Report 8-24-21

Although recent rain has improved range and pasture conditions in the Four Corners Region, farmers and ranchers hope that this recent moisture indicates that we’ve moved into a more normal participation pattern, but they’re are worried that drought conditions will return and hang around through the fall and winter. But some hay producers didn’t fare well with the moisture, since they had hay on the ground ready to bale it when the rains struck, degrading quality of the crop. Hay sales have also dropped off as buyers wait to see if improved pastures will carry them into the winter, and hay prices will moderate due to less demand.

With drought conditions, affecting 99% of the western U.S., governors from across the west signed a bipartisan letter to President Biden, urging him to declare a Federal Emergency Management Agency drought disaster for states experiencing these extreme conditions. The letter, signed by the governors of Colorado, North Dakota, Washington, Utah, Oregon, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and New Mexico, states, that “Without substantial assistance, rural economies in our states that rely heavily on agriculture and natural resources, will take years to recover from the effects of this devastating drought.” As of August 10th , about 48% of Colorado is experiencing severe to extreme drought conditions, 77% of New Mexico is in severe drought, over 90% of Utah is in severe to extreme drought, and over 90% of Arizona is in some level of drought.

Murder hornets are back in the news with the discovery of a nest of them near Blaine, Washington, near the border of Washington and British Colombia. These so-called “murder hornets,” are the world’s largest of the species, can grow to two inches in length and prey on wasp populations and domestic and native bees, often consuming honeybees in hives and threatening agriculture. Washington Department of Agriculture employees are gearing up to eradicate this non-native species before it can get a foothold in the state. The plan is to capture a hornet, fit it with a radio transmitter, then release it and hope they can follow it back to the hornet’s nest.

Part of the Biden Administration’s plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions is to encourage farmers and ranchers to adopt conservation practices that will sequester carbon in soils. Some farmers have been using no till, minimum till, cover crops and prescribed grazing practices to maintain soil cover for several years. Now there’s a push to pay farmers to adopt these and other practices so that businesses can harvest carbon credits from participating producers. But according to a recent Purdue University survey, less than 1% of the farmers surveyed had signed a contract to participate in the carbon market, while 2.6% of these farmers leased land for solar electricity arrays at $1,000 per acre per year, versus producing carbon credits at $20 per acre. But the Growing Climate Solutions Act, passed in the Senate in June, might encourage more farmers to participate in growing carbon credits. The bill sets up a database of practices that qualify for carbon credits and also provides for certification of agents that would verify the carbon capture on farms.

Benjamin Franklin said, “When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water.”

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