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Farm News for the Mid-Atlantic Region

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US poultry production up 6 percent in July

WASHINGTON, DC - USDA reports domestic poultry production for July 2014 was up 6% on the year at 3.74 billion pounds.

The preliminary live weight was also up 6% at 4.95 billion pounds, with young chickens accounting for 4.26 billion pounds of the total. All chickens were 4.33 billion pounds, 7% larger, with turkeys at 606.24 million pounds, a 2% rise.

Young chickens averaged 5.99 pounds per bird, 2% heavier than in July 2014, while mature chickens averaged 5.71 pounds, 2% lighter. Turkeys averaged 30.09 pounds per bird, slightly less than a year ago.

Ante-mortem condemnations of 10.984 million pounds were 0.22% of the inspected live weight and post-mortem condemnations of 35.87 million pounds were 0.95% of total production.

For January to July 2014, U.S. poultry production is 21.98 billion pounds, a little more than this time last year.

House bills address farm concerns with EPA ‘waters’ proposal

WASHINGTON — Two bills that have bipartisan support in the U.S. House of Representatives address serious concerns voiced by the American Farm Bureau Federation about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed “Waters of the U.S.” rule.

Issued earlier this year, the rule would give the EPA broad jurisdiction over dry land features and farming practices that historically has been relegated to individual states under the Clean Water Act.

H.R. 5078, the Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act of 2014, was introduced by Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla., and has been approved by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. It would prohibit the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers from implementing a rule that broadens the scope of the Clean Water Act and would effectively block the proposed “Waters of the U.S.” rule.

A second bill addresses concerns about common farm practices that have been exempt from Clean Water Act regulation but could lose that status under the proposed rule.

In March the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers issued an interpretive rule to clarify how “Waters of the U.S.” would affect normal farming, ranching and forestry exemptions. AFBF analysis determined that the interpretive rule narrows the list of existing exemptions and would require compliance with otherwise voluntary U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service standards. The proposal puts the USDA in the unprecedented position of enforcing Clean Water Act compliance.

Reps. Chris Collins, R-N.Y.; Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio; Frank Lucas, R-Okla.; Collin Peterson, D-Minn.; Reid Ribble, R-Wis.; Kurt Schrader, D-Ore.; and Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., have introduced H.R. 5071, The Agricultural Conservation Flexibility Act. The bill clarifies that existing Clean Water Act exemptions for normal farming, ranching and forestry apply to all conservation activities without regard to the interpretive rule.

The bill further states that no soil and water conservation practices will be treated as new uses of areas of navigable waters, impairments of the flow of navigable waters or reductions in the reach of those waters under recapture provisions in Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. The bill also clarifies that normal farming, ranching and forestry activities will be treated as such without regard to their date of commencement.

The AFBF has assembled articles and analysis relevant to the proposed rule at ditchtherule.fb.org. The organization asserts that the EPA proposal exposes U.S. farmers and ranchers to potential fines and penalties for ordinary farming activities.

AFBF President Bob Stallman called the rule “an end-run around Congress and the Supreme Court. … If more people knew how regulators could use the proposed rule to require permits for common activities on dry land or penalize landowners for not getting them, they would be outraged.”

West Virginia expands forest insect program

CHARLESTON - WV Commissioner of Agriculture Walt Helmick has announced that the West Virginia Department of Agriculture’s Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA) Program has expanded to include all counties currently infested with HWA.

“Additional counties were found to be infested this year so our Plant Industries Division Staff expanded our HWA program so landowners in those counties would be allowed to participate” said Commissioner Helmick.

The hemlock woolly adelgid, Adelges tsugae, is a non-native invasive pest that is quickly decimating hemlocks (Tsuga canadensis and T. caroliniana) in the eastern United States” said Quentin “Butch” Sayers, Assistant Director of PID with WVDA.

“Without long-term control of HWA, eastern and Carolina hemlock will be significantly reduced, if not eliminated, throughout its natural range.” “HWA causes damage to hemlocks by depleting the hemlock’s starch reserves, which in turn reduces the trees’ ability to grow and produce new shoots” said Sayers. “All ages and size classes of hemlock are susceptible to HWA infestations.”

WVDA is now accepting applications from landowners who wish to sign up and participate in the WVDA HWA Program to help protect their hemlock trees.

Landowners who want to participate in the HWA Cooperative Program must complete an application and submit it with a $100 deposit that will be applied to your treatment costs. The application can be received by calling the WVDA Charleston Office at (304) 558-2212 or downloading at: http://www.wvagriculture.org/images/Plant_Industries/About_Us.html.

Landowners must apply for the program by September 30th, 2014, provide WVDA with a map of their property, and allow WVDA to evaluate their site to ensure it meets the project qualifications:

-Only private lands within the project area are eligible.
-More than 50 percent canopy cover of hemlocks.
-A woodlot with a minimum of five acres. Adjacent and otherwise eligible landowners may cooperate to meet the minimum acreage requirement.
-Landowners with less than five acres may qualify if the proposed treatment area is adjacent to land being managed for HWA.
-Trees must have more than 50 percent foliage.
-Trees may not have been treated within the last four years.
-Treatment must not pose a safety risk to WVDA field personnel.
-Pesticides used in treatments must be purchased directly by WVDA.
-Treatments usually protect trees four-to-five years.

Cost share monies are available, however landowners accepted for the program must pay for a portion of the treatments. Applying for the program does not obligate landowners to participate – they may back out if they feel their portion of the costs is too high.

Farm Credit celebrates 98 years of service to American agriculture

Nearly 100 years after the U.S. Congress established Farm Credit to serve as a reliable source of credit for the nation's farmers and ranchers, the network of borrower-owned lending institutions and specialized service organizations remains a sound and vital resource for rural America. The organization recently marked it's 98th anniversary.

"For 98 years, the Farm Credit System has served agriculture and rural America as a dedicated, reliable, competitive, customer-owned source of credit," said Mary Fritz, owner and operator of Quarter Circle JF Ranch, Inc., a dry land grain and cow-calf operation in Chester, Montana, and chair of the Farm Credit Council board of directors. "America's agricultural producers and rural communities have benefited greatly from the vision and foresight that went into establishing the Farm Credit System."

Today, about 40 percent of the dollar volume of outstanding loans to U.S. farmers and ranchers comes from Farm Credit. The federally chartered network is comprised of 82 privately owned institutions, including four wholesale banks and 78 direct lending associations that operate in every county in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

These local Farm Credit System institutions specialize in providing credit and related services to farmers, ranchers, timber harvesters and aquatic producers. In addition, the Farm Credit System provides financing for the processing and marketing activities of these borrowers, as well as to rural homeowners, certain farm-related businesses, and agricultural and public utility cooperatives.

In support of their mission of service, Farm Credit System institutions also have programs specifically focused on meeting the needs of young, beginning and small farmers and ranchers. In 2013, more than 40 percent of new loans made by Farm Credit were to small producers, those with annual gross agricultural sales of $250,000 or less.

"Our cooperative model is designed specifically to ensure that our lending and related financial services are driven by the needs of our borrower-owners," Fritz said. "Our focus remains on the success of our owners rather than on achieving quarterly returns to impress stockholders."

Farm Credit's commitment to its borrower-owners is demonstrated further by the fact that associations share profits directly with borrowers through patronage dividends. In 2013, the Farm Credit System distributed more than $1 billion in cash patronage, allowing borrower-owners to reinvest in their own operations and to further support rural communities through local spending.

"Today, Farm Credit celebrates its heritage as it continues to fulfill its mission to serve U.S. agriculture and rural America," Fritz said. "Farm Credit was established as a permanent system of credit that is to be responsive to the needs of our nation's agricultural sector, and we look forward to continued success and a bright future."

Christmas in summer? Virginia tree growers preparing now

ELK CREEK—It may be summertime, but Virginia Christmas tree growers are preparing now for their holiday sales season.

“People think we only work one month out of the year, but that’s not the case,” said Carlos Taylor, who co-operates Severt’s Tree Farm in Grayson County with his wife, Sherrie.

Taylor and his employees are now trimming the firs that they grow, along with Norway and Scotch pines and a few blue spruces. The trees that will be cut and sold this year are being trimmed on top, and those that will continue growing are being sheared into the desired conical shape.

