President's Column

The Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation is the state’s largest general farm organization representing farmers, ranchers and rural residents. We are a private, non-profit, non-governmental agency established in 1922 to bring a voice to agricultural issues. Our weekly President's Column, started in 1975, today appears in more than 160 newspapers across Louisiana. The column provides information about farming, food prices, environmental issues and other consumer news, while addressing matters important to all of rural Louisiana.

Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation seeks National Peanut Board nominees

Bastrop, LA – The Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation seeks eligible peanut producers who are interested in serving on the National Peanut Board. The Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation will hold a nominations election to select two nominees for member and two nominees for the alternate member to be submitted to the National Peanut Board. 

The Louisiana Peanut Producer Caucus will be held as follows:

Louisiana Peanut Producer Caucus
Wednesday, January 28, 2015 at 9:00 a.m.
LSU Ag Center Morehouse Parish County Agents Office
9609 Marlatt Street, Bastrop, LA
Phone: (318) 281-5741

All eligible peanut producers are encouraged to participate. Eligible peanut producers are those who are engaged in the actual production and sale of peanuts. To be eligible to be nominated, a peanut producer must own or share in the ownership of the peanut crop and have a risk of loss in the crop. Producers must have produced and sold peanuts in the last 2 years and must be able to provide records of production and sales of peanuts to validate their status as an eligible peanut producer. The National Peanut Board collects checkoff contributions from commercial U.S. peanut producers at the first point of sale and uses growers’ checkoff contributions to fund peanut research and promotion.    

Francis Victor Jordan III from Rayville, LA is the current At-Large member who serves on the National Peanut Board and Kyle Baltz from Pocahontas, Arkansas is the current alternate At-Large member. The term for the current At-Large board member and alternate expires Dec. 31, 2014.   

USDA seeks two nominees from each state for each position of member and alternate. The National Peanut Board will submit Louisiana’s slate of nominees to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, who makes the appointments. The National Peanut Board encourages inclusion of persons of any race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation and marital or family status. NPB encourages all persons who qualify as peanut producers to attend the meeting and run for nomination. It is USDA’s policy that membership on industry-government boards and committees accurately reflect the diversity of individuals served by the programs. 

About the National Peanut Board
The National Peanut Board represents all USA peanut farmers and their families. The mission of the Board is to provide USA peanut growers with a receptive and growing market for their peanuts and the information and tools for improved efficiencies. Through research and marketing initiatives the Board is finding new ways to enhance production and increase consumer demand by promoting the great taste, nutrition and culinary versatility of USA-grown peanuts.

Good Progress for Agriculture in 2014

The mid-term elections are finally over, including here in Louisiana after our primaries.

No doubt you’re as relieved as I am to see the campaign ads fade away. Now the holidays are already upon us. As we celebrate with friends and family, it’s a good time to pause, look back and give thanks for the past year. Not much sooner than the holiday dinner dishes are cleared from the table, we’ll also look to what we hope the next year will bring.

At Farm Bureau, we’re proud of the progress we’ve made so far this year, and we are eager to do even more for farmers and ranchers in the coming weeks and months.

Farm Bureau recently announced a historic agreement among agricultural technology companies and farm groups on farm data privacy and security principles. We have led in asking tough questions to ensure data remains secure as new technologies that make farming more efficient also expose farmers and ranchers to new risks. Farmers and ranchers overwhelmingly agree they should own their farm data, and Farm Bureau has played a leading role in educating them about asking the right questions before signing data sharing agreements.

Technological advancements also raise questions for consumers – questions that farmers must be willing and able to answer if we are to maintain access to biotechnology. Farm Bureau has equipped farmers with a new toolkit to help them answer consumers’ questions and dispel biotech myths, and we will be rolling out more resources to explain why agricultural innovation is important to us all.

Speaking of the recent elections, we were pleased to see that voters in Colorado and Oregon recognized that state initiatives requiring that “GMO” products be labeled as such would do more harm than good. Rather than a state-by-state or county-by-county patchwork, we support a national labeling bill introduced in Congress. Consumers have a right to know what’s in their food, but the information should be based on facts, not fear.

