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finances-photo isuThere are signs of growing risk in the farm sector because of surging demand for farm operating loans.

That’s according to the latest ag finance report from the Federal Reserve System. Nathan Kauffman who heads up the Omaha branch of the Kansas City Federal Reserve, tells Brownfield they’ve seen a steady increase in large operating loans over the past year—and he says it’s something they’re monitoring closely.

AUDIO: Nathan Kauffman

Photo courtesy Iowa State University

 

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Dairy herd

As of late Friday afternoon, dairy policy remained a sticking point at the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations in Hawaii. Reports say Canada has made nothing more than a token offer but no formal proposal to open its market. As a result the Australian Broadcasting Company says the United States stated that if Canada doesn’t increase access to U.S. dairy, the U.S. will not increase access for New Zealand.

Dairy Farmers of Canada president Wally Smith says Canadian Trade Minister Ed Fast solemnly pledged to dairy farmers in a late-night Wednesday meeting the government would protect their industry from harm. The Trade Minister’s press secretary told the Globe and Mail the finger pointing is just Washington’s attempt to redirect pressure from countries who want more access to the U.S. market.

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073115_10_ResizedThe InfoAg Conference, which took place this week in St. Louis, is about blending high technology with agriculture.  Jesse Vollmar is a young man that has made a success out of his passion for both.

Vollmar co-founded FarmLogs four years ago and describes his company in terms that could describe many of the InfoAg exhibiters.

“FarmLogs is a company that helps farmers take advantage cutting-edge science that’s implemented into software and delivered through a very beautiful, easy to use product,” Vollmar told Brownfield Ag News following a presentation at InfoAg on Thursday.

FarmLogs collects weather data and measures the health of crops at precise points in a field.

That’s attracted customers and also the attention of Forbes Magazine, which named Vollmer to its 2014 list of 30 under 30 in Energy and Industry.  He was 25 at the time he was put on that list.

“That’s great, you know, but really what it’s all about is just being at the intersection of the two things I love, farming and technology,” said Vollmar, downplaying his place on the Forbes list.  “I grew up on the farm; my roots are in agriculture, but I really fell in love with technology at an early age, and here I am now able to bring those two things together.”

Vollmar’s FarmLogs released its latest piece of hardware Wednesday at InfoAg.  “We’re actually able to use cutting edge technology to plow it right back into the roots that I had in agriculture.”

AUDIO: Jesse Vollmar (6 min. MP3)

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UK Dairy 3

Dairy farmers in Northern Ireland met with Minister of Agriculture Michelle O’Neill and members of their national assembly Agriculture Committee on Thursday in an effort to get the United Kingdom to do something about milk prices. The producers have requested a meeting with U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron. The Belfast Telegraph says the more than 200 farmers attending the meeting want to meet with the Prime Minister in hopes he can convince European Union Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan to raise the EU intervention price. The trigger for the EU to purchase excess butter and powder was set more than a decade ago and is well below the current cost of production.

Recently Arla, the dairy cooperative which buys the milk of 25 percent of the U.K.’s producers announced another price cut of 0.8 PPL (pence per liter) putting the farmgate price at 23.01 PPL as of August 3rd. That works out to about $11.69 per hundredweight, well below the estimated $17 cost of production. The co-op cited the 10.7 percent decline in prices at the most recent Global Dairy Trade auction as an indication of the declining value of milk on the world market.

 

Some British dairy farmers have come up with a new way to protest low milk prices. UK farmgate prices have plummeted because of a price war among four major grocery store chains. On Monday evening about 60 dairy farmers went into a grocery store in South Glouchestershire, took all of the milk off the shelves, put it in shopping carts and then left the loaded carts at the checkout counter. A video of the event has gone viral on the internet.

The farmers have challenged other farmers to see if they can empty a supermarket’s dairy case faster than they did. One producer said they are going to keep doing this until the supermarkets start paying farmers a fair price for milk.

