A New Kid in Town: American Goat Federation Debut

When one thinks of a traditional farm, images of cows, pigs and chickens typically come to mind, but not images of goats.

Maybe they should?

Goats are becoming more and more integrated into the modern farming industry, as evidenced by the recent inauguration of the The American Goat Federation (AGF).

On November 10, AGF became the national trade association for goat producers.

Goats were first domesticated by neolithic farmers because they’re a great source of milk and meat. Their dung was used as fuel and their bones, hair and sinew for clothing, building and tools.

Since then, goats have been raised primarily to process their milk for cheese, butter, yogurt, ice cream and body products. Their hair is used in the textile industry and their meat is becoming more popular in cuisines.

According to its website, “The American Goat Federation promotes and facilitates the development of all segments of the goat industry including dairy, meat and fiber, by encouraging sound public policy, enhancing production and marketing of goat products, and promoting research beneficial to our member organizations and all producers.”

Goat Facts
• More than 300 breeds
• Produce approximately 2 percent of the world's total annual milk supply
• Cheaper to manage than cattle

Ohio has the potential for a blossoming goat industry.

“Traditonally, Ohio is not a goat state, and goats raised in Ohio are mostly for the local 4-H markets. However, with the tremendous influx of immigration and increasing health consciousness of the population, there seems to be a large market for goat meat in Ohio,” states an Ohio State University Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center paper. “This, along with the fact that many previous tobacco farmers have spare land and goats are easy to raise, trigger an increasing interest on the farmers’ side for production and processing.”

The Ohio Valley Dairy Goat Association and the Mid-Ohio Goat Dairy Goat Association are examples of state groups that promote the potential and the success of Ohio goat farming.

Ohio Goat Facts (2007 Census of Agriculture)
  • Ranked 13 in the nation
  • Ranked 50 globally
  • Generates $14,186,000 annually
As years progress, it will be interesting to note how the goat industry expands to become a contender in the traditional livestock market, especially in Ohio. However, market infrastructure (ex: no goat processing plants) requires a major overhaul for the Ohio goat industry to really flourish.

Have you prepared or eaten anything made with goat? Do you know anyone who raises goats?

Photo obtained from: newfarm.rodaleinstitute.org

Vertical tillage a benefit to farmers

In the world of agriculture, it is important to be up-to-date and knowledgeable about the current trends and hot topics in the industry.

Today, one of the most talked about topics is vertical tillage.

Agri-View explains that vertical tillage is used to lightly till the soil and cut up residue, mixing and anchoring a portion of the residue in the upper few inches of soil while still leaving large quantities of residue on the soil surface to speed up residue decomposition.

“The best description for vertical tillage is to call it a form of mulch-till, as it generally leaves more than 30 percent residue on the soil surface, yet creates nearly full-width disturbance on the soil surface,” says DeAnn Presley, soil management specialist at Kansas State University.

But, how does vertical tillage work?

According to Farm Equipment, a set of wavy discs and/or rotating spikes on a frame enter soil vertically to a shallow depth to help level the soil surface, enhance planter/drill opener performance and improve seed placement. It works well in these applications because it doesn’t work deep in the ground; therefore, wide-working widths can be pulled across the field quickly to achieve increased work rates.

Farmers have started to use vertical tillage equipment for many reasons, namely for its advantages with crop rotations, soil conditions and field compaction.

Vertical Tillage Benefits (Ohio Farmer)

  • Manages residue In corn-after-corn rotation situations, farmers use vertical tillage to cut and size residue in the fall. A pass typically provides cutting and “fluffing” action on corn residue. This provides more soil-to-residue contact, which results in better breakdown during the winter months.
  • Prepares the seedbed When vertical tillage is applied in the spring (when planting soybeans), it can warm the soil much easier. In some instances, it can make a soybean crop advance as if it were planted seven to 10 days earlier.
  • Loosens compaction Conventional tillage equipment can create multiple compaction layers that limit root growth, especially if they are run too early in the season. Vertical tillage can accomplish the same tillage goals without causing a compaction layer.
As with any farm applications, there can be a few challenges associated with vertical tillage. For instance, if a farmer is moving from a no-tilling situation to vertical tillage, there is an extra expense because it’s a step they wouldn’t normally take. In addition, some vertical tillage equipment requires more power to operate.

When you compare these downsides to the benefits of vertical tillage, some farmers say that the benefits easily outweigh the challenges. Ultimately, it is up to farmers to determine what works best on their fields.

As more farmers begin using vertical tillage equipment in their fields, it will be interesting to hear about their experiences and how it may benefit their crops.

Photo obtained from: yetterco.com

Because corn, soybeans and wheat are the agriculture industry’s major players, these crops most often come to mind when one thinks about farming.

Major products are corn (28 percent of industry revenue); soybeans (14 percent); fruits and nuts (12 percent) and wheat (7 percent). Other major crops include vegetables and melons, cotton, and potatoes. Of all farms, 48 percent are grain, oilseed, or dry beans/peas, accounting for 53 percent of all cropland revenue (Research and Markets).

But, specialty crops are an avenue of farming that can get overlooked. Our nation has a $50 billion specialty-crop industry with 247,772 specialty crop farms.

Specialty crops are defined as fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, nursery crops and maple syrup, which are of exceptional value now.

As the USDA states, “Specialty crops are a big part of what makes our seasonal holidays memorable. It’s difficult to find anything on the table that isn’t the result of the work of specialty crop growers—from potatoes, cranberry sauce, wine and pumpkin, or sweet potato pie to the nutmeg, cinnamon and herbs that season the dishes. And don’t forget the decorations—from Christmas trees and wreaths to mistletoe and poinsettias, all grown by U.S. specialty crop growers.”

Specialty crops are more labor-intensive and require more start-up costs compared to field crops, they come with more financial risk, though annual specialty crops, like pumpkins and sugarbeets, show an increased per-acre profit compared to field crops.

