About three months ago, farmers and ranchers in the Four Corners region were tallying the benefits and drawback of a wet winter and spring. Wet fields made it tough to plant spring grains and dry beans, and the heavy snow pack kept cattle and sheep off mountain ranges for a few weeks. But by mid-June, the Region was drought free according to the U.S. Drought monitor, with the exception of a small part of San Juan County New Mexico. Southwest Colorado and Southeast Utah were also free of abnormally dry conditions. Fast forward to the end of August, and drought is making a comeback. The whole region is registering abnormally dry on the Drought Monitor Map and Moderate drought has made a comeback along much of far western New Mexico. Even farmers with irrigation water are commenting that they could use some help through a good rainstorm. The long-range National Weather Service forecast for the next three weeks is showing higher than normal temperatures and normal precipitation for this time of year.
The much anticipated USDA August Crop Production report that came out yesterday had a rather dramatic impact on wheat and corn prices, trimming about 20 cents per bushel from September wheat prices, while knocking off a quarter on September corn. Soybeans also lost a dime. Now for the rest of the story. When the July crop production report came out, USDA economists had reported that there was more wheat, corn and soybean acres than what market gurus had reported. Grain company experts had predicted that wet fields, poor growing conditions and export demand would cause prices to climb to $8 per bushel for corn and $12 to $14 for soybeans, which caused a market rally in early July before the July USDA report was published on July 11th. After the report, commodity prices settled into the $4 corn and $8 soybean prices that farmers had watched during May and June. Grain traders cried foul, and called for heads to roll at the USDA because the inaccurate information published by the USDA ruined the rally that started in late June. Well, the August report verified that the July USDA estimates of planted acres and potential yields was about right.
Vesicular Stomatitis, often called VSV, continues to infect horses and other livestock in the Four Corners Region. So far, outbreaks are confirmed in Montezuma and La Plata counties, and San Juan County New Mexico. VSV is a contagious disease that afflicts horses, livestock, wildlife and even humans. It’s caused by a virus thatis rarely life threatening but can have a financial impact on the livestock industry. Because the disease is thought to be spread by insects, VSV usually does not carry on into the late Fall.
Good morning. This is Bob Bragg. Welcome to the August 6th edition of Farm News and Views.
Devaluation of the Chinese yuan sent financial markets lower yesterday, and farm commodity markets were also rattled. Futures market prices for grains and livestock continue to be churned by trade war uncertainty.
Good morning. This is Bob Bragg. Welcome to the July 23rd edition of Farm News and Views.
The increasing level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is often blamed for a changing climate around the globe. Many scientists believe that combustion of fossil fuels and the decline of forests are factors in the increase of CO2 levels by 100 parts per million since 1950. But farming practices that have resulted in depleted organic material in crop fields are also sited as a factor for this spike in CO2. Soil scientists have recorded from a 20 to 50% reduction of carbon in soils that have been tilled for decades versus soils that have been undisturbed. Additional carbon is lost when wind and water erosion carry soils particles off of fields. So soil scientists have concluded that carbon sequestration in farm fields and grazing lands can reduce and even reverse the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. Recently, several companies are ramping up to encourage farmers and ranchers to participate in practices that will result in increasing soil organic matter in their fields, using a marketplace developed around CO2 mitigation that enables CO2-emitting industries to purchase carbon credits from businesses engaged in offsetting activities. For example, Boston-based Indigo Agriculture recently unveiled its latest project, the Terraton Initiative, which intends to sequester 1 trillion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by providing momentary incentives to farmers and ranchers who adopt regenerative agriculture practices. The company contends that if farmers increase the level of carbon in their soils by an average of 0.5% globally, it could reverse the 1-trillion-ton increase in atmospheric carbon since the Industrial Revolution. Some of the practices that Indigo encourages farmers to adopt include no-till crop production, crop rotation, reducing reliance on chemical and synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, and incorporating livestock. The Western Sustainability Exchange is another organization that’s attempting to enroll Montana ranchers in a program that will pay them to use a carefully managed, rotational grazing program that will qualify for the carbon credit market. Rotational grazing calls for moving livestock based on utilization of forage over a short period of time by intensive grazing, then moving the herd to a new section of range or pasture that has not been grazed until it has full recovered from previous grazing passes.