Taylor said his staff starts tending to the trees in April and continues working on them through Dec. 15. He has one crew of H-2A workers who arrive in April and another who come for the harvest season, which starts in September.

This year has been a good growth year for Virginia Christmas trees, Taylor said.

“Last year we had too much rain, which doesn’t seem right because rain is good. But too much water can be as bad for tree growth as drought.”

Taylor sells trees to wholesalers in Florida, Maryland, New Jersey and New York and to some retailers in Virginia. He said people are “finally starting to realize that Virginia grows good trees” and credited the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Virginia Grown program with helping to promote the industry.

Christmas trees will be promoted at this year’s State Fair of Virginia, which will be held Sept. 26 through Oct. 5 at The Meadow Event Park in Caroline County. The Virginia Christmas Tree Growers Association will provide fresh-cut, 6-foot trees for a new Christmas tree decorating competition. The decorated trees will be displayed in the horticulture tent throughout the fair.

The top three winners of the competition will be asked to decorate trees that will be displayed during the Illuminate Light Show, which will run Nov. 14 through Jan. 3, 2015, at The Meadow. The competition theme is “Virginia’s Bounty,” and the use of natural materials is encouraged.

An entry form and guidelines are available at www.StateFairVa.org/Competitions/General_Youth_Competitions.

Virginia is ranked 16th in the United States for sales of cut Christmas trees, according to the 2012 Census of Agriculture. The state has more than 500 Christmas tree farms.

“There are plenty of locations across the state that sell Virginia-grown Christmas trees,” said Tony Banks, a Virginia Farm Bureau Federation commodity marketing specialist. “If you want to pick or cut your own trees, there are plenty of tree farms across the state as well, and the outing can become a treasured family tradition.”

The VCTGA and VDACS publish an annual directory of choose-and-cut Christmas tree farms. Information also is available at www.virginiagrown.com.

Penn State: Scout for Palmer Amaranth now in soybeans, before it’s too late

Identifying and containing new infestations is a critical first step in managing this new threat. That is according to officials with PA Cooperative Extension who say hopefully, most of the full season soybean crop has been managed for weeds by this time of the summer and some growers have planted or are still considering double-crop.

An excerpt from a recent newsletter written by William Curran, Professor of Weed Science and Dwight Lingenfelter, Program Development Specialist states:

There is still time to ensure your soybean weed control programs worked by scouting those full season soybeans for escapes and by selecting effective herbicides to control weeds in double-crop soybeans. In particular, be on the look out for Palmer amaranth. We have talked a great deal about this weed over the last year, and most of our PA Palmer amaranth infestations last fall were discovered in soybeans (both full season and double crop). Containing new infestations and preventing the spread is a critical first step to managing this new threat. Seeds collected from southeastern PA fields last fall were tested in a greenhouse assay this winter and showed that all five populations were resistant to glyphosate and four of five were resistant to both glyphosate and the ALS inhibitors. In soybean fields, it should become quite obvious when resistant plants appear above the soybean canopy, but you have to scout those fields to find these escapes.

As stated in the Take Action Herbicide-Resistance Management Fact Sheet titled Palmer Amaranth Management in Soybeans, proper timing is everything for effective control. In full season soybeans, Palmer amaranth is already likely too big for traditional control measures, as effective postemergence soybean herbicides should be applied before Palmer amaranth is 3 inches tall for best control. But, better late than never and over the next week or so will be optimal for control in double-crop. The Group 14 (Flexstar/Reflex, Cobra/Phoenix, or Ultra Blazer) herbicides are some of the most effective. If you are fortunate enough to have LibertyLink soybeans, use a minimum rate of 29 fl. oz./A. of Liberty. Spray coverage is essential with any of these herbicides, so a minimum of 15 gal/A. of spray solution should be used. Once Palmer amaranth plants exceed 3 inches tall, control with any of these postemergence herbicides is substantially reduced.

So, scout those soybean fields now and do what it takes to control Palmer amaranth. Some attention now will ensure you’re not forced to attempt some last chance rescue (or field destruction) in September when Palmer amaranth is six feet tall or more and flowering or worse yet has already produced seed.

New livestock pavilion ready for use during State Fair of Virginia

DOSWELL—The brand-new 40,000-square-foot First Bank & Trust Pavilion is ready to house cattle during this year’s State Fair of Virginia, which will open Sept. 26 and run through Oct. 5.

Located in the Equine and Livestock Complex of The Meadow Event Park in Caroline County, the building will provide a covered area during the fair. At other times it can be used for horse shows, rodeos, canine agility competitions and other events.

“This is a much-needed addition to this beautiful 330-acre property,” said Glenn Martin, State Fair livestock and equine events manager. “It will enhance our facilities and give livestock a permanent home during the State Fair.”

State-level 4-H and FFA livestock shows are held at the State Fair each year, and winning youth receive more than $70,000 in scholarship money. Other livestock events are held during the fair as well.

Registration for the competitions is open through Aug. 15. Youth participating in the dairy cattle, dairy goat and poultry competitions can register at www.StateFairVa.org/Competitions/Livestock_Competitions.aspx. Youth entering the beef cattle, meat goat, sheep and swine competitions should register at www.4-h.ext.vt.edu/programs/anscience/livestock.

First Bank & Trust Co. has secured naming rights for the building over the next decade.

“Construction of the new First Bank & Trust Pavilion represents continued commitment to the State Fair of Virginia by the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation,” which owns both the fair and The Meadow, said State Fair President Jeff Dillon. “The pavilion will improve the fair experience for both exhibitors and fair patrons alike.”

The livestock pavilion complements existing buildings at The Meadow and is similar in style to the historic horse stall barns on the property.

Tobacco growers approve "checkoff" assessment

RALEIGH — North Carolina growers of flue-cured tobacco have approved an assessment that will support the Tobacco Growers Association of North Carolina’s efforts to promote the interests of its farmers.

The assessment was approved on 88 percent of ballots in a mail-in referendum. A two-thirds majority was needed for approval.

Growers approved an assessment of up to 15 cents per hundred pounds of flue-cured tobacco sold in North Carolina. However, the initial assessment will be 10 cents per hundred pounds. It takes effect this year and will be collected when farmers sell their tobacco.

Tobacco buyers will submit collected funds to the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for distribution to the association.

“Until now, tobacco was one of the few commodities in our state that didn’t have a checkoff program to support its work,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler.

TGANC President Tim Yarbrough of Caswell County said, “The margin of support for this effort indicates the level of priority our farmers place on having a strong and organized voice to advocate on important issues.”

The General Assembly passed a bill last year authorizing the association to conduct the referendum.

This assessment joins existing checkoff programs supporting tobacco research and export promotion.

Crop acreage published for West Virginia

CHARLESTON - Winter wheat planted in West Virginia for 2014 is estimated at 10,000 acres, up 1,000 acres from 2013. The projected harvest for grain is 7,000 acres, unchanged from 2013.

Corn planted is estimated at 53,000 acres, unchanged from last year. Growers expect to harvest 37,000 acres for grain, up 1,000 acres from last year.

Soybean planted acreage is estimated at 24,000 acres, up 2,000 acres from 2013. Harvested acreage is projected at 23,000 acres, up 2,000 acres from 2013.

All hay harvested is forecast at 570,000 acres, down 20,000 acres from last year. Alfalfa hay harvested is expected to total 20,000 acres, unchanged from last year. Other hay harvested is expected to be 550,000 acres, down 20,000 acres from last year.

These estimates were based on results from the June 1, 2014, Agricultural Survey.

Fair livestock exhibitors face new rules in Maryland

ANNAPOLIS - The Maryland Department of Agriculture will begin enforcing new animal identification requirements for those entering animals into fairs, show and exhibits this season. The move will bring the state’s exhibitors into full compliance with the USDA’s Animal Disease Traceability regulations that were adopted last February and phased in over the last year.

During shows and exhibits, large numbers of animals – such as cows, pigs and sheep – are gathered closely together. If one is sick, the possibility of the disease spreading to other animals and even humans is significantly higher at fairs and shows than on the farm. Animal illnesses can impact animal industries and some illness can be spread from animals to humans. The new rules – which generally impact swine, cattle, sheep and goats — help ensure that all animals are clearly identified and their movements traceable in an animal health, public health or food safety event.

The new rules require all animals (except rabbits) to have an official MDA or USDA identification tag before entering exhibitions. The tag must identify which farm or premise the animal came from.