Because of this crop sector’s associated risks, USDA grants are providing funding to individuals and groups for projects to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops. In total, 28 grants will be awarded. According to a news release distributed by UC Davis:

“In all, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture awarded more than $46 million through the Specialty Crop Research Initiative, established by the 2008 Farm Bill to develop and disseminate science-based tools to address the needs of specific specialty crops.”

The grants invest in the research, promotion, marketing, food safety, education and product development of specialty crops.

Such grants have been awarded to improve lettuce varieties, water irrigation systems, and to develop a commercial brand pumpkin seed, among others.

The Buckeye State touts its fair share of the specialty crop industry.

Ohio Specialty Crops Facts (2007 Census of Agriculture)
  • 6,472 total specialty crop farms
  • 82,335 specialty crop acres
  • 600 maple syrup farms
  • 996 cut Christmas trees and short rotation woody crop farms
To view a list of 2009 grants awarded to bolster Ohio’s specialty crops, visit:


As we continue to celebrate the holidays, what specialty crops are you using in your dishes? What specialty crops do you routinely eat? What specialty-crop projects would be a good investment for Ohio?

Photo obtained from: today.colostate.edu

The business of raising turkeys

As we prepare for our Thanksgiving Day feasts, a roasted turkey is most likely somewhere in the picture. Whether it’s your job to prepare it, carve it or simply enjoy it, the turkey usually takes center stage at holiday gatherings.

In fact, the National Turkey Federation estimates that approximately 45 million turkeys are eaten at Thanksgiving and 22 million at Christmas.

While most of us only appreciate this bird during the holiday season, for some farmers, turkeys are a year-round business. In 2009, more than 247 million turkeys were raised in the United States; 5.2 million were raised in Ohio.

Dan Eifert, owner of 4EEE Turkey Farm near Celina, OH has been raising turkeys for 40 years and knows what it takes to keep the birds healthy for the 20-plus weeks it takes to get them to market size.

“We hand-feed them for the first week, but turkeys are pretty smart. By the first day, they can find their own feed and their own water,” Eifert said. “The biggest challenge is to get them off to a good start. From day one, the temperature has to be just right, and you have to make sure the airflow is good. They need good air and controlled temperature.”

While turkey farmers like Eifert work hard to raise healthy, nutritious birds for consumers, there are some misconceptions about how the meat is produced in the United States.

The Minnesota Turkey Growers Association debunks some of those misconceptions:
  • The majority of turkeys in the U.S. are raised in barns that are environmentally controlled and scientifically designed to keep the birds comfortable and to protect them from predators, disease and inclement weather.
  • Turkeys are fed a balanced diet of corn, soybeans and essential vitamins and minerals at every stage of their life. Fresh water and feed are available at all times.
  • Turkey farmers do not feed their turkeys hormones or steroids. In fact, all poultry in the U.S. is raised with no added hormones or steroids.
  • Most turkeys are treated with antibiotics, as needed, when they aren’t feeling well (Turkeys labeled “antibiotic-free” at the supermarket are not treated with antibiotics).
Turkey farmers, like the majority of farmers, are good stewards of the land. According to the National Turkey Federation, the protection and proper use of natural resources is an important objective for the turkey industry.

Turkey Production and Land Use (National Turkey Federation):
  • Because of the intensive nature of modern turkey husbandry, very little land is actually devoted to production. The biggest potential impact is from the use of the bedding material used in turkey production houses, known as litter.
  • Litter is rich in nutrients, such as nitrogen, and is recycled as an organic fertilizer on farm fields.
  • Careful management ensures that litter is used in accordance with the nutritional needs of crops so that nutrient enrichment of groundwater and surface water is eliminated or minimized.
The turkey industry has grown during the past two decades from a single-product, holiday- oriented business into a fully integrated industry with a robust product line that competes with other protein products on a year-round basis.

So, when you sit down at your table this year and pile your plate high with all of those Thanksgiving Day favorites, like that carved turkey, take a moment and give thanks to the farmer who raised it.

I wish you and your families a Happy Thanksgiving!

Photo obtained from: inews6.americanobserver.net

Farm industry feeds communities

With Thanksgiving a mere week away, most of us are anxiously waiting for a day of feasting, though many Americans aren’t fortunate enough to look forward to such food gluttony.

According to the USDA, more than 49 million Americans, one in six people, are food insecure. To help support our country’s food needs, Halex GT, a corn herbicide from agribusiness company Syngenta, partnered with Feeding America, the leading domestic hunger-relief charity, earlier this year.

“Syngenta is helping to weed out hunger one row at a time,” states the company, with the clever campaign tagline of, “Good for communities, good for corn.”
A portion of each sale of Halex GT benefited some of the organization’s 200 food banks dispersed throughout each of the fifty states.

For being a significantly developed country, our country’s hunger prevalence is alarming.

American Hunger Facts (FarmAssist.com)
• More than 2 million rural households are food insecure
• One in eight Americans doesn’t have access to enough food
• There are 16.7 million children who live in food insecure households
• In 2009, 46 percent more people visited a hunger-relief charity than in 2005

Hunger facts are even more distressing when they hit close to home.

The Columbus Dispatch reported recently that Ohio has broken into the top 10 states for hunger, as about one in every seven households struggled or did not have enough money to buy food in 2009. Nearly 680,000 Ohio families – 14.8 percent – were found to be "food insecure" at some point in 2009. More than 1.9 million Ohioans visited a food pantry during the last quarter. Since 2007, demand at Buckeye State pantries has increased by nearly 69 percent.

The agriculture industry is vital to addressing food scarcity. U.S. farmers take on the huge responsibility of feeding not only the American population, but also contribute to feeding people on a global scale. The average American farmer feeds 144 people and uses one acre of land to support 11 people.

An example of the agriculture industry extending its humanitarian scope is the charitable work of The World Soy Foundation (WSF). WSF is a organization dedicated to helping relieve hunger and malnutrition in the world by funding, supporting and helping to coordinate programs that recognize the importance of the use of soybeans in developing sustainable food solutions.

The WSF was awarded funds from The Monsanto Fund, the philanthropic arm of the Monsanto Company – a U.S.-based multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation – to pilot the use of SoyCow Soybean Processing Technology to improve nutrition for a community in South Africa.

