Farmers’ Share Of Food Dollar At Record Low

USDA’s Economic Research Service’s Food Dollar Series recently revealed that in 2016 the farmers’ share of the food dollar fell to 14.8 cents, down 4.5 percent from the prior year and the lowest level since the series was launched in 1993.

When adjusted for inflation, in 2009 dollars, the farmers’ share of the food dollar was 12.2 cents, down 11.6 percent from 2015 and again the lowest level since the series began.

The farmers’ share of the $1 spent on domestically produced food represents the percentage of the farm commodity sales tied to that food dollar expenditure.

Non-farm related marketing associated with the food dollar, i.e. transportation, processing, marketing, etc., rose to a record-high of 85.2 cents.

USDA tracks several other methods of food consumption in the Food Dollar Series.

For 2016, the farmers’ share of food consumed at home was 23.6 cents, down 2.9 percent from the prior year. For food and beverages consumed at home, the farm share was 18.9 cents, down 3.8 percent from 2015.

The largest decline in the farm share of the food dollar was in food consumed away from home.

The farm share of food away from home was 4.4 cents, down 10.2 percent from the prior year.

The smaller share of the food dollar consumed outside of the home is attributable to the costs of restaurant food service and preparation.

For all but the food and beverage dollar consumed at home and the food at home dollar, the farmers’ share of the food dollar is at record-low levels.

Time to Check for Winterkill Injury

Winterkill Injury

There is a wide range of winterhardiness among alfalfa varieties. Some varieties may have suffered winterkill injury this winter, especially where the crop had no snow cover. Like in wheat, winterkill in alfalfa occurs when the crown is frozen. When this occurs, the taproot will turn soft and mushy. In the early spring, check for bud and new shoot vigor. Healthy crowns are large, symmetrical and have many shoots. Examine them for delayed green-up, lopsided crowns and uneven shoot growth. If any of these characteristics are present, check the taproots for firmness. Some plants may even begin to green-up and then die. Plants putting out second leaves are likely unaffected.

Interseeding alfalfa to thicken an alfalfa stand will generally not work. If the stand is one year old or less, plants will generally come up and then be outcompeted by the survivors from last year. Large dead spots should be disked first and then seeded. If the stand is two or more years old, interseeding alfalfa will not work because of autotoxicity.

Heaving Effect

As the soil freezes and thaws, alfalfa stands can be damaged by the heaving effect. This will be more likely to occur where soils are not under continuous snow or ice cover and where temperatures have been in the single digits at night. This winter has been cold enough to freeze the soil where it is not under snow cover. Soils with high levels of clay are especially prone to winter heaving.

If heaving has occurred, dig up some plants to determine if the taproot is broken. Plants with broken taproots may green-up, but they perform poorly and eventually die. Slightly heaved plants can survive, but their longevity and productivity will be reduced. Crowns that heaved 1″ or less are not as likely to have a broken taproot. With time, these plants can reposition themselves. Raised crowns are susceptible to weather and mechanical damage. Raise cutterbars to avoid damaging exposed crowns.

Evaluating Plants and Stands

Producers should start to evaluate the health of their alfalfa stands as soon as the soil thaws.

  • Look at the crowns and roots.
  • Buds should be firm, and white or pink in color if they have survived with good vigor.
  • The bark of roots should not peel away easily when scratched with a thumbnail.
  • When cut, the interior of healthy roots will be white or cream in color.

When alfalfa growth reaches 4 to 6″, producers can use stems per square foot to assess density measure. A density of 55 stems per sq. ft. has good yield potential. There will probably be some yield loss with stem counts between 40 and 50 per sq. ft. Consider replacing the stand if there are less than 40 stems per sq. ft., and the crown and root health are poor.

If an established stand was injured by winterkill or heaving, and large patches are dead, producers may want to buy some time before replacing the stand by temporarily thickening the bare areas with red clover. Red clover is not as susceptible as alfalfa to the plant toxins released by alfalfa (allelopathy) and helps provide good quality forage.

 

Spring Manure Applications

Carefully Approach Spring Manure Applications

Appropriate timing is an important part of efficient manure application.

At this time of year you may be looking at a full manure storage and desire to get an early jump on application for the coming growing season. Patience can pay off in the form of manure nutrient conservation. After all, the goal of manure application is to place valuable nutrients on the soil where they are needed and to keep them there. A large part of this equation is timing. The closer the nutrient is applied to actual crop need the better.

The goal of manure application is to place valuable nutrients on the soil where they are needed and to keep them there.

Application of nutrients during times of snow-cover, frozen soil, or saturated conditions increases risk of nutrient loss. Once a nutrient passes the field edge it is lost to the environment – and lost from crop uptake. A fraction of both nitrogen and phosphorus in manure will be present in soluble forms. If the liquid solution of manure can infiltrate the soil then soluble nutrients will infiltrate with the liquid to a location that is safe from overland runoff. The ammonium nitrogen fraction will also be safe from volatilization after it is beneath the soil surface. Frozen, snow-covered, and saturated soil conditions hinder infiltration. Spring rain events can carry both the soluble and solid portions of manure from the field.

If you must apply manure before conditions are ideal, you should go to fields specifically listed in your nutrient or manure management plan to receive manure during the current season. Some things that limit risk of manure nutrient loss include fields with shallow slopes, fields with a perennial crop such as hay, fields with a cover crop, fields with lots of crop residue, and fields that are more distant to water. You should prioritize the order of manure application according to risk and go to the least risky fields first.

Because infiltration can be limited at this time of year, extreme runoff events can occur. For instance, snow melt or rain on frozen or snow-covered ground can cause runoff to occur from lands that rarely lose water. For this reason, it is wise to skip subtle swales in these fields where water can gather and flow. Nutrients placed here certainly won’t stick around. These shallow depressions can be covered with manure later in the spring when risk is lower. Pay attention to the weather forecast, and avoid situations where you expect upcoming weather may undo the nutrient placement work you have done.