CME: USDA Announces Workshop Dates and Topics

by 5m Editor
18 November 2009, at 6:33am

US - USDA and the Department of Justice have announced the dates and subjects for a series of “workshops“ on the status of competition in agriculture, report Steve Meyer and Len Steiner.

The workshops are intended to look at current structure of agricultural input supply, production and processing as well as the behavior of firms within those sectors and the impacts on prices. The schedule and topics are:

  • 12 March 2010 in Ankeny, Iowa — Issues of Concern to Crop Farmers. Will focus on seed technology, vertical integration, market transparency and buyer power.

  • 21 May 2010 in Normal, Alabama — Poultry Industry. Production contracts will be a major focus. In addition, they will look at concentration and buyer power.

  • 7 June 2010 in Madison, Wisconsin — Dairy Industry. The focus may include concentration, marketplace transparency and vertical integration.

  • 26 August 2010 in Fort Collins, Colorado — Livestock Industry. The session will address beef, hog and other animal (we assume that is primarily lamb) sectors and may include enforcement activities of the Packers and Stockyards Act as well as a discussion of concentration.

  • 8 December 2010 in Washington, DC — Will look at “discrepancies“ between the prices received by farmers and the prices paid by consumers.

These workshops will, we believe, be more akin to field hearings though no definite formats have been provided. The schedule suggests that USDA and DOJ will take a very broad look at agricultural markets. It also suggests that they are not going to move quickly since the meetings span virtually all of 2010. They are still worthy of our (and your) attention since they carry the possibility of some changes (perhaps LARGE changes) in marketing institutions and practices.

US sow slaughter has fallen rather dramatically from the 70,000-plus weekly runs of August. It is no coincidence, of course, that this decline has corresponded to a healthy rally in CME Group Lean Hogs futures. What a concept: The futures markets say 5 or 6 months of next year will provide profits and producers decide they need to either 1) stay in the business or 2) keep production levels near current levels. Markets indeed work!

These sow slaughter data run two weeks in arrears but we do have some data from the mandatory price reporting system that tell us the number of sows PURCHASED on the current day (and thus week) by packers who are subject to reporting. They represent about 75 per cent of total sow slaughter each day. Those purchase data suggest that slaughter the past two weeks, represented by the green diamonds) has increased a bit again — to about 67,000 head.

US sows are accounting for a higher proportion of total sow slaughter in recent weeks. Since mid-September, 17 per cent of sows slaughtered have been from Canada where 21 per cent came from there from 1 July through mid-September. We believe some of that decline is due to Canadian producers waiting to see the results of the first round of hog farm buyouts in Canada. The Canadian Pork Council announced last week that the first round would buy out 74 hog farms and remove 21,997 sows within the next few months. No timetable for the reduction was included but we do know that these animals will move into the food supply so we expect sow slaughter to grow in weeks to come.