USDA: It’s not just for farmers

Volatility is up in markets and the world economy. Some of that volatility could impact your business, say Mike Boehlje and Allan Gray.

Boehlje and Gray, both Purdue University Extension ag economists, believe volatility will continue to be a hallmark for the foreseeable future in agriculture. As an example, Boehlje points to what happened when USDA issued its final crop report for the 2009 crop. Prices for corn fell more than 10% in two days. Compared to historical price trends, that’s extremely volatile.

And as if that isn’t enough, USDA’s “final crop report for 2009” may not be final after all. The agency reserved the right to adjust final numbers again.

Key Points

• Volatility in the markets and the economy is up this spring.

• How farmers decide to use 6 million new acres will drive the markets.

• Expert advice: Get to know how other federal agencies function.

Wild card

The biggest unknown was the 6 million acres that could go into additional crops this spring, Boehlje says. Some land will likely roll out of the Conservation Reserve program. The rest of the 6 million acres would normally be growing wheat right now.

Terrible weather prevented many farmers from getting wheat planted. Many speculate that the bulk of those acres will go to corn.

Volatile issues

At the same time that economic volatility increases, farmers are in a new ballgame regarding major policy issues. There’s also a fundamental shift in who farmers should talk with to keep a seat around the discussion table. USDA is no longer the major player in every ag issue, Boehlje says.

Boehlje and Gray recently listed their top six policy issues facing agriculture. They include energy questions, immigration policy, environmental controls, food safety regulations, transportation issues and trade concerns. Call USDA and you’ll likely be referred to a different agency, Boehlje observes.

Farmers traditionally haven’t talked to people in those other agencies. In most instances farmers haven’t even been at the table when decisions affecting agriculture were made.

This is a fundamental shift that impacts agriculture, Boehlje says. His advice? Identify the players and become familiar with them.

Players change in agriculture

Here are just some of the federal agencies that could directly impact your operations. Use this information to learn more about them.

Environmental Protection Agency. Visit www.epa.gov. Learn how to comment on proposed regulations. You can subscribe to EPA updates via e-mail.

Food and Drug Administration.Check out www.fda.gov. For specific information about the history of FDA and how it views biotech traits, try www.cfsan.fda.gov/~lrd/biotechm.html.

Farm Credit Administration. This one is classified as an independent government agency. Find information at www.fca.gov.

Department of Energy. Visit www.energy.gov. Click on “Energy Sources,” then on “Renewables” to learn about alternative energy sources.

Department of Transportation.Find information at www.dot.gov. Click on “frequently asked questions” to navigate your way to information about transporting hazardous materials and more.

Fish and Wildlife Service. See it at www.fws.gov. Endangered Species has its own pull-down bar on the home page.

U.S. Forestry Service. Visit www.fs.fed.us. Find information on everything from state and private forestry to urban and community forestry.

This article published in the March, 2010 edition of INDIANA PRAIRIE FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.