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Farm News & Views - September 13, 2022

While the $124 billion Inflation Reduction Act, pasted last month, would seem to be directed at reducing inflation in the U.S. economy, it also has over $25 billion dollars allocated to forest protection and the promotion of agricultural practices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from crop and livestock production. According to an article in Science Magazine, sent to me by a listener, some climate scientists are skeptical about how much implementing no-till farming practices and cover crops will affect the amount of greenhouse gas coming from farming and ranching operations. But Kieth Paustain, a soil scientist at Colorado State University believes that these practices are important for regaining soil carbon when combined with improving pastures and ranges through grazing management, and planting trees in areas on farms where crop production or grazing isn’t practical. The bill also provides funding that may reduce methane emissions from livestock feeding and dairy production operations. But Paustain believes that the $300 million allocated for collecting field data on what works for carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas reduction in agriculture will allow for more targeted programs in the future.

USDA’s Economic Research Service recently released the September 2022 Farm Income Forecast. Although input costs have been up this year, net farm income is forecast at $147.7 billion for 2022. That’s a 5.2% increase over last year, but after factoring in inflation, net farm incomes are expected to be 0.6% lower than 2021. However, 2022 projections are still 42% higher than the 20 year inflation-adjusted average. But on the world stage, the USDA is estimating that the 2022-2023 exports of corn will be 591 million bushels less than a year ago, and 346 million bushels of wheat will also not be available as a result of the Russia-Ukraine war in 2022-2023.

Beef producers may not be happy to hear that Beef analysts with Rabobank are predicting that the beef cattle herd contraction in the U.S. will likely continue through 2023 and possibly into 2024, largely driven by drought conditions in in southern plains and southwest. High costs associated with shipping hay into areas affected by dry conditions, are driving up costs to producers and also forcing some producers to cull herds because they don’t have the feed required to support their current herd numbers. Analysts also predict that consumers will see higher retail prices for beef if cattle numbers continue to decline, which will encourage consumers to “trade down” to lower-value beef cuts in the coming months.

Scientists at Western New England University in Springfield, Mass., recently released some interesting findings about the effects on overall health of people who eat grapes. Published in the journal Foods, one study showed that adding grapes to a high-fat diet, typically consumed in western countries, yielded reductions in fatty liver, and grapes apparently may extended lifespans. Another study published in the journal Antioxidants reported that grape consumption altered gene expression in the brain and had positive effects on behavior and cognition that were impaired by a high-fat diet. And a third study, published in the journal Food & Nutrition, showed that in addition to changes in genetic expression, grapes also change metabolism. I wonder if these benefits also apply to drinking wine?

American broadcast journalist Walter Cronkite said, “Whatever the cost of libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation.”

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.