Doctor's orders

The nation's physicians recently voiced their support of biotech crops. The American Medical Association (AMA) released a report stating that no long-term health effects have been detected from the use of transgenic crops and genetically modified foods. Instead, these foods are nearly equivalent to their conventional counterparts.

Deere profits up

Deere & Company recorded net income of $486 million on sales of $13.1 billion for its fiscal year ending October 31, 2000. The income more than doubled the previous year's net income of $239 million. The 2000 income level does not reach the net income posted in 1998, however. That year, the company reported a net income of $1,021 million. The Moline, IL, equipment manufacturer is headed by a new chairman and chief executive officer, Robert Lane.

Check organic rules

USDA has finalized national standards for the production, handling and processing of organically grown products. These standards set the methods, practices and substances to be used in producing and handling organic crops and livestock. Briefly, the new standards prohibit genetic engineering methods, irradiation and fertilization with sewage sludge. Organic livestock production excludes treatment with antibiotics or hormones. New organic labels will appear this summer. Check www.ams.usda.gov/nop for a look at the final standards.

Land sellers rule

It's a seller's market in the Midwest for farmland, according to a report from Farmers National Company, the nation's largest farm management and land brokerage firm. The company expects an active market in 2001 with more buyers than sellers. It credits the 1031 tax deferred exchange option for fueling the land market. Most of the buying interest is for top-producing farms and ranches, no matter the location. Here's what the company reports:

Illinois and Indiana: Top ag land trades in a range of $3,000 to $3,500/acre, with some up to $4,000/acre.

Iowa: Buyers continue to outnumber sellers in Iowa with no change in sight. Top land goes for $3,000 to $3,500/acre in east-central Iowa and some northwest areas. But most northern Iowa farms sell for around $2,200 to $2,600/acre.

Western Ohio and eastern Indiana: The sale of land for development plays big in this area. However, quality farmland out of development range is selling for $2,750 to $3,400/acre.

Eastern Nebraska: Farmland values in eastern Nebraska where Farmers National is headquartered are running steady or 2 to 4% higher. The company estimates that 70% of the farm sales goes to other farmers and 30% is bought by investors and nonresident landowners.

Modest increases in equipment sales predicted

Major ag equipment manufacturers show guarded optimism for sales in 2001. The Equipment Manufacturers Institute (EMI) surveyed 43 member companies in January for their sales predictions for this year. On average, the manufacturers predict modest increases in sales in most categories of equipment. They anticipate that the 4-wd tractor market will remain strong with a 3.1% increase. They also predict that sales of air seeders/drills will increase 5.5%, planters will be up 4.5%, farmstead-type equipment will rise 1.4%, field cultivators and chisel plows will increase 1.3% and disk harrows will be up 0.8%.

The manufacturers expect sales of self-propelled combines to decline 7.2% compared with 2000 numbers. They also expect that sales of all 2-wd tractors will decline in numbers, 2-wd models under 40 hp will drop 4.3% from last year, tractors with 40 to 100 hp may drop 3.6% and models with 100+ hp will decline only 2.2%.

Undeterred growers

The recent controversy surrounding StarLink corn apparently has done little to dampen farmers' enthusiasm for biotechnology, according to a report from 13 major farm organizations and the Council for Biotechnology Information (CBI). In a recent news release, CBI reports that some seed company sales of biotech products are up compared with last year's sales. In an early online survey of farmers, 45% of the respondents said they will plant the same or a greater percentage of biotech corn in 2001. In comparison, 29% indicated they will plant a reduced percentage or no biotech in the coming year.

Meanwhile, the battle over biotech promises to continue. Greenpeace members dumped a ton of StarLink corn at the EPA to welcome Christine Todd Whitman to her new job as head of the agency.

Garst completes StarLink tests

Garst Seed Company reports that all its seed available for sale to growers tests negative for StarLink contamination. Garst started testing all 140 hybrids in November before USDA asked seed companies to voluntarily test. It recently finished testing all hybrids sold under the Garst, AgriPro, Gutwein/Garst and PSA/Garst brand names.

Steve Klein, Garst's director of marketing, reports that “a very limited number” of seed lots were confirmed positive. These lots will not be available for purchase. In addition, Garst tested its parent seed stock and none contained the StarLink protein.

Growers who have questions or concerns may call the company's toll-free number: 800/831-6630, ext. 5277.