Input Prices Greatest Threat for 2022

The Latest Rural Mainstreet Index shows rising input prices as the top threat in 2022 for farmers. Released Thursday, the index declined in January, though it remained above growth neutral for the 14th straight month. Overall, the region’s reading for January fell to 61.1 from December’s 66.7. The index ranges between 0 and 100, with a reading of 50.0 representing growth neutral. The region’s farmland price index decreased to a very strong 88.5 from December’s record high of 90.0. This month, bankers were asked to identify the greatest 2022 risk for farmers in their area. Bankers overwhelmingly named rising farm input prices, such as fertilizer, as the top farm threat. Bankers ranked disruptions of the delivery of farm inputs and rising interest rates as the second and third greatest 2022 threats to farm operations. However, one Iowa banker says, “Increased input costs have raised our average farmer break even points, but current commodity prices still produce moderate gains in all areas of financial statements.”

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Grassley, Colleagues Urge Infrastructure funds for Missouri River Flood Control

Midwest lawmakers urge the federal government to prioritize funding for flood mitigation and prevention projects along the lower Missouri River. Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley and Missouri Republican Representative Sam Graves led nearly a dozen colleagues in a letter to Michael Connor, Assistant Secretary for Civil Works, on the issue. Specifically, the lawmakers are pushing Connor to utilize funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to invest in flood-related projects for the Lower Missouri River Basin, including the Navigation and Flood Control Studies and the Bank Stabilization and Navigation Project. As the letter states, the legislation also provides funding to complete site-specific studies to address immediate needs along the river. Grassley says, “When I voted for the bipartisan infrastructure bill, I was voting for exactly this type of federal support for critical infrastructure.” The letter comes as the Department of the Army begins to allocate funding from the infrastructure package for the Army Civil Works Program in Fiscal Year 2022.

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USDA Releases 2020 Pesticide Data Program Annual Summary

The Department of Agriculture this week published the 2020 Pesticide Data Program Annual Summary. The summary shows that more than 99 percent of the samples tested had pesticide residues below benchmark levels established by the Environmental Protection Agency. The report for 2020, issued by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, marks the 30th year of survey results. Over the 30 years, USDA has tested 126 commodities, including fresh and processed fruits and vegetables, dairy, meat, poultry, grains, fish, rice, specialty products and water. Monitoring results for more than 310,000 samples through the years are available on the Pesticide Data Program website. Each year, USDA and EPA work together to identify foods to be tested by the program on a rotating basis. In 2020, tests were conducted on 9,600 samples from 18 commodities of fresh and processed fruits and vegetables. AMS partners with cooperating state agencies to collect and analyze pesticide residue levels on the selected food commodities.

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Per Acre Water Use in Irrigated Farmland Declining

Information updated this week from USDA’s Economic Research Service shows per-acre water usage is declining on irrigated farmland. Since 1969, the amount of water used per acre irrigated has decreased substantially. The average water use per irrigated acre was more than two acre-feet in 1969, declining to nearly 1.5 acre-feet by 2018. One acre-foot equals roughly 325,000 gallons. USDA says efficient water application technologies, such as the transition from gravity-based to pressurized irrigation systems, have driven the reduction in water use per acre of irrigated land. However, irrigated acreage in the U.S. grew from less than three million acres in 1980 to more than 58 million in 2017. The expansion of irrigated acreage reflects Federal, State, and local investment in irrigation infrastructure to deliver surface water to farms and ranches. Additionally, the expansion is partly due to advancements in well drilling and pumping technologies, facilitating growth in groundwater-based irrigated agriculture.

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Operation Lifesaver Releases New Rail Safety Resources

Operation Lifesaver, Inc., the national non-profit rail safety education organization celebrating its 50th Anniversary in 2022, is releasing new rail safety resources to help farmers and farm machine operators stay safe and avoid incidents around railroad tracks and trains. Across the U.S., farm vehicles often cross railroad tracks on private roads in agricultural areas. According to preliminary 2020 Federal Railroad Administration statistics, 325 crossing collisions comprising 17 percent of total incidents occurred at private railroad crossings, resulting in 22 fatalities and 111 injuries. The new OLI materials are available in English and Spanish and include rail safety education presentations, lesson plans and handout materials for students. OLI Executive Director Rachel Maleh says the materials “provide actionable advice to farm communities on how to work safely near railroad tracks and trains.” The rail safety education materials for youth were developed with input from members of national youth development programs 4 H and the National FFA Organization. The new materials are available at oli.org.

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Cover Crops: Beyond the Field and in the Garden

Cover crops aren’t just for your fields anymore, they are beneficial to your garden, too. The University of Illinois Extension says using cover crops in the home garden has many benefits, including soil structure, drawing nutrients up from deep in the soil, and increasing soil fertility. Cover crops are planted before a garden is planted or after harvest and can also be planted in areas that are unused for the season. There are two types of cover crops to consider, warm-season and cool-season. Warm-season cover crops are planted in spring or summer before the garden is planted or in a fallow area. Buckwheat, cowpeas, and crimson clover are warm-season are common cover crops used in the home garden. Cool-season cover crops are planted in late summer or early fall after the vegetables are harvested. Oats, winter wheat, winter rye, and crimson clover can be used as cool-season cover crops. After cutting down the cover crop, leave the cut portion as a mulch on top of the soil or till it into the ground.