CFB President Don Shawcroft testified before the House Natural Resources Committee today in Washington D.C. During the hearing titled “Harnessing American Resources to Create Jobs and Address Rising Gasoline Prices: Impacts on Businesses and Families,” Shawcroft told the assembled Representatives that Americans are experiencing sticker shock at the gas pump these days, but high fuel costs are hitting America’s farmers and ranchers especially hard.
“Most Americans are feeling sticker shock caused by high gasoline prices when they fill their automobile’s tank,” Shawcroft said. “But there is no term in the English language to accurately describe what farmers and ranchers feel every time they put diesel in the tanks of their farm equipment.”
Shawcroft cited numerous examples of the economic impact currently experienced by farmers and ranchers. He said the cost just for refueling a typical tractor can be more than $1,000.
Fires raged across Colorado this week, fueling concerns about a repeat of the devastating 2002 fire season. On Thursday alone 11,000 new acres were burned in three separate fires east of 1-25.
A fire of more than 1,600 acres in Douglas County forced the evacuation of more than 8,500 people between Parker and Franktown. Farther out on the plains, the town of Karval was threatened by a 5,100 acre blaze and near Pueblo, a 5,000-acre grass fire forced the evacuation of about 600 employees at the Pueblo Chemical Depot. All of the fires were nearly contained by Thursday night.
The 5,100 acre fire burns near Karval in Lincoln County. (Photos: Rachel Vermillion, Charles Hoffman)
Behind every American farm family is the backbone of the operation: the farm mom. Monsanto is honoring her contributions to her family, farm, community and industry with the 2011 America’s Farmers Mom of the Yearprogram.
Farm moms make valuable contributions in the field, and often they are also bookkeepers, cooks, teachers, FFA advisers, 4-H leaders, veterinarians, drivers, mentors, spokespeople and volunteers.
“Farm moms do it all, from supporting their family farming operations to bettering their communities, all while raising the next generation of America’s farmers,” says Chris Chavis, Monsanto spokeswoman for the America’s Farmers Mom of the Year program. “In addition, today’s farm women are passionate advocates for the industry. They work long hours and often go unrecognized for all their efforts. This program is our way to thank farm women everywhere for everything they do.”
Applications will be accepted through Mother’s Day at AmericasFarmers.com. Five regional winners will be announced on May 16, when winners’ profiles and nominations will be posted on the website. Each regional winner will receive a $5,000 cash prize from Monsanto, and the farm mom receiving the most online votes by May 26 will receive an additional $2,500 and the title of America’s Farmers Mom of the Year 2011.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, left, meets with Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture John Salazar, middle, and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper
Remove barriers to trade, foreign markets, red tape and get out of the way. That was the basis of most of the comments at Governor Hickenloopers’ Economic Development Summit this week in Greeley. As part of his bottom-up economic development strategy, the Governor hosted a day-long Summit on rural and economic development at UNC in Greeley. Attending the meeting along with the Governor was U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack and Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture John Salazar.
Red tape and other barriers to business and commerce were a recurring theme throughout the many sessions on various aspects of economic development.
Roundup Ready Alfalfa opponents protest in front of the meeting hall.
“It’s difficult to differentiate red tape and what is an appropriate regulation,” Hickenlooper said in addressing the problem. To do that, he said, he wants to find ways to help business grow while holding the state at the highest level of accountability and ethics. He also wants to assure that the state is pro-business but is also intent on protecting the state’s natural resources.
Vilsack addressed the red tape and regulation complaints by noting the federal government has been given a reality check and that it must become more fiscally responsible and use resources more effectively to “create economic opportunities.”
Agriculture, Vilsack said, was the one bright spot in the recession the country is now starting to move out of. He noted that the export of agricultural products is expected to increase again this year after seeing the same from 2010. Those exports, he said, generate jobs.
The Governor’s Office and the Colorado Office of Economic Development & International Trade has partnered with Colorado State University’s Office of Engagement and Extension to engage Coloradoans in a statewide conversation about Economic Development.
Governor Hickenlooper is asking for residents across the State, county by county, to share their stories, challenges, and strengths by developing a strategic economic development plan for their county. These county plans will then be rolled up into 14 regional economic development plans, which collectively will be rolled up into a statewide economic development plan.
