Even though we’ve received several inches of snow over the past week, drought still concerns farmers, ranchers, and water managers in the Four Corners Region and the southwest. The U. S. Bureau of Reclamation recently reported that Lake Mead and Lake Powell, reservoirs, that store Colorado River water for 40 million users, are both approaching near-record-low levels, with Lake Powell at 42% of capacity and Lake Mead at 40%. From 2000 to 2020, inflows to Lake Powell were above average in only four of the past 19 years.
NRCS Snotel reports for soutthwestern Colorado and southeast Utah reflect the current dry conditions in the Region. The San Juan River the basin snow water content is is 95% of normal, while the Animas River basin is 79%, the Dolores River is 77% and Southeast Utah is 65%. But looking closer at the numbers, the Mancos Snotel site is reporting 49% of normal, and total precipitation from the beginning of the water year on October 1 is 62% for the Dolores basin and 65% for southeastern Utah. As we consider these statistics, remember that we’re 46 day away from the first day of spring.
Now for a report card on the U.S. China Phase one Trade agreement. China purchased $23.5 billion of food, agricultural commodities and sea food, which was $13 billion short of the $36.6 billion that the Trump team negotiated when the agreement was signed in January of 2020. Over all, China agreed to import $173 billion of goods and services from the U.S. but China missed the mark by a mere $73 billion. Where the U.S and China go with a trade agreement is reported to be under consideration by the Biden administration.
In a report released Jan. 20, 2021, researchers from Utah State University Extension and the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food concluded that there’s growth potential for beef processing and sales in the state due to local demand. The report also pointed out that small processing plants that promote local beef as a premium product are a financially feasible and could increase the resiliency of the meat supply in Utah while providing ranchers with additional revenue streams.
News about U.S. hemp production has been fairly quiet in 2020, compared to the hype surrounding the crop in 2019. According to the USDA Farm Service Agency, growers planted just over 68,000 acres of hemp in 2020, compared to almost 147,000 acres in 2019. It’s uncertain whether this decline is due to lack of market opportunities or under reporting of acres by growers. However, some rule changes have been made that may help growers to avoid some pitfalls. The include a longer window of time between crop testing and harvesting, better sampling methods and a higher threshold for negligent violations concerning THC levels in crops.
French philosopher Voltaire wrote, “Think for yourself and let others enjoy the privilege of doing so too.”