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Farm News & Views - January 24, 2023

The recent USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service report, “Record U.S. FY 2022 Agricultural Exports to China" points out that China purchased $36.4 billion of agricultural goods from the U.S. during the past year, and is the largest export market for U.S. farmers. The report goes on to predict that China will be the largest customer for U.S. agricultural products again in 2023. Soybeans accounted for about half of what China purchased last year, which were valued at almost $16.5 billion, but they also spent another $5 billion for corn, and several billion each for beef, poultry, cotton, sorghum and lesser amounts for various other products. So the recent news articles about the potential for China’s population to decline, rather than continue to grow, over the next couple of decades got the attention of some agricultural marketers. They are expressing concern about what will happen with the demand for U.S. agricultural products if China’s population declines, rather than continue to grow as it has over the past past several decades.

While it isn’t eggaactly a crisis, the shortage of eggs has driven up the price of them to an average of $4.25 a dozen in December, which is about 138% higher than a year ago. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has pointed to a record outbreak of avian influenza as a reason for the shortage of eggs in in grocery stores and in turn, for high prices. The USDA reports that nearly 58 million chickens and turkeys have been killed by avian influenza or to control the spread of the virus in flocks since the beginning of outbreak in March and April of 2022. The previous largest outbreak, in 2015 resulted in the death of 50.5 million birds. But last week, the organization, Farm Action, wrote a letter to the Federal Trade Commission Chair, Lina Khan, requesting that the nation's antitrust regulator examine record-high profits at Cal-Main Foods, a company that controls 20% of the retail egg market in the U.S. According to a late December filing, the company reported that quarterly sales were up 110%, while gross profits were up more than 600% over the same quarter in the prior fiscal year.

According to some news reports, the high price of eggs has encouraged some folks to attempt to smuggle eggs from Mexico into the U.S. at southern boarder crossings, because eggs are $3 a dozen in Tijuana. In a recent tweet, Jennifer De La O, Director of Operations at the Boarder Patrol Field Office in San Diego noted that the agency has seen an increase in the number of eggs intercepted at the port of entry recently. She reminded people that uncooked eggs from Mexico are prohibited to be carried into the U.S., because of the possibility that raw eggs could spread bird flu and Newcastle disease. Failure to declare agriculture items at a port of entry could result in penalties of up to $10,000.

Last week’s snow fall caught a lot of us by surprise because of the amount of snow that fell over a just a couple of days. Talking to several farmers and ranchers, most of them thought that the last year to have as much snow fall, in such short period of time, was maybe ten or twelve years ago. Dare I say again, "let it snow, let it snow."

Bob has been an agricultural educator and farm and ranch management consultant for over 40 years in southwest Colorado. He writes about agricultural issues from his farm near Cortez, and has helped to produce farm reports on KSJD for more than a dozen years.