Farm News for the Mid-Atlantic Region
Note: Some stories are written in broadcast style
Landowners in WV warned: Don't be a victim of timber theft
CHARLESTON - Many timber theft cases involve absentee landowners who are vulnerable because they aren’t around to protect their property. That's according to officials with the West Virginia Department of Forestry who say in most of these cases, the thief is often long gone by the time the crime is discovered.
All told, a group of forestry economists estimates that timber theft in the U.S. exceeds $1 billion a year, enough to provide the wood for about 25,000 homes. By comparison, auto theft is around $8 billion a year. So timber theft is not petty theft at all; it needs to garner the kind of attention its magnitude warrants.
In rural counties, which are often small and close-knit, information about who is home and who is away is easy to discover. The intent of timber thieves is to get in, get the timber, and get out before being caught. Once the operation is over, it’s very difficult to locate the thief or prove the theft.
Besides ‘get-in-and-get-out,’ logging thieves may take other steps to conceal their activity. Victims find it’s common for the logger to bulldoze a road into a property from the back side – over a ridge from another drainage, perhaps – and take the cut trees out that same way. Anybody observing the truckloads of logs coming out of that drainage area will assume that they are being legally cut in that drainage area, not that they have been stolen from another property across a ridge.
The West Virginia Senate recently approved a bill making it an offense to steal timber from state forests. Individuals who steal timber valued under $25,000 would be guilty of a misdemeanor and could face up to a year of jail time and/or a fine of up to $500. Thefts valued at more than $25,000 would be considered a felony and perpetrators could face up to three years in jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
The West Virginia Department of Forestry offers these tips to avoid being a victim of timber theft:
* Have someone you know and trust immediately report any cutting or trespassing on your land.
* Mark all property lines to assure cutting on adjacent property does not encroach on yours.
All forest landowners:
* Have a Bill of Sale before any cutting begins and NEVER sign a contract without checking several references of the buyer.
* For the best price, insist on getting bids for your timber. Most importantly, if you do not know the timber business, find someone who does to help you determine volumes, current prices and potential bidders.
NC raises 2014 boll weevil assessment to $1 per acre
RALEIGH -- The board of the Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation of North Carolina has set the 2014 boll weevil assessment at $1 per acre of cotton. This amount is 30 cents more than the 2013 assessment and reflects the foundation’s support of a new National Cotton Council initiative for a boll weevil buffer zone in south Texas.
In addition, the fee supports the foundation’s efforts to monitor cotton acreage in North Carolina for any re-introduction of the boll weevil and to respond promptly with eradication treatments if necessary. The boll weevil was eradicated in the state in 1986.
“Cotton remains a significant crop for North Carolina, and our cotton growers want to keep the boll weevil as far away from the state as possible, which is why the National Cotton Council’s initiative has the support of both the N.C. Cotton Producers Association and the N.C. Farm Bureau,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “Overall, the boll weevil assessment is an excellent investment for growers, ensuring any spot re-introductions of boll weevils in this state are identified and dealt with quickly.”
Foundation contractors will install and monitor traps from late summer until after harvest and frost. Because the focus of North Carolina’s program has shifted from eradication to monitoring, the number of traps in fields has decreased. As such, each trap is critical, and farmers are encouraged to contact the foundation if traps are damaged or knocked down.
More than 8,600 traps were placed and maintained in North Carolina last year, with each trap monitoring an average of 52.6 acres. To allow for trapping and monitoring, cotton growers are required to certify cotton acreage information with their local U.S. Farm Service Agency office by July 15.
Farmers in 54 counties grew 453,096 certified acres of cotton last year. The top three cotton-growing counties were Halifax, Northampton and Martin.
To learn more about the boll weevil monitoring program, go online to www.ncagr.gov/plantindustry/plant/entomology/BW.htm.
U.S. milk safer than ever, annual FDA report finds
RICHMOND - America’s milk supply was safe in 2012, and it was even safer in 2013, according to a recently released U.S. Food & Drug Administration report.
The FDA’s annual analysis of animal drug residues in milk found no positive animal drug residue in pasteurized dairy products in the United States. Of the raw milk samples taken, only .014 percent tested positive for medicinal animal drug residues, down from .017 percent in 2012.
“This shows that dairy farmers remain vigilant in complying with veterinary pharmaceutical and milk quality requirements,” said Tony Banks, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation commodity marketing specialist.
In late February, the FDA released its annual National Milk Drug Residue Data analysis of animal drug residue tests in milk from Oct. 1, 2012, through Sept. 30, 2013.
More than 3.5 million milk samples were taken at farms, from bulk milk pickup tankers carrying raw milk from dairy farms, from packaged pasteurized milk and milk products and at other points in the dairy supply chain.
“Milk quality sampling occurs at multiple levels, from the farm to retail outlets, throughout the product chain to ensure that the milk and dairy products consumers purchase are safe as well as fresh and wholesome,” Banks said.
All milk processing plants are required to test raw milk prior to receiving it. Milk loads are tested for antibiotics, and any tanker that tests positive for an animal drug residue is rejected and the milk discarded. That ensures that no milk with drug residue enters the market for human consumption.
“Dairy farmers want to make sure the product they ship is safe. There’s no economic benefit for farmers to ship tainted milk,” Banks said.
Dairy products on store shelves were tested in all 50 states and Puerto Rico and were free of drug residue, the FDA reported.
Coalition of youth groups launch "Keep Kids Away From Tractors" Campaign
A child dies from injuries on a farm an average of once every 3.5 days. According to the National Safety Council's most recent report, the most common situation involves a tractor.
"Keep Kids Away from Tractors," is the unified message of the Childhood Agricultural Safety Network, a coalition of 38 health, safety and youth organizations. The coalition's campaign urges adults to think twice before allowing children 12-under to operate tractors or ride on them.
The month of March is popular for week-long ag safety observances by several national organizations. The coalition urges individuals and groups to incorporate CASN resources in their safety initiatives. Posters, radio ads and more information can be found at http://www.childagsafety.org/TractorCampaign.htm.