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EPA's Gina McCarthy says this water left in channel on Bill Heffernan's upland Missouri farmland won't be regulated

EPA’s Gina McCarthy says this water left in channel on Bill Heffernan’s upland Missouri farm (2014) won’t be regulated

A dozen lawsuits against the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers on its Clean Water rule – formerly named Waters of the U.S. – have been consolidated. A report by Agri-Pulse says the EPA and Corps asked to have the petitions grouped together and a judicial panel agreed.

The 6th Circuit Court – which covers parts of Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee – will hear the cases.

The suits were filed by environmental groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council that want a stronger rule – and, the American Farm Bureau along with quite a few state governments that say the rule goes too far and want it narrowed.

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Programs ICONSeveral reports say Bayer is not interested in acquiring its competitor Syngenta – as Monsanto continues to pursue Syngenta.

Bayer’s CEO told CNBC that Syngenta is “not a logical acquisition target for Bayer” because of a lot of overlap of crop protection products in the businesses. Syngenta continues to reject Monsanto’s offers.

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Army Corps of Engineers internal memos connected to the EPA’s Waters of the U.S. rule reveal what the American Farm Bureau says is dysfunction, secrecy and misconduct at the EPA.  The corps memos were released Thursday by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.  Farm Bureau Congressional Relations Director Don Parrish says the memos show that EPA’s cost-benefit economic analysis “is not worth the paper it’s written on.”

“The Corps said they don’t even want to be associated with it,” Parrish told Brownfield Ag News Friday, “and that they misused Corps data in order to produce that economic analysis.”

In many cases, the corps didn’t get to see what the EPA now refers to as the Clean Water Rule until after it went through the Interagency Review Process, said Parrish. This, he said, brings into question whether it’s a JOINT rulemaking between the Corps and the EPA.

“You’re looking at kind of a systematic disregard to the process, into the fundamental underpinnings of the way in which our federal agencies are supposed to conduct important administrative law,” said Parrish.

In the memos, the Corps raised concerns about whether a depression holding water on a farm would be a regulated “water” or an excluded “puddle,” according to a news release from the AFBF.  EPA has insisted throughout the rulemaking process, said the new release, that “puddles” would not be regulated.

AUDIO: Don Parrish AFBF (5 min. MP3)

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Dave Lehman_CME GroupFairs across the country are providing a unique opportunity for young fairgoers to learn about the business of agriculture.

Dave Lehman, Managing Director of Agricultural Research & Product Development at CME Group tells Brownfield Commodity Carnival is a game that teaches what it takes to raise a pig.

“The costs that are associated with that and then the risks that are associated with it, weather, maybe a health issue, news events about trade agreements, those types of things,” Lehman said. “So it’s a way to get young people in agriculture to start thinking about agriculture as a business and how they can manage risk associated with that business.”

Developed at Ohio State University, this is the third year CME Group and the National 4-H Council have partnered to feature Commodity Carnival at more than 100 State and County Fairs.

Audio: Dave Lehman, CME Group

 For a list of county and State Fairs where you can find Commodity Carnival go here.

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Despite the big drop on Monday, dairy markets recovered quite nicely by the end of the week on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. On Friday barrels slipped 1.25 cents, blocks gained a quarter-cent, butter increased 4 cents and nonfat dry milk was a quarter-cent higher. Class III futures were mixed.

Compared to a week ago, cash cheese barrels gained 3.75 cents, blocks added a nickel, butter is 3.5 cents higher and nonfat dry milk lost 1.25 cents. August Class III gained 13 cents, September increased 24 cents, October was 12 cents higher and January lost 3 cents.

Seasonal declines in milk production and components leading to tighter milk supplies in the Midwest and West. The decline is even greater in the Southeast where it has been hot. Florida imported 20 loads this week. Butter demand remains strong but churning rates have slowed as cream supplies have tightened up.

The national weighted average advertised price for a half gallon of organic milk is $3.42 while a half gallon of conventional is $2.18 putting the organic-to-conventional spread at $1.24.

