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Farm News & Views - October 12, 2021

Last week, I was remiss in wishing everyone a happy new year. No, I’m not talking about that one at the end of December, I referring to the 2022 water year that’s recognized by U.S. Geological Survey and water managers as October 1st. That’s because most of the of the precipitation that falls in late autumn and early winter accumulates as snow that won’t enter streams and rivers until the following spring or summer when the snow melts. So the snow we’re seeing on the mountains now is adding to our water bank account for next summer, and I suspect that the snowpack that feeds the tributaries to the Colorado River will have a whole lot of scrutiny throughout the coming winter.

Also on the winter weather front, Becky Bolinger, the state’s assistant climatologist recently pointed out that Colorado is likely to see a La Niña winter again this year, which could mean a light snowpack in the southern part of the state, and possibly a decent snowpack in the northern part. But Colorado is off to a better start to the 2022 water year than it was on October 1st 2020, when 100% of the state was experiencing some level of drought. This year, about 87% of the state is in some level of drought, with only patches of the Front Range, Eastern Plains and a portion of south-central Colorado considered to be drought-free. Water managers point out that fall soil moisture has a huge impact on the amount of runoff that reaches the rivers. For example, the dry fall of 2020 left little moisture in the soil, and runoff this year was 30% of average from a snowpack that was 90% of average.

Drought and heat waves have damaged cotton crops across the southern and southwest U.S., which is driving the price of cotton up to over a dollar a pound on futures markets. That’s the highest level in over a decade. The U.S. is the largest exporter of the commodity in the world, and apparel manufactures are expecting that consumers will begin to see rising prices for their favorite cotton clothing. Maybe we’ll soon see farmers and cowboys making fashion statements by wearing even more tattered Levies and Wrangles than usual, because they can’t afford the new ones.

Almost daily, we hear about companies that have been hacked by cyber thieves who hold hostage a company’s data, then demand payment to return their access to records and intellectual property. Lately, agricultural companies from livestock markets to ag manufactures have been held up by these modern day Jessie James, but cyber security experts warn that individual farms and ranches could also be at risk of being victims of a cyber attack. Producers who maintain records for accounting, livestock health and breeding, crop production, business contacts and more are at risk of disruptions when their computers are breached. Security experts suggest that producers should back up their data often by storing it on an external hard drive that can be detached from their computer. They also recommend that we install hardware and software updates when we get them rather than when we get just around to it, and that we develop challenging passwords and change them regularly both for our computer hardware and modems and for access to our online accounts.

Author Jim Bishop wrote, “Autumn carries more gold in its pocket than all the other seasons.”

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.