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Articles from 2019 In July

Max Armstrong's Daily Updates

MIDDAY Midwest Digest, July 31, 2019

The war in Afghanistan is now the longest standing war. Soldiers from the Midwest were recently killed while deployed to the area.

Emerging markets is the name of the game in agriculture.

A Missouri state legislator has passed away while on a family vacation.

Cardi B had to cancel her concert in Indianapolis last night. 

There are only a few hours left of ice cream month. August is soybean month in Iowa.


Photo: Gabriel-m/Getty Images


Beefs and Beliefs
Cow gas destroying the world Bluberries-Getty-Images

Actually, climate change is the problem

The hijacking has begun.

Remember back in April I wrote a blog called What is regenerative grazing? In that I warned: "The fact people are talking about the term regenerative agriculture should serve as an early warning ... As soon as a terminology makes it into the American lexicon, it essentially will become meaningless.

"The word 'sustainable' serves as a great example. Originally it meant all the parts were in place to help a ranch or farm stay in business and pass from generation to generation. Now it has been hijacked by the so-called environmental movement, by government agencies and now by corporations. Beware! Sustainability is now being organized as a set of requirements for you to obey in order to do business. Already I see signs the same will happen to the term regenerative."

According to the social media groupies, Rep. Tim Ryan, Ohio, in the Democratic party presidential debates this week brought up "regenerative" agriculture. (Yikes, there it is!) He named some names of a few intelligent people in the regenerative movement and suddenly the gadflies swarmed upon him and he became lord of the flies.

Guess what else? Please, take one guess on the foremost reason Ryan says we need "sustainable and regenerative" agriculture. To combat "climate change."

Oh, sure, he mentioned it sequesters carbon in the soil and produces better food, which are true statements. But the overarching context is the key. That perspective is the ongoing diatribe about CO2-caused climate change. And don't be confused by Ryan's talk. He is a believer in this fake-science version of climate change. Read his webpage statement here to see what I mean.

I also have a problem with Ryan's plan to continue taxing (robbing) the majority to pay farmers to do something he deems valuable, as outlined in this New York Times article.

But enough about Ryan or any other single political candidate.

Instead, I want to recall for you the evils of the greenhouse-gas-caused climate-change junk science and point out this is the underlying (lying) basis for the anti-meat, anti-beef diatribes being pushed all around.

So I'm going to keep this short. There is no question for me that our climate is being changed by the poor management of mankind. The overgrazing and the monoculture, high-tillage farming all over the world on a majority of acres have been very destructive to life in the soil, then caused erosion, and finally damaged evapotranspirative rates that help build and recycle rainfall. Cities and golf courses and river damning and channeling have caused additional problems, but not on the scale of worldwide agriculture.

Fully disproven at this point, for me at least, is the junk science that keeps changing its name to confuse the young, the fools, and those uninitiated in the real ways of ecology. Once known as global cooling, then global warming, and now various versions of the words "climate change," the concept is constantly being redefined to try to stay ahead of the understanding of the masses, in my opinion. It is switch and bait, and all the while the game plan remains the same: Gain more control through taxation and regulation.

Here it is from the horse's mouth, Wikipedia: "In 2013, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report concluded, 'It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.' The largest human influence has been the emission of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxidemethane, and nitrous oxide."

That has always been the story, and if you do your research instead of believing the talking heads of the boob tube and the "reports" masquerading as science, you will see what I mean. I have done so before, but let me give you the foundations of my research on the topic:

1. Climate science probably is the least reputable of the sciences because it can never be adequately measured because it can never be replicated. It is always speculation, therefore always hypothesis.

2. "Climategate" is the ongoing exposure of bought-and-paid-for scientists cooking the books on temperature records and getting caught, or emailing each other and worrying about not meeting their quotas for temperature increases and getting caught, or similar.

3. Solar science, the study of the sun and its activity, at least suggests strongly that all major weather patterns are driven by solar activity.

4. Ice core science suggests that any past warm periods on the earth have been followed by, not preceded by, increases in carbon dioxide and similar gases.

5. All the climate change entities and reports as I mentioned above have ties to the United Nations and the European Union, both unelected tools of the elitist globalists.

