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March 25, 1997

FFA preparing students for future in agriculture

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Staff Writer
PECOS, Mar. 25, 1997 - FFA members who led chapter meetings may one day
preside at board meetings.

Today's agriscience students may pioneer advances in genetics tomorrow.

Students who join agricultural education and FFA know they can apply
what they learn in class to more than just the test: they're gaining
career and leadership skills to last a lifetime.

That is the message that Tanessa Saathoff, 1996-97 Texas FFA president,
and Cody Nash, first vice-president, left with students and FFA members
at Pecos High School Mar. 18.

Saathoff and Nash told how setting personal goals can lead to success
in life. Saathoff, 18, of Devine, stressed the need for students to take
an active role in planning for their future and how the FFA can help
students achieve excellence.

Nash, also 18, of Tolar, focused on the importance of careful choices
and commitment to high standards of achievement.

Two of 10-member state officer team, they will meet thousands of FFA
members in the coming school year as they travel more than 60,000 miles
and speak at more than 300 schools promoting agricultural education and
the FFA.

In addition to meeting with members on the local, district, area, state
and national level, they will meet with leaders of government,
education, business and agriculture. They will also participate in a
Texas FFA Foundation-sponsored business and industry tour program in the
cities of Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio, Houston and Amarillo designed
to strengthen relations between the FFA and the world of work.

Prior to her election as president, Saathoff served as Area VII first
vice president, Revaldina District reporter and Devine chapter president.

Her supervised agricultural experience program consists of showing
Brangus heifers, showing market steers and market barrows and a
registered Brangus cow/calf operation.

She is the recipient of a $10,000 San Antonio Livestock Exposition

Saathoff is taking a year-long leave of absence from Texas A&M
University to serve as Texas FFA president. After her year of service,
she will major in agriculture development.

A career in public relations or agriculture sales for an agribusiness
or breed association, as well as raising Brangus cattle, is her goal
after graduation from college.

Nash served as Area VII president, Lake Whitney district president and
Tolar chapter president prior to his election in July. His supervised
agricultural experience program consists of showing Brahman heifers,
showing market barrows and market goats and a registered Brahman
cow/calf operation.

He plans to major in agriculture communications at Texas Tech
University at the end of his term in office. Nash's future career plans
include promoting agriculture for an agribusiness, as well as expanding
his Brahman cattle herd.

FFA is a national organization of 445,000 members preparing for
leadership and careers in the science business and technology of
agriculture. The organization has 7,264 local chapters located
throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands.

The Texas FFA has 60,936 members in 951 chapters. FFA's mission is to
make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their
potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success
through agricultural education.

Local, district, area, state and national activities and award programs
provide opportunities for students to apply knowledge and skills learned
in the classroom as they develop career pathways and discover school to
work transitions.

Gophers take bite out of profits

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Staff Writer
Alfalfa and dandelions are gourmet food to gophers. And that's bad news
for farmers and homeowners who want to maintain a smooth, green lawn.

Jim Batteas said the burrowing rodents are the biggest problem in his
alfalfa fields.

Gophers eat the roots of plants, but also emerge from their underground
tunnels occasionally to eat vegetation near their home.

Weeds may attract gophers to lawns, where mounds of dirt foul
lawnmowers and leave bare spots in the turf.

Many trees and shrubs are clipped just about ground level, principally
during winter under snow cover.

Damage may reach as high as 10 feet above ground. Seedlings also have
their roots clipped by pocket gophers.

In a USDA publication, pocket gophers are described as medium-sized
rodents ranging from about 5 to nearly 14 inches long, with very fine,
soft fur variable in color from nearly black to pale brown to almost

They are found only in the Western Hemisphere, ranging from Panama in
the south to Alberta in the north.

Yellow-faced pocket gophers occur from Mexico, along the western edge
of Texas, eastern New Mexico and into Colorado, Kansas and the panhandle
of Oklahoma.

They are strict herbivores, eating forbs, grasses, shrubs and trees.

Cheek pouches identify the pocket gopher, as do their fan-shaped soil
mounds. Typically, there is only one gopher per burrow system - except
when mating occurs and when the female is caring for her young.

All pocket gophers use their claws and teeth while digging. Soil, rocks
and other items loosened by digging are kicked away from the digging
area with the hind feet. Gophers then turn over, making a sort of
somersault within the confines of their burrow, and use their forefeet
and chest to push the materials out of the burrow.

