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Farm News & Views for the week of May 13, 2024

The controversy over the gray wolf appears to be far from over in the West and in western Colorado. At the end of April, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution to direct U.S. Department of the Interior to remove the wolf’s protections as an endangered species, but this legislation still has to be approved by the U.S. Senate. Meanwhile in Colorado, the Department of Agriculture and Colorado Parks and Wildlife have partnered with the Middle Park Stockgrowers Association to provide on-the-ground assistance to an area impacted by recent gray wolf depredations. Commissioner of Agriculture Kate Greenberg stated that “This funding will help Grand County producers during calving season, an especially vulnerable time for beef producers, and she pointed out that funding was just approved in the state budget for CDA’s new program to help ranchers in areas with wolves and other predators to implement non-lethal conflict reduction methods that are successful in other states. CDA is dedicating up to $20,000 to the Middle Park Stockgrowers Association to use toward non-lethal deterrents that include nighttime patrols and herd protection, such as hiring range riders. All resources will be purchased and contracted through the Middle Park Stockgrowers Association.

An article on Farm Journal Magazine’s Ag Web reports that solar energy installations are becoming more common across the U.S., and observers are amazed at how much solar energy companies are willing to pay farmers to lease their ground for solar energy production. A Purdue University survey of 400 Midwest agricultural producers found that 19% of in them have been offered from $1,000 to over $1,250 per acre for annual leases that allow solar energy companies to place solar arrays on their land. Since some farmers who are looking at crop prices dropping below the cost of production, are probably tempted to switch from growing crops to generating electricity, but these leases would be for a long term, not just for a year or two. Also, these high rates may also drive up the price of cash rents for other crop land in the vicinity of the solar arrays, which may make it tougher for young farmers to get a foothold in farming.

Last month, I reported that Arizona farmers are often criticized for their use of water from the Colorado River for irrigating crops. Recently on the Family Farm Alliance website, I came across a link to the article "Alfalfa: A Crop that Feeds Our Food", by Nina Elkadi, that appeared recently in JSTOR Daily online magazine. The article points out that humans use 13 percent of Colorado River basin water for activities such as showering and watering lawns, while around 79 percent of water drawn from the Colorado River is used for irrigating crops, such as winter vegetables and forage crops like alfalfa for hay. which is used to feed beef, dairy cattle, sheep and horses. I stated that farmers are often demonized for growing alfalfa because it uses a lot of water. But the article provides some very interesting information about alfalfa the plant, where it came from, and why it is an ideal crop for the desert climate and soils of Arizona, New Mexico, and California. A link to this article is here:

Roman emperor and stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius wrote, “The opinion of 10,000 men is of no value if none of them know anything about the subject.”

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.