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Farm News & Views - January 10, 2023

The USDA has predicted that food prices will increase about 9.5% to 10.5% for all foods, with grocery stores prices increasing 11% to 12%, while they predict that food-away-from-home will increase by 7% to 8%. Some food categorizes are expected to be much higher. For example, vegoils prices are expected to increase 18 % to 19%, probably because of the war affecting Ukrainian oil seed exports. Cereal and bakery products are expected to increase 12.5% to 13.5%, while poultry may increase 14% to 15%, and egg prices are likely to increase by a whopping 31% due to the ongoing highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak that has been hitting egg laying flocks across the country. Colorado egg laying flock have been hit especially hard, and many grocery stores are having a tough time keeping eggs on the shelf. Mike Tomko, with the American Farm Bureau Federation pointed out that Colorado “is one of the states that’s been hit hard by the virus,” particularly on the egg front. He said “in 2022, a total of over 6 million birds were affected, with the most recent outbreak affected just under 1.3 million egglayers in December. The time frame for repopulating poultry houses with laying hens after an outbreak is about 40 weeks according to Colorado poultry producers, who are also faced with converting poultry houses to cage free environments by 2025.

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned the article, China and the World’s Increasing need for Cropland, at University of Illinois’ Farm Doc Daily. The article contends that China will need 8 million more acres of crop land annually to satisfy the country’s demand for growing feed grains and oilseeds in the future. Even if the number of acres required were cut in half, it’s still staggering, because in a normal year, for example, the Colorado River provides irrigation water to 5.5 million acres of crop land in Colorado and six other states, as well as land in Mexico. With that number in mind, I wonder where in the world will China find 8 million acres of land annually that isn’t already under cultivation?

On this side of the world, the American Farmland Trust’s “Farmlands Under Threat Initiative” report caught my attention, because it contends that between 2001 and 2016, the Midwest lost over 1.1 million acres of some of the most productive farmland in the world to low density residential development in just seven states. To bring this problem a little closer to home, the report points out that Maricopa County, Arizona, is losing farmland at a faster rate than any other county in the nation. Maricopa County includes Phoenix and many of it’s suburbs. In both the Midwest and Arizona, low density developments include scattered subdivisions and large lot housing that fragments the agricultural land base and limits agricultural production in areas around cities.

CSU Coperative Extension in Montezuma County is hosting an Annie's Project Workshop January 19th to the 21st at the Dolores Community Center. The 3 day retreat style, discussion-based workshop will bring women together to learn from experts in agricultural production, financial management, human resources, marketing and the legal field. For Information and registration, contact Montezuma County Extension at 970-565-3123.

The philosopher Socrates wrote, “Educations is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.”

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.