The incisors grow continuously to repair wear and tear on the teeth.
And gophers must gnaw continuously to keep their teeth ground to an
appropriate length. They exert up to 18,000 psi with their bite.

Burrow systems consist of a main burrow, generally 4 to 18 inches below
and parallel to the ground surface, with a variable number of lateral
burrows off the main one.

These end at the surface with a soil mound or sometimes only a soil
plug. There are also deeper branches off the main burrow that are used
as nests and food caches. Enlargements along the main tunnel are
probably feeding and resting locations. Nest chambers have dried grasses
and other grasslike plants formed into a sphere.

The maximum depth of a burrow may be as great as 4 or 6 feet, with a
diameter of about 3 inches, varying with the body size of the gopher.

Burrow systems may be linear or highly branched. The more linear
systems may be those of reproductive males, since this shape would
increase the likelihood of encountering a female's burrow.

The number of soil mounds on the surface of the ground may be as great
as 300 per animal in a year. A single burrow system may contain up to
200 yards of tunnels. The poorer the habitat, the larger the burrow
system required to provide sufficient forage for its occupant.

Mound building ranges from an average of one to three per day and up to
70 per month, which brings large amounts of soil to the surface.

Gophers rigorously defend the tunnel system against intruders. They do
not hibernate.

Some believe gopher activities peak at dawn and dusk, but studies have
shown them to be active throughout the day, with activity periods
interspersed with rest.

Pocket gophers reach sexual maturity in the spring following their
birth. In the southern portion of their range they may have two litters
per year. One researcher believes they breed throughout the year in
irrigated alfalfa fields in California.

Litter sizes range from one to 10, but typically average three to four.
Births typically occur from March through June.

Densities range up to 62 per acre for the yellow-face gopher. The
average life span is from one to three years.

External parasites are often found on pocket gophers. Lice are perhaps
the most common, while ticks, fleas and mites also occur. Numerous
predators eat gophers, some pursuing them into the tunnel.

Badgers are adept at digging out gophers, and a whole host of predators
prey on gophers when they are above ground feeding, dispersing or while
they construct their mounds.

Weasels, skunks and several snakes, coyotes, domestic dogs, foxes,
house cats and bobcats also eat the rodents. Raptors that prey on
gophers include several owls, especially great horned and barn owls, and
several hawks.

Several mammals are sometimes confused with pocket gophers because of
variations in common local terminology. Pocket gophers can be
distinguished from other mammals by their tell-tale signs as well as by
their appearance.

Damage caused by gophers includes destruction of underground utility
cables and irrigation pipe, direct consumption and smothering of forage
by earthen mounds, and change in species composition on rangelands by
providing seedbeds (mounds) for invading annual plants.

Gophers damage trees by stem girdling and clipping, root pruning and
possibly root exposure caused by burrowing.

Gopher mounds dull and plug sicklebars when harvesting hay or alfalfa,
and soil brought to the surface as mounds is more likely to erode.

Auto exhaust best gopher control method

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Pocket gophers are not protected by state or federal law, but gopher
damage is difficult to prevent and control.

Because of the expense and limited practicality, exclusion is of little
use. Fencing of highly valued ornamental shrubs or landscape trees may
be justified. The fence should be buried at least 18 inches. The mesh
should be small enough to exclude gophers. Hardware cloth will suffice.

Cylindrical plastic netting placed over the entire seedling, including
the bare root, reduces damage to newly planted forest seedlings

Cultural methods and habitat modification take advantage of knowledge
of the habitat requirements of pocket gophers or their feeding behavior
to reduce or eliminate damage.

In alfalfa, large tap-rooted plants may be killed or the vigor of the
plant greatly reduced by pocket gophers feeding on the roots.

Varieties with several large roots rather than a single taproot suffer
less when gophers feed on them. Additionally, pocket gophers in alfalfa
fields with fibrous-root systems may have smaller ranges. This would
reduce gopher impact on yield.

Crop rotation can minimize problems. When alfalfa is rotated with grain
crops, the resultant habitat is incapable of supporting pocket gophers.
The annual grains do not establish large undergound storage structures
and thus there is insufficient food for pocket gophers to survive

Planting 50-foot buffer strips of grain around hay fields provides
unsuitable habitat around the fields and can minimize immigration of

Chemical or mechanical control of forbs (weeds), which frequently have
large underground storage structures, can be an effective method of
minimizing damage in rangelands.

