I recently reported that organic farm production continues to grow in the U. S. Farms that were converted to organic production grew by 2% in 2018, bringing the total organic acres to 6.5 million. But converting farms from conventional production to organic isn’t easy, since farmers face several challenges before they’ll reap the rewards of higher prices for what they grow. First, they have to use organic farming practices for three years without being able to sell what they grow as organically produced crops. Second, they also often see yield declines during the conversion process because of they’re not allowed to plant many of the seed varieties that conventional farmers use, and they have limitations concerning the types of fertilizers and pesticides they apply to their crops. To help farmers negotiate these challenges, Rabo Agrifinance recently announced that they’ve developed a new loan program directed at farmers who want to make this transition. The program gives farmers the flexibility to receive the needed capital for upfront costs associated with changing production practices, while providing repayment schedules that coincide with when they will receive the additional revenue from selling certified organic products.
House and Senate Democrats have been upset for several months about how the USDA has handled climate-related science studies at this big agency. Now, the department’s inspector general confirmed that the IG’s office is looking into whether changes in policy have affected climate science and communication within the agency. Last June, Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat from Michigan and 18 other senators had asked the Inspector General to look into “potential instances of suppression and alteration of scientific reports, documents, or communications” produced by USDA. The concern surrounds a Politico investigation, which reported that USDA officials had tried to dissuade research partners at an outside university from disseminating their findings about nutrition losses in rice stemming from elevated CO2 levels.
Another climate related story out of Washington D. C. comes from the USDA’s Economic Research Service. Their report, “Climate Change and Agricultural Risk Management Into the 21st Century” estimates that increasing crop losses due to climate change will drive up the costs of the federal crop insurance program by as much as 37 percent in the coming decades. That’s because premiums, about 60 percent of which are paid by taxpayers and the other 40 percent by farmers, will go up. For example, the report contends that if the world conducts “business as usual” and greenhouse gases continue to rise, corn growers in Kansas and eastern Colorado could see crop insurance premiums increase by 100 percent. A link to this report is in the October 29th post at Farm News and Views. Net blog. https://www.ers.usda.gov/webdocs/publications/93547/err-266.pdf?v=9932.1
Halloween is coming up in a couple of days, and bats are often scary creatures that trick or treaters run into while they’re extorting goodies from unsuspecting neighbors. But hey, bats aren’t so bad. They’re voracious predators…Not of little goblins, but of many crop and forest pests. They’re also seed disseminators and pollinators. The journal Science suggests that loss of bats in North America could lead to agricultural losses estimated at more than $3.7 billion/year. So chill if you see a real bat and cut it some slack.