SoyCow makes soymilk and yogurt, as well as tofu, soya nuts and soya chips to create sustainable solutions for the protein needs of the people in this South African region.

The corporate giving initiatives of Syngenta and Monsanto are just two examples of the abundant contributions of our nation’s agricultural community to the food supply. Each year, our farmers continue to grow more food using fewer resources. Our farmer’s sustainability and philanthropy is a pillar of our agriculture industry that we all can be proud of.

As we near the holidays, we should each think about how we can mirror this example of giving.

Photo obtained from: examiner.com

Biomass: Fueling Tomorrow

We all need it. Now, more than ever, we need more of it.

Fuel – It’s a double-edged sword. It operates society, yet its creation can be considered by some to be problematic to society.

To meet the demand for renewable fuels, a fuel source that is heralded for its eco-friendly bases and sustainability, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) new Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) subsidizes farmers who produce non-food crops that can be used to create fuel.

BCAP is designed to advocate for the establishment of a sufficiently large base of new, non-food, non-feed biomass crops in anticipation of future demand for renewable energy consumption.

“Domestic production of renewable energy, including biofuels, is a national imperative,” said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “That’s why USDA is working to assist in developing a biofuels industry in every corner of the nation.”

The Renewable Fuels Association states that the U.S. will use about 138 billion gallons of gasoline this year. The Renewable Fuels Standard mandates that the U.S. use 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel annually by 2022. To help achieve this standard, the use of biofuels, including corn-based ethanol and soybean-derived biodiesel, is imperative.

As part of the 2008 Farm Bill Program, BCAP has a two-pronged approach to support renewable fuel production that will reduce reliance on imported oil and boost rural economies:

1. Provides matching payments for the transportation of certain eligible materials that are sold to qualified biomass conversion facilities to assist both agricultural and forest landowners and operators

2. Provides assistance for the establishment and production of eligible renewable biomass crops within specified project areas

BCAP Quick Facts
  • Payments up to 75 percent of the cost of establishing eligible perennial crops
  • Payments up to 15 years for woody perennial crops
  • Annual payments up to five years for growing annual or perennial herbaceous or non-woody crops
  • Increased costs for refiners related to use of the new biomass crops will be paid up to $281.5 million that remains from the 2008 Farm Act
  • Biomass or biofuel production plants must be certified with the Farm Service Agency for the farmers to claim the payments
Increased use of ethanol and biodiesel in the fuel supply is a step toward the progressive use of renewable fuels.

Recently, The Environmental Protection Agency approved increasing concentrations of ethanol blended with gasoline for U.S. vehicles made in 2007 and later to 15 percent from 10 percent. A decision about whether to extend that ruling to cars built from 2001 to 2006 will come next month after more testing, reports a Bloomberg story.

Additionally, Vilsack noted that Congress should help build the biofuel industry by “reinstating the Biodiesel Production Tax Credit and providing a fiscally responsible short-term extension of the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (VEETC),” as reported by the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS).

A federal tax credit that provided blenders of biodiesel $1 for every gallon produced is expired, while a federal tax credit that provided blenders of ethanol 45 cents for every gallon produced (VEETC) expires Dec. 31, 2010.

BCAP facilitates biofuel’s potential to help America assert its energy security. I hope it continues to foster more positive strides regarding renewable-fuel use.

Photo obtained from: allfreelogo.com

Social-media use among farmers

A decade ago, it was unheard of for farmers to use social media to obtain industry news and generate communication among other farmers and the public.

What a difference time and technology make. Today, it’s more and more common to see farmers joining the social-media world to connect with other farmers and to reach out to the public to educate them about agriculture.

According to the American Farm Bureau’s 2010 Young Farmers and Ranchers Survey, nearly 99 percent of farmers and ranchers between the ages of 18 to 35 have access to and use the Internet, and nearly three quarters of those surveyed have a Facebook page, while 10 percent use Twitter.

"Social media is a great way to connect and learn from others about ideas and practices that can improve farm operations," said Anne Mims-Adrian, Alabama Cooperative Extension System associate director of information. "Often, farmers connect with people they would have never been able to before. They’re able to educate people outside of agriculture and support the agriculture industry using these new online tools."

The Alabama Farmers Co-Op Cooperative Farming News states that there are many ways farmers benefit from using social media, including:
  • Sharing information and ideas with other farmers and learning from other farmers, ranchers and associates of agriculture
  • Providing quick, responsive networks and communities for farm use and important emerging issues
  • Marketing farm and ranch products
  • Connecting and interacting with consumers – creating conversations and relationships with them
  • Allowing agriculturalists to share positive information
  • Educating people who are not associated with agriculture
  • Widening the scope of local farmers
So, what are some farmers and people in the agriculture industry using social-media to communicate about?

Michele Payn-Knoper, a community catalyst, agriculture advocate and food connector, is the creator of #AgChat, a thought-provoking weekly Twitter chat for people in the business of raising food, feed, fuel and fiber. During the chat, participants share their viewpoints about issues impacting agriculture, such as sustainability, antibiotics, agronomy, animal welfare, bio-energy and more. You can join the conversation every Tuesday from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. EST.

