs and weaker-than-expected demand. Broiler and turkey prices are reduced on larger production.

.

February 6th - CattleFax: Cattle Price Outlook

As was the case last year, cattle prices will largely be driven by continued tight supplies for the next several years, says Kevin Good, CattleFax senior analyst.

“Heifer slaughter in 2014 was the lowest it’s been in 20 years,” he told producers. “We’ll continue to keep heifers back in 2015 and 2016,” meaning heifer numbers in feedyards will continue to remain tight.

For fed cattle, Good says prices will average $157 per cwt for the year, with a range from the $140s to the $170s. “Cattle feeders are expected to bid aggressively for cattle, even as margins suffer. Expect negative feeding margins on average in the first half of 2015 and improving margins in the second half of the year.”

That aggressive attitude by cattle feeders will keep calf and feeder prices well supported. Good expects prices for 750-pound steers to average $2.20 per pound, fluctuating between $1.95 on the low end with a possible high of $2.40. Stocker and backgrounding margins will be positive but smaller than 2014, he says.

For cow-calf producers, the outlook remains positive. Good predicts 550-pound calves to average $2.60 per pound for the year, with a range from $2.35 on the low side to $2.90 on the high end. “The calf market will benefit from an improved forage situation, cheaper grain prices and record margins for cattle feeders and stocker operators last year,” he says.

That outlook indicates that bred heifers will continue to command strong prices. Historically, it takes 1.5 to 1.6, 550-pound steer calves to pay for a bred female, Blach told the audience. Given that relationship, bred heifers ranging from $2,300 to $2,600 are not out of line.

However, Blach cautions, volatility in the cattle market will continue to be a factor to keep an eye on, making risk management more critical than ever. “Access to adequate amounts of capital and credit will  be a limiting factor for many producers moving forward,” he says. “Producers need to invest more time and energy in building risk management plans and programs that are in balance with their appetite for more credit.”

And cattle producers must recognize that as the industry restocks and numbers increase, prices will react. “Growing supplies over the next several years will rebalance the normal price and margin environment among industry segments. Prices will then retreat back to the lower end of the new trading range.”

However, opportunities will continue to remain for much of the beef business. “Cow-calf producers who can minimize costs and maximize production will enjoy a profitable four to five-year period,” Blach says.

.

January 30th USDA Cattle Inventory Report - January 1 Cattle Inventory Up 1 Percent

All cattle and calves in the United States as of January 1, 2015 totaled 89.8 million head, 1 percent above the 88.5 million on January 1, 2014.

All cows and heifers that have calved, at 39.0 million, were up 2 percent from the 38.3 million on January 1, 2014.

  • Beef cows, at 29.7 million, were up 2 percent from January 1, 2014.
  • Milk cows, at 9.3 million, were up 1 percent from January 1, 2014.
Other class estimates on January 1, 2015 and the change from January 1, 2014, are as follows:
  • All heifers 500 pounds and over, 19.2 million, up 1 percent.
  • Beef replacement heifers, 5.8 million, up 4 percent.
  • Milk replacement heifers, 4.6 million, up 1 percent.
  • Other heifers, 8.8 million, down slightly.
  • Steers weighing 500 pounds and over, 15.8 million, up 1 percent.
  • Bulls weighing 500 pounds and over, 2.1 million, up 3 percent.
  • Calves under 500 pounds, 13.7 million, up 1 percent.
  • Cattle and calves on feed for slaughter in all feedlots, 13.1 million, up 1 percent.
  • The combined total of calves under 500 pounds, and other heifers and steers over 500 pounds outside of feedlots was 25.2 million, up 1 percent.
Calf Crop Up 1 Percent
  • The 2014 calf crop was estimated at 33.9 million head, up 1 percent from 2013. 
  • Calves born during the first half of 2014 were estimated at 24.6 million, up slightly from 2013.
.

January 23rd - Beef Production Lower for December

Commercial red meat production for the United States totaled 4.14 billion pounds in December, up slightly from the 4.14 billion pounds produced in December 2013.