Brands or tattoos on cattle and recognized breed ear notches or tattoos on swine are no longer acceptable as official identification in Maryland exhibitions. All sheep and goats must be officially scrapie-identified with USDA-approved ear tags, tattoos or microchips.

The new exhibition rules impact animals moving within the boundaries of the state and animals being moved into or out of Maryland.

Official identification tags may be requested from MDA by calling 410-841-5810 or emailing animal.disease.traceability@maryland.gov.

Pennsylvania announces pilot program to distribute milk through local food banks

Harrisburg – Agriculture Secretary George Greig recently announced Pennsylvanians will be able to access milk at food banks in 27 counties through an innovative milk distribution pilot program.

Greig joined partners from the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank and Harrisburg Dairies and representatives from the Pennsylvania Association of Milk Dealers, Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association and the Center for Dairy Excellence at the food bank, which will distribute the milk to its affiliates across the state. This program will help 55,000 people served by the food bank.

“Pennsylvania now has a way to serve milk to our citizens who otherwise wouldn’t have access to nature’s perfect beverage,” said Greig. “This opens a new market for our state’s high-quality milk and is the first step to ensuring all Pennsylvanians have access to it.”

Through the public-private partnership, milk will be shipped to Harrisburg Dairies by Pennsylvania dairy farmers to be processed for the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank. The department will work to ensure that milk is provided at a discounted price to the food bank to better serve Pennsylvanians who use the food bank’s services.

“Milk is one of the most highly-desired and needed food items for our hungry Pennsylvania neighbors”, said Executive Director Joe Arthur. “But milk historically has presented great challenges to food banks and our community partners.

“However, as a result of our great success in ramping up fresh produce sharing, we now have enormous capacity to handle, transport and distribute refrigerated food like milk. This milk program will help us leverage our capacity to greatly expand the amount of fresh milk available to people seeking our help,” said Arthur.

The food bank’s system distributes food to more than 800 soup kitchens, shelters and food pantries in 27 central Pennsylvania counties, serving about 20,000 households weekly. Ninety-five percent of food banks nationwide report they don’t receive enough milk to meet clients’ needs.

“This is a great opportunity for Pennsylvania’s dairy industry,” said Dauphin County dairy farmer Adam Kopp. “We know the power of milk as a nutritious beverage for children and adults. We’re looking forward to supplying this new market and helping Pennsylvanians.”

Honey bee population decline getting federal focus

RICHMOND—Big money is being invested in saving the declining U.S. honey bee population. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced it is providing $8 million to help increase the important pollinators’ population.

And in a White House memorandum titled New Steps to Protect Pollinators, Critical Contributors to Our Nation’s Economy, President Obama has directed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the USDA to co-chair a new Pollinator Health Task Force to identify ways to protect and restore pollinators, including honey bees.

According to the memorandum, “the number of managed U.S. honey bee colonies dropped from 6 million colonies in 1947 to just 2.5 million today.” Pollinators, including honey bees, contribute more than $24 billion in pollination of crops, wildflowers, forests and gardens, including one-third of American’s food. The President’s 2015 budget allocated about $50 million for research to increase pollinator habitat and for increased funding to survey the impacts of pollinator losses.

“There are a host of issues believed to impact honey bee health,” said Tony Banks, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation commodity marketing specialist. “Virginia farmers rely heavily on honey bee pollination, so it’s encouraging that additional funding is being made available to research pollinator health.”

The USDA is offering Conservation Reserve Program incentives in five states with the largest commercially managed honey bee operations. The money will help farmers and ranchers establish new habitats for bee populations.

The new CRP pollinator incentive is designed to enhance current CRP land by allowing it to provide better access to pollinator forage. It allows farmers to replace cover crops with high-nutrition seed mixes that support blooming cycles of plants that benefit pollinators. That means honey bees, the pollinator workhorses of U.S. fruit and vegetable agriculture, will have more blooms from which to collect nectar and pollen throughout the growing season.

According to the USDA, more than $15 billion worth of agricultural production depends on the health and well-being of honey bees.

“USDA’s effort to install wildflowers and other blooming plants on CRP land should enhance foraging opportunities for pollinators,” Banks said. “If commercial beekeepers can place their hives in close proximity to the new plantings, it could increase the honey bees’ ability to rest as well as feed and help condition the bees for overwintering.

“This could create a unique research opportunity to study foraging impacts on bee health, the results of which could have application in Virginia and across the country.”

New breeds, historical demonstration highlight Ag Progress Days horse events

UNIVERSITY PARK - A variety of new and returning events will delight horse lovers of all ages who make the trip to Penn State's Ag Progress Days this year, according to organizers in the College of Agricultural Sciences.

The event's Equine Experience, Aug. 12-14, will offer a full schedule of training and breed clinics according to Ann Macrina, senior instructor in the college's Department of Animal Science.

"Dave Rohrbach, of Bee Tree Trail, is returning this year to thrill the crowd with unusual hitch configurations," said Macrina, who coordinates the Equine Experience events. "He and his team will perform once each day, in addition to a special performance during the Wednesday Evening Extravaganza."

On Aug. 12, Cheryl Keller, of New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program, will show how retired racehorses transition to new careers when their racing days are finished. Ponies also will make a splash on Tuesday as Sharon Jodon, of Jodon's Stables, demonstrates how children and ponies can make good riding partners.

Miniature horses will be back this year with an all-new performance by the Capital Area Therapeutic Riding Association Youth Ambassadors. This group has performed at Horse World Expo and the Pennsylvania Farm Show.

Highlights on Aug. 13 include a Fjord Horse demonstration by Gina DiSantis, of Let's Dance Dressage. "This breed is gaining in popularity, and Gina DiSantis will show that they can do more than you thought," Macrina said. "Also Wednesday, Rick Shaffer, national-level competitor and judge, will be on hand with his spectacular Paso Finos."

The Wednesday evening program will open with a Salute to America by the Capital Area Therapeutic Riding Association Youth Ambassadors, followed by Suzanne Myers, of Next Level Horsemanship.

On Aug. 14, another breed making its first appearance at Ag Progress Days is the Australian Cattle Horse. Erin Smoyer, of the Keystone Australian Stock Horse Stud, will demonstrate this breed's unique contributions.

Other featured events will include drill-team performances and horseback racing games, and the Pennsylvania State Police Mounted Patrol will demonstrate crowd control using horses.

Sponsored by Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, Ag Progress Days is held at the Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center at Rock Springs, nine miles southwest of State College on Route 45. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Aug. 12; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Aug. 13; and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Aug. 14. Admission and parking are free.

For more information, visit the Ag Progress Days website. Facebook users can find the event at http://www.facebook.com/AgProgressDays.

Sandy Adams selected as Commissioner of Agriculture in Virginia

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe recently appointed Sandra J. “Sandy” Adams Commissioner of the state’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Adams most recently served as acting commissioner of that agency. She succeeds former commissioner Matt Lohr, who resigned in late 2013, and she previously served for three-and-a-half years as VDACS deputy commissioner.

“Virginia’s agribusiness community will be well served with Sandy Adams as Commissioner," said Katie Frazier, President of the Virginia Agribusiness Council. "In her previous roles at VDACS, she has proven herself to be a capable leader and a strong advocate for Virginia’s farmers and agribusinesses."

Adams grew up in the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia’s leading agricultural region.

Virginia Farm Bureau Federation President Wayne F. Pryor welcomed Adams’ appointment. “We look forward to working with Commissioner Adams,” Pryor said. “She’s thoroughly versed in VDACS’ mission and the important services it provides Virginians on farms and from many walks of life.”

Prior to serving as deputy VDACS commissioner, Adams served for 10 years as the agency’s director of administrative and financial services and for three years as its financial director. She also has held positions in the Virginia Department of Taxation.

USDA pledges financial support for Chesapeake Bay riparian buffers

WASHINGTON - USDA Under Secretaries Robert Bonnie and Michael Scuse pledged up to $5 million to state and local partnerships in six states for accelerating tree planting along the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The pledge was made at a summit in Washington, D.C. attended by leaders of Chesapeake Bay water quality restoration efforts.

