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October 2022, Volume 28, Number 4

US Ag, Trade

US net farm income is projected to be $148 billion in 2022, up from $140 billion in 2021; about 10 percent of net farm income reflects government support for farmers. Farm sales are expected to be $525 billion in 2022, reflecting $274 billion worth of crops and $251 billion worth of livestock commodities. Much of the increase in farm sales reflects higher prices.

Farm sector assets are about $4 trillion, while farm debt is about $500 billion or an eight of farm assets.

The Specialty Crops Competitiveness Act of 2004 defines specialty crops as fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, and horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture. California had 61 percent of US fruit and nus acreage and 45 percent of vegetable acreage in 2017, while Florida and Washington each had over 5 percent of total US acreage of fruits, nuts and vegetables.

Milk prices rose to a record $26 per hundredweight in spring 2022, surpassing the previous record in fall 2014. The US has 9.4 million dairy cows, and they are being consolidated on fewer and larger farms; a third of dairy cows are in CA and WI .

Milk consists of water (87 percent), milk fat (four percent), and skim solids (nine percent) such as protein, lactose, minerals, and trace elements. The consumption of fluid milk is declining, while consumption of butter and cheese is rising; over 40 percent of milk fat is used to make cheese, and 20 percent is used to make butter. The retail price of butter approached $5 a pound in Fall 2022.

Photosynthesis is the biological process that allows plants to use sunlight, water and carbon dioxide to produce oxygen and energy-rich carbohydrates. Amanda P. De Souza of the University of Illinois modified the genes of soybean plants so that they use photosynthesis more efficiently, raising yields, by reducing the time that plants require to return to growth after periods of too much sun. The more usual way of increasing crop yields is to help plants take in more nutrients such as nitrogen.

Agriculture produces 11 percent of US greenhouse gas emissions. USDA in 2022 committed $22 billion to reducing such emissions with climate-smart agriculture assistance policies that aim to store carbon in the soil. Most of USDA’s climate funding supports conservation programs that are already oversubscribed, as when farmers receive payments in exchange for keeping their land in grass.

Moline, Illinois-Deere sells 60 percent of the high-horsepower tractors used in Canada and the US, generating $44 billion in sales in 2021. Deere and its competitors are developing software to make farm equipment operate autonomously and capture data from growing and harvested crops. Some farmers do not want to share production data with equipment makers, arguing that doing so could give them too much insight into their operations.

Deere acquired Blue River Technology in 2017, which found that two-thirds of the herbicides applied by conventional sprayers lands on places other than weeds. Blue River developed technology that allows precision spraying to target weeds, reducing the use of herbicides.

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