Weekly ag briefs: Water news, new food mapping system and more in agriculture news

Compiled by Candace Krebs
Martin Kerschen's wheat field in Reno County, Kansas on June 17, 2020.

Colorado farmers markets hold meeting

The Colorado Farmers Market Association annual conference is Friday, March 5, and features a keynote address by Catt Fields White, the director of San Diego Markets and founder and CEO of Farmers Market Pros. The conference will also cover legislative updates, production and marketing of cottage foods, marketing tips for farmers markets and how to use the markets as business incubators. More info at CoFarmersMarkets.org.

Webinar to cover land trusts’ role in preserving water

Water Education Colorado is hosting a webinar on land conservation and water on Tuesday, March 9, from 12 noon to 1 p.m. Learn how land trusts are working on water rights in Colorado and hear about two visionary projects: Colorado Open Lands' work on groundwater sustainability in the San Luis Valley; and the Palmer Land Conservancy's work to combat the effects of buy-and-dry by keeping water on the most productive agricultural land east of Pueblo along the Bessemer Ditch. How do these projects work? How are land trusts positioned to play an important role in water management? Explore these questions and more by going to WaterEducationColorado.org.

CSU introduces new food systems mapping tool

Working with community partners, the Colorado State University Food Systems team has created an interactive Colorado Food Systems Mapping and Reporting Tool that aggregates relevant food system indicators and makes them available to all stakeholders. Positive responses to this project have led to the expansion of offerings and a toolkit for including data and indicators that have been important during the COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to indicators important for community development. As part of the regular webinar series, CSU is hosting an informational webinar about the program on March 10 from 2 to 2:30 p.m. featuring Rebecca Hill from CSU’s Department of Agriculture and Resource Economics, and Robin Young, extension director in Archuleta County.

Webinar to cover on-farm sanitization

The Produce Safety Collaborative of Colorado will host a webinar on “demystifying cleaning and sanitizing for farms” on March 10 from 4 to 5 p.m. Get information on how to conduct crucial on-farm cleaning practices correctly. The food safety website is located at FreshProduce.ColoState.edu.

Meat processing sector topic of upcoming webinar

A webinar on “New Opportunities and Collaborations for Colorado's Meat Processing Sector” is coming up on March 11 from 12:30 to 2 p.m. Scheduled speakers include Rebecca Thistlethwaite, director of the Niche Meat Processor Assistance Network; P.J. Howe, loan specialist with USDA Rural Development; Jennifer Martin, assistant professor of animal science at CSU; and Steve Blunt, program administrator with Colorado Department of Agriculture. A webinar link is available on the CSU Food Systems website.

Market transparency legislation hailed

Several groups are backing the recently introduced Cattle Market Transparency Act of 2021, sponsored by Sens. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) American Farm Bureau Federation said the bill would help bring increased transparency to America’s cattle markets by ensuring robust regionally negotiated cash trade and providing producers with more pricing information. The association’s Cattle Market Working Group, comprised of 10 state Farm Bureau presidents, spent more than two months investigating factors that led to market disruptions following the Holcomb packing plant fire and the COVID-19 pandemic before backing the proposal. The U.S. Cattlemen’s Association also expressed support for the legislation, as well as for the Strengthening Local Processing Act, which was introduced in the House by Chellie Pingree, a Maine Democrat, and Jeff Fortenberry, a Nebraska Republican.

Corn leadership and education offered

The National Corn Growers has developed a new Advocacy Training Program as part of their grassroots action plan presented last year with the goal of strengthening their political reach and grassroots capabilities. The program will be known as ACE (Advocating for Corn Effectively). The virtual program will take place on three consecutive Friday mornings: March 12, March 19 and March 26. The target audience is grower leaders who can help lead their respective states into a stronger culture of advocacy. By the end of the series, participants should have a firm understanding of the role which grassroots plays in shaping policy and feel comfortable participating in meetings on Capitol Hill and with state legislators. Also in the world of corn, the Colorado Corn Administrative Committee will also host its spring forum in the afternoon of March 24, featuring a panel discussion, information from researchers and a presentation on corn marketing.

Culver’s contest provides funding for FFA

Since creating the Thank You Farmers Project in 2013, Culver's has raised $3 million to support agricultural education. One of the many ways that Culver's supports FFA is through the annual FFA Essay Contest, which just launched on Feb. 22 for its seventh year. Like past years, three winners will be chosen to receive funds for their FFA chapters in the totals of $7,500, $5,000, and $2,500. Because the pandemic has made it very difficult for FFA chapters to host their own fundraisers, the prize money will help the winning chapters pursue educational projects and initiatives that otherwise may have gone unfunded. The contest is a chance for students to demonstrate their passion for agricultural education. New this year, students will also be able to submit videos for the contest.

Federal agency accepting value-added applications

The USDA Rural Development program is accepting applications for grants to help agricultural producers develop and market new products. Approximately $33 million in grants is available through the Value-added Producer Grant program. Paper or emailed applications are due March 22. Last fall six such grants were awarded in Colorado,

including one that went to Flying Diamond Ranch in Kit Carson, to be used to expand private label beef products, and another awarded to Hobbs and Meyers Farms in Avondale, which will go toward producing and marketing cookies and porridge made with farm-grown heritage grains.

Support for taxes to fund water conservation mixed

A majority of Colorado voters believe the state should spend more money on protecting and conserving its water resources, Fresh Water News reports, but they’re not willing to support new state taxes to fund the work, according to a series of bipartisan polls conducted over the past 18 months. “Roughly 55 percent of voters said the state should spend more money,” said Lori Weigel, a pollster and principal with the firm New Bridge Strategy. Though the polling showed some support for such potential tools as a new statewide tourism tax or a bottle tax, that support eroded quickly when likely voters were asked about a new statewide tax, with 39 percent of likely voters saying they were skeptical the state could be trusted to spend the money wisely.