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Farm News for the Mid-Atlantic Region

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New farming documentary spotlights the next generation in agriculture

NORFOLK — Farmland, a feature-length documentary film from award-winning director James Moll, will premier soon in movie theaters across the nation. The movie begins May 1 at theaters in Baltimore, Charlotte, Norfolk, Harrisburg, and Washington, DC.

Farmland offers viewers an intimate, first-hand glimpse into the lives of six young farmers and ranchers across the United States. It chronicles their high-risk, high-reward jobs and their passion for a way of life that has been passed down from generation to generation.

The film follows a fourth-generation poultry farmer from Georgia, a sixth-generation cattle rancher with operations in Texas and Colorado, a fifth-generation Nebraska corn and soybean producer, a fourth-generation produce grower in California, a fourth-generation Minnesota hog farmer and a first-generation vegetable farmer in Pennsylvania.

“In Farmland, audiences will hear thoughts and opinions about agriculture, but not from me, and not from a narrator,” Moll said about the film. “They’re from the mouths of the farmers and ranchers themselves.”

The film has been selected to be in competition this year at the Cleveland International Film Festival, the Atlanta Film Festival, the Nashville Film Festival and the Newport Beach Film Festival.

Farmland was produced by Allentown Productions with support from the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance, of which Virginia Farm Bureau Federation is a member.

A trailer of the film can be viewed at www.farmlandfilm.com

WVU to host webinar on agriculture, climate change

West Virginia University will host a free web-based seminar on climate change and its implications for regional agriculture at 2 p.m. on April 25.

The webinar will be moderated locally by Doolarie Singh-Knights, an assistant extension professor of agricultural and resource economics in WVU’s Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, an agricultural economics specialist with the WVU Extension Service and the local and regional foods scholar at the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development.

The webinar is sponsored by the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development, which is directed by Stephan Goetz, a professor of agricultural and regional economics in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences.

“There is growing interest among those in the agricultural community about how the temperature and precipitation changes that are forecasted to occur over the next decades may affect food production in the Northeast region,” said Goetz, who will co-facilitate the webinar. “While yields for some crops may be adversely affected, new opportunities may also emerge for growing other crops that could not have been grown previously.”

This 90-minute webinar will feature scientists whose research focuses on these issues – Art DeGaetano is a professor of earth and atmospheric sciences at Cornell University and is the director of the federally supported Northeast Regional Climate Center. DeGaetano, who describes his research as “applied climatology,” develops research methods and data sets that provide climatological information to decision-makers in a variety of fields.

David Fleisher is an agricultural engineer in the Agricultural Research Service branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. As a member of the ARS Crop Systems and Global Change Lab, Fleisher carries out research to improve the growth, yield and quality of crops in the face of climatic changes, through increased understanding of the mechanisms controlling response and adaptation to changes in CO2, light, water, temperature and soil chemistry.

As a center scholar, Singh-Knights organized this webinar to help identify current research, teaching and extension efforts that promote practical and profitable responses to climate change challenges. She also expects the webinars to promote regional collaboration in these areas.

“We organized this webinar series as part of the Northeast Center’s efforts to help build stronger networks among land-grant and related institutions in the Northeast,” said Singh-Knights.

This webinar is the third in an occasional series organized by Singh-Knights that focuses on local and regional food systems. Previous webinars in the series are archived online.

To register for the seminar, please visit https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/1954914439646796546
or contact Singh-Knights at Dosingh-knights@mail.wvu.edu.

NC farmers intend to plant more cotton & soybeans in 2014

* Corn plantings in North Carolina this spring are expected to total 850,000 acres in 2014, down 9% from 2013.

* Cotton growers intend to plant 470,000 acres in 2014, 1% more acres than last year.

* Flue-cured tobacco growers expect to harvest 182,000 acres in 2014, up 1% from 2013.

* Burley tobacco growers expect to harvest 1,800 acres in 2014, down 5% from last year.

* Soybean plantings, at 1.6 million acres, are expected to increase 10% from 2013.

* Peanut growers intend to plant 83,000 acres in 2014, up 1% from the planted acreage in 2013.

* Sweet potato growers intend to plant 61,000 acres, up 7,000 from last year.

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.

Virginia growers expected to plant additional cotton, peanuts

COURTLAND - After a cold and wet early spring, Virginia farmers are ready to get their crops in the ground.

Corn plantings across the state are behind schedule. Cotton and peanut producers are expecting to plant more acres this year, while producers of other major row crops are pulling back a bit. According to U.S. Department of Agriculture’s spring planting survey findings released March 31, cotton plantings are expected to increase 5 percent, to 82,000 acres. Virginia peanut producers are expected to plant 18,000 acres this year, an increase of 2,000 from 2013. Both crops are grown almost exclusively in Southeast Virginia.

The decision by growers to increase their plantings was not made in haste and was not prompted solely by price trends, said Jonah Bowles, senior agriculture market analyst with the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.

“You need special equipment to pick cotton or peanuts,” Bowles said. “So you’re not going to see those producers respond to prices as much as your average corn and wheat producer” who can use the same tractors and harvesters for both crops.

In addition, many row crop producers in Southeast Virginia rotate crops among corn, soybeans, wheat, peanuts and cotton, Bowles said. So sometimes they plant a crop not because they expect to make a profit, but because it is the year that crop needs to be planted to break insect and disease cycles.

