Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Report highlights the social value of saleyards



This report is from Australia, but the same holds true for local stockyards across America too.

IT has long been understood that cattle and sheep sales are more than places to simply transact livestock, serving also as a regular gathering point and valuable social outlet for the livestock sector. 

However, little research has been conducted to quantify just how valuable saleyards are to the wellbeing of rural communities and the people that attend physical livestock sales.

A new report has now been released seeking to fill that gap, drawing on online surveys of 152 people and in-person interviews with 105 people at six saleyards across five Australian States.

Key findings of the “Social Value of Saleyards Research Report” released on Monday include:

– 96 percent of people identified that when they’re not buying and selling, they are socialising – “catching up with their mates and having a laugh”

– Stakeholders undertake information sharing, networking and market research and learning from one another

– Not being able to attend saleyards led to an increase in loneliness and social isolation for stakeholders

– Saleyard communities provide a ‘hub’ to deliver a range of services to a diverse group of people.

The Social Value of Saleyards Research Report is the result of a research project conducted by Blue Wren Connections and  commissioned by the Australian Livestock Markets Association, the national industry body for saleyard owners and operators in Australia.

Despite a widespread understanding that saleyards bring a vibrancy and energy to communities and sale days are a significant contributor to reducing social isolation, building community identity and promoting well-being in the population, there is a clear absence of research into the social value of sale days at livestock selling centres, the study noted.

ALMA identified that it was important to capture the data to reflect and give evidence of the social value in having saleyards operating in regional communities in rural Australia.

The report said the research provided evidence that saleyards create a place for social connection and when people have limited access to be able to attend, they experience loneliness and social isolation.

“The data suggests stakeholders that attend the saleyards build a sense of connection and belonging through positive social interactions such as: sharing stories, a smile, shaking hands, networking, learning about best practise and industry development and having a meal and a coffee at the canteen.

“For this cohort of rural Australians, saleyards provide a place for connection and storytelling.

“People experience being listened to and this in turn allows for people to feel better about themselves.”

Often people may not discuss the complex topics in their lives, however the positive experiences happening at the saleyards increased people’s well-being, the report noted.

Of those who gave interviews, 57pc reported that they experienced social isolation, 59pc experienced loneliness, 46pc experienced a decline in not being able to share information and learn from peers.

60 percent of participants identified that in addition to buying or selling livestock, they came together at saleyards for social reasons.

To view the full report click here

USDA Announces Framework for Shoring Up the Food Supply Chain and Transforming the Food System to Be Fairer, More Competitive, More Resilient

USDA efforts to create more and better markets will benefit both producers and American consumers through fairer prices, as well as address longstanding issues intensified by pandemic
WASHINGTON, June 1, 2022 - Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is announcing details of a framework to transform the food system to benefit consumers, producers and rural communities by providing more options, increasing access, and creating new, more, and better markets for small and mid-size producers. Today’s announcement builds on lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and supply chain disruptions caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine. This announcement also provides additional details on the June 2021 announcement to strengthen critical supply chains and address longstanding structural challenges that were revealed and intensified by the pandemic.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, USDA made significant investments through its Pandemic Assistance Program, providing immediate relief to producers, businesses, food workers and others. As the pandemic has evolved and Russia’s war in Ukraine has caused supply chain disruptions, it has become clear we cannot go back to the food system we had before: the Biden-Harris Administration and USDA recognize we must build back better and strengthen the food system across the supply chain, from how our food is produced to how it is purchased, and all the steps in between.

The goals of USDA’s Food System Transformation framework include:

