Monthly Archives: January 2011

I spent two days at the Rend Lake Resort for the 2011 Southern Illinois Crop Protection Conference.  More accurately I spent two days in a meeting room trying to hold my head up.  It wasn’t fun with a head cold.

I really needed to get a head start this year on my CCA credits and not get behind like I did last year.  I have also been sick with the flu and running to the hospital to see dad when I could as well.  So there is nothing like sitting in a dim lit windowless room on a metal folding chair for eight hours a day heavily medicated.  But I survived.

Overall the conference was OK but nothing new that hasn’t been said at the last three of four meetings I have been to.  That being said, I have to say that for the most part the overall message from the meeting I got was that “our conclusions are that we need more research before we draw any conclusions”.  Fair enough, that’s the mantra of the researcher, to do more research.  But you have to give me something more than that to live on between meetings.  At the very least the data that was presented was not biased, even if it didn’t match 100% with what I have seen in some instances with field observations. 

In a conversation with another attendee, he made the comment that what one presenter said was opposite to what one of the “staff agronomists” has been saying in one of the farm magazines.  He was correct, but as I pointed out that the staff agronomist never published his research data, or his analysis of the data he used, to come to the conclusion in the story headline.  Matter of fact, I doubt very seriously if they do any replications over many locations.  I also pointed out that he and his sidekick are most likely getting a huge kickback to push all the stuff they are testing and saying makes 10-20 bu/ac differences, so they can’t be taken seriously. 

I also mentioned that I have stopped taking all but two or three farm magazines anymore for that reason. Between the half-truths of the info that some present to help sell a product, and the lack of timely information getting to the field of others, they are just not relevant sources of agronomic information anymore. 

The internet and social media have replaced all but two or three of these publications.  And as sad as that seems, they have just about replaced my need to attend CCA type meetings also.  With the lack of relevant timely information being disseminated at these meetings, if it weren’t for the CE Credits,  in most cases there would be no reason to attend.

At the Illinois Farm Bureau/ FFA Acquaintance Day, speaking on Ag Careers. I had to post a picture of the Benton High School FFA crew in attendance. Mr. Page looks pleased!

Illinois Farm Bureau President Phil Nelson gives the students some closing remarks at the end of the day.  Phil did a pretty good job and his comments should have hit home with the crowd.

Sorry for the grainy pictures, taken with my phone inside with the bad lights!

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Well, I have had trouble keeping my blog up to date this last week. Its been pretty tough with me having the flu and trying to be at the hospital with dad. So as I sit here in the hospital waiting for his surgery I thought I would try a mobile update.

Grain prices keep going up and have reached an area where some are starting to speculate if they are good for agriculture. All I know is that it is making all of our marketing plans seem stupid right now. At some point there is going to be a correction to levels that are lower, I would assume.

One of the things about sitting here is that I am trying to finish up at least one of the five books I am reading. All of them are good and I will do a review of them when I get them finished. Plus I need to do a review of the two I finished before Christmas as well.

A speaking engagement tomorrow and two CCA meetings Wednesday and Thursday will keep any progress on that to a minimum.

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What a great way to spend 20 min of your time…………

I am a bit under the weather so a short post today. 

I got the seemingly annual January email “Weather for 2011″ today.  I rarely spend the time to read this email when it comes.  I remember taking “Weather 101″ at SIU as an undergrad with Doc Horsley to fulfill one of my science credits. I remember his comment that “beyond 24 hrs, we are just really guessing” when it came to forecasting.  Granted that was 20 some odd years ago and that things have gotten much better in the meteorolgy business… or have they?

Upon reading the email, there seems to be a lot of guessing, or at least odds playing going on.  Some of the highlights that make me think that are:  2011 will be similar to 56, 68 and 71 (none of those years do I remember), a much later start to planting than last year (last year was the earliest ever), no Midwest crop production problems anticipated (I never anticipate any either, they just happen) and lower sunspots suggesting a cooler summer (BTW we are in solar cycle 24, a major upswing in sunspot activity). 

I do know one thing for sure, that it is currently 35deg F outside right now and it is dark.  And tomorrows weather will be different.  And beyond 24 hours, the weather folks are still guessing a lot.

Well the snow had just about disappeared today.  More in the forecast for Sunday/Monday. 

Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs makes the case for Agriculture to get off its butt and make the connection to the rest of the world by advocating for farmers. via Agwired

I understand regression and inferential statistics.  I am not a statistical genius by any stretch, but I sure do like playing with statistics.  The two semesters I had of them in grad school just a few years ago were two of the hardest and most fun semesters of graduate school.  I really enjoyed the classes.  I enjoyed statistics. 