"Improving the health of the Chesapeake Bay is a top priority of the Obama Administration, and USDA programs can help," said Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Under Secretary Scuse. "We're identifying creative approaches using our existing programs, so that USDA's partnerships with Chesapeake leaders can enhance our mutual goal of preventing soil erosion, improving water quality and restoring wildlife habitat in this region. That's good not only for future generations, but today's generation."

"Voluntary conservation practices made possible through the 2014 Farm Bill enable us to work with farmers who are interested in taking steps to ensure their practices help conserve the Chesapeake Bay Watershed," said Bonnie, Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment. "These conservation efforts help to clean our soil and water, boost outdoor recreation and provides agriculture with the tools needed to remain productive in the years to come."

The conference marks the start of an accelerated strategy of the Chesapeake Riparian Forest Buffer Initiative to promote the establishment of more forested areas, known as "riparian forest buffers," along streams and rivers of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, providing natural barriers that can filter sediment, chemicals, and other contaminants from entering into the waterway.

The USDA financial assistance will provide more incentives to private landowners interested in participating in the Farm Service Agency's (FSA) voluntary Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP). Each Chesapeake Bay state has a CREP in place, which collectively cover the entire watershed. To date, about $500 million in USDA financial assistance has been provided or obligated to farmers enrolling land in the six CREPs.

Farm Credit presents study results at National Value Added Agriculture Conference

BALTIMORE - MidAtlantic Farm Credit partnered with Temple University to conduct a study into the traits and habits of the New Generation farmer. The results were presented at the National Value Added Agriculture Conference, held in Baltimore, Maryland.

Bill Kitsch, sales manager located in MidAtlantic Farm Credit’s Lancaster, Pennsylvania office, and Angel Adams, the association’s marketing manager, presented “The New Generation Farmer: A Market Overview” to a group attending the conference. The abstract outlined common values farmers in the New Generation movement share.

“Our interest in conducting a study like this stems from our desire to serve the new generation farmer,” says Kitsch. “In order to serve this segment of the agricultural community, we have to look at our own business model and exercise some flexibility within our own processes.”

The study found new generation farmers are values-driven and strongly tied to their local community. Organic farming is very common among this agricultural segment and they value sustainable farming practices. “They are good neighbors with a respect for the environment, and a keen focus on their quality of life,” says Kitsch. This segment tends to have strong marketing and creative skills, allowing them think of innovative ways of creating awareness of their product. In addition, new generation farmers have the ability to distribute their products through multiple channels, often selling directly to the customer.

The results of this study have helped MidAtlantic Farm Credit better serve this customer base. “Our Farm Fresh Financing program offers the new generation farmer financing and credit options that are tailored to fit their unique business,” says Bob Frazee, CEO of MidAtlantic Farm Credit. “Farm Credit understands the new generation farmer’s wants and needs, which is why this program and our experience in agricultural lending make us excellent partners.”

The National Value Added Agriculture Conference is held each year in a different city around the country. Presenters discuss ways to enhance food security with innovative practices and opportunities.

Designer crops cropping up on seed websites, in catalogs

RICHMOND - It’s chic to have a backyard garden full of fancy new produce, and nurseries and seed companies are competing to bring gardeners the most colorful and flavorful designer edibles possible.

“People have always sought out new colors and plants for the flower garden, so it’s only natural that the gardener’s pursuit of unusual, rare or new plant varieties would extend to the vegetable garden and orchard,” said Tony Banks, a commodity marketing specialist for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.

“This isn’t a new phenomenon, but with today’s renewed interest in vegetable gardening and greater access to gardening information and seed sources, there is a demand for these so-called designer crops. The attraction of many of these plants is their unusual colors. Color sells, so plant breeders and seed companies are offering a great selection of colors such as yellow and boldly striped tomatoes, purple and yellow radishes, pink pumpkins and more.”

NPR’s blog The Salt recently published an article naming the top new designer crops for 2014.

The pineberry, or pineapple strawberry, has a dramatic color contrast and notes of pineapple flavor. It first appeared in the 1750s in Europe as a cross between an American wild strawberry and a Chilean strawberry. It was a poor producer until 2003, when a Dutch strawberry breeder stepped in to transform it into a stronger plant. Pineberries are now available for the first time in the United States.

Glass Gem corn has translucent rainbow kernels that look more like Swarovski crystals than food. It is a flint corn, not a sweet corn, so it cannot be eaten fresh, but it can be dried and popped for popcorn or ground for polenta or cornbread.

The Indigo Rose tomato was developed with genetic material from wild tomatoes from Chile and the Galapagos Islands. It gets its pigmentation from anthocyanin, the compound that gives blueberries and eggplants their hue.

Oca is a stubby tuber native to Bolivia and Peru that comes in a rainbow of colors from bright pink to dark red to light yellow. When eaten raw, the different varieties taste similar to celery, chestnut or apple. They also can be boiled or fried.

Wasabi is a green-colored root with heart-shaped leaves. It comes from the same family as cabbage, radishes and broccoli and often is enjoyed alongside sushi as a dollop of green paste. That paste, however, often contains more horseradish and green dye than actual wasabi root. Researchers with Washington State University’s extension service worked with 20 different cultivars of wasabi to find one that is suitable for backyard gardening.

Turkey production down, chicken production up in West Virginia

CHARLESTON - The combined value of production and value of sales from broilers, turkeys, eggs, and the value of sales from chickens in West Virginia in 2013 was $336.2 million, up 14 percent from 2012. Of the combined total, 70 percent was from broilers, 16 percent from turkeys, 14 percent from eggs and less than 1 percent from sales of other chickens.

There were 96.8 million broilers produced in West Virginia during 2013, up 3 percent from the number of 94.0 million broilers produced in 2012. Total live weight was 387.2 million pounds, up from 376.0 million pounds in 2012. Value of production totaled $234.6 million, up 25 percent from the 2012 value of $188.0 million. The average live weight equivalent price of 60.6 cents per pound is up from the 2012 average live weight equivalent price of 50.0 cents per pound. Equivalent price is for the commercial producer, not contractees.

Turkeys raised in West Virginia totaled 3.1 million, down 6 percent from the 2012 total of 3.3 million head. Total live weight was 80.6 million pounds, down 10 percent from 89.1 million pounds in 2012. Value of production totaled $53.6 million, down 17 percent from the 2012 value of production of $64.2 million. The average live weight equivalent price was 66.5 cents per pound, down 5.6 cents per pound from the 2012 price of 72.1 cents.

Exports of poultry from Virginia to China will resume

RICHMOND - Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe recently announced that a seven-year ban on exports of poultry from Virginia to China has been lifted by China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine and that country’s Ministry of Agriculture.

“This is outstanding news for Virginia’s poultry industry and the many related businesses that work to move product from our family farms into the global marketplace,” McAuliffe said, noting that poultry is the largest individual sector of the state’s agriculture industry. “Increased exports will help support farm-, processing- and transportation-related jobs in the commonwealth. This will also bring enormous business benefits to the Port of Virginia at a critical time for that entity.”

Robert Mills, a Pittsylvania County poultry grower and chairman of the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Poultry Advisory Committee, agreed. “I think it’s very significant, with the amount of poultry we have in Virginia. Not only does it open up more opportunities for more product to be exported, but it also opens up opportunities for cuts of poultry that we typically don’t use here in the United States as much as they do in China.”

Todd Haymore, Virginia’s secretary of agriculture and forestry, said such products “can be an important income generator for poultry processors. Chicken feet and wing tips may be worth a few cents per pound in the domestic market but can sell for many times this amount in China.”

With the ban rescinded, “we believe that Virginia stands to gain $20 million or more in export sales each year,” Haymore said.

China instituted the ban in 2007 following an isolated case of low pathogenic avian influenza reported on a single Virginia farm. It applied to all poultry produced in Virginia, as well as to all poultry transiting through Virginia or exported from any port in Virginia. State officials have long contended that the ban was not justified by scientific data, as the avian influenza occurrence did not pose a food safety or poultry health risk.

China is one of the top foreign markets for U.S. poultry, purchasing more than $416 million in 2013, with Georgia, Mississippi and North Carolina as leading suppliers. It also is Virginia’s top market for agricultural and forestry exports other than poultry.

Virginia’s work to resolve the ban with federal and Chinese officials began in late 2007 under then-Gov. Tim Kaine and has included efforts by numerous state and federal officials and members of Virginia’s Congressional delegation, along with the Virginia Poultry Federation and the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council.

