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News from Around the Farm World - Oct. 31, 2012
Hurricane Sandy prep closes NYSE, CME markets
NEW YORK, N.Y. — All United States stock and options markets were closed on Monday as Hurricane Sandy approached and Wall Street braced for the storm to barrel through the heart of the country’s financial center, according to a report in The New York Times. 
The decision, made Sunday night, left the American stock markets closed for weather conditions for the first time in nearly three decades. The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) had previously planned on closing only its physical trading floor, while allowing for trading on its Arca electronic exchange, but then decided to halt all trading.

The NASDAQ and BATS stock markets, which are built on electronic trading, also decided to close. The CME Group, which operates the NYMEX and Chicago Board of Trade commodities exchanges, also halted trading Monday on its physical commodities floor and on its electronic stock futures and options exchanges.

The Securities Industry and Financial Markets Assoc. said in an email statement it was calling for bond trading, which is all done electronically, to close at noon Monday, though it left the final decision to member firms.

The NYSE last closed trading for weather reasons in 1985, when Hurricane Gloria lashed the metropolitan area. The opening of trading has been delayed a number of times, including during a blizzard in January 1996. The exchange was closed for three days after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Farmland in NW Iowa sells for nearly $22,000 an acre

BOYDEN, Iowa (AP) — Some farmland near Boyden in northwestern Iowa’s Sioux County may have set a new sale record.

The Sioux City Journal reported the 80.5-acre plot sold on Thursday for $21,900 an acre. The auction company, Vander Werff and Associates, Inc., said the land has an estimated corn yield of 110 bushels and soybean yield of 43 bushels per acre.

Auction spokesman Todd Hattermann declined to name the buyer. The seller is Henry Boelsman, a longtime farmer.

In December, a 74-acre plot near Hull, also in Sioux County, sold for $20,000 an acre. A survey of real estate agents estimated the average farmland value in 2011 was $6,708 an acre. That’s up over 32 percent from 2010.

U.S., Panama to inaugurate free-trade pact this week
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A free-trade agreement (FTA) between the United States and Panama will go into force at the end of this month after a years-long delay, likely boosting U.S. exports of everything from tractors to chicken legs, according to a Thomson Reuters report.

“It is a wonderful capstone on what has been one of the most historic and strongest strategic partnerships, certainly in the Western Hemisphere,” U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said at a ceremony where the two countries exchanged letters that allow the pact to take effect Oct. 31.

The FTA locks in Panama’s current duty-free access to the United States, while tearing down most of the Central American nation’s barriers to U.S. exports. The agreement with Panama is the third free-trade pact signed this year, after agreements with Korea and Colombia.

The United States is already Panama’s largest trading partner. U.S. manufacturers like Caterpillar have waited years for the pact to go into force to boost their spending and exports to the country. About 10 percent of U.S. imports and exports pass through the Panama Canal, and that percentage could rise as Panama completes a $5.3 billion canal expansion project.

It will immediately eliminate Panama’s tariffs on roughly half of U.S. agriculture exports. U.S. agricultural goods now face average tariffs of 15 percent, though the tariff was 260 percent for chicken leg quarters. Panama’s remaining agricultural, industrial and consumer product tariffs will be phased out over longer periods of time.

The administration of former President George W. Bush negotiated the trade deal with Panama and two other pacts with Colombia and South Korea, but could not get Congress to approve them before Bush left office in 2009. Lawmakers finally approved all three deals in October 2011 after President Obama made changes to address concerns raised by fellow Democrats.