It may also be effective in making orchards and shelterbelts less
suitable for pocket gophers.

Irrigating fields by flooding can greatly reduce habitat suitability
for pocket gophers. Water can fill a gopher's tunnel, thus causing the
occupant to drown or flee to the surface, making it vulnerable to

The soil may be so damp that it becomes sticky. This will foul the
gopher's fur and claws. As the soil becomes saturated with water, the
diffusion of gases into and out of the gopher's burrow is inhibited,
creating an inhospitable environment.

The effectiveness of this method can be enhanced by removing high spots
in fields that may serve as refuges during irrigation.

Repellents work in some circumstances.

Some predator odors have been tested as gopher repellents and show some

Commercially available sonic devices are claimed to repel gophers.
There is, however, no scientific supporting evidence.

Plants known as caper spurge, gopher purge or mole plant and the
castor-oil plant have been promoted as gopher repellents, but there is
no evidence of their effectiveness. In addition, these are not
recommended as they are both poisonous to humans and pets.

Several rodenticides currently are federally registered and available
for pocket gopher control. The most widely used and evaluated is
strychnine alkaloid on grain bits.

There is some concern that pocket gophers may consume sublethal doses
of strychnine and then develop bait shyness. Strychnine acts very
rapidly and gophers sometimes die within an hour after consuming a
lethal dose.

Zinc phosphide is less effective than strychnine for gopher control.
Anticoagulants now are available.

To poison pocket gophers, the bait must be placed in their tunnel
systems by hand or by a special machine known as a burrow builder.

Underground baiting for pocket gopher control with strychnine presents
minimal hazards to non-target wildlife, either by direct consumption of
bait or by eating poisoned gophers.

Poison bait spilled on the surface of the ground may be hazardous to
ground-feeding birds such as mourning doves.

The main drawback to grain baits is their high susceptibility to
decomposition in the damp burrows. A new product that contains a grain
mixture plus the anticoagulant, diphcinone, in paraffin block not only
increases the bait's effective life, but also makes it possible for more
than one gopher to be killed with the same bait.

Once the resident gopher ingests the toxicant and dies, it is typical
for a neighboring gopher to take over the tunnel system and thus to
ingest the still-toxic bait.

Bait can be placed in a burrow system by hand, using a special
hand-operated bait dispenser probe, or by making an opening to the
burrow system with a probe.

The key to efficient and effective use of these methods is locating the
burrow system. The main burrow generally is found 12 to 18 inches away
from the plug on the fan-shaped mounds. If you use a trowel or shovel to
locate the main burrow, dig 12 to 18 inches away from the plug.

When the main burrow is located, place a rounded tablespoon of bait in
each direction. Place the bait well into each tunnel system with a
long-handled spoon and then block off each tunnel with sod clumps and
soil. Bait blocks are also applied in this manner.

The reason for closing the burrow is that pocket gophers are attracted
to openings in their system with the intent of closing them with soil.
Thus, if there is a detectable opening near the placement of poison, the
gopher may cover the bait with soil as it plugs the opening.

Pocket gophers normally travel all portions of their burrow system
during a day.

Place a probe for pocket gopher tunnels where you expect to locate the
main burrow as described above. You will know you have located a burrow
by the decreased friction on the probe. With a reservoir-type bait probe
dispenser, a button is pushed when the probe is in a burrow and a
metered dose of bait drops into the burrow.

With the burrow probe, make an opening from the surface of the ground
to the burrow. Place about a tablespoon of bait down the probe opening.
This method is much quicker than digging open the burrow tunnel.

For best control, dose each burrow system in two or three places. Be
sure to cover the probe hole with a sod clump so the gopher does not
cover the bait when attracted to the opening in its burrow.

Since some gophers poisoned in this manner die aboveground, the area
should be checked periodically for 10 to 14 days after treatment.

The burrow builder delivers bait underground mechanically, so large
areas can be economically treated for gopher control. It is
tractor-drawn and is available in hydraulically operated units or
three-point hitch models.

The device consists of a knife and torpedo assembly that makes the
artificial burrow at desired soil depths, a coulter blade that cuts
roots of plants ahead of the knife, a seeder assembly for bait
dispensing, and the packer wheel assembly to close the burrow behind the

The seeder box has a metering device for dispensing various toxic baits
at desired rates.

