Radio Script 2-19-19

Good morning! Welcome to the February 19th edition of Farm News and Views. This is Bob Bragg.

A couple of ag headlines bring home how weather often has a negative impact on farmers and ranchers. For example, an estimated 300,000 head of cattle were drowned due to flooding in northern Queensland, Australia, last week. The heavy rains have followed a drought that has plagued farmers and stockman in that state for the past seven years.

At the same time, in eastern Washington, over 1800 dairy cows died when an unexpected blizzard struck the area around Sunnyside in the southern Yakama Valley.

While our winter weather here in the Four Corners Region has given us snow to shovel, icy roads, frigid temperatures and mud, it’s also presented the Region with a much improved mountain snow pack, precipitation in the valleys, when compared to last year. Most of the NRCS Snotel sites in the Region are reporting above average snow water content, although they are showing five to seven inches less than for the same period in 2017. So let it snow, let it snow and remember, we’re 30 days away from the spring Equinox.

Here’s a follow up on last weeks story about the auction sale of a 30 acre parcel of land in Cole County Illinois, that was once owned by Abraham Lincoln. The bid was $300,000, which was paid by an investor. No information was available concerning whether the buyer was renting it out for crop production, or would attempt to profit from its history.

The Green New Deal, supported by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, which calls for an end to the use of fossil fuels and a 100 percent adoption of “clean” energy by 2030, is starting to receive push back from some agricultural commentators. Their concern comes from language that calls for replacing non-essential individual means of transportation with high-quality and modern mass transit, and eliminating the use of fossil-based fertilizers and pesticides. They question how mass transit will work in rural areas, and what the impact of elimination of fertilizers and pesticides may have on crop and livestock production.

In major agricultural publications, articles concerning small scale farming are not part of their usual editorial content. But a recent Successful Farming piece, Are You Truly Ready to Buy a Farm? by Lauren Manning, is an interesting outlier. Manning, who is and attorney and adjunct professor at the University of Arkansas, gained experience working with established small farm operators. By 2017, she decided to look for her own small farm, and this article offers some helpful recommendations for beginning farmers to consider. First, set realistic expectations about the type of operation you want to develop, considering the crops and livestock you’ll raise, how much acreage is necessary, and whether financing is available. When evaluating potential farms, consider whether it has necessary infrastructure like a house, barns, corrals, fencing and irrigation, and how far is it from town. If it is just farm land, what’s the cost of building infrastructure and connecting utilities if they’re available. Other considerations include how much land can you manage if you have another job, and do you have the skills, knowledge and abilities to run a profitable farm business.

A link to this article and a companion article is at

(You will find a link to the farm news and views blog at

This Mark Twain Quote seems appropriate for someone who is contemplating buying a farm. He said, “Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.”

Until Next week, I’m Bob Bragg.

Radio Script 2-12-19

Abraham Lincoln’s boyhood home in Kentucky

Good morning! Welcome to the February 12th edition of farm news and views.

Abraham Lincoln was born in 1809, 210 years ago today, in Hardin County, in northwestern Kentucky. His father, Thomas, was a farmer who eked out a living on hard scrabble farms first in Kentucky, where they lived until Abraham was seven years old. After his father lost his farm in a land title dispute in 1816, they moved 100 miles northwest to Spenser County Indiana. His mother died there two years later, and his father remarried in 1819. Abraham grew up on the Spenser county farm, which probably helped form Abraham’s work ethic and character. In 1830, Thomas gave up on that densely wooded, hilly, and rocky farm, and moved his family, with help from his 21 years son, to Macon County Illinois, south of Decatur. Abraham then when out on his own and worked at a number of different jobs before practicing law and entering politics with election to the Illinois State Legislature in 1834.

While this history summation doesn’t have a lot to do with Agricultural news, it brings us this story. Before Abraham became president, he bought 40 acres of farm land in Coles County for the benefit of his father, paying $200 for the lot. He leased the land back to his father for $1 for the rest of his father’s life.

Today, 30 acres of that parcel of land, which has been farmed for more than a century and a half, will be auctioned off as part of a large family farm liquidation due to retirement of the owners. Ten acres of that tract were previously split off of the original Lincoln purchase to become part of the Illinois Lincoln Log Cabin Historic State Park, with the remaining 4 acres being put into a trust. Whether that 30 acre Lincoln parcel will be more valuable than the adjoining land remains to be seen.

