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January 3, 2014
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Ag Notebook: 2013 a year of plummeting corn prices; West Slope wine grapes in trouble

Corn set for biggest annual drop since 1960

U.S. Department of Agriculture numbers and market analysis revealed recently that corn is headed for the biggest annual drop since at least 1960, as grain production in 2013 climbed to records worldwide and outpaced demand for food, livestock feed and use in biofuels.

The U.S. corn harvest, the world’s biggest, will total 355.3 million metric tons, rebounding 30 percent from the prior season, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates. That will push global output to a record 964.3 million tons, overtaking consumption of 932.4 million tons and spurring an increase in world inventories, the USDA says.

Bloomberg’s recent report noted that, in addition to corn, farmers worldwide are producing record amounts of everything from soybeans to wheat, leaving food prices tracked by the United Nations 13 percent below an all-time high in 2011 and spurring banks, including Goldman Sachs Group Inc., to predict further declines in crop prices in 2014.

Cold snap hurts western Colorado wine-grape crop

Western Colorado’s wine-grape crop faces another blow this year after record-low cold temperatures earlier this month killed vines and grape buds across the valley.

“It’s been really cold and it was very early,” said state viticulturist Horst Caspari at Colorado State University’s Western Colorado Research Center on Orchard Mesa. “Our temperatures (in early December) were 18 to 20 degrees lower than normal.”

This year, however, some of the late-ripening grape varieties, such as merlot and gewürztraminer, were caught by the early cold.

Only twice since 2009 have valley grape growers seen a full crop.

“Merlot doesn’t like it that cold,” Caspari noted. “There are a lot of blocks (of merlot grapes) being pulled out.”

Growers around the valley already are reporting damage to this year’s crop.

Colo. Springs farm still looking for water

Venetucci Farm is once again scrambling to find enough water to get it through the next few years.

The Pikes Peak Community Foundation, which runs the farm, began exploring long-term water solutions after Sheila Venezia, 72, and her family stepped up to help out. But fires and floods in El Paso County this year have left usual donors spread thin, and Venetucci Farm looking for another short-term bandage until something more permanent becomes possible.

Hannigan said the foundation will need at least $2 million to buy back water rights that farm founders Nick and Bambi Venetucci sold off over the years. Eric Cefus, the foundation’s director of philanthropy, said in May that the bulk of those rights were sold to communities such as Fountain and Security-Widefield.

USDA opens door to new herbicide-resistant seeds

The U.S. Department of Agriculture opened the door Friday to commercial sales of corn and soybean seeds genetically engineered to resist the weed killer 2,4-D, which is best known as an ingredient in the Vietnam War-era herbicide Agent Orange.

According to the Associated Press, the U.S. military stopped using Agent Orange in 1971, and it has not been produced since the 1970s. Scientists don’t believe 2,4-D, which is legal and commonly used by gardeners and some farmers, was responsible for the health problems linked to Agent Orange.

The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service published a draft environmental impact statement Friday as part of the process for potential deregulation of the seeds, which can now be used only in tightly controlled field trials. Deregulation would allow commercial development of the seeds and presumably lead to greater use of the herbicide.

State Ag Officials: Test Herds for Bovine Trichomoniasis

Colorado Department of Agriculture officials are reminding cattle owners to test their herds for Bovine Trichomoniasis.

In 2013 there have been ten trich cases in six counties: Park, La Plata, Costilla, Las Animas, Otero and Archuleta

“Testing and monitoring herds for trichomoniasis is the best method of controlling this infection,” said State Veterinarian, Dr. Keith Roehr. “Cattle owners should talk to their veterinarian to determine the best management practices for their herd.”

Colorado trich regulations require all non-virgin bulls changing ownership or being transported into Colorado be tested for T. foetus unless the animal is going to slaughter. Bulls on public land grazing permits or with grazing associations must also be tested prior to turn-out.

Several diagnostic laboratories across the state offer trich testing; samples must be taken by an accredited veterinarian and results will be available between four to six days. For testing locations, visit www.colorado.gov/ag/animals and click on “Livestock Health.”

USDA report concludes meatpackers aren’t manipulating lamb market

A federal investigation recently revealed what many Colorado producers had been saying all along — meatpackers have not been manipulating the lamb market.

In recent weeks, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration issued a report on its investigation that began about a year ago, when the sheep industry was struggling and a deep look into the sheep procurement practices of meatpackers was being heavily pushed by some members of Congress and farmers organizations.

All along, many in Colorado — which ranks second nationally for its number of market sheep and lambs — didn’t think the endeavor would be worthwhile.

Colorado State University agricultural economist Stephen Koontz and members of the state’s sheep and lamb industry agree.

Prices for lamb in grocery stores were allowed to go too high, though, they said. The result was consumers eventually cutting back on their purchases, which eventually created too much inventory of slaughtered lambs by 2012, forcing prices to fall.

Retirement unlikely for some blue-collar Americans

An Associated Press report this week explained that across the U.S., a pessimistic outlook on retirement is a common concern among blue-collar baby boomers — the 78 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964.

Many have jobs that provide paltry pensions or none at all, as many companies have been moving toward less generous retirement packages in the past decade.

The share of U.S. workers who are 55 and older is expected to continue growing, according to the “The Oxford Handbook of Retirement 2013.” The group comprised 12.4 percent of the workforce in 1998. The share jumped to 18.1 percent in 2008 and is expected to be almost 25 percent by 2018.

The Associated Press report specifically noted that farmers, loggers and other agriculture workers often have their wealth tied up in their homes or work property, explaining that the biggest concern for most is succession — whether any children want the farm once a farmer retires.

National Farmers Union disappointed with proposal to cut ethanol requirement

The outcome of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s recent public hearing on the 2014 Standards for the Renewable Fuels Standard Program elicited disappointment from the National Farmers Union.

“This will have a devastating impact on farmers and the rural economy.”

“EPA’s proposal will hurt the advanced and cellulosic biofuels industry at a time when commercial-scale plants are coming online,” the farm leader added.

“Without a stronger commitment from EPA, investors will be reluctant to continue to pour billions of dollars into an industry that is creating good-paying jobs in rural areas, providing farmers with additional markets and mitigating climate change.”


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The Fence Post Updated Jan 3, 2014 10:46AM Published Jan 17, 2014 04:12PM Copyright 2014 The Fence Post. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.