  • Beef production, at 2.00 billion pounds, was 2 percent below the previous year. Cattle slaughter totaled 2.44 million head, down 5 percent from December 2013. The average live weight was up 29 pounds from the previous year, at1,363 pounds.
  • Veal production totaled 7.6 million pounds, 22 percent below December a year ago. Calf slaughter totaled 43,000 head,down 35 percent from December 2013. The average live weight was up 51 pounds from last year, at 302 pounds.
  • Pork production totaled 2.11 billion pounds, up 2 percent from the previous year. Hog slaughter totaled 9.85 million head, up 1 percent from December 2013. The average live weight was up 3 pounds from the previous year, at 286 pounds.
  • Lamb and mutton production, at 13.4 million pounds, was up 3 percent from December 2013. Sheep slaughter totaled200,000 head, slightly above last year. The average live weight was 134 pounds, up 3 pounds from December a year ago.
January to December 2014 commercial red meat production was 47.3 billion pounds, down 4 percent from 2013. Accumulated beef production was down 6 percent from last year, veal was down 16 percent, pork was down 1 percent from last year, and lamb and mutton production was down slightly.
.

January 19th - Mixed Cattle Outlook for 2015

Tight margins and lower grain prices are encouraging cattle feeders to feed to heavier weights, helping offset lower numbers of cattle available for feeding and slaughter, according to the latest Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook report from the USDA. At the same time, improved forage conditions appear to be encouraging ranchers to retain more heifers for breeding, which could further reduce supplies of feeder cattle in the near term.

Milk prices, meanwhile, are dropping, which could result in a pickup in culling of dairy cows. The average all-milk price for 2014 was a record high of $23.97 per hundredweight, up 19.6 percent from the 2013 price of $20.05 per hundredweight. But for 2015, USDA now projects an average all-milk price of  $17.75 to $18.55 per hundredweight, down from last month's forecast of $18.45 to $19.25.

Pork will become more competitively priced as the U.S. industry rebounds from the effects of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea. USDA reports producers have increased breeding inventory increases express strong farrowing intentions, suggesting higher pork production and lower hog prices in 2015. Hog prices are expected to average $60 to $65 per hundredweight this year, almost 18 percent below prices in 2014.

Other key points in the report include:

  • Drought continues in the Southern Plains and Southwestern United States, although its intensity has abated somewhat. The U.S. Drought Monitor, released December 30, 2014, showed an improved situation for cattle country compared with last month.
  • Despite continuing drought, the limited precipitation has allowed wheat pasture to remain in relatively good condition, providing some opportunity for weight gains in feeder cattle being pastured on Southern Plains wheat.
  • Placements in 1,000-plus-head feedlots during November dropped 4 percent below 2013. November placements were the lowest and marketings were the second lowest for the month since the series began in 1996.
  • Any significant retention of heifers for rebuilding the cow herd would offset increases in beef production due to heavier slaughter weights. However, cow-calf operators face significant incentives to sell heifers as feeder cattle sooner rather than waiting for income from their calves at least two years later.
  • Commercial red meat production for the United States in November 2014 was down 9 percent compared with November 2013. Further, Livestock Slaughter showed a 10-percent drop in commercial beef production through the month of November 2014 compared with this time last year.
  • Average live weights of commercial cattle continue higher than last November, up by 24 pounds. Since September 2014, 5-Area Fed Steer live weights have consistently exceeded 1,420 pounds.
  • November 2014’s All-fresh beef retail value was $5.98 per pound, up nearly a dollar from a year earlier. Estimated average monthly Choice retail beef prices for January 2014 through November 2014 were $5.97 per pound, 13 percent above the same-period average of $5.28 for 2013.
  • For 2015, average annual retail beef prices are expected to be slightly higher than they were in 2014. Recent drops in gas prices have given some indication of additional spending power at the grocery store. Larger supplies of pork and poultry may limit beef price increases this year.
.

May 21st - As Fundamental Change Moves an Industry

It doesn't feel any different as you walk around but beneath the surface some large and monumental plates are shifting and the foundations of an industry are undergoing change. The day to day business continues and we wake every morning to new bids and offers, new grain prices, the drought, and other continuing influences but there are some big picture developments that are occurring while we move day to day.

