Insight Into Brazil Corn Production

According to the latest out of USDA’s Brazil attache, Brazil’s corn production is now forecast lower at 92 million metric tons, down -6% from last year. The reason for the downgrade is due to reduced area for first and second-crop corn and an expected return to normal yields. Planted area for first-crop corn has decreased 9 of the last 10 years, but low prices after last year’s record harvest and abundant global supplies have pushed even more farmers to choose soybeans over corn for their first planting of the season. Data form Brazil’s CONAB showed that the average corn price in December 2017 was -25% lower than a year before. From what I am hearing, lower prices are also reportedly leading some producers to cut back on inputs for corn this year, as the prevailing price in many parts of the country is still below the break-even price for biotech corn. CONAB estimates a -9.2% reduction in first-crop corn area nationwide compared to 2016/17. Planted area for second crop “safrinha” corn, which is typically sown in February after the soybean harvest, is also forecast to decrease slightly. Safrinha corn is forecast to make up approximately 70% of Brazil’s total corn production in 2017/18, but delays in soybean planting in Mato Grosso have led to delays in early soybean harvest, narrowing the window for planting second crop corn to avoid the dry season. Understand, Mato Grosso is responsible for 40% of Brazil’s total corn production and is the state with by far the largest safrinha crop. Some farmers in western Mato Grosso are also reportedly considering planting cotton instead of corn as a second crop this year, due to attractively high global prices for cotton and already abundant corn supplies globally. However, the downside for second-crop cotton is that it has a very limited planting window and must be planted by early February, which is a challenge give the slow start to the soybean harvest this year. (Source: USDA, FAS Gain Report, Brazil)

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USDA Launches A New Market Data Service

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) just launched a new electronic data platform to deliver market price information. The new web-based platform, Market Analysis and Reporting Services (MARS), uses technology to present detailed data sets in a more customer-focused way to better support competitive markets for producers and help stabilize food prices. As Greg Ibach, Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, explains, USDA Market News is the most relied upon source of unbiased agricultural market data available. For 100 years, AMS has provided free price and sales information to assist in the marketing and distribution of farm commodities. Each year, Market News issues thousands of reports, providing the industry with key wholesale, retail and shipping data. The new interface provides data analysts one-stop instant access to agricultural commodity data through a searchable database with the ability to create custom reports, data sets and data visualizations to make large amounts of information more easily understandable in a fraction of the time. The USDA said businesses also may utilize the built-in application program interface (API) to use the data to create new uses for the data as customer needs evolve. On Feb. 2, Market News information for dairy products became the first set of data and reports available through MARS. That will be followed by cotton and tobacco in April 2018. Dates for livestock, poultry and grain and specialty crops will be announced on the new My Market News website. It is anticipated that all Market News data will be moved to the new system by March 2019. USDA’s existing Market News website will continue to post data until all commodities are available through MARS. (Source: USDA)

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“Ketamine” Is Greatly Helping Those With Severe Depression

Depression’s fog may soon be lifted for those choosing to use Ketamine for their treatment. Ketamine was approved in the 70’s as a sedative for patients but is more commonly known as an animal tranquilizer. Interestingly, it can now be found in a powder form called “Special K,” which is a club drug used for getting high. Today though, doctors have set up over 250 clinics across the country that administer “off-label” treatments for patients suffering from depression. From what I understand, there are a number of small studies that reveal that Ketamine can do something no other drug can: it often relieves suicidal depression in patients who have not responded to other treatments. What’s most impressive is the fact that ketamine has been shown to be well over 75 to 85 percent effective against suicidal thoughts within minutes to hours. For those who suffer from this illness or know someone who is or has, you know how debilitating the disease can be. Until later in my life, I always felt those suffering from depression or anxiety simply were not mentally tough to cope with life’s challenges. Though I still don’t understand all the causes of the illnesses, I now understand how foolish that thinking was. For whatever reason, the numbers of those suffering from any sort of depression have risen to include nearly 5% of the world’s population. According to Dr. Steve Levine, who sees 70-80 patients suffering from depression a day, the theory of “chemical imbalance” as a cause of depression simply isn’t correct. Because of that, the treatment methods using traditional medications do not work and if they have any positive outcomes, they take weeks and months to occur. Many patients share a similar story of being sedated into a fog or zombie state as they were being treated for depression. With Ketamine’s dramatic performance, there are now major pharmaceutical companies who are showing interest in developing their own drugs which would mimic ketamine’s results. Some are even undergoing FDA approval as antidepressants. There is some concern that long-term ketamine use may cause structural damage to the brain. But proponents are quick to mention that those results are produced from animal studies using higher doses at longer-term exposures. To this point, there are patients who have been receiving treatments of ketamine on a maintenance level for up to six years and there have been no signs of structural changes in the brain. For those taking the drug, returning to a feeling of normal is worth any potential side-effects. I can tell you that many of the folks I know that used Prozac as a treatment definitely had the aforementioned fog or zombie state – altering their personalities. Hopefully, ketamine will provide all patients a sense of normalcy in their lives. (Source: CBSNPR)

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New Health Partnership Promises To Be A “Game Changer”

Health insurance and private healthcare company Bupa is teaming up with health-tech business HealthTap to offer what they call a “game changing combination of digital and in-person healthcare.” Bupa’s around 16.5 million customers across the globe will have access to HealthTap’s proprietary Health Operating System, HOPES, and its AI-powered apps, resulting in what’s described as an end-to-end digital solution to their healthcare. The HOPES platform allows physicians and patients to track and schedule appointments. It also provides telemedicine support and enables scheduling for both in-person and virtual appointments. Another feature provides reminders for appointments as well as medication and medical device use. Ultimately, HOPES creates a unified personal health record for each individual user. There will also be a payment side to the app so every aspect of the patient’s medical care is located in one central location. The HOPES system has machine learning at its core, so in theory, the more a patient uses it, the more it can better help them, matching them to the most suitable care that also takes into consideration factors of time and money. Some of the features available through HOPES are available through HealthTap’s app Doctor A.I. It is described as a personal Artificial Intelligence-powered “physician” that helps route users to doctor-recommended insights and care immediately. Dr. A.I. basically “interviews” a user to determine their current concern and uses the user’s health profile to compute the probable causes of their symptoms. That profile is created by the user and includes data like age, gender, prior medical conditions, medications etc. Based on a user’s symptoms or concerns, Dr. A.I. uses advanced deep learning algorithms and the systems vast repository of doctor knowledge and data, the app guides patients to doctor-recommended care. This could include sending a patient to the hospital, setting up a video-consultation with a physician or could just send them to the drugstore. The doctor expertise has been gathered from a network of more than 105,000 licensed doctors across 141 specialties over the last 6 years. Dr. A.I. is accessible for consumers from the HealthTap iOS or Android apps or the HealthTap website. The new HealthTap-Bupa partnership will be rolled out gradually in different parts of the world as each region likely has different legal mandates. (Sources: digital Health, Forbes)

USDA Supply and Demand, February 8, 2018

U.S. Ending Stocks 2017/18 (in billion bushels)


Feb. Est.

Trade Avg.

Trade Range





2.402 – 2.547





0.455 – 0.540





0.937 – 1.014


World Ending Stocks 2017/18 (in million metric tons)


Feb. Est.

Trade Avg.

Trade Range





198.9 – 206.6





97.0 – 99.5





265.0 – 269.7



South America Production (in million metric tons)


Feb. Est.

Trade Avg.

Trade Range


Argentina Corn



39.0 – 42.0


Argentina Soybean



51.0 – 56.0


Brazil Corn



87.1 – 95.0


Brazil Soybeans



110.0 – 114.0


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