Total organic milk product sales in May was 195 million pounds down 7.4 percent from May of 2014. January – through – May total organic milk product sales are 1.9 percent below the same period in 2014.  Sales of organic whole milk are above a year ago.

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Top Story IconSeveral ag, consumer and competition groups are urging the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the proposed merger of JBS and Cargill. The American Antitrust Institute, Food & Water Watch, Iowa Farmers Union, the National Farmers Union and the Missouri Rural Crisis Center have written a white paper about their concerns.

The crisis center’s Rhonda Perry tells Brownfield the consolidation in the pork industry since 1985 is evident, “We can clearly see that farmers didn’t benefit. We’ve lost 90% of the hog farmers. Consumers didn’t benefit because we’ve seen 113% increase in consumer prices in terms of retail sales of pork.”

She says the Justice Department has dropped the ball over the years and government is increasingly allowing this type of concentration.

Perry says the white paper also addresses foreign ownership concerns in the food industry, “This would put the two largest packers of pork in the hands of foreign corporations. And, I think, you know, our organization thinks it’s an extremely dangerous path to go down.”

Perry points to the Missouri law passed in 2013 that allowed foreign ownership of one-percent of ag lands. Shortly afterwards, Smithfield was bought by a Chinese company which now owns 50-thousand acres in Missouri.

AUDIO:  Interview with Rhonda Perry (13:00 mp3)

 

 

 

 

 

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Futures Markets copy

Soybeans were lower on fund and speculative selling. China canceled on 200,000 tons of previously purchased new crop U.S. beans, confirming some recent market chatter. Near term crop weather forecasts are non-threatening with seasonal temperatures and rainfall for much of the Midwest. Soybean meal and oil were lower on spillover from beans. Friday was the first notice day for August soybean and product contracts.

Corn was lower on fund and speculative selling. Mexico bought more than 108,000 tons of U.S. corn, mostly for delivery next marketing year. Out of the total, 72,136 tons are for 2015/16 delivery and 36,038 tons are for 2016/17 delivery. Corn’s also watching the weather and while the forecasted rainfall isn’t needed in some areas, it’ll be welcome in other areas. Ethanol was mixed.

The wheat complex was mixed, with light commercial interest supporting Kansas City and nearby Chicago contracts. Contracts started the day around five week lows and unknown bought nearly 127,000 tons of U.S. wheat. 67,650 tons were hard red winter, 37,250 tons were white wheat, and 22,000 tons were hard red spring. However, the fundamentals are bearish with a large world supply and slow export demand for U.S. wheat.

 

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nebraska dairy health department award 7-15The Nebraska Department of Health has presented a “Certificate of Appreciation” to the Midwest Dairy Association, in recognition of that group’s Fuel Up to Play 60 program.

Fuel Up to Play 60 is an in-school nutrition and physical activity program developed by the dairy industry in collaboration with the National Football League and USDA. In presenting the award, the Department of Health commended the group “for promoting healthy eating and physical activity in school in a fun and positive way”.

Rod Johnson with Midwest Dairy says it’s been a big hit in Nebraska.

“We have about 850 schools that are involved in the program across the state,” Johnson says. “Of course, some of them are at various levels of participation. But it’s been having a very big impact.”

Johnson says Fuel Up to Play 60 is a good example of how the dairy industry is reaching beyond the traditional approaches to capture the future consumers of its product.

AUDIO: Rod Johnson

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USDA Mandatory reported cattle trading and demand was moderate in Kansas Friday afternoon. Compared to last week, live sales were 2.00 higher at 147.00. Trading was light in Nebraska on moderate demand. Compared to the previous week, live and dressed sales were 2.00 higher at 147.00 to 148.00 live, and 234.00 dressed. Dressed sales in Iowa were 1.00 to 2.00 higher at 234. The weekly cattle kill was estimated at 532,000 head, 7,000 less than last week, and 43,000 head smaller than 2014.

