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Colorado and U.S. agriculture news in brief for Feb. 5, 2021

Candace Krebs
Special to Ag Journal

Colorado Farmers Markets to host annual conference

The Colorado Farmers Market Association will hold its annual conference online March 5-6. Topics covered will include challenges and successes from 2020, game planning for 2021, farmers markets as business incubators and more. An equity and inclusion training will also be offered.

Online produce safety training offered

Colorado State University Extension, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, Colorado Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association and Colorado Department of Agriculture will host an online-only Produce Safety Alliance Grower Training Course in two parts, from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Feb. 25-26. This course provides a foundation on the FSMA Produce Safety Rule requirements, Good Agricultural Practices and co-management information, and details on how to develop a farm food safety plan. Registration is $35.

Marketing webinar series underway

Ag and Business Management specialists at CSU will hold a Monday night marketing webinar series designed to help farmers and ranchers improve their marketing skills. The first four-week program is meant to be an introductory course covering the mechanics of cash, futures and options trading. The second four-week program offers a more advanced course that will focus on sophisticated marketing techniques and the development or a farm/ranch level marketing plan. The first program will be held Mondays from 7-9 p.m., spanning Feb. 8 to March 1. The second will be held Mondays at the same time each evening from March 8-29. Participants can register for either program for $15, or both for $25.

Directory listings needed

It's that time of year again: the Colorado Department of Agriculture will publish the 37th annual Colorado Farm Fresh Directory in June, which promotes Colorado farmers’ markets, roadside stands, u-picks, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) producers, agritourism activities, wineries and farms and ranches that sell direct to the public. Producers are encouraged to submit their information for inclusion in the 2021 edition of the publication. To submit a listing please contact Loretta Lopez at 303-869-9175.

USB offers international leadership experience

The United Soybean Board is introducing a new program to support leadership development, funded by USB and presented by the IFYE (formerly called International Farm Youth Exchange.) In late October, state soybean check-off organizations were contacted about a new international leadership opportunity for soybean farmers and family members. The initial announcement suggested a three-month experience living in another country. Based on feedback from young soybean professionals, that was adjusted to eight weeks, to reduce time away from operations and better meet the needs of applicants. Research shows that in-depth international experience can have a profound influence on future leadership success. Eight individuals will be selected for the opportunity. Founded in 1948, the IFYE Association of the USA, Inc. provides cultural exchange programming by placing participants with multiple host families during a two- three- or six-month period in countries around the world.

Well owners sought for aquifer study

The Oklahoma Water Resources Board is seeking assistance from water well owners in the Oklahoma panhandle for an upcoming study on the Ogallala aquifer. The purpose of the research is to determine the current groundwater availability for current and future groundwater use. The study will also provide a new groundwater flow model for both the Ogallala-Panhandle and Ogallala-Northwest aquifers in Oklahoma. A critical part of the study is to collect water level measurements from a wide array of well sites. OWRB scientists are seeking local water well owners that would allow agency staff to collect water-level measurements at their wells throughout March.

CoBank reports on beef market outlook

As COVID-19 spread across the country last year, it spurred the “great grocery grab of 2020” — a shift to at-home food consumption not seen since the early 1980s. The abrupt change also forced the most significant shift in meat supplies the industry has experienced, diverting massive volumes of meat and other food originally intended for restaurants into retail distribution channels and grocery stores. Now U.S. animal protein supplies have returned to normal and foodservice sales have improved, but things might not return to pre-pandemic levels until the second half of 2022, according to a new report from CoBank’s Knowledge Exchange Division. “Trends in consumer demand for at-home and away-from-home consumption are central to the profitability and viability of the U.S. animal protein supply chain,” noted Will Sawyer, lead animal protein economist with CoBank. “As the U.S. foodservice sector climbs out of the hole left by 2020, the animal protein sector will not only need to realign itself … but also remain flexible.”

COOL needed for Buy American provisions

The Organization for Competitive Markets is urging the Biden administration to reinstate mandatory Country of Origin Labeling for beef, after the president signed a “Made In America” executive order which strengthens “Buy American” provisions for federal procurement. OCM said the lack of MCOOL makes it impossible to distinguish imported beef from domestic beef for carrying out the purposes of the order. An earlier MCOOL requirement for beef and pork was in place from 2008 to 2015. It was repealed in 2015 to avoid tariffs after Canada and Mexico successfully challenged the policy at the World Trade Organization.

Vilsack supports reviving antitrust taskforce

New Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is calling for recreation of an antitrust taskforce in agriculture and food processing that was abandoned by the Trump administration. Vilsack said he would pursue antitrust litigation in conjunction with the Justice Department. He described it as an issue of resilience. The COVID pandemic caused the processing industry to falter and food prices to jump 50% almost overnight last spring. Vilsack said USDA should encourage diversified food production with more smaller processors that can cater to more diverse farm operations.

Metro cities pushing water conservation

As drought conditions intensify across Colorado, at least 14 cities in the Denver metro area say they will join forces to warn residents of looming water shortages and the need to cut back use this spring, Fresh Water News reported last week. Denver Water likely won’t decide until March whether to impose tough new watering restrictions, but other communities, such as Thornton, are already moving forward. Emergency planning by states and municipalities extends well beyond Colorado. The dry winter is almost certain to trigger cuts in water use outlined in the seven-state Colorado River drought contingency plan. A forecast released by the Bureau of Reclamation shows the federally owned Lake Mead and Lake Powell could dip to near record-low levels, with Lake Powell at 42% capacity and Lake Mead at 40% capacity, with little improvement on the horizon. Last week’s U.S. Drought Monitor map showed decent snowpack in the high elevations did lead to some improvement in drought ratings in north-central and south-central Colorado.