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Farm News & Views for week of June 12, 2023

Farmers and ranchers in the Southern Plains have been facing challenges from mother nature for several years. Record setting drought has withered crops and grazing lands, and now producers are dealing with floods. Some areas of the Texas Panhandle have been breaking records for the wettest May ever. The area received less than a half inch of moisture from September 2022 to the end of April 2023, but in the last couple of weeks, they have been dealing with record- setting consecutive days of rain, which has led to flooding in many areas of the Texas Panhandle. As a result, farmers have been kept out of their fields, preventing them from planting crops, and feedlots have been flooded and cattle trapped by rising waters. Hereford, Texas, was hit especially hard by the historic rains. The National Weather Service reported that the Hereford area unofficially received 8 inches of rain in the past month, with volunteer weather watchers reporting that almost two and a half inches of rainfall in less than 45 minutes at the end of May.

In a recent Farm and Food File report, Author Alan Gubert reported that grains are an important food source for the world's almost 8 billion residents, supplying over 50% of the food calories consumed. But in developing countries grains provide from 60% to 80% of the calories. The three most important grains are corn, wheat and rice, with corn and wheat also being fed to livestock. According to a September 21st article in Science News, “More than 3.5 billion people get 20 percent or more of their calories from rice,” and the number of people depending on this grain is increasing in Asia, Latin America, and especially Africa.

While most of us don’t think of cyber crime associated with farming and ranching, Eugene Kowel, Special Agent In Charge of the Omaha FBI Field Office sated recently that the FBI is worried about the threat from cyber criminal actors hijacking U.S. farming operations, food processing facilities and using ransomware that may halt agricultural operations. He pointed out that countries like China, Russia, North Korea and Iran might steal data from the cloud that was gathered by farms and agribusinesses and use that technology in their own farming operations.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, $100 million of farm income is lost in the U.S. due to soil erosion annually. Soil scientists point out that soil erosion hurts farmer's bottom line because of loss of topsoil as well as loss of nutrients attached to the soil particles. While farmers often don’t notice that soil erosion is occurring, unless it’s severe, the average soil loss rate in the U.S. is 5.8 tons per acre per year, which amounts to the loss of 1/32 of an inch of soil across an acre. Although that may not seem like much, scientists estimate that, for example, a farmer can lose about 15 bushels of soybean yield per acre per year due to associated nutrient loss attached to soil particles. With last year’s average soybean prices at about $15 per bushel, that would amount to over $200 per acre in earnings lost.

Theodore Roosevelt said: “I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land: but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob, by wasteful use, the generations that come after us.”

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.