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Farm News & Views - June 7, 2022

Recently, I’ve talked about the high costs farmers are paying for normal crop inputs like fertilizer, seed, crop chemicals, fuel and machinery repairs. But prices for the crops they raise like corn, soybeans, wheat, hay and other feed grains have all risen as well. Cow-calf producers, known as ranchers in the west, are feeling the pinch as well. These producers maintain a cow herd to raise calves either to sell as weaned animals that either go directly into feedlots, or are fed in a background operation to put on weight before going into a feedlot or are put onto grass to gain weight before the feedlot. Ranchers are feeling squeezed because they can’t easily shift their operation to a different product, because they’ve got to maintain their cow heard no matter what the price of calves are if they are to stay in business. Ranches are seeing the cost of maintaining grass pastures and hay fields increase, just as are farmers with their crops, but they’re also facing increasing cost for labor and equipment they use in their operations, while the futures price for calves has fallen by $10 per hundredweight over the past three months.

Once the government opens the checkbook, a lot of money pours out. Last week I mentioned a $200 million plan to created new meat processing capacity, but that’s not all. There’s another $450 million in funding and loan assistance for meat and poultry processing projects and $100 million for training workers in meat processing. Another $600 million is earmarked for improving food supply chain infrastructure, including cold storage and refrigerated trucks, outside of the processing plants. But wait, there’s more:

  • $200 million to help fruit and vegetable growers comply with food safety regulations.
  • $400 million to create regional food business centers that will provide coordination and technical assistance and other support to small and mid-size businesses involved in processing, distribution and aggregation.
  • $155 million to expand USDA’s Healthy Food Financing Initiative, which is aimed at reducing food deserts.
  • $90 million to prevent and reduce food loss and waste.
  • $60 million farm-to-school programs that increase markets for smaller-scale farmers through child nutrition programs.

Last Friday, United Nations officials warned that a protracted war in Ukraine threatened a hunger crisis in the country and around the world. It’s been over 100 days since Russia invaded its neighbor, and UN crisis coordinator Amin Awad said at least 15.7 million people in Ukraine were now in urgent need of assistance and protection, with the number rising by the day. Awad pointed out that when winter comes, millions of people will be exposed given the destruction of housing, power plants and fuel depots.
Another note on the Russia-Ukraine war, which has disrupted many lives, forcing thousands of people to leave their animals behind. But the owners of Green Grove farm near Dnipro in central Ukraine. are taking in displaced animals, including dozens of sheep, goats, cows, pigs, horses, geese, African hens and other kinds of fowl, rabbits, dogs, cats and a pair of emus, and every week there are new additions.

Mark Twain wrote, “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”

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.