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Farm News & Views - July 12, 2022

The latest Drought Monitor Map depicts an improvement in drought intensity in southwest Colorado and northwest New Mexico, likely due to the some monsoon rains that arrived in mid June. According to Chuck Jones, a senior meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Albuquerque, the monsoon rains are about two weeks early this year, but monsoon rains seldom produce uniform rainfall events in our region. Last week, a farmer told me that a shower had produced almost two inches of rain and some hail on his place, while a friend who lived a couple of miles away got about two tenths of an inch of moisture, and no hail. I cut hay on Monday, so if it rains over the next few days, I’ll take the credit for it.

A recent American Farmland Trust report, Farms Under Threat, contends that 11 million acres of America’s agricultural land were developed or converted to uses that threaten farming between 2001 and 2016. The report provides a state-by-state analysis of policies that allowed the development of farm and ranch land, and it offers suggestions concerning what every state can do to protect their important agricultural resource. For example, putting new developments in areas of the cities and older suburbs rather than expanding a city’s developments into surrounding rural areas. It also advocates that cities support public transit projects and pedestrian-friendly development while preserving nearby farmland and open spaces, in order to maintain local agricultural production. The report also tackled solar energy panel arrays. It recommends that panels be placed on rooftops, over parking lots and on land that isn’t suited for agricultural crop production, and if an array is placed on grazing land, the panels should allow space for livestock to graze the forage beneath the panel arrays.

Since drought is affecting all of us in the Four Corners, a recent U.S. Geological survey report, USDA ERS - Irrigation & Water Use, caught my attention. It states that agriculture is a major user of ground and surface water in the United States, accounting for 42 percent of the nation’s total freshwater withdrawals in 2015. This water was applied as irrigation for crop production in arid regions and supplemental soil moisture in humid regions when growing season precipitation was insufficient, but irrigated farming accounted for more than 54 percent of the total value of U.S. crop sales, while being used on less than 20 percent of harvested cropland. Although irrigated acres have increased over the past couple of decades, water use per irrigated acre has fallen, from 2 acre-feet to 1.5 acre-feet currently.

If you have a farm dog that you’re proud of, you may be interested in the 2023 Farm Bureau Farm Dog of the Year contest. But contest entries are due by July 15th. The contest is designed to show consumers the talents that farm dogs have in their dual roles as a working dogs and as companions for their owners on farms and ranchers across the U.S. A panel of judges will rank the canine entrants on how they enrich life for their owners, the relationship they have with their owners, and on the overall health of the dog.

19th Century Humorist Josh Billings wrote, “A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.”

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.