Boxed beef cutout values were steady on light to moderate demand and offerings. Choice beef was down .09 at 233.25, and select was .03 lower at 229.29.

Chicago Mercantile Exchange live cattle contracts ended the day mostly 30 to 80 points lower. Only the August contract finished in positive territory. The lack of support through the rest of the market was based on end of the month positioning before traders leave for the weekend and close the book on the month of July. August settled .47 higher at 145.70, and October ended .52 lower at 145.92.

Feeder cattle were 50 to 205 points lower on Friday as traders continued to look for additional direction as they exited the market for the month of July. The ability to draw buyers back into the market at the end of the week was extremely limited adding to the uncertainty about additional market support over the near future. August was down .50 points at 210.72, and September was .85 lower at 207.75.

Feeder cattle receipts at Missouri auctions this week totaled just 8,815 head. Compared to last week, feeder steers and heifers sold with a weak to lower undertone. The feeder supply was light, it has actually been a very long time since weekly receipts have been this short on a non-holiday week. High heat has been one of the main factors responsible for curtailing the transportation of livestock. Feeder steers medium and large 1 averaging 668 pounds traded at 231.83 per hundredweight. Heifers’ averaging 623 pounds brought 217.01.

Lean hogs settled 70 to 197 points lower. Sharp losses developed as traders continued to back away from the complex at the end of the month. Trade volume was sluggish, and that appeared to add to the aggressive price pressure. August was down 1.17 at 78.50, and October was 1.97 lower at 63.72.

Barrows and gilts in the Iowa/Minnesota direct trade closed at 75.56 weighted average on a carcass basis, with no price comparison, the West was down .78 at 75.23, and nationally the market was .15 lower at 74.42.

Pork carcass cutout value was up 1.25 at 87.48 FOB plant. Loins and bellies were significantly higher.

Average prices for beef and pork fell in grocery-store advertisements this week, according to the latest Wall Street Journal retail-meat survey. The 15-cut average for beef decreased to $5.62 a pound from $5.80 a pound last week and $5.91 a year earlier, the Journal survey found.

The five-cut average for pork prices slid to $2.95 a pound from $3.22 last week. Prices were lower than the $3.59-a-pound average a year earlier.

USDA estimated the weekly hog kill at 2,137,000 head, 36,000 greater than last week, and 267,000 more than last year.

 

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Open house at a new hog facility near Blair, Nebraska

Open house at a new hog facility near Blair, Nebraska

Contract finishing of hogs is expanding in Nebraska.

One of the newest facilities is on John Tyson’s farm north of Blair in Washington County.

“I raised hogs from 1980 to about 1998 and then I finally got out of hogs,” Tyson says. “Now the boys are back on the farm and we need to diversify the family operation—so that’s what we’re doing.”

The Tysons will be finishing hogs for The Maschhoffs, a large hog operation based in Illinois. John Tyson tells Brownfield the extra income will be helpful, but he’s also excited about the manure those pigs produce.

“It’s basically a fertilizer factory for us,” he says. “I figure that this building, once a year, we’ll get around 40-thousand dollars worth of fertilizer out of it.”

AUDIO: John Tyson

Al Stephens with The Maschhoffs says Nebraska is one of the company’s major growth areas.

“From a company standpoint—and an industry standpoint—the Nebraska hog industry sees a huge opportunity here to grow,” Stephens says. “There’s a lot of corn here that gets exported and we all believe it would be better to feed that to local livestock. And so we’re trying to do whatever we can to help grow that.”

AUDIO: Al Stephens

Willow Holoubek with the Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska (A-FAN) is pleased that more hog finishing facilities are being built. But she says there’s still plenty of room for growth in the state.

“We’re still exporting about 25 to 30 percent of our pigs out of state, to be fed someone else’s corn, and then to come back to our food processors in Nebraska,” Holoubek says. “So the opportunity is huge.”

AUDIO: Willow Holoubek

A-FAN is working to help grow Nebraska’s livestock industry. They helped sponsor an open house at the Tyson’s new facility near Blair.