Enjoyed maybe too much. It ruined me on buying lottery tickets and raffle tickets at fundraisers.  Yea, I still buy a raffle ticket, but not a hand full, just one.  It also gets me in trouble at plot tours, field days and sales meetings with seed and chemical salesmen.  I question their sample size, plot design and resulting conclusions.  

I also question their yield vs. economic responses.  Farmers are hung up on yield.  Well that’s alright because everything we do is based on a yield.  You get paid on what you grow.  But you had better get paid more for that yield than what it cost you to grow it.  

And that is where I get in trouble.  Below are a couple of examples of selling yield or lack there of over the return in dollars to get that yield.  

Example 1 is a yield significant/economic non significant scenario that is pretty common in Ag right now.  The treatment to a growing crop results in a 5 bu/ac yield increase.  That yield increase is significant, as in the likely hood that the result is caused by the treatment is greater than random chance.  So by doing X you get a 5 bu yield increase.  Lest say that yield is corn:  Corn is $5 a bushel.  So you grossed a 5 bu increase at $5/bu for $25/ac.  But it cost you $26 to get the 5 bushel increase.  So I lost a dollar (-$1) in the end……….I lost money by increasing yield.  Then why do it?  

Example 2 is a yield non significant/economic significant scenario that is also pretty common today.  The treatment to a growing crop results in a 5 bu/ac yield increase.  That yield increase is NOT significant, as in the likely hood that the result is caused by the treatment is not greater than random chance.  So by doing X you get a 5 bu yield increase that could or could not be caused by the treatment.  But more often than not you get a 5 bu yield increase.  Lest say that yield is corn:  Corn is $5 a bushel.  So you grossed a 5 bu increase at $5/bu for $25/ac.  But it cost you $10 to get the 5 bushel increase.  So I gained or netted $15 in the end……….I gained money by increasing yield an insignificant amount.  Then why not do it?  

Both cases point to a flaw in our research models in Ag.  We assume that the underlying result of any practice we use has to be a significant yield increase.  Yes, I would hope anything I do results in a significant yield increase.  BUT ONLY IF IT MAKES ME MONEY.  I also would like to know if the economic return is significant (or at least greater than 50/50) for any treatment even when the yield may not be significant by a statistical model.  

In other words, farming is a business.  What is my return on investment for any practice despite the results of a significant yield response?  In the end it’s about net dollars earned, not winning the yield trophy. 

A few random thoughts tonight.  I fear that I may break my first “New Years Change” from just a few days ago……..

First.  All day today my phone has sounded the alarm for a “Special Weather Statement”. Often all day. To the point I don’t care. When has a 1-3 inch snow event in January become a “special weather event”. Its winter. IT SNOWS IN WINTER. Its not an ice storm, or blizzard or freezing rain or anything other than SNOW. IT SNOWS IN WINTER. I would expect 1-3 inches of snow from a front in WINTER.

A 1-3 inch snow event in July would require a “special weather statement“. That would be special, if not freaky or weird or scary or something. Snow in July is “special” but snow in January is NORMAL.

Second.  While tragic and sad the shootings in Tucson do not require 24/7 coverage by the press. The media has in normal fashion blown this thing way up and out, making it sensational news, calling in experts for analysis and doing special reports AND MAKING UP NEWS as they go along. My disgust for the media, both the left and right, has gone up a full notch the last two days. Why not give the same attention and coverage to our servicemen and women when they are shot in Iraq or Afghanistan? Or to the deaths of hundreds of people in third world countries who are killed because of their religious beliefs or because they belong to the wrong tribe.  Why not spend hours reporting on cancer or aids or the hungry in this country.  Because it doesn’t sell………Media, YOU SUCK.

Last.  To those political jackwagons on both sides of the aisle who are tyring to make political hay out of this event, sit your butts down and shut your mouths.  Nobody cares what you think either.  You should be equally ashamed if not more than the press should be. Then again your both cut from the same low life, dirty cloth.  You feed off each other and deserve each other.  Ambulance Chasing Politicians, You suck, all of you, both sides, you suck.

There, I feel much better now………..

And I broke my first “Change” only 10 days into the new year.

Trying out a new phone app so that I can post on the road. We will see how this works and post a picture!

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Just returned from the Illinois Extension Corn and Soybean Classic at Mt Vernon. This is my third meeting this week. Tuesday and Wednesday I was in St Louis attending and speaking at the Farm Futures magazine “Business Summit”. 

I want to say a big THANK YOU to Mike Wilson, Arlan Suderman and Wille Vogt for the invite and allowing me to be on the program.  I consider it to be a high honor to be able to speak to the “life long learners of Agriculture”, as David Kohl described those in attendance.  I think that the Farm Futures Summit is “The” meeting of the year.  

