#AgAlerts: Farmers struggle with late harvest; possible milk monopoly; drought

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A roundup of news, reports, and research on agribusiness and related issues.

“I just started yesterday,” Nelson said Tuesday, Nov. 19. “I’ve never started this late.” Nelson has a lot of company across North Dakota. Only 23% of the 3.5 million acres of corn North Dakota farmers planted had been harvested as of Nov. 17, the National Agricultural Statistics Service said. Last year, 70% of the state’s corn had been harvested by that date, and on average, 85% of the corn is in the bin.

Two major distributors of sugar, including Edina-based United Sugars Corp., reportedly took the rare step this week of declaring “force majeure,” telling customers they won’t be able to deliver on contracts because of forces beyond their control. An executive of the company didn’t return calls for comment Thursday.

In its announcement, Dean Foods said that it was “engaged in advanced discussions” with Dairy Farmers of America (DFA), the country’s biggest dairy co-op, regarding a possible acquisition. For one antitrust expert, however, that raises concerns about anti-competitive activity.

Though it’s supposed to advocate for dairy farmers, DFA’s involvement in processing also means it has an incentive to keep prices of inputs (read: milk) as low as possible.

To get to Miller’s farm, river water is pumped for more than 200 miles along the Central Arizona Project canal, a feat of 20th-century engineering and funding that, once much of the state’s groundwater had been sucked nearly dry by the 1980s, allowed desert communities to flourish. Now, the government keeps close tabs on groundwater withdrawals and manages its canal water with a priority system that favors cities and tribes over agriculture in times of shortage..

Despite President Trump's agriculture bailouts, Iowa farmers continue to see their financial condition erode, a cash crunch that had 44% of producers last year struggling to cover their bills, an Iowa State University report shows.

The percentage of financially vulnerable farmers climbed from 31% in 2014, according to the report that examines growers' ability to cover short-term liabilities such as seed, fertilizer and herbicides with easily accessible assets such as cash, stored grain and market-ready livestock.