To help farmers stay up-to-date on the latest industry news and current trends Janice Person from Monsanto Company, put together a list of the “Top 10 Twitter Lists to Follow about Agriculture.”
  • Row Crop Farmers – a list of individuals who have been listed as growing row crops
  • Two lists of AgChat Foundation: Board of Directors and the Advisory Board – A group of people building an effort to empower more farmers to tell their individual stories
  • Folks from ACFC10 – a list of people who are attending the first AgChat Foundation training conference
  • Ag Media list – a list of working media and other communicators who tell agriculture stories for associations, companies or other organizations
  • T-lists on Agriculture – an aggregator that uses data on all the lists about agriculture and then pulls a list of some of the folks they think are the most influential by virtue of having been listed multiple times and tweeting about the following: #AgChat, #Farm, Food, Farm, Farmers, #Ag, Corn, Farmer, Agriculture, #Food, Dairy, USDA, Beef, #ThankaFarmer or Meat
  • Agvocate list – a list of agriculture advocates
  • Ag Women – a list of women in agriculture
  • Ag Bloggers – a list of people who are telling their stories through blogs
  • Ag Media Summit – a list that was used to build familiarity around the attendees of the Ag Media Summit. (You can find many Twitter lists that have been created for specific events.)
Facebook has also become a popular social-media outlet for farmers and agriculture organizations. Many are using it as a marketing tool to help sell their produce or share industry news.
  • Ohio Farmers Feed US – shares industry news about how farmers are caring for animals and the land, and giving back to the community
  • Three Sisters Garden – shares information about their specialty vegetable farm for sale directly to restaurants in the Chicago area
As social media continues to become more and more popular, I will be curious to see if more farmers will use it and to what extent. In the meantime, what do you think about the use of social media in the agriculture industry? Do you find it to be a helpful medium or not?

Photo obtained from: www.penn-olson.com

2010 Food System Summit

Can we trust our food?

There’s no doubt that America’s food system is complex and progressive. The process of getting food from farm to fork is extensive. Because of its vital importance, an annual summit is dedicated to learning from and bettering the methods by which we obtain our food.

The Food System Summit addresses food animal well-being, food safety, food industry technology and innovation and nutrition and health. The highlight of the event is the Center for Food Integrity (CFI) Consumer Trust Research Survey – a nationwide benchmark of current U.S. consumer opinion regarding trust in the contemporary U.S. food system.

According to its website, CFI was established in 2007 to increase consumer trust and confidence in the American food system, with the primary mission to promote dialogue, model best practices, address issues important to consumers and serve as a resource for accurate, balanced information.

This year, the summit was October 5 and 6 in Chicago.

Summit Feature Presentations Included:
  • What Women Want: New Research about Beef Shopping and Implications for the Food Industry
  • Religion’s Role in Framing the Discussion of Animal Well Being
  • The Benefits of Modern Food Production in Today’s Economic Environment
  • Technology and Today’s Food System – Cautions and Counsel
Listen to audio clips of news interviews with summit presenters.

The seminars are thought provoking and offer participants, comprising farmers, ranchers, processors, government and company associates, an opportunity for dialogue, though what most people are interested in is the annual survey that measures consumer opinion regarding food-production, transportation/handling and other issues.

Participants rated some questions using a 0-to-10 scale; “0” meant they had no concern about an issue and “10” meant they were very concerned about an issue.

The survey was conducted in August and polled 2002 people, 60 percent female and 40 percent male, using Survey Sampling International’s consumer Web panel (sampling error at 95 percent confidence level +/-2.2 percent).

Research Highlights:
  • Early adopting consumers prefer online sources for information about the food system, followed by friends and family and their local television station.
  • Traditional media sources, including newspapers and radio, were least preferred by early adopting consumers.
  • Consumers view non-governmental organizations as the most credible sources about the humane treatment of farm animals.
  • Following non-governmental organizations, consumers view farm-animal veterinarians and university experts as the most credible sources of information about the humane treatment of farm animals.
  • An average rating of 6.94 was given to the question, “I trust food produced in the U.S. more than I trust food produced outside the U.S.”
  • An average rating of 5.31 was given to the question, “I don’t care where my food was produced as long as it is affordable, safe and wholesome.”
  • An average rating of 6.05 was given to the question, “The FDA strictly regulates the use of antibiotics given to animals raised for food.”
  • An average rating of 7.22 was given to the question, “I would support a law in my state to ensure the humane treatment of farm animals.”
  • An average rating of 6.25 was given to the question, “The use of herbicides and pesticides increases crop yields and crop quality, which means lower prices at the grocery store.”
There is less concern about food prices this year than the past two years, more confidence in the safety of food and more consumers feel that they have access to information about food origin, production and safety. 

The ultimate goal is to learn from the research findings and improve upon areas of concern.

“We are all stakeholders in our nation’s food supply – one of the safest, most abundant and most affordable in the world,” states CFI.

As the CFI continues its yearly survey and seminar, it will be interesting to witness how American consumers adjust or maintain their food-system perceptions.

*Photo obtained from www.michiganestateplanninglawblog.com

Soybean seed to be sold by count

As soybean seed prices increase, so has the switch to sell seed by the count.

Both Syngenta and Monsanto recently announced that they will sell all o
f their soybean seed by the count for the 2011 growing season – moving away from selling seed by the pound.

When selling by weight, farmers do not know how many seeds are in a bag. And, with soybean seed becoming more expensive, it is important for farmers to not buy more than they need. Selling seed by the count allows them to make better business decisions.

Corn has been sold by the seed count for nearly 45 years.

Beginning in 2011, Syngenta will sell its soybeans based on 140,000 seeds per unit in all packaging types. Most of the bags will weigh between 40 to 60 pounds with a maximum weight limit of 63.6 pounds.

“The move to sell by seed count helps farmers determine costs and will create more accurate orders,” said Doug Tigges, Syngenta Seeds soybean product manager. “That would allow for better management of inventory and could reduce the amount of returns for the company.”

Monsanto’s United States Soybean Product Management Lead, Jennifer Ralston, agrees, “The farmers like it,” she said in a Missouri Farmer Today article.

Monsanto started selling by count in 2009 and required seed companies to sell its Roundup Ready to Yield soybeans in 140,000 seed units. In 2011, they will sell all of their soybean seeds by count.

For farmers and seed companies, selling by count seems to be a win-win situation.

According to the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA), the National Conference on Weights and Measures recently passed a vote to standardize testing methods and procedures to verify seed count labeling, which will positively impact farmers and seed companies.

"The manner in which seed is purchased and sold has significantly changed in recent years and this vote will help provide regulatory uniformity for seed testing," said Andy LaVigne, ASTA president and chief executive officer. “It will have a positive impact on seed companies’ and farmers’ bottom-lines.”

As the benefits to selling soybean seeds by the count continue to outweigh those by weight, it will be interesting to see what other seed companies will follow in Syngenta and Monsanto’s footsteps.

