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Organic Broadcaster Online Issue 20.4 July/August 2012
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Table of Contents
- Conservation Reserve Program: Ideas on how to find and secure rental land
- Profile: Roy Beyer Recently Certified Organic Dairy
- News From MOSES
- MOSES Updates - Nominate a Farmer of the Year
- Inside Organics - Ready for Organic Checkoff?
- Women Caring for the Land - Education Program
- Young Organic Steward Profile: Grant Schultz
- NOSB Meeting - Report from the trenches
- Proof Positive - Potato varieties and seed
- Farm Bill - Passes Senate Ag Committee
- Organic Processing Institute - New Resource
- News Briefs
- Organic Grain Report
- MOSES Field Days
Conservation Reserve Program: Ideas on how to find and secure rental land
By Joe Pedretti
The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) is now 25 years old and is one of the most successful voluntary programs protecting the nation’s natural resources. Under the program, farmers and landowners choose to protect environmentally sensitive land for conservation benefits. Producers enrolled in CRP plant long-term, resource-conserving covers to improve the quality of water, control soil erosion and develop wildlife habitat. In return, USDA provides participants with rental payments and cost-share assistance. Contract duration is between 10 and 15 years.
There are about 30 million acres currently enrolled in CRP. The contracts on 6.5 million acres will expire on September 30th of 2012, the single largest potential turnover in CRP acres in the history of the program. A large number will be re-enrolled (applications were due in April), but a significant percentage of landowners will not take a new contract and try to rent their land instead. The very high rental rates for tillable land is enticing, and we have seen some crop producers aggressively pursuing landowners with expiring contracts. Higher than average crop prices have also tempted farmers to convert some acres back to crop production.
According to the USDA report, “Change in Enrollment Since 2011,” 112,095 acres have not been renewed in WI, MN, IA, MI and IL. The biggest changes are in WI and MN with 25,956 acres and 69,155 acres coming out of CRP in 2012.
Land in CRP is considered cropland, however not all cropland is created equal in terms of erosion and yield potential. In fact, many of the acres enrolled in CRP may be best suited to other land uses such as cropland with buffers, pasture, hay fields, or wildlife habitat. Areas with steep slopes or more erodible soils may be best suited to stay in CRP. Other sensitive areas, such as wetlands, can provide excellent wildlife habitat and add diversity to your farm. Some types of land coming out of CRP also present a unique opportunity and are attractive to organic farmers, since the land is likely to qualify for organic certification immediately. This tillable land is also very attractive to conventional row crop producers who are largely driving the increase in land rent prices.
With organic grain prices at continued record highs and the demand for organic products increasing at double digit rates, the organic community needs to add new farmers and new organic acres to keep up with demand and to bring input prices down to a sustainable level. Securing some of these newly available CRP acres could help, but how can an organic farmer compete against conventional row crop growers?
Conventional row crop farmers almost universally use a simple corn-soybeans rotation. These high value crops combined with higher-than-average grain prices means that conventional farmers are willing and able to offer increasingly higher land rental prices. Organic farmers must use a more complicated crop rotation that includes solid-seeded crops such as forages or small grains. Forage and small grain crops, while extremely useful to livestock producers, have a lower value than either corn or soybeans.
Conventional farmers also have less labor and expenses related to soil building and weed control than organic producers. An organic farmer will likely want a longer land rental contract of at least five years to see a return on soil-building activities. CRP land may have been fallow for many years, but that does not mean that it will be fertile. In fact, it will likely need amendments and manure/nitrogen to be productive. Since organic fertilizer options tend to be slow release and dependent on biological processes, an organic farmer is again at an economic disadvantage.
So we now have two strikes against the organic producer in the land rental competition: the need to plant lower value crops and a longer term, more labor intensive/expensive approach to soil fertility. How then do we avoid the third strike? How does the organic farmer secure much needed rental cropland? How can we compete for land in a hypercompetitive environment?
First, we need to realize that organic farmers have things to offer that conventional farmers do not:
Environmentally and Family-Friendly Farming Practices
Remember, land that has been in CRP for one or more contract cycles has likely not been treated with herbicides or synthetics for 10-20 years. Landowners, many of whom are not farmers, do not relish the idea of reintroducing chemicals and pesticides onto these fields. Increasingly, CRP land is owned by landowners that have moved back to the country after careers in the city or after they have inherited or purchased their family’s farmstead. These landowners may be tempted by high rental prices, but they also have motivations beyond simply maximizing their returns.
No Toxic Chemicals
At the MOSES office, one of the more common calls we take is from landowners who want to rent land to organic farmers. Their primary motivation is to keep their land free from chemicals. The idea of watching their CRP land sprayed down with RoundupTM is inconceivable to them, even if they are able to garner an extra $25 to $50 per acre in rent. As long as you are able to offer them more in rent per acre than they are receiving from CRP (2011 average was $55.06, 2012 average is $57.26) you have something of great value to offer—no toxic pesticide inputs—ever.
Improved Soil Fertility and Soil Biology
It is very easy to roll a tank of anhydrous ammonia or spread synthetic fertilizers across a field and get immediate results. Synthetic fertilizers combined with glyphosate sprays will reduce organic matter and biological activity over time. Organic farmers will need to use manure, natural fertilizers, legumes, and cover crops to get their nitrogen needs. Organic farmers are required by the National Organic Standards to maintain or improve soil quality over time. This improvement and stewardship of soils is another strong selling point to landowners. In return for this soil-building program, you can negotiate for a lower rental and a longer-term rental agreement. You will need a longer rental term to see returns on your soil-building investment, especially if soil tests indicate a need for substantial inputs.
A conventional row crop producer is not likely to reinstall contour strips or keep some of the land in solid-seeded crops. Standard protocol is to either plow everything under, or more commonly, to spray it down with glyphosate, disc down the vegetative material and then drill soybeans into the residue. An organic producer should choose to either renovate the existing hay/pasture ground or reestablish the contour strips. Most CRP land is classified as highly erodible; so much of what is available will be on ridges and hilly ground. The county FSA office can help with planning and designing of contour strips. This will help offset soil loss due to plowing and tillage.
As part of your Organic System Plan you are required to protect natural diversity, so a plan that includes undisturbed wildlife areas, pollinator habitat, and contour strips will appeal to many landowners. If you rent land specifically for hay production, an agreement to delay first cutting or implement partial first cuttings to protect nesting birds will also be very attractive.
Perfect for Grazing
CRP land is often not well-suited to row crop production. If the distance allows, grazing this land will keep it protected from soil erosion. If the landowner is agreeable to covering or sharing the fencing costs, you may see better returns by using the land as rental pasture and keeping your most productive ground on the home farm, or other rentals in crops.
Pasture land will usually rent for less than land for row crops. Check with your local Extension Office for area rates.
Good Option for Beginning Farmers
Land is very expensive and out of reach for some beginning farmers. Renting CRP land may be an affordable option. Grazing livestock is a particularly good fit. Market gardening may also work in some situations. There are some innovative models out there for grazing on leased land. No Risk Ranching by Greg Judy (ACRES USA) is a good book for details on how to set up and manage these grazing lease relationships.
How to Find Land Coming out of CRP
Finding CRP rental land is not an easy task. It is very difficult to obtain this information without a public records request. Your best bet is to advertise and network to find this land. Most farmers are not going to travel more than 20 miles to get to rental land, especially if tractor work is involved, so focus your efforts on reaching out to local landowners.
Network and Advertise
Talk with the representatives at your local NRCS, FSA, and Extension offices. Let them know you are interested in renting organic land and would like to find some available CRP acreage. They may be able to make some suggestions, or give you some options to communicate your needs to their clients. A classified ad or flyer on the bulletin board at their office may turn up some leads.
Talk with the managers at the local feed mills and farm stores. A lot of information goes through these places and there may be an opportunity to put up a flyer on their bulletin boards.
Don’t forget church, and other community group options. Let it be known in your church community that you are looking for rental land. Most have a newsletter, so don’t be shy about posting a classified advertisement. Most communities have a weekly classified newspaper; consider an advertisement in there as well.
You don’t have a lot of space, but you can get your message out effectively using this format as a basis. Be concise and cover the key points for best results:
Wanted to Rent- Organic Farmland
Do you have land coming out of CRP? Unused land you would like to rent?
I will treat your land with respect and will not use toxic, synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. Go organic! Looking for land within 10 miles of XXXX. Call me at XXX-XXXX.