TN introduces new Mobile App for farms, farmers' markets

NASHVILLE - A “Pick Tennessee” mobile app is now available which can find and then map the way to locally grown farm products, farms and farmers markets. The free app, downloadable from both iTunes for Apple products and from Google Play for Android devices, is the latest advancement of Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s Pick Tennessee Products promotion.

“I’m proud to introduce this new face of an old friend,” Tennessee Department of Agriculture Commissioner Julius Johnson said. “Pick Tennessee Products has thrived for 28 years not only by providing real and valuable services, but also by having the flexibility to adapt to change—changing cultures, consumer demands, and technology."

“Our government services must anticipate needs not just for the current year, but for 15 years down the road. With the new Pick Tennessee mobile app, we now reach consumers where they already expect to find us—on their phones and other digital devices.”

The Pick Tennessee mobile app allows users to search by item, like “apples,” by region of the state, or season. The mobile app then provides directions to the chosen location through direct GPS mapping.

“Every Tennessee farmer or farm product producer who sells directly to the public can visit the Pick Tennessee Products website and apply to become part of this extraordinary free service,” Johnson said. “If a farm is listed on Pick Tennessee Products, that farm is automatically available on the new Pick Tennessee mobile app for GPS mapping.”

The Pick Tennessee mobile app can keep track of favorites and provides links to seasonal recipes, handy tips and fun facts, as well as the full Pick Tennessee Products website. Farm direct and local items on the app include options as varied as local fruits and vegetables, wineries, greenhouses and plant nurseries, Christmas tree farms, and local honey. The items can be searched by the farm where they’re produced, or the markets where they’re sold.

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Trivia Question: Which was the most recent U.S. President to be a member of the FFA?

a. Barack Obama
b. George Bush
c. Jimmy Carter
d. Bill Clinton

Answer: There has been only one - President Jimmy Carter was a member of the White Plains FFA Chapter in Georgia.

Previous Question
: The average American eats 8 pounds of cantaloupe each year. What is the cantaloupe named after?

a. A river in Denmark
b. The third Pope of the 18th century
c. A color
d. A castle in Italy

Answer - d. The cantaloupe was supposedly named for the summer vacation estate (castle) Cantalou, a former Papal garden near Rome, where the variety was developed.

Previous Question: North Carolina farmers grow a lot of apples and peaches. But neither of these crops is the Official State Fruit of North Carolina. What is the Official State Fruit of North Carolina?

a. strawberry
b. blueberry
c. Scuppernong grape
d. plum

Answer: c. North Carolina designated the Scuppernong grape as the official state fruit in 2001. A scuppernong is a large variety of muscadine (a type of grape native to southeastern U.S.). The grape was named after the Scuppernong River of North Carolina, where it was first discovered. The word Scuppernong is from the Algonquian Indian word ascopo which means "sweet bay tree."


North Carolina State Farmers Market to host Watermelon Day July 31

RALEIGH – The State Farmers Market will host its annual Watermelon Day July 31 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Visitors can enjoy free slices of N.C. watermelon, get their photo taken with the N.C. Watermelon Queen and purchase locally grown watermelons from market vendors. The event also includes the largest-watermelon contest, with weigh-in at noon.

The grower with the largest watermelon by weight will win bragging rights and $1,000 in prize money. The second-heaviest melon will earn $500, the third-heaviest will earn $300 and the fourth-heaviest will earn $200. In 2013, Todd Dawson of Garner won first place with his 179.5- pound melon.

All entries must be from North Carolina, and growers must be prepared to identify where the watermelon was grown. Only one entry will be allowed per person. Entries will be accepted until 11:30 a.m. Melons should be free of decay and soft spots. Stems should be trimmed to 3 inches. All entries will become the property of the State Farmers Market following the weigh-in.

Watermelon Day is sponsored by the N.C. Watermelon Association, State Farmers Market Restaurant, R & H Produce, Ford’s Produce and the State Farmers Market. More information about this and other market events is available at www.statefarmersmarket.org.




Corn production estimate unchanged

WASHINGTON, DC - USDA's July World Agricultural Supply & Demand Estimates report kept the projected 2014 U.S. corn yield unchanged from last month at a record 165.3 BPA. A 500,000 acre reduction in U.S. harvested corn acres puts the projected size of the 2014 U.S. corn crop at 13.860 billion bushels, which is 75 million bushels smaller than last year's record crop.

Ending stocks for the 2014/2015 crop year increased by 75 million bushels as a decrease in the crop size was offset by reductions in Feed and Residual usage. U.S. corn ending stocks are projected to be 1.801 billion bushels, which equates to a stock-to-usage ratio of 13.5%.

World corn carryover from the 2013/2014 crop year was increased by 4.37 million metric tons (mmt) to 173.42 (mmt). Global corn production was lowered slightly to 980.96 mmt. Overall, world corn ending stocks increased from 182.65 mmt to 188.05 mmt.

U.S. soybean yield was left unchanged at a record 45.2 BPA. The 3.6 million acre increase in harvested acres from last month increases U.S. soybean production to 3.8 billion bushels from 3.635 billion bushels last month.

2013/2014 soybean ending stocks increased by 15 million bushels to 140 million bushels as a 45 million bushel increase in crush and export demand was offset by a 69 million bushel negative residual number (this negative residual number will be accounted for on a future report).

For the 2014/2015 crop year, soybean demand was increased in the crush and export categories by 90 million bushels, but an increase in carryover and the projected crop size netted a 90 million bushel increase in 2014/2015 ending stocks to 415 million bushels (largest since 2006). The projected soybean stocks-to-usage ratio is at 11.7%.

On the world front, soybean production was increased by 4.8 mmt to 304.79 mmt. Slight increases in global demand mean ending stocks increased by 2.43 mmt to 85.31 mmt.




Cargill to remove growth-promoting antibiotics from all turkeys

Cargill's Honeysuckle White and Shady Brook Farms are now the first major turkey brands to remove growth-promoting antibiotics from all turkeys across the independent farms they work with, without charging a premium price. Based on consumer research and feedback, these brands are pioneering efforts to provide families with new, affordable, turkey choices.

Cargill worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop a three-part verification process for turkey production that exceeds all current government and industry standards:

• All turkeys are raised by independent farmers
• Producers are trained on proper animal handling practices
• No antibiotics are used for growth promotion (antibiotics only used for treatment of illness and disease prevention)

"Consumer research tells us people are more interested than ever in where their food comes from and how it is produced," said Ruth Kimmelshue, president of the Cargill Turkey & Cooked Meats business.

"We believe ending the use of antibiotics to promote growth in turkeys is an important step that provides consumers with nutritious and affordable options. Working with our broad network of independent farmers, Cargill has the experience, resources and capabilities to successfully make this change and meet the needs of our customers and consumers."

Cargill's initiative to remove growth-promoting antibiotics was reinforced last December when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a three-year plan to phase out the use of antibiotics that are medically important in human health and are also used to improve growth or feed efficiency in livestock and poultry.

"Fresh, whole turkeys raised without growth-promoting antibiotics will be available this Thanksgiving under Cargill's signature brand labels, Honeysuckle White and Shady Brook Farms," Kimmelshue said. "All Cargill turkey flocks will be free of growth-promoting antibiotics by the end of 2015."

Consumer concerns over responsible use of antibiotics in animal production has made many people more curious about how their food is produced, but only slightly more than half read nutrition labels or ingredient lists. However, 62 percent of consumers would be very, or extremely, interested in purchasing turkey that has not received growth stimulants.

Cargill is proud to work with independent farms to raise turkeys without growth-promoting antibiotics. The company's farmer partners have been trained on industry leading animal handling practices established by the National Turkey Federation, which enables handlers to provide the best care for the animals.

The health and wellness of animals is of utmost importance to Cargill, and antibiotics will still be administered under the supervision of a veterinarian to treat and prevent disease.

Source: Cargill News Release



Hydroponic lettuce takes root in eastern NC

AYDEN — Jedd Koehn is a young and innovative agricultural entrepreneur. Raised on an organic row-crop farm in western Kansas, he moved to North Carolina about nine years ago, wanting to live “where it was green.”

Last November, his Pitt County company, Coastal Plains Produce, harvested its first crop of hydroponic lettuce. Now he finds himself surrounded by lots of green: 13 kinds of lettuce, plus watercress, arugula and dandelion greens.