Photo obtained from: www.missourifarmertoday.com.

Apples – A fall industry staple

Autumn is prime apple picking season.

And though it seems like there’s an abundance of apples everywhere you turn lately, many apple growers in pockets of the country are experiencing hardships.

The USDA projected a 4 percent deduction nationwide.

New England states, such as Maine and New Hampshire, have witnessed a 20 percent reduction in their crop, according to a Fosters.com story.

Unusually warm temperatures caused apples to blossom early, but the weather became significantly colder in mid-May, which caused apples to scar, turn black and/or rot.

"I haven't seen anything like this," said Geoffrey Njue, a fruit expert with the University of New Hampshire's Cooperative Extension, who noted that frost insurance is available to fruit growers but not often utilized.

In Vermont, legislators expedited permits for temporary foreign workers to harvest state apple crops to increase the profit potential of their state’s harvest.

“An entire season’s work was at risk, and crops don’t wait for paperwork,” said Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, as reported in The Epoch Times. “I’m glad we found a commonsense solution for a happy ending after this close call.”

The U.S. apple industry is most often overshadowed by commodity crops like corn, soybeans and wheat, but is deserving of more recognition:

U.S. Apple Industry Facts (U.S. Apple Association)
  • Washington is the nation’s top-producing state of 36 apple-producing states
  • There are about 7,500 apple producers nationwide
  • The industry is valued at more than $1.6 billion/year
  • The Red Delicious apple is the most grown followed by Golden Delicious
  • Sixty-three percent of the apples grown are sold as fresh fruit with the remaining processed into apple products
  • The U.S. is the No. 2 global apple producer
  • One of every four apples harvested is exported
Apple growers in Ohio fared much better than their counterparts in New England. A dry summer led to a peak growing season and early blooming crops. As quoted in the Mansfield News Journal, "The harvest is probably a third of the way through. The crop is very early this year," said Bill Dodd, president of the Ohio Fruit Growers Association. "We're looking forward to a successful season."

Ohio Apple Industry Facts
  • Apple production for Ohio stands at 2.5 million bushels this year
  • Ohio apple growers produce up to 100 million pounds of apples each season
  • Ohio produces about 40 different varieties, some Ohio originals
  • Ohio ranks 10th in the nation for apple production
  • Ohio’s industry value is about $32 million
For a listing of Ohio apple orchards, click here. Because apples are the most varied food on the planet, with more apple varieties on record than any other food, the apple industry is important socially and economically. It certainly has a longstanding history and will forever remain respected worldwide. Have you visited or plan to visit an orchard this season? What’s your favorite apple?

Photo obtained from: ourohio.org

How’s the harvest?

This season’s harvest began sooner than normal, which was a welcome delight to Ohio farmers who experienced a late, difficult season in 2009 because of soggy conditions.

In fact, it’s halfway finished, according to the Times Bulletin. One year ago, some farmers hadn’t even entered their fields.

"I've talked to several guys who have told me this is the earliest they've been able to harvest in 20 to 25 years,” said a Van Wert farmer who was quoted in the newspaper.

The story cited some weed problems with ragweed in the state’s corn crop and marestail in its soybean crop, as well as a few field fires because of dry weather. But overall, it seems as if farmers will have a relaxing Thanksgiving this year.

“Weeks of warm weather during the planting season, regular rains during the first part of summer and a warm and dry August have amounted to ‘perfect conditions’ for area grain farmers, said Tony Nye, an Ohio State University agriculture extension educator,” a Wilmington News Reporter stated.

To watch a video about the fall harvest in Clinton County, visit: http://www.wnewsj.com/main.asp?SectionID=49&SubSectionID=156&ArticleID=186422.

Because of the season’s dry conditions, farmers won’t have to pay nearly as much, if anything, for drying time onsite and at storage facilities to reduce high moisture content before being able to sell. Moisture content of this year’s harvested corn is averaging 17 percent.

Harvest Highlights (USDA as of 9/27)
  • Total corn production is forecast to increase 7 percent (585 million bushels)
  • Total soybean production is expected to increase1 percent (225 million bushels)
  • Corn is trading 19 to 23 cents more than in 2009
  • Soybeans are trading 31 to 33 cents more than in 2009
  • Wheat is trading 17 to 23 cents more than in 2009
  • The national corn harvest is about 27 percent complete
  • The national soybean harvest is about 17 percent complete
Corn is selling at more than $5/bushel, wheat at $7/bushel and soybeans are selling for more than $10/bushel, according to a recent Coshocton Tribune story.

For a complete report about trading data, visit: http://www.ams.usda.gov/mnreports/sj_gr116.txt.

Farmers throughout the state are grateful for the average to above average yields as they enter the home stretch.

Photo obtained from:

Farmers Experience Hunting Season

This weekend commences deer hunting season to the delight and dismay of farmers in the Buckeye State.

Farmland is prime deer-hunting environment, which causes both opportunities and nuisances for farmers.

Ohio is home to ample farmland, which is the ideal habitat for deer and other animals that are sought after during multiple hunting seasons. Farm crops have increased protein content and tend to produce deer that are bigger, healthier and fatter than woodland deer, according to Keith Sutton, an author for basspro.com. Studies have found that deer concentrations can be 10 times greater in the immediate vicinity of agricultural crops than in more remote wooded areas.

Though hunters are enthusiastic about hunting season, farmers don’t always have the same enthusiasm.

Some farmers are apprehensive about allowing hunting on their property, falsely believing that they can be held accountable for injury/death that can occur. However, Ohio Revised Codes 1533.18 and 1533.181, also known as the Recreational Users Law, state that "No owner, lessee, or occupant of premises assumes responsibility for or incurs liability for any injury to person or property caused by any act of a recreational user."

Other farm owners fear damage to or misuse of property, such as dust pollution from increased traffic and stray bullets in farm equipment.
But more often than not, farmers appreciate the prospect of hunters thinning out deer herds that cause damage to their crops.

