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La. Farm Bureau/Radio Network‏

November 20, 2013

Thanksgiving Costs More Again

Louisiana cooks shopping for Thanksgiving will find the costs of traditional dinner items up for the second year in a row. The 2013 Thanksgiving market basket will average $48.50 for 10 people, according to an LSU AgCenter survey. "That's an increase of $4.15 from last year's Baton Rouge average of $44.35 - or an increase of 9.35 percent," said LSU AgCenter family economist Jeanette Tucker. The Louisiana survey was based on an American Farm Bureau Federation shopping list that includes turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a relish tray of carrots and celery, pumpkin pie with whipped cream and beverages of coffee and milk, all in quantities sufficient to serve a group of 10. The cost of a 16-pound turkey at $22.19, or roughly $1.38 per pound, reflects an increase of 23 cents per pound or a total increase of $3.74 per whole turkey. "This is the largest contributor to the overall increase in the cost of the 2013 Thanksgiving dinner," Tucker said. According to data and forecasts released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, turkey production for 2013 is expected to be down by roughly 2 percent from the previous year. LSU AgCenter agricultural economist Kurt Guidry said factors like processing, transportation and other transaction costs of getting the product from the farm gate to the final retail product also can affect the retail prices. While fuel prices averaged roughly 1 percent lower through the first three quarters of 2013, they still remain at historically high levels, Guidry said. Natural gas and electricity prices have moved higher in 2013, potentially adding to the costs of processing and transporting products from the farm to retail. "The rise in turkey costs could also be a function of the high prices of competing meat products. Beef, pork and broiler prices are all higher in 2013 versus 2012, and the high retail prices of those may be providing some spillover support to turkey prices" Guidry said. While this year's price increase is substantial, Tucker said, turkey is a consistent bargain for the frugal shopper - healthy, delicious lean meat for around $1 per pound.

Sugarcane May Propel Next Bayou State Boom

When Louisiana Spirits Distillery held its grand opening in Lacassine last week, bartenders poured Bayou Breeze cocktails out of big glass jugs that were decorated with sculpted silver alligators. But, as The Advertiser reports, rum wasn't the only reason spirits were high. Many in the crowd, including Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, viewed the new $5 million project as a sign that the Interstate 10 corridor between Lake Charles and Lafayette was ready to boom-not only with oil and petrochemical products, but also with sugar. Dardenne reminded the crowd that Etienne de Bore, New Orleans' first mayor, was the man who discovered how to crystallize sugar in 1795. The distillery will make its Bayou Rum with sugar it buys from M.A. Patout & Son in Iberia Parish. And sugar, as well as oil, will propel job and construction growth in this new economic boom scenario. "I just got back from New York where I was visiting the rating agencies-Moody's, Goldman Sachs, Standard & Poor's-to explain there are $80 billion in projects getting ready to launch," Dardenne told those in attendance. "[Lafayette City-Parish President] Joey Durel was with me. I can see this new boom in sugar refining having the sort of impact on Jeff Davis and other rural parishes that the oil industry has on Youngsville and Broussard. Lafayette is the city where business is done, but industry employees enjoy the restful atmosphere of the more rural bedroom communities so they start moving there." Read the full story.

Lucas Calls This Week the Farm Bill Deadline

Frank Lucas - House Agriculture Committee Chairman and leader of the Farm Bill Conference Committee - says farm bill leaders need to have a draft of the farm bill by the end of this week if it's to become law before the end of the year. Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow expressed hope the leaders could release a framework by the end of the week or shortly thereafter. These committee leaders aren't alone in their desire to make a big push forward in the farm bill negotiations. Nebraska Senator Mike Johanns - former Secretary of Agriculture - sent a letter to the leaders of the farm bill conference committee Tuesday. He said as conferees aim to wrap up this week - it's crucially important to be more honest about the risks in the direction some are trying to take. Johanns said it will distort the ag economy, raise trade concerns and skew the market for farmers and ranchers for years to come. He said producers need the certainty of long-term ag policy - but deserve a farm bill that helps them sell goods on the global market - not one that distorts it. Johanns even said an extension of the current farm bill - something he has opposed - would be better than an outdated farm policy. Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley also focused on the idea of recoupling target prices to planted acres in a statement Tuesday. Grassley said he's hearing Chairman Lucas and his staff are trying to convince people there is no reason to be troubled about concerns regarding planted acres. But he said enacting the House commodity title - where extremely high target prices for some crops are coupled with planted acres - would take us back to a time when farmers planted for the government instead of the market. On top of that - Grassley noted concerns of World Trade Organization challenges.

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