Artificial burrows should be constructed at a depth similar to those
constructed by gophers in your area. The artificial burrows may
intercept the gopher burrows, or the gophers may inquisitively enter the
artificial burrows, gather bait in their cheek pouches and return to
their burrow system to consume the bait.

Burrows should be spaced at 20-to 25-foot intervals.

Federally registered fumigants include aluminum phosphide and gas
cartridges with various active ingredients. These fumigants usually are
not very successful in treating pocket gophers because the gas moves too
slowly through the tunnel system.

Unless the soil is moist, the fumigant will diffuse through the soil
out of the gopher's tunnel.

Carbon monoxide from automobile exhaust is more effective than other
fumigants because of its greater volume and pressure.

Connect a hose or pipe to the engine exhaust and place it in a tunnel
near a fresh soil mound. Pack soil around the hose or pipe and allow the
engine to run for about three minutes. The method is usually 90 percent

Engines of newer vehicles with anti-pollution devices require a longer
running time since they do not produce as much carbon monoxide. This
procedure requires no registration.

Trapping is extremely effective for pocket gopher control in small
areas and for removal of remaining animals after a poisoning control

Since gophers spend essentially all their time below ground, shooting
is impractical.

Benefits versus damages determines control need

It is relatively easy to determine the value of the forage lost to
pocket gophers. Plain pocket gophers reduced forage yield on rangeland
in western Nebraska by 21 per cent to 49 percent on different range

Alfalfa yields in eastern Nebraska were reduced as much as 46 percent
in dryland and 35 percent in irrigated alfalfa. Losses of 30 percent
have been reported for hay meadows.

Calculating the cost of control operations is only slightly more
complicated. However, the benefit-cost analysis of control is still not

The potential for complete yield recovery the first year following
gopher removal has been noted for a fibrous-rooted variety of alfalfa.

Economic assessment should also be made to determine the cost of no
control, the speed of pocket gopher infestation and the costs associated
with dulled or plugged mowing machinery or mechanical breakdowns caused
by the mounds.

Assessment could also be made for damages to buried cable, irrigation
structures, trees, etc.

The benefits of pocket gophers also complicate the economic analysis.
Some of these benefits are: increased soil fertility by adding organic
matter such as buried vegetation and fecal wastes, increased soil
aeration and decreased soil compaction, increased water infiltration and
thus decreased runoff; and increased rate of soil formation by bringing
subsoil material to the surface of the ground, subjecting it to

All producers in Reeves County who have signed preliminary worksheets
(CRP2) should come to the Farm Services Agency office to submit a bid on
the proposed CRP acreage, said Harold Ross, acting county executive

The bid cannot exceed the maximum rate computed for each tract of land.
A bid above the maximum will not be considered.

The final day to submit a bid is Friday.

"You might want to call the FSA office to make sure your maximum bid has
been computed," Ross said.

The telephone number is 445-2616.

New horizon taps horizontal prospects

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PECOS, Mar. 25, 1997 - The Delaware Basin of West Texas has always been
a bread and butter place for the independent oil man; now a Dallas
company has the key to really unlock the potential found beneath us.

Pecos, once known as the wild west, a land ruled by Judge Roy Bean
and/or the man with the fastest draw, was established in 1881 as a stop
on the Texas and Pacific Railroad and gained early fame as hangout for
rowdy cowboys.

Oil was first discovered in 1903 by J.D. Leatherman, or at least he was
the first to report seeing it in an 86-foot-deep water well 16 miles
northwest of Toyah. It is thought that this oil was discovered while men
hand-dug water wells to be used by the steam locamotive.

* By the late 1950's, the exploitation of oil from this area became a
major part of the economy.

Reeves County is part of what is known as the Trans-Pecos region, and
within this region is the Delaware Basin which contains some of the most
prolific and productive petroleum fields in the State of Texas.

* The oil boom was over by the mid 1980's and oil production from the
area began to decline. With oil prices hovering near $16 per barrel,
3,000-6,000 foot wells in the Delaware Basin that might produce 30-60
barrels of oil per day were no longer economic to drill.

Today oil prices are rising, and New Horizon Exploration, Inc., an oil
producer in Reeves County since 1986, has taken the first step to
introduce certain technology to the area that will once again stimulate
interest for the oil sands of the Delaware Basin.