  • Climate: There are major changes occurring in the climate. Extreme weather patterns are more severe and long lasting. Drought in some areas continues. Flooding in other regions is causing its own problems. We can debate whether it is man made or not, but large and serious weather patterns are at work and no one impacted more than agriculture.
  • Geography: Nebraska took over Texas's spot as top feeding state. The image below clearly demonstrates the loss of feeding capacities in Texas and increases else where. Processing plants follow the feeding locations for cattle and the southern plains has lost processing capacity to the northern plains -- but both have suffered plant closings and slow downs as the herd grows smaller.
  • Basis: Cattle and grain are moving towards cash markets trading basis the futures. Cattle cash trading has ceased to be reported in Texas and lightly reported elsewhere. Poor grain basis pricing, south of Amarillo, is pressuring south plains feedyards in competitiveness.
  • Sustainability: This is a term used by everyone and understood by no one. Beef retailers are being pressured to act on assuring the industry is observing best management practices to deliver a sustainable agriculture.
  • Mandatory ID: Whether it is a trading scandal involving phantom cattle or a disease threat that can't be traced, animal ID won't go away. International trade and exports will demand it or penalize our products without it.
Downsizing is no fun and lots of money has been lost in processing and feedings. Downsizing is always painful but it also can build a better and stronger industry through change.


The Cattle Report

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May 5th - 2012 Census of Agriculture Reveals Trends

There are now 3.2 million farmers operating 2.1 million farms on 914.5 million acres of farmland across the United States, according to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, released today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The agriculture census presents more than 6 million pieces of information, which provide a detailed look at the U.S. farm sector at the national, state and county levels.

"Once every five years, farmers, ranchers and growers have the unique opportunity to let the world know how U.S. agriculture is changing, what is staying the same, what's working and what we can do differently," said Dr. Cynthia Clark, the retiring head of USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service, which administered the survey. "Today, we can start to delve into the details." 

Census data provide valuable insight into the U.S. farmer demographics, economics and production practices. Some of the key findings include:
 

  • Both sales and production expenses reached record highs in 2012. U.S. producers sold $394.6 billion worth of agricultural products, but it cost them $328.9 billion to produce these products. 
  • Three quarters of all farms had sales of less than $50,000, producing only 3 percent of the total value of farm products sold while those with sales of more than $1 million - 4 percent of all farms - produced 66 percent. 
  • Much of the increased farm income was concentrated geographically or by farm categories. 
  • California led the nation with 9 of the 10 top counties for value of sales. Fresno County was number one in the United States with nearly $5 billion in sales in 2012, which is greater than that of 23 states. Weld County, Colorado ranked 9th in the top 10 U.S. counties. 
    • The top 5 states for agricultural sales were California ($42.6 billion); Iowa ($30.8 billion); Texas ($25.4 billion); Nebraska ($23.1 billion); and Minnesota ($21.3 billion). 
  • Eighty-seven percent of all U.S. farms are operated by families or individuals. 
  • Principal operators were on average 58.3 years old and were predominantly male; second operators were slightly younger and most likely to be female; and third operators were younger still. 
  • Young, beginning principal operators who reported their primary occupation as farming increased 11.3 percent from 36,396 to 40,499 between 2007 and 2012. 
  • All categories of minority-operated farms increased between 2007 and 2012; the Hispanic-operated farms had a significant 21 percent increase. 
  • 144,530 farm operators reported selling products directly to consumers. In 2012, these sales totaled more than $1.3 billion (up 8.1 percent from 2007). 
  • Organic sales were growing, but accounted for just 0.8 percent of the total value of U.S. agricultural production. Organic farmers reported $3.12 billion in sales in 2012, up from $1.7 billion in 2007. 
  • Farms with Internet access rose from 56.5 percent in 2007 to 69.6 percent in 2012. 
  • 57,299 farms produced on-farm renewable energy, more than double the 23,451 in 2007. 
  • 474,028 farms covering 173.1 million acres were farmed with conservation tillage or no-till practices. 
  • Corn and soybean acres topped 50 percent of all harvested acres for the first time. 
  • The largest category of operations was beef cattle with 619,172 or 29 percent of all farms and ranches in 2012 specializing in cattle. 
Conducted since 1840, the Census of Agriculture accounts for all U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. The Census tells a story of how American agriculture is changing and lays the groundwork for new programs and policies that will invest in rural America; promote innovation and productivity; build the rural economy; and support our next generation of farmers and ranchers.
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March 4th - 

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