Hydroponic lettuce offers several advantages over field-grown lettuce. First of all, it can be grown and harvested all year. Secondly, it is cleaner — no soil on the roots or in the leaves, no worries about contamination with E. coli. The greenhouse environment provides more control over temperature fluctuations and cuts down on pest problems. Heads of lettuce with roots still attached stay fresher longer as they go to market protected individually in clamshells.

Still, there are challenges involved with hydroponic production. The plants grow in water that has to be constantly monitored. Is there enough water in the float beds? Is the pH within an acceptable range? Are optimal amounts of nutrients being provided?

To get a handle on these issues, Koehn has been sending samples of his well water and float-bed nutrient solution to the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for solution analysis. This test, which costs $5 per sample, provides useful information on the properties and nutrient content of water used for specific agricultural purposes. It is useful in evaluating the suitability of source water, irrigation water and nutrient solutions.

“I found that my well water has a naturally high pH of about 7.3,” Koehn said, “and the float-bed water was low in micronutrients.”

Fortunately, solution reports provide recommendations for alleviating any problems detected. They also provide contact information so growers who desire more specific advice can consult with experts. Koehn has been consulting closely with department agronomists Aaron Pettit and Chris Jernigan.

Pettit, an agronomist at the Agronomic Services Division’s laboratory in Raleigh, explained how high pH in a float-bed solution could reduce availability of micronutrients to the crop. He provided instructions for correcting the situation by adding sulfuric acid to the float beds. Pettit also suggested that Koehn contact regional agronomist Chris Jernigan, who covers Pitt County and could work more closely with him.

Frequent sampling is beneficial

Photo of lettuceKoehn started out collecting solution samples about once a month, but now he sees the benefit of sampling more often. Summer heat, which causes evaporation, and the addition of acid to lower pH make it necessary to keep close tabs on float-bed solution quality. Since it only takes about five-and-a-half weeks to produce a crop of lettuce in the summer, as opposed to eight weeks in the winter, he must check the nutrient solution more frequently to ensure optimal production.

“When I receive a solution report, I usually spend a day adjusting fertility based on the report data and recommendations,” Koehn said. “I’m particularly interested in pH and EC.”

EC, or electrical conductivity, is one of the measurements provided on the solution report. It is a general indicator of the amount of fertilizer dissolved in solution. When it is above the range indicated as acceptable on the report, then too much fertilizer is present and plants may become dehydrated or show salt injury.

“Jedd is very much on the right track,” Jernigan said. “He’s battling some new situations this summer, but he’s staying on top of it. He’ll call me and say ‘I’ve calculated my fertilizer rate to be this. Will you check behind me?’ He’s determined to get it right. He’s not taking chances.”

Because Koehn is relatively new to hydroponic production, the agronomic advice has been important. “I’m learning all the time,” he said, “and these guys (Jernigan and Pettit) are helping me along. They’ve helped me with the sampling and with getting my nutrients right. They’ve been a lifesaver.”

Koehn sells lettuce through wholesaler Blue Sky Farms in Wendell. The Chef and The Farmer restaurant in Kinston also features “Jedd’s lettuce” on its menu. Koehn hopes the quality of his lettuce will make it compete successfully with field-grown lettuce throughout summer.

The Agronomic Services Division has a staff of regional agronomists who can make on-site visits and help growers solve nutrient-related problems. Contact information is available online at www.ncagr.gov/agronomi/rahome.htm.




Cover crops demonstration plot to be featured at Ag Progress Days in Pennsylvania

UNIVERSITY PARK - Cover crops planted in rotation with main crops can help farmers reduce erosion and replenish nutrients into the soil, and cover crops increasingly are being considered for biofuel feedstocks.

Visitors can learn more about these benefits of cover crops at an expanded cover crops demonstration plot beside the J.D. Harrington Crops, Soils and Conservation Building at Ag Progress Days, Aug. 12-14.

"We're also starting to consider cover crops more for their potential use in forage production," said Marvin Hall, professor of forage management and coordinator of the Crops, Soils and Conservation Area at Ag Progress Days.

According to Hall, cover crop varieties growing in the plot include annual ryegrass; a mix of tillage radish, sunhemp and sorghum-sudangrass; a mix of tillage radish and triticale; a mix of tillage radish and oats; phacelia; sunhemp; a mix of annual ryegrass, tillage radish and crimson clover; hairy vetch; sorghum sudangrass; pearl millet; fava bean; Austrian pea; and a mix of crimson clover and ryegrass.

An interseeder developed by Penn State will demonstrate one method used to plant cover crops. Hall noted that an interseeder can plant cover crops in fields where established crops already are growing. A planter with a built-in roller-crimper, manufactured by innovator Charles Martin, also will be featured.

"This is an innovation in agricultural machinery," Hall said. "Both pieces of equipment help integrate cover cropping into our cropping systems. It is good for soil quality and soil conservation."

Hay producers can bring samples to be evaluated during the Hay Show. These samples must have been grown in Pennsylvania in 2014 by the exhibitor. Entries officially close at 10 a.m. Aug. 12, but exhibitors are encouraged to bring their samples Aug. 11 before the show begins. You can see the hay brochure for this year at http://agsci.psu.edu/apd/pdfs/2014-hay-show-brochure.

Sustainable agriculture also will be represented, and visitors can meet with the experts from Penn State, the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture and Pennsylvania Certified Organic, and have questions answered.

Information on composting, biofuels, watering systems, plants that attract pollinators and deer-management strategies also will be available.

Sponsored by Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, Ag Progress Days is held at the Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center at Rock Springs, 9 miles southwest of State College on Route 45. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 12; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Aug. 13; and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 14. Admission and parking are free.



Maryland issues Buy Local Challenge

ANNAPOLIS – “Yes, I pledge to eat at least one thing from a local farm every day during Buy Local Week!”

That’s the Buy Local Challenge, which runs from July 19-27, and the Maryland Department of Agriculture (and Maryland farmers) encourages residents, restaurants, hospitals and others to sign the pledge and take up the challenge.

“'Buy Local Challenge Week’ is a great opportunity to remind Marylanders of all the healthy, delicious foods we have right here in Maryland,” said Governor Martin O’Malley. “Katie and I challenge our neighbors show their support for Maryland’s family farms – we’re encouraging Marylanders to purchase at least one locally-grown product for their favorite dishes during Buy Local Challenge Week and to continue that practice every day of the year.”

The Buy Local Challenge was created seven years ago by Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission (SMADC) Executive Director Christine Bergmark, in partnership with the Maryland Department of Agriculture, as a way to support local farms and encourage Marylanders to eat more nutritious foods.
The Governor and First Lady have hosted a Buy Local Cookout at Government House for the past seven years to featuring delicious, healthy recipes made with locally-grown foods.

More info at: https://www.facebook.com/MarylandBuyLocalChallenge



N.C. peach season on tap to be a good one

RALEIGH – Homemade ice cream, cobbler or sliced fresh, no matter what way you enjoy peaches, this season is looking good for the crop. While an unusually cold winter did impact the crop, mid-to late-season peaches will be plentiful in much of the state.

“North Carolina growers produce 70 varieties, each with its own unique flavor,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “Peach season typically runs from late May to August, so consumers have time to sample many different varieties this summer.”

Dexter Hill, marketing specialist with the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, offers these tips for choosing, and eating, a great tasting peach:

* Check the undertone, near the stem, to determine ripeness. A green undertone indicates peaches that are not fully ripe.
* Many peaches have a “blush,” which is a rosy red color that, depending on the variety, may be minor or almost cover the entire peach. The color and extent of the blush is more a characteristic of the variety, and not a determining factor of ripeness, Hill said.
* The peach should be firm and have a good fragrance.
* For best quality, keep peaches at room temperature, Hill said. They can be held for a short time in a refrigerator, but refrigeration does not add to the taste or quality of the fruit.
* Before eating a peach, wash and peel it, then remove the pit. A simple way to peel a peach is to dip it in boiling water for 30 seconds and then dip it in cold water, Hill said. The peel should slide off easily afterwards.

Mark your calendar for the Peach Festival in Candor on July 19. It will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and include a peach cooking contest, 5K run, parade and plenty of peach samples, desserts and ice cream. More information about the peach festival can be found online at www.townofcandornc.com.



