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Farm News & Views for the week of March 18, 2024

Recently, the Texas A&M Forest Service reported that the Smokehouse Creek Fire had burned 1,058,482 acres across nearly three weeks, but is now completely contained. Right after the Panhandle fires were reported, there were estimates that tens of thousands of cattle had perished in the fires, and that those losses could have impacts on cattle prices into this year. However, current estimates are that the number of cattle losses are more than 7,000 head, and the final number of cattle lost, directly related to the fires, could reach 10,000 head. Also, the Texas Agriculture Department reported that Texas Agriculture Relief Fund has received over 1,600 individual donations totaling over $800,000 that are directed to support relief efforts for Texas farmers and ranchers that have suffered from the Panhandle wildfires. Donations are earmarked to provide financial assistance, to help farmers and ranchers rebuild and recover from the damage caused by those fires. The funds will be distributed directly, to help cover expenses such as livestock feed, fencing repairs, and other essential recovery efforts.

The USDA has finalized its new "Product of the U.S.A." labeling rule for meat, poultry, and eggs. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced that “America’s farmers and ranchers can be assured that only their meat products, those born, raised, slaughtered, and processed in the United States, will bear that American flag and that proud name, "Product of the U.S.A.” Until this rule was implemented, if those products were imported and then processed and packaged in the U.S., they could carry a "Product of the U.S.A.” label.

Researchers from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and the Universidade de São Paulo have developed the first transgenic cow capable of producing human insulin in her milk by inserting a segment of human DNA coding for proinsulin, the protein precursor of the active form of insulin, into cell nuclei of 10 cow embryos. The human DNA was targeted for expression in mammary tissue only.

After a robust average corn price of $6.54 per bushel in 2023, corn prices are expected to be down an average of 26% or $1.80 per bushel this year, but according to the USDA, those lower prices may drive up corn exports this year, by 26 percent. However, U.S. net farm income is expected to decrease by almost $40 billion in 2024 due to lower crop prices. But economists note that the fam economy is still strong this year.

A couple of weeks ago, calf roper Marty Yates and his wife were headed to the rodeo arena for the calf roping finals at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Yates was one of the finalists, but they got stuck in a huge traffic jam a couple of miles short of the arena. So rather than miss his chance to compete, Yates unloaded his roping horse, left his wife to drive their truck and trailer, mounted up and rode down the median to arrive in time to compete in the contest. He placed in the money, winning $3,000. Some wag commented that “His horse was surely well warmed up when they got to the arena.”

Artist Charles M. Russell wrote, “You can see what a man made from the seat of an automobile, but the best way to see what God made is from the back of a horse.”

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.