Agriculture news roundup: UI-led consortium to help with Iraq's extension system

Agriculture news roundup: UI-led consortium to help with Iraq's extension system

URBANA — A consortium led by the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences has embarked on a project to help modernize and strengthen Iraq's agricultural extension system.

The UI's role will be to improve the delivery of extension services and develop the capacity of farmers and extension partners, according to a release from the college.

The project is targeting commodities crucial to Iraq's food security — among them wheat, barley and date palms.

"The public extension system in Iraq is currently weak, given that there are staff, but they are not well-trained nor well-equipped," said Schuyler Korban, director of the college's Office of International Programs. The project will bring stability to Iraq's farmers and affect millions of people as more products become available through marketing channels, he said.

The UI is already involved in a project to strength extension systems in 19 developing countries, including Bangladesh, Egypt, Ghana, India, Liberia, Mali, Malawi, Nepal, Rwanda and Tajikistan.

Economist: Pork producers face profit delays

URBANA — Pork producers may not reach their break-even point until late this summer — a few months later than expected — a Purdue University agricultural economist said.

In a release distributed by the University of Illinois, Chris Hurt said hog prices dropped sharply in February, and the problem appears to be on the demand side.

Russia banned imports of U.S. pork in February amid concerns about the use of ractopamine, a drug added to feed to increase the weight and leanness of animals that consume it. China later said it would check U.S. imports for ractopamine. Exports to Russia account for about 1.2 percent of U.S. pork production, and exports to China make up another 3.4 percent, Hurt said.

Plus, severe drops in the strength of the Japanese yen have made U.S. pork more expensive in Japan, which buys about 6 percent of it.

Production costs have been running ahead of the price that U.S. producers get for hogs. But it had been projected that pork producers would return to the break-even point sometime this spring.

Now, Hurt said, it appears profitability "is on hold until feed prices can moderate later in the summer."

New type of oil could boost soy prospects

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Soy industry proponents are hoping high-oleic soy oil can revive flagging demand for U.S. soy oil.

During each of the last four years, the U.S. soy industry has lost 4 billion pounds of soy-oil demand, according to a release from the United Soybean Board.

But proponents say a new type of soy oil — high-oleic soy oil — could generate more than 8 billion pounds of demand for U.S. soy in the food and industrial sectors.

High-oleic oils are high in oleic acids and low in saturated-fat content, according to the American Oil Chemists' Society. They tend to be popular in the food industry, partly because they have a longer shelf life. Currently, the industry uses a lot of high-oleic canola oil.

"High-oleic soy oil's increased functionality and stability gives it the potential to take back lost edible-oil market share and expand the use of soy oil in industrial applications," said Jim Call, the board's vice chairman.

The board has already worked with two seed companies with high-oleic varieties in the approval pipeline — DuPont Pioneer and Monsanto — to make the varieties available to as many farmers as possible as quickly as possible.

Five corn board districts to elect new representatives

CHAMPAIGN — Area corn producers interested in running for the Illinois Corn Marketing Board must file their petitions by May 15. Five districts in Illinois are electing representatives to the board this year, and two of those districts include counties in East Central Illinois.

District 6 includes Champaign, Ford, Iroquois and Vermilion counties. District 12 includes Coles, Douglas and Edgar counties as well as Clark, Crawford, Cumberland and Jasper counties.

To be eligible to run, producers must be of legal voting age, have produced and marketed corn during the 2012 commodity year and live in the district to be represented.

Petitions are available from local University of Illinois Extension offices or from the Illinois Department of Agriculture.

To have their name placed on the ballot, candidates must submit their petition to the state director of agriculture by May 15.

In District 6, petitions should contain the signatures of 180 producers living in the district, according to spokeswoman Tricia Braid. In District 12, the signatures of 163 producers are needed.

Voting takes place July 8 at UI Extension offices. Those elected will serve a three-year term beginning Aug. 1.