U.S. farm credit looks safer than houses

August 20, 2014

Washington’s $200 billion-plus subsidized agricultural lending complex includes Farmer Mac, a rural copy of ill-fated Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Despite a hot farmland market, though, the system looks ruggedly capitalized enough to avoid the bailout fate of the home-loan behemoths.

ADM goes M&A wild – sort of

July 7, 2014

The $30 bln U.S. food giant is buying Swiss natural ingredient maker Wild Flavors for $3 bln. It’s ADM’s biggest deal, and a shift from its commodity business. A small add-on with like customers makes sense but won’t change how investors see the firm. The question is, what next?

Chinese hiccup temporarily deflates dairy bubble

June 5, 2014

The price of milk-related products is down 25 pct this year, according to auction platform GlobalDairyTrade. While supply has improved, demand from China has also fallen. The lull is unlikely to last: even slower growth in the People’s Republic would outstrip domestic supply.

Rival’s split makes it harder for Dow to resist

March 10, 2014

FMC, a $10 bln pesticide-to-battery-parts maker, is splitting its fast-growing ag and pharma businesses from stodgier commodity minerals. It’s similar to the breakup activist Dan Loeb wants at Dow Chemical. Boss Andrew Liveris is standing firm. FMC’s move weakens his case.

Merck woes show animal drugs are no panacea

December 31, 2013

Animal medicine, whether for livestock or pets, is booming. Pfizer’s spin-off, Zoetis, trades at a fat valuation premium. But controversy over Zilmax, Merck’s muscle-building feed additive, suggests that an increasingly complicated food chain comes with its own investment risks.

Owners deserve right to resell book, byte or bean

April 8, 2013

U.S. courts say peddling used tomes is fine, but digital tunes are different. The jury is still out on genetically altered legumes. It need not be so complicated. The legal concepts of “fair use” and “first sale” are broad enough to satisfy consumers and rights holders alike.

Global warming adds to food inflation risk

July 13, 2012

Corn prices spike after the hottest U.S. six months ever. Russian wheat is also afflicted. Does global warming threaten a food price shock? For now, the risk is mitigated by a big commodity price retreat from 2011’s speculative bubble. But in the long term, the threat is serious.

“Cabbage in formaldehyde” is toxic dish for China

May 8, 2012

After tainted milk and glowing pork, a new scandal will hurt China’s small but growing food export trade. A bigger effect will be felt at home. Food scares are inflationary, hurt the poor and erode confidence. Long-delayed agricultural reform should be top of the policy menu.

Glencore faces fight to land $5.5 bln Viterra deal

March 13, 2012

Buying Canada’s biggest grain handler would round out the commodity trader’s growing agricultural portfolio. The assets are attractive and the timing is right. But rival bidders, a lack of obvious synergies and Canada’s penchant for resource nationalism may present obstacles.

Wheat panic raises spectre of food crisis

August 6, 2010

The fires that are scorching Russia's earth are of more immediate concern to Vladimir Putin than the situation on world commodity markets. The Russian prime minister's decision to "temporarily" ban wheat exports is an emergency measure he hopes will help shield his people from food inflation or shortages.