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Farm News & Views - November 30, 2021

Last month, the bipartisan Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act was introduced in the Senate to address the lack of competition in the meat packing industry. Last week, another cattle market reform bill, Protecting America’s Meatpacking Workers Act was introduced by Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.Y., and Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif. R-CALF USA, the only cattle group to not support the previous compromise bill is calling this one the “silver bullet” that R-Calf members have been looking for to “immediately fix the broken market and reverse the alarming contraction of the U.S. cattle industry,” according to R-CALF CEO Bill Bullard. The new Act contains three titles: the first addresses reforms to protect meat and poultry processing workers; the second addresses cattle market reforms; and the third addresses reports required by the Government Accountability Office, including a report on the fragility of and national security concerns in meat and poultry food systems. The question now is whether either one or both of these bills will make it to the finish line.

Varroa mites and the diseases they carry have had serious impacts on bee hives in the U.S. since the mid 1980’s. But bee keepers who are members of the Ohio Queen Bee Improvement Project are working to defeat these persistent pests. For several years, beekeepers around the state have been capturing swarms of feral bees that had thrived without human help. They discovered that some populations of feral honey bees defend themselves by chewing off the mites’ legs and eating into their abdomens. Now they’re hoping to use the superior genetics from those feral populations to develop more resilient captive bee colonies. According to Barbara Bloetscher, state apiarist with the Ohio Department of Agriculture, Ohio beekeepers lose 30% to 40% of their colonies every winter due in a large part to Varroa mites. The result is that these colony losses and management challenges become much too difficult for some beekeepers, who give up on keeping bees after about three years. She points out that to a bee, a mite is a big parasite, “comparatively it’s the size of a rat to us. Controlling mites with miticides is expensive and tricky, because mites and bees are so closely related. Therefore, identifying feral populations that defend themselves against these pests provides a promising alternative.

During gatherings of agricultural producers, one often hears grumbling about how the government is passing out money to everyone but farmers and ranchers. But the USDA hasn’t quite been a piker over the last couple of years. Under the direction of Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, USDA continues to payout millions of dollars to producers who may not have benefited from the initial aid offered following the corona virus pandemic. USDA began issuing approximately $270 million in payments to contract producers of eligible livestock and poultry who applied for pandemic assistance. This is a small portion of the millions more that are still expected to be rolled out in the final weeks of 2021. To date, USDA has paid out $18.8 billion in Corona virus Food Assistance Payments as well as top-up payments. This is in addition to the $11.8 billion in Corona virus and top-up payments provided in the initial part of federal aid for farmers in 2020.

Author Norman Vincent Peale said, “The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.”

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.