6. We humans can do plenty of damage by killing the soil and letting it erode. We can't know all the effects, but the ones we can see are plenty. However, we can change that, and the more people wake up to that concept, the more we will see politicians putting forth more tax-and-spend "solutions" they can control.

Incidentally, the problem I have with paying people for correcting bad behavior is it only creates another layer of market-bending forces, it reinforces the government's "right" to take money from the winners and give to the losers, and the rewards are already in place for those who want to change. Stop subsidizing the bad behavior and you won't need to subsidize the good behavior.

Obviously, you can choose to agree with me or to disagree. But I'd say if you refuse to study the leads I've given you, I'm not interested in your uninformed opinion. There is no longer any question in my mind.

In addition, let me propose that when you agree with these people, you are putting a pistol in their hands and if you are in the agriculture industry, especially the beef industry, that gun is aimed at your face.

Here are a couple of the latest articles I picked out yesterday from social media and news feeds. Both of these, and all the others of this ilk, use climate change as the reason meat is bad.

This Is the Beginning of the End of the Beef Industry

Environmental Organizations Are Finally Saying It: Eat Plants for the Planet

Groups urge EPA to account for RFS Waivers

Groups urge EPA to account for RFS Waivers

Groups from across the country are calling on the Environmental Protection Agency to keep the Renewable Fuel Standard whole as the agency considers proposed biofuel targets for 2020. Testimony by various groups was held at an EPA hearing in Ypsilanti, Mich. Wednesday.

The National Corn Growers Association reiterated its call on the EPA. NCGA Board Member and Ohio farmer John Linder pressed the agency to move forward with a stronger RFS rule that supports America’s farmers and consumers.

“The proposed rule we are discussing llows retroactive refinery exemptions to continue to destroy demand for renewable fuels. In addition, the proposal ignores the D.C. Circuit Court’s decision that EPA improperly waived 500 million gallons in 2016,” Linder said.

“The misuse of small refinery waivers in just 2016-2017 has eroded more than 2.6 billion gallons of renewable fuel demand. Those waivers have single-handedly set back a great American industry by at least five years – rolling back the RFS to 2013 levels. EPA has single-handedly been responsible for crushing margins in the U.S. biofuels industry, reducing product demand of America’s already struggling farmers,” said James D. Carstensen, Federal Government Affairs Manager for DuPont.

For 2020, EPA proposes to increase total renewable fuel blending by 120 million gallons and maintain an implied conventional ethanol requirement of 15 billion gallons. The proposal does not take into account EPA’s ongoing practice of providing RFS waivers to big oil companies. These waivers have reduced RFS requirements by 2.61 billion ethanol-equivalent gallons, with 38 more exemptions pending.

“These volumes are meaningless amid EPA’s massive expansion of retroactive refinery waivers. Farmers have no confidence EPA will ensure these volumes are met – which the law requires – because EPA fails to account for projected waivers in this proposal,” NCGA Board Member Linder said.

“Once again, the proposal assumes that despite exempting at least 190 million gallons of biofuel every year since 2013, that there will be ZERO gallons exempted in 2020. If EPA is going to waive billions of gallons, it must properly account for those gallons in the RVO calculation, so that demand-loss is not borne by biofuel producers and America’s farmers,” said Chris Bliley, vice president of Regulatory Affairs for Growth Energy.

NCGA has repeatedly called on EPA and the Trump Administration to address the harm waivers are having on the ethanol industry. At a visit to an Iowa ethanol plant, NCGA First Vice President Kevin Ross told President Trump the waivers threaten to undo support for E15 and NCGA Corn Congress delegates recently approved a “Sense of the Corn Congress” urging President Trump to uphold his commitment to America’s farmers and the RFS.

Alarmingly, this year U.S. ethanol consumption fell for the first time in 20 years. To date, SREs have cut 2.6 billion gallons of renewable fuel blending and nearly 1 billion bushels of corn demand. That demand destruction is causing severe financial strain on Ohio ethanol producers and farm families – who already face difficult times due to trade wars overseas and catastrophic weather events here at home. Ethanol producers across the Midwest are being forced to slash production, idle, or shut down,” said Judd Templin, Communications Director of the Ohio Ethanol Producers Association.

