Equipment manufacturers optimistic

The latest “State of the Ag Industry” report from the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), based on surveys of equipment member companies, shows that the companies expect equipment sales to grow through 2004, and into 2005. Their responses indicate that total U.S. sales of agricultural tractors will increase 6.2% by year-end 2004, followed by 2005 sales growth of 3.4%.

Of the 48 equipment manufacturers surveyed, most ranked positive factors such as credit availability, interest rates and government payments as extremely strong for the coming year. Projected rankings of these buying factors in 2006, while still favorable overall, generally ranked significantly lower than for 2004 and 2005. For the complete report, visit www.aem.org.

Computers model ethanol production

Scientists with the USDA are using computer models to develop less expensive techniques for milling the corn used to make ethanol fuel. One model can estimate the cost per gallon to produce ethanol with various processes. Another helps estimate costs for making ethanol by dry-grind processes, in which corn kernels are converted into ethanol without salvaging fiber, germ (oil) and protein.

The models can figure costs and production for a 40-million-gallon ethanol plant, the size of most new plants. The model of a proposed plant can be adjusted by adding new processes, such as reclaiming waste heat or converting some of the fiber to ethanol.

The scientists also developed what they believe will be the first publicly available corn wet milling process and cost model.

Read more about this research online at www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/jul04/corn0704.htm.

Emission standards exact cost

Expect to hear more about EPA emissions standards as diesel engine farm machinery companies retool to meet stringent Tier 4 off-road engine emissions standards by the year 2007. The new standards are set to reduce emissions by more than 90% from the current level, significantly reducing nitrogen oxides and particulate matter in the air.

Large equipment companies are emphasizing that, while they are on their way toward meeting the higher standards, the change will require the addition of sophisticated engine controls and exhaust “after-treatment” technology and the use of ultralow sulfur fuel. These changes are likely to add to the price of a diesel engine and take a toll on engine performance.

For more information, visit www.dieseltechnologyforum.org.

Monsanto earnings up

Monsanto reported higher earnings resulting from a greater than expected 27% increase in sales of its Roundup herbicide and increased revenues from seed trait technology fees. The company's $0.88/share for its fiscal third quarter topped initial guidance of $0.70.

The company expects the number of Roundup Ready (RR) soybean acres to reach close to 66 million this year in the U.S. Acres of stacked corn traits, which have more than one value-added Monsanto trait, are expected to reach 9.4 million in the U.S. In addition to increased acreage of its biotech traits planted, Monsanto is charging higher royalty fees for the traits, increasing trait fees on RR soybeans from $11 to $12/acre to $15 to $17/acre and RR corn from $6 to $8/acre to $8 to $10/acre.