September WASDE Report Revises Corn Yields Higher and Soybean Yields Lower

CORN

After all of the news from crop scouts in the corn belt a few weeks ago, the much anticipated September WASDE report has been released. One of the bigger surprises came with the estimated corn yield. Pre-report estimates were expecting a reduction in corn yields from last month on news that the Iowa corn crop was not as good as previously thought. But, the USDA actually revised yields 0.9 bu/acre higher with a great crop in the South and the Eastern Corn Belt more than offsetting lower yields further West. The increase in yields will result in a record 13.843 billion bushels in corn being harvested this fall. Even with an increase of 55 million bushel in demand, ending stocks were revised up 15 million bushels from last month. Mississippi is expected to top last year’s record corn yields with a 170 bu/acre yield.

SOYBEANS

With reports coming out a few weeks ago of poor pod counts, it is unsurprising that the USDA revised soybean yields down by 1.4 bu/acre to 41.2 bu/acre. This figure is in line with most pre-report estimates. The lower production is partially offset by decreased crush and exports, however ending stocks were still revised down by 70 million bushels from last month to 150 million bushels. This is only 25 million bushels more than last year’s ending stocks.

Extension Service Reports Serve as “Informational Text” for Teachers

Teachers and administrators throughout the US are learning how to implement the latest innovation in education. The aim of the voluntary Common Core State Standards (CCSS) is to increase the competitiveness of the U.S. in the global marketplace by requiring students to practice the higher ordered thinking skills necessary in the 21st century. Its goal is to produce nation-wide academic benchmarks for students. Forty-five US states have signed up to adopt this voluntary program.

The CCSS is not a federal program, but is an effort of the National Governor’s Association Center for Best Practices, the Council of Chief State School Officers, private businesses, parents and students. The CCSS includes the use of “Informational Text” competencies, which returns non-fiction text to the center stage in the language curriculum. Written to inform a general audience, Extension Service resources (http://msucares.com/) provide the perfect source of informational text needed by today’s teachers.

Internationally benchmarked and based on research and evidence, the CCSS are aligned with college and career expectations and are more rigorous than outgoing standards. The new language standards focus on much more than just reading comprehension; they emphasize “close” reading, writing, speaking, and listening. The new math standards focus on precise thinking, data-driven decision making, and interpreting and analyzing data within charts. The new standards emphasize the skills needed to succeed in today’s dynamic economy: global awareness; economics, personal finance, and entrepreneurship; literacy in civics, health, and the environment; innovation skills of critical thinking and problem solving; technology skills of information, media, and technology literacy; and life skills of flexibility, adaptability, initiative, self-direction, diversity and tolerance, productivity and accountability, leadership and responsibility.

Anyone familiar with the vast resources Extension offers will immediately see how Extension Service materials are a natural source of informational text. Extension materials are written to the general citizenry, making them accessible to teachers and proficient readers at young ages. Additionally, Extension Service materials explain local phenomenon that naturally interest students. Even a quick look at http://msucares.com/pubs/index.html produces a plethora of material that teachers can use to meet language, math, science, and social studies standards. Currently, the Mississippi State University Extension Center for Economic Education and Financial Literacy and the Office of Agricultural Communications are working together to identify excellent sources of informational text, making it easier for teachers to quickly find and implement Extension publications in the classroom. Contact Dr. Smith at becky.smith@msstate.edu for further information and look for future posts with specific details.

Crop Market Update – Sept 6, 2013

Cereal Grains & Soybeans (by: Brian Williams)

It has been a tough week for corn markets again this week. Much of the downward pressure in the corn markets is because we are expecting a record corn crop this fall. Harvest is also in full gear in much of the South, with 34% of Mississippi’s corn harvest already complete. This is behind the average pace of 64%, but with the warm, relatively dry week throughout much of the state we should see significant progress reported next week. Soybean prices have held steady much of the week, closing ten cents higher than a week ago. Continue reading “Crop Market Update – Sept 6, 2013”

Economic Output for Mississippi’s Counties

Most of us understand that the term “Gross Domestic Product” refers to the monetary value of value added output of the United States.  But we may not realize that this same concept can be applied to states and counties as indicators of economic growth.

