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Farm News & Views - April 26, 2022

Last week, the Biden Administration announced that millions of dollars were poised to be showered on rural communities in the U.S. over the next year. Several initiatives will deliver the funds. The Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service Secure Rural Schools Program will provide more than $238 million to support public schools, roads, and other municipal services to 742 eligible counties in 41 states and Puerto Rico. This program has been in place for several decades, and is designed to offset property tax revenues that are lost due to government ownership of lands, which is significant in western states. Another $800 million is targeted for climate-smart infrastructure and 165 projects that will help to advance equity in rural communities, “especially in those that have been socially vulnerable, distressed, and under served for far too long.” In the Four Corners states, only one grant was awarded, a Rural Energy for America Program Grant for $7,000 to be used to install a solar roof mounted system in Placerville, Colorado, that is projected to save $1,600 a year in energy costs.

A recent notice from the FBI is warning agricultural cooperatives that ransomware attacks might be more likely during the current planting and harvest seasons. Although cyber attacks against firms that supply farm-to-table operations occur regularly, the FBI warns that “Cyber actors may perceive cooperatives as lucrative targets with a willingness to pay, due to the time-sensitive role they play in agricultural production.”

About ten years ago, tire maker Bridgestone began work on developing a domestic supply of natural rubber, using guayule; a heat tolerant, woody shrub that thrives in Mexico and America's desert southwest. The company is growing the shrub on a 300-acre research ranch near Eloy, Arizona, and is planning to build multiple processing plants across the Southwest. Guayule yields natural rubber resins that Bridgestone and several other companies believe can be used to manufacture industrial products, including automotive tires, auto parts, biomass for fuel, and medical and personal care items. The first processing facility could open in 2027 in Pinal County Arizona, according to Western Farm Press. Farmers are interested in the plant, because the shrub can be grown and harvested with existing row crop equipment, and water requirements for growing the plant are about the same as for cotton.

Since farmers and ranchers work is tied to what nature dishes out, most of us constantly monitor weather forecasts to determine if storms are coming that might affect livestock, when to plant and harvest crops, and what we can expect in the long term for our operations. Probably all of us are a little skeptical about what weather forecasters tell us, but if forecasts are off, maybe its not just poor forecasting. Statistics tell us that weather forecast accuracy for five days is 92% accurate, seven days is 82% accurate, and a 10 day forecast is spot on only 55% of the time. But any predictions made for between fourteen and forty five days are considered a coin toss, however, weather predictions concerning what may happen from three to nine months out are pretty good.

Mark Twain wrote, “It is best to read the weather forecast before praying for rain.”

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.