The United States and South Korea announced they will launch negotiations on a free trade agreement. A successful deal would be the biggest free trade pact the U.S. has reached since 1993, when an agreement was reached to tear down barriers with Mexico and Canada. Negotiations are expected to take at least a year and would need approval of the Congress. Meanwhile, the South Korean government is expecting stiff opposition within its borders, especially from South Korean farmers. In the past, farmers there have staged violent street protests in an effort to keep the trade protections they enjoy. U.S. farmers enjoy some subsidies of their own ... some of which may face the chopping block both through world trade talks and potentially under the President's 2007 budget plan to be released next week. Meanwhile, American farming is holding its own – at least when it comes to the land.
USDA estimates there were 2.1 million farms in 2005 – down point-six (.6) percent. Total acreage for 2005 was just over 933 (M) million acres – down 2.9 million acres from 2004.
The USDA says the decline in the number of farms and farmland reflects a continuing consolidation in farming operations, diversion of agricultural land to nonagricultural uses and retirement.
In cattle production, The USDA says the number of cattle operations totaled 982,510 during 2005. That's down 1 percent from 2004 and 3 percent below 2003.
On the pork side, the USDA said hog operations totaled 67,330 last year. That's down 3 percent from 2004. The report says 79 percent of the inventory is in operations with 2-thousand or more head.