There also are global market conditions to consider.

“With cotton in particular, when a producer looks at the upcoming year or two and evaluates his profitability, it has nothing to do with domestic demand,” Bowles said. “He looks to export demand and foreign buyers’ ability to purchase his crop. Indonesia and Vietnam and Pakistan are just some of our destination markets for cotton.”

U.S. cotton plantings are expected to rise 7 percent from 2014, according to the survey. Virginia corn plantings are expected to decrease by 10,000 acres to 500,000. Nationwide corn plantings are expected to decline 4 percent from last year’s levels, although they still will be among the largest corn plantings on record since 1944, according to the USDA.

Soybean plantings nationwide are expected to be at a record-high 81.5 million acres, while Virginia soybean plantings are estimated to remain the same as last year’s 600,000 acres. Virginia’s winter wheat plantings decreased 9 percent last fall from the previous year’s level, to 290,000 acres.

The USDA surveyed farmers March 1, and some are still in this year’s planning stages, so the survey findings serve as a first estimate of how this year’s crop season will play out.

U.S. small tractor sales up; large tractors and combines down

According to the Association of Equipment Manufacturer's monthly "Flash Report," the sale of all tractors in the U.S. for March, 2014, were up 14% compared to the same month last year.

For the three months in 2014, a total of 39,111 tractors were sold which compares to 37,214 sold thru March, 2014, representing a 5% increase year to date.

For the month, two-wheel drive smaller tractors (under 40 HP) were up 27% from last year, while 40 & under 100 HP were up 8%. Sales of 2-wheel drive 100+ HP were down 9%, while 4-wheel drive tractors were down 2%.

For the three months, two-wheel drive smaller tractors (under 40 HP) are up 12% over last year, while 40 & under 100 HP are up 2%. Sales of 2-wheel drive 100+ HP are down 2%, while 4-wheel drive tractors are down 7%.

Combine sales were down 22% for the month. Sales of combines for the first three months totaled 1,840, a decrease of 11% over the same period in 2013.

Researchers at Penn State receive $1.14 million to study threats to honey bees

UNIVERSITY PARK - Scientists in the Center for Pollinator Research at Penn State recently received three grants from the USDA and the National Science Foundation to study various threats to honey bees, including disease, pesticides and the extinction and invasion of other species into their habitats.

A team of scientists that includes Christina Grozinger, associate professor of entomology and director of the Center for Pollinator Research, will use a $467,000 grant to examine and develop tools to mitigate the effects of a gut parasite, Nosema ceranae, that negatively impacts honey bees and has been linked to colony losses.

"Honey bees play a vital role in the agricultural system because they pollinate about 75 percent of our major global crops, including nutrient-rich vegetables, fruits and nuts," said Grozinger. "The microsporidian parasite Nosema ceranae is widespread throughout the United States and the world. This parasite interferes with the digestive system and metabolic function of honey bees, leading to increased mortality of individual bees, which in turn can profoundly impact the social structure and health of the colony. This parasite is regarded as a key threat to bee health and has been implicated in alarming colony losses."

Grozinger and her colleagues, including scientists at the USDA's Bee Research Laboratory and the University of Kentucky, will use genomic and genetic techniques to improve the current understanding of how Nosema ceranae infects bees and spreads throughout their colonies.

Other areas of research include colony invasions and pesticide use.

For more information about the center, go to: http://ento.psu.edu/pollinators.

Homeowners reminded about new fertilizer law in Maryland

ANNAPOLIS - Now that spring is finally here, the Maryland Department of Agriculture reminds homeowners and lawn care professionals that responsible lawn care practices can make a big difference for the health of streams, rivers and the Chesapeake Bay. Maryland’s new lawn fertilizer law took effect October 1, 2013, and includes new requirements for both homeowners who fertilize their own lawns and lawn care professionals hired to apply fertilizer to residential, business and public properties.

“Turf grass is now the largest crop in Maryland,” said Maryland Agriculture Secretary Buddy Hance. “As you begin working outside this spring, keep in mind that the way you care for your lawn can make a difference for the Bay,” he added.

Lawn care professionals must now be licensed and certified by MDA to apply fertilizer to the lawns that they manage. This helps ensure that they understand the science behind turf management and the environmental practices they will need to follow in order to protect water resources from excess fertilizer. MDA encourages homeowners to verify that their lawn care provider is certified by visiting www.mda.maryland.gov/fertilizer.

In addition, Maryland law prohibits most lawn fertilizer products from containing phosphorus—a key nutrient that is responsible for the Chesapeake Bay’s “dead zones.” Look for the middle number on a bag of fertilizer. It should be zero (0). Specialty products containing phosphorus are still available and may be used when a soil test indicates the need for phosphorus or when a lawn is being established, repaired or patched. Maryland’s lawn fertilizer law also limits the amount of nitrogen contained in lawn care products and requires part of this nitrogen to be in a slow release form.

Homeowners can make a difference for the Bay this spring by following these best management practices:

* Skip the spring fertilizer. Fertilizing lawns in the spring promotes excessive top growth at the expense of roots.
* Sharpen lawnmower blades. A cleaner cut looks better and is healthier for the grass.
* Raise the cutting height of the mower. Taller grass shades out weeds and needs less water. A three inch cut length is ideal for most lawns.
* Leave grass clippings on the lawn. They provide free fertilizer all season long.

