Autumn Deluge Destroys More Than $1 Billion Of Delta Crops

October 30, 2009

Weeks of almost-continuous, torrential rains have destroyed over a billion dollars worth of what was originally expected to be a bumper fall crop in the U.S. Delta.

ARKANSAS: “It’s a serious problem right now. At this stage, yield/quality losses for Arkansas ‘ major row crops could easily exceed $650 million,” said Arkansas Farm Bureau President Randy Veach Thursday.

The state has received measurable rainfall every day for the past seven consecutive weeks, preventing fields from drying out, and overripe crops from being harvested. Arkansas farmers still have 85% of their cotton, 61% of all soybeans, 10% of their corn and 5% of all grain sorghum remaining to harvest; at a time when picking is usually of most commodities is already complete.

“We’re going to try to do as much as we can as quickly as we can, but assessing the damage—and what the damage is— does require some time,” said Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D., Ark.), chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “I wouldn’t be surprised if all 75 counties in this state are declared a disaster,” thus making producers eligible for U.S. Department of Agriculture emergency loans.

On average, all areas of Arkansas have received 17 inches more rain than normal during 2009. Even with two months left to go, 2009 is already the 11th-wettest year on record in Little Rock , which has been flooded with 62.57 inches of rain. That total will only increase, as the National Weather Service was predicting another 2 of rain for portions of Arkansas, by nightfall Friday.

MISSISSIPPI: Non-stop rains have also taken $371 million from the pockets of Mississippi producers this autumn, according to calculations made this week by the Mississippi State University .

“Total losses for row crops are expected to be around 23% of the potential value of the crop,” said MSU agricultural economist John Michael Riley. With nearly 40% of all fields still standing, soybeans have suffered the worst hit in cash-value hit, losing 30.2% of their expected value, or $212 million in all.

“Half of the crop left in the field is very poor, to possibly a complete loss,” said MSU extension soybean specialist Trey Koger. “Damage estimates for the portion of the soybean crop we last harvested nearly two weeks ago, averaged 8%-15%. Final damage to the state’s soybean crop may reach levels as high as 50%.”

Earlier this month the USDA forecast the Mississippi fall grain harvest at 92.3 million bushels of corn, nearly 83.5 million bushels of soybeans, 16.184 million hundredweight of rice, and 888,000 bushels of sorghum. Economic losses have been measured at $91 million for cotton/cottonseed, representing about 47% of that crop’s original prospective value.

“Environmental conditions in 2009 have proven to be the most difficult that many growers have ever experienced,” said Darrin Dodds, MSU cotton specialist.

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Fall Downpours Causing Major Damage To Unharvested US Grain Crop

October 27, 2009

Guide Rock farmer Jim Richardson says the quality of the 2009 corn crop in the Republican River Valley of Nebraska has now deteriorated to the point where the top 3 inches of unharvested ears are simply rotting off and falling to the ground.

“My neighbor say it’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever seen…they pull into the field with the combine and see all these half-ears laying all over,” he said. “It seems to be connected to variety…and all this rain.”

The variety of moisture-loving pathogens reportedly affecting unpicked U.S. row crops reads like the nutrition label of a Halloween witches brew: mycotoxins, mold, mildew, fungus, and other diseases.

Most sections of the U.S. grain belt have received more than twice as much precipitation as normal this month, causing unprecedented delays in the harvest of the nation’s two-most important cash-crops. The resulting quality degradation is so bad that some producers are harvesting their remaining acreage with a plow, instead of a combine.

“We’ve had 28 inches of rain here since Oct. 1,” southwestern Arkansas grower Jim Caswell told Dow Jones Newswires Monday. “There is a big farmer down here who’s disking under 7,000 acres of corn, because it’s got such bad mold that the elevator won’t take it anymore…and it’d been yielding 185 (bushels an acre).”

Overripe grain in the Delta is under the greatest threat of deterioration, with many fields standing exposed to weeks of nearly continuous rain.

“The longer it’s out in the field, the more likely it will develop grain quality problems, weak stalks or seed quality damage,” said Jim Herbek, grain crops specialist with the University of Kentucky.

Harvest figures released by USDA Monday said half of the nation’s top-producing corn states still had more than 80-90% of their corn and half of their soybeans standing in the field, at a time when some are nearing completion.

“You can’t find a year in USDA’s data (which goes back to 1972) on corn harvest activity that is as slow as this year [20% complete]. Period. That underscores just how tough this fall has been,” said Roger Bernard of Pro Farmer. “In soybeans, the 44% complete on harvest is the slowest pace since 1985 and 1986.”

Harvest season rains have robbed southern soybean growers of what was expected to be a bumper crop.

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Water worries threaten U.S. push for natural gas

October 1, 2009

Thu Oct 1, 2009 8:26am EDT

By Jon Hurdle

PAVILLION, Wyoming (Reuters) – Louis Meeks, a burly 59-year-old alfalfa farmer, fills a metal trough with water from his well and watches an oily sheen form on the surface which gives off a faint odor of paint.

