Focus on Agriculture: Uncertainty about farm bill, weather raises questions heading into 2013

Posted: Dec. 27, 2012 10:59 am Updated: Jan. 25, 2013 11:15 am


What 2013 will hold for the farm community is anybody's guess until Congress passes a farm bill.

Uncertainty about the farm bill, combined with fear that Mother Nature will throw another curveball, leaves many farmers scratching their heads about the upcoming growing season, said Scott Brown, University of Missouri agricultural economist.

Missouri farm income was a record-setting $3.3 billion in 2011, and the following year brought an infusion of federal crop insurance proceeds, but Brown questions if this financial trend will continue into 2013.

Global demand for agricultural products has been strong, but the wild card in the next five years could be exchange rates, Brown said. Volatility of the dollar cuts both ways for farmers because a stronger dollar makes U.S. agricultural products less competitive globally but reduces farmers' costs on inputs sourced globally.

"We've got new competitors in the world," Brown said.

There were record levels of corn exports from Brazil during the past few months, and South American export of soybean crops is on the rise.

Interest rates also will factor into predictions for 2013.

But the farm bill likely will be the deciding factor.

The full Senate and the House Agriculture Committee passed versions of the farm bill earlier this year, but the full House has not passed a version. The two bills have several things in common, Brown said, including elimination of the Direct and Countercyclical Program and the Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) program, as well as the new dairy proposal that provides margin insurance coverage for dairy farmers. But the bills are roughly $12 billion apart, primarily in nutrition programs, and that could lead to infighting among agricultural groups as they lobby for continued funding and protection under the proposed bills.


Ag careers

Facilitating Coordination in Agricultural Education partnered with to develop the Ag Career Finder app for iPhones, iPads and Android devices.

The app allows people to explore "core" agricultural careers or those that are considered to have a "critical need" shortage.

App users may browse 58 careers in plant science, animal science, agricultural mechanics, agricultural business, environmental services, food science and natural resources.

Each profile includes an overview of the career, suggested high school courses, experience needed, degrees required, potential employers, salary range, employment outlook and trends and professional organizations.

Science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, "related agricultural careers are in very high demand both nationally and internationally," said Luke Allen District 2 and Urban FCAE program advisor. "The Ag Career Explorer app allows students to browse these careers that they may not realized existed."

The project was funded as part of a grant through the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and the Illinois Community College Board.

More information about the app is available by searching ag career finder at the Google Play store and


-- Compiled by Herald-Whig Staff Writer

Deborah Gertz Husar