For more information, visit www.mda.maryland/fertilizer.

Specialty Crops are focus of grant program in NC

RALEIGH — The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is accepting grant proposals from nonprofits and government agencies through the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. Examples of specialty crops include fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, and culinary herbs.

The program aims to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops in the marketplace. It is managed by the department and funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture under the 2014 farm bill. Last year, the department awarded nearly $1.2 million to fund 17 projects across the state. The department expects to see increased funding under the new farm bill.

“National funding for specialty crop grants has increased to $72.5 million with this farm bill,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “We expect to see an increase in money allocated to North Carolina as well because the state has such a diversity of specialty crops.”

The department will accept grant requests ranging from $20,000 to $200,000 from nonprofit organizations, commodity associations, state and local government agencies, colleges and universities. Grants are not available for projects that directly benefit or provide a profit to a single organization, institution or individual. The application deadline is 5 p.m. May 2.

Projects involving the following specialty crops are eligible: fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, culinary herbs and spices, medicinal plants, as well as nursery, floriculture and horticulture crops. Funding is also available for projects aimed at developing local and regional food systems and improving food access.

For grant guidelines and an application, go to www.NCSpecialtyCropGrant.org.

For more information, contact Jeff Camden at 919-707-3111, SpecialtyCropGrant@ncagr.gov or Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, 1020 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1020.

WV to honor women in ag

CHARLESTON - The West Virginia Department of Agriculture is seeking nominations for the 2014 “West Virginia Women in Agriculture” program. Nominations are due by June 1, and those making the nominations are asked to provide as much detail about the nominee’s agricultural career as possible.

The ‘Women in Ag’ program was started in 2010 as a way to honor West Virginia women who contribute greatly to our agriculture, forestry and specialty crop industries. Now going into its fifth year, the WVDA has recognized 26 total women.

Previous honorees have been involved in a wide array of fields including: beef, dairy, education, specialty crop production and forestry, among others.

“We know there are many women out there with a dedication and love for the agriculture industries and this is our way to recognize their work in these fields,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Walt Helmick. “I encourage their friends and families to put an entry in.”

Induction is granted to those women who have made significant contributions to the establishment, development, advancement or improvement of West Virginia agriculture, forestry or specialty crops in the Mountain State. Biographies of the selected women will be featured on WVDA displays during the State Fair of West Virginia.

A high-resolution photograph of the nominee is also required (a digital photo is preferred, no smaller than 5x7). The selected women will be contacted for more photos at a later date.

Nomination forms can be obtained by contacting the WVDA Marketing and Development Division at 304-558-2210, via e-mail to tfitzsimmons@wvda.us or on the Department’s website at www.wvagriculture.org.

Completed applications must be returned to: Tracy Fitzsimmons, WV Department of Agriculture, 1900 Kanawha Blvd., E, Charleston, WV 25305, or to tfitzsimmons@wvda.us.

Virginia state forester: Land management is critical for forestry’s future

RICHMOND — Virginia farmers have been concerned about losing farmland for decades. As rural landowners, they also should be concerned about losing forestland, said Robert Farrell, acting state forester for the Virginia Department of Forestry.

“On average over the last 10 years Virginia has lost 16,000 acres of private forestland each year. That’s out of 15.9 million acres of forestland statewide,” Farrell said. “Obviously, in some places we are losing it faster than in others. Deforestation certainly follows urban development patterns, especially in rapidly growing suburban areas.”

Urban growth is inevitable, but Farrell told county Farm Bureau presidents March 10 that his department is reaching out to private landowners to help them better manage their forest holdings. He spoke at a conference organized by Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.

The western half of Virginia is full of national park lands and national forest lands, where timber harvesting is restricted. In order for Virginia’s forest industry to thrive, more private landowners must get involved in managing and preserving their land, Farrell said. A 2011 economic impact study determined that Virginia’s forest industry generated $17 billion annually for the state’s economy and employed 103,800 workers.

“The entire forestry industry is dependent on a strong forestland base,” Farrell said. “There are already areas in the state where it is getting difficult to harvest timber because the remaining blocks of forestland are so small it’s difficult to get a logger to go in and harvest the trees. If you drop below critical mass, you lose the ability to harvest the rest of the land.”

There are tools that the DOF can use to help landowners.

“Everywhere in the state, there is a DOF forester available to help you,” Farrell said. “The nice thing about forests is they provide a lot of benefits other than just harvesting the trees. Many landowners in developed areas value the aesthetics, recreation and wildlife benefits of forestland. And our people are ready to help them manage it to achieve whatever goals they have for that land.”

And if a landowner wants to set aside property in the future solely for growing trees, DOF has a conservation division to help.

“Over the last several years, DOF is second only to the Virginia Outdoor Foundation in the number of conservation easements accepted to preserve outdoor land and working forestland,” Farrell said. “So if you’d like to make sure your working forestland remains that way, talk to them.”

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.

Penn State Extension offers field days for sheep and goat producers

UNIVERSITY PARK - Sheep and meat goat producers looking for information on how to make their livestock enterprises more profitable can take advantage of field days offered by Penn State Extension this spring.

Field days will be held at four locations across Pennsylvania: Lauden Acres Dorsets, Dalmatia, will host the first one on April 12; Baytree Farm, Emlenton, will host a field day on April 26; Maple Hollow Farm, Manns Choice, will host on May 10; and MacCauley Suffolks, Atglen, will host on May 17.