Consider these incidents from the past year:
• A 1-year-old North Dakota boy died after falling from a tractor driven by his father. His 4-year-old brother survived.
• A 6-year-old Minnesota boy died with his grandfather when the tractor they were riding rolled over.
• A 5-year-old Kansas girl died when she fell through the windshield of a combine driven by her father.
The biggest tragedy of all? These deaths were 100 percent preventable.
Allowing young children to ride on a tractor is considered a tradition by many. But remember -- "It's easier to bury a tradition than a child."
WEBINAR!: "Keep Kids Away from Tractors" will be featured in a webinar at 1 PM (ET), Wednesday, March 12. Presenting on behalf of the National Children's Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety will be Director Barbara Lee, Ph.D., and Marsha Salzwedel, M.S.
The webinar is sponsored by the Childhood Agricultural Safety Network and AgriSafe Network. Register at www.agrisafe.org.
Penn State seeks to attract more Ag students with open house
UNIVERSITY PARK - Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences will hold an informative open house for prospective students in mid-April. University officials say many young people simply are not aware of the many careers available in agriculture and food sciences.
The world of careers and employment can be confusing, noted Marianne Fivek, assistant professor of agricultural and extension education and the college's undergraduate recruitment coordinator. Young people often don't think of pursuing a career in the ag sciences.
"Selecting a career can be tough for anyone, and it's even tougher if you're a teenager in or just out of high school," Fivek said. "Sometimes the best choices aren't immediately obvious, especially to a high school student who hasn't settled on clear career goals."
She said attending an event such as this can introduce young people to career options that they haven't thought of but might be interested in. "It's great to see the light go on in young people's eyes, as they discover a career that they might not have associated with the agricultural sciences."
The event is slated for 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, April 14, in Heritage Hall of the Hetzel Union Building -- also known as the HUB.
The open-house setting is relaxed and informal, Fivek pointed out. About 50 faculty, staff and students from the college will be there, so visitors can get personal attention as they visit with faculty or talk with students about university life.
Prospective students and their families will learn about the college and what it offers in terms of majors, minors, clubs, organizations, societies, internships, research and education abroad.
The event will feature sessions offering information about the college's 17 academic majors, during which attendees will hear from faculty members about programs in the following disciplines: agricultural sciences; business and education; animal science and pre-vet studies; biomedical and food sciences; energy, engineering and technology; environmental sciences and natural resources; and plant sciences.
Tours will be available, including of such facilities as the Food Science Building and Berkey Creamery, the Forest Resources Building, the equine facility and the large-animal facilities. After a lunch break, students and their families can visit the EARTH House in North Halls residence halls and take a walking tour of the campus.
Families also can visit the Penn State Bookstore and the Penn State University Libraries.
The event is open to all prospective college students and their families. Students can register online at the College of Agricultural Sciences' Future Students website. Walk-ins to the event are welcome.
N.C. peach growers to vote on assessment in April
RALEIGH — Peach growers across the state will have a chance to vote on an assessment for commercial orchards during a mail-in referendum in April. The assessment was proposed by the N.C. Peach Growers Society to generate funds for peach research and marketing.
This is the society’s second attempt to establish an assessment for the peach industry. A referendum last October failed to achieve the two-thirds majority vote needed to pass. Under state law, a second referendum may be held within a year if the original fails.
“Growers from across the state weighed the pros and cons of an assessment during the society’s annual meeting in January,” said Dexter Hill, peach marketing specialist for the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. “It was decided the peach industry could really benefit from the research and marketing an assessment could provide.”
Ballots will be mailed to each commercial orchard in the state on April 1. Growers will have 10 days to return the ballots. Additional ballots will be available at local N.C. Cooperative Extension offices, or may be downloaded at http://peaches.ces.ncsu.edu.
To vote, an individual must be 18 years old by April 1 and also be an orchard owner, designated family member or an orchard manager. Each orchard gets one vote.
If passed, the annual assessment would be based on the total number of peach trees per commercial orchard. Those who grow between 100 and 500 trees would be assessed $100. Growers with 501 to 2,500 trees would be assessed $250. Those who grow more than 2,500 trees would be assessed $350.
To pass, the assessment needs a two-thirds majority of votes. The assessment would be in effect from January 2015 through December 2020.
More information about the referendum is available on the N.C. Peach Growers Society’s website at www.ncpeachgrowers.com/referendum.
USDA: Snapshot of Virginia agriculture came at good time
RICHMOND - Preliminary findings from the 2012 U.S. Census of Agriculture were released Feb. 20, and Virginia came out looking pretty good in some respects. The U.S. Department of Agriculture surveys America’s farmers every five years.
The most recent survey found that, in contrast to surrounding states, the amount of land in farms in Virginia increased by more than 229,000 acres, to a total of 8.33 million acres. The average farm size also grew by 10 acres, to 181 acres.
“Based on the preliminary report, we noticed that any Virginia farm that has 100 acres or more increased in size in 2012,” said Herman Ellison, Virginia statistician for the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.
“The other category we can look at is farms by economic class. (In 2012), farms that generated $50,000 in income or more also increased in number, while our (smaller) farms generating less than $50,000 a year decreased” from 41,645 in 2007 to 39,113 in 2012.”
It’s hard to draw strong conclusions from the preliminary report, Ellison said; the full census report is expected in May. But he noted that 2012 was a year with record prices for grain farmers.
“That’s when we had high grain prices for corn, soybeans and wheat. This is also the year there was a major drought in the Midwest grain areas. Our corn yields didn’t do so well, but we had a record year for soybean production.”
Timing might have been everything when it came to the larger numbers for Virginia farmland, said Dr. Gordon Groover, an associate professor in Virginia Tech’s Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics. He speculated that higher grain prices going into 2012 might have led some farmers to convert pastures and hay land to crop production, especially in Southside Virginia. As for farms getting larger, that’s a long-term trend he wasn’t surprised to see continue.
“If capital inputs like tractors, buildings and land prices have increased in costs, the one way for farmers to stay current is to expand production and reduce the fixed cost per unit of production,” Groover said.