  • Building a more resilient food supply chain that provides more and better market options for consumers and producers while reducing carbon pollution: The pandemic and recent supply chain disruptions have revealed the perils of a national food system that depends on capacity concentrated in a few geographic areas and requires many steps to get from farm to fork. In order to be more resilient, the food system of the future needs to be more distributed and local. Having more capacity to gather, process, move and store food in different geographic areas of the country will provide more options for producers to create value-added products and sell locally, which will support new economic opportunities and job creation in rural communities. Additional regional capacity will also give consumers more options to buy locally produced products—helping ensure food is available to consumers—and reduce the climate impact of our food supply chain.
  • Creating a fairer food system that combats market dominance and helps producers and consumers gain more power in the marketplace by creating new, more and better local market options: Just 14 cents of the food dollar go to producers on average – in large part because producers’ power in the marketplace has declined over the past 50 years with increased consolidation in the food system. Today, just a handful of companies dominate meat and poultry processing and just a few multi-national companies produce most brands and products on supermarket shelves. Right now, input prices and food prices are up—but so are the profits of major food companies and national supermarket chains. Covid has revealed the perils of a food system dominated by a few corporate players. USDA’s investments will deliver a better deal for farmers, ranchers, growers and consumers.
  • Making nutritious food more accessible and affordable for consumers: The pandemic exposed and exacerbated the challenges of food and nutrition insecurity in this country. A family in the United States not having access to affordable, nutritious foods is unacceptable. Hard-pressed families—including those who depend on school meals, SNAP, and seniors on fixed incomes—may have limited food options and some communities have been underserved by grocery stores and food retailers, making it difficult to access healthy food. USDA is committed to ensuring every American family has access to affordable, nutritious foods. That is why USDA’s Food System Transformation framework includes programs to ensure all consumers are able to access fresh, healthy, nutritious food.
  • Emphasizing equity: For too long, rural communities, underserved communities, communities that experience persistent poverty, and the people who live there have been left behind. Where you live should not determine a fair shot to economic opportunity. It is in these communities where most of our food comes from; where most of the water that we drink comes from; and where most of the energy we consume comes from. USDA’s Food System Transformation investments will create more economic opportunities for these communities and allow them to retain more of the food system dollar. This will speed the transition to more equitable growth, with the wealth created from these communities remaining in small towns and underserved communities, helping to lift them out of poverty.

USDA investments through the programs included in this framework will help make this vision a reality.

Today’s announcement supports the Biden-Harris Administration’s broader work to strengthen critical supply chains as directed by Executive Order 14017 America's Supply Chains. Funding is provided by the American Rescue Plan Act and other relief legislation.

Friday, April 15, 2022

What You Need to Know about the 2022 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Outbreak


The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) has confirmed the presence of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in commercial and backyard birds in numerous states. HPAI can infect poultry (such as chickens, turkeys, pheasants, quail, domestic ducks, geese, and guinea fowl) and wild birds (especially waterfowl). With the recent detections of HPAI in wild birds and domestic poultry in the United States, bird owners should review their biosecurity practices and stay alert to protect poultry and pet birds from this disease. Non-bird owners should also know the signs and symptoms of this disease for situational awareness and to help with the ongoing surveillance efforts.

The clinical signs of birds with Avian Influenza include:

  • Sudden death without clinical signs
  • Decreased water consumption up to 72 hours before other clinical signs
  • Lack of energy and appetite
  • Decreased egg production
  • Soft–shelled or misshapen eggs
  • Swelling of the head, eyelids, comb, wattles, and hocks
  • Purple discoloration of the wattles, combs, and legs
  • Nasal discharge
  • Coughing, sneezing
  • Lack of coordination
  • Diarrhea

Both domestic and wild birds can be infected and show no signs of illness. Wild birds can carry the disease to new areas when migrating, potentially exposing domestic poultry to the virus. The following bio-safety guidelines are effective methods for safeguarding commercial operations, smaller flocks, and pet birds:

  • Backyard flock owners should practice strict biosecurity, including preventing birds from exposure and/or co-mingling with wild birds and other types of poultry.
  • Shower, change clothes, and clean and disinfect footwear before entering your poultry housing areas.
  • Respiratory protection such as a medical facemask would also be important and remember to always wear clean clothes when encountering healthy domestic birds.
  • Carefully follow safe entry and exit procedures into your flock’s clean area.
  • Reduce the attractiveness for wild birds to stop at your place by cleaning up litter and spilled feed around poultry housing areas.
  • If you have free range guinea fowl and waterfowl, consider bringing them into coops or flight pens under nets to prevent interaction of domesticated poultry with wild birds and their droppings.
  • It is best to restrict visitors from interacting with your birds currently.
  • Do not touch sick or dead wildlife and keep them away from domestic poultry
  • Try not to handle sick or deceased domestic birds (if you must, use proper personal protective equipment to minimize direct contact and cautiously disinfect anything that comes into contact with the deceased and or sick bird).