The field days will cover pasture management for forage production, sheep and goat health issues, common sense weaning-management tips, and selecting females for pasture production. Participants will also tour the host farm pasture and handling facilities.

During lunch, the Pennsylvania Sheep and Wool Growers Association will offer a special opportunity for new producers to learn about mentoring options through the association. Field days are co-sponsored by the Pennsylvania Forage/Grazing Land Conservation Coalition.

"Focusing on pasture production to decrease feed costs as well as selecting animals that are best suited for pasture production allows producers to increase their profitability," said Melanie Barkley, extension educator based in Bedford County, who is coordinating the field days.

"Networking with other producers as well as viewing producer facilities at field days is a great way to learn and share information about sheep and goat production."

For more details or to sign up for a field day, call 814-445-8911, extension 141. Cost for each field day is $20. Deadline for registration is one week prior to the field day of your choice.

To speak to one of the organizers, contact the Penn State Extension office in Bedford County at 814-623-4800.

Pennsylvania producers weighing dairy policy shift in new farm bill

UNIVERSITY PARK - As the dust settles on February's enactment of the Agricultural Act of 2014, commonly referred to as the Farm Bill, experts continue to analyze the bill's provisions to determine what the legislation means for farmers in Pennsylvania and beyond. With the USDA busy writing new rules to implement the nearly 1,000-page law, it may be too early to know all the implications.

But one thing is certain, according to an agricultural economist in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences: The bill's dairy provisions -- the aspect of federal farm policy arguably most important for Keystone State agriculture -- continue the shift toward a greater reliance on risk-management approaches to provide a safety net for farmers.

Changes to federal dairy programs are watched closely by Pennsylvania's dairy industry. The state's top agricultural sector accounts for more than $1.5 billion in farm-gate receipts, generates an estimated $5 billion in economic activity and supports nearly 60,000 jobs. Pennsylvania ranks fifth nationally in milk production and second in the number of dairy farms with 7,400.

"The biggest thing about the 2014 farm bill is this continued move away from disaster and counter-cyclical payments and price supports to insurance-driven tools," said James Dunn, professor of agricultural economics. "Typically, the government will subsidize the insurance to make it more attractive for the farmer, but the insurance company basically covers the risk. That makes the budget impact of the farm bill more predictable."

The most important dairy provision in the bill, Dunn noted, is the new Margin Protection Program, which will go into effect by Sept. 1. Under the program, dairy farmers who participate will pay a $100 annual enrollment fee that will ensure them indemnity payments if their margin -- calculated by USDA using the all-milk price minus the average feed cost -- drops below $4 per hundredweight for a defined two-month period.

One hundred pounds of milk is equal to about 11.63 gallons. Farm milk prices typically are expressed on a per-hundredweight basis.

"The Margin Protection Program supports producer margins and not milk prices," Dunn said. "It's designed to help farmers deal with both catastrophic conditions, such as weather extremes, and prolonged periods of low margins."

The program also discourages unsustainable growth and provides a disincentive for overproduction by limiting first-year coverage to a producer's highest level of annual milk production during the previous three years, Dunn explained. In subsequent years, any increase in production that exceeds the national average increase will not be protected.

Producers can choose to cover between 25 and 90 percent of their production history and can buy additional protection for margins ranging up to $8 per hundredweight, with higher premiums for larger herds.

Although many Pennsylvania producers currently are doing well with milk prices at or near record highs -- more than $26/hundredweight in February -- Dunn said the need for a dairy safety net remains. "History shows us that one thing is absolutely true -- prices will come down again."

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:

Absentee landowners:

* 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.

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.

Weekly crop progress reports

North Carolina Maryland
Pennsylvania South Carolina
Tennessee Virginia
West Virginia  

Trivia Question
  The Brangus breed of cattle is a combination of Angus and which other breed?

(a) Brahman
(b) Braunvieh
(c) Brown Swiss
(d) Bordelais

ANSWER: (a) Brahman

The Brangus breed was developed to utilize the superior traits of Angus and Brahman cattle. Their genetics are stabilized at 3/8 Brahman and 5/8 Angus.

The combination results in a breed which unites the traits of two highly successful parent breeds. The Brahman, through rigorous natural selection, developed disease resistance, overall hardiness and outstanding maternal instincts. Angus are known for their superior carcass qualities. They are also extremely functional females which excel in both fertility and milking ability.



Penn State Extension offering sheep shearing workshops

UNIVERSITY PARK - Penn State Extension will offer sheep shearing workshops across the state this year for those interested in learning about sheep shearing and basic sheep management.

Co-sponsored by the Pennsylvania Sheep and Wool Growers Association, workshops are scheduled for the following dates and sites:

--April 24-25, Tyler Hill, northeast Pennsylvania, 5 to 9 p.m. (both evenings).

--May 2-3, Scenery Hill, southwest Pennsylvania, 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. (both days).

--May 8-9, Grove City, northwest Pennsylvania, 5 to 9 p.m. (both evenings).

--Sept. 8-9, Penn State University Park campus, 5 to 9 p.m. (both evenings).

Topics to be covered during the sheep shearing workshops include professional shearing patterns, tagging and eyeing, equipment maintenance and repair, wool handling, and preparation and basic sheep care.

