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Farm News & Views - September 21, 2021

President Joe Biden proclaimed September 19th through the 25th as National Farm Health and Safety Week, which is recognized annually during in the third week in September, because it’s the start of the busy fall harvest season. It has been an annual proclamation by every U.S. president since Franklin D. Roosevelt first announced it in 1944. Unfortunately, About 400 people working in crop and livestock production lost their lives in job related accidents in 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

And September 15th through October 15th is Hispanic Heritage month, which recognizes the important role Hispanic farmers play in our agricultural communities across the nation. According to the 2017 Census of Agriculture, there were over 112,000 Hispanic producers in the United States. Texas has over 41,000 Hispanic producers, while California has almost 15,000 Hispanic farmers. Between 2017 and the previous Census of Agriculture in 2012, the total number of U.S. producers increased 7%, while during the same time period, the number of Hispanic farmers increased 13%.

Texas A&M University and New Mexico State University are working together to produce new green chili pepper cultivars and to develop growing techniques that may help pepper plants withstand extreme heat and the changing climate in the Southwest. They also hope to help growers to compete more favorably with peppers grown in Mexico. For example they’ve been developing a new habanero cultivar that can produce different levels of spiciness and higher amounts of capsiate – a non-spicy, beneficial phytochemical. Researchers are also experimenting with ways to make pepper plants yield fruit in a shorter period of time. This would make harvesting more cost-effective and it could allow producers to harvest mechanically, a cheaper alternative to manual labor.

Eight countries plus the EU are supporters of the Global Methane Pledge, an initiative to reduce emissions of the greenhouse gases by 30% by the end of this decade. Critics of animal agriculture are quick to contend that that cows are a huge threat to global warming because when cows eat grass, the roughage is broken down in their rumens and they burp and fart methane gas. They advocate that livestock production should cease, and everyone should eat a plant based diet. But a closer look at the numbers may be helpful in determining whether this is a good idea or not. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that farming and ranching activities produce 10% of the total green house gas emissions in the U.S. Considering that 10%, about 36% of those emissions are methane produced by livestock production. So the math indicates that livestock production produces 3.6% of the total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, while crop production produces 6.4% of agriculture’s share of greenhouse gases, mainly from nitrous oxide and CO2 from fertilizers, and tillage that releases CO2 from soil. All classes of livestock including cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, and poultry produce some methane, especially in confinement facilities, because the manure that the animals excrete produces methane before it’s composted or applied to fields. Another question to consider is that if we are going to eliminate ruminant animals from our food chain, how will we utilize the over 800 million acres of land that’s not suitable for crop production but can be grazed by various species of ruminant animals while producing food and fiber for a growing world population.

Athenian philosopher Plato wrote, “Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance”

Bob has been an agricultural educator and farm and ranch management consultant for over 40 years in southwest Colorado. He writes about agricultural issues from his farm near Cortez, and has helped to produce farm reports on KSJD for more than a dozen years.