Good morning. This is Bob Bragg with the July 16th edition of Farm News & Views.
Farmers in the mid section of our country continue to be affected by too much water this growing season. Although soils have started to dry out in some fields in the Corn Belt they may soon be getting a lot wetter, since Tropical Depression Barry is following the Mississippi River Valley northward, dropping precipitation on fields that have received way too much rain already. Before it dies out, it’s likely to have affected 12 states, dumping from one to more than three inches of rainfall over the next couple of days according to the National Weather Service. But then, as the storms passes, the areas in Barry’s wake are expected to suffer from a “widespread” heat wave starting later this week.
Good morning. Welcome to the July 9th edition of Farm News and Views.
You may have noticed bees being…Well, busy as bees this spring and early summer tending to flowers in gardens, on fruit trees and even on weeds. Bees help to pollinate a third of the crops we eat, including almonds, apples, avocados and grapes, but bee populations have steadily declined since 2006. However, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) won’t collect quarterly data this July for the annual Honey Bee Colonies report, citing budget constraints. This report has allowed the USDA, beekeepers, and other interested parties to compare quarterly losses, additions, and movements and to analyze the data on a state-by-state basis.
Good morning. This is Bob Bragg. Welcome to the July 2nd edition of Farm News & Views.
Over the past three months, I’ve talked about problems that farmers in the Midwest have had this spring getting their crops planted. On some farms, growers reported that they were two months late getting corn and soybean seeds into the ground. I was able to see he good the bad and the ugly of crop progress last week, during a road trip making roughly a 400 mile circle around central Illinois and Indiana. Farmers used to say that if the corn was knee high by the fourth of July, they could expect a good crop. Although with modern hybrid corn varieties, corn plants are usually four or five feet tall by this time of the growing season. B observed that in many fields, corn was four to eight inches tall, and soybeans plants had just emerged from the soil. Farmers and farm managers I talked with told me that wet soil this year is only part of the problem with crops being so far behind in growth. Cool temperatures and cloudy days thus far have put a damper on plant growth even for fields that were planted early. Corn plants in many fields are pale yellow, rather than dark green, indicating that wet soils are inhibiting the uptake of nitrogen. Farmers hope that they’ll get plenty of sunshine and warm days to speed up plant growth for the rest of the summer, and hope that frost comes late this fall. While Midwest farmers have faced unprecedented challenges this year, farmers I talked to are still positive about their chances for a good year.
Good morning! This is Bob Bragg. Welcome to the June 25th edition of Farm News and Views.
Last Friday, we celebrated the summer solstice, then, some of us in southwest Colorado had to cover our garden plants to protect them from frost Saturday night into Sunday morning. The National Weather Service recorded temperature near to or below freezing in the Montezuma Valley during the early morning hours on Sunday. Higher elevations escaped with temperatures in the mid 30’s to low 40’s, and there are no reports of crops fields being harmed by the low temps..
Good morning! This is Bob Bragg. Welcome to the June 18th edition of Farm News and Views.
For the past several weeks I’ve reported about problems that farmers are having planting crops in the Midwest, but weather has also been affecting farmers in Colorado. Last week, in the San Luis Valley, hail caused light damage to barley fields, Fall potato emergence is still behind the average, and some freeze damage was noted in alfalfa fields due to below freezing overnight temperatures . Although hay harvest is going well in southwest Colorado, it’s progressing slowly in much of the rest of the state due to persistent rain showers. A downside to the good soil moisture this spring is that growing conditions are ideal for weeds. Reports are coming in about robust stands of invasive cheat grass, also known as downy brome grass, that are causing concerns about fire danger later in the summer when this highly flammable plant dries out.