Tony Banks, assistant director of commodity marketing for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, said the Census of Agriculture “is a five-year snapshot that captures an image of the agricultural economy. In 2012 we saw high grain and oilseed prices and higher meat and dairy prices. But many areas of Virginia, as well as the nation, were experiencing drought” and were affected by other circumstances not captured by the census, such as severe weather and exchange rates.
That means that, while the latest census paints a good picture for Virginia agriculture, the battle for farm profitability never ends, Banks said.
“In 2014 grain prices are expected to trend lower, and cattlemen are trying to rebuild their herds after a couple years of drought and responding to higher beef prices. So farmers are always facing an ever-changing set of factors.”
Among general trends in the preliminary census report, the average age of a Virginia farmer crept up again, from 58 to 59. The number of Virginia farmers dropped from 47,383 in 2007 to 46,036 in 2012, and the number of female farmers declined from 7,846 in 2007 to 7,653 in 2012.
Snowy, wet winter weather in Virginia helping groundwater levels
CHARLOTTESVILLE - Cold temperatures and regularly occurring snowstorms this winter have even hardy folks like Virginia farmers eager for spring to arrive.
The good news is Virginia’s groundwater supplies have been mostly replenished, said Jerry Stenger, director of the Virginia Climatology Office. Winter precipitation is vital across the state, because once the growing season begins, vegetation and high temperatures quickly start to deplete water supplies.
“Since October, the majority of Virginians have received normal to well above normal precipitation,” Stenger said. “Areas along the North Carolina border, much of Southwest Virginia and the central Shenandoah Valley have been notably drier, with some locations receiving less than 75 percent of normal. Nonetheless, the lower-than-normal temperatures across the commonwealth have kept evaporation rates down to reduce moisture loss.
“The net result is that the available precipitation, including the recent snowfall event, has kept monitored stream flows and groundwater levels in the normal range and above across the state,” Stenger said. “The only exception is one stream flow gauge in the central Shenandoah Valley. There is still a month or more of cooler temperatures left before the growing season gets fully under way. This will be a period when additional precipitation will have a good chance to contribute to the longer-term reserves.”
The Virginia office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service reports winter small grain crops like wheat finished the month of January in mostly fair to good condition. Only 8 percent of the winter crops were rated in poor or very poor condition in a survey of farmers and Virginia Cooperative Extension agents across the state.
“The small grain crop is growing very slowly,” reported David Moore, an Extension agent in Middlesex County. “Top-dressing of fields (needing fertilizer) is delayed due to frozen ground. Also, lime applications on fields that need it over the fall and winter months have been delayed.”
Scott Reiter, an Extension agent in Prince George County, said “limited” field work was accomplished in January due to cold, wet or snowy conditions. “Small grain producers have struggled to get herbicides and nitrogen applied” in a timely manner, he said in the NASS report.
WV releases data on 2013 crop production
CHARLESTON - Corn for grain value of production in West Virginia totaled $24.87 million in 2013, a 23 percent decrease from $32.26 million in 2012. The marketing year average price received per bushel for corn was $4.70, down $2.50 from $7.20 per bushel in 2012.
The value of all wheat production in 2013 was $2.28 million, a 21 percent increase from the 2012 crop value of $1.89 million. Growers received an average of $6.25 per bushel for the 2013 crop, down one dollar from the price per bushel of $7.25 in 2012.
Soybeans value of production totaled $12.37 million, a 12 percent decrease from the 2012 value of $14.01 million. The average price received per bushel for soybeans was $12.80. This was down $1.50 from the 2012 average price of $14.30 per bushel.
The value of all hay production totaled $135.12 million in 2013, a 20 percent increase from the 2012 value of $112.36 million. The average price received per ton was $113.00, $4.00 more than the 2012 average price of $109.00 per ton.
The value of alfalfa hay production totaled $15.99 million in 2013, a 62 percent increase from the 2012 value of $9.88 million. The average price received per ton was $195.00, $5.00 more than the 2012 average price of $190.00 per ton.
The value of all other hay production totaled $119.13 million in 2013, 16 percent more than the 2012 value of $102.48 million. The average price received per ton was $110.00, $5.00 more than the 2012 average price of $105.00 per ton.
USDA: Expect lower farm income in 2014, rebounding over the next decade
WASHINGTON, DC - Analysts with the USDA forecast lower overall farm income for 2014. But the news is not all bad when considering the next decade. "There's no question we're seeing a softening farm economy," said USDA Chief Economist Joe Glauber. The latest USDA farm income forecast shows a 26 percent drop in net farm income this year.
"The financial picture going into this year is very positive. Farmers, their assets, have built. They're still carrying very low levels of debt relative to their asset," said Glauber. He says farm asset values this year will likely go up another 2.5 percent, outpacing the 2.3 percent expected rise in farm debt, leaving this year's debt-to-asset ratio at a record low, 10.5 percent.
But farmers may not have as much cash free to buy things like new equipment.
Overall U.S. net farm income should remain historically high over much of the next decade based on strong overseas demand for agricultural products, according to the USDA's 10-year baseline projection.
While farm commodity prices may fall in the short term as global production responds to recent high prices, "long-run developments for global agricultural products reflect steady world economic growth and continued global demand for bio-fuels," USDA said in the report.
Exports of U.S. corn, for example, are expected to climb to 1.7 billion bushels in the 2014-2015 crop year (which begins Sept. 1) from 1.4 billion bushels in the current year. By 2023, overseas shipments may reach 2.25 billion bushels.
Soybean exports should increase to 1.79 billion bushels during the 2023-2024 crop year, compared to 1.45 billion in the current year and 1.64 billion bushels in the year starting Sept. 1, USDA said. A record crop of 3.48 billion bushels is projected, up from 3.258 billion last year. Production may jump to 3.785 billion bushels in 2023, USDA said.
The baseline report assumes there will be no "domestic or external shock" that would affect agricultural markets and that "normal weather" conditions will prevail. It also is based on provisions in the 2008 farm bill. Global economic growth of 3.2 percent a year is assumed, while U.S. growth is expected to be 2.6 percent annually.