If you have more space, like on a flyer, add detail like the type of land you want to rent- grazing land, cropland, number of acres etc. Remember that you are marketing yourself! You are competing against others that can offer more money. Don’t hesitate to use some of the ideas presented here to make your case. Some examples of catchy headlines and messages:
Pasture is Better! Organic farmer looking for rental land.
Got land coming out of CRP- Go organic!
Young family wants to farm organically- we want to rent land, can you help?
Don’t want your rental land sprayed with chemicals? Then don’t! I am an organic farmer looking to rent land coming out of CRP or fallow land in need of respectful care.
In conclusion, don’t be discouraged by high rental prices—at least not without talking to the landowner and making the case for letting you manage it organically. If the landowner holds out for the highest dollar, then that is probably not an ideal situation anyway. Instead work with and educate landowners that recognize the other values you bring to the relationship.
Seek Legal Advice
Once you have found some land for rent, it is a good idea to consult with your legal council to create a rental/lease agreement that is acceptable to both parties. A well-designed contract will help protect your investment in time and money. Contact your local Extension office of sample agreements, state law information and for assistance if needed.
MOSES Land Link- Up
MOSES offers this free online service in an effort to connect those looking for farmland with those looking to rent or sell farmland.
Land Stewardship Project- Farm Beginnings Seeking Farmers- Seeking Land Clearinghouse
The Land Stewardship Project is committed to helping make the connections necessary to getting more successful beginning farmers on the land. As part of their work in this area, they have developed a clearinghouse where beginning farmers can advertise their desire to rent or buy farmland, as well as work on a farm as an intern or regular employee
Joe Pedretti is the MOSES Organic Education Specialist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Profile: Rory Beyer - Recently Certified Organic Dairy
By Gigi Digiacomo
This profile was prepared for the Tools for Transition Project - a four-year research and education effort funded by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
Rory Beyer’s story may sound familiar to many of today’s second- and third-generation farmers. Rory grew up on a 130-cow family dairy farm in Southeastern Minnesota, graduated from college with an animal science major, and returned home in 2000 to manage the farm full-time with his 53-year-old parents, Sharon and Richard. Determined to put his schooling to work, Rory began managing herd genetics for high productivity (eventually achieving rolling herd average of 30,900 pounds/cow) and international marketability. “We regularly sold genetics around the world,” explains Rory.
Decision to Transition
By many standards, the Beyers’ dairy operation was a success. Financially, however, “We just weren’t making it conventionally,” says Rory. In the spring of 2005—after a period of volatile milk prices and rising feed costs—the Beyers had what Rory calls their “a-ha moment.”
“We had been watching our [certified organic] neighbors … they were feeding their own grain, producing less milk and making more money,” Rory explains. “So I started looking at what it cost us on a per-cow basis to produce feed, buy feed, and deliver it to our animals.” The Beyers had been growing corn, spring-seeded barley and fall-seeded alfalfa in a three-year rotation on 500 acres (370 acres owned, 130 acres rented under a renewable three-year agreement).
By the fall of 2005, after running feed numbers and further exploring organic management alternatives, Rory and his parents decided to make a critical management change: they opted to go organic. The Beyers began transitioning their land in 2006, with the intention of certifying their land and cows in 2009. They received consent from their neighboring landlord to transition the 130 acres of rental acreage and negotiated a lower rent during transition in return for higher rent after certification. Rory and his parents established a four-year rotation: hay the first year, followed by corn and a winter crop of rye or tillage radish in the second year, corn again in the third year, and alfalfa seeded with small grain in the fourth year. They purchased a six-row propane burner and a tine weeder when beginning the transition in order to address anticipated pre- and post-emergence weed issues. (They no longer use the burner due to the high cost of propane.) The Beyers also gradually took on the field work they had previously custom hired.
“On the crop side, there were a lot of changes when transitioning,” recalls Rory. However, his real concern was animal health. “We had a very good herd at the time,” he explains. “Knowing that we couldn’t use antibiotics when transitioning to organic – that was scary.”
The Beyers’ decision to transition their land ahead of the herd is not uncommon – it allowed them to feed conventional grain and forage for two years while their land went through the 36-month transition requirement. (Cows may be fed transitional grain and forage from land that is included in the farm’s organic system plan one year prior to the production of milk that is to be sold and labeled as organic. National Organic Program Standards, §205.236.) Rory also made the decision to alter the cows’ feed ration two years prior to their transition – gradually incorporating more dry matter and forage. “We thought it would be a good way to learn about how organic management worked,” he says. “We thought if we had two years to figure things out [before transitioning the cows], we could still fall back on antibiotics if mastitis set in.” Looking back, Rory called this transition strategy a mistake. “Productivity suffered while we were still getting conventional [milk] prices,” Rory recalls. “If I was to do it all over again, I would have fed a solid conventional ration up until the day we switched.”
Asked about herd health, Rory says “shifting to organic management forces you to clean out the herd.” As older cows and cows that had regularly been treated for mastitis were culled, the Beyers raised replacement heifers on pasture without antibiotics. Rory observed that that his cows’ immune systems were “extremely different” after several years of organic management. “Their reproductive and mammary systems are stronger,” he explains. “Our cows are out on pasture, exercising, and no longer have drugs running through their system.” The real test: the Beyers’ organic herd has a substantially lower somatic cell count compared to their former conventional herd suggesting higher quality milk.
At first, Rory recalls, “The biggest challenge was changing my mindset. I had to learn how to do things differently.” It took many conversations with neighbors and their certifier, Nature’s International Certification Services (NICS), before the Beyers felt comfortable making the switch. Based on this early research, they were prepared for more work, more weeds and a drop in herd productivity. But, they also had positioned themselves to receive substantial organic premiums – signing a contract in advance of certification that included a signing bonus equal to $2/cwt during the last 12 months of transition.
Despite all their planning, however, the Beyers were unprepared for two transition-related challenges that almost put them out of business.
The Beyers’ first organic pick-up was scheduled for November 1, 2009. Rory received a call from their buyer just days before the first pick-up saying they would be discontinuing their organic line and related contracts. “We panicked,” says Rory. “But our buyer arranged for Organic Valley to take over the contracts.” Organic Valley offered to temporarily honor the Beyer’s original contract pay price of $26/cwt. Eventually, Rory says, he negotiated more permanent terms with Organic Valley – agreeing to a lower pay price in exchange for co-op membership. “We were the last farm that Organic Valley signed on in our area [at that time] because they were slowing down,” Rory recalls with a sigh of relief. “The market was tightening.”
Even more challenging for the Beyers was a new National Organic Program (NOP) pasture rule that required 30 percent of animals’ dry- matter intake to come from pasture grazed over the course of the grazing season (at least 120 days). This new rule presented a big financial challenge to the Beyers – costing them $100,000 in pasture improvements and rent on another 100 acres of neighboring, certified organic land. (The additional land is used to raise grain that is sold to offset protein expenses.). The Beyers received a loan guarantee from the USDA Farm Service Agency and financial assistance from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Environmental Quality Incentives Program to subsidize the cost of fences, water lines, lane establishment, and pasture seeding. Even with this assistance, the cost of pasture improvements put the Beyers “on the edge of financial ruin,” says Rory. “We did everything but sell our soul to keep the farm.”
At the time of this interview, six months after completing the pasture improvements, Rory feels that the changes have had a positive impact on farm labor and planning. “We realize that we don’t have to start up the Bobcat or the tractor to move bales to the cows,” he says. “All we have to do is open the gate to the pasture. It’s almost therapeutic to watch the cows out on pasture. Even in the rain, the animals are out there satisfied. They don’t come running to the shed.”
Today the Beyers milk 130 cows, manage 600 certified acres, and have a rolling herd average of 16,500 pounds/cow. They now breed their registered Holsteins for fat percentage and health rather than optimal milk output. The Beyers market certified organic grain through the Scouler Company and sell all of their milk to Organic Valley – receiving a stable, contracted milk price that currently is well above the conventional market price. Price stability has given them the ability to plan ahead and obtain access to improved financing. Rory says they couldn’t be happier. “The thing that I’m most proud of is making the decision to change,” he says. “You don’t realize the impact that the changes will have until after you’ve made them.”
