Hog Industry To Take New York Times Heat

The US hog industry will get a battering this morning from a New York Times Op-Ed piece by columnist Nicholas Kristof.  He wrote about an undercover investigation into practices at Iron Maiden Farms, a Kentucky producer, by the Humane Society of the United States.\r\n   The column http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/20/opinion/kristof-is-that-sausage-worth-this.html?smid=tw-share talks about the use of gestation crates, which are small enclosures that house pregnant sows.  When it is time for them to give birth, they are moved to farrowing, or birthing, crates that allow the baby pigs to nurse and minimizes the chances of the sows laying on the piglets and killing them.\r\n   The piece also features the current practice of inoculating sows against a deadly new virus that is lethal to baby pigs, called Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus, with the pureed intestines of dead piglets.  PEDv has already killed millions of baby pigs, and there is no vaccine.\r\n   The pork industry is phasing out gestation crates as buildings wear out, moving toward a more communal type of environment, but this isn’t fast enough for the vegetarian HSUS.  Besides, surreptitious videos always produce a guttural reaction that somebody is up to something illegal or immoral.  \r\n   Producers are inoculating the sows against PEDv so they will pass antibodies to their babies via the milk.  Kristof said the practice was condoned by veterinarians in the absence of a vaccine.\r\n\r\nStock Markets Pressured By Disappointing Manufacturing Data\r\n\r\n   Macro traders may back off investments in agricultural commodities amid fears of economic sluggishness after overnight data showed China is contracting and Europe isn’t growing as fast as in January.  Stock markets and US stock futures are weaker this morning.\r\n   The HSBC Markit preliminary, or flash, manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index was reported at a seven-month low of 48.3 overnight, down from 49.5 in January and below the 50 mark that divides expansion from contraction.  China’s flash manufacturing output PMI was 49.2, down from 50.8 in January, also a seven-month low.\r\n   China’s numbers were lower than many investors expected, and Dow Jones Newswire’s Morning Briefing quoted Joao Monteiro, an analyst at Monex Capital Markets saying the numbers add to concerns that the world’s Number 2 economy is really faltering.  It also feeds concerns the US Federal Reserve is tapering its economic stimulus program too swiftly.\r\n   Markit’s China PMI was followed by the release of similar indexes for the Eurozone.  The composite manufacturing PMI still showed economic growth with a reading of 53.0, but it was down from 54.0 in January to a two-month low.\r\n   The January flash manufacturing PMI for the US is due this morning at 9:00 am ET, after the January Consumer Price Index shows the US inflation rate.  A Dow Jones survey shows an average prediction that January inflation is up only 0.1%. \r\n\r\nWeather Turns More Worrisome\r\n\r\n   Weather forecasts 6 to 15 days out have turned drier for East and Central Brazil, and some traders worry about receding snow cover in the US.\r\n   A high-pressure ridge isn’t leaving East Brazil, blocking rain chances for the area.  Rain chances remain good, however, for areas to the south and west that produce 85% of the nation’s second corn crop.\r\n   Meanwhile, warmer temperatures and rain in the Central and southern US have some wheat traders worried about the prospects for winter kill should arctic temperatures return.  Such a blast from Canada is not predicted, but it is the middle of winter after all.\r\n   Overnight futures markets were quiet as traders await reports from the USDA’s Outlook Conference, which begins this morning.  The USDA releases some updated estimates on planted acreage and early yield estimates for the year.\r\n   No cash cattle trading was reported in the Plains through Wednesday, but higher beef prices, steady packer bids and smaller showlists bring the prospect of higher cash prices this week.\r\n   The USDA’s choice cutout value Wednesday was $213.85 per cwt, up $1.86, with select up $0.77 at $212.49.  The choice/select spread widened to 2.36, and there were 124 loads of fabricated product sold into the spot market.\r\n   The CME Feeder Cattle Cash Index for the seven days ending Tuesday is $171.59, down $0.05 while the March futures contract settled Wednesday at $171.17, down $0.52.\r\n