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Market Plus: Jul 20, 2007: Doug Jackson and Walt Hackney

posted on July 20, 2007

Market Plus: Jul 20, 2007: Doug Jackson and Walt Hackney Pearson: This is the Friday, July 20th, 2007 version of market plus here at our Market to Market Website. Hey, we're glad you've joined us, always great to have both Doug Jackson and Walt Hackney with us on the show and to talk about what's ahead in these markets. And we're going to talk to Walt about what's going on with the cow herd. But Doug Jackson, I wanted to come back to this acreage issue. You were talking about how on the show we're close to 93 million planted acres of corn, we may need more depending on where we come out for a crop this year. But the soybean market is up over $9, that's pretty enticing for producers. This battling of acres, what do you see happening going forward?

Jackson: Well, that's right, Mark. Basically what we have here is the market understands that we have a general inadequacy of acres as we move into 2008. The corn market was able to avoid a crisis by shifting four times as many acres from soy and other commodities into corn production but common sensically you can't continue to do that year after year. We've halved our bean stocks this coming year and during the show we talked about the idea that we don't believe that you could simultaneously increase North American and South American acres enough to simultaneously satisfy bean demand as well as corn and wheat. So, even though the August crop report which will be very interesting will be important, really, Mark, the more important aspect of things in the aftermath of that August crop report will be the Secretary of Agriculture's decision on whether to liberalize and open the conservation reserve program acreage situation or not. He said he would make that decision after he had the data from the August crop report. And if he's going to do anything about opening acres you've got to do it by September or soon there after to let farmers deal with that, plan for that and manage that ground. The bottom line is we do not believe that we're going to have enough acres in 2008 to satisfy all three major crop balance tables if they don't liberalize and open that conservation reserve program. A perfect solution to this acreage inadequacy would be to open, partially open the conservation program on low errodability index acres. We have some precedent for that, maybe you'd open up 10 million acres of the 35 million and let the market pull those acres into production. Now, while it might be just short-term a little bit bearish if they make that decision the Secretary runs the risk that if he doesn't make that decision and act proactively here he may be the Secretary of Agriculture that ushers in a food disaster by not allowing enough acres to come into production, just be market forces. But this will be a very politically sensitive thing and if the August crop report doesn't show a real crisis developing what we're afraid of is they won't have the political will to do that, environmental pressures and other will keep them from making that decision in which case then the market will have to panic, if you will, to try to pull acres in with price and that's going to be -- eventually, Mark, we must open the conservation reserve program. Anybody else, any environmentalist or anybody else that thinks that's not required I think is just missing, doing some overly simplified thinking. We don't have enough acres to keep up with the biofuels demand you're going to have to bring production in vis-à-vis that conservation reserve program but how they handle that here in the next few months will be critical to our long-term price prospects. That will make or break the 2008 situation maybe right up front and that's coming up here just in the next few weeks.

Pearson: Of course, as you mentioned, tightest wheat supplies ever. When a lot of these scenarios are put together we're looking at substantial wheat carry over worldwide.

Jackson: See, the wheat can't give up acres either. Now, Mark, the acreage is in South America, there's 250 million acres of untouched Cerado ground, 500 million acres of pasture. But what we really have to do in the big picture is take bean prices permanently up to a level that will get double digit percentage increases in northern Brazilian production year after year after year. And with the Asian rust expenses, high transportation costs, no infrastructure and the sky-high currency there it may take $10 futures permanently to do that long-term. That's where the acres are, you've got to go get them.

Pearson: Alright, wild scenario for what's ahead, again, for the U.S. crop sector, the feed and food grains and the oil seed sector. Let's talk about the livestock business. Walt Hackney, a couple of years ago I said we're going to expand the cow herd and you said, no, you didn't think so. You said maybe a percent. USDA came out later and they said maybe a percent. Said this year, Walt, do you think we could expand with feed grain use? Maybe a percent but you didn't expect any. We haven't got any. Are we going to finally expand this cow factory out there? What's going on?

Hackney: That is really an interesting overview of what is taking place for three straight years, Mark. As you stated we haven't had any expansion. The reason we haven't is two-fold, high priced hay costs, the inability to winter cattle adequately. They couldn't afford to keep extra heifers. As a result the markets kept that heifer price high enough they couldn't afford to keep her because of the cash flow addition she gave to their operation by selling her. So, we've had that for consecutively three straight years. Now, this year we're looking at an interesting, the cattle on feed came out today along with the national inventory of the beef herd and the dairy herd. They show no increase or no reduction yet on heifers kept for breeding is down six percent. Now, what does that tell us, Mark? It tell us we've got an aging cow herd out there that's going to absolutely have to be called if not this coming fall it's going to have to be called in huge numbers next fall. The point is what's going to replace them? It takes two years to get a calf out of a kept heifer as you're aware. So, if we're down six percent where does that put us? I think it may put us at two under our cow herd average, two percent going into 2008 considering where we're at right now.

Pearson: So, negative expansion at this stage.

Hackney: That's the way it looks.

Pearson: Walt, as usual interesting analysis, we appreciate it. Doug Jackson, thank you, we appreciate it. That's going to wrap up market plus for this week. Thank you for joining us. Be sure to tell your friends and neighbors to join us here at our Market to Market Website. From all of us here on Market to Market, I'm Mark Pearson. Have a great week.

Tags: agriculture commodity prices markets news