* By using state of the art technology, New Horizon is creating
horizontal drains in the sands of the Delaware Mountain Group. The
company believes that the drains will increase the initial oil flow
rates by more than five times and ultimate oil recovery from its wells
by three fold.

Vertical wells producing from the Delaware sands may initially flow
30-60 barrels of oil per day and over a 30 year period may produce in
excess of 100,000 barrels of oil.

* Geologists and oil companies have known for a long time that there is
a lot of oil in place in Reeves County, but getting the oil out of the
ground at economic rates has been the tallest hurdle to paydirt, said
Greg Boyles, NHE president.

The Midland Reporter-Telegram reported in January, 1997, that Texaco
had successfully completed four horizontal drains in Winkler County, on
the eastern side of the Delaware Basin. Texaco's success resulted in IP
rates as high as 650 barrels of oil per day and 600 MCFPD.

By comparison, their good vertical wells typically produced 50-60
barrels of oil per day with 200 barrels of water. It was also reported
that the water production from the horizontal wells decreased

"In one instance, produced water disappeared to one barrel per day.
Even more exciting is that Texaco completed the flowing wells without
fracing or acidizing which will greatly enhance the economics of the
play," said Boyles.

Boyle said that three steps to a successful horizontal well program are
design, execution, and evaluation.

Each prospect area has unique requirements that demand specialized
experience and technology essential to achieving optimum production
results. New Horizon has created a specialized team and pulled together
specialized equipment to implement its plan.

Using a top head drive power swivel as compared to a conventional
rotary rig, New Horizon plans to place its horizontal drain within the
top four feet of the pay sand. NHE actually steers the bit by using
state of the art geosteering tools and a positive displacement motor
guided and controlled from the surface through electromagnetic telemetry.

Wellbore measurements also occur in real time, as the well is being
drilled. As a result, NHE says that they can see where they are as the
horizontal drain is being created.

Horizontal drilling is more expensive, but more profitable, Boyles said.

Although the cost of a horizonal well is higher than the cost of a
vertical well, the ultimate recovery and higher initial oil flow rates
can more than offset this difference.

Volumetric equations show that a 1,300-foot drain should effectively
produce from 76 acres as compared to the 20-30 acres that a vertical
well might drain.

James E. Stinson, geologist for New Horizon, says, "The longer your
horizontal section, the greater your effective drainage will be. The
advantage to this approach is that you are able to drill fewer wells to
drain the oil in place. Fewer wells also means less lifting cost and
higher returns on your capital costs."

FSA training offered Saturday

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PECOS, Mar. 25, 1997 - Farmers who are required to take production
management training before they receive financing through the Farm
Service agency may take the first course in Pecos Saturday.

Robert Detlefsen, director of Texas Farmers Training CoOp, said Part 1
of the five-part Top Quality Production management training will be
offered in the agricultural extension office at 700 Daggett St. from
8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Part 1 must be completed before the remaining classes can be taken, and
it will not be offered again in this area before fall, Detlefsen said.

Registration deadline is Friday.

Parts 2-5 will be combined and presented in two full-day classes later.

"If you have already taken Bottom Line Farming financial training,
taking this production program will complete all of your FSA training
requirements," Detlefsen said.

Bee stings produce hero

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HOUSTON - William Clayton (Clay) Nuckles of Hondo has been named rural
hero of 1996, according to Ben Bullard, president of the Texas Farm and
Ranch Safety Council.

Nuckles was honored March 17, at the Texas Safety Association's 58th
Annual Texas/Southwestern Safety Conference and Exposition here. The
award honors an individual who performed or attempted an heroic act of
human-lifesaving related to farming and ranching.

Although Clay was unable to save the life of his father, John, he is
credited with going beyond the call of duty, and almost died himself in
the attempt. On May 15, 1996, while clearing land with a bulldozer in
Medina County about 19 miles north of D'Hanis, John was attacked by a
large swarm of bees.

Seeing his father slumped over in the tractor seat, Clay attempted to
get the bees off of him, getting stung himself in the process. John, who
had emphysema, was at this time gasping hard, trying to get air in his
lungs. Clay - knowing his father was in no condition to use the inhaler
- pumped the medication into his own mouth, and tried to blow it into
his dad's lungs.

By this time John has lost consciousness. Clay performed CPR on him,
then decided to try to carry his father to their truck, located about
two miles away.

