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Farm News & Views - February 21, 2023

Almond trees have begun to bloom in California orchards, and the American Beekeeping Federation reports that of the 2.7 million bee colonies in the U.S., about 2 million of those will be transported to California to pollinate those trees. But the California Farm Bureau reported recently that beekeepers and farmers see the need in the future for an additional 600,000 hives to pollinate almond acreage coming into production in the next few years. However, beekeepers continue to see a decline in bee populations possibly caused by reduced forage, mites, pesticide-related issues and colony collapse disorder. Researchers are working to identify early-warning stress signs so that beekeepers can rescue threatened hives before it’s too late.

The USDA-Economic Research Service reports that farm output of livestock, crops, and other goods have tripled in the seven decades from 1948 to 2019. During the same time frame, the amount of farm labor used in the production of agricultural commodities fell 74% and land use declined 28%. But intermediate inputs such as fertilizer, pesticides, and purchased services grew 126%, and the use of capital inputs such as machinery and farm structures grew 79%.

Although folks often think of horses as relics of the past, the The American Horse Council reported recently that the U.S. equine industry contributes a total of $122 billion annually to the U.S. economy. While pasture ornaments and family pets make up a fair number of the 7.2 million horses residing in the U.S. today, quality, usable horses are still on the job on farms and ranches in the U.S. and are increasing in value. While motorized ATVs and UTVs have taken some jobs away from horses, in the Rocky Mountain west and on some large ranches like the four sixes in Texas, or the ORO in Northwest Arizona, a good saddle horse is the only way for ranchers to monitor their cattle herds as they graze public and private lands in rough country. At recent horse sales, ranch trained horses have brought from $5,000 to $15,000 and more, and ranchers are glad to pay that amount for horses that will give them a dozen or more years of service.

While livestock producers are wrestling with how to deal with wolf reintroduction in western Colorado, farmers in Pennsylvania are bracing for reintroduction of the American marten, also known as the pine marten, a member of the weasel family. While they’re slightly larger than true weasels, at about 20-26 inches long from nose to the tip of the tail, and weigh between 1 and 3 pounds, poultry producers are concerned that this fierce little critter will go after their flocks in poultry houses or in pastures. But biologists at the Pennsylvania Game Commission contend that pine martins are deep forest species, and won’t be a problem for farmers.

Tire manufacturer Goodyear is making farmers who grow soybeans happy, because they have recently started to sell tires that use soybean oil to improve flexibility in lower temperatures as well as to enhance traction in both rain and snow. The company points out that this technology also supports farmers and the environment, because soybean oil is a renewable resource, and opens an additional market for the increasingly versatile soybean.

If winter is getting to be a drag, keep in mind that the Spring Equinox will arrive in just four weeks!

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.