He points to small bubbles that appear in the water, and a thin ring of foam around the edge.

Meeks is convinced that energy companies drilling for natural gas in this central Wyoming farming community have poisoned his water and ruined his health.

A recent report by the Environmental Protection Agency suggests he just might have a case — and that the multi-billion dollar industry may have a problem on its hands. EPA tests found his well contained what it termed 14 “contaminants of concern.”

It tested 39 wells in the Pavillion area this year, and said in August that 11 were contaminated. The agency did not identify the cause but said gas drilling was a possibility.

What’s happened to the water supply in Pavillion could have repercussions for the nation’s energy policies. As a clean-burning fuel with giant reserves in the United States, natural gas is central to plans for reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

But aggressive development is drawing new scrutiny from residents who live near gas fields, even in energy-intensive states such as Wyoming, where one in five jobs are linked to the oil and gas industry which contributed more than $15 billion the state economy in 2007.

People living near gas drilling facilities in states including Pennsylvania, Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming have complained that their water has turned cloudy, foul-smelling, or even black as a result of chemicals used in a drilling technique called hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”

The industry contends drilling chemicals are heavily diluted and injected safely into gas reservoirs thousands of feet beneath aquifers, so they will never seep into drinking water supplies.

“There has never been a documented case of fracking that’s contaminated wells or groundwater,” said Randy Teeuwen, a spokesman for EnCana Corp (ECA), Canada’s second-largest energy company, which operates 248 wells in the Pavillion and nearby Muddy Ridge fields.

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CFTC moves to rein in small ETF investors: report

August 22, 2009

Sat Aug 22, 2009 12:18pm EDT

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Exchange-traded funds or ETFs have become a top target in U.S. regulators’ efforts to rein in excessive speculation in oil and other commodity markets, The Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday.

Commodity ETFs, which came into existence in 2003, offer one of the few avenues for small investors to gain direct exposure to commodity markets. The funds pool money from investors to make one-way bets, usually on rising prices.

Some say this causes excessive buying that artificially inflates prices for oil, natural gas and gold.

Commodity ETFs have ballooned to hold $59.3 billion in assets as of July, according to the National Stock Exchange, which tracks ETF data.

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission has said it seeks to protect end users of commodities, and that cutting out individual investors is not the goal.

“The Commission has never said, ‘You aren’t tall enough to ride,'” CFTC Commissioner Bart Chilton was quoted as saying in the WSJ article. “I don’t want to limit liquidity, but above all else, I want to ensure that prices for consumers are fair and that there is no manipulation — intentional or otherwise.”

Limiting the size of ETFs will result in higher costs for investors, the WSJ reported, because legal and operational costs have to be spread out over a fewer number of shares. Investors range from individuals to banks and hedge funds with multimillion-dollar positions.

The CFTC is currently considering a host of measures to curb excessive speculation, including position limits in U.S. futures markets. Many U.S. lawmakers called for greater regulation of some commodity markets after a price surge last year sent crude oil to a record high of $147 a barrel in July 2008.

(Reporting by Matthew Lewis; Editing by Toni Reinhold)


A Few ETF/ETN Picks – One Year Later

July 28, 2009

Here is an update on our ETF/ETN picks that are one year old today.

Not your normal 12 months by any stretch.

Staying disciplined and taking what the market gives leaves us well ahead of the market in even the worst of times.

ETF/ETN picks after 1 year

ETF/ETN picks after 1 year


Hope and Dreams Portfolio

November 21, 2008

The stocks in this group fall under the green/conservation/water umbrella. They are generally solving problems by doing good for society. Oh, and they make some money in the process.

Think positive and your dollars will respond in kind.

AMSC – supplies electrical systems used in wind turbines; sells power electronic products that regulate wind farm voltage to enable their interconnection to the power grid; licenses wind energy system designs to manufacturers of such systems, and provides consulting services to the wind industry.

BMI – is a manufacturer of flow measurement and control products, serving water utilities, municipalities and industrial customers worldwide. Measuring a variety of liquids, from potable water to oil and lubricants, to industrial processes, the Company’s products provide timely measurement information to its customers.

CCC – is a provider of products, and solutions for purifying water and air.

CDZI – is primarily engaged in acquiring and developing land and water resources. Its primary assets consist of 45,000 acres of land in three areas of eastern San Bernardino County, California. The Company’s portfolio of water resources are located in proximity to the Colorado River and the Colorado River Aqueduct, the principal source of imported water for Southern California, and provides the Company with the opportunity to participate in a variety of water storage and supply programs, exchanges and conservation programs with public agencies and other partners.

CLHB – is a provider of environmental services and an operator of non-nuclear hazardous waste treatment facilities in North America. The Company performs environmental services for over 45,000 customers, including more than 325 Fortune 500 companies.