The Tools for Transition Project is managed by an interdisciplinary team that includes representatives from the University of MN Department of Applied Economics, the Center for Farm Financial Management, the MN Department of Agriculture, the MN State Colleges and Universities’ Farm Business Management Program, and the MN Institute for Sustainable Agriculture. Transition scholarships are available for MN row crop and dairy farmers participating in the Farm Business Management Program. Contact Meg Moynihan for scholarship information: 651-201-6616 or email@example.com.
News from MOSES
I couldn’t believe the numbers of bulldozers out in the countryside this spring—if there was an abandoned building anywhere, it is now gone and a corn field in its place. It will be interesting to watch grain prices when the crop from this abundance of acreage matures.
Folks at MOSES are headed out to the fields as our field day season starts this week. Check out all the offerings listed on page 20, hopefully one of our educational events will be just the thing for you.
Once again Joe Pedretti brings you real suggestions to make change—this issue he offers ways organic farmers can hook up with retired CRP land. Joe’s pieces have been generating a lot of attention, with several publications asking permission to reprint articles. We love to share the important message about organic with others, and are thrilled to see these well-crafted articles make it into the broader world.
Last issue you may remember the cover story on fly traps. Several people called or wrote to ask for more detail, including where to get dark-colored barrels (black or blue). Harriet responded with this: “For used barrels, check with food processing plants, especially cheese factories...or bakeries who get oil in large food-grade plastic drums, although these may not have easily removed lids. You can cut the top off with a sawsall and then duct tape it shut to make a tight lid. Two places to buy new barrels: Gemplers, Madison, WI 800-382-8473 for $121 each, or Uline, Pleasant Prairie, WI 1-800-295-5510 for $77 each.”
Our friend Meg Moynihan at the Minn. Department of Ag sent this interesting comment: “I was just reading your article about the fly barrel. I got really excited when I saw a post about this on Odairy this winter and sent the video link to my good friend, Dr. Fly (aka UMN Entomologist Roger Moon). His comments: ‘I think the barrels won’t hurt, but I predict they catch mainly house flies and blow flies. Unfortunately, those flies aren’t the kinds that bother cows. If you set some up, be sure to tie each to a fence post, to prevent cows and wind from knocking them over.’”
I won’t argue with the expert, but I know that the smaller fly-trap version works on the flies that annoy my sheep and donkeys. Obviously Kevin and others are seeing a positive impact, too.
Have a great summer,
Organic Broadcaster Editor
Inside Organics: Are We Ready for an Organic Checkoff?
By Harriet Behar
The possibility of an assessment or checkoff dedicated to organic promotion has been discussed since the late 1980s. It was even included as part of the original Senate bill that preceded the 1990 Organic Foods Production Act, which is the basis of our National Organic Program regulation. Back in March 1990, Faye Jones (MOSES long-time executive director), representing the Organic Farmers Association Council (no longer in existence), spoke to the Senate Agricultural Committee against including an assessment on organic raw commodity producers. The dollars generated were to be used for the promotion of organic products in the marketplace. Faye referred to the many problems these types of programs have had over the years, in which mandatory “checkoff” fees are assessed on every hundred weight of milk, pound of almonds, dozen eggs, and many other agricultural commodities.
These programs, while at times increasing consumer awareness and acceptance of their products through slick advertising campaigns (“Incredible Edible Egg” and “Pork. The Other White Meat” are examples), have not resulted in an economically sustainable production environment for a wide range of producers. Instead, I feel that these programs have contributed to the loss of thousands of small and mid-sized operations. An industrial, centralized, vertically integrated commodity production model best meets the needs of the market these existing checkoffs have created, since that market favors high volume and low commodity prices over other considerations.
Many types of organic producers currently already pay into a diversity of mandated “check-off” programs, even though their dollars do not support campaigns promoting organic alternatives. In fact, at times, promotions might even be damaging to the perception of organic equivalents in the marketplace. The organic community has been fighting this issue for many years, and change was a high priority for many in this year’s farm bill.
A Need for Funds to Promote Organic
The Organic Trade Association and the organic community at large has long lamented the lack of funding for consumer education on the benefits of organic agriculture, as well as the great need for more research funds to improve organic agricultural and food processing systems. Last fall OTA approached various organic stakeholders, from farmers, to organic advocates, retailers and processors, with the idea that it was time for organics to put in place our own promotion and research checkoff to help address these and other challenges. (They’re calling it the “Organic Research and Promotion Program.”)
The aggressive marketing of “natural” products in the marketplace has cut into organic sales by confusing consumers. Some have been led to believe natural to be a superior product, for their own health as well as the environment. Consumers, attracted to buying local foods, somehow forget that not all local is organic, and that they should seek out organic AND local in order to support the type of farming that’s best for the health of their family and the environment. Certainly building a strong consumer base for organics works to the benefit of all in the organic community.
The need for research focused on improving organic systems has never been greater. As the demand for organic continues to expand, research can help producers lessen dependence on approved synthetics as well as improve crop yields, animal health, and the nutritional profiles of organic food.
Money available for both marketing of the organic difference and organic research could be well spent. However, I believe that a hastily constructed checkoff plan may not be in the organic community’s best interest.
Organic Checkoff Proposed
The most recently approved Senate agriculture committee farm bill included a provision, put in place by OTA-funded lobbyists, to remove the mandate of organic producers to pay into conventional commodity checkoffs and to research the feasibility of a future organic checkoff. Many outside OTA were surprised to see provision for this type of monetary assessment, especially since it seemed premature. Although there is broad consensus within the organic community to remove payments into current commodity checkoffs that do not promote organic, there has definitely not been agreement across those who have a stake in organics to replace it with an organic checkoff.
If an organic checkoff seems feasible, a positive vote of those assessed would be needed before a program would be put in place. Still, many feel this train is moving way too fast.
What Would an “Organic” Checkoff Look Like?
One discussion favors a checkoff to include payments tied to all USDA certified organic products. Since this would be the first USDA checkoff to include more than one type of agricultural product, numerous questions need to be answered.
The biggest concerns include: Who would pay for this? Funding by farmers, processors, retailers or even consumers has been discussed. Who would oversee how these funds are allocated? How could an oversight board be structured to address the variety of concerns from diverse production systems, regions and business types? How would the different research and marketing needs of a wide variety of production systems be addressed? Can we devise a system that provides funding opportunities for small, mid and larger producers as well as the challenges of direct marketers, multiproduct processors, distributors and retailers? How would priorities be set so that all would have an equal chance to make their case for these dollars? If one sector of the community does not pay into the fund, how would their concerns still be heard? Could the program be built to respond to regional needs, such as the SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) program?
This is just the beginning of the conversation, and I am sure that there are even more considerations to take into account before a fair program could be set up. Perhaps the biggest question of all is: How do we avoid the serious problems experienced by many of the other commodity checkoffs, where farmers complain that though their dollars fund the program, they reap few of the benefits? Many commodity farmers feel that while processors and sellers of finished products do not pay into current conventional checkoffs, they are the ones who gain the most. The marketplace prefers high volumes of production, which keep the cost of raw materials low. The consequence of this is low commodity prices and a larger share of the retail dollar going to processors and distributors.
Critics of the organic checkoff proposal ask if a program can be developed to balance the competing interests of farmers, processors, distributors, retailers and consumers. Is this challenge too much for the organic community to take on?
Getting it Right
Organic farmers and processors over time have found that sustainable systems are developed by using the wisdom of the past, using innovations that are holistic in nature, and “thinking outside the box.” Following this wisdom, I and others believe that we need to deliberate on the issue of an organic checkoff, provide enough time to hear all voices and allow for open discussion so that ideas can evolve and mature.
Even though the farm bill only comes around once every five years, and there is a push to “get this done” now, it might be more prudent to first focus on removing the onerous conventional checkoff requirements from organic producers. We could then take more time to have the important discussion on any future organic checkoff. As an organic community, we want to carefully build bridges between our various sectors, and not set up a program that would lead to alienation. We have seen the damage this type of division has had in politics and in our overall social interactions.
There is a dynamic tension in the marketplace between buyers and sellers, we should avoid a program that magnifies that rivalry. Organics could lead the way in showing how these competing groups could find and build upon their common ground to enhance shared goals and vision. We should take the time to do it right, rather than letting this year’s looming farm bill push us into a poorly thought-out program.
The future of organic agriculture in the U.S. should not rely on following the failed policies of conventional commodity checkoffs. Let’s take the time to ensure the path we take leads to the long-term viability and success of organic agriculture for all of the equally important stakeholders in our community.