The report is not a "forecast," the USDA cautions. "Instead, it is a description of what would be expected to happen under these very specific circumstances and assumptions."
Strawberry growers solicited in WV
CHARLESTON - Fresh, local strawberries are needed for the West Virginia Strawberry Festival to stock a new “Strawberry Market” planned for this year’s event.
The Strawberry Festival board, the City of Buckhannon and the West Virginia Department of Agriculture are working cooperatively with private farmers to have local berries for sale at a retail tent on Main Street adjacent to the Courthouse. Plans are to have the market open on Friday and Saturday of the festival, which is scheduled for May 10-18, 2014.
“This great festival is an excellent opportunity for local farmers to benefit from the visitors that pour into Upshur County each May,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Walt Helmick. “I believe that festival-goers are more than willing to pay a premium for fresh, local berries. But like the other tremendous food-related opportunities in our state, we need more growers to become involved.”
He added that the increasing prevalence and use of high and low tunnels – low-cost, unheated greenhouse-type structures – makes fresh berries in mid-May a more practical proposition than in past years.
In past decades, local farmers produced enough berries for the festival and for export. One undated historical report in the archives of the Upshur County Historical Society notes that more than 1,500 gallons of berries were shipped to Pittsburgh. It also said that farmers would be supplying cherries, raspberries and currants later in the season.
He also said that some people who are interested in growing for the festival may not be able to have fruit this year because most varieties take more than a year to produce good yields.
“Regardless, we want to get the ball rolling on this project, which is an initiative for the economic future of our state. It’s been a long time since local berries were widely available at the West Virginia Strawberry Festival. I believe if festival-goers get a taste of berries this year, they will demand them next year and in the years to come.”
For more information, contact WVDA Communications Officer Buddy Davidson at 304-558-3708 or 304-541-5932.
Farm Bureau applauds new Farm Bill
WASHINGTON, D.C. - President Barack Obama recently signed the 2014 farm bill on the campus of Michigan State University. After more than two years of dedicated work toward passage, farmers and ranchers from across the nation now have answers about how they can manage the many and varied risks they face in producing food and fiber, according to American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman.
“It’s been a bumpy road for the farm bill over the past several years, with many twists and turns, but farmers never gave up nor lost momentum in working toward its passage,” Stallman said. “Farm Bureau believes this farm bill will give farmers and ranchers a measure of business certainty for this and coming years, allowing them to better manage risk while carrying out the important business of providing food and jobs for America.”
Stallman credited congressional Agriculture Committee leaders, House Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), House Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), Senate Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), and Senate Ranking Member Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), for their leadership, perseverance and cooperation during what was a long, difficult and politically charged farm bill cycle.
“We are thrilled that the farm bill has passed,” said Virginia Farm Bureau Fed. President Wayne F. Pryor. “The conservation programs and funding, along with the crop insurance and other programs in the farm bill that will help farmers survive weather extremes and volatile markets, are well past due.”
The farm bill provides historic reforms, including eliminating wasteful direct payment subsidies, strengthening the agriculture safety net and reinvesting in the conservation of natural resources. It requires reasonable efforts toward land conservation on the part of farmers receiving federal premium subsidies for crop insurance, and it provides $100 million for a new competitive grant program into which the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative has been consolidated.
The bill continues funding for numerous provisions that will help grow Virginia’s local food systems. Those include efforts to encourage education and training for new farmers and increased funding for community agriculture programs such as farmers markets.
Including the cuts already made through sequestration, the Farm Bill will save $23 billion over the next 10 years. It will enhance rural economies with additional jobs, invest in research and education and include reform that works for farm and ranch families. Importantly, the bill also provides disaster provisions for livestock producers and fruit and vegetable growers.
Now signed into law, the 2014 law will allow the Agriculture Department to begin planning for implementation of the bill’s provisions.
Maryland solicits grant proposals for manure injection
ANNAPOLIS – The Maryland Department of Agriculture recently announced that financial assistance is available to help farmers cover the cost of injecting or incorporating manure and other eligible organic products into cropland. For a second year, Governor Martin O’Malley has earmarked $2 million in cost-share funds to help farmers comply with Maryland’s updated nutrient management regulations.
“The O’Malley-Brown Administration is committed to providing farmers with the resources they need to comply with new environmental regulations and help Maryland meet its nutrient reduction goals for the Chesapeake Bay,” said Maryland Agriculture Secretary Buddy Hance.
Maryland’s revised nutrient management regulations require farmers to inject or incorporate manure and other organic nutrient sources into the soil within 48 hours of application in order to achieve maximum water quality benefits for streams, rivers and the Chesapeake Bay.
Farmers who incorporate or inject all types of animal manure or other eligible organic waste products into cropland may apply for cost-share grants from MDA. Operators who import manure and other organic nutrient sources for use on cropland that they own or rent may participate. While transportation costs are not cost-shared under this program, the Manure Transportation Program is available for eligible farms. Cost-share rates for manure incorporation and injection range from $10 to $55 an acre depending on the type of equipment or services used.
Farmers who use manure injection equipment receive the highest reimbursement rates.
Cost-share grants for manure incorporation and injection are administered by the Maryland Agricultural Water Quality Cost-Share (MACS) Program. Applicants must be in good standing with MACS to participate and in compliance with the Nutrient Management Program. All work must be completed by June 2, 2014, and all claims for payment received by June 10, 2014. Other restrictions apply.
Farmers should visit their local soil conservation district office as soon as possible to apply. Applications will be accepted on a first come, first served basis and sign-up is ongoing until all funds are fully committed. For more information, contact MDA at 410-841-5864.
Penn State to study solutions for farm nutrient pollution
UNIVERSITY PARK - A multi-pronged, systems approach to solving water pollution caused by nutrients in the environment is the focus of a new center housed in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences.
With a $2.2 million Science to Achieve Results grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, researchers will launch the Center for Integrated Multi-scale Nutrient Pollution Solutions. The center is one of four new National Centers for Innovative and Sustainable Water Research announced by EPA.