From 2007 to 2012, gross product for Mississippi increased by almost $300 million (33.4%) in real terms (see the following table).  And the changes for individual counties were just as varied.  From a high of 131.6% change for Kemper County (primarily due to the utilities and construction sectors) to a decline of 53.6% for Tunica County (declines in the arts, entertainment and recreation sector overrode several sector expansions), Mississippi’s counties have experienced a large number of economic expansions and declines.

On a state-wide basis, the largest gains (in percentage terms) have come from private educational services (32.5%) and utilities (17.5%) while the largest declines have been in manufacturing (-16.2%) and arts, entertainment and recreation (-31.5%).  And while the largest expansions and contractions have been concentrated in the state’s most populous counties, many of Mississippi’s small counties have experienced large absolute impacts as well.

MS GSP

For further information, a set of county economic and retail profiles for Mississippi can be found at http://muscares.com/crd/county_profiles/.

 

Optimize Your Facebook Business with Insights

It’s a familiar question. A new business launches its very own Facebook page and then begins to post content, but engagement is lackluster. Few people interact with the business page. What should a business owner do? The first question to ask is: Why the lackluster interaction? While many factors may contribute to lackluster interaction with fans, Facebook.com is trying to help small business owners optimize their business. One possible answer: Focus on engaging fans when they are online. Timing is everything in business and interaction with fans is no different. Lots of research exists that can direct a business owner to some rules of thumb when engaging fans on his or her page. But one of the new ways (thanks to a recent update by Facebook) is to simply observe the page data Facebook collects about fans. If you have the new Facebook Insights (and not everyone does just yet), here are the steps to follow to learn how to optimize your posts on your Facebook business page:

Step 1: Go to Insights for your page.

Step 2: Click on “Posts.”

Step 3: Click on “When Your Fans are Online” – this IS the view you want.

This view shows you two things: (1) The average number of your fans who saw any posts on Facebook by day of the week; and (2) The average number of your fans who saw any posts on Facebook in an hour.

An Example

The figure below shows an example from the Mississippi State University Extension Program that I deliver to communities here in Mississippi called Mississippi Bricks to Clicks. You will see two “Insights” from the view I have described above. First, you see that Wednesday (this past week) was the highest number of fans reached (116) and that the two top times were 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. View the info graphic about this, here.

So, use what Facebook gives you now. Next week, I’ll use this information when making my own posts on the Mississippi Bricks to Clicks page. Give it a try. And if you don’t understand, feel free to contact me at barnes@agecon.msstate.edu.

Dr. James Barnes

Ronald Coase, of Coase Theorem fame, Dies.

From the New York Times: (Ronald H. Coase, ‘Accidental’ Economist Who Won a Nobel Prize, Dies at 102)

Ronald H. Coase, whose insights about why companies work and when government regulation is unnecessary earned him a Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science in 1991, died on Monday in Chicago. He was 102.

He introduced the concept of transaction costs — the costs each party incurs in the course of buying or selling things — and showed that companies made economic sense when they were able to reduce or eliminate those costs by performing some functions in-house rather than dealing in the marketplace.

In the second of his groundbreaking papers, “The Problem of Social Cost,” published in 1960, Professor Coase challenged the idea that the only way to restrain people and companies from behaving in ways that harmed others was through government intervention. He argued that if there were no transaction costs, the affected parties could negotiate and settle conflicts privately to their mutual benefit, and that fostering such settlements might make more economic sense than pre-empting them with regulations.

The paper made the idea of property rights fundamental to understanding the role of regulation in the economy.

The Coase Theorem is a central theorem in environmental economics.  It states that, in the presence of an externality (e.g. I’m yelling loudly in the Junction and you’re annoyed), if there is (1) low transactions costs (we can speak to each other easily), (2) perfect information (we both know the benefits and costs to each other of my yelling), (3) and clear property rights (either I have the right to yell or you have the right to not hear my yelling), the two parties can bargain and an economically efficient outcome will result.  An economically efficient outcome is one in which the benefits to society (in this silly example, that’s just you and me) minus the costs to society are greatest.

If the conditions for the Coase Theorem hold, it means that, theoretically, there’s no need for government regulation or intervention to resolve the issue (assuming all we care about is economic efficiency, that is).  The question is always whether or not the conditions hold.