Drought Will Continue in the Western U.S.

A severe drought has gripped western parts of the U.S. since the middle of 2020. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says drought will likely persist or worsen in the spring due to above-normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation. NOAA’s spring outlook says dry conditions will likely heighten the risk of wildfires across the Southwest and Southern Plains and will stress farms across California. The National Drought Mitigation Center says over 60 percent of the continental U.S. is under a minor drought or worse, the widest drought coverage since 2013. NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center says, “Prolonged, persistent drought will continue to impact much of the West, and drought will develop during April through June in the Southwest and the Central and Southern Plains.” Water levels in many western lakes are at record-low levels. But drought conditions are expected to lessen or end in the Upper Midwest and the coastal areas of the Southwest.

USDA Announces Partnership with Northwest Seaport Alliance

Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack announced plans for improving shipping in the Seattle area. The agency will preposition containers of agricultural goods near port terminals to help improve service for shippers that carry U.S.-grown agricultural commodities. The USDA is partnering with Northwest Seaport Alliance to enhance access to a 49-acre pop-up site to accept either dry agricultural or refrigerated containers for temporary storage at NWSA in Seattle. The goal is to reduce operational hurdles and costs, making it so they can be loaded more quickly onto ships at the export terminals. The alliance includes the marine cargo operations of the ports of Seattle and Tacoma, Washington, which is the fourth-largest container gateway in the U.S. The Northwest Seaport Alliance saw a nearly 30 percent decline in exporting agricultural commodities in the last six months of 2021. The ratio of loaded versus empty container exports shifted to predominantly empty containers since May of last year.

Production Costs Outpacing Commodity Prices

The cost of growing crops could outpace revenue for many farmers this year, making it more difficult to break even despite rising commodity prices and increasing domestic and global demand. An American Farm Bureau Market Intel Report says that farm production costs are likely to rise six percent in 2022, which follows a 12 percent rise in 2021. This continues a trend stretching back several years, as farmers have seen almost all production expenses rise since 2013. Production cost increases include rising fertilizer, seed, and chemical prices that now make up 17.5 percent of on-farm expenditures; rising fuel and energy prices that are made worse by the Russia-Ukraine conflict; increasing costs of labor for both farmers and agribusinesses; COVID-19 disruptions of labor markets and production. “Right now, there are serious concerns about whether farmers will be able to access the supplies they need to put a crop in the ground,” says AFBF President Zippy Duvall.

U.N. Says Ukraine War Impacting World’s Food Security

The United Nations says the war in Ukraine is already resulting in higher food prices and a shortage of staple crops in central Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has severely cut down on shipments from the two countries, which combine to ship 25 percent of the world’s wheat exports and 16 percent of global corn exports. Reuters says the surging grain prices are starting to pressure retail food prices in some of the world’s poorest countries. The U.N.’s International Fund for Agricultural Development says, “The conflict in Ukraine is already a tragedy for the world’s poorest people living in rural areas, where we are already seeing price hikes.” Those price hikes are going to drive up the number of hungry people living in poverty, and that could have dire implications for global stability. Wheat prices are close to the levels seen during the last food crisis in 2007 and 2008.

USDA Tackling Nutrition Insecurity

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is taking specific actions to improve America’s nutrition security. The USDA’s nutrition security efforts build on the work the agency and its partners are doing to improve food security by increasing the Department’s focus on diet-related chronic diseases. Studies show that diet-related diseases are a leading cause of death in the country. “COVID-19 brought food insecurity to the forefront of the national conversation and shined a new light on the devastating toll of chronic disease,” Vilsack says. “As many as two-thirds of COVID hospitalizations in the country are related to diet-related diseases.” The strategies for improving nutrition security include providing nutrition support through all life stages, connecting all Americans with healthy and affordable food sources, developing and enacting nutrition science through partnerships, and prioritizing equity every step of the way. Poor diet increases the risks of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and more. Modernizing the WIC program is among the agency’s first objectives.

Chlorpyrifos Ban Will Stand

Agriculture groups had two requests for a stay of the Environmental Protection Agency’s ban on chlorpyrifos turned down by a federal court. DTN says the court will allow the groups’ latest suit against the agency to go forward. Farmers still can’t use the insecticide on food or feed crops because its food residue tolerances got revoked. The leading groups of the ag coalition include the American Soybean Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, American Sugarbeet Growers Association, and the Cherry Marketing Institute. Together with 16 other groups, they say the EPA’s decision to revoke the food tolerances for the insecticide causes major harm to their industries, which use it to control pests like aphids, stink bugs, and more. A coalition statement says, “We are disappointed with the court’s decision to deny the motion to stay the rule while the case is heard and are discussing what will be our next steps in the process.”


By Tucker Allmer - The BARN

Tucker Allmer & the BARN are members of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB), the Colorado FFA Foundation, the Colorado 4H Foundation, the Colorado Farm Show Marketing Committee, 1867 Club Board Member, Denver Ag & Livestock Club Member, the Weld County Fair Board, the Briggsdale FFA Advisory Council, Briggsdale 4H Club Beef Leader & Founder / Coordinator of the Briggsdale Classic Open Jackpot Show.

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