Report 3-2-21

According to American Farm Bureau Chief Economist John Newton, National Agricultural Statistics Service data indicates that farm numbers in the United States decline by 4,400 farms in 2020. Colorado was one of five states that bucked the trend, gaining 100 farms last year. States that lost the most farms were located in the upper Midwest, with Michigan, Indiana Wisconsin and Minnesota each losing about 500 farms. Farm number peaked at almost 7 million in 1935, but had decline to just over 2 million farms by the mid 1970’s. The number of acres of land farmed has been fairly constant at about one billion acres since the 1920s, and over the past four decades the average farm size has remained at nearly440 acres.

Farmers, ranchers and water managers are all concerned about the mountain snowpack this year. The NRCS Snowtel update report provides some insight into how much water is stored in the snow at various reporting points in the high country. This winter, most of the reporting sites have had less than average precipitation. As of March 1st, the Snotel sites on the Dolores and Animas river water sheds are reporting about 74% of average snowpack, while the San Juan River is about 90% of average. But the Mancos river Snotel reporting site is indicating 52% of average while reporting points in southeast Utah are about 67% of normal. Although it’s commonly repeated that it snows more in March than in any other month in Colorado, an analysis of Snowtel data for the last ten years indicates that in dry years, March snow hasn’t helped increase the mountain snowpack, and the National Weather Service is also predicting that southwest Colorado will have lower than average precipitation on into May. So this year, agricultural advisers are recommending that farmers and ranchers develop drought contingency plans in case dry conditions continue into the summer.

Recently, a study prepared jointly by the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, the American Soybean Association, CropLife America and National Corn Growers Association contends that if precision agriculture equipment and technologies are more widely adopted, there will be increases in yields along with reduced input costs. For example, productivity could increase by 6%, while inputs like and fertilizer and herbicides could decrease by 14% and fossil fuel consumption declining by 16%. However, there is no mention of the cost of acquiring the equipment necessary to achieve these savings.

The artificial meat market place seems to be getting crowded lately, and it’s not just startup companies like Beyond meat and Impossible Foods who have sold artificial burgers to fast food joints. Reportedly investment money has been pouring into alternative protein startups, which raised $2..4 billion of funding in 2020. Meat giants JBSBS SA and Tyson Foods are diversifying their portfolios with their own versions of fake meat, and JBS Chief Executive Officer Gilberto Tomazon recently told Bloomberg News that meat from animals will be a pricey luxury in the future, and that people will have to turn to cheaper vegetable-derived alternatives. So, will consumers soon be saying “Where’s the beef!

Henry Ford said, ““If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

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