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Farm News & Views for the week of June 24, 2024

Last week, cow calf producers received some welcome news with the results of Superior Livestock Auction’s Corn Belt Classic Region 2 video sale, which includes producers from Montana, Wyoming, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado and Utah. The sale saw steers weighing 500 to 749 pounds traded from $17-$35/hundredweight more than in 2023. Historically the Corn Belt Classic has set the market's tone for feeder cattle prices in the fall. These higher prices aren’t totatly unexpected because of the drought in the middle of the U.S. that forced many cow calf producers to significantly cull their herds over the past couple of years.

A recent report from USDA indicates that the H5N1 virus was probably introduced  to many  dairy farms by humans and equipment, rather than wild birds. USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service contends that the spread of the virus is linked to interstate cattle movements and further local spread between dairy farms. The report pointed out that 50% of the affected farms had used trucks and trailers that were shared with other farms, and half of those farms didn’t clean the vehicles prior to use. Thirty percent of the dairies’ employees also visited or worked at other dairies within 30 days of the outbreak. APHIS surveyed affected farms and found 20% of them received cattle within 30 days of seeing clinical signs, and 60% of farms continued to move animals off the farm after the onset of clinical signs. All of the farms observed wild birds, but just 29% of them saw sick or dead wild birds within 30 days of the onset of clinical H5N1 signs in lactating cows. The survey also found that 80% of the affected farms had cats and 20% had poultry in addition to the cattle, with cases of sick or dead cats and birds. The report emphasizes the need for strong biosecurity measures on dairy farms..

For decades, the U.S. has had substantial agricultural trade surpluses, but according to a recent USDA trade analysis, the U.S. is forecast to experience a record trade deficit for the second year in a row, which may amount to $32 billion in 2024. While export markets are eager to buy products that U.S. farmers grow in abundance, such as grains, oilseeds, meat, these deficits are caused by number of factors, including rising imports of fresh fruits and vegetables, due to a strong U.S. dollar, and the competition American produce farmers face from less expensive foreign-grown produce. Economists also point out that consumers have become used to eating fresh fruits and vegetables year-round, much of which would be impossible without imports from our southern trading partners.

Last month, I reported that many farmers in the Midwest were affected by solar storms that shut down the global position system signals that they used to guide their farm equipment while planting crops. According to Kansas State University economist Terry Griffin, since the outage occurred during 2024’s most crucial planting time frame, the cost to farmers is an estimated $500 million in potential profits, because the “space weather” followed weeks of rain that had already significantly delayed planting of soybean and corn crops. He pointed out that “If this had happened in January, no one would have cared from an agriculture perspective. The timing was really important.”

William Shakespeare wrote, “Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.”

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.