Corn farmers across the country now have the opportunity to share their comments on the EPA’s waivers and 2020 rulemaking and “Tell EPA: Waivers are Gutting the RFS.”

Water in a stream Tim Hearden
Water flows in a stream during a rainstorm.

Klamath dam removal details sent to FERC

This week, in a filing to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC) answered important, substantive questions FERC asked to evaluate KRRC’s capacity to become licensee for the Lower Klamath Project (Project) and remove the four dams on the Klamath River.

This submission to FERC is another concrete step toward fulfilling the terms of the Amended Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA), removing the dams and restoring a free-flowing Klamath River.

“This is a project of vast importance for the environment, the river, and the people and communities in the Klamath Basin,” said Mark Bransom, KRRC Chief Executive Officer. “Our submission to FERC today proves that we understand the magnitude of our charge and are on the right path. We have the funding, the team, the expertise and the plan to do it right and pen a vibrant new chapter of Klamath River history. We want to particularly underscore the years of effort by tribal communities who truly laid the foundation for where we are today.”

In 2016, KRRC submitted license transfer and surrender applications to FERC, both of which are necessary for KRRC to take ownership of the four lower Klamath dams, remove them, and restore the river. In 2018, KRRC submitted to FERC its “Definite Plan,” a comprehensive, 2,800-page document that covered every aspect of its proposal, including plans for facilities removal, site remediation and restoration, estimated cost, and risk mitigation.

As part of the review process for KRRC’s Definite Plan, FERC directed KRRC to convene an independent Board of Consultants (BOC) to analyze KRRC’s work and provide feedback and suggestions. The BOC comprises experts in dam construction and removal, engineering, aquatic

and terrestrial biology, construction cost estimating, insurance, and bonding for large infrastructure projects. BOCs are common for large projects in FERC’s purview.

In late December 2018, the BOC released its suggestions and questions regarding the Definite Plan to KRRC, and KRRC has spent the past seven months refining and strengthening aspects of the Definite Plan to reflect the BOC input, leading to today’s supplemental submission. The result is a compelling, comprehensive approach and proof of KRRC’s capacity for FERC to consider as it deliberates on license transfer and surrender.

Specifically, in the new filing, KRRC demonstrated that its committed funds are sufficient to complete dam removal as proposed in the license surrender application. This updated cost estimate reflects refinements to prior cost-estimate work completed by the federal Bureau of Reclamation, simulation of tens-of-thousands of scenarios that could affect costs, and incorporation of expert BOC input. The new, “P80” cost estimate for full dam removal is $434 million, well within KRRC’s $450 million budget. P80 is an industry standard for cost estimating that assumes 80-percent of a project’s identified risks will occur over the life of the project. The $434 million figure also includes significant contingency funding to provide a substantial buffer for any additional project costs.

In addition, KRRC has developed the most comprehensive risk management program ever considered by FERC for purposes of dam removal. The risk package includes insurance, performance bond, and indemnity coverages to offset potential short- and long-term project effects.

KRRC has also engaged a world-class, best-in-business team to ensure its capacity as licensee, including technical consultant AECOM, with a global track record of cost estimation of complex construction projects; Kiewit Infrastructure West, which possesses a history of successfully completing large and challenging water resources projects; risk management expert AON, which creates risk solutions across all industry sectors; and Resource Environmental Solutions, the nation’s leader in long-term environmental mitigation and management of associated liabilities.

“The KHSA represents years of negotiations, exhaustive scientific study, and compromise among the many groups who are all working together for a robust Klamath River and Basin,” said Bransom. “Healthy rivers breathe life into the communities they touch. Dam removal and a revitalized Klamath River will enhance resiliency to strengthen the entire Basin for the future.”

FERC will decide on the KRRC license transfer and surrender applications. KRRC anticipates beginning drawdown and removal as early as 2022, pending action by FERC and other regulators.   

