USDA’s recent “prospective plantings” report indicates that U.S. farmers plan to plant 3.99 million more corn acres this year, pushing the total to 92.2 million acres. This is a 4.5% increase over 2010 acres and would be the second-highest number of acres planted since 1944. The largest increases in corn acres are in South Dakota (850,000 acres), North Dakota (450,000 acres), and Iowa (500,000 acres). Texas is expected to decrease corn acres by 150,000 acres. USDA’s Grain Stocks Report indicates continued strong demand for corn. As of March 1, corn stocks were estimated at 6.52 billion bushels, down 15% from March 1, 2010. Soybean planted acres for 2011 is estimated at 76.6 million acres, down 1% from 2010. Soybeans stocks as of March 1 were estimated at 1.25 billion bushels, down 2% from last year. The 2011 wheat acres are estimated at 58 million acres and cotton acres are at 12.6 million acres, 15% above last year.

Accelerate Farm Equipment Depreciation — Legislation has been introduced that would permanently set a five-year depreciation schedule for agricultural equipment. The current tax code sets a seven-year depreciation schedule. The bipartisan legislation was introduced by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Pat Roberts (R-KS).

Administration Announces Energy Policy — President Barack Obama outlined the administration’s plan to reduce the United States’ dependence on foreign oil. The administration’s goal is to reduce oil imports by one-third by 2025. The proposal offers incentives to encourage energy companies to drill for oil and natural gas on public lands and federal waters that have already been leased but never developed. The administration has set a goal of breaking ground on at least four commercial-scale cellulosic or advanced bio-refineries over the next two years. The administration will direct federal agencies to ensure that by 2015, all new federal vehicles will be alternative-fuel vehicles, including hybrid and electric vehicles. A new fuel economy standard for cars will be proposed in September.

USDA Biotech Committee — USDA has put out a call for nominations of individuals to serve as members of the Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture (AC21). Secretary Tom Vilsack said, “This committee will help provide USDA with recommendations on practical measures and tools that can be developed to facilitate the coexistence of production utilizing agricultural biotechnology with other production methods.” The committee was established in 2003 with 20 to 25 members. All nomination materials should be sent to Michael Schenchtman, Designated Federal Official, Office of the Secretary, USDA, Washington, DC 20250.

Farm Bill Hearings — The Senate Agriculture Committee will hold its first farm bill field hearing entitled, “Opportunities for Growth: Michigan and the 2012 Farm Bill,” on April 9 at Michigan State University in East Lansing. The hearing will focus on reauthorization of the farm bill, including agriculture, energy, conservation, rural development, research, forestry and nutrition policies.

P. Scott Shearer
Vice President
Bockorny Group
Washington, D.C.