The United States has the strongest Avian Influenza surveillance program in the world, where we actively look for the disease and provide fair market value compensation to affected producers to encourage reporting. Positive domestic cases are handled by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), and its partners. Sick or deceased domestic birds should be reported to your local veterinarian. Sick or deceased domestic birds should be reported to your local veterinarian.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this strain of Avian Influenza is a low risk to the public. While the transmission rate from animals to humans is low, it is a zoonotic disease, meaning it can be shared between species.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

American Farmland Trust’s No Farms No Food History Never More Relevant as Policy Makers Consider 2023 Farm Bill


New book on the organization’s history shares why uniting farmers, trade groups and the environmental community is critical to a much-needed revolutionary Farm Bill

(Washington, DC) – No Farms No Food: Uniting Farmers and Environmentalist to Transform Agriculture by Don Stuart, published today by Island Press, recounts the history of American Farmland Trust and its success uniting disparate interests to bring about the protection of farmland and ranchland and the conservation of environmental resources on which our food, fuel, feed and fiber production rely—on which society and the planet relies.

No Farms, No Food takes readers inside the political and policy battles that determine the fate of our nation’s farmland and food system. It also illustrates the tactics needed to unify fractured interest groups for the common good. No Farms, No Food is both an inspiring history of agricultural conservation and a practical guide to creating an effective advocacy organization. This is an essential read for everyone who cares about the future of our food, farms and environment.


American Farmland Trust was spawned of a time when our nation faced great social, economic and cultural upheaval. Combine inflation, an oil shock that emptied grocery shelves, a wave of environmental regulation, and a farm industry in crisis.

In the 1980s, national concerns about the environment and urban sprawl, and the prospect of regulatory approaches to addressing these concerns, was met by strong opposition from an already struggling farm community. The farm debt crisis of the 80s drove many farmers out of business. By 1985, only 2.2 percent of the population lived on a farm, down from 30.2 percent in 1920. Farmland values had crashed, and land was being lost to development at the rate of 3 million acres a year. A focus on yield, based on “Get Big or Get Out” policies of the 1970s was driving soil loss, compromising water quality and challenging wildlife and biodiversity.

A transformational Federal Farm Bill was needed. The Federal Farm Bill is a massive legislative package that governs agricultural and food programs and drives much of agricultural practice and action. It is renewed every five years.


In those days, between the private, nonprofit environmental groups and the world of groups representing commercial agriculture, collaboration was largely absent. Environmentalists were convinced that the planet was at risk. Farmers were convinced their industry was on the verge of bankruptcy. Neither saw room for compromise.


American Farmland Trust led a sea change, building a coalition that reshaped the relationship between American agriculture and the broader environment movement.  An early and significant example of that was the introduction of the Conservation Title in the 1985 Farm Bill.


Back then and to this day, AFT has advocated for policies that bridge the agricultural and environmental gap, leading groups to meet in the middle. These principles, clearly outlined in Chapter 10 of No Farms No Food, include understanding and respecting underlying motives and points of view. The arguments AFT makes to farmers are not the same ones the organization used with environmentalists. The case is presented to each side in a manner that is grounded in that constituency’s values, stated in their language and respectful of their point of view. But both arguments are true. And the goal is the same for both -- a better world for farmers and the environment.


We are again at a precipice. The Farm Bill is up for renewal in 2023. With all the pressures impacting agriculture and our environment, including the changing climate, 2028 will be too late to implement what is now urgent.


Since early 2020, Americans have witnessed empty grocery store shelves due to disruptions caused by the pandemic. We are experiencing continued supply change disruptions, rising food prices, an oil shock due to the war in Ukraine, the impacts of climate change including droughts, wildfires, derechos and other extreme weather events.


At the same time, our agricultural base is shrinking. AFT’s 2020 “Farms Under Threat: State of the States” report showed that 2,000 acres a day is being lost or compromised due to ill-planned development. Farmers are on the frontlines and all of us who eat will continue to be impacted if we don’t help drive change.


Securing our agricultural land and stewarding it well, building soil health, protecting water quantity and quality, wildlife and biodiversity is critical to our survival.


We must again reshape the Farm Bill to re-incentivize farmland protection and farming practices that foster productivity, profitability and above all a healthy planet where food is abundant and affordable. This will not be easy, requiring all interests to come together including America’s eaters.


In his foreword to the book, Bill Reilly, former EPA administrator and president of the World Wildlife Fund, who once served as the board chair at American Farmland Trust, wrote: “The current class of climate activists could learn a lesson or two from how AFT has approached his work over the years.”


The blueprint is contained in No Farms No Food: Uniting Farmers and Environmentalist to Transform Agriculture, now available from Island Press.

