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Agriculture briefs for Feb. 12, 2021

Compiled by Candace Krebs
An Oklahoma corn field. A presidential administration policy shift toward more green energy could have ripple effects on other Oklahoma crops.

Last chance to sign up for produce conference

Only a few days remain before the Colorado Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association Annual Conference, which will be held virtually on Feb. 17-18. With more than 55 different presenters scheduled, it is the most content the group has ever offered at annual conference, according to president Robert Sakata, a farmer from Brighton. Visit ColoradoProduce.org for information and register.

State officials express unwavering support for NWSS

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and Agriculture Commissioner Kate Greenberg reiterated their support for the National Western Stock Show in a letter published Feb. 3. This year’s stock show was canceled for only the second time in its 115-year history due to COVID-19.

“The agriculture community is the cornerstone to the foundation of our state. In fact, the state had a Cattlemen’s Association before we had a Capitol,” the governor wrote. “My administration has done everything possible to successfully keep agriculture open for business through the toughest of times because we understand that agriculture is Colorado. We are also steadfastly committed to the future of agriculture … Nowhere is this innovation, this deep knowledge of the land, the culture, and the business showcased more prominently every year than at the National Western Stock Show.”

The two said they were joined by state and local officials from both sides of the aisle, and throngs of individuals from across the state and nation, in their unwavering support for the show.

Conservation district provides resources

The Yuma County Conservation District is posting several drought-planning videos and will host a panel roundtable with a speaker Q&A at 5 p.m. on Feb. 25. The series includes a weather outlook, discussion of forage options and ranch-tested ideas for getting through a drought. To register, email travis.taylor@colostate.edu.

CCA communicates industry accomplishments

The U.S. cattle industry is the most sustainable production system in the world with the lowest carbon footprint per pound and vast ecosystems that are dependent upon cattle for proper health, all the while producing 20% of the world’s beef with only 6% of the world’s cattle, according to the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association. CCA notes these accomplishments benefit the environment and reflect the goals and objectives of the beef industry moving forward, including an intention to achieve climate neutrality by 2040. CCA formulated policy reflecting this vision during the group’s annual midwinter meeting.

Irrigator training held in northeast Colorado

The Republican River Basin is currently conducting a Colorado Master Irrigator course for farmers and farm managers that includes advanced training on conservation and efficiency-oriented irrigation management practices and tools. Topic experts from Colorado and adjacent Ogallala Aquifer states are serving as instructors during the 32-hour program. Colorado Master Irrigator's interactive class format is designed to encourage peer-to-peer exchange among participants and instructors, helping forge useful contacts that graduates can reach out to after their participation in the program. To learn more, go to comasterirrigator.org.

National baking entries due soon

The seventh National Festival of Breads baking contest, held every other year in Manhattan, Kansas, is accepting entries of original yeast bread recipes through Feb. 22. This year’s festival will be held in a virtual format on June 9. To find out more about entry information, visit NFB2021.com.

USCA outlines priorities

On Jan. 15, the United States Cattlemen’s Association hosted its annual meeting of members via a virtual conference. Producers from across the U.S. met to discuss policy resolutions, nominate regional board of directors candidates, and hear updates on USCA’s actions and work over the past year. Priorities discussed included the USDA investigation into market manipulation by major meatpackers, as well as increasing transparency and price discovery, maintaining the health of the domestic cattle herd, guaranteeing truth in labeling, reforming hours-of-service for livestock haulers and insuring success of independent meat processors.

Retroactive carbon program rolled out

The Soil Health Institute, a global nonprofit charged with safeguarding and enhancing the vitality and productivity of soils, is collaborating with Truterra on soil metrics and sampling design for TruCarbon, the first farmer-owned carbon program in the U.S. TruCarbon is a program to help farmers generate and sell carbon credits to private sector buyers. For the initial launch, SHI will develop the soil sampling methodologies for qualifying farmers to be compensated for the carbon they have sequestered retroactively — over the last five years — by adopting soil health practices. Microsoft is the effort’s first secured buyer. Truterra, LLC, is a subsidiary of Land O'Lakes, Inc., one of America's largest farmer-owned cooperatives.

Poultry owners alerted to threat of avian flu

The Washington State Department of Agriculture will offer a free webinar to help poultry owners protect their birds from avian influenza as cases continue to increase worldwide. The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) reports ongoing outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza, or bird flu, in 26 countries across Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. HPAI can spread rapidly and kill entire flocks. WSDA will offer a free educational webinar on Feb. 23 at 6:30 p.m. for poultry owners. The webinar will provide information about avian influenza, how the current situation is similar to 2014/2015, and what steps poultry owners can take to protect their birds.

CRP sign-up extended

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is extending the Conservation Reserve Program general sign-up period, which was originally scheduled to end on Feb. 12. USDA will continue to accept offers as it takes the opportunity for the new administration to evaluate ways to increase enrollment. Under the previous administration, incentives and rental payment rates were reduced, resulting in an enrollment shortfall of more than 4 million acres. The program, administered by USDA’s Farm Service Agency, provides annual rental payments for 10 to 15 years for land devoted to conservation purposes, as well as other types of payments.

Net farm income predicted to fall

The Agriculture Department expects farmers to earn more money from their crops and livestock in 2021, but not enough to offset higher production costs and a steep drop-off in taxpayer support. USDA's forecast for $111.4 billion in net farm income this year would represent a nearly $10 billion decline compared to 2020. Cash receipts are expected to rise by $11.8 billion for crops and $8.6 billion for livestock, as agricultural exports and commodity prices rebound after years of trade headwinds and pandemic-related supply chain disruptions. On the other side of the ledger, farm expenses are expected to increase as producers spend more on fertilizer, feed and labor. USDA admits the outlook could change dramatically, depending on the pandemic and on any additional relief programs. New sources of income could also emerge, including a USDA-backed carbon credit market the Biden administration is considering creating using the $30 billion Commodity Credit Corporation.

Veteran farmer grants accepted through Sunday

Beekeeping equipment and breeding livestock. Fencing and storage freezers. Tractor implements and all-terrain vehicles. For hundreds of farmers in recent years, a small grant from the Farmer Veteran Coalition has helped purchase these crucial pieces of farm equipment and made a difference in their livelihood. Now FVC is awarding another year of grants. Funding for soldiers-turned-farmers remains open through Feb. 14. For more info, go to FarmVetCo.org.