General Research Reports

 

Ag co-ops have been in a steady state of consolidation for decades. But despite the decline in the number of co-ops, the influence of co‑ops in rural America is not shrinking.

Blockchain, the distributed ledger technology behind cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin where identical records of transactions are stored on multiple computers, is still in its infancy but has seen a flood of pilot programs and proof-of-concepts from companies around the world as they race to harness its power of transparency.

The U.S. economy is still performing well by most key measures. However, consumers, investors, companies and other market participants have become more wary about the near-term future with seemingly good reason.

How would a domestic recession in the United States impact American agriculture? It’s a question that has been pondered on and off over the years by academics, economists and policymakers alike – but which remains quite difficult to answer with any kind of precision.

From NAFTA to USMCA

October 2018

The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement is set to replace NAFTA in 2019. Incremental changes will be modest for U.S. agriculture. But what’s included in the deal, as well as what is not, will have significant implications for all agribusiness sectors.

Help Wanted

August 2018

Part of the rural labor shortage story is best told through statistics and trends. But to gain a more full picture of how labor challenges are affecting businesses, it is best to hear directly from those meeting the challenges head on.

One of the most important trends in the global economy has been the explosive growth of international trade, and few industries have benefited more than American agriculture. But the benefits are at greater risk today than any time in recent memory.
After nearly a decade of record-low interest rates, the market environment is changing. The ongoing strength of the U.S. economy amid the second-longest expansion since WWII is stirring inflation. With the U.S. economy widely expected to continue growing into 2019, the Federal Reserve is expected to continue on a path of gradual rate increases to stem rising inflation and prepare for the next recession. Meanwhile, surging U.S. government debt is pushing yields on longer-dated bonds higher, thereby raising long-term rates as well.
Agribusiness interest in blockchain technology is rapidly growing. Increasingly,companies are recognizing how the emerging technology’s enhanced data management capabilities can create supply chain efficiencies and reduce friction in transactions. The agriculture sector stands to benefit from the technology’s potential to lower transaction costs, optimize logistics, increase traceability, and enhance food safety protocols.
U.S. cotton acreage will be up in 2018, but nowhere is that increase more transformative than in the Southwest. Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas are projected to increase planted area by 40 percent, 16 percent, and 6 percent, respectively.
Years of dismal commentary about the world economy have suddenly transitioned to proclamations of optimism. Advanced and developing economies alike appear to be hitting on (most) cylinders as we charge ahead into 2018. After a decade of stagnant global growth, the synchronized expansion is a long-awaited change.
After benefiting from multiple years of record high prices for agricultural commodities, U.S. farmers and ranchers are now struggling to adapt to the new economic reality of persistently low crop and livestock prices and stubbornly high production costs.
The consensus among the Farm Credit bankers is that the nation’s sawmill operations are doing generally well, albeit with systemic differences across the three major regions – the South, the Pacific-Northwest, and the Northeast.
California’s 2015/16 rainy season just ended and delivered nearly normal rainfall and snowpack, unlike the four previous years. Yet the state’s parched conditions persist, with substantial portions of Central and Southern California still blanketed by severe to exceptional drought.
Since the beginning of 2016, the news media have been abuzz with speculation that OPEC and Russia are getting ready to freeze or curtail production in order to raise crude oil prices and alleviate their current financial strains. However many of OPEC’s members might like to engineer a production cutback, they face numerous political and economic obstacles to reaching such an agreement.
The near-term outlook for timber prices is mixed across regions, but stable. No one is envisioning a major swing in sawlog prices, up or down, over the next 12 to 18 months. However, pulpwood prices in the South have climbed to record-high levels and are expected to remain strong.
Economic and regulatory policymaking will improve substantially under President Mauricio Macri, marking a paradigm shift away from the interventionist policies of the two former presidents. Macri’s two main challenges will be to stabilize the economy and to consolidate his power in a context in which the opposition Peronist party, the country’s largest political force, remains strong.
China’s economy is slowing. That much is understood, and it has become one of the biggest stories of the past year. Investors, central bankers, and business leaders alike have grown concerned about the fallout from China’s deceleration, and how it could derail several industries globally.
California is now heading into its fourth year of severe drought. All Californians face significant water restrictions during 2015. For urbanites, the restrictions will represent an inconvenience, including brown lawns and empty swimming pools. For growers, ranchers, and agribusinesses, the restrictions pose a threat to their livelihoods.
Commodities are currently viewed as a victim of adverse macroeconomic conditions. The value of the U.S. dollar, China’s economic slowdown, and depressed crude oil prices are all being credited with sending the broader commodity markets into a down phase of the commodity super cycle.

Mexico’s newly enacted energy reforms promise to be Pena Nieto’s most important policy initiative – a potential game-changer yielding substantial economic benefits for the entire economy. The reforms are intended to drive private investment to reverse declining oil production, lessen the country’s dependency on natural gas imports, and reduce overall energy costs to make the manufacturing sector more competitive.
Ukraine remains mired in a political crisis that began in November, when then-President Viktor Yanukovych pulled out of a deal that would have strengthened economic ties with the EU. The ensuing, at times violent street protests eventually led to Yanukovych’s ouster in February, with parliament naming speaker Olexander Turchynov as interim president.
With little rainfall over the past 13 months, California’s reservoirs are averaging 20 percent below historical averages, wells have been over-drafted, and the snowpack in the Sierras as of late February was 21 percent of normal, leaving diminishing hope that surface water supplies will be adequately recharged for the 2014 growing season.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement is being negotiated among 12 Pacific Rim countries, but it is no ordinary regional trade deal. It sits at the nexus of trade, investment, and geopolitics, and it is both an economic pact and a strategic alliance.
The Dilma Rousseff administration has taken the important political decision to turn to the private sector for infrastructure investment, which could be a major turning point in infrastructure policy for the Workers’ Party (PT)-led government, now in its tenth year.
How China’s burgeoning middle class will be fed is a topic of supreme importance in agricultural circles. Over the past 30 years, China’s total food consumption has soared, and so has its domestic food production. Indeed, Chinese authorities have strived to maintain a high rate of food self-sufficiency, and this objective is always included in their five-year plans.