To stay updated about the fate of the organic checkoff proposal, visit the website of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition at http://sustainableagriculture.net/, the Organic Trade Association (http://www.ota.com) and the National Organic Coalition, http://www.nationalorganiccoalition.org. MOSES will put Action Alerts in the Policy area of our website, http://www.mosesorganic.org.
OTA is holding Town Hall meetings and webinars around the country to discuss their proposal:
OFARM, Sept, Nebraska
Natural Products Expo E. Sept 20, Baltimore
NODPA Field Days, Sept, Brattleboro VT
NOSB, Oct, Providence RI
MT Organic Association, Dec, Montana
Webinars July 23, Aug 7, Sept 10, Sept 26, All at 3pm EDT. For more info, contact OTA.
Harriet Behar (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the MOSES Organic Specialist.
Women Caring for the Land - New Workshops Support Conservation Learning Circles
By Lisa Kivirsit
Who holds the potential to influence our rural landscape and agriculture future? Increasingly, it is women farmland owners. According to data from Iowa State University, over 47 percent of the farmland in Iowa is owned or co-owned by women- primarily senior and widowed landowners who inherited family farmland. This statistic has sparked a groundbreaking new training program created by Women, Food and Agriculture Network, (WFAN,) called Women Caring for the LandSM. The program supports these women in achieving their conservation goals, and will be expanding throughout the Midwest this year with the MOSES Rural Women’s Project as a Wisconsin partner.
“Women Caring for the Land builds on more than a decade of our work with women farmland owners in Iowa,” explains Leigh Adcock, Executive Director of WFAN. “Through various pilots, we’ve learned that this group of women consistently demonstrate strong conservation values in surveys and interviews. However, many of them are inheriting farmland from partners or fathers and have not participated in management decisions in the past. They don’t always know where to go for assistance and are sometimes reluctant to approach traditional conservation agency staff with their questions.”
Enter the importance of networking and peer-to-peer programming. In the same spirit of the MOSES Rural Women’s Project, the Women Caring for the Land format roots in the idea that women often learn best from each other, particularly on issues related to farming. Day-long, free sessions bring small groups of area women together in a facilitated format. This enables the landowners to meet with female conservation professionals to discuss their goals for improving air, water and soil quality on the land they own, and to engage in activities that teach conservation principles. After lunch, participants go on a guided tour of area farmland to see these principles and practices in action.
“Women Caring for the Land provides a crucial link between these women and the resources they need to achieve their conservation goals,” says Lynn Heuss, WFAN Program Coordinator. “Women feel free to raise questions, share challenges and knowledge, and get information on the wide range of resources available to them, including how to work with tenant farmers to improve conservation on the farm.”
Topics for discussion range from managing soil and water conservation, to government cost-share programs, to how to talk with tenants about changing management practices.
A specialized curriculum has been developed, outlining activities that innovatively tie-in imagery close to the heart of this senior group, such as quilts, to bring issues such as diversity and soil erosion to life.
“We have had wonderful feedback from participants,” adds Heuss. “Many of them just need to network with other women landowners to give them the information and confidence they need to improve soil and water conservation on their farms.”
Program response has been very positive, both among farmland owners and agency staff. “This has been so informative and helpful; I’m excited for the future of my father’s land” wrote one eastern Iowa woman farmland owner. “I know that if I can get conservation information to women, they are likely to act,” commented an Iowa watershed coordinator.
Building on these successful results, and with support from a Conservation Innovation Grant from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) grant and funding through the McKnight Foundation, Women Caring for the LandSM is now expanding into six upper Midwest states with over 20 total workshops planned for 2012 in Wisconsin, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska Missouri, North and South Dakota, Illinois and Iowa. Each of these states will also develop a curriculum guide specific to their state so any organization or agency could host such a session in the future.
“Women Caring for the Land provides a needed connection between women landowners and the array of land conservation resources and programs we have available here in Wisconsin,” explains Valerie Dantoin, Organic & Sustainable Agriculture and Food Educator with the Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay and the host partner for the August 16 workshop. Dantoin and her husband also run Full Circle Farm, an organic dairy in Seymour, WI. “The College is looking forward to bringing these landowners together and providing the start for new relationships and network support for the future.”
The impact of Women Caring for the Land holds strong potential for stewarding our rural landscape. “These women landowners are some of the most dedicated conservationists in the state, but are typically overlooked with traditional conservation outreach, which is targeted at the tenant farmer,” sums up Adcock.
The day-long workshops are free for women to attend and include lunch; pre-registration is required and space is limited. Wisconsin workshops are listed below. For more on the program and workshops in other Midwest states, see http://www.womencaringfortheland.org. The 80-page curriculum guide is also available on the website as a free PDF download; hard copies may be ordered at cost by emailing email@example.com.
Please contact Lisa Kivirist, MOSES Rural Women’s Project Director, to register for the Wisconsin programs or with any questions (firstname.lastname@example.org, 608-329-7056).
Wisconsin Women Caring for the LandSM 2012 Wisconsin workshops
Aug. 15: Richland Center
Aug. 16: Green Bay
Sept. 17: Lancaster
Sept. 18: Darlington
Profile: Grant Schultz, Young Organic Steward
By Lindsay Rebhan
I had the pleasure of meeting young farmer Grant Schultz at the MOSES Organic Farming Conference this past winter. Since then I have been following his tweets and truly appreciate his holistic perspective in farming. The following is a recent interview with him.
L: Grant, what is your farm name and what does the operation include? How did you go into farming? Do you have any special projects going on?
G: My is farm name is VersaLand Farm, in Iowa. I graduated in Agriculture from Iowa State in 2003. I worked in real estate and web development for eight years, building up a ‘nest egg’ to get a farm bought, simultaneously growing on small parcels propagating my garlic seed stock (now 15 varieties and 2,000 lbs). Land-price appreciation was outpacing my farm fund growth, so I said “Now or never,” sold my house in NE Iowa and rented eight acres from family last year.
Farming where I’m at has been a solitary pursuit. I’m more ready than ever to find a farm of my own. I’m looking for the idyllic spot: timber, pasture, and tillable ground with water on-site. If you envision it, it will come. Right? Criteria: within 20 miles of college/university town, on-farm water feature, local peer vegetable/livestock producers.
L: Get this man some land!! Are you looking anywhere specifically?
G: Vermont and New Hampshire are looking nice, I’m open to a vibrant community in the Midwest, too, good soil and water.
L: I will spread the word but make sure to check out the MOSES Land Link-Up: Anyone reading this that has a good spot in mind, please contact Grant.
L: Garlic is a “gateway crop”! How did you start with garlic?
G: I started when I was a kid, planting sprouting cloves from the kitchen. Replanted every year, and now I have quite a bit. Bootstrapped.
L: What’s your favorite thing about farming?
G: Day-to-day living... I like working for myself.
L: Any favorite podcasts? Any online farmers you connect with?
G: I’ve followed the Greenhorns blog for years. You know in rural Iowa with not a huge young community, you turn to the Internet. I listen to a lot of podcasts and Pandora: Paul Wheaton (permies.com), Agroinnovations podcast-a holistic management permaculture grazing outfit, Running with Pitchforks. Farminars with Practical Farmers of Iowa, archived as videos, is an awesome resource.
L: What are your growing methods?
G: I worked on an orchard in college, learned a lot from that. Biomass production is tremendous. Diversity. Growing organically, my land is in transition. Permaculture, converting more into integrated systems, sustainable profits.
L: You are presenting at an upcoming event, Farm Hack, on electric tractors. Tell us more about that.
G: I am sharing information on how I built an electric tractor and some specialty implements from scratch. My welder has more utility than any other implement on the farm. I took a cultivating tractor completely apart, modified the wheel base, fabricated a battery tray, and retrofitted for electric. Converting to electric, I created ‘E-PTOs’ (electric power-takeoffs), an extra motor is directly on the tractor. It has a rather large battery bank, and includes a 48VDC to 120VAC inverter-any appliance can be plugged into the tractor and run. You can run a electric chain saw in the field, drill, etc.
L: Wow. Did you fix cars, are you self-taught machinist/welder?
G: Self taught, was a mower mechanic in high school, got into small engines. Lots of trial and error, learning from mistakes. Now I’m pretty good, pretty confident.
For more insight on this amazing young farmer - follow Grant on Twitter @primalpursuits and find him at www.versaland.com. I will check back in with Grant next month to hear how Farm Hack went and learn more about this young organic steward.
