Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation
Farm Tech Investing Dips after Record Year
Investments in agriculture technology have receded so far this year, following a record global investment last year. Funding from venture capitalists and others totaled $1.8 billion through the first six months of the year, down 20 percent from a year earlier, according to Reuters. Industry officials say the pullback falls in line with the broader venture capital market. The decline also comes as weak grain prices put pressure on farmers’ incomes and corporate profits. Investment slipped in the drones and robotics and food e-commerce categories, while soil and crop technology experienced an uptick. The decrease of investments follows a record high $4.6 billion investment in agriculture technologies last year.
First-half Pork, Beef Export Volumes Ahead of Last Year
U.S. red meat exports ended the first half of 2016 on a positive note as June export values for both pork and beef were the highest of the year. The U.S. Meat Export Federation says June also marked the second consecutive month of solid year-over-year volume growth. Pork exports reached 187,900 metric tons in June, up eight percent from a year ago, while export value increased 11 percent to $505.4 million. For the first half of the year, pork export volume was up two percent to 1.1 million metric tons, but value was down four percent to $2.77 billion. June beef export volume increased two percent from a year ago to 98,000 metric tons, while export value was $545.4 million, down five percent. First-half export volume was up three percent to 541,000 some metric tons, while value fell 10 percent to $2.91 billion.
Farmers Business Network Announces $20 Million in Funding
The Farmer’s Business Network announced this week it has raised $20 million in additional funding, led by Acre Venture Partners. The independent farmer-to-farmer network says it will use the funds to further expand its farmer network, farm analytics and FBN Procurement Services. Launched commercially in 2015 and originating from farmers, the FBN network now encompasses more than 2,500 farms operating nearly nine million acres in 31 states. The company says the FBN network levels the playing field for farmers by networking farms together and enabling transparent national access to manufacturer direct prices on farm inputs. The new round of fundraising brings total funding to nearly $48 million for the services.
Make Plans to Talk with Lenders before Machinery Purchases
Farmers who are planning to make equipment purchases soon also should plan on an in-depth discussion with their lender. An AgriBank Farm Credit official told DTN this week before approving a machinery loan, lenders want to hear more from farmers now than they did a few years ago. That’s attributed to lower commodity prices and lower farm incomes. AgriBank says farmers will have to convince lenders that a new tractor, combine or planter has good potential for return on investment. However, it’s a good time to buy, if it’s affordable.Loans for farm equipment are available at historically low-interest rates, and prices on equipment—especially used machines—are at sharp discounts.
France Facing 30-year Low in Wheat Yields
A new report from France says the nation is facing a ‘catastrophic’ 30-year low in wheat yields. The Agriculture Ministry for France, the European Union’s biggest grain producer, says the country is heading for its worst wheat harvest in three decades due to heavy rains and a lack of sunlight. Wheat output is projected to fall by 30 percent from the 2015 harvest to 29.1 million metric tons, the lowest level since the drought year of 1986. A local farmers union says some farms are bracing for a 75 percent drop in production. The drop in French production comes at a period of high output in other wheat-producing countries, which has led to a fall in world prices, further adding to the woes of French farmers. France is currently the top wheat exporter in the EU, but that status is in jeopardy.
USDA Celebrating Farmers Market Week
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is celebrating Farmers Market Week by highlighting the evolution of the nation’s local and regional food systems. USDA says the local food sector represents more than $12 billion dollars per year in sales. A recent survey by USDA shows that 56 percent of local markets were able to increase their product variety because of vendor recruitment and market growth in the last year. Another 37 percent were able to contract directly with local restaurants to have their vendors supply fresh ingredients. 17 percent of markets report their farmers were able to increase farm acreage due to participation in local markets, and 41 percent say the market enabled their local farmers to continue farming. USDA is helping to foster continuing growth in local food markets as the agency has made over 900 investments in the last two years in local food infrastructure that connects farmers with local markets.