"The workshops are aimed at beginning shearers but experienced people may attend," said Walt Bumgarner, Fayette County extension educator, who is coordinating the sheep-shearing sessions. "Registration is being limited to the first 12 respondents per site to allow for as much one-on-one instruction as possible."

The registration fee is $85, with a $60 fee for a second person from the same farm or family. The fee includes tuition and handouts. Participants should wear work clothes and bring leather gloves, Bumgarner advised. Refreshments and all shearing equipment will be provided. At the Washington County site, participants may bring their own bag lunch or purchase lunch for $7 each day.

Register online. Credit cards are accepted online or participants may pay by check. Instructions for check payments are on the registration website. Those unable to use the Internet should call the Greene County office at 724-627-3745 to register.

For more information, contact Walt Bumgarner at 724-438-0111.




Maryland approves $615,683 in Agricultural Cost-Share Grants

ANNAPOLIS - The Maryland Board of Public Works recently approved $615,683 in Agricultural Water Quality Cost-Share grants, which help farmers install best management practices that significantly reduce nutrient runoff in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and accelerate Bay restoration. The O’Malley-Brown Administration has supported more farmer pollution reduction projects cost-share program than any other administration in the nearly three decades since the program began.

The Board approved grants for 20 projects in eight counties that will prevent soil erosion, manage nutrient pollution and safeguard water quality in streams, rivers and the Chesapeake Bay. Together, these projects will prevent 3518.18 pounds of nitrogen, 634.79 pounds of phosphorus, and 253.9 tons of soil from entering the Bay and its tributaries. These projects are funded by state general obligation bonds.

“Our farmers are true partners in protecting our natural resources, and Maryland continues to support their efforts by providing grants to install proven conservation measures and innovative, state-of-the-art practices,” said Lt. Governor Anthony Brown, who represented Governor O’Malley at today’s meeting. “Working together, we can ensure a smart, green and growing environment for future generations, preserve open space, and maintain the rich agricultural heritage of our State.”

Since the program started in 1984, farmers have installed 21,900 water quality projects.

Grassed waterways constructed to prevent gully erosion in farm fields, streamside buffers of grasses, trees planted to filter sediment and farm runoff, and animal waste management systems constructed to help farmers safely handle and store manure resources are among more than 30 BMPs currently eligible for MACS grants.




Farmers' markets seen as economic opportunity in Virginia

RICHMOND - Officials with the Virginia Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services say one of the best ways to enjoy the bounty of spring, summer and fall is to shop at one of the state’s many farmers’ markets.

As the demand for Virginia products has increased, so has the number of farmers’ markets in the state. According to www.VirginiaGrown.com, Virginia has more than 240 farmers’ markets statewide. That’s a 180 percent increase in markets since 2006. Some are open year-round, while many others open in April or May for seasonal business.

Research by Virginia Cooperative Extension has shown that if each household in Virginia spent just $10 a week on locally grown agricultural products, consumers would invest an additional $1.65 billion back into the local economy each year.

To promote Virginia farmers’ markets, VDACS and the Virginia Food System Council are bringing back the popular “Farm. Fresh. Pledge!” program for its second year. Shoppers who spend at least $10 a week at a local farmers’ market will be entered to win Virginia Grown prizes throughout the season. Pledge cards and marketing materials will be available at participating Virginia farmers’ markets starting in May.

State officials invite farmers’ markets to add or update their listing on VirginiaGrown.com. Market managers, vendors and consumers are encouraged to follow VDACS on Twitter and Facebook and use the social media hashtag #VirginiaGrown to share what’s fresh throughout the season.



Contest in WV produces 4.5 pound tomato

CHARLESTON - Commissioner of Agriculture Walt Helmick recently congratulated three growers on new produce records set in 2013 and exhorted West Virginians to go all-out on their gardens this year.

“We’d love to see some more records fall this year, but more than that, we’d love to see more West Virginians feeding their neighbors and expanding our state’s economy from within,” said Helmick.

“We’re seeing new records every year so West Virginia’s farmers are doing something right when it comes to growing these impressive specimens.”

In 2013, Travis Evan of Oak Hill produced a whopper of a tomato that weighed in at 4.5 pounds. Marilyn Conley and Steve Cutlip of Newton in Roane County grew an ear of corn that measured 14 inches, AND Bryar Ellis of Lewisburg grew a stalk of corn that was 13 feet, 9-3/16 inches tall.

WVDA has kept records of the largest fruits, vegetables and other plants since 1996.

Entries for next year are open to any fruit or vegetable grown in West Virginia. Entrants should send photos of their prize plants and documentation to verify their sizes and/or weights to WVDA - Marketing and Development Division, 1900 Kanawha Blvd. East, Charleston, WV 25305




Bacon Prices Up, Eggs Too

WASHINGTON, D.C.– Higher retail prices for several food items used to prepare breakfast, including bacon, eggs and bread, among other foods, resulted in a slight increase in the American Farm Bureau Federation’s latest Semi-Annual Marketbasket Survey.

The informal survey shows the total cost of 16 food items that can be used to prepare one or more meals was $53.27, up $1.73 or about 3.5 percent compared to a survey conducted a year ago. Of the 16 items surveyed, 10 increased, five decreased and one remained the same in average price.

“Several typical breakfast items increased in price, accounting for much of the modest increase in the marketbasket,” said John Anderson, AFBF’s deputy chief economist. “The 3.5 percent increase shown by our survey tracks closely with Agriculture Department’s forecast of 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent food inflation for 2014,” he said.