To view the KRRC filing, visit:

Source: Klamath River Restoration Corp., which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset. 
SWFP-PIE 18  SUNFLOWER.jpg Shelley E. Huguley

Alternative crop outlook a mixed bag

Alternative crops like sunflowers and sesame experienced a mixed year amid variable market conditions for the commodities that produce everything from oils to food products to viscosity enhancers used for oil well drilling.

Dr. Calvin Trostle, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agronomist, Lubbock, said in 2019, Texas producers planted fewer acres of the alternative crops due to issues such as oversupply to the higher value of the U.S. dollar.


This year, Texas sunflower growers planted up to 40,000 acres, primarily in the High Plains, with about 8,000 acres in the Rio Grande Valley, Trostle said. Up to 30,000 of those acres were planted as oilseed, while a significant portion of acres were planted as bird feed.

Trostle said acres in South Texas have already been harvested, and good yields were reported. Sunflowers are planted later in the High Plains with harvests usually in October and November because they are cold hardy, tolerating temperatures as low as 28 degrees for a few hours.

Sunflowers are processed as birdseed or mixed with various millet and sorghum varieties to create a colorful blend that consumers and birds find appealing, Trostle said.

Trostle said the market for Texas confectionary sunflowers, those purchased to consume as a snack, had slowed due to record yields in the Dakotas and the strength of the U.S. dollar, which makes crops produced here more expensive overseas.

But there were almost 10,000 acres of confectionary sunflowers grown on contract, compared to zero acres in 2017 and 2018, he added.

“There are less (acres) than normal,” he said. “Oversupply has hurt prices and demand for planted acres.”


Trostle said sesame, which is primarily used for food such as on hamburger buns, is having a better 2019 at market in comparison to last year. He said at least 50,000 acres were planted in Texas. Around 98% of the U.S. sesame crop is grown in Texas and southern Oklahoma.

A major contract buyer of sesame has continued to expand its operations over the past several years, he said. Texas producers have a technological advantage over producers around the globe via mechanical harvesting equipment to separate the seed from the pod with little yield loss.

“A lot of sesame is still hand-harvested globally due to dropped seed,” he said.


Guar experienced another tough year at market, he said. Low prices have continued since the market ballooned in 2013. Trostle said about 20,000 acres were planted this season.

“Import prices were below market and made it difficult,” he said. “Guar is used in food and cosmetics, but a lot of it is used in the oilfield, where they are just looking for the cheapest commodity price.”


Trostle said one alternative crop – cowpeas, including black-eyed and purple-hull peas – has always been a good rotation option, and experienced a good market in 2019.

The nitrogen-fixing associated with legumes is good for soil health and can help future row crops like cotton, he said. They are typically planted in the first half of July, and he estimated around 25,000 acres of peas were planted in the High Plains alone.

“Anytime is a good time to add legumes like cowpeas to a crop rotation,” he said. “Black-eyed peas, purple-hull peas and beans could be a good option because there are a lot of individual buyers, plus there’s canning and sale for dried peas.”

AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries: 


The 12 Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Districts

CENTRAL: Cooler temperatures were good for beef and dairy producers. Dry conditions were now the norm. Hot, dry conditions were drying rangelands and pastures. Some producers reported declining grass conditions while others reported good grazing and hay conditions. Peanuts and cotton were looking good. Corn acres for silage were mostly cut. Irrigation pivots were running. Fly numbers increased on cattle. Livestock were in good condition. Producers were busy cutting and putting up hay. A small chance of showers was in the forecast. Most counties reported good soil moisture.

ROLLING PLAINS: Conditions were cooler, dry and windy. Hay baling remained active in grass and sorghum, and Sudan varieties were being cut as well. Cotton fields were in fair to good condition. Rangeland and pastures were starting to show stress from the dry weather. 

COASTAL BEND: Hot and dry weather was good for harvesting, but dry winds were rapidly decreasing the soil moisture. Grain sorghum harvest continued. Corn harvest began. Above-average yields were reported in corn and grain. Cotton bolls were opening, and many fields were already dropping leaves. Cotton harvest was picking up. Pastures and hayfields needed a good rain to stimulate fresh growth, but most pastures still had ample forage. Hay baling slowed, but there was a lot of hay harvested. Livestock were doing well.

