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Expect volatility in coming year

By Randy Buhler

Colorado State University Extension Agent, Agronomy

Despite the respite from winter chill this holiday season, the weatherman promises cold temperatures to start the New Year. Climate modelers have exclaimed we are having both an El Nino as well as a La Nina weather pattern this winter. Quite an achievement considering that the events are the extremes of the Southern Oscillation phenomenon of warming and cooling sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean.

Climate modelers for the High Plains region have placed us on the border between the cold, wet northern storms and the hot, dry southwestern winds. This leaves us with no clear direction for the coming year. Watering your evergreen trees and shrubs is necessary during this weather pattern to prevent the types of dieback we witnessed last spring and summer.

Farming will be more difficult because of the storms of litigation and legislation under way. New congressional committee chairs promise to hold off changes in the farm bill until 2012. Meanwhile, trade agreements remain hostage to non-agricultural interests and foreign policy maneuvers. Funding for agriculture research programs is at risk for the chopping block of budget balancing. Ethanol and biodiesel received a last minute reprieve and garnered a continuing tax break. This tax break accrues to the blenders and distributors of bio-fuel products. Agriculture interests receive the benefit of an additional market for their bountiful production effort.

Opposition to genetically modified crops continues. The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service was very recently successful in getting a court order prohibiting the sale and production of Roundup Ready alfalfa seed and hay lifted by completing an extended environmental impact statement. Sugarbeets are another story, however.

Judge Jeff White of the Ninth District Court ruled for the destruction of all sugarbeet seedlings that would produce Roundup Ready seed for the 2012 and 2013 crop years. Shortly after his ruling the Appeals Court ordered a stay of his destruction order. This is the same judge that ruled in favor of the Delta smelt, resulting in the loss of hundreds of acres of orchard and vegetable crops, loss of several hundred field labor jobs, and economic losses estimated at over 1 billion dollars.

Looking forward to 2011, expect a wild and woolly ride. Weather, politics, interest rates, loan availability, seed supply, fertilizer supply, fuel costs, water supply, and markets all look to be highly volatile. Having a good set of records and knowing your cost of production on each acre will be vital information to help make valid decisions this coming season.

Regardless of all this negative inference over production conditions, we wish you a Happy New Year. May next season be one of your best ever.

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