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Farm News & Views for the week of March 4, 2024

So far, news reports indicate that wildfires in the Panhandle of Texas and south central Oklahoma have caused the death of two people, burned well over a million acres of rangeland, destroyed hundreds homes and killed thousands of cattle. But wildfires have also devastated rangelands in Nebraska and Kansas, as fires have been pushed by strong winds across huge stretches of dry grasslands. On CNN, County AgriLife Extension Agent Andy Holloway pointed out that that 28% of the nation’s beef supply comes from the Texas Panhandle, which indicates that the fires would hurt the our nation’s beef supply going forward. I reported last week that cattle numbers were already down this year and that cattle producers were in the process of rebuilding cattle herds after a couple years of culling cow numbers because of dry conditions in much of the central U.S. If reports of cattle losses are accurate, prices for all classes of cattle are likely to increase into the future.

Farmers and ranchers are watching the lack of progress in congress concerning getting a new farm bill across the finish line. But on Wednesday, the House will vote on a package of six appropriation bills that were negotiated between the Republican-led House and Democratic-controlled Senate, with President Biden's support. However, a lot can happen to legislation in a couple of days, considering the cantankerous House membership, since the legislation is a fast-tracked process that requires a two-thirds House majority to pass, and then on to the Senate where it will need 60 votes to assure passage. The package covers funding for the Departments of Agriculture and various other agencies. It doesn't include funding for the rest of the government though. Senate Agriculture chairwoman Debbie Stabenow said she would delay the new farm bill, that’s already five months overdue, to 2025 rather than accept cuts to SNAP and climate funds. She stated that “If we get to the end of the year, and instead of a farm bill, I have protected nutrition for children and families in this country, I’m okay with that.”

Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that it was creating the Office of Agriculture and Rural Affairs to expand engagement opportunities with agricultural and rural communities to “forge practical, science-based solutions that protect the environment while ensuring a vibrant and productive agricultural system.”The announcement also stated that “the new office will also collaborate with small, under-served towns and rural communities that are seeking federal investments in infrastructure upgrades and other community improvement opportunities.” Observers hope that the office will help to provide the agriculture industry more of a voice at an agency that many farmers associate with government overreach.

Farmers and ranchers, many of whom have dogs that are integral parts of their operations, and dog owners in general, will likely be glad to know that cases of canine respiratory disease in Colorado have significantly dropped since the last few months of 2023, when the number of sick dogs spiked. Cases of dogs with prolonged coughs and severe cases of pneumonia more than doubled at Colorado State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital during that time frame.

With that good news in mind, this quote from Author Louis Sabin is appropriate, ” To your dog, you are the greatest, the smartest, the nicest human being who was ever born.”

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.