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Farm News & Views - November 1, 2022

A local weather watcher, who lives east of Yellow Jacket, called in an October and year-to-date precipitation update report. He recorded 2.89 inches of rain in October, and 11.66 inches for the year so far, which is less than half of the over 19 inches of precipitation he recorded at the end of October in 2021. The National Weather Service recorded a total of 8.46 inches of precipitation for this year at the Cortez-Montezuma County Airport. For the region, the 2022-2023 water year, which runs from October 1st to September 30th of 2023, is off to a good start, The Snotel Update Report indicates that at the end of October, water in the snow pack of the river basins in Southwest Colorado is 170% of the median, compared to 154% at this time last year.

The latest Drought Monitor Map indicates that the Four Corners Region is still affected by moderate to severe drought, and 100% of land in Utah is considered to be under drought, with more than half of the of the state rated to be in extreme to exceptional drought, the worst drought designation of any state in the U.S.

Last Friday, the Interior Department announced that it plans to move quickly to write new rules governing dams along the drought-stricken Colorado River that would allow the department to reduce water deliveries to farmers, cities, and tribes beginning late next summer. This move comes after forecasts that predict another dry winter this year, and Bureau of Reclamation projections that water levels at Lake Powell could drop below the hydropower turbines in November of next year, which would cut off a power supply that’s important to the stability of the Western grid. Those low levels would also impede water manager's ability to send water on downstream to Arizona, California, and Nevada. The Bureau stated that a notice of intent will be open for public comment until December 20th, 2022, and that when the supplemental environmental impact statement is published, it plans to hold a 45-day public comment period.

The American Farmland Trust is an organization that works to save the land that sustains us by protecting farmland through advocating policies that keep people on the land, by promoting sound farming policies such as organic and regenerative agriculture, following scientifically-backed solutions to climate change that also supports wildlife, biodiversity, recharges aquifers, maintains clean water in streams and lakes, and sequesters carbon in the soil. The organization contends that organic farms sequester carbon at 14 times the rate of conventional farms.

The USDA Conservation Practice Adoption Motivations Report 2021, indicates that cover crops are becoming more popular with farmers. A survey of 34,000 farmers completed this month, found that 59% of them were planting cover crops on 40% of their cropland, which was 31.7 million acres in 2021, a sizable increase from the 15.4 million acres of cover crops listed in the 2017 Census of Agriculture. This survey also determined that farmers were using conservation tillage practices on about 80% of their farmland.

Author Wendell Berry wrote: “How we farm matters. For the past two centuries, America’s farms have expanded and homogenized, and farming equipment and chemicals have replaced personnel. Farmers have grown older and more isolated and are retiring without successors.”

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.