Beef: It’s What’s for Import


by David Widmar

The cattle markets have started to feel the same downward price pressures that have weighed on nearly every commodity market. From oil to corn and soybean, “too much” production has been a common theme. And while the cattle industry was looking to rebuild the cow herd, a recent surge of beef imports has also added to the beef supply. This week’s post takes a look at how significant beef imports have been. Continue reading

Acres and Acre-Feet; A Look at Irrigation Trends in the US


by David A. Widmar

We have argued that not only have U.S. farmers increased cropland acres during the recent commodity boom, they have improved the productivity of existing acres. Driving across the Corn Belt I’ve noticed several new irrigation systems being put up in recent years. This is one obvious example of an investment aimed at improving productivity. A trifecta of events – high grain commodity prices, record net farm income, and the 2012 drought – has seemed to fuel interest in irrigation. In this post, we looked at the irrigation data across the county to identify the trends that have emerged and see how windshield observations line up with the reality of data. Specifically, the acres of irrigation and the intensity of irrigation was evaluated.

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The Aging American Farmer

by David A. Widmar

One of the most well known trends in American agriculture is the aging farmer. Year after year, the average age of the U.S. farmers has increased. This trend was confirmed, yet again, with the release of the 2012 USDA Census of Agriculture.

Figure 1 shows the USDA’s estimate of the average age of a producer from 1945 to 2012. Over the 64 years of data, the average age increased by 9.6 years. In the five years between the 2012 and 2007 census, the average age ticked up by 1.2 years. (In 1978 the average age was reported as being younger than the previous census, but it should be noted that this was most likely the results of changes in survey sampling procedure.) Continue reading