Items showing retail price increases from a year ago included bacon, up 12 percent to $4.80 per pound; ground chuck, up 10 percent to $4.10 per pound; white bread, up 10 percent to $1.81 for a 20-ounce loaf; sirloin tip roast, up 9 percent to $5.03 per pound; eggs, up 8 percent to $1.98 per dozen; whole milk, up 6 percent to $3.68 per gallon; chicken breasts, up 6 percent to $3.51 per pound; flour, up 5 percent to $2.76 for a 5-pound bag; toasted oat cereal, up less than 1 percent to $2.93 for a 9-ounce box; and Russet potatoes, up less than one-half of 1 percent to $2.70 for a 5-pound bag.

These items showed modest retail price decreases: bagged salad, down 4 percent to $2.61 per pound; deli ham, down 3 percent to $5.21 per pound; apples, down 3 percent to $1.59 per pound; vegetable oil, down 2 percent to $2.85 for a 32-ounce bottle; and orange juice, down 1 percent to $3.24 per half-gallon.

“Through the mid-1970s, farmers received about one-third of consumer retail food expenditures for food eaten at home and away from home, on average. Since then, that figure has decreased steadily and is now about 16 percent, according to the Agriculture Department’s revised Food Dollar Series,” Anderson said.

Using the “food at home and away from home” percentage across-the-board, the farmer’s share of this $53.27 marketbasket would be $8.52.




Virginia confirms first case of swine disease

RICHMOND - Dr. Richard Wilkes, State Veterinarian with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services recently announced that Virginia has received laboratory confirmation of its first case of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea (PED). In light of this case, which coincides with the beginning of the exhibit season for 4-H members, FFA students and other livestock exhibitors, Dr. Wilkes says strict biosecurity is the most effective and most practical way to prevent the spread of PED and many other livestock and poultry diseases.

Wilkes encourages every person involved in showing livestock to enhance their biosecurity efforts. “We always urge livestock owners who show animals and managers of show and exhibition facilities to keep biosecurity uppermost in their minds,” Wilkes said, “but with swine, it is even more important now that Virginia has experienced its first case of PED. Good biosecurity can help keep the disease from spreading.”

Anytime animals are co-mingled at events, there is a risk they may be exposed to an infectious disease agent. Some states have cancelled pre-show weigh-ins or other animal commingling events to try to prevent PED infection of swine. Virginia show managers may want to consider voluntarily cancelling some of the higher risk activities.

The PED virus is highly contagious, and commonly spreads through pig manure. Consuming pork continues to be safe and the disease does not affect humans, but is often deadly to piglets. Practicing and implementing sound biosecurity measures is critical in keeping the state’s animals disease free and marketable.

Wilkes says that good biosecurity and advance planning will reduce the chances of spreading an infectious disease by people, animals, shoes and clothing or equipment. Show managers should have a proper biosecurity plan ready to execute in the event that an animal disease is introduced at a major stock show or event.

VDACS offers guidelines to help minimize risk at events where animals co-mingle via its website.



Lamb industry recovering from sheep losses

TAZEWELL—With the departure of winter, lamb is on the menu for many Virginia households. But a holiday meal is the last thing on the minds of some farmers who raise sheep.

“We’re not finishing lambing yet; we have 37 lambs so far this spring,” said Taylor Matney. The Richlands High School senior recently was named 2014 Virginia Farm Bureau Ambassador, a youth spokesperson for the state’s largest farm organization.

“We have a small herd of 40 Sussex-cross sheep. Each fall we sell all our lambs at the livestock market,” typically to a processing operation in Pennsylvania, she said.

Virginia is the 14th-largest sheep producing state in the nation, with virtually all the animals in the western half of the state. Six years ago almost 3,000 Virginia farms had sheep and goats, but predators, especially coyotes, have been taking a big toll on the industry. In 2009 the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated 6,000 head of sheep and lambs in Virginia were killed by predators.

“We’ve seen a big decline in sheep numbers up until a few years ago,” said Mike Carpenter, manager of livestock marketing services for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. “Now it seems to have stabilized. Twenty years ago we had low prices and an increase in predators. So our numbers declined until seven or eight years ago. They have rebounded a little bit, but not at the levels we were at in say, 1990.

“We have seen a few new people getting into small flocks, for instance in Southwest Virginia there’s been an increase in hair sheep production. Hair sheep offer lower maintenance; you don’t have to shear them.”

Because sheep feed primarily on grass pasture, most Virginia sheep farmers have a spring crop of lambs and sell them in the fall. There are also farmers who reverse that cycle to take advantage of spring lamb prices.

Tazewell County had 319 sheep farmers in 2007. Findings from the 2012 Census of Agriculture are due out in a few weeks, and everyone in the community expects the number of local sheep producers to have dropped.

Coyotes are “pretty thick around here,” Matney said. “That’s why the number of sheep farmers has dropped.”

Generally speaking, “I really like the sheep,” she said. “Lots of people don’t, because they’re hard to keep; lambing and shearing takes lots of time, as well as keeping them up to date on their vaccinations. But I really enjoy tending them and hope to continue doing so.

“All the same, our Easter dinner will probably be ham.”