The Penn State-led center -- known by its short title, the Center for Nutrient Solutions -- will encompass seven teams that will combine existing research efforts with new studies and programs to tackle the vexing problem of nutrient pollution and its effects on watersheds, particularly the Chesapeake Bay basin.
The three-year project will look at nutrient flows from agricultural, rural, urban, municipal and atmospheric sources, noted principal investigator James Shortle, distinguished professor of agricultural and environmental economics.
Nonpoint source nutrient losses -- primarily nitrogen and phosphorous -- from agriculture and other land uses cause significant water pollution in many regions of the country, including the Susquehanna-Chesapeake watershed, which is home to more than 17 million people. Population growth and resource development are placing increased demands on the region's water resources and aquatic ecosystems.
"Previous research has led to the implementation of best management practices that have helped to reduce nutrient runoff into streams and rivers," said Shortle. "But BMP selection and location are important factors determining effectiveness. We need more science to be sure we select the right practices that can be implemented in the right places in a cost-effective manner."
Shortle maintains that decisions about agricultural nutrients must be made in the context of their relative contribution compared to the overall food production and consumption system, stormwater runoff from other land uses, wastewater treatment and atmospheric deposition. He acknowledges that any solutions will require trade-offs.
"We will challenge each other to find ways for agricultural industries, urban economies and ecosystem services to coexist sustainably," he said.
In addition to researchers from Penn State, scientists from the University of Maryland and the U.S. Department of Agriculture will participate in the project.
Promote pollination by choosing bee-friendly plants
RICHMOND — People are being encouraged to "Bee a Hero" for honey bees by adding plants that are bee-friendly to a home garden or landscape. An example of the outreach effort was the 2013 State Fair of Virginia, where the Richmond Beekeepers Association invited fairgoers to “Bee a Hero” and provided lists of plants that attract honey bees.
“Everyone can ‘Bee a Hero’ for the honey bees by planting bee-friendly gardens, avoiding harmful chemicals, buying local Virginia honey or starting their own backyard beehive,” said Valerie West, president of the association. West has been keeping bees for four years at her home in Richmond.
Honey bees are critical to the success of agriculture and the health of the environment and are responsible for more than $15 billion in increased crop value each year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Commercial production of many specialty crops such as almonds and other tree nuts, berries, fruits and vegetables are dependent on pollination by honey bees.
“I first became interested in beekeeping for pollination purposes, but the more I learned about honey bees and how the colony works together, I became more and more fascinated with them,” West said. She finds her bees enjoy holly, Russian sage, sunflowers, basil, melon flowers, clover and dandelions.
Bi-annuals and perennials that attract honey bees include all spring bulbs; anise hyssop; asters; berries; calamint; catnip; caryopteris; chives; comfrey; coreopsis; dandelion; echinacea; gaillardia; globe thistle; goldenrod; hazelnut; hyssop; lavender; melissa; mint; monarda; motherwort; obedient plant; oregano; plantain; pussy willow; rose mallow; rosemary; rudbeckia; Russian sage; sage; sedum; perennial; sweet clover; thyme; perennial verbena; wild rose; and white clover.
Annuals that attract honey bees include arugula; basil; borage; buckwheat; canola; cleome; cornflower; cosmos; crimson clover; flax; holy basil; mustard; phacelia; poppies; scabiosa; sunflower; verbena; and zinnia.
Some trees also attract honey bees. They include black locust, fruit trees, linden, sourwood and tulip poplar.
Weekly crop progress reports will return in spring.
Trivia Question: The first day of spring is known as:
1. the autumnal equinox
2. the vernal equinox
3. the claudonian equinox
4. the energizer equinox
ANSWER: 2. vernal equinox
The term "vern" is Latin for spring.
Maryland initiates Ag-tourism
Penn State-led project aimed at
reducing greenhouse gases from livestock
West Virginia to conduct farm
worker safety training
Maryland farmers keenly aware of
"fertilizer" season in March
Ag Census date indicates farmland loss is slowing in Maryland
ANNAPOLIS - The USDA recently released its first look at the Census of Agriculture showing that in Maryland, since the last Census was conducted in 2007, there are 578 or 4.5 percent fewer farms, average farm size increased to 166 acres up from 160, and 18.7 percent or 80 more female principal farm operators. From an economic standpoint, the value of agricultural products sold increased 24 percent to $2.27 billion, with an average per farm increase of 30 percent to $185,329.
The latest figures indicate that the rate of farmland loss is slowing in Maryland. There was a 1.0 percent (21,011 acre) loss in 2012 compared to a 1.3 percent (25,874 acre) loss in 2007 and 5.5 percent (115,433 acre) loss in 2002. USDA will release the full Census results with much more information, including data to the county level, in May.
“I thank our farmers for participating in the Census and providing valuable input about their operations. The data also impacts funding for critical programs that support agriculture,” said Maryland Agriculture Secretary Buddy Hance. “Agriculture is resilient and a critical part of our state’s economy, quality of life, environment and food supply, and one that we are committed to strengthening. We look forward to seeing the complete Census data this May to get the full picture of Maryland agriculture and how it has changed during the past five years.”
“The Census of Agriculture is important because it is the only source of uniform, comprehensive and impartial agricultural data for every county in the nation,” said Dale Hawks, director of the NASS Maryland Field Office.
“Through the Census, producers can show the nation the value and importance of agriculture, and help influence the decisions that will shape the future of American agriculture for years to come. Census data are used by all those who serve farmers and rural communities – federal, state and local governments, agribusinesses, trade associations and many others.”
The 2012 Census of Agriculture also found that in Maryland:
- Value of crops, including nursery/greenhouse crop, increased 67 percent to $1.05 billion.
- Value of livestock, poultry and their products increased 1 percent to $1.2 billion.
- Government payments (including federal, state, local) received increased by 8 percent totaling $36 million.
- Nearly half (49 percent) of farms are less than 50 acres.
- Principal operators with Spanish, Hispanic or Latino origin are up 27 percent (25 people), and Asian operators are up 18 percent (15 people) from 2007.
