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Farm News & Views for the week of May 27, 2024

As farmers and ranchers gear up for the start of haying season in a couple of weeks, the USDA reports that while hay stocks on hand on May 1st in Arizona and New Mexico are lower than a year ago, Colorado producers are holding 800,000 tons of hay in storage. That a whopping 371% increase over 2023 stocks, and Utah farmers have a record high 620,000 tons in their hay stacks, an increase of 29 percent from 2023. The improvement in hay stocks indicates that cattle producers generally got through the winter in better shape and still have some forage reserves going forward.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and agricultural publications have pointed out that as the ag economy has shown signs of heading into a downturn, farmers and ranchers need to know that there is help available for them if they feel overwhelmed by events such as weather damaging crops, predators attacking livestock and markets that move against their profit margins, all of which are usually beyond their control. Now, farmers and ranchers have a new option to relieve emotional stress with the launch of the AgriStress Helpline. This free crisis line is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and is specifically geared to the agriculture community, forestry and fishing, and became available in Colorado and Montana in January 2024, and is now available in Texas, Missouri, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Washington and Oregon. Laura Siegel, health communications officer, AgriStress Helpline believes that ranchers and farmers deserve to be able to call and talk to someone who understands those stressors. Producers can call or text the AgriStress Helpline at 1-833-897-2474. Siegel points out that this helpline is a suicide crisis line and also to organized to help those who are feeling stress from consequences of events that are beyond their control. People are encouraged to call for any emotional support, or to get resources or a provider before their situation becomes critical.

The US House of Representatives revealed their version of a 2023 Farm Bill last week. I know that it’s now 2024, but hey, Congress has a lot to do, and they just haven’t had time to worry about something as inconsequential as a farm bill. Now, the House and Senate must meld their versions of the bill before it can be voted on before September. No problem. But The House bill contains classic GOP priorities:, such as $28-billion cut in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, rule changes to make the Department of Agriculture’s climate change billions available for conservation projects unrelated to climate change and a huge boost to reference price, which is another way of talking about substantially increase federal subsidies for crop insurance, much to the joy of the insurance lobby. Since the Senate has put forward their version of the bill, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, stated that “despite areas of common ground, it is now clear that key parts of the House bill split the Farm Bill coalition in a way that makes it impossible to achieve the votes to become law, and it is also clear that we do not have time to waste on proposals that cannot meet that goal.” Rep. David Scott, the House Agriculture Committee’s top Democrat, called Republicans’ proposal “a terrible bill.”

French author and philosopher Voltaire, wrote,””Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too.

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.