L: Farm Hack Iowa is going to be excellent —I hope to see more of these in the region. Make sure to check out Farm Hack Iowa, June 20-21st, http://tinyurl.com/FarmHackIowa.This Farm Hack will focus on on-farm energy for small farms-Out-of-the box farm hacks: Electric tractors, farmer-built machinery, WVO/biodiesel, micro-wind, micro-hydro, and wood gas/producer gas fuels. Presenters include Francis Thicke of Radiance Dairy – on-farm solar and tracking usage, Grant Schultz of VersaLand Farm – Electric G tractor conversion, and Steve Fugate of I-Renew – Ag biodiesel. Sponsored by The Greenhorns, National Young Farmers Coalition, New Belgium Brewing Company and New Pioneer Coop / Iowa City.
Lindsay Rebhan is the YOS Organizer. Contact her at YoungOrganicStewards@gmail.com @farmerninja @lsrebhan
Young Organic Stewards is a MOSES project. For more information on the project’s activites click here.
National Organic Standards Board - Tables livestock issues, approves items for processed foods
By Harriet Behar
The National Organic Standards Board met in Albuquerque, New Mexico May 22-25, 2012 with their usual long agenda. The National Organic Program (NOP) gave an extensive presentation (see the NOP website, http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop) detailing the numerous issues they are working on, and what is in process. Keeping up with the NOSB recommendations for both regulation change and additions or modifications to the National List has kept the NOP very busy. The Program still hopes to have origin of livestock completed by the end of the year, and has started working on aquaculture and apiculture. The Federal Register has had numerous NOP notifications recently, with many items on the National List relisted for another five years. Fenbendozole and Moxidectin have been newly added to the National List as organic livestock parasiticides.
GMO vaccines are currently allowed in organic production, but only if they are individually reviewed and placed on the National List (NL). There is concern that if an emergency occurs, and there is no non-GMO vaccine available on the market, that organic livestock would be at risk due to the lengthy NL approval process. The board decided to table this discussion in order to obtain more information on what GMO and non-GMO vaccines are available, as well as to develop a clear process of review for these novel GMO products. Currently the EU allows GMO vaccines, while the Canadian regulation does not. The NOSB tabled discussion on animal welfare and scoring sheets, due to negative public comment that these needed more work to incorporate a more systems-based approach, rather than just relying on strict numerical values to judge if a farm could be certified as organic.
Supplementation of infant formula with both inositol and choline was approved for organically labeled products, with the board feeling these are necessary for infants who get their full nutrition from formula. However, these would not be allowed in products where the consumers typically obtain nutrition from a wide variety of food sources. The discussion reviewed the necessity of these synthetic nutrients, as well as their safety.
Questions were raised about carrageenan, currently widely used in organic dairy products as a thickener and emulsifier, concerning possible negative health effects. However, the NOSB was not convinced that the research that led to these concerns was strong enough to remove it from organic foods.
Calcium sulfate, glucono delta-lactone, cellulose, agar-agar and carrageenan were all approved to be relisted on the NL for another five years in processed organic foods. Citrus Hystrix and curry leaves were added to the list of agricultural products not available as organic (205.606), and can therefore be included as nonorganic in the 5% of organically labeled foods. By a close vote Gibberellic acid was NOT approved for use as a post-harvest drench on bananas to prevent premature ripening of fruit. The premature ripening is caused by a disease and the NOSB seemed to be convinced that various management systems and approved materials could be used to control the disease, and the gibberelic acid would not be needed. There are some areas of the world where this is a greater challenge and they would be most affected by this nonapproval.
The fall NOSB meeting will be in Providence Rhode Island, October 15-19, 2012.
Proff Positive - Potato Varieties and Potato Seed Systems for Organic Production: An On-Farm Approach
By Ruth Genger, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Ruth Genger presented this research as part of the MOSES Organic Research Forum in February 2012.
Project Description and Goals
Most commonly available varieties of vegetables are bred and selected under conventional growth conditions, with high inputs of fertilizer and pesticides. Few varieties are specifically developed for organic and low input production, and it can be difficult to source seed for heirloom varieties that were bred before the advent of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Detailed variety descriptions which include information on traits such as maturity, disease resistance, storability, nutrition or taste can also be hard to find. Potatoes are no exception – many organic farmers have asked us for variety information or help sourcing a hard-to-find favorite.
Unlike many vegetable crops, potatoes are vegetatively propagated – from ‘seed’ tubers. If the ‘mother’ plant is infected with a pathogen, the ‘daughter’ tubers are likely to carry the same infection, and some infections can seriously affect yields and quality – so planting healthy seed potatoes is especially important. Certified seed potatoes are inspected for disease symptoms during the growing season and at harvest, and a post-harvest sample is grown in the winter (in greenhouses or tropical climes) to find those diseases that cannot be detected except in the ‘daughter’ plants. Certified seed potatoes must be below a stringent disease incidence threshold. Note that organic certification and seed certification are separate systems.
There is an ongoing shortage of organically-grown certified seed potatoes. When organic seed potatoes are not available, organic farmers are permitted to plant conventionally grown seed potatoes, but specialty and heirloom varieties are rarely available from conventional growers. Many organic growers in the Midwest ship seed potatoes in from other regions of North America. Not only do these growers pay high shipping fees—they also face the risk of tuber damage and decay due to poor transport conditions, and the risk of importing disease organisms from other regions.
The long term goals of our research are twofold: to breed and select potato varieties that perform well in the Midwest under organic management; and to support the growth of an organic seed potato industry in the Midwest. Our shorter term goals (below) will help us toward this aim by identifying parental material for a breeding program; by giving us and our farmer-collaborators experience in collaborative selection of potato varieties for organic production; and by establishing the most productive and efficient methods for increase of healthy seed potatoes.
Goal 1 – Compare the performance of currently available potato varieties under organic management.
Our potato variety trials are conducted on several Wisconsin organic farms as well as certified organic land at the West Madison Agricultural Research Station. Over the past three years, the number of varieties has increased from 16 to 36, and the number of participating farms from four to eight. Varieties are assessed during the growing season for emergence, vigor, canopy closure (a factor in weed suppression), impact of diseases and insect pests, and maturity. After harvest, total and marketable yield and tuber quality are assessed, and tuber samples are used in taste panels and analyzed for nutrition. Last year one participating farm organized a potato tasting at their farm for CSA members and friends – a fun event which will hopefully continue!
When it comes to organic management practices, one size does not fit all. Since our farmer-collaborators use a diversity of organic management methods, and have diverse farming operations, we are collecting data on farm environments (e.g. soil type, weather) and management (e.g. crop rotations, inputs, tillage), to look for correlations between variety performance and growing conditions. Such correlations will emerge only from large sample sizes, so we aim to increase the number of participating farms, and to continue our observations over several growing seasons.
Goal 2 – Generate disease-free stocks for rare heirloom varieties, to enable evaluation under organic management.
We are collaborating with Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) to generate disease-free stocks of rare heirloom potato varieties. Many of these varieties carry viral infections, which compromise assessments of varietal performance. We chose 100 varieties that are unique to SSE, and that have been reported by SSE members or potato researchers to have useful traits, such as disease resistance or excellent taste. We are working to eradicate viruses from these lines, and once disease-free stocks are obtained, it will be exciting to see how these older varieties perform in the field under organic management.
Goal 3 – Develop seed potato production systems suited to small organic farms.
Potato variety stocks are maintained in a sterile, pathogen-free environment as tissue culture plantlets. These plantlets produce small tubers called minitubers (typically ½ to 2 inches in diameter) when planted in a greenhouse hydroponic system or pots. Minitubers will be disease-free if greenhouse hygiene is maintained, and will produce normally sized tubers when planted in the field. Due to their small size, minitubers must be planted shallowly, and plants are initially small, making weed control a challenge. We have tested bed production with and without plastic mulch, and we are now trialing straw mulch.
Research Progress and Results
Goal 1 – 2011 on-farm variety trials
Last year, 34 potato varieties were trialed on six organic farms. These included heirloom and specialty varieties for red, russet, yellow, white, blue- and red-fleshed, and fingerling varieties. While variety performance varied from farm to farm, some overall trends were seen. The popular red variety, Dark Red Norland, was frequently outyielded by Chieftain, Red Maria and Reddale. Yellow varieties Satina and Keuka Gold emerged as promising replacements for Yukon Gold. Yukon Gold is particularly prone to common scab, which is less problematic on Satina. Satina also shows resistance to early blight, Verticillium wilt, and black scurf, and was well-liked in taste panels. Other varieties showing resistance to early blight were French Fingerling and German Butterball. The blue-fleshed variety Purple Majesty performed well at most locations and may be a good alternative to Adirondack Blue. However, at one location, all Purple Majesty tubers were unmarketable due to severe pitted scab, indicating that this variety is highly susceptible to scab. We are compiling data from our trials into variety descriptions that will be available on our website.
