Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Trending in Farming: Olives, Tea, Berries, Expenses, Organic

Five farming-related subjects that are trending on this Tuesday...

Farmers in Florida are switching to olives instead of oranges.
Because of citrus greening, some Florida farmers are trying out growing olives instead of oranges. According to the Univ. of Florida, citrus greening has caused “approximately $7.8 billion in lost revenue, 162,200 citrus acres and 7,513 jobs since 2007” in the state of Florida. The new move towards growing olives instead of oranges is being supported by Univ. of Florida researchers, and the Florida Olive Council, which was formed ten years ago, according to Olive Oil Times.

More farmers in the U.S. and Canada are growing tea.
Tea is a high-priced specialty market, and more North American growers want to cash in by growing it. Though this specialty market is growing at a rate of 8 to 10 percent a year, high labor costs here as opposed to overseas limit its economic success. Farmers are growing tea for sale in Hawaii, British Columbia, South Carolina, Michigan, Georgia, and Mississippi, according to the AP.

The consumer demand for berries leads to growing innovations.
The health conscious consumer wants to eat more soft fruit, or berries, which are considered super foods. According to Horti Daily, there are two commercial methods to up the production of berries. One, focuses on high tech greenhouse technology with high density cultivation. The second uses simpler, less dense production in low tech hoop houses. The company, Richel, has innovated using this second approach, by producing a simple and economical multi-span greenhouses suitable for areas receiving large snowfalls, like Eastern Europe.

Can corn belt farming pay family living expenses?
When you add up family living costs such as health insurance, college costs, house expenses and transportation, today's corn and soybean prices aren't covering the costs. As reported by Corn and Soybean Digest, Nebraska Farm Business Inc.'s data shows that the average family living cost for Nebraska farmers in their program was $96,000, plus an additional $48,000 attributed to income and Social Security taxes. In translating these costs to yields, the average family living cost per bushel of corn was approximately 76¢, and for soybeans, family living expenses per bushel was $2.28. Production expenses and input costs, family living expenses, and costs of borrowing money are all give and take factors in balances the farm family budgets.

In Boulder County, Colorado (where I live), organic farmers have experienced an 80 percent failure rate.
On Boulder County Open Space lands, in five years, 19 of 24 organic farms have ended operations citing high workloads, weeds, and weather as insurmountable challenges. Boulder County has an amazingly supportive program which leases land to would-be farmers, and, yet, the failure rate is huge. According to the Daily Camera, Boulder open space has added 1,692 acres of organic acreage in the last five years, with 2,416 acres either in production or in transition to organic, totaling 15 percent of the county's ag land. The county helps organic farmers by paying for part of organic certification costs, helping to build water retention ponds, install electricity, and remove prairie dogs, expenditures altogether totaling $830,000. For the first five years, beginning farmers get half-off leases, and the county pays to remove weeds from irrigation ditches.

Readers, note that "Trendspotting on Tuesdays" is a new feature of this site.--k.m.

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