Farm-to-School program successful in WV

Greenbrier County, WV is no stranger to agriculture. It boasts the third highest number of farms in the Mountain State at 819. It also has one of the state’s largest FFA programs. Perhaps this is why the county’s Farm To School program has enjoyed such success at both the middle and high school level.

FFA member Alex Hanna of Renick says he has been growing crops for as long as he can remember. This past year, with the help of his family, advisors, and fellow ag students, Alex raised sweet corn to be sold in Kanawha County schools. When all was said and done, Alex sold several thousand ears of fresh sweet corn to 15 different schools in Kanawha County.

The sweet corn sale, which was also a part of Alex’s SAE (Supervised Agricultural Experience) project, was a huge step for the fairly young Farm To Schools program in Greenbrier County.

“We are starting to get more [involvement] and we have several students in Ag that have provided different varieties of crops. Hopefully the program gets even stronger, and of course I plan to continue to be involved in that and sell produce to local schools in Greenbrier and neighboring counties,” he said.

“We got all positive feedback. They were happy and I felt good exposing the kids to fresh and healthy food. It was hard work, but it was worth it in the end.”

The Farm To Schools program in Greenbrier County has also brought local and student grown products to the county’s own school cafeterias. Eastern Greenbrier Middle School and Western Greenbrier Middle School have seen the development of a cafeteria “garden bars” composed of fresh vegetables and fruits produced by students and local small farms.

The gardening program at the Greenbrier middle schools has also opened the gate for agricultural enrichment programs and summer school sessions, where students can get more hands-on experience in the school gardens.

Officials credit AmeriCorps worker Emily Landseidel for her work in the county’s two middle schools. Working through the County Child Nutrition office, Landseidel has acted as the Farm to School Coordinator for Greenbrier County, helping to integrate fresh foods into the cafeteria and agricultural awareness in the classrooms of Greenbrier County’s two middle schools.

Landseidel smiles in her pink Farm To School t-shirt, a measure of pride in her expression. “Does it engage them and get them involved in actively learning about their surroundings and how different things function on this planet?” She laughs. “Yes. Definitely.”



NC farmers, gardeners urged to submit soil sample information online

RALEIGH — The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is reminding growers and gardeners to get a head start on their planting projects by submitting soil samples now. There is no fee currently, and reports are available in one to two weeks. Also, sample information forms can now be completed and submitted online for more accurate and efficient processing.

“As the weather warms up, homeowners start focusing more on yard and garden maintenance and landscaping projects, which could benefit from soil sampling and agronomic advice,” said Jagathi Kamalakanthan, NCDA&CS soil testing agronomist. “Submitting samples during the off-peak times ensures faster turnaround times and no fees for this service. Plus, you will have the information in plenty of time to put fall gardening plans and yard or pasture renovations in place.”

The peak season for submitting soil samples is December through March, when a $4 fee is charged per sample. Off-season times are April through November, when no fees are charged.

Many home gardeners drop off their soil samples along with a hand-written sample information form at the nearest county Cooperative Extension office. The new online procedure requires a little forethought but is worth the effort. Before going to the extension office, clients should visit the Agronomic Services Division’s Public-Access Laboratory Information Management System website at www.ncagr.gov/agronomi/pals, create a user account, and respond to a verification email. Then, they can fill out and submit their sample information form online. A copy of the electronic form should be sent along with the samples to the soil lab as usual.

There are several good reasons to establish a PALS account. It is a great way for the grower or home owner to take charge of the accuracy of their information. Clients can directly enter, update and correct their name, address and other details. This procedure reduces errors and duplications that invariably occur when staff must key in data from handwritten forms.

“Once an account is created, online submission is also a great time saver,” Kamalakanthan said. “For all future submissions, the client’s information is automatically filled in.”

Another advantage of having a PALS account is that clients are always notified by email when their report is completed and posted online. Every account is associated with a verified email address.

Although the agency prefers that clients set up an account, having one is not necessary to search for reports online or to submit samples with a hand-written form. However, if clients do not put a valid email address on the sample information form, they will not receive notification when their report becomes available online. The division does not routinely mail soil test reports.

Step-by-step instructions on how to create a PALS account, submit soil sample information online, and search for reports are available online at www.ncagr.gov/agronomi/.



Pennsylvania corn growers warned of possible cutworm increase

After significant flights of black cutworm moths were observed across parts of the Keystone State this spring, growers are advised to scout their corn fields for black cutworm feeding.

Penn State’s Black Cutworm Monitoring Network detected seven “significant flights” of black cutworm moths this spring. With warm weather in the forecast, farmers are advised that now is the time in southern, central, and northeastern Pennsylvania to scout corn fields for cutting damage. "Sites in north central Pennsylvania still have about a week or so before we expect cutting damage to peak, but given the early heavy flights, we recommend that growers watch their fields closely," say Extension Specialist John Tooker.

The sites where significant numbers of moths were observed are near Kutztown (Berks County), near Montoursville (Lycoming County), near Pine Grove Mills (Centre County), Wysox (Bradford County), and three in north central PA near St. Marys (Elk County), near Kane (McKean County), near Risser (Potter County). The flights mean that these parts of the state are at a higher risk than usual for black cutworm damage, "but we are trying to make all growers across Pennsylvania aware of the risk of damage," said Tooker.




N.C. peach growers approve assessment

RALEIGH — North Carolina peach growers approved an assessment that will fund research and marketing efforts. The assessment received a necessary two-thirds majority vote from eligible peach growers during a mail-in referendum in April.

The annual assessment will be based on the total number of peach trees per commercial orchard. Those who grow between 100 and 500 trees will be assessed $100. Growers with 501 to 2,500 trees will be assessed $250. Those who grow more than 2,500 trees will be assessed $350.

The assessment goes into effect January 2015 and remains in effect through December 2020. Funds will be collected by the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and distributed to the N.C. Peach Growers Society. The society will determine how to allocate the money to improve peach research and marketing efforts in the state.

North Carolina is the 13th-largest peach producer in the nation. In 2012, the state grew 5,300 tons of peaches. The majority of the state’s peaches are sold directly to consumers at farmers markets and roadside stands.

More information about North Carolina’s peach industry is available on the N.C. Peach Growers Society’s website at www.ncpeachgrowers.com.



Pennsylvania adds 28 farms, nearly 2,800 acres to preservation program

HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania’s Agricultural Land Preservation Board recently safeguarded 2,778 additional acres on 28 farms in 13 counties through the state’s nationally renowned farmland preservation program.

The board preserved far​ms in Bedford, Bucks, Center, Chester, Cumberland, Erie, Lancaster, Mercer, Montgomery, Northampton, Schuylkill, Susquehanna and Wayne counties.

Since the program began in 1988, federal, state, county and local governments have invested more than $1.2 billion to preserve 489,409 acres on 4,586 farms in 57 counties for future agricultural production.

“The best agriculture land is often the best land for development, but our farmland preservation program ensures prime soils stay in farming,” said Agriculture Secretary George Greig. “I thank the producers who want to preserve their land and the people behind the scenes who make it happen. Together, we’re preserving agriculture, the cornerstone of Pennsylvania’s economy.”

The Pennsylvania Agricultural Conservation Easement Purchase Program identifies properties and slows the loss of prime farmland to non-agricultural uses. It enables state, county and local governments to purchase conservation easements, also called development rights, from owners of quality farmland.

In some cases, the federal Farm and Ranchlands Protection Program provides additional assistance. Last fiscal year, Pennsylvania received $4.2 million in federal reimbursements.




Potato trials underway in WV; Spuds seen as part of "$6 billion opportunity" for farmers

CHARLESTON - West Virginia Agriculture Commissioner Walt Helmick recently announced that a potato-testing project is being conducted during the 2014 growing season on tracts of WVDA property located adjacent to the Huttonsville Correctional Center in Randolph County and the Lakin Correctional Center in Mason County.

Helmick said that up to 14 different varietals have been planted at both sites and the results generated from the two projects will be utilized to determine which types of potatoes will provide the most productive yields in those two regions of the state.

The testing will also help to detail a framework for future potato planting on both state-owned and private farmland to help meet the growing demand for this crop both inside and outside of West Virginia.

“As I’ve been saying since taking office last year, we have a $6 billion opportunity here in West Virginia and what it really amounts to is being able to grow fresh products in West Virginia for West Virginians to consume,” Commissioner Helmick said. “This potato project at Lakin and Huttonsville will establish a solid baseline for which varietals will perform the best in those regions of the state and we will use that to begin boosting potato production in West Virginia so that we don’t have to import them from other states.

“It will also help us to continue in our efforts to attract large scale potato buyers to do business with us,” Commissioner Helmick added. “We’ve been working diligently to establish some aggregation sites in various locations across the state so we can assist farmers in establishing a reliable market and distribution network for our West Virginia grown products.

“This testing project is the next step in the process.”



Some Pennsylvania counties see surge in agricultural economy

HARRISBURG - Several counties in the Keystone State saw big increases in livestock and crop production between 2007 and 2012.

Pennsylvania’s total market value of livestock and animal products sold increased 17 percent to $4.62 billion dollars in 2012 compared to 2007. The recent USDA Census of agriculture shows the Pennsylvania counties with the largest market value of sales of livestock and animal products were:

- Lancaster $1.21 billion; an increase of 31.5 percent from 2007
- Franklin $324.6 million; an increase of 20.4 percent from 2007
- Berks $303.7 million; an increase of 50.1 percent from 2007
- Lebanon $303.2 million; an increase of 28.9 percent from 2007
- Snyder $138.3 million; an increase of 46.9 percent from 2007

Pennsylvania’s market value of crops and horticulture products sold increased
48.9 percent to $2.78 billion dollars in 2012 compared to 2007. The Pennsylvania
counties with the largest market value of sales of crops and horticulture were:

- Chester $535.2 million; an increase of 21.6 percent from 2007
- Lancaster $261.0 million; an increase of 74.9 percent from 2007
- Berks $225.0 million; an increase of 35.9 percent from 2007
- York $147.2 million; an increase of 47.0 percent from 2007
- Adams $114.0 million; an increase of 62.0 percent from 2007

According to the farmers reporting on the Agriculture Census, along with increased value of farm products sold, farm operating expenses also increased. Expenses to produce agricultural products in Pennsylvania totaled $6.04 billion dollars in 2012, an increase of 23 percent from 2007. Expenses averaged $101,869 across Pennsylvania’s 59,309 farms.



Cover crops and soil health awareness gaining popularity in South Carolina

Nearly 100 farmers recently gathered in Dillon County, S.C. to see why some farmers are raving about the benefits of cover crops. A few groups hosted a field day to illustrate first-year findings resulting from demonstrations made possible through a USDA Conservation Innovation Grant.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service awarded the three-year grant to the soil and water conservation districts in Richland, Dillon and Marlboro counties and the Earth Sciences and Resources Institute at the University of South Carolina (USC).

The project involves five farmers in three counties across South Carolina who agreed to plant multispecies cover crops each fall, vary the amount of nitrogen they apply each spring and record their cash crop yields.

The nutrient benefit that the cover crops provide can be measured by looking at soil respiration, or 24-hour carbon dioxide production, using a special test called the Haney-Brinton test.

Science shows that soil respiration is closely related to the amount of nitrogen that will be released for plant growth. In the study, the participating farmers will apply the traditional recommended rate of commercial nitrogen to one half of the test field, and based on the Haney-Brinton quantification, a lesser amount to the other half.

“We expect to see little to no difference in yield between the regular nitrogen and lower nitrogen applications,” said Buz Kloot, a USC professor.

Kloot says as the costs of inputs rise, farmers are becoming more interested in the idea that increased soil health can provide real benefits that include increased soil moisture, better crop yields, lower weed pressure, reduced inputs and lower costs.

“It was really gratifying to see a room full of growers seriously interested in soil health and in the outcomes of our field demonstrations,” said Chanda Cooper, the education coordinator for the Richland Soil and Water Conservation District.

Cooper said the next step of the project is conducting spring soil respiration tests, which will be used to make recommendations for commercial nitrogen reduction.

“The five farmers participating in this project are innovators and spokesmen for soil health and conservation,” she said. “Their enthusiasm and commitment to the work, and their testimony to their peers, is more meaningful than any set of results that a test can generate.”



Agribusiness management degree now available through Penn State Online

UNIVERSITY PARK - The nation’s increasing focus on local and regional food systems, renewable energies and maintaining natural resources is leading to double-digit job growth in these occupation sectors, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Adults working in these sectors who have some college but not a four-year degree, and who need a degree for career advancement, now have a convenient option. Penn State is offering its bachelor of science degree in agribusiness management online through the Penn State World Campus.

“The agribusiness industry accounts for nearly one-fifth of the U.S. gross national product and employs close to one-fourth of the U.S. labor force,” said Spiro E. Stefanou, Penn State professor of agricultural economics and undergraduate coordinator for the agribusiness management program.

Factors contributing to the rosy jobs outlook in agribusiness and related sectors, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports, are the improving economy, retirements of baby boomers, consumers’ preferences for nutritious and safe foods, and shifting global markets.

“Penn State has a robust agribusiness management degree program that offers emerging professionals a vibrant educational opportunity to prepare for this career,” Stefanou said. “This degree also is ideal for adults already in this field who want to advance their career.”

Stefanou noted that a special feature of this program is its grounding in the agricultural and food system. “Students will receive specialized training in this system, but the concepts and skills they learn can be applied broadly and transferred to other areas,” he said. “In addition to learning the abstract concepts of agribusiness management, students will learn how to apply these concepts to make a difference on the job.”

Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences has offered the bachelor of science degree in agribusiness management on campus since 1977. The 120-credit online program is designed for adults who have an associate degree in a related field. Students can customize the bachelor’s degree for their career goals and can take courses part time while working.

Graduates will be prepared for careers in agricultural and life sciences industries, including input markets, farm production, commodities marketing and processing, food manufacturing and distribution, and food retailing.

Applications are being accepted for Penn State’s online agribusiness management bachelor’s degree. For information, visit the website



Virginia poultry industry to be focus of "showcase facility" at Rockingham County Fairgrounds

HARRISONBURG – The Rockingham County Fair in Harrisonburg is renovating and expanding poultry facilities on the Fairgrounds this spring. The goal is to showcase the historic and economic importance of the Virginia poultry industry as well as to provide new and expanded space for exhibitor show birds during the annual County Fair. The Rockingham County Fair has been recognized on numerous occasions as one of the top agricultural Fairs in North America and is dedicating 2014 as “The Year of the Farm Family.”

“This project has been a long time in the making,” says Jeff Ishee, GM for the Rockingham County Fair Association. The current poultry exhibit building was transported to its present-day site in 1980 after being used for numerous years at the old Kratzer Road site of the County Fair. “It’s time for a make-over,” emphasized Ishee, who added the renovated building and another, poultry-related new-construction building are scheduled to be completed in time for the 2014 County Fair. Attendance at the 2013 Fair set a new record at 88,885 people.

The Fair Association and various poultry companies with operations in Rockingham County developed a plan several months ago to recognize the historic and economic importance of the Shenandoah Valley poultry industry. Construction of the new showcase building began in late March.

“This is a big story and it needs to be told,” remarked poultry industry pioneer Charles Wampler, Jr. of Dayton. “I am pleased more people will learn about the significance of chicken and turkey production and the farm families involved.” The Wampler family was an integral part of the reason Rockingham County has become known around the world as the “Turkey Capital.” Wampler was also the 1st President of the Rockingham County Fair Association in 1949.

The old poultry building used for more than 3 decades is undergoing a complete, top-to-bottom makeover and will contain interactive displays, historic artifacts, and educational exhibits. Two prominent statues (one chicken and one turkey) will welcome visitors at the main entrance. Another building for exhibiting live birds during the County Fair will be new construction from the ground up. It will be used to host other Fairgrounds events throughout the year.

Funding is being provided by private donors, poultry companies and agriculture-related interests. The Fair Association is also being considered for a grant from the Rural Rehabilitation Trust Fund administered by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The project has received endorsements from Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, as well as the encouragement of local elected officials.

“Our mission statement requires us to promote agriculture and be a leader in the presentation and promotion of farm life and food production,” says Fair Association President Don Liskey of Cross Keys. “This is a win-win situation for the Fair and the poultry industry. Visitors to the Fair will learn all about the importance of chicken and turkey production here in the Shenandoah Valley.”