Higher expenses and the drought have taken their toll on farm income, the USDA's Economic Research Service reports.
Net farm income is forecast to decline almost $4 billion in 2012 compared to the year before, when net farm income hit an all time high. The ERS reports:
Value of agricultural sector production is expected to increase with gains anticipated for crops, livestock, and especially revenues from services and forestry sales. Larger gains are predicted for oil crops and other farm income.
Solid gains in the projected annual value of U.S. agricultural production will be more than offset by increases in purchased inputs and payments to stakeholders. In particular, feed expenses are forecast to increase almost $10 billion in 2012.
The ERS report said that farm equity will reach an all time high in 2012, as the value of farm assets has increased faster than farm debt. And median farm household income increased by one percent in 2012 to $57,645, after a 5.3 percent gain last year.
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said the report "confirms that American farmers and ranchers remained impressively resilient in 2012, even with tough odds due to one of the worst droughts in more than a generation."
New Farm Bill? — Jerry Hagstrom reports on DTN that House Ag Committee chair Frank Lucas is preparing a backup plan should Congress fail to pass a new Farm Bill by the end of this year.
Plan B would be to extend the current Farm Bill into 2013. But that has problems, Hagstrom reports:
(C)ongressional aides and lobbyists in interviews over the past week said that the need to help dairy, livestock and fruit producers who have been hurt by this summer's weather raises many questions about what kind of extension bill the House and Senate would support, how it would be financed and what would happen to the budgetary savings that the agriculture committees had offered as their contribution to reducing the federal deficit.
In addition, the bills passed by the Senate and the House Agriculture Committee contained cotton provisions that U.S. trade negotiators hoped will resolve the World Trade Organization cotton case that Brazil won against the United States.
"We are saying an extension is a lot harder than passing the real bill," said American Farm Bureau Federation lobbyist Mary Kay Thatcher.
Food Maker Merger — ConAgra Foods is buying Ralcorp Holdings for $4.95 billion. The combined food company will have annual sales of $18 billion, trailing only Kraft Foods Group in size, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Ralcorp is primarily a private label food manufacturer. The combined company would have headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska.
GIPSA And Mutton — Bill Bullard at R-CALF USA, the rancher organization headquartered in Montana, reports that in late November the Denver office of USDA's Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration officially opened an investigation into possible price manipulation in the sheep market by meat packers.
You can read a High Country News story here about a request made by some U.S. Senators that such an investigation be conducted.
Sportsmen's Act Blocked — Senate Republicans blocked passage of The Sportsmen's Act Monday night, saying the bill that would increase access to federal land and improve habitat conservation and wildlife management, violated Congressional budget rules, AgriPulse reports.
The bill was sponsored by Montana Democrat Jon Tester and had support of the both the National Rifle Association and the White House. But that bit of bipartisanship was scuttled because the bill would have required $14 million in spending. The Missoulian describes the contents of the bill, which was a primary piece of Tester's re-election bid:
The Sportsmen’s Act would increase land access and allow hunters to bring home as trophies 41 polar bears killed in Canada before the government started protecting polar bears as a threatened species. The legislation would also exclude ammunition and tackle from federal environmental laws that regulate lead, allow bow hunters to cross federal land where hunting isn’t allowed, encourage federal land agencies to help states maintain shooting ranges, boost fish populations and protect animal habitat.
Cabela's Provides….Housing — Cabela's, the outdoor retailing behemoth, is developing a 480-acre housing site in its hometown of Sidney, Nebraska.
Sidney officials say the development could double the value of property in the western Nebraska town.
Cobell Settlement — The first of what will be $3.4 billion in payments from the settlement of a federal lawsuit brought by American Indians against the federal government will begin to flow by the end of this year.
Elouise Cobell of Browning, Montana, is the named plaintiff in the suit filed in 1996, claiming that the U.S. government failed to compensate tribes for sales and leases of natural resources located in Indian lands. Cobell died of cancer last year.
Approximately 350,000 beneficiaries could start receiving $1,000 checks by Christmas as the first part of the settlement goes forward, plaintiffs' attorneys said.
War On Coal Continues — West Virginia Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito announced Monday that she would run for the seat now held by Sen. Jay Rockefeller — and that the Obama administration's so-called "war on coal" would be a primary focus of her campaign.
What the announcement is likely to mean for the rest of us is two more years of ridiculous “war on coal” rhetoric trying to make the race about President Obama, rather than about which of the two Senate candidates would better serve West Virginia and the nation. Certainly, coal industry folks who are already out there promoting Rep. Capito’s Senate candidacy aren’t interested in a realistic and rational discussion of coal’s current problems, the projections for its continued decline, or a focus on figuring out how Appalachia’s coalfield communities can somehow navigate all of this and come out the other side stronger and with a better long-term economic outlook.