Hurricane Isaac ravaged the Gulf coasts of Louisiana and Mississippi last week. Strong winds and torrential rain forced export grain elevators, sugar mills and other food facilities to close early in the week and remain closed into the Labor Day weekend. Flooding damaged row crops, particularly soybeans, in some of the worst affected areas. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said as the hurricane was at full strength, “On the soybean side, it may make it very difficult, if not impossible, for some (Delta) producers to harvest whatever crop they may have. On the rice side, it depends on how severe and hard it hits. It could impact production.”

Secretary Vilsack added. “We anticipate some impact on crops, but we’re not able to know for sure until the storm works itself out…This has been a tough year, and that’s another reason why we need a strong safety net for producers and why we’re thankful for crop insurance.”

While Delta farmers’ crops suffered from the wrath of the storm, Midwestern growers were hopeful rain from the remnants of Isaac would provide some relief from the worst and most extensive drought in 50 years.

The storm was forecast to track westward from Louisiana to eastern Texas and then turn northeastward across eastern Oklahoma, the sunbaked fields of Missouri and into the eastern Corn Belt. The rain was too late to benefit corn, which remained only to be harvested at this point. And it may be too late to help most of the soybeans in the storm’s path. But the moisture was badly needed to begin recharging soil moisture in advance of the fall planting of the 2013 winter wheat crop.

Record agricultural exports forecast for fiscal 2013
The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Aug. 30 projected the value of U.S. agricultural exports in fiscal year 2013 (Oct. 1, 2012-Sept. 30, 2013) at a record $143.5 billion, up from $136.5 billion as forecast for the current year and up $6.1 billion from the previous record of $137.4 billion in fiscal year 2011.

The U.S.D.A. indicated grain and feed exports were expected to increase largely because of higher wheat volume and value, but also because of higher corn unit values. The forecast for oilseeds was up from 2012 based on record soybean and soybean meal prices attributed to tight exportable supplies.

The value of U.S. agricultural imports in fiscal 2013 was projected at a record $117 billion, up from a record $106.5 billion estimated for the current year. The U.S.D.A. said, “For 2012, tropical oils (coconut, palm and palm kernel), olive oil, coffee and cocoa beans, sugar and rubber have all experienced price declines as world demand has weakened. These downward price adjustments are expected to boost U.S. agricultural import volume in 2013.”

The forecast balance of agricultural trade for fiscal 2013 showed a surplus of $26.5 billion, down $3.5 billion from the revised estimate for 2012 at $30 billion and compared with a record $42.9 billion in fiscal year 2011.