Friday, February 15, 2019

Nebraska lambing and kidding school March 2

The Nebraska Sheep and Goat Producers Association and Nebraska Extension are hosting a lambing kidding school, Saturday March 2nd, 10am at the Custer County Fairgrounds. The school consists of 6 presentations and a hands-on tour.
Presentations include:
“How to keep ewes and does healthy through disease control and treatment” presented via webinar by Dr. Brian Vander Ley, DVM and Veterinary Epidemiologist at the UNL Great Plains Veterinary Educational Center
“Economical Feeding programs for the doe” presented by Dr. Steve Hart, Goat Extension Specialist with Langston University, Tulsa, OK
“Movi bacteria and how to prevent it in sheep herds” presented by Laura McHale, Wildlife Biologist with South Dakota State University 
“Economical Feeding programs for the ewe” presented by Dr. Ivan Rush, sheep producer, Scottsbluff, NE
“Good Sheep Management Practices” presented by David Ollila, Sheep Specialist, SDSU Rapid City, SD   
“Treating Chilled Newborns” presented by Dr. Regina Rankin, DVM, and Vicki Milner, Crawford Companion Animal Clinic
The Tour includes: body condition of ewes and does, care of the young “bum” lamb and goat, when and how to assist difficult births, and other health and management practices.
Join us Saturday, March 2nd, 10am at the Custer County Fairgrounds, 44100 Memorial Dr. Broken Bow, NE. The Cost is $25 for non-members, $20 for members, and $10 for students. Handouts and Lunch Included. To register email or Call Melissa Nicholson at 308-386-8378 by February 27th

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

The Founding Farmers

Posted by Justin Fritscher, USDA in Farming ConservationFeb 12, 2019
From Mount Vernon to Monticello, many of the key conservation practices that USDA recommends producers use on their farms have roots with our “founding farmers,” from presidents like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln, to innovators like Ben Franklin and George Washington Carver. 
The political and thought leaders of the young nation knew how important agriculture and – more importantly, sustainable agriculture – was to America’s success. They wrote about how to grow enough food to feed a booming population, how to boost soil health, and how to farm in a way that prevents soil erosion. 
"I had rather be on my farm than be emperor of the world." -George Washington
A Farmer First
Historian Garry Wills said: “Farming technique was Washington’s principal intellectual discipline, his favorite topic of conversation, the focus of his private correspondence.”
Actually, when British troops closed in on New York City in 1776, then General George Washington temporarily put aside his battle plans to pen a letter to the steward of Mount Vernon about his farm.
The “First” Crop Experiment Stations
Washington studied and implemented ways to improve his farming methods at Mount Vernon, his 8,000-acre homestead and network of farms in Virginia near Washington, D.C. He took meticulous notes, and he experimented quite often. As did Thomas Jefferson, the nation’s third president, who was known for hundreds of varieties of fruits, vegetables, and herbs grown at Monticello located near Charlottesville, Virginia. 
With everything so unstudied – soils, weather, crops, pests, weeds, and farming methods – the founding farmers ran unofficial demonstration farms. Benjamin Franklin, although known for his inventions, bought a New Jersey farm where he retired, managing it like a “miniature experiment station, carrying on projects in drainage, in crop rotation, and especially in the utilization of the newer grasses and liming and fertilization,” wrote historian Earle D. Ross.
And of Washington, historian Albert Bushnell Hart wrote: “He established what I believe to have been the first agricultural experiment station in American history.”
Of Washington, historian Albert Bushnell Hart wrote: “He established what I believe to have been the first agricultural experiment station in American history.”
Early Conservationists
Unknowingly, these founding farmers were among the earliest proponents of soil health in America, as they used crop rotations and organic fertilizers to boost soil health and production. Actually, many of the farming methods implemented on their farms align with conservation practices that USDA recommends to farmers today. 
Ten years after the republic was born, Washington began to reconfigure fields on his farms, changing from a one-crop tobacco system to a seven-crop system growing wheat, corn, and legumes. Wheat was the principal cash crop; corn fed his livestock, and legumes fed the soil.  
America’s fifth president, James Monroe, was also a farmer, who left tobacco for a multi-crop system of grains. Historian Harlow Giles Unger wrote: “To keep his fields fertile, he rotated his crops, setting some fields aside for a season of clover…to revitalize the soil.”
Not Going Out of Style
Conservation crop rotation is one of the 100-plus conservation practices that USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service helps farmers plan and implement because of its many benefits to soil and production. 
Similarly, contour farming and cover crops, which were found on farms on the early days of our republic, are still used today. 
While traveling in France, Jefferson saw that farmers planted to the contour of the land rather than in straight lines. He wrote: “Our country is hilly, and we have been in the habit of ploughing in straight rows… and our soil was rapidly running into rivers.” He used contour farming at Monticello, putting him ahead of his contemporaries.
And Washington’s cropping systems included cover crops to prevent erosion and improve soil. Mount Vernon researcher Jinny Fox wrote: “He rotates crops – first he tries buckwheat and later switches to clover.”
Help for Farmers
Raised on a farm in Indiana and Illinois, who would know better than farmer-turned-president, Abraham Lincoln, about the importance of the government supporting agriculture. Lincoln advocated for the creation of USDA and signed the legislation that created it.  
“Every blade of grass is a study; and to produce two, where there was but one, is both a profit and a pleasure.” -Abraham Lincoln
More than 150 years later, USDA offers a variety of risk management, disaster, loan, and conservation programs to help agricultural producers build resiliency and weather ups and downs in the market.
For more information on conservation practices – including conservation crop rotation, contour farming, and cover crops – as well as other USDA programs and services, contact your nearest USDA service center.
For more information on the founding farmers, visit the Mount Vernon website, the essay “The Founders, Farms and Facts,” and the book “Founding Gardeners.”

