Thursday, August 25, 2016

USDA awards $17.8 million to cultivate next generation of farmers and ranchers


In a meeting last week with new and beginning farmers at Iowa State University, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a new investment of $17.8 million for 37 projects to help educate, mentor, and enhance the sustainability of the next generation of farmers. The investment is made through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA)  Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP). Since 2009, USDA has invested more than $126 million into projects targeting new and beginning farmers and ranchers through BFRDP. 
In order to build upon the strong foundation of programs available to new and beginning producers, Vilsack also announced a series of Fall Forums that USDA will host in the coming months to highlight the progress made on the top issues facing the future of agriculture and set the stage for the next Administration to continue to support a strong future for American agriculture. The series of USDA Fall Forums will be hosted in partnership with leading universities across the country. Each forum will focus on a pressing agricultural issue, including land tenure and the next generation of agriculture, climate change, export markets, local and regional food systems, and groundbreaking agricultural research. High-ranking USDA officials will lead the forums and facilitate discussions with regional stakeholders to lay the groundwork for the next Administration to build on the progress USDA has made over the past seven years.
"Looking back on the past seven years, I am extremely proud of what USDA has accomplished for rural America. Even as this Administration ends, the important work of USDA will continue for the next generation and beyond," said Vilsack. "We see new and beginning farmers and ranchers as a critical force in sustaining food security, food safety, and many other aspects of agriculture that will become even more challenging as our global population grows. The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, and the forums that we are planning, will be important steps in helping young people, returning veterans and others access the tremendous opportunities in the agriculture sector." 
With the  average age of the American farmer exceeding 58 years, USDA recognizes the need to bring more people into agriculture. Over the course of this Administration, USDA has engaged its resources to provide greater support to the farmers of the future by improving access to land and capital; building new markets and market opportunities; extending new conservation opportunities; offering appropriate risk management tools; and increasing outreach, education, and technical support. 
Through lending assistance programs, like the Farm Service Agency's new microloan program, USDA prioritized support for new farmers, providing improved access to credit, land, and equipment. USDA has also provided greater access to quality crop insurance coverage to over 13,500 new and beginning farmers and ranchers with special crop insurance benefits designed just for them. Thanks to this program, beginning farmers and ranchers have saved more than $14 million in premiums and administrative fees. More information on USDA's assistance for beginning farmers and ranchers can be found at  www.usda.gov/NewFarmers.
BFRDP, administered through USDA's  National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), has been a key part of this effort and supports educational programs to assist beginner farmers and ranchers who have less than 10 years of experience in the industry, including veterans and socially disadvantaged farmers. The program supports workshops, educational teams, training, and technical assistance throughout the United States. 
This year's awards will be made in 27 states and the District of Columbia to help fund a range of projects by partner organizations, like the Iowa-based National Farmers Organization (NFO) that will use $588,948 in funding to assist 900 beginning organic dairy and grain producers over the next three years. NFO will provide workshops, mentoring and other assistance in 11 states, including Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
New Mexico State University and the Institute of American Indian Arts will partner to use $598,030 to provide education, mentoring and one-on-one technical assistance to American Indian Pueblo beginning farmers. The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, based in North Carolina, will use $513,959 in funding for Farm Pathways, a program to deliver whole farm training, farmer-to-farmer networking and farmland access.
2016 grants include:
  • Calypso Farm and Ecology Center, Fairbanks, Alaska, $369,500
  • Arkansas Land and Community Development Corporation, Brinkley, Ark., $481,080
  • ALBA Organics, Salinas, Calif., $600,000
  • Colorado Economic Development Office, Denver, Colo., $239,970
  • University of Connecticut, Storrs, Conn., $597,598
  • National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Washington, D.C., $150,000
  • North-South Institute, Inc., Davie, Fla., $330,828
  • The Kohala Center, Inc., Waimea, Hawaii, $564,000
  • Jannus Inc., Boise, Idaho, $597,867
  • Angelic Organics Learning Center, Caledonia, Ill., $600,000
  • National Farmers Organization, Ames, Iowa, $588,948
  • Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas, Overland Park, Kan., $380,433
  • Wolfe`s Neck Farm Foundation, Inc., Freeport, Maine, $573,256
  • Third Sector New England, Inc., Boston, Mass., $249,657
  • Tufts University, Medford, Mass., $599,796
  • Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture, South Deerfield, Mass., $595,533
  • Future Harvest Inc., Cockeysville, Md., $597,599
  • ECO City Farms, Edmonston, Md., $352,095
  • Minnesota Food Association, Marine St. Croix, Minn., $159,626
  • Land Stewardship Project, Minneapolis, Minn., $384,649
  • Stone Child College, Box Elder, Mont., $265,179
  • National Center for Appropriate Technology, Butte, Mont., $238,441
  • National Center for Appropriate Technology, Butte, Mont., $231,679
  • Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, Asheville, N.C., $600,000
  • Foundation for Agricultural and Resources Management, Medina, N.D., $513,959
  • New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, N.M., $598,030
  • National Young Farmers Coalition, Hudson, N.Y., $574,150
  • Just Food, New York, N.Y., $593,930
  • Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, Columbus, Ohio, $566,141
  • The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, $599,715
  • Southside Community Land Trust, Providence, R.I., $596,517
  • Clemson University, Clemson, S.C., $595,133
  • Tennessee State University, Nashville, Tenn., $470,083
  • Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, $600,000
  • National Immigrant Farming Initiative, El Paso, Texas, $541,950
  • Greenbank Farm Management Group/Organic Farm School, Greenbank, Wash., $598,850
  • Viva Farms, Mount Vernon, Wash., $599,999
Abstracts for this year's funded projects can be viewed on  NIFA's reporting website