Complementary media copies are available by emailing Lori Sallet,

Join AFT’s book release event on April 19th, 7:30PM PT, in person in Seattle WA, or virtually. Click here and then click on tickets.

Don Stuart is a former director for AFT’s Pacific Northwest Regional Office and has also served as executive director for the Washington Association of Conservation Districts and executive director for Salmon for Washington, a nonprofit trade association. Stuart is the author of Barnyards and Birkenstocks: Why Farmers and Environmentalists Need Each Other.



American Farmland Trust is the only national organization that takes a holistic approach to agriculture, focusing on the land itself, the agricultural practices used on that land, and the farmers and ranchers who do the work. AFT launched the conservation agriculture movement and continues to raise public awareness through our No Farms, No Food message. Since our founding in 1980, AFT has helped permanently protect over 6.8 million acres of agricultural lands, advanced environmentally-sound farming practices on millions of additional acres, and supported thousands of farm families. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

A simplified solution for vet school applications


WASHINGTON, D.C, April 12, 2022 — The American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) has connected with admissions technology leader, Liaison, to offer Time2Track for pre-veterinary students. This tool simplifies the process of tracking experience hours needed to apply to veterinary schools.

Students applying through the Veterinary Medicine Centralized Application Service (VMCAS™) — created by Liaison and used by nearly every veterinary school in the United States — will now be able to use the Time2Track app to streamline the often-time-consuming process of tracking, documenting and sharing relevant experience hours as part of veterinary school applications. 

“We’re pleased to collaborate on the execution of this new app to make the application process more efficient and user-friendly,” said Dr. Andrew T. Maccabe, CEO of the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges(AAVMC). “This new integration will help applicants document, organize and submit information that helps our member institutions make the best admissions decisions.” 

“This solution helps prospective veterinary school students track and safeguard their earned hours of experience and seamlessly transfer them to their VMCAS application. Most importantly it makes the highly competitive application process a clear pathway to the profession,” said George Haddad, Founder and CEO of Liaison. 

Learn more at Visit to receive the latest updates. For more information on VMCAS and a career in Veterinary medicine, visit

The member institutions of the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) promote and protect the health and wellbeing of people, animals, and the environment by advancing the profession of veterinary medicine and preparing new generations of veterinarians to meet the evolving needs of a changing world. Founded in 1966, the AAVMC represents more than 40,000 faculty, staff, and students across the global academic veterinary medical community. Our member institutions include Council on Education (COE) accredited veterinary medical colleges and schools in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Europe, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand as well as departments of veterinary science and departments of comparative medicine in the U.S.

Over the last three decades, Liaison has helped over 31,000 programs on more than 1,000 campuses more effectively manage admissions through its Centralized Application Service (CAS™) technology and complementary recruitment marketing, processing, and support services. Partnering with over 30 professional associations, the company has developed discipline-wide services for a range of fields, including most of the health professions as well as engineering (EngineeringCAS™), graduate management education (BusinessCAS™), graduate education (GradCAS™), veterinary medicine (VMCAS™), psychology (PSYCAS™) and architecture (ArchCAS™).


Thursday, March 31, 2022

USDA to Provide Payments to Livestock Producers Impacted by Drought or Wildfire

New Emergency Livestock Relief benefits to be delivered through two-phased approach; compensation for 2021 forage losses

WASHINGTON, March 31, 2022 – The U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced that ranchers who have approved applications through the 2021 Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) for forage losses due to severe drought or wildfire in 2021 will soon begin receiving emergency relief payments for increases in supplemental feed costs in 2021 through the Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) new Emergency Livestock Relief Program (ELRP).

“Producers of grazing livestock experienced catastrophic losses of available forage as well as higher costs for supplemental feed in 2021. Unfortunately, the conditions driving these losses have not improved for many and have even worsened for some, as drought spreads across the U.S.,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.  “In order to deliver much-needed assistance as efficiently as possible, phase one of the ELRP will use certain data from the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP), allowing USDA to distribute payments within days to livestock producers.” 

On September 30, 2021, President Biden signed into law the Extending Government Funding and Delivering Emergency Assistance Act (P.L. 117-43). This Act includes $10 billion in assistance to agricultural producers impacted by wildfires, droughts, hurricanes, winter storms and other eligible disasters experienced during calendar years 2020 and 2021. Additionally, the Act specifically targets $750 million to provide assistance to livestock producers for losses incurred due to drought or wildfires in calendar year 2021. ELRP is part of FSA’s implementation of the Act. 

