Report 5-18-21

Texas state lawmakers recently approved a bill that will ban plant-based food products from using the terms “meat” or “beef” to describe the food on labels. The bill is intended to prohibit companies from misleading consumers, about what is in food products, and the bill would also keep companies that produce food from insects, plants or cell cultures from labeling them as conventional meat products. But the bill won’t bar companies manufacturing meat substitutes like Beyond Meat and Impossible Burger, from using the term “burger” to describe and label their products. read more

Report 5-11-21

Since President Biden signed an executive order, known as the 30 by 30 plan on January 27th, a whole host of critics, including farm organizations, conservative radio and TV commentators, Republican politicians and agricultural spokes persons have claimed that the plan was aimed at taking away land from farmers under the guise of land conservation. All of this push-back reminds me of the game, called telephone, that we played at parties when I was a kid. We’d all sit in a circle, and the first player would whisper a few word, like, “Tom just got a brown horse with three white stockings that he calls buster.” As this story was passed along through the circle, it might end up garbled to the point that Buster’s horse Mike, was white and only had three legs. The lesson we learned was that information you receive by word of mouth is not always accurate. In fact, if you don’t receive information directly from the source, there’s a good chance that at least part of the message is garbled. This principal also applies to social media, where misinformation is often passed on, not to a dozen people in a circle, but to thousands of users, some of whom become incensed by the falsehoods that are embedded among the facts. Last week, administration officials outlined a more detailed plan of the 30 by 30 executive order which is now called “America the Beautiful.” The administration calls it a 10 year, locally-led and voluntary nationwide effort to conserve, connect and restore 30% of the nation’s lands and waters by 2030, using science as a guide to create more parks in nature-deprived communities, support tribally led conservation and restoration priorities, expand collaborative conservation of fish and wildlife habitats and corridors, increase access for outdoor recreation, create jobs by investing in restoration and resilience, and incentivizing and rewarding the voluntary conservation efforts of fishers, farmers and ranchers. While the plan is aimed at degraded land, some Republican lawmakers are concerned that the government could designate strict protections on some land that remains productive. Currently, nearly 26% of coastal waters are protected by conservation practices, but only 12% of the U.S. land mass is considered to be conserved. Some critics contend that to reach the 30% target for land, it would require adding an additional 440 million acres, an area that’s twice the size of Texas. But Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack contends that the plan honors private property rights and supports the voluntary stewardship efforts of private landowners, and the report specifically notes, “Efforts to conserve and restore America’s lands and waters must respect the rights of private property owners. Such efforts must also build trust among all communities and stakeholders, including by recognizing and rewarding the voluntary conservation efforts of private landowners.” read more

Report 5-4-21

The drought in Colorado continues to intensify, with nearly 15% of the state experiencing Exceptional Drought, the highest drought rating, 32% is in Extreme Drought and 61% is suffering from Severe Drought, according to the US Drought Monitor. The entire Four Corners Region is in extreme to exceptional drought with exception of the Chuska mountains, Conditions are unlikely to change in the near term, because the National Weather Service long range forecast is predicting that drought conditions will persist into mid summer. In response to drought and low water supplies, water managers have significantly curtailed irrigation water allocations for farmers and ranchers, dryland farmers are reconsidering what they’ll plant this spring, and many ranchers are setting up drought contingency plans. Barring a miracle of nature, all of us who live in the Region will have to adapt to limited water supplies. Home owners also need to plan for a dry summer concerning their lawns and gardens. Colorado State University Extension and turf grass specialists recommend that grass should be cut to no less than three to four inches in height and that only a third of the leaves of the growing grass should be cut at anyone time. Water should be applied with deep infrequent watering to the depth of the root system. Generally, the root system of grasses are about the same length as the top growth, so continually mowing grass down to an inch and a half doesn’t allow grass to grow root systems that are tolerant of dry conditions. Experts suggest that when the grass doesn’t spring back after it’s walked it should be watered, but if water supplies are very short, home owners should consider applying water to shrubs and trees, which cost much more to replace than grass. read more

Report 4-27-21

The drought in Colorado continues to intensify, with nearly 15% of the state experiencing Exceptional Drought, the highest drought rating, 32% is in Extreme Drought and 61% is suffering from Severe Drought, according to the US Drought Monitor. The entire Four Corners Region is in extreme to exceptional drought with exception of the Chuska mountains, Conditions are unlikely to change in the near term, because the National Weather Service long range forecast is predicting that drought conditions will persist into mid summer. In response to drought and low water supplies, water managers have significantly curtailed irrigation water allocations for farmers and ranchers, dryland farmers are reconsidering what they’ll plant this spring, and many ranchers are setting up drought contingency plans. Barring a miracle of nature, all of us who live in the Region will have to adapt to limited water supplies. Home owners also need to plan for a dry summer concerning their lawns and gardens. Colorado State University Extension and turf grass specialists recommend that grass should be cut to no less than three to four inches in height and that only a third of the leaves of the growing grass should be cut at anyone time. Water should be applied with deep infrequent watering to the depth of the root system. Generally, the root system of grasses are about the same length as the top growth, so continually mowing grass down to an inch and a half doesn’t allow grass to grow root systems that are tolerant of dry conditions. Experts suggest that when the grass doesn’t spring back after it’s walked it should be watered, but if water supplies are very short, home owners should consider applying water to shrubs and trees, which cost much more to replace than grass. read more

