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Farm News & Views - March 8, 2022

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reported that the Food Price Index, based on prices for grains, vegetable oils, Dairy products, meat and sugar stood at 140.7 points at the end of February, up from 135.4 points at the end of January. That’s nearly 21% higher than a year earlier and just over 3 points above the previous mark, set in February of 2011. Prices rose in February, due in part, to concerns about a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine. With the war in Ukraine now a reality, and grain prices surging, it’s likely that February’s FAO Food Price record will be broken again in March.

Ukraine is about the same size as the state of Texas, with a growing season similar to Fargo, North Dakota. But Ukrainian farmers begin planting crops sooner than in the Dakotas, and have earlier harvests. Rather than fighting a war, farmers should now be side-dressing fertilizer in wheat fields, and preparing to plant corn later this month. Russia and Ukraine combined, were expected to produce 29% of global wheat exports in 2022, but because Russia lost access to the SWIFT banking system, buyers haven’t been booking new sales of Russian wheat. Even if the conflict is resolved, planting, harvest and supply chain disruptions could are likely to make exportable wheat supplies tight in the Black Sea Region, according to grain market analysts.

The Russian-Ukraine conflict continues to drive both cash and futures grain markets up. A week ago, I reported that May corn futures closed at 6.55 per bushel, yesterday May corn closed at 7.50, while wheat was $8.60 a bushel last week, it closed yesterday at $12.94.

High pathogenic avian influenza, also known as HPAI has been reported in 14 states since the beginning of 2022, in both commercial and backyard chicken flocks. In the past two months, nearly two million birds, mostly chickens and turkeys, have died, either from the disease or from exterminations intended to prevent the spread of it. According to the U.S. CDC, these outbreaks don’t present an immediate public health concern, because no recent human cases of avian influenza viruses have been detected in the United States. However, all poultry producers should prevent contact between their flocks and wild birds, which often carry HPAI.

March 7th to the 11th is American Farm Bureau Ag Safety Awareness Program Week. The theme is “Prepare. Prevent. Protect, ” which they hope will bring awareness of safety and health issues in agriculture. The initiative is supported by the U.S. Agricultural Safety and Health Centers, and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. The themes change daily, and include livestock on Monday, Cost of safety today, disaster preparedness tomorrow, youth safety on Thursday, and equipment safety on Friday. Farming and ranching is ranked as one of the top ten most dangerous jobs in the United States.

Poet Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Our life is March weather, savage and serene in one hour.”

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.