Thursday, October 28, 2010

Agricultural, Energy, and Economic News Update October 28, 2010

To follow are a wide variety of agricultural, macroeconomic, and energy related news items from this past week. In my opinion, the energy articles are particularly interesting today.

Rural mainstreet economy; weak businesses but strong farms - October Survey Results at a Glance: For a fourth straight month, the overall index declines below growth neutral. Farmland prices and farm equipment sales continue to grow briskly. More than half of bank CEOs expect high corn prices to be biggest challenge to ethanol profits.

The cost of a global food chain - Check out the garlic the next time you're in the supermarket. In another era, it might well have been grown in Gilroy, right here in California. But today, chances are that your garlic has traveled across oceans and continents to get to your kitchen. Most garlic nowadays comes from China. Since 2003, the amount of garlic imported from China has nearly tripled, while the amount grown in California has dropped by nearly half.

Trouble lurks in growing volume of abandoned citrus groves - Ripples from Florida's recession continue to claim more victims. This time it's one of the state's iconic industries — citrus. Groves increasingly are abandoned by financially stretched owners no longer able to care for the citrus trees.

Demand grows for California cara caras - The cara cara navel variety that originated in South America does not yet have the fan base of seedless mandarins, but its popularity is growing. That more and more shoppers are choosing cara caras has not been lost on California grower-shippers.

Before the Mac, Vintage Apples: Farmers and Stores Push Thousands of Heirloom Varieties, Rediscovering the Duchess of Oldenburg - Farmers and chefs treat them like fine wine, but these are apples—"heritage" or "heirloom" varieties that were common on American tables as far back as colonial times but today are rarely tasted. Now, a number of orchards and apple historians are growing these old varieties again and promoting them to restaurants, distributors and grocers.

New technology to reduce Ghana’s fertilizer imports - Ghana’s Soil Research Institute (SRI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is developing a carbon rich product to improve agriculture production and the environment. The technology known as Biochar is a fine-grained charcoal, high in organic carbon and largely resistant to decomposition.

Finding a Sustainable Way to Farm the Seas - With the rising global demand for fish and the oceans’ stocks dangerously depleted, fish farming has a potentially huge role to play in feeding the world’s growing population. But environmentalists say the industry is plagued with problems like disease, heavy antibiotic use and parasite infestations, and often causes more damage to wild fish populations than it prevents.

Canadian researchers issue warning over environmental impact of fish farming - For the first time in history, the bulk of seafood consumed by humans is likely coming from fish farms rather than from natural habitats, and there is an environmental price to pay for this, says a study produced by Canadian researchers.

Is corn stover the next big biofuel? - The experiments in the field parallel plans to develop a cellulosic ethanol industry in Iowa to complement the state's 40 corn-fed plants. To maintain their lead in ethanol production, Iowans must find an efficient, cost-effective way to harvest the tons of biomass left on fields.

Leading Advanced Biofuel Groups Meet at The White House - Leaders of the advanced biofuel industry personally delivered an important message to the Obama Administration this morning at a White House meeting that included representatives of the Advanced Biofuels Association (ABFA), the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) and Algal Biomass Organization(ABO). The leaders' message emphasized the vital role the advanced biofuel industry plays in achieving America's energy security while strengthening the nation's economy by creating premium new jobs.

Economy is running out of gas: Recession lurking with demand still weak - Add it all up and you have to wonder: Where is the growth going to come from? Despite this gloomy assessment, few economists are predicting an outright recession, just very slow growth.

What’s really behind that $1.3 trillion deficit? - So spending was $186 billion higher than if we’d stuck to the trend, and revenue was $681 billion lower. In other words, the giant deficit is mainly the result of the collapse in tax receipts brought on by the recession, not the increase in spending.

Food and Finance - I just read Michael Pollan’s book, In Defense of Food, and what struck me was the parallels between the evolution of food and the evolution of finance since the 1970s. This will only confirm my critics’ belief that I see the same thing everywhere, but bear with me for a minute.

Now It’s Official: Corruption Has Risen in US, Leading to Fall in Global Ranking - I suspect some readers will take issue with the US being ranked as high as it is, 22 out of 178 nations, in an annual survey of public sector corruption by Transparency International. However, it fell from 19 the year prior, so the trajectory at least is correct.

Rising coal costs will be felt in electric bills: Mining expenses and foreign demand will bring higher prices to electric bills - Since last October, the price for a one- month contract for Wyoming's Powder River Basin coal, a main Colorado supplier, has risen 67 percent to $13.80 a ton, according to coal broker Evolution Markets. "You try to be more efficient, but at some point, that gets into the bill," said Jason Frisbie, power production manager for the Platte River Power Authority, which serves Fort Collins, Loveland, Longmont and Estes Park. "For years Powder River Basin coal was $5 a ton," Frisbie said. Then that coal began to be shipped east and the price ticked up. "The next wave came as more coal began moving overseas," he said.

Drowning in Crude - As shown, not only have inventory levels of crude been above average all year, but they haven’t been following the seasonal script either. While they should have been declining over the last several months, stockpiles have actually remained relatively unchanged. With today’s large build, crude oil stockpiles are now at their highest point of 2010, and at a higher point relative to the historical average than at any other point this year.

North Dakota eclipses oil record - The oil patch in North Dakota, which already accounts for 6 percent of U.S. crude production, is on pace to shatter last year's record by 30 million barrels.

Alaska reserve holds one-tenth of oil scientists had estimated, agency says - Recent drilling results indicate that the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska contains roughly one-tenth of the oil that federal scientists had previously estimated, the U.S. Geological Survey announced Tuesday.

Big cause on campus: Food-security movements grow as students raise awareness and work toward increasing access to organic products - Every Montreal campus you stroll through these days, from the concrete spaces of the Universite du Quebec a Montreal (UQAM) to the green expanses of Concordia's Loyola campus, boasts a productive vegetable patch. Student union bulletin boards yield notices for campus soup kitchens, worm-composting kits, canning workshops and calls for garden volunteers.

Celebrate Urban Agriculture - Cambridge, MA is one city where urban agriculture is catching on. The work of many of these spare time farmers was on display in Harvard Square at the Cambridge Urban Agricultural Fair. (Kalpa's Note: Nice video at source)

Sonoma County may allow rural roads to disintegrate - More than 1,200 miles of Sonoma County roads would be allowed to fail within 10 years, while 150 miles of heavily traveled roads remain relatively smooth under a maintenance plan to be considered today by the Board of Supervisors.

Region's farmers bring in banner harvest - "As a whole, Colorado is looking to have one of its best crops ever, even better than last year"

Plant researcher is happy to be heading to Harvard - I love to garden. I am almost competitive about gardening. My wife and I canned 80 quarts of tomatoes this year from just nine plants. We make jam from our fruit trees. We live now in Boulder, Colo., where the season is short but the sunlight is intense. I also grow hops and brew my own beer there.

Eating after the frost: Locavores look to winter markets, CSAs, sprouts and stored veggies - ...some farmers will keep selling through the darkest months, aided by root cellars, hoop houses, greenhouses, canning and ingenuity.

(8 minutes) Jeff Rubin: Oil and the Death of Globalization - Canadian Economist Jeff Rubin is known for his prescient calls in the oil markets over the past few decades. His most recent book, Why Your World is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller, explains why continuously rising oil prices will mean the end of globalization.