Goal 2 – Virus eradication from heirloom potato stocks
We are working with ninety-four varieties from the Seed Savers Exchange collection, treating virus-infected varieties with antiviral and heat therapy to eradicate viruses and other pathogens. Twenty varieties have now been confirmed pathogen-free: Epicure Red Banana, Peanut, Early Epicure, Early Bangor, Aylesbury Gold, Scotia Blue, Butte, Gold Coin, Campbell, Australian Crawlers, Yellow Rose, Sweet Yellow Dumpling, Nosebag, Woudster, Fenton Blue, Red Dutch, Cherries Jubilee, Norwegian, Peruvian Blue, Alaskan Indian. Minitubers for many of these varieties were planted on certified organic land this spring, in order to multiply seed for future variety trials.
Goal 3 – Assess seed potato production in beds planted with minitubers
In 2010 and 2011, we trialed production of seed potatoes from minitubers in beds. Trials were run at one organic farm and on organic land at Hancock Research Station. Two rows of Red La Soda minitubers were planted 2 feet apart in drip-irrigated 3-foot wide beds, with 8 inch or 12 inch spacing within rows. Beds were mulched with reflective silver film, which has been shown to repel aphids and should therefore protect plants from Potato Virus Y. We also used lightweight row cover to exclude aphids, and sprayed mineral oil to reduce the ability of aphids to transmit PVY. Yields at Hancock ranged from 12-16 lb per 10 feet of bed, and from 14-23 lb per 10 feet of bed at the organic farm. Plant spacing had little effect on yields, but yield was lower in plots without plastic mulch, or with row cover. We detected no PVY in either year. Since there were other potato plots at Hancock within 200 feet that had up to 45% PVY, this lack of PVY suggests that the silver film is very effective at repelling aphids. This year we are testing the effects of straw mulch versus plastic mulch on yield and PVY incidence.
Conclusions and Future Plans
Our variety trials identified several varieties that performed well across organic farms and have resistance to common diseases. This year, we are trialing 36 varieties at 8 farms. We will continue to test new and heirloom varieties, including varieties from crosses we have made between promising parents. Results from minituber bed trials – good yields and no PVY – are encouraging for the prospects of seed potato production on organic farms in the Midwest. We hope to see as good or better results from trials of straw mulch.
We are excited about increased farmer involvement in evaluation of varieties and early breeding lines. Our variety evaluation guidelines come out of consultation with our farmer-collaborators on traits of importance to them, and several of our farmer-collaborators have taken the lead on post-harvest evaluations. There is no replacement for their expertise and insight into what makes a high quality, marketable potato. We look forward to continued collaboration – and we welcome you to contact us if you are interested in potato variety evaluations (Ruth Genger, email@example.com).
*Research team: Ruth Genger, Chakradhar Mattupalli, Doug Rouse (Department of Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin-Madison); Amy Charkowski (Department of Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Wisconsin Seed Potato Certification Program); Emily Mueller, Russell Groves (Department of Entomology, University of Wisconsin-Madison); Shelley Jansky (Department of Horticulture, University of Wisconsin-Madison); Gina Greenway, Joe Guenthner (Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology, University of Idaho).
Senate Agricultural Committe Passes Farm Bill
By Harriet Behar
We still have a long way to go, but the first step in the 2012 Farm Bill, or the 2012 Agricultural Reform, Food and Jobs Act, has been taken with passage out of the Senate Ag Committee. Organic producers can be pleased that many of the problematic proposals present in the late winter farm bill proposal, discussed by the super committee delegated to develop budget cuts, have not reappeared in this bill. There will be a lot of activity between now and the August congressional recess, so check the MOSES policy page often for updates and action alerts! (http://www.mosesorganic.org/actionalerts.html)
The next step is for the full Senate to vote on this bill sometime in early to mid-summer, so there is time to push for programs that are not funded as we would like. We also want to protect what we have in this bill from being removed or cut. The House is looking at their own version of the farm bill, and should start working on their version of the bill by early July.
Numerous amendments remove provisions that are useful to organic. Others are necessary to help organics flourish by removing obstacles and enhancing research. For a full listing, see the MOSES Action Alerts webpage.
The Tester (SA 2234) amendment needs support of organic producers, as this mandates a specific amount of seed and livestock breed research money be dedicated to non-patented (non-GMO) varieties that would be publically available for use, on-farm seed saving, and further research. Currently, almost all of the public research dollars result in privately patented seeds and breeds.
The Merkley-Feinstein-Sanders-Kerry (SA 2382) – Organic Crop Insurance amendment seeks to remove the penalties placed upon organic farmers who wish to purchase crop insurance. The 5% surcharge would be removed and the USDA would put in place a fair pricing structure that would represent the actual organic price, instead of tying the organic farmer’s payment to the conventional price.
The Sanders-Leahy-Gillibrand (SA 2255) – Organic EQIP amendment continues the 2008 Farm Bill provisions to ensure that organic farmers could access conservation programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). This amendment would streamline planning requirements, strengthen assistance to transitional producers, and eliminate the unfair lower payment limit applied solely to organic farmers, at no additional cost.
Snapshot of the Senate Ag Committee’s Bill
Organic Certification Cost Share-The Senate Ag Committee has blended the two organic certification cost-share programs together (some eastern states had a different pool of money), and has proposed funding at $11.5 million/year, which should fully fund the program. This program has some enemies in the House, so we will need to watch this closely. If your house representative is on the agriculture committee, and especially if they are republicans, a call to them asking they support this provision would be very useful.
Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative-The organic community wanted the program increased to $30 million per year, from the current $20 million. The present amount in the bill is $16 million per year of mandatory funding. University of Wisconsin has gotten quite a bit of grant money for their organic research under this program. There appears to be good support in the Senate for this program, so it is not unrealistic to try to increase funds dedicated to organic when it goes to the full Senate for a vote.
Organic Data Collection Initiative-The $5 million in mandatory funding was renewed in this farm bill. This money is used both for biweekly market reports as well as the 2010 detailed Organic Production Survey. If you have not seen either of these items, here are links: Organic grains and feedstuffs, 2008 census of organic agriculture
Promotional Order- A surprise addition to the Senate Ag bill allows for discussion and possibly eventual implementation of an organic research and promotion order. Sen. Casey (PA) introduced this amendment which has two actions. First, it fixes the existing exemption from conventional check-offs for organic operations. The current exemption allows only 100% organic production to be sold from the operation, and this change would allow those who do not produce 100% organically labeled products on their farm to be able to opt out.
Second, and more controversial, this amendment would allow the organic sector to explore pooling funds through an industry assessment for the purpose of establishing a self-governing organic research and promotion board. The process for this checkoff initiative includes an exploratory phase where the organic industry (OTA is the lead on this) will try to build agreement for the program, and if that succeeds, they would make an application to the USDA to put in place this assessment.
If this remains in the farm bill until its final passage, the process of exploring whether this is a viable vehicle to grow organic into the future will be evaluated throughout the entire value chain during 2012 and into 2013. To learn more visit: http://www.ota.com/ORPP.html
Food Safety Training for Farmers and Small Processors-Many groups fought hard for the inclusion of training funds into the Food Safety Modernization Act, which will be implemented sometime in the near future. The Senate bill did not include any funds for this training, and congress never has, even though it is a law. If small- and mid-sized operations are to continue having access to institutional markets as well as many wholesale and retail markets, they will need to meet whatever food safety regulations are put forward by the FDA, and/or the USDA. This training is critical to provide the knowledge and tools so these producers can develop and implement scale-appropriate food safety plans.
Agriculture and Food Research Initiative-AFRI- This very large pot of money funds large amounts of agricultural research, especially through land grant universities. At this time, much of the plant breeding on varieties and hybrids is then given to private companies who insert a gene, and then sell this seed as a patented variety. Many organizations are supporting a National Organic Coalition request that 5% be mandated from the budget for plant and animal breeding to provide non-GMO, non-patented, publically available plant breeds. If tax dollars are spent on this research, the public should have access to the results.