HuntOhioFarms.com is an online resource that gives hunters access to farms with owners who desire deer hunting on their property. Designed in partnership by The Ohio Division of Wildlife (ODNR/DOW) and the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation (OFBF), this website is ideal for eager hunters.

“Because 95 percent of Ohio's land base is held in private ownership, hunters have been having an increasingly difficult time in finding places to hunt,” states the site. Sutton also recommends contacting local game wardens when seeking farmland to hunt. These professionals often know landowners who are experiencing serious crop damage caused by overabundant whitetails.

Permission should be requested well in advance. It’s considered poor etiquette to arrive at a farmer’s doorstep the day of one’s planned hunting outing without a prior introduction. When permission is granted, farmers and hunters should notify neighbors of the date of the hunt, which can be burdensome during harvest season.

The obvious perk associated with allowing hunting on one’s farmland is money. Another form of reimbursement is sharing a portion of the success. Many hunters also offer farm owners venison or other game meat if they’re successful. A less common repayment is when a hunter works the farmland for hunting privileges.

With all things considered, most farmers, when respected, have no reason to object to hunting on their property and welcome the opportunity.

Image from: woodstockfarmsale.com

New blood ignites ag committee

New members are invigorating an important Federal agricultural committee. The Advisory Committee on Beginning Farmers and Ranchers, charted in 1998, helps pave the way for a continually revived industry.

According to the USDA, the committee is responsible for advising Agriculture Sec. Vilsack as programs are developed that provide coordinated assistance to beginning farmers and ranchers, while maximizing new farming and ranching opportunities. Members will also work to enhance and expand federal-state partnerships to provide financing for beginning farmers and ranchers.

“Beginning farmers are a key to 21st-century agriculture and I look forward to working with this committee to help ensure that,” Vilsack said. “These new agricultural entrepreneurs are the cornerstone to a vibrant rural America and to the future of all of agriculture. I will look to this committee to provide guidance to me as we prepare recommendations for the 2012 Farm bill.”

The committee comprises farmers, which strengthens its ability to effectively enact policies that are beneficial and desirable because of members’ first-hand experience.

The new 19-member committee has eight incumbents and 11 new members. Members serve a two-year term and can be reappointed for up to six consecutive years.

The Center for Rural Affairs states that half of all current farmers are likely to retire in the next decade. U.S. farmers older than 55 control more than half the farmland, while the number of entry-level farmers replacing them has decreased 30 percent since 1987 and now represents only 10 percent of farmers and ranchers.

To keep American agribusiness strong, the committee addresses several issues that inhibit and deter America’s potential young men and women pursing a future in farming and/or ranching:
  • Access to capital and credit
  • Access to land
  • Access to information, training and technical assistance
  • Access to new markets
According to Kathryn Z. Ruhf of the New England Small Farm Institute:

“By 2000, beginning-farmer issues were elevated on the national farm policy agenda. This awareness was heightened by the results of the 1997 Census of Agriculture, which portrayed ever more disturbing trends in the aging of the American farmer and in land ownership and transfer patterns. In response to this heightened awareness, new policy proposals are being generated at the federal, state and grassroots levels to address the full range of barriers faced by next generation farmers and ranchers.”

Several online resources are available to assist beginning farmers and ranchers such as BeginningFarmers.org. Beginning Farmers also has a Facebook page that includes information about grants and loans, finding land, jobs, training programs, business planning, production, marketing, research, publications, events, policy issues and more.

Photo obtained from: agcountry.com

Women Cropping Up in Ag

Though most people associate farming and agriculture-related jobs as “men’s work,” the truth to the stereotype is that more and more women throughout America are becoming involved in the agriculture industry.

U.S. Women in Ag Facts (2007 Census of Agriculture)
  • Of the 3.3 million U.S. farm operators, 30.2 percent — or more than 1 million — were women; The total number of women operators increased 19 percent from 2002
  • Arizona boasts the most women farm operators
  • The states with the least percentages of women principal operators are in the Midwest
  • Most women operate farms that are 210 acres
  • Most women-operated farms are family or individually owned
  • Most women produce “other crops,” such as tobacco, cotton, sugarcane
  • The average value of sales from a female-operated farm is $36,440
  • Most female farm operators are 58 years old
According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), male farm operators outnumber women by more than double as of 2007. There are almost three times as many male farm principal operators than female. However, there are twice as many female second-operators than men.

Because of the gender disparity in farm operations, several resources exist to help bring awareness to and close the gap.

The Farm Service Agency's website for Women in Agriculture strives to “augment the number of women in leadership positions throughout the agricultural sector and within government and our communities.” For example, it provides scholarships for women pursuing agricultural careers.

FarmerJane.org is another resource dedicated to the efforts of farming women nationwide. “As farmers, moms, businesswomen, chefs and activists, women are changing the way we eat and farm. They are the fastest growing demographic to own and operate sustainable farms, comprise the largest percentage of sustainable agriculture nonprofit employees, own sustainable food businesses, cook the majority of household meals and control household budgets. ‘Farmer Janes’ are creating a more healthful, sane and sustainable food system for present and future generations,” it states. The site features profiles of women who share their individual farming experiences via a blog.

Agriculture.com launched an auxiliary site – “Women in Ag” – that is an educational, informational and inspirational resource. The interest group also has a popular Facebook account with more than 1,500 members.

The subject of women in agriculture is becoming so popular, that there is now a television program devoted to it.
The American Agri-Women Show (AAW) is a series by, for and about farm and ranch women. In this half-hour series, AAW brings a weekly topic of concern to farm, ranch and agribusiness women and shares information about how to manage risk in agricultural operations. Each show features expert advice and includes a visit with a farm woman who is addressing that issue in her farming operation. To view shows, visit http://vimeo.com/channels/110360.

Throughout the year, several conferences highlight the role of women in farming:
  • Oklahoma: “Women In Agriculture,” Sept. 14, 2010
  • Vermont: “2010 Women in Sustainable Agriculture,” Nov. 1, 2010
  • Missouri: “American Agri-Women Convention,” Nov. 11, 2010
  • Iowa: “Women in Denim,” Jan. 21, 2011
Women will only continue to advance in the agriculture sector. It will be interesting to learn about the increases and further development of females in America’s farming community after the 2012 Census of Agriculture.