Report 4-20-21

Cattle are are often cast as villains in global warming, said to produce about 78% of total livestock emissions. But a research team, led by Colorado State University and funded by the Climate and Land Use Alliance, found that growing bigger cows at a faster rate and increasing soil and plant carbon sequestration on grazed lands could reduce emissions by as much as 50% in the U.S. and Brazil. The study, “Reducing Climate Impacts of Beef Production: A synthesis of life cycle assessments across management systems and global regions,” was recently published in the journal, Global Change Biology. The research team found that using carbon sequestration management strategies on grazed lands, including organic soil amendments and restoring trees and perennial vegetation to areas of degraded forests, woodlands and riverbanks produced a 46% reduction in GHG emissions. This study appears to point out that emissions from cattle are more a problem husbandry, not that cattle are inherently more prone to emitting GHGs than other livestock. read more

Report 4-13-21

President Biden’s infrastructure plan has been getting a lot of scrutiny lately with much of the discussions concerning urban renewal like repairing bridges going into cities and fixing problems with transportation. But rural America may see some benefits from the proposed two trillion dollar plan. At this stage, it calls for spending $100 billion on rural broadband, $20 billion repairing rural highway bridges, $10 billion for rural and tribal water systems, $5 billion for the rural partnership program and $2 billion to invest in USDA rural housing loans. read more

Report 4-6-21

After the history-making blizzard on Colorado’s Front Range and some good wet snow fall in the Four Corners Region, some folks think that the drought in Colorado is over. But the Natural Resources Conservation Service points out that all but two rivers in the state are below 100% of average snow pack. The Arkansas river basin is at 106% of average, and the and the Rio Grande is at 101%, but the snow pack goes down from there in all of the other river basins in the state. The Dolores river has the lowest snow pack, which is below 80% of average. For the rest of the state, the snow pack doesn’t look too bad, until scientists factor in the dryness of the soils when the winter season started. The Meager anticipated snowmelt runoff is expected to mean another challenging year for maintaining even below-optimal levels of flows in the Colorado River downstream of the Palisade area for the benefit of endangered fish. The Colorado Basin River Forecast Center expects that the April-July water supplies will range from 60-85% of normal in various parts of the basin. In southwest Colorado, Irrigation company managers are letting farmers know that irrigation water supplies will likely be cut in half or more unless by some miracle a lot of rain storms pass out way. read more

Report 3-30-21

On Wednesday last week, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack laid out how the USDA will distribute additional COVID-19 aid. The agency will re-open the sign up for the CFAP-2 program for at least 60 days beginning April 5th. About $12 billion of aid is available for eligible farmers and ranchers who were affected by COVID-19 market disruptions. The USDA Pandemic Assistance for Producers program will reach farmers and ranchers that didn’t benefit from the first COVID-19 aid program. This time around, the agency is dedicating at least $6 billion toward new programs, while distributing $4.5 billion to crop growers and $1.1 billion for cattle producers. The Department will also develop rules for new programs that will put a greater emphasis on outreach to small and socially disadvantaged, specialty crop and organic producers and timber harvesters, as well as provide support for the food supply chain and renewable fuels. read more

Report 3-23-21

Recently, two studies concerning research about where consumers have been getting their food over the past year were reported. One was from Colorado and one from Minnesota. Both studies pointed out that people living in small rural communities often lack access to fresh food without traveling many miles to larger cities. Independent grocery retailers in small towns cite competition from large chain stores, super centers, drug and convenience stores and increasingly, dollar stores as factors affecting their ability to stay in business. When consumers buy paper products, cleaning supplies and personal care items from the corporate competition in in small towns, then shop at the independent grocery only for fresh produce and meat, there’s not enough profit to sustain the small grocery store. As these grocery stores close, communities often become food deserts, because many low income and elderly residents only have the option of purchasing food at a convenience or dollar store. However, during the pandemic, the Colorado study found that about 35% of the consumers contacted had tried at least one alternative source of food ranging from farmers markets, CSAs, or direct from local producers. While about 30% of the small grocery stores in Minnesota reported that they hadn’t purchased food locally because they were uncertain about regulations involved with selling local food products, about 10% of stores contacted said that they had sourced food from local producers over the past year, and 41% would like more access to local foods. read more

Report 3-16-21

Last weekend’s storm dropped some much needed precipitation in the Four Corners Region. Snowtel Snow water totals showed an increase of from eight tens of an inch to just over an inch at many reporting points along the Dolores and Animas Rivers and at lower elevations in the Region. However, the storm that struck the eastern side of the Rocky mountains and eastern plains of Colorado dumping feet of snow in some places, which affected ranchers who wee in the middle of their calving season. read more