You are invited to actively participate in your county’s economic development planning processes. Provide input and ideas and ask friends, family, neighbors and others to participate as well. Attend planning meetings, take the online survey at www.advancecolorado.com or send an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
The results from the state’s on-line survey will be compiled by county and provided to each county. In support of the bottom-up approach, each county will determine its use and the relevance of such information.
New research reveals that farm kids have lower asthma rates than city kids because they are exposed to a wide range of microbes. School-aged children in the studies who lived on farms were about 30 percent to 50 percent less likely to have asthma than non-farm children who lived nearby.
Farm kids were also exposed to more bacteria and fungi than the other children, according to the study appearing in the Feb. 24 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.
The research shows that exposure to bacteria and fungi from environmental sources like dirt and animal hair early in life protects against asthma and allergies by helping the immune system develop normally.
Rising crop prices are helping farmland values climb in the Midwest, according to a report released Tuesday by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. The value of irrigated cropland jumped 14.8 percent, while the value of non-irrigated cropland moved up 12.9 percent, compared to last year.
The bank’s quarterly survey of the 10th District region, which covers western Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Colorado and northern New Mexico, revealed that farmland prices rose for the fifth consecutive quarter since a drop in the third quarter of 2009, when the livestock sector was contracting due to the recession.
There is concern that farmland values may be climbing too high. “Bankers in the survey were starting to raise questions about the sustainability of farmland values and are paying closer attention to their loan-to-value ratios,” said Brian Briggeman, an economist at the Omaha branch of the Kansas City Fed.
USDA expects net farm income to be $94.7 billion in 2011, up $15.7 billion, or 19.8 percent, from the 2010 forecast, despite a $20-billion jump in production expenses.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the report is good news for producers and indicates that economic improvement is underway in much of rural America. “Potential record or near record prices for commodities like corn, wheat, soybeans and cotton reflect the fact that our trading partners continue a strong demand for food and fiber produced by America’s farmers,” Vilsack said.
According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service the number of farms and ranches in Colorado shrank by 100 operations in 2009, while the total land in production shrank by a negligible amount. The number of farms and ranches in the entire country remained unchanged from 2009.
The report also said that while the average size farm in Colorado was 864 acres, the average size farm in the United States was 418 acres.
The National Corn Growers Association and the National Grain and Feed Foundation–the research and education arm of the National Grain and Feed Association–have unveiled a joint video project to promote awareness about grain bin safety on the farm. The two organizations teamed up to develop the video in response to an increase in U.S. fatalities and injuries associated with entry into grain bins.
Research shows that 92 percent of victims who become fully engulfed in flowing grain do not survive. Teens between 13 years and 17 years of age and farmers over the age of 55 are most at risk for entrapment in grain, according to the video.
How can you help your family carry on
after you are no longer with them?
Learn how to organize your legacy:
• Transferring personal possessions of emotional value
• Passing on family traditions, history and beliefs
• Communicating final instructions and last wishes
• Estate planning for financial assets, real estate and debt
The Farmwife Project is beginning to take shape and it may very well be one of the coolest projects around.
In the upcoming weeks, a group of agvocates are coming together right here on this site. They raise hogs, cattle, potatoes, bees, and children. They are farmwives, daughters, sisters, and mothers. And they are one of the most interesting collective voices of Colorado agriculture.
We are the Real Farmwives of Colorado and we will each be writing periodic blog entries that will appear on the Vermillion Farms blog. We will be agvocating and telling the stories that we would share with our sisters or our girlfriends at the kitchen table.
We will also have the opportunity to get together soon and the day will include chocolate, a photo shoot, a discussion about the issues we wish to address and…well, more chocolate.
You’ll be hearing more soon from The Real Farmwives of Colorado! If you’re interested in being a part of the Farmwife Project, please email me at email@example.com for more information.
As an agriculture teacher, I get a number of requests throughout the course of the day. Last night, I answered a phone call and heard the sweet and slightly desperate voice of Patty.
Patty, a middle school teacher in Colorado Springs, organized a food drive at her school and the main attraction at the all-school assembly was a Kiss a Pig contest. She told me she had no idea it would be so difficult to locate a pig for said contest and someone had given her our phone number after a string of odd and unproductive phone calls.
She was desperate and I tried not to chuckle when she offered to “pay the pig for his or her time”.