EAST: A few areas received rain showers. Temperatures were cooler. Pastures were still green, but many areas were drying up. Pasture and rangeland conditions were fair to excellent. Producers continued to bale hay. Pond and creek levels dropped. Subsoil and topsoil conditions remained adequate. Cattle were in good condition. Wild pig control was underway. Armyworms, grasshoppers and Bermuda grass stem maggots were reported.

SOUTH PLAINS: Subsoil and topsoil moisture levels were drying out fast due to the heat. All counties needed rain. Cotton was squaring, and some plants were starting to bloom. Grasshoppers and green stink bugs were the only pest of consequences. Producers were finishing up fertilizer and spraying. Producers were also continuing to irrigate with no recent rainfall. Pasture and rangeland were reported to be in good condition. 

PANHANDLE: Conditions were still hot and dry across the district. Adequate topsoil and subsoil moisture levels were reported in the northern portion of the district, while other parts were reporting poor rangeland conditions due to lack of moisture. Crops and pastures were suffering from the heat and needed rain. Due to wet weather earlier this spring, the corn and cotton were late across much of the region. Much of the cotton was in fair to poor condition, while most of sorghum was in fair condition. Many corn and soybean producers were irrigating fields. Producers were controlling weeds behind harvested wheat and fallow fields.

NORTH: Soil moisture was short to adequate across the district. Conditions continued to be hot and dry. Soil was cracking, and plants were showing moisture stress in the afternoon. Fields were drying quickly, and hay producers were working nonstop. Weather caused some progress in maturity of some crops, while grasses were challenged by weather patterns. Corn looked dry but wasn’t through dent stage yet. Cool-weather patterns allowed relief for livestock. Sugarcane aphids were in sorghum but not at high levels. 

FAR WEST: Temperatures were in the high 90s. Rain amounts averaged 0.25 to 1 inch. High winds and dry conditions led to grass fires in drier areas, but most spots were no larger than 100 acres. However, Crockett County reported approximately 5,000 acres were burned. Producers began bailing hay and reported at least three bales per acre. Cotton progressed well, but most fields were behind the typical growth schedule. The outcome of late-planted crops will depend on the first frost. Most sorghum and corn were drying down, and a small number of acres were harvested. Alfalfa production continued, but most farmers were on their third cutting. El Paso County was expected to produce close to 50% of the state’s pecan crop. Weather was favorable for pecan production with very little pest pressure and adequate water supply. Rangelands still had plenty of grass for cow/calf producers in most of the district, but drier areas were giving herds some supplemental feed. Cow/calf producers were still working weaned calves and were administering a second round of shots in preparation for shipping.  

WEST CENTRAL: Temperatures were cooler. Cotton grew well with the cooler temperatures. Sorghum and corn were maturing nicely and will be ready for harvest soon. Pastures were in good shape but were beginning to dry down after recent 100-degree days. Some field preparations began for fall planting of wheat and oats. Grasshoppers were still abundant. Stock tanks and livestock were in good shape. The cattle market opened with higher prices and good demand. Stocker and feeder steers and heifers both sold $1-$3 higher. Packer cows and bulls both sold $2 higher, while pairs and bred cows sold steady.

SOUTHEAST: Rangeland and pasture condition ratings were good to excellent. Soil moisture levels were adequate to short with adequate being most common.

SOUTHWEST: Conditions were starting to dry out rapidly with no rain and none in the forecast. Dry and hot conditions were taking their toll on rangeland and pastures. Corn harvest was underway in some areas and about to begin in others. Hay baling started. Despite unfavorable conditions, livestock and wildlife were in fair shape. Sutton County reported more confirmed anthrax animal deaths.