Since BFRDP's 2009 inception, the agency has invested more than $126 million through 256 projects across the country. Previously funded projects include the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association which trained 75 new farmers who established 68 new farms. A University of the Virgin Islands project trained 304 crop and small livestock farmers with less than 10 years of experience, increasing their agricultural knowledge and skills. Additional information about USDA support for new farmers and ranchers is available at  www.usda.gov/newfarmers.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Texas doesn't need another vet school, study says


COLLEGE STATION, Texas – A new report issued by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board concludes that a second veterinary college would be expensive to create and operate and is unnecessary in the state of Texas, particularly with the opening of a $120 million veterinary teaching complex at Texas A&M University.

“The high cost of establishing a new veterinary school would outweigh the potential benefits to the state, given the small to moderate workforce demand and the issue that building a new school would not guarantee that any of the graduates would practice on livestock, which is the state’s principal area of need, but there are more cost-effective ways of addressing the need for medical care for food animals in Texas,” the study concluded. The staff report was presented at Thursday’s meeting of the Coordinating Board and released to the media today.

“I concur with the overall conclusion because it confirms the Coordinating Board’s past recommendations to the Texas Legislature,” said Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences at Texas A&M University. “It is clear they were diligent and thoughtful in their study, which has resulted in a substantive, data-driven report about veterinary medical education in Texas. I believe this report bolsters our announcement in January for a judicious expansion of veterinary education, research and undergraduate outreach into several regions of the state through four Texas A&M System universities.”

In January, Texas A&M University announced partnerships with West Texas A&M University, Prairie View A&M University, Texas A&M University-Kingsville and Tarleton State University that would add veterinary faculty and researchers at those universities to support the state’s important agricultural industries while focusing on increasing the number of successful applicants to veterinary college from those regions.

The partnerships address two ongoing concerns repeated in the new study: Increasing the number of underrepresented minority students in veterinary college and ensuring a supply of large animal veterinarians practicing in the state’s rural areas.

All four of the A&M System universities have significant underrepresented minority student populations as well as unique animal science programs and ties to the livestock or wildlife industries in their regions.

“The thought is that students from those regions are more likely to return home to practice veterinary medicine,” said Green. “Our proposal is the only one that tries to address all the key concerns, including achieving greater diversity in the veterinary profession, increasing the number of large animal and rural veterinarians and meeting the unique needs of multiple regions of the state. And we do it at a fraction of the cost of creating a new veterinary medical education program from scratch.”
The creation of the regional partnerships became possible with this fall’s opening of a state-of-the-art veterinary teaching complex at College Station that allows the veterinary college to accept more applicants, particularly from the four regional universities. The $120 million facility, which is located at the heart of the university’s main campus and works closely with the Texas A&M Health Science Center, was funded from the Permanent University Fund.

Texas A&M’s decision to invest in the new complex was prompted by a 2009 report issued by the Coordinating Board, which similarly concluded that no new veterinary school was needed and encouraged Texas A&M to expand its enrollment. At the time, the American Veterinary Medical Association Council on Education warned that the college’s existing facilities could not handle such an expansion. With the opening of the new complex, there are no longer any constraints on the college’s ability to meet the state’s future veterinary educational needs.