There’s a growing buzz about whether or not U.S. farmland prices will be the next asset bubble to burst. But despite all the talk about the commercial real estate market and how it’s under pressure, when you look at farm real estate it has really held up, even increasing fairly rapidly over the last couple of years.
Characterizing the current farm real estate scenario as a “bubble” may be off the mark, according to John Anderson, an economist with the American Farm Bureau Federation.
“I think it makes sense to define a bubble as prices for an asset that are just too high and not really justified by market fundamentals. If you look at farmland, there are some pretty strong fundamentals in the farm real estate market. Commodity prices are historically quite high and interest rates are very low and those are both factors that provide a lot of strong support for farm real estate values,” Anderson said.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was the target of some very harsh criticism at a forum in Washington, D.C. Wednesday.
The participants of the RASG gather prior to yesterdays forum.
The event, which was hosted by the GOP-sponsored Rural America Solutions Group, was entitled “The EPA’s Assault on Rural America”. One of those testifying was Tamara Thies, chief environmental counsel for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. Thies accused the EPA of, in her words, “waging an unprecedented war to end modern production of animal agriculture.
Thies cited several examples of EPA’s over-regulation, including its proposal to regulate dust. She says under such rules, farmers and ranchers could be fined for everyday activities like driving a tractor down a dirt road or tilling a field.
Recently some spectacular color photos of farm and rural life in the 30′s and 40′s has been circulating around the internet. These images, by photographers of the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information, are some of the only color photographs taken of the effects of the Depression on America’s rural and small town populations. The photographs are the property of the Library of Congress and were included in a 2006 exhibit Bound for Glory: America in Color.
A couple of the photographs are from Colorado. Members in Delta County Farm Bureau might recognize the scenery!
Hauling crates of peaches from the orchard to the shipping shed. Delta County, Colorado, September 1940. Reproduction from color slide. Photo by Russell Lee. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress
Hay stack and automobile of peach pickers. Delta County, Colorado, 1940. Reproduction from color slide. Photo by Russell Lee. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress
A report in the publication Business Insiderpoints out that eight of the ten states with the lowest unemployment rates have one thing in common—agriculture. The report also tracks the level of education in each state and notes that the states with the lowest unemployment often have a good balance on industries contributing to the overall GDP.
North and South Dakota lead the way with unemployment rates of 3.6 and 4.4 percent, respectively. Nebraska is third at 4.7, followed by New Hampshire and Vermont. At number seven is Kansas with an unemployment rate of 6.5. Wyoming is eighth, and Iowa is number ten at 6.8%.
For each state, Business Insider mentions the importance of agriculture to the lower than average unemployment rate.
It is noteworthy that Wyoming, with a larger share of GDP being linked to mining and oil and gas production has a higher unemployment rate than many of the other states, despite having a smaller population. It would be interesting to see where Colorado fits in and how the troubles with oil and gas have affected our rate.
The annual Colorado’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives Junior Livestock Sale at the Colorado State Fair is the largest event of its kind in Colorado and the championship event for the state’s 4-H and FFA youth. According to preliminary totals, the 2010 sale accumulated approximately $359,675 from the state’s most dedicated bidders.
Move along, nothing to see here. You have nothing to worry about.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today defended proposals to reinstate the estate tax, despite concerns raised at an Iowa State Fair roundtable about the need for more rural capital and incentives for young farmers.
Vilsack, the former Iowa governor, said he thinks the estate tax will be restored. The key is having appropriate exemptions for people who want to pass their farm down to a family member or someone else, he said. He expects to see a large enough exemption to cover the “vast majority” of farms and ranches in the country, he said.
I’m sure you feel much better knowing Sec. Vilsack is looking out for you! Congress has failed to act on the estate tax problem this year and without a fix, many more farms than the good Secretary thinks, will be impacted.
In an opinion column, Rick Jordahal, associate editor of Pork Magazine, said the Environmental Protection Agency proposal to reduce dust on farms represents “an unprecedented battle to end U.S. farming as we know it.” Through onerous regulations, “EPA is trying single-handed to make farming obsolete,” Jordahl opined. “Its as if they are saying ‘Just try to raise food for us. We’ll fine you!’”