- Only 48.9 percent of farm operators state that farming is their primary occupation.
- Average age of farmer is 59 years compared to 57.3 in 2007.
Niche markets growing for beef producers
RICHMOND — Some Virginia fast-food restaurants are beginning to advertise the fact that they serve grass-fed beef, and such products are popular at farmers’ markets and local butchers around the state. Many grocery store chains now carry it, and grass-fed beef has been a popular dish at higher-end restaurants for years.
So what’s the difference between grass-fed and conventionally produced beef?
“Grass-fed beef, by its nature, tends to be leaner and not as well-marbled as corn-fed beef,” said Spencer Neale, director of commodity marketing for the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “Historically, most beef would have tasted like that. But as the cattle industry matured more than a century ago, consumers came to prefer the taste of beef from cattle that were finished on grain feeds.
“Now with the passage of time there is a new market and a demand for grass-fed beef.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture standard for grass-fed beef requires that all cattle with that grade must have been fed solely grass or other hay and grass products during their life cycles. Virginia cattle producers typically have raised their animals on pasture for a year, then sold them to out-of-state feedlots to be finished on grain. More producers are now keeping their herds on pasture, then selling the meat locally.
“The health benefits of one type of meat over the other is up for debate,” Neale said. “There’s been research on both sides of the argument, but (grass-fed) is definitely a leaner cut of meat. So if that’s what you’re looking for, it’s a good choice. It is definitely a product that most consumers don’t know how to cook; you do have to handle it differently.”
Despite an increase in consumer demand for grass-fed beef, the market is still relatively small. According to The Pasture Project, an advocacy group for grass-fed beef production, grass fed beef accounts for less than 3 percent of all U.S. beef sales. But the number of U.S. grass-fed beef producers rose from 50 in 2002 to more than 2,000 in 2011.
“I work with a lot of grass-fed beef people; I like it when I cook it,” Neale said. “This shouldn’t be an either/or situation for cattle producers. Thanks to the local food movement, there’s so much opportunity out there now. Anytime producers can diversify to develop a new market, that helps the whole industry.”
WV opens up 40 acres of farmland for vegetable, small fruit production
CHARLESTON - West Virginia Agriculture Commissioner Walt Helmick recently announced that 40 acres of prime farmland located on WVDA property at the Lakin State Farm in Mason County will be leased this summer to individuals, partnerships, organizations and co-ops for the purpose of commercial vegetable and small fruit production.
“Farming is indeed important work, it’s a hard line of work full of hard workers,” Commissioner Helmick said. “In an effort to expand vegetable and fruit production in West Virginia we must grow more product. Therefore, we are now accepting applications that must include a business plan, for those interested in utilizing this land for commercial production of vegetables and small fruits.”
“As Agriculture Commissioner I hope to see many get involved because the demand for food products will only continue to grow,” Commissioner Helmick added. “We have a real opportunity in West Virginia right now. Currently we consume over $7 billion annually in food yet we only produce approximately $675 million. We have a $6 billion opportunity staring us right in the face so we have to be innovative and be willing to be more progressive. This pilot project in Mason County is just one step in the process.”
Commissioner Helmick also said that a part of the Lakin Farm would also be dedicated for demonstration/educational purposes.
The West Virginia Department of Agriculture will offer some technical support for those chosen for the Lakin Farm Project and WVU Extension Services will also provide some consultation services.
For more information or to obtain an application, interested persons should contact WVDA employees Dwayne O’Dell, Bob Tabb or Jarrod Dean by calling 304-558-2210. Deadline for completed applications will be March 14, 2014.
Penn State: Herbicides may not be sole cause of declining plant diversity
UNIVERSITY PARK - The increasing use of chemical herbicides is often blamed for the declining plant biodiversity in farms. However, other factors beyond herbicide exposure may be more important to species diversity, according to Penn State researchers.
If herbicides are a key factor in the declining diversity, then thriving species would be more tolerant to widely used herbicides than rare or declining species, according to J. Franklin Egan, research ecologist, USDA-Agricultural Research Service.
"Many ecotoxicology studies have tested the response of various wild plant species to low dose herbicide exposures, but it is difficult to put these findings in context," said Egan. "Our approach was to compare the herbicide tolerances of plant species that are common and plant species that are rare in an intensively farmed region. We found that rare and common plant species had roughly similar tolerances to three commonly used herbicides."
This could mean that herbicides may not have a persistent effect in shaping plant communities.
The researchers, who report their findings in the online version of the journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, said that over the past several decades, in the same time that the use of herbicides was on the rise, other factors such as the simplification of crop rotations, segregation of crop and livestock and increasing mechanization have also been rapidly evolving. In addition, the clearing of woodlots, hedgerows, pastures and wetlands to make way for bigger fields has continued apace and resulted in habitat loss.
While the findings are preliminary, the approach could be effective in clarifying the implications of herbicide pollution for plant conservation, Egan said.
"These findings are not an invitation to use herbicides recklessly," he said. "There are many good reasons to reduce agriculture's reliance on chemical weed control. But, for the objective of plant species conservation, other strategies like preserving farmland habitats including woodlots, pastures and riparian buffers may be more effective than trying to reduce herbicide use."
Fruit and vegetable growers offered food safety training in MD
ANNAPOLIS - The Maryland Department of Agriculture and University of Maryland Extension will be conducting a series of regional food safety training workshops for fruit and vegetable producers.
These one-day workshops, offered across Maryland, are important for small- and large- scale producers who want to understand how to meet current and proposed U.S. Food and Drug Administration food safety requirements or are considering Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) certification. The training will provide assistance in writing and implementing a GAP program for both wholesale growers and direct marketers.
Topics to be covered include: highlights of the federal Food Safety Modernization Act; Good Agricultural Practices such as addressing pre-harvest and post-harvest water quality issues; an update on current food safety research; writing a food safety plan; and MDA/University of Maryland programs to assist producers in implementing GAP. A large portion of the training will be spent helping producers write their own food safety plans. Producers are encouraged to bring their own laptops. Laptops will also be provided to those who cannot bring them.