Photo obtained from: farmerjane.org

Broadband boosts rural America

To keep pace with urban, more technologically developed communities, rural areas throughout the United States need access to broadband – high data-rate Internet access.

Broadband is often called "high-speed" access to the Internet because it usually has increased rates of data transmission.

Rural businesses are equally as dependent on Internet technology to conduct business operations that are integral to remaining competitive, maintaining efficiency and being successful. It’s now impossible to compete in the global marketplace without broadband.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, “Broadband access plays a critical role in expanding economic, health-care, educational and public safety services in underserved rural communities.”

To assist the economic development of rural America, the USDA is giving 126 recipients $1.2 billion in funding, made available because of the Recovery Act, for new broadband infrastructure projects. This will be coupled with $117 million in private investment to bring the total funding invested to $1.31 billion.

Communication companies throughout the nation are receiving federal money to construct broadband networks in rural-American territories.

In Ohio, three projects received more than $118 million in Recovery Act grants to increase broadband access (Ohio.gov):
  • Horizon Telecom, $66.5 million: The project, with nearly $28.5 million in matching contributions, will allow Horizon Telecom, a Chillicothe company, to offer affordable middle-mile broadband service in 34 southern and eastern Ohio counties. The project plans to directly connect 600 community institutions to broadband. As many as 1.7 million people and 37,000 businesses will benefit. The project is expected to create more than 230 direct jobs.
  • OneCommunity, $44.8 million: The project awarded to the Cleveland-based nonprofit will add nearly 1,000 miles of fiber-optic cable in 20 northeast Ohio counties. OneCommunity will connect an estimated 800 community anchor institutions, including schools, hospitals, government and public safety facilities, to the high-speed broadband network and create 200 direct jobs.
  • Connected Nation, Inc. $6.9 million: This project, with more than $3.1 million in matching contributions, will allow Connected Nation to encourage broadband adoption in Ohio by deploying 2,000 new public computer workstations, upgrading 317 computer centers and conducting training sessions at community institutions throughout the state.
The United States ranks 12th in regards to worldwide broadband connectivity, with 24 percent of the population enjoying average speeds of more than 5.0 megabytes per second (mbps), compared to 74 percent in South Korea and 60 percent in Japan, according to Web analytics firm Akamai.

“Broadband is becoming the electricity of the turn of the 20th century, or the telephone in the 1930s, when federal aid brought both to rural America through cooperatives,” stated an editorial in the Bemidji Pioneer.

Examples of agricultural rural-broadband use include monitoring commodity prices and weather reports, business-to-business marketing of seed, commodities, produce and/or livestock, and utilizing GPS systems for precision farming.

"Broadband expansion is important for farmers and ranchers because it provides them the real-time information and the capacity to market their products,” said Agricultural Sec. Tom Vilsack. "The same is true for small businesses in those towns."

As rural broadband access is intensified throughout the next few years, it will be interesting to witness its impact on the progression of American agriculture.

Photo obtained from: www.broadbandsuppliers.co.uk

Cultivating Afghanistan’s ag potential

To help rebuild Afghanistan’s agriculture industry after decades of war, troops of US military are being trained and sent overseas.

These farm-belt-state men and women are part of Agri-business Development Teams, which work to stimulate agriculture production and efficiency in the country as part of a counterinsurgency strategy.

More than 80 percent of Afghanistan's population has a connection to agriculture and 50 percent of its economy is based on agriculture, according to the USDA, which has a website devoted to the development of rural Afghanistan.

"Agriculture has been called 'the oil of Afghanistan,'" said Col. Roger Beekman in a War on Terror News story. "It's what they have now to create money with and sustain themselves with. At some point, there may be minerals in the mountains and stuff, but right now it's agriculture. And historically, this has been a good agricultural area, dating back thousands of years. The last 30 years have set that back, so we're trying to build that back up again."

Afghan agriculture products include saffron (used for spices and fragrance), honey, sheep, wheat, cotton, fruit and nuts.

Teams include soldiers with backgrounds in engineering, food processing, wheat farming, honey production, veterinary medicine and cattle and poultry production. Team members use an education and mentoring approach with Afghan farmers.

Members may also assist farmers in applying for ag grants to bolster farm operations.

One such team, the 734th Agri-Business Development Team of the Iowa National Guard, is personally dubbed the “Dirt Warriors” and maintains an active presence on Facebook. Its mission: to conduct agricultural activities in Kunar province that expand legal agribusiness, services, markets and ag education to reduce poverty, create jobs and build the capacity of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

One of its members, Pete Shinn, wrote about his experience in the province for Agriculture.com:

“There is also tremendous ag productive capacity here, along with some immediate opportunities to help local farmers boost yields. For example, a very nice looking corn crop is coming in on a half-acre or so right outside the base. The corn is tasseling and looks to be about six to seven feet tall. The farmer who seeded the field used a broadcast approach, so there’s not a cornrow to be seen. One of our efforts will likely involve demonstrating the production benefits that come from planting corn in rows.”

Team Projects
  • Building grain mills
  • Introducing new wheat seed
  • Developing canning and juicing factories for harvested vegetables and fruits
  • Building cool storage facilities to store harvested crops operated by solar panels
  • Overseeing micro-slaughter facilities to increase sanitization of livestock meat
  • Launching vet clinics focused on de-worming livestock
  • Advising reforestation projects
  • Increasing the crop yield for commercial use
  • Operating cold- and warm-water fish hatcheries
But before teams can begin work, they meet with village elders or leaders to demonstrate respect and to discuss the community's agricultural needs, reports a Tulsa World story, which often involves participation in culutral customs such as tea time.

American military will continue to use their civilian knowledge of agriculture to harness and bolster the capability of Afghanistan’s rural areas.

*Photo obtained from: http://www.ng.mil

Dust regulation is debatable

Agriculture-industry members and supporters throughout the nation are up-in-arms, or should I say, up-in-dust about the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) recent proposal to further regulate farm dust.