About a mile later - Clay, deciding his father had died - walked the
rest of the way to his truck, called the EMS on his mobile phone, went
back to where his father lay, and took him in the truck to meet the EMS.

Clay's attempts to save his dad were in vain. What the young man didn't
know was that he was close to death himself. The EMS personnel gave Clay
the injections needed to fight the bee venom and drove him to meet the
helicopter that would take him to the hospital in San Antonio.

"No one really knew how much danger Clay was in until the doctors
explained to the family how close he came to dying himself," Mary
Cantrell, his mother, relates. "It turned out that he had over 150 bee
stings, plus the emotional shock that he had been through."

Although doctors told Clay he did all that was possible to save his
dad, Cantrell said Clay still questions his actions.

"This young man was only 24 years old when this happened, but he used
common sense way beyond his years trying to help his dad," Cantrell
says. "He would be the first to tell you he is no hero, but everyone who
knows him and knows what happened that day will tell you different."

Farmers' needs top priority

in cutting county FSA staff

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The National Cotton Council urged USDA to consider farmers' needs
before implementing budget-driven staffing and structural changes to the
department's county-based service delivery system.

The system, which has undergone downsizing since 1994, faces further
reductions under President Clinton's fiscal 1998-2002 budget-balancing

Included would be reductions in non-federal county and federal staffing
in the Farm Services Agency as well as Rural Development staffing. USDA
is reviewing the budget proposal with the aim of improving efficiency
through sharing administrative services and adjusting staffing.

Since Congress' reorganizing legislation in 1994, USDA has closed or
consolidated about 1,200 county locations and created 2,500 service
centers to deliver programs at the local level. Significant reductions
in employment in county-based agencies occurred.

Between fiscal 1993 and 1996, federal staffing in the FSA has been
reduced by 16 percent, county office staffing by 15 percent, Rural
Development agencies' staffing by 16 percent and Natural Resources
Conservation Service staffing by 14 percent.

"We appreciate that USDA is seeking to improve efficiency, but our hope
is that any streamlining will not be done at the expense of a
degradation of adequate service to producers," said Council President
William T. Lovelady.

"Cotton producers are concerned that further downsizing may compromise
USDA's ability to deliver programs authorized in the farm law at the
local level, particularly when the Conservation Reserve Program signup
begins," he said.

The Tornillo, cotton producesalso asked that USDA seek the cotton
industry's input in the review process and consider distance and
workload in their evaluation. He said closings or consolidations should
neither force producers to drive long distances to FSA offices nor
reduce staffing in those offices to the level that services can't be
rendered effectively.

Milk production down

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Texas milk production totaled 505 million pounds during February, down
6 percent from last year. The production for January, 1997 totaled 542
million pounds.

The number of milk cows during February averaged 390,000 head, down
10,000 head from last year, and the same as last month. Production per
cow averaged 1,295 pounds during February compared with 1,345 pounds for
last year and 1,390 during January, 1997.

Production in the last 20 states participating in the monthly survey
totaled 10.4 billion pounds, two percent below production in these same
states in February, 1996. The revised production for January, 1997
totaled 11.2 billion pounds, up one percent from January, 1996.

Production per cow during February averaged 1,337 pounds, 10 pounds
below a year ago. Total number of milk cows in the 20 states was 7.75
million head, 81,000 head less than last year and 10,000 head less than
January, 1997.

Feedlot cattle up from year ago

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Cattle and calves on feed for slaughter market in Texas feedlots with
capacity of 1,000 head or more totaled 2.50 million on March 1, up 5
percent from a year ago. According to the monthly report released by the
Texas Agricultural Statistics Service, the estimate was down 2 percent
from the revised Feb. 1 level.

Producers placed 410,000 head in commercial feedlots during February,
up 9 percent from a year ago and up six percent from the January, 1997

Texas commercial feeders marketed 450,000 head during February, down
one percent from a year ago. Monthly marketings were up 2 percent from
the revised January, 1997 total.

On March 1 there were 1.94 million head of cattle and calves on feed in
the Northern High Plains, 78 percent of the state's total. The number on
feed across the area increased 5 percent from last year but was down 3
percent from last month.

February placements in the Northern High Plains totled 324,000 head, up
8 percent from last month. Marketings increased 6 percent from last
month to 372,000 head.

Cattle and calves on feed for slaughter market in the United States in
feedlots with a capacity of 1,000 head or more totaled 10.28 million
head on March 1. The inventory was 6 percent above March 1, 1996.