The workshop schedule is below. Each workshop will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The fee for the program is $25 and covers lunch and materials. Attendees will receive a certificate of participation after the program. Register online at: http://ter.ps/MDgaps
Feb. 12: Western Maryland Research and Education Center, 18330 Keedysville Rd. Keedysville, MD 21756. Contact: Bryan Butler, firstname.lastname@example.org, 410-386-2760.
Feb. 27: Wicomico County Extension Office, 28647 Old Quantico Rd, Salisbury, MD 21801. Contact Sasha Marine, email@example.com, 410-742-1178 x304.
March 3: Wye Research and Education Center, 124 Wye Narrows Dr., Queenstown, MD 21658. Contact Sudeep Mathew, firstname.lastname@example.org, 410-228-8800.
March 11: St. Mary’s Ag. Services Center. 26737 Radio Station Way, Leonardtown, MD 20650. Contact Ben Beale, email@example.com , 301-475-4481.
March 18: Baltimore County Extension Office, 1114 Shawan Rd, Cockeysville, MD 21030. Contact David Martin, firstname.lastname@example.org, 410-771-1761.
Note: If you have questions or encounter difficulties registering online, contact the organizer for the specific location.
Voluntary Ag District workshops to be held across North Carolina
RALEIGH – The N.C. Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund will hold three workshops across the state for local governments interested in protecting their communities’ agricultural lands.
The Voluntary Agricultural District workshops are for agricultural advisory board members, county representatives, program staff, farmers, landowners, elected officials and anyone interested in farmland preservation and the administration of the Voluntary Agricultural Districts program. The workshops are free and open to the public.
Workshops will be held from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on the following dates:
Feb. 26 – Pitt County Agricultural Center, 403 Government Circle, Greenville;
Mar. 12 – McSwain Extension Education & Agricultural Center, 2420 Tramway Road, Sanford;
Mar. 26 – Caldwell County Agricultural Center, 120 Hospital Avenue NE, Suite 1, Lenoir.
This year, the workshops will feature breakout sessions. Participants will choose their preferred topics during registration. Topics covered at the workshops include the basics of conservation agreements and easement programs, present-use value, estate planning and tax preparedness, Voluntary Agricultural District program management and upcoming changes to agricultural policy.
North Carolina currently has 86 counties with active Voluntary Agricultural Districts. For more information and to register, go to www.ncadfp.org/VADWorkshops.htm.
Farm Bureau teams up with Farmer Veteran Coalition to assist would-be farmers
WASHINGTON—A new resource guide developed by the American Farm Bureau Federation and the Farmer Veteran Coalition Partnership is now available.
AFBF and the FVC are working together to train beginning farmers, make equipment available to veteran farmers and help find farm ownership or employment opportunities for members of the military transitioning into the civilian workforce.
“Through this partnership, I am optimistic returning veterans will learn how to continue their service to our country by helping feed its citizens, nourish its land and make its rural communities more viable through the many entrepreneurial opportunities agriculture has to offer,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman.
The resource guide outlines ways to participate in the new partnership and assist returning veterans interested in staking their futures on agriculture and rural America.
“We’re working to cultivate a new generation of farmers and food leaders, in addition to developing viable employment and meaningful careers through the collaboration of the farming and military communities,” said Michael O’Gorman, FVC executive director. “We believe that veterans possess the unique skills and character needed to strengthen rural communities and create sustainable food systems for all. We believe that food production offers purpose and opportunity, as well as physical and psychological benefits.”
Service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have become the latest group of veterans in need of employment and, by some measures, the most likely young people to enter agriculture and other rural-based businesses. Only 17 percent of the U.S. population calls rural communities home, yet 44 percent of military recruits come from rural America.
Virginia Beach produce farmer John Wilson of New Earth Farm served as a mentor for two Navy veterans, Coleman and Bridget Ruiz. The Ruizes had a deep interest in raising food, but weren’t sure where to begin.
They started working on Wilson’s farm in order to learn more about agriculture. They also helped with his online farm market and community-supported agriculture operation, and helped build high tunnels where they grew produce.
“When farmers and veterans can come together, it’s really a great opportunity for all who are involved,” said Coleman Ruiz. “The information we received from John is invaluable.”
The Ruizes later relocated to Maryland, where they purchased a home on 6 acres and started farming on their own. “We are so grateful to John for the opportunity to learn so much before buying land ourselves,” Bridget Ruiz said. “We used the knowledge we’ve gained from working with John on our own land in Maryland.”
Crop stats released for Pennsylvania
HARRISBURG - Based on year end acreage and yield data, production of about half of the major field crops showed an increase from last year. Corn for grain, soybeans, winter wheat and barley had higher production in 2013 than in 2012. Corn for silage, oats, tobacco, hay and fall potatoes had lower production in 2013, according to the Pennsylvania office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). Production of dry hay in Pennsylvania was below last year’s production.
Corn for grain production totaled 160 million bushels, up 21 percent from last year's production. Corn acres harvested for grain were estimated at 1,090,000 and the average yield was 147 bushels per acre, up 15 bushels from 2012. Corn for silage production at 7.8 million tons, was down 2 percent from production in 2012. Acres harvested for silage totaled 380,000, down 60,000 from 2012. Silage yield was 20.5 tons per acre, up 2.5 tons per acre from the 2012 yield.
Alfalfa dry hay production was 986,000 tons, 5 percent below last year’s production. Acres harvested were 340,000, down 60,000 acres from last year, with an average yield of 2.9 tons per acre.
Oat production was 3.1 million bushels, 22 percent below last year’s production. Harvested acres totaled 50,000, down 15,000 acres from last year. The average yield was 62 bushels per acre, 1 bushel above last year. Production of winter wheat was 10.9 million bushels, 15 percent above the 2012 production. Harvested acres totaled 160,000, which was 15,000 acres more than 2012. Average yield was 68 bushels per acre, 3 bushels per acre more than last year. Barley production was 4.10 million bushels, 13 percent above 2012. Acreage harvested was 7,000 more than a year ago at 60,000, with an average yield per acre of 68 bushels, unchanged from a year ago.