“The new building will accommodate a first-year, class-size increase of 20 to 30 students easily, with more room to grow, should there be a future need,” the Coordinating Board study noted.
Texas A&M University already has hired veterinary faculty assigned to West Texas A&M and is asking the Legislature for an appropriation to further support all of the partnerships.

The veterinary faculty at those universities will teach students, further support animal agriculture and mentor students to successfully enter the rigorous veterinary curriculum. They will also offer relevant veterinary courses on site.

“For the sake of taxpayers and our students and alumni, it is vital that we approach the expansion of veterinary education strategically and judiciously,” Green said.

Michael Dicks, the director of the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Veterinary Economics Division, issued a report in December 2015 concluding that the creation of new veterinary schools could have an adverse impact on the starting salaries of veterinarians.

“This decline in income would exacerbate the existing disparity between growth rates in income and debt, causing the debt-to-income ratio to rise. The rising debt-to-income ratio will likely accelerate the reduction in applicants, perpetuating the potentially negative effects on the market for veterinary education,” he wrote.

The Coordinating Board study noted that tuition and fees at Texas A&M’s veterinary college are not only below the national average but in the bottom third of all U.S. veterinary schools. Texas A&M veterinary students already have the lowest debt-to-income ratio in the nation.

The report also said that the workforce demand for veterinarians is “moderate and closely aligned with supply.”


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Pond fish kills a possibility during hot weather

By Will Hehemann
University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff 
School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences

PINE BLUFF, Ark. – During the hot summer months, farm pond owners often face the frustrating prospect of losing some of their fish population to oxygen depletion in the water, says Larry W. Dorman, Extension aquaculture specialist at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. The event – referred to as a “turnover” – is a phenomenon that is largely unavoidable.

“Pond turnovers result in an all-too-common scenario around this time of year,” Dorman said. “After an evening thunderstorm blows in with strong wind and heavy rains, a landowner might go check on his pond the next morning only to find all the fish are dead. The sight often leaves farmers baffled as to what occurred.”

Pond turnovers are a result of changes in water properties, he said. In the spring, the water in a farm pond is cool and mixed, with a uniform temperature from the surface to the bottom of the pond. As spring turns to summer, surface water temperatures warm rapidly and the water density decreases.

“In the summer, breezes are generally light and do not mix the pond’s water from top to bottom,” he said. “The process of pond stratification occurs when water temperatures vary at different depths. The surface of the water is near 90 degrees, while the temperature at the bottom could be 20 degrees lower.”

Additionally, due to the breakdown of organic materials in the pond, the oxygen levels in the cool, bottom layer of water may have decreased drastically, he said.

“Suddenly an afternoon thunderstorm brings strong winds and heavy rains, causing enough force to mix a pond’s water from top to bottom,” Dorman said. “The cool, oxygen-deficient bottom layer is abruptly mixed with the surface layer, causing severe oxygen depletion throughout the pond. This commonly results in a pond full of dead fish.”

Dorman said pond turnovers cannot be prevented because it’s impossible to change the properties of water.

“After a turnover occurs, aeration of the water is key,” he said. “However, many farm pond owners do not have access to the type of aeration equipment used by catfish farmers. Small gasoline engine pumps or irrigation pumps can help some in emergency situations, but unless that equipment is close by, landowners are at a loss.”

Dorman said if a massive fish loss occurs due to a turnover, pond owners should restock the pond with small fish and start over. They should also fertilize the pond, as fertilization revitalizes the plankton bloom and recovers appropriate oxygen levels.

A good grade of fertilizer with elevated phosphorus levels works well, he said. Examples of standard formulations are 10-20-10 or 18-46-0. Pond owners can contact the UAPB Aquaculture/Fisheries Center for guidance on fertilization rates.

Dorman said farm pond owners should beware of some commonly circulated myths about potential solutions for a pond turnover.

“Some pond owners have been told to run their boat and outboard motor around the pond for an hour or so,” he said. “This is a potentially dangerous practice that has led to drowning incidents in the past.”

Another myth is that farmers can use a bush hog or other rotary cutter attached to the back of their tractor to stir the water at the pond’s edge, he said. This is also a dangerous practice that does not successfully aerate pond water.

“A pond turnover is an inconvenient occurrence that comes with raising fish,” Dorman said. “However, through restocking and applying the correct amount of fertilizer to induce plankton blooms, pond owners can recover their pond’s health.”

For questions concerning farm pond management, contact the UAPB Aquaculture/Fisheries Center at 870-575-8185.



Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Small Ruminant Profit School planned in Kentucky


           Sheep and goats are booming in Kentucky! To help producers get off on the right foot, the Kentucky Sheep and Goat Development Office is offering the Small Ruminant Profit School. SRPS is a four-class course that will give producers knowledge on a wide range of topics that are vital to the success of all goat and sheep operations.
            Why is SRPS for You?
            • Designed for Beginner Farmers — (5 years or less) in goats and sheep. Of course all producers are invited to take part in the classes.
            • SRPS will help you learn the basics and how to properly implement sound management practices into your operation.
            • Producers who have been in the business for three years or less will have a personal mentor to help answer questions and give advice.
            • SPRS participants will have a two year, free membership to the Goat Herd Improvement Program (and this is good for sheep too).
            • Participants will receive a wide variety of resource materials including a notebook, publications, subscription to HoofPrint Magazine, the Kentucky Sheep and Goat Management Calendar and much more.
            • SRPS graduates can apply for the New Beginning Farmer Loan offered by the Kentucky Sheep and Goat Council.
Class topics will include:
            • Nutrition (available at the December 10 class at the KSU Research Farm).
            • Genetics & Selection.
            • Market Trends & Niche Marketing.
            • Fencing, Shelters and Equipment.
           • Parasite Management (FAMACHA Training offered at the Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio (KIO) Tri-State Small Ruminant Summit).
          • Foot Care and Hoof Trimming Workshop (available at the December 10 class at the KSU Research Farm).
            • Health Management (will be taught at the KIO Tri-State Small Ruminant Summit).
            • Record Keeping.
            • Breeds of Goats & Sheep (including pros & cons for the most popular breeds in Kentucky).
            • Reproduction.
            • Development of Annual Production Systems.
            • Record Keeping.
         • Hands-on Body Condition Scoring Workshop — (available at the December 10, class at the KSU Research Farm).
SRPS is five classes over six months — (you will attend the September, January and March classes in the same location).
Locations:
• Lyon County Extension Office.
• Grayson — County Extension Office.
• Barren — County Extension Office.
• Clark — County Extension Office.
• Boyle — County Extension Office.
• Trimble — County Extension Office.
Dates:
• September 10.
• October 1.
• December 10.
• January 7.
• March 11.
Cost:
• Current KGPA & KSWPA Member Fee $100.
• Non-Member Fee $130 —
Registration Deadline: September 1. Participants can register at either www.kysheepandgoat.org or by calling 502-682-7780.
For more questions regarding SRPS, contact Kelley Yates at 502-682-7780 or kyates@kysheepandgoat.org.









Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Armed to Farm Training Set for Montana This Summer

Application deadline is July 22

The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) is now accepting applications from military veterans who want to attend our Armed to Farm (ATF) training in Great  Falls, Montana.

The week-long ATF training gives veterans and their spouses an opportunity to see sustainable, profitable small-scale farming enterprises and examine farming as a viable career.

ATF offers a dynamic blend of farm tours and hands-on experience with classroom instruction. Participants will learn about business planning, budgeting, recordkeeping, marketing, livestock production, vegetable production, small grain production, and more. Participants will leave the training with a strong foundation in the basic principles of operating a sustainable farming enterprise.

NCAT sustainable agriculture specialists will teach the training sessions. Additional contributors will include staff from USDA Agencies, plus experienced crop and livestock producers.

Dates, Location, and Cost
Armed to Farm is scheduled for August 29 – September 2  at Great Falls College – Montana State University in Great Falls, Mont. Participants will attend classroom sessions at the college, and the hands-on instruction will take place at several area farms.

The number of participants will be limited. Applications are due July 22, and selected participants will be notified no later than July 27. Spouses are encouraged to apply as well because running a farm will impact their lives even if they are not directly involved.

The event is free for those chosen to attend; lodging, transportation to local farms and most meals will be provided. Participants must pay their own travel costs to and from the event.

Application
To apply, click here or go to the Armed to Farm listing in the "Agriculture" menu at the NCAT homepage, www.ncat.org. Remember, applications are due July 22.

Sponsors
Armed to Farm is organized and hosted by the National Center for Appropriate Technology. Financial support comes from NCAT’s ATTRA program and NorthWest Farm Credit Services.
       
Since 1976, the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) has been helping people by championing small-scale, local and sustainable solutions to reduce poverty, promote healthy communities and protect natural resources. In partnership with businesses, organizations, individuals and agricultural producers, NCAT is working to advance solutions that will ensure the next generation inherits a world that has clean air and water, energy production that is efficient and renewable, and healthy foods grown with sustainable practices. More information about its programs and services is available at www.ncat.org or by calling 1-800-ASK-NCAT.