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Farm News & Views - December 13, 2022

Monarch Tractor tractors started rolling off an assembly line in California a week or so ago. The company claims that the assembly plant is the first new tractor factory in the U.S. in over a 100 years. While that claim might be argued by antique tractor buffs, the company expects to sell 2,000 of these driver optional electric tractors by the end of the year. The company is touting the tractors ability to help farmers reduce their carbon footprint, improve field safety, streamline farm operations, and increase their bottom lines. But Monarch Tractors are likely to face stiff competition from established tractor manufacturers like CNH Industrial, AGCO and John Deere in the near future, since they are also bringing autonomous tractors to the market, and already have established dealership around the country.

A USDA National Resources Conservation Service publication, “Reduction in Annual Fuel Use from Conservation Tillage”, caught my attention recently. The report states that nearly 87 percent of the nation’s cultivated cropland acres use some form of conservation tillage for at least one crop in the crop rotation. That’s a lot more acres than I would have guessed. The report also points out that in addition to the environmental benefit of reduced soil disturbance, conservation tillage significantly reduces fuel consumption and emissions from farming operations. During the study, from 2013 to 2016, researchers found that fuel use had been reduced by 763 million gallons of diesel equivalents annually. That’s about the amount of energy used by 2.8 million average households every year. Since the study time frame ended about five years ago, I’m curious whether the number of acres have increased or decreased over those years.

For the third year in a row, the Four Corners Region is being impacted by dry conditions brought on by La Nina weather patterns, but we’re not alone. For the past two years, Argentine farmers and stockmen have seen crops wither in their fields, grass stop growing, and stock ponds drying up leaving cattle without drinking water. Since Argentina is entering into their summer, forecast concerning yields have been cut for wheat, soybeans and corn, which will likely affect world supplies of these commodities, because the country is the world's top exporter of processed soy oil and meal and the No. 3 exporter of corn.

Foreign ownership of farmland continues to be an item of interest in agricultural publications and in Congress, where legislation has been introduced to curtail foreign purchases of land in the U.S. Although China has been in the spotlight, with ownership of about 200,000 acres, Canada owns almost 10.5 million acres, mostly of forests, and the Netherlands owns 4.5 million acres of farm land. This past summer though, the Chinese purchase of 300 acres of North Dakota farmland got the attention of North Dakota’s Governor Doug Burgum, who raised concerns over the sale, because the land is 12 miles from Grand Forks Air Force Base, where complex drone technology is housed. Fufeng Group says it plans to use the land to build a $700 million corn milling plant, which the company points out will create at least 200 jobs for the area.

Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Many complain of their memory, few of their judgment.”

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.