The EPA and Corps of Engineers also have been hard at work this year – trying to place more roadblocks on the productive use of farmland. The agencies’ Waters of the U.S. proposed rule amounts to an unprecedented land grab, as its vague and confusing language leaves plenty of loopholes for the agency to regulate most ephemeral drainage features, ditches and small wetlands on farmland and pastures, even if they are only occasionally wet. Hundreds of thousands of comments have been submitted to the public docket, many of them from landowners who joined Farm Bureau in calling for the agencies to Ditch the Rule.

Farm Bureau expects the 113th Congress to be hard at work on this and other key issues in the remaining weeks of this year. It’s time for regulatory overreach to stop standing in the way of common farming activities. We were pleased to see the House stand with farmers and ranchers by passing H.R. 5078, which would block implementation of the “WOTUS” proposed rule. Farm Bureau is urging the Senate also to act before the year ends.

Another top priority for farmers and ranchers is action on several important tax provisions that expired at the end of 2013. Farmers depend on tax incentives like bonus depreciation to increase their cash flow and allow them to purchase equipment without taking on too much debt. Restoring these provisions would help boost rural economies as farmers and ranchers plan their business decisions for the next season.

In a few short weeks, Farm Bureau members from all around the nation will gather in San Diego to set the agenda for next year, while the new Congress will be just getting under way in Washington. As we look to what’s next, we can also be proud of how agriculture has united for action this year, to ensure farmers and ranchers can keep doing their work of feeding a growing world.

Four Farmer Vie for Entrepreneur of the Year

The four finalists have a chance to double their winnings at the 96th annual American Farm Bureau Federation Convention in San Diego.

Each of the four finalists will receive a $15,000 prize with the chance for another $15,000 and being named Rural Entrepreneur of the Year. Farm Bureau’s rural development director Lisa Benson says rural entrepreneurs are the backbone of rural communities and when they thrive, the whole community thrives.

“They really drive the success of rural communities,” Benson said. “But what’s difficult about small businesses is it’s often hard to find seed money. They are often too small to go to their local lenders, and so being able to provide them with seed money through this competition can be critical in them kick starting a new idea or expanding to the next level in their business.”

The four finalists were selected out of a group of more than 200 applications.

“We’ve got Paul Greive who is a farmer in California and his business is Pasturebird LLC,” Benson said. “We’ve got Lee Spiegel and she’s from Pulaski, Virginia, and her business is Pulaski Grow, we’ve got Michael Koenig from Lone Tree, Iowa, with his business Scout Pro and finally we got Suzanne Ellerbrock from Palmyra, Missouri, and her business is Golden Bridges, Inc.

Audience members watching the finalists make their business pitches to judges can vote on a people’s choice winner at the convention.

“On their phone they’ll have an app they can use at the convention and there they can actually select their choice of a winner for the challenge competition. Whichever of the finalist is voted by the audience as their winner, will also become a $10,000 prize winner and win the people’s choice award.”

More information can be found here.

Annual Thanksgiving Survey Shows Modest Increase For Holiday Feast

The American Farm Bureau Federation’s 29th annual informal price survey of classic items found on the Thanksgiving Day dinner table indicates the average cost of this year’s feast for 10 is $49.41, a 37-cent increase from last year’s average of $49.04.

The big ticket item – a 16-pound turkey – came in at $21.65 this year. That’s roughly $1.35 per pound, a decrease of less than 1 cent per pound, or a total of 11 cents per whole turkey, compared to 2013.

“Turkey production has been somewhat lower this year and wholesale prices are a little higher, but consumers should find an adequate supply of birds at their local grocery store,” AFBF Deputy Chief Economist John Anderson said. Some grocers may use turkeys as “loss leaders,” a common strategy deployed to entice shoppers to come through the doors and buy other popular Thanksgiving foods.

The AFBF survey shopping list includes turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a relish tray of carrots and celery, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and beverages of coffee and milk, all in quantities sufficient to serve a family of 10. There is also plenty for leftovers.

Foods showing the largest increases this year were sweet potatoes, dairy products and pumpkin pie mix. Sweet potatoes came in at $3.56 for three pounds. A half pint of whipping cream was $2.00; one gallon of whole milk, $3.76; and a 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix, $3.12. A one-pound relish tray of carrots and celery ($.82) and one pound of green peas ($1.55) also increased in price. A combined group of miscellaneous items, including coffee and ingredients necessary to prepare the meal (butter, evaporated milk, onions, eggs, sugar and flour) rose to $3.48.

