Farm News & Views for the week of October 23, 2023
The Israel–Hamas conflict has been the top news story in the world for over three weeks, with much reporting concerning human tragedies. But major media organizations have not reported on how the the conflict has affected agriculture in the region. According to several agricultural news sources, there are 16 kibbutz’s, or farm communities, that are adjacent to the Gaza strip. These kibbutz’s supported highly productive dairy operations that housed from 350 to 700 cows each, and produced 5% of Israel’s milk. Of the 16 dairies, five of them are now in the Israeli army’s no-go zone, and the rest of them have been affected by the conflict in many ways. In addition to human tragedies there are also animal welfare concerns, because farm workers who survived the initial attack have not been able to feed or milk the cows since before the conflict began. Although Israeli Army troops can access some of the farms to feed cattle, Hamas fighters had burned many of the hay barns and feed storage buildings, which has left many of the cattle with very little feed for the past three weeks.
A couple of weeks ago, the American Farm Bureau Federation Market Intel Report predicted that the cost of a turkey could be lower this Thanksgiving, compared to last year, due a decrease in the incidence of highly pathogenic avian influenza and a recovery of the turkey population in the U.S. However, last week, the US Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory confirmed a new case of the disease in a Weld County, Colorado chicken flock. At this point, it’s unknown whether this outbreak is an outlier or an indicator of another round of infections that will negatively impact poultry producers in the state and bump up prices for poultry products again.
As was predicted in August, butter prices have hit a record high this month as lower milk production levels created reduced butter supplies as we head into the holiday season, when demand usually peaks. It’s likely that butter prices won’t moderate until milk supplies increase, but with these tightening supplies, dairy farmers may begin to see a turnaround in milk prices.
Today, every major automobile manufacturer including Rolls Royce produces electric powered cars and light trucks, and there is a push by state and federal governments to phase out gasoline and diesel powered vehicles in favor of electric power. With this support, some electric power advocates apparently think that farm power should also abandon fossil fueled equipment in favor of electric powered tractors and harvest equipment. But farm power experts point out that switching agricultural equipment from mainly diesel power to electricity isn’t such a good idea. While there may be a place for small electric powered utility tractors, the size and weight of electric tractors versus conventional tractors used on most medium to large scale farming operations isn’t practical. For example, a John Deere 8R tractor, commonly used in farm operations in the U.S. has a base weight of 25,200 lbs. Current engineering assessments estimate that an all-electric version would weigh more than twice as much, which is of concern to soil scientists who point out that the soil compaction created by such heavy tractors would result in lower crop yields and that compacted soils are known to release greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide, the same gasses that exit the exhaust stacks of diesel powered tractors.
The old saying that there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch seems to apply to this idea.