SOUTH: The district reported warm to hot weather conditions with short to very short soil moisture levels. Frio County reported some scattered showers and a cool front. Maverick and Zapata counties reported up to 1 inch of rain. Corn and sorghum were maturing well. In some areas, corn harvest was in full swing, and in Kleberg and Kennedy counties was complete, with yields averaging 100 bushels per acre. The peanut crop was in the pegging stage and being irrigated. Most cotton was in the mid-season stage and under irrigation. The first report of harvested cotton estimated yields at 750 pounds of lint per acre. Haygrazer and Bermuda grass were being cut and baled. Pasture and rangeland conditions continued to decline with lack of rainfall. Irrigated crops were all in good condition, including the Coastal Bermuda grass and other vegetables. Pecan orchards were also in good condition with no pest pressure reported. Native rangelands were mostly in fair condition but could use a good, soaking rain. Some areas reported poor rangeland conditions. Land preparation for fall planting began in some counties. Pastures and tanks were drying up in Dimmit County. Producers were still hauling water and providing supplemental feed. Hay was selling quickly with most producers paying $120 per ton or $60 per round bale. Cattle were still in good condition, and prices were steady to slightly higher on feeder calves and still low for cull cows and bulls.  

Source: is AgriLife TODAY, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

Texas, Oklahoma cotton farmers tour California

Cotton farmers from Texas and Oklahoma toured California farms as part of the National Cotton Council’s annual Producer Information Exchange tour. The regular event allows growers from different regions of the United States to survey farming operations in different locations of the country.

The California leg of this event takes farmers to a winery, tomato processor, large growing operations that include tree nuts and row crops, and the office of the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Associations, where the visiting growers learn how heavy-handed regulatory policies greatly increase the cost of producing cotton when compared to other states.

For instance, it costs over $25 per bale to gin California cotton. Southwest region farmers, where this year’s tour group farms, pay less than $16 to gin the same bale of cotton when factoring in labor, fuel and electricity costs.

Roger Isom, president of the CCGGA, also highlighted regulatory policy and law that makes it more difficult for gins to simply remain in business in a state that once grew well over one million acres of cotton annually and housed nearly 300 cotton gins. Today farmers grow less than 300,000 acres – mostly Pima varieties – of cotton that are ginned at about 20 facilities.

Isom tells of a former member of his who relocated to Texas because the cost of doing business in California was too high. The grower said when he went in to apply for his permits from the county, he was told he didn’t need permits – just a description of what he was building.

Labor and workers compensation costs are also higher than other places, Isom says. What costs a California cotton gin nearly $30 per $100 of payroll in California for workers compensation insurance is half that price across the Colorado River in Arizona, he continued.

For the 10 visiting growers, the trip to Jerry Salvador’s Pima cotton field was a treat as none of them have ever seen the premium type of cotton grown.

Growers also visited Don Cameron’s Terra Nova Ranch near Helm, where he grows hundreds of crops across 7,000 acres of farmland and is still trying to build a massive water storage system he will use to capture storm flows from the Kings River to help replenish the region’s aquifer during years of heavy rain and runoff.

The week-long trip spanned growing operations from Los Banos to Bakersfield and is made possible through a grant from Bayer to The Cotton Foundation. This is the 31st year for the event, which has exposed nearly 1,200 U.S. cotton producers to innovative growing practices in Cotton Belt regions different than their own.


UArk-PSims-Flooding-May-2019.jpg U of A System Division of Agriculture photo by Phil Sims
Creeks feeding the Arkansas River were backing up in May, unable to send water downstream as the river swelled from rainfall. This implement dealership was moving equipment May 28, 2019, as the water rose.

Flood recovery meeting for Arkansas ag producers Aug. 15

Arkansas farmers affected by the spring’s record-breaking flooding will be able to learn about available options for recovery efforts at a meeting Aug. 15 at the Conway County, Ark., Fairgrounds.

The meeting begins at 9 a.m. at the Multi-Purpose Building at the fairgrounds in Morrilton, near the city park.

“This outreach meeting brings together several agencies that can offer varying aspects of recovery help,” said Kevin Van Pelt, Conway County Extension agent for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. “We want all of our affected producers to know what’s out there for them.”

The agenda will include updates on countywide projects from Conway County Judge Jimmy Hart, and a question-and-answer panel.

The meeting is presented by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resource Conservation Service, Farm Service Agency, Conway County Conservation District, Arkansas Natural Resource Commission, the Arkansas Forestry Commission and the Cooperative Extension Service.

