Indemnities Near $11 Billion - Losses paid out by crop insurance companies to farmers for 2011 crops have exceeded $10.7 billion and are edging closer to the $11 billion mark, according to data from the Risk Management Agency (RMA). This surpasses the previous record of $8.76 billion set in 2008 by almost 25 percent. Spurred on by one of the worst weather years in history, farmers faced unparalleled challenges in 2011 and crop insurance reached record amounts. The numbers paint a picture of Mother Nature's devastation that befell farmers from coast to coast. The top crops damaged, by dollar value, were corn, cotton, wheat, soybeans, grain sorghum, pastureland and rangeland, and tobacco. And while the average loss ratio across the country is at .90—which means that for every dollar purchased in coverage, 90 cents was paid out in indemnities—those numbers are much higher in some key states.
Pesticide Legislation Needs Support - Efforts to get H.R. 872, the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act, attached to a legislative vehicle that has a chance of passage this year continue. U.S. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., has indicated his desire to include it in the House version of the farm bill. Most members of the committee voted for and supported the bill when it came through the committee last year. H.R. 872 would eliminate the burdensome and overlapping permit requirements resulting from the National Cotton Council v. EPA case. H.R. 872 would amend the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the Clean Water Act (CWA) to clarify that CWA permits are not needed when a pesticide is applied in accordance with a FIFRA-approved label. Farm Bureau is urging members to contact members of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee and ask that they voice support for H.R. 872 being included in the farm bill to Chairman Lucas and Ranking Member Collin Peterson, D-Minn.
Stink Bug Invasion Advances - The brown marmorated stink bug and the kudzu bug continue to invade the South in huge numbers. The pests have the potential to destroy millions of dollars of crops. Marmorated stink bugs have been previously found in Florida and the potential damage the bugs could do to the state's diverse agriculture is tremendous. Brown marmorated stink bugs are native to China and were first reported in Allentown Pa. in 1998. The pests hitched a ride to the U.S. on foreign cargo and seem to prefer warm weather. Another Asian stink bug, referred to as the kudzu bug, was unknown in the U.S. until its discovery in Georgia in 2009. Although known for chomping on kudzu, this bug eats soybeans and other legume crops as well. To date, kudzu bugs have been found in 143 Georgia counties, 42 North Carolina counties and five Alabama counties, according to the University of Georgia's College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Legume/soybean crop yields have been reduced by about 20 percent due to pest damage in these states. In 2010, $37 million in apple damage by stink bugs was reported in the Mid-Atlantic region. In 2011, about one-third of Maryland's peach crop and half of the state's raspberries were destroyed by the insect.
Drought May Push Pecans to $11 lb - The average retail price for a pound of pecans may increase to $11 this year due to drought reducing yields in many Southern states. Pecans are the only major tree nut native to the U.S., which produces about 80 percent of the world's crop. The harvest season begins in the fall in Georgia and Florida and ends in February in New Mexico. Georgia is usually the biggest pecan producer. Other top states include Arizona, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. North Carolina is a top 10 pecan producing states with most production located east of I-95. Production in Texas, which has had a record drought, dropped the most, from 70 million pounds last year to an estimated 40 million pounds this year. The entire U.S. crop is expected to be less than 252 million pounds this year, roughly 14 percent smaller than last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Pecans are "alternate-bearing" trees, with good crops tending to be followed by smaller crops. This year should have been a high production year.
USDA Reduces Crop Reports - Funding reductions have caused a reduction in the frequency of potato stocks reports and fruit and vegetable crop estimates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA's Agricultural Statistics Board said funding reductions in fiscal year 2011, and the prospect of additional restrictions in fiscal year 2012, forced it to eliminate or reduce reports. USDA stated the potato stocks report is scheduled to change from a monthly report to a quarterly report. Fruit and vegetable in-season forecasts and estimates are being reduced from monthly and quarterly to an annual report. USDA also stated it will reduce the frequency of commodity coverage in the agency's chemical use reports and will also eliminate reports on nursery production, bees and honey, and hops production, among others.
Act Now for Extra Cotton Analysis - The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is conducting additional tests, at no extra charge beyond the $7 per sample fee, on all cotton tissue samples submitted this year. Cotton samples will also include a measurement for petiole phosphorus and potassium. The window of opportunity to collect and submit tissue samples, get results and adjust fertilization is narrow, so farmers are advised to act now. Details of the cotton tissue sampling protocol are available online at www.ncagr.gov/agronomi/uyrplant.htm Contact: NCDA&CS Agronomic Services, (919) 733-2655.
Alert for Soybean Producers—Kudzu Bug - The kudzu bug has been found and identified in Union County by a Wingate University student performing a biology study. This soybean pest has also been confirmed in Buncombe and Polk counties, according to North Carolina Cooperative Extension. Last year, South Carolina experienced an explosion in the infestation area of the state starting from the southwestern part to almost a complete statewide distribution. While the kudzu bug, which is also known as the bean plataspid, does feed on kudzu and many varieties of legumes, its primary agronomic plant host is soybean. So far, the kudzu bug has been relatively easy to kill with insecticides, except with neonicotinoids, but it will often reinvade. A preliminary economic threshold, based on Georgia data, is one bug per sweep with large nymphs present, or three bugs per plant with large nymphs present. Farmers who find this pest in their fields are asked to contact either the Union County Extension office at (704) 283- 3738, or the Stanly County Extension office at (704) 983-3987.
Burley Cooperative Gets New Leader — Daniel Green has been appointed chief executive officer of Burley Stabilization Corporation (BSC). Green had been chief financial officer of the corporation for several years. He replaces Charlie Finch, who recently retired after leading the relocation of the BSC's main office from its longtime location in Knoxville, Tn., to Springfield, Tn. Finch will stay on for a time as a consultant to BSC, which serves farmers in Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia.
Pecan grower website facilitates buying/selling - Pecan growers, pecan shellers or pecan lovers now have a free outlet to list or find pecans or pecan-related equipment or services for sale. The N.C. Pecan Growers Association has created a section on its website at www.ncpecans.org where people can list pecans for sale as well as pecan cracking and shelling services and equipment. The addition came in response to numerous questions directed each year to the organization.