Soybean production, at 26.2 million bushels, was 5 percent above last year’s production. Acreage harvested was 535,000, a 15,000 acre increase from 2012. The 2013 yield was 49.0 bushels per acre, 1 bushel per acre more than a year ago.
PA Dairy of Distinction applications due April 15
UNIVERSITY PARK - Pennsylvania dairy farms are invited to apply for this year's Dairy of Distinction award from the Northeast Dairy Farm Beautification Program. The award is based on the idea that attractive farmsteads enhance consumer confidence in the wholesomeness of milk, and stimulate milk sales and public support for the industry.
"This program is run by volunteers and recognizes the hard work and dedication of dairy producers who promote a positive image for the dairy industry," said Mike O'Connor, secretary of the Pennsylvania Dairy of Distinction program and professor emeritus of dairy science in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences.
Dairies receiving the highest scores in each of 10 Pennsylvania districts will be awarded an 18-inch-by-24-inch Dairy of Distinction sign to display in front of their farm.
Roadside judging will take place in May, and farms will be evaluated on factors that can be controlled by the dairy producer. Judges will look for clean and attractively finished buildings; neat landscaping, ditches, roads and lanes; and well-maintained fences. They also will take into account other aspects of the farm, such as manure management and cleanliness of animals, the barnyard and feed areas.
To obtain an application, call O'Connor at 814-863-3913 or visit http://www.dairyofdistinction.com/html/pa_dod.html.
Applications must be submitted by April 15.
Since 1987, Pennsylvania's Dairy of Distinction program has recognized more than 800 dairy farms. The Pennsylvania program is part of the Northeast Dairy Farm Beautification Program, which also includes New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Vermont. Dairies in these states can contact the program secretary in their state for applications.
Quarantine area for imported fire ants expands in NC
RALEIGH - Two more counties in North Carolina now fall under state quarantine rules for the imported fire ant as part of a continuing effort to monitor the spread of this pest and address control measures. A recent announcement by the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services indicates the quarantine now includes portions or entire areas of 71 counties.
“It is important for operators within the quarantined area to contact the NCDA&CS Plant Industry Division to obtain the needed inspections and certifications for movement of regulated articles,” said Vernon Cox, director of the division. “Fire ants can be harmful to humans and livestock. It is critical we continue proactive efforts to slow down fire ant movement into non-infested areas of the state.”
Effective Jan. 1, 2014, the imported fire ant quarantine is revised to include the addition of all of Lincoln County and the area south of Interstate 40 from the Iredell County line to the Burke County line in Catawba County. Under the rules, residents and business owners in the affected areas will now need to obtain a permit before moving plants, sod and related equipment into or through non-infested areas.
Items requiring a permit include sod, soil, hay and straw, nursery plant material, logs or pulpwood with soil, and soil-moving equipment. Movement of infested materials could result in the establishment and secondary spread of the pest to non-infested areas. Certificates can be obtained from a local plant protection specialist or by contacting the Plant Protection Section at 800-206-9333 or 919-707-3730.
The imported fire ant first entered the United States through Alabama in 1918. It was first identified in the southeastern portion of North Carolina in Brunswick County in 1957. Since its introduction, it has spread north to additional areas in the state, becoming recognized as an aggressive pest of farmlands, pastures, residential areas and wildlife. The imported fire ant is considered to be a nuisance and a health concern to humans, livestock and wildlife due to its painful sting.
For a map of the quarantine area, go to www.ncagr.gov/plantindustry/plant/entomology/documents/FireAntMap2014.pdf
Toyota Motors and WV Forestry Division to provide trees for public plantings
FARMINGTON - Volunteer organizations and municipalities with plans to plant trees on public property in 2014 are encouraged to apply with the Mountaineer Treeways program. Urban Forestry Coordinator Bob Hannah said the program is open to civic organizations, municipalities, businesses, schools and other groups that will plant the trees on public property.
"Mountaineer Treeways works to enhance and beautify public areas across West Virginia through tree plantings. Volunteer groups and the Mountaineer Treeways program are a natural fit."
Trees for this program are sponsored by a donation from Toyota Motors Manufacturing. All trees will be distributed in early April.
Officials will accept applications through March 21, 2014. The application form is available for download at www.wvforestry.com.
All trees must be planted on public property in West Virginia. Volunteers and paid employees of municipalities and other entities may conduct the plantings. Matching funds are not required; however, a status report must be submitted by Aug. 8, 2014. Division of Forestry staff will be available for technical assistance, species selection and planting advice.
To download the Mountaineer Treeways application, visit www.wvforestry.com. For additional information, contact Bob Hannah at 304-825-6983.
WV FFA students are taking their education to the bank.
LEWISBURG - High School Sophomores Andrew Vance, Chandler Piner and Alex Hannah have been growing corn on their family farms for quite some time, but are now seeing an incredible payoff. These three students from Greenbrier East High School in Lewisburg, WV have sold over 12,000 ears of corn to five different county school systems.
Beth Massey is an Agriculture Science teacher at GEHS and says the students, through their Supervised Ag Experience (SAE) program, have seen the true benefits of hands-on learning.
“They learn how to market their product and figure out logistics like how many boxes they will need to ship their products and when they can make deliveries,” Massey said. “And whatever they sell, they keep the money.”
Through the “Farm to School” program these students have worked with food coordinators in different county school systems and have had great success selling their corn to be served on lunch trays in West Virginia schools.
To date, students have sold 4,500 ears of corn in Greenbrier County, 1,000 in Pocahontas, 1,400 in Lewis, 4,000 in Kanawha, and are finalizing a sale for 1,000 more ears in Wyoming County. Massey says, “It’s so encouraging to see these boys go from selling their corn at football games and farmers’ markets to something like this.”
The FFA has been in the Greenbrier County school system since 1968. This particular club has 251 members and continues to grow.
Other students in Greenbrier East’s FFA have sold eggs and potatoes to Greenbrier County schools and they are also implementing high tunnel greenhouses to grow additional crops to sell in the future.