In addition to the turkey, other items that declined modestly in price included a 14-ounce package of cubed bread stuffing, $2.54; 12 ounces of fresh cranberries, $2.34; two nine-inch pie shells, $2.42; and a dozen brown-n-serve rolls, $2.17.

The average cost of the dinner has remained around $49 since 2011.

“America’s farmers and ranchers remain committed to continuously improving the way they grow food for our tables, both for everyday meals and special occasions like Thanksgiving dinner that many of us look forward to all year,” Anderson said. “We are blessed to be able to provide a special holiday meal for 10 people for about $5.00 per serving – less than the cost of most fast food meals.”

The stable average price reported this year by Farm Bureau for a classic Thanksgiving dinner tracks closely with the government’s Consumer Price Index for food eaten at home (available online here), which indicates a 3-percent increase compared to a year ago.

A total of 179 volunteer shoppers checked prices at grocery stores in 35 states. Farm Bureau volunteer shoppers are asked to look for the best possible prices, without taking advantage of special promotional coupons or purchase deals, such as spending $50 and receiving a free turkey.

Shoppers with an eye for bargains in all areas of the country should be able to purchase individual menu items at prices comparable to the Farm Bureau survey averages. Another option for busy families without a lot of time to cook is ready-to-eat Thanksgiving meals for up to 10 people, with all the trimmings, which are available at many supermarkets and take-out restaurants for around $50 to $75.

The AFBF survey was first conducted in 1986. While Farm Bureau does not make any scientific claims about the data, it is an informal gauge of price trends around the nation. Farm Bureau’s survey menu has remained unchanged since 1986 to allow for consistent price comparisons.

Ag Coalition Addresses Farm Privacy, Security Concerns

After major concerns about the use of farm data, a coalition of agriculture groups at the National Association of Farm Broadcasters meeting in Kansas City last week agreed to usage principles they would advocate.   

The coalition of major farm organizations and agriculture technology providers (ATPs) have formulated ideas on data privacy and security principles that will encourage the use and development of a full range of innovative, technology-driven tools and services to boost the productivity, efficiency and profitability of American agriculture.

The coalition supporting the principles includes: American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Association, Beck’s Hybrids, Dow AgroSciences LLC, DuPont Pioneer, John Deere, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Corn Growers Association, National Farmers Union, Raven Industries, The Climate Corporation – a division of Monsanto, and USA Rice Federation.

“The principles released today provide a measure of needed certainty to farmers regarding the protection of their data,” said American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman. “Farmers using these technology-driven tools will help feed a growing world while also providing quantifiable environmental benefits. These principles are meant to be inclusive and we hope other farm organizations and ATPs join this collaborative effort in protecting farm-level data as well as educating farmers about this revolutionary technology.”

The principles promise to greatly accelerate the move to the next generation of agricultural data technology, which includes in-cab displays, mobile devices and wireless-enabled precision agriculture that has already begun to boost farm productivity across the United States.

Many analysts compare today’s big-data-driven precision ag to the “green revolution” of the 1960s and 70s, which has likely saved a billion lives or more from starvation since its inception.

Central to the effort surrounding the principles will be grower education initiatives that will include an easy-to-use transparency evaluation tool for farmers. The tool would allow farmers to compare and contrast specific issues within ATP contracts and to see how the contracts align with these agreed-upon principles, and how ATPs manage and use farmers’ data.

“The privacy and security principles that underpin these emerging technologies, whether related to how data is gathered, protected and shared, must be transparent and secure. On this matter, we all agree,” said Stallman. “Farmers are excited about this new technology front, which is why Farm Bureau asked these groups to come together and begin this collaborative dialogue.”

Using precision technology, farmers send large amounts of business and production information to ATPs regarding their planting, production and harvesting practices. Companies use that data to produce “field prescriptions” and benchmarks that provide valuable information farmers can use to make decisions on when, how and which crop varieties to plant, and optimize the application of crop protection and fertilizer inputs. “That’s good for the environment and efficient for food production, too,” Stallman said.

The principles cover a wide range of issues that must be addressed before most farmers will feel assured to share their private business information with data providers. Privacy and Security Principles for Farm Data can be found here.