Justin Fritscher is a communications coordinator serving USDA’s Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Risk Management Agency. He can be reached at 

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Podcast: Soil health and composting

In the latest episode of our ATTRA: Voices from the Field podcast, Nina Prater, a Soil Specialist with NCAT’s ATTRA – National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service – at NCAT’s Southeast Regional Office in Fayetteville, Arkansas, sits down with Dr. Buz Kloot of the University of South Carolina.
They talk about a new composting system developed by Dr. David Johnson and Hui-Chen Su Johnson, dubbed the Johnson-Su Composting Bioreactor, which allows for beneficial-fungal growth. The conversation also includes fungi-to-bacteria ratios as a soil health indicator, the five “Soil Health Principles,” and how soil health practices can help farmers achieve greater financial freedom.
You can download the free podcast here and find it on the ATTRA website at

RelatedATTRA Resources
Soil and Compost 

You can also receive personalized advice and assistance about a host of sustainable agriculture issues by contacting our hotline, 800-346-9140, or email

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. More information about its programs and services is available at or by calling 1-800-ASK-NCAT.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Texas Cattlemen Applaud Filing of Eminent Domain Reform Legislation

AUSTIN, Texas — Robert McKnight Jr., president of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA), joined State Rep. DeWayne Burns, State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst and other prominent property rights advocates at a news conference Wednesday to announce the filing of HB 991 and SB 421

The legislation was touted at the conference as a means to vastly improve the eminent domain process for thousands of Texans who are faced each year with the prospect of losing their private property through forced condemnation. 

Eminent domain is a power granted to governments to seize private property for public use, usually thought of in relation to roads, schools or other such projects. In Texas, however, many private for-profit entities, such as pipeline and transmission line corporations, can use the same governmental power.

“I would like to thank Rep. Burns and Sen. Kolkhorst for their steadfast commitment to fixing an eminent domain system that is commonly abused and designed to favor private companies who subsidize their profits with the power of condemnation,” said McKnight at the news conference. “Texans deserve better. We deserve an eminent domain process that is open and transparent, that is fair and respectful of our partnership in energy infrastructure, and that holds private condemnors accountable if they don’t do it right.” 

McKnight and others at the conference stressed the importance of better transparency, accountability and fairness in the eminent domain process, noting that for private entities, especially oil and gas pipelines, those virtues are practically nonexistent today. 

