Farmers and ranchers welcomed last week’s snow fall even though it created some travel problems in the Four Corners Region. The precipitation was the first significant moisture since late last May. According to USDA Snotel reports the Region’s snow pack for November of this year was about 25% of what was reported in the Dolores, San Juan and Animas River basins in November of 2018. Snotel reports track snow water content, which is stored in the snow and released in the Spring. At this point, these river basin’s have about 60% of the average snow pack for the same date, which is calculated on a 30 year average. Looking at National Weather Service long range weather predictions, the Four Corners Region may have a bit higher than normal precipitation and temperatures through December, but over the next three months precipitation is mayreturn to normal with higher than normal temperatures.
Since the trade dispute between China and the United states started in 2018, U. S. farmers have had a front-row seat watching the largest trade war in history play out. Retaliatory tariffs imposed on U. S. agricultural products have forced ag producers to watch the proceedings, while hoping for a satisfactory resolution that ends this bloodless war. As December begins, no one seems to know when even a partial trade settlement will be achieved. Iowa State University Assistant Extension Economist, Waydong Zhaung believes that U. S. farmers who have been caught in the crossfire from this trade dispute should understand some basic facts about China. First, Mainland China and the continental United states are about the same size and cover similar latitude ranges. Second, China’s has almost 1.4 billion people, compared to the U.S. population of just over 327 million. Third, China has 7 to 8% of the world’s arable land, and about 270 million farmers, while 3.2 million U. S. farmers produce crops and livestock on about 15% of the worlds land that’s suitable for agriculture. Zhaung points out that these Trade disruptions have given China strategic incentives to further diversify away from the United States, potentially benefiting our competitors. In 2016, China bought over 60 percent of U.S. soybean exports, but even then China was buying soybeans from Brazil.
Last week the USDA released its updated report on the farm economy, which forecast a 10 percent bump in agricultural income this year compared with 2018. But the projected $8.5 billion increase is fueled largely by a huge jump in government payments, including President Trump’s trade aid program, Direct farm payments are expected to total $22.4 billion, an increase of $8.8 billion over 2018’s payments. That means government payments will account for about 24 percent of all farm income in 2019, the largest share in more than a decade.
Potato supplies are short this year because of bad weather and high demand for French fries, according to Stephen Nicholson, a senior grains and oilseeds analyst at Rabobank, The USDA forecasts that domestic output will drop over 6% this year, to the lowest level since 2010. In Idaho, the top potato producer in the U. S. output is forecast to fall 5.5%.