CREE – focuses its expertise in SiC and GaN on light emitting diodes (LEDs), which consist of LED chips, LED components and LED lighting solutions. It also develops power and radio frequency (RF) products, including power switching and RF devices.

CWCO – develops and operates seawater desalination plants and water distribution systems in areas where naturally occurring supplies of potable water are scarce or nonexistent.

ELON – develops, markets, and sells system and network infrastructure products that enable various devices such as air conditioners, appliances, electricity meters, light switches, thermostats, and valves to be made smart and inter-connected. The Company’s products and services are offered to the principal markets, which include electric utilities, building automation, industrial automation, demand response, street lighting, home control and transportation.

FSYS – designs, manufactures and supplies alternative fuel components and systems for use in the transportation, industrial and power generation industries on a global basis.

FTEK – is an integrated company that uses a suite of technologies to provide boiler optimization, efficiency improvement and air pollution reduction and control solutions to utility and industrial customers worldwide. Fuel Tech’s special focus is the worldwide marketing of its nitrogen oxide (NOx) reduction and FUEL CHEM processes.

GRC – designs, manufactures and sells pumps and related equipment (pump and motor controls) for use in water, wastewater, construction, industrial, petroleum, original equipment, agriculture, fire protection, heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC), military and other liquid-handling applications.

HAIN – is engaged in manufacturing, marketing, distributing and selling natural and organic food products, and natural and organic personal care products under brand names, which are sold as better-for-you products.

HEV – has developed a working prototype of its hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) battery pack and is producing sample cells for testing for an electric vehicle (EV) battery pack.

ITRI
– provides a portfolio of products and services to utilities for the energy and water markets throughout the world. The Company is a provider of metering, data collection and software.

LNN – is a designer and manufacturer of self-propelled center pivot and lateral move irrigation systems, which are used in the agricultural industry to stabilize crop production while conserving water, energy, and labor.

PNR
– is a global player in providing products and systems used worldwide in the movement, storage, treatment and enjoyment of water.

SWWC
– is engaged in providing a range of services, including water production, treatment and distribution; wastewater collection and treatment; utility operations and maintenance services; and utility infrastructure construction.

TTEK – provides consulting, engineering, construction, and technical services for resource management and infrastructure in the United States and internationally. Its services include research and development, applied science and technology, engineering design, program management, construction management, construction, and operations and maintenance.

WGOV – engages in the design and manufacture of energy control and optimization solutions for reciprocating engine, aircraft and industrial turbines, and electrical power system equipment used in various industries worldwide. The company primarily provides integrated control systems and control components, such as electronics, actuators, valves, fuel systems, and combustion systems to OEMs of gas turbines for use in aerospace and industrial power markets; to OEMs of diesel engines, gas engines, steam turbines, and distributors for use in power generation, marine, transportation, and process applications; and to OEMs of electrical power generation, distribution, conversion, and quality equipment using digital controls and inverter technologies.

WTS
– is a supplier of products for use in the water quality, water safety, water flow control and water conservation markets.


Gold prices post biggest 1-day gain ever

September 17, 2008

Wednesday September 17, 4:31 pm ET
By Stevenson Jacobs, AP Business Writer

Gold makes biggest 1-day gain ever as investors flock to safe-haven assets

NEW YORK (AP) — Gold prices exploded Wednesday — posting the biggest one-day gain ever in dollar terms — as fears of more credit market turmoil unnerved investors and triggered a flood of safe-haven buying.

Gold for December delivery rose as much as $90.40, or 11.6 percent, to $870.90 an ounce in after-hours trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange after jumping $70 to settle at $850.50 in the regular session. That was the biggest one-day price jump ever; gold’s previous single-day record was a $64 gain on Jan. 29, 1980. In percentage terms, it was gold’s largest one-day advance since 1999.

The huge rally came after the government moved overnight to rescue troubled insurer American International Group Inc. (AIG) with an $85 million bailout loan. The Federal Reserve stepped in after AIG, teetering on collapse from losses tied to the subprime crisis and the credit crisis, failed to find adequate capital in the private sector.

The emergency measure came a day after Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. (LEH), a 158-year-old investment bank, filed for bankruptcy after failing to find a buyer.

Fearing more tightening of credit markets, investors reacted swiftly and began dumping stocks and socking money into gold, silver and other safe-haven commodities. Gold is especially attractive during times of crisis because the metal is known for holding its value.

Jon Nadler, analyst with Kitco Bullion Dealers Montreal, said buying accelerated as rumors spread across trading floors that another financial firm may be in trouble.

“The psychology right now has everyone asking, ‘Who’s next?,” Nadler said. “If another big bank falls, we could see an implosion and that has people very worried.”

A weaker dollar also boosted gold prices. A falling greenback encourages investors to shift funds into hard assets like gold and other commodities that are bought as hedges against inflation and weakness in the U.S. currency.

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