During the news conference, the bills’ authors discussed some of the provisions that would accomplish those goals. Mandating a public meeting to ensure property owners understand the process and can have their question answered, stipulating minimum protections that must be present in the contact and holding condemnors accountable if they offer property owners less compensation than they are owed.

According to Rep. Burns, the bills have already received bipartisan support from legislators who represent both rural and urban Texas. Still, the legislation will face strong opposition from oil, gas and pipeline company lobbyists who like the advantages they currently enjoy.

“Texas’ rapidly growing population and thriving energy industry are at crossroads that will determine the future of our state,” said Rep. DeWayne Burns. “HB 991 will ensure Texas property owners are respected partners in building our critical infrastructure while preserving our strong tradition of property rights.”

Sen. Kolkhorst also noted the broad support and that it is indicative of how widespread the problems are, and how seriously private property rights are taken in Texas.

“Since the days of Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin, Texans have valued on our freedom to own private property,” said Sen. Lois Kolkhorst. “To continue that proud tradition, I filed SB 421 to see that the eminent domain process used by private entities is fair, transparent and that those entities are held accountable when they take private land.”
Now that it is filled, the legislation must be referred to a committee and scheduled for a hearing. 

McKnight urged all Texans to follow the progress by visiting and signing up for updates. He also called on property owners to contact their state legislators and ask for their support.

“This is an issue every legislator can support to protect their constituents,” he concluded. “Ask them to sign on to HB 991 or SB 421 as a co-author to show their support for your private property rights.”


TSCRA is a 141-year-old trade association and is the largest and oldest livestock organization based in Texas. TSCRA has more than 17,500 beef cattle operations, ranching families and businesses as members. These members represent approximately 55,000 individuals directly involved in ranching and beef production who manage 4 million head of cattle on 76 million acres of range and pasture land primarily in Texas and Oklahoma, and throughout the Southwest.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

USDA to Reopen FSA Offices for Limited Services During Government Shutdown

(Washington, D.C., January 16, 2019) – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced that many Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices will reopen temporarily in the coming days to perform certain limited services for farmers and ranchers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has recalled about 2,500 FSA employees to open offices on Thursday, January 17 and Friday, January 18, in addition to Tuesday, January 22, during normal business hours. The offices will be closed for the federal Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday on Monday, January 21. 
 In almost half of FSA locations, FSA staff will be available to assist agricultural producers with existing farm loans and to ensure the agency provides 1099 tax documents to borrowers by the Internal Revenue Service’s deadline.
 “Until Congress sends President Trump an appropriations bill in the form that he will sign, we are doing our best to minimize the impact of the partial federal funding lapse on America’s agricultural producers,” Perdue said.  “We are bringing back part of our FSA team to help producers with existing farm loans.  Meanwhile, we continue to examine our legal authorities to ensure we are providing services to our customers to the greatest extent possible during the shutdown.”
Staff members will be available at certain FSA offices to help producers with specific services, including:
  • Processing payments made on or before December 31, 2018.
  • Continuing expiring financing statements.
  • Opening mail to identify priority items.
Additionally, as an intermittent incidental duty, staff may release proceeds from the sale of loan security by signing checks jointly payable to FSA that are brought to the county office by producers.
Information on the locations of FSA offices to be open during this three-day window will be posted:

While staff are available in person during this three-day window, most available services can be handled over the phone. Producers can begin contacting staff on January 17 here.   
Additionally, farmers who have loan deadlines during the lapse in funding do not need to make payments until the government shutdown ends.
 Other FSA Programs and Services 
 Reopened FSA offices will only be able to provide the specifically identified services while open during this limited time. Services that will not be available include, but are not limited to:
  • New direct or facility loans.
  • New Farm loan guarantees.
  • New marketing assistance loans.
  • New applications for Market Facilitation Program (MFP).
  • Certification of 2018 production for MFP payments.
  • Dairy Margin Protection Program.
  • Disaster assistance programs, such as: 
    • Livestock Indemnity Program.
    • Emergency Conservation Program.
    • Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program.
    • Livestock Forage Disaster Program.
    • Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish.
While January 15, 2019 had been the original deadline for producers to apply for MFP, farmers have been unable to apply since December 28, 2018, when FSA offices closed because of the lapse in federal funding.  Secretary Perdue has extended the MFP application deadline for a period of time equal to the number of business days FSA offices end up being closed, once the government shutdown ends. These announced days of limited staff availability during the shutdown will not constitute days open in calculating the extension. Producers who already applied for MFP and certified their 2018 production by December 28, 2018 should have already received their payments. 

