Wildfire survival tips

Texas A&M University offers these tips for preventing and surviving wildfires:

  • Be extremely cautious about outdoor activities that might cause sparks or fires. Avoid parking vehicles in tall, dry forage that could be ignited by hot catalytic converters.

  • Don't drive into smoke on the road. Monitor TV and radio broadcasts before you get on the highway, and check fire and weather conditions as you travel.

  • Wildfires propelled by strong winds can move 60 miles/hour. If told to evacuate, leave immediately.

  • Protect your property by clearing brush and grass away from your home and buildings.

  • Postpone outdoor burns as long as brush and foliage remain dry. Keep a fire extinguisher and water handy when working outdoors with equipment that gets hot.

Fewer farms

U.S. farms numbers continued to shrink last year, but average size continued to grow, says USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).

The February reports estimated 2.08 million farms operating in the U.S. in 2007, 0.6% fewer than in 2006. But the average farm size was 449 acres, a three-acre increase over 2006. Total farmland is 930.9 million acres, 1.5 million acres less than 2006.

NASS says there were 967,440 cattle operations in 2007, down slightly from 2006 and 2% below 2005. Beef-cow operations were down 1% from 2006 and 2% below 2005. Milk-cow operations were 5% below last year and 9% below two years ago.

Food price surge

Food-price inflation in 2007 rose twice as fast as overall inflation, accelerating as the year progressed, says Jason Henderson, Omaha Branch of the Kansas City Federal Reserve economist. In 2008, food-price inflation is expected to ease but remain high by historical standards.

Henderson found marketing costs (the non-farm portion of retail food costs) have risen sharply over the past 50 years, consuming a greater share of the retail food dollar. Labor and energy costs are also large components, and are quickly passed through to higher retail food prices.

He says the recent sharp rise in farm-commodity prices may signal a new era of higher food prices, thanks to increased, non-retail demand for farm commodities, as well as growing global populations and incomes. View the complete report at: www.kansascityfed.org/RegionalAffairs/MainStreet/MSE_0108.pdf.\

Horse-ban review sought

The Livestock Marketing Association (LMA), aided by various industry groups, filed a friend-of-the-court brief encouraging the U.S. Supreme Court to hear an appeal of a 7th Circuit Court decision last year that effectively shuttered the Cavel International horse processing plant in DeKalb, IL.

The appeals-court decision “failed to address the adverse impact” of the law, LMA said in its brief. As a result, “tens of thousands of horses … will die each year because they are at the end of their useful lives, (and) which will now die of neglect or be killed using procedures which are outside the protection accorded by the Humane Slaughter Act,” the brief said.

Joining LMA were the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, Kansas Livestock Association, Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association and Texas Cattle Feeders Association.

Record exports ahead

USDA predicts U.S. agricultural exports will reach a record $101 billion for fiscal year 2008 - a $10-billion increase over the November 2008 projection.

Higher wheat, coarse grain and soybean prices account for over half of the projected increase since November. USDA Secretary Ed Schafer said, “We also see further increases in high-value product exports such as fresh and processed fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, pork, beef, poultry meat and many grocery products. Exports of animal and horticultural products are forecast to increase a combined $3.5 billion in 2008 to record levels.”