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Farm News & Views - April 12, 2022

With fertilizer prices continuing to spike, agronomists are recommending that farmers conduct soil sampling on their fields and pastures this year, rather than just guesstimating how much to apply. Livestock producers can reduce fertilizer requirements in their grazing lands by rotating pastures to get an even distribution of manure, and by adding 40% legumes to the plant mix, which will increase the total grazing plant production and quality of nutrients in pastures.

Last week’s drought monitor map indicates that over 50% of the U.S. is in some level of drought. Although when compared to the same time period last year, drought conditions have moderated, with less exceptional and extreme areas of drought especially in the Four Corners Region. But the March 1st USDA Cattle on Feed Report showed that over 12 million head of cattle were in feedlots, which is the highest March inventory on record. Beef cattle industry analysts believe that dry conditions on pastures and ranges and high feed cost have driven ranchers to liquidate cattle, rather than feed them hay or hold them on pasture through spring before selling them in early summer.

Probably anyone who shops for food knows that prices have continued to rise over the past few months, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine hasn’t helped the global supply chain. The prices for basic items like cereal, sugar and oils are at record highs, according to statistics published by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. Commodities like wheat and sunflower oil were 12.6 percent higher in March compared with February, driven by large rises in wheat and all coarse grain prices, but the Russia-Ukraine conflict has opened up opportunities for U.S. farmers to step up their production of sunflower seeds. Last year Ukrainian farmers grew 11 million tonnes of these seeds, most of which were exported and crushed for cooking oil. Sunflower oil seed prices at the Lamar, Colorado crushing plant increased by $7 per hundredweight since the conflict started at the end of February. The oil is used for everything from frying food to making cosmetics. Russia and Ukraine together accounted for more than half of the world’s sunflower oil exports last year, so embargoes on imports from Russia and its invasion of Ukraine has left a huge gap for food processors to fill.

Last week, the Ukraine Agriculture Ministry reported that Spring planting was underway in 21 regions under Ukraine’s control, covering a total of 603,000 hectares, or about 1.5 million acres, which is less than 4.5% of the projected total area for main spring crops. Ukraine has close to 30 million hectares or over 74 million acres of agricultural land, but many areas can’t currently be used because they’re occupied by Russian forces or because of active fighting in the area. The fate of almost 8 million hectares or about 20 million acres of fall planted crops like winter wheat, rye and barley that would normally be harvested this summer is still unknown. For comparison, U.S. farmers are expected to plant almost 90 million acres of corn this spring.

Article relating to global supply chain:

Global Food Chains Face More Uncertainty, More Instability

Abraham Lincoln said, “I can make a general in five minutes, but a good horse is hard to replace.”

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.