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Farm News & Views - December 21, 2021

Today we’ll witness the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year in the northern Hemisphere, but the good news is that tomorrow we’ll begin to see more sunlight and less darkness on into the summer. And remember, only 89 day until spring.

According to research in 2019, the average American family spent more money eating at restaurants than they did buying food at a grocery stores. But new research done by the sales and marketing firm Acosta, found that the eat-at-home trend that began as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic may not change anytime soon. They determined that 92% of the respondents said that their families plan to continue eating together at home at least as often as, or more often than they do now. 72% of household in the study expect to continue to eat together at home, while 20% of households expect to eat together more frequently.

Lately, consumer goods price inflation has been a hot news item, and I’ve talked about increased prices for many farm inputs like fertilizer, seed, herbicides, fuel and repairs. But farmers and ranchers are also becoming concerned about the increasing value of crop and pasture land, because higher land prices make it more difficult for both established and beginning farmers to acquire land, and higher land prices drive up land rental rates. Rich foundations and individuals view agricultural land as a consistent investment, because as a grizzled old rancher once told me, “they ain’t making no more of it.” But policy makers and politicians are also becoming concerned about increasing foreign ownership of ag land. USDA data shows that in 2019, foreign persons and entities held an interest in 2.7% of U.S. privately owned agricultural land, which includes crop, grazing, and forest land. Foreign ownership of these lands doubled from 2009 to 2019, and now amount to 35.2 million acres. This issue was taken up in November when Legislation was introduced in the 117th Congress to restrict foreign investment and ownership of U.S. agricultural land. Other related legislation seeks to limit the eligibility of foreign persons and entities to collect USDA farm program benefits.

A recent Successful Farming Magazine article by Executive Editor Gil Glickman caught my attention. The Green Revolution of the 1960’s tripled U.S. corn yields, and doubled wheat and soybean yields, which have been a boon for many hungry people on the planet. But now, Rattan Lai, an Ohio State University soil scientist and 2020 World Food Prize winner believes that we need a new Green Revolution based on soil resilience. He bases this belief on data indicating that a third of the world’s soils are degraded, water pollution is increasing and agricultural production continues to add to greenhouse gas emissions that fuel climate change. At the same time, 820 million of the world’s citizens are undernourished and 2 billion suffer from malnutrition. But Lai believes that agriculture holds a solution in its soil, because he says, “Soil is life, and there is no soil without life, and no life without soil.” He points out that “we don’t need more land. We need to better use what we have.” His solution to combat nutrient leaching, soil erosion and decomposition, is for farmers to use biochar, compost, cover crops, root biomass and crop residues.

British author G.K. Chesterton wrote, ““Christmas is built upon a beautiful and intentional paradox; that the birth of the homeless should be celebrated in every home.”

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.