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Tumbleweeds roll back into the West

posted on April 11, 2014

The government reported Friday that the prices companies receive for their goods and services rose significantly last month paced by strong gains in food.

The Producer Price Index, which measures inflation at the wholesale level, rose 0.5 percent in March, paced by a 30 percent gain in hog prices and a 12 percent spike in the cost of poultry.

Those increases, however, were partially offset by a 2 percent DECLINE in gasoline prices and a seven-tenths of 1 percent drop in electricity costs.

Stripping out the volatile food and energy sectors, so-called “core” prices ticked up a modest three-tenths of-one- percent. And overall inflation remains relatively tame, and producer prices have risen just 1.4 percent over the past year.

Of greater concern, perhaps, to those producing agricultural commodities are more fundamental economic principals. And that was brought home poignantly again this week when USDA released its latest estimates on global supply and demand.


Tumbleweeds roll back into the West

An icon of the American West is returning…with a vengeance.  Several years of drought have made tumbleweeds a thorn in the side in cowboy country.

Russian Thistle and Kochia from Europe and parts of Asia took hold last year on parched ground in Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Colorado.  Uprooted by a November freeze, the invasive rolling weeds are gunning for a showdown with ranchers and homeowners alike.

Doug Tecklenburg/Retired rancher: “It looked like sheep running across the prairie because the whole prairie was alive.”

As multiple plants spin along the ground, scattering seed, further headaches are all but assured. And irrigation ditches, along with several miles of road, have been smothered by the twisted foliage.

Russell Bennett/Crowley County:“We plowed weeds with road graders, trucks, loaders. The trucks, it'll come over the cab and you can't see anything.”

High winds south of Colorado Springs have swept clusters of the breezy flora into the suburbs, where they pile up and threaten to choke residents off from the outside world.

Chris Talbott/Colorado Springs: “I had a couple delivery people call the house saying they couldn't get to the front door ‘cause the front door was blocked.”

Typically, cattle-grazing keeps rangeland overgrowth to a minimum.  But lingering dry conditions have forced many livestock owners to cut back or even sell their herds.  And that has allowed tumbleweeds to  flourish.

A look at this week’s Drought Monitor from the University of Nebraska shows patches of severe, extreme and exceptional drought throughout the areas plagued by the wind-blown menace. And with wildfire season just around the corner, these piles of kindling are sparking the concerns of local officials.

Alf Randall/Acting Director, El Paso County Public Works: “Once you get the first wave beat down and packed down and out of the road, the wind kicks up and here comes the next batch.”

The National Interagency Fire Center’s outlook for April 2014 shifts above normal wildfire projections to several plains states and California. 

But county governments are hopeful that state and federal aid will help alleviate the tumbleweed emergency, and thus the threat of inferno to Colorado and elsewhere.

In the meantime, some of the same pioneering spirit that helped tame the west has blown into town, as Crowley County has fashioned a makeshift tumbleweed whacker from odd parts of farm equipment.




Tags: Colorado drought news tumbleweed WASDE west


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