More information on MFP is available at

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Get Access to Your Dashboard

By Michelle Thomas

The vision of is to provide farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners with online self-service applications, educational materials, engagement opportunities, and business tools.
Many of these self-service features are available through the secure portal, where you can log in to your dashboard to apply for programs, process transactions, and manage accounts.  
If you use USDA services, we encourage you to get an USDA eAuthentication account, providing you access to the portal and enabling you to better manage your USDA business online. 

We know you’re busy! You can access the portal and manage USDA business from your desktop, tablet, or smartphone.
We know you’re busy! You can access the portal and manage USDA business from your desktop, tablet, or smartphone.

Sign Up Today
We encourage you to register for a Level 2 eAuthentication account: 
  1. Contact your local service center to ensure your correct email address is on file.
  2. Create an account at When creating your account, be sure to request Level 2 access and use the email address on file. 
  3. Complete identity verification by either using the online self-service identity verification method or by completing the identity verification in-person at your USDA service center. 
  4. Now that you’re now enrolled, contact your local USDA service center to have your account linked with your USDA customer record.
  5. You’re ready to login!
Currently, only customers doing business as individuals can access their records using a USDA eAuthentication account. Access for customers doing business as an entity (such as an LLC or Trust) or on behalf of another individual will be available in the future.

The vision of is to preserve and foster long-held traditional relationships between local USDA offices and producers.
The vision of is to preserve and foster long-held traditional relationships between local USDA offices and producers.

Available Features
USDA is building for farmers, by farmers, based on feedback from you and our field employees who serve you. Once you’re logged in to the secure portal, you can view a dashboard personalized with your customer profile and complete the following activities: 
You can also link directly to our existing business applications, such as Farm Service Agency’s FSAfarm+ and Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Conservation Client Gateway. As we grow, these and other USDA business applications will be integrated into the dashboard. 

The dashboard will have more features as it grows.
The dashboard will have more features as it grows.

Other Upcoming Features
In the next year, USDA plans to add new features, enabling you to: 
  • view information on current and previous farm loans;
  • evaluate loan programs to find the best fit for your business goals; 
  • submit loan documents to your service center; and
  • view your farm records, including your farm and tract number and maps.
Need Help?
For help setting up your account, call our help desk at 1-800-457-3642. For other questions, we encourage you to reach out your local USDA service center
Michelle Thomas is lead and a farm mom to a horse-crazy 4Her, a whole host of farm animals, and a burro named Ruby. Michelle can be reached at

Friday, December 14, 2018

VetLink Mobile App at Prairie View A&M:

VetLink Mobile App at Prairie View A&M: Agricultural Technology Breaking Through Barriers. Photo of goat . Getty Images. NIFA Fresh From the FIeld.

Agricultural Technology Breaking Through Barriers

Many livestock farmers, including goat producers, are located in remote or mountainous areas, and veterinarians are not nearby when livestock become ill. Goats are notorious explorers and climbers and are known for occasionally escaping from their farms and getting lost or injured.
Issues like these led to VetLink, a mobile goat application developed by Dr. Paul Johnson, a research scientist in Prairie View A&M University’s Cooperative Agricultural Research Center (CARC).
Johnson is leading a collaborative project that leverages current technology and advances it toward solutions that address Project 2050 challenges – the goal of increasing food and feed production in order to feed the world’s growing population. Johnson has developed a database of animal management issues and an interactive blog that helps small ruminant producers preserve a sustainable food source that supports themselves and the greater community.
NIFA supports the research through the 1890 Capacity Building Grants Program.
Read more about VetLink at PVAMU’s website.