For impacted ranchers, USDA will leverage LFP data to deliver immediate relief for increases in supplemental feed costs in 2021. LFP is an important tool that provides up to 60% of the estimated replacement feed cost when an eligible drought adversely impacts grazing lands or 50% of the monthly feed cost for the number of days the producer is prohibited from grazing the managed rangeland because of a qualifying wildfire.   

FSA received more than 100,000 applications totaling nearly $670 million in payments to livestock producers under LFP for the 2021 program year. 

Congress recognized requests for assistance beyond this existing program and provided specific funding for disaster-impacted livestock producers in 2021.  

ELRP Eligibility – Phase One 

To be eligible for an ELRP payment under phase one of program delivery, livestock producers must have suffered grazing losses in a county rated by the U.S. Drought Monitor as having a D2 (severe drought) for eight consecutive weeks or a D3 (extreme drought) or higher level of drought intensity during the 2021 calendar year, and have applied and been approved for 2021 LFP. Additionally, producers whose permitted grazing on federally managed lands was disallowed due to wildfire are also eligible for ELRP payments, if they applied and were approved for 2021 LFP.

As part of FSA’s efforts to streamline and simplify the delivery of ELRP phase one benefits, producers are not required to submit an application for payment; however, they must have the following forms on file with FSA within a subsequently announced deadline as determined by the Deputy Administrator for Farm Programs: 

  • CCC-853, Livestock Forage Disaster Program Application
  • Form AD-2047, Customer Data Worksheet.
  • Form CCC-902, Farm Operating Plan for an individual or legal entity. 
  • Form CCC-901, Member Information for Legal Entities (if applicable). 
  • Form FSA-510, Request for an Exception to the $125,000 Payment Limitation for Certain Programs (if applicable). 
  • Form CCC-860, Socially Disadvantaged, Limited Resource, Beginning and Veteran Farmer or Rancher Certification, if applicable, for the 2021 program year. 
  • A highly erodible land conservation (sometimes referred to as HELC) and wetland conservation certification (Form AD-1026 Highly Erodible Land Conservation (HELC) and Wetland Conservation (WC) Certification) for the ELRP producer and applicable affiliates. 

ELRP Payment Calculation – Phase One 

To further expedite payments to eligible livestock producers, determine eligibility, and calculate an ELRP phase one payment, FSA will utilize livestock inventories and drought-affected forage acreage or restricted animal units and grazing days due to wildfire already reported by the producer when they submitted a 2021 CCC-853, Livestock Forage Disaster Program Application form.  

Phase one ELRP payments will be equal to the eligible livestock producer’s gross 2021 LFP calculated payment multiplied by a payment percentage, to reach a reasonable approximation of increased supplemental feed costs for eligible livestock producers in 2021.  

The ELRP payment percentage will be 90% for historically underserved producers, including beginning, limited resource, and veteran farmers and ranchers, and 75% for all other producers.  These payments will be subject to a payment limitation.

To qualify for the higher payment percentage, eligible producers must have a CCC-860, Socially Disadvantaged, Limited Resource, Beginning and Veteran Farmer or Rancher Certification, form on file with FSA for the 2021 program year. 

Payments to eligible producers through phase one of ELRP are estimated to total more than $577 million.  

ELRP - Phase Two    

Today’s announcement is only Phase One of relief for livestock producers.  FSA continues to evaluate and identify impacts of 2021 drought and wildfire on livestock producers to ensure equitable and inclusive distribution of much-needed emergency relief program benefits.   

Emergency Relief Program (ERP) Assistance for Crop Producers 

FSA is developing a two-phased process to provide assistance to diversified, row crop and specialty crop operations that were impacted by an eligible natural disaster event in calendar years 2020 or 2021.

This program will provide assistance to crop producers and will follow a two-phased process similar to that of the livestock assistance with implementation of the first phase in the coming weeks. Phase one of the crop assistance program delivery will leverage existing Federal Crop Insurance or Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program data as the basis for calculating initial payments. 

Making the initial payments using existing safety net and risk management data will both speed implementation and further encourage participation in these permanent programs, including the Pasture, Rangeland, Forage Rainfall Index Crop Insurance Program, as Congress intended. 

The second phase of the crop program will be intended to fill additional assistance gaps and cover eligible producers who did not participate in existing risk management programs.   