Other Programs of Interest
Conservation on working lands- EQIP, CSP and crop insurance. Cuts are on the horizon, with CSP (Conservation Stewardship Program) taking the biggest cut. Much of the direct commodity payment programs are being cut, with the new farmer safety net being put in taxpayer-subsidized revenue-based crop insurance. A large problem with this change is the structure of crop insurance compared to all other farm payment programs. Crop insurance is the only program that does not tie any conservation compliance to payments. Anyone in CRP, EQIP, CSP or receiving direct payments, is required to have in place a conservation plan, written specifically for their farm. Since much of the farm subsidy payment is proposed to go to crop insurance, we need to push to include crop insurance with other programs that must have conservation compliance.
Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development- cut by half from the last farm bill to $10 million/yr. MOSES and other organizations have received funding under this program.With the aging of the farmer community, and the difficulty in starting up new farms, this program is essential in providing future farmers for America. The Brown amendment restores funding to this program.
Value-Added Producer Grants- Wisconsin has been a leader in receiving funds under this program, and was funded at $15 million each year. The Senate committee cut funding to 0. These grants have resulted in many thriving rural businesses, allowing small to mid scale farms to remain economically viable.
Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion- currently funded at $10 million, with proposed future funding at $20 million each year, but the National Sustainable Ag Coalition would like to see it increased to $30 million. This popular program stretched beyond its limit to service the huge number of requests nationally.
Harriet Behar, firstname.lastname@example.org, is the MOSES Organic Specialist.
Organic Processing Institute
By Elena Byrne
Organic products made up 3% of total food sales in the U.S. in 2008, up from merely 1% in the year 2000 [source: Nutrition Business Journal, ERS/USDA 2002 report]. Although this is good news, the organic industry faces unique challenges in responding to this growth. While more organic retail sales are occurring in mainstream supermarkets than in any other venue, organic products are often produced on a small scale for regional consumption. Enter the Organic Processing Institute (OPI).
The Organic Processing Institute is a nonprofit organization recently formed to provide services to innovators, farmers, expanding processing operations, and business start-ups that strive to add richness, choice, and magnitude to the value-added organic options in the marketplace. The Institute was conceptualized following discussions among organic farming experts that focused on problems organic farmers experience in accessing processing and custom services related to livestock, poultry, fruits, vegetables, and seeds. OPI received its initial funding from The Ceres Trust, an organization uniquely devoted to supporting and promoting organic and sustainable agriculture.
OPI will work primarily in Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota, providing referrals, networking, and information, as well as hosting farm and processing facility tours. The OPI website, http://www.organicprocessinginstitute.org, provides links to essential resources and will document case studies in a series called “Pathways to Processing,” exploring barriers to producing value-added organic products. The case studies are presented so that successful ventures can inspire fledgling ones, ultimately increasing the organic presence and visibility of the organic industry as a whole.
Current information suggests that barriers include: dealing with licensing, inspection, and other regulations; lack of political and financial support for local food system expansion; limited training resources for new and beginning processing workers and entrepreneurs; low profit margins in the food processing sector; and the seasonality of much local processing. The Institute will work to help forge links among organic farmers and processors to help overcome some of these barriers and ensure sustainable success.
Working with organic producers and processing start-ups, OPI will assist in navigating permit requirements, the development of recipes and labels, and finding organic processors or adding on-farm processing operations. Assistance with developing financial documents will be available for start-up businesses. OPI will also help conventional processors interested in adding organic lines.
The Institute will have a staff of three: Executive Director, Carla Wright; Outreach Coordinator, Elena Byrne; and soon, a Business Development Specialist.
OPI’s Board of Directors consists of professionals with a long history in organic agriculture. The board represents expertise in on-farm dairy processing, meat processing, herbal products processing, vegetable production, and Minnesota and Wisconsin state and academic agencies.
The Organic Processing Institute is a nonprofit dedicated to cultivating a healthy return on investments in organic processing. For more information or to join the mailing list, please visit the website or call 608-833-5371.
Survey Shows Continued Organic Growth
The U.S. organic industry grew by 9.5% overall in 2011 to reach $31.5 billion in sales, according to the Organic Trade Association’s 2012 Organic Industry Survey. Estimates for 2012-2013 are that organic sales will continue growth of 9% or higher. Read more at http://www.organicnewsroom.com/2012/04/us_consumerdriven_organic_mark.html.
OFRF Scores Universities with Organic Land Grant Assessment Report
Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) has released the first Organic Land Grant Assessment Report, measuring organic research, education, and outreach in the federally funded Land Grant education system. Universities were scored on development or maintenance of: organic research land, student organic farm, an organic degree, and dedicated organic faculty or staff members. Six campuses received perfect scores, including Michigan State University and the University of Minnesota. More at http://ofrf.org.
Final Rule Gives Organic Livestock Producers New Options
The National Organic Program has announced a final rule that allows the use of two parasiticides—fenbendazole and moxidectin—in organic livestock production as emergency treatment for dairy and breeder stock when approved preventive management fails to prevent parasite infestation. The final rule is available at http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=AMS-NOP-10-0078-0018.
Consumer’s Guide to Organic Foods
The Wis. Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection has recently released a 20-page booklet that answers questions for consumers who may be confused about what it means to purchase certified organic products. This marketing tool is free and available to anyone in several versions. You can find it at http://datcp.wi.gov/Farms/Organic_Farming/Organic_Consumer_Guide
USDA: New Food Hub Guide
The USDA has released a Regional Food Hub Resource Guide.
The Organic Center Examines Bread Quality
The Organic Center has released A Closer Look at What’s in Our Daily Bread the first report from its multi-year study on the key differences between organic and conventional grains. The report can be downloaded for free at www.organic-center.org/dailybreadreport. For more information on this series of reports or to contribute samples, contact Erin Smith at email@example.com or 303-499-1840.
Guide to Financing Community Supported Farms
The University of Vermont Center for Sustainable Agriculture’s New Farmer Project now has its resource The Guide to Financing the Community Supported Farm available online (http://www.uvm.edu/newfarmer/). The 62-page guide addresses legal, accounting, environmental and social considerations relevant to pursuing customized financial agreements, and contains examples of farms that have used alternative financing.
Illustrated Guide to Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs)
Newest in ATTRA’s Illustrated Series in English or Spanish, these new guides use graphic-style illustrations to show how farmers can reduce the risk of produce contamination on their farms. Others in the illustrated series include Finding Land to Farm (English, Spanish), Illustrated Guide to Sheep and Goat Production (English, Hmong, Spanish), New Markets for Your Crops (English, Spanish, or Spanish-language audio), The Organic Chronicles (English, Hmong, or Spanish), Organic Integrated Pest Management Field Guide (English, Spanish), and Start a Farm in the City (English, Spanish) Purchase these and more at https://attra.ncat.org/index.php.
Minn. Governor Supports Organic
Minnesota Governor Dayton is blogging about organic – specifically highlighting the new Directory of Minnesota Organic Farms. See http://mn.gov/governor/blog/the-office-of-the-governor-blog-entry-detail.jsp?id=102-42196. The directory is available in print and online at www.mda.state.mn.us/organic.
New LSP Podcasts
LSP’s award-winning Ear to the Ground podcast has added several new programs in recent days. New episodes are titled Launching a CSA, Passing on the Farm, Beating Diabetes in the Garden. To listen, go to http://www.landstewardshipproject.org/podcast.html
Updated Publication Helps Growers Prevent GMO Contamination
The University of Minnesota Southwest Research and Outreach Center has released GMO Contamination Prevention: What Does It Take? This publication outlines practices that growers can take to prevent or minimize genetic drift, commingling, and other forms of GMO contamination. Read or download the 8-page paper http://swroc.cfans.umn.edu/ResearchandOutreach/OrganicEcology/index.html.
New Online Tool for Cover Crops
The Midwest Cover Crops Council has a new online tool to help vegetable growers select the appropriate cover crop (another tool is for field crops). The Leopold Center collaborated in this effort. Details at http://www.mccc.msu.edu/selectorINTRO.html.
Participate in Important Hearing Study
HEAR on the Farm is a study to test programs designed to help farmers make good decisions to protect their hearing. For a limited time, farmers age 18+ who have email are eligible to participate. To participate, go to www.hearonthefarm.org and enter the access code saveears. Farmers can earn up to $40 for participating, and will contribute to the development of better safety programs for farmers. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org (734-763-3211).