“The EPA Draft Policy Assessment released last month would set the most stringent regulation of dust in U.S. history. The latest proposal would reduce the acceptable amount of dust to a level twice as stringent as the current standard, which, for agriculture, is already very difficult to attain,” Jordahl wrote.
A member of one of the All Aboard Wheat Harvest crews cuts wheat near Limon.
The Colorado wheat harvest is in full swing. If you need proof, just ask one of the many custom harvesters that are cutting across the eastern slope, gobbling up ripe wheat at breakneck speed. The High Plains Journal has a great blog, All Aboard 2010 Wheat Harvest. The blog follows the adventures of three custom cutting crews as they make their way from Texas to North Dakota this summer.
Two of the crews just made it to Colorado. Last night found the Zeorian crew in Limon, and the Sammons crew in Kanorado.
Take a look at All Aboard Wheat Harvest and follow the crews as they continue the harvest season from Colorado north.
A new survey released by ConAgra Foods shows that despite the recent improvement in the nation’s economy overall, Americans will not be changing their shopping habits any time soon. Four out of five people surveyed (79 percent) said they do like not feel like the recession is over and most (71 percent) plan to continue the savings habits they developed during the economic downturn.
The recession continues to affect the way people shop for and prepare food. During the past year, 75 percent of Americans said they cooked more meals at home and they plan to keep doing so. About two-thirds (68 percent) said cooking has helped bring their family together and just over 60 percent said they enjoy cooking now more than ever. About 80 percent of those surveyed will continue to save money by using coupons, following a budget or taking advantage of store specials. Two-thirds (63 percent) will continue to cut back on premium food purchases.
About one-third of consumers interviewed for the survey said they cut costs by stretching meals with water or canned foods or by buying more frozen or prepared meals.
On Tuesday, USDA released to Congress a comprehensive report on agricultural transportation in the United States, the first ever of this magnitude. The report, “Study of Rural Transportation Issues,” was mandated by the 2008 farm bill and covers the four major modes of transportation commonly used by agriculture in the United States—truck, rail, barge and ocean vessel.
“Agriculture is the largest user of freight transportation in the United States, with 31 percent of all ton-miles recorded in 2007 being used in the movement of agricultural products,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “This report provides vital information needed to make strategic policy decisions to meet rural America’s transportation needs, now and in the future.”
The report examines some of the major issues facing agricultural transportation, including: the dramatic effect of deregulation on the rail industry, a growing gap for funding the inland waterways and highway systems, availability of containers and ocean vessel capacity, and the infrastructure that may be needed to support a projected increase in biofuel transportation.
Spring is here and with it come longer work days for those in Agriculture. Getting back into shape after winter and dealing with longer days is made more difficult with an increased chore list and workload. So it’s not surprising that many will brush fatigue aside to get the job done.
But that’s when injuries can sneak in. Non-stop activity, long work hours and stress can increase chances of fatigue and injuries, and as levels of fatigue increase, regard for caution and personal safety take a backseat. Fatigue can cause slower reaction times, reduced concentration, or even falling asleep on the job and can lead to injuries.
Injuries can include equipment pinches, entanglement, burns, tractor rollovers and livestock related accidents.
Tips to avoid fatigue:
Get plenty of sleep.
Avoid thinking about work once you have finished for the day. Engage in an activity that will get your mind off of the tasks ahead.
Pace yourself and plan out your activities.
Eat healthy and maintain a normal eating schedule.
Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Dehydration can cause fatigue.
Take short breaks throughout the day.
Get some exercise after sitting over long periods of time. Stretching or even a short walk will get your body moving and re-energized.
To reduce stress, take a minute to watch wildlife or enjoy nature to help take your mind off of work.
Take advantage of a rainy day to rest and re-energize.
These days, everyone from celebrities to journalists to politicians has an opinion about the “right” way to raise food. Often, their criticism of farmers and ranchers relates to the environment – people say they aren’t doing their part to protect the planet.
With the 40th anniversary of Earth Day coming up, I’d like to offer some food for thought. While these naysayers talk about minimizing impact on the environment, America’s cattle farmers and ranchers get up every day and do it. They care for the land because it’s their job.
Earth Day celebrations consistently ignore the contributions of the Ag industry.