Placements in feedlots during February totaled 1.77 million, 3 percent
above 1996. During February, placements of cattle and calves weighing
less than 600 pounds were 352,000; 600-699 pounds were 500,000; 700-799
pounds were 606,000; 800 pounds and greater were 314,000.

Marketings of fed cattle during February totaled 1.78 million, 4
percent below 1996.

Feeders in the historical seven monthly states with feedlots having a
capacity of 1,000 head or more reported 8.77 million head on feed March
1, up 8 percent from last year and 7 percent above March 1, 1995.

February placements totaled 1.53 million head, 6 percent above last
year but slightly below 1995. Marketings during February, at 1.53
million head, were down one percent from last year but 11 percent above

Highly erodible land is focus

of conservation reserve plan

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The National Cotton Council urged lawmakers not to lose sight of the
Conservation Reserve Program's original goal - reducing soil erosion.

In testimony on behalf of the Council, Jackie Burris, a Wellman,
cottown producter, told a House subcommittee on Forstry, Resource
Conservation and Research that imoportant gains made under CRP over the
past decade should not be undone by dramatically altering existing goals
and operating procedures.

"We appreciate that continued success of the program is dependent on a
broadening of its objectives to include air and water quality, and
wildlife without advertently competing for productive acres," Burris
said. "It will be counterproductive, however, to change the CRP so
drastically that highly erodible acres that need to remain in the
program are no longer eligible."

Burris said the Council has concerns about the CRP's Environmental
Benefits Index which will be used to calculate which land is ultimately
able to participate. He said that index will actually exclude a
significant percentage of existing contracts covering land that should
be in the program. He added, however, that the Council was encouraged by
assurances from FSA Assistant Deputy Administrator Parks Shackelford
that there would be no significant geographical shift in current CRP
acreage under the new criteria.

"In the most highly erodible areas, like West Texas, landowners will be
left with very few options if they are unable to continue to participate
in the CRP," he noted. "Because of fixed costs, such as property taxes,
there will often be little choice except to cultivate the land."

Burris said the Texas plains has more acres currently enrolled in the
CRP than any other region of the Cotton Belt, and the program has an
important environmental and economic impact on that region.

Burris also testified that there has been a good deal of confusion
regarding how soil type maps were used to determine rental rates for
land entering the CRP.

"Allowing those closer to the land to determine is true economic value
will encourage participation and further the goals of the program," he

Agri-spring break story is web fantasy vacation

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COLLEGE STATION - An imaginary box full of surprises has been delivered
to the World Wide Web, and visitors are urged to take the items on a
fantasy vacation to mark National Agriculture Week: Texas Style.

"My Agri-Spring Break," is an interactive story designed to teach the
public more about the state's No. 2 industry. It was developed by Texas
A&M University's Agriculture Program News and Public Affairs Team.

Players can access the interactive story, as part of the National
Agriculture Week: Texas Style home page, beginning March 17 at Players who follow the lead to write
their own story online will be able to print the results and post their
unique version online for others to read.

"Agriculture is a high tech industry, so we wanted to celebrate
Agriculture Week in the most modern way," said Kathleen Davis, Texas
Agricultural Experiment Station communications specialist.
"Agriculture's influence truly is felt from the farms and ranches to the
inner cities. The Ag Week interactive story writing effort will help
everyone make that connection."
The surprise box featured in the interactive story contains links to
almost 50 topics pertaining to research and education from Texas A&M's
Agriculture Program across the state. It was designed to provide useful
information to the site's visitors while teaching people - primarily
children - how to navigate on the Web.

Visitors will be able to explore the fascinating world of agriculture,
nutrition and environmental science while writing an interactive story.
By choosing a series of topics - from maroon carrots to squirmy worms to
rattlesnake venom - each student can compose a unique, exciting story
that will be stored online for the world to see!

In addition to the interactive story game, visitors to the National
Agriculture Week: Texas Style page will find links to information about
agriculture research, youth programs, a virtual city called AGropolis,
Spanish publications, fun facts, gardening pages for all ages, and
suggestions for teachers who use the page in classrooms.

Teachers who use the home page and email back new suggestions for using
the site as an instructional tool will receive a free video with two
segments appropriate for the spring season: Living with Africanized
Honey Bees, and Children and Africanized Honey Bees.

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