New Foundation to Support Sustainable and Organic Food Systems
United Natural Foods, Inc. has established a charitable foundation to fund non-profit programs emphasizing sustainable agriculture and organic farming, and initiatives designed to increase organic food production and consumption. The Foundation will accept grant applications beginning Aug 1. More at http://www.unfifoundation.org or email@example.com
Do you have something to buy or sell? Your classified ad will reach over 9,500 households in the print edition, and be available in both the pdf and online version. available online. Go to the Organic Broadcaster website to submit an ad electronically.
For Sale: Buffalo farm equipment and parts, new and used/reconditioned. Check our prices and service. Hansgen Sales & Service, St. Charles, MN. 507-932-4219.
For Sale: Buffalo Cultivators and Rolling Stalk Choppers. 320-221-2266.
For Sale: Kovar harrow, 24-foot, 3-point, hydraulic wings, very good condition, $2800. 507-665-2030.
For Sale: Bourquin 6-row weed puller, 30” spacing, 4 hydraulic motors, 3-point mount. Call for more details. NE Kansas. 785-313-1717
For Sale: Forage developed Angus Bulls. Medium and smaller framed. Easy fleshing. OCC and PCC genetics. 1-year-olds and 2-year-olds. Tested. Tschanz Farms, Blair, WI. 608-989-2223.
For Sale: Six organic feeder pigs, $100 each, 40 lbs. Call 715-745-6017 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. 30 miles NW of Green Bay.
For Sale: Straw, big bales, can deliver. 608-574-2160.
For Sale: 56 large, square bales organic hay. Tested. Alfalfa/grass mix. Central Iowa. Call 515-338-0151.
For Sale: Organic rye straw. 4X5 round bales. Available mid-July, River Falls, WI. Call 715-425-6788.
For Sale: Custom grain and seed cleaning for seed. Feed and feed grade, small or big quantities. MOSA certified. Kevin Nuttleman, Bangor, Wisconsin. 608-633-1132.
Wanted: Albert Lea Seed is looking for Organic Winter Barley suitable for seed. It does not need to be clean or a certified variety. Please call Matt at 651-698-1999 or email: email@example.com. We sincerely appreciate your help!
For Sale: SUSTAINABLE LIVING NEAR THE BWCAW! Small town homestead for sale at edge of Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness – Ely end. Well-insulated, two BR, one bath, 1955 rambler on a 60 X 180 foot lot. Fenced back yard has 200 feet of raised beds, drip irrigation, 10 X 22 greenhouse, chicken coop with 12 bird capacity, and a woodshed. Inside has hardwood floors, Hearthstone “Heritage” woodstove on main floor, and Vermont Castings “Encore” in the basement. Huge wood room downstairs with study, work room, and partial bathroom. Ricing beds, whitefish/tulibee netting, and public access all nearby. $65,000.00. Call Steve Larson at 320-734-4597 or firstname.lastname@example.org
For Sale: Surplus insulated glass – perfect for greenhouses, solar homes, sunrooms or ag buildings. Also hardwood butcherblock 30”X100”X1-1/8” for sustainable countertops or bar tops. Oak, ash, cherry, maple, mahogany from $129. www.kissourglass.com or 715-639-3762 before 9 pm. Joe Bacon. Arctic Glass since 1979!
For Sale: Bat houses. Bats are an environmentally friendly means of insect control. Hand-made in the USA, certified by Bat Conservation International. Call 608-513-9497, email Mary Dussling at email@example.com, or visit our website www.BestBatHouses.com
For Sale: Farming Books. Retiring. Authors: Bonsma, Murphy, Gerrish, Salatin, Nation, Fry, Walters, Drayson, Grandin, Lush, Kinsey, Ruechel, Lee, Wheeler, Morrison, Steiner. Topics: Cattle, Poultry, Pigs, Sheep, Organic Farming, Forage, and many more. $225 cash, firm. Call 608-989-9109.
Upper Midwest Organic Grains and Feedstuffs Report
MOSES Field Days - Head out to the field with MOSES to learn farmer-to-farmer growing tips
MOSES Organic Field Days are off to a great start. A huge group turned out for the Organic Sheep Production event June 19th at Bonnie Wideman’s farm in Soldier’s Grove, Wis. We have many more Organic Field Days coming up. They are free, except for the events that include lunch—the MOSES Rural Women’s Project In Her Boots sessions and the Young Organic Stewards workshops. These Young Organic Stewards events are geared toward beginning farmers, but are open to anyone who is interested in the topics covered.
The upcoming MOSES Organic Field Days are listed in the sidebar. For more details, directions and to register for an event, please visit our website. If you do not have access to the Internet, please call the office at 715-778-5775 to register—we’ll help you with driving directions, too! Registering for Field Days helps determine numbers for handouts and treats. However, if you haven’t registered but decide you want to attend at the last minute, you’re welcome to join us.
Young Organic Stewards
We’ve put together two all-day trainings for Young Organic Stewards this season—one in Illinois and one in Wisconsin—designed specifically to answer beginning farmers’ questions. Both of these workshops feature classroom-style lectures, lunch and a tour of the farm. Cost is $40 and covers lunch and course materials. Registration is required, and can be done with a credit card online at mosesorganic.org/youngorganicstewards or by phone at 715-778-5775. Here’s a short description of these educational events:
Beginning Market Farming
Saturday, June 30 from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Radical Root Farm, Grayslake, Ill.
Speakers include young farmers Alex Needham & Alison Parker of Radical Root Farm, part of the incubator program at Prairie Crossing. Alex and Alison have a CSA, sell at farmers markets and direct market vegetables. Topics will include selecting a business structure, capital and farm financing, planning your year, soil building and equipment selection, plus aspects of production & marketing.
Organic Livestock Production for Beginners
Saturday, July 21 from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Castle Rock Farm & Creamery, Osseo, Wis.
Join Will Winter, DVM and Wayne, Karla and Jake Kostka of Castle Rock Organic Farms to learn what it takes to produce high quality organic livestock and livestock products. Poultry, hogs, sheep, cattle and goat production will be covered in detail.
Young Organic Stewards is a joint program of MOSES and Renewing the Countryside that aims to educate and empower the next generation of organic and sustainable farmers. This project was supported by the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA, Grant #2011-49400-30756.
In Her Boots: Sustainable Farming For Women, By Women
After a successful launch in 2011, the In Her Boots: Sustainable Farming For Women, By Women series continues in 2012 with three day-long, on-farm workshops to give women farmers and food-based business owners a blend of practical information, skill-building, and networking opportunities. Lisa Kivirist, the Director of MOSES Rural Women’s Project, author and activist, has lined up an interesting mix of seasoned farmers and entrepreneurs. Lisa also will be sharing information at each of the workshops, which include discussions, lunch sponsored by Organic Valley, and a farm tour. Cost is $25. Registration is required. Complete details about the Rural Women’s Project and the In Her Boots series are online at www.mosesorganic.org/womensproject. Here’s a summary of the In Her Boots lineup:
Hilltop Community Farm, La Valle, Wis.
Saturday, Aug. 11 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Spend the day with an inspiring group of women farmers and educators dedicated to transforming our food system. This workshop focuses on starting an orchard and small-scale CSA with a variety of break-out sessions on selling value-added under the Pickle Bill, the challenges of farming as a single woman, starting an agricultural-related non-profit and creating a farmstay B&B.
The Bridge-Between Retreat Center, Denmark, Wis.
Friday, Aug. 17 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
This workshop’s farm tour focuses on recycled outbuildings, hoop houses, and raised beds. Break-out sessions cover developing a farm vision, advice from a beginning farmer, using the resources you have, and diversifying through agritourism and workshops.
Grassroots Farm, Monroe, Wis.
Sunday, Sept. 9 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Join experienced farmers to discuss small-scale CSA, diversified produce, farming as a single woman, starting a farm business post-retirement, diversifying through teaching workshops, and adding value through farmstays/B&Bs.
MOSES Organic Specialists will have information booths at the following farm shows and fairs:
July 17, 18 & 19 at Farm Technology Days in New London, Wis.
July 28 at Kickapoo Country Fair in La Farge, Wis.
August 7, 8 & 9 at FarmFest in Redwood County, Minn.
August 21 at Midwest Bio-Ag Field Day in Blue Mounds, Wis.
August 28, 29 & 30 at Farm Progress in Boone, Iowa