Here’s the meeting agenda:

  • 9 a.m. - Introduction and overview - Cindy Neal, Natural Resources Conservation Service, moderator.
  • 9:10 a.m. - Update on countywide projects, Jimmy Hart, Conway County judge.
  • 9:20 a.m. - USDA Program Availability, Carol Hoyt, Farm Service Agency – Loans; Robert Evans, FSA – Programs; Tiffany Williams, NRCS.
  • 10:10 a.m. - Flood recovery for ag producers: Jennifer Caraway, Miller County Extension – Forages, Kevin VanPelt, Conway County Extension agent - Cropland.
  • 10:30 a.m. - Q & A and panel discussion with Mike Sullivan, NRCS state conservationist and David Curtis, FSA state director.

For information about the meeting, contact the Conway County Extension Office at (501) 977-2146.

climate_change_concept_GettyImages-179065708 BenGoode/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Commentary: Climate changing California’s ag landscape

“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or
 present are certain to miss the future.”
― John F. Kennedy

Change can be easy, or changes can be difficult. We don’t have to like them, or we can welcome them with open arms. Change can be good for us or it can be bad for us. But like it or not, change is a universal certainty from which there is no escape.

Some have said the only way to prepare for change in our lives is to embrace it and, if possible, plan for it.

There’s an old saying farmers often use, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait a while and it will change.”

It always does. While there may be room for argument about what causes weather or even climate to change, they both do over time.

Considering the political controversy related to climate change, it is difficult to even raise the subject, and for certain the topic is a stumbling block that has served to divide us.

For the purposes of this article, it doesn’t matter which side you are on. There is no intent here to change minds or political views. Many believe changes in the climate are natural and historically cyclic while others believe human activity is to either blame or contributes to it.

While scholars, scientists and politicians are often preoccupied arguing why the climate changes, farmers are generally more practical. Most can see the changes in weather and climate in their fields and crops. They are much more concerned with how to mitigate changes rather than for the reasons behind them.

From ice age to searing temperatures and drought, Planet Earth has undergone many types of changes, and those active in agriculture have adapted and adjusted along the way.

For most California farmers, including tree nut producers, climatic changes have been obvious over the last 75 years or so. Droughts, floods, changes in temperature and snowpacks, a reduction in chill hours, and many other developments have illustrated a trend in the changes.

As the world turns, weather and the climate change, and farmers in modern times are adapting as did their fathers and forefathers dating back thousands of years.

In ancient times farmers of the world would cross breed weeds to develop food sources (most notably corn in the Americas). They also explored tilling practices, raised platforms for farming, irrigation canal or aqueduct designs. In more modern times. We have begun working with regenerative agriculture, soil enhancement programs including cover crops, and returned in some cases to older tilling practices to help mitigate changes.

Writer and Poet William Arthur Ward was addressing the subject of change when he penned these words, “The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”

If weather and climate and the environment are undergoing changes that will affect the way modern farmers must farm, then the question we should be asking is how we can continue to mitigate the crisis for the future.

Technology can and already has been a benefit in realizing that goal. And new methods of farming – or in some cases returning to older methods – may represent another tool we can employ to mitigate the challenges ahead.

Fortunately, the process of researching and employing new methods and technologies to deal with earth changes is well underway, from new seed varieties that are better suited to weather and environment to the development of other sustainable farming practices.

On the West Coast, many farmers in California’s Central Valley and across the state and the nation have employed new measures designed to counter the adverse effects of those as well. In fact, California often leads the nation in the discovery of new and better methods of farming, and adapting to changes in weather and climate are no exception.

In this (Tree Nut) newsletter issue and elsewhere on the Western Farm Press site we explore existing and emerging agricultural technologies and practices designed to counter the changing world in which we live and farm.    

For more news on tree nuts as reported by growers and farm advisors, subscribe to the Tree Nut Farm Press e-newsletter.

TNFP0801-tim-hearden-climate-programs_BT_Edits.JPG Tim Hearden
People look at a fish screen and ladder during an event at Gorrill Ranch in Durham, Calif., in July 2018. A team of advisors is working to aid growers in understanding the challenges of a changing environment

Programs, funding help mitigate climate impacts

In Part I of coverage on mitigating changes in California agriculture we discussed how weather and climate events like fall and winter freezes, declining chill hours, and periods of drought present challenges to tree nut growers.