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Futures Markets copy

Sep. corn closed at $3.71, down 2 and 1/4 cents
Aug. soybeans closed at $9.80 and 3/4, down 9 and 1/2 cents
Aug. soybean meal closed at $354.60, down $2.50
Aug. soybean oil closed at 29.98, down 30 points
Sep. wheat closed at $4.99 and 1/4, up 2 and 3/4 cents
Aug. live cattle closed at $145.70, up 47 cents
Aug. lean hogs closed at $78.50, down $1.17
Sep. crude oil closed at $47.12, down $1.40
Oct. cotton closed at 64.01, up 35 points
Sep. rice closed at $11.51 and 1/2, up 8 cents
Aug. Class III milk closed at $16.41, up 3 cents
Aug. gold closed at $1,094.90, up $6.50
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 17,690.46, down 55.52 points

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Shannon Schlecht

The new executive director of the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI) has a background in biotechnology. Shannon Schlecht was formerly Vice President of Policy for U.S. Wheat Associates.

“In my previous role a lot of the work was on everything that was happening on biotechnology.  Whether it be new research and innovation, new traits, tolerance and all of those issues that can create some problems in the marketplace if they’re not handled correctly.”

Schlecht tells Brownfield he would like to see AURI take on more of an educational role.

“Not just the food side of the agricultural chain, but showing what science can do to create new projects for agriculture.  To create some excitement and buzz around agricultural products.”

He says he is looking forward to moving Minnesota agriculture forward in terms of adding value and partnering with associations and businesses in the state. Schlecht will officially join AURI in September, when he will assume overall strategic and operational responsibility for the Institute’s staff, programs and execution of its mission.

 

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forage

Forage quality is another casualty of this year’s excessive rainfall.  Purdue Extension forage specialist Keith Johnson says forage testing is going to be vital to livestock producers.

He says as plants age – they take on more fiber and become less palatable to the animal.  “It reduces the intake and crude protein is reduced as forages age,” he says.  “We have a situation where quality is very much impacted because we’re harvesting 4-6 weeks later than normal.”

Before feeding hay from this year – it needs to be tested.  Once tested and analyzed – Johnson tells Brownfield it’s important for producers to work with an animal nutritionist to create a proper feeding plan.  “Help us use those feeds in the right order as the needs of the livestock change,” he says.  “Then we can supplement them accordingly with products to make sure we keep these animal in good body condition as they go through winter.”

And if the weather cooperates, he says there is still opportunity for another harvest.  “With that comes the possibility that we could have hay that we are quite proud of and is harvested on a timely basis,” he says.  “Therefore it has nutrient levels in the form of energy and protein that are more apt to meet the needs of livestock that we have.”

A link to more information on forage testing can be found HERE.

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Indiana Governor Mike Pence is requesting a secretarial disaster declaration for counties with crop loss from this year’s excessive rainfall.

In joint letter to Secretary Vilsack, the Governor, Lt. Governor Sue Ellspermann and Indiana FSA state director Julia Wickard say the losses are ongoing.

FSA’s Julia Wickard tells Brownfield 53 of Indiana’s 92 counties have been impacted.  “We had 50 counties actually meet that 30 percent threshold,” she says.  “And then we had some reports from counties from boots on the ground surveys county offices did in conjunction with the county emergency board that we also requested three additional counties.”

Wickard explains what would be available to producers if a disaster declaration is issued.  “Producers would be eligible for low-interest emergency loans for that commodity that was impacted,” she says.  “That is what we at the Farm Service Agency will be able to offer for producers later on this growing season.”

She says they hope to have a decision from Washington, DC within the next week.

Here is the list of Counties.

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This has been a week of subtle rumblings regarding climate change.  The White House held a ceremony for multinational corporations “pledging” to do the right thing, while the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee, in stout bipartisan fashion, beat back a “provocative” amendment from presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders (I, VT) to formally acknowledge climate change actually exists.