Earth Day was founded by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson in 1970 and is now celebrated in springtime in 175 countries around the globe. Some countries have Earth Week and focus largely on environmental issues and activities.
Taking a day or a week out of the year to focus on the earth and our natural surroundings is a good thing, especially for those whose feet and tires don’t usually touch the dirt. However, reflecting on nature and environmentalism does nothing for the planet if one ignores the major contributions made by America’s farmers and ranchers for whom every day is Earth Day.
Protecting and preserving the environment is something America’s farmers and ranchers do every day. These families manage rotational grazing systems that make the best use of available forage, while improving the soil and the root structure of plants. They manage their land to provide wildlife habitat. They recycle nutrients, converting sunshine, rain and forage into beef and recycling the nutrients found in manure as fertilizers.
Today’s farming and ranching families are producing more pounds of beef and more bushels of grain, with fewer resources than at any time in history. Being good environmental stewards is not a new concept for us. It is, and has been for generations, an absolute necessity for our survival as a nation and as a world.
By Shawn Martini, Communications Director for Colorado Farm Bureau
It was another successful year for the Senior Field Studies program. Students traveled across the state this year to learn about agriculture and rural life directly from those who live it on a daily basis.
Thank You to all the host families for this years program. We hope you will consider it again next year!
Formal debate on the 2012 farm bill begins Wednesday when Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack appears before the House Agriculture Committee. Momentum will continue to build from there with academics and economists set to testify next week.
In May, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) takes the show on the road, with hearings planned for Des Moines, Iowa; Boise, Idaho; Fresno, Calif.; and Cheyenne, Wyo. Farm Bureau and other farm groups are expected to testify before the ag panel in June or July.
Peterson has made it clear that he expects finding financial resources for farm programs will be tougher for the 2012 farm bill as Congress wrestles with ways to cut a ballooning federal deficit.
On Friday, Peterson said he is starting the process early “to get people thinking ahead of time on where we should be going in the future.”
Peterson said he wants the next farm bill to continue to offer a safety net for commercial farmers who produce most of the nation’s food. He is asking farm groups if there is a more productive way of providing a safety net.
The American Farm Bureau Federation joined 28 other agricultural groups in urging the Senate to support permanent and meaningful estate tax relief. In a letter sent Monday to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the coalition warned: “If estate taxes are allowed to be reinstated at the beginning of 2011 with only a $1 million exemption and top rate of 55 percent, the negative impact on our industry will be significant.”
The coalition called for permanently raising the exemption to no less than $5 million per person and reducing the top tax rate to no more than 35 percent. The farm groups said it is imperative that the exemption be indexed to inflation, provide for spousal transfers and include the stepped-up basis.
Members of Colorado Farm Bureau took this message to Colorado’s congressional delegation earlier this week. Reps. Markey, Lamborn, and Salazar seemed to understand the problem, and Salazar is introducing legislation to help fix the problem. Sen. Udall brushed off suggestions of raising the exemption limit to $5 million, saying that level would effectively repeal the tax. Members reminded the Senator that everyone sitting around the table would be affected by that exemption level and owe at least some tax money.
The Hidden Gems proposal will add to the already large Maroon Bells Wilderness Area.
Conservationists released a formal proposal Monday for 244,000 acres of new wilderness designation in Summit and Eagle counties after about four years of study, vetting and deliberation. Organizers of the Hidden Gems Wilderness Campaign delivered the document to U.S. Rep. Jared Polis’s office Friday, in hopes that it will someday be introduced in Congress.
Many recreational groups expressed concern and anger that the Hidden Gems organizers did not release the study proposal to other interests before it was in Polis’s hands.
Several dozen Hidden Gems opponents packed a town hall meeting Polis held in Frisco Monday night to express their anger over the proposal. The walkway to Vinny’s restaurant, where the meeting took place, was lined with signs urging, “Stop the land grab! Aren’t forests for everyone?” and “No Hidden Gems! Equal access for everyone.”
Hidden Gems Basics
• 379,000 acres in Eagle, Summit, Pitkin and Gunnison counties.
• 201,220 acres (14 parcels) in Eagle County.
• 42,630 acres (9 parcels) in Summit County.
• Largest parcel: Red Table in Eagle County — 62,990 acres.
• Smallest parcel: Ptarmigan Peak Wildlife Land Bridge — 270 acres.