Particulate matter, such as dust, was first regulated in 1971 as part of the Clean Air Act to safeguard human health.

According to the Second Draft Policy Assessment for Particulate Matter within the Clean Air Act released July 8, the EPA could retain current levels of 150 micrograms per cubic meter of air for regulating coarse particulate matter or revise it as low as 65 to 85 micrograms per cubic meter of air.

Agricultural dust occurs when weather, machinery or humans disrupt topsoil. These natural causes, coupled with the difficulty of establishing clear regulatory guidelines for enforcement, are issues for many who’ve learned about the proposal.

Twenty-one senators signed a letter directed to EPA Director Lisa Jackson, urging the EPA to reconsider its dust-regulation stance.

“[The regulation] would establish the most stringent and unparalleled regulation of dust in our nation’s history,” states the letter. “We respect efforts for a clean and healthy environment, but not at the expense of common sense. These identified levels [of dust] will be extremely burdensome for farmers and livestock producers to attain. Whether its livestock kicking up dust, soybeans being combined on a dry day in the fall, or driving a car down the gravel road, dust is a naturally occurring event.”

Dust can somewhat be controlled with chemical dust suppressants and decreased speed limits on gravel roads.

Many others also deem the regulation unnecessary.

"This proposal to apply much stricter limits on particulate matter would make it very difficult for our growers to comply, and could expose them to fines and hours-of-operation restrictions for everyday farming operations," said Lola Raska, executive vice president of the Montana Grain Growers Association.

According to a story at ArgusLeader.com, “EPA officials say that dust can be a potent pollutant and that rules to restrict it serve the public good. Officials estimate that meeting the current standards would prevent 2,500 premature deaths among people with heart or lung disease, 2,600 cases of chronic bronchitis, 5,000 heart attacks and 350,000 days when people miss work or school every year.”

A YouTube video gives viewers additional insight about the proposal: http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4989443/farmers_call_possible_epa_crack_down_on_farm_dust_ridiculous/.

"We are early in the process and are far from making any decisions about whether the standards should be changed," said EPA spokesperson Brendan Gilfillan. "This will be an open and transparent process that will provide Americans with many opportunities to offer their comments and thoughts."

Does the EPA have a valid concern? If not, is there a better method to monitor dust? Should farmers be concerned?

*Photo obtained from: antzinpantz.com

Government doling out $20 mil to save wildlife in the Gulf

On April 20, an oil spill stemming from a sea-floor oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico caused extensive damage to wildlife habitats. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf has made acres of wetlands inhabitable for wildlife and the government is taking action to help protect those creatures affected.

Under a new program offered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), farmers, ranchers and other landowners are being given a chance to help save the wildlife affected by the oil spill.

In a recent article in the Paragould Daily Press, Nelson Childers, a biologist with the NCRS in Jonesboro, Ark., said the intent is to provide enough water, food and shelter so that migratory birds won’t have as much need to stop in the gulf region.

“[We’re] flooding fields that haven’t been flooded in the past, giving them more opportunities to have places to go to make them healthy for the journey,” said Childers. “Some of these birds are going down to South America. They’re not going to stay here; they’re going to keep going. We want to make sure they’re healthy enough to skip over that leg (gulf region) of the journey.”

The Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative (MBHI), introduced June 28, will provide $20 million in incentives to farmers, ranchers and landowners in eight states, (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas) to help improve habitat conditions and food sources for migratory birds that have been impacted by the oil spill. They are being paid to keep their rice and soybeans fields as well as crawfish and other aquaculture farms flooded for months longer than usual in hopes that the birds will visit the farms to find food and rest.

MBHI aims to utilize as much as 150,000 acres of private land to maximize migratory bird habitat and food resources. The acreage will provide critical wintering habitat for a significant number of waterfowl, wading birds and other birds.

Eligible lands include wetlands farmed under natural conditions, existing farmed wetlands and prior converted croplands. Rice fields are particularly suited for this initiative, as are aquaculture farms (catfish and crayfish) no longer in production, since they can easily be flooded to provide immediate habitat conditions.

Landowners can contact the nearest NRCS office for more information about the MBHI or visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, species may be listed as either endangered or threatened. “Endangered” means a species is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.

"It's an opportunity for Louisiana farmers, foresters and ranchers to help create habitat for migratory birds," said Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain, D.V.M. "So far, our landowners have responded in record numbers."

MBHI will be delivered through two components:
  • Component 1: Agriculture lands - NRCS is offering payment incentives to farmers willing to flood their existing farmed wetlands, prior converted cropland, or other lands that can provide immediate habitat for these species.
  • Component 2: Habitat priority areas - this applies to private agricultural lands within and adjacent to the Flyways that enter the Gulf of Mexico.
“This is an urgent situation,” said Keith Jackson, private land programs supervisor for the Missouri Department of Conservation. “Some of the affected birds arrive in Missouri as early as mid-July. Birds ranging from mallards and herons to songbirds are going to find their traditional wintering areas along the Gulf Coast severely impaired by the ongoing oil spill. One important way to help them is to make sure they come through their southward migration in good condition. Enhancing the availability of natural foods and resting areas in Missouri can help them get through the coming winter.”

However, some are not as optimistic that this initiative will work.

In a recent article in Dultuth News Tribune, Dr. Frank Rohwer, scientific director for Delta Waterfowl, based in Bismarck, N.D., questions the initiative. He claims that the program doesn’t address species that use the costal bays and the Gulf.

“In my opinion, it stands very little chance of working,” said Rohwer, who also is a professor at Louisiana State University’s School of Renewable Natural Resources in Baton Rouge, La. “It’s conceivable that it will work for a small fraction of ducks.”

Steve Cordts, waterfowl specialist for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources agrees with Rohwer, stating that he doesn’t believe the initiative would shortstop ducks or even redistribute them to the flooded fields on their way south to the Gulf of Mexico.

Do you feel this initiative will work? Are there any alternative measures the government could take to save the wildlife in the Gulf?

*Photo obtained from: http://www.wtvy.com/home/headlines/99536019.html