Once again it was a great conference with a lot of good information being passed.  I always leave the meeting positive, pumped up, and eager for the new year of farming when it is over.  The highlight for me, aside from speaking, was the Bear Pit with Kohl, Mike Boehlje and Barry Flichbaugh.  It was a fascinating discussion between the three of them on the panel.  The historical perspective that Dave, Mike and Barry bring with their comments are unbelievable.  I felt sorry for Bryce Knorr and Darrell Dunteman on the stage as they were never able to get a word in edge-wise.  

Because I was speaking, I didn’t get to hear some of the conference, but did get to sit in on about 75% of it.  Several people have asked for my notes or comments from the meeting so here are a few of the things that struck me from my scribbled notes.  Perhaps @daver819 at his blog and @jmackson at his can correct me or contribute any holes in my notes.

Watch China. 

Most Ag inputs tied to Oil.  You should watch oil. 

Profit potential for over $250/ac in corn in 2011.   To quote Boehlje “BOOK IT!” You need to be locking in a profit. 

Protect yourselves with crop insurance.  Again to Quote Boehlje “look at 85% coverage, suck it up and buy it”.  

Some farmers operating line might be getting too big for their local community banks to handle. 

Commercial real estate financing still a problem.

Interest Rates headed to double digits 2012-2015. 

All farmers need a technology buying plan as speed picks up in technology updates 

Farmers should consider having 60-90 days cash “on hand” in the event of a volatility caused short term crisis. 

Who owns American Debt:  Japan, China, Great Britain, “Silk Suits” and IRAN

Reading is fundamental.  But you need to read more than farm magazines.  Read things like the Wall Street Journal and the Economist.  They will tell you more about things that are getting to ready to happen in Ag, than a story on twin row planting that was written 2 months ago. 

60 percent of the worlds fertilizer production takes place in militarily or politically sensitive areas of the world.   Think about that for a while. 

China is buying as much rare earth minerals as it can.

Fertilizer prices are still going to follow commodity prices for the most part. 

Volatility is high. Locking in profit margins is going to be critical.

 Grain charts indicate we may be close to the high.

China and India must maintain 8-10 percent growth rates to keep commodity prices bullish.

Grain Stocks are at 15 year low. Weather has the greatest impact. 

Game Changers for AG:  Asia/China, ethanol, low value of the dollar, weather and health of livestock industry. 

Current Ag Land investors:  70% traditional investors, 15% 70-90 yr olds, 15% silk suits. 

Top 25% making greater than 10% margin. Lowest 25% making less than 1%. 

Our economy is still fragile, but AG is the bright spot.  That could all change pretty fast. 

And the Championship Farm must have a good Offense, Defense and Special Teams. (lock in profit, risk management and manage interest rates –from Kohl) 

That is all I have for right now, more will come to me as I decompress and filter my notes.  But if you get a chance yet this winter and can get to a meeting with Dr’s Kohl, Boehlje or Flichbaugh, DO IT.  Your mind will be expanded and your heart renewed for Agriculture.

Thanks Farm Futures, again.

Home from Farm Futures Management Summit. Another great day. David Kohl with three hours of great material, so much that it will take a day or so to filter it all out before I can make a post.  Arlan Suderman gave a great market outlook that again is just amazing in detail.

But, before I can get a good post done on this meeting, it’s off to the Corn and Soybean Classic at Mt Vernon.  CCA credits tomorrow.

What an awesome day of of the Farm Futures Summit.  This has to be the premier meeting of this type in the nation.  I and am not saying that because I was speaking there today.

We just finished up the night with David Kohl, Barry Flichbaugh and Mike Boehlje in the Bear Pit, a question and answer session that will make your head spin.  The historical perspective they bring to the meeting along with their analysis and comments are incredible.  I wish I could strive to be that competent and thorough in my studies of topics I am interested in. 

Tired with lots of stuff running around in my head…………but ready for tomorrow and more of David Kohl, Wilie Vogt, Bryce Knorr and Arlan Suderman. 

A more complete report later………..

Well, it’s January 3rd and the new year is now fully underway with the first official business day. 

Official business here today is to take a trip to the FSA office to make a report,  a lunch meeting with the county Farm Bureau Manager and Board President, finish up some details for another meeting, and then get ready for the Farm Futures Management Summit tomorrow.  So its going to be a full day!

I got done hauling my January corn contracts last week, which I’m glad is done because I don’t see a time in the next 10 days when I could have hauled. 

Well short post Monday, off to the races……….!

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