The land Abraham Lincoln Bought for his father cost $5 per acre in 1841, and the remaining 30 acres will likely sell for from $8,000 to $10,000 per acre unless it is bid up due to its historic record. In 1841, the original 40 acre farm land would provide a living for a family. The return on the land if it is continued in corn and soybean production today will provide a net return per acre of about $ 4,000 per year before principal and interest is paid.

A link to this story can be found on, and a link to this blog can also be found on

Last week, I was able to visit with a number of farmers and ranchers, who were positive about what they did, and about their prospects for the future. On Friday evening, I attended a gathering of farmers and ranchers at the Colorado Young Farmers Educational Association at their annual state institute. While some of those in attendance weren’t young, those whom I talked believed in the importance that continuing education has had in their success. On Saturday, I attended the Southwest Livestock Association Banquet, where Pam Suckla, Southwest Cowbells member, former member of the Colorado Board of Education and an partner her families’ cattle operation was named the 2019 Cowbell of the year. Johnny Greene, who has been active in the livestock industry for decades as a rancher, livestock trader and auctioneer, was named the 2019 Stockman of the Year.

I can relate to this quote from Abraham Lincoln. I am like a man so busy letting rooms in one end of this house that he can’t stop to put out a fire that is burning in the other end.

Until next week, I’m Bob Bragg

Radio Script 2-5-19

Ridge tilling soybeans in Ohio
USDA ARS Photo by Kieth Weller

Good morning. This is Bob Bragg with the February 5th edition of farm news and views.

Trade has been a hot topic in agricultural news over the past week. When it was reported last Friday that Chinese negotiators announced that China would purchase 5 million metric tons of soybeans, the futures markets reacted with a giddy uptick on soybeans. But by Saturday morning, the balloon had burst, because everyone realized that there was no time table associated with the sale. While 5 million tons of soybeans sounds like a lot of beans, the phantom sale amounted to less than 4% of 2018’s total crop of 4.6 billion bushels, and soybean exports to China are already running way behind the quantity of beans that U.S. farmers had sold to China by this time last year.

As if trade news isn’t somewhat depressing, the Congressional Budget office, who obviously were working while USDA agricultural economists weren’t, published a report last week that forecasts that low soybean, corn and wheat prices will continue for the next decade. Wheat is estimated to bring a dollar or so under the the $6.40 per bushel cost of production .

While the financial outlook for many U.S. farmers appears to be pretty tough for this year and maybe into the future. But Four Corners Region farmers and ranchers may be in a better financial position than their counterparts in the Midwest for a couple of reasons. First, agricultural census data tell us that 92% of all agricultural operations in the U.S. are classified officially as grain farms, specializing in…you guessed it, raising crops to sell in the U.S. and for export. This model has been in vogue for decades as a formula for success according to ag economists, agricultural university experts and industry suppliers of machinery and crop inputs. Second, Four Corners farmers and ranchers are usually more diversified, with about half of their income coming from livestock production and the other half from crops. For example, the number one crop in the Region is hay, which is commanding robust prices, and cattle, that are yielding profitability due to consumer demand for beef and beef exports, this puts area agricultural producers in a better position to weather the storm affecting much of rest of the U.S. ag economy.

Tariffs Hurt the Heartland, a free trade advocacy group, has organized a fly-in this week that will bring in more than 100 farmers and business reps from across the country to Capital Hill. They will call for congressional oversight hearings on the tariffs’ widespread effects on the economy, and deliver the message to lawmakers that they need to increase pressure on the Trump administration to end the trade war.

The U.S.-China trade truce ends in a little over three weeks, and a White House statement issued after the latest trade talks wrapped up in Washington last week, pointed to big differences between the two sides and reiterated that tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods will rise to 25 percent if no deal is reached. So the group will also emphasize how additional duties on top of those already in place will magnify the effects of tariffs on those farmers and manufactures who are already bearing the brunt of trade tensions.

They’ll also pressure lawmakers to oppose legislation spearheaded by Representative Sean Duffy, Republican, Wisconsin, that would expand executive authority over tariffs.

Today’s thought comes from Calvin Coolidge. He said, “It is much more important to kill bad bills than to pass new ones”

Until next week. This is Bob Bragg.