U.S. net farm income could drop more than $9 billion over the next two years. Reduced government payments, rising production costs and lower milk and hog prices could be the culprits, according to a report by the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI).

The annual 10-year baseline projections show a decline from the current $45.4 billion to $36.3 billion in 2002. Much of the income drop occurs because projections are based on continuation of current farm law, but don't assume the supplemental payments that Washington has made to producers the past three years.

FAPRI expects crop prices to average 20% below 1995-96 levels. A projected increase is in cattle prices through 2003.

For 2001, projections show increased U.S. soybean, cotton and rice acreage, but decreases in wheat and corn. Corn acreage will drop 1.5 million acres to 78 million. Much of that acreage will go to soybeans, increasing planted acres to 76 million.

The average corn price this year is projected at $2.05, up from $1.87 last year. Soybean prices for 2001-02 are estimated at $4.53/bu, down from the average farm price of $4.75 in 2000.

British Back Biotech.

Convincing others that producing livestock without biotech feed ingredients is impractical and expensive is the mission of the National Farmers' Union of England. The organization has requested a meeting with the British Agricultural Minister and major food retailers to explain its reasoning.

According to the American Soybean Association, the meeting request was prompted after several large British food retailers, including a subsidiary of Wal-Mart, asked suppliers of beef, pork, poultry and eggs to feed their animals only biotech-free feed ingredients.

Watch For Volunteer StarLink Corn

Growers who planted StarLink hybrids last year should make an extra effort to control volunteer StarLink corn this season, urges the National Corn Growers Association.

“The danger is volunteer StarLink corn pollinating surrounding non-StarLink corn plants, further compounding the problem of keeping StarLink out of the supply of U.S. corn,” says Fred Yoder, Plain City, OH, farmer and NCGA Biotech Working Group chairman.

He suggests rotating crops, if possible.

Roundup Resistance?

Marestail, also known as horseweed, has developed a tolerance to Roundup, according to Mark VanGessel, weed scientist with the University of Delaware.

In three Delaware fields, and possibly others in Maryland and New Jersey, marestail has shown Roundup tolerance.

“We're not dealing with an isolated incident here. The three fields in Delaware are not in close proximity to each other,” says VanGessel. Dead marestail was found right next to healthy marestail plants in one field, he adds.

Further testing also indicates resistance, he reports.

“We applied 10 times the recommended rate of Roundup and Touch-down on the uncontrolled marestail and did not kill the weeds. We injured them, but didn't control them,” he says.

VanGessel is working with Syngenta researchers on additional tests.

Quality Seed May Be Scarce

Quality soybean seed may be in short supply this spring, warns Bill Wiebold, University of Missouri agronomist.

Both quantity and quality were affected by hot, dry weather in much of the Midwest last season.

“Seed companies are finding it difficult to meet their seed germination target — often greater than 90%,” says Wiebold. “Companies may have to reset their standard at 80% to meet demand.”

He urges farmers to read seed tags carefully. A bag of seed with 80% germination is worth less than a bag with 95% germination.

For example, seed priced at $24 per 50-lb bag, with 95% germination and 95% purity, has a true cost of $26.59. If germination is 80%, the selling price should drop to $20.21.