Weekly ag briefs: Coalition forms to oppose Colorado initiative, USDA relief funds and more

Compiled by Candace Krebs
Cows and calves reflected on a pond.

Coalition to oppose radical ballot initiative

Numerous Colorado agricultural organizations have formed a coalition to oppose Initiative 16, a potential 2022 ballot initiative that would ask voters to criminalize commonly accepted veterinary and animal care practices in Colorado. It would also ban the slaughter of livestock that have not lived more than one-quarter of their anticipated lifetime, a standard far longer than consumer and foreign markets demand. Newly formed Coloradans for Animal Care consists of six Colorado-based livestock organizations including Colorado Farm Bureau, Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, Colorado Dairy Farmers, Colorado Wool Growers Association, Colorado Livestock Association and the Colorado Pork Producers Council. “We’ve come together to oppose one of the most radical and reactionary ballot initiative proposals this state has ever seen,” said Carlyle Currier, a rancher from Molina and president of Colorado Farm Bureau. “We can’t allow such a direct and brazen attack on one of the state’s largest and most historic industries to go unanswered.”

USDA distributing more funds

USDA has announced a plan to distribute more than $12 billion under a program called Pandemic Assistance for Producers, which includes aid that had been put on hold as well as funds newly allocated in the Consolidated Appropriations Act. The program will assist farmers and ranchers who previously did not qualify for COVID-19 aid and expand assistance to farmers helped by existing programs. Farmers need to sign-up only if they are applying for new programs or if they are eligible for CFAP assistance and did not apply previously. The funding includes $6 billion to develop new programs or modify existing proposals using remaining discretionary funding from the Consolidated Appropriations Act. USDA expects this to include funding for personal protective equipment, compensation to offset the pandemic’s impact on biofuels, specialty crops and farmers forced to euthanize animals due to supply chain issues, among others. Sign-ups for the new program begins April 5.

Colorado offers help obtaining grants

With many new funding opportunities available, the Colorado Food and Farm System Response Team is teaming up with Nourish Colorado, the Colorado Food Systems Advisory Council, and CSU Food Systems to host a webinar series focused on federal grants for farmers and food-related organizations. Those interested in various grant opportunities can use the webinars to help develop and refine their proposals. The webinar series starts on April 8. Information on the webinars and other resources is available at FoodSystems.ColoState.edu.

First ever Home-Based Food Entrepreneur Conference offered

Learn from leading cottage food operators, food activists, educators, and leaders in various organizations dedicated to facilitating sales of decorated cookies, artisanal chocolates, small batch jams and jellies, hand-formed loaves of bread, cocoa bombs or numerous other "non-hazardous" cottage food products through a conference designed to offer practical, actionable ideas and information from some of the leaders of the cottage food movement. Hear from cottage food entrepreneurs who are successful, and profitable, running businesses from their home kitchens. The first ever Home-Based Food Entrepreneur Conference will be held April 6 through April 9, from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Tickets to attend start at $20. The program is hosted by Renewing the Countryside, which works to strengthen rural areas by championing and supporting rural communities, farmers, artists, entrepreneurs, educators and activists “renewing the countryside” through sustainable and innovative initiatives, businesses and projects.

Meat School available online

Western Meat School Online is an innovative and unique learning experience covering how to successfully market and sell meat products. Fourteen modules cover techniques for differentiating meat in the marketplace, managing risk and improving profitability. Whether a beginning or experienced farmer or rancher, a butcher, meat processor, meat distributor or livestock business employee, the self-paced class offers lots of opportunities to learn new things. Western Meat School is a program of Oregon State University’s Professional and Continuing Education department. Go to OregonState.edu and look under continuing ed courses and certificates for more.

Utah embraces ‘cage-free’ hens

Roughly 5 million egg-laying hens in Utah will soon be free to stretch their wings, scratch or perch under a new law that requires large commercial farms be cage-free by 2025. Passed by the Legislature, signed by Gov. Spencer Cox, and cheered by animal welfare organizations, the law makes Utah one of nine states to ban or restrict cages at production facilities with more than 3,000 hens. Utah joins California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington. Farms with fewer than 3,000 birds are not subject to the restriction.

AFS still causing problems in China

China has reported a new outbreak of African swine fever in the Xinjiang region. The farm involved had 466 pigs, of which 280 died due to the virus. The remainder of the pigs will be culled. After a multi-month hiatus, China has recently reported a handful of new cases of the highly contagious virus this year. Industry reports are signaling that new strains of the virus could interfere with China's herd rebuilding efforts.

Seaweed touted for making beef more sustainable

Researchers who put a small amount of seaweed into the feed of cattle over the course of five months found that the new diet caused the bovines to belch out 82 percent less methane, The Guardian reports. The finding builds on previous research that also showed seaweed could reduce methane output from cattle. Cows produce methane via microbes in their stomachs as they digest fibrous food, in a process similar to fermentation. Methane is shorter-lived in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, but is more than 30 times as effective in trapping heat, making it a major greenhouse gas, The Guardian says. While some climate campaigners are urging people to eat less meat, researchers at UC Davis suggest putting seaweed on the menu at the feed trough as a way of making existing meat production more climate-friendly.