By John Harrington
DTN Livestock Analyst
Dear Santa, Mr. Claus, Kris Kringle, Ole Saint Nick, Father Christmas, or whatever alias you're going by these days.
Given your ancient ability to dodge inconvenient gifting and find loopholes in pleading letters from gullible children around the world, perhaps you now prefer something more politically correct like "North Pole Administrator of Conditional Giving" or "Comptroller of Manageable Christmas Cheer."
Damn. I'm off to a bad start, aren't I? After all those years of therapy, I was so hoping we could get back on the same page. Especially given the fact this year's wish list seems longer than a unit train.
Yes, I'm the same greedy boy you spent so much time in the '50's and '60's trying to reform into a responsible consumer with modest needs and appetite. How painful it must have been for your jolly heart to consistently ignore a small child's selfish cries for a pony, a real submarine, an army issue bazooka, a pony, a go-cart, a one-man helicopter, a professional drum set, a Fender MusicMaster, a pony...
Did I mention a pony?
But that's all water under the sleigh. After years of gut-eating bitterness and paralyzing issues of self-esteem, I've come to appreciate your brutal wisdom of extreme neglect. Really I have.
While the considerable length of the following Christmas petition may suggest to your naughty-and-nice police that I still haven't learned my lesson, I would point out to the elf patrol that none of these proposed packages are meant to be torn open by yours truly. Rather, I climb upon Santa's mysteriously frugal lap for the sake of U.S. livestock feeders in general.
1. One Deluxe Drought-Busting Extender Doll: The devastating era of $7 corn and tight feed supplies mercifully ended this year, at least temporarily. But some long-term weather maps suggest that the drought cycle remains alive and well. Livestock producers are in serious need of a reliable action figure that can ensure generous rainfall amounts over the next several growing seasons.
2. One Anti-RFS Ray Gun: Given the recent proposal by the EPA to lower the Renewal Fuel Standard in 2014 by 3 billion gallons, the heavily subsidized ethanol industry has finally shown a chink in its armor that meat producers are eager to exploit. Truthfully, this new laser will not be a popular toy with everyone in the neighborhood. Yet many who have struggled with the impossible cost of feed in recent years will be happily slinging one from both hips.
3. One Economic Growth Rocket: While we're not finicky about either model or brand, it would be nice if the rocket had the same firepower that Dow Jones and S&P boosters demonstrated in 2013. But the livestock feeding world needs to see more than "paper" wealth in 2014. This is particularly true for beef producers who can only increase total revenue by selling steak and burgers higher. Another round of record meat counter and menu prices seem virtually unavoidable, a formidable challenge that requires serious employment and consumer spending growth.
4. One Russian Demand Restoration Kit: Please make sure there is plenty of super glue and rubber bands in this much-needed box. Cumulative beef exports to Russia have fallen to nearly zero from 108.7 million pounds in 2012 since a ban was implemented by the former super power in February 2013. The current ractopamine ban has also forced U.S. pork shipments to zero. Year to date, Russia has only imported 17.6 million pounds of pork, a 93.6% reduction when compared to 2012 and only 1% of total pork exports during the Jan-Sept period. Finding a method to place Russia back in the importing saddle would be a heroic feat right up there with Rudolph cutting your way through the fog with his shiny snoz.
5. One China Export Erector Set: Although the pork industry already finds itself on a nice curve of export demand with China (especially now that Smithfield Foods has been acquired by Shuanghui International Holdings), would-be beef engineers will go crazy finding this under the tree. We've been salivating over potential Chinese beef demand for years, but still have not managed to kick through the Bamboo Curtain. On the other hand, exports to Hong Kong (typically known as China's backdoor) are now running nearly 70% above the first nine months of 2012. Maybe a special stocking stuffer could finally open the floodgates in 2014.
6. One Cattle Herd Expansion Game: Like so many of your toys that fall from the midnight sky, this game will be absolutely useless if it arrives without batteries (i.e., the drought-busting doll). I don't mean to be a whiner, but the play will be pretty dull without that economic rocket. Greater heifer retention means smaller beef production and higher retail prices. Stop me if I'm asking too much.
7. One PED Vaccine Lab: Desperate pork producers will have their heads buried in this educational present the moment you make the drop, hoping to nail an effective vaccine against the most vicious threat to animal health seen in years. Of course, the destructive mystery of porcine epidemic diarrhea at the present time is the one major barrier preventing aggressive breeding herd expansion.
8. One HSUS Lie Detector: This promises to be a great gift, allowing livestock producers to more efficiently expose false and misleading statements by extreme ideologues in the animal rights movement. Fortunately, if this package would happen to tumble out of the sleigh somewhere over the Atlantic, the old way of detecting official HSUS fibs is remarkably effective: Watch for their lips to move.
That's about it, old man. Let's see what you've got. I've written early, made you sign for the letter, and your line of credit. All the tired excuses are gone.
On the other hand, it's not like beef and pork producers have the spoiled sensibilities of the Kardashians. These guys know disappointment better than the lyrics to "Jingle Bells." If a few goodies get stuck in the chimney or lost in the workshop, most will still joyously celebrate the season and be back knocking on your door in December 2014.
Yet if that drought-busting doll is not in your sack on Christmas Eve, you might as well just stay by the fire and plan on significantly less fan mail next year.
P.S. Still looking for the pony.
For more of John's commentary, visit http://feelofthemarket.com/…
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