Pork producers' feed costs expected to decline sharply

A roundup of agricultural news:

URBANA — Pork producers could enjoy lower feed costs in a matter of weeks, a Purdue University Extension economist said.

In a release distributed by the University of Illinois, Chris Hurt said corn prices seem likely to drop by $2 a bushel by harvest. Plus, soybean meal prices are expected to fall by $130 a ton over the next three months.

Factors such as the weather could change those prospects, but Hurt said it appears that feed-cost reductions, if realized, "will be of record magnitude."

Estimated total costs for hog producers are expected to drop from $69 per live hundredweight in the second quarter of 2013 to about $56 in the fourth quarter, he said.

That $13 drop would be the largest on record, he said.

Hurt said pork producers lost an average of $21 a head during the last 12 months. But things seem likely to turn around, and profits for the next 12 months are expected to average $16 a head.

Over the coming year, pork producers are likely to expand production by 1 percent to 3 percent, Hurt said. The amount of increase depends partly on where feed prices settle.

"Corn prices under $5.50 per bushel could stimulate some expansion," he said. "The farther below $5.50 they go, the greater the expansion stimulus will be."

For the last six years, feed costs have been the biggest single factor affecting the profitability of pork producers.

"If crop production returns to more normal levels, feed costs will be less important, and the industry will see the primary drivers shift to pork supplies, domestic meat demand and exports," Hurt said.

Class for produce farmers to be offered again

URBANA — A free, yearlong program for new and aspiring fruit and vegetable farmers will be offered a second time.

The University of Illinois Department of Crop Sciences opened the application process for the second session of "Preparing A New Generation of Illinois Fruit and Vegetable Farmers" on July 1.

The department will continue to accept applications through Oct. 15, or until capacity is reached, according to a UI news release.

Classes for this session will be held one Saturday a month from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., beginning in December and running through November 2014.

The program will be offered on the Urbana campus, as well as at the UI's Dixon Springs Agricultural Center in Simpson and the Kane County University of Illinois Extension office in St. Charles.

Topics include: variety evaluations, pruning and thinning, high tunnel construction and operation, irrigation, soils and soil testing, pesticide application, insurance and marketing.

The program includes visits to established produce farms, discussions with experienced farmers and access to incubator plots.

The first year the program was offered, nearly 100 people took part among the three locations.

Mary Hosier, the program's project manager, said a goal this year is to offer the classes in Spanish and in English at all locations.

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