Through proactive communication and outreach, USDA will keep producers and stakeholders informed as ERP implementation details are made available.   

Additional Livestock Drought Assistance 

Due to the persistent drought conditions in the Great Plains and West, FSA will be offering additional relief through the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-raised Fish Program (ELAP) to help ranchers cover above normal costs of hauling livestock to forage.  This policy enhancement complements previously announced ELAP compensation for hauling feed to livestock.  Soon after FSA announced the assistance for hauling feed to livestock, stakeholders were quick to point out that producers also were hauling the livestock to the feed source as well and encouraged this additional flexibility.   

It is important to note that, unlike ELRP emergency relief benefits which are only applicable for eligible losses incurred in the 2021 calendar year, this ELAP livestock and feed hauling compensation will not only be retroactive for 2021 but will also be available for losses in 2022 and subsequent years.    

To calculate ELAP program benefits, an online tool is currently available to help producers document and estimate payments to cover feed transportation cost increases caused by drought and will soon be updated to assist producers with calculations associated with drought related costs incurred for hauling livestock to forage 

More Information  
Additional USDA disaster assistance information can be found on, including USDA resources specifically for producer impacted by drought and wildfire and the Disaster Assistance Discovery ToolDisaster-at-a-Glance fact sheet, and Farm Loan Discovery Tool. For FSA and Natural Resources Conservation Service programs, producers should contact their local USDA Service Center. For assistance with a crop insurance claim, producers and landowners should contact their crop insurance agent.  

USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. Under the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit  

USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender.

Friday, March 4, 2022

Russia-Ukraine conflict will likely mean hardship, opportunity for agricultural producers


By Ryan McGeeney

U of A System Division of Agriculture 


Fast Facts: 

  • Grain market futures trading highly volatile 
  • Russia leading exporter of fertilizer; input prices continue to rise 
  • U.S. producers may have opportunity for greater corn exports 



LITTLE ROCK — The Russian invasion of Ukraine is causing “gut-wrenching” volatility in grain markets and pushing already high prices for fertilizer and diesel even higher, economists with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture said this week. 

Much of the world, including the United States, is imposing economic sanctions against Russia, including a halt of exports to Russia and the freezing of Russian assets in banks around the world.  


Together, Russia and Ukraine account for about 29 percent of global wheat trade, with Russia the world’s top wheat exporter. Ukraine accounts for about 16 percent of global corn exports. 

Scott Stiles, agricultural economist for the Division of Agriculture, said the situation will offer both opportunities and hardship for growers in Arkansas and elsewhere. 

“Over the past week, prices for the major grains traded to new highs,” Stiles said. July wheat futures contracts rose to $9.42-3/4 on Feb. 25 — the “highest the July contract has traded since February 2011.” 


However, “grain trading following the full invasion has been incredibly volatile,” he said, with July wheat contracts moving 93 cents in one trading session, from $8.50 to $9.42-3/4.   


“Unheard-of and gut-wrenching for growers and end-users alike,” Stiles said.  


Corn futures have been similarly turbulent, ranging from $5.94 to nearly $6.64 during Feb. 24-25 trading. 


How is the conflict affecting grain trade?
On Feb. 24, the Ukrainian government suspended commercial shipping from its ports. Cargill, ADM, Bunge and other privately owned grain companies have suspended operations in Ukraine. 


“At least for the moment, Russian exporters are still fulfilling existing contracts and ships are departing,” Stiles said. “From what I can gather today, the overwhelming majority of world grain importers are not making any new deals with Russia.” 


Stiles said that major wheat importers are currently looking at other sources outside the Black Sea region. ”In the near term, Australia, Canada, the EU and Argentina will see an uptick in wheat exports first,” he said. “The United States may see some increase in wheat exports as well.”  

The United States may see higher corn exports
Both China and the European Union have historically been major purchasers of corn from Ukraine — a market gap U.S. producers will likely have the opportunity to fill. While South America typically exports some amount of corn each year, those supplies won’t be available for a few more months, Stiles said. 

“Before the Ukraine-Russia situation was very concerning, corn and soybean futures had already been on edge due to a drought in key areas of South America,” Stiles said. “Weather issues in south Brazil and northeast Argentina kicked off a soybean price rally in early December.” 

Prices for both corn and soybean have risen steadily since late 2021, as global supplies of both crops have tightened. Cotton and rice prices are likewise at multi-year highs.   

“There's plenty of competition for acreage this year,” Stiles said. 