Got to Be NC Festival seeks antique tractors

RALEIGH — Space is still available for farm-equipment hobbyists, musicians and food vendors wanting to take part in the Got to Be NC Festival May 16-18 at the NC State Fairgrounds.

Organizers are looking for collectors of antique tractors and farm equipment to join a display of more than 1,000 pieces of machinery. Tractors in working order also can participate in the daily tractor parade through the fairgrounds. Participation is free, but pre-registration is required.

The festival also will host a bluegrass band competition Saturday, May 17. The winning band will earn $500 in prize money plus a guaranteed paid spot to perform at the 2014 N.C. State Fair and PreddyFest 2014. The second-place finisher will receive $250, and $125 will be awarded for third place. Competition is open to all amateur bluegrass bands from North Carolina, but is limited to the first eight bands to register.

Registration forms and vendor applications are online at www.gottobencfestival.com.

The Got to Be NC Festival is a family-friendly event that highlights the best of North Carolina agriculture. Visitors can roam through the antique farm equipment, sample and purchase locally made products at the Got to Be NC Food, Wine & Beer Expo, enjoy the excitement of the carnival and relax to live music on an outdoor stage.




Maryland launches new “Manure Happens” campaign

ANNAPOLIS -The Maryland Department of Agriculture recently launched a new web portal as part of its new “Manure Happens” public outreach campaign. The new page centralizes resources for the general public to better understand farming practices and rules governing those practices. It also provides information for farmers who currently use chemical fertilizers and may want to consider switching to manure and farmers who are currently recycling manure as part of their crop production. The page provides links to additional resources available for farmers (i.e., grants, tax credits, technical guidance), and scientific research that describes manure management practices required by Maryland’s nutrient management program and that explains the benefits of manure.

“For centuries farmers have incorporated manure into their operations as part of a managed recycling program that provides crops with a natural fertilizer and soil conditioner. Today farmers are using the latest scientific techniques and conservation practices to protect water quality while following strict environmental rules,” said Agriculture Secretary Buddy Hance. “We hope this campaign will help people better understand life on the farm and what our farmers do to protect our precious natural resources.”

The “Manure Happens” campaign will include a series of color advertisements that will launch this spring. MDA’s educational advertising campaign includes three different color ads. The “I Recycle” ad features happy Holstein cows in a field and highlights how farmers recycle manure following the latest scientific and environmental practices and Maryland requirements to prevent manure from washing into area waterways. The “Manure Happens” ad features the backsides of cows in a pasture and explains this fact of life on the farm – that manure is an inescapable element of the food production process and a great natural fertilizer and soil conditioner for farmers. The “Looks Can Be Deceiving” ad features a properly formed poultry litter stockpile during the winter in a field of cover crops. All three ads direct readers to the new MDA webpage www.mda.maryland.gov/manure

The ads will be published in news media outlets across the state in print and online during the next two weeks. Additionally, MDA will incorporate the ads into social media (@MdAgDept onTwitter and Facebook/MdAgDept) throughout the spring.

For more information, visit MDA’s new manure management resources page at www.mda.maryland.gov/manure



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.”



Research at Penn State reveals true value of cover crops to farmers, environment

UNIVERSITY PARK - Planting cover crops in rotation between cash crops -- widely agreed to be ecologically beneficial -- is even more valuable than previously thought, according to a team of agronomists, entomologists, agroecologists, horticulturists and biogeochemists from Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences.

"As society places increasing demands on agricultural land beyond food production to include ecosystem services, we needed a new way to evaluate 'success' in agriculture," said Jason Kaye, professor of biogeochemistry. "This research presents a framework for considering a suite of ecosystem services that could be derived from agricultural land, and how cover crops affect that suite of services.

"Cover cropping is one of the most rapidly growing soil and water conservation strategies in the Chesapeake Bay region and one we are really counting on for future improvements in water quality in the bay. Our analysis shows how the effort to improve water quality with cover crops will affect other ecosystem services that we expect from agricultural land."

The research, published in the March issue of Agricultural Systems, quantified the benefits offered by cover crops across more than 10 ecosystem services. Benefits included increased carbon and nitrogen in soils, erosion prevention, more mycorrhizal colonization -- beneficial soil fungus that helps plants absorb nutrients -- and weed suppression.

The planting of cover crops already is accepted as an environmentally prudent practice. It is so beneficial, in fact, that the National Resource Conservation Service last month set a goal to increase the acres planted nationally in cover crops from the current 2 million to 20 million by 2020.

According to NRCS, in 2006 only 5 percent of cropped acres in the Chesapeake Bay region had cover crops planted every year, and 88 percent of acres never had any cover crops planted. In 2011, 52 percent of acres had cover crops planted at least once every four years, and 18 percent of acres had cover crops planted every year. The NRCS estimated that the increased annual use of cover crops in 2011 led to an average 78 percent reduction in sediment loss, 35 percent less nitrogen surface loss, a 40 percent cut in nitrogen subsurface loss, and a 30 percent decrease in total phosphorus loss.



Construction of new pavilion at State Fair of Virginia seen as boon for livestock events

DOSWELL - The equine and livestock area of The Meadow Event Park in Caroline County soon will have a permanent structure to house cattle during the State Fair of Virginia.

During the remainder of the year, the 40,000-square-foot First Bank & Trust Livestock Pavilion will serve as a covered arena for horse shows, rodeos, canine agility competitions and other events.

