Radio Script 5-14-19

Corn is a major export commodity for U.S. farmers. NRCS Photo by Tim McCabe

Good Morning, this is Bob Bragg with the May 14th edition of Farm News and Views.

News about a trade trade deal with China, or lack of one, has dominated agricultural news for the past several weeks. Just when there seemed to be light at the end of the trade deal tunnel, the door was slammed, and agricultural commodity markets took another downward spiral. Prices for wheat and beef, two commodities that are important to Four Corners Region farmers and ranchers, though seemingly not a top priority for trade negotiators have followed other ag commodities prices down from what they were a month ago.

Over the weekend, President Trump tweeted that he would help farmers by setting up a program to buy agricultural products from our “great farmers,” in larger amounts than China ever did, and ship it to poor & starving countries in the form of humanitarian assistance.”

On Monday though, Trump announced a 15 billion dollar program that he will implement to help farmers who have been hurt by tariffs levied against agricultural products exported to China. Trump contends that since the U. S. is “ taking in tens of billions of dollars” from tariffs on Chinese goods shipped to the U.S., he will take some of that to help farmers. However, former Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack points out that U.S. Customs and Border Protection collects the tax on imports, and funds from U.S. tariffs go into the U.S. Treasury’s general fund, and Congress – not the White House – directs U.S. spending. Also,as far as sending humanitarian assistance to poor and starving countries, Trump’s Administration has announced plans to eliminate the Food for Progress food aid program and the Food for Peace program.

Agriculture is often depicted as a bad actor when it comes to degradation of the environment. Fertilizers and pesticides applied to farm fields often end up damaging soil, polluting water and harming plants miles away from the application site. But there’s promise in a new compound that’s described in a recent Science Magazine article that a listener sent to me.

The problem with pesticides that are applied to crops is that they are often washed off by rain before they can affect the pest attacking a crop, because most pesticide active ingredients don’t adhere well to the plants they are supposed to protect. Now, researchers have designed a molecule with two separate chains of amino acids, called peptides. One peptide embeds itself in the waxy surface of a leaf and prevents rainfall from washing the molecule off, while another peptide in the molecule attacks microbial pests. Although this compound will need much more testing, it may become an alternative to pesticides that often have unintended consequences with non target organisms.

The good news for Four Corners Region hay producers, and a possible note of caution to hay buyers is that USDA’s report that hay stocks are down from a year ago, and that high quality hay is in short supply, which may make this year’s crop more valuable. Evidence of current shortages is that hay auctions around the southwest are reporting that very little high quality hay is being offered for sale. So this summer, hay buyers may want to purchase hay early, rather than wait for the first snow storm this fall.

Will Rodgers said, “You know horses are smarter than people. You never hear of a horse going broke betting on people.”

Until next week, I’m Bob Bragg8

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