Agriculture in brief: Dietary guidelines get update; industry learning opportunities ahead

Candace Krebs
Special to Ag Journal

Newly released dietary guidelines generate mixed reactions

New five-year dietary guidelines, released in late December by USDA, brought strong approval from mainstream beef, dairy and grain organizations, but left other health advocates concerned.

Updated every five years, the guidelines serve as the foundation for federal nutrition policy and shape the recommendations found on USDA's MyPlate graphic.

Nina Teicholz, author and executive director of The Nutrition Coalition, said the new guidelines overlook the fact that 60 percent of the U.S. population already suffers from at least one chronic, diet-related condition.

Ultimately, USDA rejected recommendations from an advisory committee made up of health and medical experts, which advised lower limits on alcohol and added sugars.

AgrAbility announces winter workshops

The Colorado AgrAbility Project will offer a series of winter workshops focusing on different themes. The program is designed for farmers and ranchers struggling with physical or emotional limitations or for professionals who serve that population.

Dates and themes include:

  • January 11: Women in Ag
  • January 18: Resources for Veterans in Ag
  • January 25: Agricultural Mediation.

Each webinar will take place from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Mountain Standard Time.

CoBank expects milk prices to stabilize

In 2020, the pandemic caused unprecedented market volatility in dairy prices, leading to lower milk checks for dairy producers. However, an abnormal price spread between certain segments of the market is expected to realign in the first half of 2021, according to a report by CoBank’s Knowledge Exchange division.

Extreme volatility in cheese and milk prices resulted from supply chain disruptions, government purchasing and changes in consumption habits during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the report.

Most notably, record-high cheese prices lifted Class III milk prices disproportionately higher than Class IV milk prices, which were held in check by low butter and milk powder prices, the report concluded.

Colorado Wine conference planned in January

The virtual VinCO Conference and trade show will be held Jan. 18-22.

Sponsored by Colorado Wine Industry Development Board, the event is the region’s premier opportunity for industry learning.

VinCO is a multi-track, multi-day conference covering viticulture, enology, business and marketing. For more information, go online to

National Western Stock Show offers virtual learning

Though the National Western Stock Show has been postponed until next year, show management is teaming up with Colorado State University and agricultural organizations like Colorado Corn to make the virtual 2021 Ag Adventure Guide available to the general public.

It will allow for the exploration of a different part of Colorado agriculture each day Jan. 9-24.

Meanwhile, many national beef cattle breed shows are being held in conjunction with the inaugural Cattlemen’s Congress at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds in Oklahoma City.

Jarold Callahan, president of Express Ranches and a member of the Cattlemen’s Congress board of directors, said more than 11,000 head of cattle were entered, nearly twice as many entries as Denver drew last year.

In addition to the National Western, the Fort Worth stock show has also been cancelled.

Drone oversight to include ag representation

Several U.S. senators recently applauded the signing into law of bipartisan legislation to ensure the Federal Aviation Administration’s chief drone policy committee includes representation from agriculture, forestry and rural America.

Sens. Gary Peters (D-Michigan), John Thune (R-South Dakota) and Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) said the Drone Advisory Committee for the 21st Century Act requires FAA to provide representation for local government officials, including those from county and tribal governments.

“As technology becomes more sophisticated, farmers will increasingly rely on drones to assess, monitor and manage their farm activities,” Thune said. “Rural areas like South Dakota – where agriculture is the state’s top industry – deserve to have a seat at the table when it comes to making decisions on drone policies and best practices.”

Oklahoma group starts new beef promotion program

Oklahoma’s National Farmers Union affiliate the American Farmers and Ranchers organization has launched a marketing program for producers who want to sell their beef as “Oklahoma certified.”

To earn the distinction, ranchers must prove their animals are bred, born, raised and processed within Oklahoma state borders through an affidavit-based, third party verification system. Once verified, the certified beef products can be marketed to consumers with an official seal from the newly formed Oklahoma Certified Beef Association.

Through pandemic-related meat shortages, the demand for local and direct market beef soared in 2020. The OCBA seal is intended to help new and established businesses distinguish Oklahoma certified products in the marketplace, the group said.

New Conservation Reserve Program sign-up begins

Agricultural producers and private landowners interested in the Conservation Reserve Program can sign up through Feb. 12. The competitive program, administered by USDA’s Farm Service Agency, provides annual rental payments for land devoted to conservation purposes.

Through CRP, farmers and ranchers establish long-term, resource-conserving plant species, such as approved grasses or trees, to control soil erosion, improve water quality and enhance wildlife habitat on cropland.

CRP general signup is held annually and is competitive; general signup includes increased opportunities for wildlife habitat enrollment through the State Acres For Wildlife Enhancement initiative.

New cropland offered in the program must have been planted for four out of six crop years from 2012 to 2017.

Additionally, producers with land already enrolled but expiring on Sept. 30 can re-enroll this year.

The contract for accepted offers will begin Oct. 1.

‘One Health’ approach proposed to prevent another pandemic

The Wildlife Conservation Society — America’s oldest conservation organization, founded in 1895 — has joined 20 other leading conservation groups to ask government leaders “to prioritize protection of highly intact forests and other ecosystems, and work in particular to end commercial wildlife trade and markets for human consumption as well as all illegal and unsustainable wildlife trade,” according to a recent press release.

Experts predict it would cost about $700 billion to institute these and other measures, but it’s estimated that COVID-19 already cost $26 trillion in economic damages.

In November, the German Federal Foreign Office and the Wildlife Conservation Society held a virtual conference called One Planet, One Health, One Future, aimed at heading off the next pandemic. The conference was timed to coincide with the meeting of the world’s economic superpowers, the G20, to urge them to recognize the threat that wildlife-borne pandemics pose, not only to people, but also to the global economy.

The growing invasion of natural environments as the global population soars makes another deadly pandemic a matter of when, not if, experts say, and it could be far worse than COVID-19. The spillover of zoonotic viruses into humans is said to cause some 75 percent of emerging infectious diseases.