Input costs on the rise (again)
The Russian-Ukrainian conflict is pushing both fuel and fertilizer prices even higher, at a time when some input costs have already risen 300 percent or more over the previous year. 

“Russia is the world's largest fertilizer exporter,” Stiles said. 

After a brief period of moderation in January, U.S. Gulf prices for di-ammonium phosphate increased steadily throughout February, increasing about 20 percent in total. 


“Gulf urea prices were very volatile last week, trading in a $175/ton range,” Stiles said. “Following the invasion news, Gulf urea prices traded to $705/ton, which hasn't been seen since early January.” 


Belarus, which borders Ukraine to the north, is the third-largest global potash producer, accounting for 18 percent of global production. 


“Potash prices have now increased for three straight weeks,” Stiles said. “Belarus is a land-locked country and has had a transportation agreement with Lithuania for rail movement of potash to a port on the Baltic Sea, but that agreement ended Feb. 1. 


“Belarus is currently without port access,” he said. 


Crude oil has also been trading higher recently. West Texas Intermediate contract futures traded up to $112.51 on March 2. 


“That's the highest WTI crude has traded since May 2011,” Stiles said. “Diesel futures have traded near $3.45. This represents a major cost increase for ag producers. 


“A year ago, diesel futures were trading at $1.83 and WTI was $60 a barrel,” he said. “For growers that weren't able to lock in fuel costs at lower price levels, the sharp rise in energy costs may have some impact on planting decisions.” 


As of March 2, the U.S. had not sanctioned Russian exports of oil and gas, although U.S. President Joe Biden was quoted as saying the move was “on the table.” 


Stiles said there is always a degree of volatility in agricultural commodity trading, given the unpredictability of weather and trade disputes. The introduction of a war that disrupts global grain and energy trade, however, is truly a “black swan” event. 

“A lot depends on how long the conflict lasts,“ Stiles said. “In the near term, it appears Russia and Ukraine will both be out of the global grain market. That is having an impact not only on grain, but energy and fertilizer prices as well.” 


Wednesday, February 9, 2022

American Agricultural Exports Shattered Records in 2021


WASHINGTON, Feb. 8, 2022 – The American agricultural industry posted its highest annual export levels ever recorded in 2021, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced today. The final 2021 trade data published by the Department of Commerce this morning shows that exports of U.S. farm and food products to the world totaled $177 billion, topping the 2020 total by 18 percent and eclipsing the previous record, set in 2014, by 14.6 percent.

“These record-breaking trade numbers demonstrate that U.S. agriculture is incredibly resilient as it continues to provide high-quality, cost-competitive farm and food products to customers around the globe and that the Biden-Harris Administration’s agenda is working for American farmers and producers,” Vilsack said. “This is a major boost for the economy as a whole, and particularly for our rural communities, with agricultural exports stimulating local economic activity, helping maintain our competitive edge globally, supporting producers’ bottom lines, and supporting more than 1.3 million jobs on the farm and in related industries such as food processing and transportation.”

The United States’ top 10 export markets all saw gains in 2021, with six of the 10 – China, Mexico, Canada, South Korea, the Philippines and Colombia – setting new records. Worldwide exports of many U.S. products, including soybeans, corn, beef, pork, dairy, distillers grains and pet food, also reached all-time highs. China remained the top export destination, with a record $33 billion in purchases, up 25 percent from 2020, while Mexico inched ahead of Canada to capture the number two position with a record $25.5 billion, up 39 percent from last year.

“It’s clear that our international trading partners are responding favorably to a return to certainty from the United States,” Vilsack said. “We owe our thanks to America’s agricultural producers who always work hard to be reliable global suppliers and the Biden-Harris Administration and USDA are fighting hard on their behalf to keep our home-grown products moving around the world. We’re strengthening relationships with our trading partners and holding those partners accountable for their commitments. We’re addressing transportation and infrastructure challenges through the work of the Administration’s Supply Chain Task Force and calling out ocean carriers that are putting profits above their responsibility to serve both importers and exporters. And we’re expanding opportunities for agricultural exports by knocking down trade barriers and partnering with industry on marketing and promotion efforts worldwide.”

For a detailed summary of 2021 U.S. agricultural exports by market, view the 2021 U.S. agricultural exports by market summary.

For a detailed summary of 2021 U.S. agricultural exports by product, view the 2021 U.S. agricultural exports by product summary.