In this extended coverage we spotlight some of the programs and funding opportunities that already exist designed to help farmers and ranchers prepare for those challenges.

California’s Climate Smart Agriculture

Alli Rowe is one of ten California Department of Food and Agriculture-University of California Agricultural and Natural Resources (CDFA-UCANR) community education specialists who make up the Golden State’s Climate Smart Agriculture team.

Her job is to aid growers in understanding the challenges of a changing environment, introducing measures to help mitigate those challenges and to assist in helping producers secure state funding for programs designed to provide tools and methods to minimize the risks of climate and weather changes.

“Half of our land is under cultivation or agricultural management,” Rowe told Western Farm Press in a recent telephone interview. “A Climate Smart Agriculture team is exciting because it is a brand-new goal for California and the nation and is the only one that is really dedicated to climate beneficial farming.”

Rowe says the team is tasked with education, outreach and technical assistance for smart agricultural practices. The team also provides grant information and assistance to farmers and ranchers on specific programs and helps in walking them through what some have termed comprehensive and even complicated grant proposal applications to secure funding.

“We are charged to promote and support the sustainability of agriculture in a beneficial way for the future,” she says. “The team represents a partnership between the University of California and the California Department of Food and Agriculture and one of our primary goals is to help farmers and ranchers apply for climate smart agricultural grants under the CDFA including the Healthy Soils grant, California Water Efficiency and Food and Water Enhancement program grant and the Alternative Manure Management program grant. While many grants have already been awarded and 2019 grant recipients are awaiting funding next month, the search is on to provide an additional round of grants for 2020 and beyond.”

Grant funding and the Climate Smart team are a helpful complement to the California Climate & Agriculture Network’s (CalCAN) sponsored bill (AB 2377) to scale up technical assistance to farmers and ranchers wanting to develop climate smart agriculture projects.

Grants up to $100,000 annually

The bill authored by Assembly member Jacqui Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks) and signed into law last September (2018) provides grants up to $100,000 annually for up to three years to help meet the state’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction target.

“With the signing of AB 2377, California is demonstrating leadership in making Climate Smart Agriculture practical and feasible for farmers and ranchers throughout the state,” said Jeanne Merrill, Policy Director with CalCAN following the signing ceremony last year.

Rowe says the climate smart team is working toward the same goal.

“Our team, for example, is promoting talks about compost conservation on rangeland and talks about mulching orchards and information about funding opportunities to promote interest and adoption of climate smart agriculture in California,” Rowe said.

She admits while funding is helping to promote smart agricultural practices, she says that costs associated with implementing those programs is a barrier for many farmers and ranchers who may be interested but are cautious about the investment required to implement and sustain programs like cover crops.

“But take something like cover cropping, which would be very valuable to tree nut farmers in the Central Valley. The cost of cover crop seed is actually very low, but there is the added cost of maintaining them from year-to-year. But if you look at the economics of the practice you will realize cover crops do provide a return,” she said

Rowe noted the return is not immediate, but in the long run, cover crops are going to save the farmer money year over year.

“Savings can result in using less water and lowering fertilizer inputs. Many farmers will also see higher yields as well as what they spend on soil health,” she added.

While smart agriculture programs and technology will expand in the months and years ahead, existing grant programs are available to help growers get started sooner rather than later.

Already some West Coast farmers are employing technology designed to fight back against the changing environment. California grower John Duarte (Duarte Nursery) in Modesto for example, who has said he doesn’t embrace the term climate change, is using cutting edge technology like agroponics to grow nut and fruit trees in a greenhouse that are suited to dry, hot and salty conditions.

Almond grower Gino Favagrossa is using flowering cover crops to benefit in water infiltration, soil enrichment and to attract bees and promote bee health in his orchard, measures that have worked for him for several years.

Regardless whether we think global climate is changing or prefer to think we are simply in an extended period of changing weather, climate smart agriculture represents the best method of mitigating the challenges farmers are facing in modern times.

California Climate Smart Programs and Grant Opportunities
(Note: Grant deadlines expired in April 2019. Refunding efforts are underway)

Federal Grant Opportunities

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