BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — The Bismarck Tribune, Bismarck, Sept. 30, 2015
Beef prices reflect ag challenges
Farming and ranching remains an important industry in the state, impacting most, if not every segment of North Dakota's economy. When agriculture prospers, the entire state benefits.
Cattle producers in particular have benefited recently from high beef prices. In the not-so distant past, depressed cattle prices meant tougher times for those directly involved. Good times, help balance out periods when profitability is anything but a sure thing.
Although cattle prices continue to remain largely favorable, similar to most agricultural commodities they have softened recently. Compounding declining beef prices, is cost of production has increased considerably over the past decade from a land use standpoint.
Land prices have continued to rise meaning the opportunity to expand existing operations is more challenging. Long-term, payback on $500-$600 per acre or more land costs aren't always realistic even with high beef prices. Rent rates also continue to increase due to competition among producers looking to grow, along with rising recreational interest in pasture land.
The good news is that while beef prices have moved down from their record highs, they remain above the long-term average. Tim Petry, livestock marketing economist for the North Dakota State University Extension Service, told producers during the annual North Dakota Stockman's Association Convention recently held in Bismarck, "We likely peaked last year," referring to beef prices.
Petry further added, "This year, we're probably back to what I would call a more normal situation." Last year, calf prices in the 600- to 700-pound range reached a high of $2.60 per pound. Petry expects prices to be about 20 percent less this year compared to last and predicts prices will continue to drop 15 percent each year if market conditions continue.
Like energy prices, especially oil, agricultural commodities are impacted by a number of market variables including the strength of the U.S. dollar, which has risen over the past year. Often, agricultural commodities benefit from a weaker dollar, which in turn incents exports. A stronger dollar index can have the opposite effect.
For communities in the western portion of North Dakota, the agricultural slowdown is further exacerbating an already difficult situation experienced due to the drop in oil prices. Those economies have become increasingly more reliant on oil development to support a larger population and growing infrastructure, required to meet energy industry needs.
Agriculture across the Midwest, including North Dakota, remains the backbone for many communities. When producers profit, so do local businesses. If beef prices continue to soften, both producers and North Dakota businesses will adapt accordingly, something they've long showed a propensity to effectively do.
Minot Daily News, Minot, Sept. 30, 2015
Take care of existing business
Environmental Protection Agency officials and members of Congress should be asking themselves this question: How did Volkswagen executives think they could get away with cheating on emissions testing?
Thanks to an investigation carried out by West Virginia University scientists, it is known that about 480,000 VW and Audi vehicles sold in this country were equipped with computer software that detected when emissions testing was in progress — and altered how engines ran in order to provide false readings. As many as 11 million vehicles worldwide have the devices.
VW's cheating was detected with relative ease once an international organization asked WVU to investigate.
That raises the question of why the cheating, which began in 2009, was not uncovered sooner by the EPA — allegedly the nation's environmental watchdog. Were EPA officials asleep at the switch?
Or were they preoccupied with planning and establishing new air and water quality rules?
Count on the EPA finding some way to gloss over its failure. But Congress should not allow the question to go away. It amounts to this: Are EPA officials so determined to expand their power, at the expense of tens of millions of consumers, that they are not taking care of business under existing regulations?