Both commodity and stock markets were down yesterday due to concerns about the coronavirus outbreak in China. Investors dumped stocks related to travel, consumer products and companies with close links to China, while commodity traders and farmers were spooked by the possibility that China might declare an emergency and pull back on purchase commitments made to buy U.S. agricultural commodities. Corn, soybeans, wheat, live cattle and lean hogs were all down at the end of trading yesterday afternoon.
Even though most of us like to eat everyday, agriculture seems to be a popular target for environmental activists who accuse farmers and ranchers of being major contributors of CO2 emissions. For example, last week, Starbucks Company CEO, Kevin Johnson outlined plans to make the company more sustainable in the coming decade. The first action item on Johnson’s list was that they will expand plant-based options, migrating toward a more environmentally friendly menu, and that alternative milks will be a big part of the solution. The company’s environmental impact report lists animal protein as its largest contributor to carbon and water usage. Starbucks says dairy made up 21% of its carbon footprint in 2018. Milk used by Starbucks accounts for just 0.3% of U.S. milk production. A recent dairy industry study concerning the full lifecycle footprint of U.S. dairy production concluded that fluid milk accounts for only 2% of the total greenhouse gas emissions in the country, and a report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that global greenhouse gas emissions from the dairy industry totaled about 3% of the total world CO2 emissions in 2015. But global milk production had increased by 30%, over the past couple of decades and milk production per cow increased 15%. On average, milk travels less than 100 miles from the cow to the refrigerator. According to the Starbucks website, the company sources coffee beans from plantations in Latin America, Africa and the Asia Pacific region, and processes 70,000 global deliveries every week to retail points across 69 countries.
Organic farming started to gain traction in the late 1940s, when the Rodale Research Institute advocated non-chemical farming practices and began to publish the Organic Farming and Gardening Magazine. The movement attracted small numbers of conventional farmers each year through through the 1950s and 60s, but farmers who raised crops organically were often viewed by their neighbors as a bit wacko. Mainstream farming publications pretty much ignored organic farming, and also didn’t offer editorial content about alternative farming practices until the mid 1990s, when no till and minimum till practices were being adopted by Midwest corn and soybean farmers, mainly for cost savings. Today though, all of the major agricultural publications regularly provide articles concerning alternative and regenerative agriculture and offer conferences to help farmers adopt practices that improve the environment and soil health, maintain clean water, and help their bottom line. Four Corners Farmers and Ranchers have an opportunity to attend a Cover Crop Workshop February 3rd, from 9 am to 1:15 pm at the Dove Creek Public Service Center. The workshop is offered by the CSU Southwestern Colorado Research Center and Western Sustainable Research and Education. Call 970-562-4255 to RSVP. Lunch is provided.
The wise poet, singer and lifetime cheerleader Dolly Parton says it best: “The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.”