I’m not going to debate the veracity of climate change, but the reality is President Obama has made shifts in weather a “legacy” issue and has ordered all hands on deck throughout the Administration to do something to “assist” their constituents in “transitioning” to a warmer/colder, wetter/drier planet.  Heck, even the Pope is holding Vatican confabs on climate change, and Sanders’ competitors on the election trail are starting to make lots of noise about it.

With a major United Nations (UN) conference on climate change set for November 30, several major U.S. companies, including Cargill, Inc., joined a July 27 White House ceremony where they signed “The American Business Act on Climate Change.”  Under this “pledge,” these monster multinationals with massive carbon footprints agree to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, reduce water use, increase renewable energy use and support U.S. negotiations on climate change at the UN meeting in Paris.

Joining Cargill at the White House were Walmart, Alcoa, Apple, Bank of America, Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Coca-Cola, General Motors, Goldman Sachs, Google, Microsoft, Pepsico and UPS.

While Cargill set its goals over a decade ago, and reports it’s improved energy efficiency 16%, carbon intensity by 9%, and freshwater efficiency by 12% since setting energy goals in 2000, and climate and water goals in 2005, it occurs to me there are very likely companies and farms out there that can match or exceed the Cargill achievements.

Successful business people running or owning/running operations automatically care – or should care – about the overhead, and should be consistently looking for ways to cut operating costs while increasing efficiencies.  So when it comes to climate change, my cynical self tells me all of the efficiencies and renewables and reductions talked about at the White House this week can be translated into operational efficiencies applicable to and likely in place at many companies

Again, most companies likely aren’t aware they have a major, positive public relations image-buffing tool sitting among their monthly operating reports. I’ll wager if most companies sat down and worked out their own energy efficiency increases, their carbon “intensity” reduction – though I must admit I’m not exactly sure what that means – along with water reductions and other cost-cutting moves, they could crank out press releases ballyhooing the facts of their climate change wonderfulness.

Now, as to signing a “pledge” to support this or any other White House’s negotiations at a UN meeting, I’m not sure I’d go that far.

 

 

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The feedlot cattle trade is very slow to start on Friday with just a few more bids on the table from 143.00 to 145.00 live, and 230.00 dressed. Bids are still a long way from the current asking prices of 148.00 in the South and 236.00 plus in the North. Packer inquiry should start to improve, but it may be late afternoon before we see significant trade volume.

Boxed beef values at midday are steady to weak. Choice beef is down .07 at 233.27, and select is .37 higher at 229.69.

Feeder cattle receipts at Missouri auctions this week totaled just 8,815 head. Compared to last week, feeder steers and heifers sold with a weak to lower undertone. The feeder supply was light, it has actually been a very long time since weekly receipts have been this short on a non-holiday week. High heat has been one of the main factors responsible for curtailing the transportation of livestock. Seasonal lows in the market are also not overly attractive for producers to sell when pastures are green and still growing which is very uncommon for the beginning of August. Feeder steers medium and large 1 averaging 668 pounds traded at 231.83 per hundredweight. Heifers’ averaging 623 pounds brought 217.01.

Barrows and gilts in the Iowa/Minnesota direct trade opened at 73.10 weighted average on a carcass basis, there was no trend as the market was not reported due to confidentiality on Thursday. The Western market was down 2.38 at 73.63, and nationally 1.30 lower at 73.27. Missouri direct base carcass meat price is steady from 70.00 to 72.00. Midwest hogs are lightly tested on Friday at steady prices from 46.00 to 58.00 live.

The pork carcass cutout value is down .85 at 85.38.

Average prices for beef and pork fell in grocery-store advertisements this week, according to the latest Wall Street Journal retail-meat survey. The 15-cut average for beef decreased to $5.62 a pound from $5.80 a pound last week and $5.91 a year earlier, the Journal survey found.

The five-cut average for pork prices slid to $2.95 a pound from $3.22 last week. Prices were lower than the $3.59-a-pound average a year earlier.

Chicken prices decreased as well.

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