The livestock pavilion has been designed to complement existing buildings at The Meadow. State Fair President Jeff Dillon said it will be similar in style to the historic horse stall barns on the property.

Construction will begin by the end of the month, and the building is expected to be completed in time for the 2014 State Fair, which will run Sept. 26 through Oct. 5.

“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.

The building was approved by the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation board of directors at its Jan. 23 meeting, and a contract was signed with RGM Erectors Inc. of Wythe County. RGM was involved in construction of the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington.

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

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

The Meadow Event Park in Caroline County is the birthplace of Secretariat and home to the State Fair of Virginia. It is operated by Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, which is committed to preserving Virginia’s rich agricultural heritage and ensuring that The Meadow thrives as a regional event and equine venue.



Manure Matching Service ready for business in Maryland

ANNAPOLIS - With spring planting season upon us, the Maryland Department of Agriculture reminds farmers that its Manure Matching Service is available to link farmers with excess manure with other farmers or alternative use projects that can use the product as a valuable resource.

Officials say the Service is voluntary, free and available to both sending and receiving farms. It complements the Maryland Department of Agriculture’s recently expanded Manure Transport Program, which helps poultry, dairy, beef and other livestock producers cover the costs of transporting excess manure off their farms.

For more information on both programs, farmers should contact their local soil conservation district, call 1-855-6MANURE or visit www.mda.maryland.gov/resource_conservation/Pages/manure_management.aspx.



State Fair of West Virginia announces 2014 scholarship recipients

LEWISBURG - The State Fair of West Virginia recently announced the awarding of five $1,000 four-year scholarships to youth who have participated in the State Fair, excelled academically and demonstrated a financial need.

2014 award recipients and the schools they are attending are:

Alison Bartenslager, Lewisburg, WV, Lincoln Land Community College, Springfield, IL (Recipient of the third annual Gus R. Douglass Scholarship)

Alex Gillespie, Lewisburg, WV, West Virginia Institute of Technology, Montgomery, WV

Jessica Hoover, Franklin, WV, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV

Robert Snedegar, Lewisburg, WV, Wheeling Jesuit University, Wheeling, WV

Nancy Yates, Wardensville, WV, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV

This scholarship is funded through the State Fair Endowment, which was created in 2006 to ensure the long-term support of three key areas; Scholarships Career Advancement Initiatives, Youth Educational Enrichment Programs and Agricultural Competitive Exhibit Premiums.

Scholarships will be awarded during the 2014 State Fair.

The 2014 State Fair is themed “Blue Ribbon Traditions.” and is scheduled August 8-16, 2014 The State Fair of West Virginia, with a $13.8 million dollar economic impact on the state of West Virginia, is a 501 © 3 non-profit corporation committed to the traditions of agriculture, family entertainment, and education. For more information, please visit www.statefairofwv.com.




North Carolina firm pays $700 to settle seed case

WASHINGTON, DC - The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service recently announced that J. P. Davenport & Son, Greenville, N.C., has paid $700 to settle alleged violations of the Federal Seed Act.

This settlement resolves one case that involved one shipment of wheat seed to Virginia. The alleged violations were as follows:

-false labeling as to pure seed percentage;
-failure to test for germination prior to interstate shipment; and
-failure to keep or supply complete records of the seed.

The company settled the case in agreement with USDA officials. The company neither admitted nor denied the charges brought against them.



Maryland initiates Ag-tourism Sign Program

ANNAPOLIS - Maryland’s new ag-tourism signing program pilot has started in Charles County with the installation of directional signs for two farms: Serenity Farm in Benedict and Zekiah Farms in Waldorf.

Charles County Government and the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission initiated a series of discussions with Maryland State Highway Administration and the Maryland Department of Agriculture to create a program that permits state highway signs directing the public to ag-tourism farms.

“As farmers diversify their operations and connect more directly with consumers, ag-tourism has become a growing segment of Maryland agriculture and an important source of income for our farmers,” said Maryland Secretary of Agriculture Buddy Hance. “I thank SHA Secretary Jim Smith and his staff for their cooperation in developing the program. We look forward to expanding the program statewide so more residents can enjoy fresh products and lively activities right on the farm.”

The eligibility criteria for this program requires participating farms to be open to customers and tourists for at least six months of the year (at least four days a week and at least six hours a day) for the on-site sale of local agricultural products. Farms must also have an established educational tour that can be provided by a knowledgeable guide upon request or host public events, such as festivals, fairs or workshops.

The State Ag-tourism Signing Program will be available to farms in other counties in the state. However counties are required to first set up their own program to place directional ag-tourism signs on county roads to ensure that motorists can find the farms after leaving state roads. Interested farmers must first apply to the program through their county to receive signs on county roads. Once approved, the farmer then applies to the state for signs on state maintained roads. After county approval, SHA and MDA will approve farms meeting the criteria and determine the number of signs applicable. For information concerning the program contact Stone Slade with MDA at (410) 841-5770 or stone.slade@maryland.gov.

The 2007 U.S. Department of Agriculture Census of Agriculture identified 231 ag-tourism farms in Maryland with receipts of $7.3 million.

SMADC has announced grants for up to $1,500 in matching funds for the purchase and installation of signs that have been approved by SHA and MDA for up to three farms each in Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s counties. Funds will be available until April, 2014 on a first-come, first serve basis. For more information concerning SMADC funds email: info@smadc.com.




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.

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."

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.”