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Farm News & Views for the week of December 18, 2023

General Mills, producer of over a hundred products, from Cheerios to Blue Buffalo dog food, and giant retailer Walmart Incorporated, have teamed up to speed up the adoption of regenerative agriculture by funding sustainable agricultural practices that will lead to improved soil health, water quality and carbon sequestration on farms that grow wheat and other crops in Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota. The goal is to apply regenerative practices on 600,000 acres of land by 2030. Both of these companies will provide funding for the project, with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service helping by providing matching federal grants. General Mills has set a goal of encouraging adoption of regenerative practices on one million acres of land by 2030. In July of this year, Walmart made a pact with beverage maker PepiCo to make a $120 million investment to support farmers who are working to improve soil and water quality on their farms. Walmart is also working with cattle ranchers to help them to implement improved grazing methods and regenerative land management practices.

The Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act was implemented in 1976 to track ownership of agricultural land in the U.S. by foreign entities. Since foreign ownership of land has been a hot button topic lately, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency is requesting information on proposed revisions to this Act. USDA’s Farm Service Agency is proposing to update the Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act Report form to include data concerning long-term lessees in order to assess the impacts of foreign investment on agricultural producers and rural communities.

Wolf reintroduction in northwest Colorado has been in the news lately, and last week, a person who has supplied reliable information in the past called me to say that they had just seen four wolves chase a bull elk across a highway north of Rifle. Their description of the four animals included that they looked like large German shepherd dogs with gray coats on top fading to almost white on the lower body, which matches the size and coloring of gray wolves known to already inhabit the region.

Along with Colorado’s efforts to reestablish wolves in the state, the USDA recently announced two Regional Conservation Partnership Program grants that will provide more than $22 million of U.S. Department of Agriculture funds that will “help livestock producers across five Western states to “remain economically viable while providing stewardship of habitats in predator rich environments.” The grants were awarded to a consortium led by Western Landowners Alliance and Heart of the Rockies Initiative. About $16.5 million will go to the “Stewarding the Working Wild” project in Montana, Oregon and Colorado, led by the Heart of the Rockies Initiative, in close partnership with Western Landowners Alliance. The project will use a “holistic approach to incentivize producers to implement solutions that benefit land, livestock and wildlife.” Over $6.5 million of the funds will go to the “Grazing Management and Non-Lethal Predator Risk Mitigation” project in New Mexico and Arizona led by Western Landowners Alliance, to provide technical assistance and cost-share finance for multi-benefit practices including range riders, carcass composting facilities, fencing and related technologies. These partners expect improvements in range and herd health and reduction in conflict